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My First Book of Quantum Physics

My First Book of Quantum Physics

Kaid-Sala Ferrón Sheddad, Illustrated by Eduard Altarriba
Button Books
2018
48 pp.
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Quantum physics has an image problem. Spooky, wacky, strange—the adjectives often used to describe its inner workings—paint a picture of an esoteric discipline. Yet, it is the rules of quantum physics that dictate the structure of matter, that help interpret the signals from distant stars, and that make your smartphone run. This message is nicely conveyed in My First Book of Quantum Physics, an illustrated guide for children 8 and older (and their parents).

The book follows the development of quantum physics largely chronologically, explaining why classical physics was not sufficient to describe the subatomic world. It then moves on to concepts such as particle-wave duality, the uncertainty principle, and radioactivity. A number of physicists make appearances, from Isaac Newton to Marie Curie, but it is the familiar cartoon form of Albert Einstein that serves as a guide throughout the book (Einstein’s ambivalent attitude toward quantum mechanics notwithstanding). The illustrations are clear, eye-catching, and consistent; the authors occasionally anthropomorphize inanimate objects to make concepts more accessible (for example, an electron “feels comfortable” in its orbit) but largely avoid sounding condescending.

Most commendably, the narrative does not stop in the 1930s. Particle accelerators, the Standard Model of particle physics, and the Higgs boson all get well-deserved mentions, but so do every-day “quantum gadgets,” such as laser pointers and light-emitting diode (LED) lights. The book leaves young readers with a sense of quantum physics as a vibrant, active pursuit that has and will continue to influence their lives in very real ways.

About the author

The reviewer is a senior editor at Science.