Professor thinks small in the realm of teaching physics | South China Morning Post
  • Wed
  • Jan 28, 2015
  • Updated: 1:24am

Professor thinks small in the realm of teaching physics

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 September, 2004, 12:00am

Grown-ups might find the weird world of quantum physics hard to understand but Dr Yvette Hancock believes tiny tots will have no trouble with the concepts.

'Children are better equipped to grasp the weird quantum world than most adults,' Dr Hancock said. 'Look at the questions they ask: 'Why is the sky blue?' That's the sort of topic physicists love to explore, which is why we're really children at heart.'

So Dr Hancock, 33, a lecturer in physics at Monash University in Melbourne, decided to write a first-reader for very young children to introduce them to the mysteries of quantum mechanics.

She hopes Ellie the Electron will be the first in a series of picture books like the Little Golden Books - except hers will explore particle physics and wave theory.

Despite the simple language, the first page of Ellie the Electron introduces five and six-year-olds to high-powered quantum physics.

'There is a real need for this type of contribution and the potential outcomes for science and physics would be enormous,' Dr Hancock said. 'Physics is the language of nature's many beautiful and fundamental secrets. It would be a privilege to share this and my love of physics with children.'

She has circulated the text of the first book around her physicist colleagues at Monash and overseas and they agree she is presenting cutting-edge science in language children will be able to understand.

When young Katherine Morgan, nine, the daughter of another physicist, read the story she wanted to know where the pictures were.

So her father asked her to draw some and was amazed at how well she had captured the essential ambiguity of an electron.

Even the first sketch of a fuzzy-looking ball fits the image scientists have of something that might be a particle or a wave of energy.

'I didn't want adults imposing their notions of what an electron is on the readers,' Dr Hancock said.


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