My 12 year old grandson is starting high school next year. He always wanted to be a physicist and his school results justify his interest. He is interested in the cosmos, the universe etc., a bit like a mini Brian Cox. Books, DVDs, etc. by Brian Cox can be a bit complex. Can you suggest a book that is a little less technical but would still be of appropriate interest to a 12 year old?
It’s not exactly a scientific question, but we in the Cosmos newsroom could hardly resist!
Lauren Fuge, resident journalist with a passion for physics, recommended this list of science books for children aged 11 to 13.
Our RiAus Education Recommended Manager Big Ideas for Inquiring Minds: An Introduction to Philosophy.
Finally, we contacted our outgoing RiAus Senior Scientist, Astrophysicist and Director of the Institute of Space Technology and Industry at Swinburne University of Technology, Professor Alan Duffy. Here’s what Alan had to say to this grandparent of a budding scientist.
Thank you so much for reaching out on behalf of your grandson.
At 12, I remember that I was also very interested in cosmology. I started trying to read Stephen Hawking A brief history of time, and it opened my eyes to a world of dark matter, black holes, colliding galaxies and expanding universes. I’ve since reread the book, and what I realize now is that I didn’t really understand – I didn’t really understand as much as I thought I understood at the time.
But it didn’t matter, because it inspired me. It made me realize that there was a career called cosmologist, where you could literally get paid to study the universe. For me, it was as deeply instructive as the science I was reading itself.
For your grandson, I would highly recommend Neil deGrasse Tyson’s more age-appropriate book, Astrophysics for young people in a hurry. But don’t be afraid to give him more advanced cosmology books, like A brief history of time (or, quite frankly, any of Stephen Hawking’s works).
Tell your grandson that it’s okay not to understand everything you read. It’s good to have questions at the end of the book; this is a good thing. This is how I was inspired to become a professional astrophysicist. In fact, my PhD was focused on dark matter and cosmology – all because of how much my eyes were opened by Stephen Hawking and his words, even though at 12 I really didn’t understand it all.
That’s what it means to be a scientist: to be constantly curious, constantly uncertain and constantly questioning.
Looks like your grandson is on the right track. I wish him good luck.
Why is the sky blue? What is carbon capture and storage? Why is my vacuum cleaner making this noise? How does bitcoin work? And could Yoda really force Palpatine to push?
There is no such thing as a dumb science question, but sometimes the answers can be hard to come by.
This summer, we partnered with ACM for the Summer of Science: ask us anything! Send us your most curious chemical riddle, your puzzling physics problem or any scientific question and we will send our reporters to the case.
Read science facts, not fiction…
There has never been a more important time to explain facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge, and showcase the latest scientific, technological and technical breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by the Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, large or small, help us provide access to reliable scientific information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by donating or purchasing a subscription today.