Like most fathers, I have kept up the habit of buying cartoon books for my baby girl, who is now one year old, to encourage her to develop an interest in the outside world.However, as I opened a new box of books last week, I thought I had placed the wrong order. On the cover of the first book the boldly colored headline jumped out: Quantum Physics.
The second book I picked up was titled Quarks. The third one, Aerospace Engineering, looked a little more practical at first glance. However, it was only after much closer examination of the cover that I found two much smaller words prefixing each of the headlines: Baby Loves.
Wow! Do the authors of the books expect a 1-year-old girl to learn what her father did not study until the third year of university? How could I explain such complex concepts as, say, superposition states, to my 1-year-old daughter?
Yet, as I started this “mission impossible”, I soon realized it might not be as difficult as I first thought. The quantum physics book is, like all the books I buy for her, still a cartoon book, containing very few words.
Open the first page and you see a baby running after a cat, drawn in a simple, colorful style that every infant will fall in love with at first sight.
Then the story became faster-paced. The cat jumped into a box and the box shut automatically. The baby sat next to the closed box, not knowing what his furry friend was doing inside.
“Is the cat asleep or awake?” A question emerged from the book, with the answer on the next page: “It can be both and in quantum physics. We call it a superposition state of being asleep and awake. When the baby opens the box, the superposition becomes a sure position.”
Having been taught the whole thing with interest by me, my daughter picked up our dog and tried to undertake a similar experiment, which I fortunately, managed to stop in time. I am pretty sure she still knows little about quantum physics and won’t understand the concept behind it for at least another decade.
However, at least she has been told the story and will find it of interest when the teacher mentions it in class.
More importantly, for her, physics won’t be the boring subject that many consider it to be. It won’t be full of concepts that perplex her mind, but of funny stories that she’s glad to hear about.
And this is the direction that all primary education institutions should be looking to take.
As a result of the accumulated wisdom of the top thinkers over the centuries, natural science is a really difficult subject to learn for those without a strong interest in it. The more quantum physics books that are tailored toward infants, the more children will develop an appetite for the subject in their early years.
More importantly, these science books are written in a way that most young children can understand. Inste ad of throwing a complicated concept at the infant reader, it puts everything into a small story that the reader can enjoy with the help of their parents.
Honestly speaking, I would have preferred my quantum physics textbooks in university to have been written in this way, instead of the traditional way. Maybe I could have attained higher marks if my professor had brought a cat into the classroom to explain Schrodinger’s thought experiment using an actual cat, instead of simply telling me about it.
But the idea of making science interesting doesn’t just apply to children’s education. A survey by the Chinese Association for Science and Technology found that only about 3.3 percent of China’s total population have a basic knowledge of natural science, compared to figure of over 10 percent who do in developed countries. A key reason for that, according to experts, is the lack of proper scientific learning materials, especially those for adults.
This in turn explains, at least in part, why Chinese engineers have been faring better than Chinese scientists. A certain proportion of the population with a good understanding of natural science should be the basis for a nation to produce large numbers of excellent scientists, which in turn will render firm support to the prosperity of the nation.
Having finished the book on quantum physics, I made a thorough check of my daughter’s little bookshelf and divided her books into a few different categories. The topics of the books ranged from dinosaurs to animal tongues, then to everyday wisdom, yet they all had one thing in common: They were interesting.