Quantum physics for babies — a different bedtime story

Chris Ferrie writes ‘Baby University’ series, to teach big ideas to little ones

CBC News Posted: Aug 21, 2017

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Chris Ferrie writes books on science for babies, covering subjects like quantum physics, general relativity, and rocket science. (Chris Ferrie/Twitter)

Chris Ferrie writes books about rocket science for babies.

The quantum theorist and alumnus of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo describes himself as a “theorist by day, father by night.”

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His latest publication Quantum Physics for Babies is the latest in his ‘Baby University’ series, and while the books don’t guarantee a PhD, Ferrie says he’s “just giving the seeds.”

‘Children are naturally curious. They’re little scientists.’– Chris Ferrie

E for electron

His books, which explain concepts like Newtonian physics and general relativity, are an attempt at breaking down scientific concepts to their basic levels. Not an easy task.

“In a large part that is the problem with science,” he said. “Being able to communicate what people work on after having studied for 15 years.”

“In many ways there’s a lot of work to be done that needs to bridge that gap.”

He sees his work as the “first steps,” introducing kids to concepts and terminology as early as possible in the hopes that they will stay interested longer.

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“When they see something that might be seen as the next step, they’re perhaps ready for it, or at least not afraid,” he said.

As far as his peers, he says there is not much difference between his works and other baby books — other than the subject matter. And with pages like “A is for Atom” and “B is for Black hole,” it’s not hard to see them being called upon at bedtime.

“I don’t see why [kids] should be able to say something like ‘hippopotamus’ or ‘giraffe,’ and not ‘electron,'” said Ferrie.

“I think ‘electron’ could be one of their first 10 words, why not?”

Solutions at school

Ferries believes that the issue of students and kids shying away from math and science is largely a problem with the education system.

“At some point in their education they’ve fallen behind. There’s nothing in the education system that allows them to catch back up,” he said.

Ferrie argues that the only reason things look difficult and seem easier for some students is that certain people fall behind and others don’t. The system, he says, is geared to accommodate and accelerate those who are keeping pace, not ensure people falling behind are helped to catch up.

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Ferrie’s series ‘Baby University’ uses basic language to simplify concepts, introducing kids to science early. (Sourcebooks.com)

“If you’re being taught something at your level, then anybody can do it,” he said.

It’s an issue he thinks has been tackled incorrectly, with discussions about when children should be “introduced to science,” when really, he says, it’s been taken away.

Baby books: no limits

“Children are naturally curious,” he said. “They’re little scientists.”

“We stifle that curiosity at some point and sort of force them into this archaic education system.”

As for the future, Ferrie hopes the diversity in children’s books will grow over the next year to include more than just the staples of zoo animals and cartoons.

“For every topic that exists in human intellectual endeavours, there should be a baby book for that.”

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