Samuel Branson’s The Cat in the Box is the first book in Early Learners Publishing’s series Mom, I Wanna Be a Scientist. It is the story of a father reading science stories to his two children struggling with homework. The father leads the children through experiments with sand, water, and light to see if light is made of pieces or waves. Or is it both at the same time? In the story, Einstein and Schroedinger wonder what’s in their box – is it a dog or a cat? Or is it both at the same time?
This series aims to give children a strong scientific intuition so that when they grow up, they can become better scientists than we’ve seen before. For more information on this series, please see www.earlylearnerpublishing.com/momiwannabeascientist.
The way a person perceives the world around them and how they think and process information starts being shaped at an young age. Intuition works by making a list of rules that turn every day life into sensible terms. Kids don’t have a complete set of common sense until after about five years of age.
If you give an infant a cup of water they legitimately don’t know that if you turn the cup upside-down, the water will fall out. When you give a little kid a toy with holes and corresponding shapes, they will no doubt try to stick a square peg through a round hole for a while. But after a while, they’ll be familiar with the fact that it doesn’t work, and build the intuition that things can only fit through the same shaped hole.
One problem with contemporary physics right now is that nothing makes sense to our intuitions. Professional physicists can look at data from an experiment, come up with math to explain it, and say that they can predict the data for future experiments but they can’t make sense of it. What happens in quantum physics isn’t the same as what happens in everyday life and our intuitions stop working – even for the most gifted scientists. What we need now is to make scientists with a different intuition.
World advances usually come in clusters followed by periods with no advances, e.g., when the first human had the idea of tools, there was a huge leap – first a sharp rock, then a sharp rock on a stick, then sticks used to build huts, and all these ideas were pursued until they couldn’t think of anything else. Then nothing new happened until someone came up with measuring things. Even the advanced Greeks and Romans didn’t measure and observe anything for a long time. Once they did, suddenly they could accurately mix chemicals to make medicine, observe whether a medicine legitimately helped, and a ton more: a big idea changed everything, got milked out and things slowed down until the next big idea showed up.
We’re now waiting for the next big idea in physics. About 70 years ago was the last big breakthrough. Since then, the world has been struggling to understand what’s called quantum physics. A big reason we can’t get anywhere is because it’s so hard for people to understand. What happens in quantum physics simply doesn’t follow intuition. Because things aren’t what we would expect them to be, it’s really hard to piece things together or just generally make sense of them because we aren’t familiar with the logic that it follows.
What we’re hoping to accomplish with this book is to get kids familiar with things that don’t follow intuition so if they choose to be a science major, these things won’t be an issue. College physics doesn’t make sense? – So what?! They’ve been dealing with things that don’t make sense their whole life!
Your little boy or girl asks questions. Not every parent knows about contemporary physics, so we’re also publishing books that give the information you need to answer those questions – and hey – maybe learn some for yourself. The companion book is The Cat in the Box Explained, ISBN number 0692325964.
All proceeds from this book go to Samuel Branson’s college fund.