Why I'm introducing kids to quantum physics

Eduard Shyfrin
Opinion - Children Monday, 30 September 2019

Eduard Shyfrin aims in his fiction to instil a passion for knowledge and discovery

Throughout the history of mankind, the role of science has evolved. In the beginning it was the lot of loners. Then it was done behind the closed doors of monasteries and universities. Nowadays the situation has changed radically both quantitatively and qualitatively. Science is public. It's inseparable from our lives.

We can arbitrarily call the physics from before the 20th century the physics of common sense, as it dealt with comprehensible phenomena. The physics of the 20th century took us to another level. We cannot grasp with common sense that a particle can be at two places simultaneously, or that time is not absolute and flows differently for each observer.

The scientific revolution of the 20th century opened a score of opportunities for progress, and at the same time posed many moral and ethical challenges. As mankind gets access to increasingly powerful technologies, it's of extreme importance to uphold universal moral values.

We don't know which life paths our children will choose. But we definitely have to teach them to be good people, to think and to pursue knowledge, to discern between good and evil, to be strong, resilient and persistent.

I myself was born in an educated family. My late father, Vladimir Shyfrin, was a professor of science, and my mother, Eugenia Alexandrovskaya, was an engineer. My parents couldn't afford a car or a new flat, but they always found money to buy books. Since my early childhood I was introduced to the fascinating world of knowledge, which shaped my entire life. Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll had particularly impressed me. I grew up, won Ukraine's physics olympiads, graduated from university, completed a PhD, started a successful business. But the passion for knowledge and science never left me.

In the beginning I decided to write a story for my children and grandchildren. I considered it extremely important to introduce them to the world of scientific knowledge and teach them certain moral values, as my parents had done for me. But when I finished the story, I said to myself: why not publish it? Even if it helped just a few children to navigate their ways, I would consider my mission complete.

In my debut children's book, two ordinary kids are faced with a challenge. They must save a country they had never heard about, which works according to physical laws they know nothing about, from being dominated by the Black Queen. In order to achieve their goal, they must defeat her and her lords, and recover the Book of Understanding. The children learn a lot as they overcome obstacles on their quest. But they are also allowed to quit the mission any time, by pressing a button...

We are all sometimes faced by seemingly insurmountable challenges. If we give in, we break. However, if we persist, we may grow more than we could imagine.

By writing this book I attempt to convey a message to children. Be good people, seek knowledge, and trust in yourselves.

Travels with Sushi by Eduard Shyfrin is published by White Raven (£12.99).

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