The world’s top theoretical physicist and his journalist/novelist daughter will have their second children’s book out May.
George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, aimed for readers ages 9-12, is the second of a planned trilogy that began with George’s Secret Key to the Universe, released in October 2007.
The second Hawking-Hawking kid-lit collaboration picks up the life of young George who is expanding his horizons beyond those of his extreme Luddite parents.
It’s sort of unfair to pit the man whose name is often mentioned in the same sentence with Newton and Einstein against people who don’t even believe in using light bulbs, (George’s parents), but this is fiction and fiction created by the man himself – Stephen Hawking – with the hearty help of his daughter, Lucy, and illustrator Garry Parsons.
The first book was well received. The story works, even though some readers complained of a slow start. It helped that the book comes with lavish Hubble Space Telescope photos and some bonus scientific facts presented in a manner very accessible to kids. The Hawking name, of course, was no hindrance either.
Their protagonist, George, is a young boy who wants a computer more than anything, against all odds considering the mind-set of his parents.
One day at least George’s pet pig, Freddy, has had enough, and runs away. George sniffs him out next door where he has been forbidden to go.
There he happily finds neighbors Eric, a physicist, and his daughter Annie, a free spirit, but, better yet, Cosmos, the most powerful computer in the world… all more or less willing to help him.
George is introduced to the wonders of science and how it is unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
Cosmos is, indeed, special. It can open up a path to anywhere in the Universe. George’s mistake is in revealing facts about Cosmos to his evil school teacher, Mr. Reaper, the deed around which much of the plot is spun. School bullies come into it as well.
But there is no turning back for George. He’s never going to go anti-science like his parents.
In the this sequel we will see George included in the mystery of a strangely behaving robot on Mars and Cosmos coming up with a weird message.
Is it from an alien? Could there be life out there? How do you find a planet in outer space? And if you could talk to aliens, what would you say?
Publishers call this an action-packed roller-coaster ride of a treasure hunt across the cosmos. Hyperbole, perhaps. But the story is replete with the latest scientific knowledge about the Universe. The book adds special essays from some of the top scientists in the world.
As Wired writer Matt Blum wrote after the first book, not even the most geeky parents need worry about the science here, since a Hawking is at the helm.
Dr. Stephen William Hawking, for those who don’t follow science, is a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the
Hawking is also famous for defying an extreme disability. While still in college in the 1960s, Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in the United States), a condition that incrementally brought about his almost complete paralysis. By 1974 he was unable to feed himelf or get out of bed. Eventually, a Cambridge scientist built a device that enables Hawking to write onto a computer with small movements of his body, and then speak what he has written with a voice synthesizer.
Hawking's key scientific works to date have included helping to provide theorems regarding singularities in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation.
He boldly told NewScientist magazine this month that “science should soon provide a definitive answer to how the universe began.”
Hawking indicated he felt the need to write books for children because it seems like today's adults have difficulty understanding the scientific concepts he works with. As popular as A Brief History of Time was, he said, he suspects few people really understand how the universe works. He would like the next generation to be more science-literate.
“It is extremely important for me to write for children,” he told the magazine. “Children ask how things do what they do, and why. Too often they are told these are stupid questions to ask, but this is said by grown-ups who don’t know the answers and don’t want to look silly by admitting they don’t know.
“It is important that young people keep their sense of wonder and keep asking why.”
Hawking said he has a child’s perspective in that he is still looking for answers.
“Children are fascinated by black holes and ask me questions. I find they soon get the idea if it is explained in simple language.. And yes, it is nice to think a few of them might grow up and read A Brief History of Time from cover to cover.”
Hawking is the first quadriplegic to experience zero gravity.
When he turned 65 in 2007, Hawking took a ride in a supersonic jet which, in free fall, can erase gravity. During the flight, Hawking experienced weightlessness eight times. It was the first time in 40 years he moved freely, without his wheelchair. Hawking was reportedly preparing for a future sub-orbital flight on a Virgin-Galactic spacecraft.
Virgin Galactic owner, billionaire Brit Richard Branson, paid for Hawking’s flight.
Before the trip, Hawking just about said it's the universe or nothing for mankind.
“Many people have asked me why I am taking this flight. I am doing it for many reasons. First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space.”
Little George’s adventures contemplating the Cosmos, with “Cosmos,” probably will go a far in that direction.
The next generation, when parents, may recall the Hawking books being read to them.
Stephen Hawking’s parents read him the Bible.
Lucy Hawking said to her dad: “I’m glad you read us Paddington Bear instead.”
Professor Stephen Hawking, a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at
Lucy Hawking, Stephen's daughter, is a journalist and novelist and an administrative staff member of the Autism Research Centre at the
Garry Parsons is the award-winning illustrator of many books, including George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking, Billy's Bucket by Kes Gray and What's Cool About School by Kate Agnew. He lives in
Examiner.com 27th March 2009