The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was inspired by quantum physics, specifically the Many Worlds Interpretation of parallel universes. This concept is brilliantly explained at the 2 minutes 45 seconds mark in the above video by MinutePhysics. (Check out the MinutePhysics YouTube channel for more ace explanations of physics-related topics from filmmaker Henry Reich.)
The idea of parallel worlds is a staple of children’s fiction from the world of Narnia to the multiverse explored in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I recently created a list of my Top 10 parallel universes in fiction for the Guardian Children’s Books website and you can find this here. As I say in the article, what’s beautiful to me about the idea of parallel worlds is the fact that science suggests that they might actually exist. As storytellers we no longer have to climb through the wardrobe to take our readers into parallel universes, but can use science to show how these worlds could be real.
Both science and fiction help us to make sense of the world, with all its wonder and possibilities as well as its inevitable pain. Scientists such as Professor Brian Cox have used their expertise to popularize science using TV and radio programmes to help audiences in their millions understand more about the incredible Universe we live in. Professor Cox has been quoted as saying, "Science is too important not to be part of popular culture" and I believe children’s books have a role to play here too.
It was important to me that all the scientific concepts mentioned in The Many Worlds of Albie Bright are real and accurately described, so I had the manuscript checked and approved by a friend who's a Professor of Particle Physics and also works at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. I hope this scientific authenticity might encourage a reluctant reader or someone who’s maybe stuck in the non-fiction section to pick up a novel for the first time.
Other children’s writers have used science as a jumping off point to create exciting plots and wondrous stories. In his high-octane Itch series, Simon Mayo tells the story of Itchingham Lofte, an ordinary 14-year-old boy whose quest to collect all the elements in the periodic table pitches him into perilous adventures. Collaborating with her father, the famous physicist Stephen Hawking, Lucy Hawking has authored several books including George and the Big Bang, using fiction to explore theories about the birth of the Universe. And in this article in The Guardian, the author Tim Lott writes about the inspiration that can be found in science and how this helped to inspire his novel How to Be Invisible.
Science explores the big questions about life, the universe and everything – the same questions that can underpin the very best fiction. Why are we here? What makes us human? What comes next? Science can help to create a real sense of wonder. A gift for storytellers.
To celebrate the publication of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright on the 14 January. I’m running a Twitter giveaway to win a signed copy of the book. All you’ve got to do is #ScienceUpABook in a tweet. This can be a picture book, a children’s or YA novel, a classic text or even a comic book – all you’ve got to do is add some science to the title! Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
The Rationally-Explained Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton #ScienceUpABook #AlbieBright
Pipette Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren #ScienceUpABook #AlbieBright
Tabby McTat meets Schrödinger's cat by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler #ScienceUpABook #AlbieBright
The Ragged Trousered Paleontologists by Robert Tressell
Hubble by Non Pratt #ScienceUpABook #AlbieBright
Don’t forget you need to include the hashtags #ScienceUpABook and #AlbieBright in your tweets for a chance of winning a signed copy of the book. The winner will be chosen at 11am on 12/01/16. Good luck!