Reviewed by Jean Worsley
Retired Biology Teacher
In only 48 pages this book will help young readers become familiar with physical concepts of mass and matter, discoveries, theories, current topics, and future research. This is an excellent resource to introduce the mystery of mass and matter to students at the middle level.
The format consists of a Table of Contents listing an introduction, four chapters, four asides, endnotes, web sites, bibliography, and an index. Throughout the book, stunning photos of scientists and inventions are found. The author’s skillful use of color on pages, captions, and titles will appeal to young readers. The author begins by explaining the difference between mass and weight. He describes the relationship of weight to gravity and how weight changes while mass remains the same. As a result, you would weigh less on the moon because of gravity, but you would still have the same amount of mass. In outer space, with very little gravity, you would weigh zero; however mass remains the same. This concept may seem somewhat odd to young readers. A concise description of the states of matter, composition of matter, concept of inertia, and the four fundamental forces in the universe is included.
From ancient civilizations, the author states that man has always tried to find out what things were made of. Greek philosophers felt that they could answer questions simply by thinking. Later, it was believed that the universe was made up of four elements—earth, air, fire, and water—while celestial bodies were made of an element called “ether”. After many years, experiments were carried out by alchemists trying to change metals to gold. Readers will be fascinated to learn how phosphorus was discovered. Contributions by Mendeleev, Einstein, Lavoisier, and Dalton and others are described. They include the development of the periodic table of elements, atomic numbers, and atomic weights. Finally, subatomic particles were discovered and the knowledge that the atom could be split. The atomic bomb was a fateful discovery due to splitting of the atom. It has now been determined that subatomic particles can be split into even smaller particles called quarks. Today, antimatter particles and dark matter are being investigated. Again history is revisited, revealing the establishment of the law of conservation of mass, formation of the atomic theory of matter, and discovery of electrons, protons, and neutrons
Today, research focuses on the emerging field of nanotechnology which involves working at the atomic and molecular levels to make new products. Sunscreen, wrinkle resistant fabric, and self–cleaning glass are some of the products that have been made. Other areas of investigation include nanorobots in medicine, antimatter, black holes, and dark energy. One of the major projects described to study subatomic particles is being explored by the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN). A major mystery remains in spite of all the discoveries: Will dark matter influence the fate of the universe? "Asides" describe films, novels, and information about colliders.
Review posted on 9/14/2012