Royal Society Young People’s book prize

As Christmas comes rapidly nearer, family members might be asking what children would like for Christmas.  Books are often popular (particularly with more distant relatives).  But what to buy?

For children who are curious and interested in the world around them, the books from the Royal Society Young People’s book prize could be ideal.  Science books which are aimed at under-14s are considered and then a shortlist of 6 books is chosen.  This year’s shortlist was announced before the summer holiday, and then panels of school children around the country read and judged the books.  They sent their comments and verdicts to the Royal Society, and the winner was announced on Monday 16th November.

2015-11-17 12.35.11

The 2015 shortlisted books for the Royal Society Prize

A number of our partner secondary schools took part in the judging, with books clubs made up of years 7 and 8 reading the books and discussing the good (and bad) points.  One school, Cramlington Learning Village, has shared their comments on the books to help you choose which would be the most interesting to read.  Here are some of their thoughts…

365 Science Activities

  • This book is a bit big to use – but also allows the author to fit in even more activities to keep the reader busy and entertained!  There’s a limited amount of scientific vocabulary and the experiments could maybe have been more organised into different sections or themes. — Laura, 11
  • Very colourful and packed with fun things to do. — Josh, 11
  • Eye-catching and great fun.  Love the idea of an activity for every day of the year. — Lily, 12
  • The illustrations make the experiments look even more exciting and tempting and the language is just right.  I learnt a lot! — Chelsea, 12
  • I love doing experiments but even so I learnt a lot of new stuff from this book. — Rachel, 11

Published by Usborne, ISBN 978-1409550068 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Frank Einstein, by John Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs

  • More aimed at older ages, this story about a child-genius is written well with lots of pictures, facts – and humour!  The illustrations made me want to open the book and I’m pleased I did.  It hooked me in and the plot was so interesting I found it hard to put the book down.  An amazing and very clever combination of facts and story. — Ayesha, 12

Website | Published by Amulet, ISBN 978-1419712180 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Jake’s Bones, by Jacke McGowan-Lowe

  • Easy to use because of the combination of arrows and text. — Grace, 11
  • The bright, clear pictures guide you through the facts in the book.  The picture of the dinosaur skeleton really made me want to read and find out more! — Oliver, 11

Website | Published by Ticktock, ISBN 978-1783250257 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Night Sky Watcher, by Raman Prinja

  • A very interesting and educational book. — Josh, 11
  • The interesting images make this book inviting and all the facts are very clearly explained.  Also, it has a zip and that’s unusual in a book!  Fun and entertaining for ages 9-90. — Amy, 11
  • The zip made me want to open this book! It was educational as well as great fun.  All the difficult, scientific words are well-explained making this an easy book to read and dip in and out of, with clear signposting. — Rebecca, 12
  • Very easy to find out what’s where in the book which is written like a huge factfile. It’s fabulous (I love the zip!!) — Bethany, 12

Published by QED, ISBN 978-1781716571 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Tiny, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

  • Easy to read with big, colourful illustrations. — Beth, 12
  • Written like a story this book is really easy to use with beautiful clear yet detailed illustrations on every page.It’s great for younger children as there are more pictures than facts and all the information is clearly explained through the pictures. I found it really interesting too. A very clear, interesting book with beautiful illustrations. — Evie, 12

Website | Published by Walker Books, ISBN 978-1406341041 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Utterly Amazing Science, by Robert Winston

  • Creative, imaginative, fact-filled and fun. — Adam, 11
  • The entertaining pop-ups will really encourage young children to learn. — Laura, 11
  • The diagrams, bright colours and pop-up pages make picking up the science facts really easy. — Emma, 11
  • Fascinating facts made easier to remember with the pull tabs and pop-ups. — Beth, 12

Website | Published by DK Children, ISBN 978-1409347934 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

And the winner is…

The young people from Cramlington thought that the winner should be Utterly Amazing Science. The Royal Society judges agreed with them, and Robert Winston won the award for his pop-up book.

For more information about the Science Prize, and previous winners, visit the Royal Society website.

Take part in World Space Week 4th – 10th October

World Space week has been celebrated since 1999, when the UN declared the 4th – 10th October to be World Space Week.   The UK World Space week website is here.

When I think about Space, I think about discovery and exploration (and Star Trek, if I’m honest).  This year, the theme for World Space Week is indeed DISCOVERY.

We thought we’d give you some ideas about what you might do to celebrate all things Space next week.

Space Careers

The space industry is a growing sector in the UK.  Think Physics has produced a powerpoint and homelearning activity with examples of people who work in space. Most of them don’t work literally in space, more with things that have to do with space: space probes, satellites, telescopes, that sort of thing.  Teachers could use these activities at the start of a lesson, or as part of an assembly to show students some interesting careers that studying STEM leads to.

The Night Sky

Now the evenings are getting darker, it’s a good time for going out and looking up.  The Society for Popular Astronomy has got a Young Stargazers section and a monthly guide to the night sky.  There’s a map for you to print out and go stargazing.

If it’s cloudy, you can use Stellarium on your desktop or laptop computer to see what the sky should look like, or on tablets and mobile phones try apps like SkySafari or Star Walk.

Although you can often see the moon during the day, it’s more spectacular at night.  Think Physics has produced a Lunar Diary that you can use to follow the phases of the moon over a month.

Space Maths

Space is famously big.  Even our tiny corner of the Universe, the Solar System is pretty huge.  Our Space Maths activity is a cross-curricular activity to develop a scale model of solar system using the same scale for the planets and the distances between them.

Tim Peake

Launch permitting, in December 2015 British astronaut Tim Peake will be travelling to the International Space Station (ISS).  His mission, Principia, now has its own webpage. It has lots of information about Tim, and the science he will do whilst on the ISS.  It also has a collection of activities that you can get involved in based around Tim’s mission.

The National STEM centre eLibrary has lots of different activities that can be used to Space-theme your lessons.

And finally…

Think Physics has a series of workshops to ‘Explore your Universe‘, suitable for year 6 to year 11.  We can run these in schools, or at Think Lab on the Northumbria University campus in the heart of Newcastle. If you’re interested in booking a workshop, email


Work with us?

Think Physics is looking for another Outreach Specialist in Secondary education to work with the current team and extend the range of activities we can offer to secondary schools.

We’re looking for someone who wants to share a love of physics (and other STEM subjects) with others, who is determined to make a difference in the lives of the young people they work with, and who can communicate complex ideas in simple ways.  If that’s you, then we’d love to hear from you.

It’s important for you to know that we are a very flexible team, and so you need to be prepared to ‘muck-in’ with the many different aspects of Think Physics.

The post will be part-time (0.4 FTE) and a fixed term one-year contract.

For more details visit the University Jobs page.

Application deadline: 12 noon on 8th April 2015

CPD Opportunities in February: KS3/4 Light and Colour, Isaac Physics

We’ve two terrific CPD opportunities coming up late this month, both to be held in our shiny new Think Lab facility at Northumbria University:

Lights, Camera, Images

26th February, 16:30–18:00
This twilight workshop is aimed at those teaching physics at Key Stages 3 and 4: it’s suitable for non-specialists. We’ll investigate a variety of activities for use in the classroom when teaching light, colour and spectra.

Presented in association with the Institute of Physics.

Light refreshments will be provided on arrival.

To book, please contact Think Physics via Annie Padwick,

Isaac Physics Day

28th February, 09:00–15:00
This one-day workshop is aimed at A-level Physics teachers and A-level Maths(mechanics units) teachers, or those intending to teach these subjects.

Delivered in association with Isaac Physics, the workshop will support teachers to develop mathematical problem-solving in a physics context. It will also help teachers prepare their students for physics, engineering and maths courses at University.

Refreshments will be provided through out the day.

For further information or to book a place, please contact

Isaac Physics Day – brochure.
(PDF, 600Kb).

Please do drop Annie a line if you’ve any further questions, and feel free to pass this information on to anyone else you think might be interested.

We’ve information about how to contact Think Physics, and how to find Think Lab.




Who Are They?

What do Aquafresh toothpaste, Horlicks and Amoxil antibiotic all have in common?

They’re all products created and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

GSK is a global pharmaceutical company which has been formed through the merger of lots of different companies.

There are three main areas of healthcare that GSK are involved in:

  • Researching and developing prescription medicines
  • Developing, producing and distributing vaccines in over 170 countries around the world
  • Manufacturing consumer health products
    • Over the counter medicines such as Night Nurse
    • Toothpaste and other oral health products
    • Skin health products
    • nutrition products such as Horlicks.

GSK have offices in more than 150 countries, a network of 86 manufacturing sites in 36 countries and large R&D centres in the UK, USA, Spain, Belgium and China. In the UK GSK employ around 16,000 people across 18 sites. One of their Research and Development sites is based in Barnard Castle in the north east of England.


With such a wide range of different products and brands, GSK have a wide range of careers available.  Some examples of possible roles:

  • Chemical engineers
  • Immunologists
  • Material scientists
  • Medicinal chemists
  • Doctors
  • Biochemists
  • Microbiologists
  • Cancer research specialists
  • Biologists
  • Lawyers
  • Statisticians
  • Automation engineer
  • Pharmacologists
  • Technicians – biology and chemistry
  • Accountants
  • Sales people
  • Brand developers and designers
  • IT specialists

Science and Maths links

Topics in science and maths that link to GSK and what the company does:

  • Particle model of matter
  • Acids and alkalise
  • Types of reactions
  • Cells
  • Organisms
  • Health, disease and dvelopment of medicines
  • Nutrition and digestion
  • Number
  • Probability
  • Statistics


Physics with Food

One of the things I love about physics is that you can find it everywhere.  And more importantly, the ideas that we teach at school can be easily demonstrated using everyday objects.

As part of an IOP day for teachers, I put together a series of demos and experiments that all used food.   They were chosen because they could be used to introduce or explore different physics topics.

We moved magnetic grapes, poured density cocktails and ate chocolate.

Layered drink

Density cocktail

More importantly (if there can be anything more important than eating chocolate) we also discussed how we would use the demos and experiments in class.  Although many of the demos fit well into one or other keystage, the teachers suggested different ways that they could be used.

I’ve put together the activity guides here: Food Sheets Combined (pdf)

We also looked at the Rethink Your Drink campaign from California Department of Public Health.  This links common soft drinks with the amount of sugar in the bottle or can.  It can be used in physics to introduce the idea of energy stored in foods and in PSHE to look at healthy diets.


Comparing sweetener and sugar in diet and normal cola drinks