The Race to the Big Bang illustrated science adventure book is the sequel to The Stardust Mystery. The Cosmic Kids had just returned from a wonderful trip to the moon as a reward for their second-place finish in the Science and the Future Contest. But then their lives were altered by the Covid-19 pandemic. They find relief by inventing new pandemic pastimes. Then they discover the best pastime of all. It’s a new contest called The Race to the Big Bang. The grand prize is $1 million in cash and $1 million in college scholarships. The four Cosmic Kids and coach Grandpa form a new team, the Cosmic Explorers, with two new coaches and their friends and last year’s contest winners Jackson and Johari. Neddy invites her friend Richie to join them too. They are going to compete in a new series of Virtual World adventures. They are time traveling to the Big Bang. Along the way, they discover unusual things on earth, in the solar system and in the universe. They help prove the Big Bang theory by measuring the distance to a nearby galaxy. They prove Albert Einstein’s Twin Paradox with Lizzy’s long solo round trip voyage to our closest star. She returns, after four years of travel, to discover that her younger sister Neddy, who stayed behind, is now her older sister. Neddy loves that. They turn a planet that they have found 7 billion years ago into their space station by adding the events that made Planet Earth habitable. They add water by redirecting comets to hit their planet, they create an oxygen atmosphere using cyanobacteria brought from Earth, and they plant vegetation for food from seeds also from earth. Their brilliant idea has some unintended consequences that are wonderful, awful, and then wonderful again. They have accidentally provided a dramatic example of the Survival of the Fittest principal of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The Cosmic Kids end their adventure by using the Virtual World to create videos to help other kids understand how we can become infected by the Covid-19 virus, and how a vaccine can keep us safe. With this new project, the learn some interesting biology about how our body’s cells are factories that can fabricate substances based on pieces of genetic codes.
Targeted Age Group:: 8 to 14 years old
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 1 – G Rated Clean Read
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always loved science. I have had a long career as a scientist and entrepreneur. There are so many wonderful and exciting stories in science to hear. When my twelfth grandchild was born, I decided to share my passion for science with young children by telling them some of those stories in language they would understand in the media they like best. So, I am telling those stories in book, video, video game and short story formats. I believe weaving science concepts into exciting adventure tales is the best way to spark their interest. The Stardust Mystery is one of those stories. It is about how the first small atoms were formed in the creation of the universe 13.8 billion years ago and then combined in the explosive death of stars to create all the atoms that make up our world. It is about how those atoms have been shared by dinosaurs, people, and other animals and plants during the history of planet earth. Relating the basic narratives in a simple way can draw children to science. Once their interest is kindled, they may be motivated to learn the mathematics and the rigorous descriptions that make these stories into real science.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The personalities, capabilities, interests, and social behavior of my main characters was inspired by my grandchildren. In one case, VC is a combination of both sisters. Grandpa is a fictional character based loosely on myself. I have been a scientist and video game designer. However, I was not an astronaut, or a middle school teacher. But I did teach some middle school science classes. Other characters came from my imagination.
THE FIVE MOST UNUSUAL THINGS IN THE UNIVERSE
As Told by Johari
There was lots of excitement when Jack and I got home from the Regionals awards meeting. The $25,000 grand prize award got us a front page story in our local newspaper. Mom and Dad were overjoyed, and lots of friends called to congratulate us and ask us about our experience.
I went back to my way of keeping my head clear by running on the beach. I am still taking singing lessons so I sing as I run. Dad is still bummed about being out of work because of the pandemic, so sometimes he comes running with me. I like that a lot.
I had offered to do the job coordinating our team’s list and stories for The Five Most Unusual Things in the Universe. This job is not going to be easy. We are going to be judged by our choices, and how we illustrate and explain the unusual things. We need to keep are screen time to a minimum, too. So it is very important that we get a really good list. I got emails from the rest of the team with their suggestions.
I got Helen’s email first. It did have a really unusual thing. It was the dwarf planet Haumea. It was a funny looking egg shaped planet with rings and two moons. It rotated really fast, so it only had a 4.5 hour long day. Helen had a bunch of other suggestions that also appeared on the lists from Grandpa, Tom, and the other team members.
I made a single list combining all the suggestions and emailed it to the team. Then I scheduled a Room meeting to discuss the list and put them in order of popularity.
We logged onto Room for the meeting. But before we could start on the list, Lizzy announced, “Hey Guys, TSI just put up the first leader board based on the Regionals judging.” Everyone got the leader board up on their computers.
“Super,” said Jackson, “we are in first place because of our minimum screen time.”
“I looked at the notes for the scoring,” added Lizzy. “We got a bonus of one hour because we were the grand prize winners in the Regionals. We get to subtract the bonus hours from the screen time. And the winners in their region got half hour bonuses.”
“No bonus for Milo’s Space Pioneers,” observed Neddy. “Too bad.”
“Yeah,” agreed Lizzy, “so sad!!”
We finally got down to sorting through all the suggestions. The top five choices, together with who would be in charge of collecting the story and illustrations, were these.
1. Planet Earth with its human inhabitants (Neddy and VC).
2. The twin paradox (Lizzy and Neddy)
3. Black holes that eat stars (Jackson and Johari)
4. Gravitational Waves (Lizzy, VC and Johari)
5. Dark matter that may have killed the dinosaurs (Richie and Jackson)
These were the other suggestions that didn’t make the top 5. I loved Helen’s egg shaped planet, but it was at the bottom of the list.
6. Our atom factories: Supernovae and Neutron star collisions
7. Gravitational Lenses
8. High-mass star, the red supergiant Betelgeuse; it is 950 times bigger than our Sun.
9. Quasars , or Quasi-stellar Objects , look like stars, yet are the most luminous, powerful, and energetic objects known in the Universe.
10. The first Cells on Earth with the first DNA
11. The expanding universe
12. The Corona virus and the vaccine
13. Egg shaped planet with rings. The dwarf planet Haumea.
We worked individually and in small teams to put our five stories together. Then we submitted them to Grandpa, Tom and Helen for suggested changes. Final drafts were reviewed by the whole team and we completed all the suggested edits.
“Remember,” cautioned Lizzy, when you are using the Cosmic Egg, don’t do anything that could put the ship in danger. Destroying the ship could get us disqualified.”
We did pay attention to the ship safety as we went on our adventures.
These are the stories.
UNUSUAL PLANET EARTH
NEDDY, VC and the COSMIC EXPLORERS
Just imagine that you are a space explorer from another galaxy. You have travelled to the Milky Way galaxy and find a smallish star. You explore the star’s planets and find this.
“That’s strange,” you say, “there are lights coming from the planet’s surface.”
You go down closer to investigate the source of the light. It does not look like any other planet that you have ever seen. There are structures that look like they have been built and there are lights coming from the structures. Then you see things flying in the sky with lights blinking. Some of them land on lit up areas on the surface. You circle the planet into the daylight and you find this strange sight. There are funny little objects flowing like blood cells through what look like arteries.
You have explored many other planets of other stars. They are nothing like this. This is surely one of the most unusual things in the Universe.
This of course is our planet Earth. It started out much like the desolate planet Mars, but something peculiar happened 3.7 billion years ago. Grandpa’s green slime (cyanobacteria) or other similar single celled organisms appeared on Earth. These organisms were capable of using carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to grow and to release oxygen. They used sunlight in a process called photosynthesis. The cells could also make exact copies of themselves using an amazing molecule called DNA. And sometines altered copies of the DNA appeared called mutations. The altered copies could sometimes become unique organisms.
Over billions of years the single celled organisms became cell colonies, then multi-celled organisms with ever improving capabilities. This was the process of evolution. It depended on those alterations of the DNA. A variety of large and small egg-laying dinosaurs evolved to rule the Earth millions of years ago. Small mammals from which humans eventually evolved were there too. But they made their homes underground to stay safely away from the fierce dinosaurs.
But then something awesome happened 65 million years ago to change the fate of the mammals. A huge asteroid hit planet Earth. It caused the atmosphere to heat up to pizza oven temperatures. All the land dinosaurs died, but some mammals survived in the cooler temperature of their underground homes.
Mammals evolved, becoming bigger and taking over the rule of planet Earth. Millions of years later, humans appeared. In their very brief reign of 200 thousand years, humans learned how to build structures and vehicles and light up the planet. They can have complex thoughts and emotions. They have developed art and science and have organized cities, societies and governments. They have built telescopes and satelites that can see events that happened over 13 billion years ago. Some of them visited the moon. They have sifted through the history laid down in Earth’s rocks to find the evidence for the asteroid impact. They discovered the story of the Big Bang that started the universe 13.8 billion years ago. They have developed the science of medicine and have unraveled the mysteries of their DNA. They are the first species that can actually change their own evolution.
Such a history seems so improbable that planet Earth must be very unusual. We listen to the radio waves from outer space. None indicate another place nearby with intelligent life.
Planet Earth with its humans is therefore the Cosmic Explorer’s nomination for the most unusual thing in the universe.
THE TWIN PARADOX
LIZZY, NEDDY, and the COSMIC EXPLORERS
Neddy and I have a way cool story to tell. It starts in 1905, the year Albert Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity. His famous equation E=Mc2 came from that theory. It predicted that mass, like a chunk of uranium or a cloud of hydrogen, could be turned into energy. That is the basis for the energy that comes from the sun and for atomic power plants and atomic weapons.
But there were other strange predictions that stretched our ability to imagine them. Einstein said that the speed of light was always a constant. “Neddy,” I proposed. “think of this experiment. Have a pitcher throw her fastball to you standing in a speeding convertable. Do it when your car is moving towards her. Then do the same thing when the car is moving away. Which pitch will appear faster to you?”
“That’s easy,” answered Neddy, “the pitch when I am speeding towards her.”
“Right,” I said. “One measurement would be the pitch speed plus the speed of the car. The other is the speed of the pitch minus that of the car. Now think about the speed of light that is coming to you from a star as the Earth is moving towards the star. How does that compared to the speed of light from the same star as the Earth is moving away from the star. You’d think the light speed measurements would be different by twice the speed of the Earth moving through space. But they’re not. The speed of light is the same no matter where the light comes from or how fast you are moving towards or away from it.”
And then there was this weird thing about the mass or weight of an object. If you cranked the speed of a space ship close to the speed of light, the mass of the ship would become larger and larger as light speed was approached. And that leads to another prediction. Nothing can go faster than the speed of light.
And there was this thing about time. If that speeding space ship had a clock that you could see, it would look like the clock was going slower than your clock on the ground. That is what the twin paradox is all about. If I am on the ground and my twin is in the space ship, my twin wouldn’t be getting older as fast as me, because her clock was going slower.
Neddy and I decided to test that strange prediction.
“Here is what we’ll do,” said Neddy. “We’ll both log into the Virtual World. You teleport to the Cosmic Egg and take a trip to the nearest star. And do it at nine tenths the speed of light. You circle the star and then come back here.”
“OK,” I said. “I just looked it up. The nearest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri. It is 4.25 light years away. If I go at 0.9 times the speed of light, the round trip is going to take me nine and a half years. What are you going to do while I am gone?”
“I plan to hang out in the Virtual World doing fun stuff,” said Neddy. “First I am going to New York City to shop for clothes and see a Broadway musical. Then I’ll go to school and work on getting into college. By the time you get back I’ll be almost 10 years older. Maybe I’ll get married.”
“Oh,” Neddy continued, “while you are at Proxima Centauri, check around to see if you see any planets with lights on them at night. See if you detect any radio signals that might be coming from intelligent life. That will help confirm whether Earth really is unusual. Let’s plan for a half year for you to explore the star system, so 10 years total. Let’s meet back at the Mystery Museum on August 1, 2030.”
“The most important thing is this,” continued Neddy. “If Einstein was correct, and the Virtual World has the physics programmed correctly, I will be the older sister when you come back. Your clock will be going slower because you are going at nearly the speed of light. I would so love being the older sister for once.”
I looked at her like she was crazy.
“Hey,” she said, “if this works, it will certainly be one of the Five Most Unusual Things in the Universe.”
We checked with Helen, Tom, Grandpa and the rest of the team. They approved our plan. We were good to go.
Neddy and I logged on to the Virtual World. We could see the Mystery Museum through the trees at the end of the road where we had spawned in. We ran to the entrance and went inside.
“OK, Neddy.” I said, “have a nice life while I am gone.” I did something I almost never do. I gave her a sisterly hug. She looked at me with total shock as I ran off to teleport to the Cosmic Egg.
■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
We left the Virtual World with our session still in progress and our avatars each doing their thing. We got ready for the next part of the plan where Grandpa who had come to our house was going to join us. Grandpa logged into the same Virtual World session that we had started, and Neddy and I logged on for a second time. We all went to the Mystery Museum and went to the large meeting room. We were in the present time, August 1, 2020, so our first avatars were not there.
“Ok,” I said, “I hope this works.” We all teleported to a second time, space and size-change travel ship called The Beamer. I programmed a time jump for exactly 10 years and changed our size to something small to reduce time-travel duration. I hit go.
■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
We teleported back to the Mystery Museum and went to the meeting room. No one was there. I was a little worried. Maybe our plan didn’t work.
“Hey guys,” called Neddy looking out of the window, “there’s someone coming up the path. It’s a woman that I don’t recognize.”
A short time later, the woman came into the meeting room. Before we had a chance to find out who she was, we saw the Cosmic Egg approaching and heard it coming to a stop overhead. Then, an older looking me walked into the room.
“Hi sister,” said the woman.
“Oh wow,” said Neddy, “that’s not a woman. It’s me.”
The first Neddy avatar had been living in the Virtual World for 10 years. She was now 22 years old and the tallest person in the room. Even taller than grandpa. Because of my slow clock at 0.9 times the speed of light, my time travel to Proxima Centauri and back, was only 4.4 years. So I am only 18 years old. Neddy was now four years older. And she had gotten really tall.
“I so love this,” said the tall Neddy, patting me on the top of the head.
“I wish we could have done this for real,” said the young Neddy.
Grandpa took pictures of us, and we made a screenshot of our reunion. Then he said, “they actually did a measurement to prove the paradox. They flew on clock around the Earth and compared it to an identical clock on the ground. They were different by the amount predicted by the General Theory of Relativity.”
We all agreed. The Twin Paradox is one of the Five Most Unusual Things in the Universe.
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