October 17, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

The Universe Explained to My Grandchildren – explained to my fifteen-year-old sister

RRP: £6.00
Publisher: Salammbo Press
Target audience: children/young adult

Hello little sister. Today I will talk to you about the Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves’s new book, The Universe Explained to My Grandchildren.

Pray tell, dear sister, why should you wish to talk to me about that?

The book reads as a conversation between Hubert Reeves and his inquisitive teenage granddaughter, which I found rather unique and enjoyable. If you’ll allow me, I want to mirror that format in my review.

How ingenious, I would be delighted to play along. However, you must first answer me one question.


I am a teenager from South London who usually speaks as such. Why do I currently find myself conversing in this manner?

Oh that. I’m afraid you’ve been modelled on the book, and it turns out Reeves’ granddaughter is a startlingly precocious thirteen-year-old. I suppose it’s what one might expect from someone related to Reeves, who among his numerous achievements has penned several popular science books, is a French knight, and has an asteroid named after him. Try to keep that in mind when his young granddaughter says things like, “…these vestiges of the past will play the role of ‘supporting evidence’ for the plausibility of that history”. It will help to make the reading experience a little less jarring.

Thanks for the advice. So Reeves is a French knight? Was the book written in French?

Indeed it was, and I’m afraid a couple of errors seem to have been introduced in translation. For instance, I probably wouldn’t be reviewing his work for ‘I, Science’ if Reeves were the expert in astrology and cosmology that the blurb claims he is. But don’t let that put you off. The errors are few and forgettable, and overall I found the book informative, endearing and inspirational. [Editorial note: We’ve been informed that this error is now corrected, as the book we were supplied was an early review copy!]

Inspirational? How so?

As Reeves says in his introduction, he is “talking about science, but that in no way rules out poetry”. Reeves’ fascination with the history and ultimate fate of the universe, and with the role we play as a conscious part of it, is beautiful and infectious, and he even touches on spiritual matters.

Will I know everything about the universe after reading it?

You’ll learn a lot about what is known, but one nice thing about the book is Reeves’ insistence that we do not, and will never, know it all. The reader gets a taste for the history and philosophy, as well as the facts, of science, and the conversational tone makes these very complex ideas accessible to teenagers and adults alike.

That sounds appealing. Perhaps I’ll give it a read.

Please do, sis. I’d recommend it.

The book is due to be released in July.