The American Physical Society is a non-profit network of over 48,000 physicists working to educate the general public on physics. Their mission statement reads
“In the firm belief that an understanding of the nature of the physical universe will be of benefit to all humanity, the Society shall have as its objective the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics.”
One of the best methods to communicate a concept is through comic books (they explain things with words AND pictures, along with a snappy storyline!), and APS developed their own comics for kids to better understand physics.
Their first comic was developed in 2008, titled Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair. The issue begins with a brief biography of Tesla and then details his struggle to light the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, as well as his working relationship with Thomas Edison. The next two publications were actually activity books. These are downloadable coloring sheets, crossword puzzles, mazes, mad libs, connect-the-dots, image searches, and factoids on physics and its famous theorists.
In 2009, APS launched the Spectra: The Original Laser Superhero series. The narrative follows Lucinda Hene and her friends as they grapple with difficult situations. These are all problems that can only be solved by applying the laws of physics and with Lucinda’s laser abilities (yes, she is a human-laser hybrid). Each installment includes explanations of theories as well as instructions for experiments to further illustrate their points. There are currently four issues available through the Physics Central website.
The issues are each written by Rebecca Thompson-Flagg and illustrated by Kerry G. Johnson, with the occasional additional writer. It’s refreshing to see an educational comic with a teenage girl using the powers of science to protect her family and friends. Perhaps more media depicting girls in science will encourage their scientific education in college.
Each comic can currently be accessed through the APS website free of charge, making it a great supplement for teachers to use in the classroom or for independent learners to use on their own. This is a win for us all: the physicists are making it easier for us all to understand atoms and magnets and stuff.