The Pop-up LHC: A Big Bang in a Book

Reading Time: 2 minutes

When you think of pop-up books, you usually think of little kids. Although they’re designed by paper “engineers,” most don’t need a nuclear physicist to explain them. This one is the exception.

Build Your Own Atlas Experiment. Image: Papadakis Publishers

Last spring, when my teens and I were building our own particle detectors, I was incredibly excited to hear about Voyage to the Heart of Matter: The ATLAS Experiment at CERN. Written by Emma Sanders and illustrated by Anton Radevsky, Voyage is a pop-up book designed to explain ATLAS, one of the experiments going on at the Large Hadron Collider. ATLAS is looking for clues to the origin of mass, extra dimensions, and dark matter. Unexpected demand for the book, which came out first in the UK, meant a wait on this side of the Atlantic, but the book is finally here.

And what an accomplishment. Voyage to the Heart of Matter contains four double-page spread featuring one large pop-up model and several smaller pop-up pages along their edges. At first, I was a little intimidated by third spread, which requires you to use extra pieces provided in a small envelope to finish building your own Atlas. But after watching the video above of ATLAS physicist Pippa Wells using the book to explain her work (even pointing out where her house sits, just above CERN’s enormous underground circular track), it’s obvious that this nuclear science stuff is child’s play.

Well, maybe not quite. Despite the pop-up format, Voyage to the Heart of Matter is definitely for older audiences. The pop-up models, while wonderful, are somewhat delicate and do require some assistance from the reader. But for an adult layperson, or an older child who’s really into modern physics, the book is a great quick introduction to the science being done at CERN today. What ATLAS and other experiments at the LHC are doing is taking theories about the origin of the physical universe and testing them in the laboratory. When you think about it like that, it is truly amazing.

Voyage to the Heart of Matter is available at the Atlas Experiment store (where you can also see more photos of the book’s inside pages and information about the book and ATLAS) and through Amazon.

Get the Official GeekDad Books!