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American Institute of Physics announces awards for best science writing
Date:2/24/2009

iversal in that simple moment Edison captured at the dawn of film history -- a person having an uncontrollable sneeze.

"SNEEZE!" follows nine kids who each discover a different reason for sneezing. It is a story told on two levels. Open the book to almost any page and you will find author Alexandra Siy's easy-flowing writing wrapped around her carefully-lighted black-and-white photographs. At times poetic and at times expository, the text is also juxtaposed with co-author Dennis Kunkel's high-resolution color electron micrographs. These beautiful images reveal the microscopic world behind the sneeze, and through them the book takes a larger-than-life look at those things that cause us to sneeze -- pollen, mold, goose down, dust mites, dander, flu, and other invisible irritants magnified 400 to more than 200,000 times.

The universal nature of sneezing was the inspiration for the book, but it was the contrast of micro and macro, complex and simple, and color and black-and-white that brought the idea to life, the authors say. In ways that children can understand, the book examines human neurons, muscles, lungs, and the physiological characteristics of the familiar, hardwired reflex from which the book borrows its name. "Rushing through nine windpipes," the book reads, "warm, moist air bursts from nine noses and mouths at a speed of 100 miles per hour... ACHOO!"

The nine children in the book were photographed in Alaska and New York and include one of the author's sons, as well as several of her sons' friends. Despite their young age, they never fail to convincingly depict the book's subject matter. "Children can fake a good sneeze on demand," says Siy. However, she warns, "It takes a couple of hours to vacuum up after a staged pillow fight."

Siy and Kunkel will receive their award this July at the American Association of Physics Teachers' summer meeting in Ann Arbor, MI. More information about the book can also be found at the publish
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Contact: Jason Bardi
jbardi@aip.org
301-209-3091
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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