I recommend this video. I watched it myself a while ago in order to understand string theory, and although I’m not a ten-year-old, I think it is really instructive and well-explained. The visualization from the video really helped with the concepts.
Explaining a constantly expanding (and therefore difficult to define) area ike string theory is difficult enough with adults, so it will not be easy with a child. It will definitely be best to start with a few of the most basic concepts, even if they are oversimplified, such as the ‘strings’ that connect all things. The fact that these theoretical strings are one-dimensional and, as such, beyond our physical comprehension, could probably wait. Visual aids are always immensely helpful for children, so using some objects and ‘strings’ of your own may help. The link below contains about as basic an explanation as you are likely to find on string theory and may be a good place to start. Good luck!
I agree that videos and visual aids would be instrumental in teaching a ten year old about this extremely complex theory. I would grab a rubber band to use as a model, and start with an oversimplified explanation. You can add to it over time, as ideas are more fully grasped and understood.
I’d say something like: String theory is an idea that some scientists came up with as an alternate way of explaining how some forces in our universe work. Gravity is a perfect example of a force that has yet to be explained on a microscopic level. (Explain briefly what gravity is if necessary.) The string theory suggests that the teeny tiny parts that make up matter (sub-atomic particles) are actually infinitely tiny loops of string – like a rubber band. They move in all different directions – back and forth, side to side, diagonally, etc. When they move really fast (swing the rubber band in your hand so fast it looks blurry), they appear as blurred blobs, like this.
If we understand matter – all things – to be made up of particles that behave like this, there is a way to understand gravity on a microscopic level that has not yet been previously explained by an theories of science. The string theory still has yet to be proven, however.
I recently read Dr. Brian Greene’s book, the Elegant Universe, which I think as a ten year old, with a parent I could run to for clarifications, I would have gobbled up. Also, Stephen Hawking released an illustrated set of A Brief History of Time and the Universe in a Nutshell, both of which in their exploration of the universe writ large, incorporate easy to understand parts on string theory.
Alternatively, the same Dr. Greene commissioned a contest in which the goal was to produce a video of an easy-to-follow explanation of string theory, less than two minutes in length. This was the winner, which used animation and a duck in its explanation:
Personally, I found this video, in which USC Professor Clifford Johnson explains string theory, pretty straight-forward. He gives a little history of the concept before giving a cursory explanation of its primary tenets (and it’s only 5 minutes long).
Hope those help!
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