The Particle Adventure

Website review by
Chris T., Common Sense Media
The Particle Adventure Website Poster Image
Science site explains complex ideas, needs more engagement.

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The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational Value

Kids can learn a lot about the subatomic world, about tiny particles smaller than atoms, and related forces. The content here seems the stuff of science fiction, but it's real! The authors of site articles manage to make explanations very understandable, breaking down complex concepts into basic language, even though it could still use a moderated chat room or ask-an-expert feature. Similarly, videos or audio files could help confused users. The Particle Adventure breaks down the smallest scientific objects with complicated terms into language any kid could understand.

Positive Messages

Kids can read examples of scientists' surprise, puzzlement; great lessons in how not going according to plan can lead to amazing discoveries.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Particle Adventure is a content-rich reference site for exploring the amazingly bizarre world of subatomic (smaller than atoms) particles and related forces. The site is designed by the scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. There's nothing inappropriate here, but the complex topics and assumptions on background knowledge gear this to high school-age kids.

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What's it about?

THE PARTICLE ADVENTURE is an informational website explaining the strange (but true) world of the subatomic. Beneath the main picture on the home page are links to the five major topics: The Standard Model, Accelerators, Higgs Boson, Unsolved Mysteries, and Particle Decays. Clicking on "Go!" takes you to the content, which is organized into 10 or more slides per topic. A left-hand menu bar helpfully serves as a "Table of Contents," allowing visitors to see where they are as they move through the information. A few slides have interactive components: quiz questions with pop-up answers or images that change upon mouse-over. There's also a list of Additional Features (at the bottom of the home page), which includes related websites; check out "Quarked!" for a more kid-oriented take on the content.

Is it any good?

The site presents mind-boggling information in a well-organized, straightforward way. Great analogies help kids (and parents) make sense of things; for example, string theory compares the motion of a person on a tightrope (one dimension) with a flea on the same rope (two dimensions). The authors clearly note when topics they mention will be further elaborated on later. Cute puns (put your mouse on the elephant) also help lighten dense topics. The text importantly draws attention to how scientists "know what we know" and what unanswered questions remain. Overall, The Particle Adventure is geared toward advanced kids and adults, but even this audience could benefit from more opportunities to interact. Directly coordinated "hands-on" activities, interviews with scientists, animated visualizations, and interactive games all could increase engagement and accessibility. But for science-minded users, this site could explain a lot of mysteries of the universe.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how scientists can obtain results that seem wrong. How does this lead to new understandings and discoveries?

  • Talk about the limits of human understanding. How can our use of tools and technology extend the limits of scientific knowledge?

  • Discuss careers in physics and how new technologies are extending professional possibilities.

Website details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science

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