Junior Prize: TopGear presenter uses ’the Force’

15 May 2007

Bringing his trademark action-packed approach to physics has won Richard Hammond, presenter of TopGear and Brainiac, this year's Royal Society Junior Prize for Science Books it was announced today (Tuesday 15 May, 2007).

Can you feel the force? uses physics to answer questions such as, can you lie on a bed of nails?, what's inside an atom?' and can you walk on custard?'.  It also provides an accessible and entertaining introduction to some of the great scientists, such as Newton and Galileo, and outlines simple experiments to try at home. 

The book was chosen as the winner from a shortlist of six by junior judging panels made up of almost 1000 young people from 100 school and youth groups from across the UK.

The result was announced at an awards ceremony at the Royal Society(1) in London on the evening of Tuesday 15 May. Richard Hammond wins an award of £10,000 and the authors of each shortlisted book receive £1000.

Richard Hammond said: "I was immediately captivated when the team at Dorling Kindersley(DK) approached me about making a book to try and bring physics to life. Perhaps all children need is the confidence to approach a subject with enthusiasm and an open mind. The DK team gave them just that and winning this award is recognition for a group of very talented people."

Commenting on Can you feel the Force?, Anna aged 13 and one of the Junior Judges(2) said: "It was good because it had unusual facts that you wouldn't know from science lessons."

Andrew aged 11 said: "The illustrations were good but my favourite bit was the way of walking on custard."

Adele aged 11 said: "I didn't vote for it just because Richard Hammond wrote it, it truly was the best."

Eleanor Updale, chair of the junior judging panels (2) said: "This instantly appealing book traces the roots of physics to the dawn of civilization, but concentrates on the way physical forces are at work in all our lives today.  With clear illustrations, practical experiments, and well-paced text, it makes an interest in science look like fun   and above all, normal."

Dorling Kindersley has now won the junior award eight times more than any other publisher. What Makes Me, Me? by Robert Winston, which is part of the same series as Can you feel the force?, won the prize in 2005.

The other books short listed for this year's Junior prize are:

  • How nearly everything was invented by the brainwaves devised and illustrated by Ralph and Lisa Lazar, and written by Jilly MacLeod.
  • It's true! Space turns you into spaghetti by Heather Catchpole and  Vanessa Woods (Allen and Unwin)
  • KFK Natural Disasters by Andrew Langley (Kingfisher Knowledge)
  • My Body Book by Mick Manning and Brita Granström (Franklin Watts)
  • Science Investigations: Electricity by John Farndon (Wayland)
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert won this year's Royal Society General Prize for Science Books.


1.       The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. It responds to individual demand with selection by merit, not by field. The Society's objectives are to:

·       strengthen UK science by providing support to excellent individuals

·       fund excellent research to push back the frontiers of knowledge

·       attract and retain the best scientists

·       ensure the UK engages with the best science around the world

·       support science communication and education; and communicate and encourage dialogue with the public

·       provide the best independent advice nationally and internationally

·       promote scholarship and encourage research into the history of science

2.       The Royal Society Prizes for Science Books collaborated with Ecsite-uk, the UK  network of science centres and museums, to run the judging process. Young people aged up to fourteen in 100 Junior Judging Panels in youth groups and schools, and NESTA Planet Science groups across the UK, have the sole and final say on which book on the shortlist should win.

3.       The Judges on the Junior Prize panel are: Eleanor Updale, (Chair), award winning children's writer and historian of science; Karen Bultitude, Development Director within the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England; Dafydd Evans, Royal Society University Research Fellow at Cardiff University;  Laura Grant, Honorary Research Fellow in the Science Communication Unit of the  University of Liverpool and Seb Rogers, Head of Science at Cirencester Deer  Park School.