The Secret Science of Baby draft submitted

After almost two years of writing (and a few more years of planning on top), I finally submitted the draft for The Secret Science of Baby. I thought it would be a moment of pure elation, but instead it felt rather like an anticlimax. Maybe that is because all I did was press send on an e-mail and nothing really happened.

Most of the book was written during the pandemic, which brought its own set of challenges. Juggling homeschooling, the “day job” and then firing up enough brain cells in the evening once the kids had gone to bed to write coherent sentences was not easy (although it rarely is, to be fair).

On the other hand, doing something during the past year(s) that didn’t involve constantly watching dire news bulletins about COVID or doom scrolling on Twitter at least gave me something else to obsess about focus on.

I enjoyed (for the most) writing the book and hope that comes across in the final version once all the edits are complete. As the image above shows, it came in just shy of 82 000 words (93 000 including footnotes and references).

So, without giving too much away, below is a chapter outline of how it ended up.

Part 1 – Conception

Chapter 1: The egg and sperm race The fluid dynamics of how sperm manage to swim to the egg

Chapter 2: Forming a body plan How mechanical forces in the developing embryo shape who we are

First interlude: the chemistry of pregnancy tests

Part 2 – Pregnancy

Second interlude: the physics of ultrasound scans 

Chapter 3: Baby bump The forces involved during pregnancy from fetal kicks to the weight of the growing bump

Chapter 4: Lights, camera, action potential! How the uterus is able to produce and synchronise contractions that can push out a four-kilogram baby

Chapter 5: Labor Day The mechanics of childbirth

Chapter 6: The tree of life How the life-sustaining placenta manages to transfer a wide range of gasses and other solutes to and from the fetus

Part 3 – Baby

Chapter 7: First breath How a newborn inflates millions of tiny alveoli in the lungs straight after birth to start breathing on their own

Chapter 8: The chaos of newborn cries The ‘special’ acoustic properties of the newborn cry that make it so annoying attention grabbing

Chapter 9: Tongue twister The mechanics of how infants breastfeed 

Third interlude: the engineering of modern diapers

Chapter 10: Baby brain What a mathemaical analysis of the signals from the infant brain can tell us about sleep and neurological development   

Chapter 11: On the move The mechanics and neuroscience of how infants crawl and walk

Chapter 12: Tower of Bab(y)el What physics says about how infants could acquire language

If all goes well, The Secret Science of Baby should be out later next year.

Author: Michael Banks

UK science writer

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