ANU scientist launches children’s book about gravity

Henry the emu. Image credit: Niraj Lal and Adam Curruthers
Friday 13 November 2020

A children's story by ANU scientist Dr Niraj Lal about an emu - a flightless bird - running fast enough to 'fly' into Earth's orbit has made it into print and will be launched by veteran science journalist Robyn Williams AO in Melbourne tomorrow.

The launch of the book, Henry the Flying Emu, coincides with the new moon and the best night to see the 'Emu' constellation, which comprises dark parts of the sky rather than stars.

The book follows Henry's quest to fly, with the aim to teach children about the science of gravity.

"The inspiration to write this book came from a dream about running really fast to go to the beach," Dr Lal, a Visiting Fellow with the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, said.

"The thought then struck me - if I wanted to run fast enough to launch myself into orbit at the Earth's surface, how fast would I need to go? The answer is a crazy 28,440 km per hour.

"No animal on Earth can run that fast, but what if they could? Emus can't fly so that gave me the idea of Henry getting help from friends to solve that very real problem."

Dr Lal collaborated with illustrator Adam Carruthers to bring Henry and other characters to life.

The book's website ( provides details of the launch event and how to join the event virtually, and includes educational material on gravity, flight and motion.

Updated:  10 August 2021/Responsible Officer:  Dean, CECS/Page Contact:  CECS Marketing