Option Week 1 - Science at Hebrew University
The science group was very excited (especially Ella) to start the 3 days worth of science, curiosity and experiments. We slept for 4 hours the night before – purposely of course - as we were testing our scientific hypothesis “how much sleep is required to avoid sympathetic nervous system shut down”.
As you could have guessed, the first day began with extreme energy (at least potential energy which would soon turn into kinetic energy). Day 1 began with a forensic investigation based on a real crime scenario in a hotel room, and we all had a sigh of relief when we were told it didn't take place in the hotel we were staying in. First we were in the biology lab where we learnt about blood types that would help us identify whose blood was found in the crime scene. We also used a gel electrophoresis (don't get scared off at this point just because it was a big word, persevere) machine which magnetically separated the DNA which was extracted from the hair follicles.
Next we went to the chemistry lab where we had to determine which sea the sand (which was left at the crime scene) came from. The sand was identified as originating from the Dead Sea as it, on examination, had a high concentration of salt. The method used to find out the salt concentration included FIRE. In the chemistry lab we also found out that the drink that was placed next to the deceased victim was made up of a combination of ethanol and methanol.
After a much-anticipated Israeli (as opposed to Polish) lunch, we returned to the chemistry lab and were presented with the problem-solving task of figuring out which white powder was left next to the victims bed. We figured this out by experimenting, which chemicals reacted with each powder. There were a couple of small explosions and some disconcerting wall cracks appeared but we eventually worked it out by asking the teacher the answer. Then we went to the biology lab and summed up the case and presented, based on evidence ascertained, who the murderer was. From our findings we determined that Ilan Lavan should objectively be considered as a suspect and have referred his name to the Israeli authorities.
After dinner, as the sun majestically set behind the ancient walls of our heritage and the glistering stars emerged in the cold blackness of night (it sounds poetically good), we looked to the heavens, and then as our generation does, we looked at the laptop projector to use an astronomy app called Stellarium. The app allowed us to go anywhere at any time and analyse astrology patterns. We spoke about aliens and evidence for alien life such as Area 51. We also went outside to look through a telescope to identify astronomical features including the moon and mars.
After the long day, we got straight into our beds but then realised that we should shower as we were scared that the E. coli would kill us or eat our flesh as we slept in oblivion. On the flip side if we were to be invaded by aliens perhaps the more putrid and toxic we are the less likely that we would be abducted.
Day 2 was my favourite day of the program. We commenced the day by seeing the effects and impact of smoking on lungs. We lit cigarettes and a Nagila, and captured the smoke in glass flasks. We saw what made up the cigarettes - tar, tobacco (nicotine) and other smaller contents. The solids that went into the lungs were caught in a filter. The image was grotesque and an olive colour. After that, we touched healthy lungs and smokers lungs. The healthy lungs were spongy and pink whereas the smoking lungs were black and had tumours. It was a somber reminder how fragile our bodies are and that what we consume or inhale has ramifications for every living cell. In deference, that night we avoided our usual 1kg tub of ice cream.
After lunchtime, we returned to the physics lab where we were presented with a physics/mathematical problem. Our instructions were that we had to figure out who shot the man from a building. There were 3 people who could have murdered the man. We were provided with the relevant angle of the gun shot (43 degrees) and were then required to mathematically solve the murder by working out the equations. It ended up being the girlfriend of the man (#unhealthyrelationships).
The next physics part was practical and dealt with waves and frequencies. We saw how different sound frequencies created different patterns and images. The physics section was followed by a new scientific investigation in which we undertook to find out which restaurant a victim went to before his death. We undertook this by investigating which specific food elements were in the stomach contents e.g starch or protein. Then we had a talk on honey bees and their body clock. It was very interesting, at least what I was able to pay attention to as I was tired at this point. I also made a collage of my friends reactions to finding out new information in lectures.
In the evening, we went to the Israel museum and one of the past counterpoint madricha, Miza, majored in archaeology and she told us about many artefacts in the museum. Then we went back to the hotel and the mads brought us ice cream which was a great end to the day.
The 3rd day started off with playing around with liquid nitrogen. This infamous substance creates a smokey vapour. To test it out we poured (or spilt) the liquid nitrogen on the floor and our shoes were soon lost within the cloudiness of the floor. This provided a good opportunity to buy better shoes. We then had a tour of the ecology and herbarium part of the university. We saw plant species from the establishment of Israel that had been preserved for years. After lunch we went to a laboratory and made glow in the dark liquid which was made up of H2O2 and water. We intend commercialising and selling it as an alternative form of light energy. We saw the influence of UV light and we realised how many different light frequencies are not visible to humans. After, we had a lecture on a illicit drugs and cannabis. We saw how people tried to smuggle drugs into Israel. The ideas used to smuggle in these drugs were very ingenuitive and we tried not to get any bad ideas (no promises).
Our scientific adventure had come to a close and we took the bus back to the hotel to get our bags and then were picked up by the rest of Lehava that were doing culture. It was amazing to be reunited with our friends after these few days and reconnect with each other at the hotel.
By Sarah Richmond