Screen Savors: News you can use

Tal Berman and Nitzan Onael's science show is educational and - would you believe it - entertaining at the same time.

tal berman 88 (photo credit: )
tal berman 88
(photo credit: )
We weren't great in science back in school, probably thanks to a chemistry teacher who wore a tie with the periodic table of elements printed on it and an elementary school matron whose idea of research was scanning the pages of The Daily News. But we're making up for all that now, thanks to Science News (Sundays-Thursdays, 7:30), Channel 8's entertaining and informative weeknight program starring two brilliant bald men. Being a member of the follicle-challenged ourselves, it's easy to get down with Tal Berman and his assistant in their in-studio experiments in this fun show, which is one part Bill Nye, The Science Guy, one part Yair Lapid, and one part Beakman's World, although Berman's hairstyle is the direct opposite of the Kramer-like Beakman's. The experiments here are more like the ones your mother told you never to try at home, in this case walking on eggshells. No, not trying to figure out just what to say to your teenager when you've just been berated for simply being alive. Because unlike those useless discussions, here there's a real purpose: learning something, but with a smile. So here were Berman and Nitzan Onael discussing pressure, demonstrating how trying to pop a balloon on a bed of nails won't work, but on one nail... POP! Applying that basic premise about a wider area of space being able to take more pressure Onael soon had Berman strapping on a pair of rather unique sandals: the bottoms were two full egg cartons. Sure enough, Berman was able to stand on the eggs without scrambling them, sending us hurrying into the kitchen before someone could show us the business side of a skillet and stop the fun. No folks, this isn't those boring science film strips about the mating habits of the salmon that they used to stick you with in fifth grade. Watching Berman and his gang is fun, and you actually do learn something in the process. For example, in the opening "news flash" sequence, we learned how airplane manufacturers have come up with a self-repairing "syrup" for airplanes stored under the wing or other parts of the plane, which can be ejected to temporarily fix problems with the body of the aircraft. Or that saliva contains an element that is six times stronger than the average pain killer. Scientists hope to synthesize it to figure out how to allow the body to create more of it when someone is in need of a pain-killer, which is nothing to spit at. Then Berman slipped into his Yair Lapid mode for an interview with someone making science news, a regular segment of the program. The interviewee we saw, Dr. Gal Yedid of Bar-Ilan University, talked about a possible discovery that could keep recovering drug addicts from returning to their addiction. Yedid outlined how neuro-steroids, a substance produced by the brain, were found to be in very low levels in those who returned to taking drugs after having been rehabilitated. Using lab rats, his team was creating pills containing the neuron-steroids, which could be given to such people, making up for their deficiency and helping them stay clean from drug use. Only problem is Yedid and his team need some more research money, so crack open your piggy bank and send them some. OK, sure, the item on what's needed to keep racing cars in top shape wasn't our cup of tea, but that's probably because we're challenged by the idea of checking our own car's water. And Berman's program more than made up for it with their segment where viewers send in questions. Naturally one viewer wanted to know why your stomach growls when you're hungry. Berman's expert, seated at a restaurant table as she ordered lunch, explained how the digestive tract contracts to prepare for the next meal, part of the process which produces borborygmi, or the growling noises emitted by your belly. So there you have it - fun, fast, informative. Like Channel 8 in general - one of the best channels currently available here in Israel, and a good choice almost any time of the day - Berman's Science News doesn't go over our heads and keeps us entertained. In the world of television, that's a formula for success.