1st prize in Young Scientists Competition shared

Computer language whiz kid and history buff take first prize at event attended by Shimon Peres at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Young Scientists Competition winner 311 (photo credit: Sasson Tiram/Bloomfield Museum of Science)
Young Scientists Competition winner 311
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram/Bloomfield Museum of Science)
In an unexpected turnabout that put unusual historical insights on par with computers as 2011’s best achievements by teenagers, first prize at the Intel-Israel Young Scientists Competition was shared Wednesday by a girl who looked into the influence of French philosopher George Sorel on pre-World War II Italian Facism, and a boy who examined the advantages of the computer language Prolog.
President Shimon Peres astounded the crowd at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Givat Ram campus when he announced the unusual results of the judges’ panel, which was headed by Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, an HU physicist and expert on Albert Einstein’s life and work. For most of the history of Intel-Israel’s annual competition, hard science has taken precedence and the most prestige.
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Intel-Israel president Maxine Fassberg were also on hand to greet the 60 finalists.
This time, Helit Orani of Tel Aviv’s Aharon Katzir Municipal High School shared first prize for her perspective on Sorel, who retired at a young age to contemplate and died in 1922 at 73 – but managed to inspire both Communist and Fascist ideologists and to theorize about “revolutionary syndicalism” and the effects of myths on people’s lives. The 17-year-old history aficionado said Sorel, who unintentionally influenced Mussolini, studied the Bible and was infuriated by the injustice done to French Jewish army officer Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, who had been imprisoned on false charges of spying.
The other first prize winner was Erez Orbach, who studies at Jerusalem’s Sciences and the Arts High School. While explaining his computer knowledge to the judges and to this reporter the day before, he explained that Prolog solves problems by presenting facts and laws in a purely logical way using dry data.
The two first prize winners will each receive a NIS 12,000 scholarship for one academic year at the university or college of their choice, thanks to Intel-Israel.
Second prize was won by Mia Samuels of the Har Vegai School at Tel Hai, whose natural sciences’ work was in preventing the photochemical breakdown of methylene blue, an aromatic chemical compound that appears as an odorless, dark green powder that turns into a blue solution when dissolved in water.
Samuels showed the effects of its binding to a type of clay mineral that without such links breaks down in a few days. She said implementation of what she added to the understanding of the chemical could lead to the development of more stable colors that could be of much use technologically.
Samuels received a NIS 10,000 scholarship.
Third prize was won by the team of Gal Oren and Nerya Stroh of the Jerusalem College of Technology Torah & Science Yeshiva High School.
Both of them are 19 and are well known after sharing one of the five top prizes at last year’s Stockhom Junior Water Prize. They were cited by Sweden’s ambassador to Israel for their invention of a practical device that measures household water consumption to detect leaks and avoid waste.
The duo, who shared an NIS 8,000 scholarship, explained that their computerized system uses a statistical model to note variations in water use over time and send the consumer a message by cell phone about the possibility of a wasteful and possibly damaging leak. If necessary, the water supply can be disconnected using an electrical switch, and the system can send data on water use to a digital display via wireless radio communications.