New Worlds: Physics made easier by hefty new Hebrew volume

Doctors using iPads to keep tabs on patients and call up reference material; researchers sequence the full genome of the wild strawberry.

iPad Apple tech 311 (photo credit: AP)
iPad Apple tech 311
(photo credit: AP)
First-year physics students in Israeli universities and colleges usually don’t read textbooks but depend on lectures because there have been no updated Hebrew-language volumes in subjects like mechanics, and they have difficulty reading the technical material in Hebrew. If the lecturer is less able to express himself or present the material in a comprehensible way, students are stuck.
Now the Hebrew University’s Magnes Press and the ORT Braude Academic Engineering College in Karmiel, with an impressive list of advisers and transmitters, have published a 556-page, NIS 160 softcover volume – a Hebrew edition of the classic Wiley & Sons text called Understanding Physics.
The original textbook, whose sixth edition was the basis for the Hebrew version, was issued in 2004 and written by Karen Cummings (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Southern Connecticut State University.), Priscilla W. Laws (Dickinson College), Edward Redish (University of Maryland) and Patrick Cooney (Millersville University). The hefty volume is already proving to be a boon to new engineering students, who can now understand the abstruse material in an attractive book full of pictures, illustrations and charts.
The text is designed to work with interactive learning strategies that are increasingly being used in physics instruction (for example, interactive lectures). In doing so, it incorporates new approaches based on physics education research (PER), aligns with courses that use computer-based lab tools, and promotes activity-based physics in lectures, labs and recitations. Beginning with a chapter on measurement, it goes on to explain other subjects in 16 huge chapters with a narrative style that emphasizes observation and experimentation.
Doctors around the world, including physicians at Ma’ayanei Hayeshua Hospital who received them as a gift from management, are increasingly using the iPAD for keeping tabs on patients and calling up reference material. Now the BMJ (British Medical Journal) has become the first general medical journal in the world to launch a version for Apple’s tablet computer.
The application is a new product that features key content from the weekly print issue along with live feeds of the latest news, blogs, podcasts and videos from Other features include easy-to-read one-page summaries of research papers, editorials, a video channel and a search of all iPad journal content.
The application is free to download from the iTunes store with a preview sample issue, and a four-week subscription costs the equivalent of $15. BMJ editor in chief Dr. Fiona Godlee commented that the “BMJ was the first general medical journal to have a website and, in continuing this trend of innovation, I’m delighted that we are the first general medical journal to launch an iPad edition.”
It may be less important than documenting the human genome, but now a collaborative effort involving 74 researchers from 38 institutes – including the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot – has sequenced the full genome of the wild strawberry. The research was recently published in the journal Nature Genetics. Drs. Asaph Aharoni and Avital Adato of the institute’s plant sciences department were the sole participating Israeli scientists, but made a major contribution in mapping the genes and gene families responsible for the strawberry’s flavor and aroma.
The woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is closely related to the garden-variety, and contains large amounts of antioxidants (mainly tannins, which give wine their astringency), as well as vitamins A, C and B12 and potassium, calcium and other minerals. In addition, the fruit is uniquely rich in substances for flavor and aroma. Participation in this project is something of a circle closer for Aharoni, as for a number of years, he has been investigating the metabolic pathways of ripening, in which the substances that give the fruit its flavor and aroma are produced. Aharoni was one of the first to use biological chips to analyze the genetic networks involved in creating these substances. He has also conducted a comparative analysis of these genes in wild and cultivated plants, looking for the differences. Now that the full genome of the wild strawberry is available for research, he is able not only to conduct deeper and broader investigations, but also to shed new light on some of his past findings.
Aharoni hopes that, among other things, the newly sequenced genome will help scientists understand how to return the flavors and aromas that have been lost over years of breeding in the cultivated cousin of the wild strawberry.
The woodland strawberry genome is relatively short, simple and easy to manipulate, and the plant grows quickly and easily, making it an ideal model plant that could provide insight into other related agricultural crops such as apples, peaches, cherries and almonds.