Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yeshiva Science Fair - by Bentzion Shaffer

When Gedaliah was in tenth grade, he had a science teacher named Mr. Ratner. Mr. Ratner actually had a junk yard business which he ran with his brothers, but he had a science degree and he wanted to teach. He really tried to help the school raise it's standards.

During those years, there was a huge push to improve science education so we could, "beat Russia." Mr. Ratner saw to it that we had a great deal of science materials, some of it from army surplus. We had test tubes, Bunsen burners and even a professional radio station. He decided to have a science fair and arranged some scientific official to come in and judge it.

The science fair involved selection of a project, writing it up and doing an experiment to illustrate the project. Gedaliah, who even then had dreams of becoming a nuclear physicist, undertook a very daring project. He constructed a cloud chamber in which some sort of gently radioactive material is placed in the cloud chamber with some sort of gases and you can actually see flashes of radiation.

He worked very hard on the project and did the experiment but on the night of the science fair, try as he might, he just couldn't get it to work.

The judge could see the depth that Gedaliah put into it. In the end, no one actually won the science fair-- the officials thought that no one had gone deeply enough into it. But we were all very proud of him for taking on such an advanced topic.

I must tell you though that Gedaliah's cloud chamber actually worked, I saw it myself, although I didn't realize what I was seeing. There were these flashes, and it was all very eerie.

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