Ever feel like you’re running as fast as you can just to stay in the same place? You’re in good company, according to Roni Atidiya, winner of the 2010 Fame Lab Israel competition. Many of your fellow species – including the cheetah and the cuckoo, find themselves in a similar predicament in that long marathon called evolution. Connecting literature to science, Atidiya referred to a passage in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where Alice and the Red Queen are running, the Queen urging Alice on – “Faster! Faster!” yet, “the trees and the other things round them never changed their places at all: however fast they went, they never seemed to pass anything.”
Atidiya explained that this situation can be seen in the evolutionary relationship between predator and prey, such as the cheetah and gazelle. Natural selection will favor speed in both species, both remaining in the “same place” in the evolutionary race. Atidiya covered all this and more, in an entertaining talk just 3 minutes long, with a hard cover copy of Lewis Carroll as her only prop.
A student in the master’s program in Zoology at Tel Aviv University and a guide at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, Atidiya was one of 9 finalists competing in the 2010 Fame Lab competition which took place May 5th at the Hemda Centre for Science Education in Tel Aviv. Fame Lab is an international competition intended to encourage young scientists to communicate with the general public. The contestants present a 3 minute talk which is scientifically accurate, clear and entertaining. Atidiya will represent Israel in the international competition to take place at the UK Cheltenham Science Festival in June. There she will meet fellow scientists from participating countries. Fame Lab International has expanded worldwide this year; the new participating countries include Hong Kong, Morocco, Egypt and Libya – which should make for some interesting encounters.
Judges for the competition were: science journalist Dudi Goldman of YNET and Galei Zahal, Dr. Adi Matan, Science and Technology Attache at the British Embassy, Professor Eilam Gross of the Weizmann Institute and Dr. Liat Hayardeni of Teva. The decision to award first place to Atidiya was based on her “ability to explain an evolutionary principle through the use of a cultural icon, creating an intercultural and interdisciplinary bridge between the humanities and natural sciences.”
Yair Ben Horin, a graduate of the Hebrew University in Physics and Philosophy and a guide at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, came in a close second with his talk on the use of magnetic fields as a replacement for electric shock therapy in treating depression. Ben Horowitz, a student in the master’s program in the Department of Medicine at the Technion was voted “audience favorite” and voted in third place by the judges for his talk on apoptosis – programmed cell death.
This is one competition in which everyone is a winner – including the audience. Last night was a fun, fast paced evening with all 9 finalists delivering talks that conveyed complex information with humor and charm. From my vantage point, sitting close to the contestants as they waited their turn to come up onstage, their camaraderie and support for one another was much stronger than their stage fright. Now in its fourth year in Israel, the Fame Lab effect can be seen in the extensive involvement of past contestants, who remain in touch with one another, creating a community of young scientists with shared goals. One result has been the establishment of Mada Al Ktzeh HaMazleg (Science on the Tip of the Fork), a group of Fame Lab “graduates” who are available to lecture on science and often present science performances at events such as ICON, the annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival in Israel.
Fame Lab Israel was organized by the Hemda Centre for Science Education in Tel Aviv, in partnership with the British Council and with the support of the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, The Technion in Haifa and with corporate sponsorship from Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva. Those who missed the fun last night will have an opportunity to view the talks which will be made available online.