If you’ve ever looked for some added value to you usual nighttime hangout you ought to have been in the city of Rehovot last week. Had you been there, you would have had the pleasure of taking part in the annual “Beer, Science and Good Spirits” night, a wonderful initiative by the city of Rehovot and the world renowned Weizmann Institute of Science. This collaboration is what led to the creation of this wondrous tradition.
The event, which started out as a one-time event three years ago, for Rehovot’s 120-year celebrations, quickly turned into one of the city’s most expected cultural events. Over 30 scientists and graduate students from the institute held lectures in local hangouts – bars, pubs, restaurants, and cafes. The subjects of the lectures varied from “Nuclear Energy – a Dream or a Nightmare?” to “How Was Life Created from Still Matter” and many more.
The Weizmann Institute of Science, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a multidisciplinary research institute situated in the City of Rehovot (about 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv). The institute, which was founded in 1934 as “The Ziv Institute” is the third institute for higher education to be founded in the state of Israel. It was created with the encouragement of Haim Weizmann, Israel’s first president who also served as the institute’s first president. In his honor, the institute received its new name in 1944. The institute has five faculties: Mathematics and Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biology. And just for you to know, chemistry Noble prizewinner for the year 2009, Dr. Ada Yonat, completed her doctorate at the Weizmann Institute, and stills works there today!
Rehovot’s Mayor, Mr. Rahamin Maloul referred to the event and said, “We broadened cultural and recreational activities in the city, while promoting education and literacy. Rehovot won the county’s education prize this year, and is now nominated for the national education prize, and The Weizmann Institute has an important part in it.” Weizmann Institute current president, Professor Daniel Zajfman said, “The Weizmann Institute sees for itself the obligation and the privilege of sharing with the public the scientific discoveries and the excitement that comes along with them. We’ve learned that the public is not only thirsty for different drinks, and not just for beer – but also for knowledge and news from the scientific front.”
The lecture itself was fascinating; Shamia was very articulate in his speech and worked the audience well, took many questions and was overall an excellent lecturer. But most importantly, Shamia took this complex subject and made in approachable and easy to understand, even if the last time you heard about biology was in the eighth grade.A perfect sign for the success of the event could be found in the parking lot. Never mind how far I had to park to find a spot, but while walking to my lecture of choice I was stopped by many drivers asking for directions for the different lectures and was asked about the night’s itinerary. I, personally, went to a lecture by Tal Shamia, called “Excuse Me, What is the Time?”- Shamia, who came to the Iceberg ice-cream parlor in casual wear and a big smile, talked about an hour about the internal biological clock of every cell in the human body, and the human sleep cycle. He addressed issues such as sleep disorders, the affects of sleep deprivation on the human body, how the sleep mechanism is affected by working in shifts and even about jetlag – He explained about how out body’s biological clock responds to sunlight and metabolic processes, but the latter one has more impact. According to an experiment perform at his Weizmann Institute lab, if you were to fly abroad and refrain from eating before and during the flight, then eat according to the new time zone in which you are in – you should experience little to no jetlag at all!
The lecture took place in the patio outside of the ice-cream parlor, and from where I was standing I could easily see that the café next-door and the pub across from us were totally packed as well. Many people from all over the area came to hear illustrative lectures in layman terms over a cold beer, iced coffee or sweet ice-cream, which also served as a relief from the Israeli summer-time heat.
So if you are ever in Israel on the month of July, and you like trying something different and learning something new, be sure to look for the lectures of the next “Beer, Science and Good Spirits”. Because whatever it is you’re going to learn on your vacation, you might as well do it over a cold beer, right?