I want to report that, contrary to what you may have heard, science is alive and well in the world. Our deluded leaders may not get it, but the kids do. The future is looking really good, people.
I just spent 2 days as a Special Awards judge at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center this year. Nearly 2000 high school students converged on Los Angeles for a week of fun with science and engineering. I spent many hours with them reading abstracts, looking at posters, and interviewing these high school students about their projects. And I have to say, it was the most interesting and stimulating few days I have spent in many years.
More details after the squiggly.
I interacted with high school students from the USA, Nigeria, Ireland, Mexico, Chile, Russia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, and many, many other countries around the world. I looked at dozens of projects, including one that estimated the dark matter in distant galaxies and compared their estimates with theoretical predictions, one that searched for evidence of gravity waves emanating from the sun’s core based on sunspot activity, one that recalculated Kepler’s equations of motion to include light pressure from solar photons (and proposed an experiment to verify Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity).
I read reports by students who were developing ideas for diagnosing and curing brain cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, students who had developed a process to convert a cheap fast-growing wood into strong flexible turbine blades for wind power generation, and students who had designed and built an ice-bot that used the transition from liquid water to ice as a buoyancy mechanism for raising nutrients from the ocean floor in order to seed plankton growth at the ocean’s surface to reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. There was even a project that reassessed a cold fusion experiment and proved that it could happen. How cool is all of that?!
I was part of a panel that picked a few best papers for Special Awards. But you know what - every one of these kids is a winner. And so are all of us.
For those of you (like me) who get depressed listening to the never-ending crap from climate science deniers, anti-evolutionists, and benighted politicians who make stuff up about women’s reproductive systems, I can assure all of you that the world is in good hands. I spoke to tomorrow’s leaders, and they get it. Not only do these kids love science and engineering, but they can’t get enough of it. And they will win, and we will all be better for it, because they are smart and they are right.
Sat May 17, 2014 at 9:33 AM PT: Saturday, May 17: The 2014 ISEF is now over. The titles and authors of all the winning entries are available on-line. The official list of winners is posted here (https://www.societyforscience.org/...). All the Special Award winners (by separate sponsoring groups and agencies) are posted here (https://www.societyforscience.org/...).