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Last Thursday, the Honors program took us to the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, as part of the semester’s theme of creativity. We took a chartered bus over to the museum, which is across the street from the other Hebrew University Givat Ram campus.

Arriving, we instantly noticed that we were the oldest people present to tour the museum by at least 9 years, which was slightly offsetting. We eventually made our way into the museum, and met our British tour guide. We started off the afternoon with logical puzzles, requiring us to solve problems of making several smaller non-uniform shapes into a bigger one (randomly-shaped pieces of wood into the letter ‘T’ for example), which my buddy Keenan and I were all over. For me personally, it was a pleasant and unexpected immersion back into Program Challenge (PC) from elementary school, and thus the day instantly became more enjoyable.

We got to tour much of the museum in terms of exhibitions, and got the much more intensive explanations from our guide, with a focus on creativity. It is a science museum, so most of it isn’t necessarily worth mentioning, but there was one odd point in the first part of the tour: the one exhibit was a series of different metals, with a low voltage and amperage current flowing through it to allow people to connect the circuits with their arms and see how much electricity was passing through them. The other people around me were getting readings of about 35/-35 from the meter, whereas my completing the circuit was literally off the scale (which only went up to 90/-90). Apparently, I am Iron Man.

The high point of the tour was the linguistic portions, as our guide is a student of linguistics and it fascinates me personally. We did an activity where he read a real word in English and then everyone had to try and write the proper definition. “Psychopomp” ended up meaning “a device used to send souls to the afterlife in the ancient world.” “Merinome” ended up referring to “the midpoint between two objects” (and not some sort of reference to Hobbits). We also did an activity where 9 pictures represented 9 ideas/things, and then a speaker read them out randomly in a random language, and we had to guess what was being referred to. Things like a cat, ice cream, and a symbol for needing help (a hand reaching out of water) were read and our best was 7 out of 9. We then had to solve the same images using a language called Bliss, which has been developed to use symbols to describe ideas and words in a way that would make sense to a child (and is used to help kids who have been sexually abused talk about their situation).

Finally, we got to do one last linguistics game, which involved a few volunteers. Each person stood up at the front of the group, and then our guide selected three obtuse words from several lists. He also randomly selected a background story, and then the volunteer had to instantly embark on an improvised tale which started with the short background tale, and then worked in the obtuse words. The object of the game was for the rest of the group to try and guess which of the words were forced into the story, by paying attention to body language and verbal cues from the person speaking. I volunteered, and my story had to include “radishes,” “igloo,” and “Camembert.” My background story was, somewhat ideally, that I was at dinner with my boss and he introduced a young lady eating with us as his daughter. I got up and gripped the podium (can’t have any shaking of the hands when it comes to stealth insertion of words into stories, can we), and started off with my tale of woe and renewal; of danger and regained safety; of cliches and original content. That introduction aside, my story basically turned into a purported anecdote of all the places I have been able to dine, as I allegedly relayed to the daughter. This allowed me to work in radishes as part of the salads being offered, and Camembert as an accoutrement. Igloo was the most difficult to work in, and thus I made the snap decision to explain that my various dining places have included boats in the ocean, tiki huts on islands, mudbrick homes in Africa, and even igloos in the Arctic. How did I do? I am happy to report that no one was able to guess all three of the words I had to put into my story, but a few people were able to guess two (igloo being one of them, as that is a fairly obvious candidate for not belonging in most sentences).

All in all, it was an entertaining day.

Check out a few sample photographs taken by Mr. Kaplan, of the HU faculty:

Keenan, Angela, and I, having successfully completed the Da Vinci bridge riddle:

Yours truly, arguing about something (Mr. Kaplan is a good candid photographer):

The Honors group, and some invited guests, all looking on as our British guide explained how optical illusions go about fooling one’s eyes:

Go check out the other photographs taken that day, all by taken by Mr. Yonatan Kaplan of the Hebrew University (and posted here with his explicit permission), at this site.

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