Today’s topic is Trust
Trust is embedded in almost everything we do. Since this is #ExploreElul and we are looking at Elul from a STEM perspective, let’s look at Trust the same way, trusting that an experiment or procedure will work even if it doesn’t look like it will and not giving up too early.
For this week’s experiment we are looking at two common reactions: baking soda and vinegar which makes an awesome volcano; and sugar, water and yeast, which is how bread is able to have a lovely, pillowy texture.
Both of these reactions create gases, which we are demonstrating using a balloon that will inflate as the reactions continue. In our video, you’ll notice that the baking soda and vinegar reaction is almost instantaneous, while the sugar and yeast reaction is slow and steady.
Science, and baking, have proven time and again that these reactions will work, but even we at JEdSTEM had a moment of uncertainty watching the sugar and yeast. We trusted the reaction was taking place, and began to notice the little twitches as the balloon filled up.
Try out the experiment at home! Be sure to use proper safety procedures and tag @jedstem and #ExploreElul in your post!
Today's topic is Prepare
After months of perfecting your challah baking practice, have you ever thought about the science behind what makes challah so delicious? Most bakers will tell you that true, good, baking relies on the science of chemistry. Yeast needs sugar to feed it in order to rise, but adding additional ingredients can inhibit that process. Under whipping egg whites can lead to a rubbery cake. When tempering chocolate, you must adhere carefully to the rise and fall of the temperature in order to result in shiny chocolate--otherwise you might get a dull, matte finish (although it will still taste good!)
In Peter Reinhardt’s cookbook The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, he shares that the first step in baking bread is mise en place, a French phrase meaning “everything in place.” Our Jewish tradition also teaches this concept in Pirkei Avot 4:3: ayn l’cha davar sheayn lo makom - there is no thing that has not its place. Before you can begin the chemistry experiment that leads to delicious bread, you must have all your ingredients, measuring tools, and kitchen utensils primed and ready to be brought in, at precisely the right moment.
As we look forward to the High Holidays, many of us are engaging in mise en place, writing cards to family and friends, getting out seasonal recipes, and dusting off formal wear for services. We can look even farther ahead into the coming year, too, preparing for our new year by gathering up the tools and supplies we will need.
Today’s topic is Search and today’s post is from Robbie Berg M.D., Resident at Johns Hopkins and former Assistant Director at the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy East.
A huge challenge for computer programmers is interpreting search queries. When a user asks a question, how can the search engine find the right answer, when there are millions if not billions of possibilities? And as users, we all know how frustrating it can be to ask a question only to get irrelevant answers.
During Elul we begin the process of introspection, asking ourselves questions about how we can be better people in the year to come. Each year, it might seem like we can't find the right answers, that our search algorithms are coming up with suboptimal responses.
But perhaps more importantly we should be thinking... are we asking the right questions?
Today’s topic is Decide
When is the right time to launch something new? Should you wait until it’s done or perfect?
Making a decision on when to bring a product to market can be difficult. You aren’t sure how it will perform in comparison to competitors, but having customers give reviews can help shape advancements for your product in the future.
When electric cars were released, they had a range of 60 to 150 miles, just a fraction of the range for a gasoline-powered car--300 to 400 miles per tank, a tank which can be refilled in less than ten minutes and be ready to continue on the road. Electric cars had to, and for the most part still have to, be charged for several hours in order to prepare for its next trip. Today, electric cars have a range of about 250-400 miles per charge, which brings them to a comparable level with gasoline fueled vehicles.
The decision to begin manufacturing electrics many years ago must have been difficult, as the manufacturers knew that their product could not compare easily to the cars already available. Yet, if they had waited until they had the same statistics as gas cars, they would have missed out on user feedback opportunities, and the chance to begin making an impact in how we power our transportation and the resulting impact on our environment.
Today’s topic is Change
Do you carry change in your pocket or bag? Small coins jangling around make a nice ASMR sound, but have little use anymore, as the world shifts to card-based transactions. The penny, in particular, is fascinating, as the price of copper caused the production of a single penny to be almost two cents—double the single cent the penny is worth! (Turns out it also costs more than five cents to make a nickel!)
For #ExploreElul, our day about change isn’t actually about the coins we have in tzedakah boxes (although we do love puns here at JEdSTEM). Rather, we are thinking about changes in the world, ones that we see everyday. Some changes show progress and improvement of technologies, like preventative medicine. Others show impacts of advancement that are causing negative effects, like climate change.
Everything will always change, it seems to be the only constant, so our job becomes to be promoters of positive change—creating sustainable technologies and implementing inclusive practices.
Today’s topic is Want and today’s post is from Hannah Elbaum, Jewish Learning Guide and 4th Grade Curriculum Coach at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, MA.
On January 1, 2019, Netflix released a wildly popular show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Kondo teaches families how to KonMari their homes by ridding themselves of belongings that do not “spark joy.” This show prompted a national trend of home clean outs, to the point that donation centers were overwhelmed with the influx.
It's always a good lesson, to continually evaluate your life and belongings to ensure that what you have brings you joy, rather than weights you down. However, Kondo spends little time talking about the opposite side of the coin, bringing in new items.
Today’s idea is want, and as we head into the beginning of 5781, I am thinking about what I want to bring into my life to spark joy. In some cases, this can be tangible items, such as frames for art from my grandmother so it can hang on my wall. In other cases, it can be intangible, like my commitment to have a weekly check-in with my friends. Now that we are maintaining social distancing, I’m wanting to connect with them regularly as we work from home.
What wants are you pursuing in the coming year? What will spark joy for you?
Today’s topic is Give and today’s post is from Lillian Feldman-Hill, Jewish educator and nursing student.
In Jewish practice, when we "give" to others, we do not describe it with the Hebrew verb "To Give" but rather with Tzedek (Tzedakkah) which translates to righteousness. Scientific learning, teaching, research - and my particular focus of healthcare practice - is nothing if not an offering to others and the people who come after us.
We develop technologies and understandings to impact those around us (otherwise what's the point?) but we must ask ourselves is what we do rooted in righteousness? Do we build and develop for the betterment of others or for our own monetary gain? Do we practice healthcare for status and money or truly to bring health and healing to our communities? Do we use our wisdom to bring tools to those in need or weapons to those in power?
We must not only "give" our work to others, we must be sure what we are giving reflects justice and righteousness and makes our world a better place.
Today’s topic is Remember.
Daniel Kahneman, nobel prize winner and pioneering researcher in behavioral economics, talks about the difference between experience and remembering. Experience is when you are doing something in the moment and remembering is the memory of that experience in that moment.
Your experience in the moment can dictate the memories that you have. For example, You might be having the best summer ever at camp. You love your bunkmates and are invested in your activities. But, if you get sick in the last few days and have to miss the closing campfire, you may remember your whole summer just by those few days you spend in the health center. That said, you can flip this seemingly negative experience into a positive one. Even though you might have gotten sick at the end of camp, your bunkmates brought “get well” cards to you. The health center staff brought in your favorite flavor of electrolyte drink, and your counselors checked in each night before bedtime. In this circumstance, you will remember the love you felt from your friends at camp and how much they all care about you, making it the best summer of all in your experience and memory.
Today we will be doing our first experiment of #ExploreElul. In this experiment, we will be making a water lens that distorts images behind it. Depending on where the lens is in relation to the image, and where we are in relation to both we will experience and remember a different effect of the water lens.
Making a Water Lens
A water lens is a way of creating a reflection of an image through the distortion of the water in a glass.
In today’s post we finish off our discussion of the Design Thinking Process and prepare our intentions for #Explore Elul.
Today’s topic is Plan, the perfect topic for the second part of our Design Thinking Process.
4. Prototype: Now that you have a whole bunch of ideas from your Ideate step, it’s time to prototype a design, which means making an example of your solution. If you’re making a physical object, you can start simple, with paper and cardboard and continue to update as you go through your Design Thinking Process.
5. Test: Once you have a prototype, talk to users and get feedback. This can be daunting, but it’s very helpful to figure out if your idea is a full solution to the problem you saw and defined.
This might be the last step, but we aren’t quite done yet! The Design Thinking Process is meant to be iterative, going back to different steps again and again to help tweak your ideas, and continue working to find the best solutions possible.
Our Intention week of #ExploreElul flew by! What are your intentions for #ExploreElul? Did you use any of the Design Thinking steps to help you create concrete goals? Here’s a great example: our intentions here at JEdSTEM are to show and explore the intersection of Judaism and STEM, and we are always in a testing process with you all! We welcome your feedback and are glad you are here.
This post is part of ExploreElul, from The JEdSTEM Initiative, a month of reflection and exploration of the intersection of Judaism and STEM.
JEdSTEM aims to develop engaged, curious, and innovative Jewish minds for the modern world.