Science Projects Take a Quantum Leap
by Borgna Brunner
While there are still plenty of high school science fair projects that involve breeding fruit flies or building baking-soda-powered volcanoes, today's elite junior scientists are involved in experiments of such sophistication that the ordinary mortal is hopelessly baffled.
Take, for example, the winners of the 1999 Intel Science Talent Search—the titles of the experiments themselves are enough to bring on mental vertigo. One 17-year-old's experiment was called Lexical Steganography through Adaptive Modulation of the Word Choice Hash. Another submitted Quantum Calculations to Determine Electrical Properties for Molecular Electronic Rectifying Diodes.
And then there's the title of the 1st place experiment, conducted by 14-year-old Natalia Toro, of Boulder, Colorado: Independent Analysis of Evidence for nu_mu <--> nu_tau Oscillations in the Super Kamiokande Atmospheric Neutrino Data.
Awestruck? Keep in mind that, when compared to their international peers in eigth grade science achievement, American students come in a mediocre 14th place. Imagine the science prodigies of the highest ranked countries—Singapore, the Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, and Bulgaria.
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