Casting a bionic eye on innovation

By Simon Rocker, February 13, 2014
Simon Goldhill with the trust's Cara Case

Simon Goldhill with the trust's Cara Case

To the uninitiated, nanoscience might sound as if it were something to do with the study of grandmothers.

But this rapidly developing field is about the investigation of tiny particles, thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair.

For scientists, its technical application opens up all sorts of possibilities, from the more effective use of solar energy to an artificial nose that can "sniff" cancer on human breath.

Nanoscientists at Tel Aviv University, for example, are trying to build a "bionic eye" which could restore vision to the blind.

What is going on in its laboratories was revealed to a London audience on Sunday by the director of Tel Aviv's Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Professor Yael Hanein.

She addressed more than 150 people at the second "university for a day" held by the Tel Aviv University Trust at the London offices of Investec, giving laymen the chance to sample some of the university's academic wares.

Middle East politics, business and cancer research were other topics covered. Meanwhile, the university has been breaking fresh ground in an altogether different area. It has launched a joint venture with Cambridge University in inter-religious studies to examine the impact of Judaism, Christianity and Islam on each other.

Last summer, scholars from the two universities explored struggle and strife within the three Abrahamic religions at a conference in Tel Aviv which was attended by, among others, the Palestinian Authority's education minister.

Learning how Judaism, Islam and Christianity have affected each other's development was "essential to properly understanding them", Professor Menachem Fisch, director of Tel Aviv's new Centre for Religious and Inter-religious Studies, said at Sunday's event.

Studying them in isolation would be like "listening to one side of a telephone conversation and mistaking it for a monologue".

The joint "dialogical" approach was "important not just for academics but for the community and everybody who wants religion to make sense in the world", said Simon Goldhill, Professor of Greek at Cambridge and author of a book on the Temple in Jerusalem.

"Just imagine Muslim, Christian and Jewish Israelis studying their religion in this way and going out to be teachers," Professor Fisch said.

Last updated: 1:44pm, February 13 2014