Author: daniela

The “COTS-Capsule” that protects electronic systems from hazardous radiation effects in space

An Innovative Technology has been Launched into Space…

Tel Aviv University recently launched TauSat-3 satellite to space. TauSat-3 is a technological demonstrator of the COTS-Capsule, an innovative space mechanism for detecting and mitigating cosmic-rays induced damage to space systems. The satellite was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, onboard a Falcon 9 rocket as part of the SpaceX CRS-24 mission. It was then transferred, via the Cargo Dragon C209 spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The satellite was successfully installed and put into operation at the International Space Station. The satellite connected via the ISS datalink network and communicated successfully with ground stations.

TauSat-3, which is approximately the size of a shoebox, was carefully designed and built by the University’s team of experts and will examine the performance of a novel radiation detecting and active protective mechanism to guard electronics from cosmic radiation induced hazardous phenomena. The “COTS-Capsule” will allow the use of modern commercial electronic systems in space, by incorporating them into the protected environment inside the “COTS-Capsule” and operating them in that environment. According to the researchers, this is a mechanism that has revolutionary potential in the field of satellites and space-systems as well as a significant economic impact.

The “COTS-Capsule”. Courtesy of Tel Aviv University

The study was headed by doctoral candidate Yoav Simhony, from the School of Electrical Engineering, together with the head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, Prof. Erez Etzion and Prof. Ofer Amrani from the Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, head of the Small Satellite Laboratory.

It is noteworthy that the “COTS-Capsule” is expected to be included in the series of groundbreaking experiments that are to be conducted as part of the “Rakia” [Sky] mission guided by the Ramon Foundation and the Israel Space Agency.

Eytan Stibbe, the second Israeli in space, will be launched for a mission at the International Space Station this coming February. Stibbe is expected to conduct dozens of experiments for leading researchers from a number of universities and commercial companies in Israel. 

Prof. Etzion and Prof. Amrani explain: “Integration of the “COTS-Capsule” mission as part of the national “Rakia” mission will provide a rare opportunity to examine the building blocks of this technology in space. In addition to the academic research, the space mission is leveraging and promoting an educational-scientific program in the field of space and radiation.”

PhD student and principal investigator Yoav Simhony adds: “Currently, electronic equipment sent to space must be specifically modified to prevent cosmic radiation induced effects. The protection provided by the “COTS-Capsule” will enable the use of commercial off the shelf components in space, thus opening the door to the use of advanced electronic components, while significantly shortening both development times and reducing the costs of space products.”

In addition, partners to the success of the project are: from Tel Aviv University – Dolev Bashi, Elad Sagi, Dr. Yan Benhammou, Dr. Igor Zolkin, Dr. Meir Ariel, Baruch Meirovich and the workshop staff, Orly Bloomberg, Edward Karat, Lily Almog and the procurement team, Yasmin Miller Zangi and the legal team, and several students of electrical engineering, software and physics. From Afeka College – Dr. Alex Segal, the IAI, the International Space Station deployment opportunity being made available by Nanoracks through its Space Act Agreement with NASA’s U.S. National Lab, the Ehrlich law firm, Samuel Berkowitz and the law firm of Herzog, Fox and Ne’eman, the ARotec company and Tal Ahituv.

Featured image: The Launch of the “COTS-Capsule” on top of the Cargo Dragon C209 spacecraft. Courtesy of NASA.

The Magnificent TAU Trees

They paint our campus in a variety of colors throughout the seasons, provide us with shade on hot sunny days and fill our souls with gladness. Our campus wouldn’t have been the same without them, and what better time than Tu B’Shvat to celebrate them? Below are some of the most interesting trees of Tel Aviv University. How many do you recognize?

 

The Root of the Matter

While most of the trees on campus boast broad, branched out branches, there is one tree that attracts attention for the opposite reason, namely its impressing branched-out roots. This fascinating fig tree (Ficus) ain’t planning on going anywhere – you can find it between the Dan David building and the Library of Exact Sciences, its roots extended with a radius of about five meters across the courtyard.

 

 

Summer-Time Snow

If you’ve ever visited the secret courtyard behind the building of the Faculty of Engineering during the hot summer months, you may have noticed that the green grass appears to be coverd in soft and airy snow. While it may not be real snow, it is fun to pretend that’s what the seeds from the white silk floss tree (Ceiba insignis) are. When the fruits of the tree ripen, they open up and a swollen crest bursts out – it looks just like a cotton ball – containing small brown seeds that are quickly spread everywhere.

 

 

Red Flame

At the beginning of summer, our campus is painted in a fiery red, thanks to the beautiful Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia), also known as ‘flamboyant tree’ or ‘peacock tree’. The trees are a delight to the eye for every passerby, and during this time of the year the lawn in front of the Gilman building becomes a favored destination for avid campus photographers, eager to document the breathtaking blossom from every possible angle.

 

 

Pretty in Pink

During spring, the courtyard between the Faculty of Exact Sciences and Dan David is painted pink and feels like a beautiful paradise, thanks to the spectacular flowers of the Bauhinia variegata. As the grass gets sprinkled with pink petals that slowly fall from the trees, the world looks really perfect for a moment, so we highly recommend you to bring your camera and come for a visit in April.

 

 

 

The Tree of Knowledge?

Strange-looking trees are growing in front of the George S. Wise Senate building, with large and impressive flowers and reddish fruits with an intriguing and tropical appearance. What’s the name of this strange tree, you ask? This is none other than a large-flowered magnolia tree, named after the French botanist Pierre Magnol. When its red seeds are exposed from its fruits, a small feathery tail is also revealed, allowing for flight and levitation, reminding us how ingenious and sophisticated nature is.

 

 

 

European Fall

How many songs do you think have been written about the season of fall? While that was meant as a rhetorical question, if you google “songs about fall”, you’ll get an idea. How is it that, even as the leaves dry out at the end of their life cycle, they are nevertheless so beautiful and inspiring? Get a small taste of European fall on Tel Aviv University campus, as the chestnut trees put on a display in shades of orange and brown next to our law school and the memorial monument of the Dan David building.

 

 

The above mentioned trees are only a small selection of the trees of our campus. According to Ilan Sharon, Head of TAU’s Yard Gardening and Maintenance Department, several thousand trees grow here, including pines, almonds, groves, palms and more. And let there be no doubt: We love and appreciate them all.

 

What is your favorite tree on campus? Give it a big hug, document the moment and tag us on Instagram with hashtag #tau-campus.

Wishing those of you who celebrate a Tu B’Shvat Sameach!

For the 1st time at an Israeli university: Air and Space Power Center

Tel Aviv University and the Israeli Air Force establish a joint center that will harness the world of civilian research and knowledge to advance various areas related to policymaking and strategic thinking on issues of air and space.

On Thursday Dec. 30, Tel Aviv University and the Israeli Air Force launched the Air and Space Power Center at TAU, named the Elrom Center. The new Center, which is the first of its kind in Israel, will harness the world of research and knowledge to advance various areas related to air and space power in Israel.

The ceremony, held at TAU, was led by TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat, in the presence of Air Force Commander Aluf Amikam Norkin.

At the ceremony Prof. Porat and Aluf Norkin signed a joint document emphasizing that “a framework has been formed for multidisciplinary research promoting theoretical and practical knowledge on air and space power, as well as fruitful ties between academia and a range of other sectors, including industry, nonprofits and organizations, government agencies, and Israel’s security forces, to develop education and cultivate a cadre of future researchers in this important field.”

The new Center adds one more layer to TAU’s vision of advancing groundbreaking multidisciplinary research that brings together the university’s finest researchers, the hi-tech industry, and the community. The Center joins several other multidisciplinary centers established at TAU over the past year, including the Center for Combating Pandemics, the Center for Climate Change Action, the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, and the Center for Aging.

The center is also an important addition to the vision of the Israeli Air Force – to establish a national research and academic foundation in the field of Air and Space Power, in order to harness scientific knowledge for the benefit of the Air Force, encouraging creative and critical thinking and accelerating the incorporation of innovation into world views of the Air Force.

The new Center will be headed by Prof. Eviatar Matania of the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center, formerly founding Head of the Israel National Cyber Bureau and currently Head of the International Cyber Politics & Government Program at TAU. Combining theoretical and applied research, it will operate within the Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences but will also involve researchers from Engineering, Exact Sciences, and Medicine, and serve as a foundation for advancing multidisciplinary research on air and space.

In this context the Center will develop a cadre of future researchers and establish systematic academic activity in this area in Israel. It will encourage students to specialize in air & space power – both students who belong to nonprofits and organizations, government agencies and the security forces, and students looking to develop a career in industry in these important fields.

In the Israeli Air Force, the Air and Space Power Center will support the development of a foundation of academic knowledge. The academic research carried out at the Center can help in the development and adaptation of the Air Force’s operational concepts, combat doctrines, and power- building processes. Methodological tools for professional, abstract, and practical thinking developed by the Center’s researchers will also be beneficial. In the foreseeable future the Center will serve as a hub for international research collaboration with academic institutions, research institutes and air forces around the world.

Aluf Amikam Norkin & Prof. Ariel Porat (Photo credit: Israel Hadari.)

 TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat: “The field of Air and Space Power is important and promising, both socially and scientifically. Many researchers at TAU address this subject from different angles, and the new Center will contribute a great deal to the advancement and development of both research and education in this area. Tel Aviv University conducts many research collaborations with industry and public organizations, which upgrade our research and make it more relevant. At the newly established Center, many more participants from industry and academia, both in Israel and worldwide, will become involved, advancing Air and Space Power research.”

 Israeli Air Force Commander, Aluf Amikam Norkin: “Today we are groundbreaking pioneers in a vast range of operational issues which have grown in response to the challenges of our Middle-Eastern neighborhood. Thus, together with the IDF’s intelligence operations, air power has become the main answer to the country’s security challenges. Fighting terrorism from the air, air supremacy, remotely piloted aircraft, the most advanced air defense in the world, and three F-35 squadrons – are only some of the aspects in which the Israeli Air Force, together with Israel’s defense industries, are leaders and pioneers.

Ben Gurion’s vision, and his understanding that ‘the air is a new kingdom we must conquer’, has become a reality. But we must not rest on our laurels. Only in-depth investigation of ongoing operations will keep us sharp and ready. Yet as we look toward the coming decades, we need more than excellent inquiry. We must expand our activities into the academic arena, to include research methods developed in Israeli academia, at Tel Aviv University. We must set in motion both military and civilian research on air and space power, that will open new horizons to which we may aspire.

The establishment of the Air and Space Power Center, bringing together experts from academia and the Air Force, transforms a vision into reality. This is a real need arising from the constantly rising complexity of the battlefield and operational challenges, requiring ever greater and deeper military knowledge – in order to ensure the position of the Israeli Air Force as one of the leading forces in the world.”

Featured image: (left to right) Prof. Eviatar Matania, Prof. Ariel Porat, Dafna Meitar-Nechmad & Aluf Amikam Norkin (Photo credit: Israel Hadari.)

Out of This World

A new star and satellite observatory is currently being set up on the roof of TAU’s Shenkar building, and is set to become one of the most sophisticated labs in the world.

If you’d like to take a look at the positioning of the receivers at the International Space Station or see how TAU’s own Nano-satellite, TAU SAT-1 (which has been orbiting the Earth for almost a year now) is doing, we’re here to tell you that you will soon be able to do so. A new state-of-the-art optical ground station is currently being built on the roof of Raymond & Beverly Sackler School of Physics & Astronomy. The new optical ground station will allow us to observe tiny details far above us.

The optical ground station will be used for advanced communication with satellites and other spacecraft and tracking of relatively close-up celestial bodies, but also stars that are millions of light-years away. At a later stage, the station will serve as a tool for quantum encryption in space, one that will allow us to best encrypt any type of information.

Moments before the most sophisticated telescope in Israel will be installed here at Tel Aviv University, we met with Prof. Yaron Oz, Head of the Quantum Center; Prof. Haim Suchowski from the School of Physics and Astronomy, and Michael Tzukran, a professional astronomy photographer who will be operating the new station, for a light conversation about, you know, the usual: quantum optical communication, space photography and surprise meetings that would lead to groundbreaking projects.  

Replacing Light Pollution

Prof. Suchowski’s department, together with the University’s Engineering and Maintenance Division and partial funding from the Quantum Center, are currently working on making the Tel Aviv University campus free of celestial light pollution. This is a side-project that was born in conjunction with the construction of the new observation station. In the coming months, all polluting lighting on campus will be replaced with ecological lighting fixtures, making Tel Aviv University the first University in Israel to be free of light pollution.

Where it all started: Michael Tzukran in the old observatory on the roof of the Shenkar building the non-linear interaction of light with various materials in nature. In recent years, I’ve also been involved in the intensive activities at the Nano-Satellite Center and the new Quantum Center that have started operating on campus. What we’re dealing with on the roof these days is a combination of all these things,” he explains.

“The field of space once ‘belonged’ exclusively to NASA and very specific bodies, such as the aerospace industry in the case of Israel. Today, even high school students can send satellites into space,” explains Suchowski. “The New Space Revolution allows private companies to send and operate relatively affordable Nano-satellites into space and has changed our lives. Over the past 15 years, universities have been sending their own Nano-satellites as well.”

The University’s own Nano-satellite, TAU SAT-1, was devised, developed, assembled and tested under the leadership of Dr. Meir Ariel, Dr. Ofer Amrani of The Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering and Prof. Colin Price of the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. The satellite, which carries scientific experiments, was launched about a year ago.

Up until now, the project has consisted in building a standard radio communication ground station to communicate with the launched satellite. According to Suchowski, one of the next projects will be to create optical communication through space, and thereafter quantum optical communication through space, which is a new and evolving field.

Quantum-Encrypted Communication Satellites

Information encryption is an essential subject with many applied meanings, and quantum mechanics is changing the rules of the game in this regard.

“Today, we encrypt our information based on complex mathematical algorithms, and assume that computers will take a long time to solve these problems and therefore the information is secure,” explains Prof. Yaron Oz, Chairman of the Tel Aviv University Quantum Science and Technology Center. “Quantum computers, however, are based on a different computational paradigm and can change the picture. Decomposing an integer into its primary factors – the complexity of which protects encryption algorithms that are widely used today – will be quickly solved by a quantum computer. Therefore, it is important to depict what the encrypted methods will be in the age of quantum computers.”

“Quantum systems have exceptional encrypted information transfer capabilities due to the fact that quantum mechanics do not allow information to be copied. Any attempt to copy or modify it destroys the original information. As a result, a quantum communication line is completely safe from eavesdropping. Transmitting a cipher key in a quantum communication network is completely secure, and indeed quantum optical encryption already exists via fiber optics,” he says.

Today, this type of encryption is possible, but limited to a distance of 150-200 km. Prof. Oz tells us that such communication networks already aid financial sectors in Switzerland. However, the transfer of information between continents (for example from New York to London) in this way is not yet possible. 

 

Prof. Yaron Oz

Prof. Oz explains that in Israel there’s an understanding of the need to move in the direction of encrypting information on a satellite quantum communications network, and here at Tel Aviv University we have decided to take steps at the operational and research level. The new lab with the telescope on the roof is thereby about to take part in the future satellite project of the Nano-Satellite center.

With the help of various bodies here at TAU, the Quantum Center in particular, and with the support of Prof Erez Etzion, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, budget and space was ensured to build the advanced observatory and buy the massive equipment. With a telescope with a 24-inch mirror, the precise and huge robot will be able to track stars, galaxies, nebulae and other bodies. The robot, which weighs 300 kg, can move at an angular speed of up to 50 degrees per second and accurately track moving satellites at low altitudes, as well as lower flying aircraft. “We are already doing preliminary experiments in optical communication. With the level of accuracy of the new telescope we’ll be the only ones in Israel with such equipment,” promises Prof. Suchowski.

 

The construction of the new ground station, as documented in Michael Tzukran’s Instagram account

The Stargazer

Quite by chance, another actor entered the picture and helped Prof. Suchowski leverage the idea into practice: Michael Tzukran, a world expert in astronomical and satellite photography and research observatory construction consultant.

“As a seasoned astronomy photographer, I wanted to challenge myself and photograph the International Space Station. I needed an open roof close to the space station’s orbit as it passes over the skies of Israel. And so I simply asked whether it could be done here.” Tzukran brought his own equipment and took one of the most detailed photos ever taken of the space station from Earth. During the photography, the space station was flying at a speed of close to 28,000 km per hour. No big deal.

 

Passing at a speed of close to 28,000 km/h. The space station, photographed by Michael Tzukran

Michael’s specialty is to adjust and control the sophisticated robot, monitor the satellites and photograph them according to requests from researchers. With the new equipment, he plans to document satellites like they’ve never been observed before from Earth.

Prof. Ady Arie from the Faculty of Engineering and doctoral students Dolev Bashi, Georgi Gary Rosenman, Yonatan Piasetski, Sahar Shahaf, Tomer Nahum and Yuval Reches are also working on the establishment of the technological system for laboratory quantum optical communication.

Prof. Suchowski estimates that various industries, such as security and other universities, will be interested in using the new platform in the future: “This is a national resource. I believe it will become instrumental in promoting applied and basic research in Israel and the world,” he concludes.

As Pandemic Persists, TAU Forges Ahead with COVID-19 Research on All Fronts

The University’s Center for Combating Pandemics leads research efforts in a range of fields.

As the COVID-19 pandemic nears the end of a second year, Tel Aviv University is maintaining its fast pace of scientific discovery in the global battle against coronavirus.  

Building on the University’s innovation record, TAU in 2020 launched the Center for Combating Pandemics. The Center harnesses the collective power of academia, hospitals, government and industry to promote research and guide government policy. It is the first entity of its kind in Israel, and potentially the world.  

Members of the Center include more than 100 research groups comprised of top TAU experts from all scientific disciplines across campus. Among them, over 60 researchers have, until now, conducted projects related to COVID-19. 

Academic Powerhouse

To date, the Center’s members have published findings from dozens of COVID-19 studies. Select examples include: 

Prof. Noam Shomron (Medicine) spearheaded a novel approach to remote monitoring of COVID-19 patients that flags early cardiovascular warnings of worsening health. More here.  

Prof. Shoshana Shiloh (Social Sciences) and team devised a model to determine the psychological and social factors that predict who will voluntarily take the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Prof. Dan Yamin’s (Engineering) lab developed a “big data” COVID-19 detection technology that could be used to reduce viral spread and help shape more efficient testing policy. More here.  

Prof. Isaac Sasson (Engineering) led a study to help improve understanding of COVID-19 mortality and age in countries with limited data. More here.  

A team led by Prof. Saharon Rosset (Exact Sciences) built a statistical model to better understand SARS-CoV-2 evolution and to predict future mutations of the virus, particularly those which lead to new variants. 

Prof. Aeyal Gross (Law) and team examined legal and public health implications of Israel’s “Green Pass” proof-of-vaccination rules under the country’s pandemic response. More here.  

Through big data methods, Prof. Tal Pupko’s (Life Sciences, Shmunis School) found that the swift implementation of lockdowns, rather than their strictness, was more effective in reducing COVID-19 mortality rates. More here.  

New Findings on the Horizon

Currently, the TAU researchers from the Center have approximately 30 ongoing coronavirus projects, including:  

Prof. Dan Peer (Life Sciences), TAU Vice President for Research & Development, is exploring best practices to advance the bourgeoning technology behind non-viral mRNA vaccines. 

Prof. Adi Stern’s (Life Sciences, Shmunis) lab has been studying the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, including the origin and behavior of the Omicron variant. More here.  

Prof. Ron Shamir (Exact Sciences) has teamed up with local hospitals to explore early predictors of deterioration in COVID-19 patients using machine-learning and “big data” methods. 

Prof. Yael Benyamini (Social Sciences) is leading a broad study on pregnancy and childbirth that surveyed the concerns of pregnant women about childbearing amid COVID-19. 

Prof. Miri Yemini (Humanities) & Dr. Efrat Blumenfeld (Arts) are leading an urban-sociological examination of remote teaching and learning during times of social distancing. 

Upcoming Events

In March, the Center plans to hold its first international conference to highlight recent COVID-19 research. The event will also recognize trailblazing research fellows and grant recipients. For registration and updates, visit: https://en-pandemics.tau.ac.il/save-the-date-first-tccp-convention .

Featured News: More than 100 research groups from all scientific disciplines across TAU campus are on the frontlines of the pandemic battle. (Photo: Moshe Bedarshi)

Over the Past 1.5 Million Years, Human Hunting Preferences have Wiped Out Large Animals

Breakthrough study tracks development of early humans’ hunting habits.

A groundbreaking study by researchers from Tel Aviv University tracks the development of humans’ hunting practices over the last 1.5 million years – as reflected in the animals we’ve hunted and consumed. The researchers believe that at any given time early humans preferred to hunt the largest animals available in their surroundings, which provided the greatest quantities of food in return for their effort.

In this way, according to the researchers, early humans repeatedly overhunted large animals to extinction and then went on to the next in size – while improving their hunting technologies to meet the new challenge. The researchers also claim that about 10,000 years ago, when animals larger than deer became extinct, humans began to domesticate plants and animals to supply their needs, which might explain why the agricultural revolution began in the Levant at precisely that time.

The study was conducted by Prof. Ran Barkai and Dr. Miki Ben-Dor of The Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Prof. Shai Meiri of the School of Zoology and The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, and Jacob Dembitzer, a research student of Prof. Barkai and Prof. Meiri, who led the project. The paper was published in the prestigious scientific journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

The study, unprecedented in both scope and timespan, presents a comprehensive analysis of data on animal bones discovered at dozens of prehistoric sites in and around Israel. Findings indicate a continual decline in the size of game hunted by humans as their main food source – from giant elephants 1-1.5 million years ago down to gazelles 10,000 years ago. According to the researchers, these findings paint an illuminating picture of the interaction between humans and the animals around them over the last 1.5 million years.

Overhunting or Climate Changes?

Prof. Barkai notes two major issues presently addressed by prehistorians worldwide: What caused the mass extinction of large animals over the past hundreds of thousands of years – overhunting by humans or perhaps recurring climate changes? And what were the driving forces behind great changes in humankind – both physical and cultural – throughout its evolution?

Prof. Barkai: “In light of previous studies, our team proposed an original hypothesis that links the two questions: We think that large animals went extinct due to overhunting by humans, and that the change in diet and the need to hunt progressively smaller animals may have propelled the changes in humankind. In this study we tested our hypotheses in light of data from excavations in the Southern Levant covering several human species over a period of 1.5 million years.”

Prof. Ran Barkai

Jacob Dembitzer adds: “We considered the Southern Levant (Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Southwest Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon) to be an ‘archaeological laboratory’ due to the density and continuity of prehistoric findings covering such a long period of time over a relatively small area – a unique database unavailable anywhere else in the world. Excavations, which began 150 years ago, have produced evidence for the presence of humans, beginning with Homo erectus who arrived 1.5 million years ago, through the Neanderthals who lived here from an unknown time until they disappeared about 45,000 years ago, to modern humans (namely, ourselves) who came from Africa in several waves, starting around 180,000 years ago.”

The researchers collected all data available in the literature on animal bones found at prehistoric sites in the Southern Levant, mostly in Israel. These excavations, conducted from 1932 until today, provide a unique sequence of findings from different types of humans over a period of 1.5 million years. With some sites comprising several stratigraphic layers, sometimes thousands of years apart, the study covered a total of 133 layers from 58 prehistoric sites, in which thousands of bones belonging to 83 animal species had been identified. Based on these remains, the researchers calculated the weighted mean size of the animals in each layer at every site.

Prof. Meiri: “Our study tracked changes at a much higher resolution over a considerably longer period of time compared to previous research. The results were illuminating: we found a continual, and very significant, decline in the size of animals hunted by humans over 1.5 million years. For example, a third of the bones left behind by Homo erectus at sites dated to about a million years ago, belonged to elephants that weighed up to 13 tons (more than twice the weight of the modern African elephant) and provided humans with 90% of their food. The mean weight of all animals hunted by humans at that time was 3 tons, and elephant bones were found at nearly all sites up to 500,000 years ago.”

“Starting about 400,000 years ago, the humans who lived in our region – early ancestors of the Neandertals and Homo sapiens, appear to have hunted mainly deer, along with some larger animals weighing almost a ton, such as wild cattle and horses. Finally, in sites inhabited by modern humans, from about 50,000 to 10,000 years ago, approximately 70% of the bones belong to gazelles – an animal that weighs no more than 20-30kg. Other remains found at these later sites came mostly from fallow deer (about 20%), as well as smaller animals such as hares and turtles.”

Climate Change had Minimal Impact

Jacob Dembitzer: “Our next question was: What caused the disappearance of the large animals? A widely accepted theory attributes the extinction of large species to climate changes through the ages. To test this, we collected climatic and environmental data for the entire period, covering more than a dozen cycles of glacial and interglacial periods. This data included temperatures based on levels of the oxygen 18 isotope, and rainfall and vegetation evidenced by values of carbon 13 from the local Soreq Cave. A range of statistical analyses correlating between animal size and climate, precipitation, and environment, revealed that climate, and climate change, had little, if any, impact on animal extinction.”

According to Dr. Ben-Dor: “Our findings enable us to propose a fascinating hypothesis on the development of humankind: Humans always preferred to hunt the largest animals available in their environment, until these became very rare or extinct, forcing the prehistoric hunters to seek the next in size. As a result, to obtain the same amount of food, every human species appearing in the Southern Levant was compelled to hunt smaller animals than its predecessor, and consequently had to develop more advanced and effective technologies. Thus, for example, while spears were sufficient for Homo erectus to kill elephants at close range, modern humans developed the bow and arrow to kill fast-running gazelles from a distance.”

Environmental Damage from the Dawn of Humanity

Prof. Barkai concludes: “We believe that our model is relevant to human cultures everywhere. Moreover, for the first time, we argue that the driving force behind the constant improvement in human technology is the continual decline in the size of game. Ultimately, it may well be that 10,000 years ago in the Southern Levant, animals became too small or too rare to provide humans with sufficient food, and this could be related to the advent of agriculture. In addition, we confirmed the hypothesis that the extinction of large animals was caused by humans – who time and time again destroyed their own livelihood through overhunting. We may therefore conclude that humans have always ravaged their environment but were usually clever enough to find solutions for the problems they had created – from the bow and arrow to the agricultural revolution. The environment, however, always paid a devastating price.”

Featured image: Prof. Shai Meiri of the School of Zoology and The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History

First Anniversary of Morocco-USA-Israel Agreement

TAU hosted celebration one year after the signing of the Tripartite Agreement.

Tel Aviv University hosted a celebration of the first anniversary of the signing of the Tripartite Agreement between Morocco, USA and Israel. The event was attended by Mr. Abderrahim Beyyoudh, Head of the Liaison Office of the Kingdom of Morocco to the State of Israel; Amos Elad, Vice President for Resource Development, Tel Aviv University; Prof. Milette Shamir, Vice President for International Academic Collaboration, Tel Aviv University and representatives from the U.S. Embassy. The Israeli Andalusian Orchestra performed at the event.

Special Breakthrough in Ties with Northern Africa

Prof. Milette Shamir, Vice President for International Academic Collaboration, Tel Aviv University: “Exactly a year ago, Morocco and Israel opened a new chapter in their long and complex relations. This new chapter brings to the forefront diplomatic, economic, and technological cooperation, and it is one in which universities in Israel and Morocco can play a lead role. We at TAU see great potential in promoting academic collaboration with Moroccan universities including through students exchange. In fact, next month we will be inaugurating a new scholarship fund intended to support talented young Moroccans who want to come study at Tel Aviv University”.

Prof. Uzi Rabi, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies: “Morocco is a very unique country in the African and Middle Eastern landscape. Morocco had non-formal relations with Israel throughout the years, but the tripartite agreements are a remarkable achievement, which mark a special breakthrough in the ties with Northern Africa. Morocco and Israel are single minded in the belief that there is a need for a change in the Middle East. This conference is an indication that a cooperation can be achieved in various fields.

 

Mr. Abderrahim Beyyoudh and the The Israeli Andalusian Orchestra

Mr. Abderrahim Beyyoudh, Head of the Liaison Office of the Kingdom of Morocco to the State of Israel: “The Morocco-Israel-USA agreement has indeed laid the foundations for the resumption of Moroccan-Israeli bilateral relations, and triggered an all-out development of cultural, socio-economic and human ties.  This dynamic, which is reflected in a myriad of cooperation agreements and initiatives of economic operators and civil society, draws its strength from secular relations and the attachment of the Jewish community of Moroccan origin to the Kingdom and to the person of HM King Mohammed VI, Commander of the Faithful.

The tripartite agreement also reaffirmed the importance of promoting a more peaceful and prosperous future in the Middle East on the basis of a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. This important component reflects the constant commitment of HM King Mohammed VI, Chairman of the Al Quds Committee, in favor of the Palestinian cause and for peace and stability in the region.” 

Featured image: From left to right: Abdel Allali, Amos Elad, Mr. Abderrahim Beyyoudh and Prof. Milette Shamir (Ofer Amram, Tel Aviv University)

Rising Temperatures Fuel Increase in Violence: TAU Study

Findings demonstrate first direct link between climate change and criminal behavior.

Rising temperatures increase the likelihood of violent crimes, according to a new study led by Tel Aviv University‘s Dr. Ram Fishman of TAU’s Department of Public Policy, Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences

The novel findings indicate that for every 1-degree Celsius rise over the average daily temperature, the rate of violent crime spikes by one percent. The victims are generally ethnic and religious minorities, women, and political rivals.

The study is the first of its kind to link the day-to-day relationship between weather changes and criminal trends in the developing world.  

​“This is a glaring warning sign of the devastating and worrying consequences of the global climate crisis,” said Fishman, who conducted the study with partners from the UAE, India and the US. “These consequences are already here with us and are gnawing at the very foundations of social and human existence.” 

Dr. Ram Fishman (Photo: Noga Shahar)

In the context of the study, Fishman examined a representative state in India with a crime rate similar to the national average. Results from parallel studies in other countries yielded similar results according to Fishman, Head of the Sustainable Development Lab at TAU’s Boris Mints Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges. He explained that the analysis performed in India can be tailored to other locations, where he expects similar results.   

The team gained unprecedented access to troves of crime records from 600 police stations in Karnataka, India. The “big data” sets included the exact date, location and type of crime reported over a six-year period. Using advanced statistical analysis methods, the researchers compared crime data to daily and seasonal weather conditions. In this way, they discovered the correlation between weather and crime at a level more accurate than previously possible. 

The researchers pointed to higher temperatures causing increased aggression as one likely factor driving this phenomenon. Further demonstrating the link between heat and higher day-to-day violent crime, the findings showed that non-violent property crimes were largely unaffected by daily weather. Fishman and team added that severe heat can cause lower agricultural yields, leading to higher unemployment rates and increased economic hardship. However, these economic motives were primarily associated with increased crime rates over time—not on a daily level. The study’s authors note that previous research in developing countries was limited. Population in these regions typically face relatively higher temperatures and are less able to shield themselves from these conditions. 

Their findings are in the December 2021 peer-reviewed issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

Medicinal Cannabis Oil Effective for Treating Autism

Treatment improves both behavioral and biochemical parameters of the disease.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disease, and its main symptoms are social deficiencies and compulsive behaviors. Cases range from mild to severe, and causes are both genetic and environmental. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have successfully treated autism in animal models with medical cannabis oil, improving behavioral and biochemical parameters.

Advancing in Reverse Order

In about 1% of all autism cases, a mutation in a single gene, called Shank3, is associated. While testing of medicinal cannabis traditionally begins with humans, in the current study PhD student Shani Poleg and Prof. Daniel Offen of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Felsenstein Medical Research Center and Sagol School of Neuroscience used animal models with a mutation in Shank3 to test the effectiveness of cannabis oil for alleviating symptoms of autism. The results of the surprising study were published in Translational Psychology published by Nature.

“We saw that cannabis oil has a favorable effect on compulsive and anxious behaviors in model animals,” says Shani Poleg. “According to the prevailing theory, autism involves over arousal of the brain which causes compulsive behavior. In the lab, in addition to the behavioral results, we saw a significant decrease in the concentration of the arousing neurotransmitter glutamate in the spinal fluid – which can explain the reduction in behavioral symptoms.”

A Little Euphoria Makes All the Difference

Attempting to determine which components of cannabis oil alleviate symptoms of autism, the researchers found that THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis which is responsible for the euphoric sensation associated with its use, is effective in treating autism, possibly even in small quantities.

“Clinical trials testing cannabis treatments for autism usually involve strains containing very large amounts of CBD – due to this substance’s anti-inflammatory properties, and because it does not produce a sense of euphoria,” explains Poleg. “Moreover, the strains used for treating autism usually contain very little THC, due to apprehension regarding both the euphoria and possible long-term effects.”

“In the second stage of our study we inquired which active substance in cannabis causes the behavioral improvement, and were surprised to discover that treatment with cannabis oil that contains THC but does not contain CBD produces equal or even better effects – both behavioral and biochemical. Moreover, our results suggest that CBD alone has no impact on the behavior of model animals.”

Addressing Existing Misinformation

Prof. Daniel Offen says, “Since cannabis is not defined as a medication, trials have already been conducted in children and adolescents with autism – without any preliminary studies addressing issues like the effect of cannabis on biochemical processes in the brain, spinal fluid or blood, and who can benefit from which type of cannabis oil. There is a great deal of misinformation on the subject of medicinal cannabis and autism, and Shani Peleg’s doctoral project represents pioneering basic research with regard to treating autism with cannabis oil.”

“This is an initial study,” concludes Poleg. “But we hope that through our basic research we will be able to improve clinical treatments. Our study shows that when treating autism with medicinal cannabis oil there is no need for high contents of either CBD or THC. We observed significant improvement in behavioral tests following treatments with cannabis oil containing small amounts of THC and observed no long-term effects in cognitive or emotional tests conducted a month and a half after the treatment began.”

TAU Students Racing Towards a Greener Campus

As part of Tel Aviv University’s initiative to reduce its environmental footprint to help combat the global climate crisis, the Entrepreneurship Center rallied 73 students to the cause and held a hackathon aimed at generating innovative solutions for a greener and more sustainable campus. The event was organized in cooperation with Shlomo Meltzer Institute for Smart Transportation and TAU’s Student Union.

Students were challenged to come up with practical solutions to one out of two central issues for cutting down pollution and waste: reducing the daily car traffic to campus and encouraging the use of reusable dishware on campus.

Fifteen experts mentored the students throughout the competition, which also featured professional enrichment and industry insider lectures on how organizations are addressing environmental challenges today.

Vehicular Pollution Challenge Winners

First Place: TAUapt

The winning team worked under the assumption that most TAU students residing in Tel Aviv rely on public transportation and therefore, do not use a car. What could encourage more of this behavior?

By enabling more students to live in Tel Aviv, the number of vehicles commuting to campus could further decrease. The team conceptualized a house hunting app, similar in nature to the existing job hunting platform AllJobs – but for apartments – which sends its subscribers instant messages through WhatsApp about apartments that are vacating. Team members: Abedallah Barghouti and Ubaydah Wattad.    

 

The TAUapt Team receives the prize for winning the competition’s Vehicular Pollution Challenge

Second Place: BIVPIsrael

The team suggested that the main difficulty for drivers of electric bicycles and scooters is the need to carry around a helmet and battery throughout the day. The team proposed a solution for storage compartments in which both helmet and battery can be left, and the latter can be charged, using solar-generated electricity, while the vehicle remains locked nearby.

Third Place: The Hitchhikers

The team proposed a way to encourage carpooling to campus by offering benefits to students and faculty members. They decided to appeal to people’s pockets – not their ideology.

Reusable Dishware Challenge Winners

First Place: Tengo

To cut down waste from single-use plastics, the Tengo team proposed a collaborative circular model based on the use of reusable dishware marked with a barcode. The reusable dishware is returned to collection boxes after use, where the users are credited. The dishware then gets   transported, cleaned and distributed back to campus restaurants. Team members: Chen Agassi, Idan Stark, Roi Farjun and Tali Aknin.

The Tengo Team receives the prize for winning the competition’s Reusable Dishware Challenge

Second Place: Go Clean Go Green

The team proposed a platform to incentivize the use of reusable dishware by awarding store credits for popular retailers. Through barcode-scanning technology on reusable cups and more, one earns redeemable points with every swipe.  

Third Place: TAUBIS

A game app that ranks businesses according to their degree of eco-friendliness. Students enjoy services similar to food delivery platforms like UberEats, Wolt or 10bis, accumulation of financial and ecological points.

Yair Sakov, Head of TAU’s Entrepreneurship Center: “Sustainability and the circular economy are key issues promoted by the Entrepreneurship Center; there is no field more important than this to initiate and flood innovation.”

The Competition’s Judges

The judges in the competition included Knesset Member Prof. Alon Tal, former Head of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Public Policy; Miki Haimovich, Chairperson of the Heschel Center for Sustainability; Asi Schmelzer, Chairman of the Shlomo Group; Yuval Shani, VP of Technology and Innovation at Shlomo Group; Lior Hazan, Chairperson of TAU’s Student Union; Prof. Colin Price, Head of TAU’s Department of Environmental Studies; Prof. Hadas Maman, Head of the Environmental Engineering Program at TAU’s Faculty of Engineering; Dr. Ilit Oppenheim, Director at Shlomo Schmelzer Institute for Smart Transportation; Orlie Gruper, General Partner in Mobilitech Capital; Shani Raved, Global Operations Strategy Lead and Product Manager at Lime.  

Victoria

Tok Corporate Centre, Level 1,
459 Toorak Road, Toorak VIC 3142
Phone: +61 3 9296 2065
Email: office@aftau.asn.au

New South Wales

P.O. Box 4044, Maroubra South,
NSW 2035
Phone: +61 418 465 556
Email: davidsolomon@aftau.org.au

Western Australia

P O Box 36, Claremont,
WA  6010
Phone: :+61 411 223 550
Email: clivedonner@thelinqgroup.com