Grapevine Spotlight: 'Next Einstein' Competition In Search Of Modern-Day Genius

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Grapevine header - 'Next Einstein' Competition In Search Of Modern-Day Genius. The winner of the contest will receive $10,000.
Albert Einstein's famous visage is seen in artwork throughout the world.

When you think of genius, your first thought often turns to the inimitable Albert Einstein. But who will be the next genius to fill his shoes?

That's exactly what the appropriately titled 'Next Einstein' competition wants to find out. The contest, now in its third year, is sponsored by the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU), the Jerusalem institution that houses Einstein's archives.

Einstein was a founder of Hebrew University, a member of its Board of Governors and the chairman of its Academic Committee. He bequeathed to the Israeli university 80,000 documents, which span the spectrum of both his personal and professional life.

A plaster statue depicting Albert Einstein is displayed at The Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University.

A panel of judges spanning the spectrum from a Nobel Laureate to a food blogger will cull through the thousands of submissions, which are due by Mar. 16, and come up with a shortlist. Then the public will have an opportunity to vote on their favorite idea. The winner of the contest, to be announced on Apr. 18, will receive a $10,000 cash prize plus a $5,000 scholarship to Hebrew University for a summer course or towards a semester-long stay.

"We wanted to create something that's within the spirit of Einstein," Rami Kleinmann, the president of CFHU, told From The Grapevine. "His main ideas that revolutionized the world didn't necessarily come from within academic or scientific environments. They came from free thinking and allowing the brain to explore. We wanted to identify talent and reward creative thinking."

Indeed, the submissions for the next grand idea can be from any number of fields – education, health, technology, arts and science, just to name a few – and the contest is open to anyone over the age of 13. The winner of the inaugural contest was a 70-year-old who developed a method to genetically modify dragonflies to reduce the harmful effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Last year's winner was a teenager who invented a way to construct strong, inexpensive, 3D-printed prosthetic hands.

Lots of people of late are trying to measure up to Einstein's IQ. In honor of the recent 100th anniversary of Einstein's theory of relativity, many tried to explain the famous calculation using YouTube videos – although the task is considered an uphill challenge. Legend has it that Einstein's brain was unique.

"It's amazing to see how 100 years ago, an individual that lived in a completely different world than we do today had the ability to explore the mysteries of science and the world," Kleinmann said. "But I think that only today, when everybody is talking about out-of-the-box thinking and creativity and innovation, we've finally reached the era of Albert Einstein. We've just been 100 years behind him. If he were alive today, I'm sure that he would be 100 years ahead of us again."

Kleinmann is hoping for lots of submissions this year. "So many times people have great ideas and they say, 'Ah, I'm sure somebody already thought about that.' This is wrong," he pointed out. "If it's in your head, it's in your mind, it's in your spirit. Don't be shy. Believe in yourself. Allow yourself to think. Submit it and you never know what's going to happen. You may be the next Einstein."

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