Meet the Latest Winner of Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Some of the world’s wealthiest individuals sign the Giving Pledge to support the causes that matter most to them. When philanthropist Yuri Milner signed the Giving Pledge in 2012, he committed to donating large portions of his wealth to scientific causes.

Since signing the Giving Pledge, Yuri Milner has launched several initiatives, including the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, which asks young people aged 13-18 to produce videos of up to 90 seconds that illuminate complicated scientific concepts.

The competition’s organizers have now announced the 2022 winner: Noor Haideri.

Noor Haideri Wins the 2022 Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Haideri’s winning video illuminates the science behind the light and sleep cycle.

First, Haideri explores why blue light can make it difficult to sleep. From here, she explains that although individuals who have vision impairments may not have functioning rod and cone cells in their retinas, their photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) continue to register light. As a result, their brains can release the correct amount of melatonin — a hormone that helps us sleep.

Winning the Challenge is “honestly a dream come true,” Haideri said.

“I’m not going to be surprised at what other things she accomplishes,” Dianne Dunn, Haideri’s science teacher added.

Thanks to Yuri Milner’s Giving Pledge commitment, Dianne has received $50,000 for inspiring Haideri. Meanwhile, Haideri has won a college scholarship worth $250,000 and a science lab worth $100,000 for her school.

Impressive Videos From the 2022 Finalists

For the eighth year since the Breakthrough Junior Challenge’s inception, young people from around the world have entered impressive videos that teach their peers about high-level scientific concepts.

Three of the 2022 finalists include Aryan Malhotra, Sean Lewis, and Milo Shan.

Aryan Malhotra

Malhotra, from the U.S., created a video on whether tachyons make time travel possible. In his video, he explains that a tachyon is a hypothetical particle that travels faster than light and potentially allows us to travel into the past.

The faster you move through space, the slower you move through time. However, light travels so fast that it dilates time to the point of stopping. Therefore, Malhotra explains that if something travels faster than the speed of light, it could reverse time.

He notes that most physicists don’t consider tachyons real particles because they violate causality and some laws of physics. But, in 2012, physicists found that neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light and have an imaginary rest mass.

Positive masses travel slower than the speed of light, so negative masses should travel faster than the speed of light. This is true of the neutrinos, proving that tachyons exist. But our measurement systems aren’t capable of detecting such high speeds.

Sean Lewis

Lewis, from the U.S., created a video about silicon life. He explains that life on Earth is carbon-based and that silicon-based life would look very different.

While we need oxygen and water to live, oxygen turns silicon molecules into silicon dioxide, and water breaks up silicon molecules. The best solvents for silicon-based life are present on different planets, but we don’t yet know whether any of these are suitable for silicon-based life.

Milo Shan

Shan, from South Africa, created a video on GPS and time dilation. In his video, he explains that GPS satellites need to know the precise time to calculate our exact locations.

Objects with a lot of mass, such as the Earth, slow down time around them. The closer you get to the item, the slower time gets. This is called time dilation — and it’s the reason why GPS satellites in space have to slow their clocks to match the speed of clocks on Earth.

Shan explains that time dilation causes us to “fall towards the ground.” As some parts of our bodies, like our feet, are closer to the Earth than other parts, the parts that are closer to Earth technically move through time slower.

Watch the 2022 Breakthrough Junior Challenge finalists’ videos.

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