Carmel Valley Google International Science Fair winner ‘jams’ in Switzerland

San Diego Jewish Academy student and 2012 Google International Science Fair winner Jonah Kohn has had quite a year. After winning at Google in the 13-14 age category, Kohn, and a few select others from around the country, received an invitation to present his project at the White House.

As if that wasn’t enough, as part of his Google prize, which included a $25,000 scholarship, Kohn won a week as an international particle physicist, shadowing CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) physicist Verena Martinez Outschoorn for two days at Fermilab (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory – a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics.) in the U.S., and three days at CERN in Switzerland (The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is an international organization whose purpose is to operate the world’s largest particle physics laboratory).

During his tour of Fermilab, Kohn was introduced to the basics of particle physics. While in Switzerland, Jonah visited numerous experimental areas around CERN including ALICE, ATLAS, and CMS — three of the seven particle experiments constructed at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — a particle accelerator at CERN. However, it was in the underground CMS cavern where Jonah experienced something he could not have anticipated. Jonah met a number of physicists with connections to music, including those scheduled to appear at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Jonah’s connection to music just happens to coincide with his connection to science.

“One day, a friend and I were trying to play the guitar in a class room,” says Kohn. “But it was so noisy that we couldn’t hear anything! We figured out that if you put your teeth on the head of the guitar, you can hear it through the vibrations.”

Kohn’s project — Good Vibrations: Improving the music experience for people with hearing loss using multi-frequency tactile sound – started from there. Kohn attempted to provide people with hearing loss with an improved experience of music by creating a device that converts sound into tactile vibrations.

Jonah’s “musical” project inspired some of the physicists. You may think a cavern deep underground and containing one of the largest particle detectors in the world would be a strange place for a jam session, but physicist Piotr Traczyk thought it was the perfect location, which is why he spent an afternoon rocking out in the CMS cavern with Jonah. Click here to watch them play.

“Being here (in Switzerland) was very interesting, I learned a lot. I’ve seen a lot of things and quite a few I didn’t even know about,” he says. “I think the best part for me was in the CMS cavern… They had me playing the guitar with one of the physicists! That’s definitely something memorable.”

Although he doesn’t know yet what he wants to study later, Jonah shows great interest in neuroscience and engineering and is continuing his education at San Diego Jewish Academy. For more information about San Diego Jewish Academy, visit