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Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Talpiot and Israeli psychometrics

The other day I was discussing the Israeli Talpiot program with another Caltecher. I thought it would be great if we had a similar program in the US. He said it sounded like Ender's Game :-)

If anyone out there is an expert on the Israeli Psychometric Entrance Test (their SAT-equivalent), please contact me. We're trying to determine the +3 SD cutoff (relative to the US population) for our GWAS.

See earlier post on Talpiot and Israeli startups.

USAToday: ... The "Talpiot" program is perhaps the best reflection of the army's technological drive.

The unit, one of the most selective in the military, was formed in the wake of the 1973 war, when Israel was caught off guard and lost some 2,500 men.

"One of the lessons was that we need a technological edge over our enemies and we need to develop this edge from within," said Talpiot's commander, Maj. Amir Schlachet.

In Israel, where military service is mandatory, more than 5,000 young people apply to Talpiot each year, hoping to be among the 50 or so accepted. They must pass a grueling battery of tests in math, physics, group dynamics, leadership skills and intelligence.

The reward: a nine-year commitment, beginning with a 3½-year dual bachelor's degree program in mathematics and physics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Vacations are spent jumping out of airplanes and participating in other military exercises. Along the way, roughly one out of five soldiers leave the program, Schlachet said.

Those who survive go on to careers as officers in some of the military's most prestigious operations, mostly in research and development projects, Schlachet said. From there, the 500-odd Talpiot grads have tended to find their way to the upper echelons of business and academia, he said.

"You learn self-confidence, not to be afraid of anything. No subject is too complex to go after, and no answer should be taken for granted," said Talpiot grad Gilad Almogy, 38, Applied Materials' top executive in Israel.

The Nasdaq-traded biotech company Compugen was formed by three of Almogy's Talpiot comrades. A fourth, Mor Amitai, now runs the company.

Amitai says some of the most complicated work he ever did was during his time in Talpiot. "The experience of sometimes succeeding, almost always as part of a team, involving something that really seemed impossible, I think this is something we took with us," he said.

11 comments:

Rod said...

Somewhat related: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_8200

Ene Dene said...

Selection is impressive, about 0.01%. And it's even more impressive if those 5000+ people that apply are above average.

LaurentMelchiorTellier said...

"The applicant pool consists of nearly ten thousand top scorers of a test taken by all graduating high school seniors. 150-200 potential applicants are then subjected to a two-day series of tests.[1] These include further IQ exams as well as group-tasks designed to test one's social dynamics, all conducted under the supervision of trained psychologists and military personnel. For example, teams of applicants are given a specific task then the instructions are changed while the test is in progress, such as shortening the alloted time or changing the assigned tasks.[1] Final applicants appear before a panel of professors, military leaders, and other examiners where they are asked questions such as to explain the theory of relativity or mechanisms of solar heating."
I get selection to ca. 1% if it's 50 candidates out of 5000, or ca. 0.5% if it's 200 out of 10000, if the wiki is to be trusted. 
(for the part of the process that's based on test-taking ability, re: Steves thoughts on using it for the +3 SD g cutoff - the remaining 200 get cut to 50-60, but it's not clear how much of this last pruning is based on g)

LaurentMelchiorTellier said...

I get it to ca. 1% if it's 50 candidates out of 5000,
Or 2% if it's 200 candidates out of 10000, for the g part of the selection process:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talpiot_program

The applicant pool consists of nearly ten thousand top scorers of a test taken by all graduating high school seniors. 150-200 potential applicants are then subjected to a two-day series of tests.[1] These include further IQ exams as well as group-tasks designed to test one's social dynamics, all conducted under the supervision of trained psychologists and military personnel. For example, teams of applicants are given a specific task then the instructions are changed while the test is in progress, such as shortening the alloted time or changing the assigned tasks.

LaurentMelchiorTellier said...

I get 50 candidates from a pool of 5000 to 1% selection,
Or 200 candidates from a pool of 10000 to 2% selection, if I go by the wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talpiot_program

Let's keep in mind though, this probably isn't truly selecting for g. Leadership skills

Wengchung said...

Sounds awesome!

Guy_Brodude said...

A very interesting concept. No doubt some of the appeal and aura is owed to Israeli's conscription policy: if every high-achieving student is forced to join the military, he is obviously going to be especially interested in such a program. Could you get American youth similarly excited about that type of national service?

jaim klein said...

"Apply" is not the word. Every Israeli boy faces at 18 three and half years of obligatory military service and then difficult selection to get into the university and then tuition is very expensive. Talpiot works because the alternatives are so unattractive. Life in America is easier, no one would sign a nine year contract to work in math and computers for bed and board. 

LaurentMelchiorTellier said...

"Selection is impressive, about 0.01%. And it's even more impressive if those 5000+ people that apply are above average."
I get 1% for 50 candidates out of 5000,
Or 2% for 200 candidates out of 10000, if the wikipedia page is to be believed.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talpiot_program

LaurentMelchiorTellier said...

Comments are broken?

jaim klein said...

The excitement is relative. I know a handful who preferred combat service instead of spending their youth in uniform. 

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