Published Online: April 2, 1997


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No fruit flies at the fair

Fruit flies are animals, too.

At least that's what the officials from California's Bay Area Science Fair reasoned when they disqualified a student's award-winning project for being cruel to animals.

Ari Hoffman, a sophomore at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, Calif., took home the top prize in the Marin County science fair for his experiment, which looked at the effects of radiation on the reproductive patterns of fruit flies.

Top prize in the county or not, officials with the Bay Area fair wouldn't allow the young scientist's project in their competition.

The Bay Area Science Fair , a regional contest, drew 300 entries and took place in San Francisco in late March.

During his 10-week study, Mr. Hoffman found that reproduction by the flies slowed as doses of radiation increased.

About 50 of the hundreds of flies he used perished, said Hether Holter, his science teacher at Tamalpais High School.

"His project was scientifically sound," said Ms. Holter in defense of her student.

"He wasn't cruel to them ethically. He wasn't pulling their wings," she said.

But alas, the rules for theBay Area fair--which follow national science-fair regulations--are clear. They prohibit cruelty to animals, discourage experiments that involve creatures, and ban experiments that result in the death or injury of animals.

But 15-year-old Mr. Hoffman became a media darling once the news of the controversy got out. He has been making the rounds with appearances on local television talk shows and radio programs.

And as things turn out, the attention Mr. Hoffman and his project received has proved rather fruitful.

Last week, officials with the Bay Area Science Fair apologized to Mr. Hoffman and invited him and his experiment to the upcoming California State Fair.


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