My father likes to note Rashi to this week's parshah (Shemot 16:14), in which he offers a science experiment: If one fills an eggshell with dew, seal her and leave her in the sun, she will rise independently into the air. Based on the pronouns, it certainly seems that Rashi meant the shell would ascend, presumably as a function of the dew's ascension.
Here is the Rashi:
I was thinking about this the other day, when contemplating experiments yeshivot could perform in order to understand gemara better. Many passages of gemara rely on familiarity with physical realities we don't normally encounter, and these experiments would help us understand what the Rabbis were discussing.
To put it differently: Imagine learning Maseches Succah without ever having seen an esrog before, or Maseches Chullin without the benefit of seeing a cow, or the various modern picture books which illustrate the innards of a cow. It's inconceivable – but that's the way our yeshiva students learn much of the Talmud, including segments which relate to daily ritual. So here are some experiments they could conduct, which would help:
For Maseches Berachos and the discussion of the earliest time for Shma – Go to a place far from urban light pollution, on a clear night, 90 minutes before sunrise, and watch the morning lighten. Set up black, green, blue and white strips of paper, and see when you can discern the difference between them. Time how long the sun takes to cross the horizon.
For Maseches Shabbos and the thresholds of cooking (Maachal Ben Derusai) – Cook a piece of meat 1/3 of the recommended time and test its edibility. Do the same at 1/2 of the recommended time.
For Maseches Pesachim and the discussion of which plants become chametz and which do not – Get wheat and barley kernels, as well as grains of rice, grind them up and expose them to water. Watch what happens, and how long it takes.
For Maseches Beitzah and discussions about the muktzeh status of fruit that has been left to dry, as well as for various halachic discussions which revolve around dried figs – Leave grapes and figs in the sun, and monitor the process as they dry out. Test them for edibility at various stages.
For Maseches Rosh HaShanah and discussions about testimony regarding the sighting of the new moon - Take a field trip on a clear night at the end and start of the lunar month and make observations of the shape and location of the moon.
For Maseches Bava Kama and discussions about tort law and harm caused when items fall into a pit which is ten tefach deep - Dig a pit that deep and experiment dropping various items in.
For Maseches Niddah and the discussion of kesamim (stains which may be blood, but might not be) – Crush lice and examine the quantity and color of the blood produced.
There is much more to do, of course; this is just a start. Some may be more useful, some of more narrow benefit, but this might make the learning experience more 'real' for some students, as well as help them grasp the concepts involved. Some of this is tongue-in-cheek, but not all of it.