Newsletter No. 400

10 No. 400, 19.6.2012 …… 如是说 Thus Spake… 什么时候开始喜欢物理? When did your interest in physics start? 我从小就对无线电、机器感兴趣,自己动手安装收音机。 一开始上中学物理课,我就喜欢这一科,觉得所讲的知识 很美妙,很想探求下去。 I've loved machines when I was little, and I’d install radios myself. When I came across the subject of physics in junior secondary school, I fell in love with it. The stories of physics were fascinating and I wanted to know more. 你念大学的时代跟现在比,差异在哪? In what way did your university life differ from those of students nowadays? 说老实话,各有好处。我是文革后恢复高考的第一批学生, 上大学的时候,离中学毕业已经两三年了。班上年龄分布 非常宽,最小的十五岁,最大的已经快四十了。大家都如饥 似渴,非常珍惜学习机会,拿到了高等数学的习题集,会从 头到尾逐题去做;大部分人是这样子学习的。 我们在专业课花很多时间,学的比现在深得多,但知识 面没有现在的全面;现在讲求均衡教育。现在的学生有 互联网,眼光也不一样。我们那年代讯息比较闭塞,心思 比较单纯,文革之后大家只想专心学术,也不想搞学生 活动。 I must say both have their merits. I was among the first students to take the nationwide university entrance examination reinstated after the Cultural Revolution. When I entered university, I’d already completed secondary studies for a couple of years. The age difference was huge in our class, the youngest one was just 15, and the oldest was nearly 40. This was a precious opportunity to us and we had a thirst for learning. We made use of the exercise books on higher mathematics and attempted each and every question from beginning to end. This was the typical student life for most of us. We devoted an enormous amount of time to core subjects, and what we learned was a lot more difficult than what students are learning nowadays. All-round education is what we give our students. They can access the Internet and have broader horizons about global affairs. In our time, we were more simple-minded since China was rather secluded and most people lacked knowledge about the outside world. In the post-Cultural Revolution era, we just wanted to focus on academic work and had no interest to participate in student activities. 物理学范围广阔,当初如何选定研究方向? The scope of physics is all-encompassing. How did you choose which area to focus on? 什么事物都有随机性。做博士后研究时,我去听别人的 课,对湍流发生了兴趣。到香港以后,对湍流的兴趣愈来 愈大,慢慢地做起来了。香港的一个好处是可以做自己喜 欢的,没有人会怎样干预你。 It was a random match, just like anything else. When I was doing post-doctoral research, I went to a lecture on turbulence, and it was interesting. I later came to Hong Kong, and bit by bit my interest grew, and more research was done. Hong Kong has an advantage because researchers can pick any topic we want, and no one would bother you. 科研人员应该有什么抱负? What kind of vision must scientists have? 最重要是有了解或探索问题的精 神。要有一种希望对某个问题作出 真正贡献的抱负,而不是为了发表 文章而发表文章,或者看到别人发 表了一篇文章,就做些小改动跟在 别人后面发。我希望做一些事情让 我退休之后感到比较自豪的。如果 我追求文章的话,数量可以比现 在多,但你要取舍:是花精力做文 章?还是一些不一样的东西?人一 天只有二十四小时,最好做令你自 豪而且对所研领域有点贡献的事。 The most important quality is the will to explore or eagerness to delve into a problem, hoping to find an answer and contributing to the advancement of mankind. The publishing of academic papers and the quest for increased output should not play a part. I want to do something which I’d be proud of upon retirement. If my aim is to issue papers, I can boost the figures. We need to decide: should I write? Or should I do something else that can make a change? We only have 24 hours a day. I should do something that I am proud of, and dedicate my strengths for the benefit of physics research. 研究遇到挫败时应如何面对? How do you overcome a setback in scientific research? 不要轻易放弃,还要有开放的心态。做实验很多时是为了 测量或验证一些已知或未知的东西或现象,但这不是那么 容易的。你要发明一些方法去测量,某些方法不成功,要 想一想,是实验设计还是仪器等出问题。你不能预设一个 答案,因为那是自然规律,不是由我们定的。我们可以猜 想是不是有这个东西存在,但它不一定是你所想的那个模 样。要客观地分析自己的实验,一个一个地排除显而易见 的错谬,如果最后是这样子,就是这样子。 Adopt an open mind and don’t give up easily. The purpose of doing experiments is to assess or check a phenomenon we know or have yet to know. That’s not an easy task. You need to invent methods to collect data. If it doesn't work, we must reflect on the experimental process—is there anything wrong with that method? Or is the apparatus not suitable? You should not assume a reason. Man can only obey nature. We can guess if such a phenomenon exists or not, but it might not manifest itself in the ways you think. We must be objective in analysing our experiments. We must get rid of obvious errors one by one. If it ends up that way, we must accept it as it is. 在香港培训物理人才有何优势和限制? What are the advantages and limitations of Hong Kong in nurturing physics talent? 香港的限制在于资源较缺乏,社会风气也较不利有志从 事基础科学研究的学生坚持理想。在美国及不少欧洲国 家,物理专业毕业生被认定为能力较高的一群,获各行各 业争相聘用,只可惜香港在这方面未能追上国际步伐。但 另一方面,香港地理位置优越,位处东西文化交汇的中心, 正好为中国与国际科研接轨提供人才及经验。其实,香港 中学生的数理训练在国际上水平相当高,对培训本土物理 人才是有利的。 Few resources are available in Hong Kong, and societal values are not that favourable to students who want to pursue a career in fundamental scientific research and hold on to their ideals. In the US and in European countries, physics graduates are regarded as more competent than they are here, and many firms love to hire them. Hong Kong lags behind that of international society in this aspect. But the good news is that Hong Kong’s geographical proximity to China and its role as a hub of eastern and western cultures can help bridge the gap between China and the world, and allow a free flow of scientific personnel and expertise. Besides, the mathematics and science training of local secondary students are of a high standard, and this is beneficial to nurturing local talent. 在中大工作,最令你开心的是什么? What have been your happiest moments in CUHK? 社会延续需要一代又一代的人才,能够培训学生,训练人 才,看到自己教的本科生及研究生成为社会上有用的人,给 我最大满足。当然,研究做出来也有满足感。但长远来说, 培训人才的影响及贡献一般会比文章的大。另外就是中大 有一个宽松的环境,当然,资源更充裕的话会更理想。 We need many generations of young talent to keep our society moving. Here, I have a chance to teach and nurture young students. Seeing them become the pillars of society and making contributions is my happiest moment. Of course, the kind of research I did also brings me happiness. But in the long run, generally speaking my teaching career is far more fruitful than my papers. The University has provided a liberal environment, and it would be better if more resources can be made available. 物理系系主任夏克青教授 Prof. Xia Keqing, Chairman, Department of Physics