Newsletter No. 382

No. 382, 4.9.2011 5 Y ou may not know this but Shing Mun River in Sha Tin is inhabited by a great number of African carp, a river fish that hangs out in large schools and grows and breeds rapidly. As Shing Mun River’s water quality is generally considered dubious, anglers are few and far between. The fish were introduced by the government to reservoirs to help get rid of mosquitoes because they have a reputation for eating almost anything and they’re also effective at keeping algae in check. Director of the Environmental Science Programme at CUHK, Prof. Chan King-ming said that what Hong Kong refers to as African carp is not really carp, but is so named because of its resemblance to the said species. African carp is in fact tilapia and comes from the cichlid family of fishes. They live in brackish water and are commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world. Professor Chan explained that tolerance for pollution varies among different species. Some such as salmon cannot live in unclean environments, but African carp is highly tolerant and adaptable. In fish, as in humans, the organ responsible for processing and getting rid of pollutants is the liver. Hence fish with stronger liver function are better at dealing with pollutants, in particular, metals. The African carp has a natural make-up that comes with strong pollutant resistance. Fish weaker in this department would have trouble surviving in Shing Mun River and made it difficult to collect samples for research. The African carp’s high toxicity tolerance makes it an ideal indicator of the presence of metal pollutants in Shing Mun River. For years, Professor Chan has been using this fish to monitor the river’s water quality. He said, ‘If we want to understand how contaminants affect the ecological system and how chemicals harm human health, we can use biomarkers to assess the potential risks of the contaminants. Otherwise those chemical concentrations in water and sediments are just figures with no real meaning.’ By detecting metal traces in the fish’s livers, he found that the river contains copper, zinc, cadmium, lead, etc., with copper content being the highest. This, he said, is due to soil contamination by the iron mines in Ma On Shan as well as urban pollution. ‘Actually the government has done a lot to clean up Shing Mun River. They removed the sludge and introduced bacteria to decompose organic matter. According to the Drainage Services Department, the river is indeed cleaner, but our observation shows that metals and organic compounds such as dioxin have not been properly dealt with.’ Professor Chan said that chemicals that feature prominently in Hong Kong waters include PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), an organic compound used as flame retardant which is strictly controlled in the US and the EU, because it is shown to interfere with human hormones. Another chemical is DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), a synthetic pesticide that’s been banned in developed countries, but is still widely used in the developing world as an insecticide. He said these two chemicals are brought here by water in the Pearl River Delta. Professor Chan said that Hong Kong’s water quality is acceptable because the city’s industrial and agricultural sectors are far from thriving, and on top of that, the government has the right measures in place. The most uncontrolled pollution comes from urban emissions, in particular, waste water released directly into the sea via roadside rainwater drains by eateries, shops, garages and wet markets. Protein-rich African carp is tasty braised or steamed. But care must be taken to remove the liver and other internal organs before cooking — standard procedure for preparing any fish. Popular in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, it’s one of the world’s main farmed fishes with a production volume of over a million tonnes a year. ‘There are many types of African carp. In Hong Kong alone, you see four or five,’ Professor Chan pointed out. ‘Someone tried to raise African carp using seawater. The result was nice, crunchy flesh and none of the “muddy taste” that Hong Kongers are known to dislike. But it’s not easy to change impressions and tastes, so the fish never made it to the dinner table. In any case, it’s contributing to scientific research and that’s worthwhile.’ In Plain View Hopefully Hopefully is a common enough word that to see it decried and debunked by so many style books borders on revelation. The less wary would find the following sentence perfectly acceptable: Hopefully, the sky would clear up when we set out on our hike . Hopefully , which means ‘with hope’, is here used as an equivalent to ‘I hope …’ or ‘It is hoped that …’. The Elements of Style calls this usage ‘not merely wrong … but silly.’ (4th ed., p. 48) Kingsley Amis says that this usage ‘has never been respectable’ and that the author of such a sentence is ‘a dimwit at best.’ He goes on to explain: The most serious objection to the use of hopefully in a dangling position, often signaled by a following comma, is not that it is not good English, though it is not, nor that it is a trendy usage, though it is, nor even that the thing remains obstinately afloat after many well-aimed salvoes of malediction, but that it is dishonest. ( The King’s English , pp. 158–159) The Economist Style Guide also has a paragraph dedicated to this hapless adverb and advises: … by all means begin an article hopefully, but … [t]ry with luck, if all goes well, it is hoped that … (10th ed., p. 74) Editor 新 書 NEW BOOKS 學養貫今古 十年成一劍 陳方正博士,自中大創校初期任教物理系,並曾任中大秘書長,對中 大學術及學務發展貢獻至鉅。陳博士1986年出任中國文化研究所所 長,學術關注和研究,從科學轉向文史,亦都卓然有成。2002年退 休,現為中大物理系榮譽教授、中國文化研究所名譽高級研究員。 陳博士今年出版《迎接美妙新世紀:期待與疑惑》,收其2000年 至2009年十年間寫的文章共四十篇,包括科學史和文化史的論文; 對高等教育以至世界大事的觀察、反思和評論;還有其他講話和贈 序。陳博士並為了這書特別為每一章補寫後記。 書中文章歸五大輯:(一)新世紀科學;(二)科學史與科學哲學; (三)歷史與書評;(四)文化與時事評論;(五)人物、回憶、序言。 單從輯目已可窺見作者治學之廣博、感思之深廣,表現在文章之中, 便是其題旨與論據皆進出中外古今、橫跨文理。 陳方正與中大淵源深厚,可謂與中大一同成長,第五輯〈人物、回 憶、序言〉中,便有不少中大人物的側寫直描,包括楊振寧、余英 時、高錕、李卓敏等。中大金禧將至,從陳博士視點出發的這一部分 歷史彌足珍貴。 懷大學問,兼情繫家國人文,焉能對新世紀不抱期望,焉能對世情 倥偬不感疑惑? How Beauteous Mankind Is! O Brave New World! A Decade of Observations and Opinions in Science and Humanism Dr. F.C. Chen, erstwhile physicist, administrator and director of the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Chinese University, has recently published a collection of essays that he wrote during the first decade of the present millennium. As Shakespeare observed towards the end of his playwright’s career, in a work from which the title of this book is borrowed, Dr. F.C. Chen’s outlook on people, events and things is cautiously optimistic, and doubts are generally balanced by hopeful expectations. Dr. Chen’s book contains 40 essays selected from his treatises on scientific and cultural history, his observations on world events and happenings in the world of higher education, his personal reflections, as well as speeches and prefaces on diverse subjects. To each of these is added a postscript specially written by the author for this volume. This book will certainly impress readers with a lot of wisdom and insight. The author has been associated with the University for close to half a century, having always observed the campus from the vantage point at the top of the heap. What he wrote on people and events on campus will prove to be of particular value with the Chinese University’s 50th anniversary just around the corner. 《迎接美妙新世紀: 期待與疑惑》 Embracing the Brave New World: Doubts and Expectations 作者:陳方正 出版:北京:三聯書店 年份:2011 頁數:435頁