Newsletter No. 400

10 No. 400, 19.6.2012 …… 如是說 Thus Spake… 甚麼時候開始喜歡物理? When did your interest in physics start? 我從小就對無線電、機器感興趣,自己動手安裝收音機。 一開始上中學物理課,我就喜歡這一科,覺得所講的知識 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. 你唸大學的時代跟現在比,差異在哪? In what way did your university life differ from those of students nowadays? 說老實話,各有好處。我是文革後恢復高考的第一批學生, 上大學的時候,離中學畢業已經兩三年了。班上年齡分布 非常寬,最小的十五歲,最大的已經快四十了。大家都如饑 似渴,非常珍惜學習機會,拿到了高等數學的習題集,會從 頭到尾逐題去做;大部分人是這樣子學習的。 我們在專業課花很多時間,學的比現在深得多,但知識 面沒有現在的全面;現在講求均衡教育。現在的學生有 互聯網,眼光也不一樣。我們那年代訊息比較閉塞,心思 比較單純,文革之後大家只想專心學術,也不想搞學生 活動。 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. 物理學範圍廣闊,當初如何選定研究方向? The scope of physics is all-encompassing. How did you choose which area to focus on? 甚麼事物都有隨機性。做博士後研究時,我去聽別人的 課,對湍流發生了興趣。到香港以後,對湍流的興趣愈來 愈大,慢慢地做起來了。香港的一個好處是可以做自己喜 歡的,沒有人會怎樣干預你。 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. 科研人員應該有甚麼抱負? What kind of vision must scientists have? 最重要是有了解或探索問題的精 神。要有一種希望對某個問題作出 真正貢獻的抱負,而不是為了發表 文章而發表文章,或者看到別人發 表了一篇文章,就做些小改動跟在 別人後面發。我希望做一些事情讓 我退休之後感到比較自豪的。如果 我追求文章的話,數量可以比現 在多,但你要取捨:是花精力做文 章?還是一些不一樣的東西?人一 天只有二十四小時,最好做令你自 豪而且對所研領域有點貢獻的事。 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. 研究遇到挫敗時應如何面對? How do you overcome a setback in scientific research? 不要輕易放棄,還要有開放的心態。做實驗很多時是為了 測量或驗證一些已知或未知的東西或現象,但這不是那麼 容易的。你要發明一些方法去測量,某些方法不成功,要 想一想,是實驗設計還是儀器等出問題。你不能預設一個 答案,因為那是自然規律,不是由我們定的。我們可以猜 想是不是有這個東西存在,但它不一定是你所想的那個模 樣。要客觀地分析自己的實驗,一個一個地排除顯而易見 的錯謬,如果最後是這樣子,就是這樣子。 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. 在香港培訓物理人才有何優勢和限制? What are the advantages and limitations of Hong Kong in nurturing physics talent? 香港的限制在於資源較缺乏,社會風氣也較不利有志從 事基礎科學研究的學生堅持理想。在美國及不少歐洲國 家,物理專業畢業生被認定為能力較高的一群,獲各行各 業爭相聘用,只可惜香港在這方面未能追上國際步伐。但 另一方面,香港地理位置優越,位處東西文化交匯的中心, 正好為中國與國際科研接軌提供人才及經驗。其實,香港 中學生的數理訓練在國際上水平相當高,對培訓本土物理 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,最令你開心的是甚麼? What have been your happiest moments in CUHK? 社會延續需要一代又一代的人才,能夠培訓學生,訓練人 才,看到自己教的本科生及研究生成為社會上有用的人,給 我最大滿足。當然,研究做出來也有滿足感。但長遠來說, 培訓人才的影響及貢獻一般會比文章的大。另外就是中大 有一個寬鬆的環境,當然,資源更充裕的話會更理想。 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