About the Hong Kong Laureate Forum

Welcome to the July issue of the newsletter of the Hong Kong Laureate Forum!

With the tremendous support from organisations and individuals in different sectors, sponsors and partners, the preparation of our inaugural Forum is moving full steam ahead. As you all know, the Forum will provide ample opportunities for exchanges between the participating Shaw Laureates and young scientists. Hence, we are pleased to announce that the following Shaw Laureates have already expressed their interest in participating in our inaugural Forum (in the order of scientific discipline and chronological order from the most recent year of award) :

(Information as of 30 July. Latest participating Shaw Laureate list will be published on our website soon.)

It will indeed be our honour to meet them soon!

The world-wide open application for the inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum will commence on 14 September 2020 (00:00 HKT) and end on 13 December 2020 (23:59 HKT). To become one of the selected young scientists in the Forum, eligible persons may submit their applications via the online application platform on our website, the platform will be closed after the deadline and will not accept any late applications.

The 200 young scientists will be selected by a two-tier Scientific Review Panel comprising local and non-local academics, under the three disciplines, namely Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences. The Panel will select the final 200 young scientists to join the Forum.

Click here to learn more about the Panel members.

Apply to join the Forum and don’t miss out this invaluable opportunity to be inspired by the world-renowned Shaw Laureates!

Climate Change and Its Impacts to Hong Kong

Does COVID-19 pandemic help?

It is well-understood that climate change is caused by release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, a phenomenon also known as carbon emission. It is estimated that owing to COVID-19, the global carbon emissions in 2020 may drop by 4-7 percent. While the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has not come to an end, and the world is seeing major downturn of economy, does the COVID-19 pandemic help to alleviate the negative impacts of climate change? According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), such a level of reduction of emissions does not mean that carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere will go down. On the contrary, the carbon dioxide will continue to accumulate and the level will just increase a little less than without this reduction. As a matter of fact, the monthly mean carbon dioxide concentration measured at Mauna Loa in Hawaii in May 2020 was the highest in record for the month of May. Accompanying this, the global mean temperature in May 2020 was also the highest in record for the month of May. As such, the Secretary-General of WMO said that the economic and industrial downturn as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic was not a substitute for concerted and coordinated climate action.

(Source: https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/)

Author: Dr Cho Ming CHENG
Director of the Hong Kong Observatory

Dr Cheng graduated with a BSc degree in Physics in 1985 from the university of Hong Kong and subsequently received a PhD degree in Physics in 1989. He joined the Hong Kong Observatory in 1989 as a Scientific Officer. Since the 1990s, Dr Cheng has been involved in weather forecasting, TV weather reporting, hydrometeorology, weather radar and satellite meteorology, terminal Doppler weather radar, LIDAR, and aerodrome meteorological observing system, etc. In 2011, he was promoted to the post of Assistant Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, overseeing the weather forecasting and warning branch which was responsible for development in public weather services, Hong Kong Observatory website, “MyObservatory” mobile app, research in forecasting techniques, etc. In 2020, Dr Cheng was promoted as the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory.

IM2C 2020 Greater China Challenge - Smart Water Data Analysis

We introduced the International Mathematical Modeling Challenge (IM2C) in the May issue of our e-Newsletter. It is an innovative contest in mathematical modeling for secondary school students all over the world. With the help of IM2C Committee (Zhonghua) and participating schools, we are pleased to share one of the topics (Smart Water Data Analysis) for the 2020 Greater China contest and a corresponding winning paper.

Water is essential in our daily life, an effective transport system of water is extremely crucial for the benefits of users. However, in a water supply system, water leaks may easily be caused by system malfunctions, for example, flaws in water pipes and valves, such high vulnerability is always a big problem. Engineers and researchers are constantly exploring the methods of constructing a smart water system so as to use water efficiently. Thus, electromagnetic flowmeters are often used for water flow measurement and leak monitoring. For example, the difference of the input water flow and the output water flow in a given region can be analysed in detail so that the flow status and leak potentials can be reviewed clearly. Although many data analysis methods are available nowadays, some challenges still exist. International Mathematical Modeling Challenge (IM2C) sets such challenge for secondary school students from Greater China.

To feature all IM2C problems coming from real world, this problem is created by experts of Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) from their real project. The original problem and its dataset containing the data of the difference of the input water flow and the output water flow in 8 different virtual regions could be found here.

One of the winning papers prepared by Diocesan Girls’ School in Hong Kong has won Outstanding Award in IM2C 2020 of Greater China.

Exploration of Mars (II)

At 5:58pm (EDT) on 19 July 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) successfully launched their Hope Probe from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan. The probe was carried by the Japanese H-IIA rocket and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the country. Hope Probe marks the first interplanetary voyage of the Arab world and also the first of three international missions to Mars this summer. The other two missions that were covered in the last issue of this e-Newsletter, Chinese Tianwen-1 and NASA’s Perseverance Rover were also launched on 23 July from Hainan Province and 30 July from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida respectively. These three nations are taking advantage of this launch window, when Earth and Mars are favourably aligned, that only occurs once every 26 months.

The Hope Probe will stay in orbit for a Martian year, that is almost two years on Earth. The scientific objective of the Hope Probe is to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere. These include understanding climate dynamics and the global weather map through characterising the lower atmosphere of Mars, explaining how the weather changes the escape of hydrogen and oxygen through correlating the lower atmosphere conditions with the upper atmosphere and understanding the structure and variability of hydrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, as well as identifying why Mars is losing them into space.

Other than scientific objectives, there is another objective which coincides with one of the missions of the Council of the Hong Kong Laureate Forum, that is, to inspire young generation to pursue science. Also, the UAE Mars mission has pushed societal norms. According to the journal Nature, women make up 34% of the team and 80% of the mission’s scientists. Ms Sarah Al-Amiri, now the UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and Deputy Project Manager of the Emirates Mars Mission, was inspired and decided to pursue and learn as much as she could about space after seeing an image of the Andromeda Galaxy at the age of 12. It is Emirati leaders’ and her hope to bolster as well as inspire a new generation of young people and female to pursue careers in sciences by widening youth engagement in the fields of STEM.

Photo Credit:
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) in Guizhou

FAST, Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope is the world's largest single dish filled-aperture radio telescope. The idea of building a radio telescope was first introduced by the “Father of FAST”, the late Prof Nan Rendong in July 1994. In the following 22 years, Prof Nan had been leading the engineering team on site selection and design of FAST and carried out different investigations. The construction of FAST was completed in Guizhou, China in 2016. After testing and commissioning, it was declared fully operational in January 2020.

World’s largest receiving surface
The receiving surface area of FAST is 250,000 square meters, which is equivalent to 30 football fields. The sensitivity of FAST is 2.25 times higher than that of the 300-m Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in the United States and about 10 times higher than that of the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope in Germany. When space radio waves travel long distances in the universe, the signal becomes very weak. If the aperture of the telescope is larger, more cosmic signals can be received. FAST can also detect HI (neutral hydrogen) in the universe. HI is produced during the Big Bang of the universe. Scientists can learn more about the mystery of birth of the universe by observing the HI. Also, to make sure that FAST will not be interfered by other signals, an area within 5-kilometer radius from FAST is classified as quiet zone.

Detecting pulsars
Because of the stable and regular electromagnetic radiation emitted from pulsars, we can locate different pulsars in the universe. As early as 2017, FAST had discovered several new pulsars during the commissioning phase. In 2018, with the collaboration of FAST, NASA and the Space Research Laboratory at the University of Hong Kong, a pulsar which is about 4,000 light years away and about 5 billion years old was also discovered. As of 2019, FAST has discovered 132 pulsar candidates, of which 93 have been confirmed as newly discovered pulsars. With enough number of pulsars located, it can help locate and navigate the spacecraft in the universe in the future like using GPS on Earth.

Future mission
The National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced that it is expected to launch an extra-terrestrial civilisation search program in September 2020. FAST is in the midst of upgrades that could reduce interference, after the upgrade, it can screen out the useful narrowband candidate signals for studying extra-terrestrial life from the received cosmic electromagnetic signals.

Prof Sir Fraser Stoddart, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2016, Shares His Inspirational Story

Prof Sir Fraser Stoddart, the Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry at the Northwestern University, United States of America, visited Hong Kong in November 2019. The Innovation and Technology Bureau took the opportunity to invite Prof Stoddart to share his inspirational story on scientific and innovation pursuit through an interview.

Prof Sir Fraser Stoddart, along with Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Ben Feringa, won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the design and synthesis of artificial molecular machines. Dr Ken Cham Fai Leung, Associate Professor of the Department of Chemistry of Hong Kong Baptist University, was the Croucher research fellow in the research group of Prof Stoddart during his time at University of California, Los Angeles. He assisted in conducting the interview with Prof Stoddart.

In the dialogue with Dr Leung, Prof Stoddart shared his journey to a stereochemistry giant (video). Based on his personal experience, Prof Stoddart shared the lessons on success (video) and encouraged students and research fellows to enjoy exploring the unknown (video) to make life journey satisfying. He also shared some advice for students (video).