About the Hong Kong Laureate Forum

Welcome to the November 2022 issue of the newsletter of the Hong Kong Laureate Forum!

The Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum will be held on 13-18 November 2023. The previous young scientist recruitment campaign of the Forum was a resounding success and received more than 450 valid applications. In order to strengthen the cross-disciplinary exchange during the Forum, we are now conducting a targeted recruitment campaign for young scientists in specific areas. The recruitment exercise will close on 18 December 2022. If you are interested to have brilliant and intellectual exchange with renowned scientists (including The Shaw Prize winners) and other young scientists from all over the world, click HERE now to learn more about the Forum and application details.

Second chapter of our new series of the "Prelude to the Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum", Masterminds, Masterclasses 2.0 (MM2.0) was successfully held on 9-11 September at The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups Headquarters. The three-day event gathered over 20 renowned scientists and experts in the field from different parts of the world as speakers for seminars and trending topic session or as guest hosts for the sharing sessions. Prof Sun Dong, JP, Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry also took his precious time out to attend the Grand Launching Ceremony to kick off the event. Besides Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences, we also have the multi-discipline trending topic – Climate Emergency. During the event, scientists and experts shared not only their science journey, but also gave their words of wisdom on pursuing science and changing the world. Those words are, no doubt, inspirational and thought-provoking.

Dr Sunny Chai Ngai Chiu, BBS, JP, Chairman, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, Prof Chan Wai-yee, Vice-President (Strategic Developments), The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Principal Wan Ka Kit, Executive Committee Member, Hong Kong Association of Heads of Secondary Schools, and Prof Wong Wing-tak, Deputy President and Provost & Chair Professor of Chemical Technology, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University each chose a word as the key to pursuing scientific research at the panel discussion session on the first day of event, those were "Commitment", "Curiosity", "Enjoy" and "Thinking".

At the online dialogue in the evening of the same day, Prof Simon White, 2017 Shaw Laureate in Astronomy concluded the session and said, "Do things you find exciting, be open-minded. If you only trust the thing you see, that's all, (then there will be) no new ideas."

"We only have one Earth to live, each of us has the responsibility, and hope to keep it alive to sustain our future generation." Prof Amos Tai, Associate Professor & Director, Earth System Science Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong said in his concluding remarks at the closing of the trending topic session on Climate Emergency.

MM2.0 attracted well over 400 online and offline fellow scientists, young scientists and students who are passionate about science, we are sure that they all learned a lot from the event.

Moreover, the annual InnoCarnival organised by the Innovation and Technology Commission was held on 22-30 October at Hong Kong Science Park. The two virtual reality (VR) experiences, demonstration of auto-balancing robotic machine and games with exciting prizes attracted near 6,000 participations. Prof Sun Dong, JP, Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, and Ms Christile Drulhe, Consul General of France in Hong Kong and Macau toured our booth and tried the VR experiences. We are grateful to join hands with the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and Macau again this year to present one of the two unique VR experiences at our booth in the said event. The icing on the cake was that our booth came second in the "My Favorite Booth" public polling!

On 24 November, the HKLF and the Kowloon City District Secondary School Heads Association invited three local academics at a gathering in the Scientia Secondary School to host a science talk for secondary students in the Kowloon City District. More than 400 school principals, teachers and secondary students participated in the talk and they all gained a lot from the scientists' sharing. We will continue to engage Secondary School Heads Association of different district and hold similar talk to further promote understanding and interests of the young generation in Hong Kong in various disciplines in science and technology.

In addition to the above events, the HKLF has collaborated with Invest Hong Kong to produce a promotional video to attract scientific research and technology talents to develop their careers in Hong Kong. The video has been released on websites and social media of the HKLF and Invest Hong Kong. If you want to learn more about the Hong Kong advantage on this front, then don't miss out!

After a series of in-person events and promotion, the HKLF will organise an online campaign via our social media platform in December. So, stay tuned to our website, social media and the next newsletter on future happening!

COP 27 – A Mixed Bag of Results

With the two-week COP27 drew to a close on 20 November 2022, commentators have begun to weigh up the loss and gain from the summit.

The biggest achievement of COP27 has to be the creation of the "loss and damage" fund. Hailed as a victory for countries most affected by climate crisis, the agreement to help them to deal with loss and damage was a real breakthrough. The deal is seen as a triumph for developing and small island countries after years of unsuccessful attempts to put the topic in the COP agenda.

Whilst the commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels remained, many pundits lamented on the lack of progress on the pledge to reach the peak of global emissions by 2025 or to phase down all fossil fuels in the final summit text.

For details on COP27, please refer to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website.

As delegates started leaving Sharm el-Sheikh, some no doubt in private jets, the debate on whether it is defensible for a climate conference to produce a huge carbon footprint for the gathering (an estimated 102,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent was recorded for COP26) and with the presence of over 600 fossil fuel representatives who might not have reduction in emissions as their priority, will no doubt rage on. But more importantly, we cannot lose sight on the task the conference was set out to do, that is, to bring about changes needed to forestall climate disaster. Let's hope that COP28 will see more progress and actions on that front!

November 2022


The Science of Ketchup: From Physics to Microbiology

Ketchup can be a struggle to work with. You may have seen the following when a ketchup bottle is taken out of the fridge. Try and fail to tip the ketchup out. Smack the bottle hard, many times, and wait even longer, and suddenly all the ketchup splashes out at once and you end up with much more than you need. Ketchup is a very versatile condiment – it goes well with all kinds of food – so everyone who uses it may have similar experience repeatedly. But why does this keep happening? And why does it happen with ketchup specifically?

Ketchup as a Fluid with Variable Viscosity

When we want the ketchup to be runny, it comes out of the fridge frozen and cold and decidedly not runny. At this point it may be described in physics terms as viscous, or difficult to flow. Rather than waiting for it to thaw, most people will hit the bottom of the ketchup bottle sharply. Based on Newton's Law of viscosity, a fluid flows at a speed in proportion to the force applied. However, ketchup has the property of thixotropy. It means that the extent to which ketchup becomes less viscous, or runnier, is disproportional to the applied force. Therefore, ketchup is also referred to as a non-Newtonian fluid.

Why is ketchup like this? In viscous fluids, molecules are unable to move freely, due to the attractive forces between them or because larger molecules act as physical barriers. In the case of ketchup, 95% of which is made of small molecules like water, vinegar (ethanoic acid) and salts, but ketchup is thixotropic because of the precise nature of that other 5%.


Author: Peace Foo, Student Editor, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Design: Charley Lam, Graphic Designer, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Translation: Daniel Lau, Managing Editor, Science Focus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Another Take to Combat COVID – Orally Intake Pills and Vaccines

There is a general belief that injections are better than oral intake pills as it gets drugs into the bloodstream through direct injection into the veins. The body can thereby better absorb and assimilate the drug. We therefore see many medications introduced by forms of injection. This includes but is not limited to insulins injections, chicken pox and measles vaccines, and of late, the COVID-19 vaccines. However, there is a concerning number of patients worldwide who have contracted diseases even after vaccination. It was, therefore, necessary to develop medications for treatment of those diseases. With the advancement of more potent agents to deliver oral drugs to enhance their absorption and efficacy, on top of the advantages of non-invasiveness and simple administration, in both preventing and treating diseases, pharmaceutical companies have come to develop oral pills to combat the novel and ever-mutating COVID-19 virus. In this article, we will delve into the topic of oral-intake pills and vaccines in our battle against COVID-19.

Globally, there are many oral covid antiviral medications like Merck's Molnupiravir, Pfizer's Paxlovid, GSK's Sotrovimab to name but a few. Such oral antivirals are prescribed for patients after they have contracted the virus. These antivirals work to keep the SARS-Cov-2 virus from replicating properly — thereby reducing viral load, which can help reduce severity of symptoms. There are also a few oral intake vaccines worldwide, including Oravax's vaccine and Vaxart's vaccine, both are still in development and testing stage. The downside of injection vaccines is that the time required to gain immunity after a vaccine can be up to 21-28 days, and some of the other vaccines in development require multiple doses before sufficient immunity may develop. In contrast, one oral tablet vaccine, which induced antibodies in the airways, seems to resolve the above issue.

Locally, the Hong Kong Government has introduced both Molnupiravir and Paxlovid. The current guidelines for these oral antivirals in Hong Kong are for use by those aged 60 or above, vaccinated or not. For those who are under 60 years of age, and who are at high risk of medical illness, and for those who are suffering from chronic illnesses, if they have symptoms of COVID-19 within 5 days, seek medical attention, and with no contraindications to antiviral drugs, all of these patients will be included and can be prescribed with antivirals. It is best for these susceptible groups to take these medications as soon as they have contracted the disease. The government has also commenced distributing such oral antivirals to private clinics for more efficient medication distribution that enables broader treatment of COVID-19. Nonetheless, there are restrictions to drug prescription. Merck’s drug is not suitable for pregnant, breastfeeding women, as well as children below 18, as it affects fetal development, bone and cartilage growth; while Pfizer's drug is not suitable for people with very weak kidney or liver functions, as the levels of the drug may become too high and cause increased side effects.

Oral antivirals, as its limitations and benefits stand, could come to be the game changer in combating the lethal COVID-19 virus. It is often seen in society that even vaccinated individuals would come to contract the virus and / or its derivatives / mutations. This signals that vaccination can only take up part of the job and there is a void to fill in the role of treating the disease. Oral antivirals are sufficed to take up such a mantel and play a pivotal role in humanity's struggle against deadly strains of coronavirus. In a study conducted by the Israel Clalit Health Services, Nirmatrelvir (ingredient in Paxlovid) therapy was associated with a 67% reduction in COVID-19 hospitalisations and an 81% reduction in COVID-19 mortality in patients 65 years and above. These data all point to one truth: that COVID-19 oral antivirals can significantly benefit us and reduce the severity of disease upon contraction. It is understandable how orally intake pills can come to relieve the COVID-19 plight. Coronavirus has blighted the world for a lengthy period, it is high time governments speed up the introduction of such drugs for the betterment of humanity.


James Leung, Year 1, The University of Hong Kong
November 2022