About the Hong Kong Laureate Forum

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

Open application for the inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum (the Forum) started on 14 September and will end on 13 December 2020.

As of today, we have received positive responses from over 20 Shaw Laureates, including several Nobel Laureates and Fields Medalist, to join the Forum. Apply now to become one of the 200 selected young scientists to take part in the Forum and be inspired by them. This is a world-wide recruitment, eligible young scientists from around the world may complete and submit their applications via this link. Detailed information of the Forum and young scientist application are available in our website.

On the other hand, to broaden youngster’s and public’s knowledge and enhance their interests in science, cultivate the culture of self-exploration and self-learning, encourage observation on our environment and foster understanding of the power of science and its impact on our daily life, the HKLF will launch an online quiz game titled “Science Hunt” on Facebook in October this year. For each round of the game, six multiple choice questions in various topics of science will be posted. Participants of the game have chances to win exciting prizes. We received tremendous supports to the game on different aspects including sponsorship of most of the prizes by Xiaomi Corporation, and contribution of science questions and answers from academics namely Dr Jason Chan of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, as well as Dr Ken Leung and Dr Gray Ho of Hong Kong Baptist University. The first round of games will start on 6 October 2020, stay tuned to our social media platform for more details.

Special Congratulations to Prof Dennis Yuk Ming LO

Many in the community share our vision and mission of promoting understanding and interest of young generation in science and technology. One of them is Prof Dennis Yuk Ming LO, the new winner of the 2021 Breakthrough Prize, from the Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Prof Lo once said, “I hope more and more young talents will be joining us in the pursuit of innovation and technology. Together we strive to make positive impact and make a difference to the world.”.

Prof Lo is awarded the 2021 Breakthrough Prize, known as the “Oscar of Science”, in Life Sciences for his work in discovering fetal DNA in maternal blood which enables the prenatal testing of Down syndrome and a variety of genetic diseases. The tests have been adopted in more than 90 countries and are used by more than seven million pregnant women every year.

Congratulations to Prof Lo!

Prof Lo will share his journey of scientific pursuit with the HKLF, if you want to find out more about his experience, follow us in our social media platform.

Beyond Vaccines

The COVID-19 pandemic (the Pandemic) has swept through the whole world for over half a year. There seems no sign of slowing down. Traditionally, infection problems are dealt with by experts who clarify the cause of the disease and the pathological involvements, work out the effective treatment protocol, then organise a public health program on prevention. Unfortunately, with regard to this current devastating Pandemic, up to today there is yet consensus on the use of therapy: anti-flu, anti-HIV, antimalarial and steroidal classics have all been tried. New drugs, of course, have been on the list. The diverse views of clinical scientists have invited populist politicians to join in the fray. They make unsubstantiated comments indiscriminately. With regard to clinical involvements: those chronically ill and elderlies are expected to be more vulnerable. Nevertheless, with further spread of the Pandemic, a much broader age range, from neonates, children to the young and healthy, could all be victims.

Progress in the world has never been advanced equally, whether a place is considered developed or otherwise would normally be judged by its economic status. Advanced economy has done better in life expectancy, infection rate of diseases, etc. However, with this once in a century Pandemic, the unequal world regions appear to have become equal. The wealthy regions are affected as badly as the poor ones. The day-to-day world data related to the infection and mortality numbers, which shows that wealthy places such as the United States and some countries from Europe fare no better than underdeveloped countries, gives vivid illustrations of the mystery of this Pandemic.

Author: Professor Ping-Chung LEUNG

MBBS(HK), FRACS, FRCS (Edin), MS(HK), FHKCOS, FHKAM (Orthopaedic Surgery), DSc (CUHK)
Emeritus Professor of Orthopaedics & Traumatology, Faculty of Medicine of The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Director of Centre for Clinical Trials on Chinese Medicine of Institute of Chinese Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Director of State Key Laboratory of Research on Bioactivities and Clinical Applications of Medicinal Plants (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)


Interview with 2015 Shaw Laureate - Mr William J Borucki

The Shaw Prize in Astronomy 2015 was awarded to astronomer and space scientist Mr William J Borucki for his work in conceiving and leading the Kepler Mission, which greatly advanced our knowledge of both extrasolar planetary systems and stellar interiors.

An interview with Mr William J Borucki was conducted by the Theoretical Astronomy Group of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society (HKAS) in September 2015. We are delighted to share the interview highlights provided by the HKAS.

Scripts prepared by:
Dr Leung Chun Sing, Team Leader of Theoretical Astronomical Group of Hong Kong Astronomical Society
Mr Fung Po Kei, Senior Member of Theoretical Astronomy Group of Hong Kong Astronomical Society
Mr Eddie Ng, Senior Member of Theoretical Astronomy Group of Hong Kong Astronomical Society


IMMC 2020 Greater China Challenge – Credibility Assessment of Online News

Through the collaboration with the International Mathematical Modling Challenge (IM2C) Committee (Zhonghua) and participating schools, we shared one of the topics for the 2020 Greater China contest and a corresponding winning paper in the July issue of our newsletter. This time we continue to share another topic of the contest – Credibility Assessment of Online News.

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” This adage has never been truer than in the era of online media. Misinformation can quickly reach thousands or even millions of readers, thus, the concern over the credibility of online news is growing worldwide. Assessment of credibility of online news has been a pressing challenge for the health of the information ecosystem where every citizen in the digital age is being affected. The 2020 IM2C sets such challenge for secondary school students from Greater China.

One of the winning papers prepared by Beijing National Day School in China has won Outstanding Award in IM2C 2020 of Greater China.


Exploration of Mars (III)

In the last issue of our newsletter, we mentioned that China, the United Arab Emirates and the United States launched their probes in July 2020 to carry out Mars missions during the best launch window. The successful launching of those probes marks the beginning of their Mars missions. Let’s explore more about missions to the red planet in this issue of newsletter.

What is a “Mars launch window”?
The revolution periods of Mars and that of Earth are not the same. Mars launch window refers to the period of time that the orbital distances of the two planets are the closest. As such, the navigation time of probes launched during this period can be shortened. This year (2020), Mars opposition will occur on 14 October, the orbital position of Mars, Earth and the Sun will be in a straight line and the distance between the red planet and Earth will be at the closest. Therefore, it is the most suitable juncture to carry out Mars missions. Considering the distance between Mars and Earth and revolution speed of these two celestial bodies around the Sun, the best Mars launch window was July to mid-August in 2020, around two months before the Mars opposition. This Mars launch window only happens once every 26 months. We will need to wait for at least two years before the next launch window. Therefore, all countries would endeavour to launch their Mars mission during this period of time.

The probes take at least seven months of navigation to reach Mars. It means that these probes will land on Mars in February 2021.

Navigate to Mars
The closest distance between Earth and Mars is about 55 million kilometres while the furthest can be more than 400 million kilometres. To increase the chance of success, fuel is always a vital factor for Mars mission. Apart from launching the probes during the best launch window, scientists need to reduce the size and weight of the probes so as to save fuel that probes use and carry. German engineer Walter Hohmann deduced “Hohmann transfer orbit” by mathematics, which has made an important contribution to the understanding of orbital dynamics and space navigation.

“Hohmann transfer orbit” is a way of changing orbit. During the first acceleration, the spacecraft first transfers from its original orbit to an elliptical orbit. When it reaches the apsis of the elliptical orbit, it accelerates again and enters the target orbit. During the navigation in space, transferring orbit consumes a lot of fuel. If a Mars probe utilises the Hohmann transfer orbit to navigate, it only needs to accelerate twice to transfer orbit for entering the Martian orbit after launching, so it greatly saves navigation time and fuel needed.

In the history of Mars exploration, about half of the missions failed. We hope that Mars exploration now underway will reach a new milestone in the year of the red planet.

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