About the Hong Kong Laureate Forum

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

Second chapter of our new series of the "Prelude to the Inaugural Hong Kong Laureate Forum", Masterminds, Masterclasses 2.0 will be held on 9-11 September at The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups Headquarter. Through various programmes and activities, the three-day event aims to facilitate scientific and experience exchanges among world-renowned scientists, up-and-coming young academics and next generation of scientist from around the world, as well as to encourage youngsters to follow the path less traveled in science through dialogues and sharing with renowned speakers. Various programmes and activities include seminars, panel discussions, focus group, workshop, VR experience and more. Further details about the event and enrollment method will be announced on our website.

The annual InnoCarnival organised by the Innovation and Technology Commission is coming! InnoCarnival 2022 will be held on 22-30 October at Hong Kong Science Park. The HKLF will be one of the participating organisations among over 35 exhibition and game booths. This year, we will produce a moon-landing themed VR experience which takes participants to "board" a spacecraft and have a feel of landing on the moon, like an astronaut. There will be other games with exciting prizes awaiting participants at our booth too! In addition, we will broadcast a video series called "Call of Climate" to raise awareness and concern about climate change through the online seminar session of InnoCarnival. The HKLF will also continue to collaborate with the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and Macau and showcase at our booth another VR experience. Come to our booth and don't miss out these exciting programmes, visit InnoCarnival's website for more details.

Besides organising and participating in public events, to further promote understanding and interests of the young generation in Hong Kong in various disciplines in science and technology, the HKLF will go into the community and meet with more secondary students. We are pleased to be collaborating with the Kowloon City District Secondary School Heads Association and will hold a science talk for secondary students in Kowloon City District on 24 November. We take this opportunity to thank the support from the Kowloon City District Secondary School Heads Association and local academics who have agreed to participate in the talk. They include Prof Reynold Cheng, Department of Computer Science, the University of Hong Kong, Prof Ming-chung Chu, Department of Physics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Dr Eric Sze, School of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Metropolitan University.

Online campaign "Science is Everywhere" was completed on 22 September and the results will be announced on 28 September. The campaign aims to raise public understanding of our behaviour in daily life and its causation to climate crisis, in the hope that we all will play a part in slowing down the speed of climate change. The HKLF would like to thank Xiaomi for sponsoring the prizes and the support of all participants. Stay tuned to our website, social media and the next newsletter for latest information on the Forum and other events!

Technological Challenges and Socio-ecological Impacts of Green Hydrogen Boom

As a colourless, odourless, and cleanly combustible gas, hydrogen has recently drawn a lot of attention from people around the world. Even Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, the world's largest electric vehicle producer, has mentioned the properties of such a unique gas. In fact, the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier is not new. In 1671, Robert Boyle, an Irish chemist, first discovered the chemical reaction between iron filings and dilute acids that produced hydrogen gas. The most famous example of hydrogen application in history was Hindenburg, the hydrogen-powered airship that embarked on its maiden voyage on 4 March 1936 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, with 87 passengers and crews on board. Unfortunately, the revolutionary airship exploded and crashed when it attempted to land on 6 May of the following year.

Hydrogen has been regarded as a low-carbon energy carrier in recent years. In the process of combating climate change and transitioning to a low-carbon economy, governments and energy companies around the world, upon spotting the potential of hydrogen, have committed to explore the possibilities of utilising hydrogen fuel and launched related development strategies. Such policies have attracted the attention of lobbyists in the industry, investors and governments, who hoped that hydrogen can become an alternative to fossil fuels. In addition, hydrogen fuel can play a role in reducing carbon emissions in industries such as chemical engineering, steel manufacturing and long-distance transportation including lorries and shipping. Based on the above premise, many countries have made hydrogen fuel a core part of their energy strategies. While the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has estimated that hydrogen fuel could provide up to 12% of total global energy demand by 2050, the Hydrogen Council (the Council) further predicted that hydrogen could meet up to 18% of global energy demand and create a unique industry with a turnover of $2.5 trillion per year.

Through the process of national strategic planning, governments over the world are expanding the development of hydrogen fuel and reducing fossil fuel consumption. The report released by the Council suggested that more than 30 countries, including Mainland China, have published their roadmaps for hydrogen fuel production and also committed to the provision of a total of more than USD$70 billion in public spending on hydrogen fuel development. The Council also estimated that the total planned investment in hydrogen fueling projects could exceed US$300 billion by 2030. In fact, some investors who described green hydrogen as a powerful antidote for climate change have demanded huge subsidies and incentives from governments. They claimed that green hydrogen, together with renewable energy, will become "the world's largest industry" in the future.


Mr Kevin Li, Researcher of the CarbonCare InnoLab

Size Does Matter: Open Your Eyes to See How Tiny Plastics Are Polluting Our Waters

Plastic Wastes in Hong Kong and the World

Like many other people living under the pandemic, Eric used to buy bottled beverages and take away with polystyrene containers and cutleries. What Eric and other people do not know is that we are creating lots of plastic wastes. According to the report of "Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong – Waste Statistics for 2020" published by the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, around 2,312 tonnes of plastic wastes were produced every day in Hong Kong (ranked 3rd and about 21% of the total municipal solid waste).

The earliest synthetic plastics such as polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene and polystyrene were marketed in 1930s as there was a shortage of natural rubber. Due to its relatively low cost and unique properties, the world production of plastics increased exponentially from 2 million tonnes in the 1950s to 270 million tonnes in 2010 and 350 million tonnes in 2017. Today we have become addicted to plastic products, especially those single-use plastics, including bags, food packaging, bottles, straws and stirrers, without thinking where these plastics would end up. Over 42% of plastics produced were utilised for packaging and would be disposed upon use. Only 9% of the plastic waste produced worldwide would be recycled, where the remaining would be treated as municipal solid waste. Approximately 60% of used plastic materials (equivalent to 275 million tonnes in 2010) were disposed of as waste and the amount exceeded the annual production rate.

Apart from landfill and incineration, plastic wastes were dumped to the surrounding habitat. A report from the World Economic Forum in 2016 estimated that each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic waste generated in coastal regions ends up in the oceans. Another survey by Eriksen et al. in 2014 by the use of surface net tows and a visual survey, which was estimated that a minimum of 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic fragments are floating on the ocean surface worldwide.

What Are Microplastics and Where Do They Come From

Among these plastic contaminants, plastic materials with sizes less than 5 mm were found to be significantly more abundant than larger pieces. In 2004, Richard Thompson, a marine ecologist at the University of Plymouth, started to describe plastic materials in marine sediments and water samples at such size as "microplastics". In contrast to larger plastic materials, microplastics pose severe environmental impacts because they can be ingested and bioaccumulated. Regarding to the lower size limit for microplastics, different studies proposed different measurements ranging from nanometer scales up to 20 μm. It was not until a publication by Gigault et al. in 2018, where another terminology of "nanoplastics", which is defined as "particles resulting from degradation of plastic objects" and "within size ranging from 1 nm to 1 μm" was proposed before a consensus to the lower size limit of microplastics was set at 1 μm.


Dr Eric Tung-Po Sze, Associate Professor, School of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Metropolitan University
Dr Sidney Man-Ngai Chan, Assistant Professor, School of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Metropolitan University
Dr Hoi-Shing Lo, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University, Sweden
Mr Yuet-Tung Tse, Postgraduate Student, School of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Metropolitan University

Shuffle Playlist. Shuffle Playlist. Shuffle Playlist…

A coin comes up heads five times in a row. Two accidents happen on the same train line in one day. Or a shuffled playlist plays you the same artist three times running. Sometimes it seems like something other than coincidence is at work, but true randomness may not always feel that way to us.

Statistically Independent Events: The Coin Doesn't Remember!

Let's start with the coins. Many people expect a fair coin to alternate between heads and tails and will be surprised if the coin keeps coming up heads. When you first thought about it, you might have expected heads to come up half the time and tails half the time, so if heads have come up over half the time the coin should start landing on tails more often to compensate. This isn't true, of course, because the coin can't remember this! If you have a fair coin which has just landed on heads 99 times in a row, you can't say that it's more likely to land on tails next time because it's a fair coin. Since each toss has no effect on the next, we say that they are statistically independent events.

If we toss a coin twice, and each toss has an equal chance of heads (H) or tails (T), there are four possible outcomes: HH, HT, TH, TT. Each outcome has the same chance (1/4) of happening, but the chances of one head and one tail in either order are 2/4 instead of 1/4. Three times, and we have eight possible outcomes: HHH, HHT, HTH, HTT, THH, TTH, THT, and TTT, each with 1/8 probability. In a series of ten tosses, the results HTHTHTHTHT and HHTHTTTTHT and TTTTTTTTTT all have the same chance of occurring – one in 210, or 1/1024 – but you'll probably remember the last one and not the others. We read too much into patterns in a random sample, and we're willing to jump to conclusions based on those patterns.


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