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Nobel Laureate Samuel Chao Chung Ting Addressed NTHU Students
On July 8th Samuel Chao Chung Ting, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1976, visited NTHU and gave a talk focusing on his work developing the alpha magnetic spectrometer (AMS). In his talk Ting emphasized the importance of curiosity, confidence, and hard work: “Human curiosity is the driving force behind basic research." Warning his listeners of the pitfall of overemphasizing technology transfer at the cost of basic research, he pointed out that “basic research is the driving force behind the development of new technology and industries."
 
Over 400 people, including a large number of high school students, packed into the conference hall, with latecomers sitting on the aisles.
 
In 1976 Ting and Burton Richter were together awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the J/ψ meson nuclear particle. In 1995 Ting began developing the AMS, a particle physics detector for conducting research on antimatter and searching for evidence supporting the existence of dark matter. In Ting's view, research on dark matter and antimatter is fundamental to contemporary physics.
 
After 16 years of joint research involving researchers from 16 countries, in 2011 the 7.5-ton AMS was finally launched into outer space and mounted on the International Space Station, where it is being used to advance our knowledge of the universe.
 
While speaking on the work of the transnational research team, Ting emphasized the need to be highly circumspect when making decisions. He also pointed out that in meetings he encourages everybody to openly share their views and listen closely to what others have to say. Speaking on the philosophy of science, Ting pointed out that "majority rule" is not the spirit of science; rather, scientific advancements come about only if it is possible for the minority to overrule the majority.
 
Speaking further on his view of science, Ting again emphasized, "Human curiosity is the driving force behind basic research." Ting also stressed that advances in physics are made by continually disproving others’ hypotheses, and that experimentation is the final word in science. In the case of his own research on J/ψ meson, his hypothesis was repudiated by the vast majority of physicists. At that time it was widely accepted by physicists that there existed only three types of quarks, and that these three could account for all phenomena observed in physics. However, Ting held fast to his hypothesis, and his experiments eventually proved the existence of three additional types of quarks.
 
Ting also spoke on the current debate as to the relative importance of basic research versus applied research and technology transfer: "Basic research is the driving force behind the development of new technology and industries." In his view, if we limit ourselves to technology transfer and neglect basic research, then after a while there won’t be anything to transfer!
 
Feng Da Hsuan (left), Senior Vice President of Global Strategy, Planning, and Evaluation, presenting Samuel Ting with a memento of his visit to NTHU.

Feng Da Hsuan (left), Senior Vice President of Global Strategy, Planning, and Evaluation, presenting Samuel Ting with a memento of his visit to NTHU.

Ting’s talk attracted a standing-room-only audience.

Ting's talk attracted a standing-room-only audience.

 

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