|From BEIJING REVIEW:|
|Fewer children pursuing the sciences trigger concerns|
|By Wang Hairong|
Children are naturally curious about the world around them. The curiosity has motivated many future scientists to decide upon their career choice.
“Half a century ago, when asked what they wanted to do in the future, many Chinese children would have answered that they would like to be scientists,” said Shi Changshu, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) who received China‘s top science and technology award in 2010.
Unfortunately, it seems no longer the case in China today. Fewer children in the country reportedly are aspiring to become scientists when they grow up. Young people generally want to become either officials or entrepreneurs.
In recent years, many top high school graduates have chosen to study economics and business in university rather than mathematics, physics or chemistry.
In a summer camp hosted by Tsinghua University, one of China’s top universities, for middle school students this year, Yuan Qingling, a second-year student from a senior high school in Hebei Province, told Beijing Youth Daily that she had never thought of becoming a scientist despite winning the top prize in a national physics competition. Yuan’s cousin works in an investment bank and is highly praised by her family, so Yuan said she would like to follow her cousin’s example.
The International Mathematics Olympiads is an annual international mathematical contest for pre-collegiate students. Zhan Wenlong, Vice President of the CAS, once asked five Chinese medalists what they would like to study in university. To Zhan’s surprise, the five teenagers all said that they would like to study business management or finance.
Even for many young children in primary school, science is not a top choice. Two years ago, a journalist from news portal Nddaily.com interviewed first-grade primary students in Guangzhou, southern Guangdong Province, asking what they would like to be when they grow up.
After a variety of common answers such as painter, teacher or firefighter, the reporter got a shocking reply from a 6-year-old girl.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” the reporter asked.
“I want to be an official,” the girl said.
“What kind of official?” the reporter asked.
“…a corrupt official, because corrupt officials can live an extremely luxurious life,” the girl replied.
After a video clip of the interview was posted online, the girl’s answer sparked a heated discussion among netizens. The girl’s reply, they argued, was a simple reflection of what everyone already believes about government officials.
In September 2011, the China Association for Science and Technology released the results of a survey on career objectives of primary and middle school students.
The survey involving 1,180 primary and middle school students showed that of the nine listed professions, including teacher, civil servant and scientist, the latter ranked seventh, just ahead of farmer. Civil servant ranked first.
Han Qide, chairman of the association, said that children’s diversified choices reflect reality, but also found the results to be worrisome.
The survey’s administer, Wang Tingda, is a researcher with the CAS. He said that a country’s national prestige is ultimately measured by its strength in science and technology.
The scientist Shi warned that too few people in China are devoted to basic research. He said that although one may toil for years without making a significant breakthrough in basic research, it lays the foundation for future achievements.
Shi added that a society in which people are eager for quick success cannot be really innovative. “To build a strong country, more creative work is necessary,” he said.
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Neil Armstrong helped us see the world differently, and better.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and his partner Buzz Aldrin made history as the first people to ever walk on the moon. Reports from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/25/neil-armstrong-dead-age-82_n_1830343.html
Neil Armstrong was a quiet self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step on to the moon. The modest man who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter million miles away has died. He was 82.
Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, a statement Saturday from his family said. It didn’t say where he died.
Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969, capping the most daring of the 20th century’s scientific expeditions. His first words after setting foot on the surface are etched in history books and the memories of those who heard them in a live broadcast.
“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said.
In those first few moments on the moon, during the climax of heated space race with the then-Soviet Union, Armstrong stopped in what he called “a tender moment” and left a patch commemorate NASA astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts who had died in action.
“It was special and memorable but it was only instantaneous because there was work to do,” Armstrong told an Australian television interviewer in 2012.
Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the lunar surface, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.
“The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to,” Armstrong once said.
The moonwalk marked America’s victory in the Cold War space race that began Oct. 4, 1957, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, a 184-pound satellite that sent shock waves around the world.
Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA’s forerunner and an astronaut, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamor of the space program.
“I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,” he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public appearances. “And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
A man who kept away from cameras, Armstrong went public in 2010 with his concerns about President Barack Obama’s space policy that shifted attention away from a return to the moon and emphasized private companies developing spaceships. He testified before Congress and in an email to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he had “substantial reservations,” and along with more than two dozen Apollo-era veterans, he signed a letter calling the plan a “misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations for the foreseeable future.”
Armstrong’s modesty and self-effacing manner never faded.
When he appeared in Dayton in 2003 to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered flight, he bounded onto a stage before 10,000 people packed into a baseball stadium. But he spoke for only a few seconds, did not mention the moon, and quickly ducked out of the spotlight.
He later joined former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn to lay wreaths on the graves of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Glenn introduced Armstrong and noted it was 34 years to the day that Armstrong had walked on the moon.
“Thank you, John. Thirty-four years?” Armstrong quipped, as if he hadn’t given it a thought.
At another joint appearance, the two embraced and Glenn commented: “To this day, he’s the one person on Earth, I’m truly, truly envious of.”
Armstrong’s moonwalk capped a series of accomplishments that included piloting the X-15 rocket plane and making the first space docking during the Gemini 8 mission, which included a successful emergency splashdown.
In the years afterward, Armstrong retreated to the quiet of the classroom and his southwest Ohio farm. Aldrin said in his book “Men from Earth” that Armstrong was one of the quietest, most private men he had ever met.
In the Australian interview, Armstrong acknowledged that “now and then I miss the excitement about being in the cockpit of an airplane and doing new things.”
At the time of the flight’s 40th anniversary, Armstrong again was low-key, telling a gathering that the space race was “the ultimate peaceful competition: USA versus U.S.S.R. It did allow both sides to take the high road with the objectives of science and learning and exploration.”
Glenn, who went through jungle training in Panama with Armstrong as part of the astronaut program, described him as “exceptionally brilliant” with technical matters but “rather retiring, doesn’t like to be thrust into the limelight much.”
Derek Elliott, curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s U.S. Air and Space Museum from 1982 to 1992, said the moonwalk probably marked the high point of space exploration.
The manned lunar landing was a boon to the prestige of the United States, which had been locked in a space race with the former Soviet Union, and re-established U.S. pre-eminence in science and technology, Elliott said.
“The fact that we were able to see it and be a part of it means that we are in our own way witnesses to history,” he said.
The 1969 landing met an audacious deadline that President Kennedy had set in May 1961, shortly after Alan Shepard became the first American in space with a 15-minute suborbital flight. (Soviet cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin had orbited the Earth and beaten the U.S. into space the previous month.)
“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth,” Kennedy had said. “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important to the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
The end-of-decade goal was met with more than five months to spare. “Houston: Tranquility Base here,” Armstrong radioed after the spacecraft settled onto the moon. “The Eagle has landed.”
“Roger, Tranquility,” the Houston staffer radioed back. “We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
The third astronaut on the mission, Michael Collins, circled the moon in the mother ship Columbia 60 miles overhead while Armstrong and Aldrin went to the moon’s surface.
In all, 12 American astronauts walked on the moon between 1969 and the last moon mission in 1972.
For Americans, reaching the moon provided uplift and respite from the Vietnam War, from strife in the Middle East, from the startling news just a few days earlier that a young woman had drowned in a car driven off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island by Sen. Edward Kennedy. The landing occurred as organizers were gearing up for Woodstock, the legendary three-day rock festival on a farm in the Catskills of New York.
Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, on a farm near Wapakoneta in western Ohio. He took his first airplane ride at age 6 and developed a fascination with aviation that prompted him to build model airplanes and conduct experiments in a homemade wind tunnel.
As a boy, he worked at a pharmacy and took flying lessons. He was licensed to fly at 16, before he got his driver’s license.
Armstrong enrolled in Purdue University to study aeronautical engineering but was called to duty with the U.S. Navy in 1949 and flew 78 combat missions in Korea.
After the war, Armstrong finished his degree from Purdue and later earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He became a test pilot with what evolved into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, flying more than 200 kinds of aircraft from gliders to jets.
Armstrong was accepted into NASA’s second astronaut class in 1962 – the first, including Glenn, was chosen in 1959 – and commanded the Gemini 8 mission in 1966. After the first space docking, he brought the capsule back in an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean when a wildly firing thruster kicked it out of orbit.
Armstrong was backup commander for the historic Apollo 8 mission at Christmastime in 1968. In that flight, Commander Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell and Bill Anders circled the moon 10 times, and paving the way for the lunar landing seven months later.
Aldrin said he and Armstrong were not prone to free exchanges of sentiment.
“But there was that moment on the moon, a brief moment, in which we sort of looked at each other and slapped each other on the shoulder … and said, `We made it. Good show,’ or something like that,” Aldrin said.
An estimated 600 million people – a fifth of the world’s population – watched and listened to the landing, the largest audience for any single event in history.
Parents huddled with their children in front of the family television, mesmerized by what they were witnessing. Farmers abandoned their nightly milking duties, and motorists pulled off the highway and checked into motels just to see the moonwalk.
Television-less campers in California ran to their cars to catch the word on the radio. Boy Scouts at a camp in Michigan watched on a generator-powered television supplied by a parent.
Afterward, people walked out of their homes and gazed at the moon, in awe of what they had just seen. Others peeked through telescopes in hopes of spotting the astronauts.
In Wapakoneta, media and souvenir frenzy was swirling around the home of Armstrong’s parents.
“You couldn’t see the house for the news media,” recalled John Zwez, former manager of the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum. “People were pulling grass out of their front yard.”
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were given ticker tape parades in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and later made a 22-nation world tour. A homecoming in Wapakoneta drew 50,000 people to the city of 9,000.
In 1970, Armstrong was appointed deputy associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA but left the following year to teach aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
He remained there until 1979 and during that time bought a 310-acre farm near Lebanon, where he raised cattle and corn. He stayed out of public view, accepting few requests for interviews or speeches.
“He didn’t give interviews, but he wasn’t a strange person or hard to talk to,” said Ron Huston, a colleague at the University of Cincinnati. “He just didn’t like being a novelty.”
Those who knew him said he enjoyed golfing with friends, was active in the local YMCA and frequently ate lunch at the same restaurant in Lebanon.
In February 2000, when he agreed to announce the top 20 engineering achievements of the 20th century as voted by the National Academy of Engineering, Armstrong said there was one disappointment relating to his moonwalk.
“I can honestly say – and it’s a big surprise to me – that I have never had a dream about being on the moon,” he said.
From 1982 to 1992, Armstrong was chairman of Charlottesville, Va.-based Computing Technologies for Aviation Inc., a company that supplies computer information management systems for business aircraft.
He then became chairman of AIL Systems Inc., an electronic systems company in Deer Park, N.Y.
Armstrong married Carol Knight in 1999, and the couple lived in Indian Hill, a Cincinnati suburb. He had two adult sons from a previous marriage.
© 2012 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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- Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Is Dead at 82 – NYTimes.com (tech4classrooms.org)
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From China Daily
When Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, he was given only a few years to live. But the British scientist will mark his 70th birthday on Sunday, as inquisitive as ever.
Despite spending most of his life crippled in a wheelchair and able to speak only through a computer, the theoretical physicist’s quest for the secrets of the universe has made him arguably the most famous scientist in the world.
“I’m sure my disability has a bearing on why I’m well known,” Hawking once said. “People are fascinated by the contrast between my very limited physical powers, and the vast nature of the universe I deal with.”
Much of his work has centered on bringing together relativity (the nature of space and time) and quantum theory (how the smallest particles in the universe behave) to explain the creation of the universe and how it is governed.
In 1974, at age 32, he became one of the youngest fellows of Britain’s prestigious Royal Society. Five years later he became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post once held by Isaac Newton.
But it was his 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, explaining the nature of the universe to non-scientists, which brought him international acclaim and sold millions.
Hawking has since become a global star through cameos in Star Trek and The Simpsons, where he tells the rotund Homer Simpson that he likes his theory of a “doughnut-shaped universe”, and may have to steal it.
Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal and a former president of the Royal Society, said he first met Hawking when they were both research students “and it was thought he might not live long enough to finish his PhD degree“.
Hawking was just 21 when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease that attacks the nerves controlling voluntary movement.
He has admitted that he felt “somewhat of a tragic character” who took to listening to Wagner, but he soon returned to work, securing a fellowship at Cambridge, and married Jane Wilde, with whom he had three children.
Even when his physical condition deteriorated, requiring around-the-clock care, he refused to let it hold him back.
“The human race is so puny compared to the universe that being disabled is not of much cosmic significance,” he retorts to questions about his health.
Brian Dickie, research director of the MND Association, says most sufferers live for less than five years and “the fact that Stephen Hawking has lived with the disease for close to 50 years makes him exceptional”.
But Rees cautioned on focusing too much on his astonishing story and his fame, when it is his work that will survive in the end.
“His fame should not overshadow his scientific contributions because even though most scientists are not as famous as he is, he has undoubtedly done more than anyone else since Einstein to improve our knowledge of gravity,” he said.
Hawking’s 70th birthday on Sunday – he was born 300 years to the day after the death of the father of modern science, Galileo Galilei – is being marked by a special symposium at Cambridge focusing on “the state of the universe”.
A new exhibition celebrating Hawking’s life achievements, featuring papers from his archives, also opens at London’s Science Museum on Jan 20.
Hawking retired as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics when he reached 67, but his fascination with the world remains.
He is watching the progress of the Large Hadron Collider closely, having bet $100 in 2009 that it will not find an elusive particle seen as the holy grail of cosmic science, while he has long had the ambition of going into space.
Other mysteries closer to home puzzle him, too.
In an interview with the New Scientist magazine marking his birthday, Hawking – who divorced his second wife in 2006 – was asked what he thought about most during the day, and replied: “Women. They are a complete mystery.”
- Women a mystery to Stephen Hawking (canada.com)
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- Women are a universal mystery, claims Stephen Hawking (dailymail.co.uk)
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After recently viewing the dramatic – and very unscientific/’hollywood’ – movie ’2010′, I have to ask: What IF humans continue on present course? Now there is nore talk… but what of national and global action …?
The United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010, encompasses the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), as well as the thirty-third sessions of both the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the fifteenth session of the AWG-KP and thirteenth session of the AWG-LCA.
To discuss future commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) established a working group in December 2005 called the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). In Copenhagen, at its fifth session, the CMP requested the AWG-KP to deliver the results of its work for adoption by CMP 6 in Cancun.
At its thirteenth session in Bali, the Conference of the Parties launched a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2010, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision at its fifteenth session in Copenhagen. This process has been conducted under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA). In Copenhagen, the COP decided to extend the mandate of the AWG-LCA to enable it to continue its work with a view to presenting the outcome to COP 16 for adoption.