On March 14th, 2018, professor Stephen William Hawking passed away. His contribution to inflationary cosmology has forever shifted our understanding of the universe. He wasn’t just a physicist for England, but for all mankind. His death marks the end of an era. He has passed the baton to a new generation of minds, to a new era. The exploration of nature waits for no man. So, are we ready to embrace the new era and new challenges?
When I was a kid, professor Hawking was known to me as the author of A Brief History of Time. I bought a lot of science books back then, but they were really difficult to understand. Whenever I stumbled, I would turn to my physics teacher for help. We would go through pages and pages of materials together, whether it was middle school stuff or Feynman’s lecture from Caltech, sometimes hours on end. I felt like we were tearing off the mask of nature and staring at the face of god. It was his guidance that encouraged me to study physics today. We’re living in an era in which science is embedded in people’s lives. From teachers who pass on knowledge, to construction workers who build labs; from organizations that provide funding, to scientists who conduct research, we all contribute to science in our own unique ways. We the people say we’re ready.
On October 5th, 2015, China finally had its first Nobel Prize in natural science. Ms. Tu Youyou’s work and her receiving the most prestigious science award made us proud. We’re living in an era in which China is building some of the best research projects and institutions worldwide. Just a month ago, Professor Zhang Miman won the UNESCO for Women in Science Award, making her the fifth Chinese recipient of this honor. A week after that, The Economist referred to China as “a continent-sized rapidly growing economy with a culture of scientific inquiry”. Physicist and vice president of the Chinese Academy of Science, Dr. Zhang Jie stated, “China now has the most accurate, sufficient and largest amount of data; China has the highest, fastest and best ability of data analysis. The Chinese government will be strongly pushing for the sharing and utilization of data resources.” We as a country say we’re ready.
Science is an immortal topic of mankind. We’ve come this far because we’ve learned to work together and let the ideas evolve. The dispute over the completeness of quantum mechanics, for example, was resolved in the 5th Solvay conference, attended by 29 physicists from 10 different countries who have won 15 Nobel Prizes combined. That was almost 100 years ago. Now we’re living in an era in which information is transmitted at the speed of light, in which “International cooperation” is not just a slogan anymore, especially to the scientific community. Chinese Academy of Science now has 47 partners overseas. The International Council for Science now includes 122 national members, 23 scientific associates and 31 scientific unions. The facilities of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, are available to over 600 universities and institutes around the globe. We, the world, are more than ready.
We’re all made of particles that have existed since the beginning of the universe, I’d like to believe those particles traveled through countless eras to create us, so that we, the people, China, and the world, can stand on the shoulders of giants, march into the new era with our head held high, and make people like Professor Hawking proud.