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Chapter 344: n.o.bel Prize Winner Is Also Not Sure
Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in a crystal chemistry lecture at the University of Munich.
Professor Gerhard Ertl didn’t delegate his lecturing work to his a.s.sistant. Instead, he stood in the middle of the cla.s.sroom as he explained the mysteries of crystal chemistry to his young students.
For a n.o.bel Prize winner, this kind of basic educating work seemed unusual. However, many well-known scholars were actually happy to share their knowledge with their young students.
Professor Ertl was the same, especially when he came across a complex problem.
Teaching basic knowledge always gave him inspiration.
At the end of the lecture, suddenly a student raised his hand.
“Professor, have you seen the recent thesis on JACS about a theoretical model of electrochemical interface?”
Professor Ertl paused for two seconds before he adjusted his gla.s.ses and nodded.
“Yes, I have, is there a question?”
The student looked at him and asked, “Is it correct?”
Ertl thought for a moment before he said with a relaxed tone, “My child, due to the rigorous of science, I cannot answer you this question right now.”
The student didn’t seem to be satisfied with the answer, and he asked, “What if it’s correct?”
“There are no ifs in science, but if I have to answer…”
Ertl frowned and seemed reluctant on answering, but in the end, he said, “If it is correct, then it will revolutionize chemistry.”
The cla.s.sroom exclaimed in awe.
What a shocking statement!
Most people wouldn’t have cared if someone else had said this, but this was said by Professor Ertl who was a 2007 n.o.bel Prize winner and an expert in solid surface chemistry!
In addition to his role as a professor at the University of Munich, he was also the director of the Fritz Haber Inst.i.tute at the Max Plank Inst.i.tute.
Who else’s opinion in the electrochemistry field mattered more?
Professor Ertl smiled at the student’s reaction.
“I am happy to see that you guys are optimistic at the birth of a new theory. You guys are right, the only way to improve is to accept new theories.
“However, in the midst of being curious about new theories, I hope you guys can all remember to look at every conclusion meticulously.
“This is the responsibility of a scientist.”
Ertl tapped the podium.
“I will ask my a.s.sistant to send you the homework through email, cla.s.s over.”
After leaving the cla.s.sroom, Professor Ertl didn’t return to his office. Instead, he got into his car and drove to the Fritz Haber Inst.i.tute of the Max Planck Society.
The recent JACS thesis caused widespread controversy in the chemistry field. The Fritz Haber Inst.i.tute had a responsibility to express its opinion on this thesis.
Of course, this expression of opinion had to be taken seriously.
Due to the importance of this theoretical model in the field of electrochemical interface structures, the Max Planck Society had set up an interdisciplinary team to bring together top scholars in the fields of mathematics, chemistry, and condensed matter physics to discuss this theoretical model.
Ertl was a member of the research group and the director of the Inst.i.tute of Physical Chemistry; his opinion represented the research inst.i.tutes’ opinion.
Because of this, he was particularly cautious when dealing with this research project.
He walked into the conference room and saw Faltings sitting there while holding a printed thesis and reading it carefully.
Strictly speaking, this guy was an expert in the field of algebraic geometry and arithmetic geometry. Functional a.n.a.lysis wasn’t his field of research. However, he was a big name in the number theory field; it wasn’t a rare thing for him to research out of his expertise.
He was also the most influential mathematician since Grothendieck, and he was the director of the Max Plank Inst.i.tute for Mathematics, thus it was necessary for him to understand other areas of research.
Otherwise, he wouldn’t have become the director of the research inst.i.tute.
However, this old German had a temper at Princeton, and his att.i.tude didn’t change when he got back to Germany. In fact, it became worse.
Faltings spoke slowly to Ertl as if he were telling a story.
“Only second-rate mathematicians are interested in applying mathematics to real-world problems. In my opinion, such things have no value at all.”
Looking down at applied sciences was the norm at the Bourbaki School. Although the phenomenon was less common among young mathematicians, the concept still existed in the mind of the older generation of mathematicians.
Hardy was a cla.s.sic example of this. Other than researching mathematics, Hardy’s favorite thing was to show off to others. He loved to study pure mathematics and was proud that his research couldn’t be applied.
However, unfortunately, Hardy didn’t expect his research to be applied in computer science and cryptography…
Of course, Faltings didn’t mean that Lu Zhou was a second-rate mathematician; he was only looking down at his thesis.
At last year’s Crafoord Prize ceremony, he said there were only four mathematicians in the world that could surpa.s.s him; Lu Zhou was the most promising among them.
But now, he thought about changing the number four to three.
Ertl sat across from Faltings and said, “I don’t agree.”
Faltings replied, “I didn’t expect you to agree. It’s like how not everyone can appreciate the sculptures of ancient Greece, you just don’t understand the beauty of mathematics.”
Ertl’s eyebrow twitched.
Professor Klaus von Klitzing coughed and tried to stop the two from fighting.
“Enough, Mr. Faltings, I hope you can provide more constructive opinions, we’re not here to hear you ridicule us.”
Professor Klaus von Klitzing was a researcher for the Max Planck Inst.i.tute for condensed matter physics. He was the discoverer of the quantum Hall effect and a n.o.bel Prize nominee.
“I didn’t ridicule you guys,” Faltings looked at the thesis and said, “I’m only stating facts.”
Ertl looked at Klitzing; he decided not to argue with the stubborn old man before he finished reading the thesis.
Fortunately, Faltings had the same intention, and he continued to read the thesis carefully.
After a long time, he threw the thesis on the table and gave a review.
“From the standpoint of a mathematician, his process is fine.”
Ertl and Klitzing were relieved.
If Professor Faltings said it was mathematically correct, then it should be fine in the mathematics department.
Klitzing looked at Ertl and said, “What do you think of this theory?”
Ertl thought for a moment before he said, “In my opinion, it’s not bad. However, his theory is difficult to understand. Even if we were to give our opinion, the chemistry world wouldn’t be able to accept this theory.”
Klitzing said, “So you’re saying?”
Ertl nodded and said, “There is nothing better than a report. The more difficult the theory is, the more it needs its author.”
Klitzing gently tapped his finger on the conference and asked, “What do you think is appropriate?”
“We can send an invitation letter to Princeton and invite Professor Lu to come to Fritz Haber Inst.i.tute on an exchange visit. We can provide him a platform to explain his views to the chemistry community.”
This was a great idea.
Klitzing nodded in agreement.
“I agree, but the problem is which research inst.i.tute should send the invitation?”
This was an important question.
The Max Planck Inst.i.tute was not a top-down organization; the research inst.i.tutes were basically independent of one another.
However, this question was easy to answer.
The two spoke at the same time.
“Of course it should be from the Inst.i.tute of Physical Chemistry.”
“It should be from our Inst.i.tute of Mathematics.”
Faltings and Ertl looked at each other.
Faltings said, “He is a mathematician.”
Ertl looked at him in disbelief and said, “But we are talking about chemistry.”
Seeing that the two men were arguing again, Klitzing made a compromise.
“Since you guys can’t make up your minds, how about the Inst.i.tute of Condensed Matter Physics…”
“Don’t even think about it!”
Klitzing awkwardly coughed and said, ‘I was just saying… If so, we should just resolve this issue in the cla.s.sic way.”
A physicists tradition.
“Heads you’re out, tails you’re in,” Klitzing said. As he placed a coin on the table, he added, “Of course, I will also partic.i.p.ate.”