As a Chinese physics student, Samuel CC Ting(丁 肇中) is one of my most respective physicists. Three years ago, I was lucky to have a chance to listen to the lecture given by Samuel CC Ting. The words of the lecture most impressed me was “I don’t know”. When asked whether dark energy exits or not, extro-space life exists or not and so on, the only rely from Ting was “I don’t know”. In fact, when ased those uncertain or unfamiliar questions, Ting usually said “I don’t know”.I like this reply.
Scientist is nod god. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. Ting’s father is a schoolfellow of Jiaotong Univ(now becoming five universities: XJTU, SJTU, NJTU, SWJTU and NCTU) and hired by Jiaotong Univ in 1940s. His classmate Tsien Hsue-shen(钱 学森 ) is a famous aerodynamicsist and makes great contribution to the birth and development of missile in China. He is honored as people scientists by government.
Besides his contribution, he also made a big mistake outside his major. In the year near 1959, he wrote a paper to prove that the rice harvest every Chinese unit of area unit mu (666.7 square metres) can be as high as 150000 kg. Abviously it was wrong. But because Tsien is a famous scientist, the leader of government believed it. This is one reason which caused the famine from 1959 to 1961 in China. If Tsien could say I don’t know, the damage of famine may be less.
Actually speaking, we Chinese tend to say “I know”, no matter how little we know it. But as a scientist, we must do as CC Ting, say “I don’t know” if we don’t know exactly. Do not be another Tsien Huen-shen!