Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Not Us

When we heard Saturday late afternoon Beijing time that US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, a colleague and I started conversing on MSN.
She said that China would be annoyed again that a Chinese national had not won, even though Charles K. Kao from Hong Kong won this year for physics in his work on fiber optics.
There's still controversy over the Dalai Lama receiving the peace prize in 1989 -- is he a Chinese or not? 
Nevertheless, so far there have been nine people of Chinese origin who have won Nobel prizes:
杨振宁 Chen-Ning Franklin Yang (US), 1957 physics

李政道 Tsung-Dao Lee (US), 1957 physics

丁肇中 Samuel Chao Chung Ting (US), 1976 physics

崔琦 Daniel Chee Tsui (US), 1998 physics

李远哲 Yuan Tseh Lee (US), 1986 chemistry

朱棣文 Steven Chu (US), 1997 physics

高行健 Xingjian Gao (France), 2000 literature

钱永健 Roger Yonchien Tsien (US), 2008 chemistry

高锟 Charles Kuen Kao (US, UK), 2009 physics

Many of the above were born in China and then immigrated to the United States.  
My colleague went on to say that China makes the excuse that the awarding of Nobel prizes is controlled by western countries. I pointed out that perhaps it was the system and the environment that people live in, but she retorted that China is a developing country, a common excuse to make up for the country's short comings.
However, I rebutted that Muhammad Yunnus of Bangladesh won the peace prize in 2006 along with the Grameen Bank he set up.
At this rate, China won't have any Nobel Laureates if the current system continues. There is no encouragement to think outside the box or to question things, which really, is how innovation happens... and can lead to Nobel prizes.

As my coworker says, they are trained to be "study machines", and that's just the perfect recipe for mindless robots who can just follow directions, but not blaze trails.

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