Translator:Henyee TranslationsEditor:Henyee Translations
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in a crystal chemistry lecture at the University of Munich.
Professor Gerhard Ertl didnt delegate his lecturing work to his assistant. Instead, he stood in the middle of the classroom as he explained the mysteries of crystal chemistry to his young students.
For a Nobel 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 glasses 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 didnt seem to be satisfied with the answer, and he asked, What if its 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 classroom exclaimed in awe.
What a shocking statement!
Most people wouldnt have cared if someone else had said this, but this was said by Professor Ertl who was a 2007 Nobel 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 Institute at the Max Plank Institute.
Who elses opinion in the electrochemistry field mattered more?
Professor Ertl smiled at the students 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 assistant to send you the homework through email, class over.
After leaving the classroom, Professor Ertl didnt return to his office. Instead, he got into his car and drove to the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society.
The recent JACS thesis caused widespread controversy in the chemistry field. The Fritz Haber Institute 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 Institute of Physical Chemistry; his opinion represented the research institutes 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 analysis wasnt his field of research. However, he was a big name in the number theory field; it wasnt 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 Institute for Mathematics, thus it was necessary for him to understand other areas of research.
Otherwise, he wouldnt have become the director of the research institute.
However, this old German had a temper at Princeton, and his attitude didnt 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 classic example of this. Other than researching mathematics, Hardys favorite thing was to show off to others. He loved to study pure mathematics and was proud that his research couldnt be applied.
However, unfortunately, Hardy didnt expect his research to be applied in computer science and cryptography
Of course, Faltings didnt mean that Lu Zhou was a second-rate mathematician; he was only looking down at his thesis.
At last years Crafoord Prize ceremony, he said there were only four mathematicians in the world that could surpass 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 dont agree.
Faltings replied, I didnt expect you to agree. Its like how not everyone can appreciate the sculptures of ancient Greece, you just dont understand the beauty of mathematics.
Ertls 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, were not here to hear you ridicule us.
Professor Klaus von Klitzing was a researcher for the Max Planck Institute for condensed matter physics. He was the discoverer of the quantum Hall effect and a Nobel Prize nominee.
I didnt ridicule you guys, Faltings looked at the thesis and said, Im 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, its not bad. However, his theory is difficult to understand. Even if we were to give our opinion, the chemistry world wouldnt be able to accept this theory.
Klitzing said, So youre 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 Institute 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 institute should send the invitation?
This was an important question.
The Max Planck Institute was not a top-down organization; the research institutes 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 Institute of Physical Chemistry.
It should be from our Institute 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 cant make up your minds, how about the Institute of Condensed Matter Physics
Dont even think about it!
Klitzing awkwardly coughed and said, I was just saying If so, we should just resolve this issue in the classic way.
A physicists tradition.
Heads youre out, tails youre in, Klitzing said. As he placed a coin on the table, he added, Of course, I will also participate.