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Yang Zhenning Gave a Speech at Lecture Hall of Science

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Yang Zhenning Gave a Speech at Lecture Hall of Science

Date: April 15th, 2014      Source: Qianjing Evening News      Journalist: Zhang Miao


Yesterday afternoon, over 500 undergraduates, postgraduates, and doctoral students of all grades at Zhejiang University crowded into the International Conference Center, Zijingang Campus which could only accommodate up to 400 people. The one who attracted people’s attention and the cameras was the 93-year-old Yang Zhenning on the stage.

This happened on the site of the 19th Lecture Hall of Science, and Mr. Yang was giving a speech on the topic of “My Learning and Researching Experiences”. The lecture was originally set for a little more than an hour, however, due to the studuents’ enthusiasm, Yang Zhenning talked for two hours.

Yang Zhenning is a famous physicist, and he once won Nobel Prize in physics.




Not a Sip of Water during the Two-hour Speech

“Knowledge is infinite” and Sengding Books to Readers


In fact, this lecture was arranged as early as one year ago, “at that time, we corresponded with Mr. Yang through dozens of letters, and he finally agreed to give a lecture at our university.” As the manager of the Lecture Hall of Science, Prof. Cai Tianxin from the Department of Mathematics, Zhejiang University, had many written communications with Yang Zhenning, and they eventually set the date of April 5th last year (2013) as the time for the lecture, but unfortunately, the sudden outbreak of the bird flu made Mr. Yang postpone that scheduling. “I still remember the scene when he telephoned me, the voice was resonant and clear, and it was right during the break time, so the students all heard him.”

Yesterday, the lecture which had been delayed for one year was finally held. The lecture was set to begin at 4 pm, however, starting from half past three pm, two long lines of students appeared in front of the gate of the Conference Center, those who didn’t get tickets came here early to queue just in the hope of getting a seat with a good visual view at the beginning of the lecture.

Yesterday was also the 118th anniversary of the birth of Yang Zhenning’s father, Mr. Yang Wuzhi, and we could see from the content of his lecture that his father, who was a mathematician, had an enormous impact on him.

93-year-old Yang Zhenning has grey hair, but he is in good spirits and his voice is resonant and clear, he speaks a bit fast. When recalling his own learning and researching experiences, he taklked in an orderly way, and the reporter noticed that during this nearly two-hour lecture, Mr. Yang didn’t take even a sip of water, what a good physical stamina he had!

When the speech was over, Mr. Yang inscribed “Knowledge is infinite” specially for the readers of our newspaper, and when he was inscribing, the speed was not as fast as his talking, he used the mark pen to write seriously stroke by stroke.



The Mysterious Universe was Recommended

Eight Experiences to Share with us


“I recommend a book for you to read, The Mysterious Universe.” At the beginning of his lecture, Yang Zhenning right recommended this book to us. “I stumbled across a book in the school library when I was in junior high school, and the Chinese name of it is ص桷.”

The book introduces the great revolution in the concepts of physics at the beginning of the 20th century, “Restricted Theory of Relativity, General Theory of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics.” This book had a decisive influence on Yang Zhenning’s later researches in Physics.

In 1937, the war made Yang Zhenning and his family drift from place to place. Yang Zhenning, without a formal Senior Year education, started to prepare for college entrance examinations. Although never taught about physics, he borrowed a physics textbook, closed the door, and began to learn at home. He had always been wondering about why the acceleration of the circle is equal to the square of the velocity divided by the radius when rotating, and after two whole days’ thinking, he finally figured out the importance of the vector quantity.

“Why the book says that the rotating force of a circle would move towards the center of the circle? My intuition tells me that it is incorrect!” Such intuition drove Yang Zhenning to spend more time in researching this question, until he finally understood that his intuition was incorrect.

“If there is a conflict between your intuition and the knowledge on the textbook, then this is the best opportunity for learning.” This is an invaluable advice from Yang Zhenning after summarizing his own learning experiences.

Then, Yang Zhenning took out a photo which was from his admission card for entrance examination at that time. Though the photo appeared on the screen for only five short seconds, the image of a handsome young man all at once raised the atmosphere, there was laughter everywhere, and the clicks were continuous.

Yang Zhenning told the students that during the learning and researching in his life, there were different perceptions in every stage, the meeting with different people and various things would lead to different stages of learning and researching. He emphatically summarizes eight experiences to share with us:

If there is a conflict between your intuition and the knowledge on the textbook, then this is the best opportunity for learning;

The discussions with classmates are the extremely good opportunities for in-depth studies;

Pay more attention to new phenomena and new methods, and less attention to mere textbook knowledge;

Seek for theoretical topics by yourself;

It is quite common for postgraduate students to feel frustrated when finding the topics;


Never give up easily when you have good ideas;

The basic problems need to be solved.


“I hope that you can find, cultivate, and develop your own interests.” Yang Zhenning used this sentence as the ending of the lecture.




What came next was students’ Question Time. Originally set for fifteen minutes, it was also extended into half an hour due to the students’ enthusiasms. “I am now already a PhD candidate in Medicine, but I find that my interests lie in Physics, could I still change my profession right now?” When the last questioner put forward this question, every student present laughed, “I think you are in the appropriate way.” Yang Zhenning was the only one who didn’t laugh out loud, “The combination of medical science and physics is a very important and continuous developing area.”




(Journalist: Zhang Miao  2014-04-15)