Working for the love of science

Bangkok Post, December 13, 2012

Prof Douglas Osheroff, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1996 for his discovery of the first of three superfluid phases of liquid helium-3, is among seven scientists invited to share their views on science and technology in the 4th Asean event series "Bridges: Dialogue Towards a Culture of Peace". The dialogue is being held by the International Peace Foundation in Vietnam.

He was also an invited guest speaker at the "Science Changes our Lives" forum at Mahidol University's faculty of science yesterday and talked to APINYA WIPATAYOTIN about the issue.

As science and technology have had knock-on effects on the environment and nature, how can we achieve a happy balance?

Let me make it clear. You can't blame technology. I think it is a matter of human beings. They are not terribly concerned about the environment and they are too greedy. I mean they would like to produce energy as cheaply as they can. And we all enjoy it.

But the downside is that we are consuming raw material from fossil fuels and discharging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is also terrible in the sense of the population growing and everyone driving a car. Don't blame it on fossil fuels, blame it on humankind.

What kind of science and technology do we need that can foster sustainable development for future generations?

Everyone hopes. I don't think there is any single answer.
Hydro-electric power is a partial answer, including wind and wave power from the sea. But first of all, we have to maximise its effective use of energy.

What do you think about the development of science in Asia?

China has done a pretty good job in terms of technology development. Japan is promoting a high-speed railway system. I think Japan also is the future of mankind for energy development.

Do you have any advice for others hoping to win a Nobel prize?

People who plan their career in the expectation they will win a Nobel prize will end up disappointed. I don't know anyone who has set out in his career to become a Nobel laureate. One should work for the love of science, rather than the Nobel prize.

What do you think about speculation the world will end on Dec 21?

I know of no reason to suspect anything will happen on that day. I think it probably reflects confusion among people.

Most people don't understand science at all.