Rare chance to learn Nobel

Five Nobel laureates and world-renowned scientists will spend some personal time with 360 high school students from across Asia at the Asian Science Camp 2008 in Sanur, Bali.

From this Monday until Saturday, 300 Indonesian students and 60 students from Japan, China, India and other Asian countries will have a chance to hear the Nobel winners' experiences and aspirations during lectures, discussions and even over lunch.

Christopher Andrian, 16, a second-year student at a high school in Tangerang, Banten, said he hoped the rare experience would help him win a Nobel prize one day.

"This place is filled with so many great scientists. It'll be great to hear them share some of their knowledge," he said.

Damar Parasdyaningtyas, 16, Christopher's schoolmate, expressed similar feelings.

"I've always been interested in science. I want to know their (the Nobel laureates') secrets so I can learn to be a good brain surgeon in the future," she said.

Johannes Surya, who chairs the steering committee of the Asian Science Camp, said he expected the event to guide the students toward a greater interest in science.

Johannes, who is also the coach behind the success of Indonesia's International Physics Olympiad team, said the Asian Science Camp aimed to provide an alternative way of teaching to the general education curriculum, which he criticized as being too rigid.

Some of the scheduled events in the camp include scientific explanations of how performers of Indonesian traditional performing art debus could eat shards of glass and remain unscathed after being cut or stabbed with sharp weapons.

"The whole event is designed to inspire Indonesian students to win a coveted Nobel prize, or at least become more excited about science," Johannes said.

The five Nobel winners attending the camp are Prof. David Gross from the United States (2004 Nobel prize in physics), Prof. Masatoshi Koshiba from Japan (2002 Nobel prize in physics), Prof. Douglas Osherroff from the United States (1996 Nobel prize in physics), Prof. Richard Robert Ernst from Switzerland (1991 Nobel prize in chemistry) and Prof. Yuan Tseh Lee from Taiwan (1986 Nobel prize in chemistry).

Other noted scientists present include Prof. Nelson Tansu, the youngest Indonesian ever to obtain the title of professor, and Rizal Fajar, a Ph.D. candidate from the California Institute of Technology.

Ernst said he was delighted to help Indonesian students reach their goals to become great scientists.

But, he said, winning a Nobel prize was about more than just intelligence or scientific breakthroughs.

"It's about being responsible and about caring for society," he said.

"Because the world is going downhill so fast that we have to understand how we can stop it from going downhill."

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