One of the
question which has to be raised is the specific role of
experiments on emergent
phenomena in condensed matter. It seems to
some of us important to underline this point which
gives us an
important role in the scientific education system. We should in my
some of these points with the journalists in the
august 4th meeting, and exchange our ideas and
about these issues in the following session.
are aimed at explaining basic facts wich can be
verified and reproduced.
For instance, particle physics is aimed at
determining which is the ultimate composition of matter.
building huge apparatuses dedicated to check some assumptions, which
requires a large
number of scientists and a timescale of about 10
years. Experiments are so costly and involve so
many people that they
have to be designed with a well defined aim, and resemble in many
aspects an industrial challenge
In our field a
very important emergent behaviour of matter can be
discovered by a
single person working on a specific material on
virtue on an idea he can elaborate by himself.
The reason is that we
are dealing with a huge diversity of emergent behaviours which are
usually not predictible. So the first step of the discovery process
in our fields is to sort
out among experimental observations those
which are spurious non generic phenomena, those
which have a simple
trivial explanation with the established knowledge,, from those which
true original observations which open new questions and therefore
a field of investigations This
gives to the experimental approaches a
This attitude is
usually extremely difficult to introduce in a mass
education system. Why?
Because in an education system we usually try
to teach efficiently. That means we want to
pass a mass of
information which vcannot be contested in the shortest time to the
number of students. This means that it is quite natural to
teach things that we do understand fully,
which are now well
established and we prefer to avoid installing doubts.
first thing that a student who enters a lab discovers
is: “ Oh! That is an
observation that the professor himself
cannot explain” He will usually think that the professor
as good as he thought: A professor is somebody who knows everything.
question is the standard theory of elementary particles, the
student might understand that this is” a
problem for humanity”,
but if the question is “why my supposedly superconducting
not levitate, while that of my colleague done in the same
way does” the reaction is not the same.
examples tell us that the questions raised in our field
in front of an experiment
are much easier to tackle and give us a
fantastic position to teach the essence of the research process.
Because the essential process we have to introduce in the mind of our
students is curiosity. As
underlined above this is certainly easier
in our field of research, which is full of historic examples.
we do exploit those possibilities in our educational system is a
question which should be
discussed. For historical and cultural
reasons the situation certainly differ in our countries. I can
comment specifically the case of France for which the scientific
education system does give a leading
role to engineering school, and
minimizes that of the university research system. This results in
giving to the education system the canonical ingeneer point of view.
An engineer does have to solve
technical problems. That means he has
to realize a system which fulfills well defined tasks. For that
has at his disposal a knowledge which is listed in databases, and he
has to do the fastest search
of the more efficient economical and
more efficient solution. This is certainly a very important task
we do need people like that not only in companies but even in our
labs to design the equipment
we need to do our experiments. The
curiosity in his case seems to be restricted to the ability to
breakdown an existing equipment to understand which functions have
been implemented and
combined to reach the function fulfilled. He
scarcely needs to understand why a component
operates as it does.
The researcher in
our field has to wonder why a material either a
solid or a biological system has a given response to an external
excitation. He has to search some unexpected behaviours, and to be
able to establish the proper model which explains the behaviour and
then to figure out huw such a behaviour can be generalized to a class
of materials. This process yields then the discovery of neww
phenomena which might one day or another be turned out in a useful
new tool or instrument, which will enter then in the database of the
engineers of the future. This can be taught only in a laboratory. I
consider that our field of research is full of examples which can be
implemented in small experimental tasks accessible to undergraduate
students and which can economically allow to open their minds to the
innovative research process. Exchanges between us about pedagogic
experiences would be quite valuable.