Awards in open competitions :
• Undergraduate Project Awards 1995 : Winner of Gold Prize
• Presented by : The Hong Kong Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology
• Title : Strongly Nonlinear Response of Fractal Clusters
• Prize : HK\$10,000.
• Summary : My research was on nonlinear (electrical and optical) response in composite matrerials. There was a trick called Differential Effective Medium Approximation (DEMA) which was used to study weak nonlinear response in fractal clusters. The idea is that when a thin shell of composite is coated on a cluster, one can approximate the new cluster by a effective medium approximation and write down a differential equation for the response function. The equation can be solved if the response is weakly nonlinear because perturbation can be used. One day I wonder what happen if the response is strongly nonlinear. Well, physists know of only three ways to solve a problem that have no analytical solutions : if it is not far from a problem that has an exact solution, use perturbation; otherwise try variation (i.e. educated guess!); then there's always numerical simulations. So I tried both variation and numerical simulations. It turned out that the idea of DEMA can be used to make a very good variational guess, which we termed "cluster energy functional". The result agrees with the numerical simulations and was published in Physical Review B, and Physics Letter A.
• 1991 Microcomputer In Education Creativity Contest : Winner of Contest Grand Prize
• Colaborator : Chung Kin-Ho (Chadwick-the-teenwolf)
• Presented by : Hong Kong Computer Society; Hong Kong Association for Computer Education ; Hong Kong Association for Science and Mathematics Education; Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union
• Prize : A 80286 PC (It was a respectable computer at the time!)
• Remark :
• This was the largest computer project I've done in secondary school, and it is the first time I colaborate with Chadwick after years of discussions about computers. We didn't intend to participate until we saw a demo of Mathematica (2.x), it was so cool! At the end we decided to write programs to help high school students to do math and understand physics. The math part include a spread sheet and a matrix lab (high school level of course); the physics part include simulations like hamonic motions and planetary motion under Newtonian force. The biggest paid off for me was that I figured out how to do particle simulations, and have the chance to play with the effect of chosing temporal and spacial steps. I also discovered something I didn't thought was possible : a comet can gain energy from the gravitational field of two massive object circling each other like the Sun and the Jupiter. I thought that was some numerical error due to bad choices of discretization, because a comet that has a clodes orbit can fly off to infinity. Gravitational energy should conserve, right? I was frustrated until my friend H.F.Chau, a physist, explain to me that the small object can take energy and angular momentum from the massive objects by slowing down their revolutions by a tiny bit. That make sense because the energy gain of the comet comes from the energy loss of the other objects. I didn't see that because I assumed the Sun and the Jupiter to be infinitely more massive than the comet, which was such a reasonable approximation -- no one tell me that will break energy conservation too. That's the same principle spacecrafts steal energy from planets!
• Somehow we beat the college students majoring computer science.
• 1989 Microcomputer In Education Creativity Contest : Winner of Grand Prize (Junior Secondary Section)
• Presented by : Hong Kong Computer Society; Hong Kong Association for Computer Education ; Hong Kong Association for Science and Mathematics Education; Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union
• Prize : A trip (sponsored by Shell) to an international student science camp Singapore with HK\$10,000 allowance. For some personal reason, I didn't go.
• Remark : At the time there was such a stupid rule, that anyone below 11th grade has to enter the contest's Logo section. In case you don't know what is Logo, don't worry, its a language that's designed for kindergarden kids to draw pictures, using a turtle! You can imagine how difficult was it for me to write a code to simulate a machanical watch. I wanted to let user to adjust the time of the watch, simple stuff, right? No, there's actually no real time input commands in Apple Logo, in other words, my watch has to stop to wait for you adjust it! Luckily, there's a command peak/poke -163xx (forgot the exact address). It allows one to access the machine address, from which you can read off the "Open Apple" and "Solid Apple" keys (Joystick buttons) in real time. You see, in a language perfectly safe for the kindergarden kids, you can read/write memory with low level commands!
• 1989 China National Junior Secondary Mathematical Contest : First Runner-up (Hong Kong Region)
• Prize : A biology study trip to some forest in mainland China.
• Remark : The questions in the contest was obscurely tricky. It was the first time in my life to learn this sort of math tricks.