A Noble Laureate, also the Keeper of the Broom of Ig Nobel Prize

  • [2014-04-29]
  • On April 17th, Roy Glauber, who was awarded one half of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence", visited USTC and gave a lecture “Two Hundred Years of Light Waves, One Hundred Years of Light Quanta” for the students on the next day. During his visit, professor Glauber accepted a face-to face micro-interview.

    A kind of chicken soup for the souls tory about Roy Glauber is very popular in China which was published in Reader in 2009. For many years before winning his Nobel Prize, Glauber were familiar to the audiences of Ig Noble Prize, where he took a bow each year as “Keeper of the Broom”. In the chicken soup story, his sweeping the stage was described as a kind of cleaning the dust of mind. When hearing that in the interview, professor laughed and shared the context of the story.

    Ig Noble Prize was established by a young fellow in Cambridge (Marc Abrahams) who decides to show the world that scientist has a sense of humor. The name of the prize comes from the word ignoble which means base, worthless and contemptible. There is a performance on show in the Harvard theatre every year for the prize. In the awarded show, there is a tradition that students will pile paper programs and so people can throw the made paper airplanes. However, the fire department of Harvard thought that the airplanes deep on the stage could be a fire hazard. As a trap master Marc Abrahams asked Glauber helped sweeping off the paper airplanes. Glauber accepted only demanding a broom with brunches. And he kept cleaning the airplanes for many year even after he win the real Nobel Prize and got a title of “Keeper of the Broom”. “But I think I will retire now ”, said the Noble Laureate of almost 90 years old.

    During the talk, another interesting thing is that he found students didn’t like raising questions in America or in China when talking about the students’ reactions of lectures. “The students ask no questions and in fact it’s not even very popular to ask questions at the end of a lecture in America. Any student who doesn’t can become unpopular quickly”. He explained that young Americas liked to be anonymity and didn’t want anyone else to judge them. Students would feel that anyone who asks bright questions at the end of a lecture is showing off and trying to demonstrate to the professor what he can accomplish.So the other students are always very suspicious of that kind of participation.

    Also, Prof. Glauber encouraged students to persist solving puzzles of science, because science is just “thinking about things that puzzle you”.


    (YANG Yating, USTC news center)