VISIT by Dr. Tom Brown to FIS

Talk about frontiers of science and adventure in Antarctic

Dr Tom Brown, from the School of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, made his tenth visit to the French International School in Hong Kong this week (Oct 18th, 2016).  His presentation to 180 students from both the French and International streams, was warmly received and greatly appreciated.  He spoke of some of the frontiers of science that he is working on with his team at St. Andrews and internationally, including laser technology, treatments for skin cancer and ultra-high speed data processing.

His most recent exploit, early 2016, was accepting an invitation from the Australian government to travel by ice-breaker to the Antarctic, to work on understanding the effect of climate change on krill.  Krill are the largest biomass on the planet and fundamental to the earth’s food web.  As Dr.Brown explained, any damage to such a resource would have disastrous consequences for the planet and this is why the research is so very important.

The students listened intently as he spoke about the amazing continent and the team of scientists who braved the elements to be part of the expedition. There were schools of krill eleven kilometers long, hundreds of huge albatross and humpback whales (endangered until just recently), 700kg seals and of course, the penguins.  There were deck hands who worked round the clock in howling, freezing winds to keep the expensive research equipment safe and the project successful. Lowering probes in water more than a kilometer in depth and keeping it stable within 5m of the bottom takes skill and precision.

To add to the adventure, the ship was hammered by bad weather conditions and ultimately stranded by ice.  The team needed to be rescued by helicopter and flown back to Tasmania with their stories to tell.  The major message taken to the students was that they would be the ones solving the problems for the future of the planet and that it will take, not only good science but also resilience and perseverance and perhaps a few sacrifices.

Our gratitude goes to Dr Brown for making FIS a part of his visit to Hong Kong once again.

Gary Wines

Science Leader of Learning