Overture:  C.N. Yang interview
  • by Kerson Huang (Hong Kong University, July 29, 2000)
    Posted on the Chinese Professionals Network.
    A very personal and in parts hilarious overview of the 20th century physics - should you really be reading this book? A few quotes:

    Huang: Chen-Ning, do you think ergodic theory gives us useful insight into the foundation of statistical mechanics?
    Yang: I don't think so.

    Yang: I believe what characterizes 20th-century physics, so as to distinguish it from the flavor of physics in past centuries, are three concepts: Quantization, phase factor, and symmetry.

    Yang: Atom lasers are much more powerful then photon lasers, because it has internal degrees of freedom. Therefore you can manipulate it, and in that manipulation, you manipulate the phase in very complicated ways. When you can get a sizable atomic laser with intensity, it would be a new world for that type of experiments.
    Huang: It's interesting that, when you talk to people about this, their reactions are different, depending upon what discipline they are in. Particle theorists mostly think this is not fundamental.
    Yang: That this is not fundamental?
    Huang: Yes, this is not fundamental. This is only a device.
    Yang: Who is this?
    Huang: Almost any particle theorist. You see, it's an understood phenomenon.
    Yang: I'm an elementary particle theorist, and I am not of that opinion.

    Yang: But then everybody said they wanted me to say something. So, on the spur of the moment, I said to Marshak, "Yes, I will say something, if you promise not to publish it". He said OK, and he stuck to his word later. So I said, "In the next ten years," (The year was 1980, I thinks, and the title of the panel was either the future or the next ten years of high-energy physics) I said, "In the next ten years, the most important discovery in high-energy physics is that `the party's over'." After I said that, there was general silence. Nobody said a word, and then Marshak declared the panel was finished.