生命太短暂,不能空手过!

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朱棣文是1997年诺贝尔物理学奖得主,也是美国前能源部部长。同时,他还获得哈佛大学荣誉博士学位。在这次演讲中,他语带诙谐地表示,自己名气不够响亮,也非亿万富豪,但至少他是一个书呆子a nerd)。

 

朱棣文演讲文:

 

尊敬的Faust校长,哈佛集团的各位成员,监管理事会的各位理事,各位老师,各位家长,各位朋友,以及最重要的各位毕业生同学,感谢你们,让我有机会同你们一起分享这个美妙的日子。

 

我不太肯定,自己够得上哈佛大学毕业典礼演讲人这样的殊荣。去年登上这个讲台的是,英国亿万身家的小说家J.K. Rowling女士,她最早是一个古典文学的学生。前年站在这里的是比尔·盖茨先生,他是一个超级富翁、一个慈善家和电脑天才。今年很遗憾,你们的演讲人是我,虽然我不是很有钱,但是至少我是一个书呆子。

 

我很感激哈佛大学给我荣誉学位,这对我很重要,也许比你们会想到的还要重要。要知道,在学术上,我是我们家的异类。我的哥哥在麻省理工学院得到医学博士,在哈佛大学得到哲学博士;我的弟弟在哈佛大学得到一个法律学位。我本人得到诺贝尔奖的时候,我想我的妈妈会高兴。但是,我错了。消息公布的那天早上,我给她打电话,她听了只说:这是好消息,不过我想知道,你下次什么时候来看我?”如今在我们兄弟当中,我最终也拿到了哈佛学位,我想这一次,她会感到满意。

 

在哈佛大学毕业典礼上发表演说,还有一个难处,那就是你们中有些人可能有意见,不喜欢我重复前人演讲中说过的话。我要求你们谅解我,因为两个理由。

 

首先为了产生影响力,很重要的方法就是重复传递同样的信息。在科学中,第一个发现者是重要的,但是在得到公认前,最后一个做出这个发现的人也许更重要。

 

其次一个借鉴他人的作者,正走在一条前人开辟的最佳道路上。哈佛大学毕业生、诗人爱默生曾经写下:我最好的一些思想,都是从古人那里偷来的。画家毕加索宣称优秀的艺术家借鉴,伟大的艺术家偷窃。那么为什么毕业典礼的演说者,就不适用同样的标准呢?我还要指出一点,向哈佛毕业生发表演说,对我来说是有讽刺意味的,因为如果当年我斗胆向哈佛大学递交入学申请,一定会被拒绝。我的妻子Jean当过斯坦福大学的招生主任,她向我保证,如果当年我申请斯坦福大学,她会拒绝我。我把这篇演讲的草稿给她过目,她强烈反对我使用拒绝这个词,她从来不拒绝任何申请者。在拒绝信中,她总是写:我们无法提供你入学机会。我分不清两者到底有何差别。不过,那些大热门学校的招生主任总是很现实的,堪称拒绝他人的主任。很显然,我需要好好学学怎么来推销自己。

 

毕业典礼演讲都遵循古典奏鸣曲的结构,我的演讲也不例外。刚才是第一乐章——轻快的闲谈。接下来的第二乐章是送上门的忠告。这样的忠告很少有价值,几乎注定被忘记,永远不会被实践。但是,就像王尔德说的:对于忠告,你所能做的,就是把它送给别人,因为它对你没有任何用处。所以,下面就是我的忠告。第一,取得成就的时候,不要忘记前人。要感谢你的父母和支持你的朋友,要感谢那些启发过你的教授,尤其要感谢那些上不好课的教授,因为他们迫使你自学。从整体看,自学能力是优秀的文科教育中必不可少的,将成为你成功的关键。你还要去拥抱你的同学,感谢他们同你进行过的许多次彻夜长谈,这为你的教育带来了无法衡量的价值。当然,你还要感谢哈佛大学。不过即使你忘了这一点,校友会也会来提醒你。第二,在你们未来的人生中,做一个慷慨大方的人。在任何谈判中,都把最后一点点利益留给对方。不要把桌上的钱都拿走。在合作中,不要把荣誉留给自己。成功合作的任何一方,都应获得全部荣誉的90%

 

电影《Harvey》中,Jimmy Stewart扮演的角色Elwood P. Dowd,就完全理解这一点。他说:多年前,母亲曾经对我说,‘Elwood,活在这个世界上,你要么做一个聪明人,要么做一个好人。’”我做聪明人,已经做了好多年了。……但是,我推荐你们做好人。你们可以引用我这句话。

 

我的第三个忠告是,当你开始生活的新阶段时,请跟随你的爱好。如果你没有爱好,就去找,找不到就不罢休。生命太短暂,所以不能空手走过,你必须对某样东西倾注你的深情。我在你们这个年龄,是超级的一根筋,我的目标就是非成为物理学家不可。本科毕业后,我在加州大学伯克利分校又待了8年,读完了研究生,做完了博士后,然后去贝尔实验室待了9年。在这些年中,我关注的中心和职业上的全部乐趣,都来自物理学。

我还有最后一个忠告,就是说兴趣爱好固然重要,但是你不应该只考虑兴趣爱好。当你白发苍苍、垂垂老矣、回首人生时,你需要为自己做过的事感到自豪。物质生活和你实现的占有欲,都不会产生自豪。只有那些受你影响、被你改变过的人和事,才会让你产生自豪。

 

在贝尔实验室待了9年后,我决定离开这个温暖舒适的象牙塔,走进我眼中的真实世界”——大学。我对贝尔实验室的看法,可以引用Mary Poppins的话,实际上十全十美。但是,我想离开那种仅仅是科学论文的生活。我要去教书,培育我自己在科学上的后代。

我在斯坦福大学有一个好友兼杰出同事Ted Geballe。他也是从伯克利分校去了贝尔实验室,几年前又离开贝尔实验室去了斯坦福大学。他对我们的动机做出了最佳描述:在大学工作,最大的优点就是学生。他们生机勃勃,充满热情,思想自由,还没被生活的重压改变。虽然他们自己没有意识到,但是他们是这个社会中你能找到的最佳受众。如果生命中只有一段时间是思想自由和充满创造力,那么那段时间就是你在读大学。进校时,学生们对课本上的一字一句毫不怀疑,渐渐地,他们发现课本和教授并不是无所不知的,于是他们开始独立思考。从那时起,就是我开始向他们学习了。

 

我教过的学生、带过的博士后、合作过的年轻同事,都非常优秀。他们中有30多人,现在已经是教授了。他们所在的研究机构有不少是全世界第一流的,其中就包括哈佛大学。我从他们身上学到了很多东西。即使现在,我偶尔还会周末上网,向现在还从事生物物理学研究的学生请教。

 

我怀着回报社会的想法,开始了教学生涯。我的一生中,得到的多于我付出的,所以我要回报社会。这就引出了这次演讲的最后一个乐章。首先我要讲一个了不起的科学发现,以及由此带来的新挑战。它是一个战斗的号令,到了做出改变的时候了。

过去几十年中,我们的气候一直在发生变化。气候变化并不是现在才有的,过去60万年中就发生了6次冰河期。但是,现在的测量表明气候变化加速了。北极冰盖在9月份的大小,只相当于50年前的一半。1870年起,人们开始测量海平面上升的速度,现在的速度是那时的5倍。一个重大的科学发现就这样产生了。科学第一次在人类历史上,预测出我们的行为对50~100年后的世界有何影响。这些变化的原因是,从工业革命开始,人类排放到大气中的二氧化碳增加了。这使得地球的平均气温上升了0.8摄氏度。即使我们立刻停止所有温室气体的排放,气温仍然将比过去上升大约1度。因为在气温达到均衡前,海水温度的上升将持续几十年。

 

如果全世界保持现在的经济模式不变,联合国政府间气候变化专门委员会(IPCC)预测,本世纪末将有50%的可能,气温至少上升5度。这听起来好像不多,但是让我来提醒你,上一次的冰河期,地球的气温也仅仅只下降了6度。那时,俄亥俄州和费城以下的大部分美国和加拿大的土地,都终年被冰川覆盖。气温上升5度的地球,将是一个非常不同的地球。由于变化来得太快,包括人类在内的许多生物,都将很难适应。比如,有人告诉我,在更温暖的环境中,昆虫的个头将变大。我不知道现在身旁嗡嗡叫的这只大苍蝇,是不是就是前兆。

 

我们还面临另一个幽灵,那就是非线性的气候引爆点,这会带来许多严重得多的变化。气候引爆点的一个例子就是永久冻土层的融化。永久冻土层经过千万年的累积形成,其中包含了巨量的冻僵的有机物。如果冻土融化,微生物就将广泛繁殖,使得冻土层中的有机物快速腐烂。冷冻后的生物和冷冻前的生物,它们在生物学特性上的差异,我们都很熟悉。在冷库中,冷冻食品在经过长时间保存后,依然可以食用。但是,一旦解冻,食品很快就腐烂了。一个腐烂的永久冻土层,将释放出多少甲烷和二氧化碳?即使只有一部分的碳被释放出来,可能也比我们从工业革命开始释放出来的所有温室气体还要多。这种事情一旦发生,局势就失控了。

 

英文原文:

Madam President Faust, members of the HarvardCorporation and the Board of Overseers, faculty, family, friends, and, mostimportantly, today’s graduates, Thank you for letting me share this wonderfulday with you.

I am not sure I can live up to the high standards ofHarvard Commencement speakers. Last year, J.K. Rowling, the billionairenovelist, who started as a classics student, graced this podium. The yearbefore, Bill Gates, the mega-billionaire philanthropist and computer nerd stoodhere. Today, sadly, you have me. I am not wealthy, but at least I am a nerd.

I am grateful to receive an honorary degree fromHarvard, an honor that means more to me than you might care to imagine. Yousee, I was the academic black sheep of my family. My older brother has anM.D./Ph.D. from MIT and Harvard while my younger brother has a law degree fromHarvard. When I was awarded a Nobel Prize, I thought my mother would be pleased.Not so. When I called her on the morning of the announcement, she replied,“That’s nice, but when are you going to visit me next.” Now, as the lastbrother with a degree from Harvard, maybe, at last, she will be satisfied.

Another difficulty with giving a Harvard commencementaddress is that some of you may disapprove of the fact that I have borrowedmaterial from previous speeches. I ask that you forgive me for two reasons.

First, in order to have impact, it is important todeliver the same message more than once. In science, it is important to be thefirst person to make a discovery, but it is even more important to be the lastperson to make that discovery.

Second, authors who borrow from others are followingin the footsteps of the best. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who graduated from Harvardat the age of 18, noted “All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.”Picasso declared “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” Why shouldcommencement speakers be held to a higher standard?

I also want to point out the irony of speaking to graduatesof an institution that would have rejected me, had I the chutzpah to apply. Iam married to “Dean Jean,” the former dean of admissions at Stanford. Sheassures me that she would have rejected me, if given the chance. When I showedher a draft of this speech, she objected strongly to my use of the word“rejected.” She never rejected applicants; her letters stated that “we areunable to offer you admission.” I have difficulty understanding the difference.After all, deans of admissions of highly selective schools are in reality,“deans of rejection.” Clearly, I have a lot to learn about marketing.

My address will follow the classical sonata form ofcommencement addresses. The first movement, just presented, were light-heartedremarks. This next movement consists of unsolicited advice, which is rarelyvalued, seldom remembered, never followed. As Oscar Wilde said, “The only thingto do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”So, here comes the advice. First, every time you celebrate an achievement, bethankful to those who made it possible. Thank your parents and friends whosupported you, thank your professors who were inspirational, and especiallythank the other professors whose less-than-brilliant lectures forced you toteach yourself. Going forward, the ability to teach yourself is the hallmark ofa great liberal arts education and will be the key to your success. To yourfellow students who have added immeasurably to your education during those latenight discussions, hug them. Also, of course, thank Harvard. Should you forget,there’s an alumni association to remind you. Second, in your future life,cultivate a generous spirit. In all negotiations, don’t bargain for the last,little advantage. Leave the change on the table. In your collaborations, alwaysremember that “credit” is not a conserved quantity. In a successfulcollaboration, everybody gets 90 percent of the credit.

Jimmy Stewart, as Elwood P. Dowd in the movie “Harvey”  got it exactly right. He said:“Years ago my mother used to say to me, ‘ In this world, Elwood, you must be …she always used to call me Elwood … in this world, Elwood, you must be oh sosmart or oh so pleasant.’” Well, for years I was smart. ... I recommendpleasant. You may quote me on that.

My third piece of advice is as follows: As you beginthis new stage of your lives, follow your passion. If you don’t have a passion,don’t be satisfied until you find one. Life is too short to go through itwithout caring deeply about something. When I was your age, I was incrediblysingle-minded in my goal to be a physicist. After college, I spent eight yearsas a graduate student and postdoc at Berkeley, and then nine years at BellLabs. During that my time, my central focus and professional joy was physics.

Here is my final piece of advice. Pursuing a personalpassion is important, but it should not be your only goal. When you are old andgray, and look back on your life, you will want to be proud of what you havedone. The source of that pride won’t be the things you have acquired or therecognition you have received. It will be the lives you have touched and thedifference you have made.

After nine years at Bell labs, I decided to leave thatwarm, cozy ivory tower for what I considered to be the “real world,” auniversity. Bell Labs, to quote what was said about Mary Poppins, was“practically perfect in every way,” but I wanted to leave behind something morethan scientific articles. I wanted to teach and give birth to my own set ofscientific children.

Ted Geballe, a friend and distinguished colleague ofmine at Stanford, who also went from Berkeley to Bell Labs to Stanford yearsearlier, described our motives best:

“The best part of working at a university is the students.They come in fresh, enthusiastic, open to ideas, unscarred by the battles oflife. They don’t realize it, but they’re the recipients of the best our societycan offer.  If a mind is ever free to becreative, that’s the time. They come in believing textbooks are authoritative,but eventually they figure out that textbooks and professors don’t knoweverything, and then they start to think on their own. Then, I begin learningfrom them.”

My students, post doctoral fellows, and the youngresearchers who worked with me at Bell Labs, Stanford, and Berkeley have beenextraordinary. Over 30 former group members are now professors, many at thebest research institutions in the world, including Harvard. I have learned muchfrom them. Even now, in rare moments on weekends, the remaining members of mybiophysics group meet with me in the ether world of cyberspace.

I began teaching with the idea of giving back; Ireceived more than I gave. This brings me to the final movement of this speech.It begins with a story about an extraordinary scientific discovery and a newdilemma that it poses. It’s a call to arms and about making a difference.

In the last several decades, our climate has beenchanging. Climate change is not new: the Earth went through six ice ages in thepast 600,000 years. However, recent measurements show that the climate hasbegun to change rapidly. The size of the North Polar Ice Cap in the month ofSeptember is only half the size it was a mere 50 years ago. The sea level whichbeen rising since direct measurements began in 1870 at a rate that is now fivetimes faster than it was at the beginning of recorded measurements. Here’s theremarkable scientific discovery. For the first time in human history, scienceis now making predictions of how our actions will affect the world 50 and 100years from now. These changes are due to an increase in carbon dioxide put intothe atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The Earth haswarmed up by roughly 0.8 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the Revolution.There is already approximately a 1 degree rise built into the system, even ifwe stop all greenhouse gas emissions today. Why? It will take decades to warmup the deep oceans before the temperature reaches a new equilibrium.

If the world continues on a business-as-usual path,the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that there is afifty-fifty chance the temperature will exceed 5 degrees by the end of thiscentury. This increase may not sound like much, but let me remind you thatduring the last ice age, the world was only 6 degrees colder. During this time,most of Canada and the United States down to Ohio and Pennsylvania were coveredyear round by a glacier. A world 5 degrees warmer will be very different. Thechange will be so rapid that many species, including Humans, will have a hardtime adapting. I’ve been told for example, that, in a much warmer world,insects were bigger. I wonder if this thing buzzing around is a precursor.

We also face the specter of nonlinear “tipping points”that may cause much more severe changes. An example of a tipping point is thethawing of the permafrost. The permafrost contains immense amounts of frozenorganic matter that have been accumulating for millennia. If the soil melts,microbes will spring to life and cause this debris to rot. The difference inbiological activity below freezing and above freezing is something we are allfamiliar with. Frozen food remains edible for a very long time in the freezer,but once thawed, it spoils quickly. How much methane and carbon dioxide mightbe released from the rotting permafrost? If even a fraction of the carbon isreleased, it could be greater than all the greenhouse gases we have released tosince the beginning of the industrial revolution. Once started, a runawayeffect could occur.


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