May We Change Nature?

Programme Details

Chair Prof Michel Van Hove | Physics

Chair Prof Michel Van HoveProf Michel Van Hove has undergone much change, having lived in 8 countries.  Since 2005 he has been Head and Chair Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Materials Science of CityU.  Born in Belgium and educated in the USA, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and the UK, he obtained a B.Sc. in Physics at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and a Ph.D. in Theoretical Solid State Physics at the University of Cambridge.  He has over 330 publications, including 11 books, over 13,000 citations, and an h-index of 63.  His major research interest is the atomic-scale structure and bonding at solid surfaces and nanostructures, which is the basis of surface science, nanoscience and their many technological applications, such as electronic and optical devices, energy conversion and bioengineering, catalysis and corrosion.


Humans are increasingly changing nature:  we cover nature (with buildings, roads, ...);  we take from nature (raw materials, food, ...);  we discard into nature (garbage, gases, ...);  and we modify nature (climate, genetic engineering, ...).  These activities raise many fascinating questions:  Are humans an integral part of nature or external to nature?  Do we have the right to change nature, like plants and trees have done?  Are there limits to changing nature and what are they?  Do we actually understand what we are doing to nature?  How do we decide what we may do to nature?  The students of my course “Foundation Physics” have contributed their ideas to this lecture.