A Memorandum of the Historical Moment

The HIM and Hanyang University



There is something magical about how HIM started and how it continues to spark enthusiasm among the young Korean physicists. It illustrates beautifully what spontaneity and innovativeness rendered by flexibility can do to stimulate a sense of excitement in doing something one likes to do.


Brought to the Korea Institute for Advanced Studies (KIAS) in 1998 with the objective to help bring the level of pure science to the worlds forefront, I directed my effort toward generating fresh activities in theoretical studies of strongly interacting matter under extreme conditions believed to be present in the Early Universe and in compact stars. The first effort along this line was then made to bring relativistic heavy ion physics and compact star physics into one discipline called astro-hadron physics, a domain which had been up to then largely unexplored but for which some Korean physicists had made significant pioneering contributions. This was effectuated in the form of workshops, gathering a number of worlds leading workers in astrophysics and astronomy as well as those working in the areas of RHIC/BNL (upcoming) and of LHC/CERN (in construction) To my great disappointment, however, this effort was frustrated and eventually thwarted by the lack of support from KIAS higher echelon members. It is at this junction that Hanyang Universitys president Professor Chong Yang Kim offered me a chair in 2004 at his university entrusted with a total flexibility in using the fund to carry out what was not feasible at KIAS.


Among a number of activities that I initiated at Hanyang, there are two that have something crucial to do with the HIM and related activity. Since late 1990s, there was in the air the possibility of Korean physicists joining in an active collaboration at CERN in relativistic heavy ion physics, in particular at the ALICE detector. This possibility was first proposed jointly by Juergen Schukraft, the ALICE spokesperson, and Do-Won Kim of Kangnung University who was then doing experiments at CERN.  I joined in the discussion over a lunch at a restaurant near Saclay in the summer 2000. When I arrived at Hanyang, one of the first exploitations of the fund was to initiate what Juergen and Do-Won had proposed, with an impromptu – and informal -- meeting organized in October 2004 with the help of Chang-Hwan Lee of PNU and Su Houng Lee of Yonsei. We invited Luciano Maiani, former Director-General of CERN, Juergen Schukraft and other CERN theorists and experimentalists to get together on the Hanyang campus with the young and active experimentalists and theorists working in the area of heavy ion physics. The purpose of that gathering, characterized by its spontaneity and rendered  possible by the flexibility, was to explore the feasibility of a collaboration in ALICE physics where Koreans could play a key role. Heeding to Maianis provocative remark that it was a crucial time for Koreans to either join The Club or be left behind,  the young participants, spearheaded by In-Kwon Yoo of  PNU and  strongly  supported by others, promptly established this HIM project – its initiating meeting being the first HIM activity, presently funded largely by APCTP.   The current scope of the HIM turns out to be more general than what was originally intended in the first HIM meeting, the area of research extending to RHIC, GSI and others, as this years  ATHIC, a successful expansion into an Asian Pacific activity, attests. But what is even more significant -- in addition to the HIM development -- is that there is a direct outcome of the first Hanyang meeting on an international scale: Indefatigably pursued since 2000 by Do-Won Kim, it finally culminates in the formal signing of the CERN-Korea Collaboration agreement in which, among others, ALICE experiment and theory will figure importantly.


There is also a purely theoretical spin-off of the Hanyang fund which should be mentioned. Shortly after  the first HIM gathering,  another small workshop was organized in the same month at Hanyang --  funded by the same source -- by Sang-Jin Sin of the Physics Department on QCD and string theory to which a number of active QCD field theorists and string theorists world-wide were brought together. It was there that certain first startling observations of RHIC experiments were discussed in terms of gauge-gravity duality, presaging the present explosive development on new states of matter in hot/dense medium in both heavy-ion and string theory communities. Indeed the remarkable jet-quenching phenomenon was explained for the first time in terms of AdS/CFT by Sang-Jin Sin in that meeting as well as in the first HIM meeting. I like to consider this approach to the field  as initiated at Hanyang and in Korea, preceding even the first such workshop at KITP in Santa Barbara, USA.


The sorts of spontaneity and flexibility that brought about the HIM and associated developments are unimaginable in rigid bureaucratic systems prevalent in the country. The possible exception could have been found in KIAS where such road-blocks were purported to be lifted so as to generate a free and innovative atmosphere for research. I believe that that objective is misplaced and unobtainable in the present condition as illustrated by the futility encountered by my five-year effort there. What Hanyang offered out of ordinary is an apt example that an innovative idea can and does lead to an unexpected progress.


                                                           Saclay, in July 2006                  Mannque Rho