The traditional university science curriculum was designed to train specialists in specific disciplines. However, in universities all over the world, science students are going into increasingly diverse careers and the current model does not fit their needs. Advances in technology also make certain modes of learning obsolete. In the past ten years, the Faculty of Science of the University of Hong Kong has undertaken major curriculum reforms. A sequence of science foundation courses required of all incoming science students are designed to teach science in an integrated manner, and to emphasize the concepts and utilities, not computational techniques, of mathematics. A number of non-discipline-specific common core courses have been developed to broaden students’ awareness of the relevance of science to society and the interdisciplinary nature of science. By putting the emphasis on the scientific process rather than the outcome, students are taught how to identify, formulate, and solve diverse problems.
Massive galaxy clusters have been found that date to times as early as three billion years after the Big Bang, containing stars that formed at even earlier epochs. The high-redshift progenitors of these galaxy clusters—termed ‘protoclusters’—can be identified in cosmological simulations that have the highest overdensities (greater-than-average densities) of dark matter. Protoclusters are expected to contain extremely massive galaxies that can be observed as luminous starbursts. However, recent detections of possible protoclusters hosting such starbursts do not support the kind of rapid cluster-core formation expected from simulations: the structures observed contain only a handful of starbursting galaxies spread throughout a broad region, with poor evidence for eventual collapse into a protocluster. Here we report observations of carbon monoxide and ionized carbon emission from the source SPT2349-56. We find that this source consists of at least 14 gas-rich galaxies, all lying at redshifts of 4.31. We demonstrate that each of these galaxies is forming stars between 50 and 1,000 times more quickly than our own Milky Way, and that all are located within a projected region that is only around 130 kiloparsecs in diameter. This galaxy surface density is more than ten times the average blank-field value (integrated over all redshifts), and more than 1,000 times the average field volume density. The velocity dispersion (approximately 410 kilometres per second) of these galaxies and the enormous gas and star-formation densities suggest that this system represents the core of a cluster of galaxies that was already at an advanced stage of formation when the Universe was only 1.4 billion years old. A comparison with other known protoclusters at high redshifts shows that SPT2349-56 could be building one of the most massive structures in the Universe today.
Planet formation theories predict that some planets may be ejected from their parent systems as result of dynamical interactions and other processes. Unbound planets can also be formed through gravitational collapse, in a way similar to that in which stars form. A handful of free-floating planetary-mass objects have been discovered by infrared surveys of young stellar clusters and star-forming regions as well as wide-field surveys, but these studies are incomplete8 for objects below five Jupiter masses. Gravitational microlensing is the only method capable of exploring the entire population of free-floating planets down to Mars-mass objects, because the microlensing signal does not depend on the brightness of the lensing object. A characteristic time scale of microlensing events depends on the mass of the lens: the less massive the lens, the shorter the microlensing event. A previous analysis of 474 microlensing events found an excess of ten very short events (1–2 days)—more than known stellar populations would suggest—indicating the existence of a large population of unbound or wide-orbit Jupiter-mass planets (reported to be almost twice as common as main-sequence stars). These results, however, do not match predictions of planet-formation theories3 and surveys of young clusters. Here we analyse a sample of microlensing events six times larger than that of ref. 11 discovered during the years 2010–15. Although our survey has very high sensitivity (detection efficiency) to short-timescale (1–2 days) microlensing events, we found no excess of events with time scales in this range, with a 95 per cent upper limit on the frequency of Jupiter-mass free-floating or wide-orbit planets of 0.25 planets per main-sequence star. We detected a few possible ultrashort-time scale events (with time scales of less than half a day), which may indicate the existence of Earth-mass and super-Earth-mass free-floating planets, as predicted by planet-formation theories3,