When I was in the first grade, my mother presented me a book on astronomy. Immediately, the book fascinated me; I was intrigued in discovering that stars, nebulas and galaxies exist somewhere out there. Therefore, I spent an enormous amount of time reading more books about astronomy and making charts of my own for the planets in the solar system. My mother never discouraged my efforts. Rather, she presented me a ruler to make better charts and answered my questions sincerely. I recall that as a six-year-old boy, I asked my mom about decimal numbers to better understand the contents of astronomy books, and received a satisfying answer.
The dream to be an astronomer continued until sixth grade, when I received special physics training at the Korean Physics Olympiad (“KPhO”) winter school. As I studied elementary physics, I realized that physics is a fundamental building block for “everything” and that it could be a better way to understand the universe than astronomy. Therefore, I decided to become a physicist and have dedicated all my effort to physics. The KPhO summer and winter school provided me a good environment conducive to solving physics problems and discussing physics phenomena such as special relativity.
One of my friends made an interesting paradox regarding relativistic contraction. It was so perplexing to us at the time that no one was able to solve it, even after the physics camp. Later, when the very friend entered college, I visited him and together we went to the library to find materials concerning the paradox. We learned that a similar paradox had been presented early in the 20th century and that it requires the knowledge of general relativity.
In addition to theoretical physics, we also performed many experiments at the physics camp. In the spring this year, we visited Seoul every other Sunday to perform different experiments and submitted substantial reports on the next visit. I sometimes took the physics instruments back to my boarding school and performed experiments by myself. The most challenging experiment concerned a topic of elastic characteristic of a rubber band and its elastic energy conservation. It required me to elaborate on mathematical analysis because the band did not obey the Hook’s law. It was interesting to find out later that other students, faced with the same problem, used other various analyses, some of which I was not able to think of. It was then that I realized that a scientific discovery is not a work by a one superstar scientist, but a collaboration of many creative thinkers.
My dream to become a physicist has often been discouraged even by some physicists on the notion that physicists do not earn as much as engineers or computer scientists do. Nevertheless, I was able to find a physicist, a professor at the Seoul National University, who encouraged my dream. He explained to me how fascinating it is to study physics to understand the nature. He even argued that it is the duty of gifted students to study physics. I believe that he is right; I will devote my life and passion to the realm of physics. Who knows, perhaps, I will discover a new theory on how the God created the universe..