Beijing, Oct 24 (Xinhua/UNB) -- In the wilderness of Daocheng, southwest China's Sichuan Province, 4,400 meters above sea level, Chinese scientists are constructing a cosmic ray observation station on an area equivalent to 200 soccer fields.
Huge rocks left from the Ice Age have been blasted. Different detectors are being installed to form a huge "net" to catch the particles generated by cosmic rays in the atmosphere, to help scientists study both the micro and the macro worlds in the universe.
Three huge underground pools, more than triple the size of the Water Cube (National Aquatic Center) in Beijing, will hold detectors to collect high-energy photons generated by remote celestial bodies. Surrounding the pools, 12 telescopes will be erected to conduct high-precision measurement of cosmic rays with the highest energy.
Construction of the first half of the observation station, known as Large High-Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO), is due to be finished at the end of this year, and the whole project completed at the end of 2020, said Cao Zhen, chief scientist of LHAASO and a researcher at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Discovered in 1912, cosmic rays are still largely an enigma. They are direct samples of matter from outside the solar system. Physicists are still pondering where they come from and how they can be accelerated to ultra-high energies.
Now scientists have found most cosmic rays are atomic nuclei. All the natural elements in the periodic table are present in cosmic rays. About 90 percent of them are the nuclei of hydrogen (protons); about 9 percent are helium nuclei (alpha particles); and the other heavier elements, electrons, gamma rays, neutrinos and antimatter particles make up the other 1 percent.
Since most cosmic rays are charged, their paths through space are deflected by magnetic fields. On their journey to Earth, the magnetic fields of the galaxy, the solar system, and the earth scramble their flight paths so much that we can no longer know exactly where they came from.
Many countries have invested heavily in the study of cosmic rays. China, the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany and other countries have established observation stations.
China's Exploration Path
China's cosmic ray detection began in the early 1950s. Chinese scientists built the country's first cosmic ray observatory on a 3,200-meter-high mountain in southwest China's Yunnan Province. Its scientific equipment was advanced by international standards at the time.
However, the "Cultural Revolution" from 1966 to 1976 hindered the research. When Chinese scientists returned to the study, they found they lagged far behind their peers abroad.
After China launched its reform and opening-up, Tan Youheng, a researcher with the IHEP, went to study in Japan. He was inspired by the air shower array technology for cosmic ray detection, and determined to conduct similar work in China.
After returning to China, he applied to build a world-class cosmic ray observation base.
Under the leadership of Tan and other scientists, China began to build an international cosmic ray observatory in Yangbajing Town, Tibet, at an altitude of 4,300 meters, in 1989.
Chinese scientists have since cooperated with Japanese and Italian scientists to conduct observations in Yangbajing.
This year, the China-Japan collaboration discovered the highest-energy cosmic gamma rays ever observed, opening a new window on the extreme universe.
"Without national development, we would not have the funds to develop the technology," said Huang Jing, a researcher at IHEP and a spokesperson for the project.
When Cao Zhen was working in Yangbajing, he began to draw up a plan for a new-generation cosmic ray observation base. He aimed to make it a world-leading observatory.
He and his team spent five years investigating potential sites in Tibet, Qinghai, Yunnan and Sichuan.
Daocheng was eventually chosen due to its high altitude, convenient transport, stable power supply, sufficient water resources and support from the local government.
Infrastructure construction started in July 2016, and the building of the observatory officially began in June 2018.
The main objective of LHAASO is to search for the origin of cosmic rays, and study their acceleration and transmission mechanisms, said Cao.
In the second huge pool of LHAASO, which is 5 meters below ground, water Cherenkov detectors have been installed to form an array, and they will be submerged in 100,000 tonnes of the purest water in the world.
"The water comes from nearby lakes and rivers and has gone through strict purification. Only transparent pure water can make the detectors catch the signals generated by high-energy particles clearly," said Chen Mingjun, deputy director of the Cherenkov detector array.
After being on the plateau for a year, Chen lost more than 15 kg due to the hard work, but he said he is lucky to participate in such a grand project.
Foreign peers have been amazed at the speed of LHASSO's construction. It's not only a result of the scientists' efforts, but also of the complete industrial production capacity of China. It's the embodiment of China's overall national strength, said Cao.
He said the LHASSO project has drawn world attention. Scientists from Russia, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic and other countries hope to bring their scientific equipment to the observatory.
Research teams from Australia and Thailand and other countries will participate in the project directly. Some well-known international research teams expressed the desire to conduct cooperation and joint observation with LHASSO, said Cao.
"After completing the LHASSO project, China is expected to lead the world in the field of cosmic ray research," Cao said.
Yokosuka, Oct 24 (AP/UNB) — An electric car with smooth four-wheel drive and a virtual friend for the coming age of automated driving are among the technology in development from Nissan.
The Japanese automaker, eager to leave behind the scandal over its former star executive Carlos Ghosn, recently invited reporters to see several of its test models.
Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades, was arrested last year and now awaits trial in Tokyo on financial misconduct charges.
The newly developed "all-wheel-control" technology of Nissan's electric vehicle delivers a sense of greater control, driver confidence and real safety, according to Nissan, which demonstrated how the model zipped sharply on turns and skidded less on wet surfaces, showing super-quick responses.
It also minimizes shaking in stop-and-go situations because it more smoothly balances the force usually accompanying such moves to those riding in the vehicle. The electric four-wheel drive also promises more exhilarating driving.
Other technology that Nissan officials showed was for what it called a "safety shield" concept of 360-degree monitoring by a vehicle, to intervene when drivers make mistakes, such as accelerating when they should be braking.
Nissan said the technology can help attain its goal of zero fatalities in its vehicles.
The demonstrations were timed for the opening of the Tokyo Motor Show this week.
Other companies have developed similar technologies that allow cars to drive autonomously using sensors, radars, cameras and stored digital maps.
Global traffic safety regulations still restrict or prohibit hands-free driving.
But, preparing for a future when cars might be allowed to drive themselves, Nissan showed virtual companions like holograms of animated characters that pop up in a car to keep drivers company.
A headset has to be worn to see the characters, who were controlled remotely by people wearing headsets and other gadgetry.
"One big goal of this kind of service is to appeal to people who are moving away from cars," said Tetsuro Ueda, an expert at Nissan's mobility service section.
It's all part of an effort to win back the many Japanese consumers who no longer see cars as status symbols or fun and prefer to spend their money on smartphones and video games. Although many living in the countryside need cars to get around, unlike in the U.S., major Japanese cities provide ample public transportation.
Chicago, Oct 24 (AP/UNB) — Two centuries after its invention, the stethoscope — the very symbol of the medical profession — is facing an uncertain prognosis.
It is threatened by hand-held devices that are also pressed against the chest but rely on ultrasound technology, artificial intelligence and smartphone apps instead of doctors' ears to help detect leaks, murmurs, abnormal rhythms and other problems in the heart, lungs and elsewhere. Some of these instruments can yield images of the beating heart or create electrocardiogram graphs.
Dr. Eric Topol, a world-renowned cardiologist, considers the stethoscope obsolete, nothing more than a pair of "rubber tubes."
It "was OK for 200 years," Topol said. But "we need to go beyond that. We can do better."
In a longstanding tradition, nearly every U.S. medical school presents incoming students with a white coat and stethoscope to launch their careers. It's more than symbolic — stethoscope skills are still taught, and proficiency is required for doctors to get their licenses.
Over the last decade, though, the tech industry has downsized ultrasound scanners into devices resembling TV remotes. It has also created digital stethoscopes that can be paired with smartphones to create moving pictures and readouts.
Proponents say these devices are nearly as easy to use as stethoscopes and allow doctors to watch the body in motion and actually see things such as leaky valves. "There's no reason you would listen to sounds when you can see everything," Topol said.
At many medical schools, it's the newer devices that really get students' hearts pumping.
"Wow!" ''Whoa!" ''This is awesome," Indiana University medical students exclaimed in a recent class as they learned how to use a hand-held ultrasound device on a classmate, watching images of his lub-dubbing heart on a tablet screen.
The Butterfly iQ device, made by Guilford, Connecticut-based Butterfly Network Inc., went on the market last year. An update will include artificial intelligence to help users position the probe and interpret the images.
Students at the Indianapolis-based medical school, one of the nation's largest, learn stethoscope skills but also get training in hand-held ultrasound in a program launched there last year by Dr. Paul Wallach, an executive associate dean. He created a similar program five years ago at the Medical College of Georgia and predicts that within the next decade, hand-held ultrasound devices will become part of the routine physical exam, just like the reflex hammer.
The devices advance "our ability to take peek under the skin into the body," he said. But Wallach added that, unlike some of his colleagues, he isn't ready to declare the stethoscope dead. He envisions the next generation of physicians wearing "a stethoscope around the neck and an ultrasound in the pocket."
Modern-day stethoscopes bear little resemblance to the first stethoscope, invented in the early 1800s by Frenchman Rene Laennec, but they work essentially the same way.
Laennec's creation was a hollow tube of wood, almost a foot long, that made it easier to hear heart and lung sounds than pressing an ear against the chest. Rubber tubes, earpieces and the often cold metal attachment that is placed against the chest came later, helping to amplify the sounds.
When the stethoscope is pressed against the body, sound waves make the diaphragm — the flat metal disc part of the device — and the bell-shaped underside vibrate. That channels the sound waves up through the tubes to the ears. Conventional stethoscopes typically cost under $200, compared with at least a few thousand dollars for some of the high-tech devices.
But picking up and interpreting body sounds is subjective and requires a sensitive ear — and a trained one.
With medical advances and competing devices over the past few decades, "the old stethoscope is kind of falling on hard times in terms of rigorous training," said Dr. James Thomas, a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. "Some recent studies have shown that graduates in internal medicine and emergency medicine may miss as many of half of murmurs using a stethoscope."
Northwestern is involved in testing new technology created by Eko, a Berkeley, California-based maker of smart stethoscopes. To improve detection of heart murmurs, Eko is developing artificial intelligence algorithms for its devices, using recordings of thousands of heartbeats. The devices produce a screen message telling the doctor whether the heart sounds are normal or if murmurs are present.
Dennis Callinan, a retired Chicago city employee with heart disease, is among the study participants. At age 70, he has had plenty of stethoscope exams but said he feels no nostalgia for the devices.
"If they can get a better reading using the new technology, great," Callinan said.
Chicago pediatrician Dr. Dave Drelicharz has been in practice for just over a decade and knows the allure of newer devices. But until the price comes down, the old stalwart "is still your best tool," Drelicharz said. Once you learn to use the stethoscope, he said, it "becomes second nature."
"During my work hours in my office, if I don't have it around my shoulders," he said, "it's as though I was feeling almost naked."
Washington, Oct 23 (Xinhua/UNB) -- "I miss an important space agency in this panel. Where is China?" Attendees at a plenary of the ongoing weeklong International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Washington brought the question atop the panel voting system and demanded an answer.
The crowd-sourced question popped up after the audience found that Wu Yanhua, vice administrator of China National Space Administration (CNSA) scheduled to speak at the IAC kickoff event on Monday with officials from five other national space agencies, was conspicuously absent.
Pascale Ehrenfreund, the incoming president of International Astronautical Federation (IAF), which is IAC's organizer, attributed Wu's no-show to "time conflict," but some attendees at the meeting hinted at "visa problem."
The difficulty for Chinese scientists in obtaining a U.S. visa has been an issue of concern for a while. At a press conference on Sunday, the IAC organizing committee co-chair Vincent Boles said they started working with the U.S. State Department 18 months ago to ensure timely grant of visas for attendees. But such efforts seemed to be of little avail.
QHYCCD, a telescope maker, is among a small number of Chinese companies that made it to this year's IAC exhibit hall. Bi Tingting, the startup's sales manager, told Xinhua all technicians with her company had failed to get a U.S. visa.
"Also, all applicants from another Chinese space company called Spacety were refused," said Bi. Though still listed on IAC's official guidebook, Spacety's booth is now empty.
China hosted the IAC in 2013 and has always been an active participant in the conference which championed international collaboration in space exploration. At IAC 2018 in Bremen, Germany, China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation and China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp, two rocket-making giants, made quite an impact when they showcased their latest technologies, but they didn't appear at the ongoing Washington conference either.
The United States has for some time been denying visas to, delaying processing visa applications of, revoking long-term visas for, and searching and harassing Chinese scholars, students, entrepreneurs and scientists, Geng Shuang, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told media on Oct. 9.
Observers say that the U.S. authority has increasingly attempted to block or disrupt normal people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States. At the opening ceremony, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence claimed that his country would only "work closely with like-minded, freedom-loving nations, as we lead mankind into the final frontier."
"Why not work with China on the 'international' Gateway (a U.S. moon-orbiting lab to be built) like we have with Russia for decades?" "If international collaboration is dependent on being 'freedom-loving,' who should decide on what level of 'freedom-loving' is sufficient?" Those two questions from the audience were also spotlighted in the voting system on Monday.
Pence's apparent attempt to politicize science collaboration is not welcome even in the United States. About 200 people from the country's astronautical community signed a letter condemning the inclusion of Pence at the opening ceremony. They considered his attendance at odds with the IAC's mission of global collaboration.
Jan Woerner, director general of European Space Agency (ESA), also disagreed with Pence. He told Xinhua that no one should forsake collaboration altogether just on account of potential problems or risks.
"I'm not stopping cooperation with others because they don't think like me. On the contrary, because they don't think like me, so I'm going into cooperation," said Woerner.
His view was echoed by Buzz Aldrin, one of the first two humans to land on the Moon and who received IAF World Space Award in 2019. Aldrin said at a pre-conference seminar on Sunday that he is not a fan of "Gateway," but this program should include China as part of the international collaboration.
Wuzhen, Oct 23 (Xinhua/UNB) -- In 1994, Hu Qiheng, then vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, visited the U.S. for talks that led to the setting up of the first direct TCP/IP connection in China.
A quarter of a century after China was connected to the Internet, the country has developed from a follower of revolutionary technology to a forerunner in tapping its full potential and an advocate for building a community with a shared future in cyberspace.
Such a transformation is in full display at the sixth World Internet Conference (WIC) held in the river town of Wuzhen in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, where global thinkers of the Internet joined with Chinese tech gurus in seeking to create a better cyberspace that benefits all mankind.
"This year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Internet," said Wu Hequan, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering. "As the Internet sector continues to boom, China is poised to play a bigger role in its development."
With the rise of cloud computing, the scale of a data center is becoming increasingly larger, making energy efficiency ever more important.
The Kunpeng 920, a chip developed by China's tech giant Huawei, not only boasts record-breaking computing performance but also delivers 30 percent higher performance per watt than the benchmark chip in the industry.
"Processors are the pillar of the computing sector. A powerful chip can greatly enhance a company's capabilities," said Hou Jinlong, senior vice president of Huawei.
The Kunpeng 920 was among the 15 world-leading scientific and technological achievements unveiled at this year's WIC.
The achievements, selected by a group of 39 experts from around the world, cover artificial intelligence, 5G, cloud computing, digital manufacturing, industrial Internet and other Internet-related fields. More than half of them were developed by Chinese tech firms.
Coordination, Cooperation Important
"Home to a growing number of tech giants, China has played a bigger role in the International Telecommunication Union," said Malcolm Johnson, secretary-general of the union. "In today's Internet, coordination and cooperation have been more important than ever."
According to the World Internet Development Report 2019 released during the WIC, China ranks second globally in the development of the internet, trailing only the United States.
Among all countries, China ranks first in the application of the internet and second in innovation capacity and industry development, said the report.
As digital technology is rapidly changing the way humans live, there has been an increasingly urgent need to harness its economic and social impacts and shape a constructive consensus for the public good.
"At the WIC, unveiling cutting-edge technologies to the world and promoting coordination in global cyberspace governance can help reach consensus and narrow differences," said Zhang Li, assistant president of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
Zhang expressed hope that the international community could make joint efforts to overcome barriers and build a community with a shared future in cyberspace.
New Growth Momentums
In 2018, the size of China's digital economy grew to 31.3 trillion yuan (about 4.4 trillion U.S. dollars), accounting for 34.8 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, according to a report on China's internet development released Sunday.
E-commerce in China is booming. In 2018, the country's e-commerce transactions totaled 31.6 trillion yuan, up 8.5 percent. E-commerce services generated 3.5 trillion yuan in revenue, up 20.3 percent.
In a move to boost the digital economy, China started the construction of six national-level pilot zones for innovation and development of the digital economy on Sunday.
The pilot zones will be established in the Xiongan New Area in Hebei Province, Chongqing Municipality, as well as Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces.
The regions are expected to seize the opportunities to deepen supply-side structural reforms and play an exemplary role in developing the digital economy, said Yang Xiaowei, deputy head of the Cyberspace Administration of China.
The establishment of pilot zones aims to explore various aspects of the digital economy, including new production relations and resource allocation, so as to unleash new growth momentums, according to the plan for the pilot zones.