FAST: The World’s Largest Telescope

News and Travel Editor

On Sunday 25th September 2016, China will unveil the world’s largest telescope and begin test operations searching for signals to understand the origin of the universe and the Big Bang.

The Five-Hundred-Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, known as FAST has been constructed over five years in a remote area of Guizhou province, south central China.   It has been built in a 45 million year old crater, unlikely to be affected by flooding and far from human interference.

The 500m dish surpasses Arecibo radio telescope, built in Puerto Rico in 1963, as the world’s largest and is three times more sensitive in detecting radio waves thousands of light years away.

Professor Richard Schilizzi, Associate Director of the UK’s Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre says: China are taking a big step forward in astronomy. The science that is infront of them has great prospects of transforming our view of the universe.’

FAST consists of 4450 individual panels and Chinese project engineers had to design a cable net of ten thousand cables to manipulate it to detect signals. FAST’s focus cabin is also unique thanks to a directional tracking system.

A key mission for the telescope will be detecting pulsars, the matter that remains when a star eight times the size of the sun explodes. These pulsars rotate thousands of times per second and, as Professor Phil Diamond of UK’s Jodrell Bank Discovery explains, are the universe’s most accurate clock:

‘By measuring the sync of from these superb rotating clocks we can measure all sorts of subtle things predicted by Einstein, which we cannot do from earth or even in our own solar system.’

What do you think they will find? Are you excited to find out? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

The biggest Radio Telescope in the world

News and Travel Editor

This is the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (F.A.S.T for short), or at least it will be when it’s completed in September this year.

This silver giant in remote Guizhou Province is the world’s largest Radio Telescope, eclipsing the previous title-holder by THREE TIMES its size. This means that the paraboloid reflective dish will be able to detect signals 1000 light-years away, enabling scientists to see three times further than ever before.

What is it searching for? Well, for starters, the telescope will be looking for ancient signals of hydrogen to try to understand how the universe evolved. It will also be on the look out for never-before-seen stars, and of course, extra terrestrial life. What will we find when we look further into space than ever before? Will existing theories about the origins of the universe be confirmed or thrown into confusion? Am I going to get to meet E.T.?!

The telescope comes as part of a tide of innovation coming from China, which includes world-leading advances in A.I, driverless cars and even eye transplants. To get a visual example of this rapid technological advances, look at the development of Shenzhen over the last 40 years, from small fishing village to a rival for Silicon Valley!

The country that invented the compass, papermaking, printing and gunpowder is definitely experiencing a Scientific revival, and I’m excited to find out what the future holds.

 

International Women’s Day: China’s Most Inspiring Women

News and Travel Editor

This Wednesday, women across the world will be marking the 22nd official International Women’s Day, as recognised by the UN, and it’s set to be the biggest yet. Whether out marching (as women on both sides of the Atlantic have planned), enjoying free access to museum (like the ladies of Italy), or being getting pampered by your spouse (its a bigger day in Russia than Valentine’s Day), today is the day to celebrate the sisterhood’s achievements.

Here at China Icons, we’ve been lucky enough to film with a whole host of inspiring women from every walk of Chinese life. To celebrate this year’s theme of ‘women in the changing world of work’, we’ve handpicked our favourites from our channel – from exceptional engineers on the world’s largest telescope to architects and actresses on some of China’s most high profile projects.

1) Zhang Ziyi Meets China Icons

Look familiar?  That’s probably because Zhang Ziyi has starred in one of the most successful Chinese films of all time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Zhang Ziyi speaks to China Icons about her experiences as an actress, including how she prepares for a martial arts scene and working with John Woo’s The Crossing.

2) FAST: The World’s Largest Telescope

Probably one of the most inspiring stories on our list features Yao Rui, the chief engineer of the focus cabin on FAST. The telescope was built to better understand the origins of the universe and the Big Bang and could be described as one of the most exciting projects going on in science right now.

Yao Rui’s role is centred on the focus cabin, one of the most important pieces of kit on the telescope. The focus cabin receives the radio signals after they are reflected off the dish. Watch our video below to discover some of the challenges that arise for Yao Rui and how she deals with them.

3)  Hangzhou’s Beautiful Bookstore and ‘one of China’s most promising designers’

Described by Forbes as one of China’s most promising designers, Hangzhou’s popular bookstore was designed by innovative architect Li Xiang.  A massive 20,000 people visited the bookstore on opening day. Watch the video below to follow her journey from initial design.

4) Flamenco Pearl: The Life of a Chinese Flamenco Dancer

This short film documents the life of Zhao Zhen, a Chinese flamenco dancer who travelled the world to follow her biggest passion in life before re-settling in Beijing to start her own dance school.

5) China’s Green Roof Revolution

Ma Liya has designed a green roof in Beijing inspiring children to cultivate the garden and get closer to nature. From hand picking the perfect vegetation for the site to her research into different soil types, she is part of a movement leading China, and the world, to a greener future.

6) Fiona Reilly meets…

This was one of our favourite and first videos – Australian Fiona and the Miao ladies may be from different continents but they had a surprising amount in common.  Fiona’s photo assignment introduced us to the stunning embroidery created by Miao women to the dishes in the region.

7) Coco’s Kitchen: Chinese Dumplings

How can we talk about the wonderful women of China without talking about our very own Coco?  Coco brings some of the most authentic and delicious Chinese recipes straight to our kitchens. It was very difficult to pick, but we’ve chosen her recipe for Chinese dumplings as our favourite. Let us know which you’ll be trying out next!

For us, these women personified China’s innovation, creativity and passion. For more stories such as these, be sure to visit and subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

In The News This Month | September

News and Travel Editor

Time feels like it has flown by since my last news round up, and with good reason – it’s been a very busy month! From gold medals to grapes in space, there’s been a lot of big stories this September. Here’s my pick of the best stories to come out of China in the last month:

Jackie_Chan_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpgIt was announced this month that Chinese acting legend Jackie Chan is getting an honorary for his extraordinary achievements in film.

I have decided to reconsider my career choices after hearing that Chinese Team ‘Wings Gaming’ won millions of dollars playing a game called DOTA 2 at an e-sports tournament.  Who wants to join me for next year’s competition?

The G20 took place in Hangzhou. For everything you need to know about the city and the conference, have a look here!

 

Chinese taxi-hailing giant Didi announced a move towards bicycle sharing . (Psst did you know that the world’s biggest bike share scheme is in Hangzhou, China?!)

The world’s longest desert highway is now open in China’s Inner Mongolia

The world’s largest radio telescope entered its testing phase in Guizhoufast-thumbs-8

How far will you go for the perfect glass of red? China has begun sending vines into space on a quest for perfect wine

China dominated the Paralympic Games winning a total of 107 Golds and a staggering total of 783 medals!

September 15th marked the commencement of the Mid-Autumn Festival, traditionally celebrated with Mooncakes, family reunions and lanterns.

moon-cake-master

Curious to try first-class food in an airplane, without leaving the ground? You’ve got to visit Wuhan’s brand new airplane restaurant.

Yao Ming was inducted into the NBA Hall Of Fame with a little help from the only man tall enough, Shaq

In perhaps my favourite bit of news so far this year, it was announced this month that Pandas are no longer endangered in China.  I love Pandas, as you can probably tell from my previous posts, and fingers crossed they’ll be more furry friends for me to ‘aww’ at on the China Icons YouTube channel soon!

more gruel plz

This concludes another round up of in the news this month. Did you spot a great story I missed? Is there something you can’t wait for coming up in China in October? Let me know in the comments below!

 

In the News this Month – July

News and Travel Editor

Every month, China Icons collates the most exciting and surprising news stories from China. So, what’s been happening in July?hot-air-ballooning-436442_1280

  • ‘Tap and Ride’ app Uber has unveiled plans to roll out hot air balloon and boat travel in China. These new services are part of ‘Uber+Travel’ and are released at a time of fierce competition with rival company Didi.
  • China surpassed the US to become the world leader in the mobile gaming market. Market research company App Annie suggest this is likely a result of a growth of multiplayer collaborative games.
    olympics
  • China is sending the largest overseas delegation over to the Olympics, with 416 athletes travelling to Rio  ( Pssst…Have you seen the ‪‎Team China outfits for ‪Rio 2016?)

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  • Drivers raced from approximately 6000km from Moscow to Bejing for the Silk Way Rally , where Cyril Despres and David Castera (Peugeot DKR 2008) were crowed champions.
  • Loretta Yang , a ‪Chinese ‪‎Film star, left acting to pursue ancient art of liu li, also known as Chinese‪ glassmaking

    giant-war-god-statue-general-guan-yu-sculpture-china-6
    Photo via Bored Panda
  • A Giant Statue of Guan Yu, the ancient Chinese ‘God of War’, has been completed in Hubei. The structure towers at 90ft tall and weighs over 1,320 tonnes.
  • China is heading to ‪‎Mars for 2020. Or, at least, that’s the plan – to orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover – all in one mission. 
  • The world’s first ‪‎smart ‪‎car has arrived from ‪‎Alibaba in ‪‎China! It will be available from August, and allows the driver to automatically pay for fuel, parking, and tolls, and recommend vehicle settings and destinations for each individual occupant.
  • More football stars have joined the Chinese Super-league, including former Southampton player Pelle and Brazilian forward Hulk.

    Sichuan Pepper
    Photo via Shanghai-ist
  • Mr Suo from Chengdu won a chilli eating competition in Lijiang, Yunnan province, by eating 47 chilli peppers in 2 minutes. Why anyone chose to enter, we can only guess.
  • A skull has been discovered that scientists believe may have belonged to the revered Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The skull was found inside an ancient shrine used for meditation, and inscriptions say it belonged to the Buddha himself.
  • Work has been completed on the world’s largest radio telescope in China! The 500m wide telescope took five years to build and consists of 4450 separate panels(To learn more about it, check out this video we made last year.)FAST Radio Telescope

What’s your favourite news story from July? Is there anything we missed off? Let us know in the comments below!

 

China’s Robotic Revolution

Features Editor

Remember Jia Jia?   Sure you do – she’s the one with the glassy eyes and the stern face, who keeps popping up on your social media feeds.  No, this is not your ex-girlfriend from hell.  This is China’s latest innovation in artificial intelligence, and has been hailed as the first interactive robot.

We blogged on these pages not long ago about China’s technological advances – from FAST, the world’s largest radio telescope, to Solar Valley, where 95% of the new buildings in Dezhou City are powered by renewables.

I knew it would only be a matter of time before we would once again be talking tech.

So back to Jia Jia.  Jia Jia is a humanoid robot who can talk – she refers to her creators as ‘Lord’ – can make different facial expressions and moves her arms.  She was developed over a mere 3 year period by a team at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, who plan to expand her emotional repertoire to laughing and crying.  Right now, in our humble opinion, she looks like she’s had way too much botox and needs a sense of humour transplant, but that’s exactly where her creators intend to go next – giving robots learning abilities and facial recognition so that their interactions with us mere mortals can become more natural.

But why exactly does Jia Jia exist and should we be worried?

Firstly, forget the end-of the-world films you’ve seen where robots seek to dominate the human race and take over the world.  Sure there are serious ethical dilemmas to be considered – one expert believes that we could be marrying robots by 2050 – but behind the scenes and in less glamorous areas of life than our love-life, we already rely on robots and that will only increase, especially in China.

Last year, China unveiled a national 10 year plan, known as ‘Made in China 2025’ focusing on making its manufacturing industry the best in the world.  Robotics is one of 10 industries specifically mentioned in the plan.

That’s because, although China is already the world’s largest market for robotics, the robots are predominantly used in the automotive industry only.  The city of Wuhu for example is tipped to become the first to truly embrace driverless cars.

But other areas of industry are yet to catch up and that’s when the big boost in robotics will come  – when robots are used in everything from creating home appliances to pharmaceuticals.  One newspaper recently reported how in one factory, 9 robotics now do the job of 140 fulltime workers with the company reportedly seeking more ways to replace humans with robots.

These robots, with their more mundane appearances and jobs won’t hit the headlines in the same way as Jia Jia.  And I doubt Jia Jia with her good looks and language skills will be joining them in operating a production line anytime soon.  As David Bisset, former head of Dyson explains, the primary role of humanoid robots like Jia Jia is to make us pay attention and be amused

Nevertheless I continue to be fascinated by China’s development in robots with artificial intelligence and here’s my favourite example – Beijing’s Robot Monk.

Standing at 2 foot tall and called Xian’er, this robot was developed by monks at Beijing’s 500 year old Longquan Buddist Temple to answer questions about Buddhism and the meaning of life for a 21st century audience.

But does Xian’er or Jia Jia know how to clean my house or make me the perfect cup of Chinese tea?  Apparently the computer says no.