Tag Archives: space

What’s so ‘Great’ about the Great Wall? A History of the Great Wall of China

News and Travel Editor

What’s so great about the Great Wall of China and why does it deserve its name?

Its size? The average height of the wall is 7.8 metres and the highest point is 14 metres.

Its length?  The total length of all sections of wall built throughout the dynasties reaches 13,170 miles. If stretched out in a straight line, the Great Wall could travel almost half way around the equator.

Its weight? Some people estimate an incredible 58,095,000 tons! That’s 9 times heavier than the collective weight of the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Or was it known by a different name when it was built and simply became the ‘Great Wall’ as time passed? We hope to answer all these questions and more by separating the facts from the legends and myths.

The Great Wall was, and remains, the longest man-made construction in the world. This might explain why today we’ve refer to it  as ‘Great’, but when it was built, it was simply known as the ‘Long Wall’ or ‘Long City’, as it was simply seen as a stretched out, giant, city wall.

Unsurprisingly, it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, alongside Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Italy and Petra in Jordan. But it was not built over one time period. Instead, the Great Wall has been built, modified or extended for around 2,000 years since the 7th and 8th centuries after regular invasions from the Mongols in the north.

We’ve all heard stories of workers being buried under the wall, but there are many other entertaining legends and myths surrounding the structure. The stories are incredibly wide-ranging and perhaps the most entertaining has been featured in a recent Hollywood-Chinese movie starring Matt Damon. The Great Wall film plays with the myth that the wall was not intended for keeping out the Mongol invaders from the north, but was in fact needed to protect China from supernatural forces.

But our all time favourite story is one that we think might just have a little bit of truth in it;

The Legend of Yi Kaizhan tells the story of the Yi, a mathematician who explained that it would take exactly 99,999 bricks to build the section of wall at Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu Province. His supervisor argued that if he was wrong, the entire workforce would be forced to do 3 years hard labour as punishment. Guess what? It took 99,998. Thankfully, good old Yi had a trick up his sleeve.  Even though the left over brick hadn’t been used in the construction, Yi quickly suggested that a supernatural being had placed it close by and that moving it would force the wall to collapse. Suspicious, the supervisor never moved the brick and, legend has it, the brick can still be found in the same spot today…

Whilst we can’t vouch for this story, one thing we can say is that, unfortunately and contrary to popular belief, the wall cannot be seen from space. This is probably because the original statement was made before anyone actually went into space… Even NASA admit that the Great Wall becomes somewhat less great when photographed from a low earth orbit.

Finally, did you also know that the wall is not really an ‘it’ but more of a ‘them’? The wall was very much built in sections, with many overlapping and some more ancient and wild sections crumbling away. That might also be because many sections of the wall are not built from bricks and mortar, but are sometimes moulded from the earth to create humps in the ground which are often reshaped by the weather.

Have you visited the Great Wall recently? Can you vouch for any of these stories? Please let us know if you go to Jiayuguan and find that famous supernatural brick still sitting there…

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.