Innovation Determines the Future
The exhibition Innovation Determining the Future showcases China’s achievements in aeronautics, astronautics, astrophysics, deep-sea exploration, information and communication, biomedicine, and construction engineering over the past 40 years.
One day, Kua Fu decided to chase and catch the sun. He followed the sun from the east to the West, draining the Yellow River and the Wei River to quench his burning thirst. As he searched for more water, he died of dehydration. The wooden club he was carrying grew into a vast forest of peach trees called Deng Forest.” This is a well-known legend in China and is known as “Kua Fu Chasing the Sun” in the Book of Mountains and Seas.
Since remote antiquity, Chinese people have never ceased their exploration of nature, leaving behind numerous imaginative mythologies and producing splendid sci-tech achievements.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chinese people have forged ahead to scale new heights. In 1978, the initiative of reform and opening up was launched. In the same year, the National Science Conference was held, heralding a “Springtime of Science” for China.
Forty years have passed since then. In order to highlight the scientific and technological achievements China has scored over the past four decades, the Innovation Determining the Future Exhibition is being hosted by the China Science and Technology Museum (CSTM). The exhibition was designed to showcase China’s achievements in aeronautics and astronautics, astrophysics, deepsea exploration, information and communication, biomedicine, and construction engineering. The objective is to spread science and scientific endeavours, carry forward the spirit of science and enhance national pride and confidence. The exhibition will end in early September.
Narrowing the Distance
In ancient times, Chinese people invented a chariot that can record distances traveled. It was an automatic machine invented by ancient Chinese scientists and is billed as an “ancient Chinese robot.”
A train is showcased at the museum, the Fuxing Hao high-speed train. Developed under the leadership of the
China Railway Corporation, Fuxing Hao is a world-leading series of Chinese electric multiple unit (CEMU) highspeed trains with fully independent Chinese intellectual property rights. A latecomer in high-speed rail, China started to work on this technology in the early 1990s. Thanks to rapid progress in recent years, on June 26, 2017, Fuxing Hao was put into operation on the Beijing–shanghai Express Railway running in both directions. With a maximum speed of 350 kilometres per hour, it takes only four and a half hours for the train to arrive in Shanghai from Beijing.
“Kua Fu Chasing the Sun,” chariots that can record distances traveled and high-speed trains are three seemingly unrelated things that span a millennium. Together, they show how far China has come in “narrowing the distance” between them and other powers after suffering hardships in the past. This story and these two inventions also serve as a thread running through the exhibition.
Entering the exhibition hall, one finds a large, long board of pictures, videos and 3D models, portraying the Hong Kong–zhuhai–macao Bridge that integrates bridgework, islands and tunnels. The bridge-tunnel system is setting multiple world records, namely for the longest bridge, the longest steel bridge, the most steel beams, the longest undersea tunnel, the largest water discharge of immersed tunnel and the fastest speed of artificial island creation. It is the most technically demanding project in world highway construction history with the most construction difficulties, the highest standards and the largest scale, thus being billed as the “Mount Everest” of the bridge building sector.
Another construction marvel is on a plateau. On July 1, 2006, the Qinghai-tibet Railway came into service. The railway utilises multiple innovative technologies to tackle frozen earth, low temperatures, decreased levels of oxygen and fragile ecology, thus creating a wonder in the history of railway construction. In order to demonstrate how the project team used heated poles and vent pipes to protect frozen earth on the plateau and prevent damage to the roadbed, a colourful “Drinking Bird” model is featured in the hall, which imitates working principles. Visitors can give it a try. There is also video of scenery along the Qinghai–tibet Railway, such as Qinghai Lake, Kekexili National Reserve of Qinghai, Tanggula Pass and the Yangbajing Geothermal Power Plant.
There are other wonders at the exhibition as well. The C919 is a good example. It is the first, large Chinese passenger aircraft with fully independent intellectual property rights. It is also the first civil jet-propelled trunk liner produced in line with the latest international airworthiness standards, filling a vacancy in China’s aviation industry. It denotes the fact that the dream of generations of Chinese aviation scientists has finally materialised and exists as a landmark project as China seeks to build an innovation-driven nation. Visitors can learn how the C919 works in a simulator and experience how it feels to pilot the aircraft in the snow, rain, overcast weather and at night.
The Quantum Science Experimental Satellite “Micius” and China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System are also represented in the exhibition zone.
Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the moon, was originally the wife of the archer Houyi. In the very distant past, ten suns had risen together into the skies and scorched the earth, thus causing hardship for people. The archer Houyi shot down nine of them, leaving just one sun, and was given the elixir of immortality as a reward. However, his apprentice Pengmeng broke into Houyi’s house while he went out hunting and tried to force Chang’e to give him the elixir; she refused and drank it herself. Chang’e then flew upward towards the heavens, choosing the moon as a new residence. The first known Chinese citizen to try to leave the earth’s surface using a rocket was a man called Wan Hu, a literatus of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). He bound 47 homemade rockets to his chair and held a kite, trying to fly to the sky with the propulsion of the rockets. Unfortunately, the experiment failed. This brave endeavour, however, can be seen as part of humankind’s exploration to the unknown.
People have cherished and been fascinated by the endless wonders of the universe since antiquity. Chinese people have long aspired to embrace the sky. Chang’e flying to the moon, Wan Hu flying to the sky and the Tiangong module, constitute the second thread of the exhibition. Expanding the Realms
encompasses all of China’s key sci-tech achievements in aerospace.
China’s aerospace industry has matured as it undergoes its great rejuvenation, working from the ground up and continuing to open new vistas. China has become a centre of excellence in this field, as evidenced by the construction of satellites, manned space flights and lunar explorations. These amazing successes contribute to China’s economy, science and technology, and national defence. Tiangong-2 represents the first Chinese spacelab in a real sense. It will be used to test rendezvous and docking technologies and conduct a series of space experiments.
Based on China’s strength in satellite applications and manned space flight, its lunar exploration programme is another important project. First proposed in 1994, the programme began 10 years later. In the virtual reality ( VR) experience area, people can wear VR glasses and observe the moon from the perspective of a lunar probe.
When a spacecraft enters orbit, people and objects become weightless. How do astronauts function and fulfill their tasks in this kind of environment? The “Working in Space” exhibit simulates these conditions. People can lie on a cart, with their feet off the ground. They have to slide their chairs around and operate equipment overhead. This novel experience helps people understand the vast universe better and people often have a greater appreciation for scientists after experiencing these kinds of exhibits.
There are also wonders deep in the sea. There is an exhibit in “Expanding Realms” that is about the Jiaolong manned submersible, which was designed and developed by China from top to bottom. In June, 2012, it set a record by diving a depth of 7,062 m in the Mariana Trench. This is in line with the depth that its global peers have achieved. The exhibit simulates Jiaolong's submersion methods and the pressure of the deep sea.
Other highlighted exhibits include: the “Shenhai Yongshi” manned submersible, the deep-sea mining of combustible ice, the deepwater semi-submersible drilling unit HYSY-981, and the Xuelong polar research vessel and ice breaker.
Exploring the Unknown
An armillary sphere is an astronomical observation instrument created by ancient Chinese, based on the theory of spherical heavens. It was later simplified by Guo Shoujing ( 1231– 1316, an ancient astronomer) of the Yuan Dynasty ( 1271– 1368).
Chinese scientists have now created the “Eye of Heaven” Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) to explore the heavens, which is also part of the exhibition. FAST is the world’s largest spherical radio telescope. Proposed by Nan Rendong (1945–2017, a Chinese astronomer) in 1994, it was constructed under the leadership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ (CAS) National Astronomical Observatory over the course of 22 years. It covers an area equivalent to 30 soccer fields, was constructed in a natural depression in the south of Guizhou Province and put into use on September 25, 2016. The “Eye of Heaven” became the largest and most sensitive singleaperture radio telescope globally and was created with wholly independent Chinese intellectual property. A pleasant melody makes its way into one’s ears at the exhibit. It was produced by various musical instruments playing electromagnetic signals from the universe that the “Eye of Heaven” has detected.
Human beings have also taken an interest in the mysteries of the microworld since ancient times and have sought to find and understand the smallest particles of the world. What is the world made of? How can people detect unknown particles? These questions are being explored and resolved by modern science. Electronpositron colliders are important tools in this work. High-energy particles and target particles collide and produce various reactions. Scientists study the properties of these reactions and try to detect new particles and other phenomena. With the completion and efficient operation of an electronpositron collider, China has registered a range of world-leading research outcomes in high-energy physics.
Science Enhancing Livelihood
Science underpins the very survival and prosperity of human society.
A case in point is Chinese characters, which are said to have been invented by Cangjie, historiographer of the Yellow Emperor. As the story goes, he collected, sorted out and utilised characters that were used by people in the past, contributing to the progress of Chinese civilisation.
The art of printing, as one of the “Four Great Inventions” of ancient China, has reshaped world civilisation and human culture. During the Northern Song Dynasty period (AD 960–1127), Chinese people invented movable-type printing, which was an important technology that created a revolution in the world.
Today, laser phototypesetting is widely used in the typesetting of Chinese characters. At least five times more efficient than conventional typesetting, it is of great significance to the modernisation of China’s press and publications.
The “Science Enhancing Livelihood” exhibition area showcases scientific and technological results closely related to people’s lives, such as hybrid rice, the Yangshan Port, South-to-north Water Diversion Project, West-east Gas Pipeline Project, artemisinin, remotely piloted vehicles, Wise Information Technology of 120 ( WIT120, smart technology based on deep learning), AI chips and Go-playing AI.
Grain output in China continues to set new world records. On November 15, 2017, the “Super Rice” cultivated by Yuan Longping (a hybrid rice expert born in 1930) passed crop yield inspection with an average yield of 1,149 kilogrammes per mu (15 mu equals one hectare), currently the highest record of rice yield per unit in the world.
Sweet wormwood has been used as a remedy in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years, as evidenced by the earliest records in a silk manuscript unearthed in the Han Tombs at Mawangdui. The use of sweet wormwood to cure malaria can be traced back to a medical book written by Ge Hong (284–364, a medical expert). Inspired by this book, Tu Youyou (a pharmaceutical chemist born in 1930) founded a creative method of extracting artemisinin. The achievement brought her the honour of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and the National Science and Technology Award in 2016.
In July, 2017, China’s State Council issued the New- generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, which offers an overall plan on the development of artificial intelligence. In recent years, China has come a long way in the AI industry, and its AI chips have outperformed those of other countries. The iterative computation of cloud computing has gone well and been very strong, along with smart pay, WIT120, intelligent driving, voice recognition and facial recognition technologies, which continue to improve.
As the four exhibition areas demonstrate, China has increasingly become a pacesetter in scientific innovation. Various scientific and technological achievements made during the past 40 years have benefited people’s lives and various fields.
These achievements should be attributed to scientific and technical personnel. That is why the “Paying Tribute to Sci-tech Workers” subexhibition is presented to honour their strong dedication.
The intent of the organiser is to showcase 40 achievements over the course of 40 years to help people learn more about science and technology. Young people are also expected to develop an interest in sci-tech. Many will pursue careers in this field. The exhibition will also contribute to sci-tech workers gaining extensive support.
The exhibition will also reach out to 4–6 science and technology museums nationwide in the coming two years and form a comprehensive tour.
Innovation Determining the Future Exhibition at the China Science and Technology Museum
A child tries a Jiaolong simulation.
Visitors learn more about the Beidou navigation system.