Moving to the next frontier of space programme

China astronaut Zhai Zhigang. Taken at the Chi...Image via Wikipedia


CHINA is moving in the right direction to build a 60-tonne space station around 2020.

On Nov 3, the unmanned Shenzhou 8 shuttle docked with Tiangong-1, which is China’s first space lab module, after travelling 343km in orbit.

The shuttle separated from the target spacecraft after 12 days and carried out its second docking on Nov 14. Two days later, Shenzhou 8 left Tiangong-1 and returned to Earth as scheduled.

News from the China Manned Space Engineering Office is that Tiangong-1 has continued its voyage at a height of 370km smoothly and transferred into a long-term operational mode.

The space lab module will wait for docking with the manned Shenzhou 9 and 10 sometime next year.

According to the office’s vice-director Wang Zhaoyao, during the flight of Shenzhou 8 its general biological experimental device functioned normally and 17 samples of Sino-Germany cooperative space life science experiments were recovered after the shuttle landed at the recovery site in Inner Mongolia.

He said Tiangong-1 had also carried out a series of experiments and tests as scheduled, including space-to-earth remote sensing exploration application experiment, space materials scientific experiment and space environment and physical detection tests.

“This space rendezvous and mission has fully realised its objective of ‘accurate entry into orbit, precise docking, stable assembly operation and safe return’.

“It marks a critical breakthrough for China’s space technology and set a milestone for our manned space development,” he told a press conference recently.

Wang said Tiangong-1, launched into orbit on Sept 29, was designed with a lifespan of more than two years and it would be well maintained until its following docking operations next year.

Under China’s space programme, after completing its first round of missions, Tiangong-1 will return to earth in 2013. It will be replaced by the larger Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 modules which will conduct more sophisticated space probes.

Tiangong-3 will probably be a 60-tonne full-size space station to be manned by astronauts.

The China’s Manned Space Engineering Office maintained that China is not working on the space station development alone and the country always welcomed other nations.

“We emphasise independent development but never said we want to develop in isolation. The development and operation of China’s space station are open to foreign colleagues and experts in the field on the principle of mutual respect and benefit, transparency and openness,” Wang said.

China has had fruitful space cooperation with Russia, Germany, France and other nations.

China would like to be involved in the building of the International Space Station together six other space agencies but because of various reasons, China remains excluded from the programme, he added.

He also refuted claims that China’s manned space programmes had military functions.

“We can say that none of the eight Shenzhou missions had direct military applications. But, we all know that space-related technological developments can be used in civilian and military sectors.

“For example, a communications satellite can be used for TV broadcasting and military communication. So it depends on what you use it for,” he added.

Wang hoped that critics would be responsible and fair when criticising China’s space programmes.

“The United States and some media have been criticising our space exploration programme and development saying is not transparent enough. First of all, they have to be fair in their comments.

“Last year, I accompanied Nasa administrator Charles Bolden for a tour of our space programme facilities, laboratories and launching centres in China. He was pleased on how transparent we were,” he said.

China’s space programme consists of three stages. Phase 1 saw the historic launch of the unmanned Shenzhou 1 shuttle in 1999 for missions to conduct space experiments. It was followed by the launch of Shenzhou 2, Shenzhou 3, Shenzhou 4, Shenzhou 5, Shenzhou 6 and Shenzhou 7.

The Shenzhou 7 mission, China’s third manned spacecraft, was the most historic when Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang became the first man from China to do a spacewalk on Sept 27, 2008. It marked a successful extra-vehicular activity (EVA) mission for China.

Phase 2 began with the launch of the Tiangong-1 space module. One of the main missions during this phase will be the docking of a manned space shuttle with the space lab.

The space programme administration will decide between Shenzhou 9 and 10 which one will be manned by China’s first female astronaut next year.

Related posts:

China’s Great Leap to Space Industry 

China completes nation’s first space docking 

China’s space station program

Recipe for innovation

AirAsia CEO and others give you recipe for innovation


KUALA LUMPUR: What fosters the spirit of innovation? The answers point to an encouraging environment and putting Malaysia into context, there is much to be done at the home, education and corporate levels to create an environment fertile for sowing the seeds of unconventional thinking.

That was the main take-away from the second Merdeka Award Roundtable last week, featuring group chief executive of AirAsia Bhd Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Malaysian Invention and Design Society president Tan Sri Dr Augustine Ong Soon Hock and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Zaini Ujang.

The award was founded by energy companies Petronas, ExxonMobil and Shell in 2007 where award recipients will receive a certificate and RM500,000 cash award for each of five categories.

“(Innovation) is not something you can teach or programme. It is creating a lot of little ecosystems to make sure (the environment is right) and culture does play a part in this,” Fernandes said, kicking off the discussion on “Cultivating a culture of innovation in challenging times.”

Sharing ideas: (from left) Zaini, Ong and Fernandes at the second Merdeka Award Roundtable. The discussion was hosted by Astro Awani’s Norina Yahya

Of the education system, Fernandes said the focus on books had overwhelmed the development in other areas that build thought leaders.

“When we look at some of the great leaders, they are all rounded. Our schools have lost a lot by focusing on academics only,” he said.

Fernandes believed that while the Government should foster innovation as well as trust the people and allow ideas, education is the key to take Malaysia to the next level. He opined that bringing back arts, culture and sport would change the way the future generation thinks.

“A successful education system should be about bringing out the best in children and giving them the ability to experiment and try all sorts of things and turn that raw diamond into a polished diamond,” he said.

As a parent, he believed that it was important to “expose the children to as many things as possible and allow them to go where they want.”

At the corporate level, he added that there was also a culture of subordination in Malaysia that hampered creative output: “When you go against the norm in Malaysia, you can be whacked. It’s sometimes seen as insubordinate or questionable when you challenge the norm.”

“That’s the culture. Malaysians are an innovative lot but sometimes we need to praise innovation by creating the environment,” he said, adding that the success stories of Malaysian innovation were not sung often enough.

“We don’t hear enough of the success stories. A lot of our technology came from Malaysians and we need to show that the commercialisation of these ideas have come to fruition,” he said.

During the discussion, Fernandes also revealed that the flat structure in AirAsia’s management was the “secret weapon” for its success in the industry. He said that communication flow relied on organisation structure.

“If you have a hierarchical organisation, the people who have ideas are sometimes too scared to speak up. (But) it’s all right to give ideas, it’s all right to talk,” he said of the potentially stifling hierarchical organisation structures in many Malaysian companies.

“I always say I would rather have 9,000 brains working with me than just 10,” he said, adding on that “if you create an environment where everyone feels equal and there’s freedom of expression (among all levels of employees), that provides a very powerful machine.”

However, innovating per se should not be the end goal too.

Ong, who is also a former member of the Merdeka Award Health, Science and Technology Committee, said there needed to be market-driven innovations to encourage worthwhile creations.

“When you have innovation for a market that is not ready for it, that becomes a problem,” he said.

“We should also look at what our country has a niche in. We should concentrate on areas where we already have good industries going on where innovation can bring some results,” he added, saying that foreign areas like nuclear energy may not be an ideal area to innovate since the country had yet to develop its know-how and infrastructure.

In terms of getting academicians engaged with market-centric needs, Zaini said UTM had a professorship scheme with Proton Holdings Bhd where professors were positioned at the company to spur on-the-ground projects with the staff.

“We target to have 100 patents under Proton per year from this industrial PhD,” the former Merdeka Award recipient said, highlighting the university’s market-relevant endeavours through the reverse flow of ideas from the market into academia.

The roundtable will be broadcast on Astro Awani in early December.

Made in China: Country’s new supercomputer uses homegrown chips

China is stepping up its semiconductor manufacturing efforts and using domestic chips for its latest supercomputer. It’s going to be interesting to see how fast China can close in on U.S. supercomputer processor makers Intel, AMD, and Nvidia.

The New York Times reported that a supercomputer called Sunway BlueLight MPP, was installed in September at the National Supercomputer Center in Jinan, China. The details emerged at a technical meeting. The real catch is that China used 8,700 ShenWei SW1600 chips.

Those semiconductors are homegrown and indicate that China is aiming to be a major chip player. The New York Times story was mostly sourced to Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee, but Chinese sites reported on the technical meeting. Dongarra helps manage the list of Top 500 supercomputers. China’s previous supercomputers used Intel and Nvidia chips.

Meanwhile, ZDNet UK highlighted the blog of Hung-Sheng Tsao, founder of HopBit GridComputing, who posted the slides detailing the Sunway BlueLight MPP, which come from covered China’s supercomputing powwow extensively this week.

ZDNet UK’s Jack Clark noted:

According to (Tsao’s) slides, which appear to be from a presentation describing the computer’s capabilities, the ShenWei Sunway BlueLight MPP has 150TB of main storage and 2PB of external storage. Each ShenWei SW1600 processor is 64-bit, has 16-cores and is RISC-based.

Here’s a Google Translate link offering more details via IT168.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the China domestic supercomputing effort is very credible and signals an effort to cut the country’s reliance on western companies. It’s unclear whether China’s chips are completely original blueprints or based on a previous design. One issue for the Sunway chips is power consumption. The Sunway supercomputer apparently doesn’t need that much power relative to rivals.

The New York Times added that that ShenWei chip appears to be based “on some of the same design principles that are favored by Intel’s most advanced microprocessors.”

China’s efforts appear to be a few generations behind, but rest assured the country will try to close any gaps quickly.

This story was originally posted at ZDNet’s Between the Lines under the headline “China steps up its semiconductor game with homegrown supercomputer effort.”

What Determines a Company’s Performance? Shape of the CEO’s Face! All a matter of how wide your head is!

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2011) — Believe it or not, one thing that predicts how well a CEO’s company performs is — the width of the CEO’s face! CEOs with wider faces have better-performing companies than CEOs with long faces. That’s the conclusion of a new study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The Milwaukee-Downer "Quad" NRHP on ...Image via WikipediaElaine M. Wong at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her colleagues study how top work. But they have to do it in indirect ways. “CEOs and don’t typically have time to talk with researchers or take batteries of tests,” she says. “Our research has primarily been at a distance.” They’ve analyzed the content of letters to shareholders and looked at things like how a CEO’s educational or personal background affects how well his or her company does. Wong and her colleagues, Margaret E. Ormiston of London Business School and Michael P. Haselhuhn of UWM, wanted to look at another aspect of CEOs – their faces.

Looking at faces isn’t as crazy as it might sound. Several studies have shown that the ratio of face width to face height is correlated with aggression. Hockey players with wider faces spend more time in the penalty box for fighting. Men with higher facial width are seen as less trustworthy and they feel more powerful.

“Most of these are seen as negative things, but power can have some positive effects,” Wong says. People who feel powerful tend to look at the big picture rather than focusing on small details and are also better at staying on task. She and her colleagues thought that feeling of power might also be correlated with a company’s financial performance.

Wong and her colleagues based their analyses on photos of 55 male CEOs of publicly-traded Fortune 500 organizations. They only used men because this relationship between face shape and behavior has only been found to apply to men; it’s thought to have something to do with testosterone levels. They also gathered information on the companies’ financial performance and analyzed letters to get a sense of the kind of thinking that goes on at those companies.

CEOs with a wider face, relative to the face’s height, had much better firm financial performance than CEOs who had narrower faces. “In our sample, the CEOs with the higher facial ratios actually achieved significantly greater firm than CEOs with the lower facial ratios,” Wong says.

Don’t run out and invest in wide-faced CEOs’ companies, though. Wong and her colleagues also found that the way the top management team thinks, as reflected in their writings, can get in the way of this effect. Teams that take a simplistic view of the world, in which everything is black and white, are thought to be more deferential to authority; in these companies, the CEO’s face shape is more important. It’s less important in companies where the top managers see the world more in shades of gray.

Provided by Association for Psychological Science (news : web)

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Post-Jobs Apple: New research shows Cook will do fine

Performance as CEO all a matter of how wide your head is

By Brid-Aine Parnell

Forget about your Ivy League/Oxbridge/Harvard business school education, your connections or how many millions in personal funds you can plough into the business: the one thing you really need as a CEO is a big face, at least according to a new study to be published in journal Psychological Science.

Elaine M Wong of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her colleagues analysed photos of 55 male CEOs of publicly-traded Fortune 500 organisations and found that chiefs with a wider face, relative to face height, had much better firm financial performance that those with narrower faces. (And if you’re wondering why this only applies to male CEOs, it is because the whole fat-face thing only works with men – apparently it has something to do with testosterone levels.)

According to Wong and her team, launching this study wasn’t completely out of left field, because previous studies had shown big-featured guys were more prone to aggression, seen as less trustworthy and felt more powerful – and they thought these attributes could be a winning combination for CEOs.

steve jobs

Good ratios: Rory Read,

“Most of these are seen as negative things, but power can have some positive effects,” she said.

Obviously, the Reg couldn’t help a little completely unscientific application of these conclusions considering the two new CEOs in the techie stable: Tim Cook at Apple and Rory Read at AMD.

AMD is looking good with Read, since although he’s not really got a big face, he hasn’t really got a very long face either, so the width-height ratio is probably good.

But Cook is definitely sporting some height there and with those slimly-defined cheekbones, could Apple be in trouble? But no wait, he’s practically Jobs’ face twin, they’re both rocking that lengthy angular look, and Jobs seemed to do OK. Could it be that the concept is not infallible?

steve_jobs_and_tim_cook comparison pics from apple tv and university youtube vid stillSteve jobs (left) and Tim Cook. Separated at birth?

Well, actually, it could. Wong’s team found that the way top management felt could interfere with the effect of the head honcho’s huge countenance. Teams that took a simplistic view of the world, in which everything is black and white, are thought to be more deferential to authority, so the CEO’s face-shape-mojo worked. Big heads are less important in companies where the top managers see the world in shades of grey. ®

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Companies that combine exports, research outperform competitors

Economists recognize that companies that export are more productive. However, a more complex relationship between exporting and investing in research and development may better explain the high productivity of companies in “economic miracle” countries such as China and Taiwan, according to a team of economists.

“The old story is that there’s some type of magic that makes your company more productive if it exports,” said Bee-Yan Aw, professor of economics, Penn State. “Actually what we found is that really productive firms tend to export in the first place.”

The researchers, who released their findings in the current issue of the , said companies that exported and invested in R&D significantly outperformed other companies significantly in productivity, including companies that just began exporting. They examined data on the relationship between R&D investments, exporting practices and productivity for Taiwanese electronic product manufacturing plants from 2000 to 2004.

A company that both invests in R&D and exports is 123 percent more productive than a plant that does neither, said Mark Roberts, professor of economics, Penn State. A plant that exports, but does not invest in R&D, is only 35 percent more productive. A plant that only invests in R&D has productivity that is twice as high.

According to Aw, manufacturers may be tempted to seize higher productivity gains by investing only in R&D and not in exports, but the costs of implementing new technology and updating equipment could be prohibitive.

“There are often higher costs associated with that may make it impractical for companies to implement,” said Aw. “Exporting may actually be a more desirable way to improve initially because it is relatively low cost.”

The Penn State researchers, who worked with Daniel Yi Xu, assistant professor of economics, New York University, said companies that export gain a competitive edge by learning more from their customers, which are often larger companies in Western countries.

Because companies that export are more productive, they may have a significant advantage over non-exporting firms that are hoping to sell their goods overseas. Government programs can help ease this transition for non-exporting companies that are looking for customers in foreign markets, according to Aw.

“Governments can set up programs that help non-exporting companies connect with customers in other countries,” said Aw. “In fact, that’s what a lot of countries are already doing.”

Provided by Pennsylvania State University (news : web)

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Lawyer to sue Khazanah for denying son scholarship


KUALA LUMPUR: A man wants to sue Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Yayasan Khazanah and its director after his son failed to get a scholarship offered by the foundation and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust.

Lawyer Chan Chow Wang, 67, said he was planning to retire and personally funding son Xiao Yao’s studies would be a huge financial burden.

He also did not understand why Yayasan Khazanah had rejected the application as Xiao Yao had on Jan 5 received a conditional offer for a place at the University of Cambridge.

Yayasan Khazanah works with the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust to offer the Khazanah Cambridge Scholarship to students who have gained admission to the university through the usual application route.

Xiao Yao is scheduled to do his BA Honours degree in Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences. The course starts in October.

Chan said that when he appealed to the foundation and asked for an explanation for the rejection, all he got was a letter telling him that the competition for the scholarship programme was very stiff.

He added that he would file a suit against the three parties because of the embarrassment, anguish and depression caused to his son.

“I will also lodge a complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and request it to investigate the scholarship programme,” he said at a press conference yesterday.

Chan said the tuition fee for his son’s first-year study was £18,000 (about RM89,000) while the college fee was £4,462.50 (about RM22,000).

“With living expenses, my son will need about RM150,000 a year for this four-year degree programme and it is a huge sum of money,” he said.

Chan said it would be difficult for him to fund his son’s education as he was planning to retire in two years.

He had also funded the education of his four children, including Xian Yao’s education up to A-level.

70% of Science Award Finalists Are Children of Immigrants

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Kids learning science
Immigrant parents’ focus on science and math pays off for their kids, a new report finds.
CREDIT: © Jonathan Ross |

Immigration is a boon to American science and math, a new report asserts, noting that 70 percent of the finalists in a recent prestigious science competition are the children of immigrants.

The report by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonprofit research group in Arlington, Va., states that many immigrant parents emphasize hard science and math education for their children, viewing those fields as paths to success.

Statistics supporting that belief: According to a recent Georgetown University study on the value of undergraduate majors, the lifetime median annual income for someone with a bachelor’s degree in engineering is $75,000, compared with $29,000 for a counseling or psychology major. [Infographic: Highest-paying College Majors]

That study found that the highest earners are petroleum engineers, with median annual earnings of $120,000.

Only 12 percent of Americans are foreign-born, the NFAP report says. Even so, children of immigrants took 70 percent of the finalist slots in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search Competition, an original-research competition for high school seniors.

Of the 40 finalists, 28 had parents born in other countries: 16 from China, 10 from India, one from South Korea and one from Iran.

“In proportion to their presence in the U.S. population, one would expect only one child of an Indian (or Chinese) immigrant parent every two and a half years to be an Intel Science Search finalist, not 10 in a year,” wrote the report’s author, NFAP director Stuart Anderson.

Finalists interviewed for the report attributed their interest in research to their parents’ attitudes.

“Our parents brought us up with love of science as a value,” David Kenneth Tang-Quan, whose parents emigrated from China to California, told Anderson, according to the report.

Still, children of immigrants face barriers outside of the education system. According to the Georgetown report, racial disparities in pay persist even within science fields. Whites with an undergraduate major in engineering out-earn Asians with the same degree by about $8,000 a year. African-American and Hispanic engineering graduates fare worse, making about $60,000 and $56,000 per year, respectively, compared with whites’ $80,000.

Asians out-earn whites in the fields of health, law and public policy; psychology and social work; and biology and life sciences.

The fact that children of immigrants excel in science and math should be taken into account when making immigration policy, Anderson wrote: “The results should serve as a warning against new restrictions on legal immigration, both family and employment-based immigration, since such restrictions are likely to prevent many of the next generation of outstanding scientists and researcher from emerging in America.”

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

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Electrons Are Near-Perfect Spheres

By Wired UK Email Author

By Duncan Geere, Wired UK

A 10-year study has revealed that the electron is very spherical indeed.

To be precise, the electron differs from being perfectly round by less than 0.000000000000000000000000001 cm. To put that in context; if an electron was the size of the solar system, it would be out from being perfectly round by less than the width of a human hair.

The Imperial College team behind the research, which was conducted on molecules of ytterbium flouride, used a laser to make measurements of the motion of electrons, and in particular the wobble they exhibit when spinning. They observed no such wobble, implying that the electron is perfectly round at the levels of precision available, reflected in the figure above.

The co-author of the report describing the research, Jony Hudson, said: “We’re really pleased that we’ve been able to improve our knowledge of one of the basic building blocks of matter. It’s been a very difficult measurement to make, but this knowledge will let us improve our theories of fundamental physics. People are often surprised to hear that our theories of physics aren’t ‘finished’, but in truth they get constantly refined and improved by making ever more accurate measurements like this one.”

The next step is to up that precision level even further, using new methods to cool the molecules to extremely low temperatures and control their motion. The results are important in the study of antimatter, and particularly the positron — which should behave identically to the electron but with an opposite electrical charge. If more differences can be found, it could help to explain why far less antimatter has been discovered in the universe than predicted by theory.

Image: Lawrence Rayner/Flickr


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Chinese Journalists Barred from Shuttle Launch!

William Pentland

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - MAY 15:  The U.S. and End...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Chinese journalists were not allowed into the Kennedy Space Center for the May 16th space-shuttle launch as the result of a little-noticed provision in the federal budget approved by Congress in April.

Ironically, Chinese scientists were responsible for building key parts of the Endeavor’s $2 billion payload, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

A spokesperson for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration told ScienceInsider that the agency was simply following instructions in last month’s spending bill, which prohibited NASA from using any resources to host Chinese officials at any NASA facility.

The Chinese journalists were considered government employees and thus subject to the ban because they worked for an official Chinese news agency, Xinhua.

An editorial on Wednesday in China Daily attacked the policy as insulting and counterproductive:

China’s scientists have played a crucial role in designing and manufacturing some core parts of the device. However, Chinese journalists who hoped to cover the launching of Endeavor were denied entry to the site by a ban initiated by Frank Wolf, chairman of the Committee of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies in the House of Representatives.

The United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) revoked the media passes granted to journalists from China due to the ban, or the ‘Wolf Clause’, which was regarded as ‘discriminative’ by even Americans themselves.

The ban — also known as the ‘Wolf clause’ because it was sponsored by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) — also prohibits scientific collaboration between Chinese and U.S. scientists. For a more detailed history of the ban, please read a previous my previous post on the issue here.

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China’s First Space Station

How China’s First Space Station Will Work (Infographic)

Karl Tate, Infographics Artist
This graphic from a China Astronaut Training Center presentation depicts China's planned space station.06 May 2011, 12:46 AM ET
Sneak a peek at China’s plans for its first orbital space station and the milestones to build it.

See how China's first space station, called Tiangong (

Source : All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

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