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China’s conquest of space

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Manned cosmic flight is the most technologically complex and difficult aerospace project in the world. It represents a country’s strength in science, technology and economy.

Many countries have submitted plans for manned space flight, but for decades there have only been three States that could actually send men into space independently.

According to statistics, 80% of the over one thousand new materials in China in recent years have been developed thanks to space technology, and over two thousand have been shifted from space technology to various sectors of the national economy.

On May 5, 2020, the Changzheng 5B (Long March) space launcher developed for China’s manned space station project successfully lifted off from Wenchang (Hainan Island), officially kicking off the Third Step mission of China’s manned space project.

The selection of the third group of reserve astronauts for China’s manned space project was completed on October 1 last. Eighteen astronauts, i.e. seven pilots, seven flight engineers and four cargo experts, will participate in the third step of China’s manned space project.

With the intensive development of various tasks, Chinese manned space flight has entered the Chinese space station project.

In 1992, the Chinese manned space flight project was launched and a three-stage development strategy was established.

1) Launch a manned spacecraft; develop a preliminary design for a pilot manned spacecraft and carry out space application experiments.

2) Engage in new discoveries in the field of astronaut egress technology, spacecraft rendezvous and docking technology; establish a space laboratory and solve problems related to it with short-term assistance.

3) Build a space station to solve the problem of large-scale space applications with long-term assistance.

Since 1992, generations of astronauts have been self-sufficient and have continued to work: from unmanned flight to manned flight; from in-ship experiments to out-of-ship activities; from single-ship flight to the stable operation of combined bodies.

On October 15, 2003, China’s first manned spacecraft, Shenzhou V, carried astronaut Yang Liwei into space. After 21 hours and 23 minutes, as well as 14 orbits, the spacecraft landed safely. China became the third country in the world capable of sending humans into space independently.

In 1957, the USSR’s first artificial satellite ushered in the era of the human conquest of space. On April 12, 1961, Soviet astronaut Jurij Gagarin undertook the first human space flight in the Vostok 1 spacecraft. On May 5 of the same year, American astronaut Alan Shepard remained in space for 15 minutes in the Freedom 7 spacecraft, thus becoming the second astronaut in human history.

Faced with the successes of the two superpowers in the space field, President Mao was shocked and asked: ‘How can we be considered a powerful country? We cannot even put a potato into space!!!”

In the early 1970s, China began research into manned space flight. After the launch of China’s first artificial earth satellite, the Dongfanghong 1, Qian Xuesen, the then President of the Fifth Academy of the Ministry of National Defence, pledged that China should also undertake manned space flight.

Project 714 (i.e. 1971, April) was born and the probe was to be named Dawn One. However, due to various financial and technological problems, the project was eventually shelved.

Over the subsequent 20 years, Chinese space technology continued to develop. Most notably in 1975, China successfully launched and recovered its first satellite, thus making it the third country in the world to operate satellite recovery technology after the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as laying a solid foundation for China to carry out manned space flights.

But even so, it took years from the formal establishment of a manned space project to the regular launch of China’s first astronaut.  

Since the birth of manned space flight, some scholars have calculated that, as a percentage of GDP, manned space flight is the most expensive technological project in history.

A U.S. shuttle costs up to 500 million dollars per flight, and 300 to 400 million U.S. dollars are needed for maintenance.

China’s manned space project is known for its high efficiency and cost-effectiveness. According to the data released by the Beijing Engineering Bureau, from the start of the project to the completion of the launch of the Shenzhou VI spacecraft in 2005 (i.e. when the first phase of the manned space project was completed), the total cost of the project reached about 20 billion yuan.

Manned space flight incorporates many modern state-of-the-art technologies. The structure of carrier rockets, manned space vehicles and spacecraft is complex, with tens of thousands of parts and components. The failure or malfunction of just one part can cause an accident.

On February 1, 2003, the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated and exploded on re-entry, killing all seven astronauts, when a fragment of foam accidentally fell out of the fuel tank.

If a country is able to send its astronauts into space, it will not only reflect on its national strength, but will also greatly enhance national pride and improve the sense of State and internal cohesion.

Deng Xiaoping stated: ‘If China had not a nuclear bomb, a hydrogen bomb or launched satellites since the 1960s, it would not be an important country with a strong influence and would not have its current international status’. Hence, in the 21st century, manned space flight represents all of this.

Obviously Chinese astronauts have the right to be proud, because they have achieved all this little by little and with their own efforts.

Let us consider the case of the International Space Station (ISS), built jointly by nineteen countries and regional organisations. This long list includes developed and developing countries (Brazil, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, South Africa), but not China. Some States have deliberately imposed a strict embargo on China, in an attempt to exclude it from the ISS.

All this makes it clear to Chinese astronauts and scientists that key fundamental technologies cannot be traded or bought.

The Chinese are therefore firmly following the path of independent development and innovation to enhance manned spaceflight without the help of anyone else.

Around 2022, a Chinese self-built space station will be completed and deployed and, according to foreign sources, the ISS will be decommissioned in 2024.

Some countries have turned to China in search of opportunities and cooperation. This switching of sides explains once again that only by mastering key fundamental technologies does the People’s Republic of China have a say and visibility.

Facts have shown that, even under the long-term technical embargo of some countries, China’s manned space industry has taken off ‘against the wind’.

With the hard work of generations of astronauts, it has gradually grown and developed into a space power, with distinctly Chinese characteristics.

If manned space flight is a flagship endeavour, independent innovation is the scale that supports efforts.

In 2022, the Chinese Space Station will officially complete its in-orbit construction task. At that juncture, China will bring high-level experimental equipment to it in the fields of aerospace medicine, space life and biology, materials, microgravity and fluid combustion, physics, astronomy, etc.

At 23:11, on December 1 last, the Chang’e-5 probe successfully landed on Earth. The main mission of the exploration was to collect and “pack” about 2,000 grams of lunar soil and rock samples. In fact, China has taken another step towards a manned landing on our satellite.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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To Protect Democracies, Digital Resiliency Efforts Are Needed Now

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Across the globe, more than three billion people have no internet access. But with the increased availability of smart phones and other projects such as SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet system, that soon will change. To be sure, this unprecedented level of connectivity has the power to be a boon for democratic advancement and economic development. However, without pre-emptive action, it will likely result in the ills we’ve seen with rapid connectivity elsewhere that threaten democratic norms, institutions, and governance. Authoritarians have an answer to these problems: more control. Democracies need an answer too: building pre-emptive digital resilience and preparedness.

Democracies have been consistently caught off guard by rapid digitization. The disruption of information ecosystems has amplified political and economic inequity, leading to various information disorders such as disinformation, declining trust in journalism, increasing social toxicity and dissatisfaction with government, etc. In Myanmar, for example, internet connectivity empowered individuals, but rampant hate speech also facilitated the military’s campaign against the Rohingya. In the Philippines and Brazil, authoritarian populists have used social media to exploit their publics, foment hate, and win elections.

In attempting to manage the consequences of rapid digitization, governments are increasingly eliciting from the authoritarian playbook – implementing haphazard social media and cyber laws, surveillance, and censorship to the detriment of political freedoms. Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2020 report outlined a “dismal year for internet freedom” and showed countries like Brazil, Nigeria, Turkey, and Kyrgyzstan following China’s model of blocking internet services and conducting pervasive monitoring on their people’s virtual activities.

Democracies have not provided clear answers to rapid digitization, despite the fact that successes in countries like Finland and Taiwan demonstrate that the internet can – if combined with a thoughtful, pre-emptive, whole of society approach – actively strengthen social cohesion and democratic governance. The introduction of digital infrastructure must be accompanied by digital literacy campaigns. Governments need to be trained in cybersecurity, online communication, and on key policy issues such as open data and privacy. Civil society, especially those working with local communities and marginalized populations, need to be involved early in national digital coordination plans in order to reach more people and to ensure digital inclusion is a core consideration of these plans. These plans should include mobilization of digital safety campaigns, education initiatives, and digital skills trainings. 

To be sure, taking a pro-active, coordinated approach will require resources and time. Embracing the transparency that comes with digitization and the sheer amount of data available might also seem daunting at the beginning. However, countries and communities soon to come online are in advantageous positions to learn from other countries’ mistakes and better understand the opportunities, risks, and threats that digitization brings. There is no reason for them to experience the same negative effects of rapid digitization that we’ve been observing for years. It is better to invest upfront than be left dealing with the democratic backsliding gripping Myanmar, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and many other countries today.

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Internet of Behavior (IoB) and its Influence on Human Behavioral Psychology

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Internet of behavior is a connection between technology and human psychology which gives it the power to generate patterns and influence human behavior.

It is still in initial phase, but was able to grab a lot of attention from technology experts with its mention in ”Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021”. Gartner predicted that “By the end of 2025, over half of the world’s population will be subject to at least one IoB program, whether it be commercial or governmental”

Source: BMC blog on “What Is the Internet of Behaviors? IoB Explained”

Gartner acknowledges IoB as, behavioral science which can be considered under four key aspects: augmentations, decisions, emotions and companionship

From a human psychology perspective, IoB not only understands the data properly but also applies its understanding to innovate, create and promote new products/services

Currently most of the companies understand buying behavior from the information provided by consumers via interaction between them and application linked to the company. Information collected from interaction via smart devices such as smart phones and its interconnection with other smart devices such as cameras and voice assistance has the power to understand consumer’s likes/dislikes, spending, and so on.

It is aiding organizations to optimize their data from sources such as social media, geolocation, facial recognition, and government agencies citizen data. This data is eventually added and utilized to influence consumer buying behavior.

IoB is using data processing to another level, by connecting collected data from human behavior to analytics and behavioral science. This behavioral data will play a fundamental role in planning and developing strategies for organizations particularly in sales and marketing.

It has the ability to analyse data collected from consumers (such as consumers food choices, how they shop, their preferred travel destination, people with whom and how they interact) and use it to advertise products more effectively and improvise a product’s or service’s overall user experience, thus fulfilling their ultimate goal of selling product. With such capabilities, it aims to generate a substantial enhancement in the development of the sales industry. 

For Instance, a health app that can track sleeping patterns, heart rate or blood sugar levels, can alert users before adverse health situations and suggest them with behavior changes for the positive result. Such information could prove significantly important to companies by providing them with deeper insight into how they should be channelizing their marketing efforts.  

As per Gartner, “The same wearables that health insurance companies use to track physical activities to reduce premiums could also be used to monitor grocery purchases; too many unhealthy items could increase premiums.”

GBKSOFT, a software company has helped golfers to improve their playing skills by correcting their existing ball striking technique and learning new techniques with its app and wearable device. The golfers can connect their handheld device and connect it with their mobile phone, every time the golfer hits the ball the app records and analyses its impact. Thus golfer can not only improvise by analyzing their mistake but also track for any trajectory or stroke force.

Tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon are continuously tracking and working on algorithms to configure and anticipate consumer desires and behaviors

Covid has brought a wider acceptance of IoB for human behavioral surveillance. IoB can prove to be an extremely effective method to avoid spread of virus. For instance, computer vision or facial recognition can be used to determine if employees are complying with mask protocols or not. While, electronic devices such as RFID tags and sensors on employee or in the environment can be used to check if they are washing or sanitizing their hands regularly or not. Speakers can be used to warn people violating such protocols.

Test and Trace app on smart devices can be used by government agencies to monitor and curtail people’s location and activities to ensure their chances of contacting virus, while effectively enhancing overall public welfare.

While IoB has a great potential to improve our lives it has some negative aspects as well, cyber security being the prime concern. It can give access to cyber criminals with not just behavioral data such as consumer buying patterns or their likes/dislikes but also give access to their banking code, by which they can create advance scams, and take phishing to another level.

Moreover, data generated from social media platform such as Facebook and Instagram is changing the dynamics of value chain, and companies are using this opportunity to modify human behaviors. This goes well with the saying “If you are not paying for it, you are no longer the customer, you are the product being sold”

Some people might find surveillance of behavior as an Invasion of their privacy. “China’s Social Credit System” a Chinese government based surveillance programme is one such example, which includes all characteristics of judging citizens’ behaviour and trustworthiness. With this system the government is supporting good human behaviour and discouraging bad behavior. This is not going well with people who value their civil rights.

Moreover, laws regarding IoT vary widely, and considering IoB has much more sensitive data, both government and private organizations need to establish robust privacy laws to bring legal consistency.

As per Gartner, “Much of the scope and execution of an IoB will depend on local privacy laws, which may affect how data can be used and in what way”.

Regardless of the apprehensions expressed above, IoB has the ability to make our lives effortless, be it improving business, encouraging us to live a healthy life or ensure our safety during pandemic situations. Any government of private organization who implement IoB needs to make sure of strong cyber security and data protection laws.

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160 million degrees Celsius reached in China: The artificial Sun

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Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) /VCG Photo

Another important step has been taken by Chinese researchers in developing the ultimate energy source for nuclear fusion.

On May 28, the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), known as the “artificial sun”, operating at the Institute of Materials Science in Hefei (Chinese Academy of Sciences), achieved the new limit of the planet reaching the highest temperature ever recorded.

It reached one hundred and twenty million degrees Celsius, for one minute and 51 seconds. EAST also managed to maintain a temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds. This is a higher peak than that of the sun’s core, which can reach a limit of 15 million degrees Celsius.

A tokamak (Russian: toroidal’naja kamera s magnitnymi katushkami: Russian acronym for “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”) is a device which uses a powerful magnetic field to confine plasma in the shape of a torus. Torus is a ring-shaped device in which a hot, rarefied gas (usually hydrogen, in the plasma state) is kept cohesive and away from inner walls by a magnetic field created by electromagnets outside the chamber. It was originally conceptualized and invented in the 1950s by Soviet professor Sadyk Azimovič Azimov (1914-88) and others at the Kurčatov Institute in Moscow.

China’s experimental nuclear fusion device was created in 1998 and was called HT-7U at the time. With a view to making it easier to pronounce and remember, as well as having a precise scientific meaning for national and foreign experts, HT-7U was officially renamed EAST in October 2003.

In 2006, the EAST project was completed in a definitive and higher quality manner. In September-October 2006 and in January-February 2007, the EAST device performed two discharge debugs and successfully achieved stable, repetitive and controllable high-temperature plasmas with various magnetic configurations.

EAST has a nuclear fusion reaction mechanism similar to that of the sun. Its operating principle is to add a small amount of the hydrogen isotope deuterium or tritium to the device’s vacuum chamber and generate plasma through a transformer-like principle, then increase its density and temperature to cause a fusion reaction – a process that generates enormous energy.

Over the ten years since its construction, EAST has continually made progress in the search for controllable nuclear fusion.

In 2009, the first round of EAST tests was successful, thus putting China at the forefront of nuclear fusion research. In February 2016, EAST’s physics tests made another major breakthrough, achieving the longest temperature duration reaching 50 million degrees. In 2018, EAST reached a number of important milestones including 100 million degrees.

This means that mankind has made another major advance in its efforts to turn nuclear fusion into new, clean and inexhaustible energy.

Energy is the fundamental driving force behind the functioning of every aspect of life. The energy used today has many shortcomings and cannot fully meet human needs, while nuclear fusion energy is considered the ideal energy par excellence.

According to calculations, the deuterium contained in one litre of seawater can produce the equivalent of the energy of 300 litres of petrol, released after the nuclear fusion reaction, besides the fact that the product is not harmful. Although it is not a “perpetual motion machine”, nuclear fusion can provide energy for a long time. Not only can Marvel’s hero Iron Man rely on the small reactor in his chest, but also raw materials can be obtained from seawater at an extremely low cost.

The first condition for nuclear fusion is to keep fuel in the fourth state of matter, after solid, liquid and gas – i.e. the plasma state.

When the plasma temperature reaches tens of millions of degrees Celsius or even hundreds of millions of degrees, the atomic nucleus can overcome the repulsive force to carry out the polymerisation reaction. Coupled with sufficient density and a sufficiently long thermal energy confinement time, the nuclear fusion reaction is able to continue steadily.

Nevertheless, it is particularly difficult to achieve both the temperature of hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius and the long-term confinement control of plasma stability.

While recognising that nuclear fusion is the ultimate goal for solving the problem of mankind’s future energy, there is both cooperation and competition in international research.

A sign of cooperation is that on July 28, 2020, a ceremony was held in France to launch the major project to install the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The ITER project is jointly implemented by China, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Japan, India, Russia, the European Union and the United States.

On December 28, 2020, Seoul’s Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) set a new world limit at the  time and its ionomer maintained a temperature of over 100 million degrees for 20 seconds.

In early 2018, the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had begun designing and building a Soonest/Smallest Private-Funded Affordable Robust Compact fusion reactor more advanced than ITER, with a volume tens of times smaller and significantly reduced in cost. But it remains to be seen whether this goal can be achieved.

Chinese researchers have now achieved significant progress in this field and taken another important step towards obtaining energy from nuclear fusion.

In the future, if the production capacity and energy supply of the “artificial sun” is achieved, it will be another technological revolution that can promote social progress even more than the industrial revolution which, in fact, meant the beginning of pollution for the planet and exploitation by capital.

Although there is still a long way to go before the construction of the naval port on Jupiter described by the Chinese writer, Liu Cixin, in his novel The Three-Body Problem (San Ti), mankind is indeed advancing on the road to controllable nuclear fusion.

Nuclear fusion energy has exceptional advantages in producing rich resources, as well as no carbon emissions, so it is clean and safe. It is one of the ideal energy sources for mankind in the future, and can contribute significantly to achieve the goal of eliminating said carbon.

The two greatest difficulties in generating energy from nuclear fusion lie in regularly reaching hundreds of millions of degrees, and in stable ignition and control of long-term confinement.

For the time being, multiple extreme conditions are highly integrated and organically combined at the same time, but this is very difficult and challenging.

In hitting the record, it is the first time that the EAST device has adopted key technologies such as the first water-cooled all-metal active wall, as well as the high-performance tungsten deflector and high-power wave heating states.

At present, there are over 200 core technologies and nearly 2,000 patents on EAST, bringing together cutting-edge technologies such as ‘ultra-high temperature’, ‘ultra-low temperature’, ‘ultra-high vacuum’, ‘ultra-strong magnetic field’ and ‘ultra-high current’.

The total power is 34 megawatts, which is equivalent to about 68,000 domestic microwave ovens heating up together. For 100 million degrees Celsius and -269 °C to coexist, it is necessary to use “ultra-high vacuum” with an intensity of about one hundredth of a billionth of the surface atmospheric pressure suitable for insulation. With a view to supporting this complex extreme system, almost a million parts and components work together on EAST.

The new EAST record further demonstrates the feasibility of nuclear fusion energy and also lays the physical and engineering foundations for marketing.

Energy on earth, stored in the form of fossil fuels, wind, water or animals and plants, originally comes from the sun. For example, fossil fuels evolved from animals and plants millions of years ago, and their energy ultimately comes from solar energy stored by the photosynthesis of plants at the base of the food chain. Therefore, regardless of the type of energy used by humans, they ultimately use the sun energy that comes from nuclear fusion.

If mankind could master the method for releasing the nuclear fusion energy in an orderly manner, it would be equivalent to controlling the sun energy source. Therefore, this is the reason why the controllable nuclear fusion reactor is called the “artificial sun”.

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