Posts about China

Green Energy Projects in the Developing World

5 Huge Green-Tech Projects in the Developing World: Leyte Geothermal Field, Leyte, Philippines with a current capacity of 708.5 megawatts

Suzlon Wind Farm
Location: Near Dhule, India
Current capacity: 650 megawatts
Planned capacity: 1,000 megawatts
Estimated completion date: 2010
Built by Suzlon, a homegrown Indian energy compay, the Suzlon wind farm near Dhule will be the world’s largest when it’s completed in 2010. Already, it’s creeping up on Florida Light and Power’s Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, which has a capacity of 735 megawatts.

Acme Solar Thermal Plants
Location: Haryana, India
Current capacity: 0 megawatts
Planned capacity: 1,000 megawatts
Estimated completion date: 2019
Acme, an Indian technology conglomerate, announced its intentions to build up to 1,000 megawatts of solar thermal power Tuesday. The company providing the technology, eSolar, makes 46-megawatt modular power plants that concentrate the sun’s rays onto a central boiler to generate steam to drive a turbine. ESolar’s Rob Rogan said that the companies would break ground on the first 100 megawatts of solar power within the year.

Qaidam Basin Solar PV Installaton
Location: Qinghai Province, China
Current capacity: 0 megawatts
Planned capacity: 1,000 megawatts
Estimated completion date: ?
Two local Chinese firms announced their intentions to install up to 1,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels in northwestern China in January. The China Technology Development Group Corporation and Qinghai New Energy Company will start with a more modest 30 megawatts. They expect to break ground during 2009.

Related: Solar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 2020Wind Power Potential to Produce 20% of Electricity Supply by Invests $10 million in Geothermal Energy

Making Embryonic Stem Cells

photo of Junying Yuphoto of Junying Yu, an assistant scientist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison by Bryce Richter, 2007.

Holy Grail of stem cell research within reach by Mark Johnson

It was time to test the 14 genes she had selected as the best candidates to reprogram a cell.

Using viruses to deliver the genes, she inserted all 14 at once into human cells. On the morning of July 1, 2006, Yu arrived at the lab and examined the culture dishes. Her eyes focused on a few colonies, each resembling a crowded city viewed from space. They looked like embryonic stem cells.

Cells must pass certain tests. They must multiply for weeks while remaining in their delicate, primitive state. When they are allowed to develop, they must turn into all the other cell types.

Bad things happen. Cells develop too soon. Cells die. There is no “aha!” moment, Thomson has said, only stress. He looked at the colonies and suppressed any excitement. He told Yu, essentially: OK, well get back to me in a couple of weeks.

In the fall of 2006, Yu was preparing to whittle down her list of genes when she fell ill. The pain in her gut was awful. She struggled to eat. Her doctor thought it was a stomach flu. Instead, in late October, Yu’s appendix burst. She was laid up for a month. When she returned to the lab, the problem with the culture medium struck again.

Not until January 2007 was she able to begin narrowing the list of genes. She spent several months testing subsets of them, finally arriving at four. Two, Oct4 and Sox2, were “Yamanaka factors,” the name given to the genes the Japanese scientist had used to reprogram mouse cells. Two, Nanog and Lin28, were not.

Using a virus to deliver the four genes, she reprogrammed a line of fetal cells, then repeated the experiments with more mature cells. Although the process was inefficient, succeeding with only a small fraction of cells, it did work.

Dr. Junying Yu, an American trained scientist who entered the US as a foreign student from China. Which is somewhat ironic given the movement of USA based stem cell researches to China. Great article showing the process of scientific inquiry.

Related: Junying Yu, James Thomson and Shinya Yamanaka (Time people who mattered 2007) – Discovery leaps legal, financial and ethical hurdles facing stem cellsEdinburgh University $115 Million Stem Cell CenterStanford Gets $75 Million for Stem Cell Centerposts relating to Madison, Wisconsin

Best Research University Rankings – 2008

The annual ranking of research Universities are available from Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University. The methodology values publications and faculty awards which provides a better ranking of research (rather than teaching). Results from the 2008 rankings of Top 500 Universities worldwide, country representation of the top schools:

location Top 100 % of World
% of World GDP % of top 500
USA 54     4.6%   27.2%  31.6%
United Kingdom 11  0.9  4.9 8.3
Germany   6  1.3  6.0 8.0
Japan   4  2.0  9.0 6.2
Canada   4  0.5  2.6 4.2
Sweden   4  0.1  0.8 2.2
France   3  0.8  4.6 4.6
Switzerland   3  0.1  0.8 1.6
Australia   3  0.3  1.6 3.0
Netherlands   2  0.2  1.4 2.4
Denmark   2  0.1  0.6 0.8
Finland   1  0.1  0.4 1.2
Norway   1  0.1  0.7 0.8
Israel   1  0.1  0.3 1.2
Russia   1  2.2  2.0 0.4
China  20.5  6.6 6.0
India  17.0  1.9 0.4

There is little change in most of the data from last year, which I think is a good sign, it wouldn’t make much sense to have radical shifts over a year in these rankings. Japan lost 2 schools in the top 100, France lost 1. Denmark (Aarhus University) and Australia (University of Sydney) gained 1. Last year there was a tie so there were 101 schools in the top 100.

The most dramatic data I noticed is China’s number of top 500 schools went from 14 to 30, which made me a bit skeptical of what caused that quick change. Looking more closely last year they reported the China top 500 totals as (China 14, China-Taiwan 6 and China-Hong Kong 5). That still gives them an impressive gain of 5 schools.

Singapore has 1 in the 102-151 range. Taiwan has 1 ranked in the 152-200 range, as do Mexico, Korea and Brazil. China has 9 in the 201-302 range (including 3 in Hong Kong). India has 2 in the 303-401 range.

University of Wisconsin – Madison is 17th again 🙂 My father taught there while I grew up.
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How Humans Got So Smart

Cooking and Cognition: How Humans Got So Smart

For a long time, we were pretty dumb. Humans did little but make “the same very boring stone tools for almost 2 million years,” he said. Then, only about 150,000 years ago, a different type of spurt happened — our big brains suddenly got smart. We started innovating. We tried different materials, such as bone, and invented many new tools, including needles for beadwork. Responding to, presumably, our first abstract thoughts, we started creating art and maybe even religion.

To understand what caused the cognitive spurt, Khaitovich and colleagues examined chemical brain processes known to have changed in the past 200,000 years. Comparing apes and humans, they found the most robust differences were for processes involved in energy metabolism.

The finding suggests that increased access to calories spurred our cognitive advances, said Khaitovich, carefully adding that definitive claims of causation are premature.

Nice example of scientific discovery in action. The direct link from cooking to brain development is far from proven but it is interesting. I also like “the same very boring stone tools for almost 2 million years” – maybe that is because I am too cynical (but while evolution is amazing – sometimes it is amazing how slow progress is).

Related: Brain Development Gene is Evolving the FastestMapping Where Brains Store Similar Informationposts on science and out brains

Why did China’s Scientific Innovation Stop?

Why did China’s scientific innovation, once so advanced, suddenly collapse

By the time Joseph Needham died in 1995, he had published 17 volumes of his Science and Civilisation in China series, including several that he wrote entirely on his own.

The Chinese began printing 600 years before Johannes Gutenberg introduced the technique in Germany. They built the first chain drive 700 years before the Europeans. And they made use of a magnetic compass at least a century before the first reference to it appeared elsewhere. So why, in the middle of the 15th century, did this advanced civilisation suddenly cease its spectacular progress?

Needham never fully worked out why China’s inventiveness dried up. Other academics have made their own suggestions: the stultifying pursuit of bureaucratic rank in the Middle Kingdom and the absence of a mercantile class to foster competition and self-improvement; the sheer size of China compared with the smaller states of Europe whose fierce rivalries fostered technological competition; its totalitarianism.

Related: Science and Engineering in PoliticsEconomic Benefits from EngineeringChinese Engineering Innovation PlanBest Research University Rankings (2007)

International Engineering Education Data: USA, China, India

Several years ago we posted about the report on the USA Under-counting Engineering Graduates. The authors, and two others, have written a new report that provides some useful additions – Getting the Numbers Right: International Engineering Education in the United States, China, and India

Since the late 1990s, the United States had a modest increase in bachelor’s degree output, from just over 103,000 in 1998–99 to more than 137,000 in 2003–04 before declining slightly to about 129,000 in 2005–06, a growth of nearly 25 percent since 1998–99. India’s expansion at the bachelor’s level was more rapid, with four-year degree holders in engineering, CS, and IT more than tripling in the last seven years, from just over 68,000 in 1998–99 to nearly 220,000 in 2005–06. The fastest growth in bachelor’s degrees, however, appears to be occurring in China. According to the Chinese MoE, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded has more than doubled in the last four years, from 252,000 in 2001–02 to 575,000 in 2005–06.

While engineering, CS, and IT degree production in the United States has been stable or increasing at all degree levels over the past ten years, a sizable percentage of these degrees are indeed being
awarded to foreign nationals. Statistics collected by the ASEE on bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in engineering indicate that during the 2005–06 academic year, 7.2 percent, 39.8 percent and 61.7 percent of these degrees, respectively, were awarded to foreign nationals (Figure 4). As these figures indicate, the percentage of foreign nationals is significantly higher at the graduate level, especially for Ph.D. degrees.

Related: Filling the Engineering Gap by Vivek WadhwaEngineering Economic Benefitsposts on engineering educationScience Serving SocietyAuthors of Scientific Articles by CountryEducating the Engineer of 2020: NAE Report

Quake Lake Danger

Quakes lakes risk ‘slurry tsunami’

This month’s 7.9 magnitude tremor spawned 34 so-called quake lakes, according to the International Association of Hydraulic Engineering and Research expert. The vast pools of water were created when the earthquake triggered landslides down plunging valleys, clogging rivers and turning them into fast-rising lakes. Twenty-eight quake lakes are at risk of bursting, according to Chinese state media agency Xinhua. But the one at Tangjiashan – on the Jianjiang river above the town of Beichuan – is the most precarious.

The delicate, tortuous work involves heavy machinery gingerly shifting debris from the dam, and engineers blasting dynamite to carefully punch holes in the mountain of rubble and soil – although experts warn this risks further destabilising the structure. Nearly 160,000 people in the disaster zone have already been evacuated in case the Tangjiashan quake lake bursts.

Troops and engineers are racing to carve a 500 metre (1,640 ft) channel out of the landscape and divert the water towards the Fujiang river. They aim to complete the giant sluice and begin draining the 300 million cubic metre capacity lake within 10 days. “Once the water begins to flow over the top of the dam there’s nothing you can do to stop it,” said Dr Alex Densmore, of Durham University’s Institute of Hazard and Risk Research.

Little wonder then that Premier Wen Jiabao says he regards draining the swelling quake lakes at China’s ground zero as the nation’s most urgent task.

Related: Quake Lifts Island Ten Feet Out of OceanCivil Engineers: USA Infrastructure Needs ImprovementChina’s Technology Savvy LeadershipMegaflood Created the English Channel

Global Wind Power Installed Capacity

The top five countries in terms of installed capacity are:

  • Germany (22.3 GW – gigawatts)
  • USA (16.8 GW)
  • Spain (15.1 GW)
  • India (8 GW)
  • China (6.1 GW)

Global capacity was increase by 27% in 2007. Record installations in US, China and Spain:

Wind energy has a considerable impact on avoiding greenhouse gases and combating climate change. The global capacity of 94 GW of wind capacity will save about 122 million tons of CO2 every year, which is equivalent to around 20 large coal fired power stations.

“We’re on track to meeting our target of saving 1.5 billion tons of CO2 per year by 2020”, said Steve Sawyer, “but we need a strong, global signal from governments that they are serious about moving away from fossil fuels and protecting the climate.”

Meeting energy needs using wind power is growing very rapidly, which is a great thing. It is still a small contributor to our overall energy needs but every bit helps.

Related: USA Wind power capacityCapture Wind Energy with a Tethered TurbineWind Power Technology Breakthrough

China’s Technology Savvy Leadership

China’s Sci-Tech Savvy Leadership by Jocelyn Ford

Until last year, the top nine members of China’s politburo were ALL trained engineers! And guess what? The Communist Party made innovation and global leadership in science and technology national goals.

Ancient China is famous for its early scientific advances, some of which predated western developments by centuries. Its inventions include paper, printing, gunpowder and the compass.

Leadership does matter, but so does the system. It seems to me it should take a lot longer for China to build a sci-tech friendly system than for the U.S. to bring in sci-tech friendly leadership. That’s where you come in Ira & co.

If I may make one final comment: in my ideal world, borders shouldn’t matter. Victory by the best system, with the best leaders, will hopefully be a victory for all earthlings.

CHINA’S POLITBURO (2007): Decline of the engineer. Last fall China introduced a new top lineup that included two law graduates, as well as an economist, and graduates in history, journalism, management and business administration.

I agree that the increase in science and engineering investment around the globe is a positive development. But the USA faces loses that it has enjoyed due to past technology leadership.

China benefits greatly from such scientific knowledge at the highest level of government. The top 9 leaders in China are know as the “Politburo Standing Committee,” the new additions in 2007 were:

Xi Jinping, 54, studied chemical engineering at the Qinghua University and later earned a doctorate in law.

Li Keqiang, 52, obtained MA and doctorate of Economics after attending the on-the-job postgraduate program on Economics at the School of Economics of Peking University.

He Guoqiang, 63, B.S. Beijing Institute of Chemical Engineering.

Zhou Yongkang, 64 “Graduated from the Exploration Department, Beijing Petroleum Institute, majoring in geophysical exploration. With a university education. Senior engineer with a rank equivalent to professor. ” Funny, I don’t remember any U.S. politician exalting their experience as “equivalent to a professor.”

They joined the nine-member echelon with the five remaining members of the previous standing committee, namely Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin and Li Changchun.

Related: Science Investment, Diplomacy and EconomicsAsia: Rising Stars of Science and EngineeringChina’s Engineering Innovation PlanOnce Again Engineering Graduates Lead Ranks of S&P 500 CEOsAuthors of Scientific Articles by CountryBest Research University Rankings (2007)

Ranking Universities Worldwide

The Webometrics Ranking of World Universities provides another estimate of the top universities. The methodology is far ideal however I still find it interesting. The various attempts to rank schools can provide a general idea of impact of various institutions (though the measures are fairly crude). Still a sensible picture (especially at the country level) can emerge. And the various rankings should be a able to track shifts in the most influential institutions and relative country strength over time. How quickly those rankings track changes will vary depending on the measures used. I would imagine most will lag the “real” changes as it is easy to imagine many measures that would lag. Still, as I have said before, I expect the USA will lose in relative ranking compared to China, India, Japan, Singapore, Mexico…

The ranking methodology used here weighed rankings in: Jiao Tong academic rankings, Essential Science Indicators, Google Scholar, Alexa (a measure of web site visits to universities) and The Times Higher World University Rankings.

Country representation of the top universities (number of top schools in each country):

location Webometrics
Top 100
Jiao Tong
Top 101
% of World
% of World GDP*
USA 53 54   4.6%   30.4%
Germany 10   5  1.3   6.3
Canada   8   4  0.5   2.5
United Kingdom   6 10  0.9   5.0
Australia   3   2  0.3   1.6
Japan   1   6 2.0 10.3
The rest of Europe 16 13
Brazil   1   0   2.8   1.8
Mexico   1   0   1.6   1.7
Israel   0   1   0.1   0.3

* IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, September 2006 (2005 data)
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Asia: Rising Stars of Science and Engineering

Great report – The Atlas of Ideas: How Asian innovation can benefit us all by Charles Leadbeater and James Wilsdon:

Each country will develop differently. In South Korea strong government support has created a world-class information infrastructure.

China is mobilising massive resources for innovation through ambitious long-term plans, funded by rapid economic growth. Beijing’s university district produces as many engineers as all of western Europe. China is developing world-class universities and attracting multinational innovation centres.

India’s elite, trained at the Indian Institutes of Technology, are second to none. New institutions like the National Science and Engineering Foundation could energise a disjointed innovation system. Yet India’s innovation elite may face a rural backlash. Its infrastructure is in poor repair and cities like Bengalooru are congested. Even the much-vaunted IITs do not, unlike their US counterparts, animate innovation clusters.
Percentage of world share of scientific publications

Year China France Germany Japan Korea UK US EU-15
1995 2.05 6.09 7.62 8.65 0.79 8.88 33.54 34.36
1998 2.90 6.48 8.82 9.42 1.41 9.08 31.63 36.85
2001 4.30 6.33 8.68 9.52 2.01 8.90 31.01 36.55
2004 6.52 5.84 8.14 8.84 2.70 8.33 30.48 35.18

Excellent reading, the report is full of useful information I have not been able to obsorb yet.
Related: Diplomacy and Science ResearchThe World’s Best Research UniversitiesEngineering the Future EconomyWorldwide Science and Engineering Doctoral Degree DataUSA Under-counting Engineering GraduatesIncreasing American Fellowship Support for Scientists and Engineers
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