“Top Ten Science Communication News Events in 2015” selected by China Association for Science and Technology

The following are the “Top Ten Science Communication News Events in 2015” selected by China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) on December 30th  (in chronological order):

1. The Swiss solar aircraft Solar Impulse 2 embarks on its journey in China, giving the Chinese public a direct perception of the application of future energy

On March 9th, Solar Impulse 2, the largest existent solar aircraft in the world, began to circumnavigate the globe. During the circumnavigation, it made stopovers in Chongqing and Nanjing; it also created a record of 118-hour non-stop flight between Nagoya and Hawaii. This event provided yet another opportunity to popularize among the Chinese public the knowledge related to new energies and new materials, as well as the technology of energy saving and environmental protection. Solar Impulse 2’s journey in China also served to stimulate the Chinese public, especially children’s interest in the exploration of science. 

2. The first imported MERS case diagnosed in China, science popularization in a timely manner helps reduce public panic

In May, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), also known as “camel flu”, spread into the Republic Korea from West Asia and was brought into China by the relative of a patient who had escaped isolation. Faced with such an acute disease whose mortality rate is as high as 40%, this time China was more prepared psychologically and in terms of contingency measures than it had been during the attacks by SARS 12 years ago. The enormously available popular science works about MERS, made more readable and scientific thanks to the use of illustrations, cartoons and videos, and whose content comprehensively covered the origin of the MERS virus, its symptoms and the precautious measures to be taken against the disease, plus the highly effective communication of relevant knowledge in the new media, combined to enable the public to be sufficiently informed during this epidemic breakout, thus sparing them from the panic that would otherwise be induced by the lack of information transparency.   

3. The Three-Body Problem wins the Hugo Award, science fiction becomes a unique pathway which leads the general public to care about science

On August 23rd, the leading Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the highest of its kind in the world in the science fiction field, for the English edition of his representative work The Three-Body Problem. Liu’s beautiful imaginations prompt people to lift their heads and look deep into the starry skies. As a popular science form, science fiction has now become a unique pathway which leads the public to care about science. On another level, the greater value of science fiction perhaps lies in the fact that it attempts to, with the method of ideological experiment, explore the possible relationship between humankind and the progress of technologies; and this will provide another dimension for thinking about science and technology. 

4. The latest survey results made public, and the enhancement of the Chinese citizens’ scientific literacy is news for excitement

On September 19th, China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) published the results of its ninth survey into the Chinese citizens’ scientific literacy. The survey shows that in 2015 the Chinese citizens’ scientific literacy reached 6.20%, a nearly 90% increase when compared with the 3.27% level in 2010. Meanwhile, the development trend of the Chinese citizens’ scientific literacy during the 12th Five Year Plan period (2010-2015) also indicates that the scientific literacy level of the Chinese citizens has entered into a stage of rapid growth, thus laying a solid foundation for China to become an innovation-based country. The results of the latest survey, while making the Chinese popular science workers excited, have been widely covered by new media and can be interpreted at multiple levels; they have also enabled the society to better understand the importance of science popularization work. 

5. “Bittern” found on Mars, the new achievements in space exploration make people look up into the star-studded sky

On September 28th, NASA announced the presence of briny flowing salt water on the Martian surface. This discovery once again aroused the Chinese public’s attention to Mars and their fantastic reveries about the universe. Similar science events in 2015 that also helped fire up the Chinese public’s curiosity include: the discovery of Kepler-452b, Planet Earth’s “Big Cousin” and the most Earth-like exoplanet known to date; and the New Horizons spacecraft’s flyby of Pluto, which is mysteriously hidden deep in the space.  

6. Pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou’s winning of the Nobel Prize stimulates the Chinese to scale new heights in scientific and technological innovation

On October 5th and for her discovery of the extraction method of artemisinin more than four decades ago, Mme. Tu Youyou, a Chinese pharmaceutical chemist, became the first female scientist in China to receive the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. And because of this prize, China’s research on artemisinin has become more visible. Tu Youyou’s winning of the Nobel Prize has served to greatly enhance the Chinese people’s confidence in scaling new heights in scientific and technological innovation, as well as to stimulate the Chinese public’s enthusiasm in understanding and supporting China’s development of scientific researches.  

7. With the introduction of the universal “Two-Child Policy”, knowledge in connection with pregnancy and obstetrics becomes hot popular science topic.

At the 5th Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the much-anticipated “two-child policy for all” finally turned from hearsay to reality. This officially indicates the termination of the single-child policy which had been practiced in China for more than 30 years. With a view to promoting and practicing eugenics, many medical doctors and experts are now busily engaged in popular science education in such forms as giving lectures, writing columns, accepting media interviews and interacting with netizens. From the safety of elder pregnant and parturient women to pre-pregnancy check-up, and to the psychological comforting of the first child, there has been a craze about the relevant medical science knowledge amongst the relevant groups since the two-child policy was promulgated. 

8. The convening of the World Robot Conference brings us a step closer to the society of service robots   

In the second half of November, the World Robot Conference was convened in Beijing for the first time. From the mere fact that as many as 12 international robotics organizations and 58 domestic science research institutions participated in the conference, we can easily see the impacts the intelligent robotics industry will have on mankind’s advancement of science and technology, as well as on China’s intelligent manufacturing. With the entry of multiple types of intelligent robots (including intelligent robotic arm, “smart” drone etc.) into our horizon, there is now a concern in our society. Since intelligent robots can have important applications in such fields as manufacturing, architecture, the service and recreational industries, as well as in healthcare, military, space and education, it is only natural that the general public’s curiosity about them is ever expanding, and the steps of a society of service robots are getting closer and closer to us.

9. Commercial promotion goes against common sense of science and misleads the public, “We Hate Chemistry” advertisement invites protests from scientists

In his letter made public at the end of November, Prof. Zhou Gongdu of Peking University openly criticized the advertising words “We Hate Chemistry” by cosmetics brand FRANIC for their lack of common sense of science. Not only has this public letter induced heated debates among and repercussions from the mass media, but it also has received support from relevant professional societies. Chemistry is the most fundamental discipline of modern science; and without chemistry there will be no cosmetics for sale, nor will we have the modern lifestyles we take for granted today. In recent years, some business companies, out of their motive to parade their so-called “purely natural” and “organic” concepts, launched from time to time promotional campaigns and commercial advertisements through different media, using content that goes against the common sense of science, thus misleading the consumers. The “We Hate Chemistry” advertisement incident serves as a timely reminder for the public and the departments concerned: when faced with misleading commercial advertisements that go against the common sense of science, we must strengthen our ability to tell right from wrong in order not to be swindled.   

10. Explorer Satellite “Wukong” creates curiosity in its search for dark matters in the universe

Nicknamed “Wukong” after the Monkey King with penetrating eyes in the Chinese classical fiction “Pilgrimage to the West”, China’s first Dark Matter Particle Explorer Satellite flew to the space on December 17th. Previous research indicates that the various celestial bodies directly visible to the human eyes only constitute 4% of the universe’ mass; whereas dark matters that do not give off any light and electromagnetic radiation make up 23%. Although we cannot directly see dark matters, we nevertheless have a profound understanding of their relevance to the nature of the universe. This satellite has once again directed our gaze to the endless starry skies.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (by China Association for Science and Technology)


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