My Trip to China

China makes more steel than anywhere else in the world.  China generates more electricity from wind power than anywhere else in the world.  China generates more electricity form solar power than anywhere else in the world.  China has the world’s fastest train and the world’s fastest computer. We have some catching up to do, and the longer we wait to start, the more we will fall behind. I departed for China on August 11th and returned on the 20th.  It was not my first trip to China, I have been to china maybe 8 times before, but the last time I was there was 16 years ago, and 500 years ago in other respects.  Yes, the hospitality and food were the same, and unlike Paris, there still is not a MacDonalds every other block.  The valuable advice of “don’t drink the water” is a way of life there and many places in this world.  We are lucky we can just go to the tap, and yet what we spend our money on is often essentially tap water in a bottle, and we pay more for it than if it were gasoline.  Ah, and who says marketing doesn’t work?

Back to China.  I have been to so many places in China, the Great Wall 3 times, the Terracotta Army in Xian, The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, over the Gobi Desert, Shanghai, etc. etc. that this trip I wanted to focus on science even more.  I was there to give two lectures.  One Lecture I titled,  “Key remote sensors, their capabilities and limitations” and the other:   “The future of  remote sensing and the solution to challenges” . In it, I addressed the science of data initialization and data integration by infusion, with emphasis on new ways of using data from remote sensors to correct forecast “on the fly”, without having to reinitialize them.  Also, I highlighted emerging novel ways of using remote sensing.  My host was Dr. Li Bai, Deputy Director-General of the Meteorological Observing Center. He was exceedingly gracious.

Upon my arrival I knew I had gone through a star-gate, or back-to-the-future vehicle or something. The airport was 100% thoroughly modern and as clean as any I have ever seen.   After being picked up, I was driven to my hotel on a highway, interstate, that was as if you were in Dallas or Atlanta, except all those big green signs had strange writing to me.  The hotel was very clean and nice with an Internet connection that was simple to use.  Much like a new Holiday Inn.

The last time, I was there, the streets were filled with bicycles.  But  now, cars, cars everywhere, although traffic moved smoothly.  And no smog. No bicycles – I see more in Tallahassee.  People do not have an aversion to walking either.  Now, this was Beijing, which was certainly “cleaned up” for the Olympics, and can not be generalized to the whole country, of course.  But with Beijing, and so many other cities being now modern cities, more will follow.

After my first talk, they decided I needed an interpreter – good move. I got very insightful and knowing questions from some members of the audience after both talks.

I was impressed by their knowledge and how up to date they were.

I visited their data center.  It is very impressive.  They have approximately 135 first-class radars in China for meteorological operations.  And thousands of stations, many with instrumented towers, etc. The network is as good or better than in the USA and definitely state-of-the-art.

I got the impression that many of the upper administrators and key scientists received their PhD degrees in the USA or Canada or Europe.  However, the return of such bright students will ensure that they can produce “top notch” home grown scientists as well.

I was hosted for most meals.  In every one, the common feature was – no rice, but a huge variety of every imaginable delicacy.  I discovered what I perceived to be several “missing links” in the theory of evolution.  All were local delicacies and much appreciated.   Of course there was that special liquor for toasting, many times. And Gan Bei  was a frequently used and appreciated expression when used properly.  I always had the honor of sitting to the right of the host, the honored position. And that is reflected in the demeanor of the meal, and the interactions between me and the host, and the other guests.  I think you can score big points or look pretty awkward and silly if you do not follow protocol.  I do NOT consider my self an expert, just a survivor who has made many new friends.

It was a great trip, and I hope to go back and work with their established and emerging scientist on topics I think I can contribute to their science.

Finally, it is wonderful to visit other cultures and learn new things, to visit old friends and make new friends, but as any traveller knows, the best feeling is coming home, coming home to family, familiar food  and friends. The challenges you left await you upon your return.

Next I give you some pictures with a brief comment on each.

What I did not get a picture of was another entertainment; an amazing dance and pantomime with a man elaborately costumed and with a series of masks which he changed faster than you could blink an eye. No kidding, it was instantaneous. Don’t know how he did it, but he was in character and it also was more than fabulous.

Of course there are more pictures and many more that I wished I had taken, and can now only reside as memories, an abundance of memories.