Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Taiwanese scientists take a starring role for National Geographic

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan is better known for its economic achievements, especially in the semiconductor industry, than its scientific achievements.

Not many Taiwanese themselves know that Taiwan has a world-leading position in the areas of agriculture, information science and medicine.

This Sunday at 8pm, a program called Hot Science from Taiwan on the National Geographic Channel (NGC) will introduce viewers to outstanding Taiwanese scientists and their achievements.

The production team of the program are documentary makers from Taiwan's Public Television Service, commissioned by the NGC, taking one year, interviewing dozens of scientists and introducing 10 different kinds of scientific breakthroughs in this one-hour program.

The first scientific breakthrough featured from Taiwan is an investigation of the faults that cause earthquakes in Taiwan, especially, after the devastating 921 earthquake in 1999. Taiwan's geologists found out there were places suffering from catastrophic damage, but not on the faults lines. Scientists tried to find out why, and then asked: Can banning construction on the sides of fault lines really reduce possible damage?

The second story introduces a newly developed three-dimensional display that works with the eye. Taiwanese researchers used computer calculations and opto-electronics to develop such a display on LCD screens. They have also invented a single-lens 3D camera.

The third story talks about new advances in research on electric motorcycles, an urgent environmental issue, considering 10 million motorcycles flood the streets of Taiwan. Researchers are developing a lithium-ion battery that keeps the motorbikes going for 80km. And they have also designed a power management system, which charges the battery when you put on brake.

The most impressive among the 10 stories, however, is the story on a medical research team successfully helping paralyzed people stand again. In 1996, Dr. Henrich Cheng (鄭宏志) and his team developed a strategy to repair the spinal cords of rats, which marked the first time in the world the central nervous systems of mammals led to functional recovery. And now he has used this discovery to treat human patients. More than 50 patients are taking part in his experimental program and most have recovered some movement.

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