Tue, Aug 09, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Geoscientists gather for annual meeting

AIMING HIGH:After having made a large contribution to a particle physics detector used on the International Space Station, Taiwan will establish a local control center

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

This year’s annual meeting of the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS) opened at the Taipei International Convention Center yesterday afternoon, during which the National Science Council (NSC) accepted a proposal by Nobel laureate in physics Samuel Ting (丁肇中) to establish a control center for monitoring particle physics detectors from Taiwan.

The opening lecture of the five-day-long AOGS meeting began with a report on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) project, led by Ting’s international research group, which includes Academia Sinica and the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST).

The AMS is a particle physics detector designed to operate on the International Space Station, to search for antimatter and dark matter, measure cosmic rays and help researchers study the formation of the universe.

CSIST International Cooperation Program general director Jinchi Hao (荊溪暠) said that many physicists believed the origin of the universe required equal amounts of matter and antimatter, adding that 90 percent of the dark matter in the universe had yet to be discovered by humans.

The AMS-02, launched in May, is primarily controlled and monitored by the AMS Payload Operations and Control Center (POCC) located at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland.

“These devices have been operating on the International Space Station for more than two months now and very smoothly, without any malfunction, so we have gained wide recognition,” Ting said of Taiwan’s contribution to the AMS-02.

“I, personally, and our group earnestly hope to have a control center in Taiwan, but it is up to the NSC to decide,” he said.

“We are happy to have just heard Ting say it in person, the council is certainly glad to accept Ting’s offer,” National Science Council Minister Lee Lou-chuang (李羅權) said.

“We will cooperate to establish a POCC and develop an AMS science research center in Taiwan,” Lee said.

The AOGS is a scientific society founded in 2003 for the geosciences in Asia and Oceania with 3,338 members, AOGS Outreach Committee chair David Higgitt said. He added that the eighth annual meeting in Taipei had the second-highest number of participants, with 1,550 people from more than 50 countries registering.

The annual conferences cover discussions on atmospheric science, hydrological science, ocean science, planetary science, solar and terrestrial science and solid earth science.

A special topic of discussion this year is the March 11 earthquake in Japan.

Naoshi Hirata, director of the Earthquake Prediction Research Center and a professor at the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo, said the earthquake was the third-largest ever recorded.

“It changed our knowledge and predictions about earthquakes in that area, because specialists used to assume that each location had its specific maximum magnitude,” he said.

The annual number of deaths from earthquakes has risen from about 18,000 from 1990 to 1999 to about 60,000 from 2000 to this year, said Chen Yuntai (陳運泰), a professor and the Institute of Geology, China Earthquake Administration’s honorary director, adding that scientists should work to improve knowledge on earthquake occurrence and disaster prevention.

More detailed discussions on the geology of the Pacific coast of northern Japan related to the occurrence of such a large earthquake, submarine geological structure and seabed topography, the seismological characteristics of the March 11 event and its neighboring regions, as well as long-term forecasts of earthquake occurrences and its limitations, will be held at the Thursday session.

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