Researchers hope to catch next big wave

Updated: 2016-02-17 08:21

By Cheng Yingqi(China Daily)

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China missed the chance to become part of the global observatory network that recently reported the first direct observation of gravitational waves, experts said, adding that space exploration is an opportunity that cannot be overlooked.

"When US scientists planned a global network to expand LIGO's (the advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) surveillance area, they had proposed the idea of an observatory to Beijing," said Hu Wenrui, a renowned physicist and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"However, the Chinese did not accept the idea for building a ground detector, so LIGO chose its Asian base in India," he said.

NowLIGO has two interferometer facilities in the United States and is also cooperating with the UK, Germany, Australia, India and other countries to form a global gravitational wave detector network.

"LIGO was built in 1999 but literally found nothing," said Hu.

In 2011, scientists improved LIGO's design and the National Science Foundation in the US granted another $400 million.

"This was very farsighted," Hu said.

The advanced LIGO project was finished on March 31, and received signals of the longs ought gravitational wave six months later.

Researchers hope to catch next big wave

"China started research for building our own gravitational wave facilities in 2008, but it was very, very difficult to promote the project because gravitational waves are some thing so far from people's daily lives that few knew its significance," Hu said.

"I hope the success of LIGO will bring gravitational wave research to the forefront," he said.

Now scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences are proposing a space research project to catch up with countries that have looked into this field for decades.

"We have to participate in the research, because gravitational waves might represent the future of technology," said Zhou Dejin, spokesman for the academy.

Zhou cited the case of electromagnetic waves, which were considered too advanced to be of practical use when predicted in the late 19th century, but today we are using them in every aspect of communication including radio, TV, Internet and GPS.

"The discovery of gravitational waves is comparable to that of electromagnetic waves, and space exploration will give us vast potential for future development in the field," said Wu Yueliang, vice-president of the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Wang Yifang, head of the CAS high-energy physics institute, said that China should consider big scientific programs.

"Major scientific discoveries cannot be made overnight. Ifwe do not plan for today, we won't have any significant output tomorrow," he said.

(China Daily 02/17/2016 page4)