Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chinese satellites

Continuing with the random old photos from our computer...

This picture was taken at the Chinese Meteorological Agency in Beijing in November 2005. I went there for a workshop on monitoring drought. They wanted to set up a drought monitor like we have in the US. It was a mix of talks and table-top type exercises. The food was amazing... Our hosts taught us the saying that the Chinese eat everything with four legs except the table.

This picture was a tour of their central command for managing all the weather satellites (i.e. its location, speed, how all the sensors are doing). The guy in black I think is the head of the Chinese Academy of Science (not the whole thing, just the environmental science part I think). If you looked to our right there was another bank of computers and then a large display on the wall. I vaguely remember that it wasn't a projection, it was a 5x15 foot LCD screen.

One strange thing you'll notice is what they're wearing. Whenever someone was doing anything operational (e.g. making a forecast, preparing a map) they'd have on a white lab coat. Not many chemicals to protect yourself from in weather monitoring, but it definitely gave that air of scientist-as-the-modern-techno-priest, separate from the lay folks.

Early in the morning at sunrise I would go out and walk around the city on my own to get away from the group and see the sights. I wouldn't know where I was going in advance, just keeping a general idea of was direction I was headed and the distance. At times it was an incongruous scene, e.g. wearing my long black peacoat and walking upstream through a crowd of manual laborers who were mostly dressed in rags.

Going around in the streets was a taste of "how the other 7 billion live", something we saw more of in India. As with China, however, it's strange how there's isolated pockets of incredible high tech. For example, the Chinese were doing with satellites some stuff that even the US wasn't doing. And it was all going on just blocks from eachother.

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