Chinese scientists to push frontiers of basic sciences


Chinese scientists want to push the frontier of basic sciences and create new innovations to help the world achieve its sustainable development goals.

Last December, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution endorsing 2022 as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development.

Since then, over 100 organizations across the world have held events recognizing and celebrating the role of basic research to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030.

Particle physics is one of the fields in basic sciences that Chinese scientists have contributed in recent years, said Wang Yifang, director of the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Particle physics may seem like an abstract subject that people find difficult to understand and relate, but it has yielded many critical innovations, including the internet, nuclear power plants, and medical device used to diagnose and treat cancers, experts said.

Since the inception of particle physics in the 1950s, the elementary particles highlighted in the Standard Model of particle physics have all been discovered, prompting scientists to wonder if the end of particle physics is coming, Wang said.

“The Standard Model of particle physics has now entered a transitional phase, and Chinese scientists can contribute by proposing major questions and new solutions for future development.”

China began experimenting in particle physics with the construction of the Beijing Electron Positron Collider in 1984, which was later upgraded in 2009. The instrument has made numerous discoveries in particle physics, Wang said.

Chinese scientists are also making strides in the research of neutrinos, the most abundant particles in the universe yet it hardly interacts with anything due to its extremely small mass and no electric charge, hence its nickname the “ghost particle”.

The Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment, located in Guangdong province, discovered new properties on the oscillation of neutrinos in 2013. The finding sent a shockwave through the international physics community.

Wang said China is building an even bigger neutrino experiment called the Jiangmen Underground Neutrino Observatory. The underground scientific infrastructure features a 13-story tall giant glass ball buried around 700 meters underground. It is set to complete next year.

Zhan Wenlong, noted nuclear physicist and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said nuclear energy can play a significant role in helping China reach its peak carbon dioxide emission goal by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.

The next generation of nuclear technologies will require new breakthroughs in basic sciences ranging from materials science and particle physics, he said.

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