Island of Mystery

The back story

1 min read

Arriving in Shanghai last January, Senior Associate Editor Steven Cherry soon found himself on a quest. He was set to visit Dongtan, on Chongming Island, the site where Shanghai is now building a ”city within a city” [see ”How to Build a Green City,” in this issue]. But he longed to explore more of Chongming, which is about one-third the size of Long Island, New York.

Then he heard of Sharron Lovell. ”She’s a photographer who’s already been there,” said a mana­ger at the Sino-Italian Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection. ”I think she wants to go back,” he added. She did indeed.

A British expat, Lovell has been in Asia since moving to Taiwan at 18. She has photographed the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, migrant workers in Beijing, and in 2004, the conflict in Afghanistan.

With Lovell getting directions in Mandarin, she got herself and Cherry to Nanmen, the largest city on the island, where she found out about a history museum. Summoning all her language skills, she pieced together bits of the geologic, ethnic, and industrial history of Chongming. An ­alluvial island, it has waxed and waned as the flow of the mighty Yangtze River has changed over time—the island actually disappeared and then reappeared a few centuries ago. Today Nanmen, though unnamed on some maps, has 350 000 people, making it larger than Australia’s capital, Canberra.

And it was on Chongming, the two learned, that the junk ship was invented. One wing of the museum was filled with models of the graceful, iconic ships. ”Without Lovell to translate, I would have had no idea what I was looking at,” Cherry says.

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The Great Ventilator Rush

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, engineers launched extraordinary crash programs that produced scores of ventilator designs. What will happen to them now?

14 min read
Not Rocket Science: Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built a working ventilator prototype in a 37-day period spanning the months of March and April 2020.
Photo: JPL-Caltech/NASA

The projections were horrifying. Experts were forecasting upwards of 100 million people in the United States infected with the novel coronavirus, with 2 percent needing intensive care, and half of those requiring the use of medical ventilators.

In early March, it seemed as if the United States might need a million ventilators to cope with COVID-19—six times as many as hospitals had at the time. The federal government launched a crash purchasing program for 200,000 of the complex devices, but they would take months to arrive and cost tens of thousands of dollars each.

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