Chinese sprinter Zhang Peimeng had a racing competition with J-10 fighter jet in the previous season of Cheers Sciences. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)
Former Brazilian footballer Roberto Carlos was famous for his powerful free kick. Perhaps his most famous goal came in a game against France on June 3, 1997, when he scored by curling the ball so heavily that a ballboy on the touchline instinctively ducked to avoid it.
In the first season, people were surprised to find that soft chewing gum could be used to cut open a coconut
Yet, within an instant, the ball swung back on target and arched into the back of the net, leaving the dumbfounded French goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
This video clip has been broadcast so many times over the past two decades, that it's often hailed as a goal that most appears to disobey the natural laws of physics.
And when Roberto Carlos took to the stage of China Central Television variety show Cheers Sciences to relive his proud moment on screen, he was asked a question by the host.
"What forces affected the football when it flew through the air like that? Gravity? The force of the kick from your foot- or both?"
The Brazilian star who was so skillful when it came to handling the ball didn't appear to have a full mental picture of the physics behind the kick－and promptly offered up the wrong answer.
"Many people have an inaccurate impression that a football flies in a straight line due to TV broadcasts," Cao Zexian, a physics researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, explains. "However, a curling trajectory is more common, and Roberto Carlos' goal is a perfect example of physics in action.
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Xu Chenge (middle), 12, the youngest competitor in the upcoming third season of Cheers Sciences, is in the show with hosts Sa Beining (left) and Nigermaidi Zechman (right). (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)
"Football is also a science," Cao adds. "It shares some similarities with how rockets work. It's good to take a broad view when we observe this phenomenon."
And with the heat of the FIFA World Cup still lingering over the summer, Roberto Carlos is helping to introduce the world of science to young people through the latest series of the show.
Season three of Cheers Sciences is due to return to CCTV on Aug 12. The previous two series scored 8.8 and 8.2 points out of 10 respectively on Douban, a popular Chinese review site.
The host duo from season two, Sa Beining and Nigermaidi Zechman, will continue to compere the new series, which sees ordinary members of the public mixing with celebrity contestants as they compete in the quiz, where follow-up scientific experiments prove the answers on set.
Many of the country's national-level scientific institutions, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, are also on hand to provide support and ensure the accuracy of information.
"Our children spend too much time learning from books," says Cao. "Hands-on experience is crucial in building up a good understanding of the world."
He notes that people have long been forced to divide knowledge into two different camps－the fields of natural science and the liberal arts. This, in turn, has led people to become defensive about their lack of understanding in either field to cover up the gap in their education.
"But there should be only one criterion: Those things you know and those you don't," Cao continues. "It's better to get rid of any prejudice and always be prepared to gain new knowledge."
In the first season, people were surprised to find that soft chewing gum could be used to cut open a coconut. And, in the second season, leading Chinese sprinter Zhang Peimeng had a 100-meter race against a J-10 fighter jet as it took off.
An egg being incubated in a transparent jar, as shown in the new season. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)
Zhang may have lost that particular race, but he won a 50m dash against a training aircraft.
Celebrities often appear larger than life when they appear in the spotlight, but the joy of this show is to see them behave like wide-eyed children when they are genuinely amazed by the scientific explanations behind certain phenomenon.
In the third season, they will witness how a chick is incubated inside a glass jar in an experiment performed by a professor from the China Agricultural University, which aims to show how an embryo develops.
"Science is essentially something fun, not something we're forced to learn by teachers," Zhang Guofei, supervisor of CCTV 1, says. "It has two supportive wings: scientific research and popular science. However, our knowledge of popular science is still not deep enough.
"Shows about popular science are intended to trigger young people's interest and help motivate them about their future studies," he continues. "This will also be the key to China's revival."
A China Association for Science and Technology survey in 2015 showed that only 6.2 out of 100 Chinese people had "basic scientific literacy". However, a similar survey undertaken in the United States in 2000 showed the number to be 17 out of 100, according to Guo Tong, a producer of Cheers Sciences.
"It's essential to build up the spirit of science among the young," Guo says. "If children are exposed to TV programs that raise their consciousness, there will be more people like Chen-Ning Yang, Tu Youyou (a female Chinese medical scientist and Nobel Prize winner), and Elon Musk among them."
The production team behind the third season of Cheers Sciences is attempting something quite unprecedented: It aims to send an artificial satellite into space on the first rocket launched by a privately owned company in China.
The two hosts of the show do a scientific experiment in the second season. (PHOTO / CHINa DAILY)
The satellite will be exclusively used for scientific experiments, and all the experiment undertaken on board will be chosen by the public.
"I don't expect Cheers Sciences to become a viral success like other variety shows designed purely to be entertainment," Ren Xue'an, a marketing director of CCTV, says. "But I believe this kind of program will gradually nurture a solid fan base and be discussed more widely."
"The country's TV producers need to insist on looking for what is truly valuable," he says.
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