Monday, June 30, 2008

JJNN 37 June 30th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday June 30th, 2008. Today I want to talk about a new Japanese method that can be use to reduce the rejection of a kidney after transplantation.

Before I get into the news (yet again) I just want to wish everyone a hearty end of June. And, with this, the last day of June, comes my 40th blog post. A completely arbitrary milestone, but something still work celebrating. I forgot to celebrate the first month, so the first 40 days sounds like a good place to start celebrating. Yay JJNN!

Any way, news time. This is an interesting news story. A group from Tokyo Woman's Medical University and Juntendo University have come together to find a way to stop a recipient from rejecting a transplanted kidney. This is a breakthrough that could end up really advancing medical science.

When an organ gets transplanted into a recipient's body, the recipient sometimes goes though a process of rejection. Rejection is caused by the recipient's T-cells think that the whole organ something bad invading from the outside. T-cells are a form of white blood cells and help people when they get an infection or a something foreign enters the body. That is why when a T-cell sees an organ that used to belong to another person the T-cells attack it causing the organ damage and maybe even killing the organ. That is the process known as rejection. This process is shown in the top panel of the picture below.

The middle panel shows the normal treatment for organ rejection. The doctor gives the organ's recipient an immunosuppressant drug. That drug slows down the recipient's immune system so that the T-cells will not attack the implanted organ so strongly. The downside to this is, of course, the fact that with a compromised immune system more germs and viruses can do damage and cause sickness before they can be fought off.

The new technique does not require immunosuppressant drugs after the first few weeks. The day before the operation both the organ's donor and the recipient give blood. T-cells are than collected out of both of the samples of blood. They than mix the two different types of T-cells which end up producing a special anti-body after being left together for 2 weeks. This antibody and the T-cells are than returned back to the recipient of the organ. Those T-cells than act as a regulation agent for the rest of the T-cells. The message not to attack the new organ is transmitted to all of the T-cells in the body. This does not weaken the T-cells reaction to germs, but it makes them stop attacking the transplanted organ.

Most transplant recipients have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives. But, with this new process the recipient has to only take the drugs directly after the surgery. This is a great improvement. I wonder how long it will be until this process becomes a normal part of the surgical procedure for transplanting organs. It seems quick and easy and saves people with have to deal with immunosuppressants in the long run.

Apparently the medical teams have performed some experiments with monkeys 5 years ago. The results looks good because it the monkey shows no signs of rejecting the organ. So now, they are going to try the process on humans. They are going to use 3 to 5 people and see if it works. I hope that all goes well.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 腎臓(じんぞう). It is pronounced jinzou and means kidney. I always liked the shape of the kidney compared to other organs. Though I don't really like the kidney shaped beans.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

JJNN 36 June 29th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday June 29th, 2008. Today I want to talk about a nuclear power plant that is near my house.

Before I go into the news tonight I just want to say that someone has a cosmically huge sense of humor. Not 3 or 4 hours after I wrote my blog yesterday about the lack of a rainy season where I live it started to rain. That is not a terrible thing, but the fact that it has not stopped raining yet is a very bad thing. It has been raining hard for about a day now and it shows no signs of slowing or stopping. I freeken hate this time of year.

Any way, let's get to the news, shall we? The original story is given here. It seems that a lot of people were up in arms about the decision to restart the nuclear power plant that is located in Kariya, a small town on the coast located in Niigata.

The seven nuclear power plants located at Kariya all shut down last year on July 16th after a major earthquake hit an area not far from the power station. The earthquake did a lot of damage to the power plants and it was amazing that there was not a nuclear crisis of some kind. The only thing that really happened was a little bit of the radioactive water escaping storage tanks and ending up in the ocean, but this is not as bad as the big bang that could have happened.

Because there is always the threat of another major earthquake happening on the same fault line, another earthquake could happen under that nuclear power plant at any time. When the nuclear power plants were first constructed there was a survey of the geology of the area, but they decided that the fault that lays almost directly below the power plant was not active and nothing would come of it. Boy, were they wrong.

They now know that fault is active, but they still want to go ahead and power up the reactors again. A lot of people don't like this. That is why a group of 1000 people marched on Kashiwazaki (the closest city to the power plants). The group wants the reactors to be put out of commission because they were hit with an earthquake that was stronger than the earthquakes they were designed to deal with. Not a bad point, I think. The group, seen below, marched chanting "We will not allow the reactors to start up again."

I don't think that these reactors should go back online. At this point the land where the reactors are built is still not in the best condition and there is always the chance of another strong aftershock in that area. Also, all of the energy created in the power plants is shipped to Tokyo, so none of the locals ever get to see any of that power in the first place. None of the locals like that place and most of them would like to see it go. I would have to agree with them. (Yes, I know, a major case of NIMBY, but oh well.)

Any way it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 原子炉(げんしろ). It is pronounced genshi-ro and means nuclear reactor. The design of nuclear reactors is really an interesting and beautiful science. Hopefully within the next 10 or so years they make a design that will help reduce the waste that comes out of the process.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

JJNN 35 June 28th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday June 28th, 2008. Today I want to talk about the rainy season, again.

Exactly a month ago I posted about the rainy season. Ever since that post I tried to physically and psychologically prepare myself for the rainy season. Like I said before, I just don't like all the heat mixed with the humidity. But, this year a strange thing happened. In my part of Japan it hasn't been raining. It is still hot and a little humid, but not nearly as bad as it could get.

I am happy with the whole "no rain during the rainy season" thing, but farmers are not. There are places in Niigata and other prefectures that are really feeling the pinch in their rice growing because of the lack of rain water. A lack of rain means that not as much rice can be grown, and any rice that is grown ends up being smaller and less nutritious than normal rice. For the people that make their living off from the soil this is a terrible thing indeed.

That is where this news story comes in. Japan's national meteorological agency and 10 other groups are coming together to perform the first tests of cloud seeding in 40 years.

Let's take a look at cloud seeding before we go on with the news story. Cloud seeding is something people do to try to make it start raining without mother nature giving the go ahead. The person that wants to seed the cloud will fire (or drop from a high altitude plane) a chemical that will cause the moisture that is already present in clouds to turn to ice. This pice of ice is called a nucleus and is used to attract more of the moisture in the air. When the nucleus gets heavy it falls as rain and the cloud seeding is a success.

I bet when you think about cloud seeding you think of silver iodide. That is how people used to seed clouds. The reason silver iodide was used is because it has a chemical structure that is much like ice. It actually induces freezing in the cloud and forms the nucleus that I talked about above.

There are other ways to seed clouds though. The Japanese project uses small pellets of dry ice if the temperature of the air is less than 0c and an absorbent material that contains salt if the temperature is above 0c. In their first experiment they released the absorbent powder out of a helicopter. The changes were all recorded by a small plane that followed the helicopter. You can see a picture of the helicopter below.

The government is thinking of using this to help with the summer droughts in Shikoku for the next 3 years. We shall see what comes of it. I hope that it helps, but I think they probably still have a few bugs to work out of the system. All I really have to say is "Good luck, but don't fly one of those things over my house!"

Any way it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 人工降雨(じんこうこうう). It is pronounced jinkou-kouu and means artificial rain. That makes it sound like it is mechanical rain, but it just means rain from a seeded cloud.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, June 27, 2008

JJNN 34 June 27th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday June 27th, 2008. Today was another slow news day so I am going to be talking about two very small news stories.

The first story is about internet on bullet trains. Bullet trains are extremely fast trains that run on special tracks to a lot of places in Japan. The first bullet train made its first run in 1964, with a top speed of 210 km/h (130mph). Now, the fastest bullet trains run at around 300km/h (188mph). These trains are a little on the expensive side, but they get you where you need to go in a hurry.

The only problem with bullet trains, really, is the fact that you really have to bring your own entertainment. There are no "in-flight" movies or anything like that. Most people play with their cell phones, but if you end up going though a long tunnel that option is gone. There is always the old fashion forms of entertainment like reading and napping, but that can get old fast.

In order to remedy this problem Japan Railways (JR) decided it would be a good idea to give everyone riding on the bullet trains internet. Starting from March of next year, all of the bullet trains that run between Tokyo and Osaka will be equipped with wireless internet. They even got rid of the pesky problem about tunnels by running a special type of coaxial cable along side the train tracks.

That all equals free uninterrupted internet access on the trips to and from Tokyo. Not a bad thing at all. The speed is capped at 2Mbps. Not as fast as I get at home, but not that bad for internet on the run. All and all this is a good idea that should have been put into effect years ago. JR is also thinking about setting up most of the platforms with free wireless internet as well.

The second story is a look on the lighter side of the news. It is also to point out how far the Japanese go with their marketing strategies. If you go to Japan and you look around for a little while you will find that you just can't away from characters (either from anime or real people) all over the merchandise. My favorite is the Hello Kitty "massager" seen below:

It is not just Hello Kitty that can be found everywhere. The example that caught my eye is GeGeGe no Kitaro. GeGeGe no Kitaro is the story of a kind Japanese monster that goes around defeating the evil Japanese monsters. I know, I know, it sounds like every other anime out there. I don't really want to get into the story.

Any way, there is a new GeGeGe no Kitaro movie coming out soon. That means that marketing department has to get on the ball. What do you think the best way to market a movie is? Commercials? News Papers? TV shows? I would say yes, but apparently that is not enough. The people that are making the movie teamed up with NEC and made the GeGeGe no Kitaro computer. There is a picture of it below.

The character design hurts my teeth.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 新幹線(しんかんせん). It is pronounced shinkansen and means bullet train. Most foreigners that live in Japan just call it "The Shink." I remember my first ride on a shinkansen. I still love riding on the shinkansen, but saving money is also a good thing.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

JJNN 33 June 26th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday June 25th, 2008. Today I will talk a little bit about a fossil uncovered in Japan and what a bunch of Japanese students thought it would be fun to do in Italy.

Today's first news story is given here. So, imagine this. It is your first trip to Italy and you are going around to see all the sights. You and your friends find yourselves at that Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, which is a building that is over 700 years old. You think it would be cool to have some way for your and your friends to really remember being to this wonderful world heritage building. So, what do you do? Do you take a picture? Do you draw a picture of the building? Or, do you write your names on the building for all to see?

Well, most normal people would do one of the first two choices, but not everyone. A group of 3 students from Kyoto Sangyo University decided it would be great to draw their names and pictures along a part of one way of that 700 year old building. This group of 3 students were not the only group from Japan to do such a thing either. Six students from Gifu's Women's collage did the same thing.

This makes me wonder what Japanese people have against historical buildings. There are much better ways to remember you where in a place than writing the equivalent of "I was here" on the wall. Maybe they just didn't think about what they are doing, but I hardly doubt that is the fact. Well I guess now that I have turned 30 I can point and laugh at the stupid things 20 year olds do.

The second news story is given here. I really love archeology. When I was young I wanted to be an archaeologist. Well, maybe for a week. I mean I think I wanted to be a lot of different things for about a week each. I still have that dream to be an astronaut, though if I get married in space.

Any way the story is about the oldest amphibian fossil found in Japan. The fossil was found in in a geological strata that dates back 245 million years ago. This dates back to the Triassic period, before dinosaurs were the dominate vertebrate on the planet (according to wikipedia). It is part of a extinct subclass of amphibian called labyrinthodontia (Greek for "maze tooth"). It is related to the mastodonsaurus pictured below.

Cute, huh?

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 両生類(りょうせいるい). It is pronounced ryousei-rui and means amphibian. I never did like amphibians, but I guess if I had one of those things for a pet I would like them a lot more.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

JJNN 32 June 25th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday June 24th, 2008. Today I want to talk about a new idea from Japan that should be able to increase the storage capacities of optical media.

The Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Advanced Materials at Tohoku University in Northern Japan released a paper in which they described a way to increase the storage capacity in optical media like CDs and DVDs by up to 9 times. The original story can be found here. A one sided DVD with only one layer now has a storage capacity of up to 4.7GB. This new type of DVD could possible have a storage capacity of up to 42GB. That is a lot for just one tiny disc.

Before I get into the details of why this new disc can hold so much more data than a traditional disc I want to say a little bit about how a DVD works in the first place. Probably everyone knows that it all has to do with lasers, I mean they do call it an optical drive after all. But, how does that laser read data off the disc? Well that is the fun part. All CDs and DVDs have flat microscopic pits on their surface. A laser light is shone upon the bottom of the disc and either hits a pit or a flat spot. Because of the slight difference of depth between the bottom of the pits and the tops of the pits the laser light is either reflected into a laser pickup assembly. If the laser is reflected onto the assembly the result is a "1." If the reflected laser does not hit the assembly the result is a "0." These ones are zeroes are binary and when a whole string of them together the result is a nice movie watching experience (or any other form of data).

Well that may be simple enough, but how do we end up increasing the amount we can store on a DVD without cramming a lot more of those pits onto it? Well this is where Tohoku University stepped in. They asked themselves why all those pits have to be flat. They found that if all the pits are shaped like Vs the storage capacity is greatly increased.

The reason that the capacity is increased is because when the laser light hits the v-shaped pit the light is reflected back with elliptical polarization which is oriented in a plane that is dependent on the orientation of the v-shaped pit. That was quite a pain in the wrist to write and I assume a headache to read, so I will try to do a better job to explain how this works. The light that is shone into a pit will be reflected no matter what, but the orientation of the pit will change how the laser light is polarized. This difference of polarization leads to a difference in the output for pits that are in different orientations, which means that one pit can actually act like many different pits if the detector or the laser source is turned with respect to the pit. In experimentation the disc was rotated over 180 degrees which was split into 512 segments. They found that one pit can actually hold as much information as 2^9 traditional pits.

This sounds good to me. I don't know if I actually need a DVD that can hold that much data, but it would not be a bad thing to have. This could mean that start of bigger and cheaper storage devices. I can't wait to see where this will good. But, as with all good news, there is some bad news. Normal DVD or CD players could not play these new discs. The disc reader assembly would have to be replaced for one made for the new type of disc. If that doesn't cost too much I am all for it.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 記憶容量(きおくようりょう). It is pronounced kioku-youryou and means storage capacity. I remember back in the day when we had to save on those huge black floppy disks. Now that is how a real man saves data!

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June 24th 2008

Hi all.

I couldn't find any good news tonight. I looked around and found a lot of small articles, but nothing of real note. So, tonight I will talk about one of my hobbies.

When ever people ask me what my hobbies are (and it happens more than your think if you teach elementary and jr. high school) I always say that I have 3 hobbies: aikido, kendo, and shamisen. Aikido and kendo are both different forms of Japanese martial arts, and shamisen is a type of Japanese musical instrument.

I will save kendo and aikido for another rainy day. I want to talk about shamisen tonight. A shamisen is a Japanese 3 stringed musical instrument that was invented in the 15th or 16th century. A typical shamisen can be seen below.

A shamisen has only 3 strings and is played with what is called a bachi. The bachi can be seen to the right in the picture. A Bachi is basically a very big version of a guitar's pick. It is hold between the pinky and the ring finger with the thumb against the back of the blade. They made the bachi out of many different things, but a weighted plastic is the most common. The weight of the bachi is used to make a snapping sound when it hits the base of the shamisen. Also, the bachi can be played near the top of the base of the shamisen to create a small sound or further down to make a louder sound.

The base of the shamisen is called the dou and it is covered tightly with an animal skin. Depending on the type of the shamisen it could be a cat's skin or a dog's skin. Don't ask me where they get the skins...I always just picture the shamisen makers stalking about in alleys with fish or dog treats.

The dou is the hardest part of the shamisen to take care of. The skin is stuck onto the base of the shamisen with a glue, so if the shamisen gets too hot the glue melts and the skin is ruined. Also, a lot of direct sunlight will do the same thing. On top of that, if the skin gets a too wet or too dry it will stretch and break open. It costs a lot of money, and I would assume another animal, to re-skin the shamisen so the owner really has to take care of the shamisen.

The shamisen can be played in many different ways depending on the situation or the song. The string can be played with the bachi normally to produce a soft sound or it can be played with a little snap in the wrist to produce a snapping sound. The string can be played from below by pulling the bachi up. The string can also be played with the fingers of the left hand. Lastly, because the shamisen does not have any frets (the parts on the guitar under that strings) the fingers can be slided up and down the strings to produce a nice blending effect.

All the different ways of playing the shamisen produce slightly different sounds than just normally playing the shamisen. It gives the instrument a little flavor in the sound. See if you can pick up all the different ways of playing the shamisen in the video below.

I bet the shamisen sounded like an easy instrument to play when I first started, but I hope that you can see now that there is a lot of depth to the shamisen. Any way, tomorrow I should be back with news, if there is any news out there tomorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2008

JJNN 31 June 23rd, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday June 23rd, 2008. Today I want to talk about space, the final frontier.

There are a lot of cool things going on in space lately. The discovery of ice on mars and the hydroxyl radical found in the atmosphere of venus just to name two. But, I am going to ignore all that good stuff completely and talk to you about this. It seems a company called First Advantage and another company named RocketPlane, which is part of Kistler Aerospace Corporation, are joining together to give people something they can find nowhere else.

So, a consulting company and an aerospace company working together. It doesn't sound so bad, right? Well, actually, the consulting company actually owns another company called LADIRB. LADIRB is a wedding planning company. This is the actual company that is working with the aerospace company. You may be asking yourself what a wedding planning company and an aerospace company are doing working together. This is a very good question. The reason those two companies are working together is so they can give space weddings.

Yep, that's right, space weddings. I have heard of strange theme weddings before. In fact I have even been to one (no insult meant sis :p), but this is the first wedding that I can think of that is so extreme. I guess it beats getting hitched in Vegas by gunpoint, but it feels a might forced to me.

The process is easy enough. First, you have to sign up for your space wedding. Well, actually, I think first you have to find someone to get married to, but that is a moot point I guess. The sign up starts on July first of this year. Best be getting to it if you don't want a long line outer space.

Second, you hand over a wheelbarrow full of money. How much do you think a space wedding costs? In this case it is 240 million yen. That is about 2 million USD. That takes a lot of sales on ebay to pay for, but if your a person with that much money just laying around this is a wedding for you. Though, I would say there are probably better things that you could do with your money.

Third, you have to wait. It takes a long time for space weddings to get off the ground. The first space weddings are planning to be held sometime in 2011. This means that you have to find someone that you want to marry that can wait that long as well. Short relationships are not meant for space weddings it seems.

Fourth, you have to go into training. What did you expect? You are going into space after all. I would assume that a person would have to be physically fit (as in no bad hearts) as well, but I didn't see that warning anywhere on the website. Any way, 4 days before the wedding the bride and groom to be have to go into training. The exact type of training hasn't been revealed, but I would assume it would be a shorter easier version of the training of any astronaut.

Lastly, the bride and groom are launched into space (about 100km from the surface of the earth) and the wedding ceremony starts. You may be thinking that the ceremony is a little on the lonely side with just the bride and the groom in the rocket, but that's not really the case. You see, the ceremony is broadcast live over the internet for all to watch.

I wonder if the priest will say "I now pronounce you earthling and earthling."

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 結婚式(けっこんしき). It is pronounced kekkon-shiki and means wedding. I always liked the traditional weddings in Japan. It's too bad that more people are going for the Christian weddings now. Not only that, but more and more people are getting married in hotels...bah

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

JJNN 30 June 22nd, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday June 22nd, 2008. Today I want to talk the environment and the crazy things people do to try to help out the environment.

Before I get to the news, I just want to say that I had my birthday party yesterday and I am still extremely messed up because of it. That means that this post will probably not be the easiest one to read, but please bear with me.

OK. The story can be found here. Tokushima, which is a prefecture and a city in southern Japan, has what they call "candle night" every year on the summer solstice and on the winter solstice. The candle night has been going on in parts of Japan for about 5 years.

The goal of the candle night is to have 1000000 people turn off their lights from 8:00 to 10:00 and use candles as a replacement to electric lights. That sounds great, right? Well, actually, not really. Let's think about it from the perspective of saving the environment. In order to save the environment the greenhouse gasses that we release have to be lowered. But, does turning off the lights in your house and using candles really do that?

Before getting into the number (and the fun) let's talk about greenhouse gasses. What exactly is a greenhouse gas? A greenhouse gas is any gas that will stop heat from the earth escaping into space. This is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. Without these greenhouse gasses all the heat from the sun and the heat from the earth itself would escape into space and earth would be a very cold place. On the other hand, if there is too many greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere the earth would get very hot. As with everything, there needs to be a good balance. There are many types of greenhouse gasses, but the one I want to deal with is carbon dioxide.

So, how much carbon dioxide does a burning candle produce? I didn't really want to do the math myself so I poked the answer out of the internet here. It turns out that a candle can produce about 10.7g of carbon dioxide an hour. Candle night lasts for 2 hours a night from 6/21 to 7/7 which is a total of 34 hours. That would be 363.8 grams of carbon dioxide. And if they reach their goal of 1000000 people that would be 363800000 grams of carbon dioxide. That is of course assuming that everyone has only one candle. It could be a fact that everyone is using 2 candles because the light that is produced by a candle is poor. In that case that amount of carbon dioxide would be doubled.

So what does that big number mean? Well, let's assume that everyone that lit up a candle did so after turning off just one light. This is not such a stretch for Japan. I have one light for every room in my house. A good average light bulb is a 40W bulb. W stands for watt and is a measure of energy use or production. 1W is one joule of electrical energy per second. So, if a person shuts off a 40W bulb for 2 hours they are saving 40W*2hr*60min/hr*60sec/min or 288000 joules of energy. How many grams of carbon dioxide does that end up being? Well, most of Japan's electric energy comes from nuclear power, which produces no real amounts of CO2.

So, that means that burning those candles puts 363800000 grams of carbon dioxide into that air that would not have been there in the first place. But, what if Japan were powered by gas coal. gas coal is 85% carbon and 1 gram of it produces 35000 joules of energy. That means to get that 288000 joules of energy for turning off lights 8.2 grams of coal have to be burnt. 8.2 grams of gas coal is 6.97 grams of carbon dioxide. Multiply this by 1000000 to get 6970000 grams of carbon dioxide. This is much less than what is produced from the candles.

So, it turns out that people that are trying to save the environment by turning off lights are actually killing it with all of the carbon dioxide they are producing. Ironic, but in the end a little sad. People have to find better ways to hug trees.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 蝋燭(ろうそく). It is pronounced rosoku and means candle. I always liked candles, but I can't bring myself to use one after my apartment burnt down a couple of years back. The fire wasn't caused by a candle, but still fire inside is not always a good thing.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

JJNN 29 June 21st, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday June 21st, 2008. Today I am going to talk about some shapely melons.

What? Why are you calling me a pervert? Oh! Melons! No, no! I am going to talk about the fruit! Do any of your remember that episode of the Simpsons where the whole family goes to Japan. In that episode Homer finds a square watermelon when walking around Japan. Well, those watermelons actually exist. Just look at this video.

That, however is not that news. Those watermelons have been around for a couple of years now。Don't get that wrong idea. It's not like everyone here eats square watermelons. I have been in Japan for 6 years and I have never seen one close up. Plus, they are damn expensive. One square watermelon is about $200. Ouch

The actual news is found here. A group of high school students in Aichi prefecture had the idea of growing other square fruit, but they faced one major problem. The watermelon was already square, what else could they make square. Well, finally decided to settle with normal melons. You can see the square melons below.

Well, your probably saying to yourself that this news story hardly even qualifies as news. Well, up to this point that much is true. But, it's what Japan is trying to do with these melons that is making the news. Aichi prefecture is revving up the production on these square melons so they can export a lot of them to Hong Kong this summer. They want to do this so they will have the property rights of the square melon. They will have their square melon trademark made international with these international sales.

Maybe it's just me, but I like my melons round. Why the hell do we need cubic melons? I am sure they fit better in boxes and easier to carry, but I don't see any other advantage. Can any of your think of any other advantage?

Now, let's talk about the major disadvantage. One melon costs about $100! A bit too rich for my blood. I would got for a lot of "lesser" rounder fruit over this square melon. But, maybe that is just me.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 四角い(しかくい). It is pronounced shikakui and means square. There are many things out there, that are meant to be square, but I don't think melons are one of them. Maybe, one day, they will make a melon that is shaped like a watermelon. That would probably be a big seller!

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, June 20, 2008

JJNN 28 June 20th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday June 20th, 2008. There was a lot of news out there today, but after about an hour of looking around none of it really grabbed my attention so I guess I will tell the story of my latest journey into the land of wu.

"Wu?" you say? No, it's not a person. Wu would be a Chinese name not a Japanese name any way. Wu is a word for anything that is non-scientific (pseudo-scientific) out there. This time I am going to talk about the dowsing class that I went to. What do you think about when you hear the world dowsing? Is it looking for water with two sticks? That is the image most people have, but in the class I went to the students were learning how to find out things using a pendulum.

Let's get right to the debunking of this. The person that was performing the dowsing would hold the pendulum and ask them self a question. The pendulum would than swing one way for yes and another way for no. You may be wondering how the person knows which way is yes and which way is no. Well, first the person would point to a picture of a circle and ask them self if it were a circle. Miraculously the pendulum would swing one way and would always swing that way for a yes answer. The person would also find that the pendulum would swing the other way for a no answer.

That all must mean that what the teacher says about dowsing plumbing the depths of a connected human consciousness to find the answer has to be correct, right? Wrong. The effect that causes the dowsing pendulum to move has been known about for over 100 years. It is called the ideomotor effect.

The ideomotor effect was first discussed in a paper by William Benjamin Carpenter in 1852. He was talking about the ouija board in the paper, but it can also be applied to dowsing. The basic idea of the ideomotor effect is that all humans make unconscious movements. The body actually reacts to ideas or something that it knows is right which in turns moves the pendulum. This is why the pendulum moves when you ask if a circle is a circle or something like that.

Any way, the dowsing class was full of 30 or so true believers and me, the lone skeptic. As the teacher was feeding everyone load after load of crap I was in the only one in the room not believing every word he said. Everyone else was shaking their head and saying things like "I knew it would be something like that" or "I guess I can only believe what the teacher says."

It was a little creepy to hear that, but the most shocking thing was something I heard from the teacher. He said that by using dowsing a person can tell that the sun is actually not hot. I was a little confused when I heard that. I thought that he was talking about the fact that the surface of the sun is not as hot as the outer part of the sun, but he kept talking. He went on to say that the sun was about the same temperature as the earth and there is soil and rice and even water on the sun. I could hardly stop myself from laughing right there, but the thought of being lynched by true believers stopped me.

So we are all on the same page, here is a picture of the sun...

Looks hot to me. And, in fact, it turns out to be hot. It turns out to be 11000F. That is damn hot. Just as a comparison let's look at the melting point of iron. The melting point of iron is 1535F. I guess no iron can be on the sun, but what about soil and rice? One can probably safely say that they would be not present. This means that a statement dowsing makes "The sun is not hot and there is rice and soil on the sun" is scientifically proven wrong. Dowsing is bunk...period.

Any way, I guess that is enough of a rant. If you want to hear more things like this let me know. There are so many pseudoscientific things that the Japanese do. Leave a comment and let me know.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 19th 2008

Today I am going to take a little break from the news. Don't worry, I have a good reason. Today is my birthday. To celebrate my 30th year on the earth I am going to take a day of rest.

That doesn't mean that I won't post anything today though. Here are some crazy Japanese things I found on youtube. Enjoy.

How did that guy ever get into a higher office?

Yep, Tommy Lee Jones pushing coffee as an alien in a Japanese commercial.

Got to love Jinnai Tomonori. Damn funny.

Any way I hope everyone has a good day. Talk to you again tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

JJNN 27 June 18th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday June 18th, 2008. Today I will be talking about two computer related stories.

The first story is about something that is incredibly heartbreaking. The original story can be found here. I think that anyone that has used a computer has felt the pain associated with the loss of data or a full system crash. Crashes and data loss are very hard to deal with and end up giving the computer user a lot of stress, so Symantec Corporation wanted to find out was just how stressful the situation really is.

Symantec Corporation polled 1000 people that had 3 or more years of internet experience and were over 15 years old for about a month on the Internet. The thousand people were given a couple of situations and were asked to rate the stress level of the situations from 0 to 10. The average for a computer crash that leads to a non-working computer is 6.99. The average for all the computers on your computer disappearing is 6.98. Some other non-computer related situations were a lost wallet (7.99), loosing a friend (7.41), and getting sick or hurt (7.32). At the bottom of the list is breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend which was 6.03. Yep, a breakup is not as traumatic as looking all your data. Hmmm...

As always, I wonder about these polls. I mean they are rating their own stress levels, and that can't be an easy thing to do. In the end it probably makes a very fuzzy study. The error bars will probably end up being larger than one standard deviation. It is an interesting poll, but they really have to find a better way to take data.

The second story is about firefox 3.0. Oh yes, got to love firefox. You may be wondering what I am doing talking about firefox when I am suppose to be talking about news from Japan. Well, it turns out that firefox is really being pushed in Japan.

Before I go into that I want to talk about firefox a little bit. Firefox is an Internet browser made by the Mozilla company. It is currently the second most popular Internet browser (after IE). Personally I like firefox. 2.0 was a bit clunky and loved to devour memory, but that was fixed in 3.0 (or so I have been told...I haven't had a chance to get 3.0, but I was using the release candidate for a while.

Any way, Mozilla is targeting Japan with advertising for firefox. Normally it would be the smart thing to get a newspaper add or maybe a TV add, but Mozilla had a different idea. They decided to put their ad on the small screens of the trains that run on the Yamanote line in Tokyo. You can see the advertisement below.

The advertisement goes thus:
Fox: If you are going to use the Internet...!
Crowd: Firefox!
Fox: It's damn fast!
Crowd: Firefox!
Fox: I... I'm getting addicted!
Crowd: Firefox!
Narrator: This time the fox is damn fast!

Got to love to see a fox jump around like that. Makes me want to go out and get 3.0 right away.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 失恋(しつれん). It is pronounced shitsuren and means breakup up with someone. I still don't see how the emotional washing machine that is a breakup can be less stressful than loosing data. Data can always be replaced in some way, but a crazy ex-girlfriend is priceless I guess.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

JJNN 26 June 17th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday June 17th, 2008. Today I want to talk about the earthquake that happened in Japan over the weekend.

On June 14th at 8:43AM there was a major earthquake in the northern part of Japan. The name given to the earthquake was "The Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake in 2008." 10 peopled died and 12 more people are missing and suspected dead. The strength of the earthquake was 7.2 on the Richter scale. To give you another earthquake to compare it to, the 1989 California earthquake that occurred during the world series was a 7.1 on the Richter scale. I am sure most of the people that read this blog remember that earthquake and all the destruction that came with it.

You may be thinking that only 10 people dead is a miracle when compared to the 67 people that died in the California earthquake. Well, I am not one to believe in miracles so I decided to look into it. The epicenter of the California earthquake was located in the Santa Cruz mountains, only 10 miles from the city of Santa Cruz which has a population of about 54000 people. On the other hand, the epicenter of the Iwate earthquake was located in literally in the middle of nowhere. The closest city is Oushuu city with a population of 120000 people. There are a lot more people, but the city was further from the epicenter and all buildings in Japan are built strictly to resist earthquakes, something that could not be said for those old Californian buildings.

Earthquakes that big really play havoc of almost everything manmade and natural. Soil actually becomes very liquid and starts to flow during large earthquakes. This leads to landslides, sinkholes and other such affects. In the case of this latest earthquake a lot of soil was moved around. Take a look at the picture below.

The picture shows a map overlaying an new picture of the area around the epicenter of the earthquake. The map, in white, shows the way a road was before the earthquake. The map and the picture do not match in the middle. The reason for this is the earthquake caused the road to move over 300 meters with a large part of the ground around the road. It is going to be a long time before they are going to be able to build up this area again, but I hope everything goes back to normal for the people that lived there.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 地震(じしん). It is pronounced jishin and means earthquake. I have been in two major earthquakes in Japan already. They were both almost 7s on the Richter scale. I can tell you that I don't want to experience another earthquake.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, June 16, 2008

JJNN 25 June 16th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday June 16th, 2008. Today I want to talk about a new electric car prototype that was produced in Japan.

The original article about the car is here. The company Sumitomo produced an electric car prototype with a secret under the hood. You may think that the secret is a new type of battery, but actually the battery is just one of the same old lead based storage batteries we use now. The secret is actually much more interesting. The engine of the car was made with coils of superconducting wires.

I want to go over superconductivity just a little bit before I got back to talking about the car. Superconductivity happens in certain special metals when they are cooled to extremely low temperatures. When the metal is cooled its resistance goes to zero, and when the resistance finally reaches zero it is than superconducting. The superconducting metal shows an interesting effect called that Meissner effect in which the metal actually repels magnetic fields. This can be seen in the famous experiments with a magnet levitating over a cooled superconductor. The Meissner effect has nothing to do with these cars, so I will get back on topic. The important thing to remember is that superconductors have basically 0 resistance at low temperatures.

Now onto the car. The picture of the car can be seen above. There is something you should be wondering about the car. It has superconducting parts, right? That means that parts of the car have to be cooled to extremely low temperatures. So how do you think they do this? Well it's not by going to a corner store and getting a bag of ice. The car actually has a 4 liter tank that is for liquid nitrogen. That much liquid nitrogen will keep the superconducting wires, which are made from an bismuth amalgam, cool for about 2 hours. In case of accidents passengers don't have to worry about the gas tank exploding, but now they have to worry about the new problem, low temperature burns.

So, you may be wondering why this company decided make their electric engine with superconducting wires. It's not the official answer, but probably "Because a superconducting motor is just damn cool." is up there somewhere on the list. The real reason the company gives is the fact that a large current can run in superconducting wires. A large current in an electric engine leads to a huge torque from the engine. The other reason given is that a lower conductivity in an electric engine leads to a higher gas milage. I don't think that gas milage is the right word, but I don't know what to say for electric cars.

This may be great for a prototype, but I wonder if we will be seeing a lot of superconducting vehicles in the future. The company's plan for the next ten years is to improve on the technology and get a superconducting bus, with a cooling tank big enough for a day of driving, on the road. Also, if a version of a fuel-celled car with liquid hydrogen ever gets invented, the engine can get its cooling from that liquid hydrogen instead of the liquid nitrogen that the prototype is using.

I don't know what I think about this. It seems a little bit too ahead of its time. The tank and the coolant together must weigh a lot. This weight along with the weight of the batteries and the engine can not make this car very practical. But, if they put more time and money into the project it may end up being a good idea. We shall see some time.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 液体窒素(えきたいちっそ). It is pronounced ekitai-chisso and means liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen brings me back my undergrad days in the basement of the physics department filling up the nitrogen dewars on detectors. I had to do that every day, and even to this day I don't like liquid nitrogen.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

JJNN 24 June 15th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday June 15th, 2008. Today we are going to talk about another of the many wacky robots that Japanese companies make.

This story was taken from slashdot and can be found here. The name of the new robot is EMA (which stands for Eternal Maiden Actualization...what ever that means) and is being made by Saga Toys, of all companies. Saga actually has a line of robots it has produced over the years including a dog robot and a cat robot. They decided the next major step would be to make a humanoid female robot. The robot is pictured below:

The robot is slated to go on sale September 26th and will be able to do the following things: trade name cards, sing and dance at the same time (I can't even do that), walk like a female should (AKA Fujiko from Lupin) and kiss.

Yep, you read that right, kiss. This robot has a "kiss mode," which is actually just a part of its "entertainment mode." When Ema points its (I will not use a feminine pronoun for it!) the owner can pull her left arm forward and the robot will move its face closer to the owners face and made a kiss sound. What the hell? Why would anyone want to do this? For one thing, EMA is only 38 centimeters (about 15 inches) tall. I guess if someone would like to have a love affair with a leprechaun this would be perfect, but I prefer someone a might taller myself.

Yeah, I know, the kissing thing is weird, but lets look at the robot in terms of parts. It may be a little thing, but it actually has an array of 5 motors that it is uses to walk and perform other actions such as moving its arms. Since this thing can walk you don't want it to be running into anything or anyone so it also has lots of sensors. These sensors include infrared sensors, sensors that detect how the robot is angled compared to a target and sensors that detect sound. Also, this little robot is flexible. It can flex at the elbows, shoulders, legs and the trunk of the body. That is a total of 9 places that it has degrees of movement. To top it all off, EMA's hands both have sensors on them that can tell when you are touching or moving them (so that you can get to kiss mode!).

All and all it is quite the complex machine being sold as a toy to lonely men. The price is about 20000 yen (about 200USD) so it is a might expensive as well. My advice for people that actually want to buy this thing is to either find a girlfriend or find a new hobby. I guess it would be a good introduction to a future where every house has a robot (if that kind of future is meant to be), but may a checkers mode would have been a better idea than a kiss mode for something like this.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 赤外線(せきがいせん). It is pronounced sekigaisen and means infrared. It seems that infrared technology is everywhere in Japan. I mean you can trade cellphone information with infrared now. Got to love technology.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

JJNN 23 June 14th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday June 14th, 2008. Today we are going to talk about a new fossil found in Japan.

The original news story can be found here. The discovery of the fossil in Hyogo prefecture was announced last Thursday. The fossil was of a mammal and was found in a geological area that dates from 139 to 136 million years ago. The archaeologists were only able to find the lower right portion of the animals jaw, but that was enough to tell scientists what the animal might have been. It is assumed that the animal looks like a mouse that was 10 to 20 centimetres in body length. You can see the fossil in the picture below.

This fossil is the oldest mammal fossil found in Japan and it may be a good clue about the evolution of mammals. The teeth in the jaw that they found had molars that are similar to the ones find in mammals of today, so it is thought that this animal is a distant cousin of the mammals that we see walking the earth today.

The fossil contains a part of the jaw which is 2.5 centimeters in length and contains the lower portion of the jaw and 8 teeth including a cuspid, premolars and molars. The roots of these teeth are actually bifurcated, a characteristic that is found only in mammals. From the teeth, scientists hypothesize that the animal would have eaten plants and small bugs.

This fossil resembles a fossil that was found in China 6 years ago. The Chinese fossil was placed in the taxon of eutheria, which means that is a placental mammal. It got the name of Eomaia scansoria and was thought to live about 125 million years ago. This means that the Japanese fossil is actually older than the Chinese fossil. Scientist think that the Japanese fossil gives a picture of what mammals may have been like before their offspring evolved into eutheria mammals.

There are only 11 other places in the world that have produced fossils from the same era as the one found in Japan. That means this fossil is something that is extremely important and can give everyone a good idea of the way this animals have evolved over generations. This find is very excited and I hope they can find more fossils like it in the same fossil bed.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 哺乳類(ほにゅうるい). It is pronounced honyuurui and means mammal. Mammal (or Mammalia) is a class. Eutheria is actually an infraclass. I guess "King Phillip Came Over From Great Spain " has gone out the window now that there are so many different subclasses for taxons now.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday the 13th!

Hey all

There is not going to be a normal post tonight because of a couple of things. The first thing being that I got a new computer. If my new computer were to be a windows computer I would be able to post tonight, but I was talked into buying a mac (someone better check if hell just got a new hockey team).

The other reason I won't have a real post tonight is the fact that it is Friday the 13th. I am going to be having a personal Friday the 13th party, since my name is Jason.

Happy Friday everyone and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

JJNN 22 June 12th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday June 12th, 2008. Today we are going to open the "oops" file.

I think the number one thing that you never want to hear your doctor say is "oops." It usually means something bad just happened. You sometimes see news stories like this, but this one is big.

It seems that a 70 year old man went to Tokyo University's hospital for surgery on his eye for glaucoma. He was only suppose to get surgery on his left eye on that day so it was treated with sterilizing agents and prepared for the operation. So far, so good, right? Well yes, but than the surgeon enters the room.

Because the left eye was mistakenly covered up with gauze, the surgeon commenced the surgery on the right eye. The mistake was not found out until they checked on everything the next morning. The staff of the hospital should have noticed before the operation because the nurse marked the patient's left temple to prevent any slip-ups.

Well things like that don't seem to work any more. Simple things like marks that clearly say "Cut open this eye!" just are not even looked at any more. I guess simple is no longer best.

The surgeon ended up apologizing the next day, but is on record as saying something like "Well we had to operate on that eye for the same problem any way." Does not sound very apologetic to me. Sure, the operation had to go on for the eye in any case, but they are overlooking one major problem. The patient's right eye was never treated with sterilizing agents. There was a chance that the patient's eye could have gotten infected. This would be a bad thing.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is こめかみ(こめかみ). It is pronounced komekami and means temple(of a forehead). The reason it is called komekami is because kome means rice and kami means chew. When you chew rice or something else the temple moves a little. Neat, huh?

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

JJNN 21 June 11th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday June 11th, 2008. You ever have one of those days where no one calls you or you get no emails? Today I am going to talk about just that.

So, lately none of your friends or family have gotten into contact with you after you emailed them. How long do you go before you start to feel anxiety about the missing email? A news story that tries to look into that question can be found here.

Four hundred sixty nine internet users were polled by iShare from May 27th to May 29th about they way they normally get into contact with their friends and family. It turns out that over 80% of the people in the poll answered that they use email a lot more than the phone. I know I personally use mail a lot more than the phone. I love my friends and all, but emailing uses a lot less energy most of the time.

The polling company than went on to ask how many of the 469 people actually ignored an email of friend or family. What percent do you think would actually do something like that? 20%? 40%? Could it be 60%? Nope. It is about 80%. I can't really say anything though. I know I have ignored an email before. In fact I am doing so at the moment. I am sure almost everyone in the world has for at least a while. Of course people have good reasons for ignoring emails. The top reasons are things like "I was working when I got the mail," or "I was sleeping when I got the mail." But of course, "I didn't really feel like mailing at the time" is also there.

Lastly, the polling company asked people how long after they send a mail do they start feeling anxiety if a reply does not come back. The results of that question are seen below:

49.7% - Never feel anxiety
29.6% - Feel anxiety if a reply does not come back in 6 hours
13.0% - Feel anxiety if a reply does not come back in an hour
4.9% - Feel anxiety if a reply does not come back in a half and hour
2.1% - Feel anxiety if a reply does not come back in 10 minutes
0.6% - Has never used email

First what gets me is that this poll was given on the internet and 0.6% of the people in the poll have never used email. What? That has nothing to do with the story? Sorry...Sorry...

Well the good thing is that about half the people never ever feel anxiety. I can sort of see worrying about an email that doesn't come back in 6 or so hours, but I wonder about those people that start to feel anxiety after just 10 minutes. People are busy and can't always be running to their computer or cell phone to be writing replies within 10 minutes. I guess these people just have to calm down a little.

What about all of you? How does it does it take you guys to worry (even a little bit) after you send an email and no reply comes back? For me it would probably be 4 or 5 hours. I think that is enough time for almost anyone to get to their computer or phone and write a quick reply. Post a comment and tell me your time and reason.

On a side note, I wonder if this study could somehow be connected with nomophobia (the fear of being out of cellphone contact). It is not quite the same, but I think that people that want a reply within 10 minutes might have come version of this. The article compares it more to an addiction to email than a fear.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 依存症(いぞんしょう). It is pronounced izonshou and means addiction. I think about the only thing that I am addicted to is those snacks that people bring into the office. I could eat those things all day.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

JJNN 20 June 10th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday June 10th, 2008. Today I am going to talk about something that might end up being the first step towards a future of virtual reality.

The original story can be seen here. A team of researchers at Keio University has developed a system that allows a person to move an avatar around in an online game called second life without using any external source of control. The system uses electrodes placed on a person's forehead that can read brain waves to control the avatar. The basic process can be seen below.

The meaning of the Japanese in the picture is thus:
1) Detect brain waves,
2) Comparison to brainwave patterns that were already recorded.
3) Movement on screen.

The original purpose for this research was to help people that can not move their arms or legs because of spinal cord injuries or severe nerve diseases. These people can put on the electrodes and movie their avatar in any direction they want and even to a specific place in the world of Second Life. They can than use a microphone to talk with other people in that virtual area.

In this system, if a person wants to move forward all they have to do is think about walking forward. That thought pattern is picked up by the electrodes that are worn about the forehead and fed into a computer. Before the system can be used to move around in a virtual world, a the brainwave patterns for thoughts like "I am walking forward" or "I am turning to my left" have to be recorded and saved on the computer. When a person uses the system his brainwave patterns are constantly compared to the ones that are already saved in the computer. This leads to movement in the virtual world. The user does not have to practice to move around his avatar so it is quick and efficient.

The efficiency of this system would not be as good as the same system in which the electrodes are implanted, as can be done in America. But, in order to use external electrodes, the project leaders made a good analytical program and positioned the electrodes in inventive ways.

I wonder where this technology will go. I can see it going far. I don't know what the reaction time is, but if it is high enough maybe this could lead to driving without a wheel. It may even be able to allow for moving around in a fully immersible form of virtual reality in the distant future. I am happy they are using it to help people that can not move their arms or legs, but I hope they look into taking this technology into different areas.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 脳波(のうは). It is pronounced nouha and means brainwaves. About this time my brainwaves are starting to dip into the alpha.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, June 9, 2008

JJNN 19 June 9th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday June 8th, 2008. Apparently yesterday was not such a slow news day. I hate to continue with another depressing news story, but this one needs to be talked about. At the end of this post I will try to talk about something a little lighter.

Today's first story can be found here and here. A lot of the people that read this blog probably already heard about this, but I really want to talk about it anyway.

It seems that yesterday in Akihabara, a district of Tokyo that is known for its otaku and electric stores, a 25 year old man went on a killing spree. I used to go to Akihabara at least once a month, so this really hits home for me, and I am sure it hits home for anyone that watches anime or is really into Japanese electronics.

The details of the killing spree are thus; At around 12:30PM the suspect (though, I don't think that is the correct word because everyone knows he did this) drove his car into a an intersection while people were crossing it. He hit some people and than got out of his car with a 13cm (about 5 inches) knife. He than started stabbing the people that he hit with his car and other people in the area. He ended up killing 7 people and injuring 10 others. The 7 people that died include 6 men, with ages ranging from 19 to 74, and one 21 year old woman. A picture of the aftermath of the attack can be seen below.

After the suspect got arrested he was asked why he decided to go on the murderous spree. He said that he didn't like the world the way it was and he just wanted to kill someone. Call me crazy, but I don't think that is a good enough excuse. If everyone that thought the world was in a terrible state went out and killed a bunch of people the population of the world would quickly drop to about one.

Let's take another look at the knife that the suspect used. It had a blade that measured 13cm. Japan actually has a law that forbids people from carrying around knives longer 6cm unless they have a good reason to have the knife. This law is part of the famous Swords and Firearms Control Law which was passed in 1958. The law not only prevents people from carrying knives over 6cm, but also prevents people from owning swords with blades over 15cm and guns of any kind.

There are many that say this law is strong the way it is, but after the Akihabara attack many in the government want to make the Sword and Firearms Control Law stronger. I would like to see how they plan on doing this. It is hard enough for them now to get the guns in the country registered (yes, there are people with guns for things like hunting wild boar or bear), and I imagine that getting people to register knives will be very hard.

It has gotten to that point that people can order knives from other countries over the internet. This will be a hard thing to start regulating. There is no way that the companies will help, because that will mean a lost sale. I am all for taking knives out of the hands of potential murderers, but I don't see how the Japanese government can do that now.

OK. That's done with. Now on to the lighter side of the news. The story can be found here. The Japanese are usually known for throwing as many technological innovations into a simple object that they can. This is no exception to that rule. The picture of this wonder machine can be seen below.

This little gem is not for those that say "All I need is a pair of sunglasses." No, no. That would be too easy. OTAS, an electronics company, decided to throw an MP3 player into the mix. Those tassels hanging off the sunglasses are earphones. It has a memory of 2Gb so it can hold a lot of songs for those sunny days.

But wait, there's more. The sunglasses also have a 1.3 megapixel camera that you can use to take a picture of what ever you are looking at. Yep, just like the spies used to have in all those old movies. All you have to do is look and click to take a picture. The sunglasses kit even has clear lenses that you can switch out so that the wearer doesn't have to look so suspicious.

The glasses come with a mini-USB cable so that songs can be uploaded and pictures downloaded. They are run with a small battery that can be recharged in about 2 hours and can live though about 5 hours of music listening. Everything can be controlled by small buttons on the right side of the frame, but the glasses also come with a remote control. Yes, a remote control for your glasses...

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 無差別殺傷事件(むさべつさっしょうじけん). It is pronounced musabetsu sasshou jiken and means spree killing (and wounding). Remember, there is a difference between a spree killer and a serial killer.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

JJNN 18 June 8th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday June 8th, 2008. Today was a slow news day. I will do a story from the city I live in.

I live in a city called Nagaoka in Niigata prefecture in Japan. Nagaoka is not a big city, so it doesn't really make it into the news that much. This is why I want to do this news story.

The basic jist of the story is that on Friday afternoon the police found 3 people dead in a tent. Yeah, I know...this is not a cheerful story, but it is close to home. So, you would probably think that all 3 of these people were from the area and died in some freak accident, right? Nope. It was a person from Kanagawa, a person from Nagano, and a person from Tokyo. Those are places that are far away from Niigata.

You might be asking yourself what connects these people. Well the only connection is that they all wanted to die. Yeah, that's right. In Japan there are freaky websites where people of like mind about dieing can get together. What happens is they start talking about committing suicide and they choose a place and a means.

In this case the 3 people used cleaning products to create hydrogen sulfide gas. Not a nice way to go, but it does get the job done. The 3 people did not leave any notes, except one on the tent flap that said "Poison gas, do no open." How nice of them to warn people.

This is the thing that gets me. When I think of suicide I think of a person going somewhere to be alone and doing what he/she thinks they need to do to get the job done. But, in Japan you see cases of this type of suicide from time to time. I guess they just need strength in numbers. They don't have what it takes to do the job by themselves so they need to do it with other people.

Well that was depressing. On the bright side, the iphone is making its way to Japan soon. Softbank is going to pick it up and sell it for maybe 40000 yen. I really want to get one of these phones, but I don't see it happening. I got a ipod touch (which is basically an iphone without the phone part) and it is already falling apart. I am not happy with apple. But, maybe my next computer will be an apple...let's see.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 硫化水素(りゅうかすいそ). It is pronounced ryuuka suiso and means hydrogen sulfide. hydrogen sulfide is H2S. It is also has the smell of rotten eggs. Yep, the last smell those people smelled on earth was that of a fart. What a terrible way to go.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

JJNN 17 June 7th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday June 7th, 2008. The topic for today is daylight saving times ("summer time" for my readers in I have any European readers?).

The Japanese Society of Sleep Research put out a report last Thursday that outlined the 5 reasons why they are against the introduction of daylight savings time in Japan. The report can be found here. Before I get into the reasons, I want to talk a little bit about daylight savings time.

It is popularly thought that Benjamin Franklin was the person to think up daylight savings time, but that is just a myth. DST was actually first thought up in 1905 by William Willett, a sportsman from England. It was first put to use in Europe in 1916 and in America 2 years later. The original reason for implementing DST was to get people outdoors earlier so they can use those extra hours of sunlight in the morning.

At this point there is no DST in Japan. As someone that comes from a country that does have DST, the early sunrise is a killer. For example, the sun rose at 4:21 this morning in my city. 4:21! When I go and take my daily walk at 5:00AM the sun is already over the horizon. I lost count of the times in the summer that I woke up early and thought I was late for work because it was so bright out.

So the report from The Japanese Society of Sleep Research gives 5 reason against introducing DST to Japan. The first reason they give is that if DST were to be put into practice it will throw off people's bio-rhythms. They say it will mess up sleep schedule, so weak people might get sick because of lack of sleep. It goes on to talk about more rhythms being thrown off, but I got to say that is a weak argument. It might be a hard couple of days when the time is moved ahead, but the effect is not more than a couple of days.

The second reason they give is that traffic accidents increase during DST. I guess I can see this one. More of that morning sunlight that can make it hard to see and can lead to accidents. Also, on the first day of DST people are always tired from that lost hour of sleep. But, you know, I can't see this being a huge increase in accidents.

The third reason they give is that DST does not save energy. This is true. In some cases more energy is actually used. For example, in a model for Osaka, the electric usage of the normal household actually raises by .13% during DST. Sure, a person won't be using lights in the morning during DST, but they will be turning on more lights at night.

The forth reason they give is actually connected to the third reason. But, instead of electric lights, it is talking about air conditioners. The theory is that if people get up earlier they will put on their air conditioners earlier. As hot and humid as Japan is during the summer, I know I would do the same thing.

The last reason they give is that other countries have dropped DST so Japan should never start it. Yeah Japan, way to go with the pack. In my opinion this is not a strong argument. It is good to look at the experiences of others and making a decision, but that should not be the only reason for making that decision. There are actually places in Japan that did use DST for a little while, but it was only done nationally after WWII. The Americans pushed it on Japan, and that is probably the biggest reason why we don't have DST in Japan now.

The 5 reasons that the report gives are compelling, but in the end I think DST is just a good idea. It is a good thing to get out there and go around while the sun is up. That is one of the reasons I get up so early in the morning for my walk. It feels good to walk around in the sunlight so early in the morning.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is サマータイム(さまあたいむ). It is pronounced samaa taimu and means DST. It looks like the Japanese went with the British English on this word. It is interesting to see when Japanese go for British English over American English or some other language like German. It took me forever to figure out what an アルバイト(arubaito, meaning part time job) was because it is from the German arbeit.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, June 6, 2008

JJNN 16 June 6th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday June 6th, 2008. Today I will be covering a very interesting science news story.

Today I will be talking about a new idea for stem cells that is coming out in Japan. The original story can be found here. Stem cells are very interesting little cells. Stem cells are what are called "pluripotent cells." A pluripotent cell is a cell that can turn into any fetal and adult cell type. It can give rise to anything from a bone cell to a lung cell.

The stem cell that people usually hear about in the news are embryonic stem cells. These are cells that are that are derived from a blastocyst, the early stage of an embryo. Last I knew, scientists in America could not use embryonic stem cells because of many things, including the stupidity of the president.

There is, however, a different type of stem cell called iPS cells. This stands for induced pluripotent stem cells. Basically, a non-pluripotent cell is injected with certain genes and turns into an non-embryonic, fully pluripotent stem cell. These cells, of course, have the advantage that they are not taken from embryo, so they are not so "morally gray." These cells were first produced in 2006, so they are still testing the cells out to see if they work just like embryonic stem cells.

Any way, that is a basic background on stem cells. I haven't even talked about the news story yet. It turns out that they are thinking about making a "cell bank" in Japan. What this cell bank will do is hold the genetic material that could be used for medical treatment. In other words, someone will grow nerve cells (or it could be any other organ or other part of the body) and keep it in the cell bank. When a person needs the cells they can be used for medical treatment.

I don't think anything like this will be happening any time soon, but let's just think about what would happen after this "cell bank" got off the ground. I am not a doctor so I can't grasp the little effects of the existence of this bank, but I can think about is the biggest effect. We wouldn't have huge waiting list for transplant operations any more. So many of the same organs for many different blood types could be kept in the cell bank. The result of this would be little or no wait for transplant.

I am sure there are other effect that would come about. If you can think of any more let me know. Personally I am all for things like this bank. The only thing I really worry about is who would end up running the bank. This article says it should be set up and run by a collection of different people, but that doesn't really do anything to assuage my fears.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 細胞(さいぼう). It is pronounced saibou and means cell. Since is it Friday, I am going to go give the cells in my liver a workout.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

JJNN 15 June 5th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday June 5th, 2008. Today I will be talking about a creepy-crawly that I am sure no one really likes.

So today's story is about spiders. The original story can be found here. You know, I hate spiders. I really really hate spiders. There is nothing on this earth that makes me want to run more than spiders.

So imagine this. You are going to the park. You just want to go and have a good time with your friends or family. After driving around for a while you finally find a good parking space. You park your car and get out. As you are walking to your trunk you hear a wet squish. You look down to see that you are surrounded by these things:

What would you do? I know I would scream like a little girl and jump onto my car.

Well, this is not just a story. As it turns out, about 600 of those spiders lived in a drain in the parking lot of a park in Aichi prefecture. If that wasn't enough, it turns out those little things are poisonous. If a person gets bitten by one of those spiders, they start feeling sick and getting dizzy.

It turns out that the park sent people around to find these spiders and kill them with burners. Am I the only one that can see a mini-forest fire going down here? It is not very safe, but I guess it is better than spraying chemicals around in a public park.

These spiders are not native to Japan. There are always stories of animals being brought into an ecosystem in which they have no natural enemies. If there is no other animal competing for the same food in the same area, the non-native animal can just keep growing in number until something like this happens. If it is something like black bass I am not so put off, but when it comes to a lot of spiders like that, no thank you.

Any way it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 蜘蛛(くも). It is pronounced kumo and means spider. You know, I think the reason that I hate spiders so much was that movie with a bug exterminator that ends up having to fight a giant spider because everyone in town was being killed by tiny spiders. What was the name of that movie? Anyone know?

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

JJNN 14 June 4th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday June 4th, 2008. Well there is no getting around this story. I was trying like hell to avoid it because I didn't want JJNN to turn into a rant-fest quite yet (I wanted to save that for a really slow news day).

The story goes thusly: Gas prices suck! I know you already know that. Everyone knows that. But, I just happened to come across this story and I remembered I had to dish out 10000yen (that's about 100USD) to gas up my car yesterday. I guess now that my wallet is lighter my car should have more gas mileage, right?

Any way, the original story is found here. The gas situation is getting bad here. The price of gas has shot up to 170 yen. You may be thinking "Well that's only about 1.70USD, that's not bad!" Well, you are wrong. I will tell you why you are wrong. Gas is not sold by the gallon in this country. It is sold by the LITER! Damn you metric system! All ways biting me in the ass when I least expect it!

For those of you that are not down with the conversion between gallon and liter it is 1 gallon equals 3.8 liters. This means that 1.70USD has to be multiplied by 3.8 for a total gas price of almost 6.50USD. Very very painful. Makes me not want to drive my car anywhere.

Any way, away from ranting and on to science. In times like this people should ask the obvious question: "Is there an replacement for gas or something I can do drive down how much gas I use ?" Try saying that 3 times fast!

Well the short answer to those questions is "Yes," but the long answer is "Yes, but that is in the future." There are a lot of companies (and crackpots) trying to make cheap fuel or free energy. As for things like that bio-ethylene, it is just making things worse in the long run. Not only does the production of bio-ethylene cause food prices to go up, but the stuff is hard to deal with. As for devices that are suppose to produce free energy, well I think my friend Homer says it best. You can hear his thorough debunking of these perpetual motion type devices here.

As to how you can drive down how much gas you use, that is easy. Take a bus. Take a train. Or, better yet, take a bike. Or, for Gawd sakes, walk somewhere. I don't want to sound too strong or too hippie (those of you that know me know that I am not a hippie) about this, but it is the best way. Other ways include turning your car off at long red lights or putting the car into neutral when going down a long hill. Simple things like that. I guess that is enough of a rant for tonight. I hope you enjoyed it.

Any way it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 暫定税率(ざんていぜいりつ). It is pronounced zantei zeiritsu and means temporary tax rate. They keep moving the tax on gas up and down. Sometimes I think the government doesn't know what it wants.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

JJNN 13 June 3rd, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday June 3rd, 2008. In a bit of personal news, I finally got around to watching Pulp Fiction. Yes, yes. You guys can finally get off my back. I am not sure it was even a very good movie. I mean, I guess it was OK, but it's not on my top 50 or so. Any way, because I watched the movie I only have time to do one news story today.

Today I will be talking about strawberries. No, I won't be telling you how to make a cool and refreshing drink for the upcoming summer days. I will be talking about the this story.

You know, I really like strawberries so I was happy to read this story. The jist of the article is that Matsushita Denkou along with a farmer's group in Hyougo prefecture said that they have been testing a special light system that is suppose to make strawberries strong against damage from diseases. Apparently Matsushita Denkou already had a light system to keep the bugs off from the strawberries, but this system is totally new.

You may be wondering how light can make strawberries strong against diseases. Well the lights shine at a certain wavelength in the ultra-violet light. The ultra-violet light helps to make the strawberries immune to certain diseases and even helps to fight some types of mold. If the farmers use this system 6 hours a day for 8 months, the number of times that the farmers have to spray agricultural chemicals is reduced by 1/3 and the amount of strawberries that comes out of a harvest is raised by 40%.

Sounds good, right? Well let's look at the money side of things. For a farm that is 1000 cubic meters in area, 30 of these lights are needed. The lights and the control system that is needed to operate the lights will cost around 1,200,000 yen. A pretty penny, but in the long run it will probably pay for itself many times over. Plus, I am up for any technology that helps out the strawberries.

Any way it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 苺(いちご). It is pronounced ichigo and means strawberry. I remember picking (very) small wild strawberries by the road when I was a kid and putting them in milk. That was a damn good drink. MMmmm... Real strawberry milk...

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, June 2, 2008

JJNN 12 June 2nd, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday June 2nd, 2008. Today I will only be doing one quick news because I have to get to cleaning up from yesterday's BBQ.

Today's news is about an internet site called HappyRice. The original story is given on the Japanese slashdot here.

This is a simple, yet cool, website. You can find it at The site is sponsored by a group called the Nihon Kanji Nouroku Kentei Kyoukai. Try saying that 5 times fast! These are the same people that give tests in Japan to people so they can prove how much kanji (those are the formally Chinese characters that that Japanese use to write with) they can actually read and write. (Oddly enough it is called the Nihon Kanji Nouroku Kentei or just Kanken for short.)

HappyRice is a website in which you are given kanji problems to solve. You have 4 or 5 choices so even if you don't know the answer (or can't even read the site) you still have a decent chance of getting the problem correct. You may want to ask me why I am bothering telling people about a kanji practice site when most of the readers of JJNN can not read kanji, right? Well the reason I am telling you is that because this site does not just stop at being kanji practice. Because you will notice that every time you get a question right a rice ball appears at the bottom of the screen (that triangular white thingy). Go ahead and try picking randomly until you get a rice ball.

Fells good doesn't it? Well it should because with that rice ball 50 grains of rice (or enough money to get 50 grains of rice) is donated to a charity with that goal of feeding all the hungry people on earth. So, you are not only learning kanji (or choosing it randomly), but you are also helping out hungry people. I think that is a cool idea and is worth some praise.

While I was doing research about this I think I stumbled across the reason why the Kanken people can afford to host the HappyRice site. In 2006 alone 2,640,812 people took the test. The prices of the tests different depending on how high up you get in the system. The highest level test is 5000 yen while the lowest level test is around 1500 yen. Assuming that most of the people that took the test in 2006 are in the lower levels (I don't have that actual data but that is a safe assumption) we can use an average price of 2500 yen. That means that in 2006 alone the company will rake in 6602030000 yen. Yes, over 6 billion (with a b) yen! Of course some of their money goes into advertising, but I also did not add in their book sales and everything else. They do have the money I am glad they are using their money for good, like they are doing with HappyRice.

So give it a try and see how much rice you make the Kanken people pay for!

Any way it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 寄付(きふ). It is pronounced kifu and means contribution or donation. I just poked at the game a few times and I am already making the Kanken people donate over 1000 grains of rice. Yay for kanji!

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

JJNN 11 June 1st, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday June 1st, 2008. Today I will be taking a day off from the news.

What? A day off!?

Yes. There might have been good news out there but the only good news that I was interested in today was the BBQ I hosted. I had a good time with friends and cooked up some hamburgers on the grill. Here are a couple of random pictures:

This is a picture of my friends Hugh, Kelly and Chuck.

My yummy hamburgers.

Two of my friends enjoying burgers

I don't have much more time before sleep, but I will leave you with a video for tonight. It is a guy using a shamisen (a Japanese instrument with 3 strings) to play the star wars theme. Enjoy

Oh, I almost forgot, the word of the day. Today's word is バーベキュー(ばあべきゅう). It is pronounced baabekyuu and means BBQ! Man I wish I made more burgers.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.