Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I don't think I am alone when I say that I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a child. I think a lot of people all over the world probably have dreamt about going up into space and flying around in some sort of space ship. Maybe the type of space ship that those people dreamt about going into space in was different depending on age, current events or popular TV show. In my case, as a child I wanted to blast into outer space on a rocket like those used at NASA. One of my first real memories as a child is about the challenger accident. That didn't stop me from wanting to go up into space though. As I got a little older I started watching more science fiction. Soon I wanted to go up into space in a space craft like that in star trek.

The point of the little rant above is the fact that no matter how similar the dream of going up into space may be, the type of craft that is being dreamt about might be different. For the next generation of kids it might not be a solid rocket booster of today's space crafts or the dilithium crystal of star trek that fuels their fantasies (sorry for the pun). It might actually be a solar sail. To find out more about solar sails check out this.

Last month JAXA launched a test craft to see if solar sails are really feasible. The name of the craft was IKAROS, which stands for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. That's a mouthful, but obviously they were trying to give a little nod to Icarus (who is actually Ikaros in latin). Why they would want to name a craft that uses wings and the light of the sun to get around after a mythical person that plunged to his death after his wings melted because he got to close to the sun I will never know.

On the 10th, IKAROS got to a distance of 7.7 million kilometers (4.1 million miles) from the earth. It went that far by rocket and without the help of its solar sails because they sails have yet to be unfurled. On the 10th the IKAROS probe started rotating and unfurling its sails. You can see video of what it looked like below.

Not only are the solar sails used to help accelerate the craft in space, but they can also be used like solar panels to produce electricity. The sails should be able to produce enough electricity to power the craft. Now that JAXA has unfurled the sails they have to put the craft though tests of its trajectory controls and navigation. Who knows, if all goes well maybe we will find a new way to putt around outer space.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 軌道(きどう). It is pronounced kidou and it means trajectory. Could someone come up with something snappy having to do with trajectory to put here?

See you next time at JJNN!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Broken Bone

I think the sentence "desensitized to violence" describes me to a tee. Because of a parade of violent movies when I was a kid most things just don't phase me at all. Though, there is something that I just don't want to see. That is a person breaking a bone. I don't know what it is about breaking bones, but they just creep me out.

Maybe it is just the thought of the person that broke the bone having to be laid up for a while with a cast on and recovering from the break. Well, thanks to a team lead by professor Nakamura Kozo from Tokyo university, maybe people will not have to be laid up so long healing from broken bones. Professor Nakamura found out that if a certain protein, named FGF-2(fibroblast growth factor), is increased the patient heals from the break faster. In some cases it was a much as 4 weeks faster.

This FGF-2 protein was tested in 48 hospitals from 2006 to 2008. 71 patients with broken tibias were separated into two groups. In one of the groups the patients were injected with FGF-2 and in the other group the patients were injected with gelatin. The group with the FGF-2 protein injection healed in about 14 weeks while they one without the injection healed in about 18 weeks.

As an interesting side-note, the FGF-2 protein is produced by genetically engineered Escherichia coli bacteria. That name probably looks familiar because it is the longer name for the infamous E. coli. E. coli is actually used to make a lot of things because it is something we know how to handle. I love when science takes something people don't like and use it for good.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 骨(ほね). It is pronounced hone and it means bone. I have never broken a bone, but I have had some bad things happen with the tendons in my leg. It wasn't fun.

See you next time at JJNN!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kanji, kanji, and more (and more) kanji

There are many obstacles to learning a new language. For most languages these include things like vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. Then there are the languages where you have to learn how to write in a new alphabet while learning the language. An example of this is the typical English speaker trying to learn Russian because they will have to learn the Cyrillic alphabet.

That may be all well and good, but Japanese takes that to extremes. Not only does Japanese have two alphabets that represent the over 50 syllables used in the Japanese language (one for Japanese words called hiragana and one for foreign words and emphasys called katakana) but they use thousands of Chinese symbols - called kanji - as well.

It is the mix of alphabets and symbols that makes Japanese such a hard language to learn how to write and read. It is possible, in fact I would say easy, to be fluent in spoken Japanese and be illiterate as well. Technically, it would be possible to get by with just reading hiragana and katakana, but nothing printed for kids over first grade in elementary school is without kanji of some kind. Every year Japanese students must learn how to read and write a set number of kanji. They have to practice them and learn how to read them and what they mean when used in combination with other kanji.

So, how many kanji do people have to know to be able to read a news paper or a book or write a letter in Japanese (whicgh is basically my definition of a good degree of literacy)? Well, up until yesterday the answer was 1945 characters. You can check out what they look like here. To people learning how to read and write Japanese these kanji were either objects of devotion or symbols of pure hell (or maybe a little of both). Those kanji were what we strived to learn and come to terms with.

Now, though, it is no long that 1945 characters. It is now 2136 characters. Yes folks, that's an extra 196 characters to learn. That would normally be bad news, but there is a silver lining to this dark cloud of woe. The government finally admitted that people don't write kanji by hand any more. Though they still say that writing is important, now that we are living in a world with computers and cell phones that can produce the kanji we want at the touch of a button, reading has taken the front seat for a while.

That is actually an extremely sweeping statement that the government made. It will probably lead to a lot of changes, but it is still early days now. I know that the elementary school teachers that I have talked to about it are all scratching their head as to how to teach these new kanji. We shall see what happens, I guess.

Any way, you can see the new 196 characters below. Get your dictionary out and have some fun with them, but remember, you don't have to bother writing them.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 増やす(ふやす). It is pronounced fuyasu and it means increase something.

See you next time at JJNN!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The return of Hayabusa

Well that may sound like the title of a cheesy horror movie, rest assured, it is not. Hayabusa is the name of a satellite that Japan launched on the 9th of May 2003. The goal of the satellite was to go to and make scientific observations of an asteroid named Itokawa. There were many problems with Hayabusa but there were also a lot of firsts and successes. For example, Hayabusa was the first satellite to land and stay on an asteroid's surface, but it also failed to launch its lander. Another thing that is unique about this satellite is the fact that it is coming back home to Earth after it made contact with an asteroid.

There are some people in Japan, I guess it would be the portion that is a lot more geeky than me, that want to really celebrate Hayabusa's return. There are people that are drawing comic strips about the satellite and even companies that are making special Hayabusa sake (Japanese rice wine) to commemorate the occasion. Below you can see one of the comic strips and what the sake looks like.

The comic shows the Hayabusa (the girl in yellow...) being thrown off the face of Earth by an H2 rocket (the girl in red...). The sake bottles show an artist's representation of Hayabusa as it looks in real life and if it were an anime girl (gah...). You can see all of that stuff and more at website for the sake company that is making the sake. There is also a little clock near the middle of the page that tells when Hayabusa is suppose to land back on Earth (as of now it is 16 days and 6 hours).

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 隼(はやぶさ). It is pronounced hayabusa and it means peregrine falcon. I don't know why but I think it is a fitting name for a satellite.

See you next time at JJNN!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Interest in science

People are always looking for new ways to get people interested in ideas or products. It could be a new commercial, a movie, or just using something that is familiar to people in general. The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (NMESI) in Japan decided to use something almost every Japanese person knows, a cartoon hero named Doraemon. Doraemon is pictured (drawn?) below:

Basically, Doraemon is a robot cat from the future that loves a type of sweet called dorayaki, hates mice (one ate his ears off...ewww) and has lots of futuristic mechanical toys that he uses to help out his friend Nobita. Some examples of these toys include "small light" which is a flashlight that shrinks things, "Dokodemo (anywhere) door" which is a door that can be used to teleport someplace, and "4-jigen (4 dimensional) pocket" which is a pocket on his belly that he uses to store his toys in some sort of subspace.

Those are all very useful toys, but I don't think that science is close to being able to reproduce the effects. So, the NMESI looked at some of Doraemon's other toys and found some things that were close inventions that we do have now. They picked out 3 for the article I read. The first one is the "Take-copter," which is pictured below.

The basic idea is using a flying because a propeller is attached to your head. Well, that won't work for many reasons that I can think of off the top of my head. For example, your entire body weight has to be supported by your neck...ouch. The version of this that is real looks like this:

It is basically a personal helicopter. It is called the GEN H-4 and it can fly between 10 and 40 km/h (between 6 and 25 mph), and weighs a scant 75 kilograms (165 pounds). Different from the animation, but still damn cool. I think I want one.

The NMESI event also features this neat little (actually quite big) machine that can help lift heavy objects just like Doraemons "Super Glove."

Other parts of the event includes translation equipment (boo to it because it might put me out of a side business) and ASIMO, a robot that can walk smoothly on two legs.

All and all I think this will work well to help spread the love of science to the next generation. It is not like a bait and switch where they get a kid to come with promises of Doraemon stuff and disappoint them, but it is more like a bait and trade up. I think I might want to go down and take a look myself.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 未来(みらい). It is pronounced mirai and it means future. Hopefully the future of science will be bright in Japan and around the world.

See you next time at JJNN!

Back up and running (?)

This is just a quick post to let you know I am finally settled down in my new house and might have actually found time to start this blog up again. The next post should be in the next day or two. I am even thinking of adding a video component every once and a while, but that might take a long time to figure out.

Just wanted to let everyone know I haven't forgotten about this and I will be back.

See you next time at JJNN

Friday, February 26, 2010

JJNN: Neutrino

There are a lot of things out there that we can't see with our naked eyes. There are also a lot of things out there that are extremely hard (or maybe impossible) to detect with even our most sensitive detectors. One example of this was my last post about dark matter. Another example is what I want to talk about today: neutrinos.

Neutrinos are much like the WIMPs that I talked about last time. Neutrinos do not carry a charge so they tend not to interact with matter in the same way that particles that carry a charge interact with matter. That is a little hard to think about so I want to give a concrete example. Imagine a sheet of atoms. This sheet can represent anything, but we shall say that it is the surface of a desk. If you take a close look at all of the atoms they are surrounded by electrons. They electrons are negatively charged and surround the positively charged core of the atom like a cloud. Now, think of another atom falling toward the surface of the desk. This atom also has an electron cloud. From basic physics we know that like charges repel and that is just what happens. Basically one electron cloud hits the other electron cloud and they atoms repel from each other. That is how it it is with a normal atom.

In the case of the neutrino it is different. The neutrino has no electric charge. This means that it is not repelled by the electric charge of the electron cloud. The neutrino can basically slid effortlessly though the electric cloud. In other words the neutrino will not bounce off from the surface and will go though. There is a case where the neutrino will not go though the surface. That is when the neutrino interacts with the atom by smashing into the atoms nucleus. You would think that that would happen a lot, but the fact is that the diameter of a normal atom is about 10^5 times that of its nucleus. This means that a atom is mostly made up of "empty space," and the chances of actually hitting the nucleus are very small indeed. Even though the chances are small that is the only time we actually detect a neutrino. The fact is that 50 million neutrinos that are produced in the sun pass though our bodies every second and hardly any of them actually interact with us. That is how hard it is to detect these things.

Now that the basics of the neutrino are covered, I want to get into this news story. It seems that the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (Know as KEK for it's Japanese name) located in Ibaragi prefecture produced a neutrino that was detected 295 kilometers (183 miles) away by the Super Kamiokande detector in Gifu prefecture on the 24th of this month.

This is actually amazing because there are a lot of countries that are in the race at the moment to produce and detect neutrinos and this was the first time it has ever happened. The article does not really got into that many details so I wonder how they know this was the neutrino that was produced by the KEK. It could have just been a coincidence that they detector detected a neutrino from the sun at the same time as the neutrino was produced by the group at KEK. I would really like to hear more about this story and see how they set up their experiment. For now all I can say is that it looks like something amazing happened, but I am not so sure yet.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is ニュートリノ(にゅうとりの). It is pronounced nyuutorino and it means neutrino. It is just another big piece in the puzzle of science.

See you next time at JJNN

Friday, February 19, 2010

JJNN: Dark Matter Detector

There are many mysterious things out there in the universe. Every day scientists come upon things that don't seem to fit into the grand picture as we know it now. Thanks to these things the scientists have to change the way they think about certain parts of the grand picture and our knowledge grows a little bit.

One of the things that scientists are trying to figure out at the moment is dark matter/energy. Put simply, scientists over the years have made many observations of the universe over the years and noticed that there was more stuff (matter) out there than we could see with our instruments. This effect was dubbed "dark matter." What are the effects of dark matter? Well, there are certain gravitational effects such as gravitational lensing (where a place with a lot of matter - and thus a lot of gravity - collects light from behind it like a lens) and the rotation of spiral galaxies, among other things. Scientists also think that the presence of dark matter also led to the anisotropy of the cosmic background radiation. That is why they can make beautiful maps like the one below that shows how "lumpy" the cosmic background radiation really is.

Up until this point in time there has been no way to directly see dark matter. This means we don't really know what it is made up or even if it actually physical matter at all. It could be that if we find out exactly what dark matter is made out of and how it is formed we could find a key to a great amount of knowledge this universe. That is why there are many groups looking to build dark matter detectors. One of those groups is from Tokyo University (even though it is based in Gifu). You can see a picture of their partially completed detector below.

The detector is actually a 1 meter across ball of 60 smaller detectors. The team has dubbed the smaller detectors XMASS. XMASS stands for "Xenon detector for Weakly Interacting MASSive Particles." I don't know about you, but I think they really cheated in their acronym to make the detector sound cool. Technically it should be XDWIMP. I think I like XD-WIMP better than XMASS. I reason I like XS-WIMP better is because WIMPs are exactly what this detector is looking for. By WIMP I don't mean a weak person, I mean particles that probably exist, but are so weakly interacting with normal matter that we have no real way of detecting them. WIMP stands for weakly interacting massive particle.

So, if these particles do not really interact with other particles how do we detect them? That very question has been plaguing scientists that do actually want to detect these particles. The XMASS detectors are filled with liquid Xenon which is as cold as -100C (-148F). Almost all of the WIMPS that pass though the detector do not interact with the xenon, but the ones that do will give a little energy to the liquid. This energy is then again released in the form of light. This light can be detected by the photo sensors on the inside of the detectors. One flash of light equals one WIMP that interacted with the liquid.

This actually leads to a problem. There are a lot of other things that could interact with the liquid to give it energy. Things like high energy particles from the sun or high energy particles that are zooming around the universe. So this leads to the problem that they have to find a way to shield the detectors from these other particles and energies. They do this by basically putting the detector at the bottom of a huge hole. The earth itself (along with some water) will shield the detector from background radiation.

It will be exciting to see what comes out of this detector and what kind of discoveries can be made. I hope it goes a lot smoother than a some other experiments, like the LHC.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 暗黒物質(あんこくぶっしつ). It is pronounced ankoku busshitsu and it means dark matter. I wonder what kinds of scientific strides ahead can be made when we figure out just what dark matter is.

See you next time at JJNN

Sunday, February 14, 2010

JJNN: Electric Bus

Everyone is trying to be more ecologically sound lately. That is a good thing. The more we get used to doing things that are good for the planet the the easier it will be for us to live here. That means doing things like recycling is a good thing even though recycling technology is not to the point where it does anything good for the environment, it will get that some day so we should get used to recycling. Another way to help is to walk, ride bikes or use mass transportation. Any little thing helps.

Any way, the reason I am talking about the environment is this article which I found a couple of days ago. It seems that a city in Japan called Toyama decided to try out electric buses in their mass transit system. Starting from today (valentine's day...how romantic) Toyama city will be using 6 electric busses. This is only a trial so they will only be using them for a month. You can see the ceremony for the busses below.

That is a good thing. If you think about it, all that CO2 that would normally be produced by the gas burning busses is not produced. But, wait... There is still a production of CO2, it is just not at the bus. The buses are charged every night just like any other piece of electrical equipment that runs on a battery. If the power plant that produces the power for the electric buses also produces CO2 than the busses really can not be called zero emission vehicles.

After a little looking, I found that the electricity for Toyama city is produced by the power company Hokuriku Denryoku. Hokuriku Denryoku produces a totally of 8.11 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Out of that 4.4 million kilowatt hours is produced at a power plant that burns coal to produce the electricity. It is close enough to half to say that it is half. I could not find the stats for the busses themselves, but I did find the stats for a similar bus used in America so I will use that. The bus runs at 120kW. Let's say that the busses run for 8 hours a day, that is a total usage of 960kWh. Half of that (or 480kWh) is from coal power. According to this study, a coal power plant produces about 2 pounds of CO2 per kWh or a total of 960 pounds of CO2 per bus per day. For 6 buses that is a total of 5760 pounds of CO2 per day.

That seems like a lot, but how much CO2 do gas burning busses release? According to the article the electric busses produce 30 to 40 percent less CO2 than normal diesel busses. Also, the production of NOx is less for power plants than for bus engines. All very good things.

The point that I wanted to make with this article was the fact that there is really no such thing as a no emission vehicle at the present time. Well, that is if you don't count bikes and the Flinstone's car. There is also the possibility of a car that is hooked up to solar panels or the like, but the efficiency and usability is not there at the moment. Maybe some day.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 電気(でんき). It is pronounced denki and it means electricity. I always try to save electricity, but on cold days it is hard to live without my electric heater on full blast.

See you next time at JJNN

Thursday, February 11, 2010

JJNN: Konishiki on TV

There are a lot of strange shows on Japanese TV. You have all probably seen clips of old Japanese game shows where people have to run though mazes or crash through walls or have to be careful not to fall into a vat of slime. I don't know if it is because of the Japanese sense of humor or another reason, but it seems that the stranger the show the longer it lasts.

The show that I want to talk about today is not as crazy as a lot of the shows on Japanese TV, but it is weird. The name of the show is Inaka in Tomarou, or "Let's spend the night in the country." The concept of the show is simple. A famous person is taken some small place in Japan and dropped off with just a camera man. They have to talk with the people of the area, find out where they are and complete a task that was decided before they left. After that, the famous person has to get someone from the town to let them stay at their house. This is always the hardest part because the famous person can not stay at a hotel or any other normal place, they must work up the courage to ask someone to let them stay over for the night. If they can not find a place to stay they have to stay outside for the night. If they do find someplace to stay, the next day they have to do something nice for the person that let them stay.

The reason I am talking about Inaka ni Tomarou is a blog post by Konishiki, which gives an interesting view on how hard it really is to sleep somewhere warm on that show. Konishiki (pictured below) is a Hawaiian born sumo wrestler who was on the circuit from 1984 to 1997. He never go to the rank of yokozuna, but he was very popular. After he stopped wrestling he starting making many TV appearances and even got a few TV shows.

Konishi appeared on Inaka ni Tomarou on the 7th of this month. He was dropped off in Kagoshima in Southern Japan. According to his blog, he was so happy to appear on the show and go to a place he has never been to before, but he had a lot of trouble actually asking people to let him stay in their house for the night. He says that it was really hard, but the experience was worth it.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 田舎(いなか). It is pronounced inaka and it means countryside. Personally I think it better to live in the country side than in the city. Question of the day: Which would you rather live in: The city or the country side? Which is better place to raise kids?

See you next time at JJNN

Sunday, February 7, 2010

JJNN: Setsubun

Today I want to introduce a modern take on an old Japanese tradition. Every year in early February (usually on the 3rd) the Japanese celebrate a tradition called setsubun. Setsubun occurs on the day before Risshun, which is the technical start of spring according to the old calendar that was used in Japan. Setsubun literally means the separating of the seasons because it is the line in the sand (so to say) between winter and spring. There are actually 3 more setsubun days for the changes between the other seasons, but they really don't get any press for some reason.

So, what do the Japanese people do on setsubun? Well, setsubun is an important part of the year because it marks the beginning of the solar year. As with the start of the solar year, the Japanese people are want to purify themselves for the coming year. As for the beginning of the solar year they have what is called Oosouji, which is basically their version of spring cleaning. In the case of setsubun, it is purification of the soul than a physical purification.

The main tool in the arsenal this time is a roasted soy bean sometimes called a fuku mame. Beans (along with salt and some other foods) have been known as tools for purification for a long time. The head of the household (or sometime another person in the household if that year corresponds with that person's Chinese zodiac) takes the beans and throws them out of the house. He would usually throw them at someone wearing a demon mask while saying "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" or, in English, "Demons out! Good luck in!" The family members than all eat a number of beans that corresponds to their age (in some places it is age plus one). That all leads to a home and family that is nicely purified for the coming lunar year (so the tradition goes).

Setsubun can also be seen in temples and shrines on this day. In some places tens of thousands of people gather just to see some famous person throw beans into the crowd. Some schools also do setsubun, but instead of soy beans they usually use shelled peanuts because they can be taken home and eaten by the students later. Below is a video from this year's setsubun in Narita (a place near Tokyo).

I said at the beginning of the post that I wanted to talk about a modern take on setsubun. By that I am not talking about a new high tech soy bean or a robotic demon to throw the beans at. I am talking about a new place to hold setsubun. When I say a new place I am not talking about a weird place in Japan or even another country. I am talking about in space. At this time on the international space station is a Japanese astronaut named Noguchi Soichi. On the first of February Noguchi decided to celebrate setsubun a little early. You can see his picture below. He is holding the mask of a demon that is traditionally used for setsubun.

Unfortunately Noguchi did not have any soy beans so he used chocolate instead. I guess it should work just as good as soy beans because it is also made with a type of bean. Maybe next year I will use chocolate instead...it will be more yummy.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 鬼(おに). It is pronounced oni and it means demon. I think the demons in Japanese literature are actually cute compared to the ones in the west (though they are just as dangerous.

See you next time at JJNN

Sunday, January 31, 2010

JJNN: Flying house

Thinking back, I think I have always been interested in science. Maybe it was the fact that when I was young we did not have cable TV at my house so we were left with the local channels on TV. One of the channels had great science shows like NOVA. I loved that show and learned a lot from it. Those shows really started my love for science and, more importantly, critical thinking. When a person learns the scientific method they naturally learn how to think critically. Science may not be something that I actively use every day, but critical thinking is something that I use everyday. If everyone had good critical thinking skills there would be no such thing as fraud because the tricks used in fraud would not be able to fool anyone. And, as a side effect, there probably would be no such thing as infomercials. Well, maybe not, but one could hope.

Any way, I am going to put my soap box away and get into the news. Today I want to talk about this news story. The story is about group of elementary school students that were inspired by the movie "UP." The kids, lead by a teacher named Yamazaki Kazuo, obtained a model of a house that weighed 660 grams (2.1 ounces) and started tying balloons filled with helium to it. The house did finally take off. How many balloons did you think it took? I will give you a hint before I tell you the answer. Take a look at the picture of the house right after takeoff.

Before I tell you the answer, post your guess in the comments for this blog.

The answer is at the bottom of this post. It is a lot of balloons and the house isn't even that heavy. The kids and the teacher calculated that in order to lift a 40 metric ton house it would take 60000 times the number of balloons. That is a lot of balloons and gas.

I guess, the experiment itself does not matter. As long as it finds a way to grab at the hearts of the students and start them on the pat of critical thinking.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 実験(じっけん). It is pronounced jikken and it means experiment. Another question for you: what was your favorite experiment in school? Post the answer in the comments section.

See you next time at JJNN

(The answer is 245 balloons)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

JJNN: Strange tech

Hi all

Have you ever needed to sync your ipod or plug in a digital camera into your USB port only to find that all if your USB ports are filled up with other things? I think we have all found ourselves in that situation. The only thing that you can really do is switch out what ever is in the USB port with what ever you want to put into the port. That takes time and energy. If there was only a better way to get many new USB ports so that all of the electronics can be plugged in at once (and I am not talking about another 2 or 3 ports)

Well, that is where the Japanese company Sanko jumps in to save the day. They made a USB hub that has not 5, not 10, not 20, not 40 but 80 USB ports! 80 ports! I mean...80! I can sum this product up in three letters and a question mark: WTH? As they say, a picture is worth 1000 words so just take a look at these pictures:

The bottom picture has half of the ports in use. I think they only way they were able to take the picture was by having everyone in their company bring in all of their USB devices and plugging them in. There is no way one person has that many USB devices. I can see this being a little useful for a technology company, but it is definitely not for just one person. At only 15000 yen it is out of most people's USB hub allowance.

I think this final picture says everything about this hub:

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 無駄(むだ). It is pronounced muda and it means waste. That many ports may be a waste, but it can be the pride of any true geek

See you next time at JJNN

Sunday, January 24, 2010

JJNN: Funny little article

Hi again all.

Today I came across this article on the Japanese Slashdot and I just had to share it with you all. The title of the article is "How to quickly and easily search out a man's secret intentions." I got to say that grabbed my attention. Not, that I care what other men are intending to do, but just out of paranoia that someone will do it to me.

I opened the article thinking that there is a new brain scanning technology (slashdot is a tech news site after all) or maybe some new brand of torture that only works on men. What I came across was simply the sentence "Turn on your boyfriend's (or husband's) computer and search all drives for files with the extensions .jpg, .bmp, .mpg, .avi, .wmv, .rm."

I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Their amazing advice (which was actually taken from a news site that concentrates on news about getting men and woman together so they can get married) was basically "Look for porn on his computer." Of course the article does not go on to say what you should do if you do find lots of bondage porn on your boyfriend's or husband's computer, but I guess that is up to you to figure out.

This actually leads me to a question. Is it true that only men who don't watch porn are worth marrying? If that were true there would be hardly any marriages I would think. Or are they trying to get to the fact that only the ones who save the porn are evil and should not be married. Personally, I see no reason to save porn on my computer's hard drive. But, maybe I should leave that up to the imagination.

Slashdot, as a final note, says that all men will have to save their porn movies as .mkv, .m4v, or .mov files from now on. (For those men that are interested, I am sure you find out how to do that by googleing it. Good luck!)

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is パソコン(ぱそこん). It is pronounced pasokon and personal computer. Always remember to keep your computer's hard drives nice and squeaky clean.

See you next time at JJNN

Friday, January 22, 2010

JJNN: Slime molds and trains

Hi again all.

I have run across some strange experiments in my time, but the one mentioned in this article takes the first prize in the strange experiment contest.

Before I talk about that experiment, though, I want to talk about something near and dear to all of our hearts, slime molds! What is a slime mold? Well, it neither really a slime (especially not of dragon quest fame) nor truly mold. We have all probably run across a slime mold at one point or another. They look something like the picture below:

Slime molds usually come in a variety of bright colors and can usually be seen in places like on rotting logs or in the leaf litter on the forest floor. They can sometimes also form in the canopy of a forest. Slime molds reproduce using spores and start life looking something like an amoeba. The slime molds can also "reach out" with strands in search of food.

That is where the experiment I was talking about above comes in. A group of scientists at Hokkaido University wanted to examine the networks that slime molds make when they stretch out in search of food. Apparently they wanted to compare the shape the slime mold made with something that everyone knew, so they made a mockup of the railway system in around Tokyo. They placed the hungry slime mold in the center (around where Tokyo station would be) and placed food where some of the other major stations would be. After that they just sat back and watched the fun.

So, what was the result? Take a look at the pictures below.

In the pictures you can see the slime mold in the middle and the food set up in a pattern around the slime mold. In the second picture you can see the slime mold expanding in its search for food and in the last picture you can see that it has fully expanded. Also, notice that all the unnecessary parts of the expansion from the second picture are gone, making the feeding system very efficient.

How does this compare to the real train map? Check out the map below:

It's close, I guess. Is it impressive? I guess so. Will it change the scientific community? I doubt it. It is not really a waste of research money, but it is coming close.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 粘菌(ねんきん). It is pronounced nenkin and means slime mold. The slime mold, every one's favorite slime that is not a slime and mold that is not a mold.

See you next time at JJNN

Friday, January 8, 2010

JJNN: Happy new year and seven flowers

Welcome again to Jei's Japan News Network. First things first, I got to say that I am sorry for being so lazy with my blog. I would like to say that I have been busy (and I have been busy) but really not too busy to at least write two posts a week. Secondly, I would like to say Merry Christmas (read that as happy holidays if you don't celebrate that holiday) and happy new years. Now that it is 2010 it really feels like we are in the future (I still want a flying car and rocket packs...)

So, this is a new year and a fresh start. Though I am still working at the same job, I am also looking for a new job as a translator. I guess if I work hard enough of JJNN someone will notice it and actually start paying me money for writing this (that would be nice). Either way I am still trying to make my way in this world in the new year.

I guess that I should actually get to the news. I wanted to start with something more cultural than technological so I chose this story about a tradition in Kagoshima prefecture in southern Japan.

Almost every place in Japan has a food that they are famous for. There are even people that travel around the country just to eat that food. For example, the place where I live, Niigata, is known for its rice. In my humble opinion it is the best tasting rice in the world (well it is better than Uncle Ben's any way). A city in the next prefecture over is known for its ramen. Within that city's limits there are over 50 ramen shops. There are even places that are known for their slightly strange delicacies. That is what that article is about.

Every year on the seventh of January a place called Kajiki-cho in Kagoshima feeds their seven year old kids something that is called Shichi-gusa gayu (roughly translated as 7 flower rice gruel). Apparently the kids that eat this rice gruel are suppose to become very healthy. Well, actually, there is more to the custom than just eating the gruel. The kids, who have to be dressed up in their best clothes, have to go around to seven houses in their neighborhood and collect the seven flowers that will be used to make the rice gruel. After they are done collecting the flowers they bring them to the people who will make the rice gruel. After that they just have to wait for it to get cooked. You can see a kid getting her gruel below.

Rice gruel in Japan is something like chicken soup in America. It is something that you eat when you want to get over a cold. It is also something that you eat when you want to get your strength back or when you want to warm up on a cold day. You can eat the gruel just by itself or you can add other foods to it (for example; potato, fish, or even powdered tea) to enhance the flavor. I like rice gruel, but it is not something that I really eat a lot. I can see a kid that eats a lot of gruel growing up to be very strong and healthy. Though, there is the fact that the gruel by itself is missing a lot of necessary vitamins and minerals really needed to stay healthy.

That brings me to the "seven flowers." Japan actually has two different sets of "seven flowers." There is one set for spring and one set for fall. The set that is used in the gruel is the spring set of flowers. These flowers are Japanese parsley, shepherd's purse, Jersey Cudweed, chickweed, Japanese Nipplewort, turnip and daikon radish. A lot of those flowers have very unappetizing names. I known I dont want to eat cudweed or nipplewort. You may have noticed that the last two are not even flowers. For the Japanese, flowers and flowering plants that produce a vegetable used to be in the same category. Those seven flowers have the vitamins and minerals that are needed to balance out what the gruel is lacking. Though I can't really imagine what it taste like, the gruel probably is very healthy.

Below is a close-up of the gruel.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 健康(けんこう). It is pronounced kenkou and means health. For the first time in years I have not had a cold in months. I think I am finally starting to get healthy.

See you next time at JJNN