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