Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's getting hot for TEPCo

Welcome back again to JJNN.
Today's article is taken from Net Nihonkai.

As I said in my last post, it was extremely hot yesterday. Not only was it hot around where I lived, but all over Japan. Most places in Japan had high temperatures over 30C (86F) yesterday, and it looks like today is going to be more of the same.  In the room where I am working now at around 8am it reached 30C and has a humidity of around 75%.

The problem is that when it gets hot and humid like that people run to their air conditioners. The majority of the air conditioners that people use are old and not energy efficient, so a lot of energy is used by them on hot days. Just yesterday at around 4pm the peak energy output was around 40 million kilowatts. That number is just under 90% of TEPCo's total energy output. If it gets hotter TEPCo is going to have a hard time keeping up with the energy demands so they are asking people to save as much energy as possible.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 節電(せつでん). It is pronounced setsuden and it means to save electricity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's HOW hot!?

Welcome back again to JJNN.

Today's article is from

This isn't really a news story like the ones that I usually do. This is just an update on my life that also has to do with an article I found. Long story short, it's extreamly hot here. I live just south of the hottest place in Japan. Today the temperature climbed up to 36C (96.8F) here at just past noon. Now that it is around 3pm the temperature is just a little bit hotter.

This is going to be a long summer.

Water proofing saves a life

Welcome back to JJNN.

This article is from the Japanese version of Slashdot.

When is the last time that you bought a cell phone? The last phone that I bought was an iPhone. I got the iPhone because I wanted a phone that has a lot of extra features that I could modify. Other people buy phones because they can be used to watch TV or they have a cheap calling plan. One other reason a lot of people that work on or in the water buy their phone for is the waterproofing. A phone that is waterproof can still be used after it is dropped in the water so it is a great advantage for those types of people.

Waterproofing is overlooked by a lot of people because they never think their phone will get wet to the point where it will stop working. Today's article is all about a man that is now very glad that he didn't overlook the waterproofing option. On the 18th of June a truck driver was on a ferry crossing from the island to the mainland of Japan. Apparently he got a little seasick so he leaned over the rail to throw up. At the same time the ferry hit a wave and he was tossed overboard. The ferry was about 2km (about 1.2 miles) off the coast at the time the man fell off and the water was extremely cold so there was no way that the man would be able to swim back to the shore.

Luckily, the man's waterproof cell phone was tucked safely away in his pocket. He took it out and called the number for emergencies at sea (in Japan the number is 118). He was actually very lucky that he got a signal that far from the shore, but the call did go though and he was picked up within 40 minutes of falling off the ferry. He had to be treated for hypothermia, but in the end everything worked out for him because of his waterproof cellphone. That is something to think about the next time you buy a cell phone.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 防水(ぼうすい). It is pronounced bosui and it means waterproof.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A long, hot, summer on the rails

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from the Japanese version of Slashdot.

This is going to be yet another in the series of articles about how is trying to save energy to deal with the possible energy crisis this summer. This time the focus is on Japan's main railway company, JR. At the moment JR is trying to save money by suspending the use of escalators, cutting back on the number of trains running on their system and turning up the temperature at which the AC kicks in.

Those are all working to some degree, but according to JR that is no enough to reach there goal of cutting back on their energy usage by 15 percent when compared to last year. They went back to the drawing board and decided that the best thing for them to do would be to just turn off the AC all together in all of their stations from noon to 3pm. According to their calculations that would save enough energy to go well over their goal so they decided to only turn off the AC their 40 most busy stations from noon until 1:30pm. Even that would go over their goal so they decided to up the number of trains to the number before the earthquake (for the weekdays only) and also lower the temperature that the AC will kick in (from 31C to 29C(88F to 84F) in the stations sand from 28C to 26C (82F to 79F) in the trains. They will also start using escalators again.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 暑い(あつい). It is pronounced atsui and it means hot.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reviving lost farmlands

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from the Yomiuri Online.

In the ancient times when a group conquered a town in battle it was said that the victor would sow the fields with salt so that no one would be able to grow any crops in those fields again. Turning our eye back to modern Japan, the same sort of thing happened to the northeast after the earthquake of March. Of course no one actually sowed the fields with salt, but the tsunami that resulted from the earthquake brought a lot of sea salt up onto land and into people's fields.

Professor Nakai from Tohoku University believes he not only found a solution for the salted fields, but might have found a good way for the entire farming community to rebuild itself. That solution comes in the form of a plant that produces yellow flowers and has the unfortunate name of the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed plants are known for being highly resistant to salty fields and even end up leaching the salt of the field over time. The seeds can be used to make oil or even bio-diesel fuel.

 Professor Nakai and his team are using this year to test out 30 different types rapeseed and see how much they all reduce the amount of salt in the soil. They are using 1.4 hectares in a place called Wakabayashi that was effected by the tsunami in order to test the plants. If all works out well the rapeseed plants will be used not only to take the salt out of soil, but to also be used as a cash crop in the mean time. Professor Nakai hopes the rapeseed plant will be a symbol of the northeast Japan coming back to life.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 塩(しお). It is pronounced shio and it means salt.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hayabusa and Guinness

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article appears in the Japanese version of slashdot.

 Way back in May of last year I talked about the unmanned space probe called Hayabusa. To make the long story of Hayabusa very short, it went into deep space, landed on an asteroid and came back to earth with particles of that asteroid. That makes Hayabusa the first probe to bring something back from an object in outer space other than the moon. To celebrate that fact, Guinness visited Tane-ga-shima to present JAXA with an award for that and also one for having the prob that traveled the furthest in space and survived the return trip.

The awards were accepted in front of the rocket bay known for having the biggest doors in the world and also for making the balloon that flew the highest in the world.

In other Hayabusa news, it seems that 3 different movies are in the process of being made in Japan for Hayabusa. Out of those three movies, it seems that Watanabe Ken may be staring in one of the movies.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 惑星(わくせい). It is pronounced wakusei and it means planet.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An electric pot (and not in the way you are probably thinking)

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article comes from the Yomiuri Online.

Ever since the huge earthquake in Japan that occurred 3 months ago people are finding new ways to deal with emergency situations in Japan. Lifelines such as gas, water and electricity are something that people have to struggle to reestablish after a major earthquake, so there are companies that are trying to find new and novel ways to help people that have lost a lifeline.

In this case we are talking about both electricity and clean drinking water. One of the best way to make sure water is free of viruses or bacteria is to boil it. A company from Osaka called TES New Energy have found a way to connect boiling water and the production of electricity. It is actually an ingenious little pot that is pictured below.

The Electric Pot in action charging an iPhone
The pot can create electricity because a temperature difference between two different metals with a common connection point (thus forming a circuit) produces electricity. This is know as the thermoelectric effect. The temperature difference at the bottom of the pot and the top can be as much as 400 degrees Celsius. That temperature difference along with the choice of metals for the pot produces enough electricity to fully charge an iPhone in about 3 to 5 hours.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 熱(ねつ). It is pronounced netsu and it means heat. There sure are a lot of new and wonderful ways to make electricity.

Friday, June 10, 2011

From Nuclear to Wind

Welcome again to JJNN.

Today's article is from Yahoo! Japan's news page.

This is yet another in the long series of articles about nuclear power and what will happen in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Today we will look at what will happen to the land that has been evacuated in the 20km radius around the power plant.

As it stands now, the are many ghost towns in the area around the power plant. The government and TEPCo have to actually buy all of that land from the owners to make up for the nuclear meltdown (though I am sure it doesn't actually even come close to make up for it). So, in the end TEPCo is left with a lot of land and no way of producing power. In the end TEPCo decided to turn to wind power generation.

It should be pointed out that in most cases a wind power generation plant can not produce as much energy as a large sized nuclear power plant, but the area around the old Fukushima nuclear power plant has a couple of big advantages. The first one is the total amount of land. There is a total of 628 square km (over 155,182 acres) of land to work with. They can put a lot of individual windmills on that land without the worry of bothering anyone with the noise of the windmills. The second advantage is that the average wind speed in that area is much higher than the average for all of Japan. Also, in the winter the wind comes from the mountains while in the summer it comes from the sea, so there is a constant even wind throughout the entire year.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 風(かぜ). It is pronounced kaze and it means wind. The place where I live now is famous for strong dry wind in the winter, too bad that wind doesn't come during the long humid summer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living off the grid

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is taken from Searchina news.

This is yet another in a lot series of articles all about saving electricity. This time the company Sharp has vowed to produce a house, which they have decided to call the "Eco-House," that actually uses 0 electricity from the power grid. The goal is to produce a house that has the usually appliances, but have those appliances use only a fraction of what the traditional appliances use. The house should be comfortable to live in, but still use as little electricity as possible.

Sharp has a challenge ahead of them. The house is located in the middle of Osaka, one of the hottest cities in Japan. Cooling the house in summer and heating the house in winter is going to take some energy. But, never fear, our old friends solar panels and efficient batteries are here. That is basically Sharp's plan, use efficient and low energy consumption appliances and offset the energy usage with solar panels and efficient batteries.

If that were all there is to this story there wouldn't be much of a story actually. Sharp has taken a few measures to make the house use even less energy. The first of those steps is called HEMS; which stands for Home Energy Management System. HEMS is a system in which the owner of the house can use their television or a tablet computer to check on the power consumption of the house as a whole and also the consumption of each appliance in their house. It is a way to get the owner of the house more interested in power saving. HEMS can also be used to see how much power is being produced by the solar cells, how much electricity is being stored in the batteries and how long the batteries will hold out under the current usage rate.

Sharp is also looking deeper into appliances that run on DC power. They want to use DC power because that is the type of power that is produced by solar cells. If the appliances run on DC power then the power will not have to be changed to AC power between the solar panel and the house. This will make for a more efficient use off the energy produced by the solar panels.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 太陽(たいよう). It is pronounced taiyou and it means sun. Imagine what we would be able to do if we were able to full tap the power output of the sun.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Japan's XFEL

Welcome back to this enlightening edition of JJNN.

Today's article is brought to you by MSN.

There are many types of lasers out there on the market. There are laser pointers that come in a verity of colors, there are laser light projectors used in concerts and even sharks with (freeken) lasers on their head (OK, maybe that last one isn't for sale). Earlier this week two research groups in Japan announced they amped up another type of laser radiation. Though this type of laser light will not be on the general market, it will be important for science in the long run.

Before we get into the specific type of laser light that the Japanese research companies improved upon, I want to quickly talk about laser light in general. Laser is actually an acronym. It stands for light amplification though the simulated emission of radiation. In the most simple case a gas exists in a chamber that is capped by two mirrors (the front one is not fully silvered). The gas is simulated by and electric charge and the outer shell electrons gas go into an excited state. As the electrons fall back into the ground state they release light which is all coherent. The light bounces around between the mirrors and in the process gets amplified but other electrons releasing their light.

That is a basic gas laser. There are also other types of lasers. There are solid lasers and also the type of laser that we are going to talk about today: the XFEL. XFEL stands for x-ray free electron laser and it produces laser light when electrons are accelerated to extremely high speeds and than suddenly decelerated. XFEL radiation can be very bright and it can be used to image minute structures and processes.

The smaller the wavelength of the laser the better it is at imaging structures and the more projects it can be used in. This is where the Japanese laboratory RIKEN and the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute come in. Those two labs have successfully reduced the low end of the wavelength of the traditional XFEL laser from 0.15nm to 0.12nm. The leader of the project, Tanaka Hitoshi, says that the laser can be used in everything from making new medicines to nanotechnology. He also says he wants to get the wavelength down to 0.06nm.

The XFEL laboratory: Sakura
It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is レーザー (れいざあ). It is pronounced reezaa and it means producing electricity. Now if they can produce a laser like that laser that popped all that popcorn in that one 90's movie (what was the title of that movie?)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Transmitting on Solar Power

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from the Yomiuri Online.

As I have said a few times before, Japan is in the middle of a little power crisis. Everyone is looking for ways to save electricity and money in the long run. If a person, or a family, or a community or even a company can save electricity now that means fewer brownouts during the summer and more happy people in the long run.

One of the biggest companies in Japan, and its largest broadcaster, NHK, wants to do its part for Japan's power crisis. NHK's plan will take 2 years to complete but the general idea is that they want to service about 200 million households with their broadcasts without using one kilowatt from the power grid.

The mystery of how they will accomplish this task is solved when one looks at where NHK's main broadcast station is located. The facility is actually located about a half and hour south of where I am by train and it is one of the sunniest locations in Japan. That's right, they are going to broadcast using the power of the sun. They plan on producing 200o kilowatts of electricity by using 15 thousand square meters (that's almost 18 thousand square yards) of solar cells which will come to about 10 thousand panels. The total cost should be somewhere near 1.8 billion yen. A lot of money, but a worthy cause.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 発電(はつでん). It is pronounced hatsuden and it means producing electricity. I always wanted a house with solar panels. They always seemed so futuristic to me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goverment trying to save energy

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is taken out of the online version of the Mainichi Newspaper.

After the earthquake that occurred in the north east of Japan in March Japan has been facing an energy crisis of a sort. In the month or so after the quake TEPCo (Tokyo Electric Power Company)  implemented daily scheduled power outages so that people would not have to deal with a complete lack of electric power. After a few weeks TEPCo was able to get its old coal fired power plants up and running again to make up for the energy difference and the scheduled power outages were stopped.

That is fine for now, but there is still a major problem looming on the horizon. That problem would be the heat of summer and the rampant use of air conditioners. Now, I am not telling the people of Japan that they shouldn't use air conditioners to cool down their houses (I hate the heat so I use an air conditioner any chance I can in the summer time), but the use of power may lead to brownouts in Japan's current state.

That is where Japan's Ministry of the Environment comes in. They have a goal of decreasing Japan's weekday power consumption by 25 percent in total. They decided that the best place to start was the many city halls and town halls throughout Japan. From July they have asked the city halls to take one day off during the week and instead work on Saturday. Sunday will be a day off like it always has been.

It's an interesting solution, but I wonder if it will really work. The people that run the town halls have to work with many other groups that do not normally work on a Saturday. In other words, even if a particular department was told to take the day off, they might not be able to because they could not make the necessary work contracts on Saturday. It seems a lot of people that work in the city offices wonder if the plan will actually work.

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. Those scheduled power outages were a pain, but at least we knew they were coming.