Archives: May 2006

“Living fossil” coelacanth captured on video

31 May 2006

*** Watch the VIDEO ***

On May 30, a Japanese research team videotaped a one-meter long coelacanth in its natural habitat in the waters off the coast of Indonesia's Sulawesi island. According to the announcement by Aquamarine Fukushima -- a marine science museum located in Fukushima prefecture -- this is the first video of a coelacanth in its Indonesian habitat since a German team videotaped one in 1999.


Researchers at Aquamarine have been studying the coelacanth since the facility opened in 2000, and a research team has been stationed in Indonesia since last year. Researchers used a camera mounted on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to shoot a 10-minute video of the coelacanth. The video reportedly shows the fish lurking in a rocky cave located about 500 meters off the coast of Buol in northern Sulawesi, at a depth of about 170 meters. The museum has not indicated when the video will be shown to the public.

"The camera light caused the fish's eyes to glow green. It was there. Its body was dark blue," the research team reported to museum director Yoshitaka Abe on the telephone.

"Congratulations. Well done," Abe told the researchers. "This is a big first step in our research."

UPDATE (June 2, 2006): This translation was referenced by Loren Coleman on Cryptomundo, where you can find a lot of interesting background info about the coelacanth. He also discusses the potential significance of the reported "dark blue" color of the one caught on this video (Latimeria menadoensis, the Indonesian species, is supposed to be brown).

The German team that first filmed the coelacanth in Indonesia in 1999 was led by one Hans Fricke (See: I could not find his video of the Indonesian coelacanth online, but I came across these fantastic videos he shot of the African species (Latimeria chalumnae). In one of them, a coelacanth displays its trademark "handstand" posture.

[Sources: Jiji, Chunichi Shimbun]

Yura Yura Teikoku video collection

26 May 2006

Yura Yura Teikoku

Yura Yura Teikoku, legends of Japan’s psychedelic rock underground, have been creating spaced-out, pop-inspired garage noise for the better part of two decades. Here are some of their videos via YouTube. Powerful speakers recommended!

Kantsuu (Yura Yura Teikoku No Shibire, 2003)

Rame No Pantalon (YuraYura Teikoku III, 2001)

2005-Nen Sekai Ryoko (Sweet Spot, 2005)

Yakousei No Ikimono San-biki (Yura Yura Teikoku No Shibire, 2003)

Tsumetai Gift (12" release, 2002)

Yura Yura Teikoku De Kagaechuu (12" release, 2000)

Live at Fuji Rock Festival 2002: Zukku Ni Rock (12" release, 1999)

Live: Evil Car (3 x 3 x 3, 1998) // Suberu Baa (Taiyou No Shiroi Kona, 1999)

Live: Dock ‘N’ Doll (3 x 3 x 3, 1998)

Hakkoutai (3 x 3 x 3, 1998)

Check out Mesh Key Records for more info.

Rainy season brings glow-in-the-dark mushrooms

24 May 2006

Glowing mushroomsWith the arrival of Japan's rainy season, a mysterious type of green, glow-in-the-dark mushroom begins to sprout in Wakayama prefecture. The Mycena lux-coeli mushrooms, known locally as shii no tomobishi-dake (literally, "chinquapin glow mushrooms"), sprout from fallen chinquapin trees. As they grow, a chemical reaction involving luciferin (a light-emitting pigment contained within the mushrooms) occurs, causing them to glow a ghostly green.

The luminescent mushrooms were long believed to be indigenous solely to Tokyo's Hachijojima Island after they were discovered there in the early 1950s. In 1995, however, mycologists found the fungus growing wild in coastal areas of the southern Kii peninsula, as well as in Kyushu and other areas.

The mushrooms thrive in humid environments, popping up during Japan's rainy season, which typically lasts from the end of May to July. The caps can grow to as large as 2 cm (about 1 inch) in diameter, but because the mushrooms are prone to dehydration, they only have a few days to live once the rain stops.

[Source: Mainichi Shimbun]

Martian silkworms eyed as protein source

24 May 2006

BBQ-flavored silkwormsJapanese scientists researching the prospects of long-term human settlements on Mars are dreaming up ways to address the challenges of Martian agriculture. At a recent meeting of the Japan Geoscience Union held in Chiba, Professor Masamichi Yamashita (58) of the Japan Aeropsace Exploration Agency (JAXA) unveiled a unique space agriculture concept that would liven up the rather mundane task of cultivating rice in greenhouse domes. In his concept, settlers would plant mulberry trees and breed silkworms, the pupae of which would be consumed as a source of animal protein.

"Japan has the unique advantage of calling into play its excellent silk cultivation technology and long-established culinary culture," says Yamashita, who has been studying the subject since January 2005. As part of his research, Professor Yamashita has met with about 70 experts in fields ranging from medicine to agriculture to food science. "Space agriculture research is about the pursuit of near-complete recycling inside domes, something that can also be applied to safe organic agriculture on Earth," he says.

With trips to Mars taking 18 months each way, settlers will not be able to rely on frequent supply shipments from Earth. A self-sufficient supply of oxygen and food will be essential to the succes of any lengthy stay on Mars. The thin Martian atmosphere and a sunlight intensity half that on Earth pose additional agricultural challenges, and the unwillingness to taint the search for extraterrestrial life with microorganism-laden human and animal waste demands a rigorous recycling program.

Yamashita's concept involves the construction of transparent resin domes where rice, beans, potatoes, and mulberries are grown in soil consisting of a mixture of Martian sand and compost material. The plants would generate oxygen inside the domes, and the mulberry leaves would serve as food for the silkworms. The settlers could then either eat the silkworm pupae directly or use them as food for fish and poultry they raise.

"When cooked, silkworm pupae taste like shrimp or crab meat," says Professor Yamashita. "People all over Japan ate them during the food shortages after World War II, and you can still buy canned pupae in Nagano prefecture."

[Source: Nishinippon Shimbun]

METI to establish Robot of the Year Award?

16 May 2006

Robo-KoizumiIn an effort to further promote Japan’s robot industry, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) plans to establish an annual Robot of the Year Award to recognize outstanding robots developed and put into practical use each year.

Beginning this July, the ministry will begin accepting applications for this year's candidates. After review by a panel of experts, the results will be announced at an award ceremony held at the end of the year.

In addition to the grand prize, prizes will be awarded to robots in the following categories: (1) industrial robots, such as those used in painting and welding, (2) service robots, such as those used in cleaning and security, (3) robots for use in special environments, such as rescue robots, and (4) robots developed by small to medium sized venture firms.

Japan’s market for Japanese robots is expected to grow from its current 500 billion yen ($4.5 billion) to about 1.8 trillion yen ($16 billion) in 2010, with particularly strong growth expected in the household service robot industry.

[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun /// (Image via Shu's Blog)]

New images of disintegrating “lost comet”

12 May 2006

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan’s (NAOJ) Subaru Telescope in Hawaii has captured new images of the Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 comet, which became known as a "lost comet" when it disappeared for 50 years after its discovery in 1930. On May 12 (today) the comet reaches the closest point to the Earth in its 5.4-year elliptical orbit around the sun.

Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, the lost comet

The images show the disintegration of the comet's Fragment B. Short tails can be seen on some of the pieces, which are believed to have broken off recently.

Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, the lost cometAccording to NAOJ, the comet is disintegrating as it orbits the sun, and has broken into at least 50 pieces. The Subaru Telescope images show 13 small fragments near the bright Fragment B. The researchers plan to compare the images with observation data from other telescopes to get a better understanding of the comet's disintegration.

Fragment C, which is the brightest, is visible near the Lyra constellation in the eastern sky at around 12:00 midnight (in Japan), and Fragment B is visible near the Hercules constellation. On May 12, the comet will be 12 million kilometers (7.5 million miles) from the Earth, about 30 times the distance to the moon.

[Sources: Asahi Shimbun, Subaru Telescope press release]

Nintendo Wii commercial — Deliverance version

12 May 2006

Check out this parody of a Nintendo Wii commercial based on that unforgettable scene from "Deliverance," the classic 1972 film starring Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Jon Voight. Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii...

(Link to YouTube video)

[Via: Crazy Japan!]

PaPeRo robot gets avatar, resides in your devices

10 May 2006

On May 9, NEC announced the development of new technology that enables its PaPeRo household robot to connect with a variety of personal devices. The technology provides PaPeRo with a digital avatar that "follows" you to the device of your choice, where it appears on the screen and interacts with you.


Details of conversations with the robot and its avatar are exchanged between the devices so that PaPeRo can provide services and information tailored to your needs when you change devices. The avatar, a virtual representation of NEC’s PaPeRo, is designed to work on computers as well as other personal devices such as PDAs and car navigation systems.

When a WiFi connection is established between the robot and the devices, saved data -- including data about your interests and tastes -- can be shared between the robot and its avatars. For example, after telling the real PaPeRo at home that you would like to eat Chinese food, PaPeRo’s avatar appears on your car navigation screen when you get in your car. There, the avatar searches for the route from your home to the restaurant of choice and provides directions. The search results can also be easily transferred to your PDA.

The user-friendly conversation-based control is designed to eliminate the cumbersome task of learning how to operate the avatar on multiple devices with different interfaces. Originally developed by NEC in January 1997, PaPeRo has received upgrades in speech and face recognition skills, gaining the ability to provide information to users through conversation and manage schedule information.

NEC has not announced when this new technology will be made commercially available, but has expressed the intent to continue with technological developments aimed at helping inexperienced children and the elderly to operate a variety of devices.

(Watch VIDEO of PaPeRo in action (QuickTime, 1.24 MB). Here, the demonstrator asks PaPeRo for shopping recommendations and instructs it to move to the car navigation system and the PDA.)

[Source: Nihon Keizai Shimbun]

Polygonal spiral-shaped carbon nanotubes discovered

10 May 2006

Carbon nanotubeOn May 8, researchers from JFE Holdings, Inc. and Shinshu University announced the discovery of a new type of carbon nanotube (CNT) -- a polygonal tube shaped in a spiral configuration. Cross-sections of what are normally round tubes showed a structure with at least six sides.

This special structure appeared in CNTs that were synthesized using JFE's production method. The researchers speculate that the polygonal tube spirals arise because the production method’s high temperatures (over 3000 degrees Celsius) lead to high crystallinity, and the rapid cooling causes distortion in the crystal structure.

Using an arc discharge method of production, the company has succeeded in synthesizing 100-micrometer (1 micrometer = 1 millionth of a meter) thick CNT tape comprised of tubes with a purity of nearly 100%. This tape, according to the researchers, is the world’s first of its kind.

When the researchers analyzed the new CNT structure, they found that electron emission was at least several times better than conventional cylindrical CNTs, and they discovered that its strength as a material was at least dozens of times greater.

The company has begun test marketing the polygonal nanotubes, which they call nanocores, for applications in electronics and composite materials. Carbon nanotube tape can be used for such products as field emission displays, next-generation flat-panel displays, fuel cells and semiconductor parts.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]