Archives: September 2007

Solid gold Hello Kitty playing cards

28 Sep 2007

Solid gold Hello Kitty playing cards ---

On September 27, Sanrio announced plans to begin selling solid gold Hello Kitty playing cards, which the company will make available through its online shop beginning October 3. Each of the 54 cards (2 jokers included) measures 58 x 89 mm and is made from 0.73 gram of 99.99% pure gold. Pressed to a thickness of 7 microns with precision rolling technology developed by the Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, the cards are sealed in a protective laminate printed with colorful designs that depict Hello Kitty in royal dress.

Solid gold Hello Kitty playing cards --

The reverse side of the cards show Hello Kitty against a background featuring the Union Jack and apples, a reference to the fact that Hello Kitty was born in London and is said to be 3 apples heavy and 5 apples tall.

The cards are priced at 567,000 yen ($4,900).

[Link: Sanrio Online Shop]

Ferritin proteins yield ultrathin computer memory

28 Sep 2007

Ferritin and Detective Conan --

Researchers from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology have developed a biotech-based process for creating ultrathin computer memory. The process, which uses a protein commonly found in mammals, allows memory to be built on thinner substrates because it eliminates the need for high-temperature processing, and it could lead to significantly smaller and thinner computers in the near future, suggest the researchers.

Computer memory typically consists of millions of circuit elements, known as memory cells, which are made of metal and arranged on a silicon substrate. Because the manufacturing process involves temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit), the substrate must have a high heat resistance, making thin materials with low heat resistance, such as glass and plastics, unsuitable. However, by using ferritin -- a globular protein complex that stores iron inside its hollow spherical structure, and which is commonly found in the bodies of mammals -- the research group developed a way to arrange metal memory cells on substrates without heat, allowing for the use of thinner substrate materials.

In this new method, ferritin containing metal molecules is applied to a substrate and allowed to self-assemble into a high-density, ordered arrangement. The ferritin is then irradiated with UV light, which completely destroys the protein and leaves behind tiny metal deposits on the substrate. In this way, the researchers bypassed the need for high-temperature processing, allowing for the creation of ultrathin memory chips that measure less than 1 micron in thickness.

The researchers, who happen to be fans of the popular Detective Conan (a.k.a. "Case Closed") series of manga and anime, say their success marks a major step forward in the development of ultrathin computers that, if coupled with ultrathin displays, could one day be used in devices like the high-tech eyeglasses that appear in Detective Conan. The Detective Conan series, which is authored by Gosho Aoyama, centers around Shin'ichi Kudo ("Jimmy Kudo" in the US version), a young detective that has been transformed into a prepubescent boy who goes by the alias of Edogawa Conan and who is armed with an array of high-tech gadgets like computerized eyeglasses, a voice-changing bow tie, and power-boost sneakers.

Research team leader and electronics engineering professor Yukiharu Uraoka says, "We are well on the way to developing computers built on thin films that can be integrated into eyeglass lenses or into clothing. Conan's eyeglasses are no longer a dream."

In response to the development, Gosho Aoyama, Conan's creator, says, "It is a great thrill to see an idea on the pages of a manga become a reality. Next, if possible, I'd like someone to develop power-boost sneakers."

[Source: Yomiuri]

PET bottle armor

27 Sep 2007

PET bottle armor --

It takes only a few minutes to down a soft drink, but the plastic bottle it comes in is designed to last for centuries. In the eyes of Kosuke Tsumura, designer for the Final Home brand of urban survival clothing and accessories, the durability and abundance of PET plastic bottles makes them an ideal material for clothing...and armor. At the request of the world's largest cola cartel, Tsumura made this suit of armor by slicing up PET bottles and sewing the pieces together with transparent nylon thread. The armor may not hold up well in combat, but it looks cool as hell and it won't biodegrade until long after you are gone.

PET bottle armor --

[Link: Tsumura-Room]

NEC puts DNA lab in a briefcase (for the man)

25 Sep 2007

NEC portable DNA lab -- NEC Corporation has teamed up with Aida Engineering to develop a briefcase-sized DNA analysis system that allows police to perform comprehensive DNA testing at crime scenes in as little as 25 minutes. NEC is calling the device the world's first portable all-in-one DNA analysis system able to handle all DNA testing processes from extraction to analysis. Designed specifically for law enforcement officials and planned for release in 2008, the system measures 50 x 40 x 20 cm (20 x 16 x 8 in.), making it small enough to be carried to crime scenes or other locations where quick DNA analysis is required.

Nowadays it typically takes about one day to complete a DNA analysis (one week if re-testing or confirmation is required), and a variety of different equipment is used to perform the separate processes. NEC's new portable system, on the other hand, can perform all the processes within the same unit -- and it can do it all more quickly. In particular, the compact unit can be used to: (1) take cell samples, (2) extract the DNA, (3) perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification to generate copies of the DNA, (4) perform electrophoresis to measure the spacing between DNA bands (to create the genetic fingerprint), and (5) perform short tandem repeat (STR) analysis to create a unique genetic profile for the individual. In addition, the compact unit dramatically speeds up the processes -- particularly the repeated heating and cooling processes performed in PCR amplification -- making it possible to complete the entire DNA analysis in 25 minutes.

The system will be exhibited at the 18th International Symposium on Human Identification scheduled for October 1 to 4 in Los Angeles, and at a meeting of the Japanese Association of Sociology of Law scheduled for November 8 in Tokyo.

[Source: NEC press release]

Hiroshima scientists create transparent frogs

21 Sep 2007

Translucent frog --

A research team led by professor Masayuki Sumida at Hiroshima University's Institute for Amphibian Biology has created a type of transparent frog whose internal organs are visible through its skin. The researchers say the see-through frogs can help in the study of diseases and in the development of medical treatments by allowing laboratory scientists to check the status of internal organs and blood vessels while the frogs are alive and without having to dissect them.

According to Sumida, the transparent frog is the result of breeding two specimens of Japanese brown frog (Rana japonica) that had a genetic mutation giving them pale skin. By selectively breeding their offspring, the researchers were able to create a frog that remains transparent for its entire life cycle. Most of the world's known transparent creatures live underwater, and transparent four-legged animals are extremely rare.

The researchers also say that by fusing the genes of fluorescent proteins to the frog's genes, they can create frogs that glow. Glowing frogs can help scientists study specific "problem" genes by providing a real-time visual indication (i.e. the frogs glow) when those genes become active.

Professor Sumida says, "Transparent frogs will prove useful as laboratory animals because they make it easier and cheaper to observe the development and progress of cancer, the growth and aging of internal organs, and the effects of chemicals on organs."

The results of the research will be announced at a meeting of the Zoological Society of Japan on September 22.

[Source: Iza!]

Interactive supermodel hologram ad

21 Sep 2007

Anne's Fitting Show, interactive holographic ad --

Anne's Fitting Show, an interactive ad display that allows shoppers to dress up a holographic incarnation of Japanese supermodel Anne Watanabe in World's "Untitled" brand clothing, has been set up on the first floor of the Takashimaya department store in Shinjuku. Anne, who is the daughter of actor Ken Watanabe, is shown in the flesh on the right (her holograms are on the left).

The 3D ad system features an external touch-screen control panel that allows aspiring fashion coordinators to select from 4 situations -- "Date," "Work," "Party" and "Holiday" -- and arrange 12 different fall/winter outfits for Anne's hologram, who walks around in the glass-enclosed booth showing off the selected clothes. The interactive 3D ad, said to be the world's first of its kind in the fashion industry, relies on Danish advertising media company viZoo's Free Format holographic film technology.

Anne's Fitting Show will be on display until September 24.

[Sources: Sankei Web, Shinjuku Keizai Shimbun]

Hifana: Connect (video)

20 Sep 2007

Hifana - Connect ---

J-breakbeat duo Hifana's video for "Connect" -- the title track from their latest CD+DVD -- stars KZO Machine and Cowman 3000 as funky robot shoppers for sale in a sweet TV shopping channel hallucination. Press "Buy" to get yours now.

Hifana are on the W+KTokyoLab label and the video is directed by +Cruz and WOOOOG, with animation and design by Mark Okon, Genki Ito and Ian Lynam.

Hot-rod bath

18 Sep 2007

Tetsuya Nakamura's Premium Unit Series --
(Premium Unit Bath)

Artist Tetsuya Nakamura’s Premium Unit Series of curvaceous, luxury bathroom fixtures -- a tub, a pair of sinks, a step designed for insertion into a stairwell, and a decorative column -- are sculpted from fiber-reinforced plastic and painted with colorful, fluid patterns meant to evoke a sense of speed. Nakamura, who created the Premium Unit Series with the DIY-er in mind, encourages the purchaser to add his or her own custom paint job, body modifications and part upgrades, despite the 3 million yen ($26,000) cost of the tub and 1.5 million yen ($13,000) price tag on each of the other items. According to the accompanying disclaimer, Nakamura's heavy emphasis on form -- and relative disregard for function -- means bathers should enter the tub at their own risk, as the artist and dealer assume no responsibility for injuries or accidents that may occur.

Tetsuya Nakamura's Premium Unit Series --
(Premium Unit Sink)

Tetsuya Nakamura's Premium Unit Series --
(Premium Unit Sink)

Tetsuya Nakamura's Premium Unit Series --
(Premium Unit Step/Premium Unit Pillar)

[Link: Nippon Style]

Pink, white katydids found in Osaka

11 Sep 2007

Pink, white and green katydids ---

When Osaka resident Kana Yamaguchi's neighbors cut the grass in a nearby field, a number of fleeing insects sought refuge in her flower bed. Among them was an odd pair of grasshopper-like bugs -- one pink, one white. Osaka Museum of Natural History entomologist Itaru Kanazawa identifies them as the larvae of Euconocephalus thunbergi ("kubikirigisu" in Japanese), a close relative of the katydid. While he says it is normal for these insects to change between green and brown to match their surroundings, pink and white are considered abnormal. Speculation is that the pink is an extreme variation of the brown coloration, and the white specimen is believed to be an albino, though nobody will know for sure until it becomes an adult. Regardless, says Kanazawa, "It is quite rare to find three different colors at the same time."

[Source: Asahi]