Posts Tagged ‘Japan’
Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel boring machine, started digging under Seattle on Tuesday as it chewed through the north wall of the 80-ft deep trench where it was assembled after being shipped in pieces from its manufacturer in Japan. Designed to bore a 1.7 mile tunnel for State Route 99 under the Seattle city center to replace the old viaduct, the machine will both dig out soil and lay a concrete tunnel wall as it goes.
Though Bertha’s construction is one for the record books, it’s only half the story. The other is the SR 99 tunnel itself. The city of Seattle rests on a remarkable geology and the design of both Bertha and the tunnel reflect this. Almost the whole area is one huge glacial redeposit with a complex mixture of soils – some of which is less stable than one would like in an earthquake zone. Furthermore, the city center is heavily built up with the tunnel has to travel under about 160 buildings and the viaduct, which is still in use…
The tunneling route is divided into ten zones. The first of these is where Bertha will go slow, only about six feet per day, as the engineers monitor the huge machine. One drawback of building something unique for a unique job in a unique location is that it isn’t possible to thoroughly test it until it’s actually on the job. As Bertha begins it’s job, the engineers will keep an eye on its workings. There are also three “safe havens” where the crew can crawl forward to inspect the front of the machine. Once the engineers are satisfied, Bertha will speed up until it’s pushing its 326 ft length at 35 ft per day…
In 14 months, the SR 99 tunnel will breach the surface near the intersection of Sixth Avenue North and Harrison Street and the new highway section is scheduled to open in 2015.
The Italian half of my family rejoices. Some of the best hard-rock tunneling equipment and workers come from Italy. That’s how some of my kin got to the Rockies. That and coal mines.
Yokahama City University Medical Center
In work that will raise hope that organs could be repaired or even grown from scratch using a patient’s own tissue as the raw material, Japanese researchers have created functioning liver tissue from stem cells and successfully transplanted them into mice.
The researchers found that a mixture of human liver precursor cells and two other cell types can spontaneously form three-dimensional structures dubbed “liver buds.” In the mice, these liver buds formed functional connections with natural blood vessels and perform some liver-specific functions such as breaking down drugs in the bloodstream.
It’s possible the technique will work with other organ types, including the pancreas, kidney, or lungs, said lead author Takanori Takebe, a scientist at Yokohama City University…The study…is the first demonstration that a rudimentary human organ can be produced using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, says Takebe.
These iPS cells are made by converting mature cells such as skin cells into a state from which they can develop into many other cell types…The discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to this powerful state that’s useful for experiments was the basis of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology for Medicine.
A broad range of hope appears on the horizon of future experiments. Liver, pancreas, other organ replacements can sustain and extend the lives of many who otherwise wouldn’t have anything but palliative care to look forward to.
Warning: don’t read this if you’re eating, prone to sudden bouts of queasiness or unable to even think about Un Chien Andalou without simultaneously bursting into tears and dry-heaving. Believe me, I’m speaking from experience here.
Because this is an article about oculolinctus, an eye-licking fetish that is currently sweeping across the schools of Japan like, well, like a great big dirty bacteria-coated tongue sweeping across a horrific number of adolescent eyeballs.
Sometimes known as “worming” – which somehow makes this whole thing worse – oculolinctus is being blamed for a significant rise in Japanese cases of conjunctivitis and eye-chlamydia, which is actually a thing. It’s apparently seen as a new second-base; the thing you graduate to when kissing gets boring.
The craze is thought to stem from a music video by Japanese emo band Born (there’s a chance that the eyeball-licking scene was only included to distract everyone from the fact that the song sounds like it belongs on a menu screen for an EA Sports game about snowboarding from a decade ago, but at this point that’s just speculation)…
However, the dangers of oculolinctus are very real. As well as spreading pink-eye like nobody’s business, there’s also a risk of corneal scratching, which can lead to ulcers and blindness. Plus, there’s a strong chance that you’ll have to go to school the next day in an eye patch. At least with lovebites you could just throw on a poloneck jumper and be done with it.
Hopefully oculolinctus won’t catch on here and will remain one of those peculiarly Japanese fads such as bagelheading (injecting saline into your forehead until it swells out of all proportion, yaeba (undergoing dental surgery to give you crooked teeth) and shippo (wearing a neurologically controlled tail that reveals your moods). Because frankly, if oculolinctus does ever make it to these shores, I’m never going to be able to look at a lychee again.
The phrase “the phones are running hot” has the potential for a double meaning in the smartphone age, with increasingly processor-intensive apps being used on mobile devices. Desktop computers make use of water cooling to keep their CPUs from overheating, so why can’t smartphones? Why not, indeed. NEC has done just that with the Medias X N-06E, the world’s first water-cooled smartphone.
At the heart of the Medias X N-06E is a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro running at 1.7 GHz that has its heat drawn away to the sides of the phone by a water-filled heatpipe. Of course, this chip can be found in a range of devices, including the LG Optimus G Pro and HTC One, neither of which seem to be experiencing overheating issues.
While the chip supports clocking up to 1.9 GHz, NEC is sticking to 1.7 GHz for the water-cooled phone, so it’s unlikely users will see any real performance boost. The only real benefits we can see would be the potential to possibly extend the life of the chip or keep the phone cooler in your hot little hand…
The phone comes running Android 4.2 and also features a 4.7-inch 720 x 1,280 OLED display, 13.1-megapixel shooter, 2,300 mAh battery and waterproof and dustproof casing (IPX5, 8/IP5X) – which also gives users the option of dunking the phone in a pool of water if they want some other form of water cooling.
Oh, it comes in pinkish or white and has lots of sparkly-warkly accessories, too.
Five fish stow away on tsunami-tossed boat
Most outrageous fish tales begin with an arching arm gesture and “a fish this big” — but this one starts with “fish that traveled this far.”
Just over two years after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, researchers made a startling discovery in a 20-foot-long Japanese fishing vessel that washed ashore last month near Long Beach, Washington: five tropical fish, alive and well.
They are called striped beakfish, and they are native to warmer waters near Japan, China and the Korean Peninsula.
The five stowaways, roughly the size of your palm, lived in a cozy spot at the back of the boat.
A 20- to 30-gallon containment hold in the boat’s stern lost its cover, and that part of the boat was submerged as the vessel drifted in the ocean, said Allen Pleus, a scientist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That “created like a cave they could go in and out of,” Pleus said…
When researchers first explored the boat, they saw just one of the fish in the holding tank. They collected it in a bucket and took it to Long Beach City Hall.
Someone at City Hall called the Seaside Aquarium in Seaside, Oregon, to come and get it. Fish and Wildlife personnel found three more in the tank’s murky water. Finally the boat was towed to a state yard, where the fifth fish came swimming up to Pleus.
The other fishies along with anemones, scallops, crabs that also survived the journey will be dissected and examined in detail at Oregon States University.
Not many countries nowadays seek a strong exchange rate; a few, including systemically important ones, are already actively weakening their currencies. Yet, because an exchange rate is a relative price, all currencies cannot weaken simultaneously. How the world resolves this basic inconsistency over the next few years will have a major impact on prospects for growth, employment, income distribution, and the functioning of the global economy.
Japan is the latest country to say enough is enough. Having seen its currency appreciate dramatically in recent years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new government is taking steps to alter the country’s exchange-rate dynamic – and is succeeding. In just over two months, the yen has weakened by more than 10% against the dollar and close to 20% against the euro.
European leaders have already expressed reservations about Japan’s moves. The US auto industry is up in arms. And, a few days ago, Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank, publicly warned that the world risks a harmful and ultimately futile round of competitive exchange-rate depreciations – or, more bluntly, a “currency war”…
Of course, Japan is not the first country to go down this path. Several advanced and emerging economies preceded it, and I suspect that quite a few will follow it…
One need not be an economist to figure out that, while all currencies can (and do) depreciate against something else (like gold, land, and other real assets), by definition they cannot all weaken against each other. In order for some currencies to depreciate, others must appreciate. Here is where things get interesting, complex, and potentially dangerous…
None of this is unprecedented, and there is a lot of scholarship demonstrating why such beggar-thy-neighbor approaches result in bad collective outcomes. Indeed, multilateral agreements are in place to minimize this risk, including at the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization…
Unlike the old days, the threat of currency wars is not directly related to trade imbalances and balance-of-payments crises. Rather, an important driver is major central banks’ pursuit of experimental measures in order to compensate for policy inadequacies and political dysfunction elsewhere…
The risk is that the phenomenon leads to widespread disruptions, as increasingly difficult national policy challenges stoke regional tensions and the multilateral system proves unable to reconcile imbalances safely. If policymakers are not careful – and lucky – the magnitude of this risk will increase significantly in the years ahead.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of nations like the United States and Japan – manipulating their own currencies counter to each other’s national interests becomes a symphony of xenophobia orchestrated by politicians and mass media, each less interested in truth than enhancing power and profit for the interests they serve. And that ain’t you and me.
Internally, they make legitimate points about liquidity, attempting to nudge the economy into something more than desultory bumps.
For even a broader examination of opinion and analysis on the topic, return to Project Syndicate and wander through their “Currency War Drums” Focal Point.
For three years economic policy throughout the advanced world has been paralyzed, despite high unemployment, by a dismal orthodoxy. Every suggestion of action to create jobs has been shot down with warnings of dire consequences. If we spend more, the Very Serious People say, the bond markets will punish us. If we print more money, inflation will soar. Nothing should be done because nothing can be done, except ever harsher austerity, which will someday, somehow, be rewarded.
But now it seems that one major nation is breaking ranks — and that nation is, of all places, Japan.
This isn’t the maverick we were looking for. In Japan governments come and governments go, but nothing ever seems to change — indeed, Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister, has had the job before, and his party’s victory was widely seen as the return of the “dinosaurs” who misruled the country for decades. Furthermore, Japan, with its huge government debt and aging population, was supposed to have even less room for maneuver than other advanced countries.
But Mr. Abe returned to office pledging to end Japan’s long economic stagnation, and he has already taken steps orthodoxy says we mustn’t take. And the early indications are that it’s going pretty well…
…While getting out of a prolonged slump turns out to be very difficult, that’s mainly because it’s hard getting policy makers to accept the need for bold action. That is, the problem is mainly political and intellectual, rather than strictly economic. For the risks of action are much smaller than the Very Serious People want you to believe…
Enter Mr. Abe, who has been pressuring the Bank of Japan into seeking higher inflation — in effect, helping to inflate away part of the government’s debt — and has also just announced a large new program of fiscal stimulus. How have the market gods responded?
The answer is, it’s all good. Market measures of expected inflation, which were negative not long ago — the market was expecting deflation to continue — have now moved well into positive territory. But government borrowing costs have hardly changed at all; given the prospect of moderate inflation, this means that Japan’s fiscal outlook has actually improved sharply…
Whatever his motives, Mr. Abe is breaking with a bad orthodoxy. And if he succeeds, something remarkable may be about to happen: Japan, which pioneered the economics of stagnation, may also end up showing the rest of us the way out.
I’m not familiar enough with the political side of Japan’s culture to understand what inhibited the administration immediately preceding Abe’s from implementing the sort of Keynesian reforms most modern economists understand and endorse. I presume they hadn’t confidence in their authority – perhaps parliamentary opposition was infected with the same demagogue’s disease as our own Congress, e.g., self destructive class loyalties.
Regardless. Change is already perceptible. Both the business community and working class families have a bit more hope. Shinzo Abe’s party is as capable of screwing up reform as any other assembly of conservatives; so, the jury will be out for a while.
The process is worth a wry smile from this side of the Pacific since neither party parked next to the Potomac has sufficient courage or understanding to try the same.
A Brazilian student is set to sell her virginity for a staggering $780,000 after she put it up for auction online.
A man called Natsu, from Japan, fended off strong competition from American bidders Jack Miller and Jack Right, and Indian big-spender Rudra Chatterjee, to secure a date with 20-year-old Catarina Migliorini.
The auction closed 28 October and the physical education student – who said she will use the cash to build homes for poverty-stricken families – was the subject of 15 bids. Catarina’s move sparked outrage across the globe, with many claiming she was little more than a prostitute. She also caused controversy when she revealed she would be followed every step of the way by an Australian crew for a documentary film called Virgins Wanted.
But she said: ‘I saw this as a business. I have the opportunity to travel, to be part of a movie and get a bonus with it. ‘If you only do it once in your life then you are not a prostitute, just like if you take one amazing photograph it does not automatically make you a photographer. ‘The auction is just business, I’m a romantic girl at heart and believe in love. But this will make a big difference to my area,’ she told Folha newspaper.
Catarina will be ‘delivered’ to her buyer on board a plane between Australia and the U.S. – being interviewed before and after the sexual act. The intercourse itself will not be filmed and Natsu will retain a right to be anonymous, without his picture appearing in the media. Sex toys will be banned from use and a condom will be compulsory, with Catarina saying she was prepared to prove to any sceptics that she has not had sex before. Natsu will be tested for sexually transmitted diseases prior to the encounter.
Ah, me. Life in the fast lane, eh?