Shiroyone Senmaida rice paddies outlined by 20,000 LEDs

Click to enlarge

Japanese rice paddies twinkle in the darkness after 20,000 pink LEDs are spread across terraced fields. Together, they form a sight like no other. And with a world record-breaking 20,000 pink LEDs spread across them against the backdrop of the ocean, they truly are something to behold.

The Shiroyone Senmaida rice paddies in Japan now appear in the Guinness Book of World Records and were registered as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems last year, cementing their status as a unique and valued site.

Located on the Noto Peninsula, which is rich in diversity with a relatively warm climate, the rice paddies sprawl out over steep slopes against the backdrop of the Japan Sea.

The concept and execution are stunning. I’m not as certain about the Hello Kitty color choice.

Trying pregnancy test as a joke diagnoses man’s cancer

You may have followed, or seen a report of, the guy who used a pregnancy test on himself and it turned out positive. A friend posted it to reddit as a funny rage comic, and a commenter warned that it might be a sign of cancer. The guy saw a doctor, a small tumor was found, and his life was saved, as this very rare form of cancer is usually not detected early. The pregnancy test reacted to human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG.

Yes, HCG in men can be a sign of a rare (and dangerous) form of testicular cancer — choriocarcinoma. This is a cancer made up of syncytiotroblastic cells, said Katherine McGlynn, a senior investigator with the National Cancer Institutes. The tumor secretes HCG because that’s what syncytiotroblasts do. They secrete HCG. And they don’t particularly care whether they’re secreting it into a man or a woman.

But how do they get into a guy, to begin with? That’s where things get really weird. The truth is that nobody is entirely certain, McGlynn told me. But there are a couple of theories. One possibility is that these syncytiotroblasts that turn cancerous were leftovers — remnants of the time when that guy was just a ball of 70-100 cells. One way or another, they persisted in his body and then started to grow out of control.

Needless to say, he is glad his fey sense of humor paid off. You can read more about the science behind this coincidence over here

Thanks, Ursarodinia.

Government spying – on you and me online – sharply increasing

Government surveillance of citizens’ online lives is rising sharply around the world, according to Google’s latest report on requests to remove content and hand over user data to official agencies.

In the first six months of this year, authorities worldwide made 20,939 requests for access to personal data from Google users, including search results, access to Gmail accounts and removal of YouTube videos. Requests have risen steeply from a low of 12,539 in the last six months of 2009, when Google first published its Transparency Report…

“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: government surveillance is on the rise,” Google said in a blogpost…

The US accounted for the most requests, as it has consistently since the report was launched. US authorities asked for private details of Google users on 7,969 occasions, up from 6,321 in the last reporting period. The number is more than a third of the 20,938 requests for users’ details worldwide. Google fully or partially complied with 90% of those requests.

Over the six months, Google was asked to remove seven YouTube videos that criticised local and state agencies, police and other public officials. It did not comply with these requests…

RTFA for a bit more detail. Two things are clear:

1. As many expected – and most civil libertarians predicted – the paranoia police promoted by the Bush/Cheney Department of Homeland Security continue to lead the world at spying on their own citizens’ use of the Internet. Better communications, easier access to information, always frightens those elected to serve the public good.

2. Politicians who never miss a beat at proclaiming their dedication to transparency and democracy carry on – equally dedicated to ignoring those principles in the guise of counter-terrorism. Cold War ideology hasn’t changed enough to need anything more than cut-and-paste substitutions.