Moss balls, despite their name, aren’t actually “moss” but rather a species of filamentous green algae (Chlorophyta) that naturally grow into a round shape in just a few remote locations around the world. Until now, two species of alga forming moss balls, マリモ Marimo (Aegagropila linnaei) and タテヤママリモ Tateyama Marimo (Aegagropilopsis moravica) were found in Japan. Now, a third has been discovered.
According to National Museum of Nature and Science Senior Researcher 辻彰洋 Akihiro Tsuji, a 毬藻 marimo (also known as “Cladophora ball,” “lake ball” or “moss ball”) found in a water tank used to raise fish in a private residence in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, is a new Japanese species of Aegagropilopsis moss ball. It has been named モトスマリモ “Motosu Marimo” (Aegagropilopsis clavuligera) because it is presumed to have originated from a native Japanese bivalve mollusk found in 本栖湖 Lake Motosu, Yamanashi Prefecture.
The results of the genetic analysis showed that the sequence of the present alga is consistent with Aegagropilopsis clavuligera, which was first reported from Sri Lanka and found in tropical aquariums in the Netherlands and rivers in China, and that it is clearly distinct from “Marimo” (Aegagropila linnaei) and “Tateyama Marimo” (Aegagropilopsis moravica).
Since the genus Aegagropilopsis is known to live by attaching itself to bivalves, it is assumed that the alga attached itself to bivalves from Lake Motosu which the owner of the residence introduced for the purpose of raising a freshwater fish called the rosy bitterling (Rhodeus ocellatus), a brood parasite which lays its eggs in mussels where they develop in the gills.
It is not yet known whether this species was native to Lake Motosu or introduced as a non-native species. The researchers hope to clarify this and other details about the new species in …continue reading
So your brand new phone slipped out of your pocket onto the station platform and now you can barely touch the screen without getting chunks of broken glass embedded in your fingers? If you’re covered by Apple Care or an extended warranty, you can take it into a big shop and get your phone back a few days later. If you’re not under warranty, you’re in a hurry, or you don’t want to back-up and delete your data, you’ll need to find a place to repair that smashed screen.
Hopefully you have another device to help you find a solution. If not, we pity you for having to squint through the screen cracks at this article.
I can feel my immunity rise just looking at these little guys.
We’re coming up on three years since the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world, and even now in some places like Tokyo infections numbers are rising rapidly again. With the uncertainty surrounding the seriousness of new variants and our ability to treat and prevent them, this virus is still making it hard to catch a break from the general chaos in the world.
But now, a new hope has emerged, a cute, fluffy hope that walks kind of funny.
▼ The alpaca!
On 14 July, research teams at Kyoto University and other organizations announced that they have discovered antibodies that appear effective at combating all variants of COVID-19. It turns out that all this time humanity’s greatest weapon against this disease may have been lying in wait inside the adorable little camel-like things.
Many living creatures possess antibodies, which are proteins that bind to viruses and bacteria so that they cannot bind to our cells and make us sick. Alpacas, however, have antibodies which are considerably smaller than humans’. Researchers believe these smaller proteins can be more effective at binding to the coronavirus, especially the parts that undergo mutations inside the virus.
Other animals have smaller antibodies too, such as the alpaca’s cousins the camel and llama, as well as sharks. Of course, the choice between doing blood work on a shark or an alpaca isn’t really a choice at all, so researchers extracted about 20 million types of antibodies from the wooly beasts and gauged their effectiveness against COVID-19 by computer simulation.
As a result they found six types that seemed to easily bind to the coronavirus, and among those there were two …continue reading
People living in Japan might have noticed that the rainy season, which usually occurs sometime between May and July depending on the area, hasn’t been all that rainy these days. In fact, this week for the most part has been a onslaught of relentless heat and scorching sunlight. This type of weather is expected to continue in much of the country, despite the fact that Japan is more or less in the middle of what’s normally the rainy season.
An average rainy season isn’t much better really. It’s just a different kind of suffering in the form of inescapable humidity that sticks to you everywhere and all the time. Basically, it’s like comparing rotten apples and rotten oranges.
But it’s the bright, intense kind of heat that is expected to continue at least until the end of June, in most cases with the temperature soaring even higher, and it’s causing the Japan Meteorological Agency to wonder if the rainy season might already be finished. If that’s the case, it could be a strong contender for the shortest rainy season on record.
At the moment the baiu front, which brings the rainy season to Japan each year, is being held back to the north by the La Niña phenomenon. La Niña is characterized by a large-scale movement of warm water from equatorial South America across the Pacific Ocean, towards the eastern parts of Asia.
▼ To learn more about La Niña, consult your local YouTube channel.
This has implications on the weather all over the world in different ways, but for the time being it is making things extra hot and uncharacteristically dry in …continue reading
Digitalisation — the use of digital technologies and digital-enabled solutions in socio-economic activities — has triggered global changes that are wider and less predictable than ever before. With digitalisation, the world economy is set to become better connected, smarter and more efficient. Accelerating digital transformation is key to unleashing Asia’s potential in global competitiveness and long-term development and is a core component of the region’s policy package for post-pandemic recovery.
Despite ongoing recessionary drag from the pandemic, digital solutions provide an effective alternative for services and business activities in the face of government measures to limit mobility and empower people and businesses to grasp new market opportunities. Within two years, more than 600 million e-commerce users entered the online market, driving the world’s total e-commerce revenue up by nearly 25 per cent from 2019 to 2020 and 17 per cent from 2020 to 2021.
Markets for online services — particularly education and food delivery — expanded quickly, thanks to higher-than-expected growth of digital platforms. The size of the market has increased by nearly 50 per cent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the world’s total revenue from these services reached US$466 million by the end of 2021.
There is also evidence that COVID-19 has accelerated the transformation towards a cashless society. Among ASEAN’s population of 680 million, half now use digital payments to pay for products and services.
The internet has become an integral part of daily life. Especially during the pandemic, online solutions have efficiently substituted offline practices in many areas — from doing business online to working and studying from home. This has changed people’s mindsets on digitalisation.
But many consumers and producers experienced hardship during the pandemic, not only from health threats caused by the virus, but also because …continue reading
Japan’s most recent regulatory reform plan is digitalisation — a crucial part of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ‘New Capitalism‘ agenda that seeks to prevent excessive profit-seeking activities. Better utilisation of the digital economy is necessary to overcome labour force shortages brought about by a rapidly declining working-age population. Fortunately, the momentum for digital reform has survived the recent leadership transition.
Initiated by former prime minister Yoshihide Suga, the government’s Digital Agency was established in September 2021. Its primary task is to revise over 40,000 existing laws and legal procedures relating to online services — an undertaking that will take at least three years to complete in order to overcome the compartmentalised jurisdictions of various ministries of state.
There are three fundamental steps to realising digital administration in Japan.
The first step is to establish agile governance. Unlike existing rigid regulations, agile governance requires flexible rules that can quickly adapt to rapidly changing technologies and economic circumstances. Automatic monitoring systems should, for example, replace the current schemes based on human supervision. Drones and sensors could quickly replace human observation for regular safety checks on bridges and tunnels. Better regulation using recent technology would vastly reduce the costs of maintaining security for both government and the private sector.
The second step is establishing one-stop digital services to replace mandatory paperwork or in-person reporting. Although most residents in Japan are identified by a ‘My Number’ digital ID, many administrative procedures — such as a change of address — require in-person appointments and physical paperwork.
Most administrative procedures could be done online, as in many other OECD countries. When an individual reports their data to a government agency by using a service, the data should automatically be shared with other institutions — reducing administrative costs by an estimated 20 per …continue reading
Even dirty diapers are tamed by the unrelenting chill of Clean Box.
As the sweltering summer hits Japan, a lot of unpleasant things come with it, from blisteringly dangerous heat to everyone’s least favorite houseguests, cockroaches. But one other awful side-effect of summer is that garbage really starts to stink, especially in Japan were many people eat fresh fish on an almost daily basis.
Here to remedy some of these problems is Nakanishi Kinzoku Kogyo and their product the Clean Box. By blending the technology of a standard kitchen freezer with the highly sophisticated design of a rubbish bin, Clean Box can store your refuse, especially the organic stuff, at -11 degrees Celsius (12 degrees Fahrenheit) thus arresting the production of bacteria known to raise a stink.
That temperature might seem like an arbitrary homage to Spinal Tap, but surprisingly the cutoff for diapers to smell horrible is said to be -10 degrees, so lowering it by one degree provides added diaper protection while conserving power and wear on equipment.
Nakanishi Kinzoku Kogyo got the idea back in 2017 when they read people discussing putting garbage in their kitchen freezers to eliminate smells online. That lifehack never really caught on because people weren’t crazy about putting dirty diapers next to their frozen peas, so the company decided that instead of putting garbage in freezers they could put a freezer inside a waste bin. A 2016 survey found that about one in five people have tried putting garbage in the fridge or freezer, and among them only about one and five continued to do so.
Clean Box’s development wasn’t without its challenges. Accommodations for air flow, coolant, and condensation needed to be made …continue reading
Finger may one day flip people off with superhuman speed and precision.
The University of Tokyo was the location of a unique scientific breakthrough. A team led by Professor Shoji Takeuchi has successfully cover a robotic finger with living skin made by culturing human skin cells. Now, where have I heard that before…
Oh yeah… Well, I’m sure it’ll be fine. At least it promises to be a marked improvement over the silicon that androids nowadays tend to use. In addition to never quite overcoming uncanny valley, silicon rubber is said to have issues with repairs and sensors.
Skin is also just the first step in combining organic matter with machines, and opens the door for incorporating nerves and sensory organs such as olfactory receptors which can detect scents. Another important addition will be some form of blood vessels that can nourish the skin, because at the moment it can only survive outside the cell culture for about an hour.
▼ A news report showing the finger
The skin is about 1.5 millimeters thick, consists of epidermis and dermis layers, and connects to the metal frame by a series of mushroom shaped fasteners. Since the skin is made of living cells, it has the potential to heal itself with the addition of a collagen sheet to the wounded area.
While these developments may also help skin transplants in humans, a major benefit is the creation of three-dimensional models that can be used to accurately test pharmaceuticals and cosmetics on instead of animals. This skin can also be used to cover prosthetic limbs to make them look more realistic.
And leave it to online comments to come up with other entertaining uses for robots with lifelike flesh.
“Are you sure that’s a finger they made?” “The University of Tokyo has ushered in a new era of adult toys.” “The U.S. …continue reading
The 24/7 non-stop physical, mental and stressful aspects of parenting makes raising children in the 21st century essentially a full time job. With endless nights of lack of sleep, never-ending cycles of cleaning, the learning curve for both child and parent, and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears, the position comes with a minimal amount of “me-time” and is not for the faint of heart.
Luckily, Japanese entertainment company TAKARA TOMY has designed a product that can take on a specific parental responsibility, which in turn frees up some time for mum and dad to use however they wish.
The product in question is Coemo – a story-telling speaker that, through Artificial Intelligence (hereafter AI), reproduces the voices of parents.
The child-rearing support gadget has a free content collection consisting of 60 various stories and songs from both Japan and the rest of the world.
Coemo’s state-of-the-art AI synthetic speech synthetic technology “Coe Station” is able to reproduce a natural story-telling voice that copies the emotional expressions and intonations of loved ones. This imitation can help children to relax, as familiar voices of mum and dad (or other loved ones) read out their favourite stories.
In addition, Coemo comes with built in sound effects and background music that match each individual story. These elements add a further touch of entertainment and realism to the abilities of Coemo.
Content already installed on the device includes a range of stories from across the globe, such as a selection of Grimms’ fairytales and traditional Japanese folktales, nursery rhymes and music box melodies.
A bonus feature is the collaborative content that has been produced with professional sleep company “BRAIN SLEEP”. This includes 5 original Coemo content, such as soothing sleep music and “Nerumae Taisou” (pre-sleep exercises) that have been designed …continue reading
Computer literacy is basic, nontechnical knowledge about computing and software. However, it should also include digital literacy, such as knowing what websites may be harmful or how to interact with others online.
Japan is at the forefront of creating cutting edge technology to solve societal problems, and anyone looking for work in Japan has likely encountered the standard IT job posting. But while the country often stirs images of Blade Runner, many people in Japan are actually not very tech-savvy.
Both the young and old seem to struggle with basic computer skills. So, why is this? Is there anything being done to change it? What does this mean for those searching for jobs in Japan?
After looking at the research and reporting over the last few years, things in the present start to make a little more sense.
A look inside some of the research
An article published in the Shonan Journal noted that “Japanese youths’ digital literacy is falling behind other developed countries.” For example, many students in Japan may have been taught how to use PowerPoint but rarely sit down and make a presentation.
Does this sound a bit strange? Well, there may be a reason as to why this is. In Japan, a traditional lecture style of education is still the norm, whereas an active learning style is adopted in many other countries.
So it appears that the nation’s youth are technically being educated on using specific programs, they lack the opportunity for actual hands-on experience. Essentially, this means students may not be be pushed to take an active role in their education. Japan’s …continue reading