science

Tohoku University team discovers blue light is effective at killing insects

Earlier this year Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their development of an efficient blue light-emitting diode (blue LED).

It was a well-deserved victory for the Japanese scientists whose invention continues to impact our lives in ways we often don’t even notice. It could be in the display you’re looking at right now or it could be helping some of the millions of people in parts of the world without electrical infrastructure get affordable lights for their homes.

And now in a report published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Tohoku University have found a new use for blue LED. When used in the right frequency it can be an effective, safe, clean, and cheap way to kill insects. For the first time, they showed that visible light around the blue part of the spectrum is lethal to insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.

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Elementary school student’s “robots of the future” drawing is too creepy for words!

As we speak, scientists in Japan are hard at work on inventing a myriad of robots whose sole raison d’être is to improve quality of life for humans. Whether it’s shoveling snow, helping people to walk, or generally spreading cheer through unbelievable cuteness and dexterity (we’re talking about you, Asimo!) it’s clear to see that robots are going to feature big in our lives during the years to come. But when a drawing contest was held in Japan for elementary school students to submit their impressions of a robot-filled future, one particular entry started to gain a lot of attention on twitter for being extremely creepy in an oddly knowing way…

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Japanese TV reveals the revolting truth about the source of jasmine’s alluring fragrance

Sometimes it’s better not to know where nice things come from. That’s the lesson Japanese netizens learned last week when a TV show revealed a very unpleasant fact about why jasmine has its unique and fragrant scent.

In a segment of the variety show aptly called “it’s better that you don’t know,” the president of an “aroma school” in Tokyo revealed that the compound that gives jasmine its pleasant fragrance is also responsible for a very unwelcome smell familiar to us all.

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Just in time for 2015! Hoverboard becomes reality, proves Back to the Future was legit

Remember that scene in the classic 80’s movie Back to the Future Part II, where Marty McFly escapes a group of bullies using a floating skateboard known as a hoverboard? If you do, you probably spent your childhood longing for one of those bad boys and wondering when technology would catch up to the 2015 depicted in the film. Well, it looks like we’ve managed to make it a reality, and just before the cut-off date, too! Join us after the jump for video evidence!

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Japan introduces a new kind of needleless injection, you won’t believe how it works!

Needle phobia all boils down to “Needles? No thank you!” This seemingly innocuous fear makes many things in life quite difficult. Drawing blood, injections…sewing…are just some of the things that become very problematic. Needle(ss) to say, science fiction has been ripe with alternative injection systems, the most famous is probably the hypospray from Star Trek. While needle-free injections have existed for a while now, a Japanese research team is ready to release their invention into the world, a new kind of needle-free injection that works on the magic of bubbles and is pain FREE!

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World’s simplest build-it-yourself toy train set may also be the cleverest with just three parts

With less than a month until Christmas, hopefully you’ve been working your way through your holiday shopping list. Still, come December 24, you may find that your hectic schedule of professional and scholarly pursuits means you’ve forgotten to get a present for one of the little tykes in your family.

Rushing to the store on Christmas Eve, your spirits may fall as you find the toy department picked clean. Don’t give up hope, though! As long as the hardware section is still stocked, you can make a pretty cool “toy train” with just three incredibly common items.

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Japanese sleep experts say we’ve been using our blankets wrong, help us hate winter a little less

I hate winter. 20-plus years of living in sunny southern California didn’t do anything to help me build up a tolerance for cold weather, and honestly, if I could make like the bears and just gorge myself on salmon for a few weeks and then sleep until spring, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, since hibernation isn’t really an option, I have to rely on a blanket and down comforter to make it through the freezing winter nights. Even still, the cold often leaves me shivering (plus grumbling, cursing, and generally complaining).

As it turns out, though, instead of blaming Old Man Winter for all my discomfort, I’m actually part of the problem, according to Japanese experts who say I’ve been using my comforter and blanket the wrong way.

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Panasonic may change the world with upcoming product…SAND!

When you think of the multinational electronics producer Panasonic, “sand” probably doesn’t immediately come to mind. However, if a new product they are looking to release meets its full potential, this new kind of sand may completely change the face of the Earth as we know it.

The picture above is not Panasonic sand, but you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at it anyways. Actually even if you examine their grains of soil under a microscope you wouldn’t see a difference. So let’s start by looking at what makes this dirt so special and how it could help everyone in one way or another.

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Has a Japanese company found the fountain of youth? One man’s youthful skin suggests so

The pursuit of beauty and the relentless quest to look younger is nothing new and has probably been around since the first human looked into a pool of water and realized that the disfigured beastly thing staring back was themselves. A couple of hundred thousand years and many medical technology breakthroughs later, we are spending massive amounts of money, time and pain on that quest to look younger and more beautiful. And last week a Japanese cosmetic company made an announcement that seemed to suggest they found the fountain of youth when they took 30 years off a 67-year-old man’s skin using a breakthrough technology.

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Is it time for Japan to get over trying to connect your personality and blood type?

When I first moved to Japan in college, every weekend meant a party and a new group of people to meet, with a standard set of questions I got asked. The logic behind “What’s your name?” was obvious, and “Where are you from?” also makes sense when you’re one of the few non-Japanese people in the room. “Do you like Japanese girls?” was another common one, based on the widely held, if not always true, theory that foreign guys like Japanese women, and vice-versa.

Those three always came first, but it wasn’t long until someone would want to know my blood type. No, my school wasn’t filled with vampires or hemophiliacs, nor hemophiliac vampires (the most tragic undead demographic). People just wanted to get a sneak peak at my personality, which is thought to be strongly connected to what runs through your veins by many people in Japan.

One man who’s not a believer, though, is Professor Kengo Nawata from Kyushu University’s Social Psychology Department, whose recently concluded research shows no correlation between personality and blood type.

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Moon set to vanish and turn red as part of tonight’s spectacular lunar eclipse

Wednesday has to be the least exciting day of the week. Your energy boost from the weekend is likely spent, and you’ve still got a couple more days of work until your next chance to cut loose and have some fun.

At least, that’s how things generally are. This week, we’re psyched about Wednesday, because October 8 is bringing a lunar eclipse to Japan, and as part of the celestial show, the moon is turning red.

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Awesome science trick: How to make a coin dance using a block of dry ice 【Video】

Dry ice is some pretty handy stuff. Aside from keeping shipments of groceries and other perishables nice and cold, it’s perfect for producing billowing smoke, which is always nice to have if you’re throwing a high school dance.

Dry ice doesn’t just have the power to compel teens to shake their bodies, though, but coins and spoons too, as shown in these awesome videos.

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Is it another creepy Japanese iPhone case? No, it’s a multicoloured hermaphrodite lobster!

You have to feel sorry for the uglier animals of this world. While kittens and bunnies inspire a universal chorus of “awwwwwww”, if you’re unlucky enough to be born a crustacean or insect, chances are people don’t think you’re so cute.

The Japanese spiny lobster, or Ise-ebi, is a bumpy, spooky-looking creature at the best of times. This one, which was caught off Tōshi-jima in Ise Bay this week, is a gynandromorph – one side of its body is male, the other half is female. Mainichi Shimbun reports that the creature is truly one in a million!

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Japanese team wins Ig Nobel prize for confirming that banana peels are in fact slippery

They feature so prominently in our Saturday morning cartoons and Charlie Chaplin movies that mankind has simply taken it as gospel that stepping on a banana peel will cause you to comically slip and fall with such a force that birds and stars will circle your head.

But did you know that until recently this was only a theory, unproven by a peer-reviewed scientific study? Thanks to the hard work done by Kiyoshi Mabuchi and his team at Kitasato University who were able to apply a frictional coefficient, we can unequivocally say that banana peels really are slippery when you step on them. Little wonder the group was awarded the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics.

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Crazy Japanese “doctor” thinks babies live in clouds, choose their mothers from the heavens

When a 4-year-old tells you his favorite hobby is riding dinosaurs with laser guns on their backs, you’d probably tend to laugh it off as the whimsical musings of a person whose brain hasn’t fully developed yet. But apparently one Japanese researcher thought taking the nonsensical ramblings of very young children seriously was an important research project lending insight into the pre-conception brains of recently born people.

“Doctor” Akira Ikegawa – who is crazy and is possibly also hoping to defraud at least a few people – says his research in prenatal care has revealed that babies sit up in clouds looking down on the world picking and choosing which mother they prefer to be born to before spiriting themselves into those mothers’ wombs to be carried to term.

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Science museum’s elemental lockers provide chemistry lesson while you stash your stuff

The Nagoya City Science Museum, being located in one of the busiest urban centers of Japan, gets most of its visitors arriving by public transportation. Without a car to store their stuff in, most of them are carrying some sort of bag with their personal belongings, plus, in the case of tourists from out of town, any souvenirs they’ve been buying while in the country’s fourth-largest city.

For those who don’t feel like lugging their things around inside the museum, there’s a bank of lockers. Of course, a drab wall of solid gray metal wouldn’t be very visually appealing. At many other tourist attractions in Japan, you’d see a brightly colored mural featuring some local mascot character, but the designers at the Science System went with something a lot more original and appropriate by plastering the chemical symbols of the elements on them.

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Japanese cucumber glows in the dark, sparks concern from internet

One netizen in Japan created quite a pickle recently, after posting these photos online in an internet chat forum. The accompanying thread, titled “the pickled cucumbers my mum made are glowing in the dark”, caught the attention of hundreds of users, who began discussing possible causes for the mysterious luminescence. Speculation ranged from light-hearted banter, questioning whether the dawn of cognitive vegetables had finally arrived, to more serious concerns about radiation. What do you think caused the unique phenomenon?

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The science of Attack on Titan explained: Finally, a Titan tie-in that looks kinda cool

Who would win in a fight between a Titan and Ultraman? How were the Walls built? Seeing as Titans never eat or drink, are they surviving through photosynthesis? If these are the questions that keep you awake at night, then we’ve got some bedtime reading for you.

Kūsō Kagaku Dokuhon (空想科学読本, literally “fantasy science reader”) is a series that addresses, queries and explains the science behind popular Japanese anime and manga. This time around, writer Rikao Yanagita has turned his hand to the inescapable Attack on Titan series, in this 208-page illustrated work that promises to answer all your titanic scientific ponderings.

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Japanese netizens lament over the long, but sad life of sea urchins

Although the spiny, horrifying outside may scare you off, the insides of a sea urchin are one of the most delicious things to come out of the ocean. In Japan, sea urchin, or uni in Japanese, can be enjoyed with sushi, on top of rice or just own its own. Sea urchins are a treat for any seafood fan, but recently a group of Japanese netizens found out a little bit more about the life of the sea creature and began a deep discussion about the spiny little critters.

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Gigantic aquatic insect found in China has record-setting wingspan, possibly anal spray

Back in college, when it came time to pick an upper-level science class to get my general education credits, I settled on a class in entomology, aka bug science. The fact that it started at 10 a.m., instead of my other options at 8, played a big factor in the decision, but it actually turned out to be a really interesting course with an excellent teacher.

On the first day of class, the professor told us that one of his goals was to help dispel our socially-ingrained yet illogical fear of insects, arachnids, and all other sorts of creepy crawlies that I’ve since forgotten the scientific names of. If you can get past the knee-jerk, “Eew gross!” reaction many people have to, say, a beetle, you’ll find that holding one in your hands isn’t any more likely to give you a rash or a disease than a rabbit or hamster.

And yet, I still find myself terrified to hear that the world’s largest aquatic insect was just discovered in China.

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