Category Archives: SCI-TECH

Researchers Develop Software That Can Create Japanese Wood Joinery

Japanese wood joinery dates back to the seventh century and is a craftsmanship technique that involves complicated, interlocking wooden joints that form bonds without the use of nails, screws or adhesives. Practical use of these woodworking techniques, known as tsugite, has been dwindling over the years due to their complexity but a team of researchers from […]

The post Researchers Develop Software That Can Create Japanese Wood Joinery first appeared on Spoon & Tamago.

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Bandai launches Gunpla Recycling Project to reuse Gundam anime model kit plastics

Model maker is installing drop boxes at arcades across Japan.

Since 1980, toymaker Bandai has been pumping out a constant stream of model kits based on the Gundam mecha anime series. These kits are called Gunpla, with the “pla” being short for “plastic,” the most prominently used material in the scale robots.

Not all the plastic that comes in a Gunpla kit gets used in the model itself, though. Groups of component plastic pieces are often attached to an outer frame, called a “runner.”

▼ Gunpla pieces in their runner pre-assembly

Once the model has been put together, the runner serves no more purpose, and so four Bandai Namco Group companies, Bandai Namco Holdings, Bandai Spirits, Bandai Namco Amusement, and logistics division Logipal Express, are launching the Gunpla Recycling Project. On the consumer side of the project, Gunpla recycling boxes are being installed in Namco video game centers across Japan, where model builders can deposit their no-longer-needed Gunpla runners.

▼ The Gunpla Recycling Project boxes feature the likeness of Gundam mascot robot Haro.

The runners, along with waste plastic from Gunpla production centers, will be collected and used in three different types of recycling, starting with chemical recycling, in which plastic polystyrene will be broken down into styrene monomer which can be used as raw materials for new plastic parts. Other portions will be used for mechanical recycling, in which the plastics are physically crushed into granules for later reformation, and so-called “thermal recycling,” in which waste materials that cannot be recycled are burned as fuel to produce electricity.

Gunpla Recycling Project boxes have already been installed …continue reading

    

End of an era – Sony announces end of online, PlayStation Store support for PS3 and Vita

If you’re planning any digital purchases or downloads, the time is now.

Just like technological advances are continually extending human lifespans, they’re doing the same for video game consoles. But in a darker parallel, there comes a time when decision makers start asking themselves if they should pull the plug, and Sony has decided that time is near for its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, announcing that it will be ending online support and PlayStation Store access for the two systems in the next few months.

The last day for PS3 support will be July 2, and it’s goodbye for the Vita on August 27. After that, not only will you be unable to purchase digital content for the two platforms, you also won’t be able to redownload games you’ve paid for but since deleted from your hard drive, so if you’ve bought more than you can fit in your system at once, you’ve got some tough, permanent choices to make about what to keep and what to essentially throw away.

Considering that Sony launched its PlayStation 5 about half a year ago and is selling as many as it can produce, the decision probably isn’t breaking the hearts of too many casual fans or those whose interest is only in the latest AAA titles. However, for retro gamers, gaming historians, or those with an interest in experiencing first-hand the steps the industry took along the way to its current state, it’s a definite bummer. While there haven’t been any noteworthy new PS3 or Vita releases in quite some time, both systems allow for downloads from the PlayStation Store’s Game Archives section, also known as PS one Classics outside Japan, a collection of several hundred PlayStation 1 …continue reading

    

Amazing new powder turns ramen broth from a liquid back into a solid, but why?【Video】

Leftover Cup Noodle Broth Hardening Powder is Nissin’s latest innovation.

We take it for granted now, but when you think about it, instant ramen broth is practically magic. Add hot water to just a little bit of powder, and presto! You’ve got a delicious bowl of broth.

Now, though, Cup Noodle maker Nissin wants to let you work that magic in reverse, and so they’ve created something that turns your liquid instant ramen broth back into a solid with Leftover Cup Noodle Broth Hardening Powder.

▼ Nissin’s Leftover Cup Noodle Broth Hardening Powder in action

“But why?” you may be wondering. See, the thing is, you’re not actually supposed to drink all of the broth in a cup or bowl of ramen. Sure, it’s tasty, but it’s also packed with calories and sodium, and draining the container into your stomach can really make it hard to incorporate regular ramen meals into a healthy diet.

Showing ramen broth restraint isn’t always easy, however, even if you have the necessary willpower, because not drinking all the broth means you’ve got leftover liquid in a cup with no lid. That’s where Nissin’s Leftover Cup Noodle Broth Hardening Powder comes in. Simply stir it into your remaining broth, and the liquid will transition to a solid that can be bagged up and carried until you come across a trash bin with no fear of spilling along the way.

“Why not just dump it on the ground if you’re eating in the park, or in the bathroom if you’re eating …continue reading

    

Japanese supercomputer finds the reason some baseball pitches can suddenly drop near home plate

Why have a supercomputer if you can’t use it to figure out how a two-seamer works?

“It’s all in the wrist,” is a sports cliché that’s been around forever and describes how technical finesse is often more important that raw strength. Particularly in ball games where putting the right spin can make all the difference.

However, research conducted by Professor Takayuki Aoki and his team at the Tokyo Institute of Technology discovered that it might not “all” be in the wrist after all. Sometimes it’s also in the seams.

First, let’s fly through the basics of the Magnus effect. This physical phenomenon occurs when a spinning object is moving through a fluid – most often air (yes, air is a fluid, though it’s not a liquid). The object pushes against the air, which in turn pushes back against the object and an upward force, or “lift” not unlike that used by aircraft, is generated.

▼ In this diagram the green object is moving towards the left and backspinning, which creates an upward Magnus force

Image: Wikipedia/Rdurkacz

Even without understanding the raw physics behind it, the phenomenon is easy enough to observe in any number of sports from table tennis to golf. The three factors that determine a ball’s path are speed, rotational speed, and rotational angle, so a fast backspin will keep a ball airborne longer and even a slight sideways spin might send a golf ball too far off course over 200 yards.

In baseball especially, spin speed and angle dictates a wide range of pitches designed to keep the batter guessing. Some of the most devious pitches include the splitter, forkball, and two-seam fastball, all of which appear to move straight and then suddenly fall …continue reading

    

Android just ahead of iPhone in Japan

What type is your main mobile phone? graph of japanese statistics

This survey from MMD Labo into mobile service provider usage shows three-quarters of Japanese using one of the three full-service, full-price carriers, but with all three launching new low-cost self-service plans, it will be interesting to see how these figures change.

I’m a long-term Docomo/Android/Sharp Aquos user myself, and I am considering switching to Docomo’s new plan ahamo, which gives you 20Gb and 5 minutes free per call for about 3,000 yen including tax.

Survey results

Q1: What type is your main mobile phone? (Sample size=40,000)

Android 45.8%
iPhone 41.0%
Feature phone 6.8%
Not so smartphone 1.3%
Other 0.2%
Don’t have a mobile phone 4.9%

The “Not so smartphone” is my term for a smartphone in a feature phone skin. Although consumer feature phones have stopped being produced, the flip-phone format has a small following with the older demographic, with phones like this one hiding their Android-ness behind a custom skin.

Looking at Android versus iPhone by age and sex, youth favoured the iPhone; 68.9% versus 25.6% for teenage boys, 82.7% versus 15.1% for teenage girls. From the thirties for men and forties for women, Android was more popular.

Q2: What is the carrier for your main mobile phone? (Sample size=37,731)

Docomo 35.0%
au 24.5%
SoftBank 15.7%
Y! mobile 7.2%
Rakuten UN-LIMIT 4.0%
UQ mobile 3.2%
MVNO 10.4%

Q3: What MVNO do you have for your main mobile phone? (Sample size=3,927)

Rakuten Mobile 24.3%
mineo 15.5%
OCN Mobile One 11.3%
Biglobe Mobile 8.8%
LINE Mobile 8.7%
IIJmio 7.7%
Aeon Mobile 7.0%
Other 16.7%

From the original sample, 12.7% said they also had a second mobile phone. They were asked the following:

Q4: What is the carrier for your secondary mobile phone? (Sample size=4,124)

Docomo 28.4%
au 19.5%
SoftBank 15.3%
Rakuten UN-LIMIT 14.1%
Y! mobile 5.8%
UQ mobile 2.8%
MVNO 14.0%

Q5A: What is the model of your main iPhone? (Sample size=16,409, top 10 answers)

Rank Percentage
1 iPhone 8, 8 Plus 17.7%
2 iPhone 7, 7 Plus 13.1%
3 iPhone SE second generation 11.3%
4 iPhone 11 10.9%
5 iPhone XR 8.6%
6 iPhone 6s, 6s Plus 5.4%
7 iPhone X 4.7%
8 iPhone XS 4.5%
9 iPhone 11 Pro 3.4%
10 iPhone SE (First generation) 3.3%

Q5B: What is the model of your main Android phone? (Sample size=18,315, top 10 answers)

Rank Percentage
1 Aquos series 27.1%
2 Xperia series 23.1%
3 Galaxy series 12.5%
4 Arrows series 6.5%
5 Huawei 6.3%
6 Google Pixel series 3.2%
7 Oppo 2.8%
8 Android One 2.8%
9 ZenFone series 2.1%
10 BASIO series 0.9%

Demographics

Between the 8th …continue reading

    

デジタル市場競争会議ヒアリング会合冒頭挨拶

以下は、3 月 17 日に開かれたデジタル市場競争会議ヒアリング会合冒頭での挨拶(全文)です。

はじめに

加藤内閣官房長官とデジタル市場競争本部の皆様、本日はお招きいただき誠にありがとうございます。Google を代表して感謝申し上げるとともに、デジタル プラットフォームとそのビジネス パートナーとの関係強化に向けた政府の積極的な取り組みを歓迎いたします。

Google 日本法人は、Gmail や YouTube、Chrome が生まれるよりも前の、Google がたった 3 歳だった時期に初の海外拠点として設立されました。これは当社が長年、日本市場に深い関わりを持ち続けてきたことの証のひとつであり、その設立時から今日に至るまで情熱をもって日本の皆様と日本経済の成功を支援して参りました。日本の成功こそが、私たちの成功でもあると確信しております。

Google の日本へのコミットメント

私たちは日本の経済成長とコロナ禍からの回復において重要な役割を果たし、日本のデジタルトランスフォーメーションを加速するパートナーとなるべく事業を展開しております。2020 年の独自調査によれば、日本企業が Google 製品から得た経済的利益は 12 ヶ月間で 3.2 兆円( 301 億米ドル)に上ると試算されています。

日本の人材育成にも Google は継続的に投資しています。例えば、現在までに全国 45 都道府県で 550 万人が無償のデジタルスキル研修プログラムである「Grow with Google」を受講しています。このプログラムでは、店舗ごとのコロナ対策をマップで表示する方法から、デジタルマーケティングの基本といった中小企業が即座に活用できるコンテンツまで幅広く提供しています。 日本のデジタル経済成長に一層貢献するべく、今後も同様の取り組みを拡大していきます。

更に本日(米国時間 16 日)、すべての開発者に対し、デジタル商品やサービスに関する Google Play の収入において年間 100 万米ドルを上限に 7 月 1 日からサービス手数料を 15% にすることを発表しました。小規模アプリ開発者を始めとしたあらゆる開発者のビジネスを成長させる上で、さらなる支援となることを期待しています。

広告の役割

デジタル広告は( Google が提供するものも含め)、日本企業が国内外で新規顧客を開拓し、自社の重要な顧客に効率的にアプローチするための手段を提供するなど、日本経済の発展を支えています。デジタル広告によって、多くの人がウェブ上で質の高い情報に自由にアクセスできるようになり、学ぶ機会の拡充や、交流方法の多様化、さらにはあらゆるビジネスの成長促進につながりました。オープンなアドテクエコシステムは広告市場の成長を促進し、媒体社にとって新たな収益機会を創出し、結果としてインターネットはすべての人に開かれたものとして存在しています。

一方で、デジタル広告業界がサイト横断的に個人を特定しうる情報を使用するにあたって、公共政策上の観点から合理的な疑問があることも認識しています。デジタル広告がオープンなウェブを支えるモデルとして機能するためには、利用者のプライバシーが尊重され、同時に日本の広告主や媒体社におけるビジネスの成長を後押しする技術の存在が不可欠です。そのため、Google では利用者のプライバシー保護のために、業界関係者全員との連携と努力が必要であることを繰り返し表明しており、ちょうど 2 週間前にも広告製品でのさらなるプライバシー強化を発表しました。この発表では、サードパーティクッキーだけでなく、その機能を複製してウェブ閲覧時に個人を追跡しようとするあらゆる技術を廃止することを表明しています。Google は引き続き、プライバシーとセキュリティの確保に加え、利用者の選択が尊重される仕組みの構築を継続するとともに、デジタル広告によってあらゆる人が多様なコンテンツに平等にアクセスできる、活気あるオープンなエコシステムの維持に尽力してまいります。

デジタル広告と規制

デジタル広告の世界は非常に競争が激しく、その技術は日進月歩で変化します。日本政府と本会議がこうした変化に伴う様々な課題に関心を持たれるのは当然であり、業界の発展のために必要であることは承知しています。

Google は、規制全般に対して「スマート レギュレーション(スマートな規制)」のアプローチを支持しています。スマートな規制の適切な履行は、イノベーションと成長を阻害することなく、ユーザーエクスペリエンスの向上や利用者のセキュリティとプライバシー保護を実現します。さらに、国内外の企業にとってアルゴリズムのようなビジネス上の秘密情報にあたる内容の強制的な開示が引き起こす意図せぬ情報漏えいといった悪影響を回避することも可能です。これは Google にとって重要であるだけでなく、日本の消費者、広告主、媒体社すべてにとって平等に意味のあるものだと考えています。

プラットフォーム規制において、政府は共同規制アプローチを検討しており、それは現場での実務が急速に変化していくことを踏まえて、企業の自主性を尊重することに動機づけられたものであると理解しています。Google は、政府によるプラットフォーム規制の取り組みにおいて、引き続き政府と密に協力し、現場の視点から実務に即した形で重要な政策目的が達成されるよう、具体的な提言を継続的に行ってまいります。

さらに、日本企業や消費者にとってメリットのある製品やサービスへの意図せぬ悪影響を最小限に留めるためには、段階的に規制を導入するアプローチの採用が重要であると考えています。業界主導の自主的な取り組みに対する政府の支援が奏功した例は枚挙に暇がありません。今後とも、広告業界における取り組みとその拡大にご支援を賜りますようお願い申し上げます。 日本政府におかれましては、現在も進行中の自主的な取り組みに照らして、広告業界のさらなる発展を促すスマートな共同規制を中心に検討くださるよう重ねてお願いいたします。

デジタル広告にかかる様々な課題は、消費者をはじめとする関係者の皆様にとってその複雑さに起因して、仕組みがわかりにくいこともまた事実でしょう。Google ではこのわかりにくさをできるだけ解消し、消費者、企業、政策立案者の皆様に対して分かりやすい説明を心がけています。今後とも Google 製品とサービスのより明確な説明の提供をお約束します。

おわりに

最後に、このように重要な協議の機会を与えてくださった日本政府の皆さまに心より感謝申し上げます。Google は今後も、日本政府及び業界関係者との積極的な対話と協力、そして取り組みの強化・改善を通じ、日本の重要な政策課題の解決に向けて尽力してまいります。

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Ban on free plastic forks and spoons drafted by Japan’s Ministry of Environment

First they came for the bags and I said “cool.” Then they came for the spoons and I said “sure, that’s cool too.”

Japan is often accused of overusing plastic such as excess packaging, but the government does appear to be listening and is taking steps to reduce single-use plastics in everyday life. Last year saw the biggest effort in a nationwide ban on free plastic bags given by conveniences stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. Instead an additional charge of three to ten yen (US$0.02 to $0.09) must be levied.

The move was initially met with resistance, but less than a year later, plastic bag use plummeted and eco-bag use shot up to over 70 percent. Taking things a step further, Kameoka City in Kyoto Prefecture banned stores from offering plastic bags, both free and for a fee, in January of this year.

It’s a considerable improvement, but the overall problem of plastic remains and more needs to be done. So, the Ministry of the Environment has crafted a new bill which targets the issuing of free plastic forks and spoons by convenience stores and other businesses. A range of other plastic items like hotel amenities are also included.

▼ Although not mentioned in reports, it is assumed the noble spork will also be affected as will the foon, if such a thing even exists

This bill, put forth by the cabinet on 9 March, is expected to go into effect in April of 2022 if approved by the Diet and will punish stores who give out free plastic spoons up to 500,000 yen (US$4,600). Environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi declared that “from then on, spoons will not be given out for free. This is an advanced version of the charge for plastic …continue reading

    

Adorable baby ape born at Japanese zoo…to mom who lives alone

Momo has her enclosure all to herself, or at least she did until she suddenly had a kid.

On the morning of February 10, an employee of Mori Kirara, a zoo and botanical garden in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, was checking on the park’s lar gibbon apes and noticed one of them was cuddling her newborn baby.

That was odd. Not because gibbons aren’t affectionate parents, though, and not because the mother, a 10-year-old female named Momo, isn’t known for gentle behavior. No, what made the scene strange is that Momo lives in her enclosure all by herself.

▼ Momo and her baby

The gestation period for lar gibbons is about seven months, and during that time Momo hadn’t had any sort of breeding sessions or any other activities where she shared her space with any male apes, nor had her stomach grown large enough to visibly suggest she was pregnant. Because of that, the director of the zoo, Chikako Iwaoka, initially thought she’d misheard the report when the employee who discovered the baby told her what happened. Baby primates don’t grow on trees, though, nor do they get delivered by storks like in the opening scene of Dumbo, so the zoo began looking into how this could have happened, and they’ve got a theory.

Though Momo lives by herself (or did, before the arrival of her mystery baby), her enclosure is part of a structure with three others connected to it. Two of the enclosures contain one male lar gibbon each, and one of them contains three. There are metal grates in place between the enclosures to keep the animals out of physical contact with one another, but an inspection following the birth revealed a small hole, roughly three centimeters (1.2 inches) in length had been torn in one of the grates, as shown at …continue reading

    

Japanese sea slugs found to remove their own heads and grow new bodies from them

Sometimes science is stranger than science-fiction.

In 2018, Sayaka Mito of Nara Women’s University was studying Elysia marginata, a type of sea slug found off the coast of Kagoshima Prefecture and bred in the school’s lab. Normally, sea slug research is rather mundane business, but one morning when entering the lab she found something truly shocking.

In the tank, one of her slugs appeared to have been murdered, with it’s head lying detached from its body. However, after a moment she found that the head was still moving around the enclosure. It was then she realized that the “murderer” was none other than the slug itself!

We’ve all heard of some animals’ ability to cuts off one of its own limbs or tails in order to escape predators. It’s a process called “autotomy,” not to be confused with “autonomy” which is an individual’s free will. Planarian flatworms are said to be the kings of autotomy. Cutting one in half will result in two living planaria, but unfortunately for them, this means people are constantly cutting them up.

Sea slugs are more complex creatures than flatworms and have organs such as hearts, making the odds of surviving decapitation a lot slimmer. Nevertheless, after only a few hours, Mito, whose research was published this week, was able to feed her slug head some seaweed. About a week after that, traces of a new body and working heart began to develop. By the third week, the slug’s body was nearly complete again.

This prompted further study, during which Mito found that another close relative, Elysia astroviridis collected from Mukaishima in Hiroshima Prefecture, had the same ability. However, there were limitations. The remaining bodies did not grow a new head, but some continued to twitch in response to stimulus for a long time before beginning to decompose. In …continue reading