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Science News: April 2004

Author: Nicolas Delerue, Issue: April 2004, Topic: Science News, Science

A car that checks out the road for you

Researchers in AIST (Tsukuba) and Meiji University have developed a car that can detect dangers on the road. This car is equipped with sensors and cameras to monitor the road. If it gets to close to another car or if there is a danger on the road, an alarm will sound to warn the driver. But one of the biggest dangers on the road is when a driver falls asleep. Thus a special camera located in the rear view mirror checks the blinking of the driver's eyes. This camera will trigger an alarm if the blinking indicates that the driver is getting sleepy.

More details at http://www12.mainichi.co.jp/news/mdn/search-news/899732/drowsy20drivers-0-1.html

Toyota's trumpeting robots

Toyota has recently unveiled 4 humanoid robots with astonishing capacities. Two of these robots were able to play a trumpet. Another is equipped with a seat and can carry somebody, and the last one has been optimized to walk fast. Many different applications are sought for these robots in nursing homes or in manufacturing, for example.

More details at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040312a3.htm

Don't let the avian flu scare you

Avian flu can not be transmitted via cooked food, and thus consumers in Japan (and elsewhere) should not be scared by the current avian flu epidemic.

The Japan Times has published some facts about the avian flu at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040317a9.htm

Japan is Expanding its Territory

A study made by the Geographical Survey (based in Tsukuba) shows that Japan's landmass has increased in 2003. This increase comes from land reclamation projects across the country and adds up to a bit less than 12 square kilometres. The city of Tokoname (Aichi Prefecture) itself won 4.27 square kilometres thanks to the land reclamation done for the construction of an offshore airport. The total landmass gained from the sea since 1950 is slightly more than 1000 sq. km.

More details can be found at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040210b6.htm

Mad Cow Disease Resistant Cows Cloned

Mad cow disease occurs when a protein called "prion", which is found in the brain tissue of many animals (including cows, mice and humans), takes a wrong shape and forces its neighbours to take the same shape. The role of this prion in the brain is still not well understood and to study it research teams in Korea and the US have removed the gene producing this prion from the DNA of a cow and cloned the clone. The 5 clones were born last December and are now being raised in Tsukuba. Their behaviour will be studied so that scientists can determine if the removal of the prion has any effect on the growth of the cattle. These cloned cows are expected to be resistant to mad cow disease.

More details can be found at http://www.oregonlive.com/science/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/science/1074690490175701.xml and http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?language=english&type=article&article_id=218392168

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