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Science News

Author: Nicolas Delerue, Issue: October 2007, Topic: Science

Did Japanese fishermen find the new world the first?

It is commonly believed that America was first settled by hunter gatherers who had crossed the Bering straight on an ice bridge around 13500 years ago.

However some evidence has been found that parts of the American west coast had been occupied earlier. A settlement on an island off the coast of Chile has been dated as being 14,850 years old and several other locations seems to have been occupied as early as 16000 years ago, well before the Bering straight could be crossed on foot. Old DNA samples recovered on the American west coast share many similarities with that found in Japan and Tibet. Native Americans communities living on the west coast of both North and South America exhibit similar DNA.

This has lead Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist from the University of Oregon, to believe that the first dwellers of America were Japanese fishermen who had followed the ice shelf between the old and the new world.

According to the researcher there was a forest of kelp (a seaweed) along most of the coast of the old and the new world at that time. The Japanese fishermen would have followed that "kelp highway" and landed in America.

More details can be found in the Japan times at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20070816a5.html or in Japan today at http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/415171

Finding mislabelled sake

Researchers from Tsukuba have found a new way to check the purity of Sake by sampling its DNA.

DNA degrades significantly during the fermentation process that produces alcohol but the researchers were able to detect minutes quantities of DNA and amplify it. They used this technique to identify the rice that had been used to make Koshihikari sake and determined that the sake may not have been pure.

More details can be found in the Yomiuri Shimbun at http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/science/20070814TDY02010.htm

Martian menu

Japanese researchers are working on a menu for the future spationauts that will colonize the planet Mars. As a trip to Mars will last several years huge quantities of food will have to be carried but to minimise the weight, spationauts are expected to produce some of it themselves. Rice, sweet potatoes and soy-beans have an important place in this. Cattle require too much effort and too much land to be a good option, so the researchers came up with another idea for animal proteins: silkworms! According to the researchers silkworms would be one of the most efficient way to produce animal proteins during such trip. Yummy! Silkworms can be reduced into powder, mixed with other food and taste a bit like shrimp...

You can read more about this Martian menu at http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200708100103.html

To reduce your carbon footprint eat less beef!

Japanese researchers from the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan have estimated the amount of greenhouse gases that are released in the atmosphere to produce 1kg of beef. According to their study, the production of 1kg of beef releases greenhouse gases with a global warming potential equivalent to that of 36.4 kg of carbon dioxide. This amount is comparable to the amount of greenhouse gases that are released when driving 250km. Although the study focused on the production of beef in Japan most of its conclusions hold for beef production elsewhere in the world.

New Scientists has published an article about this study at http://environment.newscientist.com/article/mg19526134.500-meat-is-murder-on-the-environment.html

Another article on the same study has been published at http://www.farmnews.co.nz/news/2007/july/772.shtml

The original publication in the "Animal Science Journal" is at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-0929.2007.00457.x

Nature publishes a paper by the Japanese Emperor

The Japanese Emperor Akihito made a speech last month to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus and the scientific journal Nature has decided to publish part of it.

Akihito is a scientist himself and has written on fish taxonomy. Linnaeus (1707-1778) is considered the father of modern taxonomy for proposing a classification of living organisms. One of his disciples came to Japan in 1775 and exchanged with Japanese scientists of the time.

More information can be found at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20070713a3.html

New technology could boost solar cells efficiency to 63%

A new technology developed at Tsukuba University has reached a solar cell efficiency of 41% and could reach up to 63% by 2020 according to an article published at http://www.geek.com/solar-cells-with-63-efficiency-by-2020/ For a given color of light this technology is less efficient than usual solar cells, but the cells are sensitive to more color and thus have a total conversion rate which is better. Such improvement promises a significant reduction in the surface of solar cells needed to support the energy consumption of a household.

A major quake could damage several listed buildings in Kyoto

According to a study made by the Kyoto Municipal Government several listed buildings could be seriously damaged if the city was hit by a major quake of at least 6 (on the Japanese scale).

Among them are Nijo castle (built at the beginning of the 17th century as a residence for Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period) and the Hommaru palace.

More details can be found at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20070711a2.html

<< Nihongo Notes October 2007 | Master Index | Tsukuba City Hall Newsletter: October 2007 >>

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