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Science News: July 2004

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

A system to identify parts of a music play

A researcher from the AIST in Tsukuba, Masataka Goto, has designed a new system to browse a song. His system, called SmartMusicKiosk, is able to analyse the structure of a piece of music by detecting changes in the rhythm or in the pitch structure. Thus it becomes possible for a listener to skip parts of a song to reach his or her favourite chorus. The reliability of the system depends on the kind of music. It works better with pop music than with classical tunes. Experimental music, where the rhythm and pitch structure are often very different, is more difficult to deal with. Masataka Goto has already been contacted by companies interested in marketing SmartMusicKiosk.

More details can be found at http://www.nature.com/nsu/040524/040524-10.html

A clone of a clone in Japan

Kamitakafuku was one of the most famous bulls of all time. This made him an attractive candidate for Japanese researchers on cloning. He was successfully cloned in 1998 and 6 offspring were born from this first operation. Only 4 calves survived and in 2001 one of the calves, called Sabro, was itself cloned. Two clones were born but one died shortly after. As researchers were not sure that the other clone would be normal, his existence remained secret until recently. This research has recently been published. Until now clones of clones had only been produced in mice. Although Kamitakafuku died in 2001, his clones and grand-clone are still alive in Kagoshima prefecture.

More details http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/2004/05/26/bullclone.php

Cooler summers come from Europe?

Unusually cold summer and extended rainy season in Japan are often caused by a high pressure system located above the sea of Okhotsk. Thus, researchers have tried to understand how this high pressure system appears and how to predict it. Recent analysis of the weather data recorded over the past 30 years shows that approximately one week before the Okhotsk high pressure system is formed, another high pressure system forms in Europe. When this system weakens, a low pressure system forms over Siberia which then triggers the formation of the Okhotsk high pressure system. This phenomenon was clearly observed in 1993 and last summer. Thus, to better predict the weather in Japan, it is necessary to monitor the pressure over northern Europe!

More details can be found at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040601f1.htm

White or red grapes?

What makes a grape Red or White? Shozo Kobayashi and his team from the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science in Tsukuba have studied the question. The (red) colour comes from a specific pigment in the skin of the grape, and according to Shozo Kobayashi, this pigment is coded by a specific sequence in the DNA of the grapevine. A mutation of this DNA sequence, a long time ago, could have created the white grape species, which then spread over the world. Not all experts agree on this theory, as some believe that the mutation happened in many different places at different times.

More details can be found at http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Daily/News/0,1145,2510,00.html

A motorized trouser

Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor at Tsukuba University has designed special trousers to help people whose legs are weak. These novel trousers are equipped with sensors to detect the current generated by muscles in the legs. When people move their legs, little motors help them. Such trousers should be soon available for purchase at a price of 1.2 million yen. In the future such trousers could allow everybody to run as fast as Olympic athletes.

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