Motoko Kakubayashi

The cheap supercomputer - Kagaku

Nov 29, 2009

Using parts sold at your local electronics store to make a supercomputer?  Sounds like something MacGyver would do. But at last week’s Supercomputing Conference in Oregon, USA, a Gordon Bell Prize was awarded to a team of researchers who did just that. Nagasaki University associate professor Tsuyoshi Hamada and his team spent a mere NZ$600,000 to develop their supercomputer made from 256 graphics processing units.  These graphics processing units are commonly found in mobiles, computers, and game consoles because they are efficient at manipulating computer graphics.  The parts are commonly found in electronics stores around Tokyo’s Akihabara – the electric city and geek town of Japan. The average supercomputer can cost anything from NZ$2 million, so this really was a bargain. The prize-winning supercomputer was able to perform at 42Teraflops, or 42000000000000 instructions or calculations each second. Mr Hamada and … Read More

How to save the world and earn money - Kagaku

Nov 25, 2009

Buying electricity generated from home solar panels could be a way to get people involved in saving the environment. This month, Japanese electricity companies began buying electricity from people whose home solar panels generated more than enough juice. Families receive 48 yen (75 cents) for every 1 kilowatt of electricity, creating a new income source. Solar panels alone are expected to drop carbon dioxide emissions by 45 million tonnes by 2020.  But this only accounts for 10% of Japan’s 2020 goal.  If the country wants to meet its carbon dioxide goal using solar panels alone, it would need 37 times as more panels than it has today. The Environment Department says that even though solar energy doesn’t have a large role, they hope it will attract public attention to the problem, reports the Yomiuri newspaper. Japan isn’t the first … Read More

vending machines bugged - Kagaku

Nov 17, 2009

Small disease-carrying bugs are capable of finding their way into drink vending machines, says Japanese researchers. Researchers at Osaka Aoyama University wanted to see how many, and what kind of insects found their way into vending machines.  They set up four insect traps inside two outdoor vending machines, three indoor machines, and four traps around the outside base of a different indoor machine.  They left the traps for eight days in May – Japan’s the rainy season. They found a total of 70 small flies and 78 cockroach larvae inside all five vending machines, and 69 insects captured around the base of the extra machine.  The majority of the insects were smaller than 7mm in length. Further analysis showed several of the cockroach larvae had traces of salmonella bacteria on them. Although people aren’t likely to get food poisoning from … Read More

The search engine that fights crime - Kagaku

Nov 16, 2009

Taking it to the next level A search engine programmed to look at your clothes will cut the hours you would spend staring at security camera footage to find that thief who stole your bag. Japanese IT company NEC have developed a search engine which looks for individuals in video footage based on the colour of their clothes. If say, a person tells police they were mugged by a someone wearing a brown jacket and black jeans, the search system will look at the top and bottom halves of people in security camera footage and pick footage showing people matching that colour description. The system could also be used to find lost children. NEC began developing the search engine after seeing that it would be important to have a system which could making people-searching easier in a country that was … Read More

The 100-year-old doctor still on a mission - Kagaku

Nov 16, 2009

Using medical treatment as his atonement has kept a 100-year-old Japanese doctor working since World War II. Dr Hiroshi Yamasaki received this year’s Prime Minister’s award (senior catergory) for treating people in Jinan, in Shandong province, China, for almost 70 years, reports the Mainichi.jp news. On the day the award winner was announced, November 13,he had been reported to be in smiles as he saw another patient. “I will continue to serve the Chinese people until I die,” he said. Mr Yamasaki first arrived in Jinan in 1944 and had served as a veterinarian during the war.  However, he quit serving after six months due to differences. After Japan’s defeat, he decided to stay in China and married a Chinese lady.  He later got his doctor’s qualification and has devoted his life to community health. Read More

Wearable computers - Kagaku

Nov 13, 2009

Chatting to someone in Russian, reading a book in German, or just being able to understand those Japanese car instructions are now possible after IT company NEC have developed the world’s first computer glasses. Wearing computer glasses Tele Scouter is made up of a compact microphone, camera, and ear phone which fit around the wearer’s glasses.  These are connected to a small computer that transmits audio and visual information to a remote server. This means that if a kiwi bloke finds himself talking to someone speaking Italian, the speech is picked up by the microphone.  The audio recording is relayed to the waist computer, which transmits the information to a remote server.  The server translates the words and sends back translated text which shows up on a small screen on the glasses. NEC are pushing the business benefits of this … Read More

Chic mobiles - Kagaku

Nov 13, 2009

First there was choosing colours, then ringtones, and now it is possible to individualise your mobile by smell. A new range of mobile phones that allows individuals to spray their favourite perfume onto a special chip embedded in the mobile has been unveiled by Japanese computer hardware and IT services company Fujitsu yesterday. The fragrance mobile comes with a ceramic fragrance chip, which is embedded in the back of the mobile.  Users simply take the chip out, spray their perfume onto the chip, and can then enjoy using their mobile phones in a new way. The docomoSTYLEseries F-02B mobiles were unveiled as part of mobile company NTT DoCoMo’s 2009 winter/spring collection. docomoSTYLEseries F-02B mobile phones Of course, don’t forget some of the other things this mobile comes with: 8.1 mega pixel camera. smile finder – a camera function … Read More

Robot powered by two AA batteries sets two world records - Kagaku

Sep 30, 2009

A robot barely larger than a coffee mug and powered by two AA batteries has set two world records for climbing the Grand Canyon and cycling around the 24 hours of Le Mans racing circuit. Panasonic's robot, Mr EVOLTA, is powered by two AA alkaline batteries Electronic company Panasonic’s Mr EVOLTA robot managed to cycle nonstop for 24 hours in early August, covering more than five laps, 24 kilometres, of the French racing track.  The feat set a Guinness world record for the longest distance covered by a battery-operated remote-controlled model car. Panasonic's Mr Evolta cycles around the 24 hours of Le Mans racing track Panasonic's Mr Evolta on its tricycle The 17-centimetre-tall robot rode a tricyle along the racing track guided by an infrared beam coming from a camera car. This was not the first time Panasonic used Mr … Read More

Using science to go after movie pirates - Kagaku

Sep 28, 2009

Japanese scientists have found a way to block parts of the movie screen from the camera of a would-be pirated movie maker. A week ago, National Institute of Informatics associate professor Isao Echizen and electronics manufacturer Sharp announced they had made a device which sends out near-infrared rays which erases images recorded on a camera. By putting a noise light unit behind a movie screen, the device sends out near-infrared rays outwards into the movie theatre. Humans cannot see infrared light, but CCD and CMOS sensors in today’s digital video cameras can detect them. The device’s interference washes out images in front of the noise light unit and makes it impossible to record a clean movie. Mr Echizen said it is easy to find places where pirated movies are being sold or downloaded, but it is impossible to … Read More