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mdsolar writes with news that the U.S. objects to a proposal to amend the Convention on Nuclear Safety put forward by Switzerland. The United States looks set to succeed in watering down a proposal for tougher legal standards aimed at boosting global nuclear safety, according to senior diplomats. Diplomatic wrangling will come to a head at a 77-nation meeting in Vienna next month that threatens to expose divisions over required safety standards and the cost of meeting them, four years after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Switzerland has put forward a proposal to amend the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), arguing stricter standards could help avoid a repeat of Fukushima, where an earthquake and tsunami sparked triple nuclear meltdowns, forced more than 160,000 people to flee nearby towns and contaminated water, food and air.
60 comments | 5 hours ago
schwit1 writes: Shuji Nakamura won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics (along with two other scientists) for his work inventing blue LEDs. But long ago he abandoned Japan for the U.S. because his country's culture and patent law did not favor him as an inventor. Nakamura has now blasted Japan for considering further legislation that would do more harm to inventors.
"In the early 2000s, Nakamura had a falling out with his employer and, it seemed, all of Japan. Relying on a clause in Japan's patent law, article 35, that assigns patents to individual inventors, he took the unprecedented step of suing his former employer for a share of the profits his invention was generating. He eventually agreed to a court-mediated $8 million settlement, moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and became an American citizen. During this period he bitterly complained about Japan's treatment of inventors, the country's educational system and its legal procedures. 'The problem is now the Japanese government wants to eliminate patent law article 35 and give all patent rights to the company. If the Japanese government changes the patent law it means basically there would no compensation [for inventors].'"
There is a similar problem with copyright law in the U.S., where changes to the law in the 1970s and 1990s have made it almost impossible for copyrights to ever expire. The changes favor the corporations rather than the individuals who might actually create the work.
191 comments | about two weeks ago
journovampire writes with this story about the booming music streaming business. "Streaming is on course to make more money for the U.S. music business than downloads and physical sales combined within the next three years. The U.S. appears poised for streaming to become its most valuable music format in either 2016 or 2017, according to MBW forecasts – so long as you include SoundExchange royalties generated by digital radio platforms like Pandora alongside subscription and ad-supported platforms like Spotify. But in the other three biggest recorded music markets in the world – France, Germany and Japan – the public appears more hesitant to allow streaming to take over."
169 comments | about a month ago
itwbennett writes Nearly all of the roughly $370 million in bitcoin that disappeared in the February 2014 collapse of Mt. Gox probably vanished due to fraudulent transactions, with only 1 percent taken by yet-to-be-identified hackers, according to a report in Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, citing sources close to a Tokyo police probe. The disclosure follows months of investigations by police and others into the tangled mess surrounding the disappearance of the 650,000 bit coins.
108 comments | about 1 month ago
New submitter Admiral Jimbob McGif writes Even as a massive firestorm burns uncontrollably threatening to scorch
the very foundations of the internet with AT&T indefinitely halting
future GigaPower FTTH
due to uncertainty
over the future of net neutrality and the Obama
administration proposing to regulate
the internet under Title 2, highly suggestive jobs were recently
to Google Careers.
These Google Fiber related positions include: "City Manager", "Community Impact Manager" and "Plant Manager" in all potential Google Fiber cities. Perplexing inconsistences abound, such as Portland, Phoenix, San Jose and Atlanta positions being listed as local. Whereas San Antonio, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Nashville are listed as telecommute positions.
One is inclined to speculate as to what these job postings mean despite Google's disclaimer: "Not all cities where we're exploring hiring a team will necessarily become Google Fiber cities." Would Google post jobs as an act of posturing much like AT&T's supposed "Gigabit smoke screen" bluff? Or, should we expect to see these so called Fiber Huts springing up like so many mushrooms after a heavy rain in an additional 9 metro areas?
At the rate Google is going, is it too soon to speculate over Fiber Dojos popping up in Japan?
38 comments | about a month and a half ago
plover writes Scientific American notes that a new hydrogen refueling station has been added in Sacramento, bringing the state's total to ten. This was timed to coincide with Toyota's Japan release of their first commercially available fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai. Toyota is scheduled to start selling cars in Northern California next year.
87 comments | about a month and a half ago
An anonymous reader writes: The harmful effects of ultraviolet light have been long known. But now researchers at Tohoku University in Japan claim that visible blue light is also lethal to many insects, possibly even more so than UV, even at reasonable daylight intensities. Moreover, they report that certain species are more sensitive to specific wavelengths: Given the same intensity (3x10^18 photons/sec/m^2), light in the 440-467nm range was far more lethal to fruit flies than light of longer or shorter wavelengths. The wavelength 417nm was three times as effective at killing mosquito larvae than the shorter 404nm light, contradicting the notion that higher-energy photons always cause more damage. The research has wide implications for modeling the effect of natural and manmade environmental changes on insect populations and for selectively controlling populations of certain species.
44 comments | about 2 months ago
Back in November you had a chance to ask Rachel Sussman about photography and her work. Her most famous project may be the Oldest Living Things in the World, a collection of organisms that are 2,000 years old and older from around the world. Below you'll find her answers to your questions.
24 comments | about 2 months ago
An anonymous reader writes: The 3rd of December marks an auspicious date in gaming history: 20 years ago today, the very first PlayStation went on sale in Japan. In that time, Sony has successfully muscled its way into the gaming scene, and seen off a few rivals as well. In a new retrospective, a writer looks back at how Sony's console series has changed gaming, from introducing the DVD and the Blu-ray disc to innovations like the second screen PocketStation and the still untapped power of Remote Play and Gaikai game streaming.
101 comments | about 2 months ago
As reported by The Register, Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission to mine (or at least sample) an asteroid, which was to have been launched Saturday, has been delayed by weather, until a time no earlier than Monday, Dec. 1st (and from JAXA's web site, it appears that Dec. 3rd is the current target): If all goes to plan, the space probe will lift off next month and fly out to asteroid 1999JU3 by mid-2018 using ion engines. The craft will orbit the rock before dropping a bomb onto the surface. The resulting blast should leave a hole [in] the asteroid. The probe will then land and dig around in the rubble for material from below the surface using a "sampler horn". The probe will then take off again and head for home carrying its booty, and is due to return in 2020 or slightly later.
24 comments | about 2 months ago
An anonymous reader writes: A volcano in southern Japan erupted today, sending out chunks of magma and a kilometer-high plume of ash. Flights to and from the nearby city of Kumamoto were canceled, and a Japan Airlines spokesman said more could be disrupted if the eruption continues. "Mount Aso, whose huge caldera dominates the southwestern main island of Kyushu, rumbled into life on Tuesday. Meteorologists warned volcanic stones and ash could fall in a one-kilometer radius of the volcano. The eruption is Aso's first in 19 years and comes two months after Mount Ontake in central Nagano killed more than 60 hikers when it erupted without warning."
24 comments | about 2 months ago
dcblogs writes At the supercomputing conference, SC14, this week, a U.S. Dept. of Energy offical said the government has set a goal of 2023 as its delivery date for an exascale system. It may be taking a risky path with that amount of lead time because of increasing international competition. There was a time when the U.S. didn't settle for second place. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "we choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962, and seven years later a man walked on the moon. The U.S. exascale goal is nine years away. China, Europe and Japan all have major exascale efforts, and the government has already dropped on supercomputing. The European forecast of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was so far ahead of U.S. models in predicting the storm's path that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called before Congress to explain how it happened. It was told by a U.S. official that NOAA wasn't keeping up in computational capability. It's still not keeping up. Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington, wrote on his blog last month that the U.S. is "rapidly falling behind leading weather prediction centers around the world" because it has yet to catch up in computational capability to Europe. That criticism followed the $128 million recent purchase a Cray supercomputer by the U.K.'s Met Office, its meteorological agency.
247 comments | about 2 months ago
An anonymous reader writes Japan has now put 100 passengers on a Maglev train doing over 500kph. That's well over twice as fast as the fastest U.S. train can manage, and that only manages 240kph on small sections of its route. The Japanese Shinkansen is now running over 7 times times as fast as the average U.S. express passenger train. 500kph is moving towards the average speed of an airliner. Add the convenience of no boarding issues, and city-centre to city-centre travel, and the case for trains as mass-transport begins to look stronger.
419 comments | about 3 months ago
An anonymous reader writes Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory have used Wikipedia logs as a data source for forecasting disease spread. The team was able to successfully monitor influenza in the United States, Poland, Japan, and Thailand, dengue fever in Brazil and Thailand, and tuberculosis in China and Thailand. The team was also able to forecast all but one of these, tuberculosis in China, at least 28 days in advance.
61 comments | about 3 months ago
An anonymous reader writes: After extended talks on the issue of climate change, the U.S. and China have reached a landmark accord to curb emissions in the near future. The two countries are the top carbon polluters, so their actions are likely to have a major effect on world pollution levels and also set the standard for other countries. The agreement includes China's first-ever commitment to stop the growth of its emissions by 2030. They plan on shifting a big chunk of their energy production to renewables in that time. The U.S. agreed to emit 26-28% less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. Their efforts could spur greater enthusiasm for a new global climate agreement in 2015. Reader jones_supa adds details of another interesting part of the U.S.-China talks: Technology products look likely to gain more access to international markets as a result of upgrade between the U.S. and China on a 1996 tariff-eliminating trade agreement that President Obama announced Tuesday in Beijing. The agreement is expected to lower prices on a raft of new technology products by eliminating border tariffs — a price impact that's expected to be larger outside the United States, since U.S. tariffs on high-tech goods are generally lower than those overseas. "This is a win-win-win agreement for information and communication technology industries in the U.S., Europe, Japan and China, for businesses and consumers who purchase IT products and for the global economy."
285 comments | about 3 months ago
sciencehabit writes After a two-and-a-half year ocean journey, radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has drifted to within 160 kilometers of the California coast, according to a new study. But the radiation levels are minuscule and do not pose a threat, researchers say. The team found a high of just 8 becquerels of radiation per cubic meter in ocean samples off the coast. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for drinking water allow up to 7400 becquerels per cubic meter.
114 comments | about 3 months ago
The modern electronics industry relies on inputs and supply chains, both material and technological, and none of them are easy to bypass. These include, besides expertise and manufacturing facilities, the actual materials that go into electronic components. Some of them are as common as silicon; rare earth minerals, not so much. One story linked from Slashdot a few years back predicted that then-known supplies would be exhausted by 2017, though such predictions of scarcity are notoriously hard to get right, as people (and prices) adjust to changes in supply. There's no denying that there's been a crunch on rare earths, though, over the last several years. The minerals themselves aren't necessarily rare in an absolute sense, but they're expensive to extract.
The most economically viable deposits are found in China, and rising prices for them as exports to the U.S., the EU, and Japan have raised political hackles. At the same time, those rising prices have spurred exploration and reexamination of known deposits off the coast of Japan, in the midwestern U.S., and elsewhere.
Alex King is director of the Critical Materials Institute, a part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory. CMI is heavily involved in making rare earth minerals slightly less rare by means of supercomputer analysis; researchers there are approaching the ongoing crunch by looking both for substitute materials for things like gallium, indium, and tantalum, and easier ways of separating out the individual rare earths (a difficult process). One team there is working with "ligands – molecules that attach with a specific rare-earth – that allow metallurgists to extract elements with minimal contamination from surrounding minerals" to simplify the extraction process. We'll be talking with King soon; what questions would you like to see posed? (This 18-minute TED talk from King is worth watching first, as is this Q&A.)
62 comments | about 3 months ago
AmiMoJo writes The Japanese government's disaster drill for nuclear power plants has highlighted some issues. The 2-day drill began on Sunday on the scenario that an earthquake had triggered an accident at the Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture. A group of residents gathered at a port to flee in boats on the assumption that the earthquake had made roads unusable. But the sea was too rough to sail, and officials had not considered an alternative in case of bad weather. Participating organizations were connected via a video link, but there were problems with the sound. Officials at the Toyama Prefectural government office could not hear part of the evacuation order.
43 comments | about 3 months ago
An anonymous reader writes Once again, a shadow of a signal that scientists hoped would amplify into conclusive evidence of dark matter has instead flatlined, repeating a maddening refrain in the search for the invisible, omnipresent particles. The Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) failed to detect the glow of gamma rays emitted by annihilating dark matter in miniature "dwarf" galaxies that orbit the Milky Way, scientists reported Friday at a meeting in Nagoya, Japan. The hint of such a glow showed up in a Fermi analysis last year, but the statistical bump disappeared as more data accumulated. "We were obviously somewhat disappointed not to see a signal," said Matthew Wood, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University who was centrally involved the Fermi-LAT collaboration's new analysis, in an email.
137 comments | about 3 months ago
BarbaraHudson writes: The Globe and Mail is reporting the success of a procedure to implant a replacement retina grown from cells from the patient's skin. Quoting: "Transplant doctors are stepping gingerly into a new world, one month after a Japanese woman received the first-ever tissue transplant using stem cells that came from her own skin, not an embryo. On Sept. 12, doctors in a Kobe hospital replaced the retina of a 70-year-old woman suffering from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. The otherwise routine surgery was radical because scientists had grown the replacement retina in a petri dish, using skin scraped from the patient's arm.
The Japanese woman is fine and her retinal implant remains in place. Researchers around the world are now hoping to test other stem-cell-derived tissues in therapy. Dr. Jeanne Loring from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., expects to get approval within a few years to see whether neurons derived from stem cells can be used to treat Parkinson's disease."
56 comments | about 3 months ago