You gotta love Science. Every week scientists continue to push back the limits of our knowledge and discover new things that astonish and stimulate the mind. Who can say how all this will change the future, but I hope it’s for the better. Here are a few things from the past few weeks.

Canadian researchers have created a cure for cancer, but thanks to the lack of reportage, no one really knows about it. Could it be because the pharmaceutical companies won’t be able to make any money off of it? Oh say it aint so!

The Voyager probes continue to send back data from the edge of the solar system, where they’ve shown that the sun’s magnetic field forms dynamic elongated ‘bubbles’ as it rubs up against deep space.

Maybe the sun might capture a wandering interstellar planet?

Scientists have been able to trap and study anti-matter for the first time, being able to trap such particles for longer than ever before.

They’ve been able to show that dark energy exists and it is the driving force behind the expansion of the universe. There’s no need to worry about a ‘Big Crunch’ causing the end of the universe, as it looks like the universe is destined to expand forever.

Speaking of dark stuff, dark matter’s strength seems to vary with the seasons. This could be caused by variations in te speed of the Earth as it whizzes around the Sun and causing the inetraction with dark matter particles (also called WIMPs) to vary. This could exaplin why these particles have been so difficult to detect, but on the surface it doesn’t seem to make much sense either…

One of the big problems with solar power is what to do about clouds, as well as night. A Japanese company has proposed a simple (?) yet logical , albeit extraordinarily expensive solution – building a giant ring or solar cells around the equator … of the Moon.

Speaking of the Sun. It seems to be emitting a new form of particle that’s causing a lot of heads to be scratched. One of the fundamentals rules of the cosmos was that particles decay at a steady, predictable rate. Note my use of the past tense there, since it seems this new particle could be causing decay rates to change. That isn’t supposed to happen. The idea that it is the Sun causing this could be very worrying indeed.

The universe was quite a sight 11 billion years ago…

Closer to home, PepsiCo has invented a new kind of salt, as well as a way to maintain the sweetness of their cola products while cutting the amount of sweetner they use. Coming to a junk-food aisle near you very soon.

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There’s been a lot going on this month. April is always busy here in Japan, plus I had my mother visit, which was great, but really filled up my weekends. So I have a pile of links and random threads to thrust upon the world-wide-web. Strap in. Take a ride.

In TV, it’s great to see that Red Dwarf will be back for another season. I hope it’s a little better than the last expedition; Back To Earth. I found that one laid on the pathos and sentiment a bit too thinckly for my tastes. I hope they get back to the energy and wit of some of the earlier seasons.

Even though the situation in the Ivory Coast has been (in one sense) resolved, I’m sure the situation there, as in a lot of combat zones, is just simmering. I noticed that fighting has flared up again along the Thai/Cambodian border.

The situation at Fukushima continues to evolve on a daily basis. Declaring the disaster zone to be as bad as Chernobyl was pretty alarming. While the situation there isn’t good, at least it is relatively under control.

A major issue in Japan this year will be the customary summer loading as everyone turns on their airconditioning. It’s not unusual for Japanese homes to have 4 or 5 units PER HOUSE as ducted airconditioning is something of a rarity. Couple that with trying to boost industrial output back to pre-earthquake levels with four missing reactors’ worth of electricity probably will mean a lot of blackouts from the system overloading. It’s interesting to see that Sony, amongst other companies, have adopted a daylight saving system to try to offset that loading. I wonder if that will lead to the eventual adoption of daylight saving here. It seems quite logical since dawn in midsummer is at about 4am. 

The numbers of people who have left Japan are quite staggering. 531,000 foreigners left Japan in the four weeks after the March 11 quake, 244,000 in the first week. I don’t know how many have returned, like some friends of mine, since the situation has calmed down. More than half of those who left had re-entry permits. It’s expected that the number of travellers during this Golden Week (starting April 29th) will be down around a quarter this year. The number of foreign visitors was down 50% in March from the year earlier. Coupled with the theme of ‘self-restraint’ running through Japan at the moment (The number of Japanese going overseas was down nearly 20% for the same time period), means it’s going to be a tough time for tourism. It is good to see some proactive Japanese doing their bit though. You do need to come here. There is much more to Japan than Tokyo.

With Australian schools losing science programs and the curriculum in general failing to deal with the country’s position at the dawn of the Asian Century,  it’s interesting to read about why Finland does so well. Hint: it involves students having a life and very little homework or standardised testing. It was interesting to read about the technology making its way into universities, although I wonder how much it is helping boost academic levels, or just giving students a way to do their social networking mid-lecture…

There’s also concern at this Easter-time of how the secularisation of the education system may bereft the new generations of contact with older culture simply because they don’t understand where the stories came from. Now, I may not be the most holy of people, but I do appreciate the value of having learned about religion, at least from a cultural and philosophical standpoint. I would support the non-prosthelatising education of chldren about all religions in order to give them the necessary background for understanding where their culture has come from. The problem is most religious eduacation in Australia is done by one Christian organisation, who see their role as a mission. That doesn’t help. I htink any religious education should (at least) include Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and pagan religions. These form the basis of our culture and serve to help us understand the major cultures Australians may have to deal with. Ignorance boosts hatred. At least a bit of education may help people understand and tolerate each other a bit.

Go to China, catch a highly contagious AIDS-like disease?

Some cool stuff to finish with.

Here’s a neat idea for a photoset: A Girl And Her Room.

Photos of TVs At The Moment They Turn Off – I have new wallpaper.

A British cloud-chasing photographer takes awesome nature photos.

People took a lot of nice photos of the recent ‘supermoon’.

Sock Puppet Army is a new (for me) webcomic that’s great for anyone who’s worked in hospitality.

Spy satellites are really helping archaeology along.

A scientist from MIT may have created an ‘artificial leaf’ to  generate solar power at 76% efficiency. In scientific terms that’s known as ‘bloody amazing’. It’ll probably disappear, along with this highly efficient internal combustion engine.

Life on Earth may be a lot more diverse than we realised with scientists finding evidence of another domain of life (the current three are eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea. Use Google or Wikipedia you lazy sod, or just read the article)

Two words: plasma rocket.

Sherry – it’s not just for grandma any more.

The search for the mother of all languages is getting interesting.