Koichi Wakata

On March 18, astronaut Koichi Wakata arrived at the International Space Station to begin his three-month space sojourn — the longest ever for a Japanese spaceman. Although much of Wakata’s time in space will be devoted to official research and maintenance duties, he plans to set aside a little free time for 16 offbeat experiments proposed by the Japanese public.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) selected the extra experiments from nearly 1,600 proposals they received after asking the public what tests they would like to see performed in space. The 16 experiments are listed here as questions posed to Wakata.

1. Calisthenics: Is it possible to follow an audio-guided workout program in zero gravity?

2. Backflips: On Earth, backflips take a lot of practice and leg strength. How about in zero gravity?

3. Volleying (soccer): Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and try kicking it around. How does the ball behave in zero gravity? Can you volley it?

4. Push-ups: In space, can you do push-ups while facing the ceiling or walls?

5. Cartwheels: In zero gravity, can you rotate yourself continuously like a windmill?

6. Swimming: Try to swim through the air as if you were in water. Can you move forward by swimming? If not, why not?

7. Spin like an ice skater: On Earth, ice skaters can increase their rotation speed by pulling their arms closer in to the body while they spin. Does the same thing happen in zero gravity? If so, what is the reason?

8. Folding clothes: In space, can you fold clothes and put them away as you do on Earth? It seems that the shirt sleeves would be difficult to keep in place. What is the best way to fold clothes in space?

9. Magic carpet: Try to sit on a floating carpet. Magic carpets are a fantasy on Earth, but are they possible in space?

10. Water gun: On Earth, if you squeeze a drink bag, a single stream of liquid shoots out through the straw hole and falls to the ground. How does the liquid behave in zero gravity?

11. Eye drops: On Earth, you have to face upward to put eye drops into your eyes. Is there a better way to do this in zero gravity?

12. Propulsion through space: When floating in zero gravity, how much power do you need in order to propel yourself around? Can you move simply by blowing air from your mouth or by flapping a hand-fan?

The next four activities are to be performed by two people:

13. Arm wrestling
14. Shaking hands
15. Sumo
16. Tug-of-war

JAXA plans to release videos of Wakata’s experiments in July.

Related Links
Koichi Wakata’s Underpants

[Source: JAXA]

Tokyo 2.0

The web is going through another round of self-marketing and explosion due to social networking sites and the ease of publishing data to the world. Now we don’t have to have a website, blog, or even a facebook page to get our messages out. There are an increasing amount of web services that will just take your two-bits of info from your cell phone and publish them to the world for you.

But has our digital world gotten too complicated? There seems to be a different service or social network for everything we want to do. We have mySpace for when we want to promote our creative talents or just let people know what we like, we have facebook for friends and to tell people who we are, we have LinkedIn for business networking, we have twitter for friends and the followers, we have blogs to write about what we want to when we want, and some of us even still have websites to host our portfolios and businesses.

Wouldn’t it be nice if somehow we could organize all of these so that we could make updates to all of them from just one location? Why do we have to have twenty different logins and go to twenty different sites to post to all of our self-marketing endeavors? Is there a way to manage these seemingly disparate services?

Well, there may just be. And is this Web 3.0? Or is it’s going to be another service? Of course, its a service and maybe it’s a inkling on what what web 3.0 will be. For now it’s going to be a service that helps you do what you want where you want and organize it all so you don’t have to login in to 30 different services and spend all your time on the machine. It’s going to be a seemingly easy to use answer to managing our work-flow. It’s going to be a service that integrates all these other services and makes managing our online identities a breeze. It’s the new answer to the typical pattern of how our lives work. We build or start using something to make our lives easier then we make ten other things that we think make it’s even easier or cooler, then we try to organize all these into one package and hope we are done, but by the time that happens its no longer cool. So, when that package is built we say “Hey wait! What’s this! That’s new, bright and shinny, and coooooool…” And we start all over again amassing something that makes our lives complicated and cool once more. Had enough? No, never!

The Tokyo Web 2.0 event included presentations on social networking, life-streaming, and data mining that had some great insights into target marketing through the use of currently available open source API’s and other online services. There were some interesting projects presented that might be able to do some serious number crunching and definite organizing, if their services get picked up by the main stream. But, what both of these presentations had in common was that they were using all of the freely available information that they could from every known website, blog, SNS, or life-streaming service and trying to organize it into something that could be a central managing location for our online lives.

Opensocial is Google’s answer to making sense of all this. It’s a technology specification for SNS gadget platforms. So it’s a set of rules that will allow us to extend the use of social data from all the services, be it facebook, mySpace, or twitter, with the ultimate goal of making new gadgets that can display information from all of them and allowing us to use it freely and however we want to make new and cool tools and services.

The presentation given by Toshimasa Ishibashi, a web engineer at Media Technology Lab @Recruit, was a brief introduction to Opensocial application programming. OpenSocial is on it’s way for a broad release here in Japan with Mixi hosting it as an open beta platform, this coming spring. Toshimasa introduced some basic concepts of the specification, and shared some sample code and tips for non-hassle development. He even introduced a jQuery plugin to make developing with the necessary API’s even easier. The video of the presentation can be found here along with slides. The jQuery plugin here.

The other presenter was Dominiek ter Heide. He presented his own mash-up service that organizes your life-streaming information and presents it as an online blog for everyone to see. It’s like a dashboard that includes all the widgets of your life and presents your information to the world. Currently his project, Kakuteru, is an Open Business and he is asking for help from collaborators for exchange in ownership.

Otaku Fantasy is Getting Closer to Reality thanks to Science

Demonstrating a new method for fabricating three-dimensional living biological structures, researchers at University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science (IIS) created a 5-millimeter tall doll composed of living cells.

In an announcement made on January 22nd, the researchers said they created the tiny figure by cultivating 100,000 cell capsules — 0.1-millimeter balls of collagen, each coated with dozens of skin cells — together inside a doll-shaped mold for one day. After the cell capsules had coalesced to form the doll-shaped mass of tissue, it was placed in a culture solution, where it survived for more than a day according to the report.

The researchers, led by IIS professor Shoji Takeuchi, also successfully tested the bio-fabrication method with human liver cells. According to Takeuchi, the technique can be used to create bodily organs and tissues with complex cellular structures, which may prove useful in the fields of regenerative medicine and drug development.


The overall shape can be controlled by changing the mold,” said Takeuchi, who expressed a desire to combine multiple types of cells to create a complex system that functions as a living organism.

More info can be in this pdf which can downloaded from the IIS site: more.

Ibuki Satellite on a Mission to Monitor Greenhouse Gases

Japan on Friday launched an H2A rocket carrying its Ibuki satellite on a mission to monitor greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The Ibuki satellite is to observe for five years the concentration of carbon dioxide and methane, which cause global warming, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, which makes the H2A rocket.

The development cost for the greenhouse-gas monitoring satellite was $206 million, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said. The satellite is to measure levels of greenhouse gases at 56,000 locations around the globe.

The launch took place at the Tanegashima Space Centre in the southern province of Kagoshima and included seven smaller satellites that were developed by universities, private businesses, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The other satellites will be used to study communications functions.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries hopes to boost its space business if this mission succeeds, the Jiji Press reported.

iKnow – The social learning platform. Great for Japanese!

So you want to learn Japanese and you’ve bought books and you’ve bought tapes, but nothing to get you motivated. You’ve started and stopped so many times. Every time you’ve had to go back and review and start from scratch just to get frustrated and quit again. You haven’t been keeping up with your progress and you have no idea of what you have learned. You don’t know what to learn first or really how to do it on your own. You need help. You need something to keep you motivated and challenged. You want to ask questions and get answers back. You want it all for free! Ok that’s enough build up – enter iKnow. A great website filled with people, web applications, games and programs for helping you to learn any language. Japanese on this site is great. It’s fun, and it does more for you than keep track of your progress. It gives you that extra bit of interaction with great graphics and something that only friendly competition can bestow.

It’s an amazing site and in less than 6 months its really grown into something with over 350,000 users so far. There are more and more users added every day so go find a partner and get the help you need to get back to studying and kicking nihongo butt.

Start with the list below or try a harder one. You can even go all out and make you own lists and submit them to the site for others.