My wife has planted new flowers with even more vibrant colors. The blue flower is edible.
My four cats, including a new family member, Koko, really like tuna in cans. We spent a lot of money to buy a canned tuna brand that they like. It is no surprise that Japanese like fresh tuna to make sushi and other sashimi. As a regular lover of sushi myself, a fresh tuna is a dish to be enjoyed with soya sauce and wasabi.
It was reported by the London Times on January 9th, 2023 that the Japanese had developed a method to determine the freshness of tuna meat. Researchers from Tokai University in Tokyo, in partnership with the major technology company, Fujitsu, have found a way of using ultrasound scanners to check the freshness of frozen tuna., the most popular component of sushi and sashimi.
When commercialized, the new technology will allow a person with a hand-held scanner to grade tuna, a job which is presently done by a relatively small number of experts, using knife, eye and instincts acquired through experience.
Although the Japanese consume less fish than previous generations, they remain the world’s biggest consumer of tuna, eating a quarter of the global catch, mostly raw. Much of it is caught far from Japan and frozen on huge factory vessels, preserving it, but making it difficult to judge its quality before it is defrosted. The flesh of fish left for too long before being frozen loses tenderness.
Until now, the job of grading has been done by cutting of the tuna’s tail and securitizing the exposed flesh and its layers of fat. According to Fujitsu, “cutting the tail of the tuna often damages and ultimately lowers the value of the fish, and the process relies heavily on a limited number of experts to accurately conduct quality inspection”.
A high quality tuna is expensive. At the recent 2023 auction at the Toyosu fish market in Tokyo, a 467-pound fish of the highest quality was sold for 36 million Yen (US$281,000), a valuable fish indeed.
The researchers experimented with scanning frozen tuna using ultrasound , analysing the results using artificial intelligence. Some ultrasound frequencies failed to achieve the desired results. They eventually found that low frequency waves wee reflected back very intensely by the spine of the fish that were past their best.
“By analysing the waveforms using machine learning, we developed the world’s first method to determine the freshness of frozen tuna without the need to cut the product,” the team reported.
“The new technology thus offers a new method to inspect the quality of frozen tuna without lowering its value, and may one day contribute to greater trust and safety in the global distribution of frozen tuna and other food products.”
The scientists’ goal is eventually to develop hand-held tuna scanners that can be used to identify bad fish with more than 70 per cent accuracy. The device may also be able to spot other defects that reduce the value of a fish, such as blood clots and tumours.
The technology has the potential to be sold outside Japan, where demand for tuna is rising. The market research firm Global Information estimates that global tuna sales will grow from $40.7 billion in 2021 to $48.8 billion in 2027.
“In Southeast Asia, it’s common for tuna to be shipped as cheap canned products,” Akira Sakai of Fujitsu Artificial Intelligence Laboratory told the Mainichi newspaper. “The fish is worth four times more when prepared for fresh eating.”
At the Tokyo University in Japan, researchers had discovered that rats can pick out the tempo of a song and nod their heads in time to the beat. They bop to songs by Queen, Mozart and Lady Gaga.
Professor Hirokazu Takahashi and his team conducted a new study of “beat synchronization”. They found that rats can pick out the beat in a piece of music in the same way humans can and move in time to it, even if they have never heard before.
He fitted ten laboratory rats with wireless miniature accelerometers that could measure the slightest head movements , and recruited human participants who were a larger version of the same device.
The rats were monitored as the Takahashi’s’ researchers played Lady Gaga’ Both This Way, Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust, Michael Jackson’s Beat It, Maroon 5’s Sugar and Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K448 at four different tempos.
According to Professor Takahashi: ”To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on innate beat synchronization in animals that was not achieved through training or musical exposure.”
One-minute excerpts from five pieces were played at four different tempos—25 per cent slower, the original tempo, twice as fast and four times the original speed. The accelerometer measures whether the humans and rats moved in response to the music.
The results showed that the rats’ beat synchronization was clearest in the range of 120-140 beats per minute. The team also found that both rats and humans jerked their heads to the beat in a similar rhythm. Professor Takahashi said: ”rats displayed innate—that is, without any training or prior exposure to music—beat synchronization ,most distinctly within 120-140 beats per minute, to which also humans exhibit the clearest beat dyssynchronization.
The optimal nodding tempo was found to depend on the time constant in the brain—the speed at which it can respond to something—which is similar across species. This means that auditory and motor systems’ ability to interact and move to music maybe widespread in animal.
The researchers have stated that they want to reveal how other musical properties such as melody and harmony relate to the dynamics of the brain, as understanding how music stimulates the brain may help scientists uncover how it can be used to trigger an emotional response.
“I am also interested in how, why and what mechanisms of the brain create human cultural fields such as fine art, music, science, technology and religion,” Professor Takahashi said.
Professor Takahashi said he and his team also believe that their results could eventually lead to the creation of AI music that can sync more easily with the brain.
“I believe that this question is the key to understand how the brain works and develop the next-generation AI. Also, as an engineer, I am interested in the use of music for a happy life.”
About Professor Hirokazu Takahashi
He is Associate Professor, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo
Professor Hirokazu Takahashi received B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Tokyo in 1998, 2000, and 2003, respectively. After working as a research associate at Department of Engineering Synthesis, the University of Tokyo, and as an assistant professor at the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, he has been an associate professor at Department of Mechano-Informatics, the University of Tokyo, since 2019. His current research interests include areas of biomedical engineering ranging from rehabilitation engineering for restoring lost functions to experimental neurophysiology for understanding fundamental brain functions.
The Times London, November 12th, 2022
Now, we are creating a small flower venture selling life plants. Also, my wife’s strawberry pot is giving juicy fruits.
The growing sobriety of Japan’s young people is hitting the amount of revenue flowing into state coffers and has inspired the national tax agency to run a competition for ideas to encourage more drinking.
Tax raised from alcohol sales accounted for 5 per cent of total government revenue in 1980, dropping to 3 per cent by 2011 and less than 2 per cent by 2020.
While alcohol taxes still raised US$80 billion in 2020, Japan’s national debt to GDP ratio, at about 240 per cent, is worse than any country in the world except Zimbabwe’s. The government can ill-afford to lose more tax revenue.
Average alcohol consumption fell from 100 litres per capita in 1995 to 75 litres in 2020, much of that drop caused by drinking falling out of favour with a younger generation. Whereas junior employees were once expected to routinely accompany their seniors and bosses on boozy nights out after work, these days many young salarymen and women refuse to participate in such revelry or are completely teetotal. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation, as many Japanese fell out of the habit of going for drinks with friends. The tax agency campaign is looking for ideas to revitalise drinking culture, including those who choose to consume at home.
With its first round running until September 9, the Sake Viva! campaign is looking for ideas, which could include the promotion of imbibing using artificial intelligence and the metaverse. According to the campaign website: “The aim of this project is to appeal to the younger generation regarding the development and promotion of Japanese alcoholic beverages by having young people themselves propose business ideas, and to revitalise the industry by promoting great plans.”
Selected entries will progress to a final stage and an award ceremony for winners will be held in Tokyo on November 10. The winning ideas will be used by the tax agency for commercial campaigns.
Reactions to the campaign from the public have been mixed, with many online comments questioning the wisdom of a government encouraging its citizens to drink more alcohol.
Japan’s health ministry issued a statement saying it hoped the campaign would recommend that people drink alcohol in moderation.
Overseas applicants can enter the contest, as long as they submit materials and make presentations in Japanese.
Alcoholic beverage market in Japan
The market size of alcoholic beverage in Japan is about US$35 billion, according to the report of Japan’s National Tax Administration Agency. However, the market is shrinking little by little every year. The consumption amount of alcoholic drink also fell to about half of that in its prime. The number of people who drink in a bar or restaurant was decreasing during the years. On the other hand, the number of people who drink in a house was increasing.
According to consumption amount of types of alcoholic beverages, a beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Japan. However, the ratio of beer is decreasing every year. The ratio of liqueur and wine are increasing instead of beer. It is said many young Japanese people don’t like the bitter taste of beer.
There are three types of beers, which consist of normal beer, low-malt beer and the third beer in Japan. The amount of liquor tax of Japan increases by the amount of malt, so beer companies make low-malt beer called Happoshu to keep down the tax and sell it cheaper than normal beer. As a result, Japanese government raised liquor tax for low-malt beer because of fearing decreasing amount of liquor tax.
Beer companies made the third beer in response to rising liquor tax. The third beer has a taste similar to beer without malt. It belongs to the category of a liqueur in Japanese tax law because if does not have a malt, so the third beer is sold at a lower price than low-malt beer. It contributes to increasing liqueur consumption. Thus, the third beer has become the cheapest beer.
We should note that tax on alcoholic drinks are steep in most countries as a way of raising tax receipts for governments.
Good luck to Japanese government in your increased beer consumption campaigns!
Centaurus is not an alien but a new subvariant of Covid-19 virus. We note an alarming development in the Guardian today (July 13th, 2022), as reported by Linda Geddes.`
The report noted virologists have voiced concerns about the emergence of another fast-spreading Omicron variant, which is rapidly gaining ground in India and has already arrived in the UK.
The BA.2.75 variant – nicknamed “Centaurus” – was first detected in India in early May. Cases in countries like UK have since risen steeply – and apparently faster than those of the extremely transmissible BA.5 variant, which is also present in India, and is rapidly displacing the previously dominant BA.2 variant in many countries.
BA.2.75 has also since been detected in about 10 other countries, including the UK, US, Australia, Germany and Canada.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) designated it a “variant under monitoring” on 7 July, 2022, meaning there is some indication that it could be more transmissible or associated with more severe disease, but the evidence is weak or has not yet been assessed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is also closely monitoring the new variant, although its chief scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, said there were not yet enough samples to assess its severity.
In addition to its apparent rapid growth and wide geographical spread, virologists have been alerted by the sheer number of extra mutations BA.2.75 contains, relative to BA.2, from which it is likely to have evolved. “This could mean that it has had the chance to evolve an advantage over an already successful virus lineage, said Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds.
“It’s not so much the exact mutations, more the number/combination,” said Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, who was the first to identify Omicron as a potential concern back in November 2021. “It’s hard to predict the effect of that many mutations appearing together – it gives the virus a bit of a ‘wildcard’ property where the sum of the parts could be worse than the parts individually.
“It is definitely a potential candidate for what comes after BA.5. Failing that, it’s probably the sort of thing we’ll have come along next, ie a ‘variant of a variant’.”
Even if it does not take off in other countries, its growth in India suggests it is likely to be an issue there, at the very least, Peacock added. “It’s clearly growing pretty well in India, but India hasn’t got much BA.5, and it is still very unclear how well it fares against [that].”
Griffin cited it as yet another example of the virus’s impressive capacity to tolerate changes in its spike protein – the part it uses to infect cells, and which most Covid vaccines are based on.
“This time last year, many were convinced that Delta represented an evolutionary pinnacle for the virus, but the emergence of Omicron and the vast increase in variability and antibody evasiveness is a sign that we cannot as a population follow an influenza-like plan to keep pace with viral evolution,” said Griffin.
In addition to vaccines, longer-term plans should include variant-agnostic measures to prevent infections and reinfections. “This includes creating infection-resilient environments through improved ventilation, filtration, or sterilisation of indoor air, sensible re-provision of lateral flow tests, and appropriate and supported isolation periods that will actually reduce ongoing transmission,” he said.
In Malaysia, there have been growing cases of Covid-19 infections. The Government expect a spike in cases as there were many holidays and people were travelling to their home towns. Many of them travelled to enjoy the king of fruit, the durian, which is now in high season.
Centaurus subvariant will likely be arriving in Malaysia as we welcome a huge number of visitors from India and returning Malaysians from India. I will be wearing my mask and avoid crowded places.
The rambutans have been spared from wild monkeys!
Please be free to use the image
Some parts of my small garden are fertile where papaya trees are growing nicely. Why are they fertile and support healthy papaya trees? An article by George Monbiot in the Guardian, May 7th, 2022, would help explain this phenomenon.
He noted that beneath our feet is an ecosystem so astonishing that it tests the limits of our imagination. It’s as diverse as a rainforest or a coral reef. We depend on it for 99% of our food, yet we scarcely know it. Soil.
Under one square metre of undisturbed ground in the Earth’s mid-latitudes (which include the UK) there might live several hundred thousand small animals. Roughly 90% of the species to which they belong have yet to be named. One gram of this soil – less than a teaspoonful – contains around a kilometre of fungal filaments.
When I first examined a lump of soil with a powerful lens, I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. As soon as I found the focal length, it burst into life. I immediately saw springtails – tiny animals similar to insects – in dozens of shapes and sizes. Round, crabby mites were everywhere: in some soils there are half a million in every square metre.
Then I began to see creatures I had never encountered before. What I took to be a tiny white centipede turned out, when I looked it up, to be a different life form altogether, called a symphylid. I spotted something that might have stepped out of a Japanese anime: long and low, with two fine antennae at the front and two at the back, poised and sprung like a virile dragon or a flying horse. It was a bristletail, or dipluran.
As I worked my way through the lump, again and again I found animals whose existence, despite my degree in zoology and a lifetime immersed in natural history, had been unknown to me. After two hours examining a kilogram of soil, I realised I had seen more of the major branches of the animal kingdom than I would on a week’s safari in the Serengeti.
That this thin cushion between rock and air can withstand all we throw at it and still support us is a dangerous belief.
But even more arresting than soil’s diversity and abundance is the question of what it actually is. Most people see it as a dull mass of ground-up rock and dead plants. But it turns out to be a biological structure, built by living creatures to secure their survival, like a wasps’ nest or a beaver dam. Microbes make cements out of carbon, with which they stick mineral particles together, creating pores and passages through which water, oxygen and nutrients pass. The tiny clumps they build become the blocks the animals in the soil use to construct bigger labyrinths.
Soil is fractally scaled, which means its structure is consistent, regardless of magnification. Bacteria, fungi, plants and soil animals, working unconsciously together, build an immeasurably intricate, endlessly ramifying architecture that organises itself spontaneously into coherent worlds. This biological structure helps to explain soil’s resistance to droughts and floods: if it were just a heap of matter, it would be swept away.
It also reveals why soil can break down so quickly when it’s farmed. Under certain conditions, when farmers apply nitrogen fertiliser, the microbes respond by burning through the carbon: in other words, the cement that holds their catacombs together. The pores cave in. The passages collapse. The soil becomes sodden, airless and compacted.
But none of the above capture the true wonder of soil.
Let’s start with something that flips our understanding of how we survive. Plants release into the soil between 11% and 40% of all the sugars they make through photosynthesis. They don’t leak them accidentally. They deliberately pump them into the ground. Stranger still, before releasing them, they turn some of these sugars into compounds of tremendous complexity.
Making such chemicals requires energy and resources, so this looks like pouring money down the drain. Why do they do it? The answer unlocks the gate to a secret garden.
These complex chemicals are pumped into the zone immediately surrounding the plant’s roots, which is called the rhizosphere. They are released to create and manage its relationships.
Soil is full of bacteria. Its earthy scent is the smell of the compounds they produce. In most corners, most of the time, they wait, in suspended animation, for the messages that will wake them. These messages are the chemicals the plant releases. They are so complex because the plant seeks not to alert bacteria in general, but the particular bacteria that promote its growth. Plants use a sophisticated chemical language that only the microbes to whom they wish to speak can understand.
When a plant root pushes into a lump of soil and starts releasing its messages, it triggers an explosion of activity. The bacteria responding to its call consume the sugars the plant feeds them and proliferate to form some of the densest microbial communities on Earth. There can be a billion bacteria in a single gram of the rhizosphere; they unlock the nutrients on which the plant depends and produce growth hormones and other chemicals that help it grow. The plant’s vocabulary changes from place to place and time to time, depending on what it needs. If it’s starved of certain nutrients, or the soil is too dry or salty, it calls out to the bacteria species that can help.
Take a step back and you will see something that transforms our understanding of life on Earth. The rhizosphere lies outside the plant, but it functions as if it were part of the whole. It could be seen as the plant’s external gut. The similarities between the rhizosphere and the human gut, where bacteria also live in astonishing numbers, are uncanny. In both systems, microbes break down organic material into the simpler compounds the plant or person can absorb. Though there are more than 1,000 phyla (major groups) of bacteria, the same four dominate both the rhizosphere and the guts of mammals.
Just as human breast milk contains sugars called oligosaccharides, whose purpose is to feed not the baby but the bacteria in the baby’s gut, young plants release large quantities of sucrose into the soil, to feed and develop their new microbiomes. Just as the bacteria that live in our guts outcompete and attack invading pathogens, the friendly microbes in the rhizosphere create a defensive ring around the root. Just as bacteria in the colon educate our immune cells and send chemical messages that trigger our body’s defensive systems, the plant’s immune system is trained and primed by bacteria in the rhizosphere.
Soil might not be as beautiful to the eye as a rainforest or a coral reef, but once you begin to understand it, it is as beautiful to the mind. Upon this understanding our survival might hang.
Every beverage we drink is mostly water. Beer, soda, juice, coffee, tea – all are at least 90% water, plus a little sugar, alcohol or flavor compounds.
Scientists at a Californian company Cana Inc. have figured out how to identify and isolate those molecules that drive flavor and aroma to recreate thousands of drinks – without moving bottles filled mostly with water around the world.
Cana rebuilds each beverage at the molecular level using hundreds of ingredients — all within a single ingredients cartridge. The sugar and spirits cartridges complete the system, and all are automatically shipped to consumers.
Cana says it is the world’s first molecular beverage printer that combines all-natural ingredients with novel technologies that dispense compounds at the milliliter level of accuracy. The result is an infinite variety of chilled and carbonated beverages in under 30 seconds.
In addition, a beverage can be customized thanks to a 7-inch touchscreen, or from a mobile phone. Over-the-air software updates also ensure latest updates on beverages formulated by celebrities.
The machine builds each beverage at the molecular level using hundreds of ingredients, all housed within an ingredients cartridge. And unlike pod-based systems that make a single drink per pod and generate lots of waste, Cana’s cartridge system can make thousands of drinks before being replaced (and recycled). The ingredients cartridge works with a separate sugar cartridge, spirits cartridge, water reservoir and carbonation cylinder to make the magic happen.
According to the company, it can serve an infinite variety of drinks, including cold brew coffee, tea, soda, juice, hard seltzers and specialty cocktails. Apparently, this thing can even make wine, although it’s hard to know if we’re excited or scared of that fact. It can also update its beverage catalog with new brands from partners and creators around the world, so that tally should only increase.
The drinks catalog can be tweaked per individual preference, and through the touchscreen elements like sugar and alcohol content, caffeine level and flavor intensity can be altered. .
It has an interesting pricing system. The cartridges, which last about a month, are free and automatically shipped to consumers when one is running low, so one never has to think about replacing them. Rather than paying per cartridge, similar to pod-based coffee machines, a consumer pays per drink. For example, sparkling water is 29 US cents, iced tea is 79 US cents, and a cocktail costs US$2.99.
According to Cana a patent-pending cartridge holds small amounts of 84 essential flavoring ingredients that are precisely blended with tap water, sugar, alcohol and carbonation inside the machine to create the drink you select from a Roku-like touchscreen interface.
Are Cana’s beverages tasteful?
Cana says our perception of taste relies on a small subset of compounds, not unlike the way a high-res video stream removes most of the original video information but doesn’t look like it did. Cana also relies on the fact that, to some degree, we taste what we’re told we’re about to taste: The color screen on the device brings each drink to life with a vivid description and thematic video clip while it’s being made.
Clear drinks will be offered first; Some traits such as viscosity, opacity and pulp will be harder to achieve until future versions of the device arrive.
Drink creators will earn a cut of the price of each drink made from their formula, not unlike the stars of social and video platforms.
Potential applications other than at home
Many food outlets in many countries, such as Malaysia, are having problems to recruit drink makers. They move from one establishment to another to seek for higher salaries. I believe more up-market restaurant would need Cana’s appliance to offer a wide variety of beverages for their customers.
This appliance is a great idea!
Coca Cola, Pepsi and F&N (a big brand in Malaysia), “Are you watching?”
Our new eStore offer a arnge of super foods, which have been long consumed in Southeast Asia. Black ginger is taken by Muay Thai’ boxer as a high energy-giving tea. Our fresh black ginger comes from a farm in Johor, Malaysia.