Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jupiter, Moon...

...watch for that bright planet next to the Moon, that's Jupiter.

With binoculars, your can see at least four of Jupiter's moons.

Ancient Babylonian astronomers used calculus to find Jupiter 1,400 years before Europeans

Ancient Babylonians Tracked Jupiter With Calculus

The earliest known examples of mathematical and geometric astronomy have been identified in a series of ancient Babylonian cuneiform tablets. An analysis of the tablets, reported in the journal Science, reveals ancient Babylonians were able to calculate the position of Jupiter using geometric techniques previously believed to have been first used some 1,400 years later in 14th century Europe. “These texts are the earliest evidence we have from antiquity of mathematical astronomy,” said the study’s author Dr Mathieu Ossendrijver, a historian on Babylonian astronomy with the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Image from EarthSky

Dr Ossendrijver examined five tablets numbered as trapezoid text A to trapezoid text E, four of which deal with geometrical trapezoid shapes, but nobody understood what they were about.
However, one of the tablets — trapezoid text A — provided Dr Ossendrijver with the key to understanding the other four tablets.
“I discovered that they describe the motion of Jupiter as a velocity, the number of degrees it moves across the sky in a day,” Dr Ossendrijver said.
“If you plot the velocity of Jupiter against time, you get a creeping curve which looks like a rectangle with a slanted top — that’s the trapezoid.”

The tablets show two intervals from when Jupiter first appears along the horizon at night, to the planet’s position in the sky after 60 and 120 days.
The tablets also computed the time when Jupiter covers half of this 60-day distance by partitioning the trapezoid into two smaller ones of equal area.
“We’re not really sure why the Babylonians were so interested in the motion of the planet Jupiter, but one possible explanation is that Jupiter was associated with Marduk the supreme god of Babylon,” Dr Ossendrijver said.
“These astronomers or priests were employed by Babylon’s main temple where Marduk was venerated. Each god had a star and Marduk’s was Jupiter.”
Babylonian writing is thought to have originally developed as an accounting system for keeping track of property such as sheep, grain, or the size of a field.

“That’s what most of the cuneiform tablets we have from Mesopotamia deal with,” Dr Ossendrijver said.
“But by about 2000 BCE they began to develop a form of mathematics with sophisticated field computations and methods for solving what we call quadratic equations that go beyond these practical things. It’s a way of describing and computing motion, similar to what we today call integral calculus.”
These tablets redefine our history books as the origins of calculus are generally traced back to the Middle Ages when people began using geometry to calculate velocity by plotting the position of an object against time.
“This is highly surprising. No-one expected to find something like this in antiquity,” Dr Ossendrijver said.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Shiga Prefecture - The Water Story

I get my clay from Shiga Prefecture and this article explains the unique features concerning the water in Harie, near Lake Biwa.

Mainichi: Shiga: Land of Water

The Harie district in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, reminds one of good old Japan, with traditional tiled-roof houses lining the streets. Located roughly 1.5 kilometers from Lake Biwa in the northwest part of the prefecture, it is a place full of natural beauty, with fish swimming in numerous canals and streams that transect the district. For some 300 years, residents have fostered a unique water culture that centers around "kabata" -- a water supply system that utilizes the region's abundant underground water.
The water originates in the Hira Mountains in western Shiga Prefecture. At each household in Harie, pipes are sunk about 10 to 20 meters into the ground to obtain the underground water. This spring water -- which the people of Harie refer to as "shozu," or living water -- flows into a basin called "motoike" and is used for drinking and cooking. One refreshing sip was enough to tell the difference from normal tap water. 
The water that overflows from motoike into a connected basin called "tsuboike" is used for washing and cooling vegetables.
"The water stays around 13 degrees Celsius year round, so it is perfect for cooling vegetables and beer," said Maeda Masako, a local volunteer guide. 
The water flowing out of tsuboike goes into a third basin called "hataike." This is where people clean dirty dishes and pots by allowing fish -- mostly carp -- to eat the food remnants.
"If you leave a pot here that you used to cook curry, it'll be completely clean in three hours," Maeda explained. "These fish even eat watermelon rinds." 
No wonder most of the carp are huge. Apparently, some weigh over 25 kilograms. These fish are free to go anywhere they please, since each hataike is connected to a canal or stream running outside. The water travels through canals until it reaches the Harie-Okawa River and eventually flows into Lake Biwa. People living upstream, therefore, have long been careful not to taint the water -- and this spirit of thoughtfulness lives on today.  (...)

There is more and lots of nice photos, hope Mainichi doesn't delete this article from their website (like they usually do) 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mahler Symphony No 2 Resurrection Seiji Ozawa 小澤征爾 NJpo Nagasaki Peace concert

Gustav Mahler Symphony No 2 C minor Resurrection Symphony Auferstehungssinfonie
Seiji Ozawa conducts New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Nagasaki Peace concert
1.Allegro maestoso. Mit durchaus ernstem und feierlichem Ausdruck (With complete gravity and solemnity of expression) 0:00
2.Andante moderato. Sehr gemächlich. Nie eilen. (Very leisurely. Never rush.) 23:43
3.In ruhig fließender Bewegung (With quietly flowing movement)36:00
4.Urlicht (Primeval Light). Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht (Very solemn, but simple) 47:03
5.Im Tempo des Scherzos (In the tempo of the scherzo) 52:25
6.Langsam, Misterioso 1:09:49

A young Ozawa as a contestant on "What's My Line" in 1963

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Nova: Earth's Magnetic Fields

And how does pottery help reveal these things? Watch until around 19 min. 

Since the 1970s, the magnetic north pole has moved more than 1500 km at a rate of 10 kilometres a year. In the 1980s, this increased to 30 km a year. Today, the Pole travels 50, even 60 km - close to 150 metres a day.

Scientists don't quite know why its speed has increased these past 20 years. The magnetic pole is moving northwest of the geographic pole and may soon be across the Arctic Ocean in Siberia.
To find their bearings, sailors the world over must know the exact angle of difference between the two geographic and the magnetic north poles: the 'magnetic declination.'

The magnetic pole moves from the North to the South and vice versa every 250,000 years on average and does it very suddenly. Over 180 reversals have been recorded already.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Yes! Magazine: Unsurrendered (First Nation in Canada)


Do read, and cry. We call it gråta in Swedish, to cry. I like how languages try to create the emotion using the (probably ancient sanskrit) cr or gr sound, but in Japanese it is just "naku" which isn't very strong. I bet there is another word for really heartfelt tears, though.

To just totally wonder what on earth some humans are on earth for, if just to inflict pain and suffering, for profit, while others try to recover that inherent beauty of old forests and pure streams and a living that does not harm other humans. You could argue that hunting and fishing also will cause karmic relationships that are not so good for those who kill, but these are northern lands. Difficult to survive there without it.

Impressive that these people never gave Canada the right to take their lands away.

Now, oil companies want to export the bitumen to China... How long will that last? These people have been there for ages. Maybe they even came from the Asian mainlands, via Bering's Straight through Alaska? Love the sound of the river on the Yes! website. Excellent long read.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Country of Origin Labels in Japan

This is a topic I happen to care a lot about, especially after the US lost a case with the WTO, ruling that its COOL legislation went against its NAFTA obligations with Canada and Mexico.  The EU has the same rules, so how WTO could ignore the global attempts to provide consumers with this kind of information is mind-boggling. These WTO rules are called "Technical Barriers to Trade" (TBT) meaning they are not sanitary rules, which involve all kinds of barriers countries may wish to put up to stay unhealthy food out.

And, yup, note that processing companies (meaning they import a lot or all of their ingredients, or even entire packaged foods) are not happy with this.

From JA Agri-News:

Consumer Affairs Agency and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries jointly set up a panel to consider how to expand a list of processed food items to be covered by the mandatory labelling system of origin of ingredient. At the first meeting of the panel held on Jan. 29, people of organizations, representing food producers, distributers and consumers, exchanged views and agreed to put together a proposal by this autumn for increasing items to be covered by the labelling system.
The mandatory labelling rules of the Government are now applied to all fresh foods and some processed ones. The processed foods are made up of 22 groups of food items, including dried mushrooms, rice cakes and brown sugar, in addition to four items such as pickles and frozen vegetables.
The Government has taken a policy decision to consider expanding coverage of the mandatory system on the basis of a broad agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“We believe that it will be important for consumers to be provided with detailed information on origins of ingredients in processed foods. They require such information to select commodities which they want,” said Takeshi Kanai, managing director of JA-ZENCHU (Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives), representing interests of agricultural producers, at the first session of the panel.
On the other hand, a panelist of food manufacturing industries expressed a cautious view that processing companies are concerned about possible increases in cost and time by revisions of the mandatory labelling rules.
(Jan. 30, 2016)

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

ChemChina Buys Syngenta

This is huge news today, state-owned ChemChina pays some 43 Billion $$$ for Swiss agrochemical biotech giant Syngenta. Syngenta was approched by US Monsanto last year who offered even more, but for antitrust reasons, that might not have been a good match, so Syngenta turned them down. Last year, Dow and DuPont also agreed to merge, creating another giant. What it reveals is that the main players in the US/European chemical/GMO sector are having major difficulties.

Incidentally, last year I did a study of Syngenta for Consumers Union of Japan and the No! GMO Campaign. I may have to revisit that and publish it in English as well.

ETC Group is the NGO that has followed these companies closely for a long time. They are very critical of the concentration of power that is emerging.

The Big Six agrochemical corporations (BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta) that dominate commercial seed and pesticide markets worldwide now insist they must get bigger, faster if the world wants food security in the midst of climate chaos. According to agribusiness, the extreme pressures of population, demand for meat, and climate crisis require Big Science and Big Money – and that means extreme Mergers all along the industrial food chain.

But really, will China buy up more companies before going bust?

Reuters: China seeks food security with $43 billion bid for Syngenta

China made its boldest overseas takeover move when state-owned ChemChina agreed a $43 billion bid for Swiss seeds and pesticides group Syngenta on Wednesday, aiming to improve domestic food production.
The largest ever foreign purchase by a Chinese firm, announced by both companies, will accelerate a shake-up in global agrochemicals and marks a setback for U.S. firm Monsanto, which failed to buy Syngenta last year.
China, the world's largest agricultural market, is looking to secure food supply for its population. Syngenta's portfolio of top-tier chemicals and patent-protected seeds will represent a major upgrade of its potential output.
"Only around 10 percent of Chinese farmland is efficient. This is more than just a company buying another. This is a government attempting to address a real problem," a source close to the deal told Reuters.
Years of intensive farming combined with overuse of chemicals has degraded land and poisoned water supplies, leaving China vulnerable to crop shortages. The deal fits into Beijing's plans to modernize agriculture over the next five years.
"I was sent to the countryside at the age of 15, so I'm very familiar with what farmers need when they work the land. The Chinese have relied mainly on traditional ways of farming. We want to spread Syngenta’s integrated solution among smallholder farmers," ChemChina Chairman Ren Jianxin told a media briefing.