Japanese cyberspace minister knows nothing about computers


This 15 November 2018 video says about itself:

A Japanese minister in charge of cyber security has provoked astonishment by admitting he has never used a computer in his professional life, and appearing confused by the concept of a USB drive.

Yoshitaka Sakurada, 68, is the deputy chief of the government’s cyber security strategy office and also the minister in charge of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that Tokyo will host in 2020.

In parliament on Wednesday however, he admitted he doesn’t use computers. “Since the age of 25, I have instructed my employees and secretaries, so I don’t use computers myself”, he said in a response to an opposition question in a lower house session, local media reported.

He also appeared confused by the question when asked about whether USB drives were in use at Japanese nuclear facilities. His comments were met with incredulity by opposition lawmakers.

“It’s unbelievable that someone who has not touched computers is responsible for cyber security policies”, said opposition lawmaker Masato Imai.

And his comments provoked a firestorm online. “Doesn’t he feel ashamed?” wrote one Twitter user. “Today any company president uses a PC. He doesn’t even know what a USB is. Holy cow.”

Another joked that perhaps Sakurada was simply engaged in his own kind of cyber security. “If a hacker targets this Minister Sakurada, they wouldn’t be able to steal any information. Indeed it might be the strongest kind of security!”

Sakurada has been in office just over a month, after being appointed in a cabinet reshuffle following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s reelection as head of his political party. But he has already come fire for other gaffes in parliament including garbling an opposition lawmaker’s name and repeatedly stating “I don’t know the details” when questioned about his new Olympic brief.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Japanese cyber minister knows nothing about computers

The Japanese internet security minister is under attack because he knows nothing about computers. Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada (68) has admitted that he has never used a computer.

Sakurada was installed a month ago. In parliament he received questions about malware (malicious software) and what a USB port is for. When the minister said that such a port was practically never used, the MPs began to laugh incredulously. The interrogation was directly visible on Japanese TV.

Mr Sakurada is in the right-wing government of Prime Minister Abe. To become a minister in that government, you don’t have to know anything about anything. You just have to be right-wing. Eg, Mr Sakurada said that World War II comfort women [women forced into prostitution] were “professional prostitutes. That’s business.”

Mr Sakurada is in a government which does not know, or pretends not to know, that militarism is wrong; that the Japanese regime in World War II practiced forced prostitution and other crimes; that nuclear plants are dangerous; that Fukushima food is hazardous to eat; etc.

I guess that the only thing that Mr Sakurada does know about computers is that his job is to, like in the USA, France, Germany etc., censor pro-peace leftist Internet sites.

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Subterranean insect-like animal discovery in Japan


The giant newly described species Pacificampa daidarabotchi, discovered in the Mejiro-do cave, Kyushu, Japan. Photo by Rodrigo Lopes Ferreira

From ScienceDaily:

The world’s largest campodeid dipluran named after the mythological giant Daidarabotchi

The insect-like animal is also the first subterranean representative of its family in Japan

October 25, 2018

Summary: Two new to science dipluran species were discovered in touristic caves in the southern Japanese islands. Amongst them is the largest member of the campodeid family, aptly named after the giant Japanese yökai creature Daidarabotchi. They belong to a genus so far known exclusively from a few caves scattered across the easternmost continental parts of Asia.

Amongst the fauna thriving in the subterranean spaces below the surface of the earth’s crust, the insect-like diplurans and, precisely, those in the campodeid family are one of the best-known groups, currently comprising almost 150 species. However, not a single subterranean member of the family had been known from Japan until very recently.

As part of a project at the National Council of Technological and Scientific Development, the research team of Dr. Rodrigo Lopes Ferreira, Universidade Federal de Lavras, Brasil, and Dr. Kazunori Yoshizawa, Hokkaido University, Japan, conducted an expedition to a total of 11 carbonate caves in the southern Japanese islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. Out of these, they managed to collect dipluran specimens from three touristic sites and sent them to Dr. Alberto Sendra from the Research group in Soil Biology and Subterranean Ecosystems at Alcala University, Spain, for identification.

To the amazement of the scientists, it turned out that they had collected specimens of two previously unrecognised species of well-adapted subterranean campodeid diplurans.

Moreover, one of the new species (Pacificampa daidarabotchi), identified exclusively from the Mejiro-do cave located near an active quarry in Kyushu, proved to be the largest known dipluran in the family Campodeidae. Measuring about 10 mm in length, the creature looks gigantic next to any other campodeid, which, most often, are only half as big.

Inspired by the peculiar size of the former, the researchers decided to name it after the giant yökai creature Daidarabotchi, known from Japanese mythology. According to one of the legends, Daidarabotchi once lifted up the mountains of Fuji and Tsukuba in order to weigh them. By accident, he split the peak of Tsukuba in the process.

Another remarkable finding from the same study is that the genus, where both new species were assigned — Pacificampa — serves as yet another example of the former physical connection between Asia and America some millennia ago. In their paper, the scientists note that the genus demonstrates close affinities with a genus known from North America.

“We hope that this discovery could stop the destruction of the land nearby and preserve for the future the subterranean habitat of these remarkable gigantic species”, say the researchers in conclusion.

Japanese caddisflies, new study


This July 2018 video from Japan is about Stenopsyche marmorata caddisflies.

From Shinshu University in Japan:

Genome of Japanese insect delicacy sheds light on history of Earth

October 4, 2018

Japanese scientists have shed light on the evolutionary biology and distribution of Stenopsyche caddisflies, also known as sedge flies, a common insect in Japanese rivers and a local delicacy. The new discovery also identified new genetic lineages among previously recognized species.

Their findings were published online in Freshwater Science on July 18th.

Caddisflies are a group of insects that have an aquatic larval stage, while the adults are terrestrial, winged, moth-like insects. Fossilized caddisfly larvae have been found in rocks dating back to the Triassic period, over 250 million years ago, when it is believed the group evolved into one with fully aquatic larvae. Currently, approximately 14,500 caddisfly species from 45 different families have been described worldwide, but many species are still to be recognized.

For their study, the researchers used a molecular approach, analyzing genetic DNA samples collected from the larvae of 21 species of caddisfly from the Stenopsyche genus.

“Stenopsyche caddisflies are the most commonly observed aquatic insect group in Japanese rivers and streams,” explains co-author, Koji Tojo, a scientist from Shinshu University in Nagano, Japan, whose research interests include evolutionary biology and biodiversity. “These caddisflies are popular as a traditional local food, known as ‘Zazamushi’. Thus, it is also an important species group in terms of the ‘Ecosystem Services’ they offer.”

According to Tojo, ‘Zazamushi’ is not only a popular local dish, but is also drawing attention from foreign media. It has recently been introduced in countries such as France, where the demand for insect-based food is booming due to the health and beauty benefits it offers.

In addition to the attention this group of insects is drawing as a protein-packed culinary delight -typically cooked with soya sauce and sugar — the researchers are also interested in learning more about the evolutionary biology and geographical distribution of these critters, which will in turn shed more light on the history of Earth.

Even though Stenopysche caddisflies are considered a common species that are not endangered, Tojo and his team believe that it is very important for the understanding of biodiversity to examine the phylogenetic evolutionary background in detail.

According to Tojo, the results of the study suggest that these caddisflies originated in the south of Asia, and furthermore originated from the Gondwana continent, before dispersing on a global scale over a much longer geohistorical timeframe. “I think that this subject is important as we (humans) explore our roots,” says Tojo.

All organisms without exception, even those living close to us, each have a very long history, Tojo explains. “And their histories are engraved within their cells as their genome information. Knowing the history of that organism leads to a better understanding of that organism. As a result, we will deepen our interests and understanding of biodiversity”, says Tojo, adding that ultimately this will lead to a deeper understanding of the evolution of human diversity too.

Tojo’s ultimate goal is to shed more light on the thought provoking question: ‘How are the evolution of organisms and the history of Earth related?’

To date, Tojo and his team’s research interests have focused largely on the evolutional history of the Japanese insect fauna in relation to the geological history of the Japanese Archipelago, but he is hoping to expand this to the continental scale. “In addition, we would like to deepen the discussion on the mechanisms of species differentiation and creation of diversity in organisms”, says Tojo.

Molecular genetic studies such as this not only provide a wonderful tool for examining the evolutionary history and relationships between individual organisms, populations and even different species, but can also help identify new species that have not been recognized yet, and ultimately help us gain a better understanding of how our planet has evolved.

New pygmy seahorse species discovery


This 15 August 2018 video says about itself:

This New Species of Pygmy Seahorse is the Size of a Lentil | Nat Geo Wild

This pygmy seahorse is tiny—the size of a grain of rice. Researchers recently discovered that the colorful animal is a distinct species. Its name is Hippocampus japapigu, Latin for “Japan pig” seahorse, as some believe it resembles a baby pig.

Dojo loach fish, new study


This 2015 video is called Dojo Loach: Amazing fish.

From Hokkaido University in Japan:

Fish reproduction: Two times a lady

August 2, 2018

A DNA probing technique clarifies the mechanism behind clonal reproduction of female dojo loach fish, also providing insight into the ancestral origin of the clonal population.

Hokkaido University researchers have developed a technique that allows them to track chromosomes during egg production in dojo loach Misgurnus anguillicaudatus. The study uncovered how female clones double their chromosomes twice to assure clonal reproduction.

The dojo loach is a bottom-dwelling freshwater fish native to East Asia. The majority are sexually reproducing male and female fish. Their ‘somatic’ non-reproductive cells contain a full set of 50 chromosomes — 25 from each parent — while their reproductive egg and sperm cells contain 25 chromosomes.

However, a population of female clones of the species can be found in Hokkaido Island and other areas of Japan. Unlike the sexually reproducing female population, both their somatic and reproductive eggs contain 50 chromosomes, assuring their clonal reproduction. How the reproductive process leads to 50 chromosomes in egg cells has been unclear.

To better understand this mechanism, a research team including Masamichi Kuroda and Takafumi Fujimoto of Hokkaido University’s Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences developed DNA probes to track the chromosomes in dojo loach’s somatic and reproductive cells. Previous studies have suggested that the female clone population arose when two genetically distinct groups within the species, called A and B for simplicity, mated. Kuroda and his colleagues developed a fluorescent DNA probe that binds to specific chromosomal regions derived from type B.

According to the results published in Chromosome Research, the fluorescent signals indicated that somatic cells of the female clones have 25 chromosomes derived from type B, providing evidence that their ancestral origin arose when type A and B mated. They then looked into the process of egg production using the DNA probes. In the sexually reproducing dojo loach, reproductive cells divided through the normal process of meiosis, in which a single cell containing a full set of 50 chromosomes produces one egg containing 25 chromosomes. This requires doubling chromosomes once.

In the female clones, the team found that the chromosomal material doubles twice so that when it divides, each results in an egg cell containing a full set of 50 chromosomes. Fish sperm activates these egg cells to start developing embryos without incorporating their genetic material into them.

Moreover, their data suggested that sister chromosomes doubled from the same chromosome make pairs so that recombination between the chromosomes does not affect their clonality. Such recombination normally occurs between paternally-derived and maternally-derived chromosomes.

“This is the first time that ‘cytogenetic’ evidence has been found for this type of chromosomal duplication in a unisexual, ray-finned fish. Further study could help develop a seedling production that can produce a large population of clone fish with desirable characteristics”, says Takafumi Fujimoto.

Nocturnal coral fish eyes and brains studied


This 2015 video is called 3 HOURS of Beautiful Coral Reef Fish, Relaxing Ocean Fish, Aquarium Fish Tank & Relax Music 1080p HD.

From the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University in Japan:

Bigger eyes but reduced brain power in nocturnal fishes

July 24, 2018

Summary: How does living life in darkness influence the way nocturnal fishes see? A new study finds out.

Coral reefs buzz with activity around the clock. As the day-active fishes retreat at dusk, the night-active or nocturnal fishes venture out to forage and hunt. Equipped with special traits, these fishes are adapted to lead a life in darkness. So how do the dark surroundings influence the way they see?

An international team of scientists led by Dr. Teresa Iglesias and Prof. Evan Economo from Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) set out to investigate this question. They examined how the brains of nocturnal fishes adapt to the low-light conditions they live in. Their findings were recently published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

The retina of the eye has on its surface two types of specialized nerve cells: cones and rods. While cones are activated in bright light, rods work better in dim light. The information captured by these cells is transported by nerves to the visual processing centers in the brain and pieced together into coherent images. In most vertebrates, a brain region called the optic tectum processes visual information, explains Prof. Economo. However, “it is unclear how it should change to maximize effectiveness of low-light vision”, he adds.

To find out, the research team compared the sizes of optic tecta within the brains of fishes that are active during the day and those active at night. More than a hundred fishes from nearly 66 different species were caught from reefs around Hawaii and North Carolina, USA. This catch comprising 44 day-active species and 16 nocturnal species with a wide range of food habits: some ate other fish, others fed on microscopic plankton, and still others were bottom dwelling scavengers. Once caught, the fishes were photographed and their heads preserved in formalin. Later in the lab, the researchers measured the size of each fish’s eye and lens, then scanned the animals’ preserved brains using micro CT scanners.

Bright environments are rich in visual information such as colors, patterns and textures, and deciphering them requires more complex processing than deciphering poorly-lit environments. Take photographs, for example: the latest camera can capture rich colors and minute details of a person or an object. On the other hand, the black and white photographs from an old family album do not reveal as much. Likewise, optic tectum in the brain must be able to process color, pattern and brightness.

The eyes of squirrelfish (Holocentrus rufus), a common nocturnal inhabitant of coral reefs, are almost three times larger than the eyes of day-active fishes of similar body size. Other nocturnal fishes also follow this design pattern. The optic tecta in nocturnal fishes might adapt to darkness by expanding, in order to process the larger volume of information that larger eyes might take in, or it could shrink if the information from low light environments is reduced. Initially, the researchers speculated that retina in such fishes would be loaded with more rods and cones than the day-active fishes, and thus require larger optic tecta to process it.

To their surprise, however, they found that the optic tecta of squirrelfish and other nocturnal fishes were smaller than those of day hunters, suggesting that their brains have sacrificed capabilities that are not as useful at night. Since color is not visible in light-deficient environments, these fishes have limited color acuity and limited depth of vision, but instead, they are adept at detecting movement.

The study also suggests that behavioral traits like the ability of some fishes to camouflage can influence the size of the optic tecta. Among the 66 species of fishes that the scientists sampled, the peacock flounder (Bothus mancus) was found to have the largest optic tectum amongst all. Peacock flounders dwell on sandy floors of reefs and are active during the day, though they prefer to hunt at night. Like chameleons, they are masters of camouflage, and can mimic their surroundings to blend in. This trait, according to the scientists, may explain why peacock flounders possess such highly-developed optic tecta. “Their visual centers may be important for adopting the correct camouflage, but they are also important for detecting predator movements in both bright and dim light”, says Dr. Iglesias.

We still have much to learn about how the environment and behavior of a species can shape the evolution of its brain, the scientists say. However, they believe these findings may help understand how changes in habitat due to human activities, such as light pollution, can interfere with the neuro-sensory capabilities of fishes and other organisms.

The escape response to evade perceived threats is a fundamental behavior seen throughout the animal kingdom, and laboratory studies have identified specialized neural circuits that control this behavior. To understand how these neural circuits operate in complex natural settings, researchers recorded and analyzed escape responses in wild coral reef fish. Their results show how a sequence of well-defined decision rules generates evasion behavior in a wide range of coral reef fish species: here.