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I’m sure most people would have heard the news by now: Japan has decided that they need to do some research on our beloved humpback whales – by hunting them down – too.

I must say I’m saddened by this decision. Unfortunately, neither my unhappiness nor the unhappiness of many other like-minded people and nations could change their point of view – the humpbacks have to go.

I never could understand what scientific research do the Japanese do when they kill the whales and sell the meat in their markets. So I tried finding out.

According to BBC news, the reason for this scientific research is the following:

The ICR and the Japanese government’s Fisheries Agency believe that if enough of the right sort of data can be collected, they can go back to the IWC and prove scientifically that some whale stocks are robust enough to allow a degree of sustainable commercial hunting.

This scientific research is aimed at gathering “information on the age distribution within each population (which relates closely to the natural rate of morality), blubber thickness (an indication of health and food supply), and diet.

Apparently, the Japanese researchers believe that lethal methods of surveying is necessary because it is the “only way” to accurately determine a whale’s age and only by examining the stomach contents of the whale can they assess a whale’s diet with accuracy.

read here for more info: BBC news

Here’s what WWF has to say:

Regarding a whale’s diet:

The Government of Japan claims it needs to kill ten sperm whales each year to learn what they eat. Yet the diet of this species is well known – not surprisingly, since more than a half a million sperm whales were killed and examined in the 20th century alone. Furthermore, the ecological significance of the sperm whale’s predation on squid cannot be meaningfully assessed without estimating the abundance of squid in the ocean – a question to which marine biologists world-wide would like to know the answer.

Regarding stomach contents:

Japan also claims it must kill whales to determine what they eat, which they accomplish by studying stomach contents of the dead whales. However, this generally provides nothing more than a snapshot view of the most recently consumed prey, and may not be indicative of the real diet, particularly with whales such as minkes, which consume a broad range of prey items. In contrast, stable isotope analysis from skin samples, again obtained using a biopsy dart on a live whale, provides a long-term view of the whale’s diet over a longer time period. Whatever food is consumed has a unique isotopic “signature” reflected in the tissues of the animal consuming the food. This technique has been applied all over the world in studies of other whales.

Alternative non-lethal assessment:

Genetic samples are generally taken from a live whale using a biopsy dart, and do not require killing or injuring the animal. Biopsy darting is also far more efficient, allowing scientists to acquire large amounts of data from a broader section of the whale population.

Read the rebuttals here: WWF

Excuse me while I grief… I just wish there was a way we could stop this whaling business… =(

Just yesterday, I read an online news that a ‘surfer dude’ with no university affiliation have published a paper about a theory of everything.

Not string theory mind you. A different one that marries gravitational field, Quantum Mechanics, Electromagnetism etc using E8. I admit I do not exactly understand what he is trying to say, but it is said that if his theory can actually predict ‘new particles’ which we can test and confirm then this might just be THE theory of everything.

Just a note la. If anyone’s interested to read his paper, it can be accessed through here: http://arxiv.org/abs/0711.0770

Have fun reading! (it’s 31 pages long) Gimme a summary *points to ‘comment’ link* when you are done with it okay?

Oh ya, the surfer dude’s name is A. Garrett Lisi.

I came across this instructable that I really really liked.

Whenever I need a CD case and don’t have one, I’ll inevitably pick up a random piece of A4 paper and just fold and staple it together into a folder. ugly but functional.

This guy however made a CD case from the same random piece of paper and it becomes ART.

Origami CD case

Now the CD case is both pretty and functional. How neat! Learn how to do it here.

And in case I forgot to mention it before, instructables.com is a wonderful site chock full of all kinds of instructions to do almost anything. I really like the site because of the gems I can find – like this instructable! =)

I got this interesting piece of news from my rss feed today:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two separate teams of researchers announced on Tuesday they had transformed ordinary skin cells into batches of cells that look and act like embryonic stem cells — but without using cloning technology and without making embryos.

link

Hopefully this breakthrough would mean that the current debate about moral and ethical issues would become irrelevant. Anyway, do go read that link. There’s not alot of scientific jargon so it should be an easy and informative read.

I just came across this really interesting game (still in ‘beta’) called crayon physics and what it does is that it allows you to draw 2D images and see how they would behave if they were subjected to physics (or in this case gravity)

screenshot

Basically you have a ball and stars. You are suppose to make the ball touch the stars by drawing shapes with ur crayon cursor so that the ball rolls towards the star without dropping down.

It’s really quite fun and you can download other levels when you become bored of the basic 4 levels found in the game.

The only thing I don’t like about it (for now) is the fact that you can’t draw much beyond rectangles and well… rectangles. The newer version (purported to come soon) looks really promising. Seems like you can draw all kinds of shapes and even cars. Fun stuff!

To play, download the game here

For more physics gaming delights, try:

Line rider

For other experimental games, try:

Experimental Gameplay Project 

I have yet to play the games found in the latter website yet, I sure will do so really soon! Meanwhile, I can’t wait for the Crayon Physics Deluxe game to be finished!

A recent trip to Asian Civilisation Museum in Singapore for the Nalanda exhibition gave me new insights about Buddhism – a religion that is commonly practiced here in Singapore.

There’s many temples in Singapore that cater to Buddhist worshippers and it’s easy to distinguish these temples as they would have a statue (if not several) of buddha himself. But did you know that when Buddha first passed away, he had specifically requested not to have any imagery of himself made. Because of this, old buddhist relics used to depict Buddha with either footprints or an empty naga (snake) throne (u are suppose to imagine Buddha is on the throne). Only later on did people start making statues of Buddha. And even then, the styles change from place to place – like in Persia, the statues used to look like they had a lot of greek influence.

I would post some photos up except that I wasn’t allowed to bring any camera in the museum. However, here’s a post with photos and more details about the exhibit and the religion Buddhism: click here.

What’s interesting was that despite Buddha not wanting his image to be worshiped, people still made and worship statues of him anyway. I wonder what he would think about the prolificity of his statues in temples all around Singapore now… (note: it’s just a question. i mean no harm in asking)
Anyway, Nalanda Trail is a really good exhibit so do go and see it if you can. It’s S$10 for adults, S$5 for students in ACM.

p.s. go during the guided tour for better insight to the exhibits themselves

I’ve just got this really cool site from a friend: http://www.freerice.com/index.php

What it basically does is that it works on your vocab with you and at the same time, for every vocabulary you learn, you get to ‘donate’ 10 grains of rice.

Details of how that works can be found on the site itself. I think it’s actually quite fun (Maybe I’m a bit of a geek/nerd… heh.) and you get to do good things while you are at it too.

A fun time waster that you actually dun feel guilty about playing. Yay.

Go play now! – I’m at my 1000+++ grains of rice already. whee.

p.s. this post isnt quite my typical trivia post. but hey, you guys wouldn’t mind right? =)