Aug 24, 2012

Honda Doesn't Want You to See Asimo Broken

I went to this Honda showroom a few days ago, and there was a demo of Asimo, the humanoid robot that's the car manufacturer, Honda's pride.

I noticed that the model was a little outdated. But I didn't predict the show would be cut off short by "mechanical troubles".

Right after I took the photo of Asimo being carried away(the one on the lower right) the staff announced "please do not take pictures of the robot at this moment. Also, for your safety, please do not come close to the robot.(as if it might start running around knocking people down :D ) Thank you."
Well yeah, it was a little awkward moment when I took the pic, I guess. I'm sure it's because Honda doesn't want photos of their robots malfunctioning on the Internet. But here it is, anyway.

Aug 22, 2012

The Curiosity Rover on Mars won't Recognize Life if it was Right Under its Nose

I know it's a really long title for a blog post, but I wanted to make something clear.
The Curiosity rover is NOT looking for living organisms, alive or dead. I know a lot of people are hoping Curiosity is gonna find traces of life on Mars, but in fact it's not.

Instead, here's what it's looking for.

"The Mars Science Laboratory is going to take Curiosity with its set of instruments, to figure out if Mars could ever have supported microbial life."
So instead of looking for life itself, they're trying to look at the environment of Mars and see if it was capable of supporting life.

Why aren't they looking for life when finding one on Mars could be a ground-shaking(which is an understatement) discovery?

In the 1970s, the Viking landers were launched to the red planet by NASA. One of Viking's mission goals clearly stated, "search for evidence of life on Mars". It actually did have instruments to detect life there, if it existed.

But the results were negative (though raising some arguments), and seeing there was probably no life on Mars, the public attention was turned elsewhere.

It was a long time before a lander was able to go back to Mars after the Viking missions(in 1997 with the Mars Pathfinder). So the space agency couldn't afford to look for life again in its Curiosity mission and fail again, which would lead to budget cuts for Mars programs.

So, long story short, we are not going to find any Martians this time.
But it's a heck of a cool mission still!

Aug 19, 2012

What We Can Find in Japan's Infamous "Suicide Forest"

Maybe it's not a very appropriate topic to talk about (especially since this is my first post in a while), but I was really inspired by this one video about a "suicide forest" in Japan and I couldn't wait to share it.

I was bewildered when I found this video, because it came to the top of the results when I searched "Japan" on Youtube. Why the heck is this video doing at the top of the list? Is this what Youtube ranked as being the most related to Japan? Surely Japan has things that are less darker than "suicide forests". But results are results, and I  decided I should better watch this video since it was supposed to be so closely linked to my country. (or at least Youtube thinks so)

Honestly, I was just thinking it was some kind of video to give you the chills, one of the typical horror clips on Youtube. But i realized that wasn't the case at all once I got a few minutes into the video.

You gotta see the video to truly understand what I am going to talk about, but for people in a rush, here's a summary-

It is a documentary of the Aokigahara forest near the foot of Mt. Fuji where a lot of people come (around 100 per year) to commit suicide. It's a jungle of trees, so you can get lost easily. In fact, it's considered to be the most "popular" suicide destination in Japan. People come here from all over the country to commit suicide!!
This video follows a geologist who studies plantations and such in the forest, but he does often find bodies, some decomposing and some already skeletons, as he's researching.

It really made sad that so many people end up slowly decomposing in the forest just because they were unable to fit into the society. Of course there are many reasons for their commiting suicides, but it's just sad nontheless.
But what surprised me was his story about the time he actually encountered a man who already had his neck through the noose.
The geologist stopped him, and convinced the man to reconsider. He said that just a simple conversation seemed to cheer him up, and he was able to make the man realize thst he wasn't alone in this world, and they walked out of the forest together.
This should sound like a happy story, but what it really means is that most of the suicides that happen here (well, also anywhere else actually) can be stopped or prevented once they know they still have a chance.

I know I'm not an expert at all about these things so I have to be careful when I say it, but I do think these kinds of suicides are preventable with proper counseling.

So it's really depressing to know that people who still should have a chance to recuperate and take a second go at the society, still choose to take their lives in places like this forest with no one to stop them.