Stephen Hawking: In 50 Years We’ll Be Living On The Moon

By Aglaia Staff

 I can just imagine the ads.

One-hundred-twenty-year-old Richard Branson would like you to be one of the first to live in the Virgin Moon Residences.

There will be three Virgin Galactic (or perhaps Virgin Lunartic) flights there daily and the residences will be all-inclusive properties with the option of timeshares. They will even have their own mayor: a still-gray Newt Gingrich.


Is my brain suddenly marble-free? No, I’ve been reading the latest predictions from Stephen Hawking.

As the Daily Mail reports, the famed physicist was speaking Sunday night on UK TV in a program called “Live From Space”. His predictions were optimistic, in a pessimistic sort of way.

He said: “Our planet is an old world, threatened with an ever-expanding population and finite resources. We must anticipate these threats and have a plan B.”

Plan B is really Plan M. He said: “Within 50 years, I have no doubt there will be settlements on the moon.”

This view rather echoes that of Newt Gingrich.

When trying to show he was far more progressive than Mitt Romney during the 2012 Republican nomination contest, Gingrich suggested there would be a moon colony during the second term of his presidency.

Some might think this was looking at progress through rose-tinted Google Glass.

I can’t imagine life on the moon being all that much fun. Indeed, Sandra Bullock didn’t seem to have too much entertainment merely floating in space.

If living on the moon will be our only option because, as Hawking suggested, the Earth doesn’t have the resources for so many humans, the life of the future doesn’t seem too attractive.

Moreover, it’s still unresolved whether other beings might be living on the moon or wishing us ill. It was Hawking himself who warned not too long ago that aliens might hate us and feel ill-disposed toward our dissolute ways.

Technology surely has to make rapid advances for humanity to adjust to any new world. Still, Hawking believes that this century will be “the true Space Age.”

What might this entail? Hawking said: “By the end of the century, I truly hope humans will be living on Mars.”

I truly hope humans have the best of luck with that.


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Indian Origin Scientist Makes Blindness Cure A Reality

By Aglaia Staff

An Indian-origin scientist has discovered an ultra-thin layer hidden deep in the eye that can help treat glaucoma, thus taking a step closer to curing blindness caused by the ocular disorder.

Harminder Dua, a professor at Nottingham University, has discovered how a new layer in the human cornea plays a vital role in the structure of the tissue that controls the flow of fluid from the eye, a university press release stated.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, could shed new light on glaucoma, a disease normally associated with increased fluid pressure in the eye which can lead to blindness if left untreated.

The new layer, dubbed as Dua’s Layer, is considered an important contribution to medical science.

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Bill Nye Defends Evolution In Kentucky Debate

By Aglaia Staff

TV’s “Science Guy” Bill Nye and the leader of a Kentucky museum who believes in creationism debated a question Tuesday that has nagged humankind: “How did we get here?”

Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, believes the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and that the Bible tells the factual account of the universe’s beginnings and the creation of humans. Nye said he, and the rest of the scientific community, believe the Earth was created by a big bang billions of years ago and people have evolved over time.

“I just want to remind us all there are billions of people in the world who are deeply religious, who get enriched by the wonderful sense of community by their religion,” said Nye, who wore his trademark bow tie. “But these same people do not embrace the extraordinary view that the Earth is somehow only 6,000 years old.”

Nye said technology keeps the U.S. ahead as a world leader and he worried that if creationism is taught to children the country would fall behind.

“If we continue to eschew science … we are not going to move forward,” Nye said. “We will not embrace natural laws. We will not make discoveries. We will not invent and innovate and stay ahead.”

Ham showed the theater audience of about 800 people — and those watching the debate live on the Internet — slides backing up his assertions.

“Creation is the only viable model of historical science confirmed by observational science in today’s modern scientific era,” Ham said.

He also introduced scientists who he said were also creationists.

“I believe the word ‘science’ has been high-jacked by secularists,” Ham said.

Some scientists were critical of Nye for agreeing to debate the head of a Christian ministry that is dismissive of evolution.

Jerry Coyne, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog that “Nye’s appearance will be giving money to organizations who try to subvert the mission Nye has had all his life: science education, particularly of kids.” Coyne pointed out that the Creation Museum will be selling DVDs of the event.

The museum quickly sold out its 800 seats, thanks in part to Nye’s celebrity as the former host of “Bill Nye The Science Guy,” a 1990s science education TV program that is still played in some classrooms. Some people in the audience wore “Bill Nye is my home boy” T-shirts. Another fan wore a bow tie and Nye’s signature lab coat.

Ham said there were hundreds of thousands of visitors to his Facebook page Tuesday, and the Creation Museum hasn’t had the spotlight shined on it like this since its opening in May 2007.

Nye waded into the evolution debate in an online video in 2012 that urged parents not to pass their religious-based doubts about evolution on to their children. Ham rebutted Nye’s statements with his own online video with comments from scientists who work at the museum.

Since the debate was announced in early January, attention has been heaped on the Creation Museum and its directing ministry, Answers in Genesis, which is raising money for a theme park built around a replica of Noah’s Ark. The project was announced in 2011 but fundraising has been slow and its groundbreaking date is in limbo.

The Creation Museum said visitors from 29 states bought seats for the debate.



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70 Percent Of Defence Machinery Imported

By Aglaia Staff

When drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, of the US Army fly over enemy territory, they use a technology developed by a little-known Bangalore company to send back crystal clear images to their command centre. This technology is used by armed forces around the world, except in India — the home of its developer ArvindLakshmikumar, who founded Tonbo Imaging four years ago.

Tonbo developed this technology for Europe’s biggest defence company which, in turn, sold it to various armed forces. Lakshmikumar, 36, had been keen to sell such innovations to the Indian armed forces, but gave up after he realised the futility of trying to convince the authorities here that his products were among the best in the world.


He shifted his headquarters to Singapore, as he felt that he could crack the global market for his technologies better from the Southeast Asian city state. Lakshmikumar’s ordeal is just another example of the difficulties and frustrations that small Indian aerospace and defence companies have to go through, facing a hostile bureaucratic set up on the one side and a colonial mindset on the other.

“There is a serious colonial hangup for foreign products,” says Lakshmikumar. “For an Indian bidder they have millions of questions.” The milieu is skewed so against the local players that while an Indian bidder is asked to pay a security deposit, a foreign bidder is not.

“The system is structured in such a way that even if we need a pin, we prefer to import it rather than make it ourselves,” says Smita Purushottam of the New Delhi-based think tank Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses.

India imports more than 70 per cent of its weapons and technology for its defence needs, making it a sitting duck for security threats during wars. In contrast, even Pakistan has a more proactive policy that encourages domestic manufacturers. China is in a different league altogether. The mindset of those in power is also hurting the economy. India will spend $100-150 billion (about Rs 5.4-8.1 lakh crore) on defence modernisation programmes by 2022, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. It will also become the fourth biggest defence spender in the world by 2020, behind the US, China and Russia, according to IHS, a US-based information and analytics provider.

“The best of our minds are utilised by other countries for their progress,” says A Sivathanu Pillai, a scientist and CEO of BrahMos Aerospace, the maker of BrahMos missile. “Put them on the same level field, and they will compete.” The government said its intention was to promote local companies when it unveiled its offset policy in 2005-2006, requiring foreign firms winning defence contracts to ensure that at least 30 per cent of the contracted value is invested in India. But most of it is still on paper.

“As of today not a single offset contract has been fulfilled,” says S Ravinarayanan, chairman of Axis Aerospace & Technologies. He points out that of the 18 offset contracts worth $15 billion that have been signed since 2006, offset commitments were made for deals worth $4.62 billion. “Original equipment manufacturers have repeatedly defaulted in discharging their offset obligations,” he says, suggesting that it is the responsibility of government to ensure that the obligations are met.

The government says it will take more time to see the effects of the new policies. “Rome was not built in a day,” Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters recently at Aero India 2013 in Bangalore. Text messages and phone calls to Jitendra Singh, minister of state for defence, were not answered. Small companies also complain that the government is doing little to encourage them, unlike in the United States or in Israel, where grants are given for companies with promising technologies.

“We are made to compete directly with multinationals for projects. A small entrepreneur cannot beat multinationals,” says Siddharth Amin of Swallow Systems which makes unmanned aerial vehicles. “The government procedure is so long, cumbersome.”

An engineer, Amin, 43, shut down his profitable computer hardware business to pursue his passion for making unmanned aerial vehicles. After more than a decade of research, he launched Swallow. But despite having cutting-edge products, his company is yet to find any takers in the government. On the other hand, Amin’s counterpart, Integrated Dynamics, in Pakistan, started about the same time as he did and has thrived due to government support. “It now makes combat drones,” says Amin, who now earns his living by providing mapping services to mining companies in India and overseas. “We have not lost hope,” he insists.

He was also a part of government-funded programmes like Future Combat Systems intended to prepare the US Army for modern warfare.

Lakshmikumar soon realised that India still does not have an ecosystem like the US or Israel, where government-run organisations fund young companies to develop new technologies. Indian entrepreneurs also face delays in payments. A foreign bidder gets a “letter of credit” before shipping the products, but an Indian bidder’s payment gets delayed for months on end.

Rajiv Chib, associate director of the aerospace and defence practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that Indian entrepreneurs have already overcome challenges on a global scale. “However, doing business is still not easy for them due to certain India-specific practical challenges.” Also, regulatory hurdles are time-consuming and can lead to missed opportunities.

Captronic Systems developed an indigenous in-flight data recorder at one-tenth the cost of imported ones. It offered the equipment to state-run Hindustan Aeronautics. 

“No country has become a major technological power without nurturing an innovative, fast-growing manufacturing foundation.”


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With GSLV Blast Off, India Now A Cryogenic Power

By Aglaia Staff

 The Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO achieved another milestone today as it successfully launched the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle or GSLV-D5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. 

The advanced GSAT-14 communications satellite that the rocket was carrying has also been placed into orbit.

“I am happy to say that Team ISRO has done it,” ISRO chief Dr K Radhakrishnan said after what was a make-or-break launch for the space agency owing to two earlier failures.

The Rs. 350-crore mission marks India’s entry into the multi-billion dollar commercial launcher market on a fully indigenous large rocket. ISRO said the GSLV-D5 will be operational after one more test.

ISRO has now become the sixth space agency in the world after US, Russia, Japan, China and France to have tasted success with an indigenous cryogenic engine.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh also congratulated the ISRO for the launch. “PM congratulates the scientists and engineers of ISRO for the successful launch of GSLV D5 carrying GSAT-14 payload,” his office tweeted.

For over 20 years, the cryogenic technology was denied to India by Russia under pressure from the US. The launch today defies that denial regime and marks the coming of age of India’s indigenous space technology. Now, India seeks to attract foreign satellite launches due to its competitive cost. 

The GSLV program had suffered twin back-to-back failures three years ago and its last launch in August was aborted minutes before lift-off.

On August 19, 2013, a major mishap was averted and the launch of the GSLV was aborted 74 minutes before lift-off after ISRO scientists found that about 750 kilograms of highly inflammable and explosive fuel had leaked out in the second stage.

ISRO has announced that GSLV will be the launch vehicle for India’s next moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, in 2016.


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Story Of The Original Doctor Who

By Aglaia Staff

Wearing a white wig and with a wild glint in his eye, the middle-aged actor took to the floor of a cramped and run-down BBC studio in 1963 and opened the doors on a half-century of time travel.

William Hartnell, then 55, was the first and in some ways the strangest of the men who would star in Doctor Who; who turns 50 years old today. His Doctor was a Jekyll and Hyde personality who could be unnervingly stern on one hand and lovable and funny on the other.

His real-life personality was no less complex. An actor who had enjoyed a long career in classical theatre, feature films and TV, he was at the same time a loving husband, devoted father and granddad – and a serial womaniser and serious drinker who struggled to come to terms with a past he considered deeply shameful.

Despite many predictions that the curious new science-fiction show would be a dud – and an opening night that clashed with compelling coverage of the JFK assassination – Doctor Who became a big success in its original Saturday teatime slot.

And it was Hartnell – until then best-known for military roles in Carry On Sergeant and The Army Game – who laid down the Time Lord template.

In his dress shirt and frock coat, his Doctor seemed the epitome of Edwardian respectability. But Hartnell was acutely conscious that he was an illegitimate child who never knew his father.

He always hid the truth about a background so poor he had to shoplift as a child.

At 21 he married actress Heather McIntyre but he had countless affairs and one- night liaisons over the years. His granddaughter and biographer Jessica Carney, 56, thinks he was trying to prove something to himself.

he says: “The marriage was complicated. Heather admired his talent and enjoyed his success but was driven to distraction by his heavy drinking and womanising. He admired and needed her so much yet still chased after other women.

“It went on until late in life. I found a letter he had written to my gran saying, ‘I know I haven’t been a very good husband’. It was heartfelt.”

Jessica, a talent agent from London, says her gran wanted to divorce Hartnell many times and in the late 1940s even enlisted a family friend to get the proof of his infidelity that was necessary to start proceedings in those days.

The bid failed because he got too drunk to have sex with the young woman he picked up.

Many years later, soon after his retirement from Doctor Who in 1966, he started sleeping with an actress starring in the same pantomime.

Jessica says: “Heather found out but was by now so fed up she apparently let it be known that the girl could have him if she wanted. That decided it. Bill didn’t want to leave Heather.

“That was what was so ridiculous – he was outwardly very proud of her. But that didn’t stop him causing her unhappiness.”

Jessica, whose book Who’s There? The Life and Career of William Hartnell has been reprinted for the anniversary, says the family knew never to ask about his past.

“It was a big insecurity for him not knowing his father. He was ashamed and didn’t talk about his childhood. It hugely affected his confidence,” she says.

He told the interviewer on Desert Island Discs in 1965 he was born in the village of Seaton in Devon. In fact he was born in St Pancras, London, in 1908 and his mother Lucy was an unwed mum, a huge stigma at the time.

First he sent William to train as a jockey, then to the Italia Conti acting school. He was a success and joined a touring theatre company in 1925. After marrying Heather they had one girl, Heather Anne.

As well as the first Carry On film and The Army Game TV comedy, Hartnell also had roles in classic films including Brighton Rock and This Sporting LifeWhat happened next is told in tonight’s BBC2 Doctor Who docu-drama, An Adventure In Time and Space.

In 1963 work was running dry when Hartnell was offered Doctor Who. He had to be wined and dined by novice producer Verity Lambert – the BBC’s first woman in that role – and director Waris Hussein, before he was persuaded.

Jessica explains: “They told him the premise: a bizarre old man whose origins are shrouded in mystery accompanied by his granddaughter, Susan, travels through time and space in a machine called the Tardis disguised as a police telephone box. My grandfather had been a serious actor in big films, playing soldiers and crooks and policemen. He was uncertain at first.”

Thankfully Lambert won him round. The first rehearsal took place on Saturday, September 21 1963, and the pilot episode was recorded the following Friday. Hartnell plunged into his role with relish and at times struggled to separate reality from fiction.


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Voyager Spacecraft: What It Teaches The Universe About Mankind

300px Ann Druyan 1 Voyager Spacecraft: What It Teaches The Universe About Mankind

English: Ann Druyan (born June 13, 1949) is an American author and media producer known for her involvement in many projects aiming to popularize and explain science. She is probably best-known as the last wife of Carl Sagan, and co-author of the Cosmos series and book, along with Sagan and Steven Soter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Aglaia Staff

The unmanned, car-sized craft, which was built in the 1970s, has now officially burst out of the protective magnetic bubble that forms around the sun.

It will give scientists the first true glimpse of what lies beyond our own solar system as on board instruments are exposed to the full barrage of particles and cosmic radiation that lie beyond the sun’s heliosphere.

But while it will provide us Earthlings with a new perspective on our galaxy, the Voyager 1 spacecraft also has the potential to teach other intelligent life about our own lives.

On board the spacecraft is a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk, engraved with drawings on how to play it.

Encoded on the disk in a phonographic record format are sounds and images from Earth.

So what will Voyager reveal to the universe about mankind:


Human technology

Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 were launched in the late 1970s. The technology they carry is more than 36 years old.

In fact, the entire computing power that has navigated Voyager 1 over its 11.6 billion mile journey from Earth can now be found inside an iPhone.

For any space-faring alien life that stumble across the spacecraft, this may paint a fairly primitive picture of life on Earth.

However, they would also be able to calculate from the Voyager’s speed and trajectory, exactly how long it has been travelling for, and so will perhaps realise we have advanced.


The first human contact

Among the many images and sounds carried on the golden disks on Voyager 1 and 2 is a recording of the brain waves of a human being.

The electrical activity produced by the brain of Ann Druyan, an author and television producer, has been stored on the disks in a minute long soundtrack that consists of a string of crackles and pops.

Miss Druyan was the creative director of the Voyager Interstellar Message Project, which she was working on with Dr Carl Sagan, the American astronomer who led the project.

While putting together the disks, the pair fell in love and some of the electrical activity is of her thinking about the moment the pair decided to marry.

She said she wanted the record to carry a message of her feelings of having fallen in love.

She also read from a script that recited philosophical ideas and discussed key moments in history.

She said: “We created a message that could potentially last for a thousand million years.

“The most audacious and ambitious attempt ever made at being remembered, and show who we really are, is on that space craft, bound for a future that we can only dream about.

“People often ask me, ‘What will the extra terrestrials, should they exist, think of us if they encounter the record?’

“They will encounter that space craft first and that will tell them so much about us.”


Namaste! Sat Sri Akal! Ni hao! Bonjour! Merhaba! Greetings from around the world

The disks also include greetings and messages in 55 languages.

Among them are a message in Welsh and six now extinct tongues.

The Welsh message translates to say: “Good health to you now and forever.”

Sounds of human life

Among the audio recordings are the sounds of footsteps across a polished floor, a human heartbeat and someone laughing. There is also the sound of a couple kissing and a mother with her child.

300px Voyager Program   spacecraft diagram Voyager Spacecraft: What It Teaches The Universe About Mankind

Visit English: Diagram of the Voyager spacecrafts with labels pointing to the important instruments and systems. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recordings are designed to give an insight into some of the most natural sounds produced by humans during our lives.

Other sounds on board include the sound of thunder, volcanoes erupting, an earthquake, wind, rain and waves breaking on a beach.

Animals sounds of a chimpanzee, a hyena, birds, crickets, frogs and elephants are also included.

Other human activities such as a horse pulling a cart, a blacksmith at work, sawing and someone herding sheep are also included.

To give an idea of what humans are capable of, morse code, the sound of a tractor, a train, bus, boats and car, along with an F-111 aircraft flying by and a Saturn 5 rocket taking off, are all included.

More primal sounds from human history are also included, such as a fire and the first tools being used.

What little green men might make of this collage of sounds from Earth is hard to say.

Music From Earth

A range of music was chosen by nations from around the world and was included on the Voyager record.

The German’s chose a four minute clip from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 2 in F while Australia included some Aborigine songs including one called Morning Star.

There are also some Peruvian panpipe music and traditional music from Georgia and new Guinea.



The book of life

Among the pictures electronically encoded onto the disk are a couple that reveal the structure of DNA – the molecule found in every living cell that encodes life.

Whether alien life would have similar DNA or be based on molecules that are somewhat different is still a matter that is greatly debated.

These images, however, will reveal the molecular basis for life here on Earth.

Other images show cells and cell division while aliens would also be given a lesson in human anatomy and reproduction from some of the other images carried.


We are here

Another image on the disk is map showing the location of our solar system. There are also images of the planets taken by Nasa spacecraft.

There are some images of the Earth too, including a close-up of the River Nile as it winds its way through Egypt.

There are several pictures of landscapes on Earth including Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef along with pictures of forest scenes, sand dunes, fallen leaves and snowflakes.

Pictures of animals such as dolphins, fish, tree toads and eagles are included, while images of humans including Jane Goodall with some chimps also feature.

Snapshots of everyday lives make up the bulk of the images, including an elderly man, a mountain climber, a gymnast and a Chinese dinner party.

Take me to your leader

Perhaps one of the most helpful images to be included for any alien life forms wanting to get in touch with some Earthlings is a series of images of the UN building in New York at night and during the day.

Great landmarks such as the Great Wall of China, famous Indian buildings, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sydney Opera House are also included.

Let’s hope that whatever finds the disks are not hostile, otherwise these may become the first targets they attack. Interestingly the White House was not one of the images included.

 Voyager Spacecraft: What It Teaches The Universe About Mankind
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Indian Mathematician’s Secrets Unearthed


By Sunil Kumar

While on his death bed, the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan cryptically wrote down functions he said came to him in dreams, with a hunch about how they behaved. Now 100 years later, researchers say they’ve proved he was right.

“We’ve solved the problems from his last mysterious letters. For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been open for 90 years,” Emory University mathematician Ken Ono said.

Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician born in a rural village in South India, spent so much time thinking about math that he flunked out of college in India twice, Ono said.

But he sent mathematicians letters describing his work, and one of the most preeminent ones, English mathematician G. H. Hardy, recognized the Indian boy’s genius and invited him to Cambridge University in England to study. While there, Ramanujan published more than 30 papers and was inducted into the Royal Society.

“For a brief window of time, five years, he lit the world of math on fire,” Ono told LiveScience.

But the cold weather eventually weakened Ramanujan’s health, and when he was dying, he went home to India.

It was on his deathbed in 1920 that he described mysterious functions that mimicked theta functions, or modular forms, in a letter to Hardy. Like trigonometric functions such as sine and cosine, theta functions have a repeating pattern, but the pattern is much more complex and subtle than a simple sine curve. Theta functions are also “super-symmetric,” meaning that if a specific type of mathematical function called a Moebius transformation is applied to the functions, they turn into themselves. Because they are so symmetric these theta functions are useful in many types of mathematics and physics, including string theory.

Ramanujan believed that 17 new functions he discovered were “mock modular forms” that looked like theta functions when written out as an infinte sum (their coefficients get large in the same way), but weren’t super-symmetric. Ramanujan, a devout Hindu, thought these patterns were revealed to him by the goddess Namagiri.

Srinivasa Ramanujan   OPC   2 Indian Mathematicians Secrets Unearthed

Visit Srinivasa Ramanujan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ramanujan died before he could prove his hunch. But more than 90 years later, Ono and his team proved that these functions indeed mimicked modular forms, but don’t share their defining characteristics, such as super-symmetry.

The expansion of mock modular forms helps physicists compute the entropy, or level of disorder, of black holes.

In developing mock modular forms, Ramanujan was decades ahead of his time, Ono said; mathematicians only figured out which branch of math these equations belonged to in 2002.

“Ramanujan’s legacy, it turns out, is much more important than anything anyone would have guessed when Ramanujan died,” Ono said.

The findings were presented last month at the Ramanujan 125 conference at the University of Florida, ahead of the 125th anniversary of the mathematician’s birth on Dec. 22.



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Japan’s Last Ninja: An Engineer

By Sunil Kumar

63-year-old former engineer may not fit the typical image of a dark-clad assassin with deadly weapons who can disappear into a cloud of smoke. But Jinichi Kawakami is reputedly Japan’s last ninja.

As the 21st head of the Ban clan, a line of ninjas that can trace its history back so

300px Bansenshukai v8 diagram Japans Last Ninja: An Engineer

Visit English: A page from the Bansenshukai, a ninjutsu manual written in 1675 Volume 8. This diagram uses cosmology and divination practices to determine a good time to take certain actions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

me 500 years, Kawakami is considered by some to be the last living guardian of Japan’s secret spies.

“I think I’m called (the last ninja) as there is probably no other person who learned all the skills that were directly” handed down from ninja masters over the last five centuries, he said.

“Ninjas proper no longer exist,” he said as he demonstrated the tools and techniques used in espionage and sabotage by men fighting for their samurai lords in the feudal Japan of yesteryear.

Nowadays they are confined to fiction or used to promote Iga, some 350 kilometres (220 miles) southwest of Tokyo, a mountain-shrouded city near the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto that was once home to many ninjas.

Kawakami, a former engineer who began teaching ninjutsu — the art of the ninja — ten years ago, said the true history of ninjas was a mystery.

“There are some drawings of their tools but we don’t always find all the details,” which may have been left deliberately vague, Kawakami said.

“Many of their traditions were passed on by word of mouth, so we don’t know what was altered in the process.”

And those skills that have arrived in the 21st century in their entirety are sometimes difficult to verify.

“We can’t try out murder or poisons. Even if we can follow the instructions to make a poison, we can’t try it out,” he said.

Kawakami first encountered the secretive world of ninjas at the age of just six, but has only vague memories of first meeting his master, Masazo Ishida, a man who dressed as a Buddhist monk.

“I kept practising without knowing what I was actually doing. It was much later that I realised I was practising ninjutsu.”

Kawakami said training ranged from physical and mental skills to studies of chemicals, weather and psychology.

“I call ninjutsu comprehensive survival techniques,” though it originated in war skills such as espionage and guerrilla attacks, he said.

“For concentration, I looked at the wick of a candle until I got the feeling that I was actually inside it. I also practised hearing the sound of a needle dropping on the floor,” he said.

He climbed walls, jumped from heights and learned how to mix chemicals to cause explosions and smoke.

“I was also required to endure heat and cold as well as pain and hunger. The training was all tough and painful. It wasn’t fun but I didn’t think much why I was doing it. Training was made to be part of my life.”

Kawakami said he was “a strange boy” growing up but his practice drew little attention at a time when many in Japan were struggling to make ends meet in the hard post-war years.

Just before he turned 19, he inherited the master’s title, along with secret scrolls and special tools.

Kawakami is careful not to claim the title of the “last ninja” for himself and in the sometimes sectarian world of ninjutsu there are doubters and rival claimants, with the disputes centring on the authenticity of various teachings.

Kawakami says much of the ninja’s art lies in catching people unawares, rather than in brute force.

“Humans can’t be on the alert all the time. There is always a moment when they are off guard and you catch it,” he said.

It is all about exploiting weaknesses that allows the ninja to outfox much bigger or more numerous opponents; distracting attention to allow a quick getaway.

It is possible to hide — in a manner of speaking — behind the smallest of things, Kawakami said.

“If you throw a toothpick, people will look that way, giving you the chance to flee.

“We also have a saying that it is possible to escape death by perching on your enemy’s eyelashes; it means you are so close that he cannot see you.”

Kawakami recently began a research job at the state-run Mie University, where he is studying the history of ninjas.

But, he said as he showed an AFP team around the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum and its trick house with hidden ladders, fake doors and an underfloor sword box, he is resigned to the fact that he is the last of his kind.

There will be no 22nd head of the Ban clan because Kawakami has decided not to take on any more apprentices.

“Ninjas just don’t fit in the modern day,” he said.

300px Kano Jigoro Japans Last Ninja: An Engineer

Visit ????? (Kano Jigoro, 1860 - 1938), the founder of modern Judo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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A Tool To Map Birth, Evolution of Galaxies

300px Messier51 sRGB A Tool To Map Birth, Evolution of Galaxies

Visit The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5194) is a classic spiral galaxy located in the Canes Venatici constellation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Sunil Kumar

Astrophysicists have developed a new computational approach that can accurately map the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years. It can also help build a universe from scratch that brims with galaxies.

“We’ve created the full variety of galaxies we see in the local universe,” said Mark Vogelsberger from Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (CFA), which worked with Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) (Germany) on the project.

The Earth’s cosmic neighbourhood is littered with majestic spiral galaxies like Andromeda, Pinwheel and Whirlpool. Spirals are common, but previous simulations had trouble creating them.

Instead, they produced lots of blobby galaxies clumped into balls, without the broad disks and outstretched arms of a typical spiral, said Vogelsberger, according to a CFA and HITS statement.

The new software, called Arepo, solves this problem. Created by Volker Springel of HITS, Arepo generates a full-fledged simulation of the universe, taking as input only the observed afterglow of the Big Bang and evolving forward 14 billion years.

“We took all the advantages of previous codes and removed the disadvantages,” explained Springel.

Our simulations improve over previous ones as much as the Giant Magellan Telescope will improve upon any telescope that exists now,” said Debora Sijacki from CFA.

One of Arepo’s key advantages is the geometry it uses. Previous simulations divided space into a bunch of cubes of fixed sizes and shapes. Arepo uses a grid that flexes and moves in space to match the motions of the underlying gas, stars, dark matter, and dark energy.

300px NGC 4414 %28NASA med%29 A Tool To Map Birth, Evolution of Galaxies

Visit Galaxies are so large that stars can be considered particles next to them (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Simulations on Harvard’s Odyssey high-performance supercomputer used 1,024 processor cores. This fast machine allowed scientists to compress 14 billion years into a few months, an endeavour that would have kept a desktop computer busy for hundreds of years.


 A Tool To Map Birth, Evolution of Galaxies
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