2013年02月26日

問題は古く答えは少なく 安倍首相とオバマ大統領が緊張するアジアの安全保障を議論する


Old Questions and Few Answers As Japan’s Abe and Obama Discuss Asia
Security Tensions
( TIME )

On Shinzo Abe’s first trip to the United States as Japan’s prime
minister, the key issues included the rise of China, North Korea’s
quest for nuclear weapons and whether Japan would revise its
constitution to allow a standing military. The year was 2007, the
U.S. president was George W. Bush and the global economy had yet to
begin its spectacular implosion. Since then Japan has had five prime
ministers, but as Abe, who resumed his country’s top office in
December, visited Washington again Friday, the agenda was remarkably
similar to what he discussed with President Obama’s predecessor six
years ago.

The escalating Sino-Japanese tensions have prompted some concerns
that the Diaoyu dispute could, 100 years after World War I, set off a
similar devastating armed conflict. Certainly some parallels exist
with the great conflagration that tore apart Europe. China, like
Germany before, is a rising economic and military power that craves
greater respect and global influence. It is engaged in disputes with
several of its neighbors over islands that it says are rightly its
territory. Japan’s defense treaty with the U.S. only increases the
risk that a small incident at sea could, like the assassination of a
little-known archiduke in 1914, lead to a broader war.

An all-out conflict would harm both sides, with both China and Japan
-- the world’s second and third largest economies -- suffering
significant economic loses, says Linda Jakobson, East Asia program
director at the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank. “I fear a
naval or air incident that leads to loss of life, which in today’s
world could not be kept secret, would ignite national sentiments to a
much higher degree than we’ve seen so far,” she says. “That would
really box in the leaders of each side and drastically curtail
maneuvering room.” And while China’s military clout is growing
rapidly -- it’s posted double-digit budget increases for much of the
past two decades and recently launched its first aircraft carrier --
it hasn’t been tested in combat since a short, bloody border war
with Vietnam in 1979. An unsuccessful military campaign could have
serious repercussions for the Communist Party’s hold on power, its
overriding priority.

Meanwhile in the waters northeast of Taiwan the dispute over the
islets continued this week, as a Japanese fishing boat captain said
his ship was pursued by three Chinese maritime surveillance vessels
on Feb. 18, according to reports from Japan’s Asahi Shimbun
newspaper and Tomas Etzler, a Czech television correspondent who was
on the Japanese vessel. On Friday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary
Yoshihide Suga complained that China’s State Maritime Administration
had installed buoys near the islets, the New York Times reported. War
may still be a distant prospect, but so too is a solution.

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2013年02月22日

世界で最も恐ろしい環境に関する事実


The Scariest Environmental Fact in the World
( TIME )

See this sobering graph from the U.S. Energy Information
Administration (EIA):

As the data show, China is now burning almost as much coal as the
rest of the world -- combined. And despite impressive support from
Beijing for renewable energy and a dawning understanding about the
dangers of air pollution, coal use in China is poised to continue
rising, if slower than it has in recent years. That’s deadly for the
Chinese people -- see the truly horrific air pollution in Beijing
this past month -- and it’s dangerous for the rest of the world.
Coal already accounts for 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions,
making it one of the biggest causes of man-made climate change.
Combine that with the direct damage that air pollution from coal
combustion does to human health, and there’s a reason why some have
called coal the enemy of the human race.

Of course, there’s a reason why coal is so popular in China and in
much of the rest of the world: it’s very, very cheap. And that’s
why, despite the danger coal poses to health and the environment,
neither China nor many other rapidly growing developing nations are
likely to turn away from it. (If you really want to get scared, see
this report from the International Energy Agency -- hat tip to Ed
Crooks of the Financial Times -- which notes that by 2017, India
could be importing as much coal as China.) That’s likely to remain
the case in poor nations until clean energy can compete with coal on
price -- and that day hasn’t come yet.

The EIA’s chart also shows how limited President Obama’s ability to
deal with climate change really is. The reality is that the vast
majority of the carbon emissions to come will be emitted by
developing nations like China -- and much of that will be due to
coal. As we’ve reported, the U.S. has reduced coal use and cut
carbon emissions in recent years, even in the absence of
comprehensive climate legislation, thanks to tougher air-pollution
regulations and cheap natural gas from fracking. Yet even as coal has
waned in the U.S., it’s still being burned by the gigaton in other
countries. We won’t beat climate change until we’ve beaten coal,
but I’m not sure there’s much the U.S. can do to persuade China or
India to quit cheap energy -- no matter the cost.

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2013年02月19日

宇宙岩石の嵐 心配はいらない・・・今のところは


The Storm of Space Rocks: Nothing to Worry About -- For Now
( TIME )

Alright people, let’s move on. Nothing to see here. You know that
asteroid of death that whizzed by Earth today at an altitude that’s
actually below some of our satellites? You know that meteor that
exploded in the skies over Russia today, injuring nearly 1,000
people? And you know all that speculation that they’re somehow
connected -- that the Earth has stumbled into some kind of storm-
front of space rocks, any one of which will annihilate us eventually?
Forget it. The two incidents have absolutely nothing to do with each
other, and neither one should cause us all that much worry. Yet.

It’s fair to say that if you live in the city of Chelyabinsk just to
the east of Russia’s Ural mountains, you don’t want to be told
that the blast that shook the region on an otherwise brilliantly
clear day is nothing to worry about. At 9:20 AM local time, what is
thought to have been a 10-ton rock moving 33,000 mph (54,000 k/h)
exploded at an altitude of 18 to 32 miles (30 to 50 km), producing a
several kiloton blast that damaged at least 270 buildings, sent
hundreds of people streaming to hospitals for lacerations from flying
glass and other debris and caused 20,000 emergency response workers
to be mobilized. So that ain’t nothing. And after all the talk about
the planet’s just-passed close shave with a much larger, 70-ton, 150
ft. (45 m) asteroid, it’s no wonder people are skittish.

But as Time reports in this week’s edition (available to subscribers
here), this is nothing new. Earth has always lived in a cosmic
shooting gallery, one that sends about 100 tons of debris plunging
into our atmosphere every day. Most of it is no bigger than a pea and
burns up long before it hits the ground, but we get at least one
basketball-sized object every day too and at least one rock as big as
a small car every few months. Much larger pieces come along less
frequently -- but inevitably.

But even if the Chelyabinsk blast was a routine thing -- as far as
exploding space rocks go, at least -- that doesn’t mean that
asteroid ordnance poses no danger. If 2012 DA14 had plunged through
the atmosphere, it would have produced a 2.4 megaton blast,
equivalent to 180 Hiroshima bombs. Russia already knew a thing or
two about that kind of devastation: in 1908, a 330 ft. (100 m)
asteroid exploded over the Tunguska region in the central part of the
country, producing a 30 megaton blast -- about 1,000 Hiroshimas --
and leveling trees across 830 sq. mi. (2,150 sq. km).

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2013年02月15日

発見 人類はネズミのひ孫だった


Found: Humanity’s Great-Grand-Rat
( TIME )

Most of us think we know exactly what we mean when we use the word
“mammal” -- and most of us are wrong. Typically, we think only of
the sub-group of mammals like us, the so-called placental mammals.
There are two other kinds, however: the egg-laying monotremes, which
include the duck-billed platypus; and the marsupials, which count
kangaroos, opossums and wombats among their ranks. But unless you
live in Australia and a few other spots, the vast majority of mammals
you run into, even at the zoo, are placentals, a group that
encompasses everything from rats to rhinos, gerbils to giraffes,
chipmunks to chimps, and, of course humans as well.

It wasn’t always thus, however. Mammals have been around for
hundreds of millions of years, but placentals for only tens of
millions. Now a new paper just published in Science purports to
pinpoint their, or rather, our, origins with impressive specificity.
The great-great grandfather of us all, argue the authors, was a
small, scurrying, insect-nibbling creature that arose a mere 200,000
to 400,000 years after the cataclysmic extinction event 65 million
years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs (or, more precisely, the non-
avian dinosaurs, since birds are now considered the one branch of the
dinosaur family that survived).

This may seem like just a number to you and me but for
paleontologists and evolutionary biologists, it’s something of a
bombshell. The prevailing wisdom since the 1990’s, based on
assumptions about how quickly mutations arise in DNA, was that the
placentals emerged and began to diversify a whopping 35 million
earlier, spurred by the breakup of the giant continent Pangea into
the smaller landmasses that exist today. They didn’t really flourish
until the dinosaurs went away -- but then, who could, with huge,
voracious lizards towering overhead?

All that impressive brainwork led us back to a rather humbling place:
You, your loved ones and your friends, not to mention Abe Lincoln,
Winston Churchill, Napoleon, Babe Ruth, Marilyn Monroe -- all of us,
in other words -- are the multi-multi-generational grandkids of a rat-
like, half-pound, furry-tailed bug-eater. Like it or not. The work,
Novacek promises, will go on. “This thing will continue to grow like
an organism. We have this important new result, but we also have a
playground for future research.” The science may advance, but our
egos may never recover.

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2013年02月13日

ニャンコが200マイル歩いて帰宅 猫の内なる方位磁石を科学する


How a Kitty Walked 200 Miles Home: The Science of Your Cat’s Inner
Compass
( TIME )

When a battered, skinny tortoiseshell cat wandered into a yard in
Florida earlier this year, she could have been any other stray, but
she was nothing of the kind. She carried an implanted microchip --
one put there by a loving owner -- and it revealed an intriguing
story: the cat belonged to a local family, had been lost on a trip
two months earlier, and had traveled 200 miles (322 km) in that time
to arrive back in her hometown. Her journey inspired a spate of
articles looking for an explanation for how this one cat, and a few
others who’ve made similar trips, managed such impressive feats of
navigation. The response from many eminent animal researchers was the
same: “No idea.”

Part of what navigating animals do is not entirely surprising.
Planetarium studies reveal that some animals steer by the stars, an
approach that’s comfortingly familiar to Homo sapiens but practiced
by organisms as distant as the nocturnal dung beetle, which, as one
recent study revealed, can roll its precious gob of poo in a straight
line only as long as the Milky Way is in view. One of the most
accomplished animal navigation researchers of the twentieth century,
naturalist Ronald Lockley, found that captured seabirds released far
from their homes could make a beeline back so long as either the sun
or the stars were visible; an overcast sky threw them off so much
that many never made it back.

But plenty of other navigating animals are using something most
humans regularly forget exists: the Earth’s magnetic field. In
illustrations, the field is usually depicted as a series of loops
that emerge from the south pole and reenter the planet at the north
pole, and extend out to the edges of our atmosphere, sort of like a
cosmic whisk. Our compass needles are designed to align with the
field, and in the last few decades it’s become clear that numerous
animals can find their way by feeling some of its various field.

To study this, he and colleagues collected baby sea turtles a few
hours before they would have left the nest on their own and put them
in pools surrounded by magnetic coils. The coils were designed to
reproduce the Earth’s magnetic field at specific points along the
turtles’ migration. Reliably, the young turtles oriented themselves
and swam in the direction relative to the magnetic field that, had
they been in the open ocean, would have kept them on course. Lohmann
has tested this with 8 different locations along their route, and in
each case the turtles head in just the direction required to get them
to their destination. The turtles may not know where they are in any
big-picture way -- as Lohmann says, they may not see themselves as
blinking spots on a map -- but they have inherited a sense that
should they feel a particular pull from the magnetic field, well,
better take a right.

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