Category: Science

News Odds and Ends – 11/28/2012

By , November 28, 2012 11:23 am

A few tidbits of news from around Korea:

  • More “fake” parts for nuclear reactors were discovered this week. Earlier this month, officials shut down a reactor to replace parts that had been falsely certified. Authorities have discovered another 900+ parts that were falsely labelled with quality certificates.  Engineers have found ways to replace the parts without having to shut down reactors, but it does little to quell fears of poor management and safety procedures in Korea’s electric company.
  • South Korea says that North Korea may be preparing for another rocket launch soon.   South Korea is also preparing for a rocket launch, after a planned launch was scrapped earlier this month for leaks.  South Korea’s new launch is …. soon….perhaps tomorrow, but the country’s space agency is keeping things a low profile with three previous failures under it’s belt.
  • Another Vietnamese tragedy in Korea this week.  A Vietnamese woman in Busan killed herself and her two children when her Korean husband refused her request for a divorce. Citing domestic violence, the woman leaped off the top of her apartment building with her 7 year old daughter and 3 year old son. Meanwhile, the Korean government is attempting to stop marital rape and violence with a new law.
  • Korean English-language newspaper, The Korea Times, fell for a bit of sarcasm this week from well known spoof ‘zine The Onion. The Korea Times has since taken down their article touting North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s ascension to the throne of “Sexiest Man Alive.”
  • The Economist has a great piece on Korea’s Fiery Food and Boring Beer and the reasons why.
  • And finally, just the title alone of this piece made me laugh: “South Korea suffer Classic blow with Bong gone“.  Yes, when my bong was gone, I suffered a blow, too.

News Tidbits – June 6, 2012

By , June 6, 2012 6:15 pm

A few news-worthy items this week in Korea:

  • Christian extremists have won a round with the Ministry of Education. Anti-Evolutionists have convinced textbook makers to leave out portions of evolution from science textbooks. Leaving out science in favor of religious beliefs has caused some concern among the nation’s science community. According to  Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University,

     “The ministry just sent the petition out to the publishing companies and let them judge.”

    Biologists, not consulted by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology are alarmed.  But if that were all, one might write it off as a small group of vocal extremists gaining a foothold in Korea. But even, KAIST. the nation’s leading science institute  has a creation science display on campus that was built in 1993. Apparently, science is taking a back seat.

    A survey of trainee teachers in the country concluded that religious belief was not a strong determinant of their acceptance of evolution. It also found that 40% of biology teachers agreed with the statement that “much of the scientific community doubts if evolution occurs”; and half disagreed that “modern humans are the product of evolutionary processes”.

  • North Korea has recently taken exception with South Korea’s media outlets. So angry are they, in fact, that they have targeted KBS, MBC, SBS and CBS radio. The north was angry over recent reports that school children are being forced to pledge allegiance to the new king of the north, Kim Jong Un. But like other things these days, North Korea can’t seem to get their technology right. The Wall Street Journal reports that the coordinates North Korea published were not the actual locations of the media companies.

    The KCNA statement described one newspaper as being at 37 degrees, 56 minutes and 83 seconds North and 126 degrees, 97 minutes and 65 seconds East. But as everyone who has finished third grade knows, the minute and second numbers shouldn’t exceed 60 when it comes to expressing geographic coordinates.

  • Up to 40 people commit suicide here each day in Korea.  To combat this crisis, a team of 100 housewives, students and mental health experts will surf the web looking for sites that help or encourages Koreans to off themselves. More from the BBC on this here.  Some attribute the problem to overworked children and grades expectations in school. Others believe it to be the incredibly long work hours Koreans endure. Having watched one young man struggle through Korean high school schedules and taught numerous company English classes, I can attest to both factors contributing to my belief that I would not make a very good Korean and would find a way, any way, out of the nightmare.
  • And part of the pressure to succeed in school has attributed to another kind of crisis:  Plagiarism. The problem of copying another’s work as one’s own is not being taken seriously and new cottage industries have cropped up offering thesis and PhD papers for a price. However, as technology savvy as South Korea is, they haven’t yet built the opposing industries of plagiarism detection that is so prevalent in the west.
  • And finally, if you’re one of those people who like to save up their shopping and do it all on the weekend you might want to reconsider. Beginning this weekend, large box retail stores such as Home Plus, Costco, and Lotte Mart and others will be closed on Sunday. In fact, they’ll be closed twice a month from now on, on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. The new rules, imposed by the Seoul government in an attempt to control the free market, are designed to let the mom-and-pop shops get their fair share of the shopping pie.  No doubt, workers in those stores will enjoy their new day off. No word yet on what this will do for the suicide rate among mom-and-pop shops for having to work longer hours while their big-box brethren get an extra holiday.

On the possible nature of things

By , December 25, 2011 12:58 am

Support the “Occupy movement” they say. “Why?” might be your question and a reasonable question it is as any question these days is a good one. Humanity has become impotent in its ability to ask the right questions, simply asking questions is an art diminishing by the decade. My current country of presence is a perfect example of simply accepting the status quo without questioning. The west on the other hand is an example of blatant fear and in many instances denial of the need to ask questions while at the same time it chastises those who do. Hardly any of those looking down on the occupiers asks the most simple of questions “Why?” for they assume that they already know the answer as it has been provided to them by means of various types of media and questioning is unnecessary. The handful of people Occupying are labeled many things, but one thing they cannot be labeled as is inept at asking the right questions.

I had a sit down with a friend a few months ago, engrossed in the most wonderful of after work mixed with dim lights, chill tunes and cold beer stupors, discussing world affairs as we saw them when he objectively inquired if all my extreme revelations may have been acquired within a relatively recent past or whether I had been harboring these opinions for longer than my existence within the past half decade. I had no clear answer to his question and come to understand now that it really doesn’t matter when certain thoughts had occurred to me, for why should it?

In reality only recently have I started to read more, listen more and investigate more and without blowing up my analytical limitations into “a life’s work” I’d like to share a piece of it, may you do with it what you like, this including the administrator of this wonderful website who by now may have realized that this piece is anything but about the city in which we live. I believe, however, that it does affect the people of this city on a personal level and as such I see this to be a fit topic. If after reading you still think what you do, well that’s your problem. This is meant to inspire a positive awareness of our existence on this planet, something that many have been trying to do for several decades now, but here I’d like to put my, possibly new to some, spin on reality.

Ok here we go. Place these purple glasses on your nose. Now you should be able to see the world in a different light, at least for as long as your eyes can follow the black symbols on this page.

Imagine that there is a group of people, we’ll call them group A for a easy way to follow along, who decided to benefit from another group of people, group B, by providing them with goods and services. Occasionally the members of group A went about their business in a scrupulous ways, abandoning ethics, rights and wrongs and focusing on only one possible outcome of their endeavors, namely the before mentioned benefits. The people in group B willingly accepted the terms proposed and what was being given, as the benefits were felt to be mutual. So essentially willingly, although unwittingly, they too were part of the scrupulous process of abandoning ethics and rights and wrongs all out of sheer ignorance. Now you must also imagine a group C, you didn’t think you could just get away with thinking that everything in life actually is black and white did ya? Group C has a vested interest in both group A and B since directly and indirectly group C benefits from both groups. Group C is a powerful group of people but wields it’s power in a profusely acceptable way, and although this has been far from so in the past, in today’s world the past misjudgments of group C have long been pushed under the couch and are slowly disintegrating into the remains of the strewn about dust bunnies. Group C has been very public in its diligently successful effort to perpetuate its power across the centuries, without missing a step mind you, but in a much brighter, sunnier and promising but no less feared way. It’s important to mark that since the power of group C has been spanning across centuries and generations of people, group C’s ability at keeping secrets has obviously been increasingly potent. To add colour to this collage imagine a fourth group, group D, which came about out of spite for group C. The people of group D came together with the same idea in mind and a common goal, which was to undermine in their own right, the doings of group C.

I realize by now that this may read like something from a study but bear with me and you may have something to think about. Labels will soon be provided but based on some unfamiliar to me part of the literary tradition I am attempting to build suspense and commitment on part of the reader.

Group D, although quite open in its beginnings, has managed to “go under”, who knows maybe it is Australia, and maintained somewhat of a sinister aura about its legendary existence. Group D has strived to gather as much power onto its side as possible, and being very successful in these pursuits it has also been able to access information beyond the reaches of group B, who seem to be making up 99% of the group equation. Group D also came to realize that while the mutually beneficial partnership between groups A and B was on some levels good for all groups, it was devastatingly damaging to the planet i.e. life in general, and essentially the groups themselves. With this in mind group D decided to do something about it, and their plan was to save the planet.

Now you must understand that although group D is extremely powerful, it is miniscule in its numbers compared to group A and even more so the immense numbers of group B. Group D has been observing groups A and B while they wallowed in their own creations, their own filth and destruction. It has observed the rise and fall of groups and individuals. It has watched history being written, read, re-written, re-read, with hardly any shift in the doings of those who read still blissfully oblivious in their happiness of material goods steering towards their own destruction as well as the destruction of the planet inhabited by groups C and D, same place. There is another group, group E, but honestly that is hardly worth mentioning as it doesn’t really have a voice on the scene, not one that is being listened to very well by the majority of the groups, or rather the majority of the 99% of the groups.

So group D comes up with a plan to save the existence of the planet, and the groups living on it. It’s a diabolical plan as it’s contrived upon ideals which essentially serve their own survivalist interests, which may or may not help the members of other groups, dependant on group D’s roster of new membership. Group D openly states that it does what’s best of individuals, but that it is not an altruistic group, which essentially means that they’re willing to save those who are willing to follow them, but that they aren’t ready to stick their necks out for anyone unwilling to see the knife.

Now this is a touchy question, and one people don’t readily want to address, but one which has deep importance. I have a feeling that the following might offend some but the reality is out there and those need to deal with it. Imagine this scenario. You’re on a boat, you, your partner and your offspring. Imagine that you are the last of your species, and once you’re gone there will be nothing left. Imagine that the boat is sinking and the only way you can stop it is by displacing one of the individuals. Who will be the displaced one?

This is an emotionally tough decision to make, but luckily group D doesn’t deal in emotions but rather logic. As prescribed by logic, attachment, love and the like are secondary to the preservation of the species and as such group D will chose to keep aboard those capable of reproduction, and please don’t assume that I haven’t acknowledged the existence of incestuous relations and the complications of such offspring. This is merely a very simplified example of a much too complicated matter to be covered in these few paragraphs.

Keeping group D’s thought process in mind, wouldn’t it be relatively easy to see their need to eliminate the potential threat created by groups A and B? The need to eliminate both groups in order to preserve the planet and group E, since although group E is not being listened to very actively by the majority of the 99% of the groups, the fact is written in stone that group D is very much aware of the voiceless group E and sees that group as irreplaceable while groups A and B as well as C are expendable.

From a sober perspective, and I do mean sober, what group D is trying to accomplish is rather chivalry. A big task, a hard weighing responsibility, but hey someone’s gotta do it. The majority of the other 99% sure as hell don’t seem to be able to get their shit together, and at this rate the end of all groups is inevitable and although all groups know it, it seems that only group D is actually on its way of doing something about it.

So, as an individual, what group would you choose to join? Group A and B happily living in a world where ignorance is bliss with only a small portion of its members aware of the inevitable demise of its own species and struggling in an attempt to make the remainder aware?; group C openly enigmatic with connection reaching far beyond group A’s and B’s comprehension, what other influences this particular group may have is rather, mystical?; group D willing to take drastic actions in the name of preservation of the species?; or the voiceless yet irreplaceable group E?

How here’s the plot:

If you said A, you are a corporation. If you said B, you are some part of the acclaimed 99%. If you said C, you are the church. If you said D you are the Illuminati. If you said E, you are an animal, a wild beast that loves life and all that it brings, well not in that sense cause animals function on instinct alone….don’t they? But hey, you’ve got no voice so who cares.

If all of this is confusing take the description and plot it back along the rumble to see if it makes better sense. Oh and by the way, the earth is F, or Alpha, or whatever. She will have her voice heard, but it would be sad if it wasn’t in our life time.

News Bytes

By , July 26, 2011 9:05 am

A few morsels from around Korea.

  • Interested in furthering your education but not sure you want your education from a Korean or online university? Here’s an alternative to those two:  State University of New York (SUNY) will open a campus in Korea with classes beginning in March of 2012. The facility will be located in Songdo, Korea. So far, at least seven SUNY professors have expressed interest in teaching assignments in Korea.
  • Researchers in South Korea have developed a new method to detect breast cancer – using a breathalyzer. Researchers say the painless, simple process detects cancer earlier than other methods and is cheaper. Kudos to Korean scientists!
  • K-Pop stars Girls’ Generation is going global. The 9-member troupe  is set for concerts across Europe after successful concerts in Japan.
  • And from the “I’ll Believe it When I See it” department, the Chosun Ilbo reports that there is a 125% rise in the number of house-husbands in Seoul over the past five years. The times they are a-changin’.
  • Another Korean internet game addict dies in Korea.
  • Korean industry looks hard at Finland’s Nokia for advice on what NOT to do. Although Nokia is a multi-conglomerate similar to many of Koreas chaebols, they’ve lost the status they had in the 90s as one of the big sharks in the technology pond.  The article points to Nokia’s continued used of Symbian as a phone operating system after Google released Android. Samsung dropped their own OS like a bad date and jumped on the Android bandwagon and is now happily swimming near the top of the mobile technology pond.

Can Big Brother Listen to Your Porn?

By , May 23, 2011 10:21 am

If scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have there way, then yes, he could. Scientists at KAIST have developed a computer filter that can discern porn footage on computers by analyzing the sounds of sex.

One wonders who and why they fund such research?One could quite possibly wonder why anyone would care if the footage the average Korean downloads is lewd or not?  To possess porn is illegal in Korea, although the laws are somewhat vague on downloading vs. streaming porn.

Just a hunch, but I’m betting the no one in KAIST’s  audio lab had thoughts of committing suicide as so many others at KAIST have recently.  I’m betting it was a party. Every night.

And then they wonder why 90% of Korean science articles are ignored. This is what the country’s elite science and technology institute calls serious science.

News Bytes

By , May 19, 2011 10:08 am

A few (maybe) interesting bits of news around and about Korea.

  • Despite all the recent hub-bub of privacy violations, Google and  Samsung are now tighter than an ajeosshi at 3am on a Saturday morning. With all the various Android products on the market and Google’s Android OS running on many of them the open source code can become very fragmented as manufacturers modify the code to suit their specific needs. Google has chosen the Samsung Galaxy Tab as it’s reference product. All those Google developers at the I/O conference, all 5,500 of them, got their own Galaxy Tab courtesy of Google.
  • The Hankyoreh, Korea’s most anti-LMB, anti-establishment, news outlet just can’t let a good protest die. In 2008 hundreds of thousands of Koreans marched in Seoul to protest the import and Mad Cow tainted American Beef. That disease and its presence was all proven to be a very bad bit of TV editing and drama by a news show whose executives have paid the price. However, the Hanky wants to stir the pot again and claim Mad Cow exists and we’ll all soon die of it.  The statistics are completely ridiculous (3%-13% of those who died of Alzheimers had the human form of Mad Cow – let’s all panic because 87% – 97% didn’t) I almost don’t want to link to it but here it is. The only redeeming value of the article is that at the very end author Mark Whittaker encourages Korea to grow and eat locally, which I am totally in agreement with.  Where’s my candle?
  • If you intend to export your domestically made or grown products, you’d better have a healthy domestic consumption of your own. Otherwise, as the Dong-A Ilbo reports, you’ll fare much worse when a global recession hits and the only market for your products is depressed. Koreans – listen up: Buy more stuff.
  • Sometimes I worry that no one ever reads the stuff that gets written here on  Apparently, the National Research Foundation of Korea has the same concerns in that 90% of Korean science papers are never cited.  That’s OK, NRF. People don’t appreciate us {pats NRF on the back} but we keep doing it because we like to.
  • We can’t leave the Children to Die” says the head of the German relief organization Cap Anamur, Bernd Göken regarding a worsening food shortage situation in North Korea.  With the South Korean government outlawing aid to the reclusive regime, Seoul has said, “Wanna bet?”
  • We’re officially News! has made the front page (albeit way down the front page) of Korean News Feeds, an RSS conglomerating site that captures headlines from the important sites around Korea.

How’s that beef?

By , February 7, 2011 11:01 am

With Korean farms under attack of Hoof and Mouth disease (FMD) the amount of US beef imported into Korea is on the rise. From slightly over 25% of the market last year, American beef now is just under 33%. Seems a slight rise, but in light of the fact that only two years ago the entire country was aflame because of fears that American beef would kill Koreans. I still find it humorous to think of the absolute hysteria that gripped the country in 2008. That is was fabricated by a TV “news” show looking only to increase ratings is another laughable tidbit.

In December, imports of U.S. beef underwent a sudden increase to nearly 2,500 tons a week, well above the average of 2,000 tons, the data noted.

Korea has slaughtered millions of cows and pigs in its attempt to stem the outbreak of FMD.

Korean Science to the Rescue Again

By , March 11, 2010 12:43 pm

Hats off again to Korean scientists. This time, not for developing a drink that gives you less of a hangover, but for attempting to tackle a much more serious issue – energy.

Despite the relatively low fuel prices these days, it was only 2008 that going to a gas station meant taking out a small loan to fill your tank, particularly if you drove a car or something larger.  Back then, we were paying just a shade less than 2000 won per liter at the pumps.  And unless your home address is on Cloud 9, you can probably guess that one day, soon  perhaps, we’ll be back to paying those prices and higher.

But just because the price is lower now doesn’t mean investment in new technology isn’t warranted. Indeed, now is the time to get something going – before the prices skyrocket back to bicycle-only affordability.  Well, Korean scientists are doing just that. According to Wired News, Park Chul of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and Kim Jongchul of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, are working on technology that is, for now, pie in the sky. But the sky is exactly where they want to be. By deploying an enormous kite from a ship in the ocean, the ship would be pulled through the water forcing water through a turbine that would generate electricity to separate oxygen from hydrogen. The hydrogen could then be stored in containers onboard.

Although the technology sounds as if it might itself be (even literally) on Cloud 9, clearly the world will need some form of energy for the inevitable day when fossil fuels are  gone. More worrisome to this writer, however, is not the point at which they are gone, but the point at which the rising prices due to reduced availability causes energy wars, food for fuel wars and worse.