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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

President George H W Bush In WW2

Recently, former U.S. president George H.W. Bush’s wife and former first-lady, Barbara Bush, passed away. She seemed like a nice person.

Regardless of his political background, president Bush was the leader of the most powerful country in the world, and to be fair, he didn’t do a bad job of running it.

That's Bush in the center of the photo above, he is flanked by Joe Reichert (left) and Leo Nadeau (right), in this WWII image (Robert Stinnett/U.S. National Archives).  

Since he was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts, U.S.A., I realized he would have been of age to participate in WWII, and wondered if there was a Japanese connection, besides his unfortunate illness while attending a banquet and barfing into the lap of then-Japanese prime minister Miyazawa Kiichi (surname first).

Guess what? There was… and it’s a far more interesting story than watching a poor guy vomit and faint during a political dinner.

When Japan attacked the American naval base of Pearl Harbor on American protectorate Hawaii back on December 7, 1941, Bush was 17-years-old and a senior attending Phillips Academy Andover.

Like many Americans of that era, he wanted to immediately enlist, but could not because of his age.

He thought about going to Canada to sneakily enlist in the Royal Air Force so he could be a pilot, but he also realized that while he wanted to go and help fight the Japanese, it would be better if he waited and joined the U.S. Navy.

After graduating from Andover, he was sworn into the Navy. About one year later, he was an officer of the United States Naval Reserve and a naval aviator, assigned to fly torpedo bombers off aircraft carriers in the Pacific theater.

In September of 1943, he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51) as the photographic officer, and by early 1944, his squadron was assigned to the USS San Jacinto (CVL-30, an Independence-class light aircraft carrier. He was part of the Allied forces’ largest air battles of WWII in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19–20, 1944). 

Now a Lieutenant, junior grade, on August 1, 1944 the USS San Jacinto began attack operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands, (aka the Ogasawara Islands, 小笠原群島, Ogasawara Guntō), an archipelago of 30+ islands 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) due south of Tokyo.

Bunin means “no people”, aka uninhabited, but that’s not entirely true, as the islands of Hahajima (母島) and Chichijima (父島) are inhabited. During WWII, there were 6,886 civilians living there (both islands), as of 1944.

Chichijima, aka Father Island, was once known as Peel Island, and is the largest island in the Ogasawara archipelago, and nowadays has about 2,000 people living there.

The Japanese had set up a small naval base on Chichijima in 1914, back when they were allied against Germany et al in WWI (aka The Great War). During WWII, however, it was the primary site of long range Japanese radio stations, as well as being the central base of supply and communication between Japan and the Bonin Islands. It had an armed forces of about 3,800. 

In 1944, all Japanese civilians were told to evacuate the archipelago as Allied Forces began to push the Japanese back towards the mainland. In fact, Japanese troops and resources from Chichijima were used in reinforcing the strategic point of Iwo Jima before battle there from February 19 to March 24, 1945.

On Just a shade over the age of 20, on September 2, 1944, Bush and his team were to fly over Chichijima and try and take out a radio tower there.

Bush, along with William G. White (aka Ted) and John “Del” Delaney, took off, but were hit by anti-aircraft guns near the island. Bush’s nickname, as evidenced by his skinny frame in the photo at the top, was “Skin”, as I can only imagine they already had someone named “Bones”.

Bush told White and Delaney to get read to parachute out as cockpit filled with smoke and the wings became engulfed in flames.

This should be the stuff that legends of war are remembered for: Despite the choking smoke in the cockpit, Bush continued to steer the aircraft towards his radio tower target, dropped the bomb payload, blew up the radio tower and, as he continued to steer the plane back away from the island, told his crew to parachute out.

Bush then climbed out of the cockpit hatch to prepare for his own jump, but the force of the wind hit him hard, lifting him off his feet and throwing him back onto the aircraft’s tail, cutting his head and smashing his eye, as he sailed back away from the flaming plane as it headed toward a watery doom in the Pacific Ocean.

As his parachute expanded, he watched his plane hit and sink beneath the waves before he himself crashed into the water before resurfacing.

Tough SOB that Bush is, despite the one eye getting smacked, both eyes burning from the cockpit smoke, the gash on the head, a now water-laden flight suit, and a mouthful of salty water, and, let’s face it, in a bit of shock from the whole day’s event, he spotted a life raft, which he managed to inflate and get into it.

The bigger problem now for Bush, was that the waves were pushing the inflatable raft back towards Chichijima, so armed with nothing but his arms, he began to paddle away from the island.

A good thing too, as to have ended up on Chichijima as a POW (prisoner-of-war) would have been difficult, as there were later reported war crimes there.Which I'll get to below.

Perhaps because of the smoke inhalation, sea sickness from the stress, or simply because he had concussed himself when he was blown back against his aircraft’s tail, Bush paddled and barfed, as he looked frantically for his comrades White and Delaney… but of them, he never saw again.

After a while, weak and weary, and thinking he was hallucinating, a U.S. submarine suddenly broke the surface near him, turning the dire situation into a rescue op. It was the USS Finback (SS-230), a Gato-class submarine.

This is really a still from a video of George Bush Sr. being rescued by the submarine! Image via

You can also hear president Bush speak about the ordeal in his own words:

As for the war crimes committed by the Japanese at Chichijima - there was something called the Chichijima (or Ogasawara) Incident, when in 1944 and 1945 Japanese soldiers killed and ate several captured American airmen.

Yup… cannibalism. Bush luckily missed out on the worst Japanese meal ever. Holy crap.

Now the military records do NOT mention cannibalism in their charges against the Japanese, mostly because cannibalism wasn’t specifically mentioned in military or international law (at that time).

After nine American airmen in different planes were shot down during various raids on Chichijima, eight were captured… Bush being the lone man to avoid capture.

These eight airmen were beaten and tortured before being executed, a fact only discovered after the war.

The men had all been beheaded on the orders of Lt. Gen. Tachibana Yoshio (立花芳夫, surname first).

And parts of four of the men were cannibalized by Japanese officers—their livers—done either as part of some weird-ass ritualistic thing, or to stem off starvation... though just consuming the liver seems less about starvation, and more about a ritual—eating your enemy as a show of defiance.   

I can tell you that my downstairs neighbor in Japan who was stuck on one of these islands during the war was only too happy to surrender when Allied troops landed because they were starving. He told me that the Americans were kind and generous and took good care of him and his remaining squad—something he did not expect because his commanding officers and the government were always going on about how evil the Allied Forces were. They were brainwashed by propaganda.

After the war, 30 Japanese soldiers on the island were tried for war crimes. As mentioned, since cannibalism wasn’t apparently a crime, they were tried for murder and “prevention of honorable burial”. 

Five were found guilty: Major Matoba, General Tachibana, Admiral Mori, Captain Yoshii, and Doctor Teraki.

When I began this article, I was hoping to write a story that got away from president Bush’s unfortunate future vomiting incident in Japan, but little did I know there would be lots more vomiting as part of the story, and an ending that made me sick to my stomach.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Okay, so does this article make up for the crappy one from yesterday?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Building A Greener Japan

We hear a lot of words tossed around these days about sustainable this and sustainable that, and few people have any notion as to what it really means, except that’s it’s a catchy phrase that is meant to inform you that they are into being green. 

Back when I was a kid, the term was ecology… a catch-all phrase that mean you were into the environment in a way that showed you cared… and were trying to do something about it…

The flag above was the old ecology flag… used by environmentalists.

My best ever science fair project was my display on ecology, showing how long it took for different products to break down naturally in the environment, should the Earth last long enough for any of us to still be there to see it.

Styrofoam, was one of those biggies… and along with the Styrofoam cups, we used to get our McDonalds' Big Macs and Quarter Pounders in them—and when McDonalds finally switched over to a paperboard container, the planet breathed a little easier. 

Nowadays, we know about Earth Day… - that was this past Sunday, though I doubt any of us did anything about it.

I wish I could afford an electric car. At least here in Canada, I would feel a lot better about driving such a vehicle knowing that the electrical power comes from cleaners sources… for example, not coal, than the United States, or as we call them Central North America.

I have nothing against the folks who worked their butts off in the coal industry, and I am sorry it has created massive economic problems in those areas due to closings, but dammit, the black lung… the health concerns for the workers/miners just numbs my brain. 

While certain Central North Americans seem to have zero interest in protecting the environment, and refuse to believe in such things like the planet is suffering due to man-made intervention, I at the very least am able to think for myself and don’t feel I have to toe the party line and sacrifice my soul just to realize that the world is not in the best of shape, and failure to look after things now means future generations are going to be fugged.

An inability to realize that is just selfish.

So… what is sustainability?

Wikipedia actually offers a decent definition:

It is the property of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes.

Japan is hardly a country that pops to mind when discussing “sustainability” and “environmental greenness.”

While much of Japan is covered in greenery… much of it… and yeah, school kids do go out once a year into towns to clean local communities… and yeah, waste separation and pick-up is ahead of many countries… there’s still a negative vibe around Japan and “green” … or maybe that’s just me, and my past prejudices from 28 years ago.

Forget I said that crap about Japan.

I have no idea how I cam across this web page, but I did: the Japan Sustainable Building Database.

It’s a website that wants to try and introduce sustainable building information that could be used for upcoming architectural projects, with advice on building techniques and policy frameworks, etc.

It’s a guide for “best Practices”, which means that future architects and builders looking to design and construct a sustainable building need not go in blind.

Now the term sustainable building is a bit of a misnomer here.

Sustainable implies diverse and productive indefinitely. 

According to the AIJ (Architectural Institute of Japan),  “A sustainable building is one which is designed: [1] to save energy and resources, recycle materials and minimize the emission of toxic substances throughout its life cycle, [2] to harmonize with the local climate, traditions, culture and the surrounding environment, and [3] to be able to sustain and improve the quality of human life while maintaining the capacity of the ecosystem at the local and global levels.”

See? Point 1 merely says to SAVE energy and resources… to MINIMIZE… that’s not exactly sustainability so much as it is REDUCING the impact of the building’s lifecycle on the environment.

Look… that’s still better than a kick in the nuts, but it’s not sustainable… and thus not sustainability… it’s merely a reduction of material use which reduces costs, and generally makes the consumer feel better about themselves… as well they should.

You can see the Japan Sustainable Building Database HERE… it’s all in English, though I believe other languages are available.

Oh wait… is this still viable if the most recent thing on there is from 2010?

Fug… I wish I had noticed that before I began writing.

Well… make of it what you will… Japan was more interested in sustainable architectural things eight years ago… so what happened?

Sighhhhh. Too bad… I love architecture, have a non-fanatical passion for the environment (I’m not getting up in anyone’s face about things)…

I guess I’ll have to come up with a much better subject tomorrow. 

Andrew Joseph
PS: I wonder if I wanted to write this because I'm wearing a green shirt today? That's a stupid reason to write something... sorry.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Japanese Actress Umeki Miyoshi

Last week, when I wrote about the Japan Sumo Association requesting a sumo event organizer ban young girls from taking part in a promotional event, I ended it with a clip from the second Bad News Bears movie.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

I then decided to do a search to see where cast members from that first The Bad News Bears movie were today, and found a 2016 article describing just such that on the movie’s 40th anniversary. You can read that HERE.

Anyhow… the article mentioned that—aside from my pre-teen crush on Tatum O’Neal (though I had a larger crush on Jodie Foster)—there were a couple of other kids who had acting experience before this, namely: Jackie Earle Haley (still love this guy’s work, such as The Human Target and Preacher - on TV, and Breaking Away - the most underrated movie ever, and other things), and a kid named Brandon Cruz.

Okay… I didn’t know who Brandon Cruz was… he played the poor Yankees pitcher in the original The Bad News Bears movie… you know the kid… 

And then I found out he was Eddie.

Eddie… as in the kid from the old Bill Bixby television show, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (before he was David Banner in The Incredible Hulk), an ABC television show I watched from September of 1969 thru March of 1972.

I never watched a rerun, but dammit, I can still sing the show's theme song to this very day! I just love the complexities of this phrase:

People let me tell you 'bout my best friend,
He’s a one boy cuddly toy — my up, my down, my pride and joy.

Ha. Brought a tear to my eye just there. Hang on… back in a moment.

Okay… Did you know that Cruz was the lead vocalist for The Dead Kennedys (my favorite punk group) from 2001-2003? I didn’t. Holy crap!!!!

Anyhow, on The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father television show (not the earlier (movie), the boy Eddie and his Father (mom had died), they had a housekeeper, a woman named Mrs. Livingstone, who was played by an actress named Umeki Miyoshi (surname first, 梅木 美代志), a Japanese woman.

Here’s a clip of the show, with special guest star Jodie Foster… who wasn’t as cute here as she would be later (in the Disney flicks, like Freaky Friday). I know she’s gay, but I still have a crush on her.

What’s interesting, is that even at this stage of the 20th century, Mrs. Livingstone is teaching Joey (Jodie Foster) the subservient Japanese woman’s way.


And, if the lesson is to be learned, Eddie finally earns Joey’s respect after he hits her.


Okay… I used to watch this show, and they weren’t all like this… I think. It has been 50 years…

By the way... when I looked for a clip of this show, I picked the first one I saw, and was pleasantly surprised to find Jodie Foster appearing in it, proving that even though I don't know what I'm going to write about, it all makes sense. 

Anyhow, the point is that while Mrs. Livingstone was Japanese on the show, her Japaneseness wasn’t always at the forefront… she was simply a valuable member of the family who helped resolve conflict the best way 1960s television could offer.
Cast of The Courtship Of Eddie's Father: Bill Bixby, Brandon Cruz and Umeki Miyoshi. 
Born on May 8, 1929, in Otaru, Hokkaido as the youngest of nine kids, she went through WWII, and began working as a nightclub singer using the name Nancy Umeki… probably because it sounded American.

Even though the US-led Allied Forces had just defeated Japan, and exploded for the first two and only two times a nuclear bomb meant to annihilate people in a war… Americans were generally held in high regard, as Japan could actually respect someone who was smart enough and strong enough to defeat it in battle.

She began recording for RCA Victor Japan from 1954-1954, doing mostly jazz, singing in both English and Japanese… something almost every modern Japanese singer does to this day, regardless of genre… but she did like American pop songs, too.

By 1955, she had crossed the Atlantic and was singing for her supper in the U.S., as a series regular on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts, but continued to put out singles and albums from 1959 thru about 1961.

Because of her appearances on the Arthur Godfrey show, film director Joshua Logan decided to cast her in the 1957 movie, Sayonara… which was about an US ace fighter pilot during the Korean War (1950-1953)… now I haven’t seen the movie, but since I’m pretty sure Sayanora is “Goodbye” in Japan, and Japan is not in Korea, I would assume that the pilot, played by Marlon Brando, was stationed at an air force base in Japan.     

Strangely, our gal Umeki Miyoshi was NOT the love interest of Brando’s character―that was Taka Miiko (surname first), still critics thought Umeki was great, awarding her the Academy Award For Best Supporting Actress for her role of Katsumi Kelly (surname LAST).
Here is Umeki Miyoshi hugging fellow Oscar Award winner Red Buttons at The Academy Awards in 1958.
 Umeki Miyoshi was the very first Asian―male or female―to win an Academy Award for acting.

In fact, she is STILL the only Asian to have won an Academy Award for acting. As of 2018.

In 1958, she played Mei-Li in the Broadway musical production of Flower Drum Song, which not only ran for two years, but earned her a Tony award nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.   

December 22, 1958 cover of Time magazine, with Umeki Miyoshi on the left.
In 1961 she reprised her roll as Mei-Li for the movie adaption, and also appeared in these movies:  Cry for Happy (1961), The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962) and A Girl Named Tamiko (1963).

Then, from 1969-1972, she appeared in the television adaption of the movie, The Courtship of Eddie's Father as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper, for which she was again nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

But, when the show ended in 1972, Miyoshi-san retired from acting.

She had been married to television director Frederick Winfield "Wynn" Opie in 1958 until their divorce in 1967, and had one son, Michael H. Opie, born in 1964.

Following her divorce, she married Randall Hood in 1968, who adopted her son, who then became Michael Randall Hood.

She and Hood ran a Los Angeles, California-based company renting editing equipment to film studios and university film programs, until her husband’s death in 1976.

While Miyoshi lived in California for most of her post-retirement years, she did move to a place called Licking, Missouri to be near her son and his family.

I had to know, and found out that Licking, Missouri—with a 2010 census of 3,124 people—was named in pre-1880 as Buffalo Lick, before just Licking… and refers to a mineral lick near the town’s original site.

And if you don’t know what a mineral lick is, it’s a “salt lick”, where animals go and lick the ground to take in needed elements such as phosphorus, sodium, calcium iron, zine, etc.—something critters do often in the Spring to enhance growth of bone and muscle.    

As for Miyoshi Umeki… she lived in Licking, Missouri until her death at the age of 78 on August 28, 2007 from cancer complications.

In her honor, here’s Miyoshi Umeki singing Sayonora (1954):

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Martian Moons May Have Been Formed By Large Impact On Mars

Today, since it’s Earth Day (April 22, 2018) let’s talk science… in particular astronomy… one of those topics I not only enjoy reading about but actually excelled in back in university… even though I have never peered through a telescope of any magnitude.

According to the April 18, 2018 issue of Science Advances, in the article entitled the “Origin of Phobos and Deimos by the impact of a Vesta-to-Ceres-sized body with Mars”… oh wait… I kind of just gave away the whole thing right there.

Before we get lost in space, for those who are interested, go to the bottom of this article and click on the link to the music video by M|A|R|R|S - Pump Up The Volume, a 1987 video with some cool music - helping birth  British acid house music - and some old-school video footage of early manned space flight.

Anyhow, according to the article, scientists from the Southwest Research Institute theorize that the small, misshapen moons of Mars—Phobos and Deimos—were formed after a single impact of the young proto-Mars and a dwarf-planet-sized object similar in size to the largest asteroids Vesta and Ceres.

Now, an object smashing into a planet to create a moon is not new news—Earth and Luna (our moon) was formed in a similar fashion, though the Earth impact is suspected to have been much, much larger than the Martian one.

Luna may have formed when a Mars-sized object crashed into the nascent Earth 4.5 billion years ago, and the resulting debris coalesced into the Earth-Moon system.

Scientists have been discussing the origins of Mars' two moon for a while, wondering if they were simply asteroids captured by the planet's gravity or if they were formed from the common form of an equatorial disk of debris.

While others had thought of an impact as the cause, test models were limited by low numerical resolution and overly simplified modeling techniques.

“Ours is the first self-consistent model to identify the type of impact needed to lead to the formation of Mars’ two small moons,” says lead author Dr. Robin Canup, an associate vice-president in the Southwest Research Institute Space Science and Engineering Division. Canup is one of the leading scientists using large-scale hydrodynamical simulations to model planet-scale collisions, including the prevailing Earth-Moon formation model.

“A key result of the new work is the size of the impactor; we find that a large impactor — similar in size to the largest asteroids Vesta and Ceres — is needed, rather than a giant impactor,” Canup explains. “The model also predicts that the two moons are derived primarily from material originating in Mars, so their bulk compositions should be similar to that of Mars for most elements. However, heating of the ejecta and the low escape velocity from Mars suggests that water vapor would have been lost, implying that the moons will be dry if they formed by impact.”

The new Mars model invokes a much smaller impactor than considered previously. Earth’s diameter is about 8,000 miles, while Mars’ diameter is just over 4,200 miles. The Moon is just over 2,100 miles in diameter, about one-fourth the size of Earth.

While they formed in the same timeframe, Deimos and Phobos are very small, with diameters of only 7.5 miles and 14 miles respectively, and orbit very close to Mars.

The proposed Phobos-Deimos forming impactor would be between the size of the asteroid Vesta, which has a diameter of 326 miles, and the dwarf planet Ceres, which is 587 miles wide.

“We used state-of-the-art models to show that a Vesta-to-Ceres-sized impactor can produce a disk consistent with the formation of Mars’ small moons,” says the paper’s second author, Dr. Julien Salmon, an Southwest Research Instituteresearch scientist. “The outer portions of the disk accumulate into Phobos and Deimos, while the inner portions of the disk accumulate into larger moons that eventually spiral inward and are assimilated into Mars. Larger impacts advocated in prior works produce massive disks and more massive inner moons that prevent the survival of tiny moons like Phobos and Deimos.”

That's cool... but what the heck does any of this have to do with Japan?

Well, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has an upcoming Mars Moons eXploration (MMX) mission where it will try and determine the origin of the two moons of Mars.

The MMX mission is scheduled to launch in 2024, and will visit both moons with a planned landing on the surface of Phobos to take a surface sample before it returns to Earth in 2029.

“A primary objective of the MMX mission is to determine the origin of Mars’ moons, and having a model that predicts what the moons compositions would be if they formed by impact provides a key constraint for achieving that goal,” Canup acknowledges.

The mission will also take aboard a special NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) tool... of which I know little about, suffice to say that the JAXA mission is one that NASA is interested in.

As for the research done in the “Origin of Phobos and Deimos by the impact of a Vesta-to-Ceres-sized body with Mars,” it was funded by NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) in Silicon Valley, and by NASA’s Emerging Worlds program. The research was conducted as part of the Institute for the Science of Exploration Targets (ISET), a SSERVI team from SwRI’s office in Boulder, Colorado.

Andrew Joseph
PS: For your listening pleasure:

PPS: The image at the top of this article is from, and as it correctly states it is not to scale, but it does show how misshapen the two moons of Mars are.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Kyushu Volcano Erupts After 250-Year Siesta

Mount Iō (pronounced ee-oh), aka Mount Iwo, a volcano located in southern Japan, has erupted for the first time in 250 years.

It’s not an amazing feat - regardless of global media reporting it as though 250 years is a long time between eruptions.

Really, it’s not.

An active volcano, as defined by volcanologists, is a volcano that has had at least one eruption during the past 10,000 years. An active volcano might be erupting or dormant.

But you read that, right? 10,000 years between eruptions, and it is still considered to be “active”. In the life of a mountain or volcano, 250 years is nothing.

You can click HERE to have a look at a list I compiled of every single active volcano in Japan - all 118 of them.

And yeah… I put the list in alphabetical order and separated them by region.

And yeah… I some how missed this bloody volcano!!! Actually, I didn’t.

I can stop panicking.

It’s located under the nine listings of Kyushu volcanoes under the Kirishima listing.

Kirishima, in case you don’t want to look, consists of 18 small stratovolcanoes, which includes Mount Io (aka Mount Iwo).

While the Kirishima complex HAS erupted as recently as 2011, the Mount Io part of it hasn’t erupted since 1768.

Now, while I may have poo-poohed the severity of the Mount Io volcanic eruption, I shouldn’t have. People’s lives are at stake.

Warnings have been issued for towns near the 1,317-meter (4320.9 feet) high volcano, with the possibility of large rocks being spewed into the air by the eruption, but so far, only a large deposit of ash has been sent up into the air.

Like a dry fart.

And on that note - toot,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Rare Look At The Ancient Far East

The above map sports just a tiny wedge of Japan—just above the box—which makes it eligible for this blog by my way of thinking... and man, is it a real beaut!

Despite the lack of respect shown to Japan, it predominantly shows of the eastern portion of China, India and Southeast Asia - complete with mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, towns, cities and kingdoms.

Created by Italian cartographer Giacomo Gastaldi, this four-sheet map was first created as a single map in 1559, with additional sections added in 1561, with additional sections of Indonesia and the islands of Java Minor added in 1565.

Within the map’s legend box on the right side, there are close to 100 place names that show the ancient and modern names of various places.

Apparently Gastaldi has relied upon information from the travels of Marco Polo, as well as other contemporary travelers to the Far East, including Marcus Fugger, whose family library owned one of the most important libraries compiled in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Some say the privately-owned Fugger library was better than the Vatican library.

This map, published in Rome, Italy in 1580 measures 30 x 30 inches (76.2 cm x 76.2), and is being offered for sale for US $128,000.

By the way… the sea, as named on the map, to the left of Japan is named “Mare de Mangi”… which, if translated word-by-word from its Italian into English reads “Sea of Eat”

Now… not the Sea of East… the Sea of Eat.

Also, note the spelling of Japan… Giapan… interesting…

Anyhow, should you have some spare money under your kotatsu, take a look at THIS website ( for this and other awesome (and other more affordable [not for me]) maps.

If you click on the linked word "THIS", in the sentence above, you can see images of this and other maps. By clicking on the image, a larger version will show up... and even then there's a button which will allow the image to fill the entire screen of your digital device, at which point you can easily read everything on the map provided you can translate 500-year-old Italian... I assume there's been come changes to the language since the map was published.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why Has Human Physical Evolution Stopped?

Perhaps my headline is a bit misleading, but researchers at the University of Tokyo have found that vertebrates may have conserved their basic anatomical architecture, or bodyplan, for over 500 million years by reusing their genes.

Simply put, reusing genes constrains diversification. 

Some background (ha-ha): Vertebrates are a group of animals that have vertebrae in their back, which is to say vertebrae are the individual, interlocking bones that form the spinal column. In humans, we have 33.

The vertebrates emerged more than 500 million years ago and diversified into a variety of species comprising a multitude of shapes, including humans and other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes.

After the diversification so many years ago, why haven’t the basic architecture of the vertebrates changed very much.

All vertebrates have retained their basic anatomical architecture through evolution spanning several hundred million years, and scientists had not yet pinned down why this is so, though the University of Tokyo thinks it might have an answer.

While previous studies had attributed the lack of anatomical diversification to the embryonic phase when vertebrates' basic architecture develops, recent studies highlighting the evolutionary conservation of this phase in what is called the developmental hourglass model. Nonetheless, why this embryonic phase was conserved through such a long evolutionary time scale remained unresolved.

The international collaborative group, EXPANDE consortium, led by associate professor Irie Naoki (surname first) of the Graduate School of Science at the University of Tokyo tackled this problem by comparing the gene expression profiles during development of the embryos of eight species in a larger grouping of animals, called chordates, which comprises lancelets and tunicates, in addition to vertebrates.

Chordates… I had to look this up on Wikipedia, is an animal that possess a notochord (a cartilaginous skeletal rod supporting the body in all embryonic and some adult chordate animals), a hollow dorsal nerve cord, pharyngeal slits (repeated filter-feeding openings that appear along the pharynx caudal to the mouth), an endostyle (an organ which assists lower-chordates in filter-feeding, secreting mucus which utilizes cilia to coat itself), and a post-anal tail (an extension of the body that runs past the anal opening. In some species, like humans, this feature is only present during the embryonic stage), for at least some period of their life cycle. Chordates are deuterostomes, as during the embryo development stage the anus forms before the mouth.

Clearer now? Sorta, but no, me neither.

Chordates can include creatures such as mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians (all of which are vertebrates), as well as sea squirts (tunicates) and lancelets (celpalochordates).

Okaaaaaay… still not getting it.

What the fug is a sea squirt? This is a type of sea squirt:
Komodo National Park Gold-mouth sea squirt (Polycarpa aurata), by Nhobgood Nick Hobgood in 2006.
The sea squirt above, while looking like a human heart thrown into the water for a week, is actually quite pretty in its coloration. Still, that must have been one brave diver who first picked up this type of sea squirt... and even braver is the person who looked at that and said " I wonder if I can eat that?"   
And yes, humans eat them. Maybe not this particular variety, but many others, such as these live sea squirts known as a sea pineapple, found for sale at a market, Busan, South Korea:

I'm pretty sure these sea pineapples don't taste like "land" pineapples, but I've been wrong before. I'm not wrong this time. Photo by ProjectManhattan
By the way, another type of tunicate is a similar-looking creature called “sea pork” which luckily for it does not taste like real pork.

Examples of sea pork on the beaches of Hilton Head, South Carolina, US: photo from 
A lancelet is 32 species of fish-like critters that tend to bury themselves in the sandy waters, exposing only their head.

This is a lancelet:
Lancelet feeding on plankton. Photo by Colin Gray

Chordates include: humans, alligators, pandas, crows, sharks, salamanders, and much, much more.

The University of Tokyo researchers identified and compared the genetic data on these species, and found that most of the genes acting around the developmental phase, which shapes the vertebrates' basic architecture, were pleiotropic genes—genes producing more than one effect—that were reused repeatedly.

Notably, the researchers found a strong correlation between the ratio of such repeatedly recruited genes and evolutionary constraints.

One plausible scenario is that the embryonic phase, in which the vertebrates' basic architecture develops, is enriched with repeatedly reused genes, which constrain evolutionary diversification. In other words, it helps prevent mutations.

Of course, mutations are what got us to where we are, and what we are, today.

You all know the old chicken and the egg scenario and conundrum about which came first… well, obviously eggs were around long before there were chickens. And, whatever laid the egg that would become the first chicken, wasn’t a chicken… it was something that had a mutatable gene within it. 

Since gene recruitment is commonly observed during evolution in a variety of organisms, the study's findings promise to provide a basis for better understanding what kind of trait is likely or not so likely to evolve.

"In the beginning, I wasn't expecting to find what we discovered. In fact, I was reluctant to do the analysis that led to our main finding because I thought it would be meaningless," says Irie. "Considering our knowledge of its contribution to the evolution of many new traits, gene recruitment could be a double-edged sword in that its recurrence constrains evolution. Our findings raised a lot of additional questions in my mind for further inquiry."

Thank you to the folks at the University of Tokyo for continuing to send me their press released on their scientific research gains!

Andrew Joseph