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In this program, Japanese scientists delve into the fascinating worlds of cutting-edge technology and the natural sciences. Innovators who contribute to manufacturing in Japan are also introduced.
Most of the colors we see around us are produced by the reflection of light from pigments. Yet there is another type of color called "structural color," produced when light is reflected off the special microstructure of a surface. Structural color is what makes the surface of soap bubbles iridescent and the body of a jewel beetle appear to glitter. While pigmented colors have the disadvantage of fading due to ultraviolet rays, structural colors retain their appearance as long as the microstructure remains intact. Associate Professor Michinari Kohri of Chiba University is working to artificially reproduce these structural colors. Taking a hint from the structural colors of peacock and turkey feathers, he has succeeded in reproducing the microstructure that gives rise to the colors and is now working on the development of special ink that will not fade. Practical applications of this groundbreaking technology could not only include posters and paintings but also cultural assets as well. In this program, we'll take a closer look at Associate Professor Kohri's research, which aims to commercialize next-generation ink that produces structural color.
15 years have passed since the discovery of iPS cells - versatile cells that can turn into any type of cell. Professor Hideyuki OKANO of Keio University was one of the first to use iPS cell technology. He has been investigating on recovering motor functions of spinal cord injury patients by transplanting precursor cells of neurons created by iPS cell technology. Professor OKANO is also working to tackle ALS, a disease with no known cure that causes muscles to get weaker over time. Using iPS cells from ALS patients, he reproduced diseased neurons and tested various drugs on them to verify the effectivity. Clinical trials have confirmed that a newly discovered drug delayed the progression of ALS by 7 months. How close are we to curing ALS and spinal cord injury using iPS cell technology? This episode takes a close look at Professor OKANO's groundbreaking research.
In winter the area along the Sea of Japan experiences some of the heaviest snowfall in the world, as northerly winds from Eurasia blow with a large amount of water vapor from the Sea of Japan. Clouds that bring heavy snowfall spread out over a wide area, and are sometimes more than 100 kilometers wide. Ice particles inside the clouds rubbing against each other generate a large amount of static electricity, which in turn leads to extraordinary lightning called Superbolts with more than 1,000 times the energy of ordinary lightning. Dr. Teruaki ENOTO of RIKEN discovered that a phenomenon called "annihilation" occurs in these Superbolts, emitting enormous amounts of energy, and this has attracted worldwide attention. Annihilation is a phenomenon that is thought to have occurred in the formation of the universe, causing matter and antimatter to disappear in a burst of light. The study of annihilation in Superbolts is now providing clues about the beginning of our universe.
The Cretaceous period is regarded as the last part of the age of dinosaurs, when these fascinating creatures lived at their peak. While the flora and fauna of Japan's land mass during the Late Cretaceous period has long been a mystery, clues have emerged through the fossil record. Tyrannosaurid fossils and pieces of amber containing plants and insects have been discovered in Kuji City, Iwate Prefecture in a well-preserved layer of earth from the Cretaceous period called the Tamagawa Formation. Research on these specimens has revealed that Japan probably had a much warmer climate, with mangroves along the ocean and other organisms typical of tropical zones. In this program, we'll take a closer look at findings about Japan during the Cretaceous period.
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