Saturday, March 8, 2014

Catfish and Earthquakes

Magical Method of Earthquake Protection: This protective print which claims to prevent earthquake damage to one's home if attached to the ceiling, shows a group of remorseful catfish apologizing to the god Kashima for causing earthquakes while he was away.

 "In November 1855, the Great Ansei Earthquake struck the city of Edo (now Tokyo), claiming 7,000 lives and inflicting widespread damage. Within days, a new type of color woodblock print known as namazu-e (lit. "catfish pictures") became popular among the residents of the shaken city. These prints featured depictions of mythical giant catfish (namazu) who, according to popular legend, caused earthquakes by thrashing about in their underground lairs. In addition to providing humor and social commentary, many prints claimed to offer protection from future earthquakes."

Kashima restrains a namazu using the kaname-ishi rock
A namazu engaged in a fierce game of "neck-tug-of-war" with the god Kashima. A group of earthquake victims root for Kashima, while those who typically profit from earthquakes (construction workers, firemen, news publishers, etc,) root for the catfish
 "The popularity of namazu-e exploded, and as many as 400 different types became available within weeks. However, the namazu-e phenomenon abruptly ended two months later when the Tokugawa government, which ordinarily maintained a strict system of censorship over the publishing industry, cracked down on production. Only a handful are known to survive today."

You can view 37 more of these rare namazu prints at the wonderful Pink Tentacle site which hosts a varied collection of Japanese graphics, videos and odd news from Japan such as the development of life-like robots.

"Researchers from the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University have teamed up with robot maker Kokoro Co., Ltd. to create a realistic-looking remote-control female android that mimics the facial expressions and speech of a human operator.

Modeled after a woman in her twenties, the android -- called Geminoid F (the "F" stands for female) -- has long black hair, soft silicone skin, and a set of lifelike teeth that allow her to produce a natural smile.

According to the developers, the robot's friendly and approachable appearance makes her suitable for receptionist work at sites such as museums. The researchers also plan to test her ability to put hospital patients at ease.

The new Geminoid F can produce facial expressions more naturally than its predecessors -- and it does so with a much more efficient design. While the previous Geminoid HI-1 model was equipped with 46 pneumatic actuators, the Geminoid F uses only 12.

In addition, the entire air servo control system is housed within the robot's body and is powered by a small external compressor that runs on standard household electricity.

The research is being led by Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, who is known for creating teleoperated robot twins such as the celebrated Geminoid HI-1, which was modeled after himself."

Geminoid F and her human counterpart, wearing outfits by fashion designer Junko Koshino
Also from Pink Tentacle comes a list of 60 popular Japanese phrases, among which is "ria-juu" or "reality-filled" which is "internet slang that describes people who lead fulfilling lives in the real world (as opposed to the virtual online world). Examples of "reality-filled" people include those who enjoy relationships with others in the real world, those who attend parties or participate in group activities, and those who pursue non-otaku interests."


PonderSeekDiscover said...

Hiroshi Ishiguro is an interesting fellow; he recently stated in an interview that he believes it's possible his robots have rudimentary souls! I work in the industrial robotics field and sometimes I'm quite certain the robots have souls . . . or at least a mind of their own (ghost in the machine).

A few researchers in Dallas, Texas, were recently exploring the practicality of builing artificial muscles from carbon nano tubes and discovered that they could make muscles superior to biological with inexpensive substances such as fishing line: 50% greater contraction than human muscle and over 100 times as strong (! That should change things up in the near future . . .

PonderSeekDiscover said...

Also, do you know anything at all about the "major discovery" to be disclosed by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics? I'm chomping at the bit . . . (!