Posts about Asia

1,000 Species Discovered in Greater Mekong in Last Decade

photo of Gumprechts Green PitviperPhotograph of Gumprechts Green Pitviper courtesy Greater Mekong Programme/WWF International

While most species were discovered in the largely unexplored jungles and wetlands, some were first found in the most surprising places. The Laotian rock rat, for example, thought to be extinct 11 million years ago, was first encountered by scientists in a local food market, while the Siamese Peninsula pitviper was found slithering through the rafters of a restaurant in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.

“This region is like what I read about as a child in the stories of Charles Darwin,” said Dr Thomas Ziegler, Curator at the Cologne Zoo. “It is a great feeling being in an unexplored area and to document its biodiversity for the first time… both enigmatic and beautiful,” he said.

The findings, highlighted in this report, include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. The region comprises the six countries through which the Mekong River flows including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. It is estimated thousands of new invertebrate species were also discovered during this period, further highlighting the region’s immense biodiversity.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Stuart Chapman, Director of WWF’s Greater Mekong Programme. “We thought discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books. This reaffirms the Greater Mekong’s place on the world map of conservation priorities.”

The report stresses economic development and environmental protection must go hand-in-hand to provide for livelihoods and alleviate poverty, and ensure the survival of the Greater Mekong’s astonishing array of species and natural habitats.

Full press release. I am a World Wildlife Fund member.

Related: First Contact in the Greater Mekong (8 Mb pdf) – Massive Gorilla Population Found2,000 Species New to Science from One IslandGiant Star Fish and More in AntarcticaHuge Ant NestWhy the Frogs Are Dying

2,000 Species New to Science from One Island

photo of squat lobster

Photograph by Dr Tin-Yam Chan, University of Keelung

153 scientists from 20 countries fanned out across the remote South Pacific island of Espiritu Santo, examining mountains, forests, caves, reefs, and water for all living organisms. In five months, they collected 10,000 species. Some 2,000 of these may be new to science.

This squat lobster, found in waters 150 meters (492 feet) deep, is one of the new species. Eighty percent of the world’s species remain to be discovered, notes French scientist Philippe Bouchet, one of the expedition’s leaders.

A World of Crabs from One Tiny Island

About 600 of these were crab species. The two-horn box crab is able to crack and peel open snails’ shells using a sharp “tooth” on its right claw to cut open shells and long, slender “fingers” on the left claw to yank out its prey.

Related: Most Dinosaurs Remain UndiscoveredOcean LifeHuge Gorilla Population Found in CongoStill Just a Lizard50 Species of Diatoms

Transferring Train Passengers Without Stopping

The webcast shows a train transferring passengers without stopping. Essentially passenger modules are picked up and dropped off at each station. Looks pretty cool and would seem to require somewhat complex engineering – which can be a problem as complexity allows for more things to go wrong. Still it looks pretty cool. The sound is not in English but you can see what the idea is.

Inventor rolls out efficient non-stop train system

Taking the Kaohsiung MRT system as an example, Peng says that its maximum speed is 85 kph. Because it must stop at every station, it achieves an average speed over its route of just 35 kph. If the non-stop system were in place, the top velocity of 85 kph could be maintained throughout the system, saving time and energy.

via: trains that pick you up without stopping

Related: Extreme EngineeringMIT Hosts Student Vehicle Design SummitDesigning Cities for People, Rather than Cars

Turtle Camps in Malaysia

Drawing of sea turtles

Pelf Nyok has posted drawing of turtle camps students that she taught in Malaysia. On the image shown on the left:

The third poster shows the threats that our turtles are facing — a turtle is trapped in a fisherman’s net, a turtle is consuming a plastic bag, which it mistakes as a jellyfish, and there are rubbish on the sea floor.

Pelf is on her way to the USA for turtle conservation training on the Asian Scholarship Program for in-situ Chelonian Conservation:

a 4-month scholarship, and involves professional training in the conservation of turtles (including sea turtles, freshwater turtles and tortoises, I presume). The flow of the program has yet to be finalized but according to the Director of the Program, we (the Laotian student and I) would be spending one month visiting turtle scientists and turtle research centers in New Jersey, Tennessee, Florida and maybe California.

And the remaining 3 months would be spent at the Wetlands Institute at Stone Harbor, New Jersey. The training will be conducted at the Wetlands Institute, together with other local participants.

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First Lungless Frog Found

First Lungless Frog Found

The first recorded species of frog that breathes without lungs has been found in a clear, cold-water stream on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. The frog, named Barbourula kalimantanensis, gets all its oxygen through its skin.

Previously the only four-limbed creatures known to lack lungs were salamanders. A species of earthwormlike, limbless amphibian called a caecilian is also lungless. Tetrapods, or four-limbed creatures, that develop without lungs are rare evolutionary events, Bickford and colleagues write.

The trait in amphibians is likely an adaptation to life between water and land and their ability to respire through the skin. The researchers suggest lunglessness in B. kalimantanensis may be an adaptation to the higher oxygen content in fast-flowing, cold water.

Wake added that for most amphibians, the majority of gas exchange happens through the skin. A low but significant amount of respiration occurs via simple, sac-like lungs. Most species, he noted, have mating calls that require lungs. So biologists are unsure why a few species have entirely gotten rid of the organs, Wake said.

Related: Purple Frog Delights ScientistsWhy the Frogs Are DyingBornean Clouded Leopard

Honda Engineering

Inside Honda’s brain by Alex Taylor III

why is Honda playing with robots? Or, for that matter, airplanes? Honda is building a factory in North Carolina to manufacture the Hondajet, a sporty twin-engine runabout that carries six passengers. Or solar energy? Honda has established a subsidiary to make and market thin-film solar-power cells. Or soybeans? Honda grows soybeans in Ohio so that it can fill up cargo containers being shipped back to Japan. The list goes on. All this sounds irrelevant to a company that built some 24 million engines last year and stuffed them into everything from cars to weed whackers.

On fuel cells, Honda is literally years ahead of the competition. The FCX Clarity will go on sale in California this summer. It is powered by a fuel cell that uses no gasoline and emits only water vapor. Though mass production is at least a decade away, the Clarity is no mere test mule. Elegant and efficient, its hydrogen-powered fuel-cell stack is small enough to fit in the center tunnel – a significant improvement over other, bulkier power packs – and robust enough for a range of 270 miles.

The wellspring of Honda’s creative juices is Honda R&D, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honda Motor. Based in Saitama, west of Tokyo, R&D engineers create every product that Honda makes – from lawn mowers to motorcycles and automobiles – and pursue projects like Asimo and Hondajet on the side. Defiantly individualistic, R&D insists on devising its own solutions and shuns outside alliances. On paper it reports to Honda Motor, but it is powerful enough to have produced every CEO since the company was founded in 1948.

The engineer in Fukui [Honda’s president and CEO] cannot help but be intrigued by what his former colleagues are up to, and his office is only a few steps away from Kato’s. But even with the CEO just down the hall, says Kato, “We want to look down the road. We do not want to be influenced by the business.”

Honda allows its engineers wide latitude in interpreting its corporate mission. “We’ve been known to study the movement of cockroaches and bumblebees to better understand mobility,” says Frank Paluch, a vice president of automotive design. Honda R&D gets about 5% of Honda’s annual revenues. Most of the money goes to vehicle development, not cockroach studies

mistakes like the Insight are also the exception. R&D has provided Honda with a long list of engineering firsts that consumers liked, including the motorcycle airbag, the low-polluting four-stroke marine engine, and ultralow-emission cars.

Related: S&P 500 CEOs – More Engineering GraduatesGoogle Investing Huge Sums in Renewable Energy and is HiringAsimo Robot, Running and Climbing StairsApplied ResearchGoogle: Ten Golden Rules

Education is Opportunity

Google, Gates, Indian Diaspora Bet on Children by Andy Mukherjee

Yogi Patel, a retired chemical engineer and motel owner from Dallas, was nearing the end of his presentation about the need to tackle illiteracy in India when he put up a slide showing a thumb impression: his dad’s. “I’ve never needed anyone to tell me just how important education is,” Patel said last weekend to a gathering of the Indian diaspora in Singapore. “I’ve seen it in my own life.”

Born into a poor, illiterate family in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Patel was lucky to break free of the poverty trap. Several people from his community had prospered in East Africa. They supported his studies.

at 30 U.S. cents per child per year, the basic math, reading and writing skills required to help young learners retain their interest in education and keep them from dropping out of school are ridiculously cheap. It’s also critical enough to have caught the attention not just of wealthy Indian communities overseas but also of the Menlo Park, California-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Together, the two charities offered to help 10 million students for three years by pledging $9 million last year to Read India, an initiative of Pratham, a Mumbai-based not-for- profit organization for which Patel is a fund-raiser., the philanthropic arm of Google Inc., chipped in last month with a $2 million grant to help fund Pratham’s annual survey of the qualitative aspects of primary education in India.

Related: Make the World BetterUsing Capitalism to Help PeopleWhat Kids can Learn

YouTube Access Denied

Millions of users around the globe could not access YouTube for a couple hours yesterday. Why?

Well to understand, we need to start with how you normally connect to a web site. You click on a link to Your ISP looks up the internet address for by looking at internet routing tables. Each domain has a name server that provides the IP address for where it should be found (for example, an IP address that shows is

Well what happened in this case is Pakistan decided to prevent anyone in Pakistan from accessing YouTube because the government didn’t like some video. The way Pakistan decided to accomplish this was to update their routing table to just direct all traffic that was meant to go to YouTube to a phony address which would then return nothing.

Why did many outside of Pakistan lose access to YouTube? Well their version of the routing table leaked out of Pakistan through PCCW (large internet provider), Then other internet providers adopted the incorrect information, until many around the globe were being directed to the wrong place.

You might find it amazing the routing system could allow such a thing to happen – it doesn’t seem very secure. You are right, that it doesn’t seem very sensible. When the internet was created some protocols were established that made sense then but don’t necessarily make sense for what the internet has become.

The problem was fixed when Google’s YouTube engineers contacted PCCW to inform them of the problem and have them correct it. I think if it was my site instead, I would have had difficulty figure out what was going on 🙂 Once PCCW corrected their routing tables the fixed flowed through the system and everyone was able to see the great stuff like Marissa Mayer discussing Innovation at Google.

I would imagine Internet2 (well on its way to a computer near you) and IPv6 will take not be so venerable to such a mistake.

Related: Insecure routing redirects YouTube to PakistanYouTube outage blamed on PakistanYouTube Censorship Sheds Light on Internet TrustThe Web is 15 Years OldInternet Undersea CablesHarvard Course: Understanding Computers and the InternetNet NeutralityThe Next Generation InternetThe Journey of Internet Packetsmistake proofing (the opposite of the current setup)

China’s Technology Savvy Leadership

China’s Sci-Tech Savvy Leadership by Jocelyn Ford

Until last year, the top nine members of China’s politburo were ALL trained engineers! And guess what? The Communist Party made innovation and global leadership in science and technology national goals.

Ancient China is famous for its early scientific advances, some of which predated western developments by centuries. Its inventions include paper, printing, gunpowder and the compass.

Leadership does matter, but so does the system. It seems to me it should take a lot longer for China to build a sci-tech friendly system than for the U.S. to bring in sci-tech friendly leadership. That’s where you come in Ira & co.

If I may make one final comment: in my ideal world, borders shouldn’t matter. Victory by the best system, with the best leaders, will hopefully be a victory for all earthlings.

CHINA’S POLITBURO (2007): Decline of the engineer. Last fall China introduced a new top lineup that included two law graduates, as well as an economist, and graduates in history, journalism, management and business administration.

I agree that the increase in science and engineering investment around the globe is a positive development. But the USA faces loses that it has enjoyed due to past technology leadership.

China benefits greatly from such scientific knowledge at the highest level of government. The top 9 leaders in China are know as the “Politburo Standing Committee,” the new additions in 2007 were:

Xi Jinping, 54, studied chemical engineering at the Qinghua University and later earned a doctorate in law.

Li Keqiang, 52, obtained MA and doctorate of Economics after attending the on-the-job postgraduate program on Economics at the School of Economics of Peking University.

He Guoqiang, 63, B.S. Beijing Institute of Chemical Engineering.

Zhou Yongkang, 64 “Graduated from the Exploration Department, Beijing Petroleum Institute, majoring in geophysical exploration. With a university education. Senior engineer with a rank equivalent to professor. ” Funny, I don’t remember any U.S. politician exalting their experience as “equivalent to a professor.”

They joined the nine-member echelon with the five remaining members of the previous standing committee, namely Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin and Li Changchun.

Related: Science Investment, Diplomacy and EconomicsAsia: Rising Stars of Science and EngineeringChina’s Engineering Innovation PlanOnce Again Engineering Graduates Lead Ranks of S&P 500 CEOsAuthors of Scientific Articles by CountryBest Research University Rankings (2007)

Korean Engineering Education

Different Engineering Education Expectations

The “Engineering Education Innovation Center” of the engineering department at Yonsei University surveyed 350 human resources officials at some 100 small- and medium-sized companies, as well as big companies, including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction, and Nexon. In the survey, they gave engineering graduates an “F” grade in 13 out of 14 categories. Engineering graduates themselves also said, “Education in college is not useful to our work.”

On the contrary, however, engineering professors gave high marks of 97 out of 100 on their knowledge, and answered positively regarding their teaching skills, which revealed the different views colleges and companies have.

The conflict between what is being taught and what is needed in business is the subject of continuing debate globally.

Related: Innovative Science and Engineering Higher EducationThe World’s Best Research UniversitiesEngineering Schools and Economic DevelopmentEducating Scientists and EngineersEducating Engineering Geeks (MIT webcast)Leah Jamieson on the Future of Engineering EducationEducating the Engineer of 2020 (NAE Report)Global Engineering Education StudyApplied Engineering EducationWhat do Engineers Need To Know?

Ranking Universities Worldwide

The Webometrics Ranking of World Universities provides another estimate of the top universities. The methodology is far ideal however I still find it interesting. The various attempts to rank schools can provide a general idea of impact of various institutions (though the measures are fairly crude). Still a sensible picture (especially at the country level) can emerge. And the various rankings should be a able to track shifts in the most influential institutions and relative country strength over time. How quickly those rankings track changes will vary depending on the measures used. I would imagine most will lag the “real” changes as it is easy to imagine many measures that would lag. Still, as I have said before, I expect the USA will lose in relative ranking compared to China, India, Japan, Singapore, Mexico…

The ranking methodology used here weighed rankings in: Jiao Tong academic rankings, Essential Science Indicators, Google Scholar, Alexa (a measure of web site visits to universities) and The Times Higher World University Rankings.

Country representation of the top universities (number of top schools in each country):

location Webometrics
Top 100
Jiao Tong
Top 101
% of World
% of World GDP*
USA 53 54   4.6%   30.4%
Germany 10   5  1.3   6.3
Canada   8   4  0.5   2.5
United Kingdom   6 10  0.9   5.0
Australia   3   2  0.3   1.6
Japan   1   6 2.0 10.3
The rest of Europe 16 13
Brazil   1   0   2.8   1.8
Mexico   1   0   1.6   1.7
Israel   0   1   0.1   0.3

* IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, September 2006 (2005 data)
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