New Clay-Based Hydrogels Could Be an Ecologically Safe Replacement For Plastics

Hydrogel With Some Backbone :  via Ars Technica
The invention of plastics in the mid-1800s changed human civilization as profoundly as our earlier mastery of fire, bronze, and steel. Unfortunately, the environmental and health effects of plastic offer a significant downside to such a useful and affordable material. Now, scientists at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have developed a clay-based hydrogel that they hope will perform the same functions as plastic, but do so without endangering people or the planet.

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Japanese Create Fluorescent Mario from Genetically Engineered Bacteria

Team Osaka's nanobiology lab created a petri-dish image of everyone's favorite Nintendo game character

Nintendo's Mario has taught us science and even encouraged the development of better artificial intelligence. So it's only appropriate that Japanese researchers paid homage to everyone's favorite video game character, by recreating his likeness in a petri dish with genetically engineered glow-in-the-dark bacteria. Warning: we reveal a seizure-inducing Mario animation after the story jump.

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Robovie-II, the Robot That Helps You Buy Groceries

The ease and variety of online shopping enabled by the first dot-com explosion cast technology as the killer of in-store retail. But in Japan, with its aging population and unique consumer culture, technology facilitates grocery shopping, in the form of retail assistance robots like Robovie-II. Part of a larger network of sensors and wireless devices, Robovie provides assistance to elderly shoppers making their rounds.

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Chinese Woman Surgically Switches Fingerprints To Evade Japanese Immigration Officers

When attempting to evade biometric sensors, most go with the Tyler Durden or the John Doe from Se7en route, and simply cut or burn off their fingerprints. Unfortunately, that's a little obvious. So, for criminals looking to slip through fingerprinting in Japanese airports, fingerprint transplant surgery is all the rage.

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Man Marries a Video Game Character

Things are going to get ugly when he upgrades his system

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Video: Improvising Jazzbot Jams With Humans, Really Swings

Advances in robotics have lead to automatons that can do everything from ski to open doors to help the elderly.

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Batteryless Remote Control Pulls Power from Your Button Presses

We've all been there, angrily jabbing the remote control at the cable box in a futile attempt to change the channel. When remote control batteries die, my sanity often follows closely behind. Well, soon that will be a problem as quaint as running out of whale oil for a lantern, thanks to a new remote control that charges itself with the energy from its buttons.

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Soon, Babies May Have Three Biological Parents

Even though the combination of affluence and fertility drugs has raised the age at which many women give birth, children born to older women continue to suffer a disproportionately high rate of birth defects and genetic disease. Many of these problems result from the degradation of the area of the region of the egg around the nucleus.

To correct for those problems, a team of Japanese researchers has implanted the nucleus of an older woman's egg into the egg cell of a younger donor. This may fix the problem, but it also moves medicine closer to the ethically challenging creation of a person with three biological parents.

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Japanese Team Crosses Australia, Takes Global Green Challenge

After nearly four days, 3,000km and lots of baking Australian sun, a team from Japan's Tokai University edged out 31 other competitors to bring home a solar victory in the 2009 Global Green Challenge

A team of solar-car scientists from Japan's Tokai University turned the intense rays of central Australia into victory in the 2009 Global Green Challenge. The team covered nearly 3,000km over four days in their solar-powered Tokai Challenger to claim first place among the Challenge's solar-vehicle field.

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A Look At Japan's Retro-Future

Those Robots Are Still Nicer Than Nuns :  via Pink Tentacle
As much as we love the actual future here at Popular Science, we love the past's vision of the future almost as much. So we basically freaked out when our good friends over at Pink Tentacle discovered this spread from a 1969 issue of the Japanese magazine Shonen Sunday.

These pictures show a predicted 1989 where computers have changed how we live. The above photo depicts a classroom full of children learning on computers, watching a video of a teacher, and receiving beatings from enforcement robots.

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The Power Loader Is Real

Still no word about the xenomorphs, though

For everyone out there who's been fighting aliens with a flamethrower, but now needs something with a little more kick, you're in luck. Panasonic has taken a break from hawking TVs and camcorder to build the power loader from Aliens.

Designed by Panasonic subsidiary Activelink, the "Dual Arm Amplification Robot" weighs 500 pounds, and allows the user to lift 220 pounds with the flick of a wrist. That's not quite enough to bench press an alien queen, but then again, it's still in the design phase.

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Honda's U3-X Personal Mobility System Is Segway Meets Unicycle

Good news for the elderly, clowns, obese tourists, and the very, very lazy: Honda has released a new, motorized unicycle that functions the same way as a Segway. The super light U3-X personal mobility system is perfect for those who are too lazy for the standing that a Segway requires.

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Video: Japan's Robot Tiles Create Infinite Walkway

A robotic researcher creates predicting robots that position themselves underfoot for your next step

Japan certainly hasn't let the recession damp its enthusiasm for all things robot, even if much of the robotic workforce still suffers from unemployment idleness.

The robot tiles emerged as the brainchild of Hiroo Iwata, a virtual reality researcher at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. A touch-sensitive conductive fabric covers each robot and gauges the pressure applied by a walking person's foot, which goes toward predicting the next step.

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Panasonic's Robotic Bed Transforms into a Mobile Chair, Makes Standing Up Obsolete

Mobility-impaired patients and layabouts alike can rejoice at the debut of Panasonic's robotic bed that transforms into a wheelchair. Human nurses and hospitals may also breathe a tiny sigh of relief.

The bed-shaped bot morphs upon command to sidestep the usual trouble of moving a bedridden person from bed to wheelchair, or vice versa. Yet unlike the Japanese bear bot nurse that carries patients, a self-controlled bed bot allows humans to regain some independence and dignity.

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Polaris Phone Rolls Self to Charger, Keeps an Eye on Users' Behavior

Sure, your iPhone may play games, tell you where to eat, and surf the Internet, but can it tell you what you did the other day and how to do it better? Enter the Polaris phone, a new system designed by the giant mobile phone company KDDI and Japan's Flower Robotics.

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