Celebrate Earth Day with 5 of Asia’s most beautiful spots 

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Audrey Magazine:

One of Buzzfeed’s top posts is a list called “27 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die.”

Since it’s release in 2013, the list has gained over 10 million views and for good reason! All of the locations are absolutely breathtaking.

In honor of Earth Day, we’re taking a closer look at the five locations in Asia that made it onto this list to remind everyone that the earth is capable of such beauty. Lets work to keep it that way.

1. Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China

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The Danxia landforms are sandstone formations most known for (you guessed it) their vibrant color patterns. They are located in a remote region in northern central China. The mountains and hills retain such color because Danxia landforms are composed of red sandstone. Mineral deposits were compressed into rock for 24 million years, thus gaining colors ranging from deep red to yellow and green.

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2. The Hang Son Doong cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam

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The Sơn Đoòng cave is currently the largest known cave in the world and is located near the border of Laos and Vietnam. It is five times larger than the Phong Nha Cave which previously held the record for being the biggest cave in Vietnam. Although it was created 2-5 million years ago, the cave did not become public knowledge until 2009. Inside, there is a fast flowing underground river as well as cave pearls the size of baseballs.

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 3. Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan

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This popular tourist destination has been given the nickname “flower paradise” because the 32,000 square meters of flowers look amazing all year long. With each passing season, a different variety of flower will blossom throughout the Hitachi Seaside park such as the Nemophilas. The popular blue flower blossoms annually during springtime.

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4. Bamboo groves of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan

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These Japanese bamboo groves, located in Northwest Kyoto, are a tourist favorite. The gorgeous line of bamboo not only looks beautiful, apparently it sounds beautiful too. Amusing Planet notes, “The sound of the wind in this bamboo forest has been voted as one of ‘one hundred must-be-preserved sounds of Japan’ by the Japanese government.”

The bamboo in this grove is still used to manufacture various products such as cups, boxes, baskets and mats in the area.

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5. Kelimutu crater lakes in Flores Island, Indonesia

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Kelimutu is a small volcano in the central Flores Island of Indonesia. It has gained popularity because the volcano has three craters which each contain a lake with a different color. The lakes periodically change colors from red and brown to turquoise and green, independent of each other. The lakes are named Tiwi Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People), Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Lake of Evil Sprits, or Enchanted Lake). The scientific explanation behind the colorful lakes? Chemical reactions from the minerals in the lake are triggered by the volcano’s gas activity.

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150+ whales found beached in Ibaraki, similar to what happened before 2011 Tohoku earthquake

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RocketNews 24:

A little over four years ago, a week before the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, 50 melon-headed whales were found beached in Ibaraki Prefecture, only about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the earthquake’s epicenter.

Now the same omen of bad things to come has happened again. On April 9, about 150 melon-headed whales were found beached in Ibaraki Prefecture. As emergency teams race to save the whales, one thought is sitting in the back of their minds: is this foreshadowing another giant earthquake?

On April 9, more than 150 melon-headed whales (a type of dolphin) were found beached across a stretch of four kilometers (2.5 miles) of shoreline in Hokotashi City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Most of the whales were in critical condition, though the Ibaraki coast guard has been busy returning those still alive to the ocean. The ones that were too weak to be returned were euthanized.

The reason behind the mass beaching is still unknown, but it is suspected to be due to underwater tremors. Since melon-headed whales tend to prefer deeper waters, they would be more sensitive to plate/tectonic changes than other undersea mammals.

This has people worrying about another earthquake on the same or even higher level as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. There is a theory that beached whales are often a sign of undersea tremors, and the severity of the incoming earthquake can be estimated by how many whales are beached. The coast guard reported that while every year some amount of whales are found beached on the shoreline, this incident is by far the most that they have ever encountered.

The city where the beaching took place, Hokotashi City, has started to take emergency measures against the predicted earthquake and tsunami. It is unclear whether the surrounding areas are preparing as well, but they should seriously consider it. To all our readers in the area, be safe and stay alert for any warnings!

Japan whaling ships return home from Antarctic with no catch

The Japan Coast Guard patrols Ayukawa port as a whaling fleet departs from Ishinomaki City on April 26, 2014

France 24:

Japanese whaling ships returned home from the Antarctic on Saturday for the first time in nearly 30 years with no catch onboard, after a UN court ordered an end to their annual hunt, local media reported.

The two ships — the 724-ton Yushinmaru and the 747-ton Daini (No 2) Yushinmaru — arrived at a port in western Shimonoseki city, a major whaling base.

It was the first return by Japanese whalers without catching any whales since 1987 when the country began the annual “research” hunt in the Antarctic, the Asahi Shimbun said.

The two ships did not face any attacks by anti-whaling activists during their three-months voyage, the daily added.

Tokyo had said this season’s excursion would not involve any lethal hunting. Harpoons normally used in the capture of the giant mammals were removed from the vessels. Crew members on the two boats carried out “sighting surveys” and took skin samples from the huge marine mammals, news reports said.

The non-lethal research came after the International Court of Justice — the highest court of the United Nations — ruled in March last year that Tokyo was abusing a scientific exemption set out in the 1986 moratorium on whaling.

The UN court concluded Tokyo was carrying out a commercial hunt under a veneer of science.

After the ruling, Japan said it would not hunt during this winter’s Antarctic mission, but has since expressed its intention to resume “research whaling” in 2015-16.

In a new plan submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its Scientific Committee, Tokyo set an annual target of 333 minke whales for future hunts, down from some 900 under the previous programme. It also defined the research period as 12 years from fiscal 2015 in response to the court’s criticism of the programme’s open-ended nature.

By collecting scientific data, we aim to resume commercial whaling,” agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters in the city as he attended a ceremony for their return.

Japan killed 251 minke whales in the Antarctic in the 2013-14 season and 103 the previous year, far below its target because of direct action by conservationist group Sea Shepherd.

Despite widespread international opprobrium, Japan has continued to hunt whales using the scientific exemption, although it makes no secret of the fact that the meat from the creatures caught by taxpayer-funded ships ends up on dinner tables.

Rare footage of volcanic lightning storm captured during eruption of a Japanese volcano

German videographer Marc Szeglat managed to capture video of an extremely rare volcanic lightning storm in the plume of Sakurajima, a highly active volcano location on the Japanese island of Kyushu. The phenomenon, also known as a dirty thunderstorm, occurs when particles from the eruption collide to produce static charges.

The hidden, scientifically accurate backstory of Tokyo Disney Sea’s volcano

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RocketNews 24:

Tokyo Disney Resort, as anyone can tell you, is a land of magic and whimsy. As we’ve shown before, it’s also somewhere you can experience the pinnacle of attentive service, whether you’re an inattentive motorist or a lost cat. But did you know that in addition to all that, Tokyo Disney Sea is actually a place that you can enjoy for its subtle yet precise depictions of natural science?

It’s true, as explained by one Japanese Twitter user who’s uncovered and documented the geological principles behind one of the park’s most iconic features.

It’s safe to say Twitter user Shohei Nanri’s inquisitive mind works a little differently than most people’s. On a recent trip to Disney Sea, Nanri decided to search for ways to enjoy the park not as a star-struck animation fan, but as a scientist. He wasted no time, noticing that the globe in the center of the fountain outside the ticket booth has no tilt to its access.

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But while that’s a miss in the scientific accuracy department, things quickly improved once inside the park itself. First stopping by the knowledge-themed Fortress Exploration complex, Nanri observed the castle’s Foucault pendulum, which knocks over a series of pins during the day due to the rotation of the earth.

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And while he’s not sure if Disney’s Imagineers planned it or not, Nanri found a waterfall in the walkway linking the Mermaid Lagoon and Mysterious Island Sections of the park (directly opposite the gyoza dog concession stand) where the light refracts into a rainbow at precisely 12 noon on sunny days.

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But where things start to get really interesting is inside Mysterious Island, the design of which is, ironically, remarkably sensible if you know the science behind it.

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The most dynamic feature of the area is Mount Prometheus, a constantly smoldering volcano that soars some 51 meters (167.3 feet) above guests’ heads. Much as Cinderella’s Castle is the symbol of Tokyo Disneyland, Mount Prometheus is the first image that comes to mind for many when they think of Disney Sea. Its non-Japanese name isn’t just a quick way to add a bit of worldly flair, though.

As Nanri explains, the lava of most Japanese volcanoes is highly viscous, so once its destructive path is halted, it tends to harden into symmetrical masses. But take a look at the volcanic runoff at Disney Sea.

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Those ropy, coiled formations are the product of a low-viscosity lava flow, closer to the pahoehoe style seen in other countries than Japan’s indigenous a’a lava flows. As such, it stand to reason that Mount Prometheus isn’t a Japanese volcano, and therefore it wouldn’t make sense for it to have a Japanese name.

But that’s just the start of the tale Disney Sea’s lava has to tell. Looking at the map, we can see that following an eruption, some of Mount Prometheus’ lava would flow towards the shoreline that separates it from the Mediterranean Harbor.

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The molten rock would cool as it travelled, and Nanri explains that once it did, it could solidify in hexagonal columns, which is exactly what you can see near the waterfront.

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That’s not the only effect an eruption would have on the surrounding landscape, though. The entrances to both of Mysterious Island’s rides, Journey to the Center of the Earthand 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, owe the look of their entrances and line-up areas to the nearby volcanic activity.

▼ Locations of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (2)

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Let’s start with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, where parkgoers hop aboard a vessel and become part of Captain Nemo’s crew of explorers.

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You might notice the sunken body of water is surrounded by craggy rock formations. How come? Because, as Nanri explains, it’s a crater lake formed by a steam explosion, which explains why you can still see some sort of gas fizzing to the surface of the water in the above photo.

However, the scientific significance is deepest, appropriately, at Journey to the Center of the Earth.

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Given the theme of the attraction, it’s no surprise that the entrance leads guests through a cave. This isn’t just any cave, though. Coming back once again to that low-viscosity lava, the thinner consistency means that even as the top layer of the flow comes into contact with the air, cools, and hardens, the lower layers can stay in motion, in the process forming a tunnel just like the ones the line for the ride snakes through.

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In the case of repeated eruptions, the next lava flow would come through and melt away the hardened rock, making the cavity larger and also creating the shelf-like ripples on its walls.

Of course, while this is the scientific way in which the tunnel would form, it’s still not a controlled, entirely stable method. A lack of structural integrity in spots is to be expected, which accounts for the skylight-like openings that can be occasionally seen overhead.

Finally, Nanri leaves us with one last example of attention to minute details.

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Looking up at those streaks of discoloration, you might think it’s just accumulated grime, or maybe water staining. It’s neither, though, according to Anri, who points out that this is what would happen as the sulfur deposits which melted in the lava flow later recrystallize.

China uses plastic prints to make city appear greener 

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Weird Asia News:

Many big cities are now known for being polluted and lacking much greenery.  All one typically sees are tall buildings, lots of people, and hundreds of cars in the streets.

In China’s Jilin Province, however, the local government has found a solution to make the city look alive again.

Instead of planting trees, workers have installed plastic sheets along sidewalks showing fake greenery to depict a fresh-looking city.

It’s quite ironic because greening is supposed to make the city less polluted. Using plastic might just contribute to more damage, especially if it is not properly maintained.

Keeping Totoro’s Forest safe: Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki volunteers in conservation event

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RocketNews 24:

When Studio Ghibli’s classic anime My Neighbor Totoro first screened in the U.S., more than a few people assumed the titular forest spirit must be a traditional figure from Japanese myth or folklore. Considering how well-realized the character is, and the reverence the film treats him with, it’s not surprising that some people would arrive at that conclusion, but the fact of the matter is Totoro sprang directly from the active and ample imagination of Hayao Miyazaki.

The acclaimed director did have a little real-world help creating the film’s settingthough, which is said to have been inspired by a patch of Japanese forestland called Fuchi no Mori. The forest helped light a creative spark in Miyazaki, and now he’s returned the favor by volunteering in an annual conservation event that helps keep the Fuchi no Mori green and healthy.

Fuchi no Mori straddles the Yanasegawa River, which serves as the borderline between Tokyo’s Higashimurayama and neighboring Saitama Prefecture’s Tokorozawa City. Literally meaning “The Abyssal Forest,” it’s also commonly referred to as Totoro’s Forest, because of its resemblance to sisters Mei and Satsuki’s country surroundings in the film.

Tokorozawa has been the 74-year-old Miyazaki’s home for the last 45 years, and in 1996 he made a donation of 300 million yen (US$2.8 million, at the time) in order to protect the forest from housing developments. The timing coincides with the production of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, the 1997 release with heavy environmental themes which was written and directed by Miyazaki, who had initially intended for the theatrical feature to be his last.

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Miyazaki has provided more than just monetary aid, though. As per the suggestion of the anime icon’s wife, Akemi, volunteers annually gather in winter to clear away underbrush and dead branches from Fuchi no Mori. Doing so allows both the indigenous sawtooth and konara oaks, as well as the maples and satinwood trees, which were introduced as part of reforestation efforts, to flourish in the coming spring.

This year, some 260 environmentally minded individuals answered the online call for participants, coming from as far away as Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. On January 18, they were joined by Miyazaki himself, who pitched in and worked side-by-side with the volunteers during the four-and-a-half-hour event.

Miyazaki’s hands-on approach has drawn praise, given that he’s both wealthy and old enough that society wouldn’t knock him for taking a pass on manual labor. But while some might have expected the famously stern animator, who is said to go for daily walks in the woods, to speak about the deep responsibility represented by the event, he downplayed the weight of what the group had set out to do. Instead, he passed it off as merely a natural and obvious course of events, saying:

Conservational activities are a function of the community’s attitude towards nature. For me, this forest is now a part of my lifestyle. I don’t think so deeply about whether or not I have an obligation to do this. Rather than hold meetings about these kinds of things, what’s important is for us to take action, with our own hands, as part of the flow of time.”

If he could talk, we’re sure Totoro would say the same.

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Spooky “radiation fog” turns Saitama cityscape into Silent Hill overnight

RocketNews 24:

 

Halloween may be over for this year, but the weather gods in Saitama clearly hadn’t got the message on Wednesday morning this week, as the city was shrouded in a mysterious thick fog – with an even more mysterious name!

Radiation fog is a kind of winter fog that occurs on clear, calm nights as thermal radiation causes the air near the surface to cool, and condensation forms. The freak weather, which enveloped the city’s skyscrapers, typically doesn’t last long, but it stuck around long enough to be broadcast live…

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Japanese netizens really had only one thing to say though:

“RADIATION FOG?? Even Saitama isn’t safe!”

“It’s radioactive!? No more nukes! No more nukes!”

Oh, and one more thing:

It’s not Saitama, it’s Shizuoka!” [the kanji for Shizuoka (静岡) means ‘silent hill‘…geddit?]

There’s also this timelapse video, which is definitely the coolest video of fog I’ve ever seen:

 

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‘The Science of Tsunamis’, A TED-Ed Animation explaining the origin of the massive waves

For the latest TED-Ed short, Brooklyn-based Augenblick Studios has animated “The Science of Tsunamis,” a talk by educator Alex Gendler explaining the origin of tsunamis and why the term “tidal wave” is a bit of a misnomer.

Tsunamis are caused by energy originating under water from a volcanic reaction, a submarine landslide or, most commonly, an earthquake on the ocean floor caused when the tectonic plates slip, releasing a massive amount of energy in the water. This energy travels up to the surface, raising the water and displacing it above the normal sea level.

Gendler also discusses the ways in which scientist are attempting to minimize the impact of the towering waves.