Humans Could Develop a Sixth Sense, Scientists Say

Scientists in Japan recently demonstrated this feat in the lab, proving humans can use echolocation—or the ability to locate objects through sound—to identify the shape and rotation of various objects. That could help us stealthily “see” in the dark, whether we’re sneaking downstairs for a midnight snack or heading into combat.

As bats swoop around objects, they send out high-pitched sound waves from distinct angles that bounce back at different time intervals. This helps the tiny mammals learn more about the geometry, texture, or movement of an object.

If humans could similarly recognize these time-varying acoustic patterns, it could quite literally expand how we see the world, says Miwa Sumiya, Ph.D., the first author of the new study, which appears in Plos One.

“Examining how humans can acquire new sensing abilities to recognize environments using sounds [i.e., echolocation] may lead to the understanding of the flexibility of human brains,” Sumiya, a researcher at the Center for Information and Neural Networks in Osaka, Japan, tells Pop Mech. “We may also be able to gain insights into sensing strategies of other species [like bats] by comparing with knowledge gained in studies on human echolocation.”

Dolphins also use echolocation to identify and hunt down fish.

To test this theory out, Sumiya’s team created an elaborate setup. In one room, the researchers gave participants a pair of headphones and two different tablets—one to generate their synthetic echolocation signal, and the other to listen to the recorded echoes. In a second room (not visible to participants), two oddly shaped, 3D cylinders would either rotate or stand still.

When prompted, the 15 participants initiated their echolocation signals through the tablet. Their sound waves released in pulses, traveled into the second room, and hit the 3D cylinders.

It took a bit of creativity to transform the sound waves back into something the human participants could recognize. “The synthetic echolocation signal used in this study included high-frequency signals up to 41 kHz that humans cannot listen to,” Sumiya explains.

Story published courtesy of Popular Mechanics

By Sarah Wells

The African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson Amb. Kwesi Quartey receives the Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Taro Kono

The Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, has implored AU Commission to resume the High Level Policy Dialogue between the AU and Japan to discuss concrete measures to enhance cooperation between Africa and Japan.

He also noted the efforts of the AU in finding peaceful solutions in the Horn of Africa.

The African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson Amb. Kwesi Quartey on Sunday held bilateral talks with the Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Taro Kono.

Amb. Kwesi Quartey said the meeting acknowledged the importance of advancing the collaboration between the African Union and Japan, noting African Union’s keenness to enhance its partnership ties with Japan in a number of areas, including cooperation on business initiatives with African countries as well as capacity building initiatives related to infrastructure development, which is a key element to make economic integration possible in Africa.

The two sides discussed issues related to peace and security in the two regions.

The Deputy Chairperson of the Commission briefed the Mr. Taro Kono on the priority focus of the AU Commission, highlighting the ongoing institutional reforms of the Union, the integration agenda and domestic resource mobilization policy implementation, all aimed at driving the realization of equitable and inclusive socio-economic transformation and development of the continent. Amb. Quartey appreciated Japan’s efforts in supporting the efforts of the AU related to peace and security, infrastructure and health.

Amb. Quartey also observed the continent’s heightened emphasis on human capacity development as the driver of sustainable economic growth, especially in S&T, education for boys and girls. He underpinned the linkages between leveraging on education and the skills revolution and accelerating development.

Amb. Quartey noted the progress made regarding African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and incentive mechanisms to advance the economic integration in the continent. The Deputy Chairperson informed the Japanese Foreign Minister about the entry into force of Agreement, on 30th May, 2019 and the launching of the operational phase of AfCFTA during the AU Niamey Summit, in July 2019.

The Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister briefed Amb. Kwesi Quartey about the aim of his visit that is promoting investment in Africa, which is expected to be a key theme of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development ( TICAD 7) Summit, scheduled to be held from 28th – 30th August, 2019 in Yokohama, Japan.

Both sides discussed the regional and international areas of common concern, including the promotion of peace and security, and the cooperation and investment opportunities in Africa for Japanese investors. The meeting agreed to develop modalities and substance for TICAD 7 Summit to bring the business communities from both sides on board. The Senior Official Meeting preceding TICAD 7 Summit will be held in Addis Ababa.

IAEA Signs Agreement with Consortium of 11 Japanese Institutions to Support Training in Nuclear Medicine

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has signed an agreement on Friday with a consortium of 11 Japanese universities and other institutions to strengthen human resources development in the field of nuclear medicine around the world.

Nuclear medicine is crucial to diagnose and manage diseases, especially brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s. A new Practical Arrangement between the IAEA and a consortium of 11 Japanese institutions will boost training opportunities for medical professionals in this field. (Photo: IAEA)  

The Practical Arrangement will boost training opportunities for medical professionals in IAEA Member States in the use of imaging techniques to diagnose and manage non-communicable diseases, with a special emphasis on degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The Practical Arrangement, signed on the margins of the 28-30 November IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology, will enable the IAEA to increase assistance to countries in clinical practice and research, along with opportunities for certified continuous professional development in the Japanese institutions. Another focus area is the development and implementation of nuclear medicine curricula and academic programmes.

“This arrangement will support IAEA projects in human health,” said IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation Dazhu Yang. “It will focus on fields where Japan can offer expertise in support of our Member States.”

Every year, over 35 million nuclear medicine examinations are performed globally, particularly to diagnose and manage cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.

These types of conditions are a growing problem with a global rise in life expectancy. However, countries often lack programmes to train specialists and technical personnel to facilitate diagnosis and treatment. For some degenerative disorders of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s, diagnostic imaging is crucial for early detection, which allows for a better management of the disease.

“Japan is proactively promoting medical care projects,” Kiyoto Tsuji, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said in his statement at this week’s ministerial conference. “This collaboration will put nuclear science technology research and development into practical use, and bring about positive socio-economic impact in a sustainable manner.”  

The consortium includes leading Japanese institutions in the field of nuclear medicine: the Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, the Fujita Health University School of Medicine, the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, the International University of Health and Welfare, the Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medicine, the Kyoto University Hospital, the National Cancer Center, the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, the Southern Tohoku Research Institute for Neuroscience, the Tohoku University and the Tokyo Medical and Dental University.

The IAEA assists Member States in nuclear medicine through the coordination of research projects and the provision of expertise, training, equipment and internationally harmonized safety guidelines.  

The Japan Sports Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partner to use the power of sport to achieve the SDGs

The Japan Sports Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered to utilize the momentum of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 to increase awareness of, and participation in, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Launching in 2019, the “Our Global Goals” project will bring together Japanese and global athletes as Ambassadors to champion the SDGs. Harnessing the spirit of sport, these ambassadors will work with both Japanese and global NGOs towards realizing the SDGs and creating a legacy of action for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals) are a series of ambitious objectives and targets to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and combat climate change by 2030. The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) has implemented a Sustainability Plan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 which seeks to ensure that Tokyo 2020 contributes to the realization of the SDGs.

Building on this momentum, the Gates Foundation will provide funding and expertise for various programs to be carried out by “Our Global Goals” Ambassadors in conjunction with NGOs. These will include field visits, workshops and learning opportunities focused predominantly on the first six SDGs – No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, and Clean Water and Sanitation. Through these programs, Ambassadors will raise awareness of, and encourage participation in, actions for the realization of the SDGs.

This project has been certified as a Tokyo 2020 Official Programme. It is an extension of the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers initiative launched in September 2017, which uses stories, data and partnerships to highlight progress towards the Global Goals, hold governments accountable, and foster new leadership. With the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games, the Gates Foundation aims to promote the commitment of sports communities in Japan to help achieve the SDGs and encourage global participation from civic society. The project also expands on the Japan Sports Agency’s “Sports SDGs” program and ongoing work to address social issues through sports.

With the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 as a key upcoming milestone, Japan is in the global spotlight,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Japan is already the world’s fourth largest donor of development aid, and the Our Global Goals project is an opportunity to cement the SDGs as the legacy of Japan’s Olympic Games. I am excited that Japanese athletes will support the Global Goals by inspiring people to get more engaged in the next decade leading up to the 2030 deadline.

Tomoko Ukishima, State Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for the Government of Japan, said: “Sports have an incredible ability to attract and engage. We hope the Our Global Goals project can play an important role in building awareness and contributing to the realization of the SDGs in Japan and around the world.

Yoshiro Mori, President of The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said: “We welcome this collaboration between the Japan Sports Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and their announcement today that they will be launching various projects aimed at addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through sport. We are pleased to recognise their initiative as part of the Tokyo 2020 Official Programme – the first time that SDGs have been incorporated into the planning and delivery of an Olympic and Paralympic Games. Their collaboration reflects our Games vision, and we hope the active participation of athletes in their projects after the Games will become one of Tokyo 2020’s legacies.

UN chief expresses full support for US-Japan dialogue with North Korea


UN/Dan Powell: Secretary-General António Guterres (left) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan brief the media at a joint press conference in Tokyo.

At a joint press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the ongoing talks between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as Japan’s renewed initiative of dialogue with the country.

“As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am obviously totally committed to the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions on North Korea,” he told reporters, adding that he fully supported the negotiations taking place “with the objective that we all share, to see a total denuclearization that is verifiable, that is irreversible, to make sure that North Korea can be a normal member of the international community in this region.”

In mid-June, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a historic summit in Singapore, signing a joint statement which included a pledge to end DPRK’s nuclear weapons programme. Days after conducting its sixth nuclear test last September, a North Korean ballistic missile flew over mainland Japan, drawing condemnation from the Security Council, which had just ratcheted up sanctions.

Standing alongside the Japanese leader, Mr. Guterres went on to express his support for Japan’s willingness to hold fresh talks with the North Korean leadership, following Prime Minister Abe’s offer of a high-level summit with the country.

The UN chief hailed these developments as timely, coming in the wake of a United Nation’s disarmament initiative, launched in May of this year. The new agenda, “Securing Our Common Future”, sets out his bold new vision for a world without nuclear arsenals and other deadly weapons. It focuses on three priorities — weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons and new battlefield technologies.

He declared that “the North Korea and the Iran situations are two central aspects of our concerns to make sure that we preserve non-proliferation, but also recognizing that non-proliferation needs to be accompanied by effective disarmament, progressive disarmament measures in the nuclear dimension. And, at the same time, the full implementation of the ban on chemical weapons and biological weapons.”


UN/ Dan Powell/ Secretary-General António Guterres meets with survivors of the atomic bomb attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima

He added that the agenda represented “disarmament to save lives”, taking into account the “devastating impact” of conventional weapons on civilian populations in urban centres and “disarmament for the future generations, namely to make sure that we do not develop arms, systems of arms, that fully escape the control of human beings and responsibility of human beings”.

The Secretary-General travelled to Nagasaki later on Wednesday, where he was due to meet Mayor Tomihisa Taue, and other local officials, as well as with some hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bombs.

On Thursday, he visits the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, before taking part in the 73rd Nagasaki Peace Ceremony.

Japan provides US $700 million to African Development Fund

JapanThe Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has signed a loan agreement with the African Development Fund (ADF) designed to provide an Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan to the tune of 73.601 billion Japanese Yen (approx. US $700.9 million). The loan is part of Japan’s contribution to the African Development Fund’s Fourteenth Replenishment (ADF-14). This is the first JICA loan provided to the ADF.

The loan will provide the African Development Fund with resources to support recipient countries during the ADF-14 period (January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019), and contribute to economic growth as well as poverty alleviation in Africa’s least developed countries.

The President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina, acknowledged the landmark event and expressed the Bank’s gratitude and appreciation to the Government of Japan. Signing the Notes of Exchange, Adesina said, “Thanks to Japan and its Government for keeping a promise. One often hears about many international pledges of development cooperation remaining unfilled. I would like to commend the full accomplishment of Japan’s commitments to Africa’s development. With its US $700-million loan, which came on top of US $328 million in the form of a grant, Japan has significantly contributed to the ADF commitment capacity for the period 2017-2019.”

Adesina stated that Japan was a longstanding development partner for Africa, with a significant portion of its aid commitments to the continent channeled through the African Development Bank Group. “Japan is the second-largest contributor to the ADF in cumulative terms, and it has increased its contributions significantly over time.”

Also speaking on the occasion, Japan’s Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, Hiroshi Kawamura, said he was glad to sign the accord to bolster Africa’s socio-economic development. “Our contributions to the ADF-14 replenishment will allow the Government of Japan to increase its contributions to 7.3%, against 6.7% for the ADF-13,” he stated.

According to Kawamura: “We hope the loans and grants will be used effectively to improve economic and social conditions of less privileged people in Africa. Also, the reason of our meeting today would further contribute to accelerating the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).”

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Chief Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Tsutomu Iimura, said his institution fully adheres to the African Development Bank’s High 5s. “There is no limit in the potential collaboration and synergies between the two institutions.” Iimura expressed the hope that JICA’s projects and contributions to ADF-14 would bolster the Bank’s capacity to carry out the objectives of the High 5s in countries where support is most needed.

Co-signing the accord for the African Development Bank, Acting Vice-President for Finance, Hassatou N’Sele, thanked the Japanese Government and its people for “exceptional support” to the ADF-14 replenishment, noting that, “These investments by Japan will make a difference in the lives of many Africans. Japan is one of the African Development Bank’s most privileged partners. Your various financial instruments will help us meet our development goals”.

The African Development Fund is part of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group and provides support primarily to least developed and poor countries in the form of very long-term, low-interest financing. In contrast, the African Development Bank, which is the other arm of the African Development Bank Group, provides financing to middle-income countries in Africa.

Since its inception in 1972, the African Development Fund has conventionally received subscriptions in the form of grants from donor countries, including Japan, as a source of funding to achieve its development mandate. During the negotiations of its fourteenth replenishment, the African Development Fund offered donor countries the opportunity to include concessional loans within subscriptions to the Fund for the very first time.

JICA also provides private sector development support through projects under Enhanced Private Sector Assistance for Africa (EPSA), which the Government of Japan and the African Development Bank launched as a strategy for support in Africa in July 2005. It is JICA’s policy to maintain its relationship with the African Development Bank Group as an important development partner contributing to economic growth and poverty alleviation in Africa.

Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers pledge to improve bilateral ties

Jiji PressBEIJING (Jiji Press) — Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, agreed Sunday that the two countries should steadily promote reciprocal visits by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping in order to improve bilateral relations.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi before their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing

Jun Yasukawa/The Yomiuri Shimbun
Foreign Minister Taro Kono, left, shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi ahead of their meeting in Beijing on Sunday.

In their talks, held at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing, Kono and Wang reaffirmed that Japan and China are cooperative partners and will not become a threat to each other, with the two countries marking the 40th anniversary this year of the signing of the Japan-China peace and friendship treaty.

Kono asked for Chinese cooperation to hold a three-way summit meeting also involving South Korea in Japan this spring and invited Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to visit Japan for the summit.

In response, Wang said China aims for an early summit among the three Asian countries. Japan and China will make specific preparations, according to a Japanese official with access to the Kono-Wang meeting.

In their meeting, Kono and Wang agreed to promote bilateral cooperation to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Kono underscored the need to ramp up the pressure on North Korea over its nuclear and missile development. The two ministers reaffirmed that their countries will fully implement related U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Kono protested the recent entry of a submerged Chinese submarine into the contiguous zone surrounding Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. He urged China to prevent a recurrence of such entry.

A situation that could impede the improvement of Japan-China ties should not be caused, Kono said.

Kono and Wang agreed to make efforts for the early launch of a bilateral maritime and air liaison mechanism aimed at forestalling an accidental clash in the East China Sea.

Along with the foreign ministers’ meeting, the Japanese and Chinese governments reached a broad agreement to conclude a bilateral social security treaty intended to prevent double pension premium payments by company workers stationed away from their home countries.

Kono was visiting China for the first time since he assumed the ministerial post in August last year. He was the first Japanese foreign minister to pay a visit to China in about 21 months.

Credit: Japan News