About 60 miles from the site of the deadly 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima prefecture, inside a former silicon chip manufacturing facility owned by the Japanese computer company Fujitsu, a small team of highly trained engineers are working on one of the company’s hottest new products.
Fujitsu’s marketing team claims it’s already proving a hit with their oldest—and youngest—consumers. It’s so popular, in fact, it’s probably just the first in a long line of related Fujitsu products. The product is lettuce. Like the giant monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, this new head of lettuce is simultaneously a product of this factory’s past and the future.
Fujitsu is a space-age R&D innovator with sprawling, specialized factories. But several of its facilities, including this one, went dark when the company tightened its belt and reorganized its product lines after the 2008 global financial crisis. Now in the aftermath, it has retrofitted this facilities to serve tomorrow’s vegetable consumers, who will pay for a better-than-organic product, and who enjoy a bowl of iceberg more if they know it was monitored by thousands of little sensors.
Japan sent a tiny humanoid robot in space to keep an astronaut company.
Daily Fast Feed Roundup
Good morning Tumblr! Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know today:
- A patent trolling’ firm called Eolas was just crushed in court. A win for web innovators every where.
- Finland is set to vote on a set of fairer copyright laws that were drafted by its own citizens. Cool!
- The NSA can send a drone after any mobile phone, even if its off.
- A Japanese power company admits that radioactive water is leaking from the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was damaged in a 2011 tsunami.
- Stream Nation is like a Dropbox for storing and sharing videos privately.
- Ubuntu is crowd funding $32 million for a dual-boot smartphone that loads either Android or Ubuntu. Wait, $32 million?
Have a great week!
Daily Fast Feed Roundup
Happy Hump Day! Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know today:
- Cool experiments on the International Space Station are teaching us more about fire.
- High levels of toxic and radio substances were found in the groundwater near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
- There are now 1 million active advertisers on Facebook, reports the social media giant.
- From our NSA secret surveillance tracker: Google is challenging the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court (FISA), saying it has the right to talk about any government requests for data.
- Google Play is now offering streaming content apps from the History Channel, Lifetime, and A&E.
- Tesla, which is demo-ing its swap-able electric car battery this week, is recalling some of its Model S electric cars due to a seat safety defect.
- TripAdvisor just bought GateGuru, an app that offers travelers airport info in real-time.
- On the run from the law? Well then you need a pair of these goggles specially designed to block facial recognition patterns.
- The Brazilian government is sending military aid to five major cities in response to massive protests.
Remarkable Images Of Volcanic Lightning, A Scientific Mystery
Martin Rietze, a German photographer who works under the title “Alien Landscapes on Planet Earth,” has traveled to dozens of them. Rietze’s photo of the Sakurajima volcano was featured as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day earlier in the week, after Rietze traveled to southern Japan to photograph it in January. The volcano was part of the Osumi Peninsula until 1914, when it blew its lid and separated to form its own little island. Today, it’s one of the most active volcanos in Asia. “It leaves a very deep impression,” Rietze tells Co.Design. “Sitting near a boiling lava lake, feeling the heat and static charge of an ongoing eruption column 1000m high, smelling all kinds of toxic gasses, watching burning sulfur, hearing eruption sounds as loud as a starting airplane nearby …”
Think you can’t draw? This experimental surface promises to make a skilled draftsman out of even the most hopeless dunces, using nothing but the magic of magnets.
Japanese architecture firm Torafu Architects has come up with an ingenious way to improve upon the mall information booth, one of the least effective advertising ploys around: turn it into a playground.
Guess who thought up this portable wooden house that is self-powered and completely off the grid? An advertising agency.
The home is powered mainly by an organic photovoltaic film on the structure and by the Nissan Leaf electric car (acting as a generator), which generates 24 kW per hour. The designers believe that these two power sources combined can provide all the energy the house might need.
Debris from the Japanese tsunami is moving across the Pacific and could be heading for the shores of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. How can we clean it up before it gets there?
This past September, the Russian research vessel STS Pallada encountered the wrecks of small fishing vessels from the disaster while traveling from Honolulu back to Russia. One of the crew members wrote: “We also sighted a TV set, fridge and a couple of other home appliances. … We keep sighting every day things like wooden boards, plastic bottles, buoys from fishing nets (small and big ones), an object resembling wash basin, drums, boots, other wastes.”
Take a stroll through the aisles in a supermarket this week. In the time it takes you to count to hundred you’ll likely be bombarded with as many brands claiming eco-friendliness.
Companies are piling on the new trend, selling everything from eco friendly baby powder to shaving cream to batteries. And consumers are noticing these brands among the 300,000 new products hitting the shelves worldwide every year. But behind the flashy labels and TV commercials guaranteed to show windmills, solar panels, and endless green fields lies a rotten truth.
TerraChoice, a market research company revealed the results of a study of 1,018 products randomly tested to see if they lived up to their eco-friendly claims. The results were startling. Of all the products surveyed, all but one failed to support their green boasts. The offenses ranged from products that advertised themselves as nontoxic but, frighteningly, just replaced old toxins with new ones that were still banned years ago to, more commonly, products that claimed so-called green status that could never be substantiated.
But the list of lies and techniques aimed at seducing the consumer seemed never-ending. There were hidden trade-offs—one aspect of the product was promoted as environmentally friendly while the negative ingredients’ impacts were obscured. There were irrelevant claims—ones that were technically but unimportant for the planet. There were lesser-of-two-evils claims that were narrowly true but ignored larger environmental problems—the supermarket equivalents to “green SUVs.”
All of these falsehoods and obfuscations take a toll on consumers—and it can be seen in Japan, home to vibrant innovation, where residents’ trust was put to the ultimate test during a food scare in late 2007/early 2008. Japanese people tend to trust a lot (perhaps explaining why there was no widespread looting in the days after the recent earthquake). It is one of those societies where you still can leave your umbrella unlocked in the entrance to the supermarket—and it will actually be there when you return. But the tradition of trust was put to the ultimate test when dumplings, a classic Chinese dish produced in China, packed, frozen and imported to Japan, suddenly caused the death of seven Japanese and sickened thousands of others. It was the first time in Japan’s history anyone had faced such widespread or fatal food poisoning. It created shock waves throughout the country. The sales of dumplings dropped to zero, and the effect trickled into almost every other category of frozen food. Consumers were in despair, unsure of what to trust.
And then something unusual happened.
I noticed this when taking a stroll through a Japanese supermarket. As I passed by shelf after shelf, cartoon drawings of people—like the ones you might see in the Wall Street Journal, appeared on brands. The sugar had one, the fresh salad, the fish—even the dumplings. Next to the head was a name of a person, his title, age, and home address. The title stated: “I’m responsible for this product.” Was it a joke—had Japan once again come up with another cartoon craze, or was this the next big marketing trick? Anywhere else in the world, maybe. Anywhere else, there would at least be a small disclaimer on the back of the product explaining the ruse. Here was a QR code next to every face. It took me to a site where the actual person I’d seen as a cartoon appeared as a real person—in video. He explained how he handpicked the particular product I was holding in my hand. I saw the production line, the transportation, and just in case I still suspected something dodgy about him, I could click on a link to learn more about him and his family.
Continue reading The New Faces of Greenwashing (And Their Mothers)
“A full-blown nuclear meltdown would be devastating for pregnant women and their fetuses, which are particularly vulnerable to the lasting effects of radiation. Should the worst-case scenario become a reality, it could lead to a generation of children born with all manner of maladies, from congenital malformation to mental retardation.”