Distracted Biologist
Not a science blog, just a scientist's blog.
Lettuce See the Future: Japanese Farmer Builds High-Tech Indoor Veggie Factory



Humans have spent the last 10,000 years mastering agriculture. But a freak summer storm or bad drought can still mar many a well-planted harvest. Not anymore, says Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, who has moved industrial-scale farming under the roof.

Working in Miyagi Prefecture in eastern Japan, which was badly hit by powerful earthquake and tsunamis in 2011, Shimamura turned a former Sony Corporation semiconductor factory into the world’s largest indoor farm illuminated by LEDs. The special LED fixtures were developed by GE and emit light at wavelengths optimal for plant growth. 

The farm is nearly half the size of a football field (25,000 square feet). It opened on July and it is already producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. “I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen,” Shimamura says.


The farm uses 17,500 LED lights spread over 18 cultivation racks reaching 15 levels high.

The LED lights are a key part of the farm’s magic. They allow Shimamura to control the night-and-day cycle and accelerate growth. “What we need to do is not just setting up more days and nights,” he says. “We want to achieve the best combination of photosynthesis during the day and breathing at night by controlling the lighting and the environment.”

Shimamura says that the systems allows him to grow lettuce full of vitamins and minerals two-and-a-half times faster than an outdoor farm. He is also able to cut discarded produce from 50 percent to just 10 percent of the harvest, compared to a conventional farm. As a result, the farms productivity per square foot is up 100-fold, he says.

By controlling temperature, humidity and irrigation, the farm can also cut its water usage to just 1 percent of the amount needed by outdoor fields.


Shimamura got the idea for his indoor farm as a teenager, when he visited a “vegetable factory” at the Expo ’85 world’s fair in Tsukuba, Japan. He went on to study plant physiology at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, and in 2004 started an indoor farming company called Mirai, which in Japanese means “future.”

The concept took off in 2011, when GE approached Shimamura with an idea for using advanced LED lights to illuminate the farm. The LEDs last longer and consume 40 percent less power than fluorescent lights. The companies started testing the technology in March 2012 and came up with the final design a year later.


The farm is producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day.

GE engineers used proprietary technology to make the lights thin enough to fit inside the stacks, provide uniform light and endure the high humidity inside. “That way, we can put in more growing racks and increase productivity dramatically,” says Tomoaki Kimura, country manager for GE Lighting Japan.

The GE Japan team believes that indoor farms like the one in the Miyagi Prefecture could be a key to solving food shortages in the world. Mirai and GE are already working on “plant factories” in Hong Kong and the Far East of Russia. Says Shimamura: “Finally, we are about to start the real agricultural industrialization.”


Shigeharu Shimamura shows his produce.

I wonder if they also deal with significantly less pests, eliminating the need for pesticides?

é  1238  û    —    1:01pm


why the fuck does everyone in the purge movies want to kill people if crime was legal i’d find a way to erase my student debt and also probably steal a bunch of new clothes

é  172930  û    —    2:00pm



Young Scientists Say They’re Sexually Abused In The Field (NPR)

In a survey of scientists engaged in field research, the majority — 64 percent — said they had personally experienced sexual harassment while at a field site, and 22 percent reported being the victim of sexual assault.
Most of the people reporting harassment or assault were women, and the vast majority were still students or postdocs.
And for female victims, the perpetrator was more likely to be a superior, not a peer. “This is happening to them when they are trainees, when they are most vulnerable within the academic hierarchy,” says evolutionary biologist Katie Hinde , an author on the study in PLOS ONE. Hinde and her colleagues say this could be a factor in the large number of women who enter scientific fields but don’t continue.

Students work at an archaeological dig near Silchester, England.

In/outside and on/off the field, this is utterly disturbing and unacceptable.

Respect women, respect your students. They are scientists.
Guess who finally reached enlightenment? #me #peaceout #pogonip (at University of California Santa Cruz Colleges)
  • SARAH: Daddy, were you in the shower?
  • DAD: Yes, I was in the shower.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: I was dirty. The shower gets me clean.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Why does the shower get me clean?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: Because the water washes the dirt away when I use soap.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Why do I use soap?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: Because the soap grabs the dirt and lets the water wash it off.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Why does the soap grab the dirt?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: Because soap is a surfactant.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Why is soap a surfactant?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: That is an EXCELLENT question. Soap is a surfactant because it forms water-soluble micelles that trap the otherwise insoluble dirt and oil particles.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Why does soap form micelles?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: Soap molecules are long chains with a polar, hydrophilic head and a non-polar, hydrophobic tail. Can you say ‘hydrophilic’?
  • SARAH: Aidrofawwic
  • DAD: And can you say ‘hydrophobic’?
  • SARAH: Aidrofawwic
  • DAD: Excellent! The word ‘hydrophobic’ means that it avoids water.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Why does it mean that?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: It’s Greek! ‘Hydro’ means water and ‘phobic’ means ‘fear of’. ‘Phobos’ is fear. So ‘hydrophobic’ means ‘afraid of water’.
  • SARAH: Like a monster?
  • DAD: You mean, like being afraid of a monster?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: A scary monster, sure. If you were afraid of a monster, a Greek person would say you were gorgophobic.
  • (pause)
  • SARAH: (rolls her eyes) I thought we were talking about soap.
  • DAD: We are talking about soap.
  • (longish pause)
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Why do the molecules have a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: Because the C-O bonds in the head are highly polar, and the C-H bonds in the tail are effectively non-polar.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Because while carbon and hydrogen have almost the same electronegativity, oxygen is far more electronegative, thereby polarizing the C-O bonds.
  • SARAH: Why?
  • DAD: Why is oxygen more electronegative than carbon and hydrogen?
  • SARAH: Yes.
  • DAD: That’s complicated. There are different answers to that question, depending on whether you’re talking about the Pauling or Mulliken electronegativity scales. The Pauling scale is based on homo- versus heteronuclear bond strength differences, while the Mulliken scale is based on the atomic properties of electron affinity and ionization energy. But it really all comes down to effective nuclear charge. The valence electrons in an oxygen atom have a lower energy than those of a carbon atom, and electrons shared between them are held more tightly to the oxygen, because electrons in an oxygen atom experience a greater nuclear charge and therefore a stronger attraction to the atomic nucleus! Cool, huh?
  • (pause)
  • SARAH: I don’t get it.
  • DAD: That’s OK. Neither do most of my students.
  • (The Dad is Stephen McNeil, "an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, British Columbia.")
  • Sounds like my childhood.
Just a little something to help keep our sanity #fridaysinlab #gradschool #teaway  (at Hensill Hall)

Fuck Yeah Women of Color



Posted by Quotes Sayings

Good ones


the pressure on first generation children of immigrants 

to prove that you are indeed proof that parents’ sacrifice was worth it

is something that many Americans will never understand

And to be able to pay them back for their sacrifice

é  49665  û    —    2:00pm

What If The World Cup Were Awarded For Saving Trees And Drinking Soda?
The World Cup is down to four teams: Argentina, Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands. We’ve seen how these nations perform on the soccer field. But how do they perform in the fields of health and development?
The big loser in the semifinals of the World Cup is also lagging behind on the poverty ladder. Roughly 10 percent of Brazil’s population — 20 million people — live on less than $2 a day. In Argentina, the figure is below 2 percent. In Germany and the Netherlands, it’s basically zero. No wonder Brazilians were so upset that the government spent billions of dollars on soccer stadiums.
Life Expectancy
There’s a tie for first place here. The average German and Dutch citizen can expect to live to age 81. In Argentina, the number is 76. Bringing up the rear once again is Brazil, at 74. But all four nations are relatively close to the country with the highest life expectancy: Japan, at 83 years. And they’re decades ahead of the country with the lowest: Sierra Leone, at 45.
Who’s been hacking down the most trees? In terms of deforestation rate, the loser is Argentina, which has been clearing nearly 1 percent of its trees each year for the past decade. Next worst is Brazil, which has been felling about 1/2 of 1 percent of its forested land annually. But because Brazil has more forested land than the other three countries — 2 million square miles, including the Amazon — it’s the loser in terms of total trees chopped. Germany has been perfectly conserving its forested land for a decade — a zero percent change. And the Netherlands is actually slowly growing its forests.
Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Germany is the biggest polluter of the four by a wide margin: 745,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Next is Brazil at 420,000. Argentina and the Netherlands are neck and neck, with Argentina emitting slightly less CO2 per year: 181,000 to 182,000. Just as they did in the World Cup semifinal, the Argentines have managed to edge out the Dutch.
Continue reading.
Illustration by Leif Parsons for NPR.


If only everything really complicated was explained this way. 








Nicholas Lord, a Navy sailor since 2008 currently on active duty, is under investigation after threatening to rape a young woman who is a Navy recruit.
The young woman posted a photo of herself on Facebook, captioning it to say she’s proud of how she’s working hard to get in shape for the Navy, and she’s excited to be leaving soon. The photo was shared on the page for her Delayed Entry Program for her fellow Navy recruits.
Nicholas Lord, who is not a current recruit and who has been serving in the Navy since 2008, then commented:
You’ll end up pregnant real soon you fucking wh***. If I could and I knew you, I’d hold you down and rape you.
The next day, Lord gloated about his threat on his Facebook page, updating his status to say he’d been “trolling feminist pages.” In case it needs to be said, the Facebook page for a Navy program is not a “feminist page.” It’s a Navy recruiting page. (x) (x)
I don’t know what the Navy’s punishment system is like, but I hope he gets the worst possible. I hope they investigate his past history in the military, too. If he’s bold enough to outright threaten female recruits, under his own name, on public, Navy-run social media, I seriously doubt he hasn’t harassed and threatened female sailors. He may even have raped them.
Especially given the military’s problem with letting men get away with harassment and rape, they need to severely punish him.

Send it viral, and he will see ramifications.

If you only reblog one thing today I hope it’s this.

Guarantee he gets kicked out.  The military is really cracking down now on sexual assault and harassment.

I’m guessing he’ll get NJP and administrative separation. They’ll want to quietly get him as far from the Navy as possible, THEN make an example of him.Dumb bastard deserves to be strung up to dry and have an example made of him.

This is the exact shit I don’t tolerate. What the actual fuck prompts someone to say shit like this AND THEN boast about it? It’s not heroic, it’s not decent, it’s not a good show of positive character. This guy is a lowlife shit and deserves to be discharged.

The stories I heard in The Invisible War will stay with me forever so I really hope that the military is actually serious about ending assault and harassment. Getting sick fucks like this out of the service would go a long way to doing so. 

Who would you like to see on the Iron Throne?

I love it when the actors stay true to their characters but also when they’re completely opposite haha



The best engagement rings are the ones that hold significance. Japan-based Torafu Architects coated a ring in a thin layer of silver that rubs off over time to reveal an 18-karat, gold wedding band beneath. By wearing each ring, the time shared between two people can thus be physically seen, in order to remind them of how beautiful and strong long-lasting love can truly become as time passes.