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Topic Reading-Vol.2789-11/30/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Global epidemic' of childhood inactivity
All over the world, children are becoming physically less active, according to the WHO. Nearly four out of five children are found to have less physical activity than they are supposed to. Instead, they are sitting too long in the chair studying, watching whatever screen, or playing games. South Korean children are one of the least active among the 146 countries studied. The country is known for its hard-studying culture to get to prominent universities, and the children spend long hours studying in school, cram school and at home. Also, it is one of the most digitized countries, thanks to the high-tech giant Samsung. In general, boys are more active than girls in most of the countries. The World Health Organization says inactive children’s health, brain development, and even social skills are impaired. Physical activities include any activity that makes the heartbeat faster and the lungs breathe more, such as running, swimming, cycling, playing sports, and even walking. Aren’t these activities that children want to do?
As the world requires more brainwork than physical activity, Homo Sapience seem to be adapting themselves to the new world.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about how active today’s children are.


Topic Reading-Vol.2788-11/29/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Chinese scientists develop lab-grown meat from animal cells
Cultured meat is a form of cellular agriculture. It is produced by in vitro cultivation of animal cells without slaughtering the animal. Unlike plant-based meat, which is made by extracting proteins from plants such as soybeans, peas or wheat, cultured meat takes animal cells and nurtures them to create muscle tissue. So, it is still real meat but not from the animal’s body but from just cells. No commercial lab-grown meat is on the shelves yet, but research and engineering are on the way. Recently, a team of scientists in a Chinese university successfully produced cultured pork meat. Since plant-based meat is already gaining some ground in upscale restaurants and supermarkets, it won’t be so long before such cultured meat is sold next to the slaughtered animal meat section. What will it be called then, cultured meat, lab-grown meat or merciful meat? Will it then create a new food criterion like lab-culturists or merciful-eaters in addition to vegetarians and vegans?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this rising meat category.


Topic Reading-Vol.2787-11/28/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How climate change could kill the red apple?
The banana is yellow, the orange is orange, and the apple is red, but not always. In fact, the apple has a variety of colors, such as red, green and yellow. But when you think of an apple, it is usually red. And unless you want to have or try a different taste or flavor, you most likely pick red apples over yellow or green ones. There seems to be a certain expectation of taste by the color. While apple buyers tend to weigh more on the color rather than the taste or texture, many kinds of apples are grown in farms that provide different functions. Some are more suitable for sauce or cider and others are perfect for pies.
What makes apple red is a protein called MYB10. The more MYB10 in the apple, the redder the skin likely be. Also, temperatures play some roles. As temperatures rise, apples’ skin less likely becomes red. That’s why apples are usually grown in cooler regions.
But what if no or only a few apples were red? That could happen if global warming progresses and temperatures in apple-growing regions rise.
In a few decades from now, your grandchildren may ask, “Did apples use to be red?”
Enjoy reading the article about what affects the color of the apple.


Topic Reading-Vol.2786-11/27/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
In pictures: Eurostar celebrates 25 years of service
Eurostar is an international high-speed railway opened 25 years ago. It connects London to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and other destination in the continent through the Channel Tunnel, a 50-kilometer long railway tunnel beneath the English Channel. The train runs at a top speed of 320 km/h, carrying the passengers from London to Paris in just two hours and sixteen minutes whose economy class ticket costs between 64 and over one hundred euros depending on the time of departure. Considering the time and hassles to and from the airport, the train service is a convenient transportation option between these busy cities. True, Eurostar trains carried over 200 million passengers through the tunnel, including nobles and celebrities like Queen Elizabeth II and Tom Hanks.
Unfortunately though, while the train line links the UK and EU destinations smoothly and safely, the relationship between the both ends of the channel is hardly predictable, and soon, all passengers and crewmembers are going to be required to carry their passport and go through customs and immigration like they used to be.
Enjoy reading about Eurostar’s 25th anniversary and think if you want to travel under the channel someday before or after the Brexit.


Topic Reading-Vol.2785-11/26/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Are Instagram captions more powerful than pics?
Photos on Instagram, videos on YouTube, and anything on Facebook. Postings on these popular and dominating social network services are most commonly valued by the number of “Likes.” Someone may be surprised and honored to find that their posting is liked by thousands overnight. For influencers, who have the power to affect the purchase decisions of others by their popularity, the number of Likes to their postings is crucial. It is a simple indicator of how influential the person’s posting is. So, what draws more Likes for Instagram?
You may think that’s, of course, the photos. Yes, the photo is the meat of the meal. To you surprise, captions play a very important and influential role to enhance the value of the photo. Photo caption could be just a word, a few words or lines of text under the photo. It not only explains what the photo shows or tries to communicate but also elaborates on the message of the photo and enhances its value within the community. In many cases, captions keep viewers more interested and even involved in the photo message so that they create more interactions among the viewers. If one wants to be an influencer, he or she needs to be a good or lucky photographer as well as a creative and communicative copywriter.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about what captions add to the image alone.


Topic Reading-Vol.2784-11/25/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Behind-the-scenes at the world's most punctual mega airport
Haneda, or Tokyo International Airport, is the world’s fifth’s busiest airport with approximately 87 million passengers landed or departed last year. It is Japan’s central airport connecting nearly 50 other domestic airports. Haneda is also conveniently located as it takes only 30 minutes to get to Tokyo station and other major destinations in the capital city.
To your surprise, this busy airport has been awarded the world’s most punctual airport for four years in a row. In fact, it delivered over 85% of its flights on time in 2018, well above 77%, the average for other major airports in the world. So, what is the magic? Are there any special technologies or devices deployed in the airport like facial recognition cameras or body scanners that allow the passengers to go through security checkpoints non-stop? Is that because the airport is relatively compact in size for the volume of the passengers and the number of the flights? Please be reminded that at nearby Tokyo station, bullet trains leave punctually every few minutes.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about what makes things run smoothly and flawlessly.


Topic Reading-Vol.2783-11/24/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Is Uzbek cuisine actually to die for?
Uzbekistan is landlocked by five landlocked countries in Central Asia, meaning you have to go pass at least two countries to get to any ocean or sea. The former Soviet Republic has a diverse cultural heritage due to its storied history and strategic locations on the Silk Road, like Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. Naturally, Uzbekistan food is diverse and alluring. Among them, there are national dishes that are commonly and regularly eaten by the residents, such as Samsa, a pastry filled with meat, Lagman, rich soup with meat and noodle, Ssashike, kebab, Manti, steamed dumpling, Non, tandyr baked bread, and Plov, rice pilaf made with carrots, beans, and meat. These dishes are created under the influence of Turkic, Kazakh, Uyghur, Mongolian and many other cultures over a long period of time.
Among those national dishes, Plov, or Osh, is the most popular and distinguished Uzbek dish. It is not only eaten at special occasions but also weekly or daily. Plov is similar to pilaf but cooked in a deep cast-iron pot over an open fire. The pot is so huge that can prepare over 200 servings per cooking. It is oily and greasy as the dish is cooked in various oils and with fatty sheep meat. It is a filling dish to both stomach and heart. Food experts and nutritionists say Plov and other Uzbeks national dishes are so salty, oily, and calorie-rich that cause the highest diet-related deaths in the world.
Is it just food that causes dietary problems or the people that eat too much of the food?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about Uzbek’s traditional national dishes.


Topic Reading-Vol.2782-11/23/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A rubbish story: China's mega-dump full 25 years ahead of schedule
The amount and type of waste seem to indicate how economic growth and the environment are managed. As more goods are ordered by individuals online, more packaging materials are used per item. Indeed, as online retailers generate more business, they also create more trash. Also, supermarkets and convenience stores alike tend to create more trash as each item they sell is wrapped and packaged for convenience and easier handling. Such retailing practices seem to have produced much more trash in China than previously predicted. A quarter-century ago when a huge landfill site, the size of about 100 football fields, was opened near the ancient capital of Xian in Shaanxi Province, it was designed to accept trash for 50 years. However, it is already full after 25 years. Now, several incineration facilities are being constructed to take more trash than being disposed of daily. But how long will they last? Also, what about the environmental impacts of burning trash? It seems to depend on how the waste is sorted, collected and processed as well as the society as a while work out to reduce, recycle and reuse waste.
Enjoy reading the text and think about how economic growth and the environment can be balanced.


Topic Reading-Vol.2781-11/22/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Iran petrol price hike: Protests erupt over surprise rationing
Iran’s economy has been badly suffering from the US sanctions that came into effect in 2018, which have slashed nearly a half of its imports and exports. In fact, since about 80% of the nation’s public revenue depends on oil export, Iran’s currency has gone down to record lows, the annual inflation rate quadrupled, which triggered numbers of public protests, especially by low-income earners.
The Islamic country has been heavily subsidizing gas prices and is one of the cheapest gas providers in the world taking the currency rate into account. The gas price had been only 10,000 Rial, about a little less than a quarter of a US dollar, per litter up to 250 litters a month. It sounds even cheaper than a bottle of water. So, a person who pumped 250 litter last month paid 2,500,000 Iranian Rial or approximately 62 dollars. However, the government suddenly and substantially reduced the subsidize effective immediately. Now, a driver who fills the same gas tank has to pay 165 dollars each month for the same amount of gas. That’s a 264% price hike! Even though a liter of gas costs USS.66, still no more expensive than any developed countries, those who drive a lot will suffer the most, such as long commuters, taxi drivers and local transporters. Angry drivers ran riots on the streets in many cities and clashed with police forces. It sounds just like what happened in Santiago, the capital of Chile, recently whose city government tried to raise the metro price and caused commuters protests that sparked nationwide protests against inequality.
The Iranian government said the reduction of the gas subsidize is intended to provide allowance to low-income families. But for some people, the allowance could be offset or even counter-compensated by the price hike.
Enjoy reading and learning about the public sensitivity of transportation costs.


Topic Reading-Vol.2780-11/21/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Nine-year-old child genius to graduate university
A child prodigy is a person with extraordinary talent that can produce meaningful output in some area to the level of an expert. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who composed his first pieces of music when he was five, is known as a child prodigy. And there are a number of musicians who exhibit extraordinary talent in playing musical instruments and win awards in competitions.
Now, here is a nine-year-old boy in Belgium who is about to earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology, a prominent research university specializing in engineering science and technology in the Netherlands. He is now planning to work on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying medicine to create artificial organs in the future.
While such gifted children tend to have difficulty in interpersonal relationships with others, his teachers say he is sympathetic. Also, he seems quite normal in terms of enjoying childish pleasures, such as playing with his smartphone and pet dog.
Will he accelerate, prolong, or prevent the occurrence of the singularity?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this gifted child.


Topic Reading-Vol.2779-11/20/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Does it make sense to pay people to have kids?
The fertility rate is the average number of children born to women during their reproductive years or the childbearing age (15-44 years). A fertility rate of 2.1 is known as the replacement rate. If the rate is greater than 2.1, the population in a given area will increase and if it’s smaller, the population will eventually decrease, provided that there is no significant number of immigration or emigration takes place during the period. The fertility rate is often confused with the birth rate, which is the total number of live births per 1,000 population. In 2016, the average global birth rate was 18.5 births per 1,000 total population.
While African countries have much higher fertility rate, about five children per woman of childbearing age, the EU average is only 1.6, way below the world average of 2.5. Though the figure is still higher than the ones of eastern Asian countries like Japan, South Korea or Taiwan, EU countries are struggling to make their citizens reproduce with financial allowance and incentives, childcare assistance, and other pro-family policies. However, as economic and environmental uncertainty loom, people in developed countries are reluctant to have more than one or two children despite the government policies and social supports.
Enjoy reading the article to learn about how European countries and communities are encouraging people to produce more children.


Topic Reading-Vol.2778-11/19/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Netherlands to cut speed limit to reduce emissions
Europeans tend to drive faster, legally. The most common speed limit is 130km/h in Europe while 100-110 km/h in the US, 80-100 km/h in Japan, and 80 km/h in China. Now, the Netherlands are going to lower the speed limit from 130 km/h down to 100 km/h in the daytime in an effort to reduce the nitrogen oxide pollution crisis that has been and will be caused by intensive farming practice and newly planned housing projects.
You may wonder why farming causes air pollution. In fact, intensive farming, which uses agricultural mechanization to increase production, not only increases production but also environmental pollution by erosion and poisoning water with agricultural chemicals. In fact, it also causes health issues to humans and degrade animal welfare.
Whatever the reasons were, it seems like a decisive measure to tackle an environment problem. And it could suggest an effective yet unpopular solution to global warming. Indeed, it’s not only what to drive but also how you drive is another, and in fact a much more realistic way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the road, let alone fewer fatal traffic accidents.
But why did the prime minister say he was so disappointed to reduce air pollution? Is that because he was afraid to lose votes from speeding drivers?
Enjoy reading the article to learn how to reduce air pollution without sacrificing convenience or spending money.


Topic Reading-Vol.2777-11/18/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Report sheds light on waste in booming delivery services
Alibaba’s online platforms sold goods worth $38 billion on November 11, Singles’ Day, alone, easily surpassing last year’s record $30.7 billion mark. And this world’s largest sales event isn’t limited only to Alibaba, but other online retailers took part in the festivity drawing over half a billion shoppers. However, this and following few days are the worst time for the environment. The delivery of the goods purchased by a single click or touch.
China’s express delivery businesses are fast-growing and creating more paper and plastic waste every day. It is estimated that the carbon emissions from these delivery packaging services reached 13 million tons last year, which requires over 700 million trees to neutralize.
But China is not a country that sits still before problems. They often act quickly and decisively. Last month, the Post Bureau announced regulations that require 70% of packaging materials used by express delivery services to be renewable by the end of the year. That’s a substantial increase from today’s 44%. How will those service companies procure renewable packaging materials in such a short period of time? If they’ve already used conventional materials for the Singles’ Day deliveries, it would be extremely difficult to achieve the number.
Enjoy reading the article and think about how much waste you are creating per click or touch.


Topic Reading-Vol.2776-11/17/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Want to run faster? Improve your algorithm
How fast a human can run 42.195km? Today’s men’s world record is 2:01:39 and women’s is 2:14:04 respectively. There are 23 other men who ran the same distance within three minutes longer than the record. You now know how competitive the marathon is.
Top athletes are not only aiming to win symbolic races like the Olympic, Berlin, London, or Chicago marathon but also hoping to break the two-hour barrier. You may think it attainable as it’s only 99 seconds to two hours. But even the very top runner needs to run 1.3% faster to break the record. It takes not only rigorous training and iron spirit but also modern science. Indeed, a runner needs to get everything right to break the sub-two-hour barrier, including out-of-control environments like weather and track and also physical conditions such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration rate, and oxygen saturation. In order to accurately monitor such physical conditions in real-time, it is essential to measure the gait continuously during the two-hour run. Today’s high-tech sensors can capture rear and forefoot strike angles and the amount of time each foot is on the ground. By finetuning the way to run based on such inputs, a runner can improve his or her performance by a sub-percentage point for the two-hour race.
Enjoy reading the article and guess when and where a new world record is set and if the two-hour barrier is broken in the marathon.


Topic Reading-Vol.2775-11/16/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Is AQ more important than intelligence?
Intelligence quotient, better known as IQ, is a measure of cognitive intelligence. It is basically one’s ability of various kinds of intelligence such as the brain, reasoning, planning, problem-solving, abstract thinking, understanding ideas, language skills, and learning. A person with a high IQ may perform well in the academic area but is not always successful in business or politics. For most jobs, the IQ level of employees or job candidates isn’t that critical compared to the ones of the academic or science field.
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is one’s capability to recognize the emotion of theirs and others. A person with a high EQ can manage and adjust emotions to adapt to the environment or perform the tasks. Sounds like a critical qualification to work with others and in an organization, doesn’t it?
AQ stands for adversity quotient. It is a score to show the ability to deal with adversities in one’s life, as to how fast and well the person can recover from difficulties and challenges and return to their original status. It seems essential to deal with today’s and tomorrow’s fast-changing environment.
As the algorithm, AI, and robotics take more roles that humans have enjoyed and occupied, qualifications for both present and future jobs are changing. What if half of your job was going to be performed by machines next month? You want to acquire skills that AI or robots can’t perform or aren’t good at doing. You also want to able to communicate and work with others to use collective ingenuity to solve new problems and challenges. If you stick with your old skills and glorious experience and aren’t trying to adapt to new realities, you are unlikely to succeed in the new environment.
Enjoy reading and learn the value of IQ, EQ, and AQ.


Topic Reading-Vol.2774-11/15/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Online shops to take e-cigarettes off shelves
Another decisive move to prevent teenagers from being addicted by harmful habits. Recently, China imposed gaming curfew on children under 18 between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am and set time limits as to how long they can play games a day depending on age.
Now, they forbid selling or promoting vaping products online. Just like other countries, the e-cigarette is becoming popular especially among young people. There are a wide variety of flavors that attract people who have never thought about smoking before. Also, vaping is not detected or found as distinctly as cigarette smoking because it doesn’t produce smoke or smell so much. However, the e-cigarette is as nicotine addictive as and no less harmful to health than conventional cigarettes. In fact, e-cigarette cartridges are filled with a liquid that may contain flavorants, nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or cannabinoid (CBD) oils and other harmful substances.
China is a nation full of long-term goals. One of them is to reduce the population of smokers from 26% now to 20% by 2030. To achieve that goal, no more e-cigarette ads, promotional videos, and sale sings disappear from China’s cyberspace. Onsite stores may flourish as desperate buyers flock with smartphones in their hands. (Please be reminded that smartphone payment is much more popular than cash in China.)
Enjoy reading the article and learn how decisively China moves to protect the health and wellness of its people, especially young teenagers.


Topic Reading-Vol.2773-11/14/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago. But an invisible barrier still divides Germany
From 1961 until November 9, 1989, Berlin was physically and ideologically divided by a concrete wall, the Berlin Wall. It was built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or Eastern Germany, to protect its citizens from fascism. During the Cold War period, Germany was divided physically, ideologically, and economically divided. Less than a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the distinctly divided countries were reunited and became one Germany.
There were around 16 million people lived in Eastern Germany 63 million in the West at that time. Though the national and physical borders were removed, distinct gaps seem to exist between the two regions. Eastern Germany’s GDP per capita is around 32,000 euros while that of Western Germany is nearly 43,000. One reason is that the East has more rural regions, while the West has more headquarters of big corporations and thus, richer people. Also, the Eastern population is older, poorer, and more male. That’s because nearly two million people moved to the West since the unification, two-thirds of whom were women. In the meantime, the pay gap between men and women is smaller in the East, and accordingly, more women work in the East than those of the West. Interestingly, young Eastern students perform better in schools than Western children.
Are these gaps after three decades of division too significant? What if the border and Demilitarized Zone were removed between North and South Korea?
Enjoy reading the article and learn what Eastern and Western Germanies are like.


Topic Reading-Vol.2772-11/13/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How dangerous is Mexico?
Recently, a group of three mothers and their 14 children in a convoy of three cars in northern Mexico were ambushed by gang members. Six children and three women from a Mormon community in northern Mexico were killed and five other children were wounded.  The cars were all burned and children who tried to flee from the car were shot. The ambush was thought to be “a mistake” of the gang group that tried to attack other gang group members.
This is just one example of how dangerous and outrageous Mexican gangs are. They make too much money by one of the most lucrative illegal businesses, drug smuggling. Also, they do anything to make money, including extortion, money laundering, human trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, people smuggling and contract killings. Furthermore, they bribe, threaten, or even attack politicians, law enforcement officials, and even military forces to maintain their interest and influence. In fact, a large number of heavily armed gang members stormed into a city and surrounded the security forces and forced the government to release their captured boss. For drug cartels, nothing seems vicious in the name of interest.
Read the article and learn about the dark side of sunny Mexico.


Topic Reading-Vol.2771-11/12/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Video game addiction: China imposes gaming curfew for minors
Gaming addiction or gaming disorder is regarded as a mental health condition by the World Health Organization (WHO). Young children are so vulnerable to this addictive pleasure and excitement that many of them spend hours every day. When they are addicted, they lose interest in other activities including talking with their family members, playing with friends, or even watching TV, not to mention studying or doing homework.
China has more gamers than any other country in the world. The government has been concerned about the health and mental effects of gaming and issued restrictions and regulations on gaming. In fact, it has the world’s most stringent approval processes for video games to maintain control over online content that is considered undesirable such as sexuality, violence, and politics.
Now, a new curfew has just been imposed to curb video game addiction. Children under 18 are not allowed to play online games after 10:00pm until 8:00am, the time they are supposed to be in bed and preparing for school. Also, monthly spending on games is limited to 200 yuan, approximately $70, to those under 16 years old. Gamers are now required to prove their age and identity to gaming platforms.
Whether these new measures are too strict or violate privacy, some parents are putting similar restrictions on their children. It seems that the government is doing what parents are supposed but reluctant to do. But how strictly can they enforce such restrictions?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about China’s decisive move to curb gaming addiction.


Topic Reading-Vol.2770-11/11/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Climate change: ‘Clear and unequivocal’ emergency, say scientists
Scientists across the world and field have recently endorsed research that shows the world is facing a clear and present environmental danger. The research covers various areas, such as the growth of human and animal populations, per capita meat production, global tree cover loss, and fossil fuel consumption. The solutions to these problems are simple enough for kids to understand; to reduce carbon emissions, livestock consumption and production, land clearing, and fossil fuel consumption. They warn that if humans don’t take these actions more decisively and swiftly, the world is going to face more sever and serious environmental problems than ever before. And that includes all the other species on the planet.
However, no matter how serious and obvious environmental problems are, most politicians or business leaders are reluctant to take actions needed to solve them. First, elected politicians seem fundamentally concerned about their present popularity and the next elections. However impressive Greta Thunberg’s address might be to the world, it is not the world, but the local voters elect, choose, or support politicians. Also, it is still the financial bottom line what the shareholders and other stakeholders of the business are mostly concerned about, even though environmental impacts and contributions of businesses are getting more attention these days.
After all, no matter how destructive human activities are to other species on the planet, they don’t vote in elections or buy any goods or services themselves. They only suffer from human activities.
Enjoy reading the article and think about what humans can do and don’t do.


Topic Reading-Vol.2769-11/10/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What Voyager 2 has learned since entering interstellar space
The Voyager program is NASA’s outer planets and interstellar probe program using two probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, that were launched in 1977. Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980. Voyager 2 did so in 1979 and 1981, passed Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to cross into interstellar space having passed the heliopause, a boundary where the hot solar wind meets cold interstellar space and so did Voyager 2 in 2018. The newly obtained data showed that the heliopause is more distinct than previously thought. It is amazing to get information sent from over the 40-year old probe from over 16 billion kilometers from the sun. In fact, it takes over 16 hours to for the sent data to reach Earth. So far so great. However, as the probes fly longer, the power reserves deplete. Their key devices need to be heated to be functional and the antennas must point directly to Earth, both of which require careful management and adjustment. The program keeps going as long as the probes are functional and communicative.
Now, both probes are still flying with a speed of 17 kilometers per second in outer space. They may reach another solar system in 40,000 years. Very long journeys indeed. Will they ever meet other intelligence?
Enjoy reading the article and learn what 40-year old probes are doing in interstellar space.


Topic Reading-Vol.2768-11/9/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What it’s really like to live with obesity or identify as fat
Is one’s body size the only indicator of their health or happiness? Though obesity is known to increase one’s risk of having physical conditions like obesities, that doesn’t really mean the person is lazy or unhappy, or their stomach is oversized, and appetite is outrageous. In fact, there are both nature and nurture causes for one’s weight. Yet hundreds of genes are responsible for one’s body weight that cannot be controlled by the person’s will, lifestyle or physical activities, they are often regarded as lazy or a bad eater. Accordingly, those whose weight is beyond “normal” feel embarrassed, isolated, or even discriminated. Also, nurture, such as culture, education, lifestyle, and self-disciplines, plays a role in one’s weight, too. But there are a lot of other people whose weight are normal despite their lousy lifestyle or terrible eating habit. If you look at a fast-food restaurant or junk-food stand, are all the customers are fat?
Then, how do those people with overweight live and enjoy their lives?
Enjoy reading the article to learn what they feel about their weight.


Topic Reading-Vol.2767-11/8/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Russia rolls out its 'sovereign internet.' Is it building a digital Iron Curtain?
“Free Internet” signs on hotel booking sites could mean differently by country. Even though there is no charge to access the Internet, you may not have free access to “the Internet.” For example, in some countries, some of the news sites or articles are blocked for access. In China, you can’t access Google search or BBC news site. Also, a great deal of web sites and SNS interactions are censored and blocked if they are found unsafe or improper in the communist state. It is called “the Great Firewall of China.”
Russia seems to follow the suit even more thoroughly to censor the web traffic. A new law, so-called "sovereign internet law”, was put in effect as of November 1st to control internet traffic and detect content. Now all internet providers in Russia are required to install special hardware provided by a Russian telecom agency. The aim of the new law and requirements were said to protect the country from cyberattacks from foreign powers. Sounds like a Digital Iron Curtain was erected in Russia’s cyberspace, which seems to take less manpower to monitor web traffic than China’s Great Firewall.
Will this be a new trend to govern the cyber space?
Enjoy reading the article and think what free Internet means now.


Topic Reading-Vol.2766-11/7/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Millions of masks distributed to students in 'gas chamber' Delhi
Delhi, or the National Capital Territory of Delhi, is a union territory of India including New Delhi, the capital of India. The population of its extended urban area is estimated to be over 26 million, world’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo. The India’s capital city is famous for not only the ancient and modern architectures, foods, and cultural identities but also tiny particulate matter, or PM2.5. The atmospheric particulate matter (PM) have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is only about 3% the diameter of a human hair. Exposures to PM2.5 has both short term and long term health impacts. Short term impacts include irritation in the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath. A prolonged exposure to PM2.5 could cause permanent respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and heart disease. It is so harmful to the health, especially to people with breathing and heart problems, children, and the elderly, that the World Health Organization recommends that the PM2.5 levels should not go over 25 micrograms per cubic meter on average in 24 hours.
However, the particulate matter in the air in Delhi went over 500 micrograms per cubic meter recently. The city government distributed masks to children and closed schools and also reduced the number of the cars to be driven on the street in half. Construction works are all suspended, and many factories and offices are closed. And this severe air pollution isn’t just happening this year. In fact, in 2017, Sri Lankan national cricket players vomited on the pitch because of the poor air quality.
Why do they suffer so much from the same human-caused air pollution? Don’t they know what are causing the problem? Beijing had a similar problem but they seem to have solved, or at least eased it.
Enjoy reading the article and think what democratic government can do and don’t do.


Topic Reading-Vol.2765-11/6/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Rising sea levels threaten hundreds of millions -- and it's much worse than we thought
It is one of those global warming studies that warn people and governments to act. But this newly released finding sounds more alarming especially to those who live on the coastlines than ever before. Would you still live in a place where there are coastal floods every year? Before sinking into the sea, coastal regions will suffer such catastrophic disasters regularly because of the rising sea levels. As ice sheets on the Himalayas, Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than before, and such disastrous floods will change the landscape of coastal regions. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk of displacement, which will cause unprecedented human migrations around the world at a time when the entire population is expected to increase from today’s 7.7 billion to over nine. It will not only be the land for people to live on to become scarce but also farmlands to produce food for nine billion stomachs.
2050 is no longer so far away future but is only three decades from now. Indeed, you will face and suffer these environmental problems that could become even worse than currently predicted.


Topic Reading-Vol.2764-11/5/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why robots will soon be picking soft fruits and salad
While the world’s population is increasing rapidly, adding two billion from today’s 7.7 billion just in the next three decades, young people are getting less interested in laboring in farms. So, how the 80 million more stomachs in each year will be fed?
The answer seems to be robotics. Just like in manufacturing factories, agricultural robotics is becoming more popular not only to harvest wheat and potatoes but also pick up fruits and vegetables, which are soft and delicate and easily damaged. However, today’s robots use advanced technologies, such as visual sensors and AI. They can find and judge if the fruit or vegetable is ready for harvest. Though such agri-robots pick strawberries or tomatoes not as fast as experienced humans can do for now, they can work nearly 24/7 without breaks. This is especially useful during an intense harvest period. And as the technologies advance, they’ll work faster and become more economical. Another benefit of farm robotics is a waste reduction. In fact, nearly 30% of food rots in the field because they aren’t timely picked by humans.
Sounds almighty? Not quite. Unlike robots in indoor factories, some type of farm robots needs to work outside. There are winds, dust, rains, and lightings, not to mention the heat from the sun. No wonder young people aren’t so interested in working in such a harsh environment.
Enjoy reading and learn about farm robotics.


Topic Reading-Vol.2763-11/4/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
All modern humans originated in northern Botswana, study says
Homo sapiens is the only remaining human species to which all modern human beings belong. It means “wise men” in Latin. Anatomically, modern humans seem to have appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago. They migrated from their homeland around 120,000 years ago to the northeast and southwest. But until recently, it wasn’t clear exactly where in Africa they originated from. Now, researchers found that south of the Greater Zambezi River Basin, which includes northern Botswana and parts of Namibia and Zimbabwe, is the area where our ancestors of Homo sapiens began. How did they find it?
Mitochondrial DNA is the physical embodiment of the mitochondrial genome, the sum total of genetic information encoded in the mitochondrion. It is then regarded as a time capsule of our ancestors as it accumulates changes slowly over generations. By comparing mitogenome from people in different regions, researchers can find information on how closely they are related.
Sounds like an enormous work of backward science, doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading the article and learn how homo sapience dispersed from Africa.


Topic Reading-Vol.2762-11/3/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How Japan is handling more aging drivers
People aged 75 or older, are called "late-stage seniors" in Japan. They represent approximately 15% of the entire population in the fast-aging country. Especially in rural areas, many or most of the residents are seniors. There, people have no choice but to drive cars themselves as public transportation services are rarely available to cover the communities. Even in urban cities where there are trains and buses are running around, many seniors still choose to drive. They grew up during the time when owning and driving a car was a status symbol or fashion.
The problem is their impaired driving skills and ability. As people age, their cognitive ability declines. In fact, while overall traffic deaths in Japan were the lowest in the last seven decades, drivers over 65s caused over half of the total deaths by traffic accidents. Accidents caused by an elderly driver who mixed up the brake pedal with the accelerator and crashed into a building or hit pedestrians are reported so frequently that people aren’t surprised any longer by the news and just say “again.”
So, what should be done? Mandatory driving tests and training are already in place. But if the driver’s license is revoked, how does the person continue his or her daily life without driving especially in a remote area? Will there be enough auto-driving cars on the road soon?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about another problem in a fast-aging society.


Topic Reading-Vol.2761-11/2/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
No one believed him when he said he hadn't been drinking.
Had no alcohol drink whatsoever but still gotten badly drunk. That is what has been happening to a man in America. In fact, his blood-alcohol level was found to be 0.2%, about the same level after taking 10 drinks just in an hour when he was tested. This is a medical condition called gut fermentation syndrome, which occurs when yeast in the stomach causes the body to convert carbohydrates into alcohol. For example, when a person with this syndrome eats bread or pizza, he or she gets drunk. Since this syndrome is rare and not easily diagnosed, it had been regarded as a myth until recently.
Can you imagine how difficult life might be if you suffered this syndrome? Just having a bowl of cereal for breakfast and gets drunk to start a day? Fortunately, there are cures such as antifungal therapies and probiotics that help normalize the bacteria in the stomach.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this mysterious and problematic health problem.


Topic Reading-Vol.2760-11/1/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Hong Kong parking space sells for almost $1 million
There are inconceivably luxurious and ultra-high-performance sports cars in the world whose price tags go over hundreds of thousand dollars, such as Rolls Royce and Lamborghini. But the value of those cars usually goes down as time passes. In the meantime, the price of highly coveted license plates like F1, VIP 1, or Dubai 1 are sold over million dollars in auctions, just like a popular artwork or antique. But in Hong Kong, one of the world’s most expensive places to live in, a parking space could get a premium price, even more expensive than a Bugatti.
Recently, a 12.5 square-meter parking space in front of The Center, a 79-floor office tower in Hong Kong's busy Central neighborhood was sold at 969,000 dollars. What kind of car is going to be parked there? Why was such a high price paid just to park a car?
But if you think it is an exclusive real estate property, it makes sense however expensive it might be because it can be sold at even a higher price. If that is the case, the buy makes money by parking his or her car. A dream parking space, isn’t it?
Enjoy reading the article and think what could become a good investment.