Weekly News Bites: A “golden spike” in Japan, a thermal cloak, and an algorithm to translate Baybayin script

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are sea sludge that documents human impact on the Earth, a cloak that could passively control temperatures, and an algorithm that can be used to help preserve a Philippine writing system.

Beppu Bay in Japan could be labeled a “golden spike”: a site that shows how humans have changed the environment from the start of the Anthropocene according to Ehime Centre of Marine Environmental Studies and University of Tokyo's Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute. The sediment at the bottom of the sea contains manmade chemicals that document the effect that humans have had on the environment. 

Tooth and gum disease could be linked to brain conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's, says research by Tohoku University. When observing participants with an average age of 67, the researchers found that the presence of gum disease and level of oral health appeared to be linked to changes in the brain. So it’s important for more than our teeth to brush at least twice a day!

Lack of social interaction during COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed the social development of five-year-olds according to scientists from Kyoto University, the University of Tsukuba, and Keio University. When compared to children studied before the COVID outbreak, the five-year-olds who lived through the pandemic showed slower development in areas like behavior and language expressions. This did not seem to affect younger children from one to three. 

Scientists from the University of the Philippines Diliman have developed a machine learning algorithm that can translate Baybayin, a Philippine writing system, into Latin characters. The algorithm was trained on over a thousand photos of the script. The researchers hope that the AI translator could help pass on this piece of culture through generations. 

A thermal cloak developed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University can both cool things down or keep things warm when needed. The Janus cloak, named after a two-faced god, can passively heat or cool thanks to the material made of aluminum and silica. The researchers say that it could be used on cars, spacecraft, or even to build habitats on Mars.