Benefits of Bilinguilism

From last weekend’s New York Times:

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Over the last couple of years I have seen quite a few such articles, discussing the cognitive advantages that the bilingual brain has over monolingual speakers, in addition to the obvious practical benefits of simply knowing more than one language. However, all of the studies mentioned in this article and all of the ones I can recall study native bilinguals, rather than those who became fluent in a second language as a late adolescent or adult.

This raises the obvious question: how much of the ancillary benefits of bilingualism, i.e. increased cognitive flexibility and prophylactic protection against Alzheimer’s and similar degenerative neural diseases, are seen by mature learners of a foreign language, compared with native bilinguals?

I strongly suspect that such studies have been done, but it is also possible that the entire field is still so new that they have yet to get that far. Does anyone recall seeing anything on this?


A note on energy conservation

Due to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants being offline, the Kanto area is experiencing serious power shortages. According to Tokyo Vice-Mayor Inose Naoki as of  around 4:30pm, the electricity demand in the Tokyo Power area exceeded the supply by 1/3, and therefore a 1/4 reduction in electricity consumption will be necessary to avoid rolling blackouts in the near future.

What you see above is a map of Japan’s electrical grid, which for odd historical reasons is separated into a 60hz grid (same as North America) in the western half of Japan and a 50hz grid (same as Europe) in the eastern half. As you can see, the blue areas on the above map are the 60hz region and the red areas are the 50hz region. Although there is a crossover in the middle that allows frequency conversion, it is not high enough capacity for the Kansai (west Japan) grid to have much effect in compensating for the shortages in Kanto and Tohoku (east and north-east Japan).

According to Osaka City Mayor, Hiramatsu Kunio, the crossovers between the two systems only transmit a total of 1 million kilowatts, which is a smallish percentage of the electrical shortage volume in Kanto, which according to Inose’s statement was 10 million. Since there are also no energy issues going on in Kansai, there should still be enough power available to feed the 60hz/50hz crossover even without energy conservation efforts, and Hiramatsu has stressed several times that no extraordinary energy conservation measures are necessary at this time, and if they are deemed necessary later there will be an announcement.

Of course this does not mean that conservation is a bad idea – it never is! Residents throughout Japan would be well advised to take reasonable conservation measures, such as for example using gas or oil heat instead of electricity, whereas residents of the 50hz Kanto region should be conserving as much power as possible to help reduce the odds of a total blackout.

Update: Sounds like the national government just called for nationwide energy conservation, but my point still stands. Electricity conservation is FAR more critical for people living within the 50hz region.

[Update: March 14 2:10pm] Rolling blackouts have been scheduled for Tokyo, but due to successful power saving measures, especially suspending operation of many trains, this morning’s blackouts were avoided. Details of the blackout regions and schedule can be found here.

According to Tokyo Vice-governor Inose Naoki, some time in the next few weeks an additional thermal based power plant (natural gas or oil I presume, but unclear) with a capacity of 7 million kilowatts – which will go most of the way towards filling the 10 million kilowatt gap between the ordinary electricity demand load and the current available supply. I can’t find any other details as to what plant he is referring to, or what it has been doing this whole time.

On a lighter note, fans of the anime series Evangelion have half-jokingly began referring to energy saving measures as “Operation Yashima” (ヤシマ作戦) after an event in an episode of the show in which the output of the entire electrical grid of Japan is redirected into a massive energy weapon in order to defeat an invading alien creature. One fan has also made a nifty poster calling on people to save power in the graphic style of Nerv, the fictional government agency in the Evangelion series.


Who can and can not donate blood in Japan

[Correction: Accidentally typed Australia at first below, should have been Austria all along.]

There has been a lot of confusion over who exactly is allowed to donate blood according to Japanese regulations, especially foreigners. To try and clarify the situation I have translated the entire list of categories of persons who are NOT allowed to donate blood in Japan, from the Japanese Red Cross official web page.

The biggest confusion is regulations relating to foreigners, especially because of mad cow disease aka spongiform encephalitis (Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease).

The following categories of people are BANNED from donating blood in Japan.

Please do not clog blood donations centers if there is even a chance you fall into one of the following categories, and instead find some other way to help.

Please also note first of all that ANYBODY who has entered Japan in the last four weeks may NOT give blood.

First, the rules relating to BSE/Mad Cow Disease

To clarify the below rules, please calculate your TOTAL amount of time spent in ANY of the countries in categories 1~4 during the relevant risk period for that country. If your total period of time in a high-risk country during a high-risk period is equal to 6 months or more than you are banned from blood donations for life.

Similarly, if you have spent a total of 5 years total in any of the countries listed in all 6 categories during risk periods, then you are banned from blood donations for life in Japan unless a new medical test in the future causes the regulations to change.

Please note that no countries in North or South America are on this list; despite the worries over Canadian/US beef it was never transmitted to humans.

  1. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 30+ days in the UK between the years 1980 and 1996.
  2. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+months in the UK between 1997 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,3,4 in this total.)
  3. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+ months in Ireland, Italy, Holland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, between the years of 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,4 in this total.)
  4. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+ months in Switzerland between the years of 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,4 in this total.)
  5. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 5+ years in Australia, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, between the years 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,3,4,6 in this total.)
  6. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 5+ years in Iceland, Albania, Andorra, Croatia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Vatican City, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Lichtenstein, Romania, between the years of 1980 through the present day.  (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,3,4,5 in this total.)

Next the rules relating to blood parasite diseases.

  • Anybody who has entered the country in the past four weeks.
  • Anybody who has entered Japan after visitinga malaria high-risk area within the last year. This is true even if you were only at a resort area of the country. HOWEVER, if you have been specifically tested for malaria and been found negative you may donate blood.
  • Anybody who has entered Japan after living in a malaria high-risk area within the last three years.
  • Anybody who has ever lived in a region known for Chagas Disease, AKA American trypanosomiasis. (This is a blood parasite like malaria.)
  • Anybody recently returned from Africa or who has lived in Africa and ever tested positive for African trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness.)
  • Anybody who has ever tested positive for babesiosis, another blood parasite most commonly found in tropical regions such as Africa or Latin America.
  • Also anybody who has engaged in medical work, research, field work, etc. in any regions known for similar diseases should not donate blood.

Last are other categories of persons who may not donate blood.

  • Anyone who has or has had heart disease, or malignant tumor,
  • Anyone who has rheumatic fever or is on antibiotics due to risk of rheumatic fever
  • Sufferers from any convulsive disorder
  • Sufferers from blood-loss related diseases such as hemophilia or purpora.
  • Asthmatics
  • Stroke victims
  • Anyone with medicine allergies, nephritic syndrome, chronic inflammation disorders.
  • Anyone currently experiencing extreme hunger or sleep deprivation.
  • Anyone currently taking prescription drugs, except for those such at vitamins with no harmful side effects.
  • Pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers.
  • Anybody with a fever, specifically temperature of 37℃ or higher
  • HIV, hepatitis infected persons (free AIDS testing centers link)
  • Anyone who has ingested marijuana or other psychoactives within the last year
  • Any man who has engaged in homosexual behavior
  • Anyone with a history of sex with anonymous partners
  • Anyone who has been treated for hepatitis A within the past 6 months. Also, since it is often transmitted by shellfish, anybody whose family member has been treated for hepatitis A within the past 1 month. Hepatitis B and C stay in your system, so you are permanently banned.
  • Anybody who has ever RECEIVED a blood transfusion. (Due to the possibility of viruses as yet unknown to medical science.
  • Anybody who has gotten a body piercing (ears included) within the past year.
  • Anybody with a piercing on a mucous membrane such as the lip, tongue, nose, no matter when you got it.
  • Anybody who has gotten a tattoo within the past year.
  • Anyone who has been vaccinated using an inactive vaccine within the past 24 hours for diseases such as influenza, Japanese encephalitis, cholera, hepatitis A, pneumonia, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus (may not be a complete list)
  • Anyone who was given anti-HBs human immunoglobulin in combination with a hepatitis B vaccine, anyone who was given an emergency rabies vaccine (that is, after being bitten) within the past 1 year.
  • Anyone given a vaccination for mumps, rubella/German measles, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (tuberculosis vaccine), or other mildly active vaccine (live attenuated) vaccine or any hepatitis B vaccine within the past 4 weeks.
  • Anyone vaccinated against smallpox within the past 2 months.
  • Anyone given an antisterum for tetanus, snake bite or other poison, gas gangrene, botulism etc. within the past 3 months.
  • Anyone who has had dental surgery that caused bleeding within the past 3 days.

Vital stats of the Fukushima Nuclear Plants

As there has been some incorrect and/or incomplete information being circulated regarding the details of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants in this post I have translated the vital details of the various reactors of both Fukushima Plant #1 and #2 from their official profile pages at the Tokyo Power Company (which is their owner) website.

Apologies for the bizarre amount of white space, something wacky with the table HTML I can’t fix now, but the information itself is completely legible.

In both tables, the numbered columns refer to the individual reactors of the plants. For example, Plant #1, Reactor #1, etc.

Profile of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Number One: (福島第一原子力発電所)

This was the first nuclear power plant build and operated by the company. It covers an area 75 times as large as Tokyo Dome, about 350,000 square meters.

Reactor #1

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6



Output(万kW) 46.0 78.4 78.4 78.4 78.4 110.0
Construction start 1967/9 1969/5 1970/10 1972/9 1971/12 1973/5
1971/3 1974/7 1976/3 1978/10 1978/4 1979/10
Reactor type Boiling Water Reactor(BWR)
Containment Vessel Mark I マークII
% made in Japan 56 53 91 91 93 63
Primary contractor GE GE・Toshiba Toshiba Hitachi Toshiba GE・Toshiba
Heat output(10,000s kW) 138 238.1 329.3
Fuel assemblies(#) 400 548 764
Fuel assemblies(length in m) ~4.35 ~4.47 ~4.47
Control Rods(#) 97 137 185
Pressure vessel Gauge(m) ~4.8 ~5.6 約6.4
Total height(m) ~20 ~22 23
Total weight(metric tons) 440 500 750
Container vessel Total height(m) ~32 ~33 ~34 ~48
Cylinder diameter(m) ~10 ~11 ~10(Upper part)
Spherical diameter(m) ~18 ~20 ~25(Lower part)
Pressure control pool volume(metric tons) 1,750 2,980 3,200

Rotation speed (rpm) 1,500
Intake steam temp(℃) 282
Steam pressure(kg/cm2g) 66.8

Type Uranium dioxide
Uranium capacity(t) 69 94 132
Fuel assemblies(#) 400 548 764

Profile of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Number Two: (福島第二原子力発電所)

#1 #2 #3 #4



Electrical output(10,000 kW) 110.0 110.0 110.0 110.0
Construction start 1975/11 1979/2 1980/12 1980/12
Operation start 1982/4 1984/2 1985/6 1987/8
Reactor type Boiling Water Reactor(BWR)
Containment Vessel Mark II Mark II revised
% made in Japan 98 99 99 99
Primary Contractor Toshiba Hitachi Toshiba Hitachi
Heat output(10,000 kW) 329.3
Fuel assemblies(#) 764
Fuel assembly total height(m) ~4.5
Control Rods(#) 185
Pressure Vessel Gauge(m) ~6.4
Total height(m) ~23
Total weight (metric tons) ~750
Container vessel Total height(m) ~48
Diameter(m) ~26 ~29
Pressure control pool volume (metric tons) 3,400 4,000

Rotational speed(rpm) 1,500
Input steam temp(℃) 282
Steam pressure(kg/cm2g) 66.8
Type Uranium Dioxide
Uranium capacity(metric tons) 132
Fuel assemblies(#) 764
Nuclear reactor building Height ~58m、subsurface depth~18m(6 surface floors, 2 basement levels)
Turbine building Height above ground ~33m、subsurface depth ~5m
Waste treatment building(Shared facility) Height ~41m、subsurface depth ~18m(6 surface floors, 2 basement levels)
Central exhaust tower Height ~120m、altitude ~150m

Ethnicity and the census

Debito, writing in the Japan Times:

Japan’s census does not measure for ethnicity (minzoku). It still measures only for nationality (kokuseki). In other words, on the form you indicate that you are Japanese or that you are miscellaneous (indicate nationality).

So what does that mean for the Ainu? They are Japanese citizens, of course, but their indigenous status remains unaccounted for.

Then how about naturalized citizens? I of course wrote down “Japanese” for my nationality on the census. But I would also have liked to indicate that I am a hyphenated Japanese — a Japanese with American roots, an Amerika-kei Nihonjin.

But it’s not just about me. How about children of international marriages? My kids are just as American as they are Japanese, so why not have it formally acknowledged? It would be in other societies with ethnic diversity. Why can’t we show how genetically diverse Japanese society is, or is becoming?

I wrote about this subject at MFT back in March, and my conclusion, having thought about it some more, is that ethnic distinctions are simply not that meaningful in and of themselves. Usually, they are completely arbitrary — just as arbitrary as nationality.

Debito, for instance, wants to identify as an “American Japanese.” This is his right, but it doesn’t tell you anything about him. You could correctly apply the same label to someone who would be considered an ethnic minority in America (like Akebono) or even someone who would be considered Japanese or Japanese American in America (like Hikaru Utada).

Or, as Donald Horowitz once put it (as quoted by Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations):

An Ibo may be an Owerri Ibo or an Onitsha Ibo in what was the Eastern region of Nigeria. In Lagos, he is simply an Ibo. In London, he is a Nigerian. In New York, he is an African.

And in most of the US, he would just be “black” — much like the current president of the United States, whose ancestry and upbringing has practically nothing in common with the majority of “black” people in the same country.

This brings me to the barely-informed assertion, not knowing much about census practices elsewhere, that the US has some of the most thoroughly developed racial and ethnic census profiling in the world, and while it generates a ton of data, it is all pretty useless.

The most common American view is that the population consists of five races: white, black, Asian, Hispanic/Latino and Native American. In reality, “Hispanic” or “Latino” is not a race–there are Hispanic people of European, African and Native American origin, and of varying combinations thereof–so the US Census recognizes four races, has a “multiracial” alternative option, and treats “Hispanic or Latino” as a separate descriptor which can apply to a person of any race. But because Hispanic and Latino people are not used to being called “white,” they often trip up when being asked to identify themselves as such (more on this here). That’s not the only arbitrary distinction. Arabs, Iranians and Turks are treated as “white” even though their groups hail from parts of Asia and are reviled with suspicion by legions of ignorant “white” people. Indians and Pakistanis are treated as “Asian/Pacific Islander” alongside East Asians, Polynesians and Australian aborigines. You get the idea.

To confuse matters further, the US Census lets people self-identify using a more detailed “ancestry” field, and in practice nearly anything you can think of gets written down in this space, including unhelpful answers like “United States,” “Southerner” and “Amerasian.”

Debito continues:

I believe the government still wants to maintain the image of Japan’s ethnic homogeneity, as it justifies a lot of status-quo policymaking (e.g., a closed-door refugee regime, no official immigration policy, the firm and oft-repeated belief that Japan is not and will never be an “immigration nation”).

After all, Japan’s identity is currently based on the ideals of cultural and even racial purity. Why would one dare to collect official data that would undermine that?

The US Census is arguably set up with the opposite purpose in mind — to provide tons of (probably misleading) data that show off the diversity of the population.

I agree that Japan should do a better job of acknowledging the presence of other ethnic groups within its borders. To me, though, it’s a tough call, because all of the possible approaches have serious flaws.

The government’s main objection is somewhat legitimate. As Debito puts it:

The official reason I keep getting from the Census Bureau is that this is a privacy issue. Asking people for their ethnic backgrounds is apparently too personal.

He doesn’t buy this because there is other highly personal information which is surveyed, such as household income (not so personal in Japan, by the way, but I digress). It is clearly an intensely personal issue for many affected people–just look at how many effectively “hide out” as Japanese people, with a Japanese name and hazy family background, so that they can lead normal lives among the mainstream of the population without being viewed as an outsider. Or look at the burakumin, whose leaders don’t even want anyone to know where they used to live hundreds of years ago.

Even setting that issue aside, there are still serious problems with any survey of ethnicity in Japan.

The question could be most simply phrased: “Do you have any non-Japanese ancestry?” But there is a serious scientific problem: everyone would technically be forced to say “yes” because we are pretty sure that the human race did not spontaneously form in Japan. And there is a practical problem: nth-generation Japanese citizens who happen to have a great-grandparent from Korea are in a different situation than a half-Japanese person from Japan, a half-Japanese person from South America, a multi-generation zainichi, an Asian immigrant laborer or a JET teacher.

If the census can’t be so vague, it has to be multiple-choice; “choose your own answer” doesn’t work, as explained above. So what should the choices be? There are countless Japanese people who have lived and had families in other countries for over a hundred years, so national origin doesn’t say anything. “Race” is tricky because most foreigners in Japan are technically of the same race as “purebred Japanese” people (i.e. East Asian/Mongoloid). Any classification has to be further broken down by specific combination; is a half-Japanese half-American person counted as Japanese or American, and how is American counted anyway? Do you need to know how many “black” or “white” people there are? How Korean do you have to be to be “Korean?”

I am pretty content with the fact that the Japanese census doesn’t get into these issues, and only looks into declared nationality, which is at least not a gray area: any given person in Japan is either Japanese, stateless, or entered Japan as a national of one other country (i.e. the passport they most recently showed to immigration). It doesn’t say a lot but it is at least legally relevant.


Pills for old men or young women?

The US healthcare reform bill that recently passed the House only did so after a controversial amendment was inserted banning any insurance plan which pays for abortion from accepting any federal subsidies, a clause that will probably eliminate abortion from most or all health plans if it goes into law. One reader at TPM had the following thought experiment:

What would happen if a few female members of the House put in (or merely proposed) an amendment to the health care bill which stated that men would be barred BY LAW from purchasing health insurance which covered Viagra, all hair-growth medications or procedures or transplants, etc.?

This thought experiment reminded me of the well known case of the birth control in Japan. Actually, I say well known, but when I checked to confirm the dates, the details were rather more complex than the simplistic version of the story that I had thought I knew, in which the pill was simply never legalized in Japan until a decade ago.

The first birth control pill was approved for that use by the United States FDA in 1960, but was rarely used in Japan until recently. The pill was not approved at all in Japan until 1972, but this was the high-dose formulation that was already being replaced in other countries with a low-dose version of the drug due to safety reasons. Because the safer, low-dose pill was never approved in Japan, oral contraceptives remained little used. Even after the original high-dose formulation was removed from the market in the US in 1988, the low-dose pill remained off the market in Japan.

This changed in 1999, after Viagra was fast-tracked for approval. Viagra first went on sale in the US in March 1998, and only a few months later was already being studied for approval in Japan, where it went on sale in March 1999 – only one year after the US. Feminists complained about a double standard that allowed a drug whose primary purpose is allowing recreational sex for old men to be approved almost immediately, while the safe low-dose birth control pill was still not approved after four decades. At the time, Yoshiaki Kumamoto, president of the Japan Foundation of Sexual Health Medicine, was quoted as saying that viagra was approved so quickly because old men in parliament “want to have that drug.”

The modern pill was finally approved in September of 1999, although women taking it are required to have pelvic exams four times a year, as opposed to once or twice in most countries, and there is still a widely held association with the dangerous side effects of the old formulation. According to a late 2006 study, only 1.8% of Japanese women were using the pill for their birth control needs. This compares with, according to UN figures for the year 2005, 7.5% of women worldwide, and 15.9% of women in developed countries.


Measuring earthquakes in Japan

On Sunday night, a large earthquake struck underwater off the coast of Japan and gave the entire Tokyo area a good shake. Then, on Tuesday morning, the Tokai region was visited by a much closer earthquake which damaged the main expressway between Tokyo and Nagoya.

Both quakes were around 7 on the Richter scale, which sounded catastrophic to my friends in California, but they would not have been quite as panicked if they were using the Japanese scale. This is because the Richter scale measures the power of an earthquake at its source (magnitude), whereas the Japanese shindo scale measures its power at the surface (seismic intensity). The Japanese scale basically breaks down as follows:

  • 1 = Barely noticeable
  • 2 = Noticeable but not scary
  • 3 = Rattles unsecured objects
  • 4 = Knocks unsecured objects over
  • 5 = Damages rickety buildings
  • 6 = Damages earthquake-resistant buildings
  • 7 = The Earth cracks open; demons emerge; everyone dies

Each location would therefore report a different number from the same earthquake, based on the effects on the ground there. The Japan Meteorological Agency publishes a map showing the seismic impact of each earthquake at various locations, as well as its epicenter. Around Tokyo, Sunday’s quake was around 3 or 4 on the Japanese scale, largely as a result of the quake being deeper underground and farther offshore; Monday’s quake was even weaker for us, but folks in the Izu Peninsula area got to experience seismic effects in the 5 to 6 range.

The foreign media, being sensationalists, still love to use the Richter scale for everything, despite the fact that it serves little practical purpose other than scaring my parents.


Japan’s Peninsulas

Geography and cartography is one theme at, where I regularly create and post maps of areas of the world when I can find no suitable version on the world wide web. Recent examples include the political geography of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Breakup, the modern constituent kingdoms of Uganda, and maps of one day states, among others.

Having traveled across much of Japan and discovered minor peninsulas that don’t appear on major maps, I went searching for a map of Japan’s peninsulas but found none. So, I made my own — it’s not exhaustive, but it does include all major peninsulas, and as many minor peninsulas that I could incorporate into the map under the current narrow graphical specifications. Please note that academic and practicing geography experts disagree with the categorization of “peninsula” for some of the minor peninsulas labeled on this map. (The enlarged map is .png file, and can be easily edited if someone wants to further contribute to the map, correct inaccuracies, or amend to upload to wikipedia.)

Japan Peninsula Map Thumb
Click to enlarge

Think you know Japan’s peninsulas like a real expert? Then take the Yahoo! games 日本半島検定 exam, in which you take 8 questions to test your mettle! All the information required to pass is contained in the picture above.


When aliens attacked Kawasaki

Continuing the alien theme started by Curzon:

Close to midnight on August 5, 1952, four American air traffic controllers walking across the tarmac at Haneda Airport (then a US military base) spotted a round, bright object in the sky over Tokyo Bay. They went up to the tower and took a look through their binoculars, and noticed a larger dark ellipse surrounding the light.

Over the next few minutes, the controllers tried to get visual confirmation from an airborne observer plane, which couldn’t see anything. They were able to get a radar fix on the UFO, though, and so they had a scrambled fighter jet intercept it. The pilots didn’t spot the UFO, though, and shortly after the radar intercept the UFO disappeared.

The original US Air Force report is available in scanned format here. Nobody was ever able to explain what happened; my personal theory is that the aliens were coming for Kenzo Tange so they would have someone to do their design bidding on Earth.


A birthday present for Charles Darwin

From the Cape Cod Times:

WOODS HOLE — A federal appeals court recently upheld a ruling from a lower court that dismissed a lawsuit from a former Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researcher, who claimed he was unjustly fired for not believing in evolution.

Nathaniel Abraham, who was hired as a postdoctoral investigator in fall 2004 for his expertise in working with zebrafish, sued WHOI for discrimination in 2007. Abraham claimed he was fired after admitting he was a Christian who believes in creationism and the infallible word of God.

However, WHOI officials told the Times that Abraham’s job description clearly stated he would have to apply evolutionary theory in reviewing the results of research.

A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in April 2008 because Abraham did not file his discrimination claim within three years of being fired.

On Jan. 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Abraham’s last known job was teaching biology at Liberty University in Virginia, a college founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Academic freedom is a grand thing, but to deserve academic freedon, one should probably be doing academics-and of course fulfilling the actual job description one agreed to when hired. As a personal note, I’ve spent a lot of time near the WHIO, located in Woods Hole, Cape Cod, Massechusets as Woods Hole is a division of Falmouth, where my father’s parents used to live when I was a child, and where my father now owns a second house. The aquarium was a lot of fun as a kid, as well as the tiny bridge that opens for passing ships, which I thought was the coolest thing ever when I was small enough for the bridge to seem big.