Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Physicist Who Became Death

Quoting the Bhagavad-Gita, the holy book of the Hindus, J. Robert Oppenheimer said, "I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds" when he saw the large cloud of the test atomic bomb rising over the New Mexico desert in 1945. Thus he may be a devil for the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, he was, in a sense, a victim of the war himself. A commission to investigate his loyalty rendered in 1954 its judgment that Oppenheimer was unfit to serve his country, U.S.A. [1].

I have read an article "Remembering Oppenheimer: The Teacher, The Man" [2] by Edward Gerjuoy, professor of physics emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh. Gerjuoy describes the observation of Oppenheimer he made as a graduate student in the UC-Berkeley physics department from 1938 to 1942. I give here a much-abridged version of Gerjuoy's passages about Oppie's style of teaching (Gerjuoy have called Oppenheimer Oppie since his student days):

Oppie gave no final exams or any other tests. He did not designate a textbook for any of his courses (the hypermodern materials he taught could not be found in any of the then available textbooks). He delivered a class lecture at high speed along with numerous equations written on the board and chain smoking. His relations with his students were surprisingly informal. The seminar was Oppie's domain, his fiefdom. Despite his sometimes overly ferocious questioning, his students respected him and felt indebted to him. ...

The physicist who became Death had a good face as a teacher of physics. Some classmates of mine at a university knew very well about textbooks on physics, and said that one of the best textbooks for electrodynamics was Oppie's. At that time (late 1950s) I sought a Japanese translation of that book at bookstores, but could not find one. I now find an English edition (possibly a revised edition) at Amazon [3].

By the way, many famous physicists were also a good teacher and ferocious questioner at the seminar. I liked to organize seminars in my work years at an institute and a university, and wanted to be a ferocious questioner, though I may not have been successful in it.
  1. J. Daintith, et al. ed., Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, 2nd edition (Institute of Physics Publishing, Bristol, 1994).
  2. E. Gerjuoy, APS News, Vol. 13, No. 10, p. 8 (November 2004).
  3. J. R. Oppenheimer, Lectures on Electrodynamics (Gordon & Breach, 1970) (Out of print--limited availability).

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Math Could Help Art History

Authors of novels have been identified through context-free word counts. Similarly, one might be able to identify painters by analyzing the frequency of certain types of curves. This was the idea of the mathematician Hany Farid and two colleagues at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.A. [1].

They have developed an approach that builds a statistical model of an artist from the scans of a set of authenticated works against which new works are compared. The statistical model consists of first- and higher-order "wavelet decomposition." They have analyzed 13 (8 true and 5 false) drawings that have been attributed to the 16th century artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and have gotten the results that confirm expert authentications [2].

The researchers have also applied these techniques to determining the number of artists that may have contributed to the painting "Madonna with Child" attributed to the 16th century Italian painter Pietro Perugino, and again have achieved an analysis agreeing with expert opinion [2].

This indicates the possibility that the computer can help research in art history, rendering one of examples of cooperation between arts and science in a broad sense.
  1. "Verifying art with math" Science, Vol. 306, 1678 (2004).
  2. S. Lyu, D. Rockmore and H. Farid, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. Vol. 101, 17006 (2004).

Thursday, December 16, 2004

All Humans Share a Close Relation II

A reader of my previous blog [1] has told me about the origin of the idea that six times of tracing of acquaintanceship covers almost all the people the world over. It is the concept termed "six degrees of separation" proposed by the American social psychologist Stanley Milgram (1933-1984) in 1967.

Searching the name of this concept by Google, I found a piece of Web site news [2] about an experiment related to the concept. From this piece of news I noticed this: It was the original article [3] on this experiment published by Duncan Watts and colleagues at Columbia University in New York that was vaguely in my memory and made me write the blog mentioned above.

In the experiment by the researchers at Columbia University more than 60,000 people from 166 different countries took part. Participants were assigned one of 18 target people, and were asked to contact that person by sending email to people they already knew. The researchers found that in most cases it took between five and seven emails to contact the target. The result did not indicate that the email had made the world a more close-knit community, but confirmed the validity of Milgram's concept, which had emerged from a similar postal experiment [2].
  1. "All humans share a close relation" (2004).
  2. W. Knight, "Email experiment confirms six degrees of separation" News Service (Aug. 7, 2003).
  3. P. S. Dodds, R. Muhamad, D. J. Watts, "An experimental study of search in global social networks" Science, Vol. 301, p. 827 (2003).

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

All Humans Share a Close Relation I

I read a story like this somewhere: If we trace acquaintanceship starting from a single person to that person's acquaintances, to the acquaintances of those acquaintances, to the acquaintances of those acquaintances' acquaintances, etc., then six times of this tracing covers almost all the people around the world (I'm not sure about the number six, but the calculation explained below shows that this is a reasonable number). Only six times! It means that all humans are in a rather close relationship.

A simple calculation convinces us of the above story. I send New Year and Christmas cards to a total of more than 150 people. I have much more acquaintances than this number, because I also know families of some friends of mine and have acquaintances to whom I don't send the cards. However, this number is possibly much larger than the average number of a person's acquaintances if we take small children and babies into account. Therefore, I divide 150 by 3, and assume the average number of acquaintances to be 50. Tracing acquaintances with this assumed number makes the number of people increase by the multiplication factor of 50 at each step. The final number becomes 506.

Actually, there is overlapping of acquaintances, so that the number does not increase this fast. But I already made a mean estimate in choosing the number 50. Further, this is a rough calculation to find the order of magnitude. So, believe that the final number shown above is a good estimate. That number is calculated to be about 16 billion. The population of the world is about 6.4 billion. Thus the former well covers the latter. Q.E.D.

I thought of this close human relationship from the word "friends of friends of yours" in the e-mail messages of the social networking service "Echoo!" I have joined.

Monday, December 06, 2004

"Blog" Top Word of 2004

U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster Inc. announced on November 30 its "Words of the Year 2004" [1]. These are determined by the statistics of online lookups at the publisher's Web sites. The No.1 Word of the Year was:
Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999): a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer
Blog will be a new entry in the 2005 version of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

The other words in the top-ten list are as follows:
 2. incumbent
 3. electoral
 4. insurgent
 5. hurricane
 6. cicada
 7. peloton
 8. partisan
 9. sovereignty
10. defenestration
Eight entries among the top ten is related to major news events from the presidential election to natural phenomena.

How many of the above words do you know? Clicking these words at the Merriam-Webster OnLine site provides their definitions.

The year 2004 was just the year when I began to use blog sites.
  1. Publisher: 'Blog' No. 1 word of the year, (November 30, 2004).

Monday, October 11, 2004

Will Women Sprinters Win Men?

Scientists in UK and Kenya reported the result of research that the winning women's 100-meter sprint time of 8.079 second would be faster than that of the men's winning time of 8.098 for the first time ever at the 2156 Olympics [1]. Their analysis is based on the data on the winning times of the men's and women's Olympic finals over the past 100 years.

According to the supplementary information at Nature's website, the data span the years from 1928 to 2004 (76 years) for women, and from 1900 to 2004 (104 years) for men. After testing a range of curve-fitting procedures, the scientists adopted the simple linear relationships between the Olympic year and the winning time. The extrapolation to the year 2156 goes ahead for 152 years, just two times of the time span in which the data for women exist.

From my much experience of curve fitting to data [2], I suppose that the validity of such wild extrapolation is quite dubious. It is just a child's guesswork. Reliable extrapolation would be up to the year of about 2042 (2004 plus a half of 76). -- Can I live until that year? -- If the linear decrease of the winning time goes on and on, there would come the year when one can reach the goal in no time (this is a child's words).
  1. A. J. Tatem, C. A. Guerra, P. M. Atkinson and S. I. Hay, Nature Vol. 431, p. 525 (2004).
  2. See the list of my academic papers.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Words about 2004 Physics Nobel Prize

On October 5, 2004, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2004 "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction" jointly to three US professors [1]. The two of them, David Gross of the University of California at Santa Barbara and Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported their discovery in Physical Review Letters in 1973 [2]. The other recipient David Politzer of the California Institute of Technology published his papers in the same issue of the journal [3]; Wilczek and Politzer were only graduate students at the time [4].

The force of the strong interaction they studied is also called "color force." Thus the press release [1] of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was humorously entitled "A 'colorful' discovery in the world of quarks." Quarks are the particles that constitute the proton and the neutron. The title of the Nobel Prize news [2] at PhysicsWeb site, maintained by the Institute of Physics, is also funny: "Strong-force theorists scoop Nobel prize." This sounds as if the theorists got the prize by their brute strength.

The Asahi Shimbun of Japan posted an English article "On a par with Einstein: Nambu ahead of his time for Nobel" at its website [5]. The article says, "While acknowledging 83-year-old Yoichiro Nambu's achievements, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences took the rare step of explaining why it did not award him the Nobel Prize in Physics," and cites the words of the academy, "As we shall see, Nambu's field theory had all the relevant details of the correct theory, but it was perhaps too early and the focus was on other problems at the time."

Surely, Nambu did a pioneering work related to the strong interaction. However, the report of the Asahi is written somewhat too sensationally. It makes the reader think that a mention about Nambu was especially made in the press release, but the fact is that the citation is taken from a detailed account of the discovery made by the three Nobel laureates [6]; the account includes the historical background of the study on the forces of nature made by Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, James Clark Maxwell, Hideki Yukawa and many others, though a lot of lines are devoted to Nambu.

It is regrettable for Nambu that he missed the Nobel Prize, but he is well known to have been a "prophet" of physics. I believe that this fame is a great award for him not inferior to the Nobel prize.
  1. "Press Release: The 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics," Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Oct. 5, 2004).
  2. "Ultraviolet Behavior of Non-Abelian Gauge Theories," D. J. Gross and F. Wilczek, Phys. Rev. Lett. Vol. 30, p. 1343 (1973).
  3. "Reliable Perturbative Results for Strong Interactions?," H. D. Politzer, ibid. p. 1346 (1973).
  4. "Strong-force theorists scoop Nobel prize," PhysicsWeb (Oct. 5, 2004).
  5. "On a par with Einstein," The Asahi Shimbun (Oct. 7, 2004).
  6. "Advanced Information: The 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics," Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Oct. 5, 2004).

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Artist Ichiro's Perspiration

In the final game of this season on October 3, 2004, Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle Mariners established a new record, 262, for the number of hits in a season of major league baseball. The previous record was 287 set by George Sisler in 1920.

While he was still fighting for a tie, a report in the New York Times praised him to be "an artist who makes the field his canvas," analyzing his five techniques of batting [1]. Those were the chop, the flip, the seeker, the standard and the power stroke.

What made possible his artistic play? Thomas Edison used to say, "Genius was 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Ichiro surely has inspiration, but a glimpse of his much perspiration can be made in his attitude of living; he neither goes to see movies to protect his eyes, nor plays golf not to destroy his batting form. Persons of every profession should learn such a use of great moderation.

When he broke his own record of the number of hits in a season, Ichiro said, "I want to go over my own best, and it is challenging to do so, so far as it is a possibility." These words also reflect his constant perspiration.

Now there are many fans of Ichiro in USA and Japan. However, I am one of the oldest fans of Ichiro, because my favorite Japanese baseball team has been Orix Blue Wave, to which he belonged before joining the major league. That team is now going to be united with Kintetsu Buffaloes to become Orix Buffaloes. The manager Akira Ogi who brought up Ichiro comes back as the manager of the new team. Can he foster another Ichiro?
  1. L. Jenkins, New York Times (Sep. 14, 2004)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Rainbow

Rainbow seen in Sakai after the passage of typhoon 21.

Last Friday typhoon 21 passed through Kyushu, Shikoku and Kinki District, and gave much damage at many places, especially in Mie Prefecture, due to heavy rainfall. Another thing it brought was a rainbow seen here in Sakai next morning.

Leonard Mlodinow writes the following story in his book "Feynman's Rainbow" [1]: On one of the last days in his life, Richard Feynman was gazing at a rainbow, and asked Mlodinow what he thought was the salient feature of the rainbow that had inspired Descartes' mathematical analysis of it. The latter gave elaborate guesses based on the geometrical and physical nature of the rainbow, but Feynman simply said this: It might have been that Descartes thought rainbows were beautiful.

You can learn about Descartes' analysis of the rainbow at websites [2,3].
  1. L. Mlodinow, "Feynman's Rainbow," pp. 117 and 118 (Warner Books, New York, 2003); Read my review of this book.
  2. Unidata -- About Rainbows.
  3. Rainbows.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

"Rule of Law at Risk"

The United Nations General Assembly had the first day of its annual top-level debate on September 21, 2004. In an address to the Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said as follows [1]:
Today the rule of law is at risk around the world. Again and again, we see fundamental laws shamelessly disregarded -- those that ordain respect for innocent life, for civilians, for the vulnerable -- especially children.
Annan mentioned situations in Iraq, Darfur, northern Uganda, Beslan and Israel as only a few examples of the shameless disregard for the rule. His words are heavy and respectable. Politicians of every nation should pay serious attention to his words, and people of every nation should not vote for those politicians who neglect his words.

Earlier than the above address, in an interview with the BBC on September 15, Annan said more severely that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was illegal because it violated the U.N. Charter [2].

Note added later: The title of a story published at the PhysicsWeb site recently [3] was "Law-breaking liquid defies the rules." I wondered what would be a Japanese translation of this title to be put at my website, because I thought the words "law" and "rules" had the same meaning. The story was about the strange behavior of a liquid to "freez" when it is heated. The title must have been a modification of Annan's words "the rule of law," in which "rule" has a meaning different from law, i.e. "control."
  1. "Rule of law at risk around the world, says Secretary-General in address to General Assembly," UN Press Release SG/SM/9491, GA/10258 (2004).
  2. Reuters (September 15, 2004).
  3. "Law-breaking liquid defies the rules," PhysicsWeb News (Sep. 24, 2004)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Taming Typhoons

Typhoon 21 attacked Okinawa and is coming to Kyushu, Shikoku and the Mainland of Japan. It is the eighth that came to Japan this year. The number is a new record in the weather observation history of Japan. Violent hurricanes also gave much damage in U.S.A this year. -- Huge rotating storms are called typhoons in the western Pacific, hurricanes in the Atlantic and the eastern Pacific oceans, and cyclones in the Indian Ocean. -- Many years ago there was a guess that nuclear power might be useful to moderate these wild tempests, but it has not been realized. Radioactive waste produced by that method would cause a serious problem. Chaotic behavior of weather, on the other hand, gives a hint at a more practicable method.

In the October 2004 issue of Scientific American, Ross N. Hoffman, a principal scientist and vice president for research and development at Atmospheric and Environment Research in Lexington, Mass. U.S.A., writes about the study being made by him and his coworkers for taming hurricanes [1]. They are using computer models to simulate hurricanes. Altering several of initial conditions in the model, including its temperature and humidity at various points, they have found that the tracks of the simulated storms veer or that maximum velocities are reduced. Hoffman writes near the end of his article:
If our understanding of cloud physics, computer simulation of clouds and data assimilation techniques advance as quickly as we hope, these modest trials [to enhance rainfalls] could be instituted in perhaps 10 to 20 years.
It seems to be a long way to achieve larger-scale weather control by the use of space-based heating. A fantastic idea is said to be "a cloud of words" [also in Japanese: "kumo wo tsukamu yona hanashi (a story like catching a cloud)"]. However, we heard a good piece of news: After a long succession of dry days in Shanghai this summer, they succeeded in causing artificial rainfall by shooting metallic seeds from a plane into clouds. Let us wish that the realization of moderating typhoons comes not so far in the future.
  1. R. N. Hoffman, "Controlling Hurricanes," Sci. Amer. Vol. 291, No. 4, p. 38 (2004).

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

One of Victims of Iraq War?

I attended the reunion of Dalian Reizen Elementary School held in Tokyo past Sunday, and came back in a brown suit with a black suitcase today. On a narrow road not far from my house someone spoke to me from the back in English. It was a young man of an Asian look. He spoke so quickly that I failed to catch his words well. He said, "Do you speak English?" I said, "Yes." So he continued in English. His words seemed to mean that he was a naval pilot and came back from Iraq. He said, "General, don't you go to Iraq?" I said, "I'm not General, but a retired scientist." He spoke in a quick manner again. I said, "You speak so fast that I don't understand you."

Then he changed his talk to Japanese. He told me the followings: He lived in New Mexico, and is now engaged in construction work here in Japan. He comes to see his parents who live near here. However, his father, born in 1933, once said to him, "Never come back again!" So he is very nervous to visit his parents. He also told me about his broken glasses and took them out of a bag to show me them.

We came to the fork of our roads. I could only wish him good luck. He told me great thanks for my having conversation with him and said that his name was A... O... It was an American name (the first name was the one I remember from "Gone with the Wind"). I told him my name. We shook hands and parted.

I suppose this: After being engaged in the Iraq War, he did not want to go back to U.S.A. in fear of another flight for combat. Thus he came to his native country, but his parents don't welcome him because he had once gone to U.S.A. without their consent. He is so much Americanized that it is difficult for him to get friends here.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Accidental Factors of Life

Armed Chechen and Arab terrorists seized a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia, from September 1 to 3, 2004. The seizure ended violently with the death of more than 330 people. It is especially sad that half of the victims were children.

Some may think that God decides one' life. Some may think that the destiny due to some unknown power predetermines life. Some others may think that life is made up by the combination of one's own efforts and accidental factors such as heredity, time and place of birth and living, etc. I belong to the third group. The relative effects of the accidental factors become large in the era and districts of wars and terrorism, making people's efforts nullifying.

We have to make every effort to minimize the accidental factors by stopping wars and terrorism. The attack on Afghanistan and the Iraq War proved that wars are not effective to end terrorism. The source of terrorism may lie in history, but it cannot be an excuse for the cruelty of terrorists' treating innocent people inhumanely. Only patient negotiations and mutual understanding might solve the problem.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

My Small Contribution to Feynman Stamp

I did not remember what I had written to recommend Richard Feynman for the U.S. postage stamp (see the previous story), but found a copy of the recommendation letter in the hard disk of my computer. I cite it below for the interest of the readers of my essays. I wrote about a relation between Feynman's wonderful work and the humble work of my coworker and me in the third paragraph. Though it is a minor relation, I believe that it made my letter unique.

July 13, 1996

Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee
L'Enfant Plaza, Washington D. C.

Dear Sir,

I am writing to urge you to support our wish that Richard Feynman should be honored with a commemorative postage stamp.

Richard Feynman shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga for their work on relativistic quantum electrodynamics (QED). QED is an amazingly accurate theory about the behavior of elementary particles, and Feynman's contribution is especially unique in that he invented and used a method called "path integral approach," aided by diagrams that simply depicted different orders of physical processes (Feynman diagrams).

Not only have Feynman diagrams become the standard language of theories for elementary particles, atomic nuclei and condensed matter, but also they have had influences on workers in a broad area of applied sciences. For example, my coworker and I have been working in the field of radiation physics, and have developed a semi-empirical algorithm to evaluate dose distributions given by electron beams in multilayer absorbers. At first it seemed to be quite difficult to extend the algorithm beyond three layers. From Feynman diagrams, however, I hit upon using schematic diagrams to depict different possible paths of electrons that passed through boundaries between different media. Thus the extension of the algorithm to more layers became a simple task.

Japan's first Nobel laureate, Hideki Yukawa, was honored with a commemorative postage stamp of our country in 1985, which was the occasion of the jubilee of his meson theory. The second Nobel laureate, Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, will surely get the same commemoration soon. We heartily wish to see one of the sharers of the Nobel Prize with Tomonaga smiling on a postage stamp of U.S.A. Because of his amiable character and ingenuity on top of his memorable accomplishments, there are many fans of Richard Feynman in Japan.

Sincerely yours,
Tatsuo Tabata
Research Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
Osaka Prefecture University

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Feynman Is About to Come on Postage Stamps

After a long while I revisited the "Friends of Tuva" website, and found the news "Feynman stamp to become a reality in 2005." The news had a link to a web page at the site. The article on that page, dated August 14, 2004, has the title "Fonda, Garbo, Headline Stamps," and carries the photo of the actress Greta Garbo.

Patiently reading the paragraphs of the article down, down, down, ... to the seventh paragraph, I finally found the name of the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman (1918—1988). This is because the media first write about celebrities (famous persons in the entertainment business). Deplorably to scientists, non-celebrities come second. Anyway, it is a piece of highly good news for me, one of many Feynman fans. Other scientists who are coming on stamps in 2005 are the geneticist Barbara McClintock (1902—1992), the thermodynamicist Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839—1903) and the mathematician John von Neumann (1903—1957).

Dave Failor, the executive director of Stamp Services for the U.S. Postal Service, is cited to have said, "These four American scientists that we picked out are people that have had a tremendous impact on our history and on our culture over the years." I am one of those who sent a letter to recommend Feynman for the postage stamp through Friends of Tuva. My letter seems to have had an infinitesimally small but finite effect on the decision to include Feynman in the 2005 U.S. stamp program.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Intellectually Pleasing Movie

I saw the 2003 French-Portuguese movie "Un film Parlé (A Talking Picture)" directed by Manoel de Oliveira who was 95 years old. I saw two movies directed by him before. Those were "The Letter" (based on the novel "The Princess of Cleves") and "The Principle of Uncertainty" (see my essays of July 7, 2001, and June 14, 2003), and I liked both of them.

In "Un film Parlé" a history professor, Rosa Maria (acted by Leonor Silveira), goes on a cruise to meet her husband, an airline pilot, in India, together with her little daughter Maria Joana (Filipa de Almeida) through the Mediterranean Sea. In the port cities where their ship makes a stop, they visit historical places, and the mother gives lectures to her daughter. On the ship, Captain John Walesa (John Malkovich) has a dinner with famous women from Marseilles (Catherine Deneuve), Naples (Stefania Sandrelli) and Athens (Irene Papas), and they carry on a conversation about civilization, politics and philosophy in four languages.

Finally a dreadful episode comes, but the scene of disaster is shown only indirectly. It is wonderful that the film was planned before the "September 11" terrorist attack foreseeing the situations of the present world. Rosa Maria's lecture, deepened by Maria Joana's naïve questions, and the conversation among Captain and the three women seem to represent the director's thought about civilization and the future of the world that these should be peacefully kept by seeking coexistence of different cultures. I found this film intellectually very pleasing.

The Japanese title of the movie is "Towa no Katarai," meaning an eternal conversation. It is more elegant than the original title. It was also a pleasure to me that the film showed an old castle, Castel dell'Ovo (the Castle of Egg), in Naples, which I sketched last year (see the sketch).

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Munch's "The Scream" Stolen

On August 23 the media reported that armed robbers stole a version of Edvard Munch's masterpiece, "The Scream," from Munch Museum in Oslo together with a version of another key work, "Madonna". The robbery happened in daytime with close to 80 people milling around in the galleries. I was quite surprised at this piece of news, because I wrote the story of research on "The Scream" on this blog page only a few days ago.

In 1994, another and perhaps better-known version of "The Scream" disappeared from the National Gallery, also in Oslo. It was recovered undamaged three months later and remains in that gallery. Art experts are reported to have said that given the fame of both "The Scream" and "Madonna," it would be nearly impossible to sell them to a collector and that the thieves would demand some form of ransom as happened in 1994 (New York Times). I heartily wish that the two works stolen this time also be retrieved safely.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Museum of Art in Small City

The garden of the Museum of Modern Art, Toyama

Early this month I visited my relatives in Toyama Prefecture, which is located in the Middle District of Japan facing the Japan Sea. On that occasion I went to Toyama City and visited the Museum of Modern Art, Toyama. The exhibition entitled "A Beautiful Journey ... of Life" was being held there. It was a small but wonderful exhibition with about 70 works produced by about 60 artists and brought from different museums in Japan. The artists included Paul Cezanne, Harue Koga, Saburo Miyamoto, Claude Monet, and Pierre Auguste Renoir. The works were displayed under six themes such as "Beginning and Bonds," "Love and Passion," "Dreams and Universe," etc.

The Museum has a video corner, where one can personally choose and watch a title one likes. There I chose a video about Paul Klee. Its early part was about the environments of his birth and growing up. I became drowsy ...

After a while I found that on the video monitor there was nothing going on. The video came to the end during my long nap! Then I went to the cafe of the Museum, and had a cup of coffee. From the windows of the cafe a wide garden full of green trees were seen. It was a quiet afternoon in an unexpectedly good museum in a small city. — Thus I enjoyed "a beautiful journey ... of my summer life" this year. —

Note added later: My works mentioned in comments on this essay can be browsed: sketches in Austria and the watercolor "Ashiya Catholic Church".

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Smile-Provoking Exhibitions

I saw two small exhibitions being held in Osaka. One was the private exhibition of the young photographer Mumu Matsumura. It was entitled "My Greece." Her photographs showed the beautiful scenery of an island in Greece, with one or more cute cats in many of them. The works suggested that the people there lived such a natural and amiable life as that of those animals in a slow flow of time.

The other was the exhibition "The Presents from the Artists." In this exhibition small works specially made for families and friends by ten artists, including Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Alexander Calder, Tsuguharu Foujita, Toshio Arimoto, and Katsura Funakoshi, were shown together with some representative art works of theirs. Some works were toys for their own children, and looked like to emanate artists' love for them. — Both the exhibitions were smile provoking and gave me a happy feeling. —

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Broadcasting in Japan on the Olympic Games

Japanese athletes have been doing well in judo, team gymnastics, breaststroke swimming, etc. in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Because of the time difference between Greece and Japan, we can watch live broadcasting of the Games mostly around the midnight. Many sports funs in this country are possibly spending daytime in a drowsy mood these weeks.

I notice however that the broadcasting of the Games by the public broadcasting company NHK is too nationalistic these days. They should more often show the scenes of good play by athletes from other countries. The Olympic Charter [1] says, "The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries."
  1. Full text is available as a PDF file from the web page: International Olympic Committee - Organization - Missions.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Arts and Impressive Experience

Those who once looked at the painting "the Scream" by Edvard Munch would not forget its scene of a man screaming with both hands on his ears under the blood-red sky. A group of researchers at Texas State University studied the origin of the twilight experience that inspired Munch to draw that sky.[1] Surveying an art historian's book, scientific reports and newspapers, they found that the unusual twilight glows had been the after effect of the Krakatoa eruption on August 27, 1883.

An impressive experience seems often to help making good art works. When I was a junior high school student, I began to wear spectacles for shortsightedness, and was surprised to know how much light and fine details the world was filled with. The watercolor painting I draw at that time won a golden prize.

These years my wife and I have joined group travels abroad. I have been much impressed by the beautiful scenery of other countries, and able to make better sketches than I draw in our own country.
  1. D. W. Olson, R. L. Doescher and M. S. Olson, "The Blood-Red Sky of the Scream" APS News, Vol. 13, No. 5, p. 8 (2004); the complete version in Sky & Telescope (February 2004).

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Scientists and Artists Are the Same ...

An interview report published in the Asahi-Shimbun [1] told the following story:

Three years ago the painter Fumiko Hori, almost 83 years old at that time, bought a microscope of such a type as used by scientists, i.e., a differential diffraction microscope, and eagerly observed plankton, etc. Wishing to record at least a little bit of her strong impression about elaborate forms and devices for propagation, she made the work "Living things in the microscopic world." She says, "Scientists and artists are the same in that they know the surprise and pleasure of finding something in this wonderful world."

We are apt to see differences between scientists and artists. The above words of Hori, however, give us a new standpoint of viewing similarity between the workers of the two disparate fields.
  1. [1] Column "Are you doing science?" Asahi-Shimbun, Evening ed. (Osaka, June 19, 2004).