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.