Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Joseph Rotblat, 1908–2005

On August 31, 2005, the physicist Joseph Rotblat, one of the founders of the Pugwash peace movement in 1957, passed away. Rotblat and Pugwash shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 "for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms" [1]. I received four e-mail messages about the passing of Rotblat.

The first e-mail message I received was from Tatsujiro Suzuki, the organizer of Peace Pledge Japan (PPJ) [2], to all the signers of the pledge advocated by PPJ. He wrote about these facts: Rotblat joined the Manhattan Project, but learning the impossibility of Germany's making an atomic bomb, he resigned from the Project. Rotblat gave warm encouragement to PPJ. Suzuki's message also included copies of articles published in the Yomiuri and the Mainichi both reporting the death of Rotblat.

The second was a message addressed to David Bradley from an American friend of mine John Hubble. The latter kindly forwarded it to some of his friends including me. John was a former president of the International Radiation Physics Society (IRPS), and asks Bradley to write an obituary in the next issue of the IRPS Bulletin, describing Rotblat's contribution to IRPS Meetings in 1982 and 1985.

The third was an e-mail notification of the PhysicsWeb news published by the Institute of Physics. From the piece of news on the death of Rotblat [2], I learned that in 1950 he had established a new career for himself as a medical physicist, that he had been professor of physics at Bartholomew's Hospital in London from 1950 until his retirement in 1976 and that he had also served as editor of the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology. I was also a little interested in medical physics. However, it was after the middle of the 1980th, and I did not know such a career of Rotblat.

The fourth was a reply message sent to John and all the addressees in the "Cc" line of his message, from Prof. Mohamed Ahmed Gomaa in Cairo, Egypt. This message tells us the followings: Gomaa attended the postgraduate course at London University from 1964 to 1965. Rotblat was an External examiner for his Ph D in 1967. He studied Evans's textbook, The Atomic Nucleus [4], for years together with other students under Rotblat's guidance. — It was nice to hear about Evans's book; I also studied part of it. I have a copy of a reprint edition of this book made in India in 1967. I remember this: When I got that copy, there were some dead bodies of tiny insects among its pages. This seems to represent the condition of printing offices in India those days. —

I heartily wish that Rotblat's final aim of eliminating nuclear arms from the world be realized as soon as possible.

  1. The Nobel Peace Prize 1995, Nobelprize.org (1995).
  2. Peace Pledge (Note added later: Link aborted).
  3. Joseph Rotblat dies, PhysicsWeb News (September 2, 2005).
  4. R. D. Evans, The Atomic Nucleus, Reprint edition (Krieger Publishing, 1982; originally published by McGrow-Hill in 1955).
References added later

Friday, September 02, 2005

"He Wants to Dazzle Voters"

Recently the British newspaper The Financial Times published an editorial comment [1] on the election to be held in Japan on September 11. It keenly criticizes the leader of a party for wanting to dazzle voters, by describing the following facts:
He has kept voters' attention relentlessly focused on himself and his attempts to reform the party and Japan Post. Foreign policy is glaringly absent from the campaign, although Japan faces several pressing international challenges. They include rising oil prices, the unnervingly bad relationship with China, and the negotiations over US military bases with Washington.
This is a correct view. We, Japanese voters, should not be deceived by such a style of campaign.

  1. "Japan's small world," Financial Times (August 29, 2005).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Former Army Nurse's Story

In the afternoon of August 21, a meeting was held to prepare for the establishment of the Association of Sakai to Keep and Make the Best Use of Article 9 (a tentative name) at Sun-Square Sakai. I attended the meeting together with more than a dozen of people. We exchanged our thought about Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan and opinions for our activity.

Among the participants, there was Ms. M, who had been an army nurse and worked in Nanjing and China during the final years of the World War II. She talked about her work of cultivating bacteria at Nanjing Hospital as well as other unpleasant experiences. She did that work believing it to be for some basic research, but she was requested to grow more and more bacteria. She thought it necessary for improving her skill, and worked hard on it. However, she was ordered to do the job more and more. Afterward, she came to believe that those bacteria had been for germ weapons, and reflects what a lousy job she was made to work on.

On a holiday, Ms. M and her friend nurses saw a long line of soldiers. Thinking it to be for getting some supply, they joined the line. A soldier said to them, "Go away, or you would be laughed at." They said, "Isn't this a queue for supply?" The soldier said, "It's supply of a pea." Actually the line was for "military prostitutes."

After Japan's defeat, Japanese soldiers turned into a beast, and nurses feared them. Some nurses committed suicide thinking it better than to be a captive. In January 1946, Ms. M was carried from Nanjing to Shanghai by a freight train together with other nurses and soldiers to come back to Japan. All of them were standing in tightly filled freight cars. A soldier next to her leaned to her. She pushed him back saying, "Don't push me. I feel heavy." However, carefully looking at him, she found that the soldier was dead. She soon got a high fever. It was due to malaria. However, she could endure the fever by touching the cold corpse. — The dead body saved her. —

These are only a few examples among a lot of unhappy situations experienced by many persons in the war. Do you think it appropriate that we allow Japan again to go to war under the pretext of cooperative, self defense?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Comparison between Feynman and Einstein by Peter Galison

A collection of the letter's of the Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, edited by his daughter, Michelle Feynman, was recently published [1]. Reviewing this book, Peter Galison of the Department of Physics, Harvard University, compares Feynman and Albert Einstein [2].

Galison starts his review by the sentence, "Richard Feynman was a physicist's physicist," and writes about Feynman's contributions in fundamental physics and beyond as well as his public intervention in the analysis of the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster. Then, he refers to Feynman's fame within and outside the physics community, adding, "Young physicists regularly tack a poster of Feynman above their desks. If there are posters of other Nobel prizewinners on sale, I haven't seen them. [My note: Here is a line break] Except, of course, for Albert Einstein." — Yes, I saw a photo of Feynman even on the desk of a young physicist at Kharkov University in Ukraine, where another famous physicist Lev Landau had worked. —

In a next paragraph, Galison describes about Einstein's iconic status extending far beyond the physics world, and states, "And yet, since the early 1960s, generations of science students held Feynman, not Einstein, as their model and guiding star." — Similarly to other physics students and physicists in earlier days, I had held Einstein as a model and guiding star until I read Feynman's book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" [3] in 1985. I was a latecomer to the community of Feynman fans, though I read the three volumes of The Feynman Lectures on Physics [4] earlier than that and liked the volumes very much. —

Galison compares Feynman and Einstein, writing as follows (numbers are attached by me): (1) Einstein never lost his fascination for philosophy; Feynman found philosophers nothing but a burden. (2) Einstein came to believe that physical reality lay deep in mathematical physics; Feynman never gave up hoping for a physics driven, at bottom, by an almost tactile intuition. (3) Much of Einstein's life found him cast and self-cast as an oracle; Feynman preferred the persona of a fast-draw street-smart kid.

Galison concludes: "Yet beyond these striking differences, both Einstein and Feynman found ways to hold their own ..." — Namely, they were different and similar at the same time. —

Around the middle of his review, Galison quotes Feynman's last letter to his first wife, Arline, written after she died of tuberculosis in June 1945. The letter ends with the words, "P. S. Please excuse me my not mailing this — but I don't know your new address." This letter plainly and movingly conveys Feynman's sadness brought by Arline's death.

  1. M. Feynman, ed. with an introduction, Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman (Basic Books, 2005).
  2. P. Galison, "Letters from a hero: What made Richard Feynman so much more than a Nobel prizewinning physicist?" Nature, Vol. 436, p. 320 (2005).
  3. R. P. Feynman, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character, as told to R. Leighton, ed. by E. Hutchings (W. W. Norton, paperbound 1997; hardbound 1985).
  4. R. P. Feynman, R. B. Leighton and M. Sands, The Feynman Lectures on Physics (Addison Wesley, 1963).

Friday, August 19, 2005

An International Newspaper's Warning to Japan

In an article published in the August-15 issue of The International Herald Tribune, Martin Fackler points out that in recent years public opinion in Japan seems to be creeping toward the right, and warns that the diverging views of the World War II in Japan and the rest of Asia threaten to isolate Japan from its neighbors [1].

Fackler writes that in Japan there is a growing movement to find reasons to be proud of the World War II. He sees this movement in the following facts: Many movies, novels and comics have appeared praising the bravery of Japanese soldiers and sailors; some junior high schools now use textbooks that brush over Japanese atrocities; the newly opened Yamato Museum in Kure gives exhibits to describe how Japan built a modern navy to fend off greedy Western powers. Thus he insists that such positive views of the war are worsening an already yawning perception gap with the rest of eastern Asia, where wartime Japan is still commonly seen as a cruel invader.

As for Japan's failure to reach a national consensus on its responsibility for the war, Fackler writes that the Allied-run 1946-48 Tokyo war crimes trials is viewed here skeptically as a case of victors' vengeance. He also criticizes Japanese leaders for having failed to take a leading role in creating a national sense of remorse, as German leaders did to help guide their country's public opinion.

Fackler conclusively cites the following view of experts: Japan's real failure is not an inability to apologize to China and other Asian countries but that it is its refusal to include outside voices, particularly those of its former victims, as it discusses its own role in the war. Taking the victims' perspectives seriously is the only way Japan can convince the rest of Asia to trust it again.

Not only Japanese politicians but also all the Japanese should listen to these objective words given in the international newspaper.

  1. M. Fackler, 60 years after its defeat, Japan still struggles with responsibility. International Herald Tribune (August 15, 2005); this article can now be read on a Web page of New York Times.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New Books on Atomic Bombs

I am a subscriber to "The Good Book Guide (GBG)" [1] published in England. This month we have the 60th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, the August issue of the GBG lists some books on atomic bombs published or republished recently.

In the "History" section of the GBG, the book "Shock Wave: The Countdown to Hiroshima" [2] written by Stephen Walker is introduced with these words: "The author is an award-winning film maker, and that pictorial essence is evident throughout the narrative. A stunning chronicle of one of the 20th-century's defining moments."

In the same column John Hersey's "Hiroshima" is also mentioned. This book was first published in 1985, and now a paperback edition is available [3]. Hersey interviewed six Hiroshima survivors in 1946, and forty years later he returned to discover how the same six people have coped with the catastrophe and with crippling disease.

In the "Discovery" section of the GBG, the book "Before the Fall-out: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima" [4] written by Diana Preston is an editor's choice. This book is introduced to be the illuminating one that describes how fascinating personalities from Marie Curie to Robert Oppenheimer thought and how they interacted with the world around them.

The column for Preston's book includes another book, "The Bomb: A Life" [5] written by Gerard DeGroot. In this book, the author traces the history of atomic warfare back to June 1917 when Germany bombed a London school, killing 18 children, and reveals the personalities of those caught up in a horrific arms race. After the first half of the previous sentence, the introduction in the GBG writes, "Just over 28 years later the US dropped the world's first atomic bomb on a Nagasaki hospital, destroying the city and killing more than 150,000 people." This is wrong; the first atomic bomb was dropped, not on Nagasaki, but on Hiroshima.

I wish that these books make more and more people the world over think seriously about the comprehensive ban of nuclear weapons.

  1. The Good Book Guide.
  2. Stephen Walker, Shock Wave: The Countdown to Hiroshima (John Murray, 2005).
  3. John Hersey, Hiroshima (Ishi Press, 2009; Penguin, 2002; first published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1985).
  4. Diana Preston, Before the Fall-out: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima (Doubleday, 2005; paperback edition published by Corgi, 2006).
  5. Gerard DeGroot, The Bomb: A Life (Pimlico, 2005; paperback edition published by Harvard University Press, 2006).

Monday, July 25, 2005

The "Field" in Physics

A blog friend of mine, Y, wrote in her recent blog post as follows:
When I have contact with a person to study the problems of either the scene and activity of social welfare or various social phenomena, I, as one of the persons being present at the site, feel many things from that person's talk and behavior, and scientifically consider about the movement that makes the "field."
This sentence has made me think that the study of social problems is similar to that of elementary particles, because both the studies concern interactions and the "field." From this thought I now want to write a simple introduction to the concept of the "field" important in physics.

In everyday life we experience magnetic, electric and gravitational forces; these are respectively caused by the magnetic, electric and gravitational field. You may know that the magnetic field can be visualized by sprinkling iron filings near a bar magnet. The electric and magnetic fields were theoretically found to be unified as the electromagnetic field by James Clerk Maxwell in the 19th century. The things that mediate the fields are elementary particles. The electromagnetic field is mediated by the photon; and the gravitational field, by the graviton. (Gravitons have yet to be discovered experimentally.)

Each kind of elementary particle has a definite mass, including the special cases of zero mass for the photon and the gluon (the gluon is the particle that mediates the "strong nuclear field"; the force of this field binds quarks to make protons and neutrons). Theoretical physicists now consider that the masses arise from the interaction of particles with a kind of field termed "Higgs field" and that the origin of Higgs field is a supposed particle called "Higgs boson." (This consideration is based on the Standard Model and Supersymmetric Standard Models of elementary particle physics.) — Now you may remember the question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" —

One of the main aims of the present high-energy experimental physics is to find Higgs bosons to confirm the above consideration. For this purpose, they use gigantic machines such as Tevatron Collider at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in USA. and Large Hadron Collider under construction at CERN, European laboratory for particle physics near Geneva. It is one of grand plans to move the frontiers of human knowledge forward. (You can read more about the mass and the Higgs field in a recent issue of Scientific American [1].)

  1. G. Kane, "The Mysteries of mass," Scientific American, Vol. 293, No. 1, p. 31 (2005).

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Difficulty of Persuasion

Last month I read an article in the New York Times written by a columnist, Matt Miller [1]. He writes, "Is persuasion dead? ... The significance of this query goes beyond the feelings of futility I'll suffer if it turns out I've wasted my life on work that is useless."

I think of the same question when I write essays about political problems at my blog site. I seldom get a comment like this: "You have opened my eye." (I got one such from a woman. Later, I heard that she had committed suicide. Amen.) If the probability of arguing other persons into my own belief were quite low, writing my opinions in my blogs would be the waste of my time and labor.

Miller finds the death of persuasion by noting the followings: "Best-selling books reinforce what folks thought when they bought them. Talk radio and opinion journals preach to the converted." The situation seems to be the same in Japan. This trend might have not only a bad side but also a good one; people have strong belief in their own thought. However, it should be questioned if they established their thought after careful comparison of different opinions. I am afraid that the flooding of information in these days might be making such comparison rather difficult.

Miller's article is not completely pessimistic. He writes that reading Ken Pollack's book, "The Threatening Storm" [2], he was persuaded, and concludes by the words, "Like Sisyphus, those who seek a better public life have to keep rolling the rock uphill." Miller, however, does not persuade me in that Pollack's book is persuasive because I learned from the reviews of the book at Amazon Web site that Pollack favored invasion of Iraq by U.S.A. I do not think that war is good for any reason.

However low the probability of success in persuasion might be, we should continue to express our sincere opinion by expecting that the storm of good will should change the world in a better direction slowly but steadily.

  1. M. Miller, "Is Persuasion Dead?" New York Times (June 4, 2005).
  2. K. Pollack, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (Random House, 2002).

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Science of Happiness

D. Nettle's book "Happiness" [4].

From the title of this blog you might think that this is a story about a new religion, but it is not. I have learned the followings from Dylan Evans's book review in the latest issue of Nature [1]: Many of the founding fathers of psychology, such as William James (1842-1910) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), regarded happiness as their central concern. However, it seemed that psychologists forgot this theme for much of the twentieth century. We have long waited for a book about the scientific study of happiness, and then three [2-4] have come along at once. — Evans compares this happening to our experience in waiting for a bus. —

Reviewing the three books on happiness, Evans first writes several things they have in common. Thus we learn that any one of them is good to get knowledge about a summary of the field at the level of general public, i.e., various different meanings of happiness, the way to measure happiness, main factors of happiness (money, life events, personality, genes, etc.), the relation between happiness and health, contradictions between scientific research and commonsense intuitions about the best method of obtaining happiness, etc.

Next, Evans writes about differences among the three books. However, it would suffice for many readers to note his words in the final paragraph (it is often useful to read a book review from the last paragraph): "If I had to recommend just one of these books, it would be Nettle's, because it conveys about the same amount of information as the other two books in about half the number of words."

An individual person's feeling of happiness, i.e., subjective happiness, might be a problem in the field of psychology. In this age of frequent terrorism outrages, however, the objective happiness of every person, i.e., the happiness of the human being as a whole, is considered to be an important problem. This should be studied by cooperation of many fields including sociology, political science and anthropology.

  1. D. Evans, "A happy gathering," Nature Vol. 436, p. 26 (2005).
  2. R. Layard, "Happiness: Lessons from a New Science" (Allen Lane/Penguin, 2005).
  3. P. Martin, "Making Happy People: The Nature of Happiness and Its Origin in Childhood" (Fourth Estate, 2005).
  4. D. Nettle, "Happiness: The Science behind Your Smile" (Oxford University Press, 2005).

Monday, July 11, 2005

Classifying 125 Questions in Science

In a previous blog [1] I cited the 25 big questions in science given in the special section of the 125th anniversary issue [2] of the Science magazine. The special section included also 100 smaller questions. I browsed them and wanted to introduce them to the readers of my blogs, but the list is so long to put in a blog post. Thus, I have tried to classify the total 125 questions into different disciplines of science to give here the number of questions in each discipline in place of my initial plan. The result is as follows (the first number for each discipline comes from big questions; and the second, from smaller ones):
Cosmology (1, 6)
Physics (2, 14)
Chemistry (1, 4)
Energy-Source Science (1, 1)
Astronomy & Earth Science (2, 6)
Biology, Medical Science & Physiology (14, 50)
Ecology (1, 4)
Anthropology (1, 5)
Sociology (1, 4)
Mathematics (1, 6)
Total (25, 100)
Many of the questions are interdisciplinary, so that my classification is rather arbitrary. Especially, the boundaries among biology, medical science and physiology are not clear, though some questions definitely belong to medical science and some others to physiology. Thus I made these three disciplines a single category of classification.

However, the numbers of questions in the above three disciplines hold the unquestioned lead against any other combination of three. Therefore, we can guess that these three disciplines should be the busiest ones from present to the near future, only with the following caution: We should not accept the numbers at their face value, because the 125 questions were chosen by the editors and writers of the "Science" magazine, which is especially popular in the fields of biological science.

The introductory article [3] of the special section aptly cites James Clark Maxwell's witty words: "Thoroughly conscious ignorance is the prelude to every real advance in science." In other words, posing a good question is the start of good research.

  1. "25 Big Questions in Science", Femto-Essays (2005).
  2. "What don't we know?" Science Vol. 309, p. 75 (2005).
  3. T. Siegfried, "In praise of hard questions" Science Vol. 309, p. 75 (2005).

Thursday, July 07, 2005

25 Big Questions in Science

Part of the cover of the 125th anniversary issue of the Science magazine.

The Science magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science marked the 125th anniversary on July 1, 2005. The issue to celebrate this occasion includes the special section entitled "What don't we know?" [1]. The section lists and explains 25 big questions facing science over the next quarter-century and 100 smaller ones (the total number of questions equals the number related to the anniversary). For those who are interested in the future of science, I cite the list of the big questions here.
  1. What Is the Universe Made Of?
  2. What is the Biological Basis of Consciousness?
  3. Why Do Humans Have So Few Genes?
  4. To What Extent Are Genetic Variation and Personal Health Linked?
  5. Can the Laws of Physics Be Unified?
  6. How Much Can Human Life Span Be Extended?
  7. What Controls Organ Regeneration?
  8. How Can a Skin Cell Become a Nerve Cell?
  9. How Does a Single Somatic Cell Become a Whole Plant?
  10. How Does Earth's Interior Work?
  11. Are We Alone in the Universe?
  12. How and Where Did Life on Earth Arise?
  13. What Determines Species Diversity?
  14. What Genetic Changes Made Us Uniquely Human?
  15. How Are Memories Stored and Retrieved?
  16. How Did Cooperative Behavior Evolve?
  17. How Will Big Pictures Emerge from a Sea of Biological Data?
  18. How Far Can We Push Chemical Self-Assembly?
  19. What Are the Limits of Conventional Computing?
  20. Can We Selectively Shut Off Immune Responses?
  21. Do Deeper Principles Underlie Quantum Uncertainty and Nonlocality?
  22. Is an Effective HIV Vaccine Feasible?
  23. How Hot Will the Greenhouse World Be?
  24. What Can Replace Cheap Oil -- and When?
  25. Will Malthus Continue to Be Wrong?
Which questions are you most interested in? I am interested in questions 1, 5 and 21 as a physicist; in 2 and 6 as a human being; and in 10, 11, 23 and 25 as a being living on the earth. I would also like to introduce to you the 100 smaller questions in subsequent blogs, if possible.
  1. "What don't we know?" Science Vol. 309, p. 75 (2005).

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Relationships between Arts and Science

These days we often find the topics on the relation between arts and science in newspapers. (Here I mean arts and humanities by "arts," and natural sciences by "science.") An example is the news that the Faculty of Culture and Information Science was opened in April 2005 at Kyotanabe Campus of Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan [1].

At the Web site of the Doshisha University [2] they write the characteristics of this faculty as follows: "The educational programs are designed for students to understand the significance of cultures by analyzing them with the concept of data science. The curriculum promotes the interdisciplinary methods which connect the traditional studies in the field of humanities with information science."

This is a trend to be welcomed in education and research at universities. However, the analysis of the products of humanities by the method of science is only one of many possible aspects of interaction between arts and science. I write here a few examples of other aspects I have learned from the book-review pages of the science journal "Nature" (It is to be noted that the book review pages in this journal have been entitled "Books & Arts" since 2003, and includes introductions to exhibitions and stage arts related to science or the "Science in Culture" column.)

In the book "Madam Bovary's Ovaries" [3], David Barash and Nanelle Barash attempted to interpret fiction in terms of biology. The reviewer of the book, Michel Raymond writes [4] that the classical boundaries between biology and the social sciences are fading away and that the above authors explore various aspects of human mating strategies, rooting human behaviors within the animal repertoire and using novels instead of scholarly publications. Raymond also gives a useful suggestion that an evolutionary book could provide some welcome insights on the historical origin of the novel in various human cultures and its relationship with other kinds of literature such as myths or fairly tales.

The neuroscientist Steven Rose published the book "The 21st-Century Brain" [5]. The reviewer John Marshall of this book writes as follows [6]: Rose stresses the observation that individual life stories are shaped by culture, society and technology and is even prepared to believe that science is perhaps intrinsically incomplete and must be complemented by the kind of knowledge we gain from arts. Marshall warns that Rose's observation, however true, does little to bridge the gap between brain and mind. At this point it does not seem that Marshall looks at the future.

The above examples are related to the usefulness of arts to complement research in science. The next example shows an aspect different from these.

Paul Davies reviewed [7] the book "Warped Passages" written by Lisa Randall [8]. This is a book for general readers on hidden dimensions being studied at the frontier of theoretical physics. Davis writes, "Perhaps readers don't really intend to follow [popular-science books] studiously, but wade through the expositions as a cultural experience, rather like reflecting on a Jackson Pollock painting -- you know it's very clever and you assume it means something profound to the creator." [Pollock (1912-1956) is an American painter famous for drip painting.] Davies's words may be a little extreme, but suggest that artists and scientists can learn each other about their methods of expressions.

  1. Asahi-Shimbun (April 8, 2005).
  2. Web site, Doshisha University.
  3. D. P. Barash and N. R. Barash, "Madam Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature" (Delacorte Press, 2005).
  4. M. Raymond, Nature Vol. 435, p. 28 (2005).
  5. S. Rose, "The 21st-Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind" (Jonathan Cape, 2005); Published in the US as "The Future of the Brain" (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  6. J. C. Marshall, Nature Vol. 435, p. 27 (2005).
  7. P. Davies, Nature Vol. 435, p. 1161 (2005).
  8. L. Randall, "Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions" (Allen Lane, 2005); To be published in the US in September by Ecco (HarperCollins).

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Time Travel

The newspaper The USA Today carried the technical news about the time traveler convention to be held in the afternoon of a Saturday in May 2005 [1]. The convention was organized by Amal Dorai, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in USA. Dorai said, "The chance that anybody [from the future] shows up is small, but if it happens it will be one of the biggest events in human history."

MIT physics professor Alan Guth weighed an invitation to speak at the convention. Guth's work involves applying theoretical particle physics to the early universe, but he has dabbled in writing about time travel theories. He is reported to have said, "Most of us would bet it's impossible, but none of us can prove it's impossible either."

Recently an article as long as 3060 words to summarize physicists' views on time travel appeared in The New York Times [2]. The author of this article, Dennis Overbye, is the recipient of the 1980 American Institute of Physics writing award. He begins the article by writing, "I'm still hoping to attend [the convention], and although the odds are slim, they are apparently not zero despite the efforts and hopes of deterministically minded physicists..."

Overbye's review starts from the words of Dr. J. Richard Gott, a Princeton astrophysicist and author of the 2001 book Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: "No law of physics that we know of prohibits time travel."

Then Overbye explains the situation about time travel as follows: "It's not that physicists expect to be able to go back and ... drop by the Bern patent office to take Einstein to lunch ... In fact, they're pretty sure those are absurd dreams ... They hope such extreme theorizing could reveal new features, gaps or perhaps paradoxes or contradictions in the foundations of Physics As We Know It and point the way to new ideas."

  1. "Student organizes time traveler conference," USA Today (May 7, 2005).
  2. Dennis Overbye, "Remembrance of Things Future: The Mystery of Time," New York Times (June 28, 2005).

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

US Newspaper Articles on Yasukuni

Recently The New York Times and The USA Today took up the Yasukuni problem in Japan one after another. The article in the former [1] describes the following argument of Yasukuni's war museum: "America forced Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor as a way of shaking off the Depression, and the US economy made a complete recovery once the Americans entered the war." Then the author of the article critically writes, "Yasukuni's view of history is one that few Asians or Americans would accept."

Further, the author refers to USA's noticeable silence on Yasukuni and the verdict on the Class A war criminals (in 1978 Yasukuni secretly enshrined 14 Class A war criminals convicted by an international tribunal after World War II, as is pointed out by the article of The USA Today). He guesses the reason for this silence as follows: "China's rise alarms America just as much as did the rise of Communism in the 1940's. So better a strong, remilitarized Japan, no matter what the Japanese say about Yasukuni or war criminals."

The article in The USA Today [2] similarly introduces the following descriptions at the Yasukuni Web site: "The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the invasions of China and Southeast Asia were made to maintain the independence and peace of the nation and for the prosperity of all Asia. The 14 [A Class] war criminals are martyrs who were unjustly tried as war criminals by a sham-like tribunal of allied forces."

The author of the article in The USA Today puts a rhetorical question, "So why does Koizumi visit Yasukuni despite the furor [of China, South Korea and other Asian countries]?" The answer is given by the words of Michael Cucek of the consultancy Okamoto Associates: "Koizumi is currying favor with right-wing Japanese politicians whose support he needs to implement his policies, particularly the privatization of Japan's postal system."

I suspect rather that the right-wing thought is deeply rooted in the mind of Koizumi and many politicians of Liberal and Democratic Party. The Japanese should learn all the above facts conveyed in the articles in the newspapers of USA to make good choice in the next vote for the Diet members.

  1. N. Onishi, "A war shrine, for a Japan seeking a not guilty verdict," New York Times (June 22, 2005).
  2. P. Wiseman, "Tokyo shrine a focus of fury around Asia," USA Today (June 23, 2005).

The followings have been taken from the comment column of the blog site where this post originally appeared:

Michael Cucek 06/30/2005
Ted -
I would like to think that I understand the Prime Minister's thinking--but he remains a cipher, a black box. He acts not according to a fixed set of rules but more from a loose set of constantly reconfigured concepts. Ask his inner circle what his philosophy of governance is and you hear a range of contradictory opinions reflecting the prejudices of the speakers rather than the core beliefs of the man. When Paul Wiseman asked me what the PM's motives could be for continuing to go to Yasukuni, I gave an answer that ignores the PM's feelings. It was the only intellectually honest route.

Ted 06/30/2005
Hi Michael,
Thanks a lot for your kind comment. Sure, Koizumi-san is a black box. However, I cannot at least judge him to be the man who sincerely repents Japan's aggressive wars in the past.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Man Who Loved Orchids and Peace

Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum,
Otokuni-gun, Kyoto Prefecture.

On June 16, 2005, I visited Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum (see the photo) with my wife to look at the exhibition of paintings mostly of Impressionism collected by this museum. The museum is located at the southern foot of Mt. Tenno between Kyoto and Osaka.

The building of the museum was originally built by the wealthy businessman Shotaro Kaga (1888–1954) from 1911 to 1929 as his own villa. Around 1990 Asahi Breweries, Ltd. bought the villa and repaired to make it a museum. The annex building to display mainly paintings was also built underground, and the museum was opened in 1996 [1, 2].

Kaga studied in Europe in his young days, and was attracted by the beauty of orchids. He eagerly tried to cultivate orchids at his villa to succeed in developing many new varieties. Near the end of the 2nd World War, soldiers came to ask him to put tanks in the garden of his villa. In spite of their use of violence, he did not accept the request, because he loved peace as well as orchids. He wished to make Japan known in the world not by her military force but by her culture [3].

  1. Leaflet, Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art.
  2. Web site, Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum.
  3. The story told by a video in the museum.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Quotation from Einstein on Study

From the necessity of my job, I had been a subscriber to the RSICC Newsletter published monthly and distributed freely by Radiation Safety Information Computational Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.A. At the top of each issue of this newsletter, a quotation from a wise person of the past is given. I had used to copy it into my computer file. Since several years ago, the newsletter has been an online publication. Thus the copying of the quotation has become easy. However, an easy thing to do is not an attractive thing to do. So I have stopped copying the quotation of the newsletter.

The latest issue [1] of the newsletter carries a quotation from Einstein on study. I like it very much, so that I am citing it below:
Never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later work belongs.--Albert Einstein
  1. RSICC Newsletter No. 484 (June 2005).

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Single Gene Changes Sex Orientation of Fruit Flies

Barry Dickson and colleagues at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria, published a pair of papers in the 3 June issue of Cellto report on a first elegant demonstration that a single gene can serve as a switch for complex behavior [1, 2].

Miller [2] writes, "The male fruit fly is a winged Casanova. He pursues lady flies with a repertoire of song, dance, and well-placed licks that many find impossible to resist." Female flies altered by the Austrian scientists to use a gene called fruitless (fru) to make proteins normally made by males pursued a waiting virgin female, showing all the components of that repertoire.

This could be an important step toward understanding instinctive human behavior.

  1. E. Rosenthal, For Fruit Flies, Gene Shift Tilts Sex Orientation, New York Times (June 3, 2005).
  2. G. Miller, Spliced Gene Determines Objects of Flies' Desire, Science Vol. 308, p. 1392 (2005).

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The New Structure of JR Kanazawa Station

Tsuzumi-mon Gate of JR Kanazawa Station.

I took a train to Kanazawa to attend the reunion of our Elementary School class on June 2. The Asahi-shimbun of that day just carried an article about the start of constructing the new JR line for bullet trains between Toyama and Kanazawa. The article included an air photo of the huge glass dome, "Motenashi (Welcome) Dome," at the East Entrance of the Kanazawa Station completed this spring by spending seven years and 17.2 billion yens.

The dome has a wooden gate (13.5 m high and 24 m wide; see the above photo) symbolizing traditional Japanese instruments called tsuzumi (hand drums). It is named Tsuzumi-mon ("mon" means gate). The whole structure does not seem popular among all the citizens of Kanazawa. During construction I thought it not so good, too. Looking at it as completed, however, I felt it not so bad after all.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Einstein on Space

In 2001 I read Max Jammer's book on Einstein and religion [1] and liked it very much (see my review [2] of this book). So I bought Jammer's another book on space [3]. The book contains a foreword written by Albert Einstein in 1953, less than two years before his death. The foreword gives me a good understanding of the history of the concept of space, so that I almost feel it unnecessary to read Jammer's book except chapter 6, which was added in the third edition and entitled "Recent Developments."

Einstein writes as follows: There are the two concepts of space: (a) space as positional quality of the world of material objects; (b) space as container of all material objects. In case (a), space without a material object is inconceivable. In case (b), a material object can only be conceived as existing in space.

Einstein further explains like this: Newton's concept of absolute space as the independent cause of the inertial behavior of material bodies corresponds to (b). Leibniz and Huygens resisted to this concept, and the subsequent development supported their resistance, because the concept of the material object as the fundamental concept of physics was gradually replaced by that of the field. If the laws of this field are not dependent on a particular choice of coordinate system, then the introduction of an independent (absolute) space is no longer necessary. -- Einstein adds the words, "There is no space without a field." --

However, Jammer argues in chapter 6 of his book that the Leibniz-Huygens concept of space, called the theory of relational space, is no longer universally accepted, referring to the new version of relationism proposed by Reichenbach and Grünbaum. I would like to write about space again after reading Jammer's new chapter.
  1. M. Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (Princeton University Press, 1999).
  2. A Scholarly Description of Einstein's Religious Philosophy (2001).
  3. M. Jammer, Concepts of Space: The History of Theories of Space in Physics 3rd enlarged edition (Dover, New York, 1993; 1st edition 1954, 2nd edition 1969, both by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1954).

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Einstein on Atomic Bombs

I have found the following words of Albert Einstein in the May issue of the APS News published by the American Physical Society [1]:
To have security against atomic bombs and against the other biological weapons, we have to prevent war, for if we cannot prevent war every nation will use every means that is at their disposal; and in spite of all promises they make, they will do it. At the same time, so long as war is not prevented, all the governments of the nations have to prepare for war, and if you have to prepare for war, then you are in a state where you cannot abolish war. (Spoken at a one-day conference at the Institute for Advanced Study on November 17, 1946.)
These words are cited in an article by Patricia Rife of the Graduate school of Technology and Management at the University of Maryland's University College. She begins the article by writing, "Albert Einstein was morally opposed to war throughout his life, and this ethical stance had deep roots in his childhood education."

After citing the above words of Einstein near the end of the article, Rife concludes her article as follows: "These words still ring true today, 59 years later. Will a new generation hear them and rise to our own social responsibilities? ... like Einstein ...I continue to work for this ethical stance."

It is wonderful that Einstein contributed to the mankind not only by his incomparable scientific accomplishments but also by these and other heavy words on war and atomic bombs. What would Einstein say if he were alive and heard about the movement of changing the Article 9 (the renunciation of war) of the Constitution of Japan?
  1. P. Rife, "Einstein, Ethics and the Atomic Bomb" APS News, Vol. 14, No. 5, p. 8 (2005). (Article based on a talk given at the 2005 APS March Meeting in Los Angeles.)
Related Sites

Friday, May 06, 2005

Classification Schemes of Memory

As I wrote in a previous blog [1], I learned about a classification scheme of memory from the review [2] of a book [3]. I wanted to learn more about it. At a Web site [4] I have learned the following: There are three schemes of classification of memory, i.e., classification by duration, classification by information type and classification by temporal direction. The scheme I learned before is the first one, and it classifies long-term memory, the largest part of any model about memory, into declarative (explicit) and procedural (or non-declarative; implicit) memories.

The classification by information type deals only with the long-term memory. Then it is not a scheme independent of the classification by duration but the one that subdivides the latter. The explanation of the latter at the above Web site [4] is as follows:
Classification by Duration

A basic and generally accepted classification of memory is based on the duration of memory retention, and identifies three distinct types of memory: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.
The classification by temporal direction is explained as follows:
Classification by Temporal Direction

A further major way to distinguish different memory functions is whether the content to be remembered is in the past, retrospective memory, or whether the content is to be remembered in the future, prospective memory. Thus, retrospective memory as a category includes semantic memory and episodic/autobiographical memory. In contrast, prospective memory is memory for future intentions, or 'remembering to remember' (Winograd, 1988). Prospective memory can be further broken down into event- and time-based prospective remembering. Time-based prospective memories are triggered by a time-cue, such as going to the doctor (action) at 4 pm (cue). Event-based prospective memories are intentions triggered by cues, such as remembering to post a letter (action) after seeing a mailbox (cue). Cues do not need to be related to the action (as the mailbox example is), and lists, sticky-notes, knotted handkerchiefs, or string around the finger are all examples of cues that are produced by people as a strategy to enhance prospective memory.
Can this classification be said to be the one at the same level with the classification by duration from a different viewpoint? Anyway I doubt that prospective memory is essentially different from retrospective memory. The former seems only to be the special case of the latter in which the retrospective content is a decision already made in the form of a schedule related to the future.

I also cite the description about declarative memory [4] below.
Declarative memory requires conscious recall, in that some conscious process must call back the information. It is sometimes called explicit memory, since it consists of information that is explicitly stored and retrieved.

Declarative memory can be further sub-divided into semantic memory, which concerns facts taken independent of context; and episodic memory, which concerns information specific to a particular context, such as a time and place. Semantic memory allows the encoding of abstract knowledge about the world, such as "Paris is the capital of France". Episodic memory, on the other hand, is used for more personal memories, such as the sensations, emotions, and personal associations of a particular place or time. Autobiographical memory - memory for particular events within one's own life - is generally viewed as either equivalent to, or a subset of, episodic memory. Visual memory is part of memory preserving some characteristics of our senses pertaining to visual experience. We are able to place in memory information that resembles objects, places, animals or people in sort of a mental image.
At first I thought that the word "information" used in the review [2] to explain the semantic memory seemed a little odd in the context. Considering the fact that classification of memory can be made by information type, however, the use of the word "information" is quite natural.

  1. Speeding Up of Life at Higher Ages (May 4, 2005).
  2. Y. Dudai, Nature Vol. 434, p. 823 (2005).
  3. D. Draaisma, Why Life speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past translated by A. & E. Pomerans (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  4. Memory - Learn all about Memory (Encyclopedia.lockergnome.com).

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Speeding Up of Life at Higher Ages

We sometimes say, "Time passes faster as we get older." But this is a strange expression, because we cannot define the speed of time. In physics speed is defined as the distance traversed by something within a unit time, and time is not the thing that travels through space. In everyday language the concept of speed is also used to refer to the frequency of some event happening within a unit time. For example, we say about a woman who utters many words within a given duration of time, "She speaks quite quickly." However, time is not an event happening along time either.

In the latest issue of Nature I found a review [1] on the book entitled "Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older" [2]. "Life speeds up." -- This seems to be an appropriate expression. The appropriateness comes quite naturally; the author of the book, Douwe Draaisma, is a historian of psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I wanted to know what was the author's answer to the question "Why does life speed up as you get older?" and read the review.

The reviewer, Yadin Dudai of the Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, writes a brief introduction to the science of memory in the first half of his review. Note that the subtitle of the book reviewed is "How Memory Shapes Our Past." So, I noticed that the central theme of the book is not human perception of time but memory.

From the review we learn the followings: Memory can be classified into "declarative memory" and "non-declarative memory." The latter refers to bodily memory such as habits and modified reflexes. The former refers to conscious memory, and includes "episodic memory" and "semantic memory." "Episodic memory" is mental travel to the personal past, usually involving some re-experienced emotion. "Semantic memory" is acquired information transparent to conscious awareness and not always related to unique personal experience.

Dudai then tells us these: Draaisma's book reminds us that an interest in memory is primarily synonymous with a wish to understand the joy and sorrow of personal memory, i.e., "episodic memory." The book is a fine collection for memory lovers who will appreciate the facts it contains as well as rich metaphors. The title of the book comes from one of touching essays included in it. -- Oh, I could not learn the answer to the question "Why does life speed up as you get older?" --

Then I sought other reviews on Draaisma's book at Amazon.com Web site. There was just one good review written by a customer. The writer, Rob Hardy, is a psychiatrist and is ranked at the 50th among Amazon.com customers who send reviews (by the way, I am the 3537th). He kindly writes what I wanted to know as follows: There is not a fully accepted reason for that question. William James explained in 1890 that in youth, there were novel experiences, something new every day, but that every passing year brought routine that smoothed the days, weeks, and years into a collapse of time. A period full of memories, viewed in retrospect, seems to expand and be fuller and longer. [William James (1842 - 1912) was an American philosopher and psychologist, and was the novelist Henry James's brother.]
  1. Y. Dudai, Nature Vol. 434, p. 823 (2005).
  2. D. Draaisma, Why Life speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past translated by A. & E. Pomerans (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  3. R. Hardy, Evaluation of Our Real Memories (Amazon.com Web site, 2005).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Hans Bethe Was, So to Say, One of My Teachers

Hans Albrecht Bethe, one of the giants of 20th century physics, died on March 6, 2005. He was born in 1906 in Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine -- then part of Germany --, studied physics at Frankfurt, and obtained his doctorate from the University of Munich in 1928. In 1933 he moved to England, and in 1935 to America, where he held the chair of physics at Cornell from 1937 until his retirement in 1975. Bethe was one of the key figures in the Manhattan atomic bomb project during the Second World War. After the war he campaigned together with Albert Einstein against nuclear testing and the nuclear arms race. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1967 for his discovery of stellar nucleosynthesis [1-5].

Students who major in nuclear or radiation physics learn the name of Bethe quite early in the lesson of their specialty. His name is associated with equations to express energy losses, due to inelastic and radiative processes, of charged particles passing through matter. Bethe's papers on these equations were published in 1930 [6] and 1934 [7]. In my young days one of the most thoroughly written textbooks on experimental nuclear physics was the one edited by Emilio Segrè [8]. In the first volume of that textbook, there is a chapter written by Bethe and Julius Ashkin (Carnegie Institute of Technology) on the passage of radiations through matter.

I had worked on the passage of fast electrons through matter for many years. So I studied the chapter of Bethe and Ashkin repeatedly. Thus Bethe was, so to say, one of my best teachers. In a humble work of mine [9] I even cited a paper authored by Bethe and his coworkers [10], because the expression in this paper for the transport mean free path of electrons in matter was essentially useful for that work. Further, a little before my retirement from a university I bought the book of Bethe's selected works [11] (see the image above) to make it one of examples of publications of my selected works I edited by myself [12]. By the way, other examples I referred to were "The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein" and "Selected Papers of Freeman Dyson with Commentary." Many scientists possibly regard Bethe as their model in that he published important academic papers at ages over 90.

It is interesting that Bethe so swiftly did the work awarded by the Nobel Prize [2,13]. In 1938 Edward Teller invited Bethe to contribute a paper on astrophysics for a conference the former was organizing. Bethe at first pleaded ignorance of the subject, but under pressure from Teller he finally agreed to search for a relevant topic. The result was the paper on energy production in stars [14].

There are two more interesting facts about Bethe's publications [15]. One is that Bethe submitted a spoof paper [16] to Die Naturwissenschaften with G. Beck and W. Riezler, and it was accepted and published. Bethe wrote [17] about that paper, "The joke was meant to make fun of papers by Eddington in which he claimed to derive the value of the fine structure constant to be 137." The other is that Bethe's name was added in the byline of a letter to the Editor of the Physical Review on the theory evolved by R. A. Alpher under George Gamow's direction [18]. It was Gamow's mischievous idea to make the list of authors, Alpher, Bethe and Gamow, sound like alpha, beta and gamma. It is funny that it is written, "Bethe did, however, contribute with Ralph Alpher to George GamowÉÜs famous 1948 alpha-beta-gamma paper on the origin of the elements and the big bang." in Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists [2].

The American Institute of Physics had been publishing a series of books named Masters of Modern Physics. The series included a volume of Bethe [19]. I bought it, but have not read it yet. The volume is a collection of Bethe's essays written since the end of the Second World War. In the preface of this book Bethe wrote, "That President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev both agreed that nuclear armaments are absurdly large comes as a modest result of the arms-control effort in which I was joined by many others. Much remains to be done before the world can feel safe from a nuclear holocaust."

The 2005 NPT (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Review Conference will soon be held at the UN in New York (from May 2 to 27, 2005). UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the NPT (March 5, 2005), "Today, the NPT confronts profound challenges to its effectiveness and credibility. At the 2005 NPT Review Conference in May, these challenges will test the commitment of all States to the three pillars of the NPT: non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear technology." We expect that the effectiveness and credibility of the NPT be strengthened at the coming review conference to respect Hans Bethe's will.
  1. Hans Bethe - Biography (Nobelprize.org).
  2. J. Daintith, S. Mitchell, E. Tootill and D. Gjertsen, ed., Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, 2nd ed., Vol. 1, p. 81 (Institute of Physics Publishing, Bristol, 1994).
  3. Atom Bomb Designer Dies (PhysicsWeb, March 8, 2005).
  4. Hans Bethe (Wikipedia).
  5. K. Gottfried and E. E. Salpeter, Nature, 434, 970 (970).
  6. H. A. Bethe, Ann. Physik, 5, 325 (1930).
  7. H. A. Bethe and W. Heitler, Proc. Roy. Soc. (London), A146, 83 (1934).
  8. E. Segrè, ed., Experimental Nuclear Physics, Vols. I-III (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1952-1959).
  9. T. Tabata, R. Ito and S. Okabe, J. Appl. Phys. 42, 3361 (1971).
  10. H. A. Bethe, M. E. Rose and L. P. Smith, Proc. Am. Phil. Soc. 78, 573 (1938).
  11. H. A. Bethe, Selected Works of Hans A Bethe with Commentary (World Scientific, Singapore, 1997).
  12. T. Tabata, ed., Abstracts of Selected Papers of Tatsuo Tabata and His Coworkers Vol. 1 and 2 (available as PDF files from the IDEA Web site) (IDEA, 2002, 2003).
  13. O. Klein, The Nobel Prize in Physics 1967: Presentation Speech (1967).
  14. H. A. Bethe, Phys. Rev. 55, 434 (1939).
  15. E. Mendoza, ed., A Random Walk in Science: An Anthology Compiled by R. L. Weber, pp. 24 and 70 (Inst. Phys. London, 1973).
  16. G. Beck, H. Bethe and W. Riezler, Naturwissenschaften, 19, 39 (1931).
  17. Page 185 of Ref. 11.
  18. R. A. Alpher, H. Bethe and G. Gamow, Phys. Rev. 73, 803 (1948).
  19. H. A. Bethe, The Road from Los Alamos (Amer. Inst. Phys., 1991).

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Visiting Scientist from China

A friend of mine in USA, J.H., forwarded me e-mail messages exchanged between him and the Chinese scientist, Dr. L.Z. The latter is now a visiting researcher at Osaka University. Thinking this a good chance to make another overseas friend of mine, I sent an e-mail message as cited below to Dr. L.Z. I had to say a little about the present political problems between China and Japan. He promptly replied to it with kind words. Scientists seem to be better at having peaceful relations than politicians.
Dear Dr. L.Z.,

I am writing this message to you, because last evening J.H. forwarded me e-mail messages exchanged between you and him.

You seem to be working at an institute of Osaka University as a guest scientist from China on nuclear reactions by the use of laser beams. Right?

I had been working on the passage of fast electrons through matter and electron-beam dosimetry at RIAST Institute, Osaka Prefecture University, located in Sakai, Osaka. After retirement, I have my own institute at my home; it is named Institute for Data Evaluation and Analysis (IDEA).

I have some good Chinese friends in Shanghai, Beijing, Dalian, etc., and feel very sorry that China and Japan have political problems now. I believe that the attitude of Koizumi Cabinet towards the past war is quite wrong.

I should be glad if I could have a chance of seeing you in the near future.

Tatsuo Tabata

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"September Affair"

Yesterday I watched the 1950 American film "September Affair" on TV. The director of the film was William Dieterle. The story goes like this:

During the time of plane engine troubles, the pianist Marina Stuart (Joan Fontaine) and the engineer David Lawrence (Joseph Cotten) go sightseeing in Naples. When they have come back to the airport, the plane just flies away, and their continued short trip leads to deeper emotions. Then they learn from a newspaper that the plane they are supposed to be on has been crashed to kill all the passengers. They decide to change their world forever. ...

The scenery of Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Capri and Florence reminded me of the group trip my wife and I joined in May 2003, and I much liked this classic, short-lived love story. (You can see some sketches and photos of our trip to Italy at my website [1, 2].)
  1. Sketches in Italy.
  2. Thirteen-Day Travel to Italy: Selected Photos.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bush vs. Einstein

The U.S. President George W. Bush delivered the State of the Union speech on February 2, 2005. It included the following passages [1]:
Pursuing our enemies is a vital commitment of the war on terror, ... During this time of war we must continue to support our military and give them the tools for victory.
America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace.
Right now, Americans in uniform are serving at posts across the world, often taking great risks on my orders. ... The volunteers of our military are unrelenting in battle, unwavering in loyalty, unmatched in honor and decency, and every day they are making our nation more secure.
In spite of many use of the words, "freedom," "democracy" and "liberty," President Bush's speech is in contradiction to these words as well as to recent facts. The first passage cited above shows that he considers the war in Iraq was the one on terror, but it was not. Attack on Iraq was started on the wrong assumption of her having illicit weapons stockpiles.

In the second to fourth passages cited, President Bush shows his wish to expand democracies to other countries by U.S. Forces to make U.S.A. more secure and the world peaceful. However, making attack on a country without the United Nation's support is to violate international democracy, and a trial to advance freedom by war would only destroy peace for a long time.

The following words by Albert Einstein [2] sound like the prediction of President Bush's distorted policy:
General fear and anxiety create hatred and aggressiveness. The adaptation to warlike aims and activities has corrupted the mentality of man.
Einstein uttered these words in his address at the second annual dinner given by the Foreign Press Association of the United Nations, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, November 11, 1947.

At the end of the address Einstein said, "We scientists believe that what we and our fellow-men do or fail to do within the next few years will determine the fate of our civilization." However, the goal of the comprehensive renunciation of nuclear weapons is still far, so that scientists and their fellow-men and fellow-women have much to do for this purpose.
  1. Transcript: President Bush's State of the Union Address (nytimes.com, February 3, 2005).
  2. Albert Einstein, "The Menace of Mass Destruction" in Essays in Humanism (Philosophical Library, New York, 1950).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Serenades Played by Erhu

A young friend of mine, Yoro, is running a small company to make and sell CDs in Ebetsu, Hokkaido. Last week I ordered him a CD [1] made in China and sold by his company. It is a collection of serenades played by Zhu Changyao with an erhu by the accompaniment of the Orchestra of the Music and Dance Troop of Jiangsu Province of China. Zhu Changyao is a famous Chinese erhu virtuoso and composer. The erhu is a traditional Chinese string instrument with two strings.

The CD arrived this afternoon. It includes "English Serenade," Schumann's "Träumerei," Dvorak's "Humoresque," Schubert's "Lullaby," De Curtis's "Come Back to Sorrento," Brahms's "Lullaby," etc. Listening to those well-known pieces of music played with an erhu in calm and nostalgic tone, my heart, being hurt by dark pieces of news these days, was much soothed and warmed, though it was very cold today.
  1. "Zhu Changyao's Art of Erhu No. 4: Serenade" (Jiangsu Culture Audio and Video Publishing House, China; dealt by Booxbox).