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).

Comments (reproduced from 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.