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).