Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lists of Films on Atomic Bombs

The other day, I revived one of lost blog posts written in 2005. It was entitled "New books on atomic bombs." An overseas friend of mine wrote a comment on it and asked me if I knew a similar list of movies or documentaries. I did not know such a list. So, I made a search on the Internet, and results gotten are summarized here.

Lists of films on atomic bombs available on the Web
  1. Films about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (19 entires)
  2. Documentary films about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (subcategory of the above category) (9 entries)
  3. List of Japanese films on atomic bombs on the page "原爆映画特集" (Feature: Atomic Bomb Movies) (19 entries)
The third list above is difficult for the overseas friend to understand. Thus, I made a modified list as given below by including a few entries from the first two lists, adding English titles and providing links to English Wikipedia pages when available.

I wish that these films that convey the colossal tragedy the atomic bombs brought are appreciated by a lot more of people world over and that total elimination of nuclear weapons is realized as soon as possible.

List of Japanese films on atomic bombs (a modification of the list at "原爆映画特集")
Note: English titles are official ones except for those given in parentheses, which are used to indicate to be the literal translation by T.T. Some of Wikipedia pages explain not only about the film but also dramas, books, etc. of the same title; and some others contain an extremely brief description only.
Year of release Japanese title English title
1 1950 長崎の鐘 The Bells of Nagasaki
2 1952 原爆の子 Children of Hiroshima
3 1953 ひろしま (Hiroshima)
4 1955 生きものの記録 I Live In Fear
5 1959 第五福竜丸 (Lucky Dragon 5)
6 1963 (Mother)
7 1970 地の群れ Apart from Life
8 1976 はだしのゲン Barefoot Gen
9 1977 はだしのゲン: 涙の爆発 Barefoot Gen: Explosion of Tears
10 1980 ヒロシマのたたかい: はだしのゲンPART3 Barefoot Gen: PART3 Battle of Hiroshima
11 1983 この子を残して Children of Nagasaki
12 1983 せんせい (Sensei)
13 1988 さくら隊散る (Team Sakura Wiped Out)
14 1988 TOMORROW 明日 Tomorrow
15 1989 黒い雨 Black Rain
16 1991 八月の狂詩曲 Rhapsody in August
17 2001 H Story H Story
18 2002 鏡の女たち Women in the Mirror
19 2004 父と暮せば The Face of Jizo
20 2005 二重被爆 (Double exposure)
21 2007 夕凪の街 桜の国 Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
22 2007 馬頭琴夜想曲 Matouqin Nocturne
23 2009 妻の貌 (Wife's Face)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Boy of Age 16 Asks Me about Relativity, etc.
5. Object's Mass at Speed of Light

Abstract image reminiscent of light rays flying past.
Image: jscreationzs /
A friend of mine on Twitter, Aaron (a pseudonym), is an overseas, 16-year old boy, who seriously admires Albert Einstein and wants to become a physicist. He continually writes me (Ted, also a pseudonym) questions about the theory of relativity and related topics, and I am sending answers. In this series of blog posts, those questions and answers are reproduced with modifications. I am not an expert in the fields of physics related to relativity. So, my answers might contain errors. If you find any error, please do not hesitate to write a comment for the benefit, not only of the boy and me, but also of other readers.

Aaron: The object's mass is zero when it is traveling at the speed of light, right? Where does its mass go? Does it turn into energy?

Ted: Surely, what is traveling with the speed of light, i.e., the photon (the quantum of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation), has zero mass. It is to be noted that the photon always has zero mass and always flies with the seed of light. This property is known to belong to the photon only.*

Particles with masses different from zero, when they are at rest (rest masses), can be accelerated to speeds fairly close to the speed of light by the use of large accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider in CERN. When the particle get higher speeds, the mass of the particle does not approach zero, contrary to your supposition, but becomes larger to make the total energy higher. As a result, no body with a nonzero rest mass can be accelerated to reach just the speed of light. This is explained below by the use of a few equations (clicking on the image, you can see a larger one). Thus, the situation in your question that an object with a finite rest mass would reach the speed of light does not happen.

* Neutrinos were once thought to have zero mass, but the experimentally established phenomenon of neutrino oscillation requires neutrinos to have nonzero masses. As for the experiment that suggested the possibility of neutrinos traveling faster than light, mention will be made in a later story of this series.
(Originally written on February 28, 2011)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boy of Age 16 Asks Me about Relativity, etc.
4. Newton vs Einstein

Isaac Newton. By Sir Godfrey Kneller [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons.
A friend of mine on Twitter, Aaron (a pseudonym), is an overseas, 16-year old boy, who seriously admires Albert Einstein and wants to become a physicist. He continually writes me (Ted, also a pseudonym) questions about the theory of relativity and related topics, and I am sending answers. In this series of blog posts, those questions and answers are reproduced with modifications. I am not an expert in the fields of physics related to relativity. So, my answers might contain errors. If you find any error, please do not hesitate to write a comment for the benefit, not only of the boy and me, but also of other readers.

Aaron: It seems that Newton did not know exactly how gravity worked. Then, there came Einstein to find the answer. Why do they still write about Newton's law of gravity in textbooks?

Ted: Newton's law of gravity and equation of motion are highly accurate approximations to Einstein's general and special theories of relativity. Einsteinian mechanics did not make Newtonian mechanics useless but expanded the scope of the latter. The latter is quite simple and yet is useful for doing calculations of the motion of materials being situated in a weak gravitational field and having a speed much smaller than the speed of light. Therefore, we first study Newtonian mechanics at high schools.

Note Added later: An educational blog post on the relation between Einstein's relativity and Newton's mechanics has appeared: Matt Strassler, "How did Einstein do it?" Blog site Of Particular Significance (2012).

(Originally written on February 24, 2011)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boy of Age 16 Asks Me about Relativity, etc.
3. Space and Time

Diagram showing space and time in space-time. Here space is depicted as a two-dimensional entity in three-dimensional spacetime. Time from the observer's viewpoint is represented as a vertical line. Image by K. Aainsqatsi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
A friend of mine on Twitter, Aaron (a pseudonym), is an overseas, 16-year old boy, who seriously admires Albert Einstein and wants to become a physicist. He continually writes me (Ted, also a pseudonym) questions about the theory of relativity and related topics, and I am sending answers. In this series of blog posts, those questions and answers are reproduced with modifications. I am not an expert in the fields of physics related to relativity. So, my answers might contain errors. If you find any error, please do not hesitate to write a comment for the benefit, not only of the boy and me, but also of other readers.

Aaron: Will there be time, if there is no space?

Ted: Your question does not seem to be a valid one in physics. Physics is the branch of natural science to study matter and its motion through spacetime; and these, i.e., matter, motion and spacetime, are inseparable from space.* From this viewpoint, physicists are not expected to think about the circumstance in which there is no space. In treating a complex problem, physicists often assume a simplified model of the situation, but elimination of space would make the problem non-physical.

However, the following should be noted in relation to your question: Approaches to quantum gravity, being studied for uniting quantum mechanics with general relativity, suggest the possibility that space and time are not fundamental entities but emergent phenomena (see, for example, Ref. 1). If such is the case, the phrase in your question, "there is no space," would have physical meaning in the sense that equations of quantum gravity would dispense with space and time variables.

* Especially in the theory of relativity, space and time (to say precisely, imaginary time) are treated symmetrically, and it can happen that part of time duration of one observer is part of spatial length of the other observer.

  1. Luboš Motl, Emergent space and emergent time, The Reference Frame (2004).
(Originally written on February 23, 2011)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Boy of Age 16 Asks Me about Relativity, etc.
2. Einstein and Black Holes

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921.
By Ferdinand Schmutzer [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons.

A friend of mine on Twitter, Aaron (a pseudonym), is an overseas, 16-year old boy, who seriously admires Albert Einstein and wants to become a physicist. He continually writes me (Ted, also a pseudonym) questions about the theory of relativity and related topics, and I am sending answers. In this series of blog posts, those questions and answers are reproduced with modifications. I am not an expert in the fields of physics related to relativity. So, my answers might contain errors. If you find any error, please do not hesitate to write a comment for the benefit of the boy and me as well as that of other readers.

Aaron: I read in some books that Einstein did not believe in black holes. Then, why did he publish the work of general relativity that predicted black holes?

Ted: When he developed the theory, Albert Einstein did not notice that it would predict the existence of black holes. Only after the publication of the paper on general relativity, other physicists studied solutions of Einstein field equations to find the possible existence of black holes. (For the detailed history of finding black hole solutions, see Ref. 1.)

Einstein's disbelief in the black hole solution is explained in Ref. 2 as follows:
It seems that Einstein always was of the opinion that singularities in classical field theory are intolerable. They are intolerable from the point of view of classical field theory because a singular region represents a breakdown of the postulated laws of nature. I think one can turn this argument around and say that a theory that involves singularities and involves them unavoidably, moreover, carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction.
In other words, Einstein's belief in his own theory combined with his opinion about physical theories in general did not allow the existence of the black hole. However, his theory was cleverer than his opinion and predicted what was confirmed by (indirect) observations. A physical theory or an equation can sometimes be more reliable than the philosophical opinion even of the greatest man.

  1. "Section 1. History" in "Black hole", Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (19 December 2011 at 11:28).
  2. Quoted in Philosophical Problems of the Internal and External Worlds: Essays on the Phylosophy of Adolf Grünbaum edited by John Earman (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993), as written by Peter Bergmann (1980, 156).

(Originally written on February 21, 2011)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Boy of Age 16 Asks Me about Relativity, etc.
1. Evidence for Black Holes

Illustration of black hole as a highly warped region of two-dimensional "space."
The real black hole is a highly warped region of four-dimensional spacetime.
Image: chrisroll /

A friend of mine on Twitter, Aaron (a pseudonym), is an overseas, 16-year old boy, who seriously admires Albert Einstein and wants to become a physicist. He continually writes me (Ted, also a pseudonym) questions about the theory of relativity and related topics, and I am sending answers. In this series of blog posts, those questions and answers are reproduced with modifications. I am not an expert in the fields of physics related to relativity. So, my answers might contain errors. If you find any error, please do not hesitate to write a comment for the benefit of the boy and me as well as that of other readers.

Aaron: It is said that there are many black holes in our galaxy, right? Nobody can see them. Then, how do they know that there are black holes? I guess there is no equation to show that there is a black hole out there.

Ted: You are right. Neither there is an equation to predict the positions of black holes,* nor we can directly observe them. However, astronomers say that the center of our Milky Way Galaxy is dominated by one supermassive black hole and that observations have hinted at the existence of many stellar mass black holes (stellar black holes) near the galactic center (Ref. 1).

The evidence for the existence of black holes is obtained by indirect observations. Because of its invisible interior, the presence of them can be inferred through their interaction with other matter. For example, there is a phenomenon called accretion of matter. In this phenomenon, gas falling into a black hole emits vast amounts of radiation (mainly X-rays), which may be detected by telescopes. Astronomers have also identified numerous stellar black hole candidates in binary star systems, by studying their interaction with their companion stars. For more details about observation of black holes, you can see Refs. 2 and 3.

* As for the possible existence of black holes, Einstein's equations of general relativity helped later theorists to find such possibilities. However, those equations were solved under different simplifying assumptions by different theorists. So, the solutions thus obtained did not necessarily give a firm proof of the existence of the black hole.

  1. R. R. Britt, "Milky Way's center packed with black holes." (2005).
  2. "Section 4. Observational Evidence" in "Black hole", Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (12 December 2011 at 05:45).
  3. T. Bunn, "Is there any evidence that black holes exist?" in Black Holes FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) List (1995).

(Originally written on February 20, 2011; modified on December 23, 2011)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Japanese Theoretical Physicist and Poet, Jun Ishiwara

The cover of the book "Pioneer of Science Journalism: Biography of Jun Ishiwara."

The book entitled "Pioneer of Science Journalism: Biography of Jun Ishiwara" [1] was published recently, and I read a review of it [2]. The reviewer, Atsuko Tsuji, first writes as follows:
The name "Jun Ishiwara" seems to be unfamiliar to many people. So, the title of the book "Pioneer of Science Journalism" might be somewhat misleading.
I am quite familiar with that name, thus probably being one of the few such people now. "Nihon Shokokumin Bunko)" (a series of books for children) was published in 1936, and its revised edition was issued after World War II. Then I was in the sixth grade of the elementary school or the first grade of the junior high school and liked to read that series. The author of its seventh volume "Mysteries of the World" (1948, Shincho) was Jun Ishiwara. I learned atoms and molecules from that book. In addition to the effect of this book, Hideki Yukawa's winning of the Nobel Prize (1949) made me walk on the way to physics.

The aforementioned review article continues as follows:
As noted at the beginning by the author, he was one of the best theoretical physicists. In the early twentieth century, he first published first papers in Japan on relativity and quantum theory, which brought about a revolution in physics, and led discussion in the country.
This description reminded me of the fact that one of Ishiwara's article (written in German) was included in "History of Physics in Japan, Vol. 2: Reference Materials" [3]. In this book, Ishiwara's paper [4] is introduced by the following words:
This is the work in which Ishiwara (1881–1947) generalized the quantum rule independently of W. Wilson and A. Sommerfeld.
The same paper has also been mentioned in Ref. 5. Reference 3 also includes Ishiwara's two articles written in Japanese [6, 7].

The reviewer then writes, "He is also a tanka poet. . . ." After that, the following statements come:
It is even a surprise that the name of such a scientist is little known.
The love affair of Ishiwara, who had a wife and children, became a scandal, and he retired from the professorship at Tohoku Imperial University at the age of 42. Is this related to the unfamiliarity of him to people? After retirement, he pulled himself from research and became a person to discuss and communicate about science.
Ishiwara's love affair, together with his activities as a poet, is described in some detail in "Wikipedia" [8].

The review concludes by the sentence, "His life and words give us great suggestions about how the present-day science and scientists should be." I certainly want to read the book reviewed.

  1. S. Nishio, "Pioneer of Science Journalism: Biography of Jun Ishiwara," (Iwanami, 2011) In Japanese.
  2. A. Tsuji, "True scientist who discussed how physics should be," Asahi Shimbun (November 13, 2011) In Japanese.
  3. Physical Society of Japan, ed., "History of Physics in Japan, Vol. 2, Reerence Materials" (Tokai University Press, 1978) In Japanese.
  4. J. Ishiwara, "Die universelle Bedeutung dse Wirkungsquantums," Tokyo Sugaku Buturigakkai Kizi, Ser. 2, Vol. 8, pp. 106–116 (1915).
  5. H. Rechenberg, "Quanta and Quantum Mechanics," Chapter 3 in Twentieth Century Physics, Vol. 1, L. M. Brown, A. Pais and B. Pippard, ed. (Institute of Physics, 1995). pp. 143–248. (See p. 175 for Ishiwara.)
  6. J. Ishiwara, "Impression of Einstain," in Einstein and Relativity, J. Ishiwara (Kaizo, 1921) pp. 137–160. In Japanese.
  7. J. Ishiwara, "Earthquakes and science education," in Modern Natural Science, J. Ishiwara (1924) pp. 133–152. In Japanese.
  8. "Jun Ishiwara," Wikipedia, Japanese edition (November 16, 2011).

(A correction for Ref. 5 made on August 23, 2012.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Mathematician's Unique Autobiography

The other day, I phoned Haruko Iwasaki to tell how I enjoyed the class reunion of our elementary school, at which she had not attended because of difficulty in walking due to Parkinson's disease. On that occasion, she said to me, "I'll give you a book written by the famous mathematician Shimura-san because you're the only scientific person I know in Japan. Do you know the name Goro Shimura?"

Haruko worked at Princeton University, Harvard University, and the University of California on Japanese language and Japanese literature; and now lives in Kobe after becoming Professor Emerita at the final workplace. She got a copy of Shimura's book in California from a person who came from an overseas country. This happened because the latter heard that the former had been an acquaintance with Shimura at Princeton University.

When I talked by phone with Haruko, I did not remember the name Goro Shimura and said, "No, I don't." After getting the book, however, I had the following thought: His name is probably related to Fermat's last theorem. I possessed a book, Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem (Walker, 1997) written by Simon Singh but had not read it yet. Browsing some pages of Singh's book, I confirmed that my memory was right.

The book Haruko gave me is Shimura's autobiography entitled The Map of My Life (Springer, 2008). Shimura's English is readable, and his observations are unique. Some anecdotes of luminaries are also included. Mathematically-minded people should not expect to learn about algebraic geometry or such from this book. However, he depicts a rough outline of his research and what is valuable in the investigation of mathematics as well as memories of Taniyama, who contributed to finding Taniyama-Shimura conjecture (now called modularity theorem, which had a crucial role in the proof of Fermat's last theorem accomplished by Andrew Wiles). Therefore, those people, as mentioned above, would also be able to enjoy this book.

Goro Shimura was born in 1930. So, he is older than Haruko and I by five years only. Interestingly, however, she had the impression that he might be older than her by one generation, like Hideki Yukawa, possibly because of his elderly manner of speaking and impressive accomplishments achieved already at his young ages. Haruko told me that Shimura's look was like a noh mask. We can confirm this to be true in a sense by a full-page sized portrait of him on page 172 of Singh's book mentioned above.

Haruko also told me that Shimura used to recite rōkyoku or something like that for his friends without attaching the melody and that he was interested in porcelain. In fact, he published the book The Story of Imari: The Symbols and Mysteries of Antique Japanese Porcelain in 2008.

At the beginning of the book, Shimura writes about the daily life in Tokyo and things related to it in the 1930s, for the reason that those "things completely ordinary and known to almost everyone" of his generation "will never be written, and as a consequence, will be forgotten" (page 1). Reading them with a nostalgic feeling, I thought that he also did an excellent job here. He quotes from one of the light kinds of music "that were not so objectionable": "La, la, la, red flowers carried on a wagon, / Spring has come from the village to the town, / ..." (a skillful translation from Japanese, perhaps made by himself; page 14). He does not write the title of this song, but I was able to figure it to be "Haru no uta ('The song of spring' sang by Mitsuko Tsukimura in 1937)" because it was one of my favorite songs.

Shimura's finding of the practice of people in Kyoto is also fascinating: "I later learned that false compliments and even false invitations expecting declination were common in Kyoto" (page 30). (By the way, Haruko asked me to visit her someday. She is not the person of Kyoto. So, I do not think it a false invitation.) He shows keen insight into the history of politics, writing a little about possible war responsibilities of Hirohito (page 37) and stating that there is no justification for the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki (page 57). However, I think it to be unfortunate that he seems to be an anti-Marxist. He confuses the Marxism with the dictatorship by the Communist party in the former USSR and North Korea (page 86).

Shimura's scathing remark about the famous Japanese mathematician Teiji Takagi at the latter's old age might surprise Japanese readers, because the former quotes the words, "Kunshi is peaceful and not arrogant, whereas shojin is arrogant and not peaceful," from The Analects of Confucius to mean Takagi was shojin (page 117). He also criticizes G. H. Hardy's following words in A Mathematician's Apology as "rather pompous" (page 161): "No mathematician should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science is a young man's game." I do not think that these criticisms by Shimura themselves pompous but believe that they reflect his attitude not to be subservient to the authority and his determination to continue working on mathematics till old ages.

As for the work of mathematics, many mathematicians think, "The more difficult, the better." Shimura's view is different from this. He attaches importance to the significance of the result in the development of mathematics rather than to the difficulty of deriving or proving the result (page 137 and on some earlier pages). From the viewpoint of me as a physicist, this seems to be quite reasonable.

I have to add the following bottom line: Most books I read in the afternoons this summer and early autumn made me sleepy, but Shimura's autobiography was a complete exception.

I thank Yoshihiro Matsumori for our conversation on the message page of Facebook, which became the motive of writing this blog post.

(Modified May 16, 2019)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Hideki Yukawa's Lindau Lecture

Reading a Scientific American article on the 61st Annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting [1], I have learned the home page The Nobel Laureate Meeting at Lindau [2]. Scrolling the page downwards, we see a link to the Lectures Online page. There we can listen to more than 100 lectures of Nobel Laureates online. Among those lectures, I have found Hideki Yukawa's speech at the 3rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (1953, 1st Meeting in Physics) entitled "Attempt at a Unified Theory of Elementary Particles." Instead of the abstract of his presentation, a brief introduction is given by the editor Anders Bárány.

Bárány writes that Yukawa's full written lecture can be found in a special publication of the journal Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau from 1981 and that the printed version contains a number of rather complicated equations not shown during his speech in Lindau. The Japanese version of the full written lecture appeared in November 1953 issue of Shizen and was reprinted in the special number for Yukawa memorial of the same journal published in November 1981.

Here are essential words from Bárány's introduction:
This was a time when one of the main problems in physics was the large number of elementary particles detected in cosmic rays and in high-energy accelerators. [. . . T]he problem was that, as Yukawa phrased it in his lecture, "Powell discovered a great number of extra particles which I did not need." Today we have the Standard Model of particles and forces, through which all the “extra” particles can be classified and all the forces computed. But we still miss what Yukawa was looking for in his attempt to formulate a unified theory of elementary particles [. . .]
Yukawa's attempt at that time was in the direction of nonlocal field theory.

There was a rumor that Yukawa's spoken English had the intonation of the Kyoto dialect. Listening to his Lindau lecture, I do not think so. His voice in this talk sounds young (he was 46 years old at that time) and fairly similar to the voice of his son, Taka'aki, whom we can listen to in the narration of the video The Yukawa Story [3]. I also think that Yukawa's talk in English is more listenable than his lecture in Japanese at the classroom of the university.

I owe to Mr. M. M. for the information of the Japanese version of Yukawa's written Lindau lecture.

  1. S. Mirsky, Noble Nobel faces: A week in Lindau, where scientists are celebrities. Scientific American (September 1, 2011); printed version, September issue, page 78 (2011).
  2. The Nobel Laureate Meeting at Lindau: Educating, Inspiring, Connecting scientific Generations since 1951,
  3. The Yukawa story, You Tube video (uploaded on December 23, 2009).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

National Policy and the Principles of Autonomy, Democracy and Openness

On Monday, June 20, the TV channel of NHK BS premium aired the program "Superb feast of beauty: Kaii Higashiyama's journey. Part 2: Challenging Kyoto." In this program, Higashiyama's painting works made in Kyoto were introduced, and a few commentators analyzed them. After seeing the program, I wanted to see those paintings again in the book "Kyoraku Shiki: Kaii Higashiyama Shogashu (Four Seasons in Kyoto: Kaii Higashiyama's Small Picturebook" (Shinchosha, 1984) and went to the drawing-room to bring the book from the bookshelf there. Then, I found the book entitled "Nuclear Power Generation" (edited by Mitsuo Taketani; Iwanami, 1976). I browsed some of its pages and found the following passages:
[. . .] So long as she neglects the autonomous effort of developing her own reactors by keeping the lines of importing mass produced power reactors of light water type, Japan should be unable to be freed from the global strategy of the US to sell enriched uranium. (Page 197.)

The factor that is mainly giving damage to Japan's current nuclear policy is the fact that, regardless of the presence of the three nuclear principles incorporated in the Atomic Energy Basic Law, the principle of "openness" has been ignored and the principle of maximum confidentiality has been kept. This has irretrievably impaired the integrity of the Atomic Energy Commission and electric power companies.
Further, the principle of "democracy" has clearly been violated. Scientists and engineers convenient to the Government and industries have been employed as members of Commission, etc., and their views have always been found faulty. On the other hand, those who had decent views and criticized the national policy have not been employed as such members. (Pages 201–202.)

Essentially, there is no other way than faithfully to keep the three principles of "openness", "democracy" and "autonomy" in order to amend Japan's nuclear future and to convince the people of the country. (Page 204, the last sentence of the main text.)
Those words were written about 20 years after the introduction of nuclear reactors into Japan. For the additional period of about 35 years from that time, the nuclear policy was run without correcting its ignorance of the three nuclear principles. This is considered to have led to the severe accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The three principles, though incorporated into the Atomic Energy Basic Law but always violated, should be quite sad, if it had a mind. The importance of the same three principles is not limited to nuclear power policy. Autonomy, democracy, and openness must be respected in all areas of Government's actions. The national policy that ignores these principles would collapse sooner or later.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hideki Yukawa's Words about Nuclear Power Development -3-

Among the three essays of Yukawa on nuclear energy, the last one, "Nuclear power in Japan: Haste makes waste," was written in the year of Yukawa's resignation from the (Japan) Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). That essay begins with the following sentence:
Last year (1956) "the Atomic Energy Basic Law" was enacted, and the Atomic Energy Commission was established. Then, a number of significant changes happened to the domestic as well as international situations about nuclear energy.

The significant changes meant in the above quote can be seen in Ref. 1 as follows (partial omissions are made in the quote):
Being triggered by the first Atoms for Peace Conference held in August previous year, nuclear boom arrived. On January 1, "the Atomic Energy Basic Law" was established, and the JAEC started [as described by Yukawa]. Matsutaro Shoriki was appointed the first chairman of the JAEC. Atomic Energy Bureau was also inaugurated under Prime Minister's Office. Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI; presently, Japan Atomic Energy Agency) and Nuclear Fuel Corporation were launched in May and August. On the other hand, an industry group established Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (presently, Japan Atomic Industrial Association) in March. The followings happened overseas: The No. 1 reactor of the Calder Hall nuclear power station in Britain started the sending of power in May, and the General Assembly of United Nations adopted the Charter of the International Atomic Energy Agency on October 23.

These are truly high-flying moves. Furthermore, we find the followings in the nuclear chronology of that year in Japan [Ref. 1]: On January 13, the JAEC Chairman M. Shoriki released the inaugural statement, including the plan of the earliest importing of research reactors from the US to strengthen the system for the development of nuclear energy. On the same day, the Cabinet decided the importing of water-boiler and CP-5 types research reactors from the US. On February 10, JAERI was permitted to import, from the US, four tons each of natural uranium and heavy water for research. On March 23, the JAEC determined the basic outline of the development and utilization of nuclear power and suggested the development of breeder reactors. On March 27, JAERI made the covenant of importing a water-boiler type nuclear reactor from North American Airlines in the US. — These led to Yukawa's expression of intention to resignate from the JAEC on April 24 (the date of actual resignation is March 29, 1957).

In the third essay on nuclear energy, Yukawa first claims the following about the use of isotopes, i.e., the use of nuclear energy in a broad sense:
[. . .] the problems of preventing danger and controlling conditions for health will become important. We have to make every effort to solve these problems.
Then, Yukawa enters into the issue of nuclear power generation and points out as follows:
The next stage should be the one in which researchers and technicians in our country have to show more creativity and autonomy. For this purpose, it is necessary at least to go through the steps of domestic designing and manufacturing of reactors, production of fuel, establishing the method of spent fuel disposal, etc.
The national movement in history was quite contrary to the steps Yukawa thought to be necessary.

Yukawa further writes,
It is clear that we are no longer allowed to leave the issue of nuclear power indefinitely on the desk.
While the above view is the one pressed by the situation, he sharply criticizes Japan's nuclear policy as follows:
Because such a sudden change of the situation is also expected to occur in the future, hastening should be avoided concerning power reactors. It would be quite uncomfortable that, while some people are making preparations for raising seedlings, the other people suddenly appear with cut flowers from a shop.

In the last paragraph of the essay, Yukawa gives the following warning:
In the Western world, there is a saying, "Make haste slowly." In Japan we also have the proverb, "Haste makes waste."* With respect to nuclear power, these words fit quite well to the point. [. . .] At the same time, we have to think about nuclear weapons, which is the largest obstacle to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. We Japanese should make every effort more intensely than before to eliminate them from all over the world as soon as possible, on this occasion of our country's having joined the United Nations.

The following was reported recently [Ref. 2]:
An official's testimony has made this clear: Forty years ago, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company prepared emergency power generators in the basement by adopting "the American design," which had been developed against hurricanes and tornadoes, and this made accidents extremely large. The underground of the power plant was entirely soaked in water by the tsunami more than 10 meters high and lost all electric power sources at once.
Japan's policy immediately to import nuclear reactors without considering Yukawa's warnings has led to the disastrous accidents of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, producing a lot of radioactive waste just as was told by the proverb. Reflecting their own responsibility fully, all the Japanese should pave the way for the complete abolition of nuclear power plants in our country and the comprehensive elimination of nuclear weapons from the world over. (End)

* Note by the present author: The Japanese proverb is literally translated as "When in haste, take the roundabout way." However, this is too long to be used as the translation of the subtitle of Yukawa's essay, so that it has been replaced by another saying in English of the same meaning.

  1. Nuclear Chronology: 1956, Web site of Research Organization for Information Science & Technology, in Japanese.
  2. Wrong adoption of "American design" for nuclear reactors: Generators in the basement against hurricanes, Asahi Shimbun, Evening edition (June 11, 2011) in Japanese.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hideki Yukawa's Words about Nuclear Power Development -2-

Hideki Yukawa's Auto-Collected Writings Vol. 3 [Ref. 1] includes the following three essays about nuclear power:

(1) Atomic energy and humanity's turning point -1954 -, p. 261.
(2) The nuclear issue and the true nature of science -1954 -, p. 265.
(3) Nuclear power in Japan: Haste makes waste -1957 -, p. 269.

In essay (1), Yukawa writes that we have entered such a period in which each of us has to think about the tight relationship among the fates of people in different countries and has to pay far greater efforts than ever in order to save mankind from the threat of nuclear weapons. He also describes his own belief that he has to think about it more seriously as a scientist and that he stands at closer to this problem as one of the Japanese, than other persons. In spite of the presence of the words "atomic energy" in the title, this essay does not yet refer to the problems of nuclear reactors.

In essay (2), Yukawa writes first, "Since the beginning of March this year, nuclear issues have become more familiar than before to grow up to the subject of intense interest of the general public." Then, he explains the differences between the basic studies of atomic physics (nuclear and particle physics in the present terminology) and studies of nuclear science application.

As for March 1954, we have to remember the following things: On the sixteenth, it was revealed by Yomiuri Shimbun that the Japanese tuna fishing boat, Daigo Fukuryū Maru, had been exposed to fallout from the United States' thermonuclear device (H-bomb) test on Bikini Atoll (it happened on March 1); and on the twenty-second, the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB), established under the US National Security Council (NSC), proposed to provide experimental nuclear reactor to Japan, which became the beginning of the US plans to suppress anti-nuclear movements in Japan caused by the anger against A- and H-bomb sufferings [Ref. 2]. Earlier than this, three conservative parties of Japan submitted a proposal to the Diet on March 2. It was a 250 million yen budget for nuclear reactors and was passed without discussion on April 3.

On the other hand, on March 18, 1954, the Special Committee of Nuclear Science under the Science Council of Japan decided to keep the three principles of independence, democracy and openness in nuclear science research. On April 23, the Science Council of Japan condemned the Government's approach to nuclear reactors and issued a statement about the refusal of nuclear weapons research and complying with the three principles aforementioned [Ref. 3].

The words of "nuclear reactors" does not yet appear in Yukawa's essay (2), but the following passage is included at its end:
[…] as the research develops to extend its applications, a significant and unintended impact on human life happens to appear at the outside of the original purpose. As a scientist and as one of human beings, I repeat many times to reflect this: Which would the application of science produce, the result to which humans are grateful or the opposite result that threatens humanity? Which would the branching point of the main road of science lead to, the road to hell or the road to heaven?
The two kinds of results and the two roads described in the above passage might have come to Yukawa's attention from the thought about A- and H-bombs. However, he pointed out the truth that a dreadful result always has a possibility to occur ahead of "the branching point." Looking back on those words of his, we find that Yukawa even predicted the disasters at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. (To be continued.)

  1. H. Yukawa, Auto-Collected Writings, Vol. 3 (Asahi Shimbun, 1971).
  2. US–Japan relations and the headwaters of nuclear power plants (4), Shimbun Akahata (June 10, 2011) in Japanese.
  3. Nuclear Chronology: 1954, Web site of Research Organization for Information Science & Technology.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hideki Yukawa's Words about Nuclear Power Development -1-

The decisions of any kind regarding agreements about or implementation of power reactors will surely have an important impact on the future of long-term nuclear power development in Japan. Accordingly, we should be much cautious about it. — Hideki Yukawa, Atomic Energy Commission Monthly Report, January issue (1957) in Japanese.

In January 1956, Matsutaro Shoriki, the first chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, released The plan for the construction of nuclear power plants in five years and conclusion of the atomic-power agreement with United States. At the end of that year, the Japan–United States Atomic Agreement, which had guaranteed the independent nuclear research in Japan, began to be reviewed for revision. Hideki Yukawa resigned the Atomic Energy Commission in protest against this. Thereafter, the Atomic Energy Commission was dominated by the Government of Liberal Democratic Party, and was transformed to the agency of promoting nuclear-reactor construction. Yukawa's words quoted above represent the accusation against such a situation just before his resignation. [The above description is based on: US–Japan relations and the headwaters of nuclear power plants (4), Shimbun Akahata (June 10, 2011) in Japanese].

It is deeply regrettable that the absence, in the Atomic Energy Commission, of scientists who took over Yukawa's spirit of protest was one of the factors leading to the nuclear accidents in Fukushima.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Great Writer's Essay in His Childhood

The Nobel-Prize winning writer Kenzaburo Oe writes a series of a single-page essay in the magazine Tosho under the column name of "Intimate Letters." His essay of this month is entitled "Nambo-nandemo."

When he was in elementary school, Oe wrote an essay of the following story about his grandmother: Being hurt by the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a friend of hers was in hospital, so that the grandmother visited the friend. On returning home, she uttered the word "nambo-nandemo" (a dialect word to mean "too dreadful to say anything") to refer to her feeling of having seen the landscape of Hiroshima without any building at all.

His teacher told him that it might be possible to make his essay appear in a local newspaper by sending it to her acquaintance at the newspaper company but that he should rewrite dialect words into common ones. However, Oe did not want to change the grandmother's word of lament "nambo-nandemo" and told so to his teacher. Then, the teacher rejected to send it to the newspaper. A long time after that, the word "nambo-nandemo!" came to his mind on looking at the disasters of the Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear power plant. He adds to say that he cannot but shout this word especially against the government and the nuclear power plant.

Recently, German and Swiss governments decided to abolish all nuclear power plants of their countries by the year 2022 and 2034, respectively. It is in Japan, whose nuclear accident at Fukushima affected those decisions, that such a policy is deadly needed be made as soon as possible.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Japanese Mathematician Shigekiyo Muramatsu

Yesterday, Arjen Dijksman, a Twitter friend of mine, told me on twitter that the Twitter user by the name of OnThisDayInMath was looking for pictures of Matsumura's tomb, Sengakuji, and the inscription on the path, in relation to a blog article (Ref. 1). This article quotes the following description from a March 1908 article in the American Mathematical Monthly:
[O]ne of [the 47 ronin], Shigekiyo Matsumura, was the greatest Asiatic mathematician of his age, who in his work Sanso, published in 1663, calculated the length of one side of a regular inscribed polygon of 32768 or 215 sides, obtaining 0.000095873798655313483 and thence for the value of pi 3.141592648, which is accurate to seven places of decimalsone of them, Shigekiyo Matsumura, was the greatest Asiatic mathematician of his age, who in his work Sanso, published in 1663, calculated the length of one side of a regular inscribed polygon of 32768 or 215 sides, obtaining 0.000095873798655313483 and thence for the value of pi 3.141592648, which is accurate to seven places of decimals ...

I made the search of "Shigekiyo Matsumura" and "Sanso" on the Internet to find that the correct name of the author of Sanso was "Shigekiyo Muramatsu" and that he himself was not the member of the forty-seven ronin (赤穂四十七士). The most useful source of my finding was Ref. 2, my translation from which is given below (the original Japanese text is given in Appendix):
Shigekiyo Muramatsu (村松 茂清, 1608–1695) published Sanso (算俎) in 1663. Muramatsu served Asano (浅野) family and possibly had a math institute in Edo [present Tokyo]. Muramatsu had only a daughter, and took Hidenao (秀直) into his family as a son-in-law [the daughter's husband]. Hidenao and his son Takanao (高直) joined the forty-seven ronin to cause the Akō incident. In Sanso, Muramatsu arranged idai [problems published in earlier Japanese mathematics books written without answers] by classifying them into different levels with consideration for ease of learning. In this book, he also showed the calculation of pi from the regular inscribed polygon of 32768 sides to correctly obtain the value 3.1415926. Thus, this book was the first in the mathematical calculation of pi in Japan. Sanso was republished in 1684 by the title of Sanposanso (算法算俎). This item [possessed by Kyoto University Library and presented in the exhibition] is the copy of this republication, but it is not clear if this is the one published in 1684. Inside the back cover, it is written that this was bought in September 8, 1857, in Asakusa-kuramae.

We can see the names of all the forty-seven ronin in a list of a Wikipedia page (Ref. 3). The list shows Hidenao and Takanao with their middle names included as 村松 喜兵衛 秀直 and 村松 三太夫 高直, but not Shigekiyo. It is natural because the Akō incident was in 1703 (Refs. 3, 4), and Shigekiyo had died in 1695 as written in Ref. 2. Thus, I am not sure if Shigekiyo's tomb is in Sengakuji Temple together with those of the forty-seven ronin.

  1. "Pi and the 47 Ronin." Pat's Blog (September 5, 2009).
  2. The Catalog of the Exhibition "Wasan no Jidai (和算の時代, The Age of Japanese Mathematics),"edited by Kenji Ueno, Chapter 3, p 28, item 66 (Kyoto University Library, 2003) (In Japanese).
  3. "赤穂浪士 (Akō-rōshi)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Japanese edition (March 19, 2011, 10:23).
  4. "Forty-seven Ronin," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (23 April 2011, 05:32).

Appendix. The Original of Ref. 2

 村松茂清(むらまつ しげきよ、1608-1695)は寛文3年(1663)に算俎を出版しました。村松は浅野家に仕えていましたが、江戸に数学塾を持っていたようです。村松には娘しかなく、婿養子秀直を迎えましたが、秀直と秀直の子高直は赤穂四十七士の討ち入りに参加しました。村松は「算俎」のなかで、遺題の問題を内容別にレベル分けして配列し、学習しやすいように配慮しました。「算俎」では円に内接する正32768角形の周の長さを計算して円周率を3.1415926まで正しく計算しました。円周率を数学的に計算した我が国初の書物です。「算俎」は天和4年(1684、同年貞享に改元)に「算法算俎」と題して再版されました。本書はこの再版本ですが、天和4年に出版されたものかどうかは不明です。裏表紙の裏に「安政四丁巳九月八日浅草蔵前求之」と記されています。

Notes added later
  • The revised version of Ref. 1 with an addendum appeared: "More on Pi and the 47 Ronin," Pat's Blog (May 3, 2011).
  • According to the Japanese Wikipedia page on Hidenao Muramatsu, Shigekiyo Matsumura had the middle name Kyūtaifu (九太夫) (the "middle name" was used as the daily nickname in those days of Japan), and he had a son. However, the son disappeared from home and was lost, so that Shigekiyo took Hidenao as a son-in-law.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Disaster Report from Tohoku University

Coming back from a bus trip to Okayama Prefecture late last evening, I found an email massage from a former colleague of mine, Naoki Toyota, who is now Professor at Department of Physics, Tohoku University. He writes as follows:
Find the file attached, "The March-11 disaster report from Sendai." I have sent this nonofficial, rather personal document to my overseas friends and asked them for distributing it to their colleagues. I would appreciate it if you could upload this email on your home page or provide a link to the URL of the report (a link to the home page of our Low-Dimensional Quantum Physics Group is also okay).
By the way, all my family including my mother-in-law and her family, living in the devastated coastal region, are safe.
Naoki's report consists of four pages of a PDF file and describes the damage caused by Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, as well as the status of recovery from it, at Tohoku University. Especially, detailed descriptions are given of those at Department of Physics and related facilities.

Just after the March-11 disaster, I thought of sending Naoki an email message of sympathy. However, I supposed that he might be busy responding to many similar messages (even I, living quite far from Tohoku, received some such messages from abroad). Thus, I refrained from sending a message. On the return path of yesterday's trip, I was thinking about sending him a note during this week. What an interesting phenomenon of synchronicity it is to find his message after returning home!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Mirror Puzzle: Reversal Is Attributed to the Direction Defined Last

Yesterday, a friend of mine invited me to join the Internet site "Quora." This site consists of a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. I thought that one of the topics I was able to give the best answer was the "mirror puzzle." Searching the topic of "Mirrors," I found it in the subcategory of "Optics" in the category of "Physics." It included a question, "Why does a mirror reverse things horizontally but not vertically?" This is what I call the mirror puzzle stated in a little different manner.

The question seems to have been posted on July 14, 2010, and there are three answers. The first answer is as follows:

A mirror actually reverses front and back. The image of your right hand remains directly in front of your right hand. But because you think of the image as a rotation of yourself, you're led to think that left and right are reversed.

Richard Feynman explains this with his usual wit and smiles here.

The next answer is similar to this, and is the quotation from Martin Gardner's book, Aha! Gotcha. The third answer explains that things seem to be flipped horizontally or vertically depending on your point of view. This does not explain the left–right reversal that appears as the difference in shape between the object and its mirror image. Only the last paragraph of the third answer explaining that mirroring is mathematically "orientation reversing" is meaningful.

In the first and the second explanations, the essential reason why you compare your image with yourself rotated along the vertical axis is not made clear. Noticing this point, we reach the following explanation I gave there as the fourth answer:

The "mirror puzzle" is commonly stated: Why does a plane mirror reverse left and right, but not top and bottom? This question refers to the left–right reversal in the shape of the mirror image of an object as compared with the original object, i.e., the reversal of the left–right asymmetry viewed from two different coordinate systems, each of which is intrinsic to the object or its mirror image. The left–right reversal in this sense always happens in mirroring the object for which left and right can be defined, irrespective of the relative configuration of the object to the mirror. The reason can be explained as follows:

Mirroring reverses the direction perpendicular to the mirror surface. Thus, the mirror image of an asymmetric object becomes its enantiomorph (an example of enantiomorphic pairs is a pair of left and right hands). An enantiomorph is, or can be considered to have been, obtained by reversal in any single direction of an object ("orientation reversing" mentioned in the third answer; also equivalent to "space inversion" or "parity operation" in physics, in which all the three directions are reversed).

However, we can define the left–right direction of an object (or the mirror image) only after defining the top–bottom and front–back directions from the external view* of the object (or the mirror image). Thus, the top and front of the enantiomorph is always regarded as the same sides, in the external view, of the top and front of the original object, so that the direction reversed in the enantiomorph has to be attributed to the direction defined last, i.e., the left–right direction.

The key point lies in the nature of the definition of left and right. Explanations by Richard Feynman, Martin Gardner and many others missed this point. The method of Feynman and Gardner to make a comparison between you and your mirror image is nothing but the precedent determination of the top–bottom and front–back directions of the mirror image.

More detailed explanations can be found in the following references:
  1. M. C. Corballis, "Much ado about mirrors." Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Vol. 7, pp. 163-169 (2000).
  2. T. Tabata and S. Okuda, "Mirror reversal simply explained without recourse to psychological processes." ibid. pp. 170–173 (2000).
  3. H. Yoshimura and T. Tabata, "Relationship between frames of reference and mirror-image reversals." Perception Vol. 36, pp. 1049–1056 (2007).
* The external view is mostly the shape. However, for a street car with a front–back symmetric shape, for example, motion defines the front–back direction.