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61. The Mystery of a Stone Garden
Zen garden at Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan, is of dry landscape type,
and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Mosher1 writes about this garden as
. . . Ryoan-ji's visitors sit on the wide wooden steps in the sun and look out
at the garden, and then the question begins; here is a group of stones set
into a bed of raked white gravel, surrounded by a slanting mud wall . . .
What does it all mean? What questions can it answer?
Van Tonder et al.2 have
mathematically analyzed the arrangement of stones in the
Ryoan-ji garden. They derived the local axes of symmetry for the spacial
structure. Here symmetry is determined by the balance between the total
stones seen on left and that on right. Just like twigs, branches and the trunk
of a tree, the axes of symmetry in the garden come to be united to a broader
line as the viewing point moves nearer to the building of the temple and into
it, to steps, a corridor and the central room.
The authors have found: The traditionally preferred viewing point of the
garden, located at the center of the central room, lies close to the final
single axis of symmetry. Further, an alcove, in which Buddhist statue is
placed, is just on that axis. -- It seems that science well help us understand
- G. Mosher,
A Contemplative Guide" (Tuttle, Rutland, Vermont, 1964).
- G. J. Van Tonder, M. J. Lyons and Y. Ejima, "Visual structure of a Japanese
Zen garden," Nature Vol. 419, pp. 359-360 (2002).
1 Oct 02
62. A Step towards Antimatter
the science fiction "Eater" written by Gregory Benford, a robot
copy-made from the heroine Channing flies to the black hole Eater on a
spaceship carrying an antimatter bomb to change the course of the Eater and to
prevent its collision with the Earth.1 In
reality, neutral antimatter does not exist naturally on the Earth. Nor has it
ever been made in the laboratory.
Antihydrogen atoms, i.e., the first-step thing towards antimatter, were
produced at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) near Geneva
and Fermilab in USA in 1996.2 However,
those antihydrogen atoms
were flying so speedily that they were of no use for measuring their
In the recent issue of "Nature," a group of scientists at CERN reported the
success in the production of many "cold" antihydrogen atoms that moved very
slowly.3,4 Though it is yet quite far from
the production of antimatter, science approaches the science fiction gradually.
I don't wish only that antimatter bombs be made for wars on the Earth in the
- G. Benford,
(Eos, New York, 2000).
- The work at CERN is described in detail by G. Fraser,
"Antimatter: The Ultimate Mirror"
(Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000).
- M. Amoretti et al., "Production and detection of cold antihydrogen atoms,"
Nature Vol. 419, 456-459 (2002); advance online publication 18 Sep. 2002
- T. W. Hijmans, "Cold antihydrogen (News and views)," Nature Vol. 419,
- P. Schewe, J. Riordon, and B. Stein, "Cold anti-hydrogen atoms,"
Physics News Update,
No. 605, 18 Sep. (2002).
- P. Rodgers, "Cold antiatoms arrive in large numbers,"
PhysicsWeb, 18 Sep.
7 Oct 02
63. The Neutrino and Astrophysics
Nobel Prize in Physics 2002 has been awarded to three astrophysicists who
pioneered the fields of neutrino astronomy and X-ray astronomy. Ray Davis Jr.
of USA and Masatoshi Koshiba of Japan share half the prize for "pioneering
contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic
neutrinos." Riccardo Giacconi of USA receives the other half of the prize for
"pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of
cosmic X-ray sources."
Prof. Koshiba is the eleventh Nobel Laureate of Japan (the news of the twelfth
Laureate, Mr. Koichi Tanaka for the Chemistry Prize, arrived the next evening).
Here I write briefly about the neutrino and Prof. Koshiba's work.
The Austrian-Swiss physicist Wolfgang Pauli theoretically suggested the
existence of the neutrino in 1930 to explain the missing energy in the
phenomenon of nuclear beta decay. This very small particle, neutrino, was
supposed to have neither electric charge nor mass and to fly always with the
speed of light. So it was extremely difficult to catch it. Pauli himself said,
"I have done a terrible thing, I have postulated a particle that cannot be
detected." However, the American physicists Frederick Reins and Clyde Cowan
succeeded in confirming the existence of the neutrino in the intense
radiations from nuclear reactors in 1953.
Prof. Koshiba and his coworkers built a huge detector, Kamiokande, for the
purpose of observing the possible phenomenon of proton decay, which
theoretical physicists in the late 1970th had predicted. The detector was
located in a lead mine beneath the town of Kamioka. The name of the detector
comes from Kamioka Nucleon Decay Experiment. After several years of operation
of the detector, however, the team got no positive result, and turned to other
projects, including the detection of neutrinos from the sun and supernovae,
i.e., neutrino astrophysics. Soon after upgrading the detector to Kamiokande
II for these projects, the team luckily caught the neutrinos from the
supernova explosion in 1987. Those neutrinos were just the gift from heaven.
My former boss Dr. Shigeru Okabe at
Center of Osaka Prefecture
(RCOP) had also interest in observing neutrinos in his young days, but we had
neither resources nor a good idea for such a big project at the RCOP. It was
only our dream. After Prof. Koshiba's team succeeded in detecting neutrinos
from the supernova explosion, Dr. Okabe attended a scientific conference held
in former Soviet Union. Coming back from the conference, he told me that he
had said to Soviet scientists, "You have some big institutes, but you don't
have a Kamiokande." This anecdote indicates that at that time he was already
well aware of the importance of the work done by Prof. Koshiba and his
coworkers. Many Japanese physicists also believed that Prof. Koshiba would be
awarded the Nobel Prize in due course. Congratulations, Prof. Koshiba!
- "The Nobel
Prize in Physics 2002" Nobel e-Musium , 8 Oct (2002).
- "Nobel Prize Rewards
Neutrino Astrophysics and X-ray Astronomy" PhysicsWeb News, 8 Oct
- L. A. Marschall,
"The Supernova Story" (Princeton University Press,
- C. Sutton,
"Spaceship Neutrino" (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,
11 Oct 02
64. Koichi Tanaka Says, "Failure Teaches Success"
Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2002 has been awarded to three chemists who
developed methods for identification and structure analyses of biological
macromolecules. John B. Fenn of USA and Koichi Tanaka of Japan share half the
prize "for their development of soft desorption ionization methods for mass
spectrometric analyses of biological macromolecules." The other half of the
prize goes to Kurt Wüthrich of Switzerland "for his development of nuclear
magnetic resonance spectroscopy for determining the three-dimensional structure
of biological macromolecules in
The Japanese laureate Koichi Tanaka was born 1959 (43 years) in Toyama City,
Japan, got the bachelor's degree of engineering at Tohoku University, and is a
research and development engineer at Shimadzu Corp., Kyoto, Japan. The Daily
Yomiuri On-Line carried a report2 to
tell that in the 102-year history of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Tanaka was
the first to win with only a bachelor's degree. The report also told the
"I heard from my colleagues that Tanaka is an internationally well-known
researcher. But when I asked him about it, he replied, 'No, I'm not,'" Nakao*
said. "So I was very surprised when he won a Nobel Prize."
*Kunio Nakao, 36, is the chief of the general affairs section of
Kratos Analytical, Shimadzu's subsidiary in Britain. He spent two years with
Tanaka at Kratos.
At a press conference just after the announcement of the award by the Nobel
Academy, Tanaka appeared unshaven in the gray corporate uniform and said, "If
I had had any idea, I would have put on a proper
suit."3 He also told that his
award-winning work had been the result of his erroneous dropping of glycerol
liquid on a fine cobalt powder. It was important that he made measurements using
that powder without being discouraged by the error. Tanaka added citing a
Japanese proverb, "It was like a horse coming out of a
gourd."2 At a press
conference next day, he used a better proverb, "Failure teaches success." He
seems to like citing proverbs, and is a modest and witty person.
The following quote would be appropriate here:
Chance favors the prepared mind. -- Louis Pasteur
- The Nobel Prize in
Chemistry 2002, Nobel e-Musium, 9 Oct (2002).
- "Tanaka's Nobel Prize Victory for Youth," Daily Yomiuri On-line, 11 Oct
- "Nobels Run the Gamut from Cells to the Cosmos," Science Vol. 293, pp.
- "Mr. Tanaka Wins Nobel Prize," Asahi-Shimbun, 10 Oct (2002).
7 Nov 02
Japan, Christmas is the day when many children get a present from their
parents and eat a cake especially decorated for the day, irrespective of their
families' being Christian or not. I'm not a Christian, but it is an occasion
for me to send greetings to my overseas friends and to have a merry mind.
I remember the day of Christmas when I was three or four years old. I happened
to hear my parents' talk about a Christmas present to me in the Christmas Eve,
and found a toy truck of a red color near my pillow next morning. It was just
what I wanted. So I was quite happy, and said to my parents, "I got this from
Santa Claus," though I had already learned in the previous evening who
actually was Santa Claus.
Here is a more serious thought stated in relation to Christmas: Hiroki Fukuda,
one of the leader writers of the Asahi-shimbun,
My family and I have never gone to church. So we do not celebrate Christmas.
We have neither decorations nor gifs. It is not that we are eager believers
of a different religion but that we do not have any reason to celebrate it.
However, such a family seems to be the minority, . . .
Grisham's Skipping Christmas|
Then he refers to John Grisham's novel "Skipping Christmas," which
how an American couple gets the increasing pressure from their neighbors after
deciding to go on a trip without doing Christmas. Finally Fukuda gives a
rhetorical question, "Is a different belief not rejected but admitted in the
society of Japan to make it possible for the minority to be able to live
together with the majority?" This is an important question not only in Japan
but also in any country that claims to stand for democracy, and hopefully in the
- H. Fukuda, "Datsu Kurisumasu (Coming off Christmas)," Asahi-shimbun,
Evening edition, 19 Dec. (2002) In Japanese.
J. Grisham,"Skipping Christmas"
(Doubleday, New York, 2001).
21 Dec 02
66. The Clever Crow
August 2002, Alex Weir, Jackie Chappell and Alex Kacelnik at the University
of Oxford, UK, published a paper1
in Science about the experimental finding
that a captive female New Caledonian crow had bent wires to make hooks
appropriate to retrieve food from a cylinder. This is the first time any
animal has been found to show some understanding of cause and effect, and to
make a new tool for a specific
In relation to this report, Vishwas Parekh, an Indian scientist, sent a
to Science to notify readers about the Indian folk story of a smart crow. It
is the same story as we find in Aesop's Fables:
The Crow and the Pitcher4
A Crow perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find water, flew to
it with delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it
contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried
everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in
vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them
one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within
his reach and thus saved his life.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Parekh was wondering if Weir and his coworkers could try out this experiment
with a host of New Caledonian and perhaps some Indian crows. I am wondering if
Aesop or a later author included the story of The Crow and the
Pitcher in Aesop's Fables taking it from Indian folk
Here is also a Japanese poem about the cleverness of the crow (my English
translation of it follows down below):
shite mo karasu wa
hito wa karasu ni
-- Hiro-o Takemoto Kusagi no Hana no Ki
Though I pretended
not seeing him,
a crow was looking at me.
Humans must have learned
- A. A. S. Weir, J. Chappell and A. Kacelnik, Shaping of hooks in New
Caledonian crows, Science Vol. 297, No. 5583, p. 981 (2002).
- Birds Are Found to
Be Clever Tool Makers (Univ. Oxford News Releases, 9 Aug 2002).
- V. Parekh, Smart crows win out, Science Vol. 299, No. 5603, p.
- Aesop's Fables: Online
- Cited from M. O-oka, Oriori no uta (Poems of the Seasons),
Asahi-Shimbun (8 Oct. 2002).
13 Jan 03
67. Breaking Up of Columbia
February 2, 2003, media reported this sad news: Re-entering
the Earth’s atmosphere, the Space shuttle Columbia broke up and disintegrated
high above Texas, and all of seven astronauts were killed.
For the 1986 accident of the Space shuttle Challenger, the Nobel-Prize winning
physicist Richard Feynman joined the survey commission and found the
made a demonstration at a commission meeting by dipping an O-ring sample
(which he had brought secretly) in ice water (which he had asked for drinking).
It clearly showed how the O-ring used at a junction was weak at low temperature.
This was the typical style of Feynman’s doing things.
I sincerely wish that another Feynman clarify the cause of the Columbia disaster
- R. P. Feynman,
“What Do You Care Other People Think?” Part 2 (Norton,
New York, 1988).
2 Feb 03
What Do I Care What Mr. Feynman Thinks?
68. Missing Day Story
October 2002, a friend of mine and eager reader of the Bible was interested in
the newspaper article that appeared many years ago. He told me as follows:
The article reported about a computation of the positions of the sun, the moon
and planets far into the future for the space project. The computation worked
only when scientists took into account “a missing day” described in
the Bible. Just one missing day was derived from the sun’s standing still
for 23 hours and 20 minutes from the book of Joshua and ten degrees of the
sun’s backward movement (40 minutes) from the second book of the Kings.
He wanted to get the original article in the newspaper Spencer Evening
World, and asked me for help. I requested a copy of the article to the
editor of the newspaper by e-mail.
In February 2003, I received a mail package from the Spencer Evening
World. It contained copies of three materials: a column of the newspaper
dated October 10, 1969, an explanation by Editor Emeritus and a letter from
NASA’s Public Affairs office in Washington, D. C.
The column is named “Mary Kay’s Kollum.” The author Mary
Kathryn Bryan cites the article of unknown origin. The article in turn cites the
story told by Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Company in
Baltimore, Md. The story told there is the same as that my friend told
Editor Emeritus of the Spencer Evening World writes that they received
thousands of inquiries about this column story and that they contacted NASA at
least twice over a period of time. As any person with reasonable scientific mind
expects, NASA’s reply letter tells as follows:
There is no truth to the recurring story that NASA uncovered “a lost
day” in the movement of the Earth. Although planetary positions are used
to help determine spacecraft orbits, we have been unable to learn of any
computations in the space program that revealed a “a lost day” as
has been reported in a number of places.
The columnist is to be reproached for writing a fake story or a joke in such a
manner as to sound to be the truth to religious people. However, it is good
that at the Spencer Evening World they send a copy of the column to
inquirers together with NASA’s reply even after more than 30 years.
23 Feb 03
69. Uncertainty Principle in Life
uncertainty principle, proposed by the physicist Werner Heisenberg,
refers to the impossibility of making simultaneous measurements of both the
position and the momentum of a subatomic particle to arbitrary precision. The
uncertainty arises because to detect the particle, radiation must be bounced
off it; the process itself disturbs the particle's position.
On the other hand, "The Principle of Uncertainty" is the title of a 2002
Portuguese-French film (the original Portuguese title is "O Princípio da
Incerteza"). The director of the film is 94-year old Manoel de Oliveira, who
made "The Princess of Cleves" in 1999. The story of the film is not related to
physics, but goes as follows1,2:
António, the son of a wealthy family, and José, the son of the
housekeeper Celsa are good friends. By Celsa's arrangement, however,
António marries Camila, with whom José had always been in love.
Vanessa, José's partner in criminal business, starts to have affairs with
The film includes philosophical conversations, good camera work depicting
beautiful towns in Douro Valley of Portugal, and the effective use of Nicolo
Paganini's "24 Caprice." The actress Leonor Baldaque plays the role of the
heroine Camila well expressing the uncertainty between angelic and witch-like
characters. The uncertainty is considered to be the result of fighting with
class differences in the society.
The original work of this film is the novel "Jóia de Familia (Family
Treasure)" by the Portuguese woman writer Augustina Bessa-Luís, who is
still writing at the age of 80. The high productivity of such artists as
Oliveira and Bessa-Luís gives stimulus to senior people.
- O Princípio da
- Film: O Princípio
14 Jun 03
70. "I Could Die after Completing This Film."
many of us, "an international spy who worked for Communist Party
and Kremlin" may give the image of a cruel person. In the 2003 film "Spy
Sorge" directed by Masahiro Shinoda, however, Richard Sorge and Hotsumi Ozaki
are convincingly depicted as fresh, warm and sincere persons who fought against
the dangerous political movement before the Second World War for the benefit of
the general public without caring about their own perils.
The film, though a little lengthy, is entertaining and gives the audience many
heavy problems to think about, for example, war and peace, the purpose of
life, the politics and economics of the present world, etc.
According to the leaflet of the film,1
Shinoda was shocked to read the
newspaper article about Sorge plot at the age of 11, and while working on this
film, he said, "I could die after completing this film." It is wonderful that
a person can so strongly put his heart in his work, just like the characters
of this film. I say without hesitation that this is one of the best films, and
give Shinoda a big applause for making this film.
- "Spy Sorge" (Toho Shuppan, Tokyo, 2003)
23 Jun 03