Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)
On August 5, the participating 120 high school students from 8 countries in the Third Session of the High School Student Special Course and 51 students of the Tokyo Metropolitan Toyama High School attended a special lecture by the Nobel Laureate in Physics Dr. Toshihide Masukawa (President of the Kobayashi?Masukawa Institute for the Origin of Particles and the Universe of Nagoya University) at the JICA Tokyo International Center.
Nine flags representing the countries of the participants were displayed on their desks in the lecture room, heightening the international atmosphere.
Dr. Shoichiro Tonomura, Executive Director of JST, greeted the audience, “The Sakura Science Plan aims for the Asian youth to become fond of Japan by showing them this country firsthand. Please have a good look at the state of science research in Japan with your own eyes.” After this greeting, Dr. Masukawa took the floor to deliver his lecture.
His lecture was entitled “Today’s Science and Society.” In his prepared speech, Dr. Masukawa first pointed out the significant difference between the science and research in the 20th century and that in the 21st century. Research in particle physics used to be carried out on a desk 2 x 1 meters in size, but at present, it is being “carried out in experiments in a circular tunnel 100 meters underground with a circumference of 27 kilometers.”
He told the students that we are at the threshold of such an era. However, he went on to say, “The peoples of Asia were originally farmers, and have the virtue of working well together in groups. It is now the time for us to exercise this virtue.” He encouraged the high school students by proclaiming his belief that the present is the Age of Asia.
His talk for the high school students from eight countries in Asia and from Japan first covered difficult topics.
Then, Dr. Masukawa talked about his life, from his childhood leading up to his career as a researcher in theoretical elementary particle physics. He emphasized the importance of having freedom when young to study as one pleases, without deciding on a specialty. He himself “had no special field, and studied as he pleased as a graduate student of Nagoya University.” He told the students, “If you have a longing to learn science, you imitate the scientists you see, thereby deepening your understanding of science, and you end up becoming a true scientist yourself.”
When he said, “I was a bad student in elementary and junior high school because I didn’t study,” the room was filled with laughter. He also related episodes such as the circumstances of his encounter with Dr. Shoichi Sakata, a leader in elementary particle research, and how he got the idea that there are at least six kinds of elementary particle quarks while he was taking a bath.
In addition, he said that he came to hate English because one time, when he had just started his study of this language, he was ridiculed when he pronounced “money” as “moh-neh.”
Dr. Masukawa was awarded the Nobel Prize for his study of symmetry breaking in particle physics, which is an extremely difficult field. He seemed to have deeply impressed the students with his talk about the need for young people to be free-thinking when engaging in research and to have firm determination in seeking solutions once the decision to tackle a problem has been made.
In the Q & A session, a high school student from Indonesia asked, “What is physics for you?” Dr. Masukawa replied, “A way to make a living and a hiding place where I can enjoy myself.”
A student of Toyama High School asked him what he did instead of doing homework, referring to his anecdote. Dr. Masukawa replied, “I was a student librarian, and I devoted myself to reading the new books the school acquired. I was a bookworm.”
A student from Mongolia asked whether the doctor was happy and what he thought happiness is. Dr. Masukawa replied, “Getting paid for doing what I like to do. There is no greater happiness than this,” which made the students laugh.
A commemorative photo was taken with the participants surrounding Dr. Toshihide Masukawa.
The special lecture was followed by a lunch break and then the round-table talk, where students conversed with Dr. Masukawa in an animated manner. Meanwhile, the students of Toyama High School interacted with their counterparts from Asian countries, talking and taking photos with one another.