Activity Report of Open Application Course vol.7
Akito Arima delivers a special lecture on the influence exerted by symmetry and asymmetry on physics
Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)
On the morning of August 8, the last day of their visit, the 120 high school students enrolled in the third session of the High School Student Special Course attended a lecture by Dr. Akito Arima, the president of Musashi Academy of the Nezu Foundation, former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and former Director General of the Science and Technology Agency.
In his lecture entitled “Symmetries in Arts, Culture, and Nature,” Dr. Arima talked about symmetry and asymmetry and explained differences in how they are conceived in the Occident and the Orient. He cited examples of each in buildings, art, and gardens to make the differences easy to understand.
Dr. Arima delivered his lecture so that high school students could understand these concepts.
His main point was that while importance is placed on symmetry in the Occident, importance is placed on asymmetry in Asia, especially in Japan.
Dr. Arima explained that this difference in focus influences research in physics considerably. He presented research conducted by Chen-Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, who received the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics for their work on parity nonconservation of weak interactions in nuclei.
Furthermore, he introduced “spontaneous symmetry breaking” discovered by Yoichiro Nambu and the "origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature” discovered by Toshihide Maskawa and Makoto Kobayashi. For their research, these three were jointly awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in physics.
Dr. Arima suggested that these physicists were open to the idea of asymmetry when developing new theories because they were Asians. His argument that the cultural and historical aspects of a region have an influence on a branch of science such as physics made a profound impression on attending students from Asia.
A number of questions were addressed to Dr. Arima, including “whether it was possible to combine both symmetry and asymmetry in one’s thinking.” He replied to each question, demonstrating thoughtful consideration and patience.
High school students asked many questions.
Dr. Arima had lunch in the company of the young people from Asia after his lecture, and he appeared to enjoy talking with them.