Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Gift to the Grandchild

The pages of Michiko Hasegawa's essay [1].

Early January of this year, I read the essay entitled "A gift from my grandmother" [1]. The idea of this blog post has been in my mind since then. The author of the essay is the philosopher Michiko Hasegawa, who is the granddaughter of Yaeko Nogami. The "grandmother" in the title of the essay means this famous novelist; and the "gift," a letter written by her. That letter is quoted by spending the space of just one-third of the full essay.

When she was young, Hasegawa made a literary work of the review style, " 'Sasameyuki' to yamato-gokoro {[Jun'ichiro Tanizaki's] 'Sasameyuki' and the psychology of the Japanese}" and sent it to the literary magazine "Umi (The Sea)" of Chuokoronsha, Inc. Then, Yaeko wrote that letter and handed it to her granddaughter, saying, "Use this when you think that it might help you." Hasegawa's work was accepted for publication without the help of her grandmother's kindhearted letter. So, the "gift" has been in a deep corner of a drawer of Hasegawa's desk more than 30 years. Reading it again, she writes, "This is not a simple, private letter but my grandmother's essay on her theory of arts and literature."

On reading Hasegawa's essay, I could not but ponder about what I could do for my grandchildren. Soon after that, my oldest grandson (freshman of a university at the time) had his birthday. It has been my practice these years to write him an English email on his birthday. This year, I included in that annual email my advice to him as a small gift. The advice was the same one as written by Professor Akira Suzuki, one of the 2010 Nobel laureate in chemistry, in The Asahi Shimbun shortly before that and was also based on my own experience: "You, university students, should read text books, not in Japanese translation, but by original English editions."

Some days later, I was acquainted with an overseas, 16-year old boy on Twitter. He tweeted that he intensely admired Einstein; and that he asked his teacher about the relativity but that he was not given answers. So, I asked him to write me what kind of questions he had. He continually asks me serious questions, and I write him answers to all of them by thinking that doing so is a gift, not to my own grandchildren, but to the boy of the same generation as the grandchildren. (As for those questions and answers, I will write a series of blog posts in due course.)

  1. Michiko Hasegawa, The gift from my grandmother, Tosho No. 743, p. 6 (2011) In Japanese.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Keisuke Toyama Christmas Piano Concert

Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I went to Sakai Civic Hall to listen to "Keisuke Toyama Christmas Piano Concert." Toyama was born in Sapporo in 1984 and got the first rank for the piano section of the 73rd Japan Music Competition in 2004. Thus, he is one of pianists whose activity in the future is much expected. The program included Beethoven's Piano Sonatas No. 8 "Pathétique" and No. 23 "Appassionata." An encore was Franz Liszt's "Dream of Love" No. 3.

One of the factors that make the joy of listening to music seems to be two kinds of repetition. One kind is the repetition of the listener's experience, i.e., repeated listening to the work we already know; and the other, the repetition in the structure of the work, i.e., repeated appearance of the melody that constitutes the theme of the single work. Did anyone already write a similar thing? If you knew that this was the case, you would just have enjoyed the repetition of reading the same thought.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Which Is the Real One?

The cover of the August 18 issue of Nature carried a fancy photo in order to symbolize one of the letter report [1] in the issue, together with the introductory words, "Coffee break: Cleaning up the 'coffee-ring' effect has practical applications in particle deposition." The mechanical pencil in the photo was of nearly the same size as a real one, so that I often reached my hand out to pick it up while the journal was on the desk. To commemorate my repeated mistake, I took a picture of the cover with a real pencil on it. Can you guess which is the real one?
  1. P. J. Yunker, T. Still, M. A. Lohr and A. G. Yodh, Suppression of the coffee-ring effect by shpae-dependent capillary interactions, Nature vol. 476, p. 308 (2011).

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

My Face Flew with Discovery

I participated in "Face in Space" of NASA. It is the project to launch the images and (or) names of the participants into orbit to make them a part of history. My participation was for Shuttle Discovery's Mission STS-133. Its flight was delayed a few times from the originally planned return date of September 25, 2010, to March 7, 2011. Thus, I got my commemorative flight certificate signed by the Mission Commander (the above image) yesterday. The words on the certificate read as follows:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Face in Space


This certifies that the face of Tatsuo Tabata has flown in space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-133 from February - March 9, 2011. The face was flown on Discovery's mission to the International Space Station at an altitude of 220 miles above the Earth. It flew at a speed of more than 17,400 miles per hour as it orbited our planet. On behalf of my crew and all of NASA, we thank you for sharing the excitement of our mission and welcome your interest in space exploration. We were glad to have you aboard.

STS-133 Commander Steven W. Lindsey

The next mission STS-134 is currently scheduled to launch April 19, 2011, and you can still take part in the project.

Note added later: The mission STS-133 was the last one the Discovery performed. Read the related stories "A Bittersweet Finale for the Discovery" in New York Times (March 9, 2011) and "Space shuttle Discovery lands in Florida, capping its 39th and final mission" in Scientific American (Mar 9, 2011).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Feynman and the Mirror Puzzle

On January 19, 2011, I found an online article about Feynman [1]. This article is a must read for Feynman fans, and I am sure that the person who is not yet a Feynman fan would also become a Feynman fan after reading it. I posted the following comment on it to express my little thought about Feynman.
It's regrettable that the publication of our paper that might supersede Feynman's explanation of the mirror puzzle was made after his passing. It would have been quite pleasant to talk with him about this puzzle.
The mirror puzzle is a fairly famous teaser expressed as: "Why does a mirror reverse left and right but not top and bottom?" Recently I just wrote the essence of our paper on Quora in reply to a question there [2].
  1. "TED-X Caltec pays tribute to Feynman," Analysis by Jennifer Ouellette. "Caltech hosted its first ever TED-X conference last Friday, with talks by a diverse lineup of speakers all celebrating famed physicist Richard Feynman . . ." Discovery, News (January 18, 2011).
  2. "The mirror puzzle: Reversal is attributed to the direction defined last." IDEA & ISAAC: Femto-Essays (January 14, 2011).