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No.66, Science  Sept. 27, 2021

How We Deal with Science: The Increasing Role of and Involvement of Ordinary People

Sakura Osamu, Professor, University of Tokyo Key Points Cultivating relationships of trust between politicians and expert groups The shift of science and technology patrons from the state to the private sector How ideas from ordinary people can make up for the limitations of experts The spread of COVID-19 has brought a major issue to the fore: what is the right relationship between political judgment and scientific knowledge, or between politicians and experts? We are often finding the opinions of experts grounded in scientific knowledge to be at odds with the decision-making of politicians. This issue is not limited to Japan; it is causing great confusion around the world, including in European countries. It is also not something that sprung up overnight. In Japan’s case, after the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (the “NPP accident”) caused by the Great ... ... [Read more]

No.64, Discussions, Science  Aug. 2, 2021

The Perfect Return that Sent the Hayabusa2 Control Room into a Frenzy: The secret to scoring “10,000 points out of a perfect 100” is to predict the difficulties and to be prepared with three options

Tsuda Yuichi, Professor at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Interview and text by Yamane Kazuma, nonfiction writer     On a visit to the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture on December 18, 2020, Hagiuda Koichi, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, announced some good news at the press conference. “The capsule brought back by Hayabusa2 contains approximately 5.4 grams of soil samples collected from the asteroid Ryugu. This world-class technology has collected an amount that is fifty times above the target of 0.1 gram.” The first-generation Hayabusa was the first time since the moon landings for humanity to achieve the spectacular feat of bringing back a sample from a celestial body, but that sample was no more than three ... ... [Read more]

No.56, Discussions, Science  Mar. 16, 2020

What We Understood through the “Holistic Reenactment Project of the Voyage 30,000 Years Ago” (2016–2019) —A New Frontier of Anthropology and Science from Japan—

The diverse staff that made possible the “reenactment” Kawabata Hiroto The logboat (dug-out canoe) carrying five persons that set out from eastern Taiwan on July 7, 2019 reached Yonaguni Island in Okinawa after 45 hours. I’m so happy everyone in the crew made it there safely. Kaifu Yousuke Thank you. Kawabata I have previously written Wareware wa naze wareware-dake nanoka―Ajia kara kieta tayona ‘Jinrui’ tachi (Lost in Evolution: Exploring Humanity’s Path in Asia) under Dr. Kaifu’s supervision, and am well aware of the general outline of the Holistic Reenactment Project of the Voyage 30,000 Years Ago since I’ve supported the crowdfunding, but could you please explain it briefly to our readers? Kaifu Certainly. First of all, we believe that Homo sapiens, who emerged in Africa, came to the Japanese islands via three routes. That’s the route from Sakhalin to Hokkaido, the route from the Korean peninsula via Tsushima ... ... [Read more]

No.56, Science  Mar. 9, 2020

Leading the World with a Next Generation Model: Why Innovation is Essential to Science and Technology Policies

Reconsidering the question: “What is Scientific Research?” More than thirty years ago, as a scholar interested in science and technology policy, I read a large number of articles and publications.  At that time, I believe, a particular assumption underlay this discourse on science; namely, that science stood aloof as if it were a completely independent kingdom within academia. It seems that this naive perception existed naturally both among scientists engrossed in actual science in the laboratory and among the general public, who we can expect to enjoy the fruits of science. Among those who debate science and technology policies, this assumption fell apart a long time ago. Yet, for ordinary people, “science” is still a far off thing. It continues to be an object of worship, criticized with warnings against excessive expectations, and something special and separate. Whether it is celebratory news such as ... ... [Read more]

No.50, Science  Nov. 15, 2018

New Developments in Albatross Conservation—Using biologging to elucidate behavior in the ocean

The albatross is a group of birds at high risk of extinction. The reasons for this are thought to include a decreased survival rate of parent birds due to bycatching during fishing. To date, the research of incidental by-catch risk and the evaluation of the efficiency of by-catch mitigation techniques relied on observations from boats. Data obtained in this way however contains bias. Biologging can be used to collect useful data for albatross conservation, such as an overlap of the distribution of albatross and fishing grounds, the fishing boat following behavior of albatross, and the dynamics of wintering areas. 1.Use of biologging The study of seabird behavior on the ocean has advanced rapidly thanks to biologging: field research techniques to collect information of the location and behavior of individual animals by attaching a small data recording device known as a “data logger.” Some devices ... ... [Read more]

No.50, Science  Nov. 13, 2018

The Conservation of Endangered Albatross Species

At one time, Short-tailed Albatrosses formed large breeding colonies on Torishima in the Izu Islands and in the Ogasawara Islands, in the Daito Islands, the Senkaku Islands, and other islands near Tai-wan. Due to the collection of feathers, for which there was high foreign demand, from the mid-Meiji period (1868–1912) these albatrosses were overhunted, and in 1949 it was reported that they were extinct. In 1951, however, they were rediscovered when around ten birds were found to have survived on Torishima. Following this, in 1954 Japan established a national Wildlife Protection Area that covered the whole of Torishima (453 ha); in 1958, the short-tailed albatross was designated a national Natural Monument; and in 1962, it was promoted to a Special Natural Monument. Additionally, in 1965 the whole of Torishima was designated a Natural Monument (Natural Protected Area) in its capacity as a breeding site, ... ... [Read more]

No.50, Science  Nov. 12, 2018

The Question of Plutonium Management (II): Protect Energy Choices—It is essential to develop fast breeder reactors (FBR)

Key Points Japanese plutonium is difficult to convert into atomic bombs It is urgently necessary to build a system that makes full use of plutonium as fuel China and Russia are being proactive regarding fast breeder reactors to secure resources There is an activity that involves collecting gold and rare metals from used mobile phones. A variety of metals and semiconductors are used for mobile phones and include a small quantity of toxic substances. They are simply rubbish if they are thrown away as they are. But if you extract gold from them in order to classify them into metals and plastics, you can reduce the quantity of rubbish. This is called urban mining. In Japan, the gold extracted will be utilized for the medals for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. The fuel that has generated a large quantity of electricity ... ... [Read more]

Discussions, No.50, Science  Oct. 16, 2018

Issues Concerning the Paris Agreement on Global Warming: Limitations of Negative Emissions Dependence — Make Zero Emissions the Guiding Principle

  < Key Points > It is apparent that the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by member countries will not be enough to reach the 2 degree target Technologies and feasibility for massive negative emissions are unproven It is effective to accumulate technologies for zero emissions in each sector The Paris Agreement, a new framework of global warming prevention, was adopted at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was held in Paris in December 2015. The Parties agreed to keep the average global temperature rise well below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels (the Two-Degree Goal), keeping it in mind to do our best to keep the rise less than 1.5˚C, and realize zero net emissions by balancing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions with negative emissions in the second half of this century. All countries and ... ... [Read more]

No.50, Science  Oct. 12, 2018

The Question of Plutonium Management: Now is the Time to Establish New International Norms and Standards — Collaborative Management and Disposal of Surplus Materials

< Key Points > Stockpiles of plutonium for non-military purposes have increased globally It is necessary to strengthen the international management guidelines and set an upper limit on stockpiles It is essential to review reprocessing policies to reduce stockpiles On July 17, 2018, the Agreement for Cooperation Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy reached its thirty-year expiration and was automatically extended. On the same day, the Strategic Energy Plan was approved at a cabinet meeting and making efforts to reduce the quantity of possessed plutonium was specified for the first time. What is the fundamental issue behind this development? The issue of stockpiles is often considered a mistake in nuclear energy policy. However, it is imperative to regard it as a global security issue. I will explore solutions to this ... ... [Read more]

Science, No.42  Dec. 26, 2017

RIKEN: The 100th Anniversary of a Major Research Organization of Japan ― The Day the 113th Element Was Born

December 1, 2016. On this day, a press conference took place in a Fukuoka city hotel that deserves to go down in the history of science in Japan. The day before, at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (known as RIKEN) in Wako, Saitama Prefecture, the acceptance of an official name for a new chemical element artificially created in Japan was announced. Its name was nihonium, its symbol Nh, and its atomic number 113. The periodic table is an organizational system for the elements, and is to science what the alphabet is to the English language. But until recently, the elements that fill the table were all officially discovered in the countries of Europe and North America, and none in Japan. In fact, in 1908 a Japanese had discovered the forty-third element and proposed the name nipponium for it. The fourth president of ... ... [Read more]