The most amazing part: the #1 High School of Sendai City teaches its physics classes in English.
The less amazing part: somehow I got invited to give a lecture on the ILC to these students!

First, some details. Sendai City, the largest metropolis in the entire Tohoku region, is located in Miyagi Prefecture and is home to around 1 million people. The city is only about 40 minutes away from the Kitakami site for the ILC, and an hour and a half from Tokyo. It also hosts Tohoku University, which is at the forefront of the movement to bring the ILC to Japan. The #1 High School, only 10 minutes away from Sendai Station, is part of the Ministry of Education’s Super Science High School program, with its mission to instruct students in science in their non-native English. I didn’t even take physics in high school, let alone learn about it in another language, so I have to admire these students for their smarts.*

“Cosmos” – A statue in the courtyard of the high school that represents the birth of the universe

“Cosmos” – A statue in the courtyard of the high school that represents the birth of the universe

My worst fear is a teenage audience, but luckily I had a lot of materials to help me craft a short and simple English presentation. I have the Advanced Accelerator Association Promoting Science & Technology (AAA) to thank. Without their mascot “Higgs-kun” and their friendly explanations of the ILC and the underlying science, I would never have been able to put it all together. Higgs-kun, for the uninitiated, is a blob-like figure representing the Higgs boson. Don’t ask me why, but all of us working on the ILC in Japan have grown to love the little guy.

Using Higgs-kun and his friends, I gave a short talk on the search for the Higgs boson and its significance for the Standard Model. I started off with the fundamental question: Have you ever wondered why we are all here? Why does matter exists the way it does? The secret may be found in the Higgs boson and the high-level science taking place at particle accelerators around the world. In fact, the International Linear Collider, to be built in the Kitakami mountains, may give us the key to the mystery.

For the other half of my presentation, I tried to impress upon the students that they would be living in a growing international society right here in Tohoku. Up to 10,000 researchers and their families will spend time living at the site, and while cutting-edge physics is super cool, our newest international residents will have lives outside of work. How do we integrate an influx of foreign residents into Iwate, Miyagi, and the rest of Tohoku? How do we ease the language barrier? How will we all get involved with this next great adventure of mankind?

(One student said he’d personally donate to the project (!!). As the ILC will be an International Space Station-class project, we’ll need all the help we can get, kid!)

The students were engaged and already aware of the project, and seemed very interested in the future of Tohoku. Just like the general public, these students are being mindful about both the pros and cons of this massive international project- as which they should be. It’s our jobs to spread information about the project and make sure the voices of people are heard regarding how the project will fit into Tohoku and its culture. But with these young people as the next generation, I have no doubts that we will be ready to host the ILC.

*They do also have separate physics classes in Japanese, with the English class being used to reinforce the information.

The particles of the Standard Model

The particles of the Standard Model

Courtesy of Kaori Kurokawa of KEK. An illustration of the Standard Model and the fundamental particles within. All your favorite characters are here, separated into quarks, leptons, and gauge bosons (particles that carry the forces)


Up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom quarks


Electrons, muons, taus, electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino

Gauge bosons

Gluons, which carry the strong force, photons, which carry the electromagnetic force, and weak bosons W and Z, which carry the weak force. At the very bottom is the Higgs Boson.