Impressed by international institutions – A talk with 3 Japanese particle physicists

The original article was published in the Iwate Nippo (August 8th edition). Read the original here.

The 4 students of the ILC Club met with 3 Japanese particle physicists at CERN on August 2nd: Prof. Masaya Ishino and Assistant Prof. Yasuyuki Okumura of the International Center for Elementary Particle Physics at the University of Tokyo, and Assistant Prof. Yasuyuki Horii of Nagoya University Graduate School of Science.

“Why do you research elementary particles?” “Why will you smash together electrons and positrons at the ILC?” – The three physicists gladly took questions from the 4 students and explained their understanding.

Prof. Okumura said, “You probably don’t get many chances to see what we do at such an international laboratory, so I want you think it’s interesting and fun. I hope you want to try it yourself one day.”

Prof. Ishino said, “If we can create an international research institute like CERN in Japan, then that is cool in itself. I think you’ve gotten a great impression just by seeing that this sort of world exists.”

Prof. Horii said, “The things we learn in primary school, secondary school, and university are used in our research. I want you to work hard so you don’t have regrets. If you get involved with the ILC, let’s work together.”

Main points of their conversation

The joy of being a researcher

Prof. Ishino: “We are the first to see things never before seen by humanity. The things we see are not understood by anyone else. So it’s fun just seeing them.”

Prof. Okumura: “There are many small discoveries in our experiments. We know where to guide our research because we have thought deeply about these things. It’s always very interesting when something comes up that we can’t explain.”

A research environment surrounded by nature

Prof. Horii: “The roads are much clearer in the countryside. If something goes wrong during an experiment, we’d get stuck in traffic if we had to travel through the big city to inspect it.”

Why the LHC uses protons, and the ILC uses electrons and positrons

Prof. Ishino: “Electrons cannot be broken down further, and are a pure structure. If you smash them together, you get a very clean reaction. Protons are made up of differ things and are more complex. If you collide two protons together, you get a complicated reaction. If you want to measure things precisely, it’s best to collide an electron and positron.”

What they think about elementary particles

Prof. Horii: “Elementary particles are fundamental to our understanding of the universe. We can’t understand anything without elementary particles.”

Prof. Ishino: “I hate to remember things. If I only have to remember one thing or one characteristic to understand the universe, that’s exactly my style. If we know what is going on at the smallest level, then we know that the rest of the universe is just a collection of those small things. So that’s why I want to understand elementary particles.”

Inquiring minds always asking ‘why’

Prof. Okumura: “It’s amazing that we can wonder ‘why’. It’s important for scientists to be able to come up with questions. If you can do that, you can come up with different themes to research. Every time I meet someone who questions something I never questioned, I always feel a bit jealous that I didn’t think of that first.”

International Economic Policy Research Commission of Tokyo gifts the ILC Club with a book on elementary particles

The International Economic Policy Research Commission of Tokyo gave the ILC Club a copy of “A Book for Enjoying Particle Physics.” Its authors are KEK’s Junpei Fujimoto and Rika Takahashi.

It’s important to keep asking questions

A message from Prof. Osamu Sasaki of KEK (originally from Oshu City, Iwate), who showed the ILC Club around CERN

Humanity has been raised thinking that many things are mysterious. Physicists think, “Why is this the way it is?” about the most silly things. When I was in high school, I embraced that thought, and was fascinated by physics. “Why are things the way they are?” We must treasure that question. Our current knowledge has accumulated from that. We can figure out later whether it will be useful or not. People doing research on the ground have so much fun because they have a pure curiosity about physics. I hope all of you treasure your questions as you grow up.

Curiosity moves people

A message from KEK Assistant Prof. Masato Aoki who showed the ILC Club around CERN

You probably have many things they teach you at school or in your daily life where you think, “that’s strange.” Don’t let it end in a question – take the next step and research the answer. Curiosity is a very strong and important emotion that moves people to action. As a result of our curiosity, humanity was able to go to space. I hope you treasure your curiosity, as it will make your future dreams a reality, and make your lives all the richer.