Teaching In Socks

double encrypted language barrier and COBRA
April 27, 2009, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

This weekend I attended Spring8’s open house. Despite having a name reminiscent of a hotel chain or rec club, Spring8 is Japan’s, and the world’s largest particle accelerator.

I was actually invited to a soccer game that day as well, but when faced with the choice of seeing a soccer game or  the world’s largest particle accelerator on the one day it’s open each year, the nerd in me won out.

A few observations on the experience:

1. Science is kind cool in Japan. Spring8 is near Hyogo University, but aside from that it’s rather remote. Still, several thousand people showed up to look around and ask questions.

2. Other Languages are hard; Specialist’s terms in other languages are even more difficult. While I can do a little reading, and little speaking in Japanese, science terms are beyond me. I now understand why I teach a science class to my Japanese scientists.

One of the researchers at Spring8 and I had a lengthy conversation where he tried to explain certain aspects of the accelerator to me. Despite having more than a passable command of English and being a very bright fellow, we still hit bumps in the conversation. He  alluded to doing something with “Peabee”, but claimed he didn’t know the English word for “peabea”. After a minute it hit me, and I asked him, “wait, you mean the element, Pb? Lead?”.

3. Everything in Japan has a cartoon mascot. Spring 8’s is a lion head with a mane that has triangles with represent that different testing points around the accelerator (signified by the Lion’s head obviously).  Actually, that’s just one of the mascots. here are all 8:

together they form Voltron.

together they form Voltron.

4. Watching cool scientist do cool things can be a bit depressing. It’s not like watching a basketball game where I can say I didn’t win the genetic lottery and that’s why I’m not out on the court. This is more of a, I didn’t work hard enough in school and now I don’t get to crazy things with electron guns or high frequency lasers.

Frankly, I blame and America for this. If paying attention in science had been advertised to me  as something that later in life would allow me to shoot things with expensive lasers, I would have spent less time playing with G.I. Joes and Transformers, pretending to shoot lasers and more time pondering about bosons and gluons.

aka more Graviton, less Gravitron.

Actually who am I kidding, G.I. Joes were the foundation of an epic and fruitful childhood. Plus, I don’t think they ever get to shoot the free electron laser at Cobra Commander and I shot him with lasers hundreds of times.


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