Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Happy Birthday IPMU!

Attendees of the 10th anniversary Ceremonial Session (Image source IPMU)

The reason for my latest trip to Japan was a happy one: IPMU, the research institute at which my husband and I worked for 3 years (and the reason why we came to Japan in the first place) is turning 10. And it was celebrating its 10th anniversary with a 3-day symposium with an amazing array of speakers including Nobel laureates and Fields Medal winners. I had the honor of being included in the ranks of the speakers, representing their very first generation of postdocs.
It was great being back and seeing many of our old friends again (even though we have been back on a quite regular basis since leaving IPMU six years ago).

Being part of IPMU just when it was starting out has been a great experience, we had a very exciting time! Joining a new institute that is only starting out and does not have any track record is a bit of a risky endeavor. But it has worked out beautifully for everyone involved. IPMU has built a great international reputation and keeps attracting new talent, and many of its former members have gone on to faculty positions.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY IPMU, and we wish you many happy returns!

Happy Birthday – say it with food!


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IPMU Picture Book

Blue Glow in the Blue Hour
Last week, we finally moved into the new IPMU building! I don’t need to stress how big an improvement it is to move out from an overpopulated prefab to an actual building. Especially when the new building is really nice!
I’ll not bore you with a lot of text here, let the pictures speak for themselves! (more…)

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Thanks for all the help!

After getting everyone worried about the threat of budget cuts, I guess it’s fair to let you know that for now, everything is alright. The numbers for the budget of the next fiscal year are out, and IPMU will be cut by only 3.6%. Given the prospects, we are very relieved. The Minister of Education has received about 900 letters supporting the WPI program, most of which were in behalf of IPMU! A big thank you to everyone who wrote one!

Read more over at the Quantum Diaries.

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After less than one year of construction time, the new building of IPMU is handed over today in a ribbon cutting ceremony. Unfortunately, we can’t attend, since we’re on the other side of the world. For the occasion, I am posting a little stop motion movie I made from pictures I took of the construction site from the roof of the neighboring building.

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New governments mean changes of the status quo. Even if the last government assured you of X, the new one might tell you tomorrow, “not X”.
Japan has been under a new government since September of this year. And as is the case for so many governments all around the world, it is now contemplating severe funding cuts for – yes, you guessed it: fundamental research.
Because fundamental research is useless, right? No direct applications, right? No one will see in a country’s overall economic and technological performance that they saved a bunch of money on science, right?
Wrong! Maybe you don’t see it today or tomorrow. But you will see it, trust me. Do I really have to say things like laser technology (you probably own a CD or DVD player, right?), GPS, etc.? Because the laser is an outcome of quantum mechanics no one dreamed of when quantum mechanics was founded, and GPS technology actually needs Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity for its precise calculations of location. Any country who fails to attract brain and to invest into fundamental research will end up missing out on some future development that we can’t foresee now.

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Today, we are celebrating the 2nd birthday of the Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU).
In these two years, IPMU has gone from being just an idea to being a research institution with about 60 on-site researchers! By this winter, IPMU will have more than 100 members (this number includes about 30 people of the administrative office).

A truly international community. Fig. courtesy of IPMU

A truly international community. Fig. courtesy of IPMU

My husband and I are two of them, and we’re proud to be among the pioneers. Last year at this time, there were about 30 of us. While were watching our new building grow out of the ground like a big mushroom, many new colleagues have arrived, and eventually the mark of 200 people should be reached. (more…)

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This week IPMU (Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe), in the spirit of bringing together mathematicians and physicists, is hosting the focus week Statistical Frontiers of Astrophysics. Even though I am neither an astrophysicist nor a statistician, I am attending part of the lectures. (After all, looking at the stars was a favorite pastime of mine when I was little.) Whereas in my field, we are forced to come up with theoretical models in the absence of experimental data, the problem of astrophysicists consists in extracting meaningful information from a giant data collection.

Astronomy is an observational science. Unlike in my own field, an enormous amount of data is available to the astrophysicist.
The times when astronomers pointed their telescopes at the night sky and and cataloged by hand what they saw are over. In recent years, very potent instruments to measure what’s up in the sky have become available. The one best known to the public is probably the Hubble Space Telescope. (more…)

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