A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

Accelerator Ladies' Night

04/25/08

What better place to learn about particle physics and accelerator technology than the basement of a bar in Tokyo? The "Accelerator's Nights" seminars put on there by Kenichi Kojima, who operates a sort of field-trip club for adults, draw regular crowds. On April 14, a special edition of the seminar featured an all-woman panel talking about gender equality in Japanese science and society, and what it's like for a woman to do physics there.

The panelists were Fukuko Yuasa, a physicist who is responsible for network security at KEK, the international high-energy research organization in Tsukuba; Miho Nishiyama, a doctoral student at Shinshu University who is working on technology for a future International Linear Collider, or ILC; and Rika Takahashi, ILC communicator for Asia.

Junpei Fujimoto, a particle simulation specialist at KEK, described the evening in the ILC NewsLine:

One of the main topics was the gender-equal society. At KEK, the number of women scientists is only 5%, which is low compared with European institutes. Yuasa talked about the daily life of a woman physicist. Her husband is also a physicist of KEK. "My husband and I live like cooperative researchers at home. We usually have a lunch meeting at the cafeteria, planning what to do for the day. We share our housework, for example, I cook, and he does the dishes." This may not sound so special; however, sharing the housework is still not so common in Japan. "Well, he uses a dishwasher, but he seems to have a strategic and well organised way to store dishes in it with the mind of a physicist," she said.

Co-moderator Ayo Kaida, is a novelist with an enthusiasm for particle physics--and a flair for explaining difficult concepts in plain language.

Here's her take on the calorimeter, which measures the energies of particles entering a detector:

Kaida told the audience to imagine a flying potato in the central tracker. At the boundary between the tracker and the calorimeter, there exists a fine mesh to make mashed potatoes. The calorimeter located behind the mesh will re-collect the very finely mashed potato as much as possible and reconstruct the original mass. This is the principle of the calorimeter that measures the energy of particles.

As for the difference between neutrinos streaming from the sun and those generated in accelerators:

... she immediately interpreted the neutrinos from the Sun as 'wild fishes' and the ones from KEK to Super-K as 'cultivated fishes'. You know that Japan has a long culture of eating fish, thus Japanese are quite sensitive for 'wild' or 'cultivated'.

The event was sponsored by the ILC Fan Club, which was formed on the Web by two women who learned about the project while on a field trip to KEK. It now has 60 members.

Co-founder Etsuko Iwasaki said:

"I have been a big fan of science-fiction novels and movies. I am expecting the ILC to make the sci-fi world come true."

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