October 8, 2012

Japanese win another Nobel

Back in 1999, I got into a discussion of Japanese creativity. For 20 years, I'd been hearing, often from the Japanese themselves, that they weren't creative. On the other hand, I owned a lot of cool gadgets that had at least been improved upon by the Japanese. On the other other hand, it was pointed out to me that the Japanese sure didn't win many hard science Nobel Prizes: only five Japanese winners up through 1999. 

Beginning in 2000, however, there have been 11 Japanese hard science Nobel Laureates. The latest is Shinya Yamanaka, age 50, for coming up in 2006 with a much less creepy way to use stem cells. (He shared it with John B. Gurdon of Britain, who was the first to clone an animal way back in 1962.)

Nicholas Wade reports in the NYT:
In a brief interview today, Dr. Yamanaka, who was born in 1962 in Higashiosaka, Japan, said that he had trained as surgeon but “gave it up because I learned I was not talented.” Having seen how little the best surgeons could do to help some patients, he decided to go into basic research and did postdoctoral training at the Gladstone Institutes in California. 
“When I came back to Japan in the 90s I suffered from a disease which I called PAD — post-America depression,” he said. Another Japanese Nobel prizewinner, Susumu Tonegawa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has criticized the lack of research freedom given to scientists in Japan. Dr. Yamanaka said that there were still some problems, but that conditions had become much better since Dr. Tonegawa moved from Japan. Dr. Tonegawa won an unshared Nobel Prize in 1987 for discovering the basis of antibody diversity.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

My prediction: Japan is going to be in a much better situation in 2030 than Europe or the USA.

Anonymous said...

Reading this while parked outside the Gladstone Institute

Baloo said...

Good gravy! Now we have ANTIBODY diversity?

Truth said...

"My prediction: Japan is going to be in a much better situation in 2030 than Europe or the USA."

One can never go wrong betting on predictions made by guys known as anonymous.

Anonymous said...

The Nobel Prize is vasty overrated. See it as work that is a notch above a summa cum laude PhD thesis and that's it.

Most Nobel Prizes are awarded to pretty mundane finds, like the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation by Penzias. Others are simply extensions of previous works, such as on spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic particles by Maskawa in 2008. Mundane work. Very rarely you see a truly impressive achievement, like the integration of the strong and weak nuclear forces by Weinberg and Shalon in 1979. It is very, VERY rare for a work like Einstein's on the photoelectric effect, that represents truly original, CREATIVE thought.

America has around 200 Nobels in the sciences, but most of these are very mundane work, usually involving practical applications in physical chemistry, organic chemistry and experimental physics or physics that has a commercial application - th invention of the transistor being such an example. There is very little original thought in those works. As the #1 capitalist economy during the 20th century, it is natural that America would win so many Nobels since the Nobel rewards pretty mundane work, and, since science dramatically boosts profits by increasing productivity and oponeng new markets, America has dumped close to 80% of the research money for scientists since the end of WWII. Interestingly, though, America ha produced very few geniuses in areas where there isn't much money to be made, like theoretical physics - exept for Ed Witten -, literature and most of the arts exept for some areas of the visual arts - such as photography - where there is money to be made. America's greatest genius, was Edison, a practical inventor and not a theoretician. As Calvin Coolidge would say:"The business of the country is business.". This also applies to American's geniuses. Mostly practical inventors like Edison and Steve Jobs and not Leibniz or Descartes. Or Monet and Dostoevsky.

I actually respect Nobels in literature and he Fields Medal in mathematics a lot more, since it it actually involves more creative thought and imagination than the Nobels in the sciences. France has won 8 Fields Medals with a population of only 56 million people to America's 13 for 300 million people. On a per capita basis, France has close to 3 X more. As for Nobels in literature, Latin America shines, not so much for the number, but the astounding quality. Some of the greatest writers are from South America, but unfirtunately you need to know Castillian to read them - Garcia Marquez is Ray Kurzweil's favorite author.

socks said...

I wonder how many people waste their lives doing things they aren't talented at when they cold be doing something nobel worthy (due to too much drive rather than not enough).

TH said...

Anon, so how many Nobels have you won for your mundane work? It's pretty ridiculous to expect that you could give awards to Einstein-level discoveries every year or even every ten years. People doing research these days are not any less brilliant than Einstein, it's just that the low-hanging fruits have been picked already.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

The Nobel Prize is vasty overrated. See it as work that is a notch above a summa cum laude PhD thesis and that's it........"

What a load of crap. As if the invention of the transistor, or the discovery of nuclear fission, or the manufacture of liquid helium were "mundane".

Ed Witten is a great theoretical physicist, but you neglect to mention Richard Feynman? Your oversight seems to stem from the fact that Witten has a Fields Metal, whereas Feynman "only" has one of those "mundane" Nobels.

If I had to guess, I would guess that you are a student of mathematics who is distraught and frustrated by the fact that there is no Nobel recognition for mathematics.

IHTG said...

Anonymous 2:22 - Tesla wept.

Anonymous said...

America has around 200 Nobels in the sciences, but most of these are very mundane work, usually involving practical applications in physical chemistry, organic chemistry and experimental physics or physics that has a commercial application - th invention of the transistor being such an example. There is very little original thought in those works.

It takes original work to devise and create practical applications.

And these practical applications and experimental validations are the essence of science. Theorizing and argumentation isn't science. At best, it's philosophy, usually it's empty BS. Practical experimentation is science.

jody said...

this is high quality work and a good advance, and i would never try to downplay it's value, but now i'm getting skeptical of some of these awards. it's not a bad selection by any means, but hasn't there been more important work in the stem cell field itself, let alone all of the field of biology, which is more deserving and hasn't been awarded yet?

isn't the awards committee kind of picking and choosing somewhat selectively at this point? they award something from 2006 which is only an advance on previous stem cell work but ignore major new novel work in various fields of biology from decades earlier? 2006 is only 6 years ago. they normally wait a lot longer to see how any one particular work has altered the field.

note i'm NOT trying to put down the japanese - i've clearly stuck up for them in the "asians aren't creative" threads.

definitely am getting a little tired of the nobel panel deliberately ignoring stuff like venter and lander though. and it's probably a lot more important that scientists figured out the previously described "junk DNA" actually isn't junk at all. but this seems like another thing which the nobel committee will just totally ignore 5 or 10 years from now and instead give a science nobel for something like dan schechtman's quasicrystals.

Anonymous said...

And Jews win a dozen more.

Btw, shouldn't there be a new nobel prize for computers? I mean it is the future and a whole new field of science.

Anonymous said...

"summa cum laude"

Butthead: cum load. eh huh huh huh.

Truth said...

"The Nobel Prize is vasty overrated. See it as work that is a notch above a summa cum laude PhD thesis and that's it."

Oh, so they only give out one of those per year?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous:"As for Nobels in literature, Latin America shines, not so much for the number, but the astounding quality. Some of the greatest writers are from South America,"

Very little of lasting literary quality has come out of Latin America. Barring Borges, it's thin gruel, imitation Faulkner with an overlay of magical realism. Without PC lit departments, most of it would have vanished without a trace.Latin America is a vast sea of mediocrity, a haven for the second rate.

"but unfirtunately you need to know Castillian to read them - Garcia Marquez is Ray Kurzweil's favorite author."

Somehow, I fail to be impressed by Kurzweil's endorsement.

Syon

anonMD said...

"Good gravy! Now we have ANTIBODY diversity"

I used to think that too when learning about it in medical school, but the immune system is one of the rare cases where diversity actually is strength. Having a wide variety of immune systems makes it really hard for bacteria and viruses to slip past *everybody*'s. This is why most plagues only kill half of the population, rather than all of it.

One of the fears with factory-farm monoculture is that identical crops will all be killed by a certain bug.

Lugash said...

Btw, shouldn't there be a new nobel prize for computers? I mean it is the future and a whole new field of science.

Perhaps in the past, but computer science has been picked clean when it comes to new discoveries. CS is more of a supporting player as well, so I don't know that even in its heyday it would have qualified as a separate prize.

Orthodox said...

A lot of creativity in Japan is undiscovered because it doesn't leave the island. If a tree falls in the forest, etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

The Nobel Prize is MEANINGLESS

How are the nobel prizes selected? There is a nobel prize committee of 3,000 people who are allowed to nominate candidates.

All 3,000 of these people are of Norwegian descent, the final decision is then thrust upon 5 people who pick their winner out of the candidates nominated. All of these people are anonymous.

In order words the Nobel Prize is nothing more than a popularity contest.

The guys on the committees are more likely to nominate their friends and/or have political views attached. The method for determining the nobel prize in say Physics is no different than the same method used by the Nobel Prize committee that hands out the Nobel prize for peace.

There is a strong bias in the Nobel Committee for Americans/Europeans and Jews despite the amazing definitely nobel prize worthy stuff coming from asia.

For example, a Japanese + a chinese professor performed the worlds first cold fusion demonstration.

http://physicsworld.com/blog/2008/05/coldfusion_demonstration_a_suc.html

There are PLENTY of other great scientific achievements that will sadly never bee acknowledged by the scandinavian countries.

http://insidechina.onehotspots.com/china-intends-to-launch-in-2015-quantum-satellite/4656/

China intends to launch in 2015 quantum satellite
---------------------------------

New TELEPORTATION RECORD FOR CHINA

by Matthew Francis - Aug 9 2012, 8:35am PDT

http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/08/open-air-quantum-teleportation-performed-across-a-97km-lake/

---------------------------------

-----------------------------------------

Friday, August 3, 2012

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/428706/first-demonstration-of-a-quantum-router/

First Demonstration of A Quantum Router

-----------------------------------

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-06/chinese-researchers-tap-quantum-noise-generate-randomness-record-rates

>The method is a bit mind-bending, but still more impressive is the output: 300 megabits per second of random data, blowing a 100-megabit record set by American scientists using a different method earlier this month clean out of the water. Which means the U.S. will now have to top the Chinese to stay ahead in the encryption game, setting up a competitive back-and-forth that should make true Cold Warriors wistful for the good old days.

---------------------------------------------------------

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2011/jun/22/physicists-break-record-for-extreme-quantum-state

>Physicists in China have broken their own record for the number of photons entangled in a "Schrödinger's cat state". They have managed to entangle eight photons in the state, beating the previous record of six, which they set in 2007.

------------------------------------------------------

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/05/quantum-teleportation-distance/

Chinese Physicists Smash Quantum Teleportation Record

>The last quantum teleportation record was 16 km, and was set by a different set of Chinese researchers in 2010.

-----------------------------------
http://motherboard.vice.com/2010/12/6/wikileaks-china-is-poised-to-clown-world-in-science-and-technology

WikiLeaks: China Is Poised To Clown World In Science and Technology

>In 2009, IIP successfully maintained a 10 million degree Celsius plasma nuclear fusion reaction for 400 seconds. IIP also successfully maintained a 100 million degree Celsius plasma nuclear fusion reaction for 60 seconds.

-----------------------------------

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21699-controversial-quantum-computer-beats-factoring-record.html

record for using a computer to factor
-----------------------------------

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/20/sky-city-one-chinese-comp_n_1613521.html

Sky City One: Chinese Company To Construct World's Tallest Building Over 90 Days

-----------------------------------

This is just a small sample but China and Japan have been churning out "disruptive" technologies nonstop for the past 6 years

bluegrass said...

For the Japanese to avoid going the way of the Dinosaurs, they need to either:

A. Turn into immortal cyborgs.

B. Go back to nationalism and do awesome government sponsored lebensborn style programs.

or C: let in immigrants in a way that they don't repeat what we and Europe have done. Particularly, racially conscious immigration based upon the old school scientific racism hierarchy but instead with the Japs on top: with I.Q. and other aptitude tests as the determinant qualification for entrance. In the future when I'm living in the new, and quite unpleasant, Northern States of Brazilian diversity, I'll be able to spend every last penny of whatever miniscule paycheck I make on test-prep for my children to take the Hokkaido immigrant entrance exams. I'll hopefully save them from a dogged life trapped in America's future landscape of hoods and barios.

Once my White kids are in Japan they'll hopefully start some super successful Kennedy-like family descended from immigrant kids. They'll gain power with much controversy as the "new-Japanese" and before you know it they'll be looking for my dead body buried under some decaying Wal-Mart in Tennessee in order to do a Nat-Geo style documentary on the last American ancestor of the vaunted Johnsonaka family.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous at 2:22 was a parody, right? The invention of the transistor was mundane, the only American genius was Ed Witten (I seriously doubt the writer has ever read a physics paper by Witten to know)but Latin Americans shine for their outstanding quality??

hailtoyou said...

"Japan is going to be in a much better situation in 2030 than Europe or the USA"

Japan's Anemic TFR spells serious trouble for it, without the real prospect of an escape, that I can see.

Amazingly, Japan has had subreplacement fertility almost every year since 1956 or 1957. (Except for a short period in the late 1960s and early '70s). Imagine that!

They are now stuck in the ~1.3 TFR doldrums.

Graham Asher said...

"He shared it with John B. Gurdon of Britain" - no, he shared it with Sir John Gurdon. The 'Sir' is part of the name when you get a knighthood, and it's very unlikely he uses the middle initial in the American way. We don't wilfully change the names of Americans when we write about them, so please have equal respect for British people.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

For example, a Japanese + a chinese professor performed the worlds first cold fusion demonstration."

http://physicsworld.com/blog/2008/05/coldfusion_demonstration_a_suc.html

Wrong. He has done nothing of the sort. The article you cite mentions no evidence that could be considered proof of fusion reactions having occurred. Has Arata published any of his findings in a real journal?

Arata is a crank. He has been doing bad experiments for twenty years now. He publishes his findings in a journal that he founded and edits. His claims of having discovered cold fusion are as baseless as those of all the other cranks who swarm to the field.

Truth said...

" He publishes his findings in a journal that he founded and edits. His claims of having discovered cold fusion are as baseless as those of all the other cranks who swarm to the field..."

But he does drive a water-powered car to work.

Anonymous said...

Did a black guy ever win for hard science? We need more. It be racist.

Anonymous said...

hailtoyou, how does a nation with a below replacement fertile rate for 50+ years continue to grow in population with next to zero immigration? Phony statistics. I believe Japan's ACTUAL fertility rate has been near replacement for a long while not well below it. Last year, Japan reported that "unexpectedly" the population grew the year before. Producing phony statistics is pervasive in East Asia. It's apart of the "face" culture. Japan is trying to project something (probably chasity, that they are sexually moral, that they are concerned about overcrowding etc.).

Shinya Yamanaka was educated in the U.S. I'm still waiting for these hidden East Asian wonders who will prove undoubtedly they are superior by staying in East Asia, not partner with Caucasian people, not get funding from Caucasians, and not be directly influenced by Caucasians. A Caucasian(s) has to be involved in the equation for East Asians to have success, it seems.

pat said...

To choose a finer grained metric that Nobel Prizes, the Japanese lead the world currently in the number of patents. The US is third. South Korea is second.

I've had employees who held patents and colleagues too. But not me - so far. I think the idea that the Japanese are not creative is rubbish - racist rubbish.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Wrong. He has done nothing of the sort. The article you cite mentions no evidence that could be considered proof of fusion reactions having occurred. Has >Arata published any of his findings in a real journal?

>Arata is a crank. He has been doing bad experiments for twenty years now. He publishes his findings in a journal that he founded and edits. His claims of having discovered cold fusion are as baseless as those of all the other cranks who swarm to the field.

http://phys.org/news131101595.html

Now, esteemed Physics Professor Yoshiaki Arata of Osaka University in Japan claims to have made the first successful demonstration of cold fusion. Last Thursday, May 22, Arata and his colleague Yue-Chang Zhang of Shianghai Jiotong University presented the cold fusion demonstration to 60 onlookers, including other physicists, as well as reporters from six major newspapers and two TV studios. If Arata and Zhang´s demonstration is real, it could lead to a future of new, clean, and cheap energy generation.

Arata even has PATENTS for his process, and his paper has been pre reviewed and reproduced

http://www.rexresearch.com/arata/arata.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion

In May 2008 Japanese researcher Yoshiaki Arata (Osaka University) demonstrated an experiment that produced heat when deuterium gas was introduced into a cell containing a mixture of palladium and zirconium oxide.[text 3] In an August 2009 peer reviewed paper Akira Kitamura (Kobe University) et al. reported about replication of this experiment.[80] Replication of earlier work by Arata had been claimed by McKubre at SRI.[81]

Anonymous said...

>He publishes his findings in a journal that he founded and edits.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoshiaki_Arata

N. Wada and K. Nishizawa, "Nuclear fusion in solid", Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, 1989, 28:L2017

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_Journal_of_Applied_Physics

The Japanese Journal of Applied Physics (abbreviated as Jpn. J. Appl. Phys.) is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that was established in 1962 and is published by the Japan Society of Applied Physics. Since 1982, the journal has been published in two editions, Part 1 and Part 2:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Society_of_Applied_Physics

castillian said...

Some of the greatest writers are from South America, but unfirtunately you need to know Castillian to read them.

That's complete nonsense. You don't need to know Castillian to read Borges or Azuela.

Anonymous said...

>how does a nation with a below replacement fertile rate for 50+ years continue to grow in population with next to zero immigration?

The old people in Japan don't die.

Truth said...

"Did a black guy ever win for hard science? We need more. It be racist."

Wow! No one saw that one coming.

Mr. Anon said...

Anonymous said...

http://phys.org/news131101595.html

"Now, esteemed Physics Professor Yoshiaki Arata of Osaka University in Japan claims to have made the first successful demonstration of cold fusion......"

Meaningless. That's just a press release published at physorg, which publishes all sorts of crap. No evidence is given.

"Arata even has PATENTS for his process, and his paper has been pre reviewed and reproduced"

Reproduced by whom? How. And patents don't mean much either. Patents are awarded for things with no value. Patents have been awarded to things that are wrong.

In May 2008 Japanese researcher Yoshiaki Arata (Osaka University) demonstrated an experiment that produced heat when deuterium gas was introduced into a cell containing a mixture of palladium and zirconium oxide.[text 3] In an August 2009 peer reviewed paper Akira Kitamura (Kobe University) et al. reported about replication of this experiment.[80] Replication of earlier work by Arata had been claimed by McKubre at SRI.[81]"

Interesting, your reference [81], from the wikipedia article. It's published in Naturwissenschaften, a very old and respected german journal, to be sure. However, now it almost exclusively publishes articles in the life-sciences: biology, paleontology, etc.. Why so many cold-fusion researchers choose to publish there is mystifying, unless of course their work wouldn't pass muster anywhere else. It's like publishing a paper on group theory in the New England Journal of Medicine. It reeks of charlatanism.

"N. Wada and K. Nishizawa, "Nuclear fusion in solid", Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, 1989, 28:L2017""

Ah, but that paper was from 1989, during the cold-fusion hey-day following the announcement by Pons and Fleischman. What's he published in JJAP recently? I stand by what I said, when I reviewed his work about fifteen years ago, he was publishing exclusively in his own pet journal.

He's a crank.