Are the students competitive in Career Launcher?

JSPS Circulars from Science and Research | No. 02/2020 | Issue 113

JSPS circular, 02/2020, No. 113 (188 KB)



Expansion of learning support during school closings

To prevent the spread of infections with the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Abe has ordered the closure of elementary, middle and high schools as well as special education schools across Japan. While many students spend most of their time at home, there is more focus on learning support.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) published the “Page with content for learning support during the preliminary school closings” (page to support children's learning) ”(“ 臨時 休業 間 に お け る 学習 支援 コ ン テ ン ツ ポ ー タ ル サ イ ト (子 供 の 学 び 応 援 サ イ ト) ”). Speaking of the site at a regular press conference in March, Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda said, “While schools are temporarily closed, it is important to create an environment for children to study. The site is one of the support measures. ”As well as:“ In addition to students and legal guardians, the site should also be used by those who support the everyday life and learning of the students during the school closings. ”

On the site, efforts are made to separate the information available at various public institutions on learning support into elementary, middle and high schools as well as subjects and to structure it in such a way that the content can be selected according to one's own level of learning and interests. On March 6th, 2020 there was a total of more than 100 information offers such as the popular YouTube channel “ま て り あ る 's eye” (material's eye) of the National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS) with more than 150,000 subscribers and the channel “フ ァ ン! フ ァ ン! JAXA! “(Fan! Fun! JAXA!) Of the Japan Aerospace Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), through which you can deal with simple questions about space. The range of information is to be continuously expanded.

There is a noticeable trend towards the creation of new special pages. The Japan Association of Communication for Science and Technology (JACST), run by PR managers from research institutions and universities on a voluntary basis, immediately set up a special page on February 29, 2020. It features a wealth of carefully selected information from universities and research institutions, and encouraging home learning to provide an opportunity to experience cutting-edge science and technology.

In particular, the influence of social networks such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is great. There are also video portals such as “Science Channel” and web magazines such as “Science Window”, both of which are operated by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, who advocates learning support for students, and media artist Yoichi Ochiai published a special article in the web magazine “Science Window”. In addition, many research institutions have set up special pages to promote learning for students, above all the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan).

(Source: Science Portal March 6, 2020)

Consider postponing the start of the school and academic year

With the coronavirus pandemic outbreak hanging on the Japanese academic calendar, key figures have proposed postponing the start of the Japanese academic year from April to September. The move would bring the academic year in line with global standards.

According to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, such a change could trigger a paradigm shift in Japanese society. This would change the schedule for everything from preschool to student job hunting. Koike pointed out that starting the academic year in September is the global standard and that it would attract more foreign students.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) started serious discussions in March of this year about moving the school year to autumn due to the school closings due to the corona pandemic. In recent weeks, concerns about long-term school closings had intensified the debate and gained momentum in September as a way of allowing students who have been out of school since the start of the new school year in April to start again in September.

According to Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda, MEXT is running simulations as an option to change the start of the school year in April. He has to coordinate with the other ministries, as any change has to be viewed from the point of view of society as a whole. For example, companies typically hire university graduates in April. If moved to September, they would have to change their hiring calendars and practices.

The opposition Democratic Party for the People (DPP) has set up a working group and proposed that the start of the school and academic year be postponed. On April 28, 2020, the governors of 17 of the 47 prefectures urged the government to introduce a beginning of the academic year in September. They point out that now is the time to take bold decisions.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe informed MPs on April 30, 2020 that various options were being considered when planning the reopening of the schools. On that day, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) founded a working group led by former Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama to examine a possible change in the academic year.

Employers and universities welcome the broadening debate. It is hoped that this will motivate more students to study abroad and thus increase the number of globally competitive talents.

Few Japanese students are currently studying abroad. In 2017, the figure was just four percent, a figure well below the average for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Efforts have already been made in the past to change the academic calendar in order to increase this percentage (see JSPS circular 02 + 03/2012). In 2011, the University of Tokyo considered starting the academic year in autumn, but abandoned the project because the other universities had not expressed any interest. Instead, Waseda University and Keio University had introduced a quarterly system that gave students better opportunities to study abroad.

The Japanese Educational Research Association (JERA), on the other hand, warned against a hasty decision and submitted a petition to MEXT and the Prime Minister's Office stressing the need for nationwide discussions.

According to JERA, the move to September could cause even more confusion and worsen the current situation. She warned that the change would not only require a reorganization of the education system, which could ultimately take ten years or more, but that it could have major financial implications. Moving to September could spark calls for university tuition reimbursement for April to August, even though many of them have started lectures for the current semester, albeit online. At a press conference in Tokyo, Teruyuki Hirota, professor of educational sociology at Nihon University, said that such massive reimbursements could cost private universities alone nearly a trillion yen (about 8.2 billion euros).

The petition also indicated that little attention was paid to effects on lower educational attainment.

80% of Japanese mayors are also against moving the academic year or are suspicious. This was found in a survey by the Japan Association of City Mayors that asked 815 mayors, of which 576 responded. 18.1% agreed with the plans, while 17.9% were against. 62.5% were hesitant and nine refused to answer. According to the mayors, one should better concentrate on containing the spread of the virus.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Abe has effectively abandoned the plan to postpone the start of school and university to September for the next fiscal year and decided to postpone the introduction. One worries about the chaos associated with the change, such as the increase in the number of children on waiting lists for a kindergarten place etc. as well as late compulsory education.

The LDP working group mentioned above has meanwhile prepared a report with their views. A national consensus and preparation time would be needed for a postponement, it said. An introduction in this or the next fiscal year would be difficult. The team suggested that the government investigate the matter by extensively and carefully studying expert and public opinion.

Abe said the government is working with local authorities to secure schoolchildren's right to education in the current social situation following the lifting of the national emergency. He also indicated that the postponement would involve changing the relevant laws.

(Sources: Japan Times April 28th and May 12th, 2020, Nikkei April 29th and May 1st, 2020, Kyodo May 30th, 2020, Yomiuri June 2nd, 2020, NHK June 3rd, 2020)

Cash payment approved for students in financial distress

On May 19, 2020, the cabinet approved a program that will allow those of the approximately 430,000 students in Japan who are having trouble paying tuition and living expenses during the corona pandemic to receive a cash payment.

The background to this is that the pandemic has led to business closings in many regions and forced students to give up or reduce their part-time jobs.

Students from low income households who are exempt from paying income tax will receive 200,000 yen, all others 100,000 yen. Further conditions are that the monthly income from part-time jobs, which are mainly used to finance tuition fees and living costs, must have fallen by over 50% and that the students receive less than 1.5 million yen (approx. 12,400 euros) in support annually receive their families. Furthermore, they are no longer allowed to live at home.

Foreign students can also apply for the program, but only the 30% with the best performance. You must have achieved a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 2.30 in the last academic year. A criterion that, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), around 25-30% of foreign students meet. The decision has met with criticism as many see it as discrimination. Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda said that many foreign students will return to their homeland at some point. The condition was set for the payment to go to promising talent who will most likely support Japan in the future.

The government has budgeted 53 billion yen (approx. 437 million euros) from reserves in the first supplementary budget for the 2020 fiscal year to finance the program. Graduated and undergraduate students from universities, students at junior colleges, technical colleges and vocational schools, and foreign students at Japanese language schools can apply for the program.

The Minister of Education told reporters that the most important thing for students is to continue and advance their education. They want to provide quick help for everyone.

(Sources: Japan Times May 20 and 23, 2020)

Start of the recruitment process for graduates, expected in 2021, amid the Corona crisis

Large Japanese companies fully started interviews, written exams and other student recruitment activities in early June, which are expected to graduate in the spring of 2021. Firms and students alike are struggling to get used to the unprecedented online recruitment processes that have been put in place to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The large trading house Mitsubishi Corp. started on June 1st, 2020 to conduct online interviews with around 2,000 job-seeking students. Contrary to what is customary at this time of year, there were no students at the reception of the Mitsubishi Corp. one where they usually queue up for the job interviews. 70-80% of Mitsubishi employees who conduct interviews work from home. Those who work in the office have to sit alone in the room for the online job interviews or, if a second person takes part, at a suitable distance from one another. Mitsubishi plans to have the final interview with the candidates personally. According to Takeyuki Nakagawa, head of Mitsubishi's recruitment team, it is a process where the students and the company must decide if they want to work together in the future. Therefore, there were concerns about making decisions without letting the students see the workplace or introducing them to the employees. Hitachi Ltd. decided, however, to have the last conversation online as well.

According to a survey by the company Recruit Career Co., Ltd., which offers information on jobs, 45.7% of job-seeking students had received informal job offers on May 1st, 2020, 5.7% fewer than in 2019.

The decline results from the fact that many leading companies are waiting for the situation regarding the coronavirus to calm down in order to get to know the students personally before offering them an informal job offer. In addition, small and medium-sized businesses that have had problems getting online procedures in place have suspended their recruitment activities.

(Source: Japan Times 06/02/2020)

First award of the "Fumiko Yonezawa Memorial Prize"

The Physical Society of Japan (JPS) recently awarded the 1st Fumiko Yonezawa Memorial Prize of the Physical Society of Japan to five female physicists. The award was launched to honor women scientists in physics who have performed outstanding research. In addition to a framed certificate, the prize money will include publication costs of 200,000 yen (approx. 1,645 euros) for the Journal of the Physical Society of Japan (JPSJ).

The five winners are Associate Professor Yuki Kawaguchi from the Department of Applied Physics from the Graduate School of Engineering at Nagoya University, Professor Hiroko Tokoro from the Division of Materials Science of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences at the University of Tsukuba, Associate Professor Aya Bamba from the Department of Physics from the University of Tokyo, Associate Professor Hiroko Miyahara from the Humanities and Sciences / Museum Careers Department at Musashino Art University and Associate Professor Miho Yanagisawa from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo. The five physicists were honored for the following achievements:

Theoretical research on Bose-Einstein condensates in atomic gases with internal degrees of freedom

Explanation of new functional properties based on characteristics of phase transitions

Clarification of the origin and the acceleration mechanisms of high-energy cosmic rays through observations with X-rays and gamma rays

Research on changes in cosmic ray intensity during a Grand Solar Minimum and development of new methods for reconstructing changes in previous cosmic rays

Cell structure and function from a physical point of view: Real Space Modeling

Fumiko Yonezawa was the first female president of the JPS and a pioneering Japanese scientist who, among other things, in her position as JPS president worked to ensure that the JPS offers women a bright future. She died in January 2019 at the age of 80. In memory of Yonezawa's outstanding achievements, the JPS created this award, which bears its name, to honor the achievements of women researchers in physics and to promote research success. The JPS has around 16,000 members, including around 1,000 women scientists. From next year onwards, the prize will be awarded to a maximum of five female researchers.

(Source: Science Portal 02/26/2020) yonezawa / yonezawa1-2020e.html

Cancer survival rates reflect advances in diagnosis and treatment modalities

The National Cancer Center Japan (NCC) announced on March 17th, 2020 that the current cancer survival rate five years after the onset of the disease is around 68% and around 57% after ten years. Both values ​​have increased compared to the previous study and reflect advances in diagnosis and treatment methods. It is hoped that the survival rate will continue to increase in the future.

It is the fifth publication of the survival rate ten years after the onset of the disease, this time the study was carried out on people diagnosed with cancer in the years 2003-2006. The data comes from approximately 81,000 patients who were diagnosed and treated at facilities across Japan such as 19 hospitals specializing in cancer. It showed that the overall survival rate for the 18 different cancers was 57.2%. There has been a steady improvement since data collection began in the late 1990s and is up 0.8% compared to last year.

The analysis of the different types of cancer showed that the survival rate for prostate cancer (97.8%), breast cancer in women (85.9%), thyroid cancer (84.1%) and uterine cancer (81.2%) was high, while it was low in pancreatic cancer (5.3%), liver cancer (15.6%), and gallbladder and bile duct cancers (18%).

The five-year survival rate looked at data from approximately 143,000 patients diagnosed with cancer at 32 facilities across Japan in 2009-2011. The overall survival rate for all cancers was 68.4%, 0.5% higher than the previous year. The survival rates were high for prostate cancer (100%), for breast cancer in women (93.7%) and for thyroid cancer (92.4%). As with the ten-year survival rate, it was low for pancreatic cancer (9.9%) and gallbladder and bile duct cancers (28.6%). In the case of these “difficult types of cancer”, early diagnosis and the development of treatment methods will be important tasks in the medical treatment of cancer in the future.

The survival rate is one of the indicators for evaluating the success in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. It shows the percentage of patients diagnosed with cancer who are still alive after a period of time, such as five or ten years. The “relative survival rate” is used to determine the above values, excluding deaths not caused by cancer. In addition to the survival rate for all types of cancer, information on the type of cancer, the progression of the disease and the treatment methods are recorded in detail and made available to the general public on the homepage of the Japanese Association of Clinical Cancer Centers.

Because survival rates differ significantly depending on the type of cancer and the degree to which the disease has progressed, overall survival for all cancers is definitely just an indicator, and many oncologists emphasize that the survival rate of individual patients depends on doctors doing their overall Put energy into treatment and depend on the patient's way of battling the disease.

(Source: Science Portal 03/18/2020)

Japanese-American study shows coronavirus transmissibility between domestic cats

According to a team of researchers from the University of Tokyo and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the new coronavirus, which causes the lung disease COVID-19, can be transmitted between domestic cats even if the infected cats may not show any symptoms of the disease.

The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Veterinary Services Laboratories of the United States Department of Agriculture confirmed in April that two domestic cats had been infected with the new virus and that infections between cats had also been reported in Belgium and Hong Kong . According to information from the CDC, there was no evidence at the time that pets played a role in the spread of the virus in the United States.

The research team took viruses secreted by humans and infected three cats in a laboratory in the United States by injecting large amounts of the virus into the eyes, nostrils, mouth and windpipe of the test animals. Each of the infected cats was then housed with a healthy cat. Within five days, the healthy cats tested positive for the virus via nasal swabs. According to the team, all six cats showed continuous positive test results for about five days after the positive tests. However, none of the cats showed symptoms of the disease.

Prof. Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine, a noted virologist and member of the team, has recommended that cat owners keep cats indoors as they could contract the virus without the owner's knowledge. Furthermore, infected people should not touch domestic cats.

According to the study, there is a need to better understand the possible role of pets in the pandemic, although there is no evidence of the virus being transmitted from cats to humans.

The research results were published in the online edition of May 13th, 2020 of the "New England Journal of Medicine".

(Source: Japan Times 05/15/2020)

Acceleration of ammonia synthesis at low temperatures

A research group headed by Prof. Yasushi Sekine from the School of Advanced Science and Engineering at Waseda University announced on March 13th, 2020 that it first encountered the new phenomenon that the lower the temperature, the faster the synthesis of ammonia progresses. In the world of chemistry, the "Arrhenius equation" is widely used, which states that chemical reactions are accelerated with an increase in temperature. Since it is assumed that the production of desired substances at low temperatures will result in extensive energy savings, the group is also investigating the synthetic reactions of other substances.

In reactions to generate ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen, the research group used a cerium oxide semiconductor as a catalyst, in which one percent ruthenium serves as the carrier material. When the catalyst was exposed to an electrical output of 0.6-1.2 watts, the reaction rate at 100 C was twice as high as the reaction rate at 200 ⁰C. In the low temperature range of below 100 ⁰C and in the high temperature range of over 200 dieC, the reaction rate increased with increasing temperature, just as the Arrhenius equation says. In contrast, in the temperature range between 100 ⁰C and 200 ⁰C, an opposite development was discernible.

The peak of the reaction rate was reached at around 100 ⁰C. According to the research group, the reason for this lies in the fact that ions are well absorbed on a surface exposed to electrical current. Scientific models were created by estimating the amount of ions absorbed in the infrared spectrum on the basis of the existence or non-existence of electric fields and temperature differences, and when the estimation and test results of the various models were compared, agreement between the two results was confirmed.

Industrial ammonia production using the famous Haber-Bosch process requires high temperatures of 400 ⁰C and high pressure of 250 bar, and there are calls for energy-saving processes to change these conditions. In 2017, Sekine and his colleagues made it clear that when semiconductor catalysts are exposed to electrical current, reactions proceed even at temperatures below 200 ⁰C.

The research results were published in the online edition of March 13th, 2020 of the journal "Chemical Communications" published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. According to Sekine, a paradigm shift could be brought about if materials could be converted at low temperatures using electricity from renewable energies.

(Source: Science Portal March 13, 2020)!divAbstract

Early tsunami detection using 3-D images and artificial intelligence

A research group led by Prof. Dr. On February 20th, 2020, Cunwei Lu from the Faculty of Engineering at the Fukuoka Institute of Technology (FIT) announced plans to develop an early warning system for tsunamis that combines an analysis of 3-D images with artificial intelligence (AI). If the system were implemented, the exact time, altitude and location could be calculated in real time 20-30 minutes before the tsunami arrives.

The group has installed two highly sensitive cameras at a height of approx. 70 meters on the roof of Building A of the FIT at a distance of 50-100 meters and has been involved in practical tests since 2015 in which the sea level of the open sea area of ​​the Genkai Lake is monitored at a distance of 5-20 kilometers from the mainland. The images from the two cameras are put together and saved as huge 3-D images of the waves.

Then the enormous amounts of data from the 3-D recordings are read out using AI and the sea level (H.s) as well as the height of all waves (Hv) analyzed. The system is designed so that by studying the wave patterns, the AI ​​can automatically judge whether they are normal waves or high waves caused by a typhoon. When it detects an increase in the sea surface that deviates from these already known patterns, the AI ​​recognizes that it is an oncoming tsunami. After discovering the wave, the AI ​​automatically calculates the time of its arrival, its altitude and the place where it will hit land. The system is currently set up so that the arrival of the tsunami can be calculated in advance using visible light at a distance of 20 kilometers during the day and infrared radiation at a distance of ten kilometers at night.

When comparing the observation results obtained so far in practical tests with the data from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the standard deviation for the tidal range was limited to about 20 centimeters. The scientists assume that when a tsunami observation network is set up with cameras in combination with an analysis of the wave height using microwave radar etc. and further settings are made, the distance at which a tsunami can be detected is up to 50 Could increase kilometers.

So far there have been attempts in which tsunamis are predicted by observations with buoy-shaped tsunami measuring devices and previous simulations, but it is difficult to capture an exact, real picture of a tsunami storming towards the mainland. The advantage of the present technology is that a camera can be attached to an elevated location above the coastal waters and the influence from the sea environment is minimal. The question arises whether the system can only be used in Japanese coastal waters or whether one can hope for global use.

However, since there have been no earthquakes that triggered a tsunami on the Genkai Sea since the start of the research project five years ago, it is not known whether the system really works. “Since changes in the tidal range can be calculated correctly, it is to be expected that when irregularities are found, one knows that it is a tsunami,” explains Lu.

In the severe earthquake disaster in eastern Japan in March 2011, over 90% of the more than 15,000 fatalities from the tsunami were killed. It is feared that the earthquake expected in the future in the Nankai Trench could cause a huge tsunami. If early detection of large tsunamis were possible through the implementation of the present system, this would make a major contribution to civil protection.

(Source: Science Portal 02/21/2020)

Operation of the KAGRA telescope started

Observations have recently started at the Kamioka Gravitational Wave Detector (KAGRA), which detects gravitational waves sent from space. Gravitational wave detectors are already in use in Europe and the USA, but it is the first time it is being used in Asia.

KAGRA was set up under the leadership of the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research (ICRR) of the University of Tokyo in cooperation with the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and other institutions at home and abroad . The detector is located in the Kamioka district of Hida City, which is located in Gifu Prefecture.

In an L-shaped tunnel dug about 200 meters underground with a total length of over six kilometers, laser beams are emitted from the center of a vacuum tube and small differences due to gravitational waves are detected. At the corner of the L there is a device with which laser beams are shot into the tube, and sapphire mirrors are installed at the ends and in the two arms of the L to reflect the laser beams. The inauguration ceremony took place in October 2019, and since then, ongoing adjustments to increase sensitivity and test runs have been carried out. Continuous operation with correct observations began after the end of the test runs on February 25, 2020.

For a long time, telescopes have played a major role in the study of space, with which one explores visible light, infrared radiation, X-rays, electric waves and other electromagnetic waves arriving from celestial bodies on earth. In contrast, gravitational waves are a very weak phenomenon, in which the distortions of space and time that occur when extremely massive celestial bodies move are transmitted like small waves. It is assumed that it is possible to observe the movements of extremely heavy celestial bodies such as the union of black holes. With the American Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), gravitational waves, whose existence Albert Einstein was convinced, were detected for the first time in 2015 and in 2017 the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for their detection. At KAGRA it is hoped to achieve success through the cooperation with LIGO and European and American networks for the observation of gravitational waves, with which one can unravel the mystery of the origin of the universe, since the acquisition of gravitational waves provides information about the universe immediately after its creation can deliver through the big bang.

(Source: Science Portal March 4th, 2020)

Asteroid Ryugu may have changed orbit

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has stated that the orbit of the asteroid Ryugu may have been between the sun and the planet Mercury a long time ago. Its current orbit is between Earth and the planet Mars.

JAXA found this out by analyzing images of the asteroid taken with a camera on board its Hayabusa 2 space probe. According to JAXA, large parts of the sand and boulders on the surface of Ryugu had turned red when exposed to temperatures in excess of 600 ⁰C. Even if the asteroid is in its current orbit at the point closest to the Sun, such high temperatures would be unimaginable.

In a newly created crater on Ryugu, sand and rocks are blue because they have not yet been heated to high temperatures, according to JAXA. The reason is that the asteroid's orbit has recently moved further from the sun.

According to JAXA, the research would suggest that about 300,000 to eight million years ago, the shortest distance between Ryugu and the Sun was about a third to a fifth of the current distance. The orbit at the time may have been between the Sun and the planet Mercury before changing to the current orbit. Mercury is the closest planet to the sun in our solar system. The cause of the orbit change remains unclear, but one of the reasons for this could be gravity.

Associate Professor Morota Tomokatsu from the University of Tokyo carried out the analysis. He believes it will be the first geological study of an asteroid's orbit change. He is looking forward to the analysis of the sand and other particles that are to be brought to Earth by Hayabusa 2.After completing its mission on Ryugu in November last year, the space probe is currently on its way back to Earth (see JSPS circular 04/2019).

(Source: NHK 05/08/2020)

Hayabusa 2 on the way back to earth

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Hayabusa 2 space probe has started the second commissioning of its ion propulsion system, which is important for its return to Earth. The ion drive was ignited on May 12, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. Japanese time, and its stable functioning was confirmed at 7:25 a.m. Due to the large distance of the probe from the sun and the resulting low power generation capacity, only one ion drive is currently working.

After completing the exploration of the asteroid Ryugu, Hayabusa 2 left it in November last year (see JSPS circular 04/2019) and since then its main engine has been in operation for over 800 hours up to and including February. On May 12th, 2020 it was approx. 160 million kilometers away from Earth.

The second commissioning will take approximately until September of this year, and the probe should then be at a distance of about 40 million kilometers from Earth. Hayabusa 2 is then to adjust its orbit with the help of a positioning device so that a capsule on board can reach the earth. The capsule is planned to be dropped over an Australian desert in November or December (see JSPS circular 03/2019). It is believed to contain rock samples from the asteroid surface. JAXA plans to salvage the capsule and examine its contents for possible clues that would provide information about the origin of life and the solar system.

(Sources: NHK 05/13/2020, JAXA press release 05/13/2020)

JAXA begins test flights to develop reusable missile technology in June

According to government reports, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will begin test flights in June to develop a missile technology that allows the first stage of launch vehicles to be reused.

JAXA hopes that recycling will drastically reduce the cost of launching a rocket to around one hundredth of the current cost of seven billion yen (approx. 58 million euros). This would strengthen Japan's competitiveness in space amid rising demand.

JAXA has been preparing for the test flights since 2016, using seven-meter-long rockets with a diameter of 1.8 meters. After the missiles reach a height of 100 meters above the ground, they are controlled in such a way that they hover, move sideways and land.

In 2022, JAXA plans to carry out tests with a larger CALLISTO spacecraft that will reach an altitude of 30 kilometers before returning close to its launch site or landing on a platform in the open sea. CALLISTO stands for “Cooperative Action Leading to Launcher Innovation in Stage Toss back Operations”. It is a project of the French space agency Center national d’études spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Japan plans to collaborate with Germany and France on the project. Project costs of over 15 billion yen (approx. 123 million euros) are assumed, as it will probably be quite difficult to find a launch site.

(Source: Kyodo March 8th, 2020)

Scientists show that time passes faster at higher altitudes

A research team led by Hidetoshi Katori, who is a member of the Quantum Metrology Laboratory of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) and the Department of Applied Physics of the Graduate School of Engineering at the University of Tokyo, has proven that on the observation deck of Tokyo
Skytree time passes four nanoseconds faster per day than near the ground. The 634-meter-high Tokyo Skytree is the tallest television and radio tower in the world, and its observation deck is approximately 450 meters above sea level.

The research results are based on measurements with extremely precise optical lattice clocks that only go behind for one second every 16 billion years. The team, which also includes scientists from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI), succeeded in miniaturizing the optical lattice clocks, making them transportable. Two of the clocks were used, one placed at a height of 456.3 meters and the other at 3.6 meters above sea level. On a weekly average, the clocks showed that the time on the viewing platform passed four nanoseconds faster per day than near the ground. The research had been conducted since October 2018.

The research results confirm Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, with which he predicted that clocks run more slowly in a strong gravitational field than in an environment with lower gravity. They were published in the online edition of the journal "Nature Photonics" on April 6, 2020.

(Source: Japan Times 04/20/2020)