Last month we portrayed a nuclear physicist playing a pink trombone at Victoria park – Dr. Teppei Katori. He inspired us. The painting showcased was influenced by the person we got to know throughout the interview. You can check out the full interview and photographs here: http://the-minks.net/tag/teppei-katori/
Do people have a take on the future, or do they just live day by day? What does a nuclear physicist hope for to have changed within 20 years?
Where and how will you be living in 20 years from now?
I am talking from a scientific point of view and would say: that I hope that we will have a breakthrough in this field. Because high energy physics is sort of stuck. We discovered Higgs at CERN in Switzerland. This moment looked like the end of Science. We discovered all particles of the Standard Model. And so we feel like there is nothing new left really.
We believe in miracles, not all in life can be explained. Hast a nuclear physicist who tries to explain the world more also encountered things he is thankful for or things he can’t explain?
What’s a recent miracle you’ve encountered in your life?
I think actually all my life is one big continuous miracle. First miracle was to be able to go to the US as a PHD student and got a job at MIT. And now I got the job at Queen Mary University of London. All these things appear to me to be miracles. I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world.
We believe every person has a political view on things, even if one is not involved in politics actively. Teppei Katori also has strong views on nationalism, Japanese culture and nuclear weapons. Since he is a public figure as a lecturer at Queen Mary, we understand that the real content cannot be published. So the following answers are direct, but not as interesting as when we talked to him. Maybe you have to meet him yourself, if you’re interested in knowing his deeper thoughts on delicate topics.
What does nationalism mean to you? –> How do you regard nationalistic tendencies in the UK and around Europe as well as in your home country Japan and neighbouring China.
It’s bullshit. (… )(removed content).
How do you regard nationalism in Japan?
It’s bullshit (…) (removed content).
How do you see Japanese political culture change in the future?
I don’t know (…) (removed content).
Do you feel more Japanese or Asian? More Asian or moreover a citizen of the world?
(…) I am cosmopolitan (removed content).
What should be done about the distribution of nuclear weapons around the globe?
Communication is key. We have to be able to avoid miscommunication. (…) (removed content)
Japanese are known for many electronic gadgets, cute design, manga culture and much more. Since Teppei Katori is Japanese he does kind of live up to that image, as he has so many different objects at his office. We wanted to know more about his design appreciation.
What kind of Art and or Design do you enjoy most?
All random things from street shops. (He also explained many objects as seen on the image below- but this content has been removed)
When we visited Teppei Katori at his study at Queen Mary University, he had a range of interesting old books on his shelf. Quite a few were by philosophers. Why?
How has philosophy affected you as a person and a researcher?
There is a part of philosophy I really like, which is phenomenology. I have lots of books here. For example books by Hanna Arendt and Maurice Merleau Ponty. These books talk about the best way to think about human knowledge and they are always next to me. I like the ideas but I guess philosophy is a style. You are never right or wrong. I take this way of thinking into account and this does affect my behaviour.
When we think of a physicist we mostly think of a person doing a lot of math and lab work. But since we believe that people are not just unilateral, we wanted to know about the influence of art and design in Teppei Katori’s life.
How have Art and Design affected you as a person and a researcher?
I am first and foremost a researcher before I am a person. It is a hard question. I like all kinds of random objects as you can see in my office. I like surrealism and surrealistic things. The first thing that came to mind when you asked me about artists is my girlfriend. She is a sculptor. But I can’t really say how much this affects my personality and or work.
Teppei Katori, is a nuclear physicist who is involved in an interesting project where penguins and polar bears don’t meet.
I also saw that you are doing research at the South Pole to gather data. What is this project about?
It’s a neutrino experiment called IceCube. It is a massive experiment. It is a one-kilometre cube and this one kilometre cube detector is located 1.5 kilometres underneath the ice. Each detector is just a string with a photo sensor in it so when neutrinos interact it produces muons and this results in a tiny light and you are then able to see it with this device in the ice. And this detector is specially designed to detect the high energy neutrinos that are coming from the universe. So that is what we are looking for.
So far we have discovered a few of them last year which was kind of big news but now I am interested to use this IceCube to study low energy neutrinos which could then be used to study neutrinos themselves.
The sketch is our idea of the invisible cube underneath the ice.
For more information on the IceCube Project check out their project website here.
Teppei Katori, what is your field of study within nuclear physics?
I study neutrino cross-sections. A neutrino cross-section is how neutrino’s scatter when they interact with nuclei. Neutrinos are invisible so you detect particles scattered off from nuclei, like muons. Then you are able to study the properties of neutrinos and how they interact with the nuclei.
What does the Lorentz violation mean?
Lorentz violation is the violation of Lorentz symmetry. This discovery would be a Nobel-Price discovery so I am looking for that one as well. I am using Neutrinos to find the Lorentz violation. There is several ways to go about this challenge but a popular way is to look for the direction dependence of neutrino oscillation. Neutrino oscillation is formulated with the Standard Model Extension Lagrangian which includes all possible Lorentz violating terms on top oft he Standard Model physics.
Oh wow, I guess that is as simple as it gets.
Looking at biographies of famous artists there is often a portion of insanity and for some like Van Gogh, mental distress involved. We wonder if it’s a smooth transition between pure creativity and insanity, if creativity needs insanity. We wanted to know from a nuclear physicist, who also needs to be creative to come up with innovative approaches to problems in physics.
Where do you see the line between creativity and insanity?
No, actually I don’t believe there is such a line. I don’t think this is the right way to think. I guess there are really insane people like Srinivasa Ramanujan who came up every week with ten new equations. That’s insane but other than that, people like Einstein or other physicists or mathematicians are all the same.
If we already knew everything, well then there would not be any researchers needed. So we wanted to know from Teppei Katori, a nuclear physicist how he regards his field of research.
Do you believe yourself to understand physics and if yes, what does it mean to do so?
No actually no. I don’t understand physics at all. We have for example studied the universe for a very long time and now we understand we don’t understand about 95% of the universe, so how could I claim to understand physics? So what happens really is that you just discover more and more unknown.
Though where are you now on your journey?
I would say that I’m like a pirate who is now ready for the voyage. We don’t know where it will take us. I’m a lecturer and independent researcher now so there is no one that’s telling me what to do. Now I did enough training and so I can go explore now. If I like it, I believe it. That’s where I am now.
The sketch of the pilot glasses in front of the Japanese world is a reference to the journey. But actually it originated because we thought Teppei Katori mentioned a pilot and not a pirate – due to the R and L mix-up which is very common for Japanese. So after that was cleared maybe a pirate on a boat would have been more fitting.
We are interested in what drives people to do what they do. Since we never met a nuclear physicist before, we wanted to know why this young Japanese, Teppei Katori, is so fascinated by physics.
Which gap do you fill?
It’s a way to see the world in a more beautiful way. Since there is a reason for everything it’s important to find out why certain things happen or don’t happen. I guess that when you know all the different trees when walking in the park it would be more interesting than otherwise. There is reason for the sky why it appears in different shadings of colour. Blue, green etc.
What is your contribution to the whole picture?
My major is neutrino physics. Trying to understand how neutrinos interact, trying to understand the distribution of neutrinos coming from the sky. Those are my specific fields of interest.
What is your full name?
Why do you do what you do?
(Laughs) Ok so here is what Yoichiro Nambu from University of Chicago said to me when I asked him so why did you become a physicist and I expected a very sophisticated answer because he is a famous physicist. And actually what he answered was: “Don’t you think its fun?” So there is no deeper meaning to my decision to be a nuclear physicist. I mean people have to do something with their lives right? So I might as well do something that I love.
(Yoichiro Nambu received the Nobel Prize in 2008 “for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics” For more facts follow this link here.)
On a lovely fall day we were walking along the little lake at Victoria Park enjoying the last sun beams. From afar we heard a sound that reminded of a baby elephant making a happy trumpet.
As we came closer we saw a long haired man playing a pink plastic trombone.
We started talking, and he explained that he moved to London recently and is still looking for a band to play the special pBone Trombone at. But the most striking thing was that he isn’t just a musician that looked a bit like a vagabond playing at the park and drinking Polish beer, but in fact is a super smart nuclear physicist.