Saturday, January 01, 2022

Ecological sharing in bonsai.

I wrote about this in my forthcoming book The Way of Nagomi, and I think the editor did not cut it (although at this particular moment I am not that sure). I think the Japanese art of bonsai is a great way for plants to share the ecological space.

When you see a great tree, it is all beautiful. At the same time, it means that the tree has a monopoly on the ecological niche. When you have bonsai, a tree can fulfil its life potentials in a limited space while allowing other entities to enjoy the adjacent spaces. 

This, I think, is the most beautiful aspect of bonsai.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Nietzsche phenomenon.

I think there is what could be tentatively called the Nietzsche phenomenon. Friedrich Nietzsche was a great philosopher. His philosophical writings are full of inspirations and poetic repercussions. His ideas about life are superb. I love his conceptualization of the apotheosis of dancing. I endorse his prediction that the future would be centered around comedy rather than tragedy, as exposited in Gay Science.

Towards the latter part of his life, his passion seemed to have shifted to music, partly inspired by Richard Wagner. However, Nietzsche's compositions were at best mediocre. 

So how could someone who is a genius in one field be quite lagging in another, although he or she shows passion for that alternative activity? That is the Nietzsche phenomenon, or Nietzsche syndrome.

In general, perception and action are separate, so it is no mystery that one could perceive good music but is unable to produce one. Genius could be compartmentalized, so that one who excels in one field is quite awkward in another.

Having said that, perhaps it was Nietzsche's interest in music, together with the personality and mindset accompanying it, that made Nietzsche's philosophy great. His writings are musical after all.

Thus, the Nietzsche phenomenon might explain the makeup of some geniuses. Even if the output is poor, passionate interest in one field might improve the performance in another.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The ageing of the Japanese mind.

Tokyo Aircheck #3

The other day, Japan's prime minister Yoshihide Suga made some remarks on Tokyo Olympics in the Question Time at parliament. That is quite usual, but what was unusual was that Mr. Suga made some personal observations on the games, citing his memories of the 1964 Tokyo games which he experienced as a boy. The fact that the recollections, delivered in warm tone, failed to fascinate the public imagination seems to tell more about the status quo of Japan than Mr. Suga himself.

I sometimes wonder if the Japanese mindset, at least in the way it is depicted in the (social) media, has not aged compared to the heydays of rapid economic growth. The Olympic movement has not become old. Only the minds of some people have lost vigour, while the games of life goes on.


related video

Why P.M. Suga's recount of the Olympics became a bad PR.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Catch 22 for Dr. Shigeru Omi. #tokyoaircheck

Tokyo Aircheck #2

Dr. Shigeru Omi is a respected medic with a track record of earnest work and personal integrity, but he probably has lost the trust of Prime Minister Suga and key people in government. In Japan, the unwritten code of action is harmony. You need to keep accord with those you work with at any costs, and if you break that rule, then whatever you do, you would be judged to be unsound. 

I am not making any judgments on Dr. Omi or Mr. Suga or those government officials. I am just making an observation. I can tell now that Dr. Omi is rapidly losing influence and respectability within the Tokyo government, especially as regards his alarmist attitude to the Tokyo Olympics.

If Dr. Omi makes the extraordinary move of appealing to the IOC directly, he would lose his standing within Tokyo further. It is a catch 22 situation for the respected medic.


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Tokyo Olympics more likely to go ahead now. #tokyoaircheck

Tokyo Aircheck #1

In Tokyo, there is a growing feeling that the Olympics and Paralympics would go forward, mainly influenced by the activities and achievements of athletes. On Sunday, Ryota Yamagata set a new Japanese national record for the 100m heat of 9.95. Yamagata would have to compete in the coming Japan Championship at the end of this month to qualify for the Olympics. Then, the legendary gymnast Kohei Uchimyra qualified for the Olympics in men's horizontal bar event. Uchimura has been men's artistic individual all-around Olympic champion in the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and considering his age (32), made a decision to focus on the parallel bar to go to the Olympics.

Given the heat coming from the enthusiasm and efforts by these athletes, it is felt that the rest of us should perhaps make corresponding efforts to make the games a reality, despite the difficulties all of us are facing at this time.

Related video

Heat is up for Tokyo Olympics.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

A critique of Ramseyer paper.

A paper by Harvard law Professor Mark Ramseyer has recently been drawing controversy.

Ramseyer, J. M. (2021). Contracting for sex in the Pacific War. International Review of Law and Economics, 65, 105971.

Personally, I always felt that these historical issues should be taken in the light of human rights and universal values standards of today. Otherwise we would not do justice to the human beings that we currently are.

Reports in the New York Times and New Yorker seem to have been mainly concerned with historic facts and interpretations of them. While these are certainly important issues, reading the paper, I was more concerned by the weakness and irrelevance of the game theoretic approach that Prof. Ramseyer applied to this issue in the paper. 

Although economic analysis based on game theory has been a powerful tool, when you think of the comfort woman controversy, money is not necessarily the first thing that would come into your mind. Compared to issues of human dignity, freedom, and social and psychological coercion, not to mention the military culture at that time,  economic factors seem to be a subsidiary issue at best. 

In the above paper, Prof. Ramseyer gives some casual descriptions of credible commitments, reward and income structures, compensation for much higher risks involved, indenture contracts with a large advance with one or two year terms, etc. but fails go extend the theoretically analysis fully, so that non-trivial results are obtained which are not obvious from the assumptions themselves. This insufficient treatment, coupled with the general neglect of social, cultural, and psychological elements described, for example, in Min Jee Lee's novel Pachinko (2018), makes the Ramseyer paper largely irrelevant to the comfort woman controversy.

This is very unfortunate, especially considering the fact that Prof. Ramseyer is an excellent scholar, versed in the interplay between law and economics. It is a pity that Prof. Ramseyer failed to see much beyond that. 

Related video

A critique of Ramseyer paper

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The White Tiger is not so beautiful.

I watched the acclaimed Netflix original White Tiger. I should say I did not resonate with the film so much. The White Tiger is not so beautiful.

It tells a story of class division and political dirt in India. The protagonist aspires to climb the social ladder, identifying himself with the white tiger he sees in a zoo. The beauty of the beast inspires him to break free from the slave mentality.

Although the satire is good and the actings superb, the script and editing lacked a crucial finishing touch, depicting only the crime and not the punishment. It may be OK to be bullish in the climb uphill, but if a self-reflection is lacking there it would fall short of a literally masterpiece, let alone a cinematic one.

To be fair, I haven't read the original novel yet. I might have different impressions from the presumably more nuanced text. 

If the film had some self-reflecting element at the end, I might have been more favourably inclined. The fact that it was received favourably by Western critics appears to suggest some element of political correctness applied to the rise of India and China by the West, repentant of its colonial past, which is good in itself but does not testify for the quality of the work. In all, I see it as a great missed opportunity.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

An online conversation with Prof. Adrian Cheok and Senator Fraser Anning


I had the pleasure to have an online conversation with Prof. Adrian Cheok and Senator Fraser Anning.

I have been friends with Adrian for many years. Adrian suggested that I have a conversation with Senator Anning, and I gladly accepted. It is always interesting to get to know people and exchange ideas.

Although I don't necessarily agree with the views expressed by Senator Anning and Adrian, it is very important to compare notes and say what comes up to your mind honestly when you hear somebody say something contrary to your opinion. I also felt that I really needed to have an insight into Senator Anning's personality, the deeply seated motivations and values, before becoming too judgemental as the Zeitgeist of the social media era would tend to promote.

Here's the link to the youtube video that Adrian put up.

I thank Adrain and Senator Anning for the interesting conversation. I hope people can live in a spirit of diversity and inclusion everywhere. Please leave comments on this blog or the youtube video if you feel something needs to be said.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Why Dorothea's disappointment has universal repercussions.

I was walking in the backstreets of Tokyo after nightfall. It was a chilly January day, and I was listening to an audiobook of Middlemarch by George Eliot. This elaborate novel has established itself in the history of world literature despite its somewhat cumbersome structure. I imagined how Mary Anne Evans, who wrote under male pseudonym due to the unsavoury prejudice towards women at that time, must have felt when she wrote it. The intricate circumstances of gender-sensitive authorship of the novel is quite poignant. The young and talented Dorothea marries Mr. Casaubon, who appears to be culturally superior with significant ambitions. The disappointment of Dorothea in finding the dry and aged nature of Mr. Casaubon is a wonderful study of human psychology, if somewhat sarcastic.

Suddenly, while listening to the recording of Middlemarch on my iPhone in the chilly Tokyo night, I realized how any hopes of eternal fame is only an ultimately sad illusion generated by our reaction to our mortality. It is like the marriage of Dorothea to Mr. Casaubon. We stake our hopes on it, but it ultimately turns out to be without substance and empty. That is probably why Dorothea's disappointment has universal repercussions. I listen to George Eliot in Tokyo in the 21st century and am thankful for it. However, as far as the essence of existence is concerned, the life of Mary Anne Evans was there and then, and no more. The same is true for all of us. 

The Office American version quite moving from time to time.


So I have been watching The Office American version at last, as it is being streamed on Netflix in Japan.

I am a great fan of Ricky Gervais, and I enjoyed The Office U.K. version thoroughly. As many people would agree, The Office is arguably one of the best comedy shows ever made, in its creative juxtaposition of the comic and tragic, somewhat reminiscent of Shakespeare. 

I have naturally watched some episodes of The Office American version now and then, mostly on international flights, but have not viewed the series systematically until now.

I had my own trepidations, but the American version has actually turned out to have some fine points. 

Particularly interesting is the fact that perhaps in the U.S., there is not such a layer structure between the comedians and the "ordinary" people. The comedian (in this case the boss in the office) is also a member of the mediocre society. In the U.K., on the other hand, the comedian is probably superior in intelligence and dramatic grasp of life, a tradition carried by Ricky Gervais himself, although in an implicit style compared to, for example, Stephen Fry.

The fact that everybody is on the same board with equal humbleness makes The Office American version quite moving from time to time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A comparison of the Chinese Dream with the American Dream


I have recently repeatedly heard news coverage of the Chinese Dream pushed by President Xi Jinping. In the Japanese media, the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Civilization is a phrase heard often, in relation to the Chinese Dream.

It would be great if the peoples of China would be able to enjoy the growth of the society in terms of economy or otherwise. On the other hand, it is hoped that diversity and individual freedom would be able to enhanced in China in the years to come.

In today's youtube posting I make a comparison between the Chinese dream and the American dream, with the latter more focused on the diversity of opinions and the individual freedom to pursue happiness.

Differences between the American and Chinese dreams.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

When people split into twitter and parler

In today's youtube posting I discussed the permanent ban of Mr. Trump from twitter and its implications.

I fear that there is a danger that the platforms would split into physically defined echo chambers. Up to now, echo chambers did exist, but they were subsets on a single platform, such as twitter.

When people split into twitter and parler, for example, there would be an increased danger of more absolute segregation of people and opinions.

Youtube: Twitter vs Parler: Danger of platform-defined echo chambers

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Review of Uncertain exhibit by Tasuo Miyajima @tatsuomiyajima @scai_bathhouse

The Uncertain exhibition at SCAI THE BATHHOUSE in the downtown area of Tokyo is a great leap forward into the brave new world by one of the world's greatest contemporary artist, Tasuo Miyajima.

The art gallery, owned by Masami Shiraishi, is a cultural icon itself, being a converted public bathhouse close to the Tokyo Geidai (Tokyo University of the Arts) and The University of Tokyo in the Yanaka area of downtown Tokyo.

The new exhibition shows Miyajima's hallmark digits, but this time as a collection of paintings, oil on canvas.  The effect of bringing the LED numbers back into the realm of old school paintings, with twists on the canvas shapes and installations, is simply stunning. The 7 canvases are arranged in such ways so as to represent a particular digit, with the unused canvas lying in a ceremonial manner on the floor. Miyajima suggests a relocation of the canvases, based on the fate of specially designed dice telling which digit to install. 

For Tatsuo Miyajima, a graduate from the department of oil paintings of the Tokyo Geidai, this is perhaps the first venture into the venerable method of oil painting in his long and productive career. The result is an inspirational and poignant statement on the relation between the abstract and concrete, the ephemeral and permanent, and between the certain and uncertain in this time of great vulnerability for the human race. 

There are series of works with LED digits on white cloth, a statement perhaps on the co-existence of our organic self and the increasingly ubiquitous digital technology.

Photo Myself in front of the SCAI THE BATHHOUSE art gallery in Yanaka, Tokyo.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Dai Fujikura's @daifujikura Armageddon in Tokyo, simply a triumph.

The world premier of Dai Fujikura's opera, A Dream of Armageddon, at the New National Theater Tokyo was an utter triumph.

Fujikura, a London-based composer originally from Japan, put the short novel by H.G. Wells into sublime music. It reminded one of the Karesansui Japanese garden traditions, an apotheosis of which is the famous Ryoanji Temple rock garden, once visited by Queen Elisabeth II. Against this backdrop of this abstract expression of the world at large, Fujikura's music occasionally brought fresh breaths of astonishing vivid colour of life. 

The opera starts with a cappella chorus, a rarity in the genre. It ends with the solo of a boy soprano, who is one of the soldiers of the power that be. Fujikura accomplished the magic of matching the grand finale of Wagner's Gotterdammerung with a single "amen" at the very end, giving the audience a deep sense of redemption.

The libretto by Harry Ross, a long-time friend of Fujikura, used words in a sparing and inspirational way. The minimalist lyrics gave the impression of great Matsuo Basho haiku poems, which, in resonance with Fujikura's music, left an unforgettable image of an alien but strangely familiar dystopia.

Kazushi Ono, who is also the artistic director of the New National Theater Tokyo, showed his maestro skills with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, who achieved the difficult task of putting this complexly rich contemporary music into reality.

The singers did their jobs superbly well. The character of Johnson sung by Seth Carico left a particularly persuasive effect. 

The production was simply beautiful, creative talents led by Lydia Steier successfully made this world premier of A Dream of Armageddon into a historic event.

There would be two more performances of this masterpiece.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Now that the Osaka referendum is over, perhaps we need a referendum of Japanese comedy next.

The Osaka referendum on whether or not to abolish the City of Osaka and give rise to new integrated government system was a big news in Japan yesterday.

The Ishin party (Japan Innovation Party) pushed forward the plan, and lost the popular vote by a small margin.

Osaka is known as the laughter capital of Japan, with comedians from Yoshimoto dominating the media. The political turmoil surrounding the referendum would have been a golden opportunity to make comedy, with the colorful personalities of Mayer Matsui and Governor Yoshimura providing vivid materials.

So it is really weird, to say the least, that there is a total absence of comedy dealing with situations running up to the referendum, especially in the mainstream media such as television. Instead, the Yoshimoto comedians are largely seen as endorsing the policies put forward by the Ishin party, which dominates the local government.

Rooting for politicians without making comedy out of them, let alone criticizing them, does not seem to be within the job description of comedians. The status quo of "comedy" in Japan, especially those associated with Yoshimoto, is strange, to put it mildly. 

Now that the Osaka referendum is over, perhaps we need a referendum of Japanese comedy next. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Borat's performance reminded me of the pro wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh.


I don't know if it is just me, but I though the appearance of Borat in the Jimmy Kimmel show was perfectly hilarious.

Borat's performance reminded me of the pro wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh, in that Borat completely set the pace and dominated the scene. 

This would be only possible with meticulous calculation and unshakable self confidence. Huge respect for Borat, and the man behind the character, Sacha Baron Cohen.

The act by Borat's daughter, Maria Bakalova was also superb.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Results unpredictable even if Mr. Biden wins the election.


The upcoming U.S. Presidential election might turn out to be as complex and incomprehensible as the covid-19 pandemic.

To start, because of the asymmetry between both parties towards mail voting (Democrats more inclined to vote by mail), there might be an initial red mirage, with Mr. Trump appearing to win before the counting of the mail votes starts. Mr. Trump might declare victory prematurely. 

Even if Mr. Trump loses the popular vote (and electoral college vote), he might not concede defeat and bow out graciously.

He might refuse to leave the White House, in which case, I read on the web, the secret service might have to physically escort him out as a civilian, an operation the venerable organization is reportedly simulating and rehearsing already.

In addition to that, there might be some resistance from Trump supporters, the nature of which is anyone's guess at the moment.

Taken together, the outcome of the election might be very unpredictable, even if Mr. Biden wins the election. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Mr. Trump's performance in CBS's 60 Minutes


I watched Mr. Trump's performance in CBS's 60 Minutes on its website.

I did not think that questions from the host Lesley Stahl were particularly biased or hard.

It seemed rather that Mr. Trump was set on denying the whole direction of the show from the beginning.

When a person does not have the capacity to absorb information which might not necessarily agree with his or her views, people around would gradually hesitate from expressing these ideas.

Ms. Lesley Stahl did not shy away from making her case, but I wonder how many in the White House would have been bold enough to face Mr. Trump with adversary views.

For a robust policy making, it is necessary to assimilate multiple views. The attitude and tone of Mr. Trump in the 60 Minutes program cast some serious doubts about how his administration has been on the diversity of ideas.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Roger Penrose visits Cambridge

11-12 January 1997

(Note: This is an essay based on Roger Penrose's visit to Cambridge while I was doing postdoc in Horace Barlow Laboratory.)

11 January 1997

On the eve prior to the talk, I went to the station to pick up Roger Penrose with Adar Pelah and Roger Thomas. He came with two large bags. Apparently he just arrived from the States and has been staying at the Royal Society in London for a couple of days. He had this very fragile, elf-like atmosphere. The three of us introduced ourselves, and shook hands. 

It had snowed earlier that day, and the air was very cold. We got in the car. Penrose began to explain that he had a bad flu in the states, and one of his eardrums was damaged. So he had some difficulty in listening.

We arrived at the restaurant at 22 Chester Road. It was a nice cozy restaurant with a special private room upstairs. The other guests were already there in the room. John Mollon, who suggested this restaurant to Adar, said proudly that it was almost like dining in one's own house. Horace Barlow, his wife Miranda, and Graeme Mitchison stood up to welcome Penrose. It appeared that they knew each other well.

So the meals began to arrive, and I sat at the opposite side of the table with Adar, and listened to what these old men would discuss. They talked about Scuba diving in Australia, how to publish a successful book, etc. etc. Penrose explained to us about an episode when he appeared in the film "A Brief History of Time". The Hollywood guys came down to Penrose's room in Oxford and said they would make a mock-up of his office in the studio, and made notes, measurements, etc. When Penrose went down to the studio, he found this monster of an office. They had installed a huge leather chair, and one huge desk before it, clean, with no papers scattered over it. And they have stacked the bookshelves with antique books which had nothing to do with Penrose's work. When Penrose sat in the chair, he found that he could not reach the desk. So he tried to pull the chair closer, only to find that it was nailed to the floor! Penrose complained, and there came a bunch of guys who denailed, moved, and renailed the chair. The whole business was incredibly expensive and stupid.

Then they asked to Penrose "when does time flow backwards?", referring to Stephan Hawking's idea that when the universe begins to contract, the time would flow backwards. Penrose answered, "I think that time would not flow backwards under any circumstances". They said "cut!" "No, No, you cannot say that. Please imagine some situation where the time flows backwards." Then Penrose says, "I just cannot imagine any circumstances under which the time begins to flow backwards." "Cut!". "No, No, we cannot take this. PLEASE think of some extreme situation where the time would flow backwards". So finally, Penrose was forced to say something incredibly contrived, something he never intended to say. 

When Penrose began to talk, he looked much younger and vivace. 

Then Graeme Mitchison said to Penrose that maybe he should show the Greeks the Penrose tiling and went on to ask if he would be able to produce them. Penrose briefly said "Yes". 

I asked if he was writing a third book after Emperor's New Mind and Shadows of the Mind. He said yes. And then he said a book titled "The large and the small in the mind" is coming out in February. To be published from Vintage (Random House). Apparently it is a book about physics in which he pours out his opinions about other people's theories. So it should be VERY entertaining. Penrose said Stephen Hawking made some nasty remarks at the end of the book. I asked if he had written about superstrings. Penrose's eyes twinkled. "Yes, that is obviously something I should write, isn't it. But as far as I understand the superstring theory is gone and now they are talking about the m-theory. M supposedly stands for "mysterious", or "mother", or whatever. The great merit of the superstring theory they said was that the theory was unique. But now they have several different superstring theories, the uniqueness is gone. And they start talking about membranes. (Graeme;Does Ed Witten still say that superstrings is the theory of the 21st century?) Yes, I think it is still in the air. (Penrose looks at the watch). But the 21st century is just around the corner. I think they should hurry!"

Well, the dinner was over and the evening ended prematurely. 

I took Penrose to St. John's college in Adar's car. The drive was a few minutes. Penrose sits in the front seat, I in the back. I begin to pour out.

"I think you should be able to derive the whole quantum mechanics from your twistor formalism. Don't you agree?"

"Well, there are these long-term dreams that you cannot work out right away. I still think quantum mechanics is incomplete"

"I noticed that you draw all the illustrations in your book. In Shadows of the mind, there is one particularly elaborate drawing about the evolutional merit of consciousness. A man is drawing some geometrical figures on the ground, while a tiger is about to jump onto him"

"Yes. There is a joke in that drawing, which nobody has noticed. It is the theorem that the guy is trying to prove."

(By this time, we are in St. John's college, and we are walking toward Penrose's room)

"Have you come up with a three-dimensional version of your tiling?"

"Yes, not me, but somebody has thought of it."

"How many pieces do you need?"

"4. In fact, there is a non-periodic tiling with just one piece. But this is not very interesting. It just spirals out from a point."

"Oh, like the one you have in Emperor's New mind. But that is two dimensional, of course."

"It is not difficult to explain this to you, Suppose there is a .....(I cannot catch the word). Then you add a roof to it. ....The angle is a irrational number..... but this is cheating, really."

"There is no (quasi) translational invariance in that case." 


"You give this example of non-computational dynamical evolution which is defined using the halting of Turing machines. Suppose you have a particular series of evolution (in discrete time). Surely there is at least one algorithm that produces the same result?"

"Yes, you always have to think of a class of problems, you see. If you consider only one particular example, you can always do it computationally."

(I want to ask him if that class should have aleph 1, but we are approaching his room now.)

"That particular example of non-computational process is a non-implementable one, isn't it? Do you think you can ever come up with an implementable version of non-computational process?"

Penrose says something like "****" , but we are in front of his room.

So I and Adar say good night to Penrose. He looked very very tired by then. Maybe the trip to the States and the flu taxed him. So that was "day one" of my first encounter with Penrose. The clock was 11:30 p.m. On the way back to home Adar said he liked Penrose.


12 January 1997 


On Friday, I went to pick up Penrose in St. John's college. We went up the spiraling stairs of the tower, and knocked the door of the senior guest room 1. There was no answer, and Adar had to knock on the door again and again.

A few minutes later, we heard some noise. Penrose opened the door and we walked in. 

I saw several transparencies scattered over the table by the window. Some colour pens were laid down near the chair. Penrose began to pack his things, and told us about a time when he stayed in the same room. While he was working at the desk, he saw a helicopter land on the greens in front of the building. Several police cars rushed to the scene. It was Princess Anne visiting Trinity college. 

Penrose asked me if I have come across a hard copy of the Psyche-D paper. He said that David Chalmers was the guy who originally induced him to write for Psyche-D, on two conditions. Namely, that the number of commentators should be less than 10, and that a physical copy should be eventually produced. Penrose asked David Chalmers if the copy was available, and he said yes, but so far he has failed to send any! 

Penrose then said the last time he was there, a swarm of ladybirds invaded the room overnight. Adar said there was something about the colour of the ladybirds that makes you avoid harming it. I said that ladybirds are supposed to taste nasty any way, and added "not that I tried it". Penrose joked that he supposed that ladybirds were not considered as delicacies in Japan. I said no.

As we walked toward the bridge of sighs (St. Johns built the bridge imitating the famous one in Venice), I began the questions. 

"If you take any particular result of non-computational process, you can always simulate it by a computational process. You said yesterday that you have to consider a class of problems to make a distinction between computational and non-computational processes. Is it the case that the class must be aleph 1?"

"No, that is not necessary. You see, I understand the argument about computability is always within the bounds of countable infinity. When you consider only the countable infinity, within that there is a special class of recursive functions....that is computable..."

That was as far as we got when we came to the porter, and Penrose returned the key. We got on the car. 

Adar began to ask if he could use Penrose tiling for his home. 

We parked the car in front of the Kenneth Craik building, and we walked up to Horace Barlow laboratory. I asked Penrose if he knew Horace Barlow before last night, and he answered that he has actually known Horace for a long time. 

Adar took Penrose into his office, to settle the travel fare compensation, etc. Penrose asked for a copy of Shadows of the Mind, and began to prepare for the talk. I went to my mac and checked the mails. Some minutes later, I went up to him and gave him a non-periodic tiling handkerchief that I got when I was in Riken from the quasi-crystal laboratory. Penrose was delighted. The tiling had hexagonal symmetry, with two elementary pieces, it was not Penrose tiling, which has pentagonal symmetry. He said it was by a man named Amal?? and was fascinated by the handkerchief. He went on to say that some people confuse tiling by other people with Penrose tiling. In fact, "Penrose tiling" was sometimes used as a generic name for the whole class of non-periodic tiling. He asked me if I could really spare it, and he was genuinely glad to have the handkerchief. He said Amal? was an unlucky man, already deceased, who never had any real job. Then he bubbled on about non-periodic tiling with 12-fold symmetry, etc. It was a topic he loved.

Adar and Penrose went to the tea room. I joined them with my own coffee cup with the photos of Hara Setsuko on it. When I walked in, I found Graeme Mitchison already sitting in front of Penrose! Horace Barlow was there. A few minutes later, Andrew Huxley (who formulated the so-called Hodgkin-Huxley equation which describes the action potential in neurons and was awarded Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine) walked in, and Horace stood up and introduced Penrose to Huxley. Huxley is some 10 years senior to Penrose. Later, Adar told me that Huxley did not know Penrose, and said "you are the son of ??? Penrose, aren't you?" Huxley only recognized him as the son of his father. There was some humour in it, when you consider two men of age 66 and 76 talking to each other like that!

Graeme Mitchison was still talking about how to demonstrate your intellectual superiority when you travel back to ancient Greek! I talked with Horace about his forthcoming trip to Australia.

The lecture began at 1:00. Most of the stuff I knew very well from reading Emperor and Shadows twice each, so I just paid attention to Roger Penrose himself. He used two projectors. He began the lecture with the transparency of three spheres figure showing the relation between the physical, mental, and platonic worlds. I thought to myself maybe that was the figure which would represent 100 years from now the whole philosophy of Roger Penrose. Then he went on to argue about the non-computational nature of our intelligence. "Intelligence" needs "Understanding" needs "Awareness". All the transparencies were hand-written with colour pens. I found out that actually he was very fond of colors. Earlier, Penrose gave a direction to Adar Pelah in which color he should paint the three spheres representing the three worlds in the poster announcing his talk. For some unknown reason, Penrose thinks that the colours of the physical, mental, and platonic worlds are blue, red, yellow, respectively. I actually asked Penrose why he chose these particular colors as we walked up to the Barlow laboratory. He had no idea!

After the lecture, there were three mediocre questions. Adar had to cut it short, as Penrose had already talked for 70 minutes, whereas he was supposed to stop after one hour.

We went to the reception room. There I found Srimant and Adam. Adam is a earnest part II student who is doing some project with Srimant. Adam asked me what he should read to study computational neuroscience, and I suggested the book by Sejnowski. Penrose was surrounded by several eager youths. 

Horace told me that he liked the lecture, and said it is possible that Penrose was right. He said Penrose was an awfully clever and charming fellow. But, for himself, "he is happy to live with the conventional classical physics". 

Penrose wanted to catch the 3:00 p.m. bus to Oxford, so I and Adar whisked him out of the reception. As we went down the stairs, Graeme Mitchison catches Penrose. "Roger, you should come to my dinner party. I have these wonderful dinner parties". 

As we walked to the car, I asked Penrose the most important question.

"I think you would rather think that the quantum reduction process is deterministic."

"Yes, that is right. Although there is some complication about the influence of the environment, which makes the dynamics random." 

"If you have an isolated system, and the system reduces itself on its own, that reduction would be deterministic, wouldn't it?"

"Yes. I cannot say I am certain. But I would rather prefer it to be that way."

10 minutes later we saw Penrose off at the bus station. As we were standing in the queue, Penrose suddenly turned back to me and said if I had any question to ask him, I was welcome. I thanked him and just then the driver was ready to sell him a ticket. I noticed that the weather was getting mild.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Shift of mood in the saga of Japan's coping with the coronavirus.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, countries all over the globe have taken stringent measures. Japan has been one of the rare exceptions, where even a partial lockdown has not been taken.

Things have started to change a bit in the run-up to this weekend. On Friday, Ms. Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo spoke at a press conference and suggested that people refrain from going out unless necessary. The wordings and the regulations behind were not so draconian as in other parts of the world, but the Japanese people took the message. In a characteristically obedient response, there were very few people in the central districts of Tokyo on Saturday, with many shops and restaurant closed or operating under reduced staff and opening hours. 

The reaction to the coronavirus outbreak has been varied across countries, and it is interesting to observe how the dramatic development is being played out here in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan. I am of course very much concerned with health and safety. At the same time, I would be actively interested in how Japan copes with this difficulty in her own way, as somebody born and grown up in this country.

Related video:

Atmosphere in Tokyo under potentially imminent lockdown.