JSPS awards for eminent scientists

April 20, 2005

Report on Activities to JSPS and the University of Hokkaido
transmitted by Professor Masayuki Y. Fujimoto, Faculty of Science
University of Hokkaido
Sapporo, Hokkaido

Dear Gentlemen,

The purpose of this letter is to summarize the activities in which I was engaged during my visit last year to the University of Hokkaido as a JSPS Visiting Eminent Scholar.

During the past four years, my primary research goals in association with Hokkaido University have been (1) to prepare a state of the art stellar evolution code which is capable of following the evolution of stars through carbon burning phases with an arbitrary number of nuclear species and (2) to write a book on stellar evolution. Work on the stellar evolution code began four years ago during a three month visit to Hokkaido University, inspired by the possibility of contributing to the innovative research by Professor Masayuki Fujimoto and his students on the evolution of Population III stars, stars formed at the very beginning of the Universe. This focus has continued at Illinois and during my four-month visits to Hokkaido University in 2003 and 2004 as a JSPS Visiting Eminent Scholar.

Work on the code culminated last fall, during my second four month visit to Hokkaido University as a JSPS Visiting Scholar, with the successful completion of a working code which solves simultaneously both the stellar structure equations and the nuclear reaction equations in a fully implicit way for up to fifty isotopes ranging from neutrons to magnesium. The number of isotopes followed can be extended in a straightforward manner. In the process of revising the code, I have attempted to make it very "user friendly" by inserting a running commentary which describes all aspects of the calculational procedures. Hopefully, the code will be useful for future generations of astrophysicists, including those in Professor Fujimoto’s group.

Progress on the second project, the writing of a book on stellar evolution, has been slow but steady. About a dozen chapters have been completed or nearly completed. Most of these deal with the physical processes that take place in stellar interiors and on the techniques and algorithms necessary for doing evolutionary calculations. I have purposely delayed writing about the detailed results of evolutionary calculations until having completed the new evolutionary code with which I intend to construct an entirely new set of models with up-to-date input physics. Dr. Takuma Suda of Hokkaido University has been particularly helpful in preparing and sharing a program to calculate opacities from tables supplied by the opacity group at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory operated by the University of California at Berkeley. At the beginning of my last trip to Japan, I spent several days at the Livermore Laboratory discussing opacity calculations and the construction of opacity tables with Drs. Carlos Iglesias and John Castor.

The scientific environment at Hokkaido University has been a great stimulus for me and the cultural environment offered by Hokkaido University, Sapporo, and other parts of Japan which we visited have given my wife Miriam and me a great deal of pleasure and a treasure of fond memories. We are exceedingly grateful to the JSPS and Professor Fujimoto for making this experience possible.

Many of the activities in which we participated in visits prior to our last visit have already been communicated by Professor Fujimoto. Therefore, I will focus the discussion in this report primarily on last year’s activities.

On August 3, 2004, I gave a public lecture to high school students on the general subject of stellar evolution. The objective was to help the audience understand that astrophysicists can describe the evolutionary stage and interior properties of familiar stars such as the Sun, Sirius, Achernar, Betelgeuse, Capella, and so on, adding depth to their appreciation of the beauty of the night sky. After the talk, a gentleman came up to me and announced that he had come to hear me because I came from Illinois where his son had gone to college. Small world!

During the week of August 31, we visited Professor Daiichiro Sugimoto at the University of the Air in Chiba City and learned of the very important outreach activities of the University of the Air and of the contribution of various universities in Japan, including Hokkaido University, to these activities. Professor Sugimoto showed us the priceless collection of scientific works housed in the University of the Air Museum, including Newton’s Principia, as well as the wonderful collection of Hiroshige prints and an illustrated collection of Japanese Fairy Tales for children and their English translations. The following day, we were treated by Professor Sugimoto and his wife Kaoru to dinner and a Japanese Tea Ceremony. We next traveled to Tokyo and spent a delightful morning at the National Museum of Modern Art where we viewed an exhibit of Rimpa Art and an excellent Museum Education Program for children visiting the Tokyo NMMA. Later in our visit, Professor Fujimoto guided us to the Tokyo Central Book Store where we were able to purchase for our grandchildren some of the illustrated translations of the Japanese fairy tales for children which we had viewed at the University of the Air.

Following the visit to Tokyo, we traveled to the Japan Alps National Park for the purpose of visiting the Kamioka Observatory, Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, University of Tokyo, where (a) the detection of neutrinos from Supernova 1987a demonstrated incontrovertibly that most of the energy emitted from the collapsing core of a type II supernova is in the form of neutrinos of energy equal to the binding energy of a neutron star and where (b) the quantitative measurement of the neutrino flux from the Sun demonstrated that neutrinos have mass, small though it is relative to the mass of the electron. It is the central role that this observatory has played in elucidating the role of neutrinos in astrophysical phenomena that made this visit, for me, of the very highest importance. The visit was made even more memorable by the participation of Professor Kenzo Ishikawa of Hokkaido University, who shared with us his deep understanding of the physics involved and helped us to understand the workings of the neutrino detector housed at the Research Center for Neutrino Science, operated by the Graduate School of Science, Tohoku University, Kamland. It was a great honor to visit with Professor Yoichiro Suzuki, the director of the Super Kamiokande facility operated by the University of Tokyo, and to learn of the history of the neutrino experiments conducted at the facility. At the conclusion of our trip to the Alps we visited the historic village of Shirakawa.

A two day workshop (September 30-October 1) organized by Professor Fujimoto brought together the discoverers of the most metal-deficient stars known (Professor Norbert Christlieb and his coworkers from the University of Hamburg) and the proponents of the two leading theoretical scenarios for describing the unusual compositions exhibited by these stars (Professor Fujimoto and his collaborators and collaborators of Professor Kenichi Nomoto of the University of Tokyo). This meeting was among the many high points I experienced in the very stimulating environment provided by Professor Fujimoto, his colleagues, and his students at the University of Hokkaido.

On October 18, I delivered a lecture to graduate students concerning the evolution of stars, focusing on the results of detailed, quantitative calculations of stellar evolutionary models. The students responded with good questions and we enjoyed instructive interchanges. Much of the month of October was devoted to writing with Professor Fujimoto a chapter on "The Evolution of Nova-Producing Binary Stars" for a book entitled "Cataclysmic Variables" edited by M. F. Bode and A. Evans.

During our visit, Miriam and I continued to explore the cultural and physical environment of Japan, taking very seriously one of the primary objectives of the JSPS, which is to foster understanding between peoples of different cultures and backgrounds. On this visit, we made trips to Furano (lavender festival), Ebetsu (Hokkaido glass and pottery festival), Kushiro (National Wetlands Reserve), the Lakes Region (Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashu in Akan National Park), Shiretoko National Park, the Salmon Run at Shari, and the Asahikawa Potters and Fabric Design Studios. We made numerous visits to the Sapporo Museum of Modern Art (which, among other exhibits, featured a very fine Picasso exhibit) and the Sapporo Outdoor Sculpture Museum which featured five sculptures on loan from Norway, the first ever to be sent abroad by Norway. We made weekly visits to the Viking dining facility in the Daimaru Store where, apart from enjoying the fabulous cuisine, we discovered in another part of the store the fantastic, allegorical paintings of Seiji Fujishiro.

A volume of Fujishiro’s paintings now occupies an honored place in Miriam’s den.

A flood of memories has been awakened by the occasion of writing this report. The earthquake occurring on our visit two years ago is the largest we have experienced. The 16th typhoon occurring last year was awesome, and, although we were very saddened to see the destruction of the magnificent century and a half year old trees on the Hokkaido University campus, we recognized that this is a phenomenon that does occur once every century or so and plays a role in the evolution of our planet. Geological events of such a magnitude are not common in Illinois on such a short timescale! However, we have had our inland seas, our ice ages, and New Madrid earthquakes that alter the course of the mighty Mississippi river.

More memories from two years ago: Wakkanai — peace monuments constructed cooperatively by Japanese and Americans who had fought each other in World War II; Otaru and its glass works; Hakodate, the former capitol of Hokkaido and the place where the Shogunates made their last stand; Tenmondai in Tokyo — a stimulating meeting and a delightful visit and dinner with its division chair Hiroyasu Ando, a classmate of Professor Fujimoto; a visit to the Institute for Low Temperature Physics at Hokkaido University where we learned about the purpose of collecting ice cores from glaciers around the world; the famous ice and snow studies at Hokkaido University by Professor Ukichi Nakaya, who was the first in the world to construct artificial snow crystals, and, just this last year, participation in a Tea Ceremony conducted by the fiancee of Dr. Takuma Suda and the wife of a student of Professor Kiyoshi Kato.

Miriam and I express our heartfelt thanks to Professor Fujimoto and to his wife, Takako, for their tremendous contribution to our enjoyment of life in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and Japan and for helping us plan our trips in Japan. A special thanks to Takako and her mother, Sumie, who celebrated Miriam’s birthday with a gift of a traditional ceremonial doll, and who shared with her the enjoyment of concerts, of textiles, and of flower arrangements (particularly by the Ikebana Ikenobo Society of Flower Arrangement).

We very much look forward to a visit to Illinois this Fall by Professor Fujimoto. If all goes well, we will initiate the detailed study of the evolution of Population III stars with the new program which has taken four long years to construct. Many, many thanks to the JSPS for its massive support.

Sincerely yours,

Icko Iben, Jr.
Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Physics
University of Illinois, USA