Interactions between science and technology : the example of Japan
Hiroyuki Sakaki (Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo)

Jeudi 18 mai 2006

Being located close to China, one of the four cradles of ancient civilizations, Japan had a fortune of receiving rich cultural and technological stimulations from outside, while keeping her independence and cultural identity for about 2,000 years. Even when Japan had her door closed to the west for 250 years till the late 19th century, writers, artists, ruling samurais, and other professionals succeeded in achieving one of the highest literacy rates and in developing unique traditions, including the superb craftsmanship in fabrics, potteries, and woodblock printings, although activities in natural science stagnated (except in mathematics).

As a result, when Japan opened the door again and began to set up her national (imperial) university system, school of science and that of engineering were born almost as twins with equal footings, unlike traditional European universities, where two schools have separate historic roots. It may be one of the reasons that science and engineering communities have established relatively good communications in Japan.

In the first part of my seminar, I wish to describe a few specific examples in Japan, where advances in technology have contributed a great deal to the progress of basic sciences, including the “Kamiokande” facility for neutrino physics, the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea and the electron holographic microscope study of Dr A. Tonomura at Hitachi.

In the latter half of my talk, I discuss some examples, where basic science studies and/or exploratory investigations in the forefront of science and technology have brought forth a number of breakthroughs with significant technological impacts. In particular, we describe and examine works on a variety of semiconductor nanostructures, including Leo Esaki’s tunnel diodes and superlattices and recent works on quantum dots and wires.