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Noyori Academy Salon: Science and Technology

  • 2014/03/11

University Professor Ryoji Noyori, President of RIKEN and a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (2001), has contributed "Kamitsubute" articles to the Chunichi Shimbun since January 2013. Based on the articles, he holds regular academic talks with students at Nagoya University. The fourth Noyori Academy Salon was held on February 28, 2014. Prof. Noyori and four students, with various academic backgrounds, candidly discussed "Science and Technology." He explained the difference between science and technology, and pointed out that people, nowadays, have chosen a convenient lifestyle and evade the looming concerns caused by the advancements in our lives.

Yoshinori Tanabe (junior at the School of Science)

"I believe it is very important for researchers to communicate their ideas. Do you think that it is essential for them to be extremely confident about their convictions even though criticisms would be made to them by others?"

Prof. Noyori

"If they are your convictions, you should stand by them no matter what. Science can change any conventional ideas, and scientific originality is highly appreciated as the most important factor. Nowadays, many things are decided by majority vote, and you might be in a minority at the onset, but science cannot be decided by such methods. I hope researchers put common knowledge behind and be proud of being in a minority."

Cao Daqi (third-year Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Engineering)

"I have been conducting research for more than 5 years. I cannot decide what field of research I should choose. I wonder if I should choose a popular subject."

Prof. Noyori

"It is much easier for you to secure employment if you choose a field believed to be important by many people. On the other hand, if you choose a less popular subject, you may feel isolated but you can enjoy solitude. It is up to you. In the long run, you develop a desire to contribute to the society, even if your initial foray into research is guided by your natural curiosity. It is important to take your goal into consideration."

Akiko Yagi (first-year Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Science)

"I believe science can solve many impending issues, such as the energy crisis. For addressing the issues, however, technology is necessary. Science and technology, which one is more important and which should come first? When I think like this, I feel like I am running in circles."

Prof. Noyori

"Current research and education system cannot tackle the big issues before us. Previously researchers did not collaborate with researchers in other fields; however, current researches toward solving problems are largely conducted in a multi-disciplinary setting. We need to set our own research agenda rather than solve the problems set by our forerunners. Big issues would be solved when researchers in various fields, including chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, and mathematics, work cooperatively. Researchers should acquire broad horizontal knowledge besides vertical subject-specific knowledge."

Hiromasa Araya (second-year Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Engineering)

"At the end of your article, you claim "it is apparent that modern people have problem with their modern sense of value." What value do you mean here?"

Prof. Noyori

"One cannot go back in time. We must keep changing. We will go to ruins if we do not produce anything new. We should know this scientific truth to face our problems."

Original article was published in the Chunichi Shimbun on March 2, 2014.

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