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Noyori Academy Salon: Sense of Wonder

  • 2015/01/08
  • presented by Institute for Advanced Research

University Professor Ryoji Noyori, President of RIKEN and a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (2001), has contributed numerous articles to "Kamitsubute" in Chunichi Shimbun since January 2013. Based on the articles, he holds regular academic talks with students at Nagoya University. At the Eleventh Noyori Academy Salon, held on November 28, 2014, Prof. Noyori and five students from different backgrounds openly discussed the topic of "Sense of Wonder." Prof. Noyori explained in the "Kamitsubute" that every child is born with the curiosity of a scientist; however, it is uncertain whether they will retain their "sense of wonder" when they become adults. He pointed out that this original "sense of wonder" may be fading as people of today have set a high priority on efficiency in their lifestyle.

Demands for an Efficient Life Dull the Sense of Wonder

Ayami Watanabe, a first-year student at the Graduate School of Letters

When I read a fairy tales, I feel it is a world that exists inside the human mind. Is this the same sense as the "sense of wonder" you are referring to?

Prof. Noyori

Literature is generally created by adults. People are natural-born scientists with the open and questioning minds. Have you ever thought: Why is it raining?, Why is the sky blue? Why are the clouds white? Instinctively, all children ask such questions, and then their minds are awoken for making the journey of expanding their curiosity and the quest for knowledge.

Zhang Pingcheng, a visiting research scholar at the School of Education

I found that relationships between mentor teachers and students at research laboratories in Japanese universities have still had the strong traditional ties like relationships between "Shisho (master)" and "Deshi (pupil)".

Prof. Noyori

University mentors are evaluated and appreciated based on how they play a vital role in their contribution to the growth in their pupils. I myself have been appraised with great works. This is because I have been meeting brilliant mentors and being educated by them since I was a child.

Akira Terashima, a senior at the School of Science

Today, children are surrounded by television and video games. What is the best way to keep them in contact with nature?

Prof. Noyori

I wrote an answer to that question in Kamitsubute. Because civilized human beings are still members of animals, maintaining a relationship with nature is very essential. Some ways to retain this association are gardening, rice planting, fishing or carpentry. If we do not maintain an association with the natural world, we cannot live an abundant life.

Tsubasa Tsunezumi, a sophomore at the School of Agricultural Sciences

When Prof. Noyori was a small child, people lived much closer to the natural environment. Today, I believe some people may not have strong feelings for nature. What is the difference between these two types of people?

Prof. Noyori

I have lived confronting and adapting to the natural environment. In any situation we have a variety of options but can only select one. I have been guided by certain choices and now I am here by working hard and doing my best. You have to decide which way to go by yourself.

Park Gue Bae, a junior at the School of Engineering

In the past people learned from nature. I think that people today are inspired in the same way by cars. For example, they may want to produce better cars that can also be the expression of their curiosity.

Prof. Noyori

Indeed. Science is the study of nature. New technology is based on such knowledge, which is then returned to society and benefits everyone.

Original article published in Chunichi Shimbun on November 29, 2014.


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