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Transforming the Paradigm of Physics through Integration across Realms of Particles and the Universe

Institute for Advanced Theoretical and Experimental Physics (Science and Technology Research Initiative)

Kohei Yorita, Professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering
Director of Institute for Advanced Theoretical and Experimental Physics

Commentary: Waseda Research Institute for Science and Engineering, University Research Initiative
Waseda University established Vision 150 to meet a variety of objectives for the 150th anniversary of its founding (in 2032), with 13 core strategies in development. One of the core strategies that have been laid out is the "promotion of original research and enhancement of the ability to deliver this internationally." In order to drive this core strategy forward in the field of science and technology, seven research initiatives for responding to social challenges were newly established with the Waseda Research Institute for Science and Engineering (WISE) at its core. A research institute will be established for each initiative in April 2018 with the aim to pursue first-class global research. In order to pursue interdisciplinary research and to strengthen international research in each field of focus, this group of research institutes, called the cluster institutes, will work cooperatively. There is also a plan to launch the "Waseda Earth Restoration School" (WERS) as a place where visions of future research can be formulated.

The seven cluster institutes established for each research initiative

Celebratory symposium for the establishment of the research initiatives, where research representatives and members of the seven initiatives gathered (December 22, 2017)

The Institute for Advanced Theoretical and Experimental Physics was launched in April 2018 to advance one of our seven research initiatives. We asked Professor Kohei Yorita from the Faculty of Science and Engineering to talk about the aspirations and vision for the institute under his leadership.

Discovery of the Higgs boson as a milestone

A century after the dawn of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, fundamental physics is about to experience another major transformation. In the 1970s, the Standard Model was established to provide an overview of the world of particle physics. Ever since then, there has been a series of discoveries of new particles that offer corroborative evidence for the model. Finally, in 2012, the Higgs boson was discovered as the last remaining piece of the puzzle in the Standard Model. That discovery, commended the following year with the Nobel Prize in Physics, almost completed the comprehensive map of modern physics explored both through theoretical inquiry and experiments conducted by physicists over the last century. It also prompted new quests in elementary theories and their empirical validation to resolve some paradoxes left unresolved by that model.

The discovery of the Higgs boson involves significant contributions from Japanese research teams, including the laboratory led by Professor Yorita. Immediately after the decision on the awarding of the Nobel Prize for the discovery, a large audience gathered at the memorial lecture meeting hosted by Waseda. The speakers included Professor Tomio Kobayashi from the University of Tokyo, Professor Ryuichiro Kitano from the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), and Professor Yorita. (Masaru Ibuka Memorial Hall, October 27, 2013)

“Our institute aligns theoretical and experimental studies, and encourages inter-disciplinary research across the realms of particles, the universe, quanta and atoms. In this way, we aspire to lead the world with new discoveries and theories. To date, these highly specialized disciplines have been completely disassociated. Inter-disciplinary validation and discussion have almost been non-existent, even when new particles were discovered. Further development of fundamental physics can be boosted by integrating knowledge and know-how cultivated in respective disciplines. The inter-disciplinary approach is vital for leading the international competition in research.” (Prof. Yorita)

The institute brings together 11 faculty members of fundamental physics from the School of Advanced Science and Engineering. These researchers have already produced tangible outcomes, and they are at the forefront in the world in all of the realms of particles, the universe, quanta and atoms. The initial research policy is to bridge the most disassociated realms of particles and the universe in order to look for opportunities to integrate all disciplines (Figure 1). The hunger for knowledge among researchers will be unleashed in the pursuit of new discoveries. Their leading technologies for observations and analyses will be spun off to industry and medicine.

Figure 1 Goals of the Institute for Advanced Theoretical and Experimental Physics

The laboratory team led by Professor Yorita had been conducting experiments involving particles with the world’s largest Large Hadron Collider (LHC) built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. They produced outcomes that would lead to the discovery of the Higgs boson. In terms of theories concerning particles and quanta, continued pursuit of superstring theories and other ultimate laws of physics is led by, for instance, Professors Hiromichi Nakazato and Hiroyuki Abe. Professor Shoji Torii is working with JAXA on the space experiment using their original CALorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET). Professor Jun Kataoka has also produced remarkable outcomes, such as the discovery of particle clouds emitting gamma rays by using the Fermi Space Telescope. He went on to lead a joint project with NASA, which employs a gamma-ray observation satellite, and another project with JAXA that employs an X-ray observation satellite. More leading researchers in respective disciplines will build closer partnerships.

Aligning experiments conducted with accelerators, underground and in space

“Our members are all driven by the quest for new discoveries. There are no other tribes that are more keenly conscious of and hungry for new discoveries as fundamental physicists! The discovery of the Higgs boson posed us with the question—what and where are the new discoveries to be made in the new era? We must put our heads together in order to find an answer.” (Prof. Yorita)

The key is held by particle experiments with the LHC that made it possible to observe the Higgs boson. The world is paying close attention to what they will unravel next. In 2010, Team Waseda seized the unique opportunity to join the exclusive group of leading research teams to conduct experiments with the LHC. Obviously, a discovery to offer a new paradigm is not that easy to make in the midst of ongoing transformation. One of the targets of the institute is to unravel the mysteries of dark matter that fill our universe by combining three types of experiments (Figure 2).

“We have improved our techniques in acquiring and analyzing data from experiments with the LHC. The resulting superior statistics hold great promise for a new discovery. Meanwhile, we will develop a highly sensitive detector to directly capture dark matter. We plan to evaluate the sensitivity through underground experiments in Kamioka Observatory. Experiments with CALET will be continued at the International Space Station (ISS) to gain the latest findings on sources of cosmic ray acceleration and dark matter. Waseda will take an original approach in the quest for dark matter by comparing the findings from three types of experiments conducted independently—namely, the creation of dark matter with an accelerator, direct underground search and indirect search with a satellite.” (Prof. Yorita)

Figure 2 Unraveling of dark matter by integrating three methods

Such inter-disciplinary research is no easy task. Indeed, it is a huge undertaking to complete any one of these major experiments in respective realms. Almost no research team in the world concurrently carries out the three types of experiments. The Waseda team is pioneering what was once-unthinkable (Prof. Yorita). Going beyond dark matter, the team aims to discover supersymmetry, extra dimensions, and other completely new physical phenomenon unexplained by the Standard Model. The endeavor is also supported by theoretical physicists. The inter-disciplinary approach offers opportunities for new discoveries based on unconventional hypotheses. The cross-verification is also expected to enhance a high degree of reliability and validity of research.

Waseda’s tradition in physics and further challenges

In Japan, major hubs of research on particles and the universe are predominantly formed by national universities and research institutes. Examples include the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK). Waseda University cuts a brilliant figure as a private university that ranks among them.

“In bygone years at Waseda University, the late Professor Mikio Namiki, a theoretical physicist, led Japan in particle and quantum theories. He stressed the importance of mathematics and fundamental physics in science and engineering. Active roles were played by the late Professor Tadayoshi Doke, the foremost authority of radiation detectors for particle experiments in space, and more recently, by Professor Keiichi Maeda in cosmology. Over time, such leading researchers attracted brilliant junior researchers.” (Prof. Yorita)

Unfortunately, our faculty members have been fighting lone battles without forging any partnerships. At national universities, a project team is often formed by more than one faculty member specialized in the same field, as they traditionally used to be organized according to courses. Such a practice is foreign at Waseda.

“The hitherto isolation of faculty members can be translated into strong drive toward partnerships. They had been too busy to forge partnerships despite their desire to do so. The establishment of our institute offers an excellent opportunity. The predominance of younger faculty members in their 40s can prove a great strength, and perhaps will shape our unique approach.” (Prof. Yorita)

The institute also appointed two full-time researchers. One of them, Sachio Komamiya (former professor and director of the International Center for Elementary Particle Physics at the University of Tokyo), was invited as a senior researcher after playing active roles in the front lines of Japan’s particle experiments with the LHC. He is expected to propel Waseda’s inter-disciplinary research with his advanced knowledge and international network.

Team Waseda’s other strength is the opportunity we provide for young researchers, including graduate students, to be actively involved in international research. A new discovery in fundamental physics requires a huge undertaking pursued over a decade or even two. The Institute for Advanced Theoretical and Experimental Physics propelled by such youthful energy holds promise as their involvement in our ongoing effort toward paradigm transition will prepare them to lead in what lies beyond.