Apr 03, 2021
[Column] Bringing the Perspective of Science into Everyday Life
Monthly column in Asahi Newspaper Hokkaido version
April 3, 2021. Noyuri Mima
A friend of mine in Hakodate recently received the Chemical Communication Award from a foundation called the Japan Chemical Union.
The award is given to individuals or groups that have contributed to deepening society’s understanding of chemistry through public awareness activities. This foundation is an organization consisting of several academic societies related to chemistry, including the Chemical Society of Japan and the Catalysis Society of Japan.
Chemistry is one of the fields that support Japan’s science and technology, with eight Nobel laureates and many companies involved.
Until now, most of the activities to convey the fascination of science, not only in chemistry, have been conducted by men in lab coats using splendid equipment to show the mysterious phenomena and explaining them by making full use of storytelling.
What is unique about this year’s winner is that she proposes experiments that can be reproduced at home, telling women who are uncomfortable with chemical reactions that “you can do it too” and “you don’t need expensive laboratory equipment; you can show this experiment to your children and family with things you have at the 100 yen store or in your kitchen.
She uses chemical reactions as a gateway to help children realize that chemistry is closely related to their daily lives, such as cooking and cleaning. Her activities have expanded to include staff training at school-age childcare facilities, schools for the disabled, and children’s centers.
Another friend of mine runs a kitchen science workshop called Color Magic Cake, mainly in the Tokyo area. You probably remember from your elementary school experiments that colors change when acids and alkalis react.
First, make a cake batter and divide it into three portions. Add lemon juice to one, dark purple blueberry jam to the other, and mix well. The last one is left as is. Now, if you want to know the answer to what color each one will turn, try it. You will have a delicious tri-color cake.
In this workshop, while waiting for the cake to bake, participants will also experiment with the color changes. Her another program has DNA extraction from chicken and vegetables, where she will talk about the role of DNA and the latest research.
Their programs are also very popular at the Hakodate International Science Festival. What they all have in common is science in our daily lives. They look at the little changes in daily lives, wonder why, and act to find out. These women are the “catalysts” that reawaken the curiosity that we used to have in our childhood.
While we are still refraining from going out, why don’t we find some wonders at home and experiment to find out?