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Japan science society lures online readers with column on physics applied to virus fight

A screen capture of The Japan Society of Applied Physics webpage for the online column on using physics for coronavirus measures.

TOKYO -- An online column on using physics for novel coronavirus countermeasures run by The Japan Society of Applied Physics (JSAP) has become a hit with readers, despite its discussion of highly technical details about the virus and the pandemic, garnering some 10,000 pageviews since its July launch.

    Applied physics is the study of technological development using physical theories. When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, physics is the foundation for the now well-known polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and the electron microscopes that captured the virus's appearance.

    Other examples include non-contact thermometers used at event venues and elsewhere that use infrared sensors to measure heat emissions from the body's surface. Thermo-fluid analysis -- in which a space is divided into grids to measure factors such as temperature, air pressure and air flow -- is used to project how droplets are diffused.

    The JSAP started the column on its website in early July as a way for people to learn about the background of how these technologies were developed, as well as to provide information about physical laws related to coronavirus measures. The 25 installments published so far have both a condensed version written at a high school science level, and a main version for those who want to dig deeper. The society has formed an editorial committee for the column, and checks every entry for factual errors.

    JSAP president Mutsuko Hatano, a professor of quantum sensing at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, noted that Isaac Newton discovered universal gravitation in the 17th century when he was spending time in his hometown after his university in London closed down due to the plague.

    "We too wanted to use this time when we're asked to refrain from various types of activities as an opportunity for the future. We hope that our column serves as a motivator for those who aspire to study physics," she commented.

    (Japanese original by Ryo Watanabe, Science & Environment News Department)

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