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時代は物理学から化学へ(?) From the Age of Physics to the Age of Chemistry?

posted Aug 22, 2013, 5:54 PM by 内山友江   [ updated Aug 26, 2013, 6:17 PM ]

From the Age of Physics to the Age of Chemistry?

Shinji Murai*

Professor Emeritus of Osaka University and Nara Institute of Science and Technology

There is currently a shift underway from a physics-centered orientation to more of a chemistry mode. Those of us who have been engaged in chemical research for many years are quick to seize on anything complimentary that is said about chemistry. In recent years, several people have written about the differences between physics and chemistry (see References). I would like to explore this topic.

 Based on research into physical phenomena, Japanese industry has scored major successes in electronics and other fields. According to recent statistics, however, there is a greater rate of growth in added value in the chemical industry than in the electronics industry. Functional chemical materials have been the key to recent innovations in not only electronics and chemistry but various other industries as well.

 For example, consider displays for TVs and other applications. Cathode-ray tubes that are illuminated by irradiating a fluorescent substance with electron beams have long since disappeared, and liquid crystal displays — which were once thought to have no potential for use — are now on top of the world. But even these are gradually being replaced by organic electroluminescence (EL), an advanced self-luminous chemical material.

 Or take automobiles. These mechanical devices are the crown jewels of classical mechanics. But these days almost all of the components in an automobile are actually chemical products. Of course, however, the control system consists entirely of electronics. The shift to chemistry will become even more pronounced in next-generation automobiles. In 2015, Japan and other countries will begin marketing fuel cell vehicles that use hydrogen as a fuel source. In both these fuel cell automobiles and battery-driven electric automobiles, drivers will make direct use of chemical phenomena. The high hopes for chemistry's potential can also be seen in the current shale gas and shale oil revolution, as well as in the environmentally friendly industries and industries that use heretofore untapped natural resources, which will become increasingly important in the future.

 The profits of 20th century industry were based on physics. In the 21st century, industrial profits will come from both chemistry and physics. In the new age, it is the companies that shift their center of gravity from physics to chemistry that will survive and prosper.

 There is an interesting school of thought that considers the differences between physics and chemistry as academic disciplines. According to this view, the current age requires a shift from a "physics methodology" to a "chemistry methodology." Physics does not concern itself with individual phenomena but rather has sought to identify universal principles that are present in all things. This enables physics to predict the point at which an object will fall if you throw it, as well as the distance and speed at which it will travel. By contrast, chemistry has concerned itself with individual phenomena and the existence of a diversity that is made up of innumerable individual phenomena. Furthermore, it has attempted to identify the numerical diversity of the combinations between a specific issue and other issues. Thus it deals with problems that are both diverse and complex. If you throw an object, it wants to know whether it was rock or sand, or flour or powder snow, and whether or not the wind was blowing and whether it was raining.

 Present-day issues such as climate change, biodiversity, the food supply and the energy industry are often complex and difficult to predict. To deal with such complex issues, the methodology of chemistry, which has not shirked from considering extremely complex and diverse problems, will be more and more valuable from this point on.

In addition, I have noticed that chemistry people tend to respect physics. If they need to, they study the areas of physics (even if it is only a small area) that they need to learn. And so they learn to understand and get the hang of it. But physics people, by and large, seem to dislike chemistry. Even if they study a bit of chemistry, they do not seem to be able to understand it well. Imprinting that results from rote repetition of simple operations will not be easily changed. Physics people tend to avoid issues that involve diversity.

But it’s good that Kawata Photonics Center- has a hybrid sense of both chemistry & physics. It is hoped that the center will go further to multi-sciences. 

* General Manager, IWATANI R&D Center / Professor, NARA INSTITUTE of SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY/ Principal fellow, Department of Innovation, JST (Kansai Liaison Office).


 Hiroyuki Itami "Nihon no Sangyo no Kagakuka (The 'Chemicalization' of Japanese Industry)" Kagaku to Kogyou (Chemistry and Chemical Industry) 111, pg. 62 (February 2009).

Yoshikawa, Hiroyuki "Kagaku Teikoku-syugi? (Chemical Imperialism?)" Kagaku (Chemistry) 11, 2011, pg. 65.

 Kikkawa, Takeo "Nihon no Kagaku Sangyo ga Sekai wo Oinuku Michisuji (How Japan's chemical industry can overtake the world)" Kagaku to Kogyou (Chemistry and Chemical Industry) 515, 2011, pg. 64.

 Kikkawa, Takeo and Hirano, So "Kagaku Sangyo no Jidai – Nihon wa Naze Sekai wo Oinukerunoka (Era of chemical industry: How Japan's chemical industry can overtake the world)" The Chemical Daily Co., Ltd. (2011).

 Itami, Hiroyuki "Nihon Kigyo wa Nande Kutte Ikunoka (How will Japanese companies make a living?)" Nikkei Inc. (2013).










 学問としての物理学と化学について興味ある見方がある。時代が求めるのは「物理学の方法論」から「化学の方法論」へという視点である。物理学は個々の事柄にはこだわらず、その中を貫く普遍的な原理を求めてきた。その結果、物を投げれば落下点や距離や速度は予想できる。一方化学は、個々の事柄にこだわり、個別的存在が限りなく多いという多様性を扱ってきた。さらに個別的問題と別の個別的問題との関係という組み合わせ数的な多様性に挑戦してきた。多様で複雑な問題を扱ってきた。物を投げる? 石か砂か、小麦粉か、粉雪か、風は吹いているのか、雨は?








「日本の産業の化学化」 伊丹敬之 化学と工業2月号 111622009

「化学帝国主義?」 吉川弘之 化学11652011

「日本の化学産業が世界を追抜く道筋」 橘川武朗 化学と工業 515642011

「化学産業の時代―日本はなぜ世界を追い抜けるのか」橘川武朗、平野創 化学工業日報社(2011

「日本企業はなんで食っていくのか」 伊丹敬之 日本経済新聞社(2013