A second look at Kasoku Kids

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Back around September, I saw the announcement on the Gakken Facebook page for the release of the first volume of the Kasoku Kids (Accelerator Kids) manga. I wrote a little about it in a short review. It’s an official comic sponsored by the Japanese KEK accelerator project, and is intended to inform Japanese school children of work currently ongoing at KEK, as well as to teach them the fundamentals of particle physics. I bought my copy right after it hit the shelves, with the intent of getting back up to speed on college-level physics as simple self-study. I figured that getting an illustrated Japanese comic would also help me with my Japanese studies. My plan was to just type up the dialog and narration into NJStar, and go from there.

(Screen cap of NJStar.)

Windows supports Japanese character sets, and uses IME for entry of both Japanese and Chinese kanji. However, this is only useful if you know the pronunciations of each kanji. If you don’t, you need to look them up in a separate dictionary based on the stroke counts and then just wade through all of the kanji with the same stroke counts and sub-components (usually referred to as “radicals” in English) for the one you want. It’s very time-consuming and occasionally frustrating. Then, when you know the pronunciation, you can type that into IME and wade through another bunch of kanji that have the same sounds to try to find the one you want again. There’s a reason why I don’t do that.

(NJStar, with the pop-up dictionary turned on.)

NJStar is the work of a professor living in Australia, designed to make Chinese, Korean and Japanese wordprocessing easier. It has several features I really like, including kanji look-up based on radicals or pronunciation, and a pop-up dictionary that gives short definitions of each word match it can make, starting with the longest-matchable word down to the individual starting kanji. This makes translation a lot easier if the document is in electronic text-readable form, such as when copied from a Word or PDF file.

(Trying to find a kanji given its radicals.)

The problem is when the document isn’t electronic text-readable, such as with a paper book, or a flat jpeg image. Then, I have to type it up first, and I hate having to do that. And, guess what – I bought Kasoku Kids as a paperback book, and the online version at the KEK site is flat jpeg images inside an HTML file running some kind of javascript. So, there’s LOTS of typing involved. Some of the more text-heavy chapters can take 3 days to type up 16 pages. But, and this is important, it is forcing me to memorize more kanji pronunciations to avoid having to look them up by radical all the time.

(Entering kanji by typing the romaji spelling.)

The science in Kasoku Kids, volume 1, is mostly overview – no real hard math, with the only exception being a proof of Einstein’s E=mc^2. But there is a lot of terminology, with discussions of the different types of quarks (up, down, top, bottom, strange, etc.), the existence of gluons, an introduction to quantum physics, particles that act like waves, and Schrodinger’s Cat. Some of this stuff I didn’t hear about until I was in university, and now we have a Japanese comic aimed at younger school kids. I don’t think this bodes well for America’s reputation as a leader in math and the sciences.

(The only real math-heavy page in the book.)

I’m not planning on doing a full translation or scanilation, and you can already see the original manga online. But, it’s still taking me weeks to get this far. I finally completed Part 2 (up to page 129) last week, and now I’ll take a break. I’ll tackle part 3 some time later, which will take me to the end at page 208. I was thinking that I’d like to sporadically do the chapters already online before they get the book treatment, but that may not be feasible. Volume 1 contains the first 17 chapters, plus a special on the Higgs-Boson. “Season One” has 5 parts (part 4 is chapters 18-23; 5 is chapters 24-30). Then there’s “Season 2”, which adds another 2 parts of 13 chapters total. My book has 17 chapters, and there’s already 26 chapters waiting to go into volumes 2 and 3. Sigh.

(An example of one of the discussion-heavy pages. This took me a couple hours to just type up the Japanese text part. Note that I’m taking a number of liberties with the translation to make it sound more natural. But, most of the explanation is true to the original text, which may make it “less scientific” than it should be in English.)

I think I’m going to use this as my excuse for why I haven’t done anything further with the Rockit synthesizer.

(This is as much math as we usually get in this book. Prof. Kobayashi is professor emeritus for KEK, and shared the 2008 Nobel prize in Physics with Toshihide Masakawa for their work on CP Violation in the 60’s.)

Actually, I’ve been in the middle of several large projects (all personal projects which don’t pay for any of my other hobbies) and I can only do one at a time. When I finish some paying-work projects, I’ll go back to the synths. I still need to troubleshoot the PAiA Fatman kit, learn how to hack the Rockit, and figure out how to make the Arduino MIDI shield work as a sequencer.

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