Home > Photon Boy adventure > Vol.04 Global Gallery at the National Museum of Nature and Science

Vol.04 Global Gallery at the National Museum of Nature and Science

Photon Boy, “Totally thrilled by awesome natural mechanisms and science!”

Outside view of National Museum of Nature and Science (Tokyo).

Outside view of National Museum of Nature and Science (Tokyo).
There are lots of exciting exhibits in the Japan Gallery and Global Gallery!

Science includes a wide range of areas from research that looks at the world outside our planet through telescopes capable of finding far away objects, to research on molecules, atoms, and even elementary particles through microscopes and detectors capable of viewing ultra-tiny matter making up the world around us in incredible detail. In the Global Gallery on the 3rd underground floor of the National Museum of Nature and Science, you can see how science seeks to find out how and from what our world of space, matter and life is made through a permanent exhibition titled “Exploring the Structure of Nature.” These studies rely heavily on "Light" as a useful tool for unlocking scientific mysteries. I’m going to show you part of the exhibits. There are a whole lot of fascinating exhibits at the National Museum of Nature and Science, and I felt my curiosity growing more and more as I read the descriptions full of suggestive ideas.

Global Gallery (B3F) at the National Museum of Nature and Science

The “Exploring the Structure of Nature” zone on the 3rd underground floor
of the Global Gallery. Here you can see various kinds of exhibits revealing
the origins of our world. Video descriptions at these locations make the
exhibits easy to understand.

In this corner you get a look at scientists
In this corner you get a look at Japanese Nobel Prize winners in the natural science field and scientists that have made great contributions to expanding the frontiers of science. The exhibits also show the personality and creativity of these great men through their impressive words and research notes.
The “Exploring the Universe” corner describes our solar system
The “Exploring the Universe” corner describes our solar system.
The displayed items include rocks from the moon and meteorites
and lots of other stuff.
The “Exploring the Nanoworld” corner describes sodium chloride (table salt) crystals.
The “Exploring the Nanoworld” corner describes sodium chloride (table salt)
crystals. This is an example that revealed a crystalline structure for the first
time by using X-rays.

How do we decide on the “units” that we use to measure different objects and things?

In the world of science, accurate “measurement” is an absolute basic requirement. In the “Exploring the Laws of Nature” corner you can find out for yourself how science creates standards for measuring things such as length, weight and time.


How have we decided the “units” for measuring things? It seems to relate to historical background.

Here I learned that the “m (meter)” was the first common worldwide unit. At first, the length from the earth’s poles to the equator was measured and 1 ten millionth of that length was set as 1 meter. Currently, 1 meter is determined based on the speed of light for making it even more accurate.

Measuring the temperature probably first started in a German steel mill where temperature management was needed to produce fine quality steel. Research work on heat and energy by Max Planck gave rise to the concept of the “quantum.” This concept brought about a drastic and basic change in how we see the world of nature.

The speed of light was first measured in 1876 and since then various kinds of technology and measuring devices have been tried. In 1983 the speed of light in a vacuum was set at 299,792,458 meters per second. The photograph shows a geodimeter and optical distance meter used to measure distance based on the speed of light.

Though we usually aren’t even aware of it, “gravity” is a strange phenomenon. Gravity is a very weak force acting on all objects, but it cannot be blocked and exerts effects even on far-away totally empty spaces. This is a super interesting description.

Elementary particles are absolutely fascinating!

Science is also shedding light on “elementary particles” which are basic to all matter within the universe. We cannot see them with our own eyes and can only imagine their world, but various theories and experiments are confirming that they really exist and are also discovering a new truth.


A brief look at the KEKB accelerator, Belle detector and experiments made to explore the world of elementary particles.

This is the Belle experiment device that won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics for Dr. Makoto Kobayashi and Dr. Toshihide Masukawa. The theory of “CP violation” in physics was proven in experiments made using this device.

This example shows particle trajectories captured by the Belle detector. The bent lines reveal the particle momentum and charge. The scientists who poured all their effort and passion into thinking up this approach are really great!

This exhibit shows the Super-Kamiokande that observes neutrino particles and photomultiplier tubes installed within the huge tank of the Super-Kamiokande. This experiment clearly proved that the neutrino particle does in fact have mass.

Can we see elementary particles flying around with this “cloud chamber”!? By peering inside the cloud chamber you can see lines composed of small air bubbles moving around like mist that looks extremely curious. After reading the description you find that cosmic rays, electrons and protons are reacting together inside the chamber and each are forming their own particle track. It is really hard to sense that this is real, but elementary particles are actually flying around in our world. This is very interesting!

So what is the universe actually made out of? Here is a place where you can enjoy space travel.

What is the universe actually made out of? This corner offers displays and commentaries on various structures on different scales. The talk starts with the earth where we all live and the solar system, the stars in the sky above us, our galaxy and galactic clusters. The talk then shifts to the “Big Bang” theory, and I felt as if I were traveling through space!


This exhibit shows a replica of the telescope used by Galileo when he first viewed outer space in 1600’s, along with a replica of Newton’s telescope. In the 400 year period since that time to the present, the “eyes” for viewing outer space now include optical telescopes, radio telescopes, astronomical satellites and underground observatories for observing cosmic rays and elementary particles. By detecting and observing various types of light, radio waves, and elementary particles, a new image of the universe unlike anything seen before is emerging to make things clearer than ever before.

This is a three-dimensional model showing the layout of the Galaxy where we reside. This figure was made clearer and more detailed by using infrared rays and radio waves for observation of far-off stars and gases.

This is a miniature model of the Subaru Telescope operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and located on the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. The Subaru Telescope has the world’s largest monolithic primary mirror with a diameter of 8.2 meters. To observe the universe farther and in greater detail, it uses infrared light that is not disturbed by gas in the universe and makes continuous observations to search out the history of the universe from its start to expansion. I would like to go there and see this sometime!

This exhibit lets you see celestial bodies just by pointing the telescope to the Milky Way. You can also switch images to view them under different wavelengths of light. Various shapes of celestial bodies have been discovered by making use of the characteristics of light at different wavelengths.

If all matter became tinier and tinier what kind of world would this be?

Our bodies, the natural world, our planet and the universe are all made from ”matter.” What would happen if this “matter” became tinier and tinier? By taking advantage of various ways to understand the physical structure of molecules, atoms, and elementary particles, we can make the best use of this matter and create a better and more abundant society.


The matter that makes up our world all consists of a total of 118 chemical elements. This exhibit shows the periodic table of chemical elements along with the actual samples of elements. In 2019, this exhibit will get a great deal of attention since 2019 is "the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements" that commemorates the 150th anniversary of Mendeleev's discovery that the elements have cyclic properties.

This is a picture of Alice drawn using the symbols of chemical elements. This kind of picture makes you want to go to “Alice’s Wonderland” full of surprises. Imagine the feelings of a scientist 150 years ago who knew the secret that there really are tiny worlds of fixed regularity in the material within our own world. I realized that science is a dream that comes true!

The molecule is the smallest unit for determining the properties of an object. But these 118 kinds of elements can be combined in a broad range of ways to create nearly infinite molecular diversity. Light is a powerful tool for investigating that diversity.

Models of electron clouds that determine the properties of an atom. I have never actually seen an atomic nuclei or an electron but I can now imagine it would look like this.

In today’s world, we can produce a wide variety of diverse substances and materials, yet these materials also place a load on the global environment. Creating a sustainable world will require us to share all types of knowledge and challenge each other to find solutions. In the world of science, there are plenty of interesting and challenging tasks!

Please visit the following website to find more information on the National Museum of Nature and Science.