Saturday, October 12, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 38 review

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

Q.E.D., vol. 38, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(Rumi, Kana and Touma respond to the first trick.)

Kyomu (Empty Dream, Magazine Iino, 2010). Yumeji Kuse is a slick talking movie producer wannabe that has targeted Shigehiko Shimamoto as a soft touch for supplying money to fund the production of a film based on the script by screenwriter wannabe Tamotsu Enno. The first project is called "The Metaphor Murder Case". 2 years later, it's "North Country Murder". Another 2 years go by, and it's some nameless flick combining horror with CG. When it's all done, Shimamoto has burned through every penny of his family's trust fund and is reduced to working part-time at a cafe to support himself. Meanwhile, as Kana and a friend are playing a friendly game of badminton, one of Kana's returns hits a DVD that Mordor (of the mystery club) is holding and shatters it like a bomb. The DVD is one of those "it's so bad it's become a collector's item" B-grade flicks, called "The Metaphor Murder Case". To locate a replacement, Kana and Touma go to a video place, but "Metaphor" has been out of print for 5 years. By accident, Shimamoto overhears them, and they visit his apartment. He remembers something, and pulls out an invitation to a film-viewing party being held at Kuse's penthouse suites. They go to the party to get a shrink-wrapped copy of the DVD.

(Noboru finds the dead Kuse.)

It's a small party, hosted by Kuse (wearing the same outfit he'd used in the shooting of metaphor), and attended by leading actor Noboru Haiyama, writer Enno, and banking official Rumi Tsukama. During the evening, Rumi, Kana and Touma see Kuse getting stabbed in the next room over, and run to investigate. But, it seems the movie projector had been aimed at the window and was showing the scene from "Metaphor"; the screening room is otherwise empty. A few minutes later, back in the reception room, the three see Noboru approaching a body propped up against the window - this time Kuse really is dead. Noboru is arrested under the belief that he was trying to salvage an acting career being dragged down by Kuse's bad movies. However, everyone is a suspect. Rumi was at the filming because her bank is demanding its money back (the rent for the penthouse was actually from a bank loan). Enno can't get work at other studios without looking like a traitor to his current producer. And of course, there's the swindled Shimamoto. Questions: Who killed Kuse and where did it happen? How did the body get moved into the screening room without anyone seeing it? And, what was the motive?

The only science is a repeat of the use of a window as a mirror.

(Touma doesn't like being cold outside at the end of December.)

Juushichi (17, Magazine Iino, 2011). The story starts out in 1700's Edo (old Tokyo). Aisa is a 13-year-old mathematics prodigy studying under Takebe Sensei. They're watching workmen constructing a small Shinto shrine to be used as a puzzle for someone smart enough to understand it in the future. Present-day Tokyo - Kana and Touma have been enlisted to help out at a Shinto shrine for the New Year celebrations, because the master of the shrine has been hospitalized and his son, Umitsugu Doumon, is now shorthanded. Turns out that the shrine was used as the location for a TV drama and the influx of fans is revitalizing the town. The shopkeepers want to erect a monument building to the TV show near the shrine, but the only available space is currently occupied by this weird old 17-sided building. Umitsugu and his father both think that the weird building should be torn down, but the oldest woman in the village objects, and Touma realizes the nature of the secret it holds.

(Aisa explaining her solution to a differential calculus problem to her teacher, Takebe.)

The entire plot revolves around the obsession certain Japanese had during the 18th century for mathematics, called Wasan. The inside of the building contains a number of sangaku, or calculation tablets, that are covered with geometry puzzles and used as Shinto offerings in shrines. One of the sangaku shows a chain of circles. Where the circles touch, a line is drawn to the center of the circles, forming pie shapes. The pie parts facing the inner region of the chain are colored black, and the reverse parts facing outward are white. Puzzle - what percentage of black space is there relative to the white space? The scene shifts to show Takebe presenting various famous geometric puzzles to Aisa, as she solves them within a day or two. Some of them incorporate integral and differential calculus, which was being developed independently and concurrently in the west by Gottfreid Leibniz and Isaac Newton. One of the leading names in Japanese wasan was Seki Takakazu, and one of his students was Kenko Takebe (possibly the model for Aisa's teacher).

(Learning about Japanese calculus, which grew up independent of the western system.)

While attempting to solve one particular puzzle, Aisa uses a straight edge and a set of sangi (Chinese-based counting sticks employed for performing numeric calculations prior to the introduction of the abacus) and draws a series of geometric shapes around an x-y axis. Eventually, she hits on an idea that Takebe flat-out rejects. However, looking at the drawings, Takebe has to admit that they have the air of being correct. So, he permits Aisa to supervise the construction of the small 17-sided shrine building as a puzzle to be presented to someone smart enough to understand it in the future. Touma realizes that this mysterious girl had proved the existence of i, and imaginary numbers. Unfortunately, the order to bulldoze the site to make room for the TV drama museum can't be rescinded, and Umitsugu realizes too late just how important this building is.

Science? Yeah, we got your science here. Boxes of it!

Comments: The first story is a pretty standard closed-room mystery, and Motohiro is starting to recycle his plot devices and character designs now. One point of interest is that Kuse's name is made up of the characters for "old story", "opportunity" and "dream", which all make up parts of his personality. The second story is incredibly educational while still being entertaining. I hadn't heard anything about Japanese calculus (wasan) before, but a few of the discoveries pre-date those in the west by up to 10 years. However, with the introduction of western science in the Meiji era (1860's), wasan slipped into disuse. I find it a fascinating concept. This volume is highly recommended to anyone that likes math or the history of Japanese science. What bugs me, though, is that there's no sangaku tablets in Kagoshima. The closest known specimens are in Nagasaki, which is too far away to visit cheaply.

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