Ateneo Physics alumnus Anton Tanquintic wins second place in Nuclear Olympiad 2015


Winners in the Nuclear University Olympiad 2015: Anton Tanquintic (2nd place, third from the left) and Alice Cunha da Silva (1st Place, 3rd from the right) during the Awarding Ceremony at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at Vienna, Austria last 17 September 2015. (Photo by Alice Cunha da Silva)

by Quirino Sugon Jr

Ateneo Physics alumnus Anton Philippe Tanquintic (BS PS-MSE 2015) won second place in the Nuclear Olympiad 2015 organized by the World Nuclear University, a worldwide network of 40 intergovernmental, academic, and industry institutions in 30 countries engaged the in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The awarding was held last 17 September 2015, 10:00-12:00 am, at the 7th floor of the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.

Anton Tanquintic learned about the contest about a week before the 9 June 2015 deadline. Anton then was just finishing his two-month internship at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) at Technohub. He wrote a one-paragraph essay and asked his sister, Antoinette, to make a 60-second video entitled, Nuclear Solutions for Today’s Needs. Last 19 Jun 2015, Anton was informed that their video was among the 10 shortlisted for the contest, which were posted by the World Nuclear University in You Tube. By 9 July 2015, WNU counted the number of You Tube likes of the videos and Anton’s video made it to the top 5. The finalists were then asked to submit a 5-page essay on the topic “Radioisotopes: how are they produced?” They presented their essay orally before a jury for 10 minutes last 17 September 2015 in the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The first prize went to Alice Cunha da Silva from Brazil. Her video was entitled, Nuclear Saves Lives.

Below is the winning video of Anton and Antoinette Tanquintic followed by an interview of Anton by Ateneo Physics News.


by Anton and Antoinette Tanquintic

Radiation applications. Despite negative stigma, the use of nuclear techniques is ubiquitous today. In Medicine Cobalt-60 sterilizes over half of medical supplies in modern hospitals. In industry, gamma rays are also used to detect defects in metal structures to avoid malfunctions. On a larger scale, radiation sources can be used to address global problems such as poverty and hunger. In food production, sterile insect technique operations have reduced the reproductive ability of pests, thus eradicating them from farmlands. Moreover, mutation breeding has improved harvests via radiation-induced hereditary changes in the plant’s DNA, whereby mutants with desirable traits are chosen and developed as new varieties. Going over into food storage, sufficient doses of radiation kill microorganisms and so radiation sources can extend the shelflife of food products by as much as a factor of two. Modern fridges around the world even use UV lights in vegetable compartments to keep the produce fresh as long as possible. The science of our times has shown use of radiation sources as safe and beneficial to mankind. Perhaps it’s time we got over our fear of the world “nuclear,” and gave radiation a rebranding.



Anton Tanquintic (2nd from the right) together with four other finalists of Nuclear Olympiad 2015 at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by World Nuclear University, 17 September 2015)

1. How did you hear about the video contest? What motivated you to join?

I found out about the competition during my internship at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) at Technohub. My internship was during the period of April-May, and I had a friend who worked there (who was also my contact in applying there in the first place) who showed me an e-mail of the poster promoting the competition. I learned about it only a week or so before the deadline of submissions for Round 1, meaning that a bunch of other competitors had 1-2 month leads ahead of me in promoting.

2. Did you make the video on your own? Who helped you? 

My entry to the contest was a 1-minute animated video showing the peaceful applications of nuclear technology in our lives. I present examples of nuclear tech being used in Industry (to detect defects in metal structures) and Medicine (where radiation sterilizes medical equipment) before diving into my primary focus: how nuclear technology does address global problems such as poverty and hunger. I decided to use poverty and hunger as they are real and growing issues that we deal with today. I was inspired by Youtube video channels such as Minute Physics, and comics like in coming up with my entry. For the record, it was my sister, Antoinette, who did all the animations and video editing. I just came up with the script and told her what to draw for each scene.

3. Can you describe the procedure how they chose your video as one of the finalists? How tough is the competition?

I have no direct knowledge of how they chose the final 10 videos. I did get an email though saying that mine was the highest-scoring video for Round 1.

4. During the finals, did you take exams or were you interviewed by a jury? 

There were no such exams or interviews. The final round was simply a 6-minute oral presentation based on the essays we submitted earlier. The essay was on the topic, “Radioisotopes: How are they produced?” while the oral presentation was set to be a 6-minute speech based on the essay. I prepared by reading up on various technologies and journal articles. Since the topic for the essay was the same for all finalists, I did my best to add in more personal or entertaining segments to the essay so that any of the readers (and judges) would appreciate and enjoy my writing. For the presentation, I bore in mind that a significant percentage of the audience would be high school students and laymen not familiar with nuclear technology, so I made sure to make it is organized and consistently simple from the ground up. It’s a certain style of mine to explain complex concepts in the simplest but most accurate way possible; I like to think of myself as an effective science communicator. Thus said, I trimmed down my essay to appropriately fit the oral presentation, and rehearsed my essay-speech in front of friends in my physics laboratory at the Ateneo de Manila University. They all helped me improve upon it into its final shape. I then asked a skilled friend to edit my presentation into something more aesthetically pleasing and digestible; she did a wonderful job, and it helped make the delivery of my presentation as amazing as it was.

5. Was this the first time you went to you Europe? What was your prize? What are the places you went to? What’s your favorite food there?

Yes, this was my first time in Europe. The prize was simply prestige since the competition is still in its early years. In total, I went through Vienna, Geneva, and parts of France. I can’t really say I have a favorite food there; I pretty much eat anything and enjoy food as long as it tastes good. I did enjoy the healthy food lifestyle in Geneva though – there were lots of cheeses!

6. What are your five-year plans?

I am surely considering Nuclear Physics as a topic for further studies (i.e. PhD). Currently, I’ve just returned to Manila from a tour of IAEA and CERN, so I’m doing my best to decide what the best plan of action for me is. I will either take a job to gain experience, or go for a PhD if I can find a good program and scholarship.

7. Can you describe to us your career path from high school? Who motivated you to choose physics?

I was always interested in how the world worked. Physics and Biology were my favorite science subjects back when I was in Pisay (Philippine Science High School): physics because of how it tried to answer the fundamental mystery of why/how things exist, and biology because of how it delved into the very mystery of life itself. By the end of high school, I was stuck choosing between both fields. In the end, I went for physics because I wanted the challenge it presented. I am also very thankful that Pisay has wonderful physics teachers who’ve helped foster my interest in the subject.

8. Do you have any parting words to our physics majors?

Study well and grab opportunities! A life in physics is no easy task, but the rewards are worth it.


Anton Tanquintic at Mont Blanc, 3,842 m above sea level (26 September 2015)

Notes and References

  1. Linkedin profile of Anton Philippe Tanquintic
  2. Anton Tanquintic’s video: Nuclear Solutions for Today’s Needs (June 9, 2015).  
  3. GMA News: Teens’ video is lone Pinoy finalist in World Nuclear University Olympiad (June 30, 2015). 
  4. Rappler: Ateneo student makes it to World Nuclear University Olympiad (July 2, 2015)  Republished in Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI). 
  5. Rappler: Ateneo graduate wins second place at World Nuclear University Olympiad (Sep 20, 2015).  An excerpt of this was posted in AdMU website (Sep 20, 2015). 
  6. Philippine Star: 22-year old Filipino physicist triumphs in Vienna nuclear olympiad (Sep 30, 2015). 
  7. Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippines: Young Filipino Physicist triumphs in World Nuclear Olympiad in Vienna (Sep 30, 2015)
  8. World Nuclear University: Nuclear Olympiad Finalists
  9. World Nuclear University: About the Nuclear Olympiad 2015.

Dr. Emmanuel Anglo talks on CALPUFF dispersion modelling at Manila Observatory

by Quirino Sugon Jr and Steffie Castaneda

Last December 14, 2012, Dr. Emmanuel Anglo gave a introductory talk on CALPUFF Dispersion Modelling at the Klima Conference Room for the Brown Bag Lecture Series of Manila Observatory:


Dr. Emmanuel Anglo at the Klima Conference Room of Manila Observatory (14 Dec 2012)

CALPUFF is an advanced non-steady-state meteorological and air quality modeling system developed by Exponent scientists. It is maintained by the model developers and distributed by Exponent. The model has been adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in its Guideline on Air Quality Models as the preferred model for assessing long range transport of pollutants and their impacts on Federal Class I areas and on a case-by-case basis for certain near-field applications involving complex meteorological conditions. The modeling system consists of three main components and a set of preprocessing and postprocessing programs. The main components of the modeling system are CALMET (a diagnostic 3-dimensional meteorological model), CALPUFF (an air quality dispersion model), and CALPOST (a postprocessing package). Each of these programs has a graphical user interface (GUI). In addition to these components, there are numerous other processors that may be used to prepare geophysical (land use and terrain) data in many standard formats, meteorological data (surface, upper air, precipitation, and buoy data), and interfaces to other models such as the Penn State/NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5), the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Eta/NAM and RUC models, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model and the RAMS model. (Source: Exponent Engineering and Scientific Consulting)

 Dr. Anglo taught at the Department of Physics and the Department of Environmental Sciences and served as a dispersion modelling scientist at Manila Observatory from 2002 to 2008. At present, Dr. Anglo is an Senior Associate Scientist for Air Quality at Amec Foster Wheeler. As an Applied meteorologist, his work is currently focused on regulatory dispersion modelling for facilities in the Alberta Oil Sands.

Below is an interview with Dr. Emmanuel Anglo by Ateneo Physics News.

1. What was your career path since you left Ateneo de Manila University and Manila Observatory? 

I worked on RCS (Regional Climate Systems) and on UAQ (Urban Air Quality). I also taught in ES (Environmental Science). When I left, I was recruited by an Australian firm specializing in dispersion modelling and in air quality consulting. I stayed there until December 2008. After that, we went to Canada. And then in March, I worked for AMEC Environment and Infrastructure.

2. What was your talk all about?

It was a project where I was asked to model the concentrations of particulates in Metro Manila for the Philippine Department of Health. Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ was involved in that, together with the economists and health risk assessment from PGH. Fr. Jett assigned me to do the modelling. However, the problem with it is that it was outdated 4 years ago.

About a year ago or two, I met Dr. Ed Alabastro. He has strong ties with the industry. He said that he’s interested in updating that map. He came up with funding. I told him that the Manila Observatory should get involved if they are going to update that, they are going to need a lot of sources that only the MO possess.

They started meeting with Clean Air Asia. It was called Clean Air Initiatives back then. They formulated the plan. As I committed to Dr. Alabastro, I’m going to help him in modelling. That is why I am here—to update, to start with what we left in 2008. The main difference I guess is that we have a better mandate, a better initial state, and we have to use a different model. We must upgrade that type of model.


CALPUFF Dispersion Modelling

3. Can you tell us something about CALPUFF dispersion modelling?

You can run that model as a blackbox and get away with it. It’s certainly true for a lot of users. You just need someone who can supervise on how the model is to be adapted to the problem, e.g. whether the parameters make sense, so that when the results come up, there’s someone to interpret them. There’s not really much to research about it. It’s not a research model, but a regulatory one. One must have good knowledge in using it.

Right now, I can’t come up with a research topic that’s based on it, other than perhaps the sensitivity studies, e.g.if you change this number, how will it affect the result?.

5. Why is there a need for a Philippine­-wide standard meteorological database?

At the start of my presentation, I mentioned the Philippine Dispersion Modelling guidelines. It was what is recommended, but no one has the capability to do it and no one has the data to solely do that, and so we have to come up with the tools and data that would allow us to implement those guidelines. It is about time we use better science for decision-making.

In modelling, even though there are a lot of industries in there, one might come up with tricks and shortcuts. In other words, it is poor science. I want to avoid that. In some cases where the data is inaccurate or lacking, the modeller might come up with non­standard methodology to come up with meteorological data, but that’s not right way to do things.

Hopefully, with standard database, it can be available to anyone who wants to do a modelling so that you are sure you have a data to run a model and you can come up with a sure dispersion modelling. That is how it is done abroad. In Australia, they have a model named Tatum, an air pollution model. You purchase the license to run the model. In Alberta, you purchase the meteorological database—5 years for the entire province—and it is free for downloading. It is worth 500 gb of data. You can download that. Thus, everyone starts with the same meteorological database. You do not try to use anything there that is new or strange or unacceptable, because base from my experiences in Australia and Canada, that’s how I would very likely train a few people in using it, because there’s nothing really much to do.

I have to admit also that I was hoping Philippine­-wide standard meteorological database becomes the standard tool for modelling in industrial places like Bataan where you cannot get meteorological data to do dispersion modelling.

6. What do we do to address the problem of lack of data?

Since generating a data is not simple, I imagine the Manila Observatory will be the repository of that database so they can get the data from the MO. It cannot be free to get it, because in order to maintain the database, MO has to allocate the sources. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources must recognize that this database is official and acceptable.

7. Do you have any parting message for the students of Physics or Atmospheric Science?

I am glad to know that Manila Observatory is better than ever, and I have no reason to be guilty about it. I am happy to be part of it again.

There is a lot of work out there. I like to think that Ateneo is unique in that sense—that if you want to engage in the world, you cannot lock yourself out. If you want science to serve for the public good, then you have to take work that is outside the university, such as engaging in industry or government.

Though I still like to do research that I can actually publish, I like to think that doing environmental studies or doing science in the way it should be done serves a purpose in itself. I think more scientists should go into that even if it is just for part­-time. Science was used to guide decisions especially those which pertain to the environment, and that is how it should be done. We do not do science for the sake of science, but we do science because it could serve something and has some application in real world, so there is no doubt that there is plenty of room for science to find value in those applications, and I am happy that was my job.

When I went to the BAQ conference in Hong Kong to present a paper, I met a lot of students and Ateneans doing work for Clear Air Asia in urban air quality. Although they are not necessarily doing what you call research, I am certain that they are doing work for science and the environment in general.

There are other careers for scientists if research is not your calling, like in my case. When I left, I felt kind of guilty that I had to abandon the MS Atmospheric Science. But now, I’m happy.

Ateneo Physics Department to hold its 50th Anniversary on Oct 10, 2015: An interview with Event Coordinator Johanna Indias


One Big Bang: Ateneo Physics Department at 50

by Quirino Sugon Jr

The Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University shall hold its 50th Anniversary on October 10, 2015. The anniversary’s theme is One Big Bang, a reference to the One Big Fight of the Ateneo Cheer and to the Big Bang theory which, according to Fr. Georges Lemaitre in 1927,  describes the creation of the universe from a point of intense density and temperature. An invitation letter has already been sent to the Physics alumni through the Office of University Development and Alumni relations. The letter was dated 1 September 2015 and signed by Dr. James Simpas, Chair of the Department of Physics, and Ms. Johanna Mae Indias, Head of the Organizing Committee for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations. The letter reads:

Dear Graduate,

The Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University is celebrating its Golden Anniversary this year. As we commemorate this milestone, we would like to invite you to a big gathering of the people who have journeyed with us in the past 50 years.

Come home to Ateneo. Reconnect with your former classmates, colleagues, and frinds. Listen to testimonials and stories of some of our distinguished alumni, fellow faculty, and beloved Jesuits. Join us for dinner and reminisce the years.

Attached is the program of activities for our 50th Anniversary celebration on October 10, 2015. Please click on the provided link by September 20, 2015 to know more about the event and to confirm your attendance.

The Physics homecoming shall feature interactive demos by Mr. Ivan Culaba, talks by distinguished alumni from different decades, a Holy Mass with Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ at the College Chapel, and a Dinner Program at the MVP Roofdeck. Here is the draft program of activities:

10 October 2015

  • 2:30 pm-3:00 pm Registration. Venue: Science Education Complex B Foyer
  • 3:00 pm-3:00 pm Physics Interactive Demos. Presenter: Mr. Ivan Culaba. Venue: PLDT Faber Hall 101
  • 3:30 pm-6:00 pm Talks from Alumni. Venue: Faber Hall 101Room 105
  • 3:30 pm-4:00 pm Speaker: Dr. Gregory L. Tangonan
  • 4:00 pm-4:30 pm Speaker: To be confirmed
  • 4:30 pm-4:45 pm Break
  • 4:45 pm-5:15 pm Speaker: To be confirmed
  • 5:15 pm-5:45 pm Speaker: Mr. Adler G. Santos
  • 6:00 pm-7:00 pm Holy Mass. Presider: Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ. Venue: College Chapel
  • 7:30 pm-9:00 pm Dinner and Evening Program. Venue: MVP Center for Student Leadership Roofdeck

There is no entrance fee, but registration at EventBrite is required. This holds for the alumni, former members of the department, undergraduate and graduate students, current faculty and staff.

Below is an interview last September 11, 2015 with Ms. Johanna Indias, Instructor of the Department of Physics and Head of the Organizing Committee for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations:


One Big Bang with Ateneo de Manila University seal

1. What shall happen on Oct 10, 2015?

There will be a celebration of the Physics Department’s past 50 years. To commemorate the event, a series of talks of alumni across batches will happen in the afternoon. There will also be interactive standing demos by Mr. Ivan Culaba and exhibits of the work done by each laboratory in the past years. In the evening, we’ll have dinner with our current students, alumni, and other important people who worked in the department. We also invited two keynote speakers: (1) Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ who has been here since 1950’s and (2) Dr. John Ong who used his knowledge and skills physicist to help society. 

The event is a celebration as we look back and and look forward. It’s a grand big reunion for our alumni. It is also a chance for our current students to meet up with them to see future possibilities and to learn their heritage from the history of the department.

2. Are you one-woman team?

I have undergraduate students: the Executive board of Ateneo LeaPs (League of Physicists), and  other hardworking volunteers. Mike Jallorina is doing an amazing job of taking care of the logistics. We also have other faculty members–Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr and Dr. Christian Mahinay. It’s a manageable team. I don’t need a lot of people. Under them are the volunteers in charge of small matters. The team is a mixture of faculty members and current undergraduate students.

3. What has your team accomplished so far?

Everything thing has been taken care of apart from the confirmation of the attendance of guest speakers and video presentation on the evolution of the department from 1950s to its current state. Making the video  is the biggest problem. It is not easy to research of history of the department . There are decades with no written material, such as the 1970s to 1990s. We may be able to fill in the gaps through our interviews with key persons.

4. Can you give us an outline of the department’s history?

The Big Bang of the Physics Department began some time in 1960s. I’m not sure exactly when. I only know that Physics was a subdepartment of the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. In the 1950s, the Physics subdepartment was offering service courses for those taking engineering classes. The BS Physics course of the department first came out in 1963 copy of the BOI (Bulletin of Information) Course Catalogue of College of Arts and Sciences. From my list, the first BS Physics graduate appeared in 1968. Dr. Greg Tangonan graduated in 1969. But I think there were others who finished much earlier. We know that Fr. Daniel McNamara, SJ took some MS Physics units here. Maybe, there was at least a graduate or two who finished MS Physics before 1968. And then the next thing I know was already in the 1980s. The department then was in Gonzaga Building. When Faura hall was finished in 1980s, the department moved here. It was during that decade that the department offered the BS Physics and Computer Engineering (BS Ps CE) double degree program. This was started by Fr. Daniel Mcnamara, SJ. In the late 1990s, the  Science Education Complex (SEC) was built. In early 2001, the physics laboratory in the complex was renamed as the Tecson Laboratories.

The BS Ps-CE double degree program officially ended in 2004, with the last batch of graduates in 2007. At that time, it was the new ECCE (Electronics, Communications, and Computer Engineering) Department which offered the BS Computer Engineering program. The ECCE department branched off from the Physics Department sometime in the 2000s when the College of Arts and Sciences became the Loyola Schools.. Since then, the BS Ps CE became know as the BS Physics with Applied Computer Systems (BS Ps-ACS).  After a while, the department offered the BS Physics with Materials Science Engineering (BS Ps MSE).

So far, these are the only things that I know.  It’s still very vague. The students who are taking the videos of the interviews with the alumni, faculty, and staff would be able to tell you more about the history of the department.

5. Have you checked the yearbooks?

We have photographed all the pictures of our alumni in the yearbooks. There was no monumental thing about the physics department that we read in Guidon.  Yes, the Physics Department became the Center of Excellence sometime in late 1990s, but it was not written there.


Ms. Johanna Indias crowned with Laurels during her graduation in MS Physics at University of Trento last March 27, 2014. (Photo by Danica Hilyn)

6. When were you appointed as head of the 50th Anniversary Committee?

I was not appointed. I grabbed the task.  I haven’t heard of any alumni reunion or get together organized by the department just to keep track of its graduates. The alumni are good sources of information on what are the graduates can do after taking up an undergraduate degree in Physics or what industry they can go into.

That is why I want the department to organize a big event to help us know our graduates more. Our contact with our alumni is important. The greatest achievement of the department is in the education Physics majors. We’ve always been more of a teaching department than a research department. So why don’t we keep track of our graduates?  The School of Management is successful in getting funds because they are in constant communication with their graduates. We don’t have that yet. I want the celebration of the department 50th anniversary to be the starting point for such contact.

Actually, it may not really be the 50th Anniversary. The department started as a kitchen in 1952, plus or minus a few years. Our first BS Physics graduate was in 1968, but the first BOI publication was in 1963. That’s really more than 50 years ago.

6. When did you start teaching?

I became part of the Department of Physics beginning summer 2003, as a physics undergraduate. I shifted from English Literature. Fr. Daniel McNamara SJ was the chair then, followed by Dr. Jerrold Garcia. I finished in 2007. I worked in Ateneo High School until 2009. Then I transferred here and taught physics at the college level until First Semester 2011. I got an opportunity to do MS Physics in Università degli Studi di Trento. I came back in 2014 and started teaching in the department in the first semester last year

7. What did you do in University of Trento?

My track was in Medical and Biological Physics. I basically worked on nanocellulose biomaterial under the Biophysics Laboratory. I got to study there through an Erasmus Mundus scholarship.

It was so providential. I felt like Heidi in Trento. The door opens to a view of the mountains.. Wherever you look is like a postcard. Once you’re there, you cannot think of anything else but contemplate the beautiful view. Trento is the capital of Trentino – an Italian regionclose to the Austrian border. The region is famous for the Dolomites (the Italian Alps). You can’t do anything there after 9:00 in the evening. And unlike university setting where we have a one big campus for everyone, the Faculty there is scattered all over the city. The Faculty of Science is on hilltop. The Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Economics, and the Faculty of Law are in downtown. It’s not a one big campus.

In Italy, when you go to a university, you do not do anything else but academics. Any extra curricular work like sports or hobbies that are not related to your studies you do outside the university. They don’t have an avenue for these unlike here in Ateneo where we have inter-university competitions and org life. Universities in Italy are devoted to research and actual study. That was boring for me initially. I missed the vibrant life in Manila, but I got used to watching the beautiful view outside, doing good research, and contemplating about things.

8. Did you ever think of coming back here in Manila when you arrived there in Trento?

Initially, yes. I wished to go back. It’s is a cultural difference. In Ateneo, whenever we have foreign students, we usher them. But when I arrived in Trento, nobody picked me up in the airport. When I went to the university, not everyone knows how to speak in English. I’m the only Filipino there. My classmates are all Italians. It was a conscious choice on my part to embrace the experience. After 6 months, I was already so happy there.

My first Christmas in Italy was happy and yet sad. More than my birthday, Christmas is the main issue. Apart from that everything is fine. I embraced the process. I felt Trento was already my second home to the point didn’t anymore want to come home.

I came home during the Summer here, April 27, 2014. In Italy, it was still Spring time. In Manila, it was 30 degrees Celsius with lots of humidity. After exiting the airplane, I wanted to book a flight back because i was drowning in humidity–my main reason for not being enthusiastic in going back to the country. After 2.5 years, I felt I was already a native of Trento. Then I went home to something I have not been fully in contact with for a few years.


Johanna Indias and Dr. Reese Macabebe in front of Lago di Toblino and the Italian Alps. Dr. Macabebe is an Assistant Professor of the ECCE Department of Ateneo de Manila University. (Photo by Dr. Reese Macabebe, November 11,2 011)

9. Any plans of taking a PhD in Physics?

I wish to get a PhD, preferably in Europe. The transportation system there is amazing. Travelling there is so much easier. And yes, I want the PhD mainly for myself and not because it is a requirement in the academe. I am not sure if I still wish to pursue nanocellulose or do something else like medical physics. If I take my PhD in Biophysics, I prefer to go to Scandinavian countries. The raw materials are there–you have the trees. On the other hand, if I take the Medical Physics track, there are only quite a few facilities in Europe. Maybe I can go to Medical Imaging, but not on radiation treatment of cancer. Last Aug 19, I went to Medical City to visit my batchmate, Czarina Devilleres. She took her MS in Medical Physics in UST and ever since she has been working in a hospital setting. I asked her for a tour of the Medical Physics that she is doing in a hospital. After listening to her, I don’t think I can handle working with people who may not be here in a few months time. Medical imaging is ok for me, since I won’t be helping them by zapping out their tumors.

I wish to take a PhD in Medical Physics because Ateneo has a School of Medicine right across Medical City. Right now there is only one university that I know which offers Medical Physics and it’s UST. We can take advantage of this by offering a program on Medical Physics to increase the number of physicists in the country. I think we have 100 Physicists per several millions of Filipinos. I don’t know the exact number. But we need more institutions offering Medical Physics. In Ateneo we don’t yet have someone who has a Phd in Medical Physics.  This is lamentable  since it’s amazing how Physics works in the human body.

10. Why did you choose the theme One Big Bang?

Funny. We were thinking of a theme at that time. We needed a working theme around which we can arrange the program for the event. We were thinking of possible physics jargons which we can use as a pun for our theme. I initially thought of singularity, because the main purpose of the event is a meeting, a reunion, a one big event. This fits the physics concept of singularity. I shared the idea to my sister who is majoring in design. She asked me, “What is a singularity?” I told her why that is a point in space and time which exploded and created the whole universe in the process, though what happens before that explosion we cannot describe mathematically. It is just like we know what happens outside the black hole, outside the event horizon, but not what happens inside it. And she said, “Why don’t you use Big Bang idea?” Well, we have One Big Fight as a cheer. Perhaps, One Big Bang is a good idea: it’s celebratory and Big Bang implies a timeline of the universe–our universe, the department of Physics. Our department’s history began with memories of Fr. Francis Glover, SJ and Fr. Daniel McNamara, SJ. And our history has been a continuously expanding entity like the Big Bang. From this primordial event of our beginnings we look back on our wonderful past and gaze at our glorious future. The One Big Bang theme really fits.

11. Any parting thoughts?

The Physics department has to look for avenues to invest in its students and alumni, not just financially. The department continues to exist because of its students–more than because of our research. We now have 36 Freshmen students. For the department to continue to flourish, we need to invest in them. And one way to do that is through this event, this one meeting of students and alumni. This is the reason why we didn’t ask for entrance fee for the dinner. Well, we could have used the entrance fee to raise funds for the Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ Endowment Fund. I said no to the entrance fee idea: the department has not done anything yet to convene the alumni. This event is a good opportunity to meet them. We need to invest in our graduates. Physics is not a popular choice in college. We need graduates to help us move forward, to fund more scholars through the McNamara Fund, and to inspire our current students to pursue physics even though it is not as popular as business courses.

The School of Management is doing a good job in taking care of its graduates even if there are hundreds of them who graduate every year. We only graduate a few bunch in Physics. We need to promote our graduates; otherwise, we shall dwindle in society.

My main motivation for organizing the event is for the department to invest in it alumni. That is why I invite our current students to work in the project. If they do something for the department, they would be attached to the department. And they would have something to look back on apart from their physics subjects after their graduation. They are our future graduates. We need to invest in them. They shall be the one who shall celebrate the department’s 75th and 100th anniversaries. I really wish that they will call the department as their second home in Ateneo, because they spent their four to five years here.


Johanna Indias with her classmates during their visit at the Trento Proton Therapy Center last May 28, 2012. (Photo by Johanna Indias)

Ateneo Physics faculty Dr. Raphael Guerrero presents his work on volume holography at the SPIE Optics and Photonics 2015 Conference


Dr. Raphael Guerrero, Associate Professor of the Department of Physics, attended the SPIE Optics and Photonics Conference at San Diego, California last August 9-14, 2015

by Quirino Sugon Jr

Dr. Raphael Guerrero, Associate Professor of the Department of Physics, attended the SPIE Optics + Photonics Symposium held in San Diego, California last August 9-14, 2015. Dr Guerrero presented a talk entitled, “Volume holography with Bessel-like reference beams,” with his PhD student, Jonathan Manigo as his co-author:

We report volume holographic recording and reconstruction of plane waves using Bessel-like reference beams.  A photorefractive lithium niobate crystal (0.05% Fe:LiNbO3) is employed as the holographic medium in a two-wave mixing set-up.  The reconstructed plane wave has the same appearance as a Bessel beam, displaying a central maximum and concentric rings.  Over a propagation range of 10 to 50 cm, the central intensity is observed to oscillate between maximum and zero intensity.  The holographic reconstruction is capable of self-healing and propagation properties are preserved even with the use of a partially blocked readout beam.  A theoretical framework based on the interference of a plane wave and a Bessel beam simultaneously reconstructed from a volume hologram is able to describe our experimental results.

The Optics + Photonics 2015 Symposium was attended by 4,500 scientists, exhibitors from 183 companies and 250 student chapter leaders. The conference was organized by SPIE, an international society for optics and photonics. SPIE is also a founding partner of the United Nations program,  International Year of Light 2015.

Below is a short discussion on the physics of Volume Holography and Bessel Beams, followed by an interview with Dr. Raphael Guerrero by the Ateneo Physics News.


1. Holograms

Holography is the science of generating 3D images using the interference of light waves. These images don’t need special glasses as when you watch 3D movies. In Star Wars, for example, a hologram of Princess Leia’s message to Obi-Wan Kenobi was projected by R2-D2. This hologram is not the same as security holograms used in credit cards and driver’s licenses which are technically not holograms at all but simply stacks of images that can be viewed from different angles.  Nevertheless some of these holograms are indeed true holograms in that they use rainbow holography techniques.

Holograms are normally constructed by passing laser light through a beam splitter. One part of the beam goes to the object which reflects the light onto a photosensitive plate. The other beam goes to a mirror and is reflected back to the plate. The two beams are made to meet at the photographic plate where they form an interference pattern.  This pattern recorded on the plate is the hologram of the object.  Once the hologram is recorded, laser light similar to that used to make the hologram is used to illuminate the photographic plate and voila! a virtual image forms out of thin air. To create a moving 3D image of Princess Leia, a simple photographic plate would not be enough since many images to capture motion should be recorded. That is why you need multiplexing techniques for holographically storing several images. One way is to use encode one of the recording beams using an elastomer phase mask: as you stretch the elastomer, different holograms may be created, which allows you to create a short movie similar to the short gif videos you see in Buzzfeed.

Holography can also be performed using a 3D crystal instead of a flat plate. This is called volume holography, where the thickness of the recording material is much larger than the wavelength of light used in recording. Dr. Guerrero and his student used a lithium niobate crystal for their volume holography experiments.

2. Bessel Beams

Bessel beams are named after Friedrich Bessel who studied the differential equation that bore his name. The solution to this differential equation. is called a Bessel function. This function arises when you try to solve wave propagation problems involving systems with cylindrical symmetry, such as the circular membrane of drums, i.e. rock concerts. In Optics, Bessel functions also arise because of the cylindrical symmetry of lenses, i.e. the output of the laser can be fashioned to behave approximately as a Bessel beam whose cross-sectional intensity distribution follows the Bessel function distribution.

Bessel beams have many interesting properties. One is nondiffracting propagation, i.e. the beams don’t spread out over long distances, which may be useful if you wish to design blaster rifles for Imperial Stormtroopers. Another property of the beams is that they are self-healing so they can be partially blocked but their waves regroup themselves after the obstacle, just like ghosts passing through walls.

Guerrero and Manigo used a  laser beam with a Bessel profile to record information in a photorefractive crystal.  From their experiments, they found that using a Bessel beam to read a hologram leads to interesting properties of the reconstructed output such as self-healing and a built-in oscillation of the beam intensity.


1. Where have you been?

I was in the US last month to attend the SPIE Optics + Photonics 2015 Symposium San Diego, California. One part of the symposium was a conference dedicated to optical data storage. I presented a paper on volume holography with Bessel-like reference beams. I co-authored this paper with my PhD student, Jonathan Mañigo. We are hoping that the paper will be part of his dissertation. I was able to meet many scientists from China and the US working in holographic data storage. Although the optical data storage conference was just on Aug 9, the entire SPIE symposium was from Aug 9 to 14.

At the symposium, you can attend the plenary talks. All sessions are open. I listened to an interesting plenary presentation about how they managed to land a probe on Rosetta, a comet. The project team leader described how they went about designing the mission to land a probe on the comet and how they used optical techniques. There were also talks on the importance of nanotechnology in modern optics and on new types of materials with interesting applications. Overall it was a very nerdy event.

2. Any side trips after the conference?

This time I visited Grand Canyon during some personal time. After I visited my brother in Tennessee to attend my nephew’s wedding, I flew to Phoenix in Arizona. I rented a car and went on a roadtrip adventure. I drove to Flagstaff, which is a city close to Grand Canyon, about 2 hours away. I drove all the way from Phoenix to Flagstaff and Grand Canyon. It was a desert environment and my airconditioning was always turned way up. My wife joined me in Arizona to fulfill our dream of getting a scenic picture together at the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is truly very grand. It’s a sensory overload. There’s so much to see in these vast and beautiful geologic structures that took billions of years to create, especially the different rock layers of the canyon. I checked off my target photos one by one. I have a nice photo at the edge of Grand Canyon. What’s weird is that there are no safety precautions. At the South Rim the edge is a mile high. Accidents happen and some tourists become permanent residents.

3. How many students do you have right now?

I have four undergraduates who are working to defend their theses at the end of the school year. They are working on diverse topics: holography, nanocellulose, liquid waveguides, and photovoltaic cells. I accepted three new Juniors, but I have yet to determine what their specific areas will be. This gives me a total of seven undergraduate students this semester.

In terms of graduate students, I have four active PhD in Physics students. Jonathan Manigo is in line to hopefully graduate by the end of this school year. We have submitted a paper to a journal and are hoping for a positive review before his defense in the Second Semester. Alvie Asuncion is working on volume holography and Flora Renovalles is using oblique deposition of aluminum to enhance the diffraction output of an elastomeric grating. Crismar Patacsil is working on fluorescence properties of nanoparticle solutions. These are the four PhD students at the dissertation level. If we get very lucky, they should be publishing within the year to revitalize our PhD program. I have an optimistic assessment of their status. I don’t have any MS Physics students yet. But I am happy that we have new MS Physics students in the department and hopefully some of them will be working here at the Photonics Lab.

4. Do you have any research grants?

I was able to obtain a grant from the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) as part of my Outstanding Young  Scientist Award. The grant package is half a million for research. I allotted most of it for a new laser, while the remaining amount I budgeted for a few supplies and conference assistance  The lab now has a new tunable He-Ne laser  with five output wavelengths. We bought it for Php 350,000 pesos from a supplier in Singapore. The laser was manufactured in the US and is worth USD 8,500. The wavelengths are 633 nm, 612 nm, 604 nm, 594 nm, and 543 nm. For our paper in San Diego, we used the yellow line at 594 nm and the green line at 543 nm. It is really convenient to switch wavelengths with a tunable laser. Before when we do holography, we have separate lasers for each color and which involved realigning optics. Now, we can have the optics stay aligned and simply select the appropriate color to record and read out the holograms.

5. What are you teaching now?

I have my usual undergraduate Introductory Physics courses. I have two sections of Physics 11 for Bio and Health Science majors who are taking up Physics for their future medical careers. I have a section of Ps 1 Conceptual Physics. I’m starting Ps 1 with Optics, teaching freshmen about lenses and how light has changed our perception of the universe. I have a class of undergraduate Physics majors with Ps 197 Quantum Mechanics. It’s a large class of 20 students. The graduate students have me as their teacher in a few electives. I am teaching Ps 259 Quantum Electronics, as well as Ps 260 Geometric Optics, and Ps 201 Theoretical Mechanics. Aside from these, I also teach Sci 10 which discusses technology and how it benefited society. I advise thesis students,  coordinate the Photonics laboratory, and advise graduate students during enrollment. I am definitely earning my pay!

6. What are your plans for this year and the next?

I am looking forward to having several PhD students graduate, that’s my wish for this year. If all goes well with the paper we are writing, I’ll find time to start writing another paper which shall form the basis for another student’s dissertation. Next in line is Flora Renovalles’ paper on elastomeric gratings coated using oblique angle deposition.

7. Any parting words?

I wish I was still on vacation! But while I’m at work, it’s always nice to have productive days when I can still do some research while teaching.


Dr. Raphael Guerrero at the edge of one of the cliffs of Grand Canyon

Ateneo Physics Faculty Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr attends the 2015 UN/Japan Workshop on Space Weather

Participants in the 2015 UN/Japan Workshop on Space Weather held at Luigans Hotel, Fukuoka City, Japan. (Photo by ICSWSE posted in Twitter)

Last 2-6 March 2015, Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr, Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics, attended the United Nations/Japan Worshop on Space Weather in Fukuoka, Japan. This 5-day workshop at Luigans Hotel in Fukuoka is about Science and Data Products from ISWI instruments. ISWI is the International Space Weather Initiative, which was part of the 2010-2012 workplan of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). ISWI is a collaboration of different instrument arrays for the understanding of the impact of solar activity on Earth. One of these instrument networks is the MAGDAS (Magnetic Data Acquisition System) network, which consists of 72 magnetometers worldwide, with 6 of them in the Philippines (TGG, LGZ, MUT, CEB, CDO, and DAV). In 2012, ISWI led to the creation of ICSWSE (International Center for Space Weather Science and Education) in Kyushu University. The ICSWSE subcenter is at the Ionosphere Research Building of Manila Observatory. As the program head of Manila Observatory’s (UAD) Upper Atmosphere Dynamics program, Dr. Sugon also coordinates the activities of the ICSWSE subcenter and those of the other MAGDAS stations in the Philippines.

Below is an interview with Dr. Sugon by Ateneo Physics News:


The research team of Upper Atmosphere Dynamics program of Manila Observatory: Clint Bennett, Christine Chan, and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr.

1. How long have you been attending ISWI-related activities?

In 2010 I attended the 1st ISWI Workshop in Helwan University, Egypt. In 2012, I attended the MAGDAS/ISWI School on Space Weather in Bandung, Indonesia, together with my co-faculty, Mr. Clint Bennett. This 2015, Clint Bennett and Fr. Daniel J. McNamara were also both invited to join the UN/Japan Space Weather workshop in Fukuoka, Japan, but Fr. Dan has a visa problem while Clint got sick a few days before his flight to Japan. So I left for Japan alone.

My attendance to the ISWI workshops was made possible because of our collaboration with ICSWSE. In 2008, Prof. Kiyohumi Yumoto of SERC (former name of ICSWSE) and Executive Director Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga of MO (Manila Observatory) signed a Memorandum of Agreement which led to the establishment of MO’s Ionosphere Research Building as the SERC subcenter (now ICSWSE Subcenter). In all three workshops, ICSWSE funded my trips.

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. presenting his poster on Equatorial Electrojet measurements in the Philippines

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. presenting his poster on Equatorial Electrojet measurements in the Philippines

2. Did you present a research at the workshop?

I presented a poster on the measurement of the height, strength, and length of equatorial electrojet (EEJ) currents in the ionosphere using MAGDAS magnetometer data. These currents produce a magnetic field around them which can be measured on the ground, and from these measurements we can deduce the the properties of these electrojets, after filtering out the background geomagnetic field. The theoretical framework is simply Biot-Savart law, which is taught sophomore physics and engineering majors, e.g. Young and Freedman’s University Physics. What is new maybe is our assumption that the jets are not infinitely long linear currents as assumed by Chapman, but only of finite length, as shown, for example, in magnetohydrodynamic simulations illustrated in the Wikipedia article on the EEJ.

These equatorial electrojets were already measured by Jesuit Fathers in Manila Observatory in their magnetometer stations in Manila and Antipolo more than 100 years ago. The Jesuits produced tables of magnetometer values in H (horizontal), D (declination), and Z (vertical) every hour of the day. So my presentation in the UN/Japan workshop is a continuation of this long Jesuit tradition in space weather research at Manila Observatory.

My research team at Manila Observatory consists of my co-faculty Clint Bennett and Research Assistant, Christine Chan. Clint made the first measurements of the equatorial electrojet current height, strength, and length by analyzing MAGDAS CEB data using Matlab. We presented the results of his work in a poster at the AOGS (Asia Oceania Geosciences Society) conference in Sapporo, Japan last 2014. Christine continued Clint’s work, but this time she coded in Python and added two more stations: CDO and LGZ. The results are still the same: the electrojet is about 1,000 km from the ground at the dip equator near Davao (where the vertical component of the geomagnetic field is nearly zero), with strengths of about 1 Ampere, and lengths of about 1,500 km. These jets follow a diurnal variation, which peaks at around 1 pm local time.

Our results of 1,000 km electrojet height is troubling, because the accepted values in the literature is only about 100 km. Perhaps, there is something different about the Philippine electrojets which is responsible for the 1,000 km heights. Perhaps, we have not yet considered the curvature of the earth. The analytical computation of the magnetic field of a finite circular current arc was already done before by another author, but the integrals are a bit tough. Perhaps we have not yet considered the magnetic field produced by the ground induced currents (GIC), which are currents produced by the changing magnetic field produced by the electrojets, as described by Faraday’s Law. Perhaps, some electromagnetic shielding happens in the lower ionosphere, which distorts the magnetic field produced by the electrojet currents. Perhaps, the electrojets are not infinitesimal but have spatially varying finite widths and heights. We’ll consider these possibilities one by one in order to gain a better picture of the motion of the equatorial electrojets.

Equatorial Electrojet

Equatorial Electrojet (EEJ). Source: Wikipedia.

 3. Why should we care about equatorial electrojets and space weather?

Equatorial electrojets are similar to the auroral electrojets: in both cases the currents move in circles perpendicular to the geomagnetic field and they occur daily due to the rotation of the earth and the difference in ion production between the earth’s day and night sides. The auroral electrojets are not the same as the dazzling auroras at the polar countries, which only happen during geomagnetic storms.  But electrojets and auroras are similar in that they are due to the motion of electrical charges.

On a more serious note, geomagnetic storms are becoming more dangerous the more we rely on satellite-based global navigation systems such as GPS for cars and airplanes. As you perhaps know, position information is determined using the sending and arrival times of signals from at least 4 GPS satellites. Signals which take a long time to reach you are farther than those which took a shorter time to reach you. Multiply the time difference between the time the signal left the satellite and the time it reached the receiver by the speed of light (about 3×10^8 m/s) and you get the satellite-to-receiver distance in kilometers. If you only have one satellite, you only know that you are within a particular spherical radius from a satellite. If you have two satellites, you know your position lies somewhere in circle which is the intersection of the two spheres of possible distances. If you have three satellites, you know that your position is one of two possible points (intersection of thre spheres of possible distances). If you have four satellites, you can be finally sure where you are, and this is how the GPS works.

Now, if there is a geomagnetic storm, the earth’s magnetic field becomes disturbed, which in turn disturbs the ionosphere. Since the ionosphere lies between you and the GPS satellites, the satellite signals would be severely affected. Remember that satellite signals are electromagnetic waves and the ionosphere consists of charges which are affected by electric and magnetic fields. When the satellite signal passes through the ionosphere, its path becomes reflected or refracted (bent) in the same way as when you shine a flash light in a glass plate, but with different colors or frequencies affected more than others. It is possible to remove the effects of the ionosphere by using the travel time of two different frequencies sent by satellites at the L1 and L2 bands (their wavelengths are the length and width of your iPad!). But this removal of ionospheric effects is only possible if we make certain assumptions about the ionosphere, e.g. horizontally stratified and static. So during geomagnetic storms which can last for several hours, these assumptions about the ionosphere fail and no algorithm can help us deduce our position from the GPS satellites. Filipino sailors may not really worry about this, since they were trained to determine their latitude and longitude positions from the positions of the sun and stars. But sailors and pilots who rely exclusively on GPS would be at loss. This is particularly true in the polar region: during geomagnetic storms, pilots are advised to avoid the poles and take alternative routes. Airplanes which got lost during geomagnetic storms may find themselves straying in hostile territory and may get shot down by missiles for being mistaken as fighter jets or spy planes.

Prof. Akimasa Yoshikawa and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. Prof. Yoshika is the Principal Investigator of the MAGDAS Project of ICSWSE, Kyushu University, Japan.

Prof. Akimasa Yoshikawa and Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr. Prof. Yoshika is the Principal Investigator of the MAGDAS Project of ICSWSE, Kyushu University, Japan.

4. Is there a relationship between geomagnetic storms and ordinary storms such as typhoons or cyclones?

At present there is no known direct relationship between geomagnetic storms and ordinary storms. So the relationship between the two storms is is only by mathematical analogy.

If you are on the ground and a typhoon passes by, you only know how strong is the wind and how the air pressure drops. But if you have an array of about stations measuring wind speed, wind direction, and air pressure, together with a mathematical model of a typhoon, you can determine where the eye of the storm is, plot its course, and warn the citizens of the impending danger, as what Fr. Federico Faura, SJ of Manila Observatory have done more than a hundred years ago.

Similarly, if you are on the ground and a geomagnetic storm happens, all you see is are large oscillations in your magnetic data, and you can’t be sure whether these oscillations are due to geomagnetic storms or to electric trains, as what happened in the 1900’s when Manila Observatory in Manila was forced to relocate its magnetic station to Antipolo because the newly installed electric trains were disturbing the magnetic measurements.  If you have several magnetic stations in the whole Philippines as what we have now, you can isolate local effects, such as from electric trains, from geomagnetic storms. But to find the eye of the of the geomagnetic storm so to speak, you have to look far into space into the sun.

Right now, there are two STEREO satellites orbiting around the sun, which allows us to see the 3D structure of the sun in the same way as our two eyes allow us to gauge distances of objects using triangulation. In the sun are sunspots, which look like small dots from our vantage point, but some of them may be the size of the earth.  Actually, you can think of sunspots as typhoons or cyclones in the sun; the only difference is that instead of air currents and gravitational field, you have charged particles (plasma) under both the sun’s gravitational and magnetic fields.

Sometimes, the sun erupts like a volcano and vomits blobs of plasma into space called Coronal Mass Ejections.  These blobs of plasma have magnetic field locked into them.  How these plasma affects the earth depends on the direction of the plasma’s magnetic field, which is also known as the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF).  Since the earth’s magnetic field is pointing from Geographic South to Geographic North (Northward), then the earth’s magnetic field would be affected by a Southward magnetic field of the plasma.  The earth’s magnetic field ripples due to the shock and the magnetotail reconnects. Then a part of the magnetic field flies out into space resulting to the injection of charges in the magnetosphere and the formation of auroras.

5. Are there signals no. 1, 2, and 3 for geomagnetic storms in the same way as what we have for typhoons?

Geomagnetic storms can be measured in a scale.  One way is to define the storm in terms of the fluctuations of the geomagnetic field, e.g. Bartel’s K-index.  Depending on the location of the magnetic station, the fluctuations can differ, so some kind of calibration is used in order to compare the values of different stations.  But if we are more interested on the effects of the geomagnetic storm, NOAA proposed another scale called the G-scale.  Here are the two extremes:

G1. Minor. Power systems: Weak power grid fluctuations can occur. Spacecraft operations: Minor impact on satellite operations possible. Other systems: Migratory animals are affected at this and higher levels; aurora is commonly visible at high latitudes (northern Michigan and Maine).

G5. Power systems: Widespread voltage control problems and protective system problems can occur, some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Transformers may experience damage. Spacecraft operations: May experience extensive surface charging, problems with orientation, uplink/downlink and tracking satellites. Other systems: Pipeline currents can reach hundreds of amps, HF (high frequency) radio propagation may be impossible in many areas for one to two days, satellite navigation may be degraded for days, low-frequency radio navigation can be out for hours, and aurora has been seen as low as Florida and southern Texas (typically 40° geomagnetic lat.).

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr with the staff of ICSWSE, Kyushu University, Japan. Dr. Grace Cardinal Rolusta (center) used to work at the Manila Observatory under Fr. Sergio Su, SJ's Solid Earth Dynamics program.

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr with the staff of ICSWSE, Kyushu University, Japan: Dr. Akiko Fujimoto (left) and Dr. Grace Cardinal Rolusta (center). Dr. Rolusta used to work at the Manila Observatory under Fr. Sergio Su, SJ’s Solid Earth Dynamics program.

6. Can Philippine electrical power grids be affected by geomagnetic storms?

There is no study yet for the Philippines.  But here’s is what happened to Quebec during the March 9, 1989 geomagnetic storm (Wikipedia):

The variations in the earth’s magnetic field also tripped circuit breakers on Hydro-Québec’s power grid. The utility’s very long transmission lines and the fact that most of Quebec sits on a large rock shield prevented current flowing through the earth, finding a less resistant path along the 735 kV power lines.[8]

The James Bay network went offline in less than 90 seconds, giving Quebec its second massive blackout in 11 months.[9] The power failure lasted nine hours and forced the company to implement various mitigation strategies, including raising the trip level, installing series compensation on ultra high voltage lines and upgrading various monitoring and operational procedures. Other utilities in North America and Northern Europe and elsewhere implemented programs to reduce the risks associated with geomagnetically induced currents.[8]

One way to determine if geomagnetic storms affect the Philippine power grid is to list all the occurrences of power failures, e.g. transformer breakdowns, their dates, times, and locations for an 11-year period, which corresponds to one solar cycle.  Then we make another list of geomagnetic storms according to NOAA G-scale for this period. If we see that many power failures come within a day or two of the occurrence of the geomagnetic storm, then geomagnetic storms may indeed cause many of these power failures.

A man and a woman before a giant aquarium

A tour of the Marine World near Luigans Hotel, Fukuoka City, Japan.

7. Did you visit other places in Fukuoka?

I was not able to join the tour around the city.  But near Luigans hotel is the Marine World. In this building is an amphitheater for the dolphin show. You see a pool below where the dolphins jump up and down on the water, sometimes they soar in pairs to great heights in order to reach a red ball in the ceiling, and then they fall back with a splash on the pool.  Across the pool is the sea, which stretches far into the horizon, and to the sky.

The Marine world is like a labyrinth glass tunnel inside a giant aquarium. It is fascinating to see fishes and other sea creatures in their near-natural habitat. I see the octopus, the shark, the turtle, and many small, brightly colored fishes. So this must be what it is to live like Aquaman in the great city Atlantis, with all these sea creatures at your call. Or perhaps like Captain Nemo in his submarine 20,000 leagues under the sea. Or perhaps like the Little Mermaid. And like the Little Mermaid, I feel in my heart that I do not really belong here, for a much more beautiful world is not down here but up there, and to live is to walk on land, breathe the air, and be with the love of your life. Perhaps, the whole universe is just one giant aquarium after and we do not really belong here. And someone who loves us awaits us far beyond the clouds, far beyond the sun, far beyond the stars.


Prof. Kiyohumi Yumoto gives a speech while Prof. Akimasa Yoshikawa and Ms. Kayo Goto helps him in the podium.

8. What was your most memorable moment at the conference?

During the last day and hour of the conference, Prof. Kiyohumi Yumoto came to the podium with halting steps, accompanied by members of the ICSWSE: Prof. Akimasa Yoshikawa, Engr. George Maeda, and Ms. Kayo Goto. His fingers were shaking as he held before him a piece of paper containing a few sentences:

“I am sorry. I had a stroke. I can’t remember many things. I would like to thank my wife for taking care of me.”

He repeated his speech thrice. Then everyone stood and clapped their hands for a long, long time. Here is a man who installed his first flux gate magnetometer system in 1990, which has grown in 2015 into a world wide network of more than 72 magnetometers and 3 FMCW radars, with 6 of these magnetometers stationed in the Philippines and one of these FMCW radars hosted in Manila Observatory. Here is a man who used to stride the world like a Colossus, meeting scientists from different continents to seek partners and collaborators, and inspire the next generation of students to pursue big science. And here he is now on a wheelchair, with much of his past memories he can barely retrieve from his brain.  But we love him, because we remember.

Indeed, science, for all its abstractions and mathematical formulas,  is still a human endeavor. A man can do only so much as a scientist, but in the end it is relationships that really matter.

Man and woman walking in the rain as seen from hotel's entrance

Entrance of Hotel Luigans, Fukuoka City, Japan. Photo by Quirino Sugon Jr.

Hotel with palms and benches

Facade of Hotel Luigans facing the sea in Fukuoka City, Japan. Photo by Quirino Sugon Jr.


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