The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The ascension of Crown Prince Naruhito to the Chrysanthemum Throne marks the beginning of a new era for Japan, and it comes at a time when long-needed social shifts in the pursuit of gender balance, diversity, and inclusion are signaling a fresh start for our world. We have three stories in this issue related to these topics, one of which ties in neatly to a scientific breakthrough a century in the making.

Programs designed to encourage the pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are critical to our future. Bringing more girls into these programs is key not only to addressing gender imbalance but to unlocking the untapped potential of so many brilliant minds who have been discouraged from entering the fields that shape our modern world.

The story that begins here follows the careers of two women who, in their twenties, found their calling in code. That brings me to recent events and another twenty-something woman whose work changed our understanding of nature.

On April 10, scientists published the first photo of a black hole, a super-dense body formed by the collapse of dying star. Its gravitational pull is so strong that not even light can escape.

The likely existence of black holes emerged from Albert Einstein’s general theory of rela­tivity, which he completed in 1915. A year later, German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild predicted that these bodies would emit no radiation. But while we have come to accept that black holes are real, they remained theoretical for more than a century—until the work of US scientist Katie Bouman helped lift the veil.

Three years ago, while a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Bouman played a key role in the development of algorithms that assembled the photo from 1 million gigabytes of data.

She worked on the algorithms in 2016 while studying computer science and artificial intelligence at MIT, a year be­­fore the observations were made using telescopes located around the world.

Taking a photo of something you can’t see is no small task. But we live in a mathematical universe, and the code that Bouman wrote made it possible to stitch together data pixel by pixel to create our first look at an actual black hole.

Of course, Bouman, now 29, did not shed light on one of science’s darkest mysteries alone. Capturing a photo of a black void 55 million light years from Earth took the work of a huge team. But her key role high­lights the need to engage all the best and brightest minds regardless of gender. Perhaps as a reflection of how far we have to go, Bouman initially didn’t get a lot of coverage. That was quickly rectified, and I hope her enthusiasm and achievement will inspire many more girls to follow their dreams. The world will be better for it.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.