It’s All About Them Telescopes

It’s not every day you walk through a room filled with bags of other people’s breath.

Sagawa-san led us through the tech rooms at Otsuka, paying particular attention to the spectrometers (costing hundreds of thousands of dollars each) and the cancer-detecting machines. It was to these machines that bags and bags of breath were attached.

Apparently, in order to test for stomach cancer, you must first test for the bacteria H. Pylori. Breathe into a bag and attach it to the machine, where it reads the CO2 in your breath. Then, eat something and come back 10 minutes later to do it again. The level of CO2 in the second bag, when compared with the first, will be able to indicate the presence of H. Pylori in your stomach and thus your risk for cancer.

Pretty cool.

Following our nifty tour, Sagawa-san returned us to the main room, where about a dozen people sat huddled around their little desktop computers in the service section of the Otsuka building. We were handed a small plastic box filled with lenses and other technical gadgetry, as well as an instruction manual.

My job was to simply translate the instruction manual into very simple English; just something that could be easily read by non-native speakers. “Magnify the object until the image has increased tenfold” becomes “make the object look like it is 10 times bigger.”

With that in mind, we sat down with a very energetic Otsuka employee who explained to us how lenses work — focal length, Galilean telescopes, and Keplerian inverted telescopic vision. Understanding the mechanics helped me to ensure a clearer, more useful translation.

Short and sweet and doing it again next week. No lasers, unfortunately, but still.

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