Interview with the Nobel laureate and the outstanding Soviet scientist Zhores Alferov. Although he did not become the new head of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as many would like, he still remains one of the most prominent Russian scientists, whose voice has weight.
Zhores Alferov: Do not forget that Soviet science gave the world the best breakthrough technologies of the twentieth century
Yekaterinburg today visited the Nobel laureate Zhores Alferov. A world-famous scientist who received the most prestigious award for breakthrough developments of 1960-s held a “pre-election” press conference and gave a lecture to students and staff of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences about the role that Soviet science played in the development of technologies of the second half of the last century, and also about the prospects of modern science. The Ural colleagues met the Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Sciences warmly, and his speech was held to the sound of applause. At the end of the meeting, the academician was presented with a souvenir medal and an album of the laureates of the Demidov Prize, which Alferov received a year before the Nobel Prize - in 1999. The most interesting statements of the legendary scientist about the technologies of the last century, Soviet science, about Skolkovo and his plans for the post of the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences are in the eve of Nakanune.RU.
On the conflict with Livanov
Dmitry Livanov came to me in his time and offered to head the scientific council at the ministry. After a brief reflection, I agreed. Because I thought that this post will allow to influence some issues related to the development of science. Later I learned that this advice would not be scientific, but public. In addition, half of it will be elected by voting on the Internet. And the second half will be appointed by the minister himself. There were some rather strange personalities, even Tina Kandelaki. Nevertheless, I was able to push several people into the council whom I considered necessary, and decided that it would be possible to work. In his work, Livanov spoke the right words, including the support of the RAS. However, one day I was sitting in a hospital procedure and heard with a twist of my ear that Dmitry Livanov said something, and then in the evening I saw on television in the tape, as the minister said that the Academy of Sciences was an outdated, useless, reforming organization. and similar things. I could not sleep for a long time, I woke up in the morning, at about five in the morning, and immediately wrote a letter that was posted on the website of my institute and sent to the press. Livanov on that day was in St. Petersburg. And I personally told him about my decision that I cannot work in the council under the minister, who allows himself such statements. Generally speaking, if I were in his place, I would have resigned myself after such words.
About the prospects of Skolkovo
I was invited to head the Skolkovo Scientific Council, because they had no choice. It was decided that the co-chairs of the council should be the Nobel Prize laureates, and I am the only laureate living in Russia, so the choice fell on me. I offered to co-chair Roger Kornberg, who won the chemistry award in 2006 year. I was familiar with him for several years. We did not clash with him and convened the composition of the council, which on 40% consisted of foreign scientists - Americans, Germans and one Frenchman. All of them are deeply respectful of Russian science. The rest are the best Russian scientists. Already at the first meeting, we raised the question that Skoltech should not be based on MIT, voted against the 4 times, but we changed the status to "scientific advisory", that is, our decisions are advisory in nature, they are not binding. However, now, when all these processes began, the scandals around Skolkovo seemed to support our proposal to make Skoltech on the basis of Novosibirsk University and a number of other universities. Little, but this is our victory.
I don’t get tired to say one more thing, I said that even at the meeting, which was then attended by President Medvedev. I say that Skolkovo is not a territory, rather nasty, by the way, but an ideology. This ideology needs to be extended to our science cities, the Novosibirsk Academgorodok, Sarov, Dubna and many others. Skolkovo should not become an offshore territory, in which huge sums are lost, where there are certain benefits for some organizations and people. Skolkovo should be the ideology of the development of interdisciplinary breakthrough research. I hope that the processes that started around him will make Skolkovo work more clearly and in the right direction, including interacting with the RAS.
A look into the past: atomic weapon and energy, Oppenheimer vs. Kurchatov
I believe that the two most breakthrough projects of the last century were the US Manhattan project and the creation of the Soviet atomic bomb. The personnel question for Americans was decided by Adolf Hitler, because this was done by leading scientists who emigrated from Europe. The personnel problem of the Soviet atomic project was solved by Abram Ioffe, because the personnel project was developed, created, developed by his students - Kurchatov, Zeldovich, Khariton and many others.
This topic began to be developed as early as the beginning of the 20 century, the German scientist Otto Gan at the end of the 1930-s began to explore the phenomenon of uranium fission, for which he subsequently received the Nobel Prize. However, the further development of the theory of chain reactions produced two pairs of scientists. German Jewish scholars Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls were forced to emigrate from Germany, Peierls taught at one time in Kharkov, then went to London and became sir there. So, Frish and Peierls were the first to do a critical mass study in 1940. At about the same time, similar work in the USSR was carried out by Yakov Zeldovich and Yuli Khariton. Both pairs of scientists wrote articles on this, which became the basis for the creation of atomic weapons.
As for the weapon, Enrico Fermi played a big role in this. The first nuclear reactor in Chicago was made. Robert Oppenheimer supervised all this work, and Igor Kurchatov led our works. I think that it was a great happiness for our country that Kurchatov turned out to be the scientific leader of this work. In the 1932 year, he headed the laboratory and by the middle of the 30-s became one of the recognized authorities. In 1936, Joffe's report was subjected to sharp and harsh criticism for the fact that his institute was developing no-one needed, having no practical application of nuclear physics research. I think that subsequent events, military and post-war, showed how unfair this assessment was, and the 1936 assessment of the year could lead to very sad consequences. Kurchatov headed this direction in the 1942 year, and by his order a "laboratory number XXUMX" was formed, which later changed several names and eventually became the Kurchatov Institute.
"Russia makes itself"
The next step was the hydrogen bomb. If the first bomb in 1951 was made on the basis of the plutonium bomb - "Fat Man", then the second was ours, and it was twice as superior to its American counterparts in power. Interestingly, all these products were called "RDS". The first atomic bomb is RDS-1, the first hydrogen bomb is RDS-6, and this abbreviation is deciphered as "Russia makes itself." The first American hydrogen bomb, the size of a two-story house, was non-transportable, with a capacity of 10 megatons. The principle of radiation implosion, which was used there, was proposed by the Polish scientist Stanislav Ulam and developed by Edward Teller. And the principle that makes the bomb transportable was proposed by Vitaly Ginzburg. And the practical task of obtaining the Li-6 isotopes necessary for this was realized by Boris Konstantinov. Sakharov made his "puff." And the consequences of this were enormous - there was a potential for the development of nuclear fleet, including underwater and icebreaking, its creator was Anatoly Alexandrov. In addition, nuclear energy appeared.
In many respects, all this work was driven by the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because it was obvious to the political leadership of the country that we could lose all the results of the Second World War if we keep the monopoly of atomic weapons behind the Americans. This task was solved.
Soviet atomic bomb: intelligence to do with it?
Intelligence played its positive role, but I want to cite here such an interesting fact. In 1942, the UK was the leader in atomic weapons. Work there has progressed much further than the Manhattan project that started, but it was agreed that all British scientists should move to the USA with all their equipment and all their staff. In the 1946 year, after the successful atomic bomb test, the Americans returned all British scientists to the UK, because they were no longer needed, and the British did not get anything. In 1947, the British government adopted a resolution on a wide spread of work on the creation of the British atomic bomb. The British tested their first atomic bomb in 1952 year - in 5 years. British scientists participated in all areas of work on the creation of atomic weapons and had a full range of secrets, much more than they could tell us.
And we started working in 1945, and we already experienced 1949 - through 4. Therefore, it is clear that the decisive role was played by non-intelligence. Truman revealed the biggest secret to Stalin at the Potsdam Conference when he informed him of the successful trials. And once the trials are successful, the rest is new business. The problem was solved, but it is important that not only the nuclear power industry developed, at this time the development of many other areas was laid - computer technology, despite the official attitude to cybernetics, radio electronics and radar, space technologies. At the same time, by the way, the highest salary of research workers was in 1946, when a professor at our Institute of Physics and Technology had an official salary of 8 thousand rubles, and an assistant professor - 6 thousand 200.
"Fathers" reactive aviation
In this area we have done quite a lot more before the war. The basic principles were described by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and later 10-15 years after him - Herman Obert. The first rocket plane in the world made its first flight back in 1940. The logical development of this project was the development of jet engines. In this regard, I would like to mention three outstanding people - our designers Andrey Tupolev, Sergey Ilyushin and German Willy Messerschmidt. In 1942, Messerschmidt made the world's first fighter jet, the Me-262 bomber, which was launched into mass production and took part in battles. But the Soviet jet school made a huge contribution to the development of world aviation. And I would like to say separately about the two machines. Tu-104 - the first jet passenger aircraft. Let's not forget that jet passenger aircraft began in our country. IL-86 - a completely unique passenger aircraft. History it differs from all others in that the IL-86 has not had a single accident. It is the safest passenger jet aircraft ever created in the world. And if today we are in a sad state, let us not forget that the Soviet scientific and design school has given us.
Korolev and the Nobel Prize
The founders of the missiles - Werner von Braun and Sergey Korolev - this is recognized worldwide. Everyone knows the story of the V-2 and the Soviet P-7, with which the first Soviet satellite was launched. But I wanted to say no more about that. Not many people know that in the 1965-66 year, the Nobel Committee on Physics made a decision, despite the fact that our work for manned space flight was carried out in a closed manner, they invited our Nobel laureates to submit materials with the names of the names and what they did, said they are ready to consider this question. And I think that if Sergey Korolev had not died at the beginning of 1966, both Korolev and Keldysh and Valentin Glushko would have been among the Nobel Prize winners.
What is the price of Russian space solar energy?
In fact, solar energy began with the first flight. It became obvious that in this area it is the transformation of solar energy that makes it possible to solve the problem of energy. In 1970's, we already actively used solar batteries, including on military satellites, at this time the first articles on this topic only began to appear in the USA. At the station "World" was installed 70 square. m silicon batteries. At the beginning of 1990's, I asked the then head of Roscosmos $ 5 million needed to purchase several machines needed for the industrial production of solar panels. However, there was no such money. As a result, we still buy solar batteries in the West even for our own needs. At the same time, their efficiency is not very high - just above 30%. We have lost world leadership and rolled back from world records, which we set earlier. Namely, such tasks should be set by science, and the state should support it in this.
About the current state of the RAS
Last 20 years we lived in a state of survival. Maybe it was not bad, but now you need to finish with this practice. We need a development strategy. At the beginning of 1990, funding for the Academy of Sciences was reduced by 15-20 times. Under Putin, the situation improved somewhat, but only slightly. Now about 90% of the budget of the RAS is spent on salaries and payments to employees. It turns out that the money of the Academy of Sciences is spent on salaries and utility bills. In order to engage in real research, identify promising areas, the budget must be at least three times higher.
The country's president brilliantly formulated the immediate task of the state’s economy when he said that it was necessary to create 2020 millions of jobs before the 25 year. It must be created places in the high-tech sector. I believe that this is a task that should be set not only for business and industry, but also for academies of sciences and education.
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When we launched the satellite, Eisenhower and Kennedy said that the Russians won the space race not at the missile range, but at the school desk. When I lectured at an American university in 1970, I was struck by the extremely low level of American students in the 1-2 courses. Now, when I hear the answers of some students in the exam, I'm already amazed in the other direction.
Peter I, by his decree, created the Academy of Sciences, in which academicians taught university students, and students taught in the gymnasium, that is, the Academy of Sciences was closely connected with education. And now, in no case can one oppose universities and the Academy of Sciences, as proposals are being made to transfer science to universities, and make the Academy an elite professorial club. On the contrary, it is necessary to engage in education, in which specialists will be formed who are knowledgeable not only in mathematics, but also in physics, biology, medicine, etc. In addition, it is necessary to issue a federal law in which it will be stated that the RAS is the main scientific body of the country.
But the main problem of the RAS and science in general is that science is not in demand by industry, the state. The most important task is to make it relevant and it is necessary to do it in the coming years. Only in this way will it be possible to achieve a breakthrough in technology, develop our own high-tech economy and achieve not only economic, but also social progress.