Andrei Konstantinovich, why did you, after so many years of non-participation in our political and scientific affairs, decide to speak in support of Dmitry Livanov?
I decided to help him in the fight against windmills, which were built in the scientific community of Russia. Nobody wants to notice that there are two ministries of science in the country, and something needs to be done about it. The situation is exceptional, and I thought that I could help a troublemaker with my actions - this is my function. In any system there must be kind uncles who walk and stroke the pioneers on the head, cheerleaders, as I call them. A cheerleader is more profitable than a troublemaker, but it’s the latter that are lacking, only they can transfer the situation from one equilibrium to another. Therefore, I have already reconciled myself with this post of a troublemaker, to whom spits fly.
Naturally, I am not always right in my judgments, I can already see from correspondence that with my performances in Russia I have offended many, most deserved it, but someone unfairly. I chose this role and is ready to carry it. I think Russia needs it at the moment. The Ministry of Science and the Academy of Sciences need to establish a new balance of power, it is necessary to bring people from the Russian Academy of Sciences to the ministry.
Will you be given any authority under the new post of honorary head of the Public Council under the Ministry of Education and Science??
I have so many titles that I was not eager for this post. It was a surprise for me that something would be offered to me. When Livanov came to me, we talked about the fact that I would be a member of this council, visiting him whenever I could. When they appointed me an honorary or “odd” chairman, I had bulging eyes. But he called himself gruzdem, get into the body: I could not refuse.
Andrei Konstantinovich, today ...
Nobody called me Andrei Konstantinovich since childhood. I am more often called Sir, Sir Andrew or Andrey, even Russian students call Andrey.
The election of the head of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as you said, of the second Ministry of Science, was won by your colleague in MIPT - Academician Vladimir Fortov.
I wish him all the best. I was asked for whom I would vote, I was afraid to say that for Fortov, because sometimes the support of individuals (like me) is the same as throwing a black ball. So I said nothing. But, frankly, I did not want to see Zhores Alferov in this post, if only because the age is not the same. Still, this work requires physical exposure.
What do you think should be done in order for a powerful Soviet Academy to become a modern scientific community?
How to eat is impossible. The existence of two ministries will lead to permanent conflicts between the Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Science. No one likes revolution and restructuring - especially in Russia. Everyone is tired of them, but something needs to be done about it. In the meantime, everyone hopes that the matter somehow settles itself.
The opinion that I heard from many people working in the Russian Academy of Sciences that the Academy is unremarkable, but the Ministry of Science is even worse. Perhaps this point of view is fair, no matter how bad or good academics are, they are experts, or at least they were experts in science, they know the system well. The expert is much better than the official who did not know anything about science and is trying only to manage it for political reasons. This point of view is correct and must be treated with respect. At the same time, it is necessary to realize that to exist simultaneously as an executive and legislative authority in science is an exceptional situation, it has remained only in Russia, China and North Korea.
The Academy is a respected community, a respected club of people who have done something in science, who are experts. 90% of Western academics from the British Royal Society or the American Academy of Sciences would have fled, as if from fire, if they were given the opportunity to distribute money, lead institutions, and the like. This is a club that should give advice to society, people, politicians, the state. Its function is deliberative, and its status is high due to the availability of expertise on many issues.
Many people in the Academy of Sciences want everything to remain as before. To change to the new, we must admit that the old is impossible. How to change the system, how to redo it, how not to create something worse than the existing monster is, of course, a difficult question. It is necessary first to come to a consensus that something needs to be done.
The Russian authorities are constantly blamed for the fact that the country can not get off the oil pipe. Yes, there is Rosnano, there is Skolkovo, but the changes are unnoticeable. Andrei, in your opinion, in which sectors should the state invest, what should be done?
The Russian problem of dependence on a pipe is not unique, the same words in other languages, in the same translation I heard from representatives of Arab countries, Norway, I heard the same words in England, however, instead of a pipe there were banks. All states of the same opinion - that it is necessary to get off the pipe, only the pipes in different parts of the world are called different. The situation is complex worldwide. In the same South Korea, which seems very successful, as Samsung and LG are everywhere, the same problems. What will we do in five to ten years? The technologies that are used around the world come to the end of their existence. Remember: ten years ago we changed computers every two years - they improved so quickly. Now, if we change a computer or mobile phone, the improvements are minimal. They are what it looks like, and not what technology is invested there.
Over the past ten years, people around the world have realized that something is changing. We are experiencing a new paradigm, a new state of the global economy. Economists and non-professional people (like me), who understand something about economics, believe that we are at the beginning of global stagnation. The low fruits reaped everything, and we approached what we had to pay for the mistakes of the last 50 years, which we did not invest in science and technology, believed that it was possible to invest in fast-applied applied technologies, and not in fundamental technologies.
Skolkovo is a good idea, but the implementation turned out the same as always. Over the past few days I have repeated many times that they tried to build a garden city from Skolkovo: to build buildings, attract people from nowhere — from the same Mars or Saturn — completely unrealistic plans. Ditch a huge amount of money. Of course, now everything needs to be done, only one garden city for such a large country is not enough. It is necessary to merge an academy with a higher education, just as it is done in most Western countries, where this system has been operating for decades, if not centuries. This can be done without building from scratch. For example, there is Dolgoprudny with a well-known Physicotechnical Institute, academic institutions can be built there, and Chernogolovka with academic institutes, a university could be built there. This could be several times more efficient. For the money that went to Skolkovo, it would be possible to build four mixed campuses. But what's done is done.
With Rosnano, the same thing happened - they wanted it better ... The same high technology investment programs exist in Norway and the United Arab Emirates. But for some reason, as always, bureaucracy and corruption have turned out in Russia. “Rosnano” was used entirely for the purposes they should have been.
I'll tell you history. An Israeli came to me at a conference. For about three years he constantly visited Moscow, but apart from the word "hello" he practically knows nothing in Russian. I asked him what his impression of Rosnano was. And he answers me: "Rollback".
Since he does not speak Russian, I ask what it is. And he again says to me: "Rollback". We communicate in English with him. He explained to me that this is a Russian word. I am telling him that such a Russian word does not exist, if only in the context of "cannon rollback". I did not know any other context three years ago. After that, I came to Manchester and asked a visitor from Moscow what this Israeli meant. And he explained to me a new concept of this word, which I did not know. Now I know what they mean by rollback in Russia. But imagine, a person knows three words in Russian: "hello" and "for health" and "rollback." This story says a lot, hence my opinion about Rosnano.
You are known for their harsh judgments, which seldom allow themselves to be representatives of power structures. Before talking with Dmitry Livanov about your return to Russia, did you set the terms of a political nature?
Nobody shut up my mouth, but to put some conditions on it is not in my rules. Keep in mind that I flew to Russia at my own expense. They offered to pay from the ministry, I said that it was not necessary that I could pay for the ticket myself. Time is important to me. I did spend two days on this trip. Money is not so important.
If we talk about politics, then I see Minister Livanov as a victim of this policy, he needs to be helped to avoid politics, and not to impose conditions. Naturally, the system of democracy in Russia is rather strange. I must say, I also met with democracies in other countries and am not a big supporter of Western democracy. I agree with Churchill that democracy is a terrible political system, but we have not yet invented the best one.
What happened to the Russian democracy, I see, reading separate newspapers, separate sites like yours. As always, people in Russia love to criticize, for which they are paid to journalists. Constructive criticism is always welcome, but it seems that everyone can be criticized, with the exception of Putin. From my western view, as they say, from abroad, it is very noticeable that the ministers became whipping boys. For example, selling answers to state examinations is so serious that it should be included in the presidential function. This is a serious matter, a serious open corruption and political, not an administrative issue. Somehow the same Minister Livanov became the whipping boy. In the West, ministers are politicians, here ministers are not politicians, but appointees of the head of state. It would be possible to make demands, say, to President Putin or members of the State Duma who are professional politicians, and Livanov is a professional administrator.
Andrei, you mentioned the Unified State Exam. Many representatives of the Russian Academy of Sciences, representatives of the university community are not tired of criticizing him, saying that his introduction has destroyed the Soviet school. What is your opinion on this?
I have no opinion. This is what I do not know, do not understand, I will refrain from expressing an opinion. I do not know the specific system. I know that in England there is a Unified State Exam that works. Whether the western system is always applicable to Russia is another question.
We have many people talking about the decline in the quality of training Russian students. You often encounter graduates of Russian universities. Is there really such a trend?
For Russian students, especially graduates of Moscow universities or, say, Novosibirsk University, the best universities will chase, they are the most competitive. If they are not at the highest place in the rating, this is partly due to ignorance of the English language, ignorance of the western system, insufficient acquaintance at conferences.
Graduates from Moscow, graduates from Ryazan, graduates from Novosibirsk, from Volgograd work in my laboratory. I work Chinese, Indians, Ukrainians and many others. Language does not matter, it only helps communication. The main thing is the level at which they work. Of course, it happens that completely unintelligible people are coming, but the 70% of Russian graduates I have come across are just great guys compared to English, American, and others. Here Russia engages in too much self-flagellation. Yes, the level probably falls, but it falls all over the world, it falls in all countries, it falls in China. This is due to the fact that society is becoming richer, brains are covered with a crust of fat. But in Russia things are not as bad as in many other developed countries.
Could you tell us a little about the future of graphene? Everyone has heard about his discovery, they are aware of your Nobel Prize, a lot is being said about the huge prospects for new material.
I am not an industrialist and a developer, I am a man who cuts through the jungle and is the first to pave the way for others. I do basic research and am not responsible for what can happen with applied research. Whether graphene will be used in the industry, whether it will be done by what ordinary people can feel, I am not responsible for it.
I have never had a dream to become a billionaire and open my own production. I am poorly educated for this, I have no incentives for this, no ardent desire to become a rich person, and others have. I'm professional.
But in order to justify all the other industrialists and developers, I must say that it usually takes 40 years to turn a new material from an academic laboratory into a commercial product. Graphene is only eight years old, people have become interested in graphene since 2007, and for several years now it has been in the industrial laboratories of the same Samsung, in a bunch of Japanese laboratories.
Over the past two years, everything slowly began to dissipate into various sentences. I have already seen a Lenovo mobile phone with a touch screen made from graphene: it is no different from the usual. This is currently a test copy. There is hope that it will be cheaper than current smartphones. There is a great hope that the side surface, which is not used in modern mobile phones, will also become a touchscreen. Japanese company Sony makes 100-meter graphene rolls. I know a company called Blue stone, they have the same task: to produce ten-kilometer graphene rolls for sale. The original goal is mobile phones.
Everything looks very optimistic and, compared to other materials, happens at the speed of light. Graphene has many titles. It seems that he deserves the title of the material, which is faster than others moved from science to the present production. It remains to wait a few years to see this material in commercial products.
It is usually considered that it is good for a scientist to open a direction or area in science. I am credited with creating three directions: gecko tape (superglue “according to the recipe” of geckos), graphene and diamagnetic levitation.
It seems that we have discovered a fourth area, which I have been doing for the last two years. It is completely new, but a bit like graphene. What is graphene: we pulled out a single atomic plane from a piece of graphite, learned how to measure it, learned how to handle it, learned how to do it. In the same way, we can disassemble two dozen other materials into separate planes.
Our new direction is a scientific discovery, because it was not clear whether this is possible or impossible. We take individual leaves of atomic thickness and fold them into new materials, building up layer by layer new materials.
Probably, any other person, if you asked him two years ago, would say that this is impossible. You can put separate leaves on each other, but they will be glued together with some kind of dirt. It seemed impossible to make them as clean as new crystals. It turned out that this is possible. A new paradigm - artificial materials built from separate planes that were pulled out or raised in this way. If graphene is a two-dimensional material - so much has been added, you can imagine a great opportunity to combine different materials and make different three-dimensional structures from a library of materials, which today consists of two dozen. It promises to be as hot and as productive as graphene. The minimum of what we can expect is that such structures built from separate planes will at least help graphene to be competitive in areas where it is slightly undershoot, and its combination with other materials can help.
Who knows what can happen when there is a completely new class of materials that do not have a thickness, their thickness is one atomic layer, less can not be imagined. Now we have a new class of materials that we can optionally add as a Lego. You can design everything you can imagine.
To make it clearer to people far from science: what can be created from these three-dimensional materials?
I often repeat the phrase that I can accurately predict only the past. I can give you an example that probably will not happen, but it can show you what kind of tricks you can do. There is a class of materials called high-temperature superconductors. 20 years ago there was a huge boom about this. We hoped to find room-temperature superconductivity, then the trains would start flying, the wires would start to be made from high-temperature superconductors. But this did not happen. In some place it became very difficult to raise the temperature of these materials - they reached the limit. We know that temperature depends on many parameters, and one of these parameters is how far the semiconducting planes are from each other. The farther away - the higher the temperature, but the farther away - the less stable the superconductors become.
This is a somewhat childish, naive question, but why not ask it. What will happen if we disassemble the superconductors, where this point happened, this insurmountable barrier, to make it suitable for temperature, disassemble it and insert additional planes there, we will collect another material, a modified material that will show a higher superconducting temperature.
For example, Zhores Alferov received his Nobel Prize for heterostructures, which are currently grown using a very limited number of materials. These are again layered structures grown layer by layer. On this principle, many lasers, LEDs, transistors, and the like. Even for this activity, heterostructures have been proposed to do them with atomic precision, which cannot be achieved with other technologies. What comes out of it, we will see, is what we are trying to do, this is just an emerging activity. The main ambitions in this area are to make new types of heterostructures with the best lasers, new types of transistors. For example, a graphene transistor, as is now known, is impossible. But a transistor using layered heterostructures, using also graphene, has recently been demonstrated by many groups.
Our designer, allowing you to add something from materials has expanded significantly. Of course, to superconductivity, which I said, too far. But such thoughts come to many groups around the world: create a layered material that nature can not create.
In your acclaimed article, you wrote that for the new industrial revolution, humanity needs an asteroid that threatens the Earth. But it turns out that a revolution in science is possible without threats from space ...
No, unfortunately, economics and science are disconnected from each other. Over the past 50 years, after the "cold and hot" wars have ended, humanity lives in very comfortable conditions. The brains in this comfort are covered with a thin layer of fat. Homo sapiens are not too rational animals that often repeat: "We want everything at once, today, and not through 50 years." Under this pressure, which we ourselves, without noticing it, create, reduced investment in science.
This, of course, is a stamp, but war and the military industry stimulated investment in science. The same satellites, the same flights to the moon were provoked by an arms race. Such a threat no longer exists. And what happened in the world? States invest less and less money in university and academic science, in basic research.
The same is done by the industry. The best way to raise the stock price is to publicly say that your company is closing a research lab. Over the past 20-30 years, IBM’s world-famous laboratories, medical laboratories in England, and many others have either closed or become engaged in specific developments that are not looking any further than three years in advance. And this is not the fault of the companies - it is just market pressure. Markets want as much income as possible, and not in 50 years, but in the next year. Those companies that have invested in 50 years in advance simply do not survive in this system.
Companies are now hoping that technology will develop in academic institutions and universities, but, unfortunately, the scale of such work is not the same. I spoke with company heads around the world. Some, of course, are not interested in what happens in science, they are only concerned about what will happen to them in a year or two. But there are companies that want something good big in 10-20 years. But even with these companies, it is impossible to cross the chasm that we ourselves have created between academic developments and technology.
Universities at a small level are developing, all at the level of individual laboratories; it is almost impossible to transfer such technologies to large companies. Small companies play some role. The function of small companies is to start development, and then be absorbed by large companies. But this is a very slow path. In graphene it is possible, these are new materials.
And some new breakthrough technologies, such as technologies of the cold "thermonuclear", are funded exclusively by the states, and the taxpayers of these countries are dissatisfied. Everyone is unhappy that they have not done anything so far. This is basic research, no one can predict whether they will be successful in 10, 20 or 50 years. But one of the biggest problems facing humanity is where to take energy. Oil is impossible to burn. And at the same time, the US congress says: “You promised us a controlled thermonuclear last year, but you didn’t meet the deadlines for the delivery of a controlled thermonuclear. This is a philistine attitude to science. If any comet threatened humanity, the psychology would change .