Lyrics about Physics

Europhysics News, Jul 2018

Tatiana Balachovsky

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Lyrics about Physics

l yrics about physics - Ihalf way through, we were so sponsibility of an academy member, t was a cold bright winter day. details and sank into feelings, amazThe walk was quite long. Over ing ones. Taking upon himself the recold that we no longer wished Kapitsa decided that the girls should to buy anything. Then my friend sug- get warm and poured a tiny glass of gested that we drop by her cousin’s liqueur for each of us. Until then, I had grandfather to get warm. We turned never tasted alcohol. The sweet Beneand walked through an iron gate, dictine was flowing into my relaxed through a snow-covered park, past body. It was one of the most memoa frozen pond and walked into his rable impressions of my childhood. house. After climbing wooden stairs Years later,destiny brought me into the to the second floor,we found ourselves same room, by then a museum. The in the study of Peter Kapitsa. same low winter sun shone through Low winter sun shone through the the room. Piles of marked up papers room, and dust particles played in its looked just the same. (Kapitsa had golden rays. The whole space seemed kept working on papers till his very fabulously beautiful. The study dis- last day.) Paintings,porcelain figurines tinctly smelled an aura of professor - on the chimney shelf, numerous crocbooks, expensive leather furniture and odiles were all around – Crocodile was a bit of tobacco. Piotr Leonidovitch no the nickname of Ernest Rutherford, longer smoked then, but his pipe and Kapitsa’s mentor and senior peer. a pack of good tobacco were always Today I am the director of the museon his desk. um of Kapitsa. The more I learn about The change from the wintry streets Kapitsa’s life, the more I appreciate the was such that I stopped noticing scale of his personality. b Front of the kapitsa Museum in Moscow In 1920 the young promising scientist lost his whole family – wife,two babies and father – to the influenza epidemic, so called “Spanish flu”. It was the first major blow to his life – the first, but not the last. To help him keep living, his friends and colleagues sent him to Rutherford's laboratory at Cambridge. From 1923 Kapitsa worked at Cambridge, in Rutherford's laboratory. He met a Russian girl named Anna Krylova, who became his second wife and remained the person closest to him for the rest of his life. They built a home and had two sons. His experiments in cryogenics were so successful that in 1930 the Royal Society gave a special grant to the University of Cambridge for building a laboratory for research in low temperatures. On February 3, 1933, the laboratory was inaugurated with great pomp. His scientific prospects seemed unlimited. However, another blow was in the waiting. In the summer of 1934, when Kapitsa was visiting the Soviet Union to see his mother and take part in scientific conferences,he was not allowed to go back MUseUM lYrics aBoUt PHYsics to England and was forced to establish a scientific laboratory in Moscow. After months of negotiations between the Soviet government on one hand and Rutherford and the Royal Society on the other, the cryogenic equipment of Kapitsa’s laboratory was transferred from England to Moscow. This is how the Institute for Physical Problems was created. Kapitsa became its head and continued his research in cryogenics. His family moved from England to Moscow and they begin a new life in the Soviet Union. Soon, Kapitsa set up production of liquid oxygen. He saw and corresponded with highest officials of the country. Kapitsa worked successfully until 1945, when the attention of the world, and especially that of physicists, turned to the problem of the atomic bomb.In the Soviet Union, the atomic project was supervised by the head of the KGB Lavrentiy Beria.Beria brought together the most prominent scientists and invited Kapitsa too.But Beria knew nothing about physics, and Kapitsa refused to work under him. The payback followed right away: Kapitsa was removed from all of his positions. Perhaps, he was lucky to have survived at all (it’s important to say, that in the Soviet reality “invited” meant “forced to” while “to refuse” meant virtually “to commit suicide”. So, the fact that Kapitsa and his family survived was a kind of miracle). For the third time, all he has achieved was destroyed.And, for the third time, Kapitsa managed to survive the blow, start from scratch and succeed again. Kapitsa spent eight years in disgrace. Most of the time he lived at his dacha outside Moscow. There, in a shack, he m the office of kapitsa as preserved in the museum . kapitsa living-room in the museum set up a laboratory and kept working. Moscow. Among them are unique After a while, his closest aide joined delicately made glass pieces with him, and his sons too were helping which superfluidity of liquid helium their father. was discovered and studied. Upon the end of Stalin’s era, Kapitsa Outstanding experimentalist, Kapitsa returned to his institute. From then was handy and loved making all that until his death in 1984, he lived in the might be needed, whether devices mansion deep in the park, where I be- or furniture. One of his hobbies was gan my story. The Institute of Physi- repairing antique clocks. Therefore, cal Problems was again an oasis in the the exhibit takes shows a lathe and, minds of students. His home saw not by it, a little clock lathe. Also there, only scientists of all stripes and colors, is a specially designed wooden table but artists, poets, musicians too were that does not wobble, no matter how frequent guests in the mansion. How uneven the floor, that he made at his could one have a mansion in Moscow dacha in 1948. in the sixties? It was exceptional. It was Kapitsa’s caliber that made it possible. After Piotr Leonidovich passed away, the Academy of Sciences decided to preserve his study as a memorial museum. Kapitsa’s widow, Anna Alexeevna did a lot to help. She managed to create the effect of presence – it seems as if he has just stepped out and is about to be back.Yet, the exhibit shows the entire life of the scientist, both his moments of his international fame and his dark days of scary prospects, when some of his friends would cross the street to avoid him. The museum contains the pieces of scientific equipment which Kapitsa m the museum-kept nitrogen and oxygen was working with for many years. liquefier of kapitsa Part of it came here from Cambridge, another part was created with Kapitsa own hands. He was not only scientist, but a practical engineer, and was fond of designing things. Among the museum masterpieces there is a wooden table that never staggers. In the museum, one can see instruments and devices, both those from Cambridge, and those made later in Among the rest, the exhibit shows a unique collection of photos of prominent people,most of them autographed. Back in England,Kapitsa began to share photos with his fellow physicists.Above his desk was a whole portrait gallery of scientists.Photos of other famous people were added later. For example, in 1946 the leader of Yugoslavia, Marshal Tito arrived in Moscow. He visited Kapitsa’s Institute and soon sent Kapitsa his autographed photo. When many years later, in 1966, Peter Leonidovich visited Yugoslavia,President Tito received him and awarded him the Order. A lot of other medals and diplomas are displayed in the museum, reflecting an enormous global recognition of Kapitsa - a scholar and public figure, among them is the Nobel prize certificate, he obtained in 1978. n


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Tatiana Balachovsky. Lyrics about Physics, Europhysics News, 31-32, DOI: 10.1051/epn/2012106