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Posted in October 2010

Visit Yale

I’m just back from United States. From Monday thru Friday I was in New Haven visiting Yale university. The program included giving two talks, meeting faculty and postdocs of Department of Physics and Department of Applied Physics, collaborating with Leonid Glazman on our longstanding project in adiabatic dymanics of superconducting junctions.

This was a very interesting visit, I will write later about it.

Giant current fluctuations in an overheated single-electron transistor

, an article with Matti Laakso and Tero Heikkila, has been accepted to Physical Review B these days. Very productive collaboration, I hope I can do more with my Finnish colleagues.

Half-Josephson laser

finally shines in the dark! We (Frans Godschalk, Fabian Hassler and me) have submitted this article to cond-mat, please find it here.

This is first submission of Frans Godschalk: congratulations, Frans!

Northampton, MA

is where I am now. Before visitig Yale University I dropped here to my son who has recently began his studies at graduate school University of Massachusets, in Amherst. My trip here was tough. A leaking toilet has delayed my flight by two hours, resulting in six hours of overall delay. I arrived to New Haven at 11pm. Fortunately, the last cab driver at the airport was kind to ride me for 82 miles remained.

I was pleased to see my son in a reasonably good shape, doing his best to adjust to American style of life. He cannot drive yet, this makes the adaptation challenging. Yesteday we have gone to a closest supermarket: a sneaky path lead us through haunted properties, abandoned railroads, busy highways. It took less than an hour to reach our destination.

It is now the most beautiful season in the area: splendid foliage of all spectral colors, blue skies. Warm during day time, very cold at night.

No chance to devise a polaron,

modern society does not want it, my project about this has been finally rejected. It got an overall mark of 3,0 whlie the threshold this year stand at 2,4. Sad news, yet nothing to be done: competition is tough.

There is however a secret back-door opportunity. My former student Izak Snyman is now a faculty in South Africa. Perhaps they would be interested? We’ll see …

Lecture Fiztekh

This is to report on my visit to alma mater, Moscow Physical-Technical University, commonly called Fiztekh. During Cold-war era this establishment aimed to educating researchers for vast military needs of Soviet Union, with a wise thought that those needs may also include the fundamental research, and good general education would pay off sooner or later. They gave indeed good and challenging education. I liked this, as well as a certian spirit of arrogance, workaholism, freedom and comreadship being cultivated at the place. Honestly think those where best years of my life.

However, I haven’t been to there for ages and did not miss it. While Leonid Levitov has visited me, he told me of his attempt to give a lecture over there: that about graphene for first-year students. According to him, the attempt was hardly sucsessful and gave him lots of bizzare and painful sensations. This was probably the reason he advised me to give such lecture as well.

I was intrigued and ask my Russian connections to arrange the lecture. By nature of my occupation, it’s been called “Nanophysics: yesterday, today, tomorrow”. Actually, I was hoping that I would not go down to these “boring” things: given the diversity of the audience, the concrete facts about the subject would hardly be usefull for them. I’d love to answer the questions like “how to become a scientist?”, “what is a research?”, “how things are rolling in your life?”. I imagined that an ambitious research-oriented student could make use of information I am able to provide about this.

So I came to the place. What followed did not look like a traditional Russian misorganization: rather, it looked like an exaggerated parody on traditional Russian misorganization. When I came to the place, there was a lecture in math: it ended five minutes after the time my lecture was to commence. After that, there were three students left. There was no beamer or any other technical tools. The students were trying to cheer me up: “just begin, perhaps there will be more people coming…” Indeed, people have been coming all the time, the last one arrived in two hours. After all, there was more than a hundred students. In 15 minutes after the beginning of the lecture I was flattered with the following scene: the dean of the department has entered the audience and personally brought a beamer for me while his entourage delivered an extension cord (that has a single socket: either for beamer or laptop)… Anyway, I know such things happen and did not mind.

Upon my feelings, the lecture was a moderate success (perhaps because of Andre Geim who provided me an excellent introduction). I could not completely escape talking about carbon nanotubes and quantum dots. I could not really strike the audience with original thoughts and ideas, and instantly transform them into the beings I like them to be. Yet there were sharp questions (“what’s your salary?”, “what were most important drawbacks in your education?”) and open answers. We could talk about very difficult subjects like latent xenophobia of Russian society and moral responsibility of a scientist.

I was even to able to tell a short story that I guess tells everything about science and education, a story which is difficult to understand but did not seem to be completely lost. I got it from a book of Ukranian sci-fi authors Dyachenko


They are rather commercial authors, but this particular story is a masterpiece. This is what I told: “Listen to me: it may sound a silly joke for you now, but memorize it to ponder it later. This is a story of young girl who has begun her studies, and those were difficult. She was stressed for monthes for naught, and worked hard for nothing. Finally, after much sweat, the teacher told her that her performance, although still terribly unsatisfactory, has a little chance of improvement. Thus encouraged, the girl dared to ask a question: “I hardly understand the subject of my studies. How will I use the things learned?” The answer was: “Young lady, you should worry and care about many things, for instance, about your marginal performance, but not about this one. It’s not like you will use the things learned. It’s the things learned that will make use of you. “”

Long live science…

The Protection of the Mother of God

feast has come today. I have already explained in the blog the origin and significance of this feast.

First half of the month and especially this week was not without joyful and inspiring events. However, this period was also full with bizzare incidents that have been unexpected, unpleasant and even painful. I feel unsure and do not look forward to the future.

O Mother, protect me, my kin and kith from any evil and temptation. And if unpleasant things happen, protect our souls from wounds Evil tries to inflict.

Visit Goteborg

I’m writting in a rather reversed chronological order, since I’ve been to Goteborg (correct English name would be Gothenburg) already more than two weeks ago. Yet it was a wonderful visit organized by Vitaly Shumeiko, and I ought to mention it.

Goteborg houses many nanoscientists, much more than Delft. Formally they are separated into Goteborg University and Chalmers Technical University, yet people from these different organizations sometimes even share offices. Owing to geographical proximity of former Soviet Union and rather harsh climate, an appreciable fraction of nanophysisists speaks Russian. Two of Goteborg faculty are my close university fellows: we graduated in 1982 from the same study-group of 18 people (where – guess now I have to mention it all the time – Andre Geim belonged as well). Know very well the most of Swedish-speaking elder faculty. However, despite many connections to the place, I have not been to Goteborg for 18 years.

Main events took place on Sept. 24. In the morning, I met Yari Kinaret: those were hours of nanomechanics. He introduced a bunch of students – of him, Leonid Gorelik and Robert Shekhter – and who did not have time and had to talk fast. In two hours I’ve heard more new nano- and micromechanical ideas than in two previous years. Leonid Kuzmin, with whom I worked in Moscow University many years ago, shared with me his ideas – some were more like dreams – about superconducting bolometers. He’s also shown interesting preliminary measurements of highly resistive superconducting forks. After lunch I met Per Delsing and Chris Wilson who do quantum optics with microwaves – and do it with zeal and style. They, Tsukuba gang and several other groups are active in microwave artificial atoms. Next was Serge Kubatkin, he was pioneered graphene on SiC substrate and has shown me astonishing Quantum Hall plateaus. Vitaly Shumeiko, fellow theorist, told about his work on Andreev dots under irradiation: a topic Ciprian and me will tackle soon.

To complete the (scientific) joy of the day, I was invited to a warm party and exclusive diner in Leonid Gorelik’s place. Officially we cannot talk about science at the party: yet me and Leonid went out for a smoke and there we discussed a bit of nanomechanics.

Eliashberg 80

One of the reasons to visit Russia was the fact that my supervisor, Gerasim Matveevitch (Sima) Eliashberg has turned 80 years old this year. Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics has organized a three-day conference to honour him and Vsevolod Gantmacher (75), and I was invited. Teun Klapwijk also got there, to commemorate the fact that one of his first experiments was to confirm an effect predicted by Eliashberg. Wonder if Teun could fully enjoy the talks: it appeared unexpectedly that the working language of the conference is Russian…

Prof. Eliashberg is still active and kicking. He attended all the talks. Once upon time, he has provided a great support to BCS theory of superconductivity by extending their approach to more realistic “strong coupling” case. He has also pioneered the use of random matrices in condensed matter physics, among other things. I greatly appreciate him teaching me. The point is that in my diploma thesis-PhD times I was rather unconventional younster. If I had a teacher of lesser patience and readiness to listen to baby-talk, I would never ever become a physicist. Well, by that time I thought that having such a supervisor is quite usual. Since that I met thousands of physisists, quick and deep, bright and active, but till now I haven’t met anybody who was as kind and noble as Eliashberg.

Long live Eliashberg.

Farewell to Moscow

I was not born in Moscow. Yet I have been living there and in the neighbourhood for 15 years, for most active part of my life. This is a city where I met my wife, get first son, first job, and my educational diploma. The city where I loved and was being formed.

This is why the city had a strange mastery over me. Despite the fact that I left, despite the fact that the city and me have changed almost beyond recognition. Very soon after my departure I’ve lost affiliation with people of the city except a handful of good friends. However, the city proper constantly attracted me, luring into a magic network of its side-streets and get-through-yards, inciting good and bad memories, keeping me on line of nostalgia of times past and things eternal.

Today I’m getting home after 10-day visit to Moscow and Chernogolovka. There were intensive lecturing, long and fruitful discussions with local scientists, attending talks. There were tributes to nostalgia, visiting places almost forgotten. There were unusual events and interactions, both pleasant and unpleasant, like being disturbed all night long by drunken Dutch youngsters.

One of the unexpected consequences of this visit is that the city has lost his power over me, or perhaps just decided to prune its subjects by expelling me from its magic circle. I have understood that I don’t belong to it anymore. Moreover, I have recognized a simple and smashing fact: I never actually did. It was all a kind of delusion coming from desire to belong somewhere, to have roots and nostalgic memories. Like a stray dog sometimes fancies to follow a passer-by imagining it has a master.

Therefore: farewell to you, Moscow, ugly and beautiful, holy and blasphemous, capital of unjust power and undeserved mercy, you have my soul not. Most likely, I will come along once again: but it will be my turn to be a passer-by.

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