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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

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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…

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