Experiment, Theory, Practice: Articles and Addresses

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Springer Netherlands, Apr 30, 1980 - Science - 464 pages
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In tbis splendid collection of the articles and addresses of P. L. Kapitza, the author remarks on the insight of the 18th century Ukrainian philosopher Skovoroda who wrote: "We must be grateful to God that He created the world in such a way that everytbing simple is true, and everything compli cated is untrue. " At another place, Kapitza meditates on the roles played by instinct, imagination, audacity, experiment, and hard work in the develop ment of science, and for a moment seems to despair at understanding the dogged arguments of great scientists: "Einstein loved to refer to God when there was no more sensible argument!" With Academician Kapitza, there are reasoned arguments, plausible alter natives, humor and humane discipline, energy and patience, a skill for the practical, and transcendent clarity about what is at issue in theoretical practice as in engineering necessities. Kapitza has been physicist, engineer, research manager, teacher, humanist, and tbis book demonstrates that he is a wise interpreter of historical, philosophical, and social realities. He is also, in C. P. Snow's words, strong, brave, and good (Variety of Men, N. Y. 1966, p. 19). In this preface, we shall point to themes from Kapitza's interpretations of science and life. On scientific work. Good work is never done with someone else's hands. The separation of theory from experience, from experimental work, and from practice, above all harms theory itself.

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About the author (1980)

A Soviet experimental physicist, Peter Leonidovich Kapitza is best known for his work in low-temperature physics with the form of liquid helium that exists at temperatures close to absolute zero. He found that helium at this temperature exists in a "superfluid" state that conducts heat better than copper, the best conductor known at normal temperatures. His investigations showed that this form of helium is highly viscous and also displays an unusual form of internal convection. Related to this work, he developed a process for liquefying helium. The subsequent availability of liquid helium permitted the production of electric semiconductors and much other low-temperature work. The early equipment that he designed and built was far superior to anything else of its day. As an example, in the course of an experiment in 1924, he produced a record high pressure that was not surpassed until 1956. Like many other twentieth-century physicists, Kapitza was caught up in political turmoil. As a young man in 1919, he traveled to England to work on magnetic research at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University, eventually becoming deputy director of the laboratory. In 1930 he was made director of the Royal Society's Mond Laboratory at Cambridge, which was built for him. In 1934 he paid a visit to the Soviet Union for a professional meeting as he had done previously. However, this time the Stalinist government ordered Kapitza detained and his passport seized. The next year Kapitza was made director of a new research institute in Moscow, and the Mond Laboratory was sold to the Soviet government and transported to Moscow for his use. Kapitza worked there until 1946, when he refused to work on the development of nuclear weapons and was put under house arrest, only to be released after Stalin's death in 1953. He was then restored to his old post as director of the institute. He was belatedly awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1978 for work in low-temperature physics, including studies of electrical properties of matter and the liquefaction of gases.

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