Monday, August 26, 2013

Lev Landau on High Quality Work.

Lev D. Landau was a distinguished physicist of the USSR, died in 1962, who led a great school of theoretical physicists. Here is one of his colleagues...
Landau thought there was a lot of stupidity  out there (in science and life) and not much intelligence. One aphorism  thus went as follows: “Why are singers stupid? It’s a different  principle of selection.” Here’s another, a good fit for the present day:  People who hear of some extraordinary phenomenon start proposing  to explain it with improbable hypotheses. First consider the simplest  explanation: that it’s all nonsense.  Finally – and with great relevance for today – Landau believed  that a leader in science absolutely has to have his own generally  accepted scientific results. Only then does he have the moral right  to lead people and set problems before them (and, I’ll now note, to  give recommendations to the political administration). Landau used  to say:  No scientific career can be based on decency alone – this will  inevitably lead to a lack of both science and decency.”  One wants to expand on these words now: No scientific career can  be based solely on organizational skills without like consequences.
B. Ioffe, pp. 25-26
Under the Spell of Landau
When Theoretical Physics was Shaping Destinies
edited by Mikhail Shifman (University of Minnesota, USA)