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The following is a conversation with Alexander Friedman, he's a professor at Drexel University and the director of the Nine Plasma Institute. He's one of the top plasma physicist and plasma chemists in the world. And most importantly to me, he's my dad. Plasma, by the way, is not referring to blood plasma in biology, but to the fourth state of matter in physics, solid liquid gas and plasma, which is a gas of charged particles that behaves in fascinating ways.
Plasma makes up the sun, the stars, lightening plasma displays, fluorescent lamps and is the most common state of matter in the universe. This is the one hundredth episode of this podcast. There were quite a few very big conversations, which were all options, but I decided to go back to where it all started for me and to do a personal conversation with my dad. This was a difficult conversation for me for many reasons. But life is short. Perhaps who needed microphones to give us a chance to say the things we never would have said otherwise?
This is that conversation. This is also a chance to briefly look back. If you don't know. I stepped down from my full time position at MIT to pursue a dream of building a startup around A.I. systems that form meaningful connections with human beings. I didn't have much money. The videos I've made and this podcast was a way to try to pay for food and rent while taking on the startup journey. It also gave me a chance to have conversations with people who inspire me, who make me think, and to share it with an amazing community.
Frankly, I don't know what to do with the idea that this thing has been listened to 35 million times. I'm pretty sure most of those are iPods. But if you're one of the rare biological systems listening to this. Thank you. I feel the love. It gives me a lot of strength in both this and the startup. By the way, since some people asked my full very Russian birth name is Alexei, Aleksi or Alyosha or as my mom might say, Yushchenko, but I've always enjoyed all my friends and people close to me who call me Leks or Lex in English.
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Oh, let's go to that place first before we go to the. To Kiev are the most beautiful in physics, chemistry, I would say, I would say Einstein, his ideas regarding stochastic motion and Brownian motion, I think it is the most beautiful, clear, simple idea, because from this, like a stochastics, you can prove the existence of molecules or not. It was I think it was his first publication in 05 with his first wife.
Actually, it was significantly already. That's right, they were collaborators. Those five, four, four or five papers published.
Yeah, actually almost everything which Einstein did. It was published. But the most important stuff he published in one year, one nine five. Mm hmm. But the first idea was. Probably the most elegant can you describe Brownian motion and why you think it's beautiful? You see that people at that time? They understand that if molecules if they exist, their motion is absolutely chaotic. Mm hmm. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. What he proved that doesn't matter what size of particles is.
Their motion is similar and about the same. So it is not necessary to see molecules. You can look at the bigger particles, like if you smoke, there is particles and you can see like a propagation of this smoke and from here. Determine behavior of molecules, and that's actually a relatively short. Very elegant, very clear. And at that point, people they kept talking about molecules, but it was no proof because there is no like a super electron microscope to see them.
So, you know, I'm saying, yes, molecules exist. Who said, well, I mean, can you show me that? So I made it. And boop. And he proved that a lot of people after these publications that. Probably molecules really exist, Einstein, 19 or five, so what do you like about that idea? The is an implicit simplicity that's proving something very, very, very, very, very, very complicated. So if I ask you, for example, you know, molecules exist, can you prove it?
Mm hmm. Obviously, like now you would say, OK, I have a special electronic microscope and I can take a look. That's OK. But when you go back to the beginning of 20th century. People, they were laughing, can you prove something you cannot read? No, no, no. Take a look at something very simple. Very, very simple. Very, very simple. What do you think it takes to do that? Kind of.
Thinking and competitive ideas and how many times have you encountered those kinds of ideas in your life? Have you had any. Yeah, yeah, I would say. And that's that's the whole beauty. My feeling that's a whole bit of science is just, you know, people, they say, no, no, no, no, it's impossible or no, no. Take a look. Take a look. Wait a second. I need to take a look.
Just think for five minutes if something is very complicated. You know, Kapisa, Nobel Prize laureate, like I work with him, by the way, he used to say, if it is complicated, it's probably wrong.
Well, it was a lot of discussion on Capitol Hill and now. Because now he he enjoyed to do something in a most complicated way. Why his friend Capitán, he was trying to do everything is an absolutely simple. And they had all these discussions because sometimes Capitol Hill went to extremes and he used to say. Well, this is simple, it means this is right and he was like, OK, you mean that everything was simple is right? I mean, like Feynman to you, like the simple.
Yes, yes, yes, yes. And that's the whole point to find this simplicity. That's that's the beauty of science. That's a beauty, really. That's beautiful. That's something worth to do.
Like at the risk of going religious for a second. Why do you think our universe allows for such simplicity to be discovered that such simplicity exists at all? I can I can tell you it is very similar to Darwin's theory. Why, I don't know why animals are this way, not the other way. So it is actually competition. Take a look about simplicity in beauty of physics, like you have two interacting planets and the force is proportional to one over R-squared.
In this case, they are able to go in circles or analysis if there is another law. They are either falling or without. So, like, so if, like, our solar system exists, so just the interaction would be over our square. That's it. It's very interesting about Isaac Newton and his way of thinking that's also was super, I would say genius.
Is it weird to you, talking about Newton, that action a distance, for example, the stuff I was doing in elementary school, which is funny without any knowledge of physics, but I was doing physics because of fighting, throwing things. Oh, better than that. Better than that. We played. Well, it was third, second, third grade. So it's in 1962, 1963. So from one hand, you know, Kiff that time.
So people they were excited about was obviously always especially boys. And also, you know, we are way better than Americans because, you know, we have four Sputnik. Yeah. And and Gagarin. I remember how happy we were. When was Gagarin? What year do you remember? Oh, I'm afraid to make a mistake, but I think it's in 1961 or 1960. 1961, 1962. Because what I remember that I wasn't either in the first grade or second grade and it was no, believe me or not at the time was a big problem because of Khrushchev and the coverage of shortage of bread shortage, all kinds of food.
No potatoes. No, it was a mistake, actually, of Russia because when he came to America, he saw that corn is everywhere. And he decided that if he put enough corn in Russia, Russia will be way stronger from the point of agriculture in America and that he overdid it. As a result, it was a shortage of wheat. So that's why I remember this moment, so just for kids. You remember so yes.
So for kids, what else is on each day? Yeah, during the class, you know, the special guy used to come and give a small piece of white bread to each kid, white bread, white bread, and at the same time like a teacher. And I was, wow, I forgot about this guy. Went to the space and kids, they even forgot about this, the bread.
So that's how big of a moment it is. It's more importantly, I get back to take a look. If you are a boy, you think about this single space like a one half of boys. They want to be astronauts, cosmonauts or the USA and the other half wanted to design rockets. So I was from this second part, so myself, with friends, we start designing small rockets. To fight second grade. Second grade, second, third, second, third grade, and we have been fighting with these guys from our next door house because these idiots, they used to use only stones against us.
Well, and it was a big fence.
Between houses, soldiers, they throw stones and we decided to make rockets.
Well, we made it and a scientist was born engineer, too. Yes, it was both science and engineering. Well, let me ask, was it that moment or in general, when did you first fall in love with science? I would say a sense I think clearly this fight with these beds, there is there are the kids with which keep throwing stones. From another side of the fence. Mm hmm. And we start making rockets. What does it mean?
The rocket as the fuel? We use a mixture of photographic films with special chemicals. You know, we consulted with.
Is a voice from high school, how about some details and we made it more or less, and then it was that stuff was actually wrapped into the silver foil. And in the end, we put like a match. So it was another match. We liked it.
And this stuff was going like sometimes 10 meters. Yeah. And it was able to go like two meters high. But very often it was mistakes because, like, we are bad with stability. So what I try to calculate at this moment is like a trajectory.
Meaning while it's in the air. Yeah. Control probably. Yes. Yes. Control.
So I try to try to calculate what motion to describe the where to point it.
So we have to point it to be sure that it will go far enough and it will go above the defense, which was maybe one meter eighty or something like that.
So so what was most interesting to the calculations or the math or physics or calculating the trajectory or the fact that you could engineer build something that's based on science in in the beginning, in the beginning and the beginning? To be honest, I was happy to fight. This is my side of the fence.
Which was funny that we used to do that and and they kept throwing stones. Which actually you cannot prove anything, but then in the end of this period, actually I fall in love with. Science, what is science to you sort of in that period, your eight year old or 15? Events, so not just to throw a stone, but just to make something and just and take a look, we made it so the the the creation.
Yeah. And also another important stuff when you are doing this kind of stuff for your friends. They start. Thinking that you are not so bad, you know, oh, so it's a way to earn respect your credit on the playground.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We were not interested in girls. You know, when you are like a second third grade, we just we hated girls. Yeah. But it was very important to have a respect from. Yeah. From always. Right. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
It's the camaraderie and your feeling and secret from parents and just to linger on it because you brought up Gagarin. Yeah. What are your thoughts. You know, it's inspired on the American side. The Apollo missions inspired an entire generation of scientists.
What was your thought about Gagarin and the space race and how they made you feel?
What role did it play in your life? To be honest, the whole country had a huge respect. To Gagarin, he was a nice person, very simple, and he was a hero because, you know, to be first to go to the space, knowing that percentage of success at the time with dogs was way far from 100 percent.
It's a big deal, I would not say that it inspired like a sound science. No, it did not. Back to making rockets.
It was just interesting and about America. We are way better than America. That's the way we have been thinking. I mean, come on. Is that. Yeah, that's not a question. Yeah. Uh, in America, saying the same as propaganda was it's propaganda.
But keep in mind, very, very important, actually. At that time in this year, Russia was way ahead, yeah, but it was no NASA. That's right.
That's so the fact that Russia is way ahead is what motivated America to really step it up.
And from one hand, but from another hand for Russian kids of second grade and third grade. Mm hmm. Come on.
We didn't think about America.
That's like, you know, that's millions of miles away. Yeah. Besides physics, you also have poetry in your blood.
So what has been your relationship to poetry? Music? What role did it play in your life? Poetry is a lot, but it is way later. Then then elementary school, actually. Like music wise, you know, like all teenagers, they're in love with music and it's just exactly the same now and 20 years ago and 30 years ago, I would say. At that time and that time, we were all in love with one special group, which is.
And he and what was extremely later, I was in sixth grade, fifth grade or the 60, 64, 65, 66. And in Soviet Union, Bidle, they were forbidden village smallmouth. It was absolutely strange, but at the same time, if something is forbidden, that's exactly what you love most. So I remember that for my big successes in science, I was awarded with going to the best of the best Kamps pioneer camps, Artec in Crimea.
And over there, it was it's international, so I met with I live together with a group of people from France. Yeah. Because I was the only one kind of speaking fluently in French and we just made trade. So we gave whatever we used to have. And we got the Beatles records, Beatles records and go, that's the rebellion you're a part of.
What about poetry?
What when did you first I mean, you've written a lot.
I wrote what? What poet. What maybe. Do you remember an early poem you've written? A bad one.
A good one. No, I started doing that late. So it was I was in seventh grade. I think that's late writing poetry. I thought and writing poetry is a little bit related to when boys they start looking at girls. It was a little bit different ice.
And we just love somehow behind poets even not so much even laugh, even just just all this imagination. Right? Like a way far from reality. It's an it is romanticism. Were you a serious poet or funny because you have a lot of humor and with Deadpool it's later.
Yeah, but that time as was extremely serious. Yeah. And extremely romantic. Which never ever after that it is hard to imagine. Yeah. But it is kind of a little bit like a childish romanticism or childish. I mean you know that but. But it was it's interesting enough that the first poetry was actually almost immediately from my very good. It's not like, you know, you are doing something not good and then better and then better and then better.
It's actually the opposite best stuff, which I wrote. It was like a seventh grade, well, around more like an eighth and ninth grade. And I wrote a lot at the time.
Why do you think you were so what does it mean? What good is good poetry mean? That means it's not cheesy.
It's beautifully worded. And he crafted it. Yes. And so where did that come from?
Was most people even great poets are terrible at first. So why why were you so clever quickly?
Because most people know you as really funny. Clever? No, I mean good words. Very, very good words. So you're saying that was early on. You already had that?
Yes. I have no good answer. Just. Comes from nowhere. Yeah, from my dad.
Oh, no, no, it wasn't Zirkin, I was it was actually, to be honest, no, not so much connection. But in Russian culture, romanticism, it is extremely important element, you know, starting from 19th century romanticism. So, yes, it was very popular. So either you are writing with poetry or bad poetry or you are an artist. You are like a, you know, painting something. So I have a lot of friends say they were painting.
Do you remember poetry? Do you remember a poem from that time that you've written by any chance? Yeah, sure.
I remember most of them by her mind.
You mind reciting there in Russian? Russian is good as long as they're not in French. I have in French.
If you want me just to read what what do you think what what's comfortable.
You know, maybe I will read one to one poem. Mm hmm. Which I like most from that period, and I'm not sure that I wrote something better after that.
Well, it's a little bit cheesy, however, but not much.
It's like a it's even not about girls. It's about music. Hmm. But still, the romantic, romanticized kind of wisdom, very Strong Medicine Act was the result of me reading a book by Eugenia Kitamura. Hysteria bitching about Captain Maestre, you're going to Crysler, actually, the story of a cat who found a book or like a notebook, but the notebook. Of people. He started reading about that and analyzing their life. So it's a life of peace through the eyes of a very, very smart cat.
So then I can read it in Russian, right? I mean, this Poythress once, please. I'll be going, OK? Well, it is one of them Crysler hypochlorite as well as Kapellmeister Ülgen Chrysler Büyük Placates. You wouldn't give us the billions he needs with Rajkovic. Never notice any Sodertalje American like the one who died in the Miramichi opportunities. Peter Snork Soon. Quiñonez Mouratidis New Graterford Tolkan. You smoke. Israeli society, Palestinian rocket Kushel Real has occupied the region all through the economy, lipase creepily schmiel if Suddeutsche scores Crevecoeur slow a yearly Clarkesville Nadene dawn donator, not Eurail Apparels Smith Nadhmi from senior Woori it across the casselberry piles.
Go nationally lasering responses from them Christly if Associated Press release kapellmeister Chrysler with placards labels. Wow, that's good. And it's like a I would say that whatever I did later, it was. How old were you? The here. So seventh grade. So eighth grade. Eighth grade 15. That is that's very good. Yeah. And it's a that's the romanticism, you know, with a little bit of like it too much. It's musically cheesiness I would say, but very strong.
So let's go let's go to Kiev. OK, let's go to Kiev. You were born and raised in Kiev, just like you said, with the guys, with the rocks and the rockets.
And but it was the stupid guys, you know, I guess we already got that you can hold a grudge.
What are some memories of your dad and mom that stand out and OK, what we do.
Well, let's drink in Japanese, so. Yeah, what are we drinking, Japanese whiskey and Japanese whiskey. They call it from the Barrel.
We're not sponsored by nickel. Whiskey, good whiskey.
Uh, yeah, we do not, but they are very, very good. Yep. Yeah. And they are in support of its, uh, Hokkaido north of Japan. So they are doing good beer, which is ZAPORA. They good very good whiskey and a lot of red caviar can make sure that's it.
Did you ever think when you were uh that shortage of bread and you were doing the rocket, that you would be sitting here in America a few years later drinking Japanese whiskey?
We talking about caviar? Did you even know what caviar was? Oh, no, no. Obviously, because caviar, it was for holidays a little bit and it was distributed. It's not like you go and buy it, but you got it a little bit like a small can. So we all of us, we knew that. And it just it was very popular. And.
Well, let me just actually ask that question. How did you imagine what where you would be 50 years from then? How did you think about your future? Actually. Oh, like in about eight grades, nine grades, I was very, very, very, very, very, very good in physics, mathematics and chemistry. So I was actually in this system of like Olympiada so-called competition. I was absolutely No. One in Ukraine twice an absolute number two.
The Soviet Union also twice. This is physics, competition or mathematics. It was physics. So for people who don't know, maybe you can explain. I mean, this is still goes on to this day. These are very intense competitions. I don't know if they're that popular in the United States, probably because the United States folks don't do as great.
But there it is, extremely popular, but not physics. What is going on in this country? I was very much impressed. It's a very serious and very tough competition in mathematics, in math, that's right. In physics class. Biology class. So you already know new summit in eighth grade that you're very good at.
Yes. But wait a minute. You said chemistry to chemistry or physics? Chemistry and you competed you won in Ukraine. And I was number two in Soviet Union was twice now.
Very interesting that in Soviet Union it was a rule you supposed to choose so you can participate in this competition in physics, mathematics and chemistry and all three of them up to the level of championship of the region of the big city. Mm hmm. In my case, it was Kiev. But then to go to competition in the Ukraine, you have to choose. You can go to only to one.
Hmm, so I want physics and chemistry and mathematics in Kiev, then I choose physics and I was going to Ukrainian. Now if you win in Ukraine, so couple of people from the whole Ukraine goes to this championship of. Soviet Union, that's an incredible accomplishment, by the way, was incredible. It was I mean, you basically you you peaked in terms of physics and poetry at age 14.
That's a big difference. You know, in physics, I was really on top of the Soviet Union, which is a huge country in poetry.
It was just. At nine, I'm not a professional, you know, and you can't compete in Porgera.
Yeah, well, basically over there and gold medal from high school, what you call here valedictorian, which is hard to do.
And I would say here is also very the independent high school. But in Kiev, it was an interesting situation because you have to the most difficult was actually not physics, mathematics, and it was writing, but because it was writing, not on the computer without spellcheck.
It just and you have to write how to win with miss, you know, 12, 12.
Pages as a minimum of an essay, and it's supposed to be zero mistakes and the Russian language is not the easiest one.
And when you say mistakes, I mean, this is a grammar mistake. It's not just its grammar, its writing mistakes, too. Oh, no. I mean, the writing is just incorrect use of words or something. Can you cross stuff out?
No, this is the you can't make a mistake in the actual writing process. You're writing with a pen. Yeah.
And cursive. You're not supposed to make any direction and you're not allowed to cross the lines. And that's it's perfection in in all the way. And it's silly. But maybe. What do you think about that. Is it what, what do you think about that strictness? Because it it it's easy to criticize from a distance, but there's something powerful about it. Yes, there is. And you know what? Countries are more powerful from this point of view is Japan is Petrakis.
I was so much impressed with their kids. What they keep saying that in Japan for kids. It doesn't matter, it's a holiday or a weekend or whatever. Each day you're supposed to train with these Japanese characters because if not, it's just impossible just to remember it. So they're there working too hard. But as a result, they can see for them quality because quality means no mistakes. Right. That's a very interesting point. What is new quality, it means no.
Perfectionism. And this perfectionism creates this kind of risk. Yeah, which this is what perfect tastes like. It's interesting. I mean, it forces you to take education seriously, everything seriously like this. This craftsmanship, its craftsmanship. Seriously. Yes, yes. Yes. And, you know, I mentioned to you this exam, this exam in in Russian essay, but it was something which was worse than that. Yeah, because because it was Kiev.
We supposed to take two essays, one in Russian language and also in Ukrainian language. So I think for a second it's a it's not your native language. And you're supposed to also write this at least 12 pages without with zero mistakes. And without any possibility to make any it should be perfect as a result, was funny that I speak Ukrainian, not bad at all. Because of this, I wouldn't say it's a good idea, but it's it's kind of a Russian version of a version of of a Japanese story.
But yeah, you know, there's a lot of interesting other things. I get to memorize poetry here, to memorize things, which I mean, that's a really interesting access.
That's what probably you remember. Yeah. Though it still was there when I was there.
Yeah. Yeah. Like I used to know at least. Thousand points by heart, by heart, and you still remember many of your own by heart. Yeah, his, by the way, helps with mathematics. How good memory? Just memory.
OK, so you said you already knew.
I mean, it's an incredible, incredible accomplishment to be at that level in physics at that young age. So what did you think about the future, returning to the original question, where do you think that would take you? This fascination and this skill with physics?
Did you imagine I being a professor, did you imagine being Einstein?
You know, kids in high school, I mean, at least between us and I was like already in high school. It was like special high school and physics and mathematics.
We were all like not only dreaming, but being sure. We can do that, we can be best of the best in the world, and and it was a very popular subject at that time, if you are like the best thing in physics, it's way more you are way more popular than a guy who is the best in basketball. Yeah, it's interesting.
I mean, that's what do you think that is in the Soviet Union, that it was so respected. So admired when you were great at science, it was propaganda. So is the state created there? Yes, so and it was good actually. Do you think we'll ever see that in America without an authoritarian in a democracy? Because in America, Brad Pitt and Michael Jordan are the superstars and scientists. Most people don't know a single scientist except Einstein in America.
Well, I would say my feeling it should happen in America. It should happen to the boys and girls in America.
It should be should meaning like that's a good thing. Or should you think it's very important? Because if. If. Kids in America, they are just not so much good in sciences. Sooner or later, we will lose competition. To two countries where science is in very much high prestige example today, unfortunately, not Russia. The best example today is probably China. I have been there. I saw their high schools. Have to be very careful with that.
So my feeling that that it should be done because in America, university education is way stronger than in Russia. Mm hmm. And is way stronger than in Europe. But high school education in America is not so.
So strong. It is difficult to understand why, but what do you think the universities are so strong in America? Why do you think the most Nobel Prizes are from America? Why do you think science is so good, even though, yeah, scientists were never really worshipped in America because in Russia it was always a problem.
So the strongest you know, the people, students, kids, they they're they are very hard workers when they are in high school, because after that there is a very strong competition to get the good university. Very, very, very challenging, the same in China. So you have to be very good to enter a very good university. So kids, they work like crazy to do that. Also, boys, they knew that they have to take a look.
You have one chance in most cases, with the exception of a couple of universities, have only one chance to go to one university to try yourself. If you make it, you become a student. If not, you go to the army for three years. So you it's very interesting, it's a very psychologically interesting situation, because what is going on, you have to make a decision by yourself. Are you strong enough to go to the best place?
Mm hmm. Because it's only one place you can go. Now they start changing the system. But in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, it was the case. So just and there was a cost because of failing.
Once you choose and you don't get in cost, not money wise, but real cost, you go to Ironmen if you are a boy. If you if you just overestimate yourself. Mm hmm. Is that when you got that line in your hair, that that period when you talk to people who don't know my dad's hair now is white, but he used to have the sexy straight down the middle for many decades. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 10, 20, 30.
A lot of pictures. I have this right now anymore. Not anymore. It's a good look now. So anyway, is that when you got a distress that's when you were under the stress was it was a real stress. What happened? Well, that's that's the best story. I told you that in when I was a finishing high school at the 10th grade. At the time, I became a champion of Ukraine, number one and second in Soviet Union, which was a very, very big deal.
After that, five kids and six No.
Five, five kids from Soviet Union were supposed to go to international competition.
Mm hmm. And this international competition was the same dates as, you know, exams to enter university. So if you are a champ, if you are making five best five best kids in physics, five best kids in mathematics, five best kids in whatever chemistry they. Were able to skip. This final exams. Which means to keep this essay in language, one language is say another language, and you skip all exams, but instead of death, you prepare for international competition.
Mm hmm. So because I was number two, I was clearly the team. So I was not supposed to go to this stupid exams, right? And butwell, but it was this telephone call of our leader from Moscow, and he said that like it's like a one week before. But unfortunately, you have to be replaced with another guy because they are unable to give you a visa. Oh, and that was actually that's that was the stress.
It was it was a very big stress. And at that point, like people, including those from America and Zionist motion, and they came to me and they asked me, you know, to make a speech and just to say something and to do something. And they took my dad to your grandfather. He spoke with people from KGB because he was a guy, had them and and he came to me and said, OK, you do whatever you want because it's your life.
You make a decision.
But they told me that if you. Forget about what happened. You have a gold medal which is over there. He'll pass all exams and you will have a five and a highest grade, whatever you do, it will be a yea and then you go to any university you want. And you'll be accepted. Mm hmm. This is KGB talking, those kinds of things. Yeah, and I hesitated. I said, well, yeah, I agree, I, I will not fight against the system.
So can you explain a little bit?
Does you being Jewish have anything to do with it? Absolutely. It's 100 percent OK.
So because it was actually it was a 1970. And in this moment, it was a very significant actually push to immigration for Jewish people, to Israel and to America. And they they were afraid all this that they just give all this award to the guy and he will say, OK, guys, goodbye.
I just decide to go to America or to Germany or whatever of Israel keeping that in mind just in case they prefer not to give Visa. And the time, interesting enough is KGB. So they do not give a visa and they do not give any explanation why. Right. Just. You cannot do that, however, however, they say he's a good guy and if he accepts. That will do everything for him. Dunsford. It's also a risk because you never know they can, but I don't know, maybe, maybe I am so smart, but actually without special preparation, I went to the super exams.
And they got a you did well, I did well, so and that's the reason of the strike, which appeared in a very short. It was a source of stress, but I'm not exactly understanding the depth of the stress it was.
Did you have a choice to make? I mean, it doesn't feel like there's a choice. It just actually went already. I made a decision. I was already resistant. OK, so the decision process was because I was it's like, you know, I was falling from Olympe or whatever, like because I was feeling that everything is like I'm best of the best in the world or whatever and boots they actually put me in my place. You know, it was a difficult moment, but but then I was accepted and it wasn't, you know, immediately celebration because, you know, I got this gold medal, which is a big deal.
And Soviet Union, the gold medal represents being about the Toyia proletarian right.
So. Did you experience anti-Semitism leading up to that moment in your life, did you feel that you were were you made to feel that you were Jewish?
Did you experience life as a as a Ukrainian Jew or simply as a Ukrainian?
And also for the listener, that is uncomfortable talk A likes to avoid uncomfortable conversations, so I have to force them into uncomfortable conversations.
OK, oh, well, it's not only me, just like all our generation are in at that time in Ukraine, in Ukraine, Ukraine. At that time, it was not the same as Ukraine today. So level of anti-Semitism. It was way higher in Ukraine than in other places, other Soviet republics. All right.
Why is that? Is there any historical. Yes. Reason for that? Well, it was actually historical, significant historical reasons, starting from Bogdan Netsky. So at some point, a couple of hundred years before that, Jews, they supported Polish people and it was against Russia, against Ukraine.
So just a level of anti-Semitism was very high in in these kind of countries. Also, this area was inside of pale of settlement. So there was a lot of Jews, a lot of Jews, a lot of problem with Jews in Moscow. It was forbidden for Jews to leave. So no no Jews, no problems. So when I actually moved from Kiev to Moscow, it is like a day and night. So Moscow was beautiful. I mean, I did not feel well, if you felt.
But not not so much. I would say in Ukraine always I felt that I am Jewish. But from that hand, you remember all these kids from our yard were like a stone that that both both groups, they were Jewish. So what I'm trying to say that Jews, they lived actually together. So from that point of view, you know, it's less it's a huge anti-Semitism. But but they are somewhere you're somewhat isolated from it because because it's like a Jewish Jew getting together.
I mean, they just it was a historical ghetto. Yeah. OK, let's let's jump back. OK, we were saying that you were born and raised in Kiev. What what are your favorite or maybe most representative memories of your dad and mom? From the earlier years. Well. It was a. Beautiful family. You're the only chance, you're just I was only charged one, yes. And my father, he was a hero of World War Two and he was actually always with a stick because, you know, he was like a cane.
Cane, right. He was heavily wounded during the war and he operated the gun, the machine gun.
He knows he's got a very complicated situations.
Also, he was risking his life enormously. And the only reason he survived because he was heavily wounded soldiers. It was the end of the war for him. And, you know, and as a boy, you know, for me, he was and he was a real hero. He was like, you know, it's not very different from me. He's like a big hands, you know, like, yes, always. He was not drinking Japanese whiskey.
He was drinking only one thing. Mm hmm. What do you remember?
Like we had somewhere else? Yeah. Well, we'll get to the bar. Yeah, but what I'm trying to say that it's a different personality. And he just from this Jewish boy, he became an associate minister. Of construction of Ukraine, which was a very big deal, so he was like, this is very much different from me. I'm like a little bit like a softer personality, much like my mother. But he was a very tough guy.
Were you afraid of them? Whom would have to be afraid he he loved me, but he was a person like, you know, very strong personality. So, yes, when if I did something wrong. Oh, you remember the story?
No, no. I mean, with these idiots from another. From the right.
Yeah. And it's OK. It's so yes. I was afraid of my father, so I had huge respect. And my mother, she was like a nice Jewish mother.
And I said, well, let me kind of ask a hard question. You've lost your dad a few years ago. Yeah. What did it feel like when you learned that he died? What went through your head? What memories? Well, like, you know, losing your parents, it's. It's when your parents so I would say what I can say to Susan Sarandon and my father, it was a whole generation. You know, this is just like.
And, you know, the feeling you have that now you are the man. That's interesting. But the feeling is. Now it's my turn to be great. I just have to do something now just because when you have your parents, you always have this feeling that there is something behind you just in case. Yeah. And my father, he was very, very, very strong personality.
Just this interesting story that during this, uh, persecution in 1952 by Stalin, when it was the so-called affair of doctors or whatever, how to say in English deliberately, when Jewish people were actually sad, just their doctors and most of them were Jewish, basically. So they used to say that they actually kill half of the government, whatever, as a doctors.
It was absolutely lie. It just says nothing was reality. And Jews, they were prepared actually to be moved from all over the Soviet Union to Abidjan to make a close to Chinese border on Amort River like, oh, it's thought they tried to move them closer to Japan, the Japanese whiskey.
So, like in camps. No, watch.
Just just just just kind of moved them so they would talk to the so-called Jewish oblasts, Jewish region or whatever. But it's like it was nothing there. Yeah. And if you move like this kind of group of people with about three million Jews, not to forget, you know, at least half will die just during this movie. So it was nothing.
And you're preventing them from having a future. Yeah. So at that time, you know, people they kept start kept talking about the same stupid stuff that Jews, they drink blood of babies, of Christian babies. Yeah.
And and that's what my father used to say, that his friends. And it's like a. it's like a meeting and the, you know, people they're asking, have you seen something? Have you seen him like a drinking glass or something like that? And he said that he was absolutely impressed that his friends and all of them, they most of them in. There or either leaving the room just not to participate in this stupidity or they say we haven't seen, but who knows if people they write in newspapers.
It's a very strong propaganda so that he lost he was associate director of this manufacturing plant. And I and they say that he's supposed to leave.
Because because this whole propaganda, he's a Jew and Jews are drinking the blood of Christian babies, maybe, maybe, who knows, maybe it's enough, but there's no evidence that they're not.
So so he's not going to prison, but he's not going to work in our enterprise. So he said, OK, I am like associate director and I want to be a worker, simplest doctor because I love my plants. No. So actually he left and it was what was that memory stand out for you.
Why? Because it was it was 1952 and I was born in 1953. So. So what was happening?
That he was without a job for one year because nobody wanted to to take him before Stalin died in 1953. And it was a moment when I was born. So my mother, she worked to support the whole family. And we lived in a small room, 14 square meters. It was my grandmother, grandfather, father, mother and me.
So, I mean, that's kind of it was a big impact on. And then Stalin died and everything became way better is and in terms of anti-Semitism as well.
Oh, you see, there is a good movie basically made here in America, a Russian Jews part, the Russian Jews parturition. There are three. I think it's on YouTube. Yeah.
So what is that? It was almost no antisemitism before World War Two, but it was very strong and it isn't. After the end of the World War two and in nineteen forty five and death of Stalin in 1953, in 1953, serration become better but not as good way, not as good as in the 1930s.
Why was there anti-Semitism after the war? The Second World War, it seems, on Russia.
Sorry to interrupt.
How did the Russians in your memory think about the the the cruelty of the Holocaust? Because there's so much pride about Russia winning the war of being the you know, to getting to Berlin isn't. How do you think about the people that were tortured?
Well, we had a very strong, very strong propaganda propaganda, very strong propaganda. So what happened that OK, what actually happened? That in the end of OK, before World War Two? Before World War Two? Actually, Jewish people, they just they forgot that their Jews it was and I mean, they were all Soviet, you know, like the Soviet first, Soviet first way first.
I mean, it was before war in the end of the war. Jewish people, they create a lot of special organizations. And because of Holocaust, they had significant support of the United States of America and the Western countries, but mostly United States of America and Jewish people. In the end of World War Two, they start thinking that it's like my story was this when I graduated from high school. So they start believing that they are the guys, you know, because they have so much support from the United States.
And it's also an on top of that, like a chariot was a creation of Israel. And that was around then, so and I night there was a kind of a push that Jews are no longer Soviets state their homeland is. Yes.
And and Jews, they felt like a initially very nice, but they overdid it. So bottom line, it was a and also not to forget about Hitler. So as a result, a level of anti-Semitism in from 1945, the 19th, 53 was growing significantly and then it was a little bit better. But actually significant improvements are happening on the 1960s, not earlier than that. So can you talk a little bit more about your dad's journey in World War Two?
I mean, there's I remember a bunch of stories, but, you know, just for people interested in, you know, it's a World War two, is that the core of our family in a sense? So can you just linger and maybe if you have memories about his impact, how did he get injured? What was his relationship with the, you know, violence, with death, with bullets flying everywhere?
Yeah. On my father, he was born in 1923, so in my end, where I live in Minsk, in Minsk, which is now with Russia, and and he was born in October. So when the Cold War started, he was 17. Yeah. And it was forbidden to go to Army if you are younger than 18. So together with his friends, they may change in the past, but they just change their year from they made themselves one year older just to be accepted to the army.
And interesting enough that, like the way I understand at least this, the people who organized like a army, they understand they saw that this boys, they're younger, but. They letting go. He wanted to go what he wanted to go.
You know, there's so many stories in the Vietnam War in America where there's there's a lot of people, brave people, who found ways to not go. Yeah.
Here it's absolutely opposite. It's absolutely apposite because most not not everybody would disagree, but majority propaganda was extremely strong. So protecting your father and mother, it's even to die for your country. Yes, yes. Yes. So to die for your country, it was kind of like an honor. Yeah, that's. And also, they were sure that Red Army is 100 times stronger than these Germans. Yeah. So and they thought that, OK, we'll go there.
So a couple of months and we are winners, but in one way or another.
But they were all wanted to go, especially when, you know, you're not like a very rich guy, you know. So he went to the army and it was like a couple of months special preparation to become like a lowest level of officers. So junior lieutenants or whatever it is in this country. And he became like this low level officer and he starts actually near Moscow and just start going back and back and back and back and and that's it.
And he was with this machine gun. Mm hmm. And, you know, the change of like that was very fast. So people they were killed very, very, very fast, actually. People that were operating machine guns.
Yeah, very, very fast. Because just change the change over the change.
Like, so he became division commander reasonably fast division the region.
That's one way to move up when everybody's dying. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And what he kept saying, I think, given to you, because he just it was like he kept saying that for some reason he was absolutely sure that every day he saw that like everybody else are killed and he's not. So he was kind of sure that something's protecting him. He's invincible and, yes, he's invincible. He he wasn't right and he was very strong, actually, very, very, very strong, like basically physically and mentally, physically and mentally.
So kind of like he looks I mean, he's like because that's silly, but not like myself. But he's very physically strong and mentally. Protected, like I don't know what the best way to say that he's he was assuring himself and he was sure that there's a confidence. Is that the idea? No, no, no, it's not. It's a confidence. It's a concept a little bit like a kind of like a religious. But he did not believe to the guy in the first place, but he believed in what he used to say in his star.
So there is a star which protects him. And I'd be right, and he might be right. He survived the war he had he survived the war because after like four, not like five or six months, he was heavily wounded, which was very good.
Yeah, actually, because that's right.
He's right in the leg. In the leg.
Yeah. So he was like and he had a lot of this.
Or do you remember what about the people in general, you know, 20 million plus Soviet people died. Yeah. What impact do you remember what impact the war had on the people? So enormous. Enormous. That's why for 20 million, it is a lot. And half of them were just civilians. Because Stalin, he just operated this war without counting people. Yeah, but do you think it had. Powerful creative impact in terms of music, art, literature, science, for the sad thing about war.
All of the above science mostly. All of the above it, because even before war, science was very much pushed up, but after the war, scientists, they were considered like the key people in the world, especially military scientists. Well, I don't think I've ever asked you this. I haven't asked you most of the things I'm asking, but you're Jewish. Hitler killed a lot of Jews. How did you feel about the Holocaust? I don't think we've actually really talked about is it just an intellectual tragedy to you or did I ever feel.
I know a bit. What do you think about human nature after that? Who you see that I have parents and my parents. They have parents, which my grandparents and they're my great grandparents.
So all of those all of those, without exception, were killed in Holocaust. Zero died with their own death nature of this, all of them, they were killed because they were already a little bit older, like I am now, and they were sure that Germans, they will not touch them. Come on. Just something to old people. It's kind of strange. And all of them, without exception, all of that, they were killed.
So it is, you know, like initially in my life, I just it was like a Clearlake hatred with respect to Germans in general, which only later I mean, it was clear that it's not a Nazi, it's not German in Germany, but that's that it was very serious feelings about that. So hatred.
But so as you as you grew up, did it, um, are you hopeful about.
Whether people are good or evil and did that have an impact on, you know, the fact that you can see so much evil, you can become cynical the way you still did you?
Is there still an optimistic, positive person inside you? Yeah, there is. I am optimistic myself. I am optimistic. So just the. The point is that like a. I was when I just started growing up, even even in high school. Level of anti-Semitism was like a way lower, and in general, I felt myself always way more Soviet. Then I was a Russian, Ukrainian or Jewish or so.
What was your relationship with the Soviet Union? We'll talk about coming to America, but what was your feeling? So you proud for it for many years?
I was very proud. I was very proud of the style of life where science is really popular, where people there working not for money, but people that are working for me to make something interesting, to make something good. It is a place where if you if you if you're good, you are rewarded. And that was a healing. It was propaganda, obviously. So for me, when I was in elementary school, middle school, high school, and I would say in school, I was feeling that I'm extremely proud of something that.
It was this shock change and then a lot of friends, they start going to Israel or America, so just everything start changing everything.
Thirty years after Stalin, after all, it's so nice. It's, uh, it's already. I'm talking about late 1970s in the 70s and the 1970s already. Like people, they again start feeling that they are Jewish because of significant immigration to the American, to Israel. OK, see, you were in Kiev through high school. Mm hmm. So let's look to your next chapter, your life. And can you tell me. What is Fischbeck as it's I don't even know what the full English name is, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and what is it in Russian?
The full name Moskovsky Nikiski Institute. And they, um, it's it's not a committee, but it is. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mhm. Yeah, yeah it is. Am I p g yes. I mean it's kind of, it's a kind of a kind of um it's maybe a little more like a Caltech.
Oh no. Was there an engineering component. So it's very small. Right. I mean it was, it was the size of a Caltech. Yes. And it was very much. Focused on. Science and military science and now sorry to interrupt, and this was in Moscow. Yeah, and so you came from Kiev to Moscow. Moscow.
So how did you get into. So, yeah. So you said because this is focused on science, military science.
This is like the I saw on the Internet this description of the maybe you can talk to it math and physics, education at MIT, the number of hours I think, or compared to this year. And they were I mean, they were making, first of all, the physical education shorter and covers like an order of magnitude more material.
What can you explain what the what their experience is like, what the what their idea of the kind of how the they're putting you through is what the philosophy.
But that is what we have been looking for because, you know, don't forget that. Well, you're coming to the place and you feel yourself best in the world. And when you meet people from, you know, outside, you're like a you're like a different personality. You're from MIT, you are from Rochester. So it was a lot of songs. A lot of it was a very and we were so much proud that number of credit hours.
It was incredible. We work from nine to five each day. You can from nine to five. It is eight hours. Thirty eight hours of classes. How many days a week, six days a week, so you can count and it's and the level was and your requirements are very, very, very, very strong. And as math, physics, chemistry, what was the range of subjects? In important ways, importantly, like when you enter like a you start with very high level mathematics, physics and chemistry, actually.
And so why did you want to go? So basically because you felt that you were one of the best people in the world at math and physics. So this is the place to go and chemistry and chemistry. And that's that's that's the way to go. By the way, when I came to Moscow, I hesitated for about one day because I also I was in love with mathematics and mathematics meant like a freedom. So they had less classes. They were more open for, like, creative thinking.
Well, it was like, oh, what's the best word to say what they do? Like in sports, like when you make like a something extremely hard for you, like a what's the name, how you say, uh, for military. For military. For military.
When I was a boot camp. Yeah. When I said boot camp but I said, yeah, this is really intense. So it is a sense of weeding out the weak. Yes.
And that was going on actually. So the significant number of students, they were actually leaving after the first semester.
Yeah, it was extremely challenging. Also, keep in mind that it was about OK, usually group, it was like a 25 people 30 and usually one girl. So it was like a whatever the three percent growth, 97 boys. It's also create a very special atmosphere.
Well, uh, maybe just the day before we get into the special atmosphere, what was your journey to Fisher like? So I think I read a book, A Love of Math, by Ed Frankel, also Russian. I think you mentioned this stuff in there. And he's also Jewish. And he said that there was a lot of anti-Semitism that that that there is a bunch of schools that you weren't I mean, it was either explicitly or implicitly, no Jews allowed.
Yeah, well, so did you. So what was the process of getting into this place and how much anti-Semitism was there in that picture at that period? It was 1970. It wasn't clear. Well, it's anti-Semitism. Yes, absolutely. But what I mean that it was like for Jews, it was very difficult to get into the universities. Very simple. But in. Most of universities, the rule was kind of hidden, so just it was like a Jewish boy and not Jewish boy and they were going to the same exam and the professor gives like a D or C for a Jewish guy and like B or A for for a Jewish guy.
If their level is the same, it was just in most of places, but most going into physics and technology, it was very different exams. They were absolutely honest. However, however they count. It was two exams in physics and two exams in mathematics or mathematics. Great mathematics or physics reason, physics, ABCDE and A is five BS four, C three, D two. And if you're Jewish, an exam, they were very, very, very, very, very, very tough.
Yeah, the all I hear all of them and both written and oral, they were extremely challenging. But equally for that matter, you are Jewish or Jewish were you know, if you are Jewish, you have to have to to go through that. You have to have either 19 or 20, which means. Yeah. Which means it should be eight or one. Well, if you're not Jewish, 17 is absolutely OK, 16, some people, 15, some people.
So it was made clear and beside that, it's completely fair.
Yeah, it was, you know, it was from some point of view, it was good because it is not like a cheating. It was like a clear rule. Let's do it. It was very interesting that after exams, it was a special interview and it was interview with. Always a really high level scientists. It was like two or three famous famous famous scientists and the one or two KGB people and the and they just, you know, manage this operation.
And it is impossible to discuss, you know, they say, yes, you are accepted, great. They say, no, you're not. Why Leithauser? So what was your favorite subject, topic ideas that you fell in love with in, uh, in the first few years of this year?
It was general physics because we had absolutely beautiful. A lecture and a half his books, even now I have over there, he wrote like a lot of books on a civilian civilian. Yeah.
And he was a very interesting personality. I was in love with him for, I would say, two years, not more than that, because, um, his idea was you have to present physics. Absolutely. Without calculus. So it should be no derivatives and no integration. How is that possible? I'm just do you do physics? You can say physics. You mean like mechanics, so.
No, no, no, no, no, no. Physics means physics with mechanics. It's a thermal sciences. It's electricity, optics and nuclear physics.
Without Kappos, without. OK, the only thing he did not touch, it was not quantum mechanics was quantum mechanics in the air back then.
Yeah. Yes. But not for this gentlemen.
Not for this professor. He was not so much he was not a famous scientist. He was a famous teacher.
And then only then I just, you know, jump to the world of theoretical physics and and chemistry.
So and that the next step in my life is just jumping into theoretical physics. And what would branch of theoretical physics.
Were you interested in so I've never actually heard you talk much about the world of the big, like general relativity.
So looking out into the stars you were more interested in like what? Physics phenomena? Were you interested in it now or that? That so at that time. At that time, after these two years with you, can I just changed completely to absolutely opposite approach to purely theoretical physics. And at that time, the most popular it was the so-called Lundahl minimum. Mm hmm. So then down to ten bucks and they are.
Believe me, they are. Wow, so they are so hard. Yeah, they are. Just for somebody of those just, you know, hardest of the hardest, like, very challenging, very difficult. And it's boys. So just they say if you want to show yourself, you have to go. The so-called Landow mean we have to go through 10 exams. Actually, because the first one is, was mathematics, and then there are physics, still physics 10 and you know, it was a challenge.
It was very difficult. I went through that just actually, you know, just to prove. Yeah. That I can do that. To be honest, I did not. And and at least I hate that because it was not so much. It is not Feynman. You know, it is just something up to that. The opposite. Yeah. But it's it's painful almost for the sake of being painful. Yes. It's like it's like you are doing the martial arts.
Yeah. That's just. To show yourself that you can do that, yeah, so that's what I did, and then when I was actually I was doing that, but in the middle, it was the first time I came to each other instead of atomic energy. So speaking of which, what is the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy and who was your so I feel like an artistic adviser. So who was your adviser? Who were the mentors in this period of your life?
Are Muslims the physics and technology? It's very interesting approach. It's so-called physics system. Yeah. What does it mean to me the first three years you work in classes. And then you go to actual national labs and you choose them, they choose you, etc, etc., and three years you work there and you listen to the classes.
But these classes are not from teachers, not from teaching professors, but from very, very high level actual scientists.
So and who was so who was the person who was the person that you connected with? Who was your adviser in that fourth year, fifth year.
Yeah. Well, and what's Kurchatov. So that's one of that's that's the connection. Yeah. Yeah. Kurchatov, it's there's downtown Moscow, right. Yeah. Yeah. Kurchatov, it's a guy it's like a father of Russian atomic bomb.
And he built a big reactor in central Moscow. The interest in that it was in nineteen in nineteen ninety, nineteen forty six. I think, you know, they built the first reactor and then the bomb in 1949.
So and it was a it's it's you know, like in America there is a group of national labs different, like a Oakridge National Lab at Los Alamos National Lab, Argonne National Lab, etc. in Russia. I would say most of this lab, they were combined together in this one, Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy. So it's like you can imagine, like a combination of most of American national labs. In one place, it was 15000 people working there, 15.
So that's a huge it's like a city inside of city. And when they were created, they were focused on nuclear physics and nuclear engineering and everything around.
Development to build atomic bomb and the same thing for. Fusion bombs, all for hydrogen bombs, and but later they add the Saudis face physics groups, etc. So, yes, it was a I would say it's still now the most, I would say the strongest research center in the old Soviet Union. So I decided to go there and I decided to go to plasma. So in January 1972, I came to they did not let me inside of it.
I came over to the gate and I met my first professor who brought me. There was Professor Linyi through the Koff. He's now professor emeritus of University of Maryland. I saw him a couple of years ago last night, and he brought me to his house and he spoke and just he said, I just remember forever. He he told me, you want it's like the story was in the pool and he said, You want a tea with milk or with honey or.
And my answer was exactly the same as Winnie the Pooh. I did. We the boy that time, I said, OK, all of the above, please.
Because why? Because we were hungry. Very simple. And he spoke to me and he started working. It was and I made my first.
Actually, paper, you wrote your first paper and that's who you were, and that was on plasma, it wasn't plasma. And but then in the half of a year, he told me that he likes what we are doing, but he will be unable to help me in the life because I'm Jewish and to four Jewish Jewish person even look absolutely brilliant. To get inside of Kurchatov, you have to have a stronger helper's. And he recommend me to meet Regiment Rossana and really at that moment.
So it was a moment when I start to names I know well because Rosoff as is legendary. So because of you, I seem to have met a lot of people from Fischbeck. Yeah. And much like Amitay, they're never shy about telling you that they're from Visger because a lot of pride. So I know Rossana for maybe you can tell about them.
The other guy, um I guess the like us of winning a lot of people these days know from the shadow of Chernobyl who is but he obviously has deep roots and Kurchatov and is a very also interesting person. So OK, so Rossana, who's this legendary human that I've heard so much about.
Well, with, uh, you know, that plasma fusion plasma, it is not only like making the stock market, but it is diagnostic that your measurement, characterizations or the most challenging is how to measure it.
So Ruthanna was world accepted as a father of plasma diagnostics. So he was a very, very, very nice. A person working with plasma diagnostics, both theory and experiments, and at that time in 1973, approximately, oh, he decided he was asked by have to start plasma chemistry, not plasma physics, but plasma chemistry, because they wanted to disassociate uranium hexafluoride and plutonium hexafluoride and they were unable to do it without liking traditional ways. And they decided to try plasma.
So. And have agreed. To take a lead in plasma chemistry and at that point, you see that I was in a good but good moment, in a good place. So I was lucky, actually, because all of them, they were physicists, especially Rosana, deeply, deeply, deeply physicist. And he needs help from a good young person who is not afraid of chemistry, being a physicist. So he looked around and told him that there is a young guy, a very interesting personality.
He's good in physics, but he's in love chemistry also.
So try him. And to me, he said, go through Asanov.
He's a tough guy, but but he will be able to help you because to help you to stay to go further in your life. Because he's a close friend of working together with Lagos in Lagos. I was associate director, vice president of Kurchatov Institute. So that's how it all started. And they asked me a couple of things. Can you do this? Can you do that in chemistry? So it is just physicists and talking chemistry. So let me stop put because I'd like to step back in a little bit to talk about what is plasma.
Even so, before all that, let's talk about. So what? The step away from science, what impact did he have on you as a human being? What memories do you have of him that you love or hate or both?
You know, I would say the best word would be both, because do you remember, Rosana? Not hard to know what I remember because I was totally story personality. He's a personality. He's he's extremely tough, very quiet. He's mostly not talking. He's only looking at you always in your eyes. He's like, well, that's he's brilliant. Smart. He was absolutely smart. Absolutely brilliant. So you are very tough and tough.
And so you have to be basically that makes for a great adviser because this is a person to be afraid of.
Yeah. And you have to you're basically for the rest of your life or trying to prove yourself to him. Yes, that's exactly the case with the admission that you met Rosanna. Yeah, that's the personality.
Is there a memory, a story that stands out to you maybe that represents him?
Well, it was I was going to science, right. But I remember one story just forever. One of the I was already not a postdoc, well graded student. So it was a one and the greatest student you remember from third grade and muskies physical. And she was supposed to start, you know, after vacation she came. But but something happened and she came about one week later. So, I mean, it's her adviser, which is another famous scientist and I was in the office of Rossana, so he brought this girl.
Mm hmm. And it's a nice girl. I know so many girls in and we stick. Not so many girls. So she came to this office. And Ruthanne, if you just look at her. Like a snake, you know, like look at her without any words. For about maybe the 20, 30 seconds, just look at her eyes. And then she said he said. Your colleagues, they started working a week ago. Your what your colleagues, while other students are the students, they are already working, start working one week ago.
That's what he said. And kept looking at her, just staring and staring right. And she, you know, is a stark warning from her face. Yeah. And it was like a torture. It's he did a seizure by silence and staring. Yes. Yeah, that's a good sign. Maybe like three, three minutes. But even for me, it was like maybe one hour for her, maybe it's like whole life.
OK, let's go to the most important question. How did you meet Mom?
Oh, so this is before Kurchatov, I suppose, all around that time. It's no, it is already. I met Mom in nineteen seventy three, which is second, third, fourth year of yours and that was my.
Third year, no, it was my fourth year already, and for mine, it was the second time she was there. Yeah, I told you that it's like three percent. So she was one of the girls in one of the special things in this special. And. Yeah, and she survived this kind of also super training by the first year. She survived everything. Yeah. I mean, so how did how did you uh.
OK, so there you are, part of the ninety seven percent.
Uh, with a giant ego as we can already tell. Uh, by the way, did your ego serve you well, we'll talk about a little more actually. Yes, I think, yes. What about in science. Yes, I think people will hear that you have a bit of an ego, but I think it's deserved. So you're it's the same with fine and it's the same with Leonard Susskind. A lot of physicists have this weird dance with ego.
It's a useful weapon when you go the cautiously. But did it help you in terms of with mom?
I would not say so of confidence. Oh, well, how did you. The most difficult. Yeah. Is, you know, to to go to this because it's a boys and girls, they live separately and different like this place. Those are alligators and.
Or like what. Yeah, I mean they have to you have to be clever and how to get to this like a place. I mean there are. So what happened that on their floor something disappear. They don't know some money or whatever or some books or something. And, and a friend of mine, he was, you know, like I would say the we used to say so he was like a student responsible for like everything should be nice.
So I said that I will help you. Let's go to these girls and let's try to to help them. So we come to them, start helping and spend then the whole night reading. Just reading poetry, I think we see that reading poetry with tea, it was you and who else and me mom are and to my friends, and it was also to other girls which live in the same room.
So do you remember what poems you're reading? Is there something, if you can imagine, if you are talking about eight hours or whatever, seven hours.
So it was a lot of poetry, but is there is there something from that period that stands out to you? Maybe. As poetry that you were reading, not something you've written for mom yet, but do you remember from that night? I mean, it's an important night, right?
Yeah. Uh, you remember what kind of tea?
The cheap one. Because this song is that we used to know. I think so. It was. No, no. So OK.
And it's like it was offensive for girls.
We had a huge respect to them, you know, and then gentlemen don't drink vodka environments. So at least in the beginning.
So when did you. First, fall in love with mom. You know, and you have like you said, it's 97 percent, so it's immediately one, two, three. Yes.
OK. Well, that does so. But she she was beautiful and she's beautiful. And it was December 14th. And still even now, we celebrate this date, December 14th when you met. Yeah, well, that's this Poythress stuff. But it was the same day, week, December 14th, two days ago. So we celebrated 46 years. What is the oldest instrument of this day was tea and poetry. But, um, I get that also guitar.
I think, yes, it's a guitar. And when you say guitar, I mean, there's a bard. Tradition is basically poetry to music. Any kind of lyrics is really important. Yeah, I would say it was 96 percent. I mean, it was mostly lyrics and guitar. It was just like, how did you win her over? Oh, that's that's how what's your secret?
Well, how do you do it? Actually also became her mentor. OK, which made my life a little bit easier and, you know, I started with poetry and I ended up with science and then actually. And we stay together, we married them three years after that. Do you remember any poems you wrote in her?
Well, not no, not of course, if I were to say I would for three years, but at that moment I would say like reciting all these life poems is probably not the best stuff to do now.
It should be a special discussion about that, probably together with her.
Look what I can say, that I have a couple of this book about booklets of poetry, but it is already not the same. I was already not the same as they was in in high school, which means that the time already most of my poetry was mean. I would say not funny, but more like the witty playful. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. OK. When did you know you will marry her? When did you know that sort of this is this is going to be this is the one you remember this month?
The three, yeah. Maybe not during the first five minutes, but maybe after 20 minutes. Yeah, I'm going to marry that one.
Yeah, it is very I mean, she she she she is beautiful. And she was even up. She was younger. Me too. So just almost immediately. But it was clear that we cannot do it, you know, immediately. So we are waiting until I graduate from from from from undergrad, not on the grill from master level because, you know, in Soviet Union it was undecorated plus master. It was like higher education. And after that it was.
Pardillo suggests we wait until I'm done with M.. When did you first learn that you will be a father?
So for people who don't know I have an older brother, uglier, fatter, stupider brother named Greg. Oh, he's good.
I'm just ugly. No, he's just 1977. It's like he was born in 1978. Oh, so. It was not an easy moment for me, I would say even a very difficult moment, because. It was a concept in Soviet Union which is difficult to understand here in the so-called preppie saga is just even not possible to translate, which means that you have to have a special, absolutely complicated permission, enormously complicated mission to leave in Moscow and Leningrad, which is in St.
Petersburg now. So to do that, you have to either have to be born there. And that's it, actually, so it was a closed series, so and I was from Kiev and she was and she's from the Middle East. So just how to do that?
In 1976 and 1977, I was like in the first grade of first year of. And without this permission to live in Moscow.
So just it was a difficult moment.
This is a practical thing because you want to you want to stay in Moscow longer term because. Yeah, because in Soviet Union, Moscow, it was like a number one place, but not so easy to get this permission. It's extremely complicated. And because mom is originally from a different area of the Soviet Union. Yeah. And there's communist complications, bureaucracy, all that kind of stuff. She was born she lived in the area for first uranium, the most important uranium mines in Soviet Union.
So that's. She's from virosome, so that's where you were he was. Yeah, yeah, a little bit nuclear.
That explains so much. So how did it feel like when when Greg was born?
I mean, just becoming a father. What was that story like? Yes, it's a pain.
I was very much. Well, obviously, I was very happy, but I was nervous about future because future was not clear at the time. Not clear at all about this time.
My situation was actually very sophisticated. Well, it's a little bit long story, but what happened that I get sick and and they didn't know where to put me. It was infectious and and finally lined up in the house of Saraf, which is interesting moment, and was mixed altogether with grec births, with me being sick with with ISSACHAROFF altogether, whatever it was like with the mess, it's just a stressful mess.
And when I came to get close to the city and middle Asian and here now they call it Hodgett.
Oh, so it is neurogenic. Well, I was very happy. And one of the first out at that point, I wrote my first not book but chapter in the book, and it was the topic that's my chemistry and chemistry and topic of my chapter. It was a synthesis of nitrogen oxide from air. And there is a very famous I love it, a picture of Greg on the wall when he just, you know, I think maybe a couple of weeks and he's reading the book and he's in front of and he's just like so much interesting.
He's reading this plasma chemistry book. Yeah, it's a good picture. It's a good picture. Right. So how did it feel like so obviously, Greg is a disappointment. So how did it feel like when I was finally born?
Oh, with you it was it was way, way easier. And we were way more happier because it was 1983. So which means that we were already in Moscow. We got this Potiskum, we got this permission and we got our apartment. So just everything was so nice and so beautiful and and, you know, Cherry, on top of this cake, it was you and the and the only funny story, which is like always mom, she used to say, is like a for some reason, I don't know even why, but everybody was sure that you are a girl and not you.
But like that is the girl. The girl. Yeah. And everything was prepared for her, for a girl. And and we were staying and near this clinic and the me and Greg and just and it was now that it is a boy.
And Greg, you mentioned this famous phrase that he's so much happy that you are a boy. And you know the story also that he was five years old and he was for some reason, sure. That to that man. They make boys and the women, they make girls. And he was so much surprised when he said that, ma'am, she's so good, is impressed. Yes. That she could make a boy a boy.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
So were you ready to be a father?
Would you say it? You know, being a father, it's a big commitment. Big, big, big commitment, because it's an it's a real family. When Greg was born, it was like it was a mess. It was very challenging. It was very difficult when you were like fun and nice and everybody was so happy. And even if you look at pictures, you know, like a picture with you, they're just yes, it's a smiling, it's a happy and bring joy to the world health.
And basically, that's the way you were when you were like, you're always, you know, you wake up and you smile. That's good. It's a good sign. Very good. Well, let's go, let's go. So I wanted to be a psychiatrist. Let me psychoanalyze you.
Do you think you were a good dad? Who? Well, to be honest, it's not for me to judge what I what I can tell you that my whole life I just tried. Sometimes more successful, sometimes less successful. To be good, that that it's not for me to judge. I mean, you know, I can give you an example, like when Greg was very young for me, like a. Very important was Lundahl. Books and I had this 10 books on the shelf made the way they are, no, they're not here.
They're in my office and you know, that's the books which I read and just I put my. Yeah, sweat, blood and sweat and blood and tears right into this book. And what Greg did. He just took these books and he looked like this for the master. What is that like? Oh, markers, marker markers.
And he puts everything around this, like the cover of this.
He drew on it, you know, he just it's like graffiti. It's not like it's all over this. And it was how to say, you know. For me, it was not secret. It is sacred, I mean, yeah, and I was just I remember at this moment it was so much not happy, just, you know, and I just try to explain and I mean, and I didn't even. And Greg, he keeps saying even now that the he wasnt he he was sure that he is doing something good, that he's just, you know, that I love these books.
So he tried to make them even, you know, prettier, prettier.
Yeah, that's so what I'm trying to say that. Welcome to being a dad right there. Yes, yes. Yes. So if you can go back and do something different in terms of being a dad, what would you. Is there something you regret? Well, you know, I would say. Her. People are different. Some people, they always say they want a different life and they sure for some reason that if they start again, it would be better.
It is not my case for some reason. I don't know. Maybe it is just like internal strength, just like you mentioned about Feynman, but I just always try to protect myself and family and just I was sure, like my father during the war, that if I am strong.
Everything will be good, but. And as a result, believe me or not. And it's psychologically it helped me psychologically significant. I really believe. That I am always right. Which is which is strange, maybe, yeah, but it is a way to protect myself, I don't know, and protect the family. So when you ask me what you would be differently, nothing. My feeling always is that my son is the best one. I always try to give advice, sometimes more than necessary.
And probably it's I'm doing that wrong. But what I can do differently, I'm I'm sure that I'm right.
It's a kind of defense mechanism.
So you don't you are family have done a lot to make a better life for for us, for me. And I think I've seen you work very hard to take steps through life to do make a better life for all of us. We took risk many times and there is a feeling that looks like everything is OK, OK.
OK, so while creating. Sort of creating taking risks. Creating opportunities for our family, for me, for my brother, there is to me always I felt a distance. So what if I told you you felt distant to me as a father and then I never really felt close to you. To this day, do you think that's true? I don't know what and what I can say that I tried as much as possible. To be as good father as they can, or it's sometimes it's difficult to.
Combined the system with this self-protection, like you said, yes.
So that's, you know, so there's an interesting it could be a Russian immigrant thing. It could be a Jewish thing, too, but sort of say if you're captain of a boat or something and you see if somebody pressures your family on the boat, it seems that you were more focused on just making sure the boat doesn't crash or like sort of focusing on or maybe getting a bigger boat or for the family, like there's this focus of the journey in providing stability and so on, then not actually and not sitting down and enjoying time on the boat that you've built.
You know, I have with the family.
I agree with you, but it is not Russian. It is not Russian, it's a Jewish and it's immigrants. Because so many times I was very nervous that one thing goes wrong and everything crashes and there is a million things in our life.
But I am. Always feeling at this point is the most dangerous, dangerous here, that is OK, that is OK. That's that's a dangerous. So I feel this danger and I'm. Overdoing this nervousness, and it is always with me, and that's why even now, at any point, I. Too much nervous because I see it looks like my feeling is that like people, they do not see that this is a deadly point, like a crucial bottleneck or whatever.
Yeah. And and and I know that if I say that directly people, it can be not good. So I have to play with that in one way or another. And so but I would say that it's a typical for Jewish people because they went through hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, even thousands of years of problems.
And also for immigrants, because that's immigrant life here. Remember, your own story was high school when you first came there. I mean, and there is some kind of tiny details which can make your life miserable.
Yeah, middle school. I mean, that was a particularly interesting moment that I think it's an interesting moment that I don't know how to explore correctly because we came to this country. So I was maybe 13. I don't remember those middle school. And it was a very different culture change. It was a very, very, very different culture. And we went to a bar. It was a it's a middle school stuff for people in general. But I went from having a lot of friends from culture that I loved somehow deeply sort of this math and science that you talked about this.
I mean, there's so many French dug deep friendships to a very shallow place and sort of the difference between what, you know, everybody I don't discount the suffering of people, but I would say suffered. You know, you want to be like, that's stupid. But I really psychologically suffering.
And at the same time, you were sort of totally unable to understand that, obviously, because a second I think you came to America, the step to come to America is a beautiful step of opportunity. So there's this dichotomy of like to me, that was a horrible thing for my own selfish, personal little experience. I didn't see that. I didn't know at that age you don't think about the big picture things. But it's an interesting difference. To stop to America is a really interesting step because you're sacrificing so much of who you are.
It's a big, big leap. Big leap. But it's it's the it's the good leap for the future of the family, for opportunity for for building a life together. And it's interesting. How did you think about that process? We'll talk about it a little bit. We'll take a step back and talk about it more as our bigger family. But as a as a dad, as a family, not big. But let's just day to day.
How did you that move? How did you experience it? How did you think about it?
Well, this is a moment when I can. Read for you a poetry. Unfortunately, again, it's in Russian, but I will use. No, no, it's OK. I it's only a couple of sentences I'll give you from there. And it's a beautiful, very nice, basically Jewish poet in 1941, beginning of the war. So he said then Asmir seduced by youth. I predict emotional pluck it with some truth in it. Yes, but you just as a danetta.
Well, it's a wonderful poem, I can read the whole poem later, not with the microphone, but listen to that. You are very nervous before, but when it is already back, when you are already in action, you don't think about that. So this moment of coming to America, the first period.
I was not nervous, I was like I a machine I was doing. I was doing that. So, yeah, I mean, it's the same when you decide the decision is the right one. So you see the three I can just you know, he is the translator. They go when you are going to attack, you are thinking. Yeah, when you cry before that, you know, the stress, the anxiety, the the tears, but when you're ready there, yeah.
You believe in your star and you go and you don't think much.
Well, let me pass on this. Since I asked you if you think you were a good father. What? What you know, was I a good son? Yes. The better one than Greg, obviously. So, uh, but, uh, what would you know, without any hesitation, I can say that you were and you are very good, son, because you understand when you're talking.
And it was from the beginning, he always. Even if you're not kids, usually they think about themselves. And I see the whole world is rotating around them, but you are way less clear just how many years you just you saw people around you were able to to to see, OK, this is this is mother and father. I mean, you just see people. And that's incredible. Also just. From the first months of your life, he was a loving.
Smiling. Yeah, and believe me, it is not so many kids are doing that, which means that somewhere deeply in your I don't know where it's genes probably.
You're smiling. So, you know, like when you when I see a good person or not a good person. Take a look at the person when this person wakes up. Then people, they wake up. And they immediately smell it, and that's something I don't know, it's like a miracle, so you're OK.
So thank you for being a good son. Yeah, maybe I'm not a good father. It's another theory. But what this context makes it much more important for me to criticize you. It makes it impossible for you to criticize me, which is exactly how I set it up.
OK, but, um, so you mentioned Legat, of as one of the people in your story had Kurchatov Institute. Can you tell the story and your involvement in Chernobyl? Sort of.
That played a part in our lives as well.
So what's the story there?
What is Chernobyl for people who don't know? Yeah, Chernobyl. It's a it's a small city town with a huge nuclear power plant. And it's a place of world, our biggest nuclear severe accident. The reason of this accident. The best, if you know, fix, but the other people, they can watch the movie, which is the HBO show on HBO show, very good. Actually, I did not expect that it is really very good or the major reason is they just went through special tests and just testing regimes and they start to decrease activity of actor very fast and reactors start dying and they just increase activity.
And then they were unable to stop it. And the temperature go very high. Metal clothing start reacting with cooling water, producing hydrogen. Hydrogen reacts with oxygen. And it was a huge hydrogen explosion, the so-called DDT. And because of this explosion, actually a very, very, very, very heavy. A tip of the reactor jump up and down and 40 tons or something like that, I thought was huge just then destroy the whole reactor and all this nuclear fuel, start falling down, create some critical mass.
And it was a nuclear explosion, but not contained. So, yes, it was. What part of the story did the show get right? And what part of story does he get wrong, in your view? The cost of just things you've experienced personally? I just very shortly describe what happened. Yes.
That like it was this kind of already nuclear expansion and everything from inside was boom. I went out and actually was a wind maker, almost a half circle around the world. So that's an accident. Yes.
Oh, for instance, atomic energy, it was a very big deal because the whole community, the whole country, actually, they consider that this huge institute is responsible for this accident. So their action don't forget, it's a communist country. They decided it's like like an army that all people, all scientists, they aren't responsible, doesn't matter whatever. If you're doing plasma or you're doing nuclear reactor does matter. You have to go and help them. You want it.
You don't want it. You like it. You don't like it. In the movie it was shown, I would say movie is about 97 percent. Absolutely. Right? Absolutely correct. It's unbelievable how good they made it, they made this movie from the people, the culture, the science, everything they did in the bureaucracy.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. They did not overdo that because it's very easy to go is a communist country, that's why. Yeah. And vice versa. So they did it. Very good harmony. Very good balance. Yeah, that was perfect. What did they get wrong here?
At least my impression is that they show the apartment of Lagos, of Lagos was actually almost a copy of Freeleagus visually to just.
Yeah. Yes. Yes. Yes. There's this actor. He looks like Lagos and just, you know, wow, we just like as a good actor, actually, it's a good actor. British. Yes. You know, and that's but it was shown that's like a little bit of American propaganda. They show this Lagos of living in like a small apartment, uh, like a smoking cigarettes, right? No, come on. It was.
Can you imagine, like a vice president advocating a vice prime minister? He lived in an apartment complex in the Soviet Union or that position means you get you get handed the juvenile department here, Helidon, not an apartment. It was like a special house belonging to him in a lake next door to the institute. This house did not belong to him. Yeah, but that's what he. So just he lived like in a in a castle and like and in a movie, it was a little bit not like.
What's your memory of him? Have you ever met him. Come on.
He's my my my supervisor. So like OK, so it's like a heavy heavy it's like a like motion for you. Yeah. Like I had like a sauna and the like for you. He was a diver and like the guy. So for me it's like a. So did you have a chance to see Machaca. Yeah, it's here. I think it's like yeah. The other day. Every day. Um. My feeling is. He was very good in nuclear chemistry.
He was the he was a member and a very significant member of Communist Party.
The difference with Rossana for was not very much liking Communist Party while he was so, he was a secretary of Communist Party organizational culture and he stood for a couple of years.
So this kind of personality. So he was a great scientist, very interesting, very bright. But at the same time, he was a communist and he kind of belief in these communist ideas.
And he took all that responsibility very close to his heart. And that's exactly like it is shown in the movie, especially when. The director of the Chernobyl station made it incredibly strange mistake because the reactor was already destroyed. You remember my explanation, but what they see, the temperature is going up.
And his decision was, you know, you're an artificial intelligence, not so much in physics and chemistry, but if temperature is going up, what people do, if they're not professionals, let's put water there.
And he made a decision to put enormous amount of water into the reactor to cool it down, but people, they come on, I guess we have seen a couple of seconds ago, there is no reactor. There is nothing to cool down because it's now can you imagine this huge temperature and you put water into this huge temperature and metals. Metals immediately react with water producing hydrogen. So actually, what they did, it's. It's it's extremely bad and it's nicely shown in the movie, and he made a decision for three people to go inside.
Mm hmm, under the reactor and open their wealth to let this hot water, to let this water out and these people, they did it, obviously it was clear that they were going to die. Do you think the accident could have been avoided? The Chernobyl accident. You know, so deeply interlinked to Soviet culture, I see no way, no. You know how to say, is it possible to be sure that it will be no fire in the city?
It is a very low probability. It's a sexual coincidence.
It's a couple of stuff was extremely low probability happened at the same time, but it was really important stuff. Chernobyl happened, first of all, because it was no automatic system of control. It was impossible if, let's say already accident, there is no automatic system to stop it. Why, because there's huge rechter, very heavy, very, very, very heavy and big way bigger than erectors, which we have here in the United States. So it's more difficult to control.
So I would say it was clear. For many people, that sooner or later. It will be this accident and actually it is a copy of accident, which happened in America in Three Mile Island. It's very similar, but American accident was more better controlled, so it was not so huge.
It's still a severe accident. Well, legacies, he took this stuff very close to his heart. And and it is very nicely shown in the movie, and actually that's why his society, he took his own life here. Yeah. And by the way, he's right twice first time not successful. And the second one.
So there's a there's a journey of suffering there afterwards. He he he took you know, he wore the burden of credit for that, the responsibility.
And yes. Because actually he was claiming that these reactors are the safest in the world. Yeah. And they are but they are way more resistant to small accidents. Right. But. They have this tiny chance of severe accident even now, a lot of these reactors are still the same, are still the same and still around. OK, let's get into the fun. Can you tell me what is plasma?
The simple explanation would be like the plasma. It is what we have in fluorescent lamps. If you look around in your room, it is something you have in all kind of sources, like most of Monitor's TV screens, et cetera, a significant number of them, it's most pleasant, localized, ionized gas. What does it mean? Like we have gas around us and let's say with electric field, electrons are separated from ions. So, yes, you take electrons out of molecule.
So a molecule becomes positive ion and electron separate with an iron eye. And it's if you take if you take an atom or molecule and take one electron out, what stay there. So iron, it is like a atom or a molecule after the sabari when they lost an electron.
And what's interesting about an iron. OK, wait a second. Probably when you apply electric field, whoever is lighter take energy immediately energized very fast. So ions they stay regular. Usually they stay called.
Because they're heavy, they're not very much moving, so they're stay cool while they are energized almost immediately. Yeah, and they are temperature in most of plasmas. Whatever you do, electron temperature is usually on ballpark. It's about ten, fifteen thousand Kelvin or Celsius, which means twenty thirty thousand Fahrenheit. But so electronics are very, very, very, very, very hot, and Ion's like gas, they're usually in most cases, they're called. So if I take like a cell phone and touch the screen.
Well, inside, you have very often have electrons with a temperature 20, 30000 Fahrenheit, but you cannot feel it. Why? Because it's a one electron per. Millions of molecules, so it's not so many of them. It's like a, let's say, city of Philadelphia do have billionaires in the city of Philadelphia. Maybe one or two, but it's but it's not so much easier to meet them on the street because it's only one or two for a huge city.
So the same story here. So it is very energized electrons and usually relatively cold gas. But these electrons, they can do a lot like these billionaires in Philadelphia have have like a couple of these billionaires. They can do a lot. It's only two of them. But actually they can influence life in the city more than everything else because they have ability with the same story. They're so electrons, depending on gas, they're able to create very active species so they can be used as a source of light like fluorescent lamps.
They can be used to three different materials. So most of synthetic, though, I would say 100 percent of synthetic materials, they are treated before coloring. Mm hmm. Because, like, you have a nice black tie, but how to make tie black if it is synthetic? If it is natural, it's here, but if it is synthetic material and if you try, you know, paint synthetic material, you know, paint doesn't stick to it.
So you plasma treated these electrodes activate the surface and color. They start sticking to the surface. What does it mean to activate a surface? So there's a lot of plasma is interacting somehow with the surface, with this human skin or some kind of surface or what does it mean to treat a surface?
Okay, I try instead with modification, but it's you know, if you have polymer like a in the case of your thigh, if I was like a polymer, what what is electron does is just create rage and this way take hydrogen out. Of your time, and this is the opening band and usually oxygens stick to their and become Poola, so you cover the surface with the polar groups, which are always sticky.
So that's what is going on. You just take one atom out, you have three bound oxygen there. Polar groups, you stick, you can paint. If if you put the droplet droplet of whiskey on the surface of less, it will stay like a droplet. But if you just plasma treat this glass and then you put droplet droppable groups immediately cover a very significant area.
OK, so let's let's step back a little bit. So there is solid liquid gas. He said, yeah, it's ionized gas. Why is plasma sometimes called the fourth state of matter? So what's the difference between gas and ionized gas such that it's a fundamental difference?
It is a fundamental difference because like what is going on, that this ionized gas immediately has very different behavior. The word plasma was actually created. Oh, just because of similarity with blood plasma. Mm hmm. So, like you ask the difference between plasma and gas, it is about the same difference, like difference between the water and blood. So species inside of blood, they're very much interacting with each other while the water, they're not much interacting.
So why you're being Langmuir? In 1934 36, he started using the word plasma versus ionized gas because he said, take a look, take a look, take a look at this species, interact with each other. I didn't know that. So there is there's a close connections to inspiration from blood plasma. Yes. And it's because of the interactive way more than that. So the guy who just Nobel Prize laureate Aaron Langmuir was a first finalist, basically interaction plasma on the surface.
So you can say that he's like a father of modern electronics hardware. So he came up with this word because it take a look.
This plasma is kind of funny. It looks like a blood plasma. And people, they start like using this phrase like a joke, then, you know, like everybody, like it's stuck.
Oh, that's really interesting. OK, so, uh, you said electron's really hard.
So traditionally, plasma is supposed to be very high energy. Very hot.
Mm hmm. So he said it's electrons, but there is a hot plasma called plasma so far. OK, in hot plasma. Everything is hot. So if you have more electrons and they are able to heat up the whole gas, it's a hot plasma like solar plasma, the sun or some solar plasma.
Some are. And in this case, temperature is very high. Fusion plasma.
So just everything is very hot in most of engineering plasma today, including your cell phones, including fluorescent lamps, etc., etc. In this case, only electrons are they're hot and they are unable to heat up everybody. It's like this couple of billionaires in the city of middle class people. Right. And that these electrons there, if it is air, for example, they just they react with oxygen making atomic oxygen, atomic oxygen immediately produce ozone. So atomic oxygen sticks to go to creating ozone.
Hazlet ozone means I think in Latin means I smell. So the name of the guy who first saw that it was Seamans, if you remember, company Seamans, so that's the creator of this company because he was the first one to understand this was on and said, wow, it smells. Then they use like a Latin word for that Ozanne and they start using OSN for water cleaning. Right. So what's hot plasma and what's called plasma? She said in the cool plasma, the electrons like the billionaires, is the only thing that stays hot.
So what hot plasma? Everybody, billionaires.
And so in terms of applications, in terms of the theoretical physics underpinning, what's the difference between hot plasma and cold plasma?
There's entire groups of researchers that work on that. Yes, yes, you know, the fundamental difference is when everything is 10000 degrees, what you can do with this material, with this plasma, if everything is 10000, like a 10000 Kelvin, like a 20000 Fahrenheit, what you can do I mean, that stuff melts everything and convert everything into vapor when so scientifically it's way easier because it's like so close to thermodynamic equilibrium. So just very, very, very hot.
Substance through applications, applications, the major application is if you want to melt something which require a temperature above, yeah, 2000 Celsius, which is what the is torture's.
So if you want if you want to cut Mudo. Metal, you can actually you can cut metal ways, most of metal, they're just you know, they melted on the level of below 2000. So for this metal, with some exceptions, but for this metal fire, you know, combustion torches, they're OK. Now, if you want to melt something which is impossible to melt, like a special hard ceramics. If you cannot mouth it was anything, first of all, why do you need it?
Why do you need mail, something which is impossible to mouth if you let's say if you want to protect your airplane.
Your airplane, it's a good idea to have an aeroplane with a thin layer of a substance which is impossible to to melt, which is not afraid of anything, I'm not afraid of lightning. I'm not afraid of anything how to do that. You have to melt. We have to cover it with this material. But to cover, we have to melt it now. How to melt something which is impossible to melt. Well, you have to take plasma or plasma goes had plasma.
Plasma goes to this huge temperature, then put this powder, you melt it and you spray with thermal plasma. That's the hot kind of that's a high temperature plasma.
OK, so what's called plasma then? And what kind of temperatures are we talking about? What's this world in terms of applications and theory that is now fundamentally different from the hot kind are called plasma?
It is. It's a situation when you have electrons, all electrons are hot and they generate a lot of active species, radical's atoms, so they can treat different materials. They can make very sophisticated structures. But temperature is low damage.
So let's say jumping through official intelligence, if you are talking about computer, how to make.
Computer, how to make these wafers, how to make these chips. Yeah, you have to be able to dig tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny ditches. How to do that? You have to have you cannot use mechanical devices, so you have to have something different. Beams, lasers. No, because laser is hitting its temperature. But you cannot take if you just use laser, you if you go to temperature 1000 degrees, you damage your phone.
Cannot withstand these temperatures. Yes. The same computer. So that's why there is no alternative today, only called plasma to make. I would say vast majority of electronics devices. So hardware, it's almost, as you say, hardware. It is that.
So let me beautifully put what's now you said application. We'll talk about some applications, including plasma medicine, but from a fee, if you put on your theoretical physicists or chemists like fundamental science, what are the interesting problems in plasma mysteries that are not yet understood or things that have been recently understood? I've seen you talk about incredible applications, but let's not cover that. Is there some open problems? How was it understood from a theoretical perspective?
I can give you a couple of examples. It's a lot of mysteries. A lot. Why? Because this is strongly non equilibrium media, almost everything else which we have around that. It's an equilibrium.
What does that mean? What does it mean for a medium to be in equilibrium? Equilibrium. It means it has temperature. Has temperatures. Yeah, some temperature like this is, let's say, a room temperature. Well, no, I mean, what you mean by that is there's a uniformity to it uniformly. The temperature, not space uniformity, but homogeneity, like it's half temperature. Now, can you imagine something which has a couple of different temperatures at the same point?
Is it possible? Yeah, that's what it is. So electrons are very hot, but they are inside of gas and gas is cool like like people, they're swimming in the ocean. So temperature of a person is higher. But here, just temperature is way, way weaker.
Now, what started happening in this case? It's a lot of funny miracles, a lot of funny miracles. For example, electoral impact creates excitation of molecules to literally oscillate and people will learn that distribution is becomes very strange. Energy rich molecules, they they take more energy when they have already something and reach people, they become richer. And poor people then becomes more poor. Exactly the same thing they call it capitalism in molecular life happens in plasma. So what is going on?
Yeah, you take molecules in plasma. You excite and very fast against all rules of whatever nature, couple of molecules they have to quantum.
And they have more and more and more and more and more and more and very soon, like some molecules that have everything. And most of all, could have nothing as a result of this kind of non equilibrium immediately creates losers. So this is one of the reason why lasers, first or first lasers, they were created in plasma.
Even now, the most energetic like CO2 laser is a plasma lasers. And there's also plasma lasers. So plasma, very Ethelred application. But physics is here. I can explain it a bit longer, how it works, but it's very similar to what is going on with people. If you already have money, it's easier for you to attract new money if you are actually poor. Sooner or later you will lose your money in the favor of rich people.
I'm not sure how well the analogy works, but probably. But they're saying that there's some fascinating, complicated instability about that whole. But it's interesting capitalism. It's increasing instability, instability, not space instability. It's energy instability. Yeah, it's like a yes.
You said capitalism and capitalism at the molecular level. It's a it's a capitalism. It's like a wild capitalism. Yeah. Where just everything works against middle class. Who's the Bernie Sanders in this physics analogy? I'm just kidding. That's who's the socialist.
OK, I don't take this analogy, but that's interesting that, you know, that plasma works works against Bernie Sanders. So nature. Nature. Yeah, nature is, um, is a more Republican.
It's a more of a public nature Republican. Well, not not nature. I mean plasma. It's only non billion plus not equal room plasma equilibrium plasma. It's everything is very much Bernie Sanders is very much on distribution. Yeah.
Well non equilibrium plasma is um I live a short life and die quickly, so.
Yes. So if you want a long peaceful existence you want to go.
That's one of the reasons why Bernie Sanders in physics, that's very interesting that but for this reason, non equilibrium plasma called plasma is able to produce way more miracles as in miracles, meaning very interesting, strange structures, patterns, treatment, like you cannot use hot plasma to make electronic device while you can do it. It's just one example. Another example is like I recently I came yesterday. Well, yeah, yesterday from Japan. So we presented. Ionisation of liquids guesses, so it's a lot of interesting stuff.
Oh, liquids, very interesting. Yeah. So you've mentioned physics and chemistry. What is plasma physics and what is plasma chemistry in terms of application, in terms of theory? What are the different lenses of physics and chemistry that you use to explore plasma and how do they differ? You have books on each.
Yes, the simplest. I think that it was Feynman who was asked, what is physics?
And I think it's him, and after some thinking, he said, well, that's what physicists do. Yeah, so that's a good point.
So actually, it's a nice way to say that's a stupid question, but give the questioner more of a chance. So what's the difference between plasma physics, chemistry and even physics and chemistry more broadly? I mean, I don't know what's the more easier distinction to draw? Yeah, oh, I can compare with languages like what's the difference between English language and Chinese language? In one case you have how many? I forgot 23 or whatever characters. How many point.
Yeah, twenty five. OK, sounds like there's something twenty and in Japanese. Oh and the Chinese you have 10000, 40000 characters. So changes, it's chemistry. English is physics. Physics has a small number of rules and the laws of nature and operates with that. So understanding, let's say, how to ionized gas. It's physics, understanding how to create plasma in liquid. It's physics, understanding how to make a device, how to make a light source, plasma light source.
It's physics now when we are coming to changes. Oh, I'm into this chemistry. It means that there is a million different tables, not rules. Tables. Yes, it's tables instead of rules. So what's that going on? You just look at that and say, oh my gosh, this plasma, especially in plasma, creates thousands of species and we have to understand what kind of species. And sometimes you need these species, but you don't need these species.
So how to have more of that and how to have less of these? And there is no rules.
Well, there are some rules, but about as much as in creating creating Chinese characters.
So a lot of it is a lot of the knowledge in plasma chemistry is discovered through experimentation. Yeah.
And I would say chemistry is more art. Uh, physics.
It's a little bit more science, like a linguistics, you know, English language. It's possible. It's also a lot of challenges.
But it's simple while talking about simple and complicated going from physics and chemistry. Let's go to biology, one of the exciting fields. You're one of the founders of this plasma medicine. Yeah. What is plasma medicine called plasma called plasma creates a lot of species, interesting species, unexpected species.
You remember this capitalism and molecular life. You can a little bit change parameters and it can be, wow, look, I start generating this strange substance, et cetera. So plasma is very sensitive. The different it's like a human body and plasma generates very interesting active species, actually, to be honest, almost exactly the same. So Professor David Grace, he keeps saying that he was impressed when he looked in books of medical biology books and he said, like a species, active species inside of human body and in Coplan, that they're the same sort.
Plasma creates very interesting stuff. And it was clear for people from the beginning, like already for more than 100 years that. If you put plasma in contact with human body, you can treat some diseases, you can do a lot of stuff. The problem was that if plasma is energetic and you put these energetic plasma in contact with human Baddiel, you kill the person. So actually, the whole point, the whole interesting point of plasma medicines or plasma medicine came from physicists actually where it becomes possible to make.
Uniform, not damaging, very energetic plasmas examples. Atmospheric pressure, for example, we have atmospheric pressure around atmosphere and there is a lightning. Lightning is hot and very energetic and very damaging. Plasma sources, plasma charges like lightning. It's impossible to use to treat human body, you'll just destroy a lot of distri.
Do you kill the tissue?
Yeah. Now, what happened, like 16 years ago? It was a first time. When physicists learned how to make lightning not like a concentrated in a tiny channel to be diffused and just around the big, big, big, big area make to make it something like a aurora borealis from lightning. And it was actually in 1990s, a lot of like efforts. It was a French approach. They just etc.. But finally. We want. Because what we had was like an out-of-the-box solution to make extremely short electric pulse.
Short especially or temporarily in time, time, in time, so let's say because we have when we have lightning between clouds and ground, it's like a continuous voltage. But if we apply this voltage between sky and ground. Let's say a couple of nanoseconds, there is no time to create the lightning channel, just simply no time. So what is going on, you start creating something like aurora borealis, so you have a glowing everywhere. Because there is no time to create a channel for this place.
And then you stop. Yes, and then you repeat this again and you stop and repeat this path again. So through this nanosecond passing through time possible to create uniform class. And if plasma is uniform, it's not damaging aurora borealis, you will not kill anybody with lightning, you will.
That allows you not damaging to now start allowing plasma to interact with the human body. Some parts of treating tissues, for example. Yes. Why is that interesting work? Oh, yeah. What kind of applications are we talking about?
OK, today the biggest application is related to treatment of chronic wounds like ulcers, especially diabetic ulcers. Also recently treatment of cancers because our plasma sources are permitted to be used during surgery. So when like a surgeon is making a surgery, he removes cancer, but some margins are not treated. So they start using this plasma just to remove tissue, but tissue without damage because it instead of like a scalpel, it's like a jet, small jet for once.
It's a very effective generation of stimulation of angiogenesis. So just growing old blood vessels. So that's, I would say, two most successful applications today.
What plasma related Nobel Prizes do you think will be given in the next 50 years? So if you look at the big ideas in plasma, what do you think?
Is there to be discovered, understood or may have already been understood and and will be recognized for. OK, closer to our field, at least, where we are playing that if we are fielders. I would say called plasma for magical, logical applications, I would say if there is a significant actually accepted by FDA, etc., success in treatment of cancer. There is a big chance to get a Nobel Prize. What discipline would you get at all the medicine in medicine?
That's fascinating. Yeah, that's fascinating. Ed, is this another example which I like a lot? Personally, it is this plasma sanitisation of liquids without bubbles. There's a chance also to get Nobel Prize for that because it's first of all, it's a fascinating physics, ionization of liquid as our bubbles.
What's the nature of the bubbles, the form if you take liquid and put like a two electrodes in the liquid to ionized liquid, you need huge electric field.
At least that's what most people they used to think because I mean, free passes, small for electrons, they they have to be accelerated to have this huge energy. So it's either electric field is huge or there's enough distance through to accelerate. Now you have liquid. That's not much place to go. So you have to have about a thousand times greater electric field or you have to create some voids. If you create voids inside of Libya, that's OK.
Now, that's what people they used to believe. But the maybe about five, seven years ago.
People there understood that even when they have very high electric people, but not a huge they start having. Ionisation of liquid, so just the same as the plasma in fluorescent lamps, but they have the same thing in liquid. And first of all, it's very interesting physics. It's a longer story to explain. It's very interesting physics, but also a very interesting application because you have a possibility to have called.
Plasma inside of liquid, so you can synthesize new materials, you can do something. So that's was the reason why I came a couple of history making this presentation of these discharges and creation of this in the creation of polymeric nitrogen. Because people they don't have nitrogen polymers today, and that's in cold plasma that was synthesized. So it is very interesting from a fundamental point of view of synthetic chemistry. But nobody were able to make this kind of change from language.
Right. So that was created, which is very interesting. Now, this material. It's normal conditions. Is converted back to regular nitrogen, releasing huge energy, way more than any explosive materials. So, OK, so those are two interesting ideas.
Yeah, those close to your heart. What about what about the sun? What about hot thermal plasma? Do you think there's an interesting open problems there that will help us understand the universe or something like that? I don't think so. Today. There is no I think for for thermal plasma, there is very low chance for a normal price kind of results. However, there is a so-called fusion plasma.
So plasma because the thermal plasma, which we discussed is a thermal engineering plasma, it's almost like a melting welding. These kind of applications, coatings and surface of the sun, surface of the sun. But if you go to higher temperatures, you have fusion, nuclear fusion. But if in normal plasma thermal plasma temperatures, about 10000 Kelvin, 10000 for fusion, you have to have 100 million.
So it's more so inside the sun.
Is it deeply inside? And the physics there is interesting physics is extremely interesting because it's a lot of stability and this plasma, this discount, if temperatures behave very different.
So it is it is, I would say, superfluity material.
So you just it's it's do you think there's possible breakthroughs in terms of using fusion as an energy source or somehow, you know, that kind of like crazy ideas were out there ideas. But on this podcast, I talked to people about aliens and traveling across the universe. So if you want to travel across the universe, you're going to have to. My feeling is that. My feeling is that like a fusion plasma in its traditional way, which was started in my Sahara in 1953.
Almost no chances. Well, I mean, they have it they have it already, but the system is so complicated, the stock markets, the big eater, because it's so complicated, so difficult, that personally it's difficult for me to believe that it will be like a real energy generating plants.
So this is being able to control fusion in order to leverage it. Yeah, I just they try already for how many years about Foxygen?
That's an interesting point. That's what I'm trying to say. And that I am almost sure that at some point, hopefully soon, it will be a young one, not so much young, but usually young. Out of the box thinking person who hey, guys, take a look, did it. Something like cold fusion, something called fusion, you know, there's a lot of guys and girls like that who are called crazy, who have been talking about cold fusion for decades.
Yeah. So you think you hope that there is a breakthrough idea that might. Yes.
Yes, I'm I'm almost sure about that. And I can't explain you simple physics, if it's it will take 40 seconds, 30. It won't take longer, but OK.
OK, I mean, take a look. Take a look. What is fusion. You take the theory of 3-2 or the theory of deuterium. You bring them together. And they fuse and your research gets it right. The problem is that this is and this is either positively charged and we have to bring them extremely close. And energy required for that is 10, 100 million degrees. That's what they try to do now. Now, take a look.
Why? We have to bring them so much closer, we can bring them a little bit and it will tunnelling so they will start regaining it require more time. Yes, but that's OK. But to do that, you have to have a smaller sizes. You have to have dense matter, maybe.
30, 40, 50 times denser than what we have now, how to do that, they have to replace electron by something very similar to electron, but heavier muons. If you do that immediately, something becomes smaller and you start having called normal fuel. But like a production and reproduction of this material is kind of complicated.
People, they're trying what I'm trying to say, that somebody will come up with an interesting out of the box.
Solution, that's what I believe. Well, you're right, a lot of people are a little bit to say not professional. They just say, oh, look, I did it. But but between these people or between serious scientists thinking out of the box, something will happen. Tokamak, yes, they work, but there's too much complicated.
It's very difficult to keep 100 million degrees for and be a long time. Just very difficult, beautiful.
You know, whatever you do, that Nobel Prize without any question. OK, I guess if you could give me the OK refill here just to make sure we're doing OK.
We talked about coming to NASA. You OK? Doing three hours and we talked about the journey to America a little bit.
But let's take a step back. It seems like an unlikely journey that has to do with a bunch of different factors, ideas, hopes and dreams and goals and plans. Why did we move to America as a family? Can you tell the story there narrowly and broadly as our big family?
That's a lot of details, a lot of, like, interesting stuff which happened at the same time together. First of all, I was already in France most of time, which made the decision easier to go to America. But absolutely significant role was played by Kaplan's family. What was the captain's family? Yeah, it is.
Our last name is Friedemann. Yes. Paying attention to what's called Kaplin.
It's it's the name of our of your grand grandmother. Yours, my grandmother. My great grandmother.
Your great grandmother. So her name was Karpovich. And when her family came to America, they changed names to Kaplan's and it was forbidden to contact family during that period to reach outside the country, the Soviet Union to.
So there's this big family.
Well, not that I'm not big, but now Big Kaplin family, they came to the States and my father, he your grandfather had this interesting picture on there without much hopes. He wrote a letter without speaking English.
And you saw this letter where it is said like a Jew newspaper it and the word Jew was g g g w yeah.
Newspaper, Cincinnati, it America and all. It got to its destination. And that's like a miracle. Yeah. That the letter came to this tonight. And it's interesting because the newspaper published the letter. Yeah. Yeah. That's uh it's kind of American and that. Yeah. It's uh it's a miracle. So that's the miracle. They gave a catalyst. That was a catalyst. Yeah. It was an excellent connection. And just as a result, you know, we met and just and it was a catalyst for me to accept the position already from friends position of a full professor in the New York of Illinois and Chicago.
And that's actually how we moved to Chicago.
So did you ever think that you would come to America?
Honestly, no. Even with my good friends, we were usually talking and my plans when I understand that it's better for a scientist to go like outside of the Soviet Union Europe than you would go to France.
And my choice was clearly France. And we usually say that I spoke with a captain, that I always say that I will go to France. I had well and I want to go to America, but actually happened all the way up.
So, uh, yes, OK.
I spoke with better French language. Yeah.
And I started speaking French there in French that there was there was there was an alternate reality where we moved to France. And I'm French. Yeah. And you're French.
And chances for that were very high 50/50 kind of thing.
A I mean, I remember there being is pretty certain that we're going to France. Yeah. It was more than 50 percent. Yeah. Because we have already I mean it was very very hijos. Yeah. You remember the picture I show we were there with various French people without incident if you remember. I just remember, like I was mentioning Husky and he loves you. He used to like oh he's alive. Yeah. Yeah. And he plays very nice piano.
Yeah. It's a very, very nice people and it's a different world of scientists.
Um, perhaps more pure in their pursuit of science. Uh, more support for the kind of labs in the spirit of the scientific process.
It's America's academic research system is a little bit more capitalistic, I guess, in an American professor spends about fifty percent of time looking for funding and they're a little bit more independent, meaning their own little startup, more it's very difficult to do an institute and so on.
Speaking of which, I don't know how I forgot to mention, but the institute your you've headed the Drexel the Nijem Plasma Institute for a long time from 2002, from 2000 to what was that journey like of all the many brilliant people that have worked there through the years?
All the different ideas having an institute in America is an interesting thing in itself. If all the other was that journey been like. Wow, it was very exciting and very challenging, and I would say that I work very hard, but I would say I was very much lucky that I was able to bring. Who is me? Nice group of people with a Néstor Gazal poshness and more recently, redeterminations, and then to bring in the like now and then others.
So it was a lot of people and they were good. And it was a very nice feeling of how to say. Camaraderie, camaraderie. Yeah, not including including Greg, who made a huge contribution to that Namath's. So it is like a family, my brother.
Yeah. And I've been on the outside of that sort of looking in. So I know a lot of these people there. And there's almost like a part of family. I know they're part of our story in America and know. Yeah. How do we have a handsome and I member of my plasma institute. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah you had. Don't be shy. No, no. No fear. No fear. Yeah. Don't be shy. Go ahead and be inspired.
You write that. Yeah.
I know that that eighth grade your poetry has been going down downhill and you know, and I mean we talk about that a lot that writing poetry in English actually much more difficult.
It's um and hence why it's not as popular. It's now more popular, I guess, through in music, through hip hop, through rap, that that's the popular kind of poetic the writing is in America. Very different.
Basically in France it is way closer to Russian. The French language allows for yare French language that allows for this like a song oriented poetry. What would you say?
Is the difference between the Soviet Union and America that kind of. It maybe to ask in another way, what do you miss about the Soviet Union, about Russia, about Ukraine? You see that while? Me and other people which came in our generation, each came from Russia, Ukraine, Soviet Union, we just we were not happy, absolutely not happy with the political system over there.
But I would say without any exception, we are all, I would say, deeply in love with Russian culture.
Which is absolutely unique and absolutely beautiful and my and my feeling that while I like American culture also but her passion is way closer to my heart and I think it's way richer. The same thing is approach to science, which in Russia was very its first of all, I like it because I was younger, which is always nice to be young.
But, you know, this kind of feeling of science is more important than everything else. And being the professor, it is the most prestigious profession. That's kind of interesting culture. But but the political system was not good and now it's also challenging. But what do you think about Putin? Putin, sorry to interrupt, Putin came to power after we left, yeah, 2000 year 2000. Exactly. You remember this moment when we were in Miami Beach, New Year's New Year?
It was exactly the day when Putin became a president. Because absolutely unexpectedly, one day before that. It was like a New Year greeting from a president at the time, Boris Yeltsin, and he said Happy holidays, happy new Year, guys. And you know what? I decided to step down. Oops.
And just I want to. Another person to lead the country during transition period, and then we have elections, so that's today. So we talk and I in different ways also love certain parts of Russia, and they're still a part of me, even though it's I didn't spend them more than 13 years or whatever. But Putin represents modern Russia.
So that's why I asked if you know where we're Americans now. Really. But what do you think about this man who's carrying who's defining the 21st century Russia?
I would say there is a two phrases, two sayings which come into my mind. You see, you gave me 10 seconds to think, which is important. There is a saying the ends justify the means. You know who said that? It's there is a book here. It's a it's a Macchiavelli. Oh, this is basically his sculpture.
Well the the the the head the yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah. But straight it's a Machiavelli in the book Prince he said that the ends justify the means. Another phrase. It's another nice guy, Maximilian Robespierre. He used to say you cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs on a paper. Feltham them letters. And I said yeah that's a Robespierre. And these two phrases actually they describe for me at least. Putin, you know, that his way of thinking is it was a huge catastrophe because I think for a second the huge Soviet Union were Russians.
They were everywhere, Russian people, Russian, Russian and enduring a short period of time. Bunz it is a 15 independent countries. Well, now and and Mike, significant, I don't know, I would say almost half OK or less than half, but there are a significant number of Russians. They become like us people living in other countries, not very much friendly to Russia. So he put all his efforts to change it, to to make it easier and better.
That's and this is the ends. We justifies means and he's breaking a lot of eggs and he's making a lot of not good steps, but for the good purpose. Now, just what I keep thinking, that Russian empire, it is not the first empire to disappear. Now, take a look what happened to other empires, French Empire. Oh, my gosh, they had enormously problems, very similar to Putin. And you know who was there?
Putin. It was the guerrilla because in the late 1950s, it was an enormous war in Algeria and the whole group of Maghreb countries. And you know what happened, they just even stopped the republic and they create absolutely new constitution. And it was actually absolute disaster in late 1950s or early 1960s, but they actually went out faster than Russia. Well, why? It's a different story. Now, take a look. Another huge the biggest empire in the world.
It's a British. They lost their empire and huge number of British people. They just stay somewhere. The same thing like Soviet Union. But interesting enough, they they they made it. They made like these other countries which get rid of British Empire, but they were still in love. With the queen, they become part of this commonwealth and it was relatively smooth, so British, they did excellent job. French terms like all these in, you know, yeah, yeah, but but Russia so far doing not good.
So they're just they they try to help. They try to make this kind of. But they break a lot of eggs. Should I interview Putin on this podcast? He's he's a very interesting personality, he's very smart and try but. Sure, but we're going to talk about because power. Future of Russia. Future of Russia and is great, and it's right, no, no, no, not not not in those kinds of questions, but in the kind of.
Omelette and eggs way and. In the space of. Technology, sort of innovation of science, of becoming a superpower again, which is where you have to, you know, the space race, you would like this kind of discussion, because what I know about him, basically, he supports the platform medicine, billionaire class members. Yes. Because when he defined like a three or whatever four major directions of development of science, he mentioned both artificial intelligence and plasma medicine.
Interesting how. He really. Thinks that the end justifies the means. So he's not afraid to make any kind of decision but to make countries stronger. And and he did, actually. He did a very good job from the point of view of. Like, you know, all other republics, they were saying that all our problems because of Russia, because Russia can say that all these problems because of, yeah, he took responsibility, but with power authoritarians, power can is very useful.
But it can also cloud your judgment. You can slowly become a lesser man than you could have otherwise been without being checked. So too complicated. And Slaney has brought the complicated, interesting story so you can compare him with Maximiliano this year.
So without a microphone between us, we often talk about artificial intelligence. We have a lot of opinions. Like you said, you always think you're right and you're right. You know, barely half of the time I'm right.
Absolutely always. With the exception of cases. Yeah. When I'm wrong or wrong.
Which never happens because it hasn't been observed.
OK, so let me get your profound deep opinions about artificial intelligence. Do you think we'll ever build systems that are as intelligent or more intelligent than human beings in the same kind of way that we think humans are intelligent?
You know, the most important, it's the last remark which you made. I strongly believe in artificial intelligence. I believe that it will be a lot of development in the direction of like a human similarity to human. But I very much doubt about artificial consciousness, this kind of stuff. From my point of view, it's very questionable. So I don't know what is consciousness to you.
Consciousness, it's it's way more. It's the wider stuff, it's like a life, it's a complex of feelings. It's a complex of feelings like intelligence, it's smartness, it's knowledge, it's a possibility to operate with knowledge, consciousness, it's it's knowledge, but we matched together with feelings. Do you think science will ever be able to understand consciousness?
So here I believe I believe that sooner or later, at least in this direction will be big breakthroughs. So do you think. Do you think he'll be able to put consciousness inside a Roomba, inside a phone, inside a camera device's consciousness consciousness? I don't know, you know, like a Jewish answer to most of the questions. I mean, we don't know yet. We don't know. I mean, I it's very difficult to predict what will happen with science.
In 300 years, it's like to ask 300 years ago in what, in 1970, 100. Come on, it's way before Napoleon. Yeah, the Internet is 11 years of its last years of luchadores, whatever, Ludovic 14th. And you ask them about cell phones. What do what do you do if you ask we catalyser if you ask him a question, what he thinks about cell phones. He will say. Rishi. Colossally, I am a fan king.
I know you're simplifying because perhaps, perhaps, perhaps because it is, in other words, cell phone. But if I ask them about artificial intelligence, then explained it correctly, he would actually have an opinion. Already they've had opinions about these kinds of things. Yeah, yeah. Sort of can. Man, this is a fundamental philosophical question. Can human beings create artificial versions of themselves with Frankenstein then? Many people have been thinking when you build up statues, it's a and people have been maybe not Jews, but people have been confidently providing answers.
OK, what I can tell you, my feeling is, yes, artificial person will be created.
OK, so the question is. How close it will be like this synthetic synthetic person will be with respect to reality? Is it good or bad? It's just different, but it is doable.
So we have this disagreement a lot. And you think that. So do you think such a system needs to have a body? And our disagreement is often about the census. You seem to have a full really experience of consciousness. You smell touch. Yeah.
So and I say you can do just words, words and the image, not even just words, but yes, image is helpful, but words, even just the words voice.
OK, you know, like don't forget I lived many years in France so for me smell. Like a Armagnac, I mean, smell is very much even more important than taste.
Yeah, but image can be even less important. So just taste and smell. So what I'm trying to say that they mean, but if I give you an option, I had to kill all your senses except one, which one would you like to stay with?
I would not. You know, that's not a good question. I think a question. If you have a choice to kill your father or mother, what you would do? I mean, it's not father.
Well, but what I'm trying to say that it's my feeling it's moralistic that people they can lose one of feelings. It's OK.
But, yeah, that's true. And yes, that's not life. But you think consciousness, it's it's actually it's a book including, like you said, consciousness is a book.
I like it.
But you think a system should have a sense of smell, sense of touch, and that my feeling is that it's not so difficult to do.
Yes. From so this is where we have disagreements and debates and software versus hardware. I mean, you're much more comfortable with hardware and and taste and smell these kinds of things that it's it's almost like a sensor. It's a chemistry problem. Yeah.
But for me, actually, I'm from Harmony. I'm not saying this is hardware software. Yeah. I would say that that's start the book in these cases. It's the harmony. Harmony. Yeah. No, I guess I come from a world that's a very kind of AI world and computer science world where you think that most of the problems in the world can be converted into a ninety nine percent software problem. And that's, that's the dream because it's easier then.
But, uh, but you know, it was a Russian comedian. Absolutely beautiful. Netsky maybe I remember him. Maybe not. Hmm. He used to say in Russian, the latest footage of the streets, which is not acceptable.
What does it mean? Well, how can you translate it into English? Let's not don't even try. It's fine. It's fine. It's fine. But what I'm trying to say that this is a point is is it possible to describe with the words. Taste of oysters, if you never, ever tried. And that's a very important moment. Sometimes this big data and artificial intelligence, they say, OK, we don't need Smout, we can describe what has been described, the smell.
It means that they can collect data about like a smell of cheese and put it in like a huge database. And based on that, to help you to choose what is the best chase without smelling. So this in this case, I have to recommend to this computer or to this computer scientist. To think about the Schnittke and this argument about. Taste of oysters. Without trying them at least once in their life. Yes, that's why I think the taste and smell should be also important.
Yeah, I disagree because I think it it that I agree that's very important. But I believe our mind and artificial minds will be able to fill in the gaps without being able to smell you. You start without ever having tasted or smelled oysters. You start imagining smell and taste. It won't be connected to reality at all, but you construct a world that's consistent. So I would say in this case, it's not artificial intelligence, it's synthetic intelligence. And I prefer artificial because in the artificial heart.
Yeah, you know what I mean.
So and synthetic means like. Yeah, you synthesized something.
Yeah, it's no there's no it's it's lacking of the human experience and artificial has that art. Yes. Well. You might you might be right, because the only intelligence system we have now has smell. Oh, really? Oh, OK. So very good. I like it.
Do you think about mortality, your own mortality? Yes. Because. There is a three elements to that. One. Like, I'm a normal person and I think about that. Especially in relation to his parents when you lost your dad. Yes, and mom also. So, you know, you you cannot let something which happened to everybody at some point when you lose your father and mother, you understand it. Now it's you.
You're next. That's it. It's well, that's human. The second element, what I think about is religion, because at least for me, but for many people also like going to beliefs of your parents, grandparents, etc.. Helps, helps. And you start to understand the older you are, the closer you are to to this moment, the more you just feel it's the role of religion is huge. And number three, I'm a scientist. And a couple of weeks ago had a long discussion on the conference.
About immortality at the walls of this cosmetic meeting, because I mentioned to you that with this LVMH like a little bit on the weather and Hennesy, that's the important one.
And we have been talking about like a possibility to change direction of aging. And this is one of challenges which actually in the beginning of plasma medicine, we start trying to do. And it was like a kind of serious experiment, trying to using plasma to to the aging process. I can explain you with more details, but it's a longer story.
But as a result of this experiments, unfortunately, we show that in all 100 percent of like experiments we did, we actually accelerated aging not. But maybe we have to get ideas.
You might be able to from a scientific perspective.
And there is there is a solution because you know, that mortality, it just God or nature put it in as this mortality in which we we have stem cells and they just, you know, providing differentiation. Which is like reinnervation of us, like when there is a tiny small kid, he changed his nose, I don't know, each couple of days. So just it's it's always like a renovation of the tissue.
Yes. Death and birth. Death and birth. Yeah. Yes, you should. Like I thought, like a nose is like growing noise just like this each time I have a new one. Now when. In your age. Like simplifying, it happened less often, maybe once in, I don't know, five, ten years, but for me and fortunately are functioning like I will stay with this note forever now.
So the only thing we have to do, actually, is just to add this cell stem cell. They are still there.
We just but their efficiency is for some not very much known reason when.
Down, down, down, down, down, down. So what they have to do, we have to actually help these stem cells stimulate them just to to become, again, more active. And if we do that and plus medicine tried, then just, you know, instead of getting older and older, will go back younger and younger.
It is possible, yes, it's against the law of nature, no. So this is third way to think about that, but that's a real challenge. Interesting that it was a discussion on this subject was Levithan.
If science does arrive at that breakthrough, if you could live forever, would you would you like to live forever?
I think, yes, I would try. Why not? You know, let's I'll give you a reason not. Is it makes a life, you know, the fact that stuff ends gives it some deep meaning. You know, Jewish people, basically. They are deeply, deeply, deeply in love with. Life, you know, they say hi to life, so Jewish people, they.
I actually believe that God gave us life to enjoy what will happen, will have another life or not. Or maybe it will be like again will be young. Is it possible the Jewish answer is absolutely clear? We don't know so but enjoying life, it's a long. Absolutely. So if you have possibility to leave. You have to go on with life. That's a Jewish answer, and I like it. Are you afraid of death? Yes, I remember when you ask me, how long did it take for me to fall in love with your mother?
One, two, three.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
You answer that pretty quickly. So what do you think is the meaning of life? Oh, that's a difficult question. You never like this, the silly questions go back to your eighth grade self and be romantic for a second.
Yeah. What's the meaning of life and meaning of our existence here in this little. Planet, well, I remember that I kept asking myself this question when I was in eighth grade, it was one of the crucial question for me at that time by the exactly the same time when I wrote this, yeah, I'm writing staff.
And at the time I remember my answer. I kept saying day by day. Which means. The meaning of life is just to enjoy, enjoy today's life and go to tomorrow.
Survive the day, enjoy the day and eat your French existentialists, your smarter and smarter, it's but you know, at that time I didn't have any.
Knowledge about existentialists, whatever. Yeah, especially subtle, but I was absolutely sure about that, if you ask me now, I would say.
I was right. I thought I thought that was a natural extension of the axiom, which is always right. Yes, yes, yes, but, you know, in each joke, it's a 50 percent of joke, 50 percent not.
But after reading it was a book, more awards, right? What's an English? You say S. S words slower. I think in this book, you just when I read that, it's amazingly absolutely badass. Booklet. Yes, Hatchers.
I prefer camo and the other French guy.
Yeah. I just decided I was not alone with this kind of ideas. Yeah.
There's other French guys. What do you hope Greg and I accomplish in life? And next, I'll ask you for advice, and after that, we'll drink some vodka. Why are you calculating? I know I'm not calculating and just trying to recall very nice poetry.
You know, between I I love Russian poetry, and it's interesting that my favorite Russian poet, it's actually a woman, it's a Marine at the time, and she wrote like a short poetry, just saying that she said nationalists in Russia, Paul Nevo in that assumes that if you decide maybe she's poised. This week is Thursday three. Well, and it is a Russian, but I am. I think that it's kind of deep and it kind of smart, we wish I wish you to be happy and I know that if I push in some direction.
Our Greg. That's nothing happened. I mean, I OK, I will be always recommending you always push. And don't forget, I'm always pushing anyway. But you know that and I have to do that because I'm a father. So I am. And I'm always pushing in conservative direction.
Because because I am a father and I very much wish you to have your son, my grandson or granddaughter. Yeah. And I almost guarantee you that we'll do the same. You will not recommend your daughter to take a risk and to go to Hollywood to try to be an actress. She's supposed to do it without without your permission. What? And that's that's that's beautiful. We make our own way, and you always have given me brilliant advice that I almost never follow and usually disagree with.
So but and that's the way it should be.
Yeah, that's the way of life. Well, so what? Speaking of which, what advice do you have for me for.
The next 10, 20 years in life. Sort of in any direction. You see? I'm. Hesitating, I'm thinking about I mean, I have two ideas, and they're kind of very much opposed. Yeah. So for one hand, my approach was the same as the soldiers.
On one hand, I like the idea just to live your life and to enjoy. And to be prepared for tomorrow, which everything will restart again from one hand, from another hand. I remember myself in. Elementary school, you remember beginning of our discussion about these stupid guys, these idiots with stones, and I just had an idea just to build a rocket. Who to put there? So I wanted to do and I did it, so this is another idea when you just put your heart into something for a longer time, not for one day, but you have to find your own way.
Just and my feeling is that you personally. Pounded with artificial intelligence, and that's why my feeling is that in your specific case, my advice will be just not to let this idiots with tools to succeed, you have to deliver. Yeah, and that's what I figured. And that's what I mean with the mercury in the rocket.
But build the rocket. It's your choice.
Yeah, because that's the rocket which you're building.
But what is important? That'll do it. Well, I think this is a good time. To, uh, to maybe toast our family. Oh, they some we thought we'll do we'll probably drink more vodka, but we decided to be responsible adults and just save the vodka to the.
And it's always a question, how much what could we have to drink?
In Russian tradition, usually we calculate for adults like a one bottle per one bottle per person. Take a look at his made in Soviet Union, and it's 1986. This is what kind of my father, because in 1986, in the year of Chernobyl, he gave this bottle to a friend of mine because this friend of mine, he went to America and he just this my friend, he just saved this vodka for us to be able to just whatever to think about his name of my friend.
Oh, he's Sasha. But we call him Shora. Sure. But that's the same thing as your best friend.
Your lifelong friend. Yes. It's like your math. My met I met her and he shut up. And first you can toast a family, but let me just toast to the best that I've ever had, the best that I could ever ask for. I love you. That I love you. Let's go. Thank you for listening to this conversation with my dad and thank you to our sponsors, the Jordan Harbage show a magic spoon cereal. Go check out Jordan show on Apple podcast Spotify and tell them I sent you listen to the Kobe Bryant and Neil deGrasse Tyson episodes.
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Talk to them heart to heart podcast or not, they won't always be here with us. Life is short, and most of it is a distraction from what really matters family, friendship and love. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.