Novosibirsk (Unit 8)

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Unit 8

Science: Past and Present


Read the text using the dictionary if necessary

Text 1


Natural science is the main characteristic feature distinguishing the present civilization from the other civilizations in the past. From its early beginning in the sixteenth century the developments of science have influenced the course of western civilization more and more until today it plays a most dominant role. It is not much of exaggeration to say that we live in a world that materially and intellectually has been created by science.

The point is easy to illustrate on the material level. One merely needs to mention the telephone, the radio, the television, the automobile, and the airplane, or any of the countless devices invented by the application of science. There is hardly an article used in the homes, in the places of work, or in the places of enjoyment that has not been modified by technology based on science. The means of communication that bind the continents into a single community depend on scientific know-how, without modern sanitation it would be impossible to have large centres of population; without modern industry and agriculture, it would be impossible to feed, to clothe and to provide the "abundant life" to this large population.

There is, however, another part of the story less obvious and less well known, but far more important. It is a story of expanding intellectual horizons - the impact of science on the mind of a man. Fundamentally, science is an intellectual enterprise, an attempt to understand the world in a particular way. All the developments mentioned are but the results, the outcomes of this intellectual activity.

Over the past 150 years the range of human knowledge has been doubled every 12 or 15 years. In 1930 man knew 4 times as much as he did in 1900; by 1960 his knowledge had grown sixteenfold, and by the year 2000 it can be expected to be a hundred times what it had been a century previously.

The second part of the twentieth century has brought a number of technical innovations which are still very young but which are taken so much for granted that it is as if they have always existed.

In the 50-ies of the running century hardly anyone would probably have believed that we should be able to sit at home and watch astronauts walking in space or that people could be kept alive by the heart of a dead man.

The transistor was not invented until 1948. This piece of electronic equipment found wide use in space technology, computers, transistor radios, medical instruments, television sets - in fact, wherever precise control and modulation of electrical signals was required, however, the invention of ICs (integrated circuits) in 1958 brought in a new era of change in the field so fundamental, that it already has the characteristics of a second industrial revolution.

A mere 12 years separated the launching of the satellite Sputnik I in 1957 and man's first landing on the Moon in 1969. The first long-term orbital station Salyut launched in 1971 opened a new era in space research, providing the possibility of conducting investigations in the field of astrophysics, space technology, medicine, biology, etc under conditions inconceivable on the earth. Another period of 10 years and in 1981 we could witness the launching of a typically new cosmic vehicle - the Shuttle.

It is not difficult to continue with other examples but the point is clear. Events such as these are characteristic of the rate of technological development in the second half of the 20th century. They suggest that the technological innovations we are to experience during the next 20 years to come may well surpass our wildest fantasies and today's tomorrow may well become tomorrow's the day before yesterday. Science occupies a central position in modern society. It dominates man's whole existence. Research and innovations in technology should improve society's living and working conditions and remedy the negative effects of technical and social changes.

Recent developments of nuclear weapons, satellites, space platforms and intercontinental ballistic missies have attracted and rightly so, public attention throughout the world. They make wars of annihilation possible and forcily thrust upon the necessity of coming to an understanding with the other nations. It is not merely a matter of peace, but, rather, poses the question of the very survival of the human race.


Vocabulary Practice


I. Read the text and find English equivalents of the following:

развитие науки; западная цивилизация; доминирующая роль; преувеличение; создавать; технология, основанная на науке; средства связи; единая общность; научные «ноу-хау»; интеллектуальная деятельность; технические инновации; транзистор; электронное оборудование; изобретение IC (интегральных схем); область; допуск; высадка на Луну.


II. Supply the missing words combinations choosing among those given below:

1.      The point is easily illustrate…

2.      The means of communications that bind the countries into a single community depend on scientific know-how, without modern sanitation…

3.      It is a story of expanding intellectual horizons - …

4.      The second part of the 20-th century has brought a number of …

5.      The transistor was not invented …

6.      A mere 12 years separated the launching of the satellite Sputnik I in 1957 and…

7.      Another period of 10 years and in 1981 we could witness the launching of a typically …


new cosmic vehicle – the Shuttle; and man’s first landing on the Moon in 1969; until 1948; technical innovations; the impact of science on the mind of a man; modern sanitation it would be impossible to have large centres of population; on the material level.


III. Do you know different kinds of science? Learn the following.

Pure science - considered only for its own nature as a skill or exercise of the mind;

Applied sciences - put to a practical use;

Practical science - related to actual experience;

Natural science - related to biology;

Physical science - which relates to the nature of matter, force, structure;

Social science - relating to people's lives and natures;

Medical science - relating to medicine;

Life sciencies - all the sciencies which relate to living things;

Biology - scientific study of living things;

Zoology - scientific study of animals;

Botany - scientific study of plants;

Anatomy - scientific study of nature of living bodies;

Physiology - scientific study how the bodies of living things work;

Physical sciencies: physics, mechanics, chemistry, pharmacology, geology, meteorology;

Social sciencies: sociology - scientific study of societies;

Antropology - scientific study of nature of man;

Psychology - scientific study of mind and the way it works;

Psychiatry - the study and treatment of diseases of mind;

Criminology - scientific study of crime and criminals;

Penology - the scientific study of punishment and prison.




IV. Learn the English scientific degrees.


Bachelor of Arts (B. A.) - a first degree in the faculty of Arts.

Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.) - a first degree in the faculty of science.


Master's Degree (M. A.; M. Sc.) - there has been an increasing tendency to make the Master's Degree an advanced examination degree, awarded after a year's postgraduate study, rather than a degree by thesis. This degree doesn't correspond to any Russian degree.

Doctorate. This degree is called in full Doctor of Philosophy, but is usually shortened to Ph. D. The name is the same for all faculties, and one may have a Ph. D. in English, Mathematics, or Geography. A Ph. D. is awarded on acceptance of a thesis which must be an original contribution to knowledge, that is, contain new information on scientific problems. Research for this degree usually takes about 3 years.

Senior Doctorate - these degrees are much higher than the Ph. D. However, they differ from the latter in that they do not involve (do not require) the writing of a thesis. A person wishing to apply for such a degree submits his published works to a board, or committee, who then decide if these works justify (deserve) the award of the degree.


V. Translate the text using the dictionary if necessary

... Академгородок. За короткий срок в живописном бору выросли здания современных лабораторий и кварталы комфортабельных жилых домов. Широк и разнообразен круг проблем, изучаемых сибирскими учеными; генетика и археология, вечная мерзлота ...


VI. Read the text and find some more pictures of Academgorodok. Describe the picture.

In a very short time modern laboratories and attractive housing estates with all modern conveniences had sprung up in a picturesque birch wood. Siberian scientists are working on a vast variety of problems from genetics to archaeology, from permafrost to trapping, from cybernetics to economics. They have many important discoveries to their credit in nuclear physics, mathematics, mechanics and experimental medicine.



VII. What does it mean?

1. Technological progress has brought great changes in our social and economic organization.

2. Men of intelligence and good will are deeply concerned about the problem of directing the power of science.

3. The things that happen in nature are not accidental things.

4. The curiosity of scientists is directed to find relationships and connections between all kinds of things that occur in nature.

5. Science affects many aspects of our lives.







VIII. Agree or disagree.

1. Science very little affects everyday life.

2. We can hardly speak of any achievements in medicine.

3. Science is motivated by curiosity of a researcher.

4. We know exactly that there is biological life in our universe besides the earth.

5. The greatest achievements of medical knowledge and care have improved human happiness.


Try to find example of how technological progress has changed our lives.


Today we can name many new devices which substitute manual methods of writing, calculating, even carpet beating or washing the linen. The great role is played today by computers. Can you prove that fact?


Imagine you have received the task to make an open lecture entitled "Science and Society". What problems can you discuss in it?


Many people all over the world are interested in the processes which are taking place in this country and they are eager to know about the development of Russian science. You are correspondents of BBC. What questions would you ask Russian scientists?



A great deal impresses the visitors, but perhaps nothing so much as the magnificent group of scientific institutes founded by the Siberian Branch of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences near Novosibirsk.


IX. Read the text and put questions to it.

Akademgorodok — a new town of science and culture.

A trip by bus from Novosibirsk to Akademgorodok is indicative of concentration of scientific institutions. The driver announcing the stops will call out: «Thermophysics», which means that the bus has arrived at the institute conducting research on heat and mass transfer and new problems of energetics. The next stop is «Chemistry», that is, one of the five chemical institutes of the center, then come «The computer centre», "Nuclear physics", «Hydrodynamics» and "Economics and industrial organization". One doesn't see much from the window of a bus. That's why we invite you to have a walk around the township and see for yourself what is going on in the Town of Science. Akademgorodok has one more specific feature — it is one of the few towns in the world built right in the middle of the forest. The closeness of the town to Novosibirsk, a large cultural centre, is an additional blessing. Actors of the best Siberian theatres often visit the town and scientists see the plays, operas, ballets and other performances, and stars on tour also rarely miss the town.

There are cinemas, clubs, shops and cafes like in every other town. The difference is that you can walk in age-old forest just a few steps away from your home. Scientific conferences and symposiums are held in the halls of the Scientists' House, heated debates often take place in its cosy rooms. Exhibitions of scientific literature, devices and equipment both Russian and foreign are often organised here. In the evenings there are soires, shows, films. The house has a collection of paintings numbering over 3.000 canvases.

Next to the residential districts is the Golden Sandy Beach of the Ob Sea with yachts ploughing its waters. The children are playing in creches and kindergartens, are studying at schools while their parents are working in numerous laboratories, research institutes, cultural establishments. Akademgorodok's club of young technicians repeatedly won prizes in Regional and Republican competitions.

Every summer Akademgorodok is visited by a noisy crowd of schoolchildren — the winners of the All-Siberia mathematics contests.

They are welcome guests.

«No scientists without pupils» — such is the motto the Siberian Branch of Academy of Sciences has adopted.


X. Match the pictures to their names



ТРОФИМУК Андрей Алексеевич геолог, академик

МАЛЬЦЕВ Анатолий Иванович математик, академик

БУДКЕР Герш Ицкович физик, академик

ЛАВРЕНТЬЕВ Михаил Алексеевич математик, академик


XI. Make up a story about one of these famous Siberian scientists. Speak in what brunches of science they worked.



Akademgorodok, Zheleznogorsk and Angarsk are brand-new towns. But the older towns, like Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, Irkutsk, Tomsk and Barnaul are now being born anew.


XII. Answer the questions.

1. Should a scientist gather as much information on his subject as he can before doing his own research? Why?

2. What part of researcher's investigation requires the most imagination?

3. Many scientists state that it is important to formulate a possible solution to the problem before starting experiments. What is your opinion?

4 .Is it possible to teach a person how to develop hypothesis?


XIII. Comment on the following statements.

1. We shouldn't overreact until we have enough scientific evidence. There have always been natural disasters.

2. Today's problems are a chance and a challenge for the young generation.


XIV. What inventions, electronic and other devices would you call the most sophisticated ones that have been invented lately in the 20th century? Use the following:

radio set, TV set, electronic computer, robots, space rockets, lasers.


XV. Say what would have happened if the different inventions and advances of science hadn't been put into practice. Use the following:

electricity, gas, TV, tape recorder, electric bulb, radio, electronic computer, telescope.


XVI. Speak on the economy and its aspects in brief and illustrate your reports with pictures and your own examples.



Novosibirsk subsidiary of the trading bank of social promotion "LADABANK" founded in May 1991 is one of the largest bank structures of Russia in our region. Office of the Head-bank is situated in the city of Tolyatti. Among the constitutors of "LADABANK" there are more than 30 well-known enterprises and firms: AVTOVAZ plant, AVTOVAZ maintenance amalgamation, Moscow electrotechnical plant and many others.

The main concern "LADABANK" is to protect and to insure economic interests of its customers in the ocean of money-market. Main founds of its constitutors guarantee reliability and stability while quick realization of payments, timely supply of cash money, high professional skills of the staff is a good pledge of efficient usage of money and success in the business.

Greater part of credit resources of "LADABANK" is distributed on promotion of social sphere, production of goods and services for people, development of VAZ-cars maintenance network.



JOINT STOCK CORPORATION "RYABINA" is a multi-purpose organization with high financial, productive and science and technology potential. The corporation unites over 30 joint stock companies of different trends and is represented in highly developed economic centres of Russia and abroad, such as: St.Peterburg, Nizhni Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, Ufa, Novosibirsk, Novokuznetsk, Tomsk, Angarsk, Vladivostok, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Chinese People's Republic. The representation of the famous Chinese company "COFCO" was open by the corporation in Russia. The CORPORATION "RYABINA" is represented on many Stock and Mercantile Exchanges of this country. The science and technology centres of the corporation are working out and put on a mass production a wide product range which is up to the mark of high technical quality. The corporation is shaping a sound investment policy which is carried out through the Investment Fund and Company. The Investment policy of the corporation is supported by the Commercial Bank which is part of its structure.


Поздняков Анатолий Дмитриевич президент корпорации "РЯБИНА"


Project Works


I. Fill in the Public Opinion Poll and have group discussion on the topic.

1) Which, if any, of the things on the list do you think be areas where scientific discoveries could have very dangerous effects (vd), dangerous effects (d), not dangerous effects (n).


Branch of science/technology




Nuclear energy

Biotechnology and genetic engineering

National defence and armaments

Space exploration

Agriculture and plant science

Medical research

Control and reduction of pollution


New forms of energy information

Technology and computers






2) What do you think of science? Do science and technology do more good than harm, more harm than good, or about equal.






More good than harm

More harm man good

About equal





3) Leaving our military applications do you think that scientific discoveries can have dangerous effects?












II. Collect ideas to help people to change their attitude and behaviour. Discuss what you should use for school work, what you could get for a party/barbecue, how to save energy at home, how to avoid producing too much rubbish. Some of your ideas can be crazy. Remember that inventors were often considered to be crazy when they developed their ideas and explained them to others.


III. Guess the names of branches of science they created.











17 October 1978

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 1978 Nobel Prize for Physics in two equal parts:

one to Professor Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa, Institute of Physical Problems, USSR Academy of Sciences, Moscow, for his basic inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics;

and the other, to be shared equally between Dr Arno A. Penzias and Dr Robert W. Wilson, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey, USA, for their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation.


Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitza (1894-1984)

Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitza was born in Kronstadt, Russia, in 1894. He graduated from the Polytechnical Institute, Petrograd in 1919, and had taught electrical engineering at the Physicotechnical Institute in Petrograd for two years when he was selected to join a scientific commission to the University of Cambridge, England.

In 1921 Kapitsa was sent to England on Lenin's instructions to renew scientific contacts. There he worked in the famous Cavendish Laboratory headed by Rutherford. In 1929 Kapitsa was elected a member of the Royal Society for his outstanding scientific work in the production of large magnetic fields.

In 1934 he returned to Moscow where he organized the Institute for Physical Problems at which he continued his research on strong magnetic fields, low temperature physics and cryogenics.

During World War II Kapitsa was engaged in applied research on the production and use of oxygen, and he found an efficient way to produce large quantities of liquid oxygen that proved crucial to the wartime soviet steel industry.

Kapitsa's research on high-power microwave generators in the late 1950s turned his interests to controlled thermonuclear fusion, about which he published a series of papers beginning in 1969.

He was one of the founders of the Moscow Physico-Technical Institute (MFTI), and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics.

In the 1960s Kapitsa was one of the Soviet scientists who campaigned to preserve Lake Baikal from industrial pollution. He was a member of the Soviet National Committee of the Pugwash movement of scientists for peace and disarmament.


Low-temperature Physics

All objects and matter consist of small particles - atoms and molecules - that are in constant motion. The temperature of the matter or body is dependent on the intensity of this so-called heat movement. When the movement is halted, the temperature of the body drops to absolute zero.

Absolute zero, the lowest temperature theoretically possible, is characterized by complete absence of heat, at approximately -273.16° C, or zero degree on the Kelvin scale (0 K). At this temperature matter would possess zero entropy and maximum molecular order, the volume of an ideal gas would vanish, and a thermodynamic heat engine would operate at 100 percent efficiency. Absolute zero cannot be reached experimentally, although it can be closely approached. Special procedures are needed to reach very low, or cryogenic, temperatures.

Low-temperature physics is called cryogenics. The word is derived from the Greek kryos, meaning "icy cold." Cryogenics deals with the properties of materials at temperatures immediately above the absolute zero point. It has been shown that at these temperatures many kinds of materials acquire radically different properties. Many metals and alloys, for instance, become what is known as superconductive.

The first Nobel Prize in the area of low-temperature physics was given in 1913 to Kamerling-Onnes for his investigations on the properties of matter at low temperatures, which led to the production of liquid helium. This substance has since become one of the most useful means for attaining low temperatures.

In 1934, Kapitsa constructed a new device for producing liquid helium, which cooled the gas by periodic expansions. For the first time, a machine had been made which could produce liquid helium in large quantities without previous cooling with liquid hydrogen. This heralded a new epoch in the field of low-temperature physics.

In the 1920s, it had been found that when liquid helium was exposed to a temperature of less than 2.3 degrees above absolute zero, it was changed into an unusual form, which was named He II, or helium two. By 1938, Kapitsa was able to show that He II had such great internal mobility and negligible or vanishing viscosity, that it could better be characterized as a superfluid. During the next few years, Kapitsa's experiments on the properties of He II indicated that it is in a macroscopic quantum state, and that He II is therefore a quantum fluid with zero entropy, i.e., that it has a perfect atomic order.

As a result of his remarkable experimental and technical abilities, Kapitsa has played a leading role in low-temperature physics for a number of decades. He has also shown an amazing capacity to organize and to lead work: he established laboratories for the study of low temperatures in both Cambridge, United Kingdom and Moscow. Kapitsa's discoveries, ideas and new techniques have been basic to the modern expansion of the science of low-temperature physics.


Practical applications of cryogenics

Cryogenics has several practical applications. Among the many important industrial applications of cryogenics are the large-scale production of oxygen and nitrogen from air. The oxygen can be used in a variety of ways, for example, in rocket engines, for cutting and welding torches, for supporting life in space and deep-sea vehicles, and for blast furnace operation. The nitrogen goes into the making of ammonia for fertilizers, and it is used to prepare frozen foods by cooling them rapidly enough to prevent destruction of cell tissues. It can also serve as a refrigerant for transporting frozen foods. Cryogenics has also made possible the commercial transportation of liquefied natural gas.

Cryogenic surgery, or cryosurgery, is being used in eye surgery, in which a freezing probe is briefly applied to the outside of the eye to repair a break in the retina. A similar technique has also been employed to destroy brain tumors and to arrest cervical cancer.

Without cryogenics, nuclear research would lack liquid hydrogen and helium for use in particle detectors and for the powerful electromagnets needed in large particle accelerators. Such magnets are also being used in nuclear fusion research. Infrared devices, masers, and lasers can employ cryogenic temperatures as well.









10 October 2000

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2000 to scientists and inventors whose work has laid the foundation of modern information technology, IT, particularly through their invention of rapid transistors, laser diodes, and integrated circuits (chips).

The prize is being awarded with one half jointly to

Zhores I. Alferov, A. F. Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia, and

Herbert Kroemer, University of California at Santa Barbara, California, USA,

"for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed- and opto-electronics"


and one half to

Jack S. Kilby, Texas Instruments, Dallas, Texas, USA

"for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit"


Zhores I. Alferov was born in Vitebsk, Belorussia, USSR, on March 15, 1930. In 1952, he graduated from the Department of Electronics of V. I. Ulyanov (Lenin) Electrotechnical Institute in Leningrad. Since 1953 he has been a staff member of the Physico-Technical Institute where he held consecutively the following positions: junior researcher (1953-1964), senior researcher (1964-1967), head of the laboratory (1967-1987), director (1987-present). He earned scientific degrees: a candidate of sciences in technology in 1961 and a doctor of sciences in physics and mathematics in 1970, both from the Ioffe Institute.

He was elected a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1972 and a full member of the Academy in 1979. From 1989 onward, he has been Vice-President of the USSR (Russian) Academy of Sciences and President of its St Petersburg Scientific Center. For his research Professor Zh. I. Alferov was awarded a number of national and international prizes. He is Editor-in-Chief of a Russian journal, Pis'ma v Zhurnal Tekhnicheskoi Fiziki (English-language version -Technical Physics Letters) and a member of the Editorial Board of a Russian journal Nauka i Zhizn' (Science and Life). Zh. I. Alferov is author of 4 books, 400 articles, and 50 inventions on semiconductor technology.









7 October 2003

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2003 "for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids" jointly to

Alexei A. Abrikosov, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois, USA,

Vitaly L. Ginzburg, P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute, Moscow, Russia,

and Anthony J. Leggett, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, USA


This year's Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to three physicists who have made decisive contributions concerning two phenomena in quantum physics: superconductivity and superfluidity. Superconducting material is used, for example, in magnetic resonance imaging for medical examinations and particle accelerators in physics. Knowledge about superfluid liquids can give us deeper insight into the ways in which matter behaves in its lowest and most ordered state.


Curriculum Vitae

Ginzburg Vitaly Lazarevich

Born 4 October 1916 in Moscow.

Graduated from the Physics Faculty of Moscow State University in 1938, defended candidate's (Ph.D.) dissertation in 1940 and doctor's dissertation in 1 942. From 1940 up to the present time - work in P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (from 1971 to 1988 - Head of I.E. Tamm Theory Department, at the present time - Adviser of the Russian Academy of Sciences). Since 1945 - part time - professor of Gor'ky State University and from 1 968 to the present day - part time - professor of Moscow Institute for Physics and Technology.

Author of several hundred scientific papers and a dozen of books devoted to physics and astrophysics.

In 1953 - a corresponding member and in 1966 - academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences. From 1989 to 1991 - people's deputy of the USSR from the USSR Academy of Sciences. Awarded the Order of Lenin, other Soviet orders and medals, the Order "For Services to the Motherland" (1996), the State Prize (1953), the Lenin Prize (1966), the Mandelstam Prize (1 947), the Lomonosov Prize (1962), the Vavilov Gold Medal (1995), the Lomonosov Big Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995), and the Triumph Prize (2002).

Elected a foreign member of nine Academies of Sciences (or equivalent institutions), including the Royal Society of London (1987), the American National Academy of Sciences (1981) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1971).

Awarded the Smolukhovsky Medal of Polish Physical Society (1987), the Gold Medal of the London Royal Astronomic Society (1991), the Bardeen Prize (1991), the Wolf Prize (1994/95), UNESCO's Niels Bohr Medal (1998), American Physical Society's 1999 Nicholson Medal. The 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics Laureate.






Superconductivity is a low-temperature phenomenon in which a material loses all electrical resistance when it is cooled to a temperature near absolute zero. This unusual behavior was discovered in 1911 by a Dutch physicist, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. In experiments to measure the resistance of frozen mercury, he discovered that the resistance vanished completely at a temperature of 4.15 К (-289 degrees C).

Vitaly Ginzburg and Alexei Abrikosov, have made decisive contributions to our understanding of how superconductivity and magnetism can coexist. In the 1950s V. Ginzburg together with Lev Landau formulated a theory that could describe how superconductivity disappears at certain "critical" values of electrical current and magnetic fields, in more detail than before. They introduced a measure for the order among electrons, which they called the superconducting order parameter. Guided by a deep physical intuition they went on to formulate mathematical equations whose solution determines the order in a superconductor. They found a close correspondence with what had been measured for superconductors known at the time. It is worth pointing out that the reasoning behind this Ginzburg-Landau theory was of such general validity that it is used today to gain new knowledge in many of the subfields of physics.


Applications of superconductivity

The discovery of better superconducting compounds is a significant step toward a wider spectrum of applications, including faster computers with larger storage capacities, nuclear fusion reactors in which ionized gas is confined by magnetic fields, magnetic suspension of high-speed ("Maglev") trains, and perhaps most important of all, more efficient generation and transmission of electric power over long distances.

Superfluidity is a state of matter characterized by the complete absence of viscosity, or resistance to flow. The term superfluidity is applied primarily to phenomena observed in liquid helium at very low temperatures, but the term is also sometimes used to refer to the frictionless flow of electrons in certain metals and alloys at very low temperatures.

The phenomenon of superfluidity was discovered in 1937 by the Russian physicist Peter Kapitza. He observed that liquid helium, when cooled below 2.17 К (-270.98° С), could flow with no difficulty through extremely small holes, which liquid helium above that temperature cannot do. He also noticed that on the walls of its container superfluid helium formed a thin film (approximately 100 atoms thick) that flowed against gravity up and over the rim of the container.

Superfluidity can be explained using the theory of quantum mechanics. It occurs when large numbers of atoms or molecules are cooled, in a process known as "condensation", so that they occupy the same quantum energy state. The condensed atoms will therefore interact with each other and their surroundings according to exactly the same physical laws, and, when distributed evenly throughout the normal liquid atoms, create unusual properties such as superfluidity.



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