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93) Cases from Russia

Ludwik Kowalski (August 11, 2003)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ, 07043

The situation in Russia, as described by Kruglyakov, can be found in the unit #86 of my list. This units focuses on selected fragments from his 2001 Russian book, "The Highwaymen of Science." On page 93 one reads that a claim for the “excess heat” was made in Russia in 1959, long before cold fusion was discovered. Several engineers from a Soviet factory, “Santechnika” [which translates into medical technology] announced a device constantly generating more heat than the amount of electric energy received. Scientists dismissed the claim but a poetess, Marietta Shaginian, came to the defense of inventors. She wrote; “don’t these scientists realize the importance of the discovery; it is a technological revolution!” Her defense was widely publicized and created great excitement in the entire country. Finally Kapitsa, and other important scientists, had to be involved. “Fortunately, it was not difficult to find an error: an increase of temperature in the surrounding water had been ignored.”


Another claim goes back to 1970s and the pseudoscientist is A. Cherniecki; in his case the rate of heat generated was several times larger than the rate of electric energy supply. The inventor believed that physical vacuum was supplying excess energy to his system. “Many supporting articles, appearing in the press, were presenting only one side of the story. Three years later, however, it became known that the inventor, using various pretexts, did not allow experts to measure the input power.”


After describing old claims Kruglyakov jumps to 1980’s and focuses on Akimov, an active promoter of torsional fields which are said to propagate much faster than light, which can cary information, and which can kill. Kruglyakov reprints his letter to the editor of a widely read Russian Newspaper (RN). That letter exposes con artistry of Akimov in the former Soviet Union and in new Russia. It also criticizes harmful policy of the government newspaper to support pseudoscience. I could not stop thinking about similarities between E. Kruglyakov in Russia and R. Park in the USA. Why do these two physicists place cold fusion in the same boat as torsional radiation and other speculative (as opposed to experimental) claims? Don’t they see obvious differences between situations in the field of cold fusion (see item #18) and situations in real pseudoscience areas (see items 56 and 57)? Significant differences between situations in two countries, however, did not escape my attention.

Instead of focusing on Kruglyakov’s letter to the editor, entitled “On the other side of science,” let me show the reply produced by the science editor of R.N. Valentinov. The reply, entitled “On that side of science,” appeared on May 19, 1998. It illustrates position of a science editor who covers his support for sensationalism by pretending to be open-minded. Valentinov wrote:

[Kruglyakov] “often accuses those who give money to Akimov -- the Science and Technology Commission, the Ministry of Defense and the FSB [the successor of KGB]. . . . I suppose that defense specialists in charge of evaluations of Akimov’s projects, and generals handling finical aspects of his work, will answer for themselves, if they decide to raise the curtain of secrecy a little. Kruglyakov accuses them to be scientifically and technically illiterate. His main target, however is not the army, it is the press. He asks: ‘why are pseudoscientific projects, costing a lot of money, are advertised, rather then criticized, by popular press?’ That money should be used to support research in mainstream science. “

If my memory can be trusted, the hypothesis that every rotating object, including elementary particles, is surrounded by the torsion field was suggested in 1902. But the field is so small that they can not be detected by the existing instruments. . . And then [in 1980’s], Shipov and Akimov, asked: ‘is it true that these fields cannot be measured?’ That resulted in a scandalous accusation.” Akimov is not the only one working in this field [names of researchers are provided]”. Kruglyakov claims that journalists, informing society about work of pseudoscientists,” are hurting real science.

“But how do journalists, reporting what they hear from researchers, can interfere with progress of science? . . . Was it us, journalists, who were responsible for wild accusations of our brilliant geneticist, Vavilov? Did we cooperate with those who killed the genius in the Vladimir prison? Are we responsible for the persecution of the cybernetician, Glushkov? That persecution delayed our scientific progress by decades. No, this was done by their scientific colleagues who ‘paved the way for real science.’ Consider N.A. Kozyrev, who found the new way to investigate time. . . . Was it us, journalists, who sent him to Stalin’s camps for ten years? . . . No, all this was done by his colleagues, often academicians [Kruglyakov is an academician].” Kozyrev was later recognized for his discoveries, but “mental inertia” of scientists was responsible for attempts to keep this fact unknown.

“I am well familiar with this affair. I remember how academician Krat, the director of Pulkowski observatory, was trying to prevent me, physically, from interviewing Kozyrev in his office. Then he threatened me with consequences along the party line, in case I dare to publish the interview. But I did publish it and was nearly expelled from the party, and from work. Fortunately some vigilant journalists supported me from pages of official party newspapers. . . .

Explaining his own ‘path to truth,’ Kruglyakov refers to specialized journals where any submitted paper is independently evaluated by two or three experts and by a collective of editors who are recognized scientists. This process is supposed to designed to eliminate erroneous publications. And it often does this. But it is not uncommon that a work declared to be ‘erroneous’ turns out to be highly innovative. Academician Kruglyakov, I suppose, would like scientific publications in newspapers to undergo the scrutiny of experts. This implies censorship. Our report on the work of Akimov would never be published under such system. The same would also happen to all publications challenging somebody’s obsolete claims, questioning somebody’s competence or not convenient for other reasons.”


Kruglyakov book contains comments on Valentinov’s reply. Ridiculous nature of the stuff published in RN is illustrated by the following quotation from a published article:

“Loud cursing over a plant was like [an X ray] dose of 40 thousand roentgens. It resulted in the braking of the DNA chains, in the decay of chromosomes and in the scattering of genes. . . . Grains of wheat, after receiving a dose of cursing equivalent to 10 thousand roentgens, developed normally after being blessed.”

This reminds me of “pet stones” that were advertised in the US, about two decades ago. The author’s main point is that RN, is more interested in publicity than scientific integrity, that its scientific editor is a hypocrite and that promotion of ignorance harms national interest. Later in the book Kruglyakov writes: “Valentinov claims that RN journalists report what they hear from scientists. ‘We trust scientists with advanced degrees, . . . they [not us, journalists] are responsible for purity of science.’ Beautiful words. But pages of RN have not been reporting science for a long time; only mysticism and devil worship. Your words, Mr. Valentinov, about confidence in people with scientific degrees do not match your stubbornness in glorifying accomplishment of scientifically illiterate people.”


Two academicians, E. Alexandrov and V. Ginzburg supported Kruglyakov but their letter to the editor of RN was not printed. That letter is reprinted in the book. The academicians wrote that “the freedom of opinion in exact sciences is poorly understood by some people. According to Valentinov, a physicist is free to either believe or not to believe in the theory of relativity. . . . One must recognize that the unlimited freedom of choice does not exist because the laws of nature are objective. They do not depend on preferences of scientists. Differences of opinion can only exist at the level of hypothesizing. Once confirmed, a hypothesis becomes reality and freedom of opinion is no longer allowed. Conflicting points of view, however, can be encountered because scientists are human; they can be either right or wrong.


On page 177 Kruglyakov describes a tragic transformation of a gifted astrophysicist , N. Kozyrev [mentioned above by Valentinov], into a pseudoscientist. “Before the war that scientists worked in Leningrad. In 1938 he was arrested and sent to a prison. According to witnesses, he noticed that after standing on the icy floor for a long time the feeling of coldness was replaced by the feeling of some warmth. Kozyrev speculated that time turns into energy. Then he started applying this idea to stars -- that might be the source of their energy. He could not possibly be familiar with the idea of nuclear origin of stellar energy. The hypothesis formulated in the prison was further developed after his return. It was a sad story. Those who knew him as a gifted physicist helped Kozyrev to defend a doctoral dissertation; he was the discoverer of lunar volcanism. But at the same time he was engaged in strange experiments. I know that his conclusions were not confirmed by two appointed teams of scientists. Kozyrev was a man broken by the depressive political system. Without being arrested he would probably have a brilliant scientific career. His bizarre ideas are now promoted by very strange people.”


Those accused of being pseudoscientists in Russia often compare the accusers with those who, in Stalin’s times, persecuted geneticists and cyberneticists. These people were also accused to be pseudoscientists; they were often arrested and sent to concentration camps. This issue is addressed in several places. On page 14, after quoting another academician, Kruglyakov writes: “Let me remind you that the persecution [of Soviet biologists] was not initiated by scientific institutions. It is true, however, that some scientists did participate. Unfortunately scoundrels can be found everywhere; only the bravest were able to oppose terror openly. It is very different now; today everybody is free to defend his point of view. . . . Let me also remind you [page 186] another detail [page 186] from our horrible past. Physicists often helped persecuted geneticists. Igor Kurchatov, for example, had a large department of biology in his institute [working on the atomic bomb project].”

On page 199 Kruglyakov writes: “Do you remember destruction of genetics and cybernetics? . . . That destruction was organized in the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of Communist Party. Don’t you know that physicists were saving geneticists when they could? Let me tell you that only a miracle saved physics from a similar destruction. I had a conversation with I. Golovin, the deputy director of Kurchatov’s Institute. He said that one day Beria [the secret police chief] suggested to Kurchatov that idealistic physics, such as quantum mechanics and theory of relativity, should perhaps be purged. Igor Vasilevich immediately replied that the atomic bomb design is based on these two theories. The purging is not desirable because the country needs the bomb. Beria informed Stalin about this conversation. This resulted in the cancellation of a session whose purpose was to discuss an attack on physics.” Stephen Speicher, from Phys-L, reminded us a story from George Gamov’s autobiography. In that book ("My World Line," The Viking Press, 1970) Gamov describes his own encounter (in 1931) with those who believed that teaching relativity and quantum physics is not good for Soviet ideology.

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