Upon arrival in Moscow, we were met at the train, and driven on a tour of the city. We went by the Lubyanka, which is the KGB headquarters in Moscow, and were given much the same speech as in St. Petersburg. We were also driven by the famous apartment building in Moscow which housed party members during Stalin’s era, and told the horror stories of police in the middle of the night, a forced march to one of the monasteries which ring Moscow, and eventual imprisonment and often death in Siberia.
We were housed in the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) apartment in Profsoyuznaya Square. I learned to use the metro, which was about the only thing that worked well in the Soviet era. It was fast and efficient. Rumors were that Stalin had shot drivers of late trains.
The ITEP guest house had radios everywhere. There was even one in the bathroom. On the last day of our stay, I was talking with Alice asking her if we had enough cash to pay for the apartment. A few minutes after I said this, there was knocking on the door, and the landlady came in asking for payment.
She was probably listening to the radio.
The first night we were there, we went looking for a place to eat. This was always a problem in Russia. The restaurants were run by the state, and the waiters and cooks all received a guaranteed salary. Food was also scarce, and so when a restaurant got a supply of food, the employees likely would take a fair amount, leaving little to be served. The manager of a restaurant might minimize all difficulties by serving no customers. However, if no customers were served for a long time, the restaurant might close, and although jobs might be permanent, the next one might not be as easy.
We were standing in front of a restaurant feeling frustrated and confused (most tables seemed to be empty, but we had just been told they were all reserved) when Karin ter Martiroysian, from ITEP, saw us. He got us inside, ordered for us, and left. After about a half an hour, a pleasant waitress with no English came to our table, and tried to explain something to us in Russian. It was apparent that they no longer had what Karin had ordered for us. We could not understand what she tried to communicate she could offer us instead, as I knew almost no Russian at that time. Finally, embarrassed but desperate to help us understand, she lifted her elbows and flapped them, and with blushing managed a very communicative, “CawROK-rok-rok!.” Chicken! Up until that point, those in the restaurant had seemed very quiet and ill at ease with Americans there, broke into laughter. One fellow introduced himself, and said he spoke a little English. He ended up joining our table, and the evening became a pleasant and sociable one..
The last time I was in Moscow, my friend Yuri Makeenko insisted that we go to the Last Soviet Restaurant in Moscow. We arrived at the door, and they would not let us in. There was a wedding taking place. After negotiating for some time, the owner let us into a little table hidden under a stairwell. They brought us a huge menu, which just like the old Soviet menu which had all possible foods and wines. When they came to take our order, they (again, just as in Soviet times!) had nothing of what we had chosen. However, the waiter said they had a couple of meat dishes, he had a good Georgian wine, a good bottle of vodka, and even a little black caviar. Strangely enough, in the old days, restaurants would sometimes have nothing but caviar, champagne, vodka, bread and butter. You can do worse. I settled into the restaurant feeling like I had stepped back in time 15 years, and felt at home.
I met people truly outstanding for their science and human values while at ITEP. Some were senior people like Karin ter Martiroysian, Lev Okun, Boris Ioffe and Yuri Simenov. Many of the young people have become my colleagues and I have spent many days and nights talking with them about physics, politics and literature: People like Yuri Makeenko, Misha Polikarpov, Misha Voloshin, Arkady Vainshtein, Sasha Dolgov and Vitya Novikov. Alice and I remember going to the Tretyakov Gallery with Misha Polykarpov. There were truly wonderful icons by the great Russian painter Andrei Rublev. A few rooms further on, there was the Socialist Realism painting. I was intrigued by the starkness, and lack of human feeling in the art. It was cold and mechanical, and I was fascinated the ugliness of it. Alice simply disliked what she saw, and she and Misha Polykarpov almost raced through the gallery, and waited for me outside. Alice reported that when she remarked on how the art reminded her of the unrealistic ending of “Spartacus,” the ballet we had seen the previous evening, Misha Polikarpov turned to her and said quietly, “Alice, you are in Wonderland .”
When you left Russia by train, there was a little train depot on the Finnish side of the border. They had a snack bar, and you could buy good cold Finnish beer. There were sausages being fried in the open air, and all manner of fruit on the shelves. I have always loved Finland very much, but perhaps not so much as those first few times I was leaving Russia. I also enjoy Russia and Russians very much, but in that era it was a hard adventure, and the arrival in Finland felt like a warm shower after a long and exhausting backpacking trip.
Upon arrival at Fermilab, we bought a house in Batavia, Illinois, about 3-4 miles from the laboratory. It was a former parsonage, and was in pretty good condition. It had beautiful wooden floors and high ceilings. We planted cherry trees in a portion of the lot.
Conditions at the lab were truly phenomenal. There were two theoretical physics groups. I was in the group run by Chris Quigg in particle theory, and there was another group founded by Dave Schramm
and managed jointly by Rocky Kolb and Mike Turner on particle astrophysics. The theorists were all people of great depth and accomplishment without the personal eccentricities that plague so many groups of talented and creative people. Everyone talked with everyone else, and people genuinely enjoyed one another’s company. There was true intellectual excitement not only about new ideas in theoretical physics, but also new experimental results from the lab and elsewhere. There was also a fusing of ideas from particle physics and field theory with astrophysics and cosmology.
I would ride my bike to the lab during the summer, spring and early fall. I remember being locked out of the central office building once when I arrived in the middle of a tornado drill. Others, it seemed, were at the same time locked in. I discovered this was a government safety regulation.
In the winter, there was cross country skiing on the lab site. The lab site at Fermilab has restored the prairie grass inside the main accelerator ring. The lab originally planned to have buffalo grazing there, but the buffalo loved the most exotic and rare of the prairie grasses planted there at great effort by volunteers. They were moved to another area, where their fine taste in food caused less trouble.. Excess buffalo would be sold off at a yearly auction. At one such sale, a bull buffalo escaped. He made it all the way to the Fox Valley Mall, many miles away, enjoying his hard earned freedom with a carefree stroll through suburban neighborhoods, before being tranquilized by a lineup of Illinois State and local police.
There were ponds near the central office building for the lab, the High Rise, where warm water from the magnets in the accelerator was allowed to cool. Geese flying south in late fall would look down at the unfrozen ponds, and decide to fly no further. By midwinter, the ponds were closely packed with geese whose collective motion resembled an ice floe. We heard that the lab would quietly collect geese in the middle of the night, using helicopters and nets, and take them off in a truck to Southern Illinois. They monitored the geese and found that in a few days they would return to Fermilab.
I was active in the discussions concerning the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at BNL, and a member of the RHIC Policy Advisory Committee at BNL. I also participated in the workshop where the first plans for detectors were drafted. I wrote many papers on the phenomena which might be expected from RHIC collisions. I developed fluid dynamical models of the collisions with Henrique von Gersdorff and Vesa Ruuskanen, Keijo Kajantie and their groups.
Peter Arnold and I worked out details of electroweak baryon number violation, which is described in the Physics section of this webpage. Working with someone who has a mind as original and creative as Peter’s is exciting. Peter takes an incomplete and poorly thought out idea, reduces it to its most simple form, and then finds a simple mathematical abstraction of it from which he can test its validity. Sometimes this leads to a reformulation of the basic concepts, and then a partial or complete solution.
In 1984, I went to a meeting in Bad Honnef, Germany where I met Edward Shuryak and Evgenii Feinberg. Richard Wiener organized this wonderful meeting, and through his understanding of the Soviet scientific bureaucracy, enabled these two outstanding Soviet scientists to attend. Evgenii was a senior and distinguished theoretical physicist from the Lebedev Institute in Moscow. This is the institute of Andrei Sakharov. Evgenii was a tall man, grey haired and soft spoken, who was proud of his resemblance to Ronald Reagan. There is a reminiscence of him in the Anecdotes section. Evgenii had thought very hard about fluid dynamical descriptions of particle collisions, and I learned much from his reflections on entropy production.
We also got into a conversation on ESP. I had heard the Russians were seriously testing the idea, and asked him if it was so. He said yes they were, and they had reproduced all of the exciting results which we had in the US. This was Evgenii’s way of saying there was no reproducible effect.
I knew Edward earlier from his work on strongly interacting matter at very high temperature. We spent much time discussing one another’s ideas, and became very good friends, Edward is very fast, and you do not have to explain details. He is very creative, but most importantly he is obsessive. Most of my good friends are obsessed to a certain extent by ideas, paradox and paradigms, but Edward is far in the tail of the distribution. With Edward, I would have unending excited conversations.
In April of 1986, I was to attend a meeting in Kiev organized by Genya Zinoviev. I had met Genya through my colleague Helmut Satz who organized a number of influential meetings at the Center for Interdisciplinary Study in Bielefeld, Germany. By this time, Helmut and I had become very good friends, both through talking with one another at various scientific meetings, and hiking and skiing in the mountains. Helmut is very intense; he expresses himself clearly and simply. He did some of the earliest and best work on the numerical solutions to strongly interacting theories of matter at very high energy density. He also did seminal work on the experimental consequences of such matter for high energy collisions of nuclei.
Genya was Helmut’s good friend, and was trying to build a group similar to Helmut’s that would work on the properties of high energy density matter at the Academy of Sciences Institute in Kiev. Genya had access to ample resources, since one of the founders of his group was well connected to the high party leadership of the Ukraine.
I had planned to stay a week in Leningrad before going to Kiev, but before we reached Leningrad,
Chernobyl blew up. Apparently, the scientists in the Leningrad Nuclear Physics Institute discovered the Chernobyl explosion before it was public knowledge. Some of them were going into work and upon entering the reactors, the radiation detectors went off. These detectors are placed there to go off if you have been unknowingly dosed with radiation while at work and are leaving the reactor. They were quite surprised that they had set them off on entering. Upon testing themselves with different detectors, they verified that they indeed were hot. This of course scared the hell out of them, since there were a number of reactors in the Leningrad area and the Soviet government had never been particularly forthcoming about catastrophic events.
While in Leningrad, Alice and I were encouraged to go to the meeting in Kiev. We were told there was no problem getting there and no real safety hazard in Kiev. Both of these things were true. A more real problem, however, was that the meager public transportation system of the Ukraine was crumbling under the pressure of terrified crowds mobbing train depots and airports. One could go to Kiev but not leave. It was also not clear at that time, nor even now for that matter, how things would eventually settle in Chernobyl.
I visited Kiev several years later where Genya Zinoviev was my host, and was introduced to Kirill Bugaev and Yuri Sinyakov. Genya had by then built a successful group in Kiev, and is now a central figure in the involvement of Ukraine with the CERN experimental program. While in Kiev then, I visited the war memorial where there is a huge dome, and inside the dome are given the names of war heroes. Brezhnev had once been high on the list of names displayed there, but had fallen in place on the list after his death. I learned during that visit about Bulgakov, about the bitter fighting in the Ukraine during the Russian Resolution, and the starvation there during the collectivization of the farms. The pattern was that Communist Party bureaucrats would go into an area to collect grain. They would be rewarded for exceeding the quotas that they had set for their areas, since the excess was interpreted as successful increase in productivity. But the next year’s quota would then need to reflect this assumption of increased productivity, and be higher than that of the prior year. The result was that the farmers and their families would starve to death. But the Communist Party bureaucrats did not care, since farmers were land owners, and therefore enemies of the people. This pattern was taught to the Chinese, and later with some variation to that most respected and illustrious alumnus of the Sorbonne, Pol Pot. Pol Pot, to his credit, understood that the educated were more of a threat to his ideology than the peasants, so he systematically liquidated them as well.
Once while in Russia, after I had learned to speak a little Russian, I met the father of a well known physicist at a dinner party. It was late and we all had a lot to drink, but I started talking with the old fellow. He was a party member, so I asked him how he could defend the slaughter of tens of millions of people in the Ukraine and in the Gulags. He answered me honestly: These people were enemies of the people. There was class warfare. In war, you kill the enemy.
I should be careful here, because some of my friends to this day remain Communists. They are not evil people, nor do I disagree with all that they say. Many of these friends I respect very much for their idealism, Their conception of a better world is certainly not that of a Stalinist, a Red Guard or a Khmer Rouge.
During the visit to Kiev, Genya took me to visit an old broken down house on the site of his institute. It had the architectural style of a California ranch house. There were the remains of a swimming pool. I was told that after the famous physicist Dirac retired under mandatory retirement laws in Britain, he was being recruited for a position in Kiev, and the house was part of the deal. Dirac eventually accepted a position at an American University.
Several months later, I returned to Russia as part of a DOE delegation to visit Soviet laboratories. We visited, Novosibirsk, Dubna, the Lebedev Institute the Kurchatov Institute, ITEP, and the Institute for Nuclear Research. Alice and I would stay with the delegation during the day, and at night would visit with friends late into the night. I think the purpose of the delegation was to exploit the rapidly warming relations with the Soviet Union by first understanding what the various labs do, and then trying to develop programs of mutual interest. I remember after visiting a reactor complex in Dubna, Dave Hendrie, the leader of the delegation insisted we all wash our hands. We saw a number of laser laboratories, suggesting that they had the same interest in high powered lasers that we had in the US. At the Kurchatov Institute, they still had proudly displayed in their meeting room pictures of the reactor at Chernobyl, a reactor that their lab had designed and built.