"Nuclear shield" in Russian physicists 'Thirty Years' War against the incompetent criticism of modern physical theories

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V.P. Vizgin
S.I. Vavilov Institute of Natural Sciences and Technology
Staropanskiî per. 1/5, 103012 Moscow, Russian Federation
Tel. (7-095) 928-19-69
Fax (7-095) 925-99-11
E-mail: viet@ihst.ru

The defensive war Russian physicists fought for about 30 years against the incompetent intervention of authorities, philosophers, and their own philosophising colleagues is discussed and the way it affected the Russian nuclear weapons program is analyzed. Over this period, the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics - the very backbone of 20th-century physics - were under continuous philosophical criticism; they were branded as idealistic, overly abstract and detached from practice, and their creators as "physical idealists" and, between 1948 and 1953, "rootless cosmopolitans" to that. These theories, however, are at the basis of nuclear physics (including its research tools such as particle accelerators, etc.) - and ultimately of the nuclear energy concept which, both in its military and peaceful aspects, became a reality after the neutron-induced fission of uranium had been discovered. The first part of this paper shows how the Russian physics community carried the day in defending relativity and quanta against the philosophical and ideological pressure of the 1930s - the victory which created necessary prerequisites for the future atomic project. The material in the second part amply demonstrates that in the 1940s and 1950s the `nuclear shield' enabled physicists to successfully oppose the philosophical pressure and cosmopolitism allegations - saving them from a pogrom similar to the one the Russian agricultural science suffered in 1948.

PACS numbers: 01.65.+g, 01.75+m
Bibliography -
94 references
Received 12 May 1999, revised 25 June 1999