Lev Landau

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Lev Landau, 1962

Lev Davidovich Landau (January 22 1908April 1 1968) was a Soviet physicist, who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics.


  • Главное, делайте всё с увлечением, это страшно украшает жизнь.
    • It is important to do everything with passion, it embellishes life enormously.
    • in a letter to his niece Maya Bessarab, as quoted by her in Lev Landau, biography. Moscovskiy Rabochiy (Moscow Worker). 1971. 
  • This work contains many things which are new and interesting. Unfortunately, everything that is new is not interesting, and everything which is interesting, is not new.
  • A method is more important than a discovery, since the right method will lead to new and even more important discoveries.
    • reported by Lance Dixon [2]
  • People who hear of some extraordinary phenomenon start proposing to explain it with improbable hypotheses. First consider the simplest explanation: that it's all nonsense.
    • reported by Boris Ioffe in: Shifman, M., ed (2013). "Lev Davidovich Landau". Under the Spell of Landau: When Theoretical Physics Was Shaping Destinies. World Scientific. pp. 5–29. ISBN 9789814436571.  (quote from p. 25)
  • The idea seems to exist that there can be an absolutely continuous transition between the liquid and crystalline state (analogous to the transition liquid-gas), which would require the existence of a miraculous state which is neither isotropic nor anisotropic.
    • Landau, Lev. "The theory of phase transitions." Nature 138.3498 (1936): 840-841.

Quotes about Lev Landau[edit]

  • In 1958, Landau and certain other seminar participants were highly enthusiastic about the new Heisenberg theory in which all particles arise from a universal fermion field. (Others, however, took a highly skeptical view of this theory.) At one seminar Landau received a letter through Pontecorvo, supposedly from Pauli, and Landau read it aloud. In the brief letter, Pauli wrote that he liked Heisenberg's theory, that he'd found new arguments in its favor and found it highly plausible. Moreover, wrote Pauli, the latest experiments with Λ hyperons confirm Heisenberg's theory. No details were given about these experiments, though. There was great excitement: after all, Pauli was known as a person with a critical turn of mind, far from gullible. Different hypotheses were advanced; one young theorist even went up to the board and tried to imagine what the experiment could be that Pauli wrote of. Meanwhile, Migdal took the letter, read it carefully and said, "Something's strange here. If you read the first letters of all the lines from top to bottom, it spells the Russian word 'fools.' What could that mean?" The secret was simple: The letter was written by Migdal and Pontecorvo.
    • Boris Ioffe in: Shifman, M., ed (2013). "Lev Davidovich Landau". Under the Spell of Landau: When Theoretical Physics Was Shaping Destinies. World Scientific. pp. 5–29. ISBN 9789814436571.  (quote from p. 13)
  • It is Landau’s invention—as it may, I feel, be fairly called—of the order parameter that is so important but often underappreciated... Landau’s concept of the order parameter, indeed, brought light, clarity, and form to the general theory of phase transitions, leading eventually, to the characterization of multicritical points and the understanding of many characteristic features of ordered states. But in 1944 a bombshell struck! Lars Onsager, by a mathematical tour de force, deeply admired by Landau himself, computed exactly the partition function and thermodynamic properties of the simplest model of a ferromagnet or a fluid... the nature of the critical singularities disagreed profoundly—as I will explain below—with essentially all the detailed predictions of the Landau theory (and of all foregoing, more specific theories).
  • In 1956 Shapiro had been very actively investigating the so-called $\tau-\theta$ problem, which had been puzzling physicists for a long time. Shapiro came to the conclusion that the only possible explanation could be the parity non-conservation in this decay of mesons... Landau, when Shapiro presented him the paper, laughed at such an idea -- without Landau's holy consent Shapiro's paper could not be published. It remained on his desk, where I saw it many months before Lee and Yang submitted their paper for publication. So, because of Landau, Soviet physics lost one Nobel prize. A similar case is reported by Landau's closest collaborator, A.A. Abrikosov. Landau's negative attitude to Abrikosov's theory had delayed the discovery of superconductivity II for about four years.
    • Janouch, Frantisek. Lev D. Landau: his life and work. No. CERN-79-03. CERN, 1979.
  • Once, lecturing in Moscow during his last visit to the USSR, Niels Bohr was asked how he had succeeded in creating such a famous and first-class school of theoretical physics. He answered: "Probably because I have never been ashamed of admitting to my students that I am a fool." Bohr's lecture was translated into Russian by Landau's closest collaborator, E. Lifshitz, who translated it: "Probably because I have never been ashamed to tell my students that they are fools." Lifshitz's mistranslation caused a lot of laughter among the listeners. Lifshitz became aware of his mistake, corrected himself, and apologized. Kapitza, who was present, remarked that this mistranslation had not been accidental at all: "Precisely here lies the difference between Bohr's and Landau's schools of theoretical physics."
    • Janouch, Frantisek. Lev D. Landau: his life and work. No. CERN-79-03. CERN, 1979.

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