What led you into science and your chosen area of research?
I was a devoted ham radio amateur in senior years of high school and this stimulated my interest in physics in general and in the theory of electricity in particular. And then I drew a lucky ticket – I became a freshman of the Physico-Technical Department that was just organized at the M.V. Lomonosov Moscow University. The four years I spent there were undoubtedly the happiest time of my life (see Question 7).
Can you describe the results in your paper and their importance for your field?
In my first paper I was able to show that the refractive index that was traditionally regarded as a positive quantity may in fact be negative too. This may happen if both the electric permittivity and the magnetic permeability of the material are negative. This prediction was confirmed 33 years later when Professor D.R. Smith with collaborators created a composite material with negative refractive index and Professor J.B. Pendry showed that the planar lens with negative refractive index that I proposed, can indeed provide greatly improved resolution.
What research projects are you working on at the moment?
Note that the importance of these results lies not so much in that the negative refractive index can be engineered but in our ability to design composite materials with any, not necessarily negative, values of permittivity and permeability.
It is high time we critically reconsidered all formulas of classical electrodynamics that involve permittivity, permeability or refractive index. Many of these formulas are valid only with positive values of these quantities and using negative values in them leads to bad errors. Hence many of these formulas need to be corrected. An analysis of this situation is what I am busy with now.
What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in your field?
The creation of transparent low-absorption materials with negative refraction in the visible spectral range.
What book are you reading right now?
Classics of physics: books by Einstein, Pauli, de Broglie and some others.
If you could have dinner with any 3 people, past or present, who would they be and why?
If it were acceptable to choose among people who are no longer with us, I would name three of my teachers who gave me so very much. They are:
- Professor Mark Yefremovich Zhabotinsky. He supervised my graduation diploma project and helped me build an excellent foundation in radio electronics and electrodynamics.
- Professor Semen Emmanuilovich Khaikin. It was reading his popularizing book “What is radio?” that I became a ham radio amateur, and later as a student worked under his guidance for three summers at the P. N. Lebedev FIAN radioastronomy station in Crimea.
- 3. Professor Sergei Mikhailovich Rytov, corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He delivered a magnificent course of lectures on the theory of oscillations. S. M. Rytov was a true Scholar, with capital S, and anyone who spoke to him or worked with him, and I among them, would be blessed with a touch of a Scholar, not of a `research scientist’ that we common mortals were..
All three of them were highly significant people. They gave their students not only professional know-how and knowledge base but also shared with them the greatness of their thinking and feelings. I can only regret that I had had too short a time in that atmosphere.
What has been the most exciting moment in your career so far?
However, at the moment I would love to have lunch with my family…
When answering Question 1 I already mentioned what the happiest period of my life was. If, however, you are asking about the most significant event of my career, then I should recall the eureka moment when I realized that materials with both permittivity and permeability negative are possible, although I did not understand yet what precisely their properties would be. I did decide then and there that this question cannot be left unanswered and that I was to answer it.
What would you like to say in connection with the 90th anniversary of “Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk” journal?
I still remember that instant very well and in all likelihood it was the most important one in my life.
I am profoundly grateful to Physics Uspekhi for the very fact that it did publish my principal paper forty years ago.
At the moment the journal plays an extremely important role as it is in fact the historical encyclopedia of physics. With the Author Index, one can always find papers on the desired subject as this journal almost always published papers by the founders of every new field of physics.
This encyclopedic nature of the journal became possible largely owing to the open access to all papers published in Physics-Uspekhi in Russian; I will use this occasion to express my gratitude to the Editorial Board of the journal for making this open access possible.