Vladimir Evgen’evich Fortov
South pole
(South pole)

60 seconds with authors

Vladimir Evgen’evich Fortov


Institute of Thermophysics of Extreme States, Joint Institute for High Temperatures, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russian Federation



What led you into science and your chosen area of research?

When I graduated from high school in 1962, fantastic events were taking place in science and engineering: the first artificial satellite (sputnik) was launched, then the first cosmonaut lifted to space, automatic spacecraft were sent to the Moon and Venus. An atomic power station began to operate, etc. All this led me, a 16-years-old boy from a provincial town near Moscow, to the Moscow Physico-Technical Institute and then to physics.


Can you describe the results in your paper and their importance for your field?

Our paper considered experimental observations of a new and very unusual phenomenon: the formation of plasma crystals and liquids in highly nonideal plasma composed of microscopic charged particles. The energy of the interparticle Coulomb interaction in this exotic state of matter is greater by many orders of magnitude than the thermal energy of motion of charged particles, and this causes the plasma to “freeze”.


What research projects are you working on at the moment?

We are currently conducting shockwave experiments aimed at confirming the effects, predicted by Vainer, Landau and Zeldovich, of the Coulomb phase transition in nonideal helium, deuterium, hydrogen and inert gas plasmas at pressures of several million atmospheres. Together with our colleagues at the Institute of Experimental Physics, we were able to produce a record of this transition in the hydrogen plasma. We are also conducting experiments on recording “cold” metallization (pressure-induced ionization) and dielectrization of the plasma in ultra-megabar range of pressures using shock waves.


What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in your field?

I believe that many new and interesting observations will emerge in the nearest future from plasma phase transitions, from metallization and dielectrization of strongly compressed plasma. We expect some very exciting physics to emerge from the study of the interaction of high-intensity laser radiation fluxes (at power density > 1020 W/cm2) with matter.


What book are you reading right now?

A new edition of Stephen Hawking’s “Brief History of Time” and the stunning memoirs of academician S.N. Kovalev “On what we have and what we did have”.


If you could have dinner with any 3 people, past or present, who would they be and why?

With academician L.D. Landau, Winston Churchill and academician V.L. Ginzburg. That would be something out of this world!


What has been the most exciting moment in your career so far ?

The moment when I saw with my own eyes a plasma crystal. And also when I stepped on the South Pole and then the North Pole and when I rounded the Capes of Horn and Good Hope on a sailing yacht.


What would you like to say in connection with the 90th anniversary of “Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk” journal?

For a physicist, “Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk” stands for “all that is precious to us”. The end of “Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk” will be the end of physics in Russia. If I were the Minister of Science, I would introduce, on top of the degree of Doctor of Sciences (DSc) another one, “DSc whose papers are accepted by Uspekhi”. Like the successive rungs of the widely known “Landau scale”, these two degrees differ by one order of magnitude.

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