In the labyrinth of knowledge

Firyuza Yanchilina

What textbooks did we comprehend science at the university? Different ones, mostly domestic. Among them, there are more or less decent, allowing you to understand the topic. True, the booklets of our lecturers were written, as a rule, in a heavy language, they were a summary of their lectures. But the textbooks, which really would clarify the topic, we practically did not have. For some reason, the domestic authors did not bother to simply, "on their fingers" explain to students complicated things. Although, perhaps, these scientists simply were not good teachers. They could not make their textbooks good.
A special place among all the books with which we have followed the path of knowledge is occupied by the Course of Theoretical Physics by Landau and Lifshitz. As our students called it, “Landafshitz”. Various rumors were circulating around the volumes of this course. In particular, they do not contain a single word from Landau and no formula from Lifshitz. I do not rule out this. If this is true, and it was difficult for Lev Landau to express his thoughts, he could find a more talented "writer." Evgeni Lifshitz were writing, diluting the abundance of formulas with scant phrases, hardly explaining the meaning of Landau's "heavy artillery".
One can imagine how difficult it was to perceive the textbooks of Landafshitz for students. We almost did not understand them. It is impossible to learn from such books. In them there is practically no physics, only mathematics.
But everybody had Landafshitz! We were obliged to take these textbooks in the university library. We treated them with special trepidation, as something "cosmic". It is difficult to understand where this attitude came from, because the educational value of these complex books was negligible. In a sense, they were for us a "beckoning peak," which loomed in the distance: if we understand Landafshitz, then we will really understand the theoretical physics. Among the part of the students there was an opinion that the course of Landau and Lifshitz was intended, rather, for graduate students who at a deeper level comprehend one or another specialty. I do not know how true this is. In my opinion, even for those wishing to defend the Ph.D. thesis, "The Course of Theoretical Physics" was something like "a heavenly mathematics".
I would call Landafshitz a "test" for knowledge. If a person has understood well some field of physics, he will probably understand what Landau wanted to convey with the help of Lifshitz. And since he understood, he does not need Landaufshitz anymore.
"The course of theoretical physics" is harmful for students, it causes them an inferiority complex. It does not give even a drop of understanding.
Landafshitz is also the "test" for stupidity. If someone heavily refers to the course of Landau and Lifshitz, it means that a person simply does not understand the topic under discussion and tries to raise his own importance.
The fact that I cannot master the "Course of Theoretical Physics", I understood as a student. Therefore I especially did not read these books. But Vasily, unlike me, studied them. He told me that he was surprised by a certain "scientific timidity" of Landau: he avoided complex, subtle moments, as though maneuvering between them. He did not analyze the important problems of physics. This position is in all his textbooks.
It is quite another matter are "Feynman lectures on physics". Richard Feynman wrote in simple, understandable language. Unfortunately, in our university his course, as well as the "Berkeley Course of Physics" were considered "additional" books. No teacher spoke of this openly, but the attitude towards these textbooks was exactly this. Maybe that is why I never took time to read them during my studies at the physics department of Novosibirsk state university. My acquaintance with the Feynman lectures took place... 10 years after graduation from the university. Vasily spurred me to this, or rather my acquaintance with his theory of quantum gravitation.
I realized that I seriously forgot physics in 10 and decided to do it in the second round. Vasily patiently and at the same time happily answered my innumerable questions. I rediscovered the world of science. It was Vasily who advised me to study subjects on Feynman's lectures. He had the whole course of this scientist. He received it as a prize for the first place at the All-Siberian Olympiad in Physics at the Novosibirsk Summer School, in which pupils were selected for the Physics and Mathematics School. By the way, about half of the students of the this school were different kinds of winners of different Olympiads. Vasily was invited to the Summer School after victory at the Olympics in physics in the Altai region. Once he told me that before participating in it, he did not represent a task he could not solve. But Vasily studied at an ordinary school in Barnaul. I also began to study in physics school after I received a second degree diploma at the republican Olympiad in chemistry in Uzbekistan. But I chose physics as a future specialty. I really wanted to understand how the Universe works. But it turned out that my main teacher was not the university, but Vasily.
I decided to study the Feynman course from the very beginning, that is, from mechanics. I was surprised that the famous scientist expounds the subject very clearly, for me it was unusual. I was used to the fact that lecturers and seminarians at the Novosibirsk state university gave us a bunch of formulas, practically without providing them with explanations. Did they understand what they were explaining to the students? Of course, they understood, in different degrees. But I am not sure that it was deep. The lecturer on quantum mechanics on Vasily's course before the service of the guys in the ranks of the Soviet Army was Valery Serbo (who refused to delve into the essence of the Vasily’s formula). I learned from Vasily that Serbo stated in one of the lectures that the name "quantum mechanics" was unsuccessful. He believed that the more correct is "wave mechanics", because this section of physics studies waves. It turns out that he denied or did not fully understand the key role of quanta.
I return to the Feynman lectures. The American scientist not only wrote clearly, but also “chewed” the subject. In particular, I was struck by the fact that he was trying with all seriousness to help students visualize the electromagnetic wave, while he admitted that it was not easy for him to do it.
Reading Feynman, I regretted that I did not read his lectures at the university. Surely the learning process would be more fun. But in our time most students regarded this course as fiction. One day I saw one of the classmates reading a volume of an American scientist at a session. I was extremely surprised: there were only two days before the exam, and he did not study the formulas, but read "fiction". Now I understand that he was penetrating the essence of the subject, which he did not understand on the "basic bibliographic list", including the lecture notes.
I do not know how much the lectures and textbooks have changed at the universities. In my opinion, the situation is about the same as it was before. Unfortunately, not only good textbooks, but also talented teachers are few. And this is not my personal discovery.