מכל מלמדײ השכלתי (duchifat) wrote,
מכל מלמדײ השכלתי

Eli Sternberg

Продолжаю с интересом изучать материалы про своих академических предков. Учеником Садовского был Эли Штернберг(1917-1988), член NAS and NAE и вообще всячески заслуженный механик. Он был руководителем руководителя моего руководителя, то есть моим научным "пра-дедушкой". Вот какую я нашел его замечательную речь по поводу награждения его медалью Тимошенко в 1985 году:

"I had been in a similar quandary as to the meaning of "Applied Mathematics" until a good many years ago, when Lester Ford, who was then chairman of the mathematics department at the Illinois Institute of Technology, called me into his office to show me a letter he had just received from an inmate of Alcatraz Prison. It read: "Dear Professor Ford, I am serving a life sentence at Alcatraz and am studying calculus on my own. I don't know how to solve Problem No.3 on p.275 of the calculus book by Granville, Smith, and Longley. Can you help me?" I allowed that this was an amusing letter, at which point Professor Ford handed me a copy of the book. Problem No.3 on p.275 started with the sentence: "A tunnel is to be drilled." If this isn't Applied Mathematics, what is?"

Про умирание механики в Америке, про гонку за публикациями и грантами, про гонку за популярностью у студентов:

"To begin with, there is the undeniable observation that mechanics, as an independent academic discipline, has suffered worrisome setbacks during the past twenty years or so. This fact is reflected in the demise of several mechanics departments at major American universities, the erosion of existing mechanics faculties, and the decline of the student population in mechanics. There are various and diverse reasons for this trend. Among them is the not uncommon perception of mechanics as an essentially stagnant field. After all, some of my physicist friends still regard the discovery of Hooke's law in the seventeenth century as the last noteworthy event in the history of the theory of elasticity."

"Even elasticity theory, which (to my unbiased mind) is the very model of a mathematically sound and physically successful theory - though declared dead in some premature obituaries, has not stood idle. Nor is it likely to become obsolete in the future. I am rather confident that the theory of elasticity will be around and useful long after some of the more glamorous additions to engineering curricula have joined the company of fading fads and discarded fashions."

"My enthusiasm for teaching has been somewhat dampened by a no longer novel phenomenon that has, in my view, contaminated the academic teaching atmosphere. I am alluding to the teaching-quality surveys conducted by students, which are firmly entrenched at most universities and enjoy a blissful immunity from criticism: any faculty member venturing to question the merits of this ritual can count on having his own motives questioned in turn."

"But the dangers arising from an indiscriminate reliance on the number of publications as a criterion for academic advancement are too self-evident to be belabored. One way of coping with the perennial academic dilemma of "Publish or Perish!" is to publish perishables. There is a natural temptation, especially among younger people, to pad one's list of publications with minor spin-offs of earlier work, and an understandable reluctance to invest the time needed to learn something new.

Such pressures are in part responsible for the current avalanche of papers on mechanics, the number of authors of which threatens to exceed the number of their readers. Moreover, this state of affairs has led to a proliferation of ever more specialized journals catering to mechanics of one kind or another: any day now I expect to receive notice of a new International Journal of Shear Stresses.

Let me move on to some troubling trends in the role played by sponsored research at our universities. It is a fact - a regrettable fact, but a fact of life just the same - that American universities depend on sponsored research for their survival. As a consequence professors are expected to cover a substantial portion of their salaries through outside support. This, in turn, compels them to spend an appreciable portion of their time on entrepreneurial chores, such as the composition of seductive proposals - hardly the most appealing genre of creative thinking.

More disturbing is the spreading practice of making new academic appointments explicitly contingent upon the faculty member's ability to attract a specified percentage of outside support. This practice is particularly burdensome for younger faculty, and especially so in a field such as mechanics, where funding is increasingly difficult to come by. It seems to be easier to obtain a multi-million dollar grant for an accelerator or a giant telescope then to secure relatively modest support for a study of, say, the foundations of the theory of elastic instability."

Про фундаментальную науку:

"There is a general consensus that research conducted at universities ought to be BASIC research. Admittedly, everyone has his own definition of "basic research", tailored to include his own work. But I cannot conceive of ANY acceptable definition that would accommodate the design of warheads."

Он все это знал уже тогда, 30 лет назад! Почему мне не рассказали всего этого в 1985 году, когда я учился в старших классах школы? :)

У меня возникает несколько грустных мыслей от чтения всего этого. Во-первых, как мало от них осталось -- Садовский, Штернберг -- почти никто их не помнит. Во-вторых, я что-то перестал понимать, моя специальность существует или нет? Похоже, механика, как раздел науки, о котором нам говорили с таким энтузиазмом 25 лет назад, больше и не существует. А в третьих - ничего нет нового, ля джадида тахта шамс, эн хадаш тахат hа-шемеш. Все уже давно сказано и понято и, в большинстве случаев, сформулировано другими людьми. Можно найти великое число поразительно интересных сюжетов, кoпая прошлое, таких как вот этот Штернберг или Садовский. Золотая жила. А придумать что-то новое - это не задача нашего времени. Впрочем, и об этом еще три тысячи лет назад сказал Экклезиаст, подытоживший свою книгу о тщетности бытия словами: "Конец речения, всему слышанному: бойся Бога и заповеди Его соблюдай, потому что в этом все для человека".
Tags: mechanics

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