Roman Stepanyan comments on a few early IYPTs, clarifies details

Roman Stepanyan, Ukrainian team member and team leader at several IYPTs since 1993, comes back with substantial feedback about the early IYPTs, new details, and important corrections for the IYPT Archive.

Roman Stepanyan earned a PhD from the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and is currently a researcher at DSM Ahead in Geleen, Netherlands, focusing on the rheology of complex fluids.

R. S. Accidentally I found your blog about IYPT. In a number of interviews, you ask about the members of the Ukrainian team in 1993. Unfortunately, the information provided by Yaroslav Chinski is somewhat incomplete. The
members were (not sure about the Latin spelling of the names, except my own.)

  • Dimitri Galayko (school 117, Odessa)
  • Alexander Nikitin (school 117, Odessa)
  • Alexander Morozov (Richelieu Lyceum, Odessa)
  • Yaroslav Chinski (Richelieu Lyceum, Odessa)
  • and myself: Roman Stepanyan (school 117, Odessa)

In your list, Dimitry Galayko is absent, which is the main reason I am writing this e-mail: he was one of the key players and certainly deserves to be mentioned. If necessary, you can contact him personally.

Some more details:

The problem reported by us in the final (Ukrainian team) was “Recharge” where we were given a charged capacitor and had to transfer its charge (as much as possible) to another capacitor. It was reported by Dimitry Galayko with Georgian team as opponent.

We were opponents of the Hungarian team. I was representing the opposition. The Georgian team was reporting “Domino”, opposed by Georgians. Our team was represented by A. Morozov.

There were actually three Ukrainian teams:

  • the official one (ours, based on School 117 team who won the All-Ukrainian YPT that year, trained by Sergey Kolos; see above for the names),
  • Odessa (Richelieu Lyceum) and
  • Lugansk.

So, some statements about the teams in your paper are not quite right.

During the Tournament in Fryazino (a kind of Post-Soviet tournament) the same year, our team had all the same members except A.Morozov. Dmitri Neselovskiy was “playing” together with us that time. We won that
tournament but I do not recall the details.

I. M. Many thanks again for your kind and so helpful input. If possible, can I please check with you the names of the Ukrainian team members and leaders at the IYPTs that you attended either as a leader or as a member?

R. S. I’ve put the info I remember below. [...] I also asked Vladimir Kulinskii about the names, etc.

1992 : Alexander Morozov, Igor Zozulya, Valentin Topelkin; this is all available data about the team.

> Leader Igor Altman, Zozulya was the captain.

1993 (with your recent correction) : Ukraine-National — Roman Stepanyan (captain), Alexander Morozov, Dimitri Galayko, Alexander Nikitin, Yaroslav Chinskiy, Sergey Kolos (leader.)

> There was also “Ukraine-Odessa” (led by Kulinskii, the same team as in 1994)

1994 : I don’t have any data on the Ukrainian team, but Vladimir Kulinskii was probably the leader or one of the two leaders.

> The names of the 1994th Ukrainian team (also present at 1993th YPT as Ukraine-Odessa) as I’ve got them from Kulinskii: Sergey Koleboshin, Vladimir Tolpekin, Igor Orlovich, Dimitri Popov,  Andrey Lugunov. Leader: Vladimir Kulinskii.

1997 : Kirill Belokurov, Igor Vorokhaev, Grigoriy Zavorothny, Denis Murakhovskiy, Elisaveta Ovdeenko as team members; no direct data on the team leaders.

> Pavel Viktor was the leader. Vorokhaev was the captain, I guess.

I. M. Thank you. I will make all these corrections at archive.iypt.org and in my preprints. If you do not have objections, I will also bring your commentaries into a short news release, so that we have a public primary source for these essential updates and corrections.

R. S. I do not have any objections. [...] Your archive looks really impressive!

UPD R. S. I found some diplomas from Fryazino, Protvino and Vienna. It’s a pity I don’t have our team’s diplomas from Fryazino and Protvino, only the personal ones.

The discussion and fact checking held between December 7 and December 15, 2011. Updated with documents, corrected on August 27, 2012.

Interview with Grigory Kopelevich, Vasily Shabat, and Alexander Yablonskiy on 2nd IYPT; documents on 2nd, 5th IYPTs from Grigory Kopelevich

Grigory Kopelevich, Vasily Shabat, and Alexander Yablonskiy, members of the silver-winning Soviet team from Moscow School 710 at the 2nd IYPT, confirm several details of the event. Valuable original records of 2nd and 5th IYPTs are shared by Grigory Kopelevich.

Grigory Kopelevich is now the Moscow Office Head at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Vasily Shabat is now CEO of Tilbi, a Russian startup IT company. Alexander Yablonskiy is now a theoretical researcher in semiconductor nanosctructures at the General Physics Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.

Download: official Decree, with attachments, On the results of the 2nd International and all-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tournament, 1989, No. 440, issued by USSR’s State Committee on Public Education on May 29, 1989, signed by First Deputy Head, USSR’s Minister V. D. Shadrikov (pdf, also as separate images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Download: four-page English text of the problems for the 5th IYPT (1992), prepared by Russian organizing committee in 1992, and preserved by G. K. as a LOC activist (pdf, also as separate images: 1, 2, 3, 4.)

I. M. There are ongoing doubts about the problems for 1989. What published in Kvant in Summer 1988, differs seriously from the later problem sets, where 9 out of 17 problems are fully replaced. Can you possibly shed more light on the problems used at the final rounds in 1989?

G. K. I agree that in 1989, the Kvant problems were not the ultimate ones. What is published in Czech language looks correct – I reported personally problems on Clock and Rainbow, that are missing in Kvant.

V. Sh. I am affraid I did not preserve any of original records. What I remember are several problems that our team was solving (but I do not remember what was solved for the Finals, and what for the selective Moscow rounds.)

  1. Does the Noon match with the moment when the Sun is at a highest point above the Horizon, and if no, what is the time lag?
  2. What should be the properties of a board fence so that objects behind the fence are visible from a car driving nearby?
  3. How to measure the speed of a metro train in an arbitrary point between the stations Universitet and Prospekt Vernadskogo?
  4. How much information does a color map of the World contain?

A. Ya. I am still in contact with my teammates and competitors, e.g. with Alexander Dunaevsky, who now resides and works in Germany, so I should ask them if they have preserved anything. The only thing I can say for sure, is that I was solving this problem No. 313, Electron.

G. K. Possibly, some additional materials might have been kept at our School 710, but the team of physics teachers changed much since that time.

I. M. There is a source reporting that the second place, or silver, was awarded to an unidentified Soviet team. Do you possibly remember, if that was your team, or Odessa?

V. Sh. As far as I remember, it was us. Actually, we won the Soviet pre-selection (when competing to Moscow School 18 and MEPhI’s school 542) and then passed to the International Finals that were, by the way, far less tense and passionate than the Soviet finals.

G. K. As far as I remember, our Experimental Secondary School 710 of the USSR’s Academy of Pedagogical Sciences was awarded with some sort of a Cup, for the victory at the all-Soviet YPT. It is actually correct that our team was ranked second at the International part of the Tournament (while the 1st place was taken by Bulgaria, as I suspect.)

You possibly know that the most successful participants of YPT-1989 were allowed to join any science- or technology-oriented university in USSR (an institute or a university proper) without inscription examinations. There was a list of people who got this right.

I. M. If I am not mistaken, the International Finals in 1989 were hosted in Russian, but the West German team had special interpreters.

V. Sh. Everything was positively held in Russian only. I do not remember who, and in what way, provided interpretation.

I. M. Did you possibly preserve any original materials from the event?

G. K. The diploma was taken back by the head of YPT, Evgeny Nikolaevich Yunosov. It was necessary to issue an ID to be enrolled to Moscow State University without examinations, and I never saw it again.

I attach all YPT-related materials I found at my place. I just noticed in your blog that you have already seen the badge and the cover for the diplomas.

For an unknown reason, I have preserved the problems for the 5th International YPT – I remember that as a university student I was assisting Yunosov in arranging at least two YPTs, and possibly the 5th IYPT was among them.

I. M. Were these problems published in a booklet, or are just a separate handout?

G. K. Problems for the 5th IYPT, as they are in my copy, are printed from both sides on a single sheet of paper. I don’t have the book itself (I was participating then as an organizer or volunteer.) I recall also that I was promoting the problem on the Hopfield Model to be included into the set (but I am not the author of the problem as such.)

I will let you know if I find anything else. Thank you for an unexpected message and the interest in the YPT history.

I. M. Many thanks.

The interview and the exchange of materials were undergone on December 3-6, 2010.

Sergei Katsev speaks on 5th IYPT, 4th all-Soviet YPT, and shares original photos and printed documents

Sergei Katsev, now a researcher at the University of Minessota-Duluth, was a team member in gold co-winning Belarusian team at the 5th IYPT (1992) and an early Belarusian participant at the 4th all-Soviet YPT (1991). He corroborates  important information on the 5th IYPT, and unveils untraceable earlier documents and details, including the Russian problem set for 1992.

Sergei Katsev (b. 1975) graduated in 1998 from Belarusian State University and earned his PhD in 2002 from the University of Ottawa. He is now assistant professor at Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minessota-Duluth, focusing on sediment-water interfaces in natural and anthropogenic aquatic environments, and writing about his daily experiences in an LJ blog.

Download: two-page Russian text of the problems, without title, printed with a dot matrix printer, provided by Russian organizing committee in 1992 (pdf.)

Download: three-page brochure with the schedule of the 4th all-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tournament (Odessa, April 11-18, 1991), in Russian, photocopied from typewriter printed pages (pdf.)

I. M. Can you suggest if the problem set included into the 1992 paper by Leonid Markovich was indeed discussed during the 5th IYPT, or some problems were at a certain moment replaced? The tricky point is that problems are different among different sources (one version has a problem about lifting ping-pong ball instead of “Dam” (No. 3) and an additional 18th problem about “Superpreserves”; one version has 24 problems overall; and one more version replaces No. 6 “Matches” with a problem about height of a flame.)

S. K. I am pleased to hear that someone is still interested by those Physics Fights.

Seemingly, the problems are perfectly correct. There was certainly “Dam”, and no balls for ping-pong. Matches were there as well.

Concerning the 18th problem, to invite us for a Napoleon cognac, Markovich has never ended up with clearly formulating the issue :-)

I. M. Did you possibly preserve photos, leaflets or notes from 1992? What problem did you report in the Finals?

S. K. I certainly have something at my home. I can scan it for history :-)

Maxim Zaitsev and I reported “Fountain” at the Finals. The most work was performed by Maxim, and I only assisted him.

I dug into my archives and found the tasks in Russian. There are no pictures from the Tournament itself, but there is a picture of the entire team taken at the graduation party (from the Lyceum of Belarusian State University), including persons who worked on the problems, but could not go to the competition, because only 6 persons in a team were permitted.

Left to right are (with participants marked with *): Misha Khusid (*), Dima Chigrin (*), Sergei Lyapko, Leonid Markovich (team leader), Maxim Zaitsev (*, captain), Sergei Katsev (*), Alexander Klimovich (*), Dima Bogomolov, Maxim Chechetkin, Shura Bernstein (*).

The only one missing is Roma Loznikov, who constructed a train on magnetic suspension for the first problem.

I have also copies of a report for “Boiling”, schedule for the all-Soviet Tournament in Odessa in 1991, and a group photo from Odessa with three or four teams altogether.

Here is the Minsk team, several people from Odessa, and members of several more teams, but I do not already remember who is from where. I remember only the name, Irina, of a team leader from one of these two teams. Next to her is Leonid Markovich, our team leader.

It would be interesting to trace how many participants of the Tournaments of those days continued to work in physics. Out of six players in our team, three are directly connected to physics (besides me, Dima Chigrin and Max Zaitsev work at German universities), and one resides in Belarus (Klimovich.) Misha Khusid and Shurik Bernstein graduated from MIT, but Misha works now as an engineering manager, and Shurik decided to devote his life to travels worldwide.

I. M. Many thanks.

The interview was primarily taken on September 28-29, 2009 and on October 8, 2010.

Interview with Alexander Morozov on 6th IYPT, 5th IYPT, Soviet and Ukrainian YPTs, educational influence of IYPT

1991, 1992, 1993, Historical IYPT interviews — ilyamartch @ 7:10 pm

Alexander Morozov, now a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, has been a participant of the 5th IYPT (1992), 6th IYPT (1993), and several national and regional tournaments in 1991, 1992, and 1993 on behalf of Odessa and Ukraine. In 1993, his team was a silver winner at the 6th IYPT, held in Protvino, Russia. Alexander analyzes the long-term educational influence of the Tournament and clarifies many organizational details of early IYPTs.


I.M. When did you first take part in a Young Physicists’ Tournament?

A.M. It was in 1991, if I am not mistaken, when Evgeny Yunosov held an important large nationwide Young Physicists’ Tournament in Odessa. I am not absolutely sure, but seemingly it was the Soviet YPT. For the first time, I became a YPT player at this 1991 competition. The team of my school, the Richelieu Lyceum, took part in the Soviet Tournament in Moscow a year before, in 1990, but I did not play at that time.

I.M. Where exactly this assumingly ‘All-Soviet’ YPT was held?

A.M.It was held in the Pioneers’ Camp ‘Molodaya Gvardiya’ (Young Guard) just at the coast of Black Sea.

I.M. What were the achievements of your team at the ‘Soviet’ Tournament of 1991?

A.M.We reached the Finals, but ended at the third position in the Final Fight. Besides me, the team included Valentin Topelkin and Igor Zozulya.

There were teams of Zaporozhye and, probably, SUNC MGU at these Finals.

The decision to launch the All-Ukrainian Young Physicists’ Tournament was taken after this Soviet-wide competition. In 1992-1993, the Ukrainian YPT was held in Odessa.

I.M. Did your team take part in the 4th International Young Physicists’ Tournament in 1991?

A.M. No, we did not go there.


I.M. In what Tournaments of 1992 did you participate?

A.M. Well, at least in the large All-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tounament and in the International Tournament in Protvino.

I.M. The Soviet Union was no longer existent in 1992. It seems strange that such a competition was called a ‘Soviet’ Young Physicists’ Tournament.

A.M. I am not certain, but it seems to be that it bore that name :-) .

I.M. Where did the 1992 ‘Soviet’ Tournament take place?

A.M. After a certain amount of efforts, I recall that this place was called Lesnaya Polyana. It was quite a lonely place outside Moscow.

I.M. After searching for a while, I may assume that this place was the Lesnye Polyany resort facility (les-polyani.ru). Does it seem correct?

A.M. Seemingly, yes.

I.M. What were your achievements at this competition?

A.M. We reached finals and approached the absolute winners with a very narrow margin. There were discussions if to grant us with a shared first place, or with a second place.

We were awarded with the shared first position, in the end.

I.M. What problem did your team report at the Finals of the ‘Soviet’ Tournament of 1992?

A.M. It was a problem about the water flowing through a dam. Igor Zozulya was the reporter. By the way, exactly as it was in 1991, our team included me, Igor Zozulya and Valentin Topelkin.

I.M. You were a participant at the 5th IYPT, where the teams of Belarus and Czechoslovakia were reported to be gold winners. Who were members of the Ukrainian national team at the 5th IYPT?

A.M. There was a strange decision. The national Ukrainian team would consist of three persons from my team (namely, me, Igor Zozulya and Valentin Topelkin), and two persons from Zaporozhye (I cannot be quite sure that this is precisely correct.) It was due to the fact that my team represented Odessa, not the entire Ukraine. I cannot be sure if this decision was taken by Ukrainian authorities or by the organizers of the 5th IYPT. If I am not mistaken, Yunosov himself took part in the discussions.

When we arrived to Protvino, it turned out that the second half of the team was not able to come. Therefore, only three of us played at the competition.

Our team could not report several problems, because they were expected to be developed by the second half of our team. That is why we reached Semi-Finals, but did not pass farther. We were not among finalists, but I cannot remember our exact position.

I.M. When did the 5th IYPT take place? There have been references that it took place on April 25-30, 1992.

A.M. It was held in Summer 1992. It is absolutely impossible that it took place in April.


I.M. Am I right that in 1993 you took part in a Ukrainian national competition before joining the Ukraine’s IYPT team?

A.M. The team that I was tightly affiliated with ceased to exist in 1992, when everyone graduated from secondary school and entered university. I was a year younger than my team mates and could play in 1993. Therefore, I was a member of the team of Richelieu Lyceum (Odessa) that consisted of very young inexperienced students. We ended third at the All-Ukrainian Tournament, held in Odessa.

The winners, another Odessa team, gained the right to participate at IYPT and invited me to join them. In result, I may say that the Ukraine was represented in Protvino with a team that won a selective tournament, plus me, who joined the national team without technically deserving that.

I.M. How much time did your team spend in preparation to the 6th IYPT?

A.M. We didn’t have much time for preparation. We worked for a month, or so.

I.M. Who was the chief organizer of the IYPT in 1993?

A.M. Evgeny Nikolayevich Yunosov was the principal organizer of the Tournament. I also recall a surname Varlamov. Seemingly, he was a Moscow team leader, but he was associated with the Organizing Committee.

I.M. I may say that Sergei Varlamov was a prominent YPT activist in early 1990s. He brought the Russian team to the gold medals at the 7th IYPT in Groningen, Netherlands. After retiring from training Russian IYPT teams, he focused on the Physics Olympiad and, also, the Physicists’ Tournament for University Students which he now supports and promotes.

Could you clarify where exactly the 6th IYPT was held? Where did the participants live?

A.M. The Tournament was held in Protvino. The teams lived in a hotel, which was a rather high 10- or 12-storey building located on the main street. In 1992, everyone lived in exactly the same hotel.

Photo courtesy of A.M. Stepanets

I.M. After some searches, I may say that it must have been Protva Hotel (protva-hotel.podmoskovie.info). It is a 12-storey building, located on 4, Ulitsa Pobedy in Protvino, Moskovskaya Oblast. Ulitsa Pobedy (Victory Street) is the central street in Protvino.

Where did the Opening and Closing ceremonies and also the Physics Fights take place? Did they take place at the Protvino-based Institute for High Energy Physics?

A.M. The Physics Fights were held at a Conference Center, on the same street, in some 500…700 meters from the hotel. An observation station for the accelerator was located just there, near the center of Protvino.

I.M. After further searches, I may assume that this Conference Hall was inside the ‘Proton House of Culture’, located just there, on Ulitsa Pobedy.

Photo courtesy of A.M. Stepanets

It might possibly have been the House of Scientists, located near Moskovskaya Ulitsa.

Photo courtesy of A.M. Stepanets

I.M. What teams took part at the 6th International Young Physicists’ Tournament in 1993? There have been references to the teams of Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Moldavia, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

A.M. Well, the team of Ukraine was my team :-) . There was no other Ukrainian team. I clearly remember the teams of Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Netherlands, Russia and Slovakia. I cannot definitely confirm the participation of other teams.

I.M. There have been indications that, all in all, 19 teams from 11 countries took part at the 6th IYPT. If confirmed, it would be a unique case in the entire IYPT history, meaning that one or several nations were likely to be represented with much more than 1 or 2 teams. There are concerns on the validity of these reports.

A.M. I vaguely recall Selective Fights where the teams were distributed in a ’strange’ (non-uniform) way. Theoretically, the number of 19 may be correct.

I.M. Was it a common practice of making reports with paper posters? Were there any teams that used transparencies and overhead projectors?

A.M. Usually, the reports at the All-Soviet and All-Ukrainian tournaments were made with paper posters. At the International Tournament, almost everyone used transparencies. It was considered a ‘gesture of desperation’ if someone wrote with a chalk on blackboard.

In 1993, the team of Netherlands brought a laptop with PowerPoint presentations. I am very doubtful of how they showed it. If I am not mistaken there might have been a technique of projecting the slides with a common overhear projector. Unfortunately I don’t remember that clearly, but it is even possible that they had a laptop with a transparent LCD panel that allowed projection to the screen when placed on the overhead.

I.M. Did the Russian remain the most used working language at the 6th IYPT?

A.M. Yes, almost every team spoke Russian at the Physics Fights. It was the working language of the Finals as well.

I.M. How was organized the interpretation for the Dutch team? Did the Organizing Committee supply interpreters?

A.M. Well, yes, the interpreters were available. However, they were senior university students or young researchers who have just passed their exam in English language. Unfortunately, it didn’t assist them to interpret complicated speech in real time. It was quite often that a certain juror assisted such an interpreter of even replaced him.

Once, I personally interpreted the Dutch report at a Physics Fight when we played together. It was humorous :-) .

I.M. Was there any interpretation for the Dutch team during the Finals?

A.M. I cannot say that for sure.

I.M. The ranking tables after the 6th IYPT are quite obscure. Can you recall the achievements of any teams?

A.M. If I am not mistaken, the best four teams were distributed in the following way:

  1. Georgia
  2. Ukraine
  3. Hungary
  4. Czech Republic.

I.M. What problems were discussed in the Final Fight?

A.M. I must say that at certain Tournaments of early 1990s, the Finals were held with absolutely new problems distributed in a day before the Final Fight. However, it was not a practice for IYPTs.

I did not make a single report at the Tournament of 1993, because no one challenged our team with ‘my’ problems. In the Final, we won a preliminary fight that allowed us choosing the sequence of stages. We announced that we would like to make report in the last stage. We had a prominently developed solution to the problem “Gagarin’s Record” that I was expected to present.

After certain tactical manipulations, the team of Georgia could challenge us with either the problem “Gagarin’s Record” either the problem “Capacitor/s” that we had already reported in the Selective Fights.

Unfortunately :-) , the Georgian team made an absolutely reasonable decision of not challenging us with “Gagarin’s Record”. So, we reported a problem on Capacitor/s and the Georgian team opposed us.

The Georgian team reported the problem “Dominoes” which proposed to study the propagation of a wave in the line of falling domino bones.

Problem No. 6 “Gagarin’s record”: “In April 1961 Yury Gagarin set a world record for the fastest round-the-world orbit space flight. Suggest the cheapest way of beating this record. Note that not every record may be officially recognized.”

Problem No. 8 “Dominoes”: “Dominoes are placed vertically at a small distance from each other in a long row on a table surface. Make the first domino fall and the “wave of the falls” will proceed along the row. Calculate and measure experimentally the maximum speed of this wave.”

I.M. Who was your team leader and could you recall the names of your team mates?

A.M. My team leader was Sergei Kolos. The captain of my team was Roman Stepanyan. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the names of other team mates, because I met them in the very last moment before the IYPT. As I have said, I was invited to join a team that I was not affiliated with before.

I.M. A number of problems at today’s tournaments are focused on the soft condensed matter physics, which is of common interest for you and me. There are many topics concerning polymer physics and physics of complex fluids (such as the rheological behavior of shear-thinning fluids, Kaye effect, Weissenberg effect.) Colloid solutions, surfactants and various capillary instabilities appear in problems every year. Were there any problems of this type in early 1990s?

A.M. Typically, there were not many ‘exotic’ problems. However, the topics in soft condensed matter appeared regularly. I recall a problem to study the form of a solidified stearin droplet after it fell from a large height into cold or hot water. There was a problem on the maximum speed of a toy ship propulsed by means of soap (perhaps, it was proposed to construct such a ship.)

Long-term educational influence of the Tournament

I.M. Did the Tournament leave positive impressions on you? Do you think it provided you with certain skills necessary in life?

A.M. Positive impressions? Definitely, yes. It was fascinating to travel to different cities, to communicate with people of the same age and the same interests, to compete etc. Skills in life? Probably, yes. But certainly not in science.

Several years after I entered the university, I became more or less indifferent to Olympiads and Tournaments. In my opinion, the form of the Tournaments that I observed when being a player, contributed to developing skills that were not quite important in science, and were harmful sometimes. In many cases, it was required to quickly think and to present yourself in a bright form, but not to draw validated conclusions.

Please, don’t get me wrong. If someone presented a solution with errors, these errors were immediately revealed. However, the background knowledge and substantial achievements of participants did not play as influential role, as certain irrelevant aspects did.

It would be very interesting for me to trace the biographies of the participants of the Tournaments of 1991-1993, in which I participated. I would be eager to find out the percentage of participants that became involved into scientific activities, and how successful they are nowadays. It is possible to detect these things with the reference indexes for their publications (Web of Science). I assume that the result would be depressing. Among my immediate acquaintances, there were many persons whom I considered much more intelligent than me. None of them is associated with scientific activities today.

I should notice that my partially negative perception of the Tournament is caused by nothing but this ‘distortion’, when the Tournament achievements failed to match the later scientific achievements of a certain person. This perception appeared much later.

When I was a player myself, I was sincerely fascinated with every new Tournament and they constituted the brightest events of those years.

I.M. I personally think that today’s YPT community apprehends your concerns very seriously, because it is of greatest importance to find a balance of competition (that motivates participants and is a cornerstone of any YPT) and highest scientific standards in very broad and nuanced sense.

A.M. If one assumes so, I would agree that concept of YPT is a leap towards “thoughtful analysis and considerable immersion into the subject”. It is then very important that the grades for a given research project are adequate. Otherwise, we may eliminate all enthusiasm of participants, event the greatest.

I.M. What was the atmosphere of the Tournaments of 1992 and 1993?

A.M. It is difficult to formulate an answer. Everyone had a great will to win and therefore the relations between teams were quite troubled, and hostile in certain cases. Throughout the tournament, when many teams were not passing to consequent Rounds, the mood and the atmosphere were progressively increasing. But that was not the case for the finalists :-) .

I recall the experience of the International Young Physicists’ Tournament of 1992. Then, the Georgian team did not pass to a certain Round (possibly, before Semi-Finals) and offered us to take advantage of their operating prototype of a Magnetic Suspender. It was assembled for demonstrations for the problem “Magnetic Suspender”. However, they seriously competed with our team before.

An element of competition was prevailing. Physics played a secondary role, unfortunately.

I.M. How attentively did the Jury consider the novelty and originality of solutions?

A.M. Well, my opinion is biased, by default :-) . In my opinion, if there were no evident faults in the solution, the attention was mostly paid to the clearness of presentation. I still recall the impressions of my own presentations. I was quite a weak, as a physicist. However, my ability to explain myself in a transparent way often led to my prevalence over other participants that were much stronger than me, in terms of physics. It pleased me and depressed me at the same time.

I.M. What was the weakest point of the Tournament concept, in your opinion?

A.M. If I consider the Tournaments that I personally attended, I think that the greatest problem was that they convinced the participants that every problem had a predetermined solution.

It might have been implicit. However, after the Finals, certain participants might have concluded that they just have seen a “best” or a “correct” “solution” of a problem.

When a person, who is very successful in this method of operation with science, faces real scientific work, he might experience physiological difficulties. At first, there is no guarantee that an answer exists. At second, even if it exists, it is never known (any problem is easily solved if you know someone has solved it before.) At third, the solution of a real problem might take several years, while a large portion of these years are gaps when you cannot obtain any result.

It is very uneasy if someone experiences such “failures” after he was repeatedly told that he was successful, he was winning at Olympiads and Tournaments and he should go into science.

But in reality, the reason for such problems is not a “bad luck” or a “lack of skills”, but simply wrong expectations of what a real science is.

I may be flawed with these assumptions, however :-) .

I.M. I cordially thank you on behalf of everybody who is interested in the history of IYPTs. Your personal memories and skeptical analysis are very important for today’s activists and organizers of the Young Physicists’ Tournaments.

A.M. Thank you for your questions. Of course, I don’t remember every detail and my answers are evidently not complete. I hope that one day I could also get access to several documents that might remain in Odessa. I very hope that in result I could help you.

Alexander Morozov was born in 1976. As a student at the Richelieu Lyceum (Odessa), he took part in several national and regional Young Physicists’ Tournaments, at the 5th IYPT (1992) and at the 6th IYPT (1993), where his team was a silver winner.

After graduating in 1995 from Odessa University (Ukraine) and receiving his Master’s degree from the same university in 1997, he researched into soft condensed matter physics and taught undergraduate courses in the University of Groningen (Netherlands).

In 2002, he defended his PhD thesis “Orientational Transitions in Block Copolymer Melts Under Shear Flow” in the group of Hans Fraaije. He worked as a postdoc at the University of Leiden on pattern formation and flow instabilities of polymer melts, discovering a so-called “subcritical transition” in Couette and Poiseuille flows, when the flow is linearly stable but non-linearly unstable. In January 2007, Alexander moved to the group of Mike Cates at the Universityof Edinburgh (United Kingdom) winning the fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Alexander Morozov has co-authored over 20 journal articles. His main research interests include hydrodynamic instabilities and transition to turbulence in visco-elastic fluids, shear-induced phase transitions in block-copolymers, flows of dense granular matter, vesicles adsorption and also the Theory of Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM).

The interview was primarily taken between January 28 and February 3, 2008.

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