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Interview with Peter Fedorcsak and Peter Falus on 4th IYPT

>Details and recollections on the 4th IYPT (1991) are shared by the members of gold-winning Hungarian team in 1991, Peter Falus and Peter Fedorcsak.

Peter Falus is the instrument responsible for Neutron Spin-Echo spectrometer at the Time of Flight and High Resolution Spectrometers unity of Institut Laue Langevin in Grenoble, France.

Peter Fedorcsak is the laboratory chief at the Rikshospitalet University Hospital in Oslo, Norway.

P.Fed. I have quite a vivid, but rather fragmented memory of Moscow ´91. I was like 18, it was quite a chaos all around, so it must have been difficult to focus. We’ve stayed at a large youth compound (hotel?) near Sheremetjevo airfield and were bused around the city for sightseeing. One trip went to the physics department of Lomonosov university, located in a hilltop in one of those skyscapers of Stalin era (seven sisters?), where we were given a physics show with fountain of liquid nitrogen, and all that infotainment stuff that you get 20 years later in science museums. We were impressed.

Since that time I have given up physics, graduated in medicine, and now live in Norway. I have still my old records back in my parents’ house in Hungary, so I shall send you all the photos and other stuff I may have kept.

Some time ago I found a webpage on Hungarian YPT participants, probably not any more available, which I attach.

P.Fal. I was indeed at the tournament. It was held in Olympiets for sure.

I.M. How exactly did your team organize preparation? Did you have joint meetings, collaborative experiments or everyone worked on their own research projects?

P.Fed. I am quite uncertain with the details, but it is how I recollect. We were a small band (n ~ 10) of high school pupils from around the country who attended a seminar at the Eötvös University. It was an invitation-only event, and I guess performance on various national tournaments was a selection criterium.

The seminar was held once a week (or bi-weekly?) by folk from the physics department, and had a more general purpose of motivating for higher level physics than just preparation for competitions. Something similar was also in place for maths, and some guys went also there. Skarpits & Rajkovits selected the team from this band.

I.M. Was Lajos Skrapits your only team leader during the IYPT, or Zsuszanna Rajkovits went to Moscow in 1991 as well?

P.Fed. I think Rajkovits was also there.

I.M. There are questionable accounts of a separate “Russian” and a separate “Soviet” teams at the 4th IYPT.

P.Fal. I cannot remember from where the Soviet teams were.

I.M. Was it a common practice of making reports with paper posters, or with transparencies and overhead projectors?

P.Fal. It was all oral with classic transparencies ( transparent foil+permanent pen, no inkjet printers yet ;) )

P.Fed. Transparencies were used.

I.M. Did the Russian remain the most used working language at the 4th IYPT? Was your team accompained with interpreters, or you were sufficiently fluent in Russian?

P.Fal. I think most of us spoke Russian in the team but the official language was already English (to make sure the Dutch visitors understood everything, so the tournaments after could be international) I do remember receiving questions both in Russian and English, though.

P.Fed. We used Russian. That time I was quite fluent, as was Peter Falus, so we were the interpreters. As far as I remember, my contribution in physics was more limited.

I.M. Did you have an impression that the Tournament was already influenced by political instabilities in the Soviet Union (such as formally independent teams from former national republics, changes in travel documents etc.)?

P.Fed. No, it didn’t. I was some years before in the Soviet Union on a Komsomol tour, and this one was just as efficient, if you like.

P.Fal. Well I just started to travel those days I had really no comparison how it was before. I found Russian burocracy difficult (invitation letter, visa whatever), but I heard it was already a simpler procedure than before. I vaguely remember market places where you could buy anything if you had dollars, and shops where you could buy nothing for rubels. At the competition though none of it was felt, it was strictly scientific.

I.M. According to your impressions, most reports at the YPT were theoretical or there were many teams performing good experiments?

P.Fal. There were definitely good experimenatal works. At that time I was already quite experimental oriented, would not have been interested in the tournament if it was otherwise.

P.Fed. It was more experimental than we anticipated. I cannot recollect ever doing experiments on preparatory courses, but the other guys had quite a practical knack (especially, Peter and Istvan), so it went fine.

I.M. Do you now have an impression that the IYPT was much more “research oriented” than “problem solving” competition?

P.Fal. Definitely yes as I already told you. We just came that time from the Physics olympiade (in Cuba) which was strictly problem solving. I did feel the difference.

I.M. I am checking when the IYPT was re-drawn into the version that it commonly used today. The earliest known appearance was in 1982 for a local Moscow event, but then the logo was slightly re-designed into it’s current form around 1990-1992 or even earlier.

P.Fal. I did not really recognize this logo, I think in 1991 the two knights were on one blue shield, and I think h\nu was not written on the knights rather betwen them? But not exactly sure about this.

P.Fed. I cannot say for sure, but I think it was there.

I.M. Can you recall what problem did your team report at the selective Fights and in the Finals?

P.Fed. I can hardly recollect anything of the contest, apart from a single problem I was given to deal with: determining the in situ oritentation of a 3×3x3 cm large wooden cube.

P.Fal. I do remember presenting the “geyser” problem which I modeled by immersing a wire wound power resistor in water and observing the eruption period versus water temperature and heating power.

After looking at the problems, I think we definitely presented : 3,4,8,9 ( geyser, self excitation, tv screen photo, propeller) I am sure 3,4,8 were my projects. I probably presented self excitation in the final ???

One another note, I found it interesting the many interviewees do not live in their home country. Did you find it like that too?

I.M. Yes, that might be true about people living abroad, but it is difficult to generalize, because it might have been easier to trace them and to find out they were IYPT participants.

Could you detect any notable differences between the English problem set prepared by the Soviet Organizing Committee and the Hungarian translation for 1991? (some problems are found to be about entirely different topics in parallel language versions for some early IYPTs.)

P.Fal. For starters, the Hungarian and English translations do correspond (except that there are more typos in the English version.)

I.M. Andras Czirok vaguely recalled Peter Falus to be with him in the 3rd IYPT’s Hungarian team.

P.Fal. We never went to IYPT together, Andras went to the 3rd and I did go to the 4th.

I.M. Thank you.

2 Comments »

  1. good post!

    Comment by cialis online KalayWade — July 5, 2010 @ 9:52 pm
  2. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
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    Comment by vrungel — July 8, 2010 @ 6:42 am

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