Not quite, not quite.

In all of the Soviet Union\’s existence, where research was considered a priority, not one discovery was made that scientists in the free world considered worth using.

A couple in metallurgy: the use of scandium in aluminium alloys for example.

An extremely poor return on the money and effort put in, I agree, but "not one" is too extreme.

Update: I\’m told by Pollard himself (ooooh, look at him, swank, swank) that the subs left out the word "pharmacology" which would have made his point a great deal more supportable.


18 thoughts on “Not quite, not quite.”

  1. Not to mention a vast amount of work on the growth of semiconductors (especially III-Vs at the Ioffe institute) – or the work on spin injection in the 70’s which has provided the basis for modern spintronics.

  2. Well, there was this one at least

    “In 1964, Pyotr Ya. Ufimtsev, a Russian mathematician, published a seminal paper, “Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction,” in the Journal of the Moscow Institute for Radio Engineering, in which he showed that the strength of a radar return is proportional to the edge configuration of an object, not its size.[8] Ufimtsev was extending theoretical work published by the German physicist Arnold Sommerfeld.[9][10][11] Ufimtsev demonstrated that he could calculate the radar cross-section across a wing’s surface and along its edge. The obvious conclusion was that even a large airplane could be made stealthy by exploiting this principle. However, the airplane’s design would make it aerodynamically unstable, and the state of computer science in the early 1960s could not provide the kinds of flight computers which allow aircraft such as the F-117, F-22 Raptor and B-2 Spirit to stay airborne. However, by the 1970s, when a Lockheed analyst reviewing foreign literature found Ufimtsev’s paper, computers and software had advanced significantly, and the stage was set for the development of a stealthy airplane.”

  3. They also claim they invented CDMA cellphone technology, but didn’t pursuit it because of the huge distances in the USSR. They say it ended up with the Americans via a defector. It was quite a big story in Russia in the 90s, people talked about it on TV and in the papers. I can’t remember the details though.

    I recently saw a story that some Soviet pharmaceutical, I can’t remember what for, arthritis or something, has been found beneficial for alzheimer’s.

  4. This reminds me of an interesting aside in Bryan Caplan’s ‘Myth of the Raional Voter’ in which he discusses the way people become more rational as the losses due to irrationality increase.

    In this case, there was much irrationality in biology and agriculture, to Stalin the deaths of a few millions due to starvation was not a great loss so he could afford to irrationally pursue a Marxist-Lenninist pseudo-science in biology.
    In physics however, not developing nuclear weapons and power was a great risk to Stalin, so he followed a more scientific approach allowing researchers to actually research, even though things like quantum mechanics are bourgeois theories at odds with the materialist dialectic…

  5. corneal surgery was pioneered in Moscow (well, a primitive type but one which allowed the modern development of refractive correction via keratoplasty)…

    Tim adds: Indeed it was: our office used to overlook the new hospital being built to carry out such eye operations.

  6. Richb, it was known for quite a long time before that that aeroplanes with special radar properties could be built. It was noted experimentally on the SR-71 in the early 60s. I think though it was known before that.

    jb, CDMA technology has a very murky and interesting history. Its almost impossible to say who invented what with certainty.

  7. I’m forgetting the name, but it was a Russion that pioneered the entire family of microwave tubes–maggies, klystrons, TWTs, BWOs, etc.
    He didn’t invent any of those tubes, of course–just the theoretical basis. Later, the Varian brothers did the klystron, the Germans did the original magnetrons and radar (for which most usually credit the US or UK). The name isn’t very well known, I don’t think.

  8. Letters From A Tory

    Jonathan (12), my original comment was one of genuine surprise, not an attack! I’ve never come across anyone who can claim credibility on the subject of metallurgy.

    On re-reading it, I obviously didn’t make the distinction clear so apologies to Tim.

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