by Andre on 14 April 2009
Quoth my office mate:
You know the movie Fifth Element? Humanity does horrible things, is violent, low minded, and hateful. In the end, love saves everything. That’s not quite right, what saves humanity is Landau and Lifshitz and The Sopranos.
If you talk to some physicists you might hear something like “Not a single word in the series is Landau’s, and not a single idea is Lifshitz’.” Mermin disagrees:
The great Russian physicist L. D. Landau was said to have hated writing. He coauthored an extraordinary series of textbooks in collaboration with E. M. Lifshitz, who did all the writing. From my perspective Lifshitz operated in a coauthor’s paradise. He was linked to nature through Landau, who was in deep nonverbal communion with her, but had no investment whatever in the process of articulating that communion.
It is also said that even Landau’s profound technical papers were actually written by Lifshitz. Many physicists look down on Lifshitz: Landau did the physics, Lifshitz wrote it up. I don’t believe that for a minute. If Evgenii Lifshitz really wrote the amazing papers of Landau, he was doing physics of the highest order. Landau was not so much a coauthor, as a natural phenomenon — an important component of the remarkable coherence of the physical world that Lifshitz wrote about so powerfully in the papers of Landau.