Viktor Chivilev (MIPT'70)
Associate Professor of Physics. Author of study materials for CPUE.
Professor Victor I. Chivilev ('70) teaches graduate courses in Physics at MIPT since 1977. In addition, every year he writes six to seven new study guides for MIPT's Distance Learning School for high school students. His problem sets and study guides are considered the best in the areas he covers. These include physics of gases and mechanics (dynamics and statics). Professor's speaks about importance of learning through solving physical problems: "A physical problem may take anything from a few minutes to many years to solve. Solving a hard problem requires a subtle mix of a strong technical background and ability for non-standard thinking. The latter also includes imagination. And the subtle art of teachers of Physics requires composing the right blend of the technicalities and the stimuli for imagination for their students.
How do you measure the scope of knowledge and the quality of professional imagination of a prospective student? How do you estimate the ability to grasp the physical essence of the problem? Every summer we think about these questions when putting together the problems for the Admission exam at MIPT. Here is one of those problems, invented by me a few years ago and used in MIPT's Admission Exam in Physics in 1993:
A soccer player kicks a ball B trying to hit with it a point M on the vertical wall. The distance between the player and the wall is L=32m. After it's kicked, the ball flies with the initial speed of V0=25m/s at an angle a to the horizon. There is no wind before the player kicks the ball. However, right after the ball starts to fly, wind begins to blow at the speed of V1=10m/s. The direction of the wind is horizontal and parallel to the wall. The ball hits the wall. However, because of the wind, it deviates from the mark M by S=2m in horizontal direction and hits point D. Find the time ball was in flight. Assume cosa=0.8. The ball doesn't rotate in flight.
|View from above: wind starts to blow as the ball starts to fly. Note: the ball was supposed to hit the wall at right angle BMD if viewed from above. Instead, the ball hits wall at point D.||Side view: initial position|
Now, you can try to find the answer by solving differential equations (this likely will not work!!). But such a method doesn't require a lot of imagination or in-depth understanding of how the wind affects the ball along its path. However, the one who is ready to stretch his or her imagination and use mental abilities may come up with a SHORT, ELEGANT and PRESICE (without any approximations!) solution, which doesn't require any knowledge of differential and integral calculus.
First of all, I offered this problem for the USSR's National Physical Olympiad, but I COULD NOT convince the Committee to accept it! They simply did not quite understand the logic of my "easy" solution. In about a year after that, I was able to explain the logic of this problem to another committee - this time to the MIPT's Admission Exam committee. And the problem was offered to our prospective students.
Every year in July these new candidates come to Moscow from virtually all regions of Russia to take this quite difficult Exam. Although, as we always stress, no knowledge of Physics beyond our quite limited high-school program is necessary to pass the Admission Exam in Physics, the ways to use even standard knowledge may be quite ingenious depending on the depth of understanding of physical phenomena. We are trying to gauge the ability of the candidates by offering them problems requiring non-standard thinking. As a rule, these problems are not difficult technically and do not take long calculations or overly sophisticated algebra. The ideal problem may be solved in one or two lines of formulas supported by a short explanation. Again, we focus on the physical phenomena as we see it instead of building an overly sophisticated problem structure around them. It takes sometimes a lot of efforts in Physics to enliven a concept, or a problem, or a solution for the problem. That's why I am so happy to work at MIPT: we have here some of the best people in the world, whose profession is to make this all happen."
Professor Chivilev became involved in the Olympiads for High Schools in 1965, on his second year of study at MIPT. Now he is a well-known author of many original problems in general Physics of various levels of difficulty. As far as the Olympiads are concerned, Professor Chivilev's interests include: