Rain Man
25 November, 2010
Rain Man

On November 9, a few hundred twelfth grade students from different public schools held a rally demanding dropping of newly introduced school-leaving exams. The CAT-type tests are in eight subjects: Georgian language and literature, foreign language, mathematics, history, geography, physics, chemistry and biology. Students complained that new exams would take time away from studying for entrance exams to the universities. They also admitted they have not been learning some of those subjects which do not reflect well on the education

system. I was curious to hear another opinion on this matter, so I turned with my questions to Mr. George Japaridze, a professor of Physics at Clark University in Georgia.
Kh.E. - Mr. Japaridze, you are currently a professor of Physics at the Clark University in Atlanta, GA. What is the background of your own education?
G.J. - I graduated from Tbilisi State University. In 1977 I went to do my PhD at the Institute for High Energy Physics. At the time it was the leading center of Soviet Union in High Energy Nuclear Physics. Interesting story about this place was that I n1960s this man, Mr. Pankovsky, informed the CIA that this was the place where the Soviet Union was preparing a factory for some parts of war heads. When the Soviets found out their location was compromised they had already built an accelerator on the base.  So they turned the place into an IHEP.
Kh.E. Was this place anything like Dubna?
G.J. - Dubna was international, so anyone could go in. IHEP was in a town close to Moscow called Protvino. Protvino was not international and only Soviet Union citizens were allowed in. I was a graduate student then and I was under the impression I knew Physics. I am still under that impression.
Kh.E. - What did do your PhD in?
G.J. - I did my PhD in Inner Structure of Elementary Particles. Protons are made from smaller quarks why can’t we see quarks, but we can see protons.  Something should be inside that glues these quarks together. They were found in 1980. They studied the properties of gluons. After I published my finding on the matter, Germans built a huge Accelerator DESY in Hamburg, and before they did the experiment, their theoretical prediction for the number they were measuring was 2.25   My finding was that the calculation would be 1.13 They measured it and they got 1.08 + -005. They published the experiment in the paper now called Europhysics Journal. For a young graduate student to see that your name is the name that appears in the paper, and not just a reference number, but your last name, it was a very big a deal.
Kh.E. - When did you move back to Tbilisi?
G.J. - After the graduate work I stayed at the High Energy University. I was told I was going to be Georgian number 2 or 3 who would be offered to stay to work. This was during Soviet Union and it was a big deal to stay there. But my parents were getting really old, and I told my superior I had to think about it. Next Morning my friend and I went to Moscow to pick up some books and we stopped to see a movie that had just come out. There was a theater on Serafimovich Street, I think. We saw that some Georgian / Russian move, titled Mimino, was released. So we watched the movie. A day before I had been told I could spend my time on an oceanic liner. Then I watched Mimino and the next morning I said, ’Vladimir Alexeevich I am not staying here.’
Kh.E. - Are you saying the movie influenced your decision to leave IHEP?
G.J. - Yes. When I saw the movie, you know my parents were getting old so I was already hesitating. I was sitting on the fence. Then I realized I would be happier in Georgia than Russia, though I would not have such great carrier opportunities. I got my PhD in 1986 and came back in 1989. I started working in High Energy Physics Institute and supervised few guys who got their PhDs some of them are in Germany some I don’t know where.
Kh.E. - Who influenced you to study of Physics?
G.J. - I went to School # 53.  There I was greatly influenced by my math teacher Kote Japaridze, no relation to me. Every time I figured out a solution to a problem, he was so happy you would think his dead son came back to life. He taught fractions with apples. And when we got the fractions right he gave us that slice. In University I had a unique professor named Nikoladze, who always came to university always unprepared. He would be in class for a few minutes and then stop and look at the board and say, ‘no I don’t think this is right’, and he would start the process again. He would turn around to us and say, see this is where I went wrong. Watching this process of doing everything from scratch was very impressive, and I still have this ability to do a lot without calculator or wikipedia.  My students call me Rain Man because I am getting square roots from numbers in my head faster than they get them from calculators.
Kh.E. - You keep in touch with your former colleagues in Tbilisi, what do you think about the current state of Physics department in Georgia?
G.J. - It is an absolute disaster. After my generation people were unable to learn, it was due to poor economy and political climate. Last year 2009 from high schools only 83 people chose to take their tests in Physics. Percentage of students who failed this exam was 50%. The former Minister of Education and Sciences was not right for the job. It’s hard to blame the government for the appointment because it is not easy to find people at the time who are both loyal and knowledgeable. You may need loyalty everywhere because you don’t need to spend time to putting out little fires, if you have something bigger to do. If you are fighting ex-Soviet police and you are going to fire about 40,000 policemen from their jobs, you need to have loyal people everywhere. The governments made everyone reapply and about 10 percent made it into the police force again. Because one, there wasn’t’ enough money, and two because some of the men in police weighted 300 pounds and knew only how to distinguish 5 lari from 10 lari when taking bribes.
Kh.E. - What is your take on the new Education Minister Dimitri Shashkin?
G.J. - I think the Education Minister is trying to do something worthwhile. For starters he is dismantling that horrible 3 months education system put in by the previous Minister. For 3 months students studied chemistry; 3 months - biology and 3 months - physics. Who can learn anything useful at this speed? What was happening in Georgia was that people who were trying to do total reforms didn’t really know how.  The firing of the principals of students who participated in the protests I believe was extreme. Instead of totally dismantling the structure, the Ministry should provide help and support to the schools, not fight them.
Kh.E. - What is your understanding of the current student positions on exit exams from public school?
G.J. - The student complaints I don’t take too seriously. They are correct that there are not enough good teachers, but the students are not the only ones suffering from the system failure. The teacher’s salary is 300 lari a month. If they don’t have private tutoring to rely on, they might as well work as cashiers and make much more decent living with less abuse coming from the students.  As far as the exams go there are 8 subjects and each topic requires two weeks of studying. Also the bar to pass these exams is really low, so that should really not be a problem.
Kh.E. - What are you working on now?
G.J. - Latest article will be published in December Issue of a magazine of “Journal of Applied Mathematics”. The article is on a subject of “How to find two arbitrary functions from one function with given accuracy.” Take for example 5x+2y=0.
Kh.E. - 5x+2y=0.  You are saying you can’t find x and Y?
G.J. - Not at all. I am saying you can have as many solutions to X and Y as you like. The question is if I am allowed to make some errors in finding X and Y, pay attention that before this I had no room for errors, I had to have exact answers, but if X and Y can be given some errors, then I can  solve this equation in a unique way. In this case it would be very hard to find a unique way, but in the case I am working on - how to find probability distribution function in terms of another probability distribution function, it is much simpler.
Kh.E. - Sure it is.
G.J. - It really is, if you studied in school.

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