“We just try to be curious in everything and most important is to have fun”
Transcript of the telephone interview with Konstantin Novoselov following the announcement of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics, 5 October 2010. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Nobelprize.org.
[Konstantin Novoselov] Hello.
[Adam Smith] Hello, may I speak to Konstantin Novoselov please?
[KN] Yes speaking.
[AS] Hello this is Adam Smith calling from the Nobel Foundation’s web site in Stockholm.
[AS] Congratulations on the news of the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
[KN] Thank you.
[AS] We have a tradition of recording very short interviews for the Nobel Prize web site with new Laureates. Would you mind if we recorded a few minutes’ interview?
[KN] You mean right now?
[AS] Right now, yes.
[KN] (Laughs) OK right, yeah. Can you give me just a minute, just a second …
[AS] Yes of course.
[KN] Sorry I was just in the middle of the measurements there and … sorry about that …
[AS] I’m sorry, we’ve interrupted an experiment then.
[KN] (Laughs) Well, that’s a pleasant [interruption] … I mean … Should we do it now?
[AS] Having done this for a few years, I do know from experience that the world descends upon you, so that’s why we call you right now.
[KN] So you’re basically saying that I should stop my experiments now, that there will be no chance …
[AS] I’m afraid that if I had to give advice to new Nobel Laureates, it would be don’t try and do anything once this news breaks, and switch off your telephone.
[KN] OK, let’s try to do it now.
[AS] OK, I’m very grateful. Thank you very much indeed. May I first ask you about your collaboration with Andre Geim. He has been your mentor for many years now.
[KN] Yes, sure.
[AS] What is it about your partnership that works so well?
[KN] Well, Andre is just an amazing physicist and honestly I learned a lot from him. I’d say [01:49 mobile phone rings] almost everything I knew from … about physics, I learned from him so …
[AS] How would you characterize the style of the lab that you work in?
[KN] So the style … OK, looks like things are going crazy now …
[KN] That’s the most important thing because we have … When you think that we’re doing physics, we’re not, we’re actually doing science and this means that our interests are much, much broader than any particular field of physics or just physics by itself, so we just try to be curious in everything and most important is to have fun. So Andre introduced this habit of Friday evening experiments which … where you do just crazy things and then some of them sometimes come out, sometimes not. And basically graphene was one of those as well.
[AS] Yes, so this attempt to isolate graphene, which had been known about but never isolated and thought impossible to isolate, was a Friday evening experiment. You did it in the end using Scotch tape?
[KN] Yes actually we did. So … and … things are becoming crazy now … You, you, you were right.
[KN] So we did, and that’s exactly the spirit of this Friday evening experiment. You are not allowed to use any complicated machinery or anything. You just do something on your knees with your bare hands and if it works, it works. It was one of those things, you know, that did work.
[AS] It’s lovely – it’s a very hopeful message that experimental physics doesn’t necessarily require complicated things that you can’t afford; you can do experiments simply. And graphene opens up new worlds of fundamental physics and potential applications. Which is it that drives you more?
[KN] I think it is … it’s fundamental physics which drives me more but it is actually the type of things which you could never think about doing before. I really enjoyed doing with this material something which you couldn’t do before and also you can do it really on your knees with your bare hands. That’s what … you really get involved with it temporarily, but really personally, and that’s what I really like.
[AS] Andre has a notorious habit of changing fields quite regularly but he’s been with this field for six years. Do you think …
[KN] Yeah, that’s a little bit unfortunate. I’m trying to escape as well.
[AS] With the explosion of interest it must be hard to escape, but you plan to? You plan to jump at some point?
[AS] OK. Have you yet thought about where you might go next?
[KN] I have a few things in mind but I would reserve it for Friday evening experiments which might work out, might not.
[AS] So you’re one of … among the younger Nobel Laureates that have ever been made. Have you ever thought about how this might affect your future research?
[KA] No. [05:14 mobile phone rings] I never … I try not to think about this … because the moment you start thinking it’s just … I think … it’s not healthy.
[AS] Is this entirely unexpected?
[KN] It is, yes. It is.
[AS] I certainly can detect in your voice a [05:35 mobile phone rings] somewhat surprised attitude.
[KN] Oh yeah. I had quite a bit of plans for today. Yeah. It looks like they’re all ruined now.
[AS] I think other plans may take over, yes, as you say. (Laughs) Maybe it’s best just to relax and let the day take over. It’s been an enormous pleasure to speak with you. I am happy to say that we have a chance to interview you in more depth and more sort of gentle surroundings when you come to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in December.
[KN] Right. Thanks.
[AS] So thank you for speaking to us and congratulations.
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