When the original beta decay experiments seemed to suggest that energy was not a conserved quantity, Landau (among others) proposed that energy conservation was a statistical law rather then a absolute one. However, I came across this in an article about Landau:

Unfortunately, the co-founder of Marxism, Friedrich Engels, had declared in the 19th century that the law of conservation of energy was to be forever fundamental to science, and Landau was severely castigated in the local papers for his (temporary) blasphemy.

Here is a link to the article, the quote is on page 3.

Can anyone provide a link to an article that contains some more information about this story?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi, welcome to hsm. This is an interesting story, could you provide a link or reference for the article you are quoting. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ This was far from the first time it had been proposed that conservation of energy might be only statistical. The Bohr-Kramers-Slater theory was widely known, and it claimed the same thing. It was disproved by the 1925 Bothe-Geiger experiment. $\endgroup$
    – user466
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ There is a nice discussion here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_decay#Neutrinos_in_beta_decay . It turns out that this actually overlapped in time with Bohr-Kramers-Slater and Bothe-Geiger. Contrary to what you state in the question, WP claims that the upper limit on the beta decay energy spectrum was seen as contradicting BKS's statistical picture. $\endgroup$
    – user466
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ This question of BKS has some similarities hsm.stackexchange.com/questions/13606/… $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


In 1932 Landau speculated that the conservation of energy is not valid in neutron stars and appealed to the authority of Niels Bohr[1]:

Following a beautiful idea of Professor Niels Bohr’s we are able to believe that the stellar radiation is due simply to a violation of the law of energy, which law, as Bohr has first pointed out, is no longer valid in the relativistic quantum theory, when the laws of ordinary quantum mechanics break down..

A few years later there was some ideological witch hunting announced by Friedman's article in the journal Under the banner of Marxism with the title "Against Denials of the Law of conservation and transformation of Energy".[2] Landau found himself imprisoned and some details of the story were recounted recently[3]; as its authors report:

in his first letter to Stalin on 28 April 1938, the very day of the Landau’s arrest, Kapitsa argued that Landau “. . . published one remarkable paper, where he was the first to show a new source of stellar radiation.” Thus Landau’s paper was used as an argument to save his life.

Refs.[1] L. D. Landau, Phys. Z. Sowjetunion, 1(1932), 285. 1932 "On the theory of stars"; reprinted in *Neutron Stars, Black Holes and Binary X-ray Sources*, ed. H Gursky, R Ruffini, Dordrecht: Reidel, 1974) p. 271 [2] Ф. Г. Фридман, Под знаменем марксизма, 1937, 12, С. 192-200. Против отрицания закона сохранения и превращения энергии [3]Yakovlev D., et al., arxiv.org (2012) * Lev Landau and the conception of neutron stars*

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