My tribute to Vladimir Vdovichenkov’s performance as Vladimir Dzhanibekov in Salyut 7 movie (2017).
Acrylic on canvas. 17"x12". Photo ©Nadia Camandona.


Gory details of a theorem

Many important scientific theories were often born from random experiences. We often know their history. All of us know how an apple has been fundamental for Newton… almost as much as for Jobs!

Their stories are sometimes so unbelievable and unknown. The story of the Tennis racket theorem (also known as Dzhanibekov effect) is the most incredible story about a theorem that I ever heard of. Because is the story of an unsung hero for a long time. And he is still unknown. We can find Vladimir Dzhanibekov’s biography on the web and we learn that in a space mission in 1985 he observed an effect that he called “tennis racket theorem”, but no one told us why he was in the space in 1985. And what really happened. Until the writer Nickolai Belakovski, after extensive research, has been able to present this fascinating piece of in-space repair history.

My Hard Sci-Fi passion led me to discover the 2017 Russian movie, Salyut 7, and I watched a story of courage and rashness that I, and I’m sure -most of the people- never had known. I remember, when I was a teen, something about the Salyut 7 space station, but the news revealed only what we could know during the Cold War, or rather, that a Russian space station was out of control and a successful mission had avoided crashing on the earth.

Dzhanibekov name has been quoted in New York Times in 1985, but if you search his biography on web you cannot find referrals about his rescue mission.

It is curious that he is known for his theorem but that no one associated it to the context it was formulated. My hypothesis is that the “tennis racket” is nothing else that Salyut 7 space station that rotated in space with a seemingly uncontrollable movement, to which Dzhanibekov had to hook the Soyuz T-13 in order to dock and put back it into operation. The movie shows Dzhanibekov skills while he is docking on the space station, as on Earth no one knew how to manage the unpredictable movement of the station.

I don’t know how much the film respected the historical facts, but I like to think about a hero who in extreme conditions, instead of falling in panic, conveys his adrenaline in the intuition of a new theorem of physics.

There is no need to be heroes ourselves, but all of us can reach great results believing in our actions.