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Notes from Russia

Wednesday, March 1

Getting there

We flew from Atlanta to Paris and then boarded a little Airbus A319 to Moscow. The Oak Ridge team is also almost complete and will also be representing Tennessee. The photo you see [in the gallery] is right before landing at Szeremetevo Airport. All has gone rather smoothly so far.

The taxi driver will take us to Dubna which is north of Moscow and is a location of the JINR institute where the superheavy discoveries took place.

It is a cold late winter day with dirty snow on the roadside. The ride is about an hour and a half—60 miles or so. The landscape is like in Michigan or something I remember from where I grew up (in Poland).

I am not quite sure if I can test my Russian on the driver!

We arrived at the Dubna Hotel near the Volga River where the international crowd is staying Wednesday. (Dubna is eight hours ahead of Knoxville.) I met a number of my colleagues here for dinner who had already arrived from Germany and the US.

Thursday, March 2

Winter in Dubna.

At 10 a.m. we departed for Moscow, where the main event of the celebration of the discovery of new elements will occur.

[See the group’s agenda for the week (JINR Dubna Agenda) and a program for the event on March 2 (JINR International Colloquium Program).]

The Main Ceremony

A bus took us from Dubna to downtown Moscow (a bit of a traffic jam) Thursday for the main ceremony which was held in the Central Club of Scientists of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  We will celebrate the naming of the three new elements 115, 117, and 118.

Before the ceremony Yuri Oganessian, who is considered the scientific father of the new discoveries, was interviewed by media in the lavish interior of the Central Club of Scientists.

When the main ceremony began, and Dr. Oganessian gave a talk on the history and significance of the discovery of the new elements. He acknowledged the scientists from Tennessee and other heroes of this research program.

Many talks followed. Natalia Tarasova, president of International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), discussed the process of naming the elements from the IUPAC perspective and  from now on the elements 115,117 and 118 will be referred to by their new names and chemical symbols.

ORNL Director Thom Mason and Jim Roberto, associate director of ORNL, both spoke to the audience at the Central Club of Scientists.

At one point, Dr. Oganessian was presented super hero clothes—a robe decorated with the periodic table of elements—by Martyn Polyakoff (see also his Periodic Table of Videos).

There was a reception following the colloquium and the bus everyone back to Dubna. The celebration will continue on Friday, March 3, at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR in Dubna, where the discovery experiments took place.

[A JINR press release of the event may be found here.]

Friday, March 3

Touring the JINR Facilities
Friday morning, we visited the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna. It is the Russian flagship laboratory for nuclear physics and the site of the new element discoveries.

ACCULINA-2 separator at JINRAlexander Karpov showed us plans for the Dubna Radioactive Ion Beam (DRIBs) III accelerator complex.

[Much like facilities here in the US, JINR has a combination of the old and new: the brand new ACCULINA-2 separator (an accelerated radioactive ion beam (RIB) separator) became operational in 2015; but the U400 cyclotron, the workhorse for the superheavy element production, though it has been modernized over the years, has been online since 1978.]

The team visited the Super Heavy Elements (SHE) Factory and saw the nearly finished cyclotron there. We met the prominent researchers Sigurd Hofmann and Gottfried Münzenberg from GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research (GSI) and Yuri Ogannessian from Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions (FLNR), the discoverers of multiple superheavy elements.

Group photo at SHE factory at the JINR in Dubna, Russia.

Group photo at SHE factory at the JINR in Dubna, Russia.

During the tour, we made a short visit to the preserved office of G.N. Flerov, the namesake of the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions of JINR and one of the founders of the superheavy element research.

After our tour and lunch, we congregated back at FLNR conference for a seminar and discussions, started by theory perspective on superheavy elements by Witold Nazarewicz. A number of presentations were made by SHE physicists and chemists, concluded by Vladimir Utyonkow who showed the plans for the near- and long-term future.

Saturday, March 4

Tour of Moscow

We get an early start (7:30 a.m.) and head to Moscow for an organized tour. The bus takes us through the snow-covered landscapes to the Russian capital city.

While on our way to Moscow, I took a picture of a gas station in case anyone is curious about gas prices. They are similar to those in the US.

The bus arrives in Moscow and we are at the vantage point of probably the most taken photograph of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square. Our small group and the tour guide, Julia, who has a great sense of humor and knowledge of the historic see some iconic places.

  • The Tsar Cannon which never fired but was used to impress ambassadors visiting the Kremlin.
  • The Cathedral of the Assumption, which is the oldest church in the Kremlin and the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church since 1326.
  • The Great Kremlin Palace, Moscow residence of the Russian Tsars.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky monument outside the Russian State Library, in Soviet-era architecture.

The weather was good but on the Kremlin Hill, it was chilly. We broke for lunch and dined at a Ukrainian restaurant in the center of Moscow. On the menu: chicken Kiev.

After the visit to the Kremlin Armory and seeing the stunning displays of the wealth of Imperial Russia, we take the bus back to Dubna, leaving behind the town which is going about its own business.

However, the day is not yet over. That evening, we were invited to dinner at the House of Scientists. I walked there, stopping to take a picture of the monument to G.N. Flerov.

At dinner, I had a very interesting chat with an Armenian scientist on his work on cosmic radiation. Toward the end of the dinner, the Tennessee delegation gave a parting gift to our hosts, a special single barrel Element 117, Tennessine, Jack Daniels.

Early the next morning, we caught a shuttle from Dubna to Szeremetevo Airport. There was very little traffic so early in the morning. The check in and passport control went smoothly. The airport is large and new. The AirFrance Airbus is waiting somewhat apart from the Aeroflot Boeings and Airbuses. We had time for coffee, a croissant and some last-minute hasty shopping in the airport stores.

Time to go home.

Robert GrzywaczRobert Grzywacz, director of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Nuclear Physics and Applications and a physics professor at UT, is in Russia this week to celebrate the discovery of the element Tennessine with a team from ORNL and their colleagues at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Moscow Oblast, Russia.

This was originally published as a running blog with daily entries in reverse chronological order. The order of posts has been changed to chronological order and they have been listed by date of occurrence rather than the original date of the post.