The History of the Lab-to-Lab
Snezhinsk scientist's surprise in recognizing his photo on the book cover
Some time ago, Vladimir Shmakov, scientist from Snezhinsk's VNIITF, walked past a book display of his Institute library when something caught his eye. He stopped to take a closer look on the bold-colored cover of Siegfried Hecker's book Doomed to Cooperate showcased on the stand. The cover featured Yuli Khariton, the legendary scientific head of the Soviet bomb program, ready to shake the outstreched hand of Sig Hecker, Khariton's guest from Los Alamos. It was a perfectly captured moment in history, but to Vladimir, the photo looked just too familiar.
The story begins in February 1992, barely two months after the breakup of the Soviet Union, when the Russian nuclear weapons laboratory directors visited Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
Two weeks later, LLNL Director John Nuckolls and LANL Director Siegfried Hecker visited the Russian analogues to American labs, Russian Federal Nuclear Center- VNIIEF and Russian Federal Nuclear Center-VNIITF, in the formerly secret cities of Sarov and Snezhinsk.
In September next year, LANL and VNIIEF scientists conducted the first joint experiment using an explosive magnetic generator designed in Sarov. Dozens and hundreds joint endeavors followed suite.
More about lab-to-lab in a 15-min video (courtesy of CISAC)
"I enjoyed every minute of the travels and would do it all over again", writes Caroline (Cas) Mason in the conclusion of her collection of colorful stories based on memories she keeps from her work in the Former Soviet Union area in 1998-2008. Working out of Los Alamos National Laboratory and later as an independent expert, Cas Mason traversed Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan by train, plane, van, and car and met dozens of colleague scientists. She noted their often run down environment and their competence and pride in their work. She also noted the flow of everyday life with world-wide pastimes like pushing prams and eating ice cream in locations that most Americans would find it hard to relate to. On the other hand, she recalls sights and practices and episodes that came through as surprising or shocking or sad. All together, these memories capture the many hues of the post-Soviet science and cultural arena and speak to the intrinsic value of scientific and human connection.