In traditional physics the nuclear reactions are typically accompanied by formation of unstable radioactive nuclei with different half-life times, the presence of which being detected by the residual radiation. Why this does not happen in your case, at least as a result of fluctuations?

In our case the main reason for the absence of unstable radioactive nuclei products is the mutually correlated character of the nuclear transformation in the system that is consistent in space and time. In such a system many (possibly, all) fluctuation processes can be completely suppressed. The absence of radioactive nuclei in the collapse products is a direct consequence of the principle of harmonization that reveals itself in the invariable satisfaction of the variational principle of realization of the most optimum path to the final state. Only the most stable states appear along such path. The specific mechanism of correlated nuclear transformations is related to the specificity of the interaction of nuclei and electrons in the synchronously compressed superdense medium in the bulk of the target. It is worth mentioning that similar effects of suppression of the uncorrelated nuclear reactions are well known in nuclear physics. One of the examples thereof is the Kagan - Afanasiev effect comprising complete suppression of the inelastic channels of a nuclear reaction when the incident neutron beam interacts with the ordered crystalline lattice in the direction of the Bragg diffraction angle. Under such conditions the inelastic channel of the reaction of interaction of a neutron with nuclei of the lattice is completely suppressed (neutrons are not absorbed by the nuclei), and the efficiency of the elastic channel (the channel of resonance scattering) grows very strongly. The effect of lattice is such that the nuclei of the target remain in a nonexcited nonradioactive state. Similar nuclei taken individually absorb neutrons very strongly and become radioactive after such absorption. The explanation of this effect is based on the correlatability and coherence of the neutron beam interaction with a periodic crystal.

How critical is the difference between the energetics of the "new" nuclear processes and the "traditional" ones?

The development of a collapse in our system is multiparticle, collective, and coherent at every variation of the critical conditions. This process is self-controlled (self-similar) and is realized by the own laws such that they can be affected only due to a change in the initial conditions of the external action and in the starting properties of the system. After the attainment of a certain threshold state of the system, the formation of a collapse occurs only at the expense of the inner forces of the system on the basis of the principle of self-sufficiency. The principle of self-sufficiency consists in that the attainment of a finite effect is connected on each stage with the use of "inner" (own) energy sources from various components of the matter (atoms, nuclei, particles, etc.) and is not practically related to the introduced "outer" energy that defines only the threshold of the initiation of the process. Saying figuratively, the role of the "outer" energy on the initial stage consists only in that it renders a distinctive synchronized pulse action and leads out the system from the state of local equilibrium into the state, whose development is characterized by self-similar processes (the analog is a weak push pulling out a ball from a shallow pit positioned at the top of a mountain). Such a process fundamentally differs from, e.g., the inertial nuclear synthesis initiated by an external laser or beam driver. As known, the process of compression in the latter case is realized at the expense of external forces related to the energy of a driver and lasts only until the direct or mediate action of a driver is compensated by the increasing positive (i.e., directed from the target center to its surface) internal pressure. On the contrary, our system is characterized, in a nutshell, by the self-organized negative effective internal pressure directed to the target center, and the absolute value of this pressure increases with the compression, which leads to a collapse. The process of formation of a collapse includes, with equal rights, the objects that are not equal in the "natural" world (e.g., nucleons and electrons). As a consequence of the enhancement of the role and influence of various physical objects, the conditions and directivity of the nuclear-physical transformations change drastically. The processes that are disadvantageous in energy and inefficient in "standard" nuclear reactions (e.g., the process of synthesis of the nuclei heavier than iron) become advantageous in energy and highly efficient. Contrary to "standard" nuclear reactions, the process of release and transformation of the binding energy (and the value of this energy) in the collapse zone is defined not only by a purely nuclear binding energy of nucleons, but also by other kinds of interaction (in particular, by the binding energy of nucleons and electrons). As a result, those nuclei which are unsuitable for the use in the energy-releasing nuclear reactors in "standard" nuclear reactions (e.g., nuclei of Fe) can be successively used as a "fuel" in a laboratory collapse. In the process of collapse, the self-consistent transformations of the binding energy, characteristics of the forward motion, and the configuration and density on the electron-nucleus level of the matter structure occur. We can give the specific estimates demonstrating the efficiency of the process. Most investigations were carried out on the experimental first-generation setup, in which the energy supplied by the external driver to a target did not exceed 100-200 J. The total energy which is released and transformed in the collapse zone is equal to 10-50 MJ, i.e., it exceeds the initial energy needed for the beginning of the formation of a collapse by 4-5 orders of magnitude.

Have you observed any "boundary" process modes at which the nuclear reactions obey the "traditional" scenario?

In our system, the process of mutual transformations of nuclei is characterized by a very high rate of development at the attainment of certain threshold conditions. This process is self-similar and develops after the attainment of these threshold conditions by the own laws in an avalanche-like way. In fact, the functioning of the system is characterized by the trigger mode (the jump-like transition from one state to other one). Up to a certain threshold, the state and evolution of the system correspond to the traditional ideas, but the system falls very rapidly into the self-similar mode at once after the threshold is reached. For this reason, the steady occurrence of the system in the "boundary" mode is most likely improbable.

In some of your papers you conclude that in the course of the nuclear reactions that you detect, the radioactive nuclei are not produced but, in a way, are "consumed" (the experiments with the radioactive cobalt). This makes such processes a prospective technology for the utilization of radioactive waste. What could be, in your opinion, the mechanism of this process?

In our experiments, the nuclear transformations pass through the stage of collective and strongly correlated states leading to the complete collapse. In the collapsing volume, nuclei lose their individuality. We think that something similar to a giant macronucleus or, more exactly, an electron-nucleus macrocluster is formed. After a number of global transformations, such a macrosystem begins to decay with the emission of new nuclei. By simplifying the situation, we may imagine that, at the first stage of the transformation, all the interacting nuclei "are broken" into individual nucleons with the simultaneous formation of the giant electron-nucleus macrocluster. Then these nucleons form other stable daughter nuclei which leave the volume of the parent macrocluster. Since the process of formation of new nuclei runs comparatively slowly and in the mutually consistent mode, only stable nuclei are formed (unstable radioactive nuclei are formed only in fast pulse processes, when their formation occurs without mutual consistency). Upon the comparatively slow (as compared to the duration of ordinary pairwise nuclear reactions) formation of nuclei, which corresponds to the adiabatic mode, only maximally stable nuclei are synthesized. Such nuclei are nonradioactive. In this case, it is not essential whether the initial nuclei were radioactive or stable. For this reason, such a reprocessing (utilization) of radioactive nuclei will result in the creation of stable nuclei. It is necessary to note that the absence of radioactive nuclei in the products of a collapse is also a direct consequence of the principle of harmonization that is revealed in the invariable choice of the most optimum and, therefore, deterministic path to the final state. Such a path can be realized only in comparatively slow adiabatic processes (which are observed in our system) and never occurs in limitedly fast, pulse processes, in which the factor of randomness is of a great importance.

Do the observed processes represent cooperative interactions of many nuclei? How local are the processes? How can you estimate the numbers of nuclei involved?

In our system, there are several objects, in which different processes are running. The main part of all transformations runs, naturally, in the target volume in the collapse zone. For any variation of the critical conditions, the process of development of a collapse is multiparticle, collective, and coherent. In the formation of a collapse, the objects which are essentially different in the "natural" world (for example, nucleons and electrons) participate with equal rights. All the processes with participation of nuclei are correlated because the degenerate relativistic electron gas is present in the collapsing volume, covers all the system, interacts very strongly with nuclei, and synchronizes their mutual positions. Moreover, there are solid foundations to assume that the correlatability of the processes at the final stages of the collapse formation is provided through the nuclear (strong) interactions. It is worth noting that although such a system is qualitatively similar to a neutron star, the former fundamentally differs from the latter not only by the absence of gravitation, but also by the fact that the process of neutronization is not a main and unique way if its evolution. Moreover, the process of protonization of nuclei with a simultaneous increase in the number of electrons becomes principal at a certain stage of the compression. According to our estimates based on many measurements using the experimental first-generation setup (the so-called "small setup"), the transformation of about 1018 - 1019 various nuclei occurred. The more local (though also correlated) processes of nuclear transformations run in the other parts of the setup (in particular, in the bulk and on the surface of remote accumulating screens).

With such cooperative processes in mind, is the concept of "individual reaction act" applicable here?

We cannot unambiguously answer this question, because a set of different processes is running in our system at different places of the setup and at different times (in the target at the stage of compression, in the collapse zone, and on the surface and in the bulk of remote accumulating screens, i.e. in the objects located at a large distance from the collapse zone). However we can surely assert that the relative part of "ordinary" individual (pairwise) reactions is very small, and the main part of reactions has collective character. This assertion is confirmed, in particular, by the fact that we have registered no considerable radioactivity (higher than the natural background) in the products of reactions in all the experiments without any exception. Taking into account that about 1018 - 1019 various nuclei are transformed during a single experiment, the share of radioactive nuclei among the products cannot be lower in any case than the level of several percent given the traditional scheme of pairwise reactions, which would correspond to the creation of at least 1017 - 1018 radioactive nuclei. For example, taking the mean lifetime of radioactive nuclei to be equal to 1 month, the radioactivity of such a source would be 10-100 Ci, which would constitute a very large radiative background exceeding the natural one by 15 orders of magnitude. Nothing of this sort was observed in experiments, and this fact testifies to that the share of ordinary pairwise reactions is negligible among all the processes.

What are your estimates of the spatial, temporal and energy scales of the observed nuclear reactions?

According to our data, the main part of all nuclear transformations runs in the target volume in the collapse zone. The initial size of a region where the direct formation of the collapse zone begins depends on many parameters of the electron beam and the target. In the experimental first-generation setup, the typical initial diameter of a region inside the target, where the formation of a collapse begins, is equal to 200-300μm. The final size of the of formed collapse zone is less than 1Å. The duration of the collapse formation is considerably less than 1 ns. In the collapse zone, about 1018 - 1019 nuclei undergo the fundamental nuclear transformation, which corresponds approximately to 3x1020 nucleons. The energy introduced from the external driver into a target is at most 100-300 J. The final energy released in the collapse zone is equal to 10-50 MJ. This energy is transformed into the formation of nuclei with a lesser binding energy (as compared to the binding energy of the initial nuclei of the target), into the electromagnetic emission from the optical to γ-range, into the creation of a dispersing plasma cloud, into the formation of fluxes of fast light and heavy particles, and other processes.

Why the effects similar to those observed at your laboratory were never registered in other high energy physics experiments, including irradiation of solid targets by the beams of high energy particles?

The experiments on the synthesis of superheavy nuclei by collision of high-energy particles with nuclei of a target are fundamentally different and have a very essential and basically unavoidable drawback. It is related to the double role played by the high energy of such particles. The high energy of relative motion is necessary to overcome the Coulomb barrier and to start the reaction of synthesis of colliding nuclei. However, this energy is "excessive" in the nucleus, beyond the scope of the boundary Coulomb barrier, and its presence leads to extremely negative consequences. As a result of the absorption of this "excessive" energy, the compound nucleus turns out to be heated to a very high temperature, which leads inevitably to its instantaneous decay. Only a very small part of such nuclei (about 1010), in which the process of cooling is realized in a low-probable way by a successive ejection of the large number of neutrons which are scarce in the compound nucleus that can avoid the instantaneous decay. However, these "survived" nuclei are unstable because their proton-neutron compositions are far from the stability region. On the contrary, our system includes electrons forming a degenerate nonrelativistic gas at the initial stage of the compression, that participates in the process of nucleosynthesis. Due to the incommensurably smoother adiabatic mode of the compression (as compared to the processes in collisions of high-energy particles), no considerable heating of the nuclear matter occurs in our system. At the next stage of the compression, the gas of electrons becomes relativistic. Then electrons start "falling onto a nucleus" and play the same important role in the formation of a nucleus as protons and neutrons. For such a system, the stability line has a quite different form.

Why the superheavy nuclei that you observe appear to be stable?

The process of formation of superheavy nuclei can occur by various scenarios. One of the scenarios was considered by A. Migdal about 30 years ago and is based on the strong influence of the pion condensate on the binding energy of nuclei and the conditions of synthesis of superheavy nuclei. Other scenario has been analyzed by our group. It is based on the idea that certain conditions in the matter undergoing a compression cause firstly the formation of a compressed degenerate electron gas and then initiate the process of "falling of electrons onto a nucleus" which is related to a nonlinear and strong attraction of electrons and nuclei, stronger than the ordinary Coulomb law. As a result of this avalanche-like process, the formation of a self-compressing electron-nucleus plasma occurs. Inside this supercompressed medium, the conditions defining the stability of nuclei are significantly different, and the synthesis and the existence of superheavy nuclei with mass numbers lying far in the transuranium region become possible. Thus, we may assert that one of the reasons for both the creation of superheavy nuclei and their quasistability is the circumstance that electrons in the nucleus volume play the same role as protons and neutrons.

It is known that the theoretical estimates of the stability of nuclei are based on the ratio of the numbers of protons and neutrons in it. Why then nobody ever observed such stable nuclei when bombarding solid targets with high energy neutron beams?

In all the known experiments on the synthesis of superheavy nuclei by the method of neutron irradiation of heavy ones, a fast α-decay of activated nuclei is observed. Such nuclei turn out far from the stability line describing the proton-neutron system with a maximum binding energy. In our system, electrons forming a degenerate nonrelativistic gas at the initial stage of the compression participate in the process of synthesis of nuclei with the same role as protons and neutrons. At the successive stage of the compression, this electron gas becomes relativistic. Then the process of "falling of electrons onto a nucleus" starts, and electrons begin to play the same important role in the formation of a nucleus as protons and neutrons. For such a system, the stability line has a quite different form. Such a state of the system cannot be attained by the irradiation of nuclei only by neutrons.

In the past physics developed according to the Bohr's correspondence principle. This means that any new phenomenon, any new theory do not abolish but broaden the previous views including them as special cases. How does the correspondence principle "work" in your case? How, when and where the "old" physics crosses over to the "new" one?

"Old and "new" physics comprise a single science. Simply, there are different scenarios for the evolution of an electron-nucleus system of matter. Under certain (ordinary) conditions, the evolution is running by the standard scenario with the formation of proton-neutron nuclei. In the case of the special correlated action upon the target, other scenario is realized, leading to fundamental electron-nucleus transformations occur followed by a collapse. In our system, the transition from one scenario of the evolution of a nucleus to the other one occurs very rapidly if the threshold condition is satisfied and has, in fact, an avalanche-like character. For this reason, a stable transient state (including a smooth transition or a quasistationary coexistence of both scenarios) is practically impossible.

Typically the crossover between different modes of a certain process is characterized by threshold values of some parameters (for example, power and amplitude). What would be, in you opinion, such criteria for the processes under discussion? Have you estimated these values for the processes you observe?

The threshold criteria ensuring the development of a scenario of the collapse formation related to the specific characteristics of the interaction between the electron beam and the target. The process of the collapse developmentin the electron-nucleus system at any variation of the critical conditions is multiparticle, collective, and coherent. This process has a threshold and is realized only under a consistent complex of definite critical conditions. These conditions and criteria are known, verified many times, and optimized. They constitute the essence of our "know-how."

It seems that the theoretical treatment of the processes of the discussed type should to be based on the statistical theory of cooperative interactions. Can you present such a theory, and if yes, what new possible experimental evidence this theory might suggest?

Such a theory of the collective interaction in the collapse zone is currently under development. However, due to the specificity of processes (e.g., due to the superstrong compression of the nuclear and nucleon gas, the presence and influence of the supercompressed electron gas, the very strong collective interaction of all the components in the compressed system, a nonstationary state of the system, etc.), such a problem is extremely complex and does not allow us to reliably predict a real result of the process in every specific case.

What is the essence of the dynamic harmonization principle and the effect of coherent shock acceleration? Can you offer a quantitative mathematical treatment of the above?

The evolution of a collapse occurs according to the principles of maximum dynamical harmonization and self-sufficiency of all the successive stages and composing parts. The principle of maximum harmonization is revealed in the invariable satisfaction of the variational principle of a realization of the most optimum path to attain the final state. The principle of self-sufficiency consists in that the attainment of a final effect at each stage is connected with the use of "inner" energy sources and is not practically connected with the introduced "outer" energy (as it occurs, for example, upon the adiabatic compression of thermonuclear targets at the expense of the action of an external driver). In particular, the principle of self-sufficiency corresponds to the formation of such dynamical structures in transient processes that ensure the minimization of the dispersed energy of an external action in a self-organized dynamical system. After the attainment of a definite threshold state, the process of formation of a collapse occurs only at the expense of the action of system's internal forces on the basis of the principle of self-sufficiency. Simply saying, our system realizes a negative efficient internal pressure directed to the target Moreover, the absolute value of this pressure increases with compression, which leads to a collapse. The process of self-compression is coherent and synchronized. During the collapse, the self-consistent transformations of the binding energy, characteristics of the forward motion, and the configuration and density on the electron-nuclear level of the matter organization occur.

In mass-spectrometry one of the most complex problems is the correct accounting for the overlapping masses. Alongside with the atomic ions the mass-spectrometer registers low and high molecular ions. The number of possible mass overlaps is so high that in many cases such overlaps are not included in the catalogs of the mass-spectrometer device manufacturers. How do you clean the surface of your samples to avoid such effects and how you separate signals from molecular ions?

Indeed, the superposition of mass-peaks gives a lot of trouble when the decoding the complicated mass-spectra which we usually registered by studying the target explosion products deposited on accumulating screens. However, one cannot "avoid similar effects" by purifying the surface of samples because these effects are caused not by the contamination of their surface, but the complexity of the composition of the studied layer of explosion products of several microns in thickness. We studied these samples always in the state, in which they were derived in explosion-based experiments without use of any preparatory procedures changing the composition of the surface. As for the problem of the identification of overlapping mass-peaks, the mass spectrometry toolbox includes many standard procedures for its solution. In particular, the registration of mass-spectra in the offset mode (secondary-ion mass spectrometry, IMS 4F, CAMECA) allows one to suppress, in most cases, the mass-peaks of molecular ions. The trick is based on the fact that secondary atomic ions have wider energy distribution than that from secondary molecular ions. Therefore, shifting the entrance slit of the energy filter to the side of higher energies by applying the offset voltage leads to the efficient discrimination of the molecular ion mass-peaks. In those rare cases where the energy distributions of atomic and molecular ions with identical nominal mass differ slightly, the application of the offset mode does not solve the interference problem. In order to identify overlapping mass-peaks, the mode of recording of the analyzed fragment of a mass-spectrum with high resolution in mass is usually used. The coincidence of the nominal masses of atomic and molecular ions does not mean the coincidence of their exact masses. Therefore, the recording of a spectrum fragment containing the analyzed peaks in the mode of high resolution in mass allows one to register the difference in their exact mass numbers and, hence, to identify them. The problem of affiliation of the mass-peak under study to an atomic or molecular ion can be frequently solved by analyzing the image of the distribution of the mass corresponding to it on the studied segment of the specimen surface. This method of identification of molecular complexes is based on the obvious fact that the image of the surface distribution of a molecular mass must coincide with the images of the surface distributions of the masses of nuclides composing it. If such coincidences are observed, the analyzed mass-peak should be referred to a molecular ion, otherwise it corresponds to an atomic ion.

How reproducible are the mass-spectrometry results obtained with different samples?

First we must agree upon what we call reproducibility. If we consider both the attestation of the composition of the initial materials of targets and accumulating screens and the determination of the composition of the target explosion products on specimens of the "sandwich" type by glow-discharge mass spectrometry (VG 9000, VG Elemental, UK), the results of measurements demonstrate a high reproducibility. This is justified by a good coincidence of the results of repeated measurements, whose number was, as a rule, at least 4. In this case, the error of the determination of the content of minor chemical elements possessing the significant concentrations in the studied specimen was usually at most 10÷20 % of the measured value. The indicated accuracy of the results derived was conditioned, on the one hand, by the technical parameters of a device used and, on the other hand, by a high degree of homogeneity of the composition of specimens under study which was ensured by their structure ("sandwich"). The above-written can be mainly referred to the results of analysis of the isotope composition of gas samples taken from the residual atmosphere of the reaction vacuum chamber of the experimental setup. This analysis was carried out with the help of a mass-spectrometer MI-120IG. As for the results of investigations related to the determination of the isotope ratios of chemical elements contained in the solid products of the explosions of targets and to the discovery of the nonidentifiable heavy masses in them (secondary-ion mass spectrometry, IMS 4F, CAMECA), we may say about their reproducibility only conditionally. The point is in that, in the mentioned studies, the mass-spectra were registered directly from the surface layers of the target explosion products deposited on accumulating screens. These layers are essentially inhomogeneous in their compositions, and the used method of their analysis is destructive. Hence, if we consider the reproducibility in the strict sense of this word as the coincidence of the results of measurements in the repeated experiments performed under identical conditions, the mentioned studies are frequently not reproducible, because the necessary condition for the reproducibility is not satisfied. Namely, the inhomogeneity of the object under study and the destructive method of analysis not always allow us to perform the repeated measurements under identical conditions. However, if thick homogeneous layers are investigated, the reproducibility of the results of measurements takes place, as a rule.

It is known that correct determination of the matrix parameters is crucial for the mass-spectrometry experiments. In your case the matrix is a very complex object, comprising the material of the accumulating screen, into which foreign inclusions of the target material are "hammered" by the explosion. How do you account for the matrix parameters in this situation?

Indeed, the chemical composition of the matrix can considerably affect the yield of secondary ion emission. This circumstance hampers considerably the execution of quantitative measurements of the composition of the objects under study by the method of secondary-ion mass spectrometry. Just for this reason, we used the method of glow-discharge mass spectrometry for the quantitative determination of the composition of the initial materials of accumulating screens and the target explosion products. In the last method, the sensitivity concerning a specific element does not practically depend on its physico-chemical state (on the matrix effect) or its concentration in the specimen under study. For quantitative measurements, the method of secondary-ion mass spectrometry was employed only for the determination of the isotope ratios of chemical elements contained in the target explosion products. However, by virtue of the chemical identity of isotopes, the effect of a matrix varies the yields of their secondary ion emission in the same degree and does not change the very isotope ratios. In other words, we did not consider the matrix effects and tried to avoid them.

How do you evaluate the purity of the initial target and accumulating screen material?

As the main method to estimate the purity of the initial materials of targets and accumulating screens, we have used the method of glow-discharge mass spectrometry (VG 9000, VG Elemental, UK), and it quite suits us for now.