Friday, April 13, 2018

Preventing a cyber zombie apocalypse

Cybercrime rates are on the rise, but what exactly does that mean? Cybercrime is any sort of crime using a computer—simple enough. And now that most people in the United States have a computer or access to one, cybercrime is more common than ever.

Say, for instance, someone wanted to take down a popular website through what’s called a distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attack. An example of this is the 2016 DDoS attack on the internet performance management company DYN that temporarily took down more than 75 major websites.

Attacks like these are the reason Los Alamos National Laboratory has been working on cybersecurity techniques, processes and tools to prevent and detect cyberattacks. (Full story)

Muons for nuclear waste inspection

Muons check for missing spent fuel
rods. LANL image.

Waste nuclear-fuel rods are typically stored in 3-m-diameter steel casks that hold between 20 and 30 fuel-rod bundles. But once a cask is sealed, there is no way to check how many bundles are inside or, importantly, whether any are missing, without opening it. Now J. Matthew Durham of Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, and colleagues have shown that this problem can be solved by monitoring the paths of cosmic-ray muons passing through a cask. They say that International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors could use the method to verify that nuclear fuel isn’t being diverted from nuclear storage facilities. (Full story)

Understanding a cell's 'doorbell'

Calcium bridges two parts of a cell receptor,
possibly regulating its activity. LANL image.

A multi-institutional project to understand one of the major targets of human drug design has produced new insights into how structural communication works in a cell component called a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCRs), basically a "doorbell" structure that alerts the cell of important molecules nearby. Understanding the structure and function of the receptor more deeply will enable better drug development.

"It's a huge field of active research in academia and industry because if we can figure out precisely how GPCRs work, then we can more easily design drugs to change their behavior and thereby control pain, hunger, and more," said coauthor Christopher Neale, a researcher with the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

Scientists record unprecedented neutrino measurement

Fermilab's MiniBooNE detector features hundreds
of photodetectors, FermiLab photo.

Neutrinos are produced from the decay of particles called kaons. Decaying kaons yield muon neutrinos with a range of energies. But using conservation of energy and momentum principles, scientists determined that muon neutrinos produced by kaon-at-rest decay would have the precise energy of 236 million electronvolts.

"It is not often in neutrino physics that you know the energy of the incoming neutrino," said Richard Van De Water, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "With the first observation by MiniBooNE of monoenergetic muon neutrinos from kaon decay, we can study the charged current interactions with a known probe that enable theorists to improve their cross section models. (Full story)

3D printing saves the world

Bryce Tappan (left) and Alex Mueller (right)
watch as a 3D printer produces a little cone
of mock explosive material. LANL photo.

A paper from the Los Alamos National Laboratory details how Alex Mueller is leading a team to create the next-generation of explosives using 3D printing. By examining the microstructure and manipulating internal hollow spaces of TNT, the scientists are trying to control and tailor a new form of explosives.

Making an explosive more difficult to detonate when there’s an accident also makes it more difficult to detonate intentionally. The behavior of explosives such as TNT is largely controlled through hot spots. Introducing inclusions, such as air bubbles, into TNT will trap air inside, causing it to compress and rapidly heat up. (Full story)

Friday, April 6, 2018


Finding order in disorder demonstrates a new state of matter

 Cristiano Nisoli. LANL photo.

Physicists have identified a new state of matter whose structural order operates by rules more aligned with quantum mechanics than standard thermodynamic theory. In a classical material called artificial spin ice, which in certain phases appears disordered, the material is actually ordered, but in a “topological” form.

"Our research shows for the first time that classical systems such as artificial spin ice can be designed to demonstrate topological ordered phases, which previously have been found only in quantum conditions," said Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Cristiano Nisoli. (Full Story)

Also from Science Alert

Light 'relaxes' crystal to boost solar cell efficiency

Constant illumination was found to relax the lattice of a perovskite-like material, Rice/LANL image.

Some materials are like people. Let them relax in the sun for a little while and they perform a lot better. A collaboration led by Rice University and Los Alamos National Laboratory found that to be the case with a perovskite compound touted as an efficient material to collect sunlight and convert it into energy.

The researchers led by Aditya Mohite, a staff scientist at Los Alamos who will soon become a professor at Rice; Wanyi Nie, also a staff scientist at Los Alamos, and lead author and Rice graduate student Hsinhan (Dave) Tsai discovered that constant illumination relaxes strain in perovskite's crystal lattice, allowing it to uniformly expand in all directions. (Full Story)

Overcoming the ‘space factor’

Erin Quinn.  LANL photo.

Whenever an instrument is sent into space, worries abound. As if the launch were not risky enough (with the threat of explosion on the launch pad or the extreme vibrations shaking parts loose), a host of other threats emerge once the spacecraft safely reaches orbit.

That is where software developers like Erin Quinn come in. Quinn works in Space Data Science and Systems group on the ground support equipment for the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS), one of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s satellite-borne treaty-monitoring payloads. (Full Story)

Site of El Niño origin affects carbon cycle response

Time lags for individual El Niño events. ERL Image.

Researchers in the US have found that El Niños originating in the eastern tropical Pacific take longer to generate a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations than those initiated in the central tropical Pacific.

The results should enable scientists to better constrain the effects of El Niños in climate models.

"The time lag can be used to form a reasonable hypothesis about the way vegetation reacts to the El Niño effects," said Petr Chylek of Los Alamos National Laboratory, US. (Full Story)

Report: NM could nearly triple solar jobs

Testing the UbiQD solar window, from UbiQD.

With the right strategies, New Mexico could become a bustling hub for developing and building novel, cutting-edge solar technologies, according to a new study by the California-based American Jobs Project.

Ubiquitous Quantum Dots is using technology from Los Alamos National Laboratory to create an electric-generating coating for windows that can channel photons from sunlight to PV cells attached to window frames. (Full Story)

NSF ‘supermagnet’ laboratory receives $184 million renewal

100T magnet at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

The National Science Foundation has renewed support for the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory with $184 million over the next five years, a funding increase of more than 9 percent over the last funding period.

At its Los Alamos facility the lab has created a magnet that can repeatedly produce a magnetic field of 100 Tesla -- 2 million times stronger than the Earth’s. The magnet is the only one of its kind that can produce fields of that strength without exploding. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Underground neutrino experiment sets the stage for deep discovery about matter

Researchers work on the delicate wiring of a cryostat,
which is like a thermos under vacuum that chills the detectors
that are the heart of the MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR.

If equal amounts of matter and antimatter had formed in the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago, one would have annihilated the other upon meeting, and today's universe would be full of energy but no matter to form stars, planets and life. Yet matter exists now. That fact suggests something is wrong with Standard Model equations describing symmetry between subatomic particles and their antiparticles. In a study published in Physical Review Letters, collaborators of the MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR, an experiment led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have shown they can shield a sensitive, scalable 44-kilogram germanium detector array from background radioactivity. (Full story)

Self-assembling, tunable interfaces found in quantum materials

A Graphic of a spontaneously emerging
interface in a quantum material.

A potential revolution in device engineering could be underway, thanks to the discovery of functional electronic interfaces in quantum materials that can self-assemble spontaneously.

"This illustrates that if we can learn to control and exploit the remarkable properties at the interfaces of quantum materials, this will likely result in a new generation of devices beyond our current imagination," said Marc Janoschek, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who, with David Fobes, also of Los Alamos, co-led the international research team making the discovery. Their findings were published today in Nature Physics. "However, because quantum materials are chemically much more complex compared to 'conventional' materials such as semiconductors, it remains a challenge to fabricate clean quantum material interfaces." (Full story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist invents “lighthouse” radiation detector

A small, fast and accurate novel radiation
detector developed at Los Alamos.

Los Alamos National Laboratory recently unveiled a new smaller radiation detector invented at the lab that uses a sweeping beam to quickly pinpoint a radiation source to reduce radiation exposure risks for workers.

The detectors use directional sensors to scan through a narrow angle looking for radiation. LANL uses the devices aboard HAZMAT robots for emergency response and to conduct geologic surveys. (Full story)

LANL: Public Lectures Explore Powering Space Missions On Mars Begin April 2

Artist's illustration of the umbrella-like heat
radiators of four Kilopower nuclear reactors.

Los Alamos nuclear scientists Patrick McClure and David Poston will discuss the small nuclear reactor developed at the Laboratory to power missions on Mars during three Frontiers in Science lectures beginning April 2.

“When we imagine sending humans to live on Mars, the moon or other planets in the not-so-distant future, a key question is: what kind of power source is small yet potent enough to reliably power an extraterrestrial habitat, and also make fuel for the trip home?” McClure said.

The project, known as Kilopower, is being developed in conjunction with NASA. In the talk, Los Alamos project lead McClure and chief reactor designer Poston will address the design and testing of the reactor, and its possible use for a range of applications in space exploration. (Full story)

Friday, March 23, 2018

How quantum computing will affect global finance

John Sarrao, LANL photo.

“We’re seeing the convergence of better algorithmic efficiency on one hand, and better qubits on the other”, says John Sarrao, associate director for theory, simulation and computation at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Whatever the future of quantum computers may be, the power of change will not only be derived from the hardware itself, but also from the algorithms that can be executed. While there are huge opportunities to utilise these algorithms for functions similar to those executed in the present day IT landscape, there are also great opportunities to develop a new breed of algorithms for completely new use cases. (Full Story)

Black hole pretenders could really be bizarre quantum stars

Gravastar, NASA illustration.

New research from theoretical physicist Raúl Carballo-Rubio at the International School for Advanced Studies in Italy provides a novel mechanism that might allow black stars and gravastars to exist.

“This work is interesting and worthwhile, showing that new kinds of solutions can exist to Einstein's equations which are not black holes,” says research physicist Emil Mottola at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who was not involved in the study. (Full Story)


Tracking seasonal sea ice in real time

Sea ice is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge.

In the 1990s, Elizabeth Hunke, a developer at the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, created the model we use today to predict sea ice patterns in the Far North. Scientists input information on wind direction, ocean currents, air temperature, solar radiation, humidity, and sea surface temperature, and then see what the model churns out.

"Typically, we run it alongside an atmospheric model or with an ocean model," Hunke said. Primarily, the model predicts the melting and growing of the sea ice, and the motion of the sea ice—how wind and ocean currents are pushing the ice around. (Full Story)

A slow neutron beats a flipping fast bit

The article’s authors Suzanne Nowicki and Nathan DeBardeleben, LANL photo.

Once every minute and for no good reason, a bit flips in a supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, causing an error. All of a sudden, say, 1 + 1 = 3.


Bits are the basic currency of all digital information. They come in two flavors, zeroes and ones. As a computer does its work, bits are called from disk storage, zip through processors and park temporarily in memory. When a bit randomly jumps from 0 to 1, it might alter a calculation or hide a piece of information. Computer engineers call it a single-event upset or a fault. (Full Story)

‘Lighthouse’ detectors minimize exposure to dangerous radiation

A small, fast and accurate radiation detector, LANL photo.

Innovative “lighthouse” detectors that use a sweeping beam to pinpoint a radiation source in seconds are reducing  exposure for workers and opening up new areas for robotic monitoring to avoid potential hazards.

“It’s easier to find a needle in a haystack if the haystack is small,” said detector inventor Jonathan Dowell, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist. (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory releases file index product to software community

Trinity Supercomputer, LANL image.

Resolving the supercomputer challenge of searching and retrieving files could now be far simpler, with a tool developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and released today to the GitHub open-source software site.

The Grand Unified File Index (GUFI) is designed using a new, hierarchical approach to storing file metadata, allowing rapid  parallel searches across many internal databases. Queries that would previously have taken hours or days can now be run in seconds. (Full Story)

Three more stories from the Post this week:

BSMA thanks Los Alamos National Laboratory and community for supporting STEM education

Director Terry Wallace buys 75th anniversary Memorabilia at the Bradbury Science Museum.

The Bradbury Science Museum Association (BSMA) wishes to thank Los Alamos National Laboratory and the community for supporting STEM education outreach efforts in northern New Mexico.

The (BSMA) and the Laboratory hosted a 75th Anniversary merchandise launch Tuesday at the Bradbury Science Museum with all proceeds benefiting STEM education outreach.

“The response was overwhelming!” Shari Foley, BSMA Gadgets Gift Shop manager, said. “We are so please with the response to the 75th Anniversary products. We’ve sold out and have more on the way.” (Full Story)

LANL Archives Preserve History

Alan Carr, Christopher C’de Baca and County Council Chair David Izraelevitz during a recent meeting at the Los Alamos Daily Post.

A treasure trove of historical documents and data is preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Deputy Group Leader for the Records Management Group Christopher C’de Baca and LANL Historian Alan Carr recently visited the Los Alamos Daily Post to share some of that history. They brought along several spy related items including the original personnel questionnaires of two of the four spies associated with the Lab.

“In the archives we have about 12,000 cubic feet of records,” C’de Baca said, adding that the archive facility occupies a space about the size of a basketball court. (Full Story)

Lab Profile: Jim Stein lives life to the fullest, camera in hand

Jim Stein has a passion for photography.
As a child, Jim Stein, of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Quality & Performance Assurance Division, loved poring over the awe-inspiring photos of National Geographic magazine. With a small camera his parents bought for him, his passion for photography was ignited.

“I started playing around with the camera like I was a Nat Geo photographer,” he said. “And although I really was pretty awful, I’ve been hooked ever since.” (Full Story)

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