Friday, October 12, 2018

R&D Magazine announces 2018 Scientist of the Year

Bette Korber, from R&D.

R&D Magazine is proud to announce Los Alamos National Laboratory theoretical biologist Bette Korber, PhD, as the 2018 Scientist of the Year.

Korber’s innovative HIV “mosaic” vaccine design—assembled from fragments of natural sequences via a computational optimization method—led to a first-in-class preventative HIV vaccine now being tested for efficacy in humans with support from the NIH and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a milestone few others have reached.

This year marks the 53rd annual Scientist of the Year Award, which recognizes career accomplishments in scientific research and technology spanning nearly all disciplines from physics to medicine to chemistry. (Full story)

Catching hackers in the act

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, where some of the nation’s most precious secrets are kept, information is not only closely guarded, tools are being developed to help others detect and respond quickly to targeted attacks.

Understanding the capabilities and intent of malware — a process known as reverse engineering — is a difficult, manual process that can take days or even weeks for an expert analyst. Los Alamos has long been a leader in manual malware analysis, and has found that expert intuition can be augmented by machine learning tools that rapidly identify patterns across large sets of related malware, collected over time. (Full story)

Astrophysicists scramble to find an answer for mysterious microquasar jets

Material ejecting from a region around a
supermassive black hole in a quasar, ESO image.

Due to it fundamentally challenging established astrophysics, scientists are truly baffled by the discovery of highly energetic radiation being emitted from a microquasar in deep space. A microquasar is a black hole that swallows debris from a nearby companion star and blasting it out as enormous jets of material, but this is the first time that such radiation has been detected coming from one. Publishing its findings in Nature, a team from the US Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory strongly suggested that particle collisions at the end of the microquasar’s jets likely produced the powerful gamma rays. (Full story)

Officials use social media to monitor, intervene in disease outbreaks

Influenza A.

Public health officials say that polling using text messages, social media platforms, and other digital tools can be key in both tracking the health care behavior of people and disseminating lifesaving information during emergency situations. Meanwhile, social media is being used to help forecast seasonal flu epidemics. The Los Alamos National Laboratory told Axios last flu season they found social media (in particular using Google health trends) to be helpful in their forecasting. (Full story)

Local biologist develops lollipop to tackle allergy symptoms

It's easy to feel wiped out this time of year. Allergies can leave you feeling miserable with all of the sneezing, runny noses, and itchy eyes.

While most blame what's in the air, Cliff Han, a doctor and now biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said your symptoms have nothing to do with what's in the environment. The cause, believe it or not, he said is good oral hygiene that's killing that good bacteria in your mouth. (Full story)


Solving epidemics with math

Mac Hyman, from the Monitor.

Sharks, bears, spiders and snakes may rule the deadly monster category on TV, but a team of mathematicians at Tulane University, who also partner with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, know who the real threat to humans are.

That would be the lowly mosquito.

While researchers have already found a way to infect mosquitoes with a bacteria that keeps them from spreading deadly disease, Tulane University professor and mathematician Dr. Mac Hyman, who is also a research partner with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is helping those researchers better wield their new weapon with math. (Full story)

Friday, October 5, 2018

NASA 60th Anniversary: Why haven't we found aliens yet?

Roger Wiens, LANL photo.

Astronomer Frank Drake devised an equation to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations which might be present in the Milky Way galaxy, called the Drake Equation.

“The values of the different terms are very highly uncertain, consistent with both no life elsewhere in the universe on the one hand and lots of civilizations on the other hand,” Dr. Roger C. Wiens, of the Space Remote Sensing Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of New Mexico where he is searching for signs of Martian life. (Full Story)

Newborn baby contracted HIV from an open blister on his dad's arm

HIV Illustration.

'It's a very unusual case,' Dr Thomas Leitner, the only US scientist on the case told

'It shows us that it's not something that will have a large impact on the HIV epidemic but it does show us that there are unusual ways of transmission.'

Dr Leitner, of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, is a phylogenetics expert, trained in tracing the evolutionary history of organisms. It's not the first time he's been co-opted by Nuno Taveira, a microbiologist in Lisbon, to help out on a criminal investigation before. But this was unique. (Full Story)

Scientists discover new nursery for superpowered photons

High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray (HAWC) Observatory, in Mexico, HAWC photo.

The new evidence strongly suggests that the powerful gamma rays were produced at the ends of the jets and not another source nearby.

"SS 433 is located in the same region of the sky as other bright sources that also emit gamma rays," Hao Zhou says, galactic science coordinator of HAWC and a lead author on the Nature paper. "With its wide field of view, HAWC is uniquely capable of separating the gamma-ray emission due to SS 433 from other background photons." Zhou is a 2015 Michigan Tech PhD graduate now at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Plasma-Jet-Driven-Magneto-Inertial-Fusion status report

The PLX instrument at Los Alamos, LANL image.

While coaxial plasma guns have been used to accelerate plasma since the 1950’s, notably in space propulsion as plasma thrusters, the challenges of applying plasma guns as a driver for fusion are unique.

A conical array of 7 guns have been installed on the Plasma Liner Experiment (PLX) at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and experiments to merge the jets launched from these guns to form a piece of the plasma liner have been performed. The initial results8 show the formation of a series of shocks between merging jets, in qualitative agreements with our 3D computational results. (Full Story)

Los Alamos tests telemetry unit for nuke monitoring

The High Explosives Centrifuge Test Facility, LANL image.

More than 100G forces in a centrifuge are being used to test a telemetry unit at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to the federal institution.

The telemetry unit, which will evaluated nuclear weapons test missile launches, assesses the stresses of the flight to the upper reaches of the planet’s atmosphere and back down to Earth.

“The purpose of the centrifuge test is to subject the electronics to a high gravitational load (G-load) that’s representative of what the system will experience when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere,” said Alex Cusick, a Los Alamos weapons test engineer. (Full Story)

Also from PhysOrg

Lab, Pojoaque schools partner for new program

Terry C. Wallace, Jr (left) Laboratory Director; Jon Paul Romero, president of Pojoaque Valley Schools; and Sam Minner, president of New Mexico Highlands University. LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pojoaque Valley School District and New Mexico Highlands University officially launched the region’s first professional development school at a PVSD board meeting Wednesday.

“The value of education and the critical role it plays in the future success of both Northern New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory cannot be overstated,” said Terry C. Wallace, Jr., the laboratory’s director. (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, September 28, 2018

Deep learning infiltrating HPC physics domains

Fluid dynamics model, from Next Platform.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Lab compared three deep learning models, generative adversarial networks, LAT-NET, and LSTM against their own observations about homogeneous, isotropic, and stationary turbulence and found that deep learning, “which do not take into account any physics of turbulence explicitly, are impressively good overall when it comes to qualitative description of important features of turbulence.” Even still, they add that there are some shortcomings that can be addressed by making corrections to the deep learning frameworks through reinforcement of special features of turbulence that the models do not pick out on their own after training. (Full story)

New space instrument goes for a spin

The High Explosives Centrifuge in action,
LANL photo.

Scientists and engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are using a unique centrifuge facility to evaluate a flight-ready telemetry system for evaluating a nuclear weapons test missile launch.

"The purpose of the centrifuge test is to subject the electronics to a high gravitational load (G-load) that's representative of what the system will experience when re-entering the Earth's atmosphere," said weapons test engineer Alex Cusick. (Full storySee the video at:

Bizarre particles keep flying out of Antarctica's ice

A team prepares ANITA for flight over
the Antarctic ice, NASA photo.

Since March 2016, researchers have been puzzling over two events in Antarctica where cosmic rays did burst out from the Earth, and were detected by NASA's Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA)

"I think it's very compelling," said Bill Louis, a neutrino physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was not involved in the paper and has been following research into the ANITA events for several months. (Full story)

How not to be fooled in physics

Original LSND experiment at Los Alamos. 
LANL photo.

In the 1990s, an experiment conducted in Los Alamos, about 35 miles northwest of the capital of New Mexico, appeared to find something odd.

Scientists designed the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector experiment at the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory to count neutrinos, ghostly particles that come in three types and rarely interact with other matter. LSND was looking for evidence of neutrino oscillation, or neutrinos changing from one type to another. (Full story)

First Los Alamos Global Security Medal awarded

Marc Kippen, LANL photo.

R. Marc Kippen is the first recipient of the Los Alamos Global Security Medal, with Los Alamos National Laboratory announcing it Sept. 24 and reporting it recognizes his innovative professional and scientific excellence supporting the laboratory's global security mission -- specifically, Kippen's leadership and achievements in developing, promoting, and sustaining national security capabilities and programs in space-based sensing and nuclear detonation detection. (Full story)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Kilopower project: Los Alamos’ new nuclear reactors could power spacecraft and Moon bases

Assembly at the Nevada National Security Site ahead of a test in 2018. NNSS photo.

The future of space exploration may rest in the hands of a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers. They’ve built the first of a new generation of small nuclear reactors intended to power missions to deep space and even future astronaut bases on the moon and Mars.

Called Kilopower, their project aims to achieve a longstanding dream of the space community: a safe, effective, and powerful nuclear power reactor that can power spacecraft for years.

“I don’t think we can expand into deep space without nuclear power, which is what’s made me so passionate about developing the technology,” says David Poston, who leads the Kilopower team. (Full Story)

Build small nuclear reactors for battlefield power

YouTube video.

There’s not much the U.S. military does that’s more dangerous than trucking fuel through a war zone.

A solution could be a new micro-nuclear reactor being developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Westinghouse power company. Built around heat-pipe technology, this inherently safe microreactor has no cooling water or pumps that can fail, uses passive regulation systems so that it cannot melt down, and can generate at least 1 megawatt of safe, reliable power for 10 years or more. (Full Story)

Why NASA wants to build a nuclear reactor on the Moon

Artist's concept of new fission power system on the lunar surface, NASA image.

If you're going to take nuclear reactors into space on crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, it had better be safe. That's what the KRUSTY test made sure of.

“We threw everything we could at this reactor, in terms of nominal and off-normal operating scenarios, and KRUSTY passed with flying colors,” said David Poston, the chief reactor designer at NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The experiment included simulated power reduction, failed engines and failed heat pipes, and culminated with a 28-hour, full-power test that simulated a mission. It's planned to first be used on a spaceflight mission in 2020. (Full Story)

Which came first? Galaxies or supermassive black holes

Density of an early galaxy from the DCBH simulation, LANL image.

The formation of a black hole could require a million years or so, but to envision what that might have looked like, former postdoctoral researcher Aycin Aykutalp – now at Los Alamos National Laboratory – used the National Science Foundation-supported Stampede Supercomputer at the University of Texas at Austin to run a simulation focusing on the aftermath of DCBH formation. The simulation used physics first principles such as gravity, radiation and hydrodynamics.

The research was supported by NASA, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Science Foundation, the Southern Regional Education Board and two Hubble theory grants. (Full Story)

Aluminum triple bond made for first time

Calculated π orbital (purple and pink) Aluminum is yellow and sodium is blue. From C&EN.

Chemists have in the past succeeded in creating compounds containing triple bonds between two gallium or two boron atoms, species that are considered chemical oddities. An equivalent version made with aluminum—gallium and boron’s group 13 periodic table sibling—has so far remained elusive. Ivan A. Popov at Los Alamos National Laboratory proposed attempting Al≡Al as a student in Alexander I. Boldyrev’s group at Utah State University. Now, a few years later, along with Kit H. Bowen of Johns Hopkins University and Xinxing Zhang of Nankai University, who had been working toward the same goal independently, Popov and Boldyrev report experimental and computational confirmation of the bond in gas-phase clusters with sodium ions. (Full Story)

UCF, UCX and a car ride on the road to exascale

HPCwire illustration.

According to Jeff Kuehn from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the idea for the UCF-style consortium and its eventual project OpenUCX, an open-source framework, was conceived in a car ride from Los Alamos up to Colorado Springs and Denver. “Steve Poole and Rich Graham (both at Los Alamos at the time, working with Mellanox and Gilad Shainer) were discussing stacked architecture and recognized the need for a middleware and the problem.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is chairing the consortium, which includes AMD, Argonne, ARM, IBM, Mellanox, NVIDIA, Ohio State University and others —all active participants in the development – amongst other users and other vendors and the U.S. Government. (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at