Friday, November 17, 2017



Earthbound antimatter mystery deepens after scientists rule out pulsar source

HAWC sees the pulsars Geminga and PSR B0656+14 as broad beacons of gamma rays, HAWC image.

Particles like positrons that carry an electric charge are difficult to detect on Earth since they can be deflected by the planet's magnetic field. But scientists have a workaround. The particles also interact with the cosmic microwave background — an ever-present stream of low-energy photons left over from the birth of the universe. "The high-energy electron, or positron, [will] kick the low-energy photon ... so this the photon becomes a high-energy gamma-ray," Zhou said. "These gamma-rays, which have no electric charge, can pass right through the magnetic field and make it all the way to Earth's surface. (Full Story)

Also from Science News



Stellar explosion rocks the universe

Merger of two equal mass neutron stars is simulated using a 3-D computer code, LANL image.

Astrophysicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory were enjoying a typical Friday evening with friends and family on Aug. 25, 2017, when they began hearing excited chatter about a major new astronomical observation pouring in over the phone and social media.

Breaking news doesn’t happen that often in astronomy, and this was big. LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, had detected another gravitational-wave signal, just the fifth announced by the LIGO team since the observatory began operating two years ago. (Full Story)





Scalable clusters make HPC R&D easy as raspberry pi

Gary Grider at the SC17 news conference, LANL photo.

A quest to help the systems software community work on very large supercomputers without having to actually test on them has spawned an affordable, scalable system using thousands of inexpensive Raspberry Pi nodes. It brings a powerful high-performance-computing testbed to system-software developers, researchers, and others who lack machine time on the world’s fastest supercomputers.

“It’s not like you can keep a petascale machine around for R&D work in scalable systems software,” said Gary Grider, leader of the High Performance Computing Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the Trinity supercomputer. “The Raspberry Pi modules let developers figure out how to write this software and get it to work reliably without having a dedicated testbed of the same size, which would cost a quarter billion dollars and use 25 megawatts of electricity.” (Full Story)

Also from The Register



NASA's space nuclear reactor could be the key to colonising Mars

NASA illustration of a Kilopower spacecraft.

"A space nuclear reactor could provide a high energy density power source with the ability to operate independent of solar energy or orientation, and the ability to operate in extremely harsh environments, such as the Martian surface," Patrick McClure, project lead on the Kilopower work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in a statement.

David Poston, the reactor's chief designer said that the technology could also be used in NASA's other space exploration missions. However, the pioneering project will require that scientists keep it simple. (Full Story)



First observations of how a meteor-like shock turns silica into glass

The process that turns silica into shocked glass, LANL image.

The experiments took place at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, a DOE Office of Science User Facility whose ultrafast pulses can reveal processes taking place in millionths of a billionth of a second with atomic resolution.

“We were able for the first time to really visualize from start to finish what happens in a material that makes up a major portion of the Earth’s crust,” said Arianna Gleason of the DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the principal investigator for the study, which was published Nov. 14 in Nature Communications. (Full Story)



X-rays reveal the anatomy of an explosion

Scientists have used X-rays to study how an explosion rips through material in a confined space.

Explosives release energy as they burn, but exactly how the energy is released when the explosive material is enclosed is not well understood. Laura Smilowitz and her colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico used X-rays to peer into aluminium canisters packed with an explosive and heated to ignition. The team recorded high-resolution X-ray movies showing how the burning explosives morphed from solid to gas. (Full Story)




Researchers take next step toward fusion energy

Experimental apparatus, from Texas A&M.

The sun makes energy by fusing hydrogen atoms, each with one proton, into helium atoms, which contain two protons. Helium is the byproduct of this reaction. Although it does not threaten the environment, it wreaks havoc upon the materials needed to make a fusion reactor.

Working with a team of researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Michael Demkowicz of Texas A&M University investigated how helium behaves in nanocomposite solids, materials made of stacks of thick metal layers. (Full Story)



SLAC knows how the universe works

Newer parts of SLAC are built of gleaming metal. C-Net photo.

A $1 billion upgrade at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center called LCLS-II is turning the 2-mile-long accelerator into the world's most powerful X-ray laser. X-rays this powerful can be used like a super-intense camera flash

Often, repurposing is significantly more cost-effective than building from scratch," said John Sarrao, an associate director at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, another Energy Department-funded facility that has its own linear accelerator. (Full Story)




LANL Foundation brings science to classrooms

Bryan Maestas, coordinator of the LANL Foundation Inquiry Science Education Consortium, Monitor photo.

A huge warehouse in Chimayo holds a treasure trove – boxes filled with materials needed to teach young students lessons about energy, matter, or other science topics.

Operated by the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, a nonprofit with programs fostering educational opportunities in communities in the shadow of the national laboratory in Los Alamos, the 7-year-old program offers science education modules or “kits” for northern New Mexico elementary classrooms. (Full Story)

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

How particle physics is shining new light on ancient secrets

Illustration by ScanPyramids

When muons pass through stone and other solid matter, they lose energy. Some come to a stop. Detectors strategically placed in various locations underneath a thick structure — in this case a pyramid some 460 feet tall — can be used to generate a three-dimensional map showing spots where muons are flying through empty space.

“You’re making what looks like an X-ray,” said Christopher Morris, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico who was not involved in the discovery. (Full story)


First-ever U.S. experiments at new x-ray facility may lead to better explosive modeling

The detonation of carbon-rich high explosives yields
solid carbon as a major constituent, LANL image.

For the first time in the U.S., time-resolved small-angle x-ray scattering (TRSAXS) is used to observe ultra-fast carbon clustering and graphite and nanodiamond production in the insensitive explosive Plastic Bonded Explosive (PBX) 9502, potentially leading to better computer models of explosive performance.

“Carbon clusters are produced during the chemical process of detonation in high explosives,” said Dana Dattelbaum of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Explosive Science and Shock Physics Division. (Full story)

Also from R&D Magazine and the Los Alamos Daily Post


NASA Mars 2020 23 eyes and other payload revealed

Mars 2020 cameras, from NASA.

SuperCam, an instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy. The instrument will also be able to detect the presence of organic compounds in rocks and regolith from a distance. The principal investigator is Roger Wiens, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico. This instrument also has a significant contribution from the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales,Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Plane’tologie (CNES/IRAP) France. (Full story)

Friday, November 3, 2017



Computer learns how to imagine the future

In the fourth frame, the computer predicted or "imagined" what the next frame would be, based on the data. LANL image.

The fastest computer in the United States, Trinity has unique capabilities designed for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s stockpile stewardship mission, which includes highly complex nuclear simulations in the absence of testing nuclear weapons. All this capability means Trinity allows a fundamentally different approach to large-scale cortical simulations, enabling an unprecedented leap in the ability to model neural processing.

To test that capability on a limited-scale problem, computer scientists and neuroscientists at Los Alamos created a “sparse prediction machine” that executes a neural network on Trinity. (Full Story)

Also on YouTube




AI earthquake prediction might soon forecast tremors and save lives

Now, a team of scientists working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Cambridge says they might — just might — have cracked the code by using artificial intelligence.

“One has to be really cautious, because we don’t want to be considered nutcases by our colleagues,” Paul Johnson, a Los Alamos National Laboratory fellow and lead investigator on research recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, told Seeker. (Full Story)



Predicting quakes in laboratory analogs

Photo-elastic plates reveal discrete points of stress buildup along both sides of a modeled fault, LANL image.

The time it takes a proxy fault to slip can be inferred from the subtle acoustical signals it emits. Theorist Bertrand Rouet-Leduc of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Cambridge University and his colleagues have developed a technique that extracts the signals from the noise and analyzes their statistical features to infer a material’s instantaneous friction, shear stress, and how likely it is to fail.

The algorithm made a sequence of decisions based on each data parcel’s mean, variance, and other statistical features to predict how much time remained before the next slip. (Full Story)



Cosmic rays have revealed a new chamber in Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Setting up a muon detector inside the Queen’s chamber of the Great Pyramid, from ScanPyramids.

Cosmic rays may have just unveiled a hidden chamber within Egypt’s most famous pyramid.

“If there is more mass, fewer muons get to that detector,” says Christopher Morris at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who uses similar techniques to image the internal structure of nuclear reactors. “When there is less mass, more muons get to the detector.”

“What they’ve seen is fairly definitive,” he says, although it will take drilling and cameras to determine if the cavity is a structural chamber, or a void created by a long-forgotten collapse. (Full Story)




Cosmic rays reveal mysterious void in Egypt’s Great Pyramid

A 3-D rendition of the Great Pyramid, showing the location of the void as a cluster of white dots. From ScanPyramids mission.

High above Egypt and everywhere else, cosmic rays bombard the atmosphere. Now, by monitoring the cosmic rain on Egypt's Great Pyramid, an international research team has detected a large void hidden within 4,500-year-old stone structure.

“If you see the same signal with different technologies, it increases your confidence that what you see is real,” said Konstantin Borozdin, a physicist who worked on muon detection at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and is vice president at Decision Sciences, a California-based security company that uses muon technology to scan vehicles for hidden radioactive cargo. (Full Story)

Also from the New York Times




LANL teams with Pojoaque to boost teacher prep

Lorenzo Gonzales from the Lab’s Math and Science Academy program works with teachers at the recent Ir-Rational Number Institute. LANL photo.

The Laboratory’s Math and Science Academy has selected Pojoaque Valley School District as the partnership school for its new teacher education program, with the aim to develop a model for elementary education.

The aim of the Partnership School initiative is to develop a model for elementary education where pre-service teachers, in-service teachers and principals have opportunities to continually improve their teaching practices,” said Lorenzo Gonzales, education specialist with the academy. (Full Story)

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Friday, October 27, 2017



Machine learning used to predict earthquakes in a lab setting

San Andreas Fault, from PhysOrg.

A group of researchers from the UK and the US have used machine learning techniques to successfully predict earthquakes. Although their work was performed in a laboratory setting, the experiment closely mimics real-life conditions, and the results could be used to predict the timing of a real earthquake.

The team at Los Alamos, led by Paul Johnson, studies the interactions among earthquakes, precursor quakes (often very small earth movements) and faults, with the hope of developing a method to predict earthquakes. (Full Story)



Doped dots release laser light more efficiently

Quantum dot laser light, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Nanotech team has found a way to dope quantum dots with additional electrons to improve their efficiency in tiny laser devices such as opthalmic surgery scalpels.

“When we properly tailor the compositional profile within the particles during their fabrication, and then inject two or more electrons in each dot, they become more able to emit laser light. Importantly, they require considerably less power to initiate the lasing action," said Victor Klimov, leader of the Nanotech team. (Full Story)



Modeling influenza virology and pharmacology

Viral kinetic models can also be combined with PK/PD models to explore how exposure to antiviral drugs reduces viral load and attenuates disease symptoms. PK/PD models have also been used to describe the mechanisms behind the emergence and spread of drug resistance. For example, a research team based out of Los Alamos National Laboratory developed a model that included oseltamivir PK, symptom dynamics, and patient physiological variability. The findings from this model suggested that the timing of initiating prophylactic oseltamivir treatment was a primary factor in the emergence of drug resistance. (Full Story)



Lab awards 2017 Fellows Prizes

From top left: Light, Sinitsyn and Mukundan. Bottom, from left: Flynn and Albright. LANL photo.

Five Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have been awarded the laboratory’s prestigious Fellows Prize in the areas of science or engineering research and leadership.

Among those awarded are Eric Flynn, Harshini Mukundan and Nikolai Sinitsyn were awarded the Fellows’ Prize for Outstanding Research, and Brian Albright and Tess Light were awarded the Fellows Prize for Outstanding Leadership.

“These scientists demonstrate the breadth of scientific research and leadership supporting the Laboratory’s national security mission and benefiting society,” said Alan Bishop, principal associate director for Science, Technology and Engineering. “Their innovative scientific discoveries and leadership represent the highest level of excellence. I congratulate all of them on their achievements.” (Full Story)




Seven Los Alamos scientists honored as APS Fellows

Clockwise from upper right: Zapf, Trugman, Smilowitz, Lewellen, Fontes, Htoon and Kawano. LANL photo.

Seven scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory were tapped this year as new Fellows of the American Physical Society (APS), a significant honor for the Laboratory and its people. The honorees are Christopher J. Fontes, Han Htoon, Toshihiko Kawano, John W. Lewellen, Laura Beth Smilowitz, Stuart A. Trugman and Vivien Zapf.

"Selection as American Physical Society fellows reflects the vibrant engagement that Los Alamos scientists have with the larger scientific community," said Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan. This year, as Los Alamos saw the admission of seven scientists into APS, Director McMillan noted. (Full Story)

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