Friday, March 20, 2020



Are we ready for quantum computers?

Quantum illustration from SciAm.

As we wait for the hardware to catch up with theory, researchers in quantum information science will continue to study and implement quantum algorithms useful for the currently available noisy, fault-ridden machines. But many of us are also taking a longer view, pushing theory deep into the intersection of quantum physics, information theory, complexity and mathematics and opening up new frontiers to explore, once we have the quantum computers to take us there.

This column's author, Rolando Somma, conducts research on quantum information theory and condensed matter physics in the Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems Group of the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)


How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet

Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev after signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991. Photo from Nature.

Comparisons with giant wildfires could also help in resolving a controversy about the scale of the potential impacts. A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico argues that Robock’s group has overestimated how much soot burning cities would produce and how high the smoke would go.

The Los Alamos group used its own models to simulate the climate impact of India and Pakistan setting off 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs. The scientists found that much less smoke would get into the upper atmosphere than Toon and Robock reported. With less soot to darken the skies, the Los Alamos team calculated a much milder change to the climate — and no nuclear winter. (Full Story)


Scientists design water splitting technology to create affordable renewable energy

Illustration from Energy News 24

A collaborative team of scientists including those from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Washington State University have discovered an innovative way of splitting water into parts in order to make renewable energy, even if the sun and the wind are at its weakest.

The method uses solar and wind power when it is available for water splitting. Furthermore, the process uses electricity to split H20 into hydrogen and oxygen and thus stores energy in the form of hydrogen fuel.

“The current water electrolysis system uses a very expensive catalyst. In our system, we use a nickel-iron based catalyst, which is much cheaper, but the performance is comparable,” explains Yu Seung Kim, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and corresponding author on the paper. (Full Story)


New program helps New Mexico small businesses bring technology to market

New Mexico companies who find themselves up a creek without venture capital to ferry them across the research and development gap from invention to commercialization may receive a life-preserver thanks to a new law recently passed by the New Mexico Legislature and signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Qualifying companies may receive up to $150,000 per year in technical assistance from Los Alamos National Laboratory or Sandia National Laboratories, applicable toward activities such as prototyping, field demonstrations, technical validation, and testing—expensive endeavors critical to any new product’s success.  (Full Story)


Los Alamos National Laboratory ‘s Community Programs Office provides food staples for seniors

Joanna Gillespie of the Los Alamos National Laboratory ‘s Community Programs Office hands off ‘shelf staples’ provided to seniors of local senior centers to provide meals to seniors. Seniors 60 and over are welcome to join the centers for free in White Rock or Los Alamos. Call (505) 662-8920 for information or visit www.losalamosseniorcenter.com (Full Story)

Also from the Reporter this week:

LANL Foundation awards $741,000 To 110 Northern New Mexico scholarship recipients

Monica Chavez, a graduating senior at the New Mexico School for the Deaf, LANL Foundation photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation, in partnership with the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF), has awarded $741,000 during its 2020 four-year scholarship cycle. These scholarships will support the educational goals of 110 Northern New Mexico students.

Three graduating seniors, Monica Chavez, New Mexico School for the Deaf, Lillian Peterson, Los Alamos High School and Kyran Romero, Santa Fe Indian School, were awarded the top-level $20,000 Gold Scholarship. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 13, 2020


U.S. flu season beginning to ease, modelers say

Image from NPR.

Each year, the CDC invites computer scientists to run enter a competition called FluSight to see which model gave the best prediction. Last year Dave Osthus, a statistician at Los Alamos National Laboratory won for a model he called Dante, which bases its predictions almost exclusively on historical patterns of disease.

He says his model, and others models he's aware of, all say the worst of this year's season is behind us. "That said, levels currently are still quite high," Osthus says. "So we have good news — sort of — on the horizon, but we're still in an elevated situation." (Full story)


Mutations can reveal how the coronavirus moves — but they’re easy to overinterpret

Covid-19 illustration, CDC image.

“This is an incredibly important disease. We need to understand how it is moving,” says Bette Korber, a biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who is also studying the genome of SARS-CoV-2. “With very limited evolution during the outbreak, [these researchers] are doing what they can and they are making suggestions, which I think at this point should be taken as suggestions.”

Now, more diversity is emerging. Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 evolves over time through random mutations, only some of which are caught and corrected by the virus’s error correction machinery. (Full story)


Also from Science this week:

Next generation water splitter could help renewables power the globe

A new electrolyzer enables hydrogen generation
from water without expensive catalysts. LANL photo.

Running the world on renewable energy is simple, in principle: Harvest solar and wind energy, and use any extra to power devices called electrolyzers that split water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen gas. Hydrogen (H2) can serve as a fuel; it is also a staple of the chemical industry. The trouble is that current electrolyzers are costly, requiring either expensive catalysts or pricey metal housings.

Yu Seung Kim and his colleagues at Los Alamos, along with researchers at Washington State University, say their new device creates a highly alkaline environment to encourage water splitting. But it does so with the proton-exchange membrane approach of tethering catalysts to opposite faces of an ion-conducting membrane ... without the big-ticket materials. (Full story)


 
What is the Fifth Force?

Is there a new force in nature? Image from Discover.

“From a particle physics perspective, anomalies come and go,” says Daniele Alves, a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We’ve learned over time to not be too biased with one interpretation or the other. The important thing is to get to the bottom of this.”

“People are paying attention to see whether this is really a nuclear physics effect or whether it’s something systematic,” Alves says. “It’s important to repeat those experiments ... to be able to test whether this is real or if it’s an artifact of the way they’re doing the experiment.” (Full story)


 
Mapping Lightning Strikes from Space

Credit: Unsplash/Josep Castells.

If lightning strikes anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, odds are it has already been detected and mapped by satellite-bound cameras orbiting some 35,000 kilometers above Earth.

Lightning flashes are more typically mapped from ground-based networks using radio frequencies to generate precise data on the order of meters. However, ground-based systems have a limited line of sight. The view from a satellite does not, for example, need to “account for things like tree lines or city skylines or even just general dissipation over distance,” said Michael Peterson, an atmospheric scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The idea of using a satellite to detect lightning has been around since at least the 1980s, but with the launch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite–R Series (GOES-R) weather satellites starting in 2016, researchers and forecasters have attained unprecedented levels of lightning data from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) instruments attached to the satellites. (Full story)



LANL scientists launching gut bacteria study in space

LANL researcher Armand Dichosa, LANL image.

New Mexico scientists are launching an experiment to the International Space Station to find out how gut bacteria and people’s overall health changes over time in space.

The testing aims to help protect future astronauts and find out how to prevent negative effects on everyone’s gut health. “We are really excited. We want to find out what is going to happen when these microbes are in space,” LANL Microbiologist Anand Kumar said.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Labs are sending off two dozen so-called gut microbiome samples to the International Space Station on the SpaceX 20 Friday night. (Full story)


Also reported in the LA Daily Post

Friday, March 6, 2020



How computer modeling of COVID-19's spread could help fight the virus

Viral particles in a color-enhanced micrograph from a COVID-19 patient, CDC image.

Sara Del Valle, a mathematical and computational epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, says she'd like to see a global center set up to constantly collect information about circulating infectious illnesses.

Much like how the National Weather Service provides forecasts to help people prepare for their local weather, she says, such a center could tell people about their local risk of infectious diseases.

"People could actually, you know, just open their phones and open an app and then see the probability of infection," she says. "It could say like, 'There's a 20% probability of getting flu in your community, based on what is spreading there.'" (Full Story)


 

How changes to the climate will impact the spread of infectious diseases

Bats take flight, image from The Week.

Most of the new diseases we humans have faced in the past several decades have come from animals. "As people move and wildlife move in response to a changing environment, humans and wildlife and animals will come in contact more regularly," said Jeanne Fair from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Fair argues that by shifting animal habitats, climate change will also make the opportunities for disease spillover more frequent.

"Everything is sort of shifting and will shift into the future as the environment changes through climate change," Fair said.

Scientists, including climatologists and epidemiologists on Fair's team at Los Alamos, are beginning to model how changes to the climate will impact the spread of infectious diseases. (Full Story)




Space weather model gives earlier warning of satellite-killing radiation storms

Electron observations (top) and predictions, LANL image.

A new machine-learning computer model accurately predicts damaging radiation storms caused by the Van Allen belts two days prior to the storm, the most advanced notice to date, according to a new paper in the journal Space Weather.

"Radiation storms from the Van Allen belts can damage or even knock out satellites orbiting in medium and high altitudes above the Earth, but predicting these storms has always been a challenge," said Yue Chen, a space scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and principal investigator on the project jointly funded by NASA and NOAA. (Full Story)

Also from Space Ref



NASA’s Mars rover has captured the planet’s surface in unprecedented detail

NASA image.

Last year, Curiosity found a mysterious ‘oasis’ on the surface of Mars, raising hopes that evidence of life may also one day be found on the Red Planet.

‘We’ve learned over the years of Curiosity’s traverse across Gale Crater that Mars’ climate was habitable once, long ago,’ said Roger Wiens, the principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of a paper on the research. ‘What these new findings show is that the climate on Mars was not as stable as we thought it was. ‘There were very wet periods and very dry periods.’ (Full Story)



Enlisting bacteria to make ‘green’ nylon

Image from Digital Journal.

Using bacteria to convert sugars into “green” products, such as polymer precursors for nylon, is progressing due to advances with metabolic engineering such as a specially designed biosensor from Los Alamos.

The Los Alamos project forms part of the Agile BioFoundry, which is a multi-national lab consortium funded by U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO).

“Using the LANL-created biosensor we were able to screen the microbe for both growth and muconate production simultaneously” explains Niju Narayanan, a lead contributor to this research. (Full Story)

Also from KRQE-TV

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Friday, February 28, 2020



Mars is humming. Scientists aren’t sure why

InSight is designed to map out Mars's interior structures, NASA image.

Under its frigid, dusty surface, Mars is humming. The quiet, constant drone periodically pulses with the beat of quakes rippling around the planet, but the source of this alien music remains unknown.

Analysis suggests the Mars hum is unrelated to the planet’s roaring winds, and it seems to strengthen with the crack of a distant marsquake. The effect is a little like causing a bell to ring by yelling nearby, explains Joshua Carmichael, a quantitative geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was not involved in the research. Your voice is a mix of frequencies, and if one matches the resonance of the bell, your shouts can set it ringing. (Full Story)



Uranium and thorium make their debut in dual aromatic–antiaromatic molecule

First of their kind actinide compounds, image from Chemistry World.

The first metallabiphenylenes – molecules that have both aromatic and antiaromatic rings – have been made by chemists in the US. One of the compounds contains a uranium, the other a thorium atom.

A team led by Jaqueline Kiplinger at Los Alamos National Laboratory has now made two actinide metallabiphenylenes. Both the red–brown uranium complex and the bright yellow thorium derivative were synthesised by combining dicyclopentadiene complexes of the metals with potassium graphite, an extremely strong reducing agent. (Full Story)



Machine learning reveals earth tremor and slip occur continuously, not intermittently

Applying deep learning to seismic data has revealed tremor and slip occur at all times—before and after known large-scale slow-slip earthquakes—rather than intermittently in discrete bursts, as previously believed. Even more surprisingly, the machine learning generalizes to other tectonic environments, including the San Andreas Fault.

"The work tells us that the physics of friction on faults appears to have universal characteristics—something we suspected but could not prove," said Bertrand Rouet-Leduc, a geophysicist in the Geophysics group at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author on the paper. (Full Story)



Scientists in New Mexico studying link between coronavirus and animals

Scientists in New Mexico are studying the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases, trying to help stop a pandemic. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are looking into the cause and how to stop it.

They say there is a link between people and animals and believe that the more people come in contact with animals, the more diseases like the coronavirus will spread. “That can be through many ways -- through consumption of wildlife, through interaction with wildlife and what we’ve all heard through the news, with wet markets where wildlife is sold,” Dr. Jeanne Fair, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory said. (Full Story)



Going Viral

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists Jeanne Fair (left) and Sara Del Valle, LANL photo.

Sara Del Valle, the deputy group leader for LANL's Information Systems and Modeling Group, develops mathematical and computational models for infectious diseases. She has developed epidemiological models for smallpox, anthrax, HIV, Ebola, influenza, among others.

LANL Deputy Group Leader for Biosecurity & Public Health Jeanne Fair focuses on epidemiology and animal disease ecology, and was the principle investigator for a 24-year research project on the impacts of environmental stress on avian populations and infectious diseases. (Full Story)



Disease modeller says Covid-19 risk to NZ is very low

Photo from Radio New Zealand.

Sara Del Valle is an applied mathematician and disease modeller at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Like a weather forecaster, she uses mathematical equations to identify patterns in the hope of being able to predict trends that could be a threat to global security. Del Valle and other disease modellers have gazed into their computers to see the future of Covid-19 and the news is not bad for New Zealand. (Full Story)



To defeat Coronavirus, win the containment battle

Early estimates of the basic reproductive number r0 — a key epidemiological figure that reflects the number of new cases, on average, resulting from a single infection in a fully susceptible population — looked to be in the range of 2 to 3.

The largest estimate of r0 so far, in the range of 4.7 to 6.6, comes from a new study by a modeling group at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Instead of using data collected in Wuhan, Hubei province, which are unreliable for many reasons, this study relied on data collected outside Hubei province. Data on human movements were gathered from the Baidu Migration server, an online platform that reports mobile-phone travel data, providing a high-resolution picture of travel patterns in China. (Full Story)



Santa Fe startup NTxBio plans expansion

Hallie Rane, senior scientist at NTxBio, New Mexican photo.

NTxBio President and co-founder Alex Koglin took two compounds he developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop new methods to produce pharmaceuticals that do not employ a commonly used fermentation process that he says is slow, needs a lot of space and is prone to contamination.

“You can produce [pharmaceuticals] in a much smaller space,” Koglin said. “Pharmaceutical companies need 10,000 to 30,000 square feet and $400 million to $500 million to produce one drug. (Full Story)



Computational storage winds its way towards the mainstream

Applications for Eideticom’s NoLoad devices cover both storage and compute applications again, with the company stating it supports computational accelerators for compression, encryption, erasure coding, deduplication, data analytics, AI and ML workloads.

Eideticom announced last year that it had worked with the Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop a storage system using a Lustre/ZFS-based parallel filesystem with NoLoad performing compression, erasure, checksumming and dedupe functions.

Eideticom received seed and strategic financing from Inovia Capital and Molex Ventures in 2019, but exact figures have not been disclosed. (Full Story)




What was the Manhattan Project?

Enrico Fermi's Los Alamos badge photo. LANL image.

The Manhattan Project enlisted the help of thousands of scientists across the country. Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, physicists at the University of Chicago, were particularly important in the effort.

These scientists all worked under J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project's scientific director and leader of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Los Alamos wasn't the only laboratory involved in the Manhattan Project. The Met Lab at the University of Chicago and the Rad Lab at the University of California, Berkeley both had important roles.  (Full Story)


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