Friday, January 20, 2017



Weird Mars rock spied by Curiosity Rover is probably a meteorite

“Ames Knob” is an iron-nickel meteorite, Space.com image.

The meteorites found by Curiosity — and by the rover's smaller, older cousins, Spirit and Opportunity — could help scientists understand how the Red Planet changed so dramatically over the eons, said ChemCam principal investigator Roger Wiens, of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"We hope that the meteorites will be able to tell us some information about the Mars environment, such as whether they fell on land or in water, or how dense the atmosphere was when they fell," Wiens told Space.com via email.




D-Wave open sources quantum app development software

D-Wave image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Computer Scientist Scott Pakin built a quantum macro assembler called qmasm that leverages qbsolv to create programs that would otherwise be too large to implement on the D-Wave system. Other national labs are using qbsolv to develop quantum computing frameworks that they hope to open source.

In June 2016, LANL’s Information Science and Technology Institute asked scientists to propose projects involving the use of the D-Wave machine. The goal was to expose as many people as possible to D-Wave software development.




Using neutrons to shed light on diabetes

Amyloid peptides may disrupt the cell
membranes of beta cells in the pancreas,
from WPI

With neutron reflectometry technology at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a research team that included Izabela Stroe at Worchester Polytechnic Institute explored the role that amyloid polypeptides may play in the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Using specialized equipment at Los Alamos, the team observed what happened to the model membranes when they came in contact with human IAPP. One of the tools they used, neutron reflectometry, is able to produce images of the membranes with high spatial resolution due to the way neutrons scatter from biological objects.




LANS to fund $2.5 million in community projects
 

Los Alamos National Security, LLC reaffirmed its investment in the community Wednesday, announcing that its board of directors approved $2.5 million to fund community support projects. The investment will go to support education, economic development and charitable giving in the northern New Mexico region. LANS is the management and operations contractor for the Los Alamos National Laboratory.



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Friday, January 13, 2017



Science on the Hill: What cosmology tells us about quantum mechanics

Cosmology, the study of the universe at gargantuan distances, has recently become good enough to test our understanding of quantum mechanics, which describes minuscule, subatomic systems. A possibly surprising consequence is that quantum mechanics, in turn, helps cosmologists understand observations of the vastness of space, including those soon to be made with forthcoming “extremely large” telescopes.

Given Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 70-plus years of research in nuclear physics, and its nuclear stockpile mission, the lab has a vested interest in knowing everything about the subatomic world, now and way back then. (Full Story)


Quantum computing is real, and D-Wave just open-sourced it

D-Wave hardware, from D-Wave.

IBM demonstrated a working quantum computer in 2000 and continues to improve on its technology. Google is working on its own quantum computer and also teamed up with NASA to test D-Wave’s system in 2013. Lockheed Martin and the Los Alamos National Laboratory are also working with D-Wave machines. But today’s quantum computers still aren’t practical for most real-world applications.

That’s where the company’s new software tool Qbsolv comes in. Last year Scott Pakin of Los Alamos National Laboratory–and one of Qbsolv’s first users–released another free tool called Qmasm, which also eases the burden of writing code for D-Wave machines. (Full Story)



NASA's bold plan to save Earth from killer asteroids

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), NASA image.

If we don't have 50 years or a fast enough battering ram, we might need to break up an asteroid instead. Catherine Plesko of Los Alamos National Laboratory uses supercomputers to study how to break up asteroids using nuclear explosions and "kinetic impactors," essentially giant space cannonballs.

"Cannonball technology is actually very good technology, because you're intercepting the object at very high speed, so it ends up being more effective than conventional high explosives," Plesko said at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in December. (Full Story)



And the Oscar goes to “Organ-On-A-Chip”

Lung module from the PuLMo system, LANL image.

In a world of nanotechnologies and microchips, the ability for large-scale processes to take place on the microscale are becoming increasingly prevalent, even in the environment of combating chemical and biological threats to our warfighters. A research effort by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Joint Science and Technology Office, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Wake Forest University has resulted in an award-winning miniature technology in the eX-vivo Capability for Evaluation and Licensure (XCEL) program, the Pulmonary Lung Model (PuLMo). (Full Story)

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Friday, January 6, 2017


Astrobiology Top 10: NASA rover findings point to a more Earth-like Martian past 














Mars geology, NASA image.


This research also adds important context to other clues about atmospheric oxygen in Mars’ past. The manganese oxides were found in mineral veins within a geological setting the Curiosity mission has placed in a timeline of ancient environmental conditions. From that context, the higher oxygen level can be linked to a time when groundwater was present in the rover’s Gale Crater study area.

“The only ways on Earth that we know how to make these manganese materials involve atmospheric oxygen or microbes,” said Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “Now we’re seeing manganese oxides on Mars, and we’re wondering how the heck these could have formed?”





Stunning new image reveals the view from lower Mount Sharp














Mars Curiosity, NASA image.

Another ingredient increasing in recent measurements by Curiosity is the element boron, which the rover's laser-shooting Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument has been detecting within mineral veins that are mainly calcium sulfate. 

'No prior mission has detected boron on Mars,' said Patrick Gasda of the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico. 

'We're seeing a sharp increase in boron in vein targets inspected in the past several months.' 






Leaky plumbing impedes Greenland ice sheet flow















Surface meltwater that drains to the bed of the Greenland Ice Sheet each summer causes changes in ice flow that cannot be fully explained by prevailing theories. Now a multinational, multidisciplinary team led by ice sheet modelers at Los Alamos National Laboratory is exploring how changes in extensive, sediment-choked subglacial “swamps” actually explain why the ice sheet’s movement slows down in late summer and winter.






Amid transitions, both NM nuke labs get good evaluations













Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, both in the midst of management transitions, got good marks from the federal government in performance evaluations for the 2016 fiscal year that ended in September. 

Los Alamos lab director Charles McMillan, in a memo to his employees obtained by the Journal, said, “As I have stated many times in the past, the people of the Laboratory are and will remain this institution’s greatest asset. The mission and operational successes of 2016 are a tribute to your spirit and character. I continue to anticipate a vibrant future filled with technical challenges worthy of this national laboratory.”






LANL improves in annual federal evaluation













An annual federal evaluation of Los Alamos National Laboratory, made public Wednesday, showed marked improvement in the lab’s overall management practices and its ability to handle nuclear weapons programs and maintain operations.

The new report for Los Alamos showed the lab exceeded expectations in resuming work at the plutonium facility and the weapons engineering tritium facility, which is used to research fusion energy. Strides also were made in cleaning up old facilities contaminated by radiation from weapons production, meeting goals in this area by 75 percent.




































Friday, December 23, 2016

Top Los Alamos science stories of 2016









From discoveries on Mars to breakthroughs in cancer research, from national security science to materials science, 2016 has proven to be another productive year for Los Alamos National Laboratory achievements.

‘This year’s significant advancements in high-performance computing, materials science, cancer research as well as national security, space exploration and nuclear nonproliferation science underscore the Lab’s unique multidisciplinary scientific capabilities,’ said Alan Bishop.





NASA’s far-flung space robots keep finding signs of water

















An illustration of the space probe dawn arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA)

Robotic explorers have found signs of long-lost water on Mars and extensive ice still present on the dwarf planet Ceres — evidence that water truly is almost everywhere we look.

The results were announced last week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union — the world's largest gathering of Earth and space scientists. There, NASA scientists discussed the results from several of the dozen space probes currently exploring the universe beyond our planet.





Scientists may have found evidence of life-supporting water on Mars












While scientists are working hard to reach Mars, others are trying to discover whether something beat us there already.

Researchers have long known that Mars is barren and uninhabited, but the question as to whether life ever exited in the planet's past is still up for debate.






Asteroid insurance: LANL researcher studies how to defend Earth from massive collisions



















This rendering shows NASA’s DART spacecraft serving as a “kinetic impactor” in an effort to change the orbit of the “moonlet” that revolves around the bigger Dydimos asteroid. (ESA Photo)

Cathy Plesko, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, just wants us to be ready.
She’s a computational geophysicist whose computer models are intended to help figure out how to avoid the potential apocalypse of big comets or asteroids striking the Earth.

“It’s one of those things, like I keep a fire extinguisher in my kitchen,” Plesko says, “not because I expect to have a kitchen fire, but just in case, because sometimes kitchen fires happen.”
Right now, apparently, Earth has no extinguisher for asteroids.







Evaluating Reaction Of A Giant Asteroid Making A Splash Into The Sea

What could possibly occur when a huge asteroid strikes the sea?
Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory wanted to evaluate what could possibly occur when a huge asteroid strikes the sea. They found the results to be extremely fascinating. The study was presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting.
The study spearheaded by Galen Gisler and team from ANL employed supercomputers to gauge the impact of a speeding space rock hitting the ocean.









DNA Markers Distinguish Between Harmless, Deadly Bacteria 

Scanning electron micrograph of a murine macrophage infected with Francisella tularensis strain LVS.

The virulent pathogen that causes the disease tularemia, or "rabbit fever," was weaponized during past world wars and is considered a potential bioweapon. Through a new study of the coccobacillus Francisella, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers are working to use DNA markers to discern related but relatively harmless species as they are identified and to provide a means to distinguish them from the harmful F. tularensis. 

"This large study is particularly notable for having used 31 publicly available genomes plus select genes from about 90 additional isolates," said corresponding author Cheryl Kuske of the Bioenergy & Biome Sciences group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The paper was published in the current issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology (AEM).






Leaky plumbing impedes Greenland Ice Sheet flow

















On the Greenland Ice Sheet, the ice flow more than doubles in speed in many regions during summer, as surface melt drains to the bed and lubricates the motion.

Surface meltwater that drains to the bed of the Greenland Ice Sheet each summer causes changes in ice flow that cannot be fully explained by prevailing theories. Now a multinational, multidisciplinary team led by ice sheet modelers at Los Alamos National Laboratory is exploring how changes in extensive, sediment-choked subglacial "swamps" actually explain why the ice sheet's movement slows down in late summer and winter.

"The drainage system beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet controls how fast the ice flows towards the sea and ultimately contributes to sea-level change," said Matthew Hoffman, lead author on the project and an ice-sheet modeler at Los Alamos. "For more than a decade it's been known that the ice flow more than doubles in speed in many regions during summer, as surface melt drains to the bed and lubricates the motion. This acceleration sends ice to the sea faster. However, the motion also slows down in late summer, fall, and winter, which largely offsets the summer speedup. Exactly why it slows down as much as it does and for as long as it does has not been clear.