Friday, August 10, 2018



Laser “license plate” could improve identification of cubesats

Cubesat, NASA image.

A technology using a tiny laser tracker could help resolve one of the major challenges involved with the launching of cubesats: identifying individual satellites after their deployment.

“Cubesats are being launched in larger and larger groups, and, for most cubesat operators, they have no way of telling which object is theirs immediately after launch,” said Rebecca Holmes of Los Alamos National Laboratory. She noted there are other cases where it can be difficult to identify an individual cubesat, such as a lapse in tracking or an unexpected orbital change. (Full Story)



New approach yields high-purity radium for medical applications

Isotope production facility at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

Producing radium isotopes to treat cancer could get easier. Researchers developed a method to recover medical radium isotopes. The process begins with the dissolved proton-irradiated thorium target solution. The process then takes the solution through a series of columns. In each column, different isotopes bind to the different substrates the column contains. With the anticipated scale-up to large thorium targets, dozens of patient treatment doses would be available for recovery from a single production process. Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Isotope Team devised the method with collaborators from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Full Story)



LANL researchers show how computers can predict spread of HIV

HIV attacks a T-Cell.

In a recently published study in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory show that computer simulations can accurately predict the transmission of HIV across populations, which could aid in preventing the disease.

The simulations were consistent with actual DNA data obtained from a global public HIV database, developed and maintained by Los Alamos. The archive has more than 840,000 published HIV sequences for scientific research. (Full Story)

Also from the Monitor this week:


Directors talk of past, future of lab

LANL directors who attended the discussion included Kerr, Browne, Kuckuck, Anastasio, and  McMillan. LANL photo.

In 1942, America’s scientists and military leaders were locked in a race with the Axis Powers to create an atomic weapon, a weapon that in theory would be the most powerful and destructive weapon ever conceived by man.

Seventy-five years later, a panel of the lab’s five out of 10 past lab directors and the lab’s 11th Director Dr. Terry Wallace Jr. met for a public discussion at LANL’s campus, at the Pete V. Domenici Auditorium, July 31 to discuss the unique concept of a national laboratory, a once untried concept that has become the norm. (Full Story)



Lab directors worried about info-wars, education

Current Lab director Terry Wallace, LANL photo.

Get six people who have run Los Alamos National Laboratory together for a chat and ask them about today’s national security threats, and they don’t talk much about the lab’s central subject – nuclear weapons.

Collectively, the current lab director and five men who have been in charge of the nation’s pre-eminent weapons lab in the past say they’re most afraid of economic, cyber or information warfare, or problems in education.  (Full Story)


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Friday, August 3, 2018



Stemming the spread of HIV by accurately predicting its spread

Examining evolutionary relationships in HIV’s genetic code allows researchers  to evaluate how HIV is transmitted, LANL image.

One of the challenges with stemming the spread of HIV lies in understanding how it is spread. Because HIV mutates so rapidly, it has historically been difficult—if not impossible—to trace exactly who transmitted the virus to whom. Without that understanding, it’s easy for the disease to run unfettered through a population—with devastating results. Each year, HIV infects approximately 1.8 million people worldwide. All told, nearly 37 million people are currently estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. But that might be changing.

In a study published this week in the journal Nature Microbiology, my colleagues and I demonstrate that computer simulations can accurately predict the transmission of HIV across populations, which could aid in preventing the disease. (Full Story)

Also from United Press International and Technology Networks




LANL researching algae to convert to affordable fuel

Amanda Barry with mini-ponds of algae, New Mexican photo.

Molecular biologist Amanda Barry and a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Bio-energy and Biome Sciences group are trying to determine whether one particular strain of algae can be produced at low cost and in short periods of time so that it could economically compete with fossil fuels.

“Algae hold great potential as a source of renewable fuel due to their ability to produce refinery-compatible diesel and jet fuel precursors,” Barry said in an interview last week at the New Mexico Consortium’s lab in Los Alamos. (Full Story)

Also from Green Car Congress



Software can model how a wildfire will spread

Photo from The Economist.

Rod Linn of Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, who helped design yet another piece of modelling software, FIRETEC, describes this as “engineering” the behaviour of wildfires. FIRETEC is so sophisticated that it even models how the flames of a planned burn, intended to clear vegetation in a controlled way, will be fed by the wind they generate. This lets users (who include the forest services of Canada and France, as well as the United States) design precise patterns for planned burns, in order to clear surface vegetation without destroying tree canopies. (Full Story)



AI stumbles in the spotlight

Artificial intelligence experts — concerned about reported blunders with high-stakes AI systems from makers like Amazon and IBM — are urging more oversight, testing, and perhaps a fundamental rethinking of the underlying technology.

Wall Street, the military, and other sectors expect AI to make increasingly weighty decisions in the future — with less and less human involvement. But if the systems behave inaccurately or display biases, the consequences outside the lab could cause harm to real people.

Garrett Kenyon, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in an interview that deep learning can’t grasp abstract concepts, or even reliably count or compare objects. (Full Story)

Also from Axios:

The impending war over deepfakes


Kim Jong-Un with Elvis? Photoshoped image from Axios.

Los Alamos researchers are creating a neurologically inspired system that searches for invisible tells that photos are AI-generated. They are testing for compressibility, or how much information the image actually contains. Generated images are simpler than real photos, because they reuse visual elements. The repetition is subtle enough to trick the eye, but not a specially trained algorithm.

AI might never catch 100% of fakes, said Juston Moore, a data scientist at Los Alamos. "But even if it’s a cat-and-mouse game," he said, "I think it’s one worth playing." (Full Story)



You can't just nuke Mars

Mars' south polar cap, ESA photo.

Roger Wiens, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, leads the team behind ChemCam, an instrument aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover. This instrument fires laser pulses at Martian rocks and analyzes the chemical composition of what comes out. He says that Curiosity has seen few carbonate bearing rocks at Gale Crater — the sort of calling card of adsorbed CO2.

“Carbonates are generally not that abundant on Mars,” Wiens says. “When you think about sediments on Earth, you think about carbonates because they’re everywhere.” (Full Story)

Also in Astronomy




Scientists test tiny labels for sorting out space debris

Space junk illustration, ESA image.

David Palmer, an astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, and his colleagues are working on a way to keep tabs on the growing space traffic. Palmer normally studies pulsars -- distant celestial bodies that emit regular pulses of radio waves -- but he realized that their low-power signals could be a model for tracking human-made objects in space. This inspired Palmer and his colleagues to develop postage stamp-sized beacons for satellites that are uniquely identifiable, like license plates in space. These devices, if successful, could become ubiquitous in the industry and help address the worsening problem of proliferating space junk. (Full Story)




Wallace and five former LANL Directors participate in panel for 75th anniversary celebration

Terry Wallace, right, and Donald Kerr, John Browne, Robert Kuckuck, Michael Anastasio and Charlie McMillan, with Ellen Tauscher during Tuesday's event. LANL photo.

Current LANL Director Terry Wallace said the Lab has a rich history expressed by the former directors on stage and as he introduced each one, he referred to the different challenges they faced during their terms. He said today’s challenges don’t look like those faced in 1943 by J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1945 by Norris E. Bradbury or in 1970 by Harold M. Agnew but that they are just as compelling and continue to be framed by world events. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

LANL sponsors back to school drive for students


Last year LANL collected 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies, LANL photo.

Backpacks and supplies can be dropped off at Smith's in Los Alamos, branches of Del Norte Credit Union in Los Alamos, White Rock and EspaƱola, or at the Lab’s Community Partnerships Office at 1619 Central Ave., downtown. Look for the boxes decorated like yellow school buses at those locations (lists of suggested supplies are also available at the boxes).

The Laboratory is working with 12 school districts and the Bureau of Indian Education schools in Northern New Mexico to make sure the backpacks and supplies go to the children that need them most. (Full Story)



Italian scientists first to become citizens at new CIS office

Four-year-old Giulia D'Angelo waves a U.S. flag during the naturalization ceremony for her parents, Journal photo.

At Thursday’s opening of the new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Albuquerque, Milena Veneziani and Gennaro D’Angelo took the oath and became naturalized citizens. They both work at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Jesse Mendez, the director of the Albuquerque field office, said “I think having the special luck to naturalize these two citizens who have contributed not only to the community but the nation as a whole with the work they do as scientists, it was a tremendous opportunity.” (Full Story)


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Friday, July 27, 2018



This bomb-simulating US supercomputer broke a world record

Brad Settlemyer had a supercomputing solution in search of a problem. Los Alamos National Lab, where Settlemyer works as a research scientist, hosts the Trinity supercomputer—a machine that regularly makes the internet’s (ever-evolving) Top 10 Fastest lists. As large as a Midwestern McMansion, Trinity’s main job is to ensure that the cache of US nuclear weapons works when it’s supposed to, and doesn’t when it’s not.

The supercomputer doesn’t dedicate all its digital resources to stockpile stewardship, though. During its nuclear downtime, it also does fundamental research. (Full Story)

 

Inside a nuclear inspector school: How I went on the hunt for uranium

Nuclear inspectors learn to identify radioactive samples, LANL photo.

It was a blisteringly hot morning when I reported to Los Alamos National Laboratory for nuclear inspector school. The lab is the old home of the Manhattan Project, the secret effort to develop the first nuclear weapons. It sits atop a mesa north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, isolated by geography and security checkpoints.

Credentials checked, I was driven down “Plutonium Corridor,” a main road that passes a building encased in five layers of barbed fencing. It is where they design and maintain nuclear bombs. Elsewhere, LANL trains nuclear inspectors detect plutonium and enriched uranium – the hallmarks of nuclear weapon-building programmes. (Full Story)



NASA Glenn develops mini nuclear reactor to power space missions

NASA engineers test the Kilopower unit, NASA photo.

While nuclear power in Ohio heads into the sunset, NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland has developed a portable nuclear energy system for outer space.

The KRUSTy experiment, or “Kilowatt Reactor Using Stirling Technology,” is a tongue-in-cheek reference to The Simpson’s chain-smoking Krusty the Clown.

An earlier experiment called the Duff test – a nod Homer’s favorite beer – paved the way for KRUSTy, according to Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Patrick McClure.

"Duff actually convinced NASA and gave them enough confidence that we could do the more expensive Krusty experiment and we actually had a chance of success,” McClure says. (Full Story)



Feeding plants to this algae could fuel your car

Algae is examined under UV light, LANL photo.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and partner institutions recently provided the first published report of algae using raw plants as a carbon energy source. The research shows that a freshwater production strain of microalgae, Auxenochlorella protothecoides, is capable of directly degrading and utilizing non-food plant substrates, such as switchgrass, for improved cell growth and lipid productivity, useful for boosting the algae’s potential value as a biofuel. (Full Story)



Promising LANL innovations take spotlight

From left, Antonio Redondo, Feynman Center for Innovation; Nancy Jo Nicholas, PADGS; Bette Korber; Lee Finewood of DOE NNSA, and Daniel Lockney, NASA technology transfer.  LANL photo.

Los Alamos scientist Bette Korber was recently honored with the 2018 Richard P. Feynman Innovation Prize for her ground-breaking HIV vaccine designs. Korber was recognized at a ceremony that celebrates the “Next Big Idea” – scientific breakthroughs that achieved exceptional innovation.

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Laura Lilley and Yuxiang Chen also were recognized for outstanding presentations at DisrupTech — an annual event hosted by Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation at Los Alamos and New Mexico Angels — that offers scientists a platform to present their work to businesses and the community. (Full Story)

Also from the Los Alamos Monitor

Another from the Daily Post this week:

Jaqueline Kiplinger elected Fellow of American Chemical Society


Jaqueline Kiplinger, LANL photo

Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow Jaqueline Kiplinger has been announced as a fellow of the American Chemical Society. She is among 51 new fellows for the nation’s key chemistry organization and is one of only seven from Los Alamos in the laboratory’s 75-year history.

“I am very honored and humbled to be distinguished as an ACS Fellow and to join many great scientists who already hold this lifetime recognition for outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession, and ACS,” Kiplinger said. (Full Story)


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Friday, July 20, 2018




Feeding plants to this algae could fuel your car

Amanda Barry of Los Alamos’s Bioenergy
and Biome Sciences group, lead author on
the study. LANL photo.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and partner institutions provided today the first published report of algae using raw plants as a carbon energy source. The research shows that a freshwater production strain of microalgae, Auxenochlorella protothecoides, is capable of directly degrading and utilizing non-food plant substrates, such as switchgrass, for improved cell growth and lipid productivity, useful for boosting the algae's potential value as a biofuel. (Full story)

Also from the LA Daily Post




Raspberry Pi supercomputers: From DIY clusters to 750-board monsters

The Los Alamos cluster, LANL photo.

The Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) machine serves as a supercomputer testbed and is built from a cluster of 750 Raspberry Pis, which may later grow to 10,000 Pi boards.

According to Gary Grider, head of its LANL's HPC division, the Raspberry Pi cluster offers the same testing capabilities as a traditional supercomputing testbed, which could cost as much as $250m. In contrast 750 Raspberry Pi boards at $35 each would cost just under $48,750, though the actual cost of installing the rack-mounted Pi clusters, designed by Bitscope, would likely be more. (Full story)



 
 

ScienceFest loaded with experiments

Ada Mjolsness works on connecting wires
between a hand crank and an electric motor.
Monitor photo.

At the Bradbury Science Museum booth, Ada Mjolsness, 7, was hooking wires to a small motor that she powered with a hand crank as mom and dad watched.

“It’s an amazing event. We’re shocked at how many things there are to do,” said Ada’s mother, Lora. “They can actually, touch, feel and experiment. To me that’s the key to getting kids interested in science. (Full story)


Also from the Monitor this week:

Public gets first tour Manhattan Project sites

Built in 1944, the Battleship Bunker supported
implosion diagnostic tests for the Fat Man bomb.
NNSA photo.

The U. S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office and Los Alamos National Laboratory partnered with the U. S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, for a pilot tour of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos Thursday and Friday as part of  ScienceFest.

“I believe today’s tour provided a meaningful experience to all the participants and we look forward to planning the next one,” said Steve Goodrum, NNSA Los Alamos field office manager. (Full story)