Friday, October 11, 2019

Ancient oasis once existed on Mars

The Curiosity Rover, NASA image.

The surface of Mars was once home to shallow, salty ponds that went through episodes of overflow and drying, according to a paper published today in Nature Geoscience.

“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 a co-author of the paper. “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—as these sulfate-rich rocks show us.” (Full story)

Modified quantum dots capture more energy
Doping a quantum dot with manganese
speeds the capture of energy, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have synthesized magnetically-doped quantum dots that capture the kinetic energy of electrons created by ultraviolet light before it’s wasted as heat.

“This discovery can potentially enable novel, highly-efficient solar cells, light detectors, photocathodes and light-driven chemical reactions,” said Victor Klimov, lead researcher on the Laboratory’s quantum dot project.

In standard solar cells, a large amount of sunlight energy is wasted as heat. This waste occurs due to the lack of effective approaches for capturing kinetic energy of ‘hot’ electrons generated by photons in the green to ultraviolet portion of the sun’s light spectrum. (Full story)

Ancient tsunamis that left their mark

Location of Burckle Crater in the Indian
Ocean. From Ancient Origins.

Burckle crater was discovered in 2005 by Dr. Dallas Abbott who estimates it to be between 4,500 to 5,000 years old. The obvious explanation is that a large comet or asteroid smashed into the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago, producing a monster tsunami at least 600 feet (183 meters) high.          

Bruce Masse, an environmental archeologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory believes that the comet fell on May 10, 2807 BC according to information contained in many flood myths from around the world, particularly those mentioning a full solar eclipse which occurred on that day. (Full story)

Los Alamos Reporter visits LANL emergency management division

The Emergency Response Training Center has
props for training exercises, LA Reporter photo.

For more than 12,500 employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the phone number to remember is 7-2400. This is the phone number for the 24-hour Emergency Operations Support Center (EOSC) at Technical Area 69 which operates seven days a week.

The EOSC monitors the LANL fire alarm system, receives notification of incidents and emergencies, and dispatches LANL emergency responders. It also activates other response elements throughout the 43-square mile site, issues protective actions to workers and makes any required notifications. The slogan on bright yellow posters says, “When in doubt, call the EOSC 24/7”. And yes, there’s an app for that! (Full story)

Also from the LA Reporter this week:

John Sarrao named to state technology research collaborative board

John Sarrao, LANL photo.  

The New Mexico Economic Development Department’s (NMEDD) Science and Technology Division has named new board members for the Technology Research Collaborative (TRC) including John Sarrao, Deputy Director for Science, Technology, and Engineering at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The TRC was formalized in 2003, with the goal of promoting technology commercialization in New Mexico, increasing high- paying jobs, and diversifying the economy. (Full story)

Friday, October 4, 2019

What Google’s quantum supremacy claim means for quantum computing

Google used a 54-qubit processor in its quantum supremacy experiment. Google photo.

Google’s team has even coined a term to describe how quickly quantum computing could gain on classical computing: “Neven’s Law,” which describes how quantum computing seems to gain power far more rapidly through double exponential growth.

“If you’ve ever plotted a double exponential [on a graph], it looks like the line is zero and then you hit the corner of a box and you go straight up,” says Andrew Sornborger, a theoretical physicist who studies quantum computers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “And so before and after, it’s not so much like an evolution, it’s more like an event—before you hit the corner and after you hit the corner.” (Full Story)

LANL teams with Arm for extreme-scale computing

Efficient Mission Centric Computing Consortium (EMC3), LANL graphic.

Los Alamos National Laboratory and Arm are teaming up to make efficient, workload-optimized processors tailored to the extreme-scale computing requirements of the Laboratory’s national-security mission. The collaboration addresses the challenges of connecting more and more processors as high performance computers become larger and more powerful.

High performance computers play a pivotal role in Los Alamos’ mission of maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpile and understanding complicated physics through extreme-scale simulations that can take months to complete on today’s fastest computers. (Full Story)

Brazilian woman diagnosed with HIV after getting a manicure

Illustration from the Sentinel of Guwahati, India.

In a strange incident, a 22-year-old Brazilian woman was diagnosed with HIV after getting a manicure using shared equipment. Doctors say the case, which was first reported in the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses last year, highlights a “new form of transmission for the virus.” According to Dr. Brian Foley, of the HIV Sequence Database at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA, the incident should not make you fearful of contact with people who have HIV because the risk of infection is very low.”

“It should make people aware that sharing any utensils with possible blood-blood contacts, such as needles used for drugs, tattoos, or acupuncture can result in the transmission of viruses such as hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV.” (Full Story)

Los Alamos Reporter visits with LANL air and water quality monitoring staff

David Fuehne explains how data is obtained by air monitoring stations throughout the area. LA Reporter photo.

Living with a national laboratory in the neighborhood, the safety and health of the people and the environment probably crosses one’s mind a little more often than it might if one were living elsewhere. On a recent visit to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Los Alamos Reporter was surprised to learn that more than 700 staff members are involved in the Lab’s 140 environmental safety and health programs – making it comparable to a state program as large as that run by the state of California.

The morning began with a tour of some of the Lab’s offsite AIRNET air monitoring equipment close to Los Alamos Medical Center with David Fuehne, technical program leader for radionuclide emissions. In terms of pollution, Fuehne and his team are looking for particulate radionuclides like uranium or plutonium. (Full Story)

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Making a material difference

These components were fabricated at the Signma Complex at Los Alamos National Laboratory, LANL photo.

High-tech additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a good way to take the guesswork out of precisely fabricating a hollow metal object, while tweaking and fine-tuning the properties of the material composing it.         

Additive manufacturing is a potential way to solve the performance challenges a component faces with hard use in harsh environments … Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Sigma Complex apply fundamental science and research to take this advanced manufacturing to an even higher level. (Full story)

AI helps seismologists predict earthquakes

A polarizing lens shows the buildup of
stress along a fault line, LANL photo.             

More than a dozen slow slips have been detected by the region’s sprawling network of seismic stations since 2003. And for the past year and a half, these events have been the focus of a new effort at earthquake prediction by the geophysicist Paul Johnson, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Johnson’s team is among a handful of groups that are using machine learning to try to demystify earthquake physics and tease out the warning signs of impending quakes. Two years ago, using pattern-finding algorithms similar to those behind recent advances in image and speech recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence. (Full story)

Nuclear Winter May Bring a Decade of Destruction

DOE Photo            

What exactly happens during a nuclear winter is a complex scenario, said Jon Reisner, a numerical modeler at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Reisner was not involved in the study but researches how nuclear weapons can affect global climate.

“The impact on climate from a nuclear exchange is still an unresolved issue,” Reisner said. He added that the researchers’ predictions appeared to be on the upper end of the spectrum for global cooling. “They’re assuming the worst, worst-case scenario,” said Reisner.
Reisner said he thinks the researchers are “exaggerating how much soot is being produced from fires” and noted that soot produced from urban fires is not well understood. “The big question is: What is the actual fuel loading?” He noted the intensity and duration of a fire can also affect soot production.

Although he thinks more work needs to be done to better define global climate effects, Reisner noted “at the end of the day, the direct impacts [of a nuclear war] will be significant—you can’t downplay those. (Full story)

Curiosity fueled alumnus’ journey to Mars

Sam Clegg has contributed to new ways of
researching and understanding Mars.

Clegg (Chemistry, ’92), a laser spectroscopist and chemist at Los Alamos, served as a co-investigator and instrument developer for Curiosity on a team focused specifically on ChemCam, a chemistry and camera tool that used a laser, camera, and spectrograph to identify the chemical composition of soil and rock on the Martian surface. In the months after touching down, Curiosity would ultimately beam to Earth the clearest and most detailed images ever produced of the Red Planet. (Full story)

Can neutrinos help explain what’s the matter with antimatter?

The assembled exterior field cage of the
Mini-CAPTAIN, Mauger photo.

Christopher Mauger and his team built a 400-kilogram prototype of the DUNE detector, known as Mini-CAPTAIN, and collected data from a neutron beam at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Former Penn postdoc Jorge Chaves, who worked as the analysis leader for this research, says that the bulk of the work involved reconstructing the signals from the detector into meaningful insights about the properties that they are interested in studying further. (Full story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory is buying a 5,000-qubit quantum computer

D-Wave Systems has announced that they will be providing Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) with a state-of-the-art 5,000-qubit quantum computer. This computer will allow LANL to solve problems that traditional computers just aren't fast enough for.

LANL was originally created during the Second World War as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear weapon. Currently, they conduct research in many scientific fields including renewable energy, medicine, and national security. These areas require vast amounts of computing resources to solve their types of problems. (Full story)

LANL researchers join MOSAiC team to travel to the Arctic

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers are underway! The Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, MOSAiC, launched Friday to head to the Arctic for a critical scientific mission.

“This is the largest experiment ever conducted in the Arctic,“ said Jim Bossert, Earth and Environmental Sciences Division Leader at Los Alamos. “The data collected has the potential to transform our understanding of the way the Arctic is responding to climate change—so important to improving our ability to predict global climate impacts of a rapidly changing Arctic environment.” (Full story)

Also from the LA Reporter this week:

Triad awards $150k grant to address substance abuse issues in northern New Mexico

An innovative program to tackle substance abuse in the EspaƱola and Pojoaque Valleys will benefit from a $151,500 grant to United Way of Northern New Mexico (UWNNM) from Los Alamos National Laboratory operator Triad National Security, LLC.

“Before Triad even began operating the Laboratory, the people of Rio Arriba County and the Pojoaque Valley made it clear to us that substance abuse is a significant, pressing issue for their communities,” said Thom Mason, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

UNM-LA participates in Los Alamos National Lab event

UC President Janet Napolitano,
UC photo.             

UNM-Los Alamos Chancellor Dr. Cindy Rooney and presidents and chancellors from other northern New Mexico institutions including UNM-Taos, was honored to participate in the Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Conversation on Education event held recently.

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced Triad’s investments in both the LANL Foundation and the Regional Development Corporation (RDC). The RDC will provide funds to local institutions of higher education for workforce initiatives. Their investment will support professional development workshops, accelerated learning programs and paid internships in the region to strengthen STEM education and pathways to careers at LANL. (Full story)

Friday, September 20, 2019

Mysterious waves have been pulsing across Oklahoma

Storm clouds hover over a field in Oklahoma, from NatGeo.

It all started when a wave swept across Oklahoma on June 24, just before 11:11 a.m. local time. It buzzed one seismometer after another. “There’s still a lot of strange unknowns here,” says Joshua Carmichael of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who analyzed the earthquake data after National Geographic reached out for comment.

Carmichael spotted something that suggests sound might not be the only phenomena at work. The motion of the rollicking pulses logged by many of the seismometers points to a surface wave radiating through the ground. While rare, a slow surface wave is not impossible, he says, and perhaps in just the right atmospheric and geologic conditions, such a wave could sweep far and wide. (Full Story)

Lightning flashes illuminate storm behavior

Idealized energy distribution for a large thunderstorm over South America. LANL image.

The new technique is "essentially lightning-based tomography, similar to a medical X-ray," said Michael Peterson, an atmospheric physicist at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico and author of the new study, published in AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

"Using lightning flashes as the light source, we can identify contrasts in cloud layers that are indicative of dense regions, such as ones that might be laden with hail," he said. Peterson drew upon data gathered by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on NOAA's GOES satellites. (Full Story)

Also from the Los Alamos Daily Post

Artificial Intelligence takes on earthquake prediction


Paul Johnson with a block of acrylic plastic, one of the materials his team uses to simulate earthquakes in the laboratory. LANL photo.

Phantom earthquakes, which occur deeper underground than conventional, fast earthquakes, are known as “slow slips.” More than a dozen slow slips have been detected by the region’s sprawling network of seismic stations since 2003.  And for the past year and a half, these events have been the focus of a new effort at earthquake prediction by Paul Johnson, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

More than a decade ago, Johnson began studying “laboratory earthquakes,” made with sliding blocks separated by thin layers of granular material. Like tectonic plates, the blocks don’t slide smoothly but in fits and starts: They’ll typically stick together for seconds at a time, held in place by friction, until the shear stress grows large enough that they suddenly slip. (Full Story)

Black hole: How NASA's emergency warning over ‘cataclysmic event’ disturbed scientists

Illustration of SWIFT and an event horizon, from The Express.

These cosmic phenomena are said to form when massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle, falling into themselves and engulfing other black holes to form what is known as a supermassive black hole. Scientists were left slightly hot under the collar when they got a front-row ticket to see this event unfold more than a decade ago, thanks to one of NASA telescopes.

It was revealed during YouTube series “Monster black hole” how researchers around the world were put on high alert. “Tom Vestrand heads a robotic telescope project at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. Dr Vestrand told viewers: “It was the most luminous thing ever detected by mankind." (Full Story)

UC President Janet Napolitano announces $800,000 grant to LANL Foundation and RDC

NM Rep. Christine Chandler, left, speaks with UC president Janet Napolitano, LA Reporter photo.

Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, two-term governor of Arizona and 20th president of the University of the California Janet Napolitano announced Thursday morning $800,000 in grants to the LANL Foundation and the Regional Development Corporation.

Napolitano, speaking at an education-focused community event hosted by Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Hotel.

Started out by saying she was raised in New Mexico and graduated from Sandia High School in Albuquerque. (Full Story)

Also from the LA Reporter this week:

LANL Director praises RDC and LANL Foundation at education-focused community event

Laboratory Director Thom Mason, LANL photo.

LANL director and president of Triad Thom Mason told attendees that the LANL Foundation and Regional Development Corporation are creating and supporting programs that provide people from Northern New Mexico with a range of pathways to work at the Lab or for other employers throughout the region.

“They’ve been really fantastic to work with and are helping us to develop our worker pipeline as the Lab’s mission space expands and we also go through what is a pretty historic rejuvenation of our workforce as many people who’ve been with the Lab for a long time are retiring and we’re bringing in new people.” Mason said. (Full Story)

Physicist Tess Light’s Frontiers in Science lecture on lightning draws capacity crowd

Bradbury Science Museum director Linda Deck, right, with physicist Tess Light, LA Reporter photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Tess Light spoke to a capacity crowd Wednesday evening at the Cottonwood on the Greens Community Room as part of the Fellows of Los Alamos National Laboratory Frontiers in Science lecture series.

Light discussed lightning’s role in the atmosphers, the different types of lightning, what triggers it and what determines the shape of a lightning bolt. The Frontiers in Sciences lecture series is intended to increase local public awareness of the diversity of science and engineering research at the LANL. (Full Story)

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