Friday, February 5, 2016




Confessions of a meteorite hunter

 
Lanza poses with a meteorite find. Photo by
Constantine Tsang.

Nina Lanza knows space rocks. In her day job as a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she operates the Curiosity Rover’s ChemCam, using a rock-vaporizing laser to analyze the Martian surface. But as of last week, Lanza was having a very different kind of encounter with space rocks: She was picking them up off of the Antarctic ice. For the past six weeks, Lanza has been a rookie member of the ANSMET (the Antarctic Search for Meteorites) 2015-2016 field team. (Full story)



New imaging system for steady-state fusion


Glen Wurden in the stellarator’s vacuum vessel.
LANL photo.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have designed new imaging systems which will help physicists get detailed insights into the German stellarator, Wendelstein 7-X.

Glen Wurden, of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plasma Physics group, began the development and installation of imaging systems while the W7-X was still being built. The imaging systems will study plasma edge effects and interactions within the armored walls of the three-dimensional magnetic geometries in the machine. (Full story)
  

 
Exploring inertial confinement fusion turbulence


Mounting a NIF target, LLNL photo.

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are leading an experimental campaign on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) designed to further understand turbulent mix models used in both high energy density (HED) and inertial confinement fusion (ICF) experiments. NIF is the only facility with the energy and shot-to-shot reproducibility needed for the experiments.

"We have created a system that reproduces instability features similar to those of traditional hydro experiments that have not previously been seen in HED experiments," said LANL scientist Kirk Flippo, the lead experimental investigator. (Full story)


 
DOE plan could help provide plutonium for space missions


Plutonium 238, LANL photo.

The space agency uses Pu-238 to fuel many of its deep space missions, including New Horizons, Voyager, the Curiosity rover, and the Mars 2020 rover.

NASA's Outer Planets Assessment Group says the government plans to get better at making plutonium for deep space missions by upgrading a lot of the equipment that's being used to produce Pu-238 at the Los Alamos, Idaho, and Oak Ridge national laboratories. (Full story)


 
LANL Foundation awards scholarships

LANL Foundation has awarded 17 Northern New Mexicans $1,000 Regional College/Returning Student scholarships from the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund, including students from Taos County.

Funding comes from donations made by Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and Los Alamos National Security, LLC. Scholarships are administered by the LANL Foundation with student selection and program oversight provided by an advisory committee of volunteer donors. (Full story)



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Friday, January 29, 2016



The story of Los Alamos National Laboratory — one business card at a time

1960s era Rolodex card, from the LA Times.  

What stories could a bunch of old Rolodexes possibly tell? A lot, it turns out — especially when those Rolodexes come from Los Alamos National Laboratory where the scientists built the first atomic bomb.

"Los Alamos Rolodex: Doing Business With the National Lab, 1967-1978," an exhibit on display at the Center for Land Use Interpretation and a new book of the same name, gather various business cards from those Rolodexes and presents them, largely without comment, in a way that tells an interesting story about Los Alamos and the top secret work of the National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Also in the Albuquerque Journal



Imaged 'jets' reveal cerium's post-shock inner strength

Photonic Doppler Velocimetry (PDV) probes simultaneously measure jet-growth velocities. From PhysOrg.

Scientists have learned that surface protrusions called "jets," formed after shock waves passed through cerium metal, could provide insight into the yield stress of cerium in its post-shock state.

"Using cerium allows us to gain a fundamental understanding of a wide range of phenomena related to the multiphase properties of materials, including how strength evolves following phase transitions," said Brian Jensen, who is a physicist and team leader in the Shock and Detonation Physics Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)



The quest to predict severe weather sooner

MPAS 48-hour forecast for July 8, 2015. UCAR image.

A global software platform called Model for Prediction Across Scales, or MPAS, aims at resolving long-term forecasting issues. It offers a new way of simulating the atmosphere while providing scientists with more flexibility when focusing on regional conditions.

Jointly developed at NCAR and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, MPAS is being groomed especially to improve regional and global weather forecasts, climate modeling, and atmospheric chemistry research, such as regional air-quality forecasts. (Full Story)



Los Alamos Names Laboratory Fellows

Zelenay, Tome, Bernardin and Saxena (top left to bottom right) LANL photo.

Four Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have been selected as 2015 Laboratory Fellows. The honorees this year are Michael Bernardin, Avadh Saxena, Carlos Tome and Piotr Zelenay.

“The Laboratory Fellows Organization recognizes researchers for innovative scientific and technical advances in their respective fields,” Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan said. “The exciting work by Michael, Avadh, Carlos and Piotr exemplifies the essential science we do at Los Alamos that helps enable continuing success in our national security mission. I commend each of them for this prestigious achievement.” (Full Story)



LANL to share in $25 million grant for nuclear science, security

The National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded a $25 million grant to a consortium of universities and national laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, for research and development of nuclear science and security, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday.

The grant will be allocated in $5 million annual increments. Research will focus on nuclear and particle physics and nuclear security policy, as well as other areas. (Full Story)


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Friday, January 22, 2016





North Korea nuclear test did not increase technical capability

Seismic waves observed in South Korea
originate in North Korea, Reuters photo.

North Korea's Jan. 6 nuclear test did not expand its technical capability, but the U.S. government is keeping a close eye on Pyongyang's efforts to develop a thermonuclear warhead capable of reaching the United States, the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Tuesday.

Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the test "will certainly allow North Korea to increase the sophistication of its nuclear arsenal - specifically, to make the nuclear bombs smaller and lighter."




 
NASA’s Van Allen probes revolutionize view of radiation belts

During geomagnetic storms, empty regions can fill with
lower-energy electrons. NASA image.                

About 600 miles from Earth’s surface is the first of two donut-shaped electron swarms, known as the Van Allen Belts, or the radiation belts. Understanding the shape and size of the belts, which can shrink and swell in response to incoming radiation from the sun, is crucial for protecting our technology in space.

"The shape of the belts is actually quite different depending on what type of electron you're looking at," said Geoff Reeves from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Consortium in Los Alamos, New Mexico, lead author on the study published on Dec. 28, 2015, in the Journal of Geophysical Research.


Also from Space Daily




 
Machine learning helps discover the most luminous supernova in history

ASASSN-15lh was first observed by
telescopes in Chile. From Space Daily.

Machine-learning technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory played a key role in the discovery of supernova ASASSN-15lh, an exceptionally powerful explosion that was 570 billion times brighter than the Sun and more than twice as luminous as the previous record-holding supernova. This extraordinary event marking the death of a star was identified by the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) and is described in a new study published in Science.






People are still trying to build a space elevator

 Arthur C. Clarke first wrote about space
elevators in “The Fountains of Paradise.”
From Smithsonian.

The new documentary film Sky Line explores why the notion of a space elevator has continued to persist despite major technological obstacles.

The idea of an elevator itself had been a topic of debate between the filmmakers, and looking further into it, they discovered two chief characters, Bradley Edwards and Michael Laine.

Edwards, a physicist with a deep history of work in astrophysics, including an 11-year stint at Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been working on a space elevator concept since 1998.




 
Santa Fe’s rich history in forgotten time capsules

Time capsule buried at SF Railyard in
2008. From the New Mexican.

The granddaddy of all Santa Fe time capsules was buried in the autumn of 1867 somewhere under the obelisk on the Plaza, formally known as the Soldiers Monument. City leaders forgot to look for it on its 100th anniversary, and an effort to unearth it a year later, in 1968, failed — despite the help of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and famed architect John Gaw Meem.



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Friday, January 15, 2016



 Hunting space rocks on blue ice

Nina Lanza searching for meteorites in the Trans-Antarctica Mountains. Lanza photo.

Nina Lanza is studying the solar system by spending six weeks on an ice sheet in Antarctica. The 36-year-old staff scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is on a treasure hunt of sorts, scouring the windswept landscape for meteorites that have landed on the ice and remained there untouched for thousands, if not millions, of years. With no water or soil to cover them, meteorites in Antarctica remain in pristine condition for millennia.

To find them, Lanza and seven others are snowmobiling through the Trans-Antarctica Mountains. When they find a promising spot, they get off their vehicles and, like beachcombers scouring sand for seashells, they walk slowly and look carefully at the ground. The meteorites have a distinct worn and pitted metallic surface, which differentiates them from other rocks formed in Antarctica. (Full Story)

See Lanza in this episode of Science in 60



Science on the Hill: The forecast calls for flu

A team from Los Alamos has developed a method to predict flu outbreaks based in part on influenza-related searches of Wikipedia. LANL photo.

This time of year, we all know people with chills and a fever. Coughing and sneezing, they spend a few miserable days in bed. They might have more than a cold — it could be the flu. That can be serious business. Seasonal influenza strikes up to 20 percent of the U.S. population each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and sends more than 200,000 people a year to the hospital.           

A research team at Los Alamos National Laboratory found a way to forecast the flu season and even next week’s sickness trends — in the form of everyone’s favorite online reference, Wikipedia. (Full Story)




Los Alamos plasma research shows promise for future compact accelerator

The Trident Laser target chamber. LANL photo.             

A transformative breakthrough in controlling ion beams allows small-scale laser-plasma accelerators to deliver unprecedented power densities. That development offers benefits in a wide range of applications, including nuclear fusion experiments, cancer treatments, and security scans to detect smuggled nuclear materials.

“In our research, plasma uses the energy stored in its electromagnetic fields to self-organize itself in such a way to reduce the energy-spread of the laser-plasma ion accelerator,” said Sasikumar Palaniyappan of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plasma Physics group. “In the past, most of the attempts to solve this problem required active plasma control, which is difficult.” (Full Story)




Machine learning helps discover the most luminous supernova in history

Illustration of supernova ASASSN-15lh, from Beijing Planetarium.

Machine-learning technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory played a key role in the discovery of supernova ASASSN-15lh, an exceptionally powerful explosion that was 570 billion times brighter than the sun and more than twice as luminous as the previous record-holding supernova. This extraordinary event marking the death of a star was identified by the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) and is described in a new study published today in Science.

"This is a golden age for studying changes in astronomical objects thanks to rapid growth in imaging and computing technology," said Przemek Wozniak, the principal investigator of the project that created the software system used to spot ASASSN-15lh. (Full Story)





Starquake!

A starquake 50,000 light years away can affect Earth, NASA illustration.

David Palmer, an astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, got an email asking if the pulse detection software he had designed for the SWIFT satellite had gotten any weird readings that day.

“I thought, it was probably a giant burst [from a star], or there was something going wrong in the instrument,” Palmer said. But he and researchers all over the world concluded that the satellite was fine — and that the mass of radiation that hit the earth came from something called a starquake. (Full Story)




Hour of Code with assistance from LANL volunteers

About 1,000 students recently participated in Hour of Code. LAPS photo.              

During the Hour of Code sessions, students accessed a website and utilized a set of tutorials to learn state-of-the-art computer science concepts. Approximately 50 Los Alamos National Laboratory volunteers helped facilitate the Hour of Code sessions.

In previous years, the theme of the Computer Science Education Week tutorials was Angry Birds and Frozen. This year, the theme was Star Wars and Minecraft. More than 1,000 Los Alamos students participated in fun activities and watched inspiring videos. (Full Story)


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