Friday, March 21, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for March 17-21

The mind of a fly
Scientists tap into the brains of flies in an effort to improve artificial intelligence

Flies and humans don't have a lot in common. Humans, for instance, don't spend hours buzzing up and down windows when they're home. And flies don't know how to make coffee or read a newspaper. But when it comes to building humanlike intelligence into a computer, the fly may well know more about how our brains work than we do — so say scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Hun School of Princeton, Princeton University and Indiana University. To learn the pesky insect's secrets, the scientists have performed microscopic brain surgery on dozens of flies, embedding probes in their nerve cells, and then sent them through a series of flight tests to see how their brains respond. See the New Mexican's Science Page here.

Also from the New Mexican this past week:
Los Alamos gadgets reveal Saturn secrets that 'cameras can't show'

There's a lot more to the weird, massive landscape around Saturn than a picture can reveal. In fact, if a picture is worth 1,000 words, than data gained from a series of instruments that pick up invisible phenomenon — like the behavior of magnetic fields and the interaction of charged atoms around the planet — might be worth a trillion words. And it's that invisible knowledge and science that give two Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists a thrill, as they study information returned from instruments designed at the lab that are flying on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Cassini mission. Read the story here.

LANL gets kudos for public Web
Report finds security lacking in sites at other national labs

It's a little ironic, but it seems the Cerro Grande Fire might have saved Los Alamos National Lab
oratory some major headaches — and turned the lab into a positive example for public Web site management in a new report by the U.S. Department of Energy's inspector general. The fire in 2000, which closed LANL for three weeks and burned homes of several Los Alamos residents, spurred the lab to build a Web site aimed at providing information to the community during future emergencies, said Kevin Roark, a spokesman. See the whole story here.

DARHT gets kudos from headquarters

During a recent trip to Los Alamos National Laboratory, a senior official of the National Nuclear Security Administration made a special point of visiting the Lab’s hydrotest facility. [The facility is used to take high-speed X-ray images of imploding mockups of nuclear weapons as a means to assure the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.] Steve Goodrum, assistant deputy administrator, science engineering and production, said that after his trip was scheduled, word came in that the second axis of the lab's Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility (DARHT) had met and exceeded its requirements for beginning operations. “When the e-mails and calls started coming in about DARHT’s success,” he told employees at the facility Wednesday, “the news permeated the (DOE headquarters) Forrestal Building.” So Goodrum asked to make this special side trip. He passed along congratulations and formal certificates of appreciation to Accelerator Project leader Ray Scarpetti and members of the team and took a tour of the newly proven second axis. Accompanying Goodrum were LANL Director Michael Anastasio and Charles McMillan, associate director for weapons physics. The delegation from Washington also included NNSA science campaign manager Chris Deaney.

Modeling Flu Pandemics May Help Prevent Them

An article published in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America suggests that we can reduce the likelihood of a pandemic influenza outbreak in the United States by quickly implementing social-distancing measures alongside antiviral treatment and prophylaxis (preventive measures) until a vaccine becomes accessible. The study was conducted by three teams of researchers in the US and England who worked closely with federal officials. One research team consisted of computer scientist Shufu Xu and others at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Read the story.

Senators tour Roadrunner, other facilities
Computer is computational cornerstone for Lab

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, second from right, talks on Wednesday with Applied Physics Division Leader Michael Bernardin in front of the Roadrunner high-performance computer inside the Nicholas Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation. Also shown are Tom D'Agostino, left, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, and John Morrison, High Performance Computing Division leader. See the Daily Newsbulletin story here.