Friday, April 25, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for April 21-25

Maps Point the Way to Fighting the Flu Virus
An international team of researchers has crafted software that illustrates interactions between immune systems and the flu st
rains trying to breach their defenses--on a global scale

Flu vaccines work by introducing the body to inactive strains of a recent flu virus. But before scientists can decide which strains of flu to use in a vaccine, they must first determine how the body's immune system reacts to the different flu strains it encounters. This difference between viruses-as our immune system interprets them-is known as the "antigenic difference," says Derek Smith, professor of infectious disease informatics at the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, who wrote the antigenic cartography software in collaboration with Alan Lapedes, a computational biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and Ron Fouchier, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. (Read all about it!)

Challenge helps build young scientists
Supercomputing event gives student participants chance to get creative, network

Sponsored mostly by Los Alamos National Laboratory's technology royalty funds, with help from Sandia National Laboratories, the state and other groups, the Supercomputing Challenge, in its 18th year, gave out $70,000 in scholarships and numerous awards. Students often go on to careers at national laboratories or in other prominent fields of science and technology, said David Kratzer, who organizes the program for LANL. "We have somewhere between 70 and 100 former Challenge students at the lab," he said. "Some stay on after working as students and become staff members. Others go on to other things." (Enjoy the full story here.)

New Science Examines Old Quakes

The ancient Roman military fort of Carnuntum in present-day Austria was home to as many as 50,000 residents, as well as the occasional emperor, until disaster struck. Homes collapsed, archways crumbled and a stone wall 2 feet thick toppled over. Fast forward 1,700 years to a ballroom at the Santa Fe Hilton Wednesday, where a pair of geologists described the major earthquake that they believe destroyed the 4th century community. About 475 seismologists are attending the week-long conference at the Hilton and Eldorado hotels hosted by Los Alamos National Laboratory. (See what's shaking.)

Tuning Terahertz
A new device gives researchers unprecedented control over an unwieldy part of the spectrum

"Terahertz is the last spectrum band to be explored," says Hou-Tong Chen, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead researcher on the project. It has great promise as a security-imaging tool because its frequencies, which range from 300 gigahertz to 3 terahertz, easily pass through clothes but reflect off biological tissue. And since the waves don't have the energy that x-rays do, they don't pose the health risks. In addition, terahertz waves oscillate much faster than microwaves used in Wi-Fi do, which means that they can carry thousands of times more information than today's wireless signals can, albeit over shorter distances. (Want to know more?)

Lab employees doing their part to clean up
Great Garbage Grab

Christina Reichelt of Waste and Environmental Services picks up litter around the soccer field at the Pueblo Complex on Tuesday. Reichelt was part of Team Pueblo participating in the fifth annual Great Garbage Grab to pick up litter from around Laboratory offices and work areas. "The Great Garbage Grab is a friendly competition between organizations to pick up trash, and it is our responsibility to get involved and keep our environment beautiful," said Angelica Gurule of the Risk Reduction Office. (Read the full text here.)

N.M. labs take on world's environmental woes
Sandia, LANL work to understand climate change, meet future energy needs

If the federal government were to make a green-focused Christmas list for New Me
xico's national laboratories, it might look something like this:

Dear Labs, Can you ... 1. Create a detailed model of all aspects of the climate so we better understand processes like global warming …

The response from Los Alamos and Sandia national labs?

We're on it.

(Read the rest of Sue Vorenberg's excellent article here.)

Sprouting young scientists
GUTS program exposes middle-school students to the world of science, computers and critical thinking

Throngs of Santa Fe middle schoolers poured through the Bradbury Science Museum looking a bit like water trying to overtop a large, complicated dam. They trickled into corners, playing with interactive exhibits about computers, physics and the history of Los Alamos National Laboratory, then crowded around Gordon McDonough, museum educator, to watch a demonstration about radiation. (Interested in what else these youngsters are up to? Click here!)