Friday, December 19, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Dec. 15 - 19

Los Alamos lab aims to sort out harmless liquids

Albuquerque's airport is testing new technology aimed at sorting out harmless shampoos in baggage from liquids that could potentially pose a threat aboard an airplane. Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists, who adapted technology first used for medical imaging, unveiled their prototype MagViz machine Tuesday at the Albuquerque International Sunport, where it will be tested.

See stories here
and here.

Score one for science [editorial]

The next time scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory need to convince Congress to fund basic research, they should bring the “MagViz” machine to Washington.

Looking a lot like the standard conveyor belt X-ray machines that scan carry-on luggage, the MagViz is being tested this week at the Albuquerque airport to detect explosives and other contraband that could elude X-ray examinations. (Read it here.)

Other stories appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican
Los Alamos Monitor,
and elsewhere in print, radio and television.

The Laboratory also posted a video about MagViz on its YouTube channel.

Nuclear weapons complex changes approved

The Energy Department gave final approval Tuesday to a program to limit the most dangerous nuclear material to five sites, improving safety and security, and consolidating management of the country's nuclear weapons. The proposals to scale back the nuclear weapons complex and its activities had been in the works for more than a year. They reflect the significant decline in the number of warheads being maintained and an expectation of further reductions. (Read it here.)

Are better nukes needed?

Amidst the economic crisis should the taxpayers pay start buying newer, and more effective nuclear weapons. Quinn Klinefelter of WDET Detroit Public Radio speaks with Robert Smolen who argues in the affirmative. Smolen is the Deputy Administrator for the Office of Defense and Program Director of the Stockpile Stewardship Program for the National Nuclear Security Administration. (Listen and learn!)

Jumbo 'nanotube' existence confirmed at Sandia/LANL nanotech center

A jumbo nanotube, like a jumbo shrimp, sounds contradictory. A giant lightweight carbon nanotube with good strength and electrical properties is desirable, all right. A micron-sized carbon tube is easier to exploit commercially than any (so to speak) littler nanocousin.

But is it still a nanotube?

Jianyu Huang at the joint Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), with colleagues elsewhere, got around this problem by naming their new creation "colossal carbon tubes" in a paper published in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters. (Full story)

Carbon storage models get realer

Two new modeling studies are tackling simulations of long-term CO2 storage. The first examines leakage of stored CO2 from abandoned oil wells. The second study from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Energy Technology Laboratory created a model to examine a comprehensive approach, including surface injection, leakage, costs and risk analysis. (It don't get any 'realer' than this.)

Nuclear power in a small package

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie: A nuclear reactor smaller than an SUV that could produce electricity for 20,000 homes. It would have no weapons-grade material, produce very little waste and would need refueling once every five to 10 years. A company partly owned by Los Alamos National Security, the consortium that runs the national lab, hopes to start manufacturing the mini-reactors within a few years. (Read it here.)

The fastest computers are going hybrid

Automobiles aren’t the only machines taking a hybrid approach. Judging by the recent SC08 conference in Austin, Texas, the future of supercomputer design seems to be heading toward using multiple types of processors in a single system….For example, developers of the top computer on the most recent Top500 list — Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Roadrunner, a 1.1 petaflop IBM machine — augmented its AMD Opterons with IBM PowerXCell processors. (Full story)

LANL workers set record

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees pledged a record $1 million to United Way programs in Northern New Mexico and Santa Fe, according to a statement from the lab. With a dollar-for-dollar match by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, which operates the laboratory, the total contribution is more than $2 million. (Full story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory was mentioned in Tuesday night’s episode of ABC’s fictional television series Eli Stone (story recap online). Stone is a San Francisco lawyer who finds out that he has prophetic powers and decides to use them for good. In this episode, Stone represented a young woman working on cold fusion who was arrested for suspected terrorist intentions. It was discovered, after a LANL scientist read her notes, that she was brilliant and that her research had merit. In short, her options were to work for the scientist at LANL or go to jail.

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