Friday, May 30, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for May 27 - 30

Scientists examine new way to track outbreaks

Math has long had a reputation for being difficult, but when the next pandemic disease outbreak happens, math could finally redeem itself--and save lives in the process.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Santa Fe Institute say they have found a way to use math to track outbreaks much more quickly than has ever been done in the past. And the reason that's possible is partly because of the deep flexibility of math, and partly because technologies like the Internet and cell communications have made it much faster to gather data about diseases when they first start to appear, said Luis Bettencourt, a LANL scientist and SFI external professor. Read the New Mexican Science page here.

Martz discusses Laboratory programs, operations on KTAO-FM

Joe Martz of the Laboratory's weapons program directorate talked about the value of the Laboratory and other issues Wednesday on Taos radio station KTAO. During an interview with KTAO radio personality Nancy Stapp on "Breakfast with Nancy," Martz talked about the National Nuclear Security Administration's proposed complex transformation. He also responded to questions from listeners on myriad Laboratory programs. The Laboratory's complex transformation Web page has information about how the Laboratory stands to be affected by the NNSA proposal. Listen to the interview with Martz here.

Close Encounters of the Particle Kind

John Hendricks lets his students play with dice. Most of us associate the little cubes with gambling, but for him they're a great teaching tool.

Like a wise old physics guru, the Monte Carlo computer code MCNP can tell you how subatomic particles will interact with just about anything. The Los Alamos code has helped scientists find water on Mars and aided doctors battling cancer on Earth. Los Alamos researchers are using it to design detectors that will monitor plutonium in nuclear fuel rods, to guide experiments that will test new nuclear fuels, ands as an accurate simulation tool for tracking the physics in next-generation fast reactors. John Hendricks, a member of Los Alamos National Laboratory's Applied Physics Division, teaches people to use what he says "is one of the Lab's greatest achievements." Read it in the May edition of 1663.

Scholarship helps Vasquez continue family tradition

2008 fund drive extended to June 30

University of New Mexico and Pecos High School graduate Cristal Vasquez always wanted to be a nurse. She would continue a family tradition her grandmother and great-grandmother started, having worked as parteras, or midwives, in Mexico. A Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund gold scholarship Vasquez received in 2004 helped her achieve her goal. She’ll soon begin a new job as a graduate nurse at University of New Mexico Hospital after graduating from UNM with a degree in nursing and a minor in Spanish. See the story in the Daily NewsBulletin.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for May 19 - 23

Pollution's polar toll
LANL geochemist among scientists studying soot's impact on Arctic melting

Santa Claus might want to buy a good cover and air filter for his sleigh this year, and he also might want to think about investing in a boat in the near future. The pristine, frigid Arctic just isn't what it used to be. A multiagency team of 250 scientists from the NOAA, NASA and Los Alamos National Laboratory spent several days in late April looking at what should be Santa's clear, snow-covered winterland. What's really there, though, is soot, industrial pollution and other junk pumped into the air from countries across the northern hemisphere, said Manvendra Dubey, a geochemist at Los Alamos. (Read the rest of reporter Sue Vorenberg's report here.)

U.S. completes DARHT

The U.S. government announced the completion of a sophisticated X-ray machine used to study the split-second early stages of a nuclear bomb explosion. The Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrotest Facility (DAHRT) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico cost $300 million to build in 2003 and another $90 million to be taken apart and rebuilt after problems were discovered. "There were a lot of people who told us we couldn't do it," Mary Hockaday, deputy associate lab director for nuclear weapons physics, told the Albuquerque Journal Tuesday. (Read the rest of the United Press International Story.)

Robot Rodeo: Santa Fe bomb squad members' handy machine faces fierce competition

Weighing in at 340 pounds, Domata the robot sized up the day's worth of obstacle courses optimistically, knowing its fellow Santa Fe bomb squad members, Lt. Abram Anaya and Officer Scott Waite, were at the controls. As Tuesday's Robot Rodeo at Los Alamos National Laboratory rolled on, Domata gleefully maneuvered over pipes, picked up and carried a pea-sized ball bearing over stairs and across barrels, and hit targets several yards away with a fire hose. With fierce competition by teams from the New Mexico State Police, Los Alamos Police Department and the Los Alamos Haz Mat Team, Domata and his Santa Fe comrades knew they had to gain as many points as possible to kick off the three-day competition, which is in its second year at the lab. (Find the entire story here.)

It's not your typical Rodeo

It's rodeo-time in Los Alamos...and a special three-day event is drawing four top teams from northern New Mexico. but it's not your typical rodeo. Santa Fe bureau chief Ray Seva shows us how police officers are competing in the "western national " robot" rodeo." (To view, open link, and click "Play Media" under the thumbnail photos.)

LANL hosts Robot Rodeo

Robots are getting more and more emergency assignments. At a "robot rodeo" this week in Los Alamos -- they are rescuing people, fighting fires -- and running obstacle courses. Bob Martin has the story. (To view, open link, and click "Play Media" under the thumbnail photos.)

Scholarship winner Winston making a difference in children’s lives

Luke Winston’s story really is a case of a “small town boy done good.” Winston was the first recipient of a Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund platinum scholarship in 1998. He was a senior out of Las Vegas Robertson High School who went on to graduate from Harvard in 2003. His platinum scholarship provided $10,000 per year for four years, which helped take some of the financial burden off his family. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics. (Read entire Daily NewsBulletin story here!)

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Friday, May 16, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for May 12 - 16

In Pictures: A look inside what may be
the world's faste
st supercomputer

New Roadrunner is expected to break the petaflop barrier when tested later this month

Taking up 6,000 square feet and weighing in at 500,000 pounds, the latest version of the IBM Ro
adrunner supercomputer is nearly complete. Engineers and technicians are in the process of finishing its assembly and expect to begin running tests within a few weeks to gauge its performance, according to Don Grice, chief engineer on the Roadrunner project. Grice said he is highly confident that the new system will break the petaflop barrier, which is akin to the four-minute mile of supercomputing. See the story here.

IBM close to breaking
petaflops barrier

Los Alamos effort got extension to
Top 500 deadline

IBM Corp. and the Los Alamos National Laboratory are in a race with time to break the petaflops barrier in computing. If they succeed, the milestone would give major bragging rights for both organizations. "It will be quite exciting if they are able to hit that mark, but it's still unclear if they can do it," said Jack Dongarra, a professor at the University of Tennessee who helps manage the Top 500 list of the world's most powerful computers. Read more here.

IBM Unsheathes
New Cell Blade

Earlier today IBM announced the new BladeCenter QS22, a new blade server that incorporates the latest Cell processor, the PowerXCell 8i. While the new name might not exactly roll off your tongue, IBM has managed to address one of the Cell's major technical shortcomings (at least for the HPC crowd), namely much better double precision floating point performance. The QS22 hardware will end up in the third phase of the "Roadrunner" supercomputer installation at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Each compute node in the Roadrunner cluster is made up of two dual-core Opteron dual-core processors and four Cell processors. The final result will be a petaflop machine that is capable of some of the most advanced nuclear weapons simulation work done under the direction of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Get the whole story here.

UNM-Los Alamos Develops High-Tech Degree

Northern New Mexico has a pressing need for skilled technicians in a variety of fields, according to a labor market assessment conducted by UNM-Los Alamos over the past year. To meet that demand, the branch is developing a new Associate of Applied Science in Applied Technologies. Los Alamos National Laboratory has committed to support the program with a seven-year, $70
0,000 grant. See UNM Today here.

Pursuit of knowledge has no end

Anastasio gives commencement address at Northern

Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio encouraged more than 200 graduates at Northern New Mexico College to continue their pursuit of knowledge and to take on challenges as they begin the next stage of their lives. Anastasio delivered the keynote address at Northern's commencement ceremony last Saturday in Eagle Memorial Gymnasium on the college's campus in EspaƱola. Ready the Daily NewsBulletin daily!

Wallace testifies in Senate on climate change impacts

Terry Wallace, principal associate director for Science, Technology, and Engineering (PADSTE), testified this morning before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding the Laboratory’s efforts to develop tools for understanding and mitigating the consequences of global climate change and the growing demand for energy. The Senate Committee is examining the impacts of climate change on the reliability, security, economics, and design of critical energy infrastructure in coastal regions. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 7:45 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time (MDT). Click here to read Wallace's prepared remarks to the committee.

Latest issue of 1663 now available

This issue provides an in-depth introduction to Roadrunner, which merges two different types of microprocessors into a computing system that will allow Lab scientists to enhance their understanding of everything from HIV vaccine development to nuclear weapons physics. In a related vein, 1663 provides an in-depth look at the Monte Carlo N-Particle (MCNP) code developed at Los Alamos. The code can help doctors calculate how many gamma-ray photons will be absorbed by cancer cells during radiation therapy just as easily as it can help wildcatters predict the best locations to drill for oil. Also in this issue, read about the Los Alamos Pulsed Field Facility, also known as the Magnet Lab, which is a part of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. The facility is essential for scientists wishing to investigate new and exotic materials, including researchers trying to decipher the mysteries of high-temperature superconductors. Enjoy the May issue of 1663 here.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for May 5 - 9

Cloth-Eating Fungus Could Make Fuel

A fungus called
Trichoderma reesei ate its way through US military uniforms and
tents in the South Pacific during WWII. It chewed up the cloth and used special enzymes to convert the indigestible cellulose into simple sugars. Now that infamous fungus is getting some good publicity. It looks like it might hold a key to improving the production of biofuels. Cynthia Graber reports in this Scientific American Podcast.

LANL Fuel from fungus story makes major international news

News stories on t
his research were published from Canada to India to the United Kingdom. There are articles available from:

Discovery Channel visits Los Alamos for “The Future” documentary

A video crew from CBS Productions visited the Laboratory this week for a summer-long series on the Discovery Channel called “The Future.” The crew was at Los Alamos to videotape a “Future Security” segment that will focus on the use of honeybees as explosive detectors. The segment on Los Alamos will broadcast sometime in August.

Travel itinerary of flu mapped
International study using ‘antigenic cartography' traces the travel patterns of influenza.

Outbreaks of the most common type of influenza virus, A (H3N2), are seeded by viruses that originate in East and Southeast Asia and migrate around the world, new research has found. This discovery may help to further improve flu vaccines and make the evolution of the virus more predictable. Antigenic cartography is a method developed by researchers at Erasmus Medical Center, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Cambridge. Given measurements for multiple viruses, antigenic cartography can be used to create a map in which the distance between viruses in the map reflects their antigenic similarity and can be used to compare thousands of viruses at a time. From these antigenic maps it is then possible to trace the evolution of the viruses. (Get the whole story here.)

US Synthetic Signs Exclusive License Agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory

US Synthetic, an operating company of the Dover Corporation, the leading provider of polycrystalline diamond cutters (PDCs) for oil and gas exploration, and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos, N.M., a multidisciplinary research institution operated by Los Alamos National Security LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy, today announced an exclusive license agreement that will grant US Synthetic rights to nanostructured thermally stable diamond silicon carbide, originally developed at LANL. (Here's the scoop.)

Top innovations lauded at ceremony
LANL is partner in New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program

Belinda Padilla, left, of the Technology Transfer Division greets Mariann Johnston of the Community Programs Office at the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Innovation Celebration last week in Santa Fe. Padilla and Johnston are on the program's advisory council. Eight companies were recognized during the celebration at Santa Fe’s International Museum of Folk Art. They range from a company that developed a better way to de-stem chiles to a company that developed an affordable alcohol monitoring system. The Laboratory is a partner in the program, which provides specialized scientific expertise and assistance to businesses. (See the entire story here.)

May issue of Currents now available

The latest issue of the Laboratory’s monthly magazine Currents is now available online (Adobe Acrobat reader required). This issue features a cover article on Laboratory researcher Torsten Staab and one of his “way cool” inventions, a hand-held avian surveillance tool. Also in the May issue are articles on Charlene Cappiello and her connection with the Lab’s critical assembly equipment headed for a new home at the Nevada Test Site; the Students’ Association executive committee members and their efforts on behalf of all students who come to the Laboratory; two outreach events that helped promote science to local youths; and a look at how the Laboratory is doing in implementing new information security policies.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for April 28 - May 2

Through human eyes: LANL scientists teach computers to see

Like a teacher disciplining a poor student, Lakshman Prasad has been tempted periodically to put his computer in "time out." Instead of finishing its homework by looking at pictures and telling the teacher what's in them, it would goof off, get confused or just plain come up with the wrong answer, the Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist said. He could have just given up, but instead he decided to get the computer some help. So he and Sriram Swaminarayan, a Los Alamos scientist and computer programmer, took a deeper look, and the pair found out the problem wasn't the computer's attitude. It had a learning disability. See the story here

Los Alamos Director's statement
available on YouTube.

Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio's opening statement before a senate subcommittee on Wednesday, April 16, 2008 in Washington, D.C. is now available on the Laboratory's YouTube channel. Anastasio and the directors of Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national labs were on a panel testifying before the Senate Energy and Water Development Subcommittee about stockpile stewardship and the future of the nuclear weapons complex.

Also available on the Laboratory’s YouTube channel are short videos of high explosives tests, recovery of sealed radioactive sources, nighttime training of the Laboratory SWAT team, bomb-sniffing honeybees, and testing of sensors to detect defects in highway bridges.

The FBI Announces New Albuquerque Computer Forensics Laboratory

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III today announced that Los Angeles, California and Albuquerque, New Mexico were selected as the host sites for two new FBI-sponsored Regional Computer Forensics Laboratories (RCFLs). "The creation of an RCFL in Albuquerque will ensure that law enforcement in New Mexico stays ahead of the ever changing technology associated with an exploding cyber crime problem," said Special Agent in Charge Thomas C. McClenaghan, of the Albuquerque Division. "Working with our partners at the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Lab, and Los Alamos National Lab will expose our federal, state, and local forensic examiners to world class and cutting edge cyber scientists and instructors. New Mexico will quickly become known throughout the nation and world as the place to go for computer forensic instruction." Read the FBI press release here.

National Labs develop improved searches

Employees of the Los Alamos National Laboratory were so fed up with using the Google search engine that they developed their own electronic knowledge management tool to better work through large information archives. The tool, called the Electronic Knowledge Management system, can sort through information and organize the results by concepts and trends. The system also finds links between documents and permanently connects them, making future searches faster. You don't have to search for this story, it's available right here!

Old mine may help solve mysteries of universe

As a third-generation miner, Duane Ennis used to measure the
product of his labor each day in gold-bearing ore torn from the rock caverns deep in the Homestake Mine. Now, as one of a number of former miners helping reopen the underground caverns to create a laboratory for futuristic science and physics experiments, Ennis cautions against expecting immediate results from the research being planned. The point of the research, for the scientists who gathered in Lead, is the quest for knowledge. These aren't the folks who ask about practical applications of the discoveries. About 96 percent of the universe contains matter "that we don't know what it is," says Andrew Hime, a physicist with Los Alamos National Laboratory. "That alone is reason to study it. It's most of the universe, and we don't know what it is. That's the compelling question." Dig up the story here.

Area students receiving scholarships

EspaƱola Valley High School senior Alicia Salazar plans to use her
platinum scholarship to pursue a degree in chemical engineering this fall at preferably an in-state university. Salazar is the recipient of the platinum scholarship from the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund, administered by the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. Fifty-two students are receiving scholarships thanks to the generosity of Laboratory employees who donate to the fund. The 2008 scholarship drive begins Thursday, May 1. The platinum scholarship provides $7,500 a year for four years in financial assistance. See the story here.

Learn more about Los Alamos Foundation scholarships.

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