Friday, January 30, 2009

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Jan. 30

Nearly 2,000 people warned of possible beryllium exposure

os Alamos National Laboratory announced Wednesday it is notifying nearly 2,000 current and former employees and visitors that they may have been exposed to beryllium in the lab and may be at risk of disease. (The
full story is here.)

Lab greets community leaders

Los Alamos National Laboratory opened its doors for a breakfast of community leaders Tuesday. Senior officials of the laboratory and the local office of the National Nuclear Security Administration welcomed a variety of businesses, government and educational leaders from nearby tribes and counties. (Check out the full story in the Los Alamos Monitor.)

Nearly isotropic superconductivity in iron arsenide

e find that the superconducting properties are in fact quite isotropic, being rather independent of the direction of the applied magnetic fields at low temperature. Such behaviour is strikingly different from all previously known layered superconductors and indicates that reduced dimensionality in these compounds is not a prerequisite for "high-temperature" superconductivity. (
Read all about it!)

Holy petaflop
New supercomputer's blazing speed attracts researchers

The IBM Roadrunner, built for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, hums along during sustained runs at 1.105 quadrillion calculations per second, according to the TOP500 Supercomputers list. "That's a lot of power," said Kevin Wohlever, director of supercomputing operations at the Ohio Supercomputer Center, where an IBM cluster of computers can make 21.9 trillion calculations per second. (Read the entire story here.)

Highlights video available on YouTube & LANL Web sites

ushing Frontiers, a video about Lab accomplishments during the second half of 2008, is available on the
Los Alamos National Laboratory YouTube channel as well as the new LANL Videos site. The seven-minute show features accomplishments for the year from across the Laboratory including scientific discoveries, business and process improvements, and a record-breaking year in community giving.

Watch videos here and here!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Jan. 23

Giant nanotubes made in US

Scanning electron microscope images of a huge carbon tube. (Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies photo)

ecause of their strange, surprising sponginess — walls of graphite-like carbon kept apart by hollow, rectangular compartments — the colossal fibrous tubes are 20 times less dense than carbon fibres, yet about the same length, in the centimetre range.

And they appear to be slightly stronger — a very desirable, and until now unheard-of property in large carbon tubes. The material was made at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The story is colossal!

Manhattan Scientifics and LANL sign agreement

Terry Lowe of LANL explains to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) how nano-titanium is manufactured.

anhattan Scientifics, Inc. announced today that it successfully completed and entered into an exclusive license agreement with the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

This new agreement pertains to the improved manufacturing techniques and medical use applications for Los Alamos National Laboratory's nano-structured metals and alloys technology. Read the nano-story here.

Bodman announces "Pete V. Domenici National Security Science Complex"

U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman announced today that he authorized several buildings at Los Alamos National Laboratory to be collectively known as the "Pete V. Domenici National Security Science Complex." The honor acknowledges Senator Domenici's long and distinguished career as a U.S. Senator from New Mexico and is a testament to the vision and leadership of a great public servant. Read the DOE press release.

Lab cleanup money sought in stimulus

Radioactive waste drums stored at Area G

New Mexico's two senators have joined an effort to add substantial funding for nuclear weapons cleanup to the federal stimulus package now being considered by Congress.

Details are unclear, but the requested increase would mean additional money for cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory if the senators' congressional colleagues agree.

The lab got $152 million last year for cleanup work. Federal officials estimate the total cost of cleanup at the northern New Mexico nuclear weapons site at between $2.6 billion and $3.6 billion. Stimulating facts here.

Sig Hecker receives Los Alamos Medal

Siegfried Hecker, research professor of management science and engineering and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, has been awarded the Los Alamos Medal. It is the most prestigious award given by the institution where Hecker was once director. See the story here.

Lab creates additional source for its brief videos

Los Alamos National Laboratory has supplemented its YouTube site with a new home on its own Web site for Lab-produced videos:

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Friday, January 16, 2009

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Jan. 10 – 16

A search for new science opportunities

Some 5,600 Ph.D. scientists work in the Department of Energy's three main weapons labs, says Victor H. Reis, a senior adviser in the Office of the Energy Secretary.

The total for the three is almost half that of the other 14 DOE labs combined, he adds. A few years back, Reis watched the labs develop a design for a new warhead, and he'd like to see lab scientists do the same thing for nuclear power.

The labs set up a sort of competition to develop the so-called reliable replacement warhead in which each of the two physics labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), developed their own design and critiqued each others' work. (Searching for more information? it's right here!)

Also from C&EN this week:

DOE weapons labs at a crossroad

When President-Elect Barack Obama takes office next week, scientists at the U.S. weapons complex, military officials, members of Congress, and arms control experts will watch anxiously to see what he will do about nuclear weapons. His presidency comes at a time when the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons complex is undergoing a difficult reexamination.

Decision makers are split over what exactly the future of the weapons complex should be, but they all see a tipping point ahead. They are gearing up for a major debate on nuclear weapons and what shape a modernized nuclear weapons science and manufacturing complex should take. Much is at stake, including the future of some 37,000 weapons staff, 15,000 of them employed at three national labs. (It's all here!)

Sen. Udall predicts bright future for LANL

Newly sworn-in Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., met Thursday with Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio in Washington, D.C. In discussing the laboratory's budget, Udall described Anastasio as “upbeat.”

He felt good about this budget year," said Udall during an interview from Washington Thursday evening. The laboratory's future looks bright, too, he said, explaining that strong science is needed in all of the challenges facing the world. (Want to know more?)

Guest column: Four Corners should plug into electrical energy storage

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have used computer simulations to model optimum ways to integrate new, additional renewable electric resources (solar and wind farms) along with energy storage - into the existing power system.

G. Loren Toole and colleagues at the lab have found that efficiently using the power generated from a large, anticipated increase of wind or solar farms is helped by locating massive energy storage facilities in proximity to the transmission mega-hub. (Plug into the full story here!)

State of mind

Leading researchers in the bewildering field of cognitive studies met this week to share new thoughts and assess progress.

A three-day conference sponsored by Sandia National Laboratory, with cosponsors including Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Santa Fe Institute and the Mind Research Network of Albuquerque, advanced an initiative for boosting a national program of neuroscience and cognition studies. (The whole story is here.)

Decade of the Mind Jan. 14-15

A product of the [Decade of the Mind] symposium will be a white paper that will explain why brain science is critical to national security, looking at brain injury and brain maladies, human-machine systems, training, and nonkinetic conflict.

Decade of the Mind cosponsors include the Krasnow Institute at George Mason University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Santa Fe Institute, the University of New Mexico, MIND Research Network and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. (Wrap your mind around this!)

Chu may push labs to evolve

Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate physicist and national laboratory director chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to lead the Department of Energy, told Congress on Tuesday that he would combat climate change and aggressively promote clean energy and conservation if confirmed for the Cabinet post.

Bingaman said the nominee's experience as a national laboratory director is a good sign for Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, with more than 20,000 employees in New Mexico. (Read the full story.)

Large-scale nuclear materials study shapes national collaborations

In Kumar Sridharan's laboratory on the University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering campus, just one ill-timed sneeze might have catapulted his next three years' worth of nuclear reactor materials research into oblivion.

A distinguished research professor of engineering physics, Sridharan and colleagues Yong Yang, Lizhen Tan and Kjetil Hildal spent summer 2008 preparing 500 smaller-than-a-sesame-seed samples for a unique study of how several traditional and cutting-edge materials fare in the harsh environment of a nuclear reactor.

Collaborators on the UW-Madison project also include the University of Michigan, Penn State University, University of California, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Westinghouse, Gamma Engineering, and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. (Read the large-scale version of the story here.)

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Dec. 25 – Jan. 9

A Spurt of Quake Activity Raises Fears in Yellowstone

The Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park flows past other geysers, including Old Faithful, part of the Yellowstone Caldera. Image from Time Magazine.

n 2000, Ken Wohletz, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, postulated that an even bigger Krakatoa eruption in 6th century A.D. may have sent a tall plume of vaporized seawater into the atmosphere, causing the formation of stratospheric ice clouds with superfine hydrovolcanic ash, which literally cast a pall over much of the world at the beginning of what became known as the Dark Ages. See this explosive story here.

This Machine Might* Save the World

* that's a big, fat "might"

The interior of the proof-of-concept fusion reactor

Governments just have not seen a need to pour resources into an idea that they perceive as being decades from reality. In 1982, for example, Congress passed a plan calling for fusion energy in 20 years. "What happened?" says Glen Wurden, who heads up the Magnetized Target Fusion program at Los Alamos.

"The U.S. didn't fund it. In the 1980s the U.S. was the world leader in fusion research. [Our funding is] a factor of three behind Europe right now and a factor of two behind Japan." See the story here.

LANL awards $250,000 to four companies

Los Alamos National Laboratory has approved $250,000 in new funding for four companies from its Venture Acceleration Fund. The fund provides investments of up to $100,000 to regional entrepreneurs, companies, investors or strategic partners who use LANL technology or expertise to create or grow regional businesses. Award recipients are chosen based on potential for regional impact, team composition, technical feasibility, market opportunity, and the availability of matching funds or in-kind contributions. Read the whole story here.

When Weather Changed History

The Laboratory's early history in the run-up to the Trinity test and the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 are the focus of a documentary that aired recently on the Weather Channel.

The 41-minute documentary, "Nagasaki" is part of the Weather Channel's When Weather Changed History series.

Most of the historical footage in the documentary, including video and still photographs, were provided to the Weather Channel by the Laboratory. Watch the documentary here.

LANL probes lives of nuclear particles

Numerous, mainly unnoticed neutrinos may have been forces behind formation of today's universe

Jasmine Ma, a summer student working on the MiniBooNE experiment, inspects one of the phototubes that detects light from neutrino interactions.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, physicists are working with Fermilab in Illinois to try to figure out if the weak, humble little neutrino could explain why there is a huge imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe.

And by spinning, smashing and tormenting the little guys in particle accelerators at Fermilab and Los Alamos, they might have found a hint that could explain some of that mystery, said Geoffrey Mills and Bill Louis, two LANL physicists. Explore the mystery here.

Mind-bending conundrums

Brain teaser exhibit provides a gateway into scientific thinking

Katherine Hunton, 10, tries to manipulate several blue wooden blocks to fit into triangle and hexagonal patterns. New Mexican Photo.

Puzzles may seem like time suckers, designed solely to entertain, but actually they can build critical-thinking skills that people like scientists use every day, said Gordon McDonough, the museum's science educator.
"The solutions are of no use to anybody, actually, but the solving of it is," McDonough said.

"The thought process keeps the brain agile. And if you think about Los Alamos National Laboratory, the scientists there are solving puzzles all the time." Solve the whole puzzle here!

United Way president talks about giving

Jerry Ethridge [president of the Board of Trustees for the United Way of Northern New Mexico] explained that United Way has benefited greatly since Los Alamos National Security assumed management of the Laboratory and initiated its matching funds program. LANS annually matches whatever amount is raised up to $1 million. Read more about it here.

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