Friday, April 24, 2009

Low sunspot cycle fascinates scientists, who say there's no reason to panic

And the record has been a good one, give or take a dozen or so non-threatening delivery-truck mishaps and a couple of misdirected deliveries; more than 7,000 loads have been carried there –

Since 2004, the sun has been in a prolonged period of low sunspot activity, which has led some to fear that the phenomenon could lead to global cooling, a new ice age, the death of the sun or even to the end of the world predicted by the Mayan calendar.

But the reality is that the phenomenon is part of a natural 11-year repeating sunspot cycle that fluctuates from intense activity to no activity and back again about every six years. And while it's interesting that the low number of sunspots over the past few years is the fourth longest such trend since the mid-1600s, it's by no means any reason to panic, said Geoff Reeves, a space scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

New hope for biomass fuels: breaking the ties that bind

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have discovered a potential chink in the armor of fibers that make the cell walls of certain inedible plant materials so tough. The insight ultimately could lead to a cost-effective and energy-efficient strategy for turning biomass into alternative fuels. (Full story)

High tech trials help whiz kids prepare for college

A look at the project titles from the 19th New Mexico Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge might leave you wondering if the competition really involved teens from all over New Mexico, or Ph.D. physicists from our two national labs. (Full story)

Los Alamos middle-schoolers finish strong

Despite a few hurdles, Rachel Robey and Gabe Montoya captured third prize out of 61 teams in the N.M. Supercomputer Challenge this year. (Full story)

Work is out of this world

Three starry-eyed teens who honed a method for spotting asteroids took top honors Tuesday at the 19th annual New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge.

More than 320 students from across the state used high-performance supercomputers and worked with mentors from the state's national laboratories to analyze, model and solve real-world problems. (Full story)

Small-business contracts given

Los Alamos National Security, LLC, recently awarded subcontracts for a total of more than $753 million to several small businesses. (Full story.)

Town hall kicks off Earth Week

Green is busting out this year in Los Alamos.

A well-attended Energy Town Hall meeting at Fuller Lodge Tuesday morning, marked a departure in scale and emphasis from past years’ events.

The forum was jointly sponsored by several energy and environmental groups from Los Alamos
National Laboratory along with Los Alamos County. (Entire story.)