Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eco-friendly fireworks offer safer pyrotechnics

Fireworks are fun, exciting and often free to watch, but there may be a hidden cost: The flashing displays can harm the environment and pose risks to human health.

"Everyone at or downwind of a pyrotechnic display is getting subjected to levels of these metals that aren't natural levels," said David E. Chavez, a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Celebrate enlightenment here!)

Pandemic passenger screening for airports

Four major US national laboratories have worked together to develop a computer model to help airport authorities screen passengers for pandemic influenza.

Teams from Los Alamos, Pacific Northwest, Oak Ridge, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, report details of their simulations in the current issue of the International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management. (Infect yourself with knowledge here!)

Keck study sheds new light on 'dark' gamma-ray bursts

For more than a decade, astronomers have puzzled over the nature of so-called dark bursts, which produce gamma rays and X-rays but little or no visible light. They make up roughly half of the bursts detected by NASA's Swift satellite since its 2004 launch.

Swift is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. It was built and is being operated in collaboration with Pennsylvania State University and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Become illuminated here!)

Friday bird blogging: Mexican spotted owls

That cordon of security [at the Laboratory] has created some nice Mexican spotted owl habitat in the canyons at Los Alamos. Lab biologists first spotted a pair of owls in 1994, and there are now two nesting pairs. David Keller, the biologist who does the lab's bird monitoring, sends along this insanely cute picture of the chick. (Hoot about it here!)

Physics of pancakes

Searching for a less-permeable pancake, The Desperate Cook turns to LANL scientists. Studying [The Physics of Pancakes], I learned that "as a pancake cooks, it undergoes a chemical change and becomes a solid. If you look closely, it is a mixture of solid and gas, like a sponge or piece of foam." Pancakes bubble as they cook, according to LANL scientists, because "rising agents, such as baking soda and baking powder, produce carbon dioxide." (Eat it all up here!)

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