Friday, May 13, 2011

Dawn probe shifts to approach phase

The Dawn Spacecraft is depicted orbiting Vesta. NASA illustration.

ontrollers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are using 12-in. ion thrusters to ease NASA’s Dawn spacecraft into orbit around Vesta, a protoplanet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that may have one of the oldest planetary surfaces in the Solar System.

Dawn was built by Orbital Sciences Corp. Other partners in its development include the Los Alamos National Laboratory (gamma ray and neutron detector) and the German Aerospace Center DLR (framing camera fabrication, integration and test). (
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Intelligence leader hush on juicy job details

Andy Erickson. LANL photo.

ndy Erickson can't say much about his job — which is understandable, because he's the program director for intelligence, analysis, integration and exploitation at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Last month, Will Rees, a senior LANL manager responsible for global security, revealed a little more about the enigmatic operative during a National Academy of Science meeting. He referred to Erickson as a model participant in an information-sharing program in the intelligence and national security community. (
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Too hard for science? Simulating the human brain

Luis Bettencourt. SciAm photo.

he scientist: Luis Bettencourt, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

The idea: The brain is the most powerful computer we know of, "and understanding it is one of the ultimate challenges in science," says Bettencourt.

The human brain has approximately 100 billion neurons with roughly one quadrillion (one million billion) connections wiring these cells together. Nevertheless, the most advanced computers to date are now almost powerful enough to model it, Bettencourt explains. (
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No testing allowed

Simulation of compressible, turbulent mixing is used for verification and validation of physics models. LANL image.

imulating the thermodynamics of a nuclear blast requires millions of variables. The events being modeled contain stresses and shocks that cannot be produced by any ordinary means, heat like nothing on earth, and millions of nanosecond time steps.

As Scott Doebling, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has pointed out, "Simulations of this scale and complexity are filled with uncertainties. The details of what actually happens in thermonuclear devices during an explosion are still the subject of considerable study among scientists." (
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Take a look

hysicist Rod McCrady works in the control room at LANSCE. Journal photo.

os Alamos National Laboratory announced this week it would be giving tours of LANSCE on Friday, May 20. They’ve quickly run out of slots, with more than 300 people signed up, including students on field trips and nuclear history fans pining to see one of the world’s most powerful scientific instruments. (
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LANL kicks off scholarship drive

he scholarship drive began May 2 and runs through May 31. Donations to the fund will be used to award scholarships in 2012. So far, $90,000 has been raised and LANS LLC will match what is raised.

The Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund encourages Los Alamos National Labor
atory employees, retirees, and subcontract personnel to donate to a fund that awards college scholarships to Northern New Mexico students. (Full Story - subscription required)

UNM bureau tallies LANL impact

rom Business Outlook -- Los Alamos National Laboratory is the sixth-largest employer in New Mexico and contributes nearly 24,000 jobs to the state, according to a University of New Mexico study based on 2009 numbers. (
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‘How far we’ve come’
Residents recall 11-year-old fire like it happened yesterday

National Forest Service photo.

he 48,000-acre Cerro Grande Fire of May 2000 began as a well-intended controlled burn effort on the part of the National Park Service to protect Los Alamos National Laboratory and the community of Los Alamos.

Major devastation resulted from those intentions when high winds and drought conditions caused the fire to quickly grow out of control, crown and run across the face of the local mountain, damage and destroy structures at LANL and destroy hundreds of homes. (
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