Monday, September 19, 2011

Eye in the sky among Los Alamos projects

If computers can drive our cars and watch cat videos on YouTube, what’sto stop them from overthrowing the human race?

“It’s no more a Terminator than Google is,” said Michael Ham, a member of the applied machine learning team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, of the computer they’ve built that can see and identify animals (including a cat in motion on YouTube) and track vehicles by satellite.

Tuesday was Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Day at Buffalo Thunder casino. It’s an annual event of poster presentations where LANL unveils dozens of projects. LDRD takes up about6 percent of the lab’s budget for research related to realizing long-term scientific goals.

LDRD program director William Pierdhorsky said the projects on display “are the kinds of things that will change lives in 20-50 years.”

LANL to host third annual research, development event

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists are working on a lot of nifty projects that have little to do with nuclear stockpiles.

Take theor

etical physicist Luis M.A. Bettencourt and his team studying how the brain sees. Let's say you spot a warm pizza coming out of an oven. Your brain processes a ton of information insta

ntly c

oming through your eyes — the toppings, the size, the crust thickness, the distance between the delectable food and your stomach. Bettencourt isn’t studying pizza, but he has spent three years working on computer models to understand how information is translated betw

een eyes and brain cells.

LANL looks to tweets in epidemic

Scientists at Los Alamos

National Laboratory have their eyes on some of you, specifically those on the social media website Twitter.

They are looking at millions and millions of tweets could help them help others when it comes to a deadly disease outbreak.

Each day people send 50 million tweets, cyber thoughts and statements, on everything from sports to weather.

But LANL scientist Sara DelValle said the tweets could help save lives.

NM labs to benefit from geothermal research funds

Two of New Mexico's national laboratories and a separate research firm will share nearly $5 million in federal funds for the development of geothermal energy technologies.

The U.S. Department of Energy is awarding the funds to Sandia and Los Alamos laboratories and Applied Technology Associates in Albuquerque through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Terahertz radiation's impact on cellular function and gene expression

Terahertz (THz) technologies show promise for myriad medical, military, security, and research applications ranging from the detection of cancer to airport security systems to shipment inspection to spectroscopy.

Relatively little is known, however, about the effect of THz radiation on biological systems. So a team of researchers, led by Los Alamos National Laboratory, evaluated the cellular response of mouse stem cells exposed to THz radiation.

. . . and here is the technical paper:

Non-thermal effects of terahertz radiation on gene expression in mouse stem cells

Terahertz (THz) technologies are emerging with many promising medical, military, security, and research applications, e.g., detection of cancer.

Despite this emerging ubiquity of THz applications, relatively little is known about the effect of THz radiation on biological systems.

NASA’s Dawn collects a bounty of beauty from Vesta

PASADENA, Calif. - A new video from NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes us on a flyover journey above the surface of the giant asteroid Vesta.

The data obtained by Dawn's framing camera, used to produce the visualizations, will help scientists determine the processes that formed Vesta's striking features. It will also help Dawn mission fans all over the world visualize this mysterious world, which is the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt.

Astronomers find extreme weather on an alien world

Cosmic oddball may harbour a gigantic storm

TORONTO – A University of Toronto-led team of astronomers has observed extreme brightness changes on a nearby brown dwarf that may indicate a storm grander than any seen yet on a planet. Because old brown dwarfs and giant planets have similar atmospheres, this finding could shed new light on weather phenomena of extra-solar planets.

“We found that our target’s brightness changed by a whopping 30 per cent in just under eight hours,” said PhD candidate Jacqueline Radigan, lead author of a paper to be presented this week at the Extreme Solar Systems II conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and submitted to the

Astrophysical Journal. “The best explanation is that brighter and darker patches of its atmosphere are coming into our view as the brown dwarf spins on its axis,” said Radigan.

Other co-authors of this work are David Lafrenière and Étienne Artigau at the Université de Montreal, Didier Saumon at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Mark Marely at NASA Ames Research Center.

U.S., Germany formalize partnership during WIPP visit

CARLSBAD - A high-ranking energy official from Germany formalized a partnership between her country and the United States during a visit to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Wednesday.

Dr. Dorothee Mûhl, deputy director general manager of Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, and other German officials visited WIPP, the U.S. Department of Energy's underground repository for disposal of defense-generated transuranic waste and signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to an exchange of knowledge between the two nations on matters related to radioactive waste disposal.

Representatives from URS Washington TRU Solutions LLC, Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory joined Mûhl and the Carlsbad Field Office in signing the agreement at DOE offices in Carlsbad. Mûhl and her staff toured the WIPP site itself, 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, earlier in the day.

A closer look at Los Alamos and how they interpret their history

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — I was fortunate to have been invited by the Los Alamos Historical Society to speak at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos, N.M., on Oak Ridge's history.

The trip was also filled with tours of historic sites in Los Alamos, The Los Alamos County Historical Museum, The Bradbury Science Museum, The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and The Trinity Site. It was a great week of intense visual stimulation and getting to see many new historic artifacts. It made me wish for more such exhibits in Oak Ridge.

When I returned to Oak Ridge, I could hardly wait to tell readers what I had seen in Los Alamos. I wanted to chide us about our lack of attention to the same details they were exceptional at featuring.

I tried in a Historically Speaking article and in presentations to civic groups around town, but was never satisfied that I had succeeded in adequately conveying my frustration. Eventually, I came to realize that what I felt was not conveyed was the important single element of statues.

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