Friday, September 23, 2011

Too hard for science? Peter Watts - Fusing brains

One could always resort to doing these experiments as simulations,” says Peter Watts, science fiction author and one-time marine mammal biologist. For instance, Luis Bettencourt at Los Alamos National Laboratory has discussed the progress that has already been made towards computer simulation of whole brains. “It’s not doable now, but in a decade or two, who knows?” Watts says (full story).

Also in Scientific American, this look back at the “physicist’s physicst” Robert Wilson, who served at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project

Protons and Pistols: Remembering Robert Wilson

One day in 1969, the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy convened in Washington, DC, to hear testimony from a number of scientists concerning a proposed multimillion dollar particle accelerator to be built in Batavia, Illinois.

Physics had enjoyed strong government support for two decades in the wake of the Manhattan Project, which helped bring an end to World War II. But many in Congress simply couldn’t see the point of spending all that money on a big machine that didn’t seem to benefit US national interests in quite the same way.

Wilson, to his credit, answered just as bluntly: “No sir, I don’t believe so.”

“Nothing at all?” Pastore asked.

“Nothing at all.”

Pastore pressed further: “It has no value in that respect?”

And then Wilson knocked it out of the park. . . (full story).

Astronomers find extreme weather on an alien world

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. Co-authors include Didier Saumon at Los Alamos National Laboratory (full story).

Two exhibits to open at Bradbury

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Bradbury Science Museum will unveil two exhibits next week and hosts a talk about Manhattan Project physicist Richard Feynman on Sept. 29. The trinitite exhibit uses the famous green glass produced by the first atomic device test at Trinity Site to tell a story about the scientific method (full story).

Lab completes dump site excavation

Los Alamos National Laboratory announced Thursday it has completed excavation of its oldest hazardous waste dump, known as Area B.

The excavation removed about 43,000 cubic yards of toxic debris and soil from the 6-acre site, which was used from 1944-48 during Manhattan Project nuclear research and production. . . .

To protect workers and the public, the excavation was done under special metal structures equipped with special filters and fire and dust suppression systems (full story).

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