Friday, December 18, 2015

Los Alamos turns its nuclear weapons power to war on cancer

Eva Birnmbaum (right) talks to NBC News reporter Janet Shamlian. From NBC News.

Hidden amid the mountains and mesas of northern New Mexico lies Los Alamos National Laboratory. It's shrouded in secrecy. Once known simply as Project Y, it was a classified lab where scientists built the atomic bomb.

Now, 70 years later, scientists there still work on nuclear weapons, but they're also using some of that same knowledge to battle cancer.

NBC News got exclusive access to the secure facility, where physicist Eva Birnbaum is working to use radioactive elements to battle cancer. (Full Story)

KOB-TV does a preview

Mars Rover finds changing rocks, surprising scientists

ChemCam instrument. NASA image.

After arriving at a spot the scientists named Marias Pass, an intersection between the older mudstone and younger sandstone near the base of the mountain, Curiosity spied a patch of light-toned bedrock, part of the mudstone. It fired a laser to vaporize the rock in several places; the instrument identifies the constituent elements from the colors of light given off.

“The science team decided to make the rare decision to go back and investigate this more,” said Jens Frydenvang, a member of the science team from Los Alamos National Laboratory and from the University of Copenhagen. (Full Story)

Curiosity Rover finds piles of silica on Mars

Curiosity drills two holes in the "Buckskin" rock on Mars, NASA image.

NASA says its Curiosity rover has found very high concentrations of silica on the red planet.  Explanations for the high silica levels "all require considerable water activity," says Jens Frydenvang of Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Copenhagen. He adds, "and on Earth high silica deposits are often associated with environments that provide excellent support for microbial life."

Silica, NASA reminds us, "is a rock-forming chemical containing silicon and oxygen, commonly found on Earth as quartz." It was found in an area that also had significantly higher levels of hydrogen than other parts of Mars explored by Curiosity. (Full Story)

Rocks rich in silica present puzzles for Mars Rover team

Seven months ago, Curiosity approached "Marias Pass," where two geological layers are exposed in contact with each other. The rover's laser-firing instrument for examining compositions from a distance, Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), detected bountiful silica in some targets the rover passed on its way to the contact zone. The rover's Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument simultaneously detected that the rock composition was unique in this area.

"The high silica was a surprise -- so interesting that we backtracked to investigate it with more of Curiosity's instruments," said Jens Frydenvang of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. (Full Story)

See the video on YouTube

Also from PhysOrg

Flu season will peak at an unusual time this winter

A team of mathematicians and computer scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico say it’s probable that this season’s flu cases will spike in February. That’s in contrast to the past three years, when the flu peaked in mid-to-late-December.

Scientist Sara Del Valle, who leads a group tracking flu cases for the federal government, said her team looks at two types of data to make their predictions: the number of ‘flu-like’ virus symptoms being reported at doctor’s offices, and actual lab samples of the flu. (Full Story)

Also from the Santa Fe New Mexican

Could UN climate pact work? This is one way we’d actually know

Sign on the Eiffel Tower during the Paris talks, from Reuters.

The need is highlighted by China's recent acknowledgement that it had underreported its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning coal by 17 percent, notes Mavendra Dubey, a climate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“The good news is that everybody agrees that climate change is a problem,” says Los Alamos’s Dr. Dubey. “Now we have to verify and monitor – not punitive, but to build capacity and evidence that we're moving in the right direction.” (Full Story)

LANL’s work on portable MRI earns breakthrough award

Michelle Espy, LANL photo.                 

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s portable MRI, featured in a Journal article in May, was named one of the Top 10 Breakthroughs of the Year by Physics World, the member magazine of the Institute of Physics.

Portable MRI, also called Battlefield MRI (bMRI), uses ultra-low-field magnetic resonance imaging to create images of injured soft tissues, such as the brain. (Full Story)

Also from KRQE-TV

'Hoverboard' scooter fires: Faulty batteries may be to blame

Image from Live Science.

Lithium-ion batteries, first commercialized by Sony Corporation in 1991, give power to countless electronics, including cellphones, laptops, power tools and children's toys. Lithium itself is fairly dangerous; it can explode if it comes into contact with oxygen or water. But Sony developed a way to contain the metal, said Lloyd Gordon, the chief electrical safety officer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The invention keeps lithium ions in "some sort of a suspension or chemical so that it's never pure lithium," Gordon told Live Science. (Full Story)

New model tracks gases for underground nuclear explosion detection

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new, more thorough method for detecting underground nuclear explosions (UNEs) by coupling two fundamental elements--seismic models with gas-flow models--to create a more complete picture of how an explosion's evidence (radionuclide gases) seep to the surface. (Full Story)

Magnetic field helps qubit electrons store information longer

Semiconductor nanostructures.

Physicists at the Technical University of Munich, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Stanford University (USA) have tracked down semiconductor nanostructure mechanisms that can result in the loss of stored information – and halted the amnesia using an external magnetic field. The new nanostructures comprise common semiconductor materials compatible with standard manufacturing processes.

Quantum bits, qubits for short, are the basic logical elements of quantum information processing (QIP) that may represent the future of computer technology. (Full Story)

New seed treatment accelerates nutrient uptake

The plant-growth biological technology in Take Off ST is a discovery made by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and made into a seed treatment by Verdesian Life Sciences for use on soybeans, corn and wheat to accelerate the crop plant’s natural ability to acquire nutrients and put them to work during seed germination and early plant growth.

According to Verdesian data, tests on wheat treated with Take Off ST showed nitrogen content increased 48 percent compared to the untreated crop. (Full Story)

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