Friday, March 11, 2016

Surprise nuclear strike? Here's how we'll figure out who did it

Trinitite, the green-hued glass left by the first U.S. nuclear blast, for use in forensic studies. From Science

“Each type of weapon has a distinct fingerprint,” says Michael Pochet, a U.S. Air Force electrical engineer detailed to DTRA. In plutonium bombs, for example, the fissile isotope is plutonium-239, made in nuclear reactors and extracted by reprocessing spent fuel, which contains a mix of plutonium isotopes and other actinides like americium. Detecting those nuclei indicates that the bomb’s core was plutonium.

Their proportions hold clues to the bomb’s history, says Joel Ullom, a physicist at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, who, with colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, has developed a superconducting sensor that speedily differentiates plutonium isotopes. (Full Story)

Many of world’s lakes are vanishing

Lake PoopĆ³ in 2013 (left), and January 2016 (right), NASA image.

Bolivia’s second largest lake has vanished into thin air. In December, Lake PoopĆ³ became a dry salt pan and its largest lake – Lake Titicaca – is heading towards trouble, too.

This is largely due to the permafrost thawing. When frozen soil thaws, the water can drain, bursting out sideways or disappearing underground. “These ponds are the baby lakes, and if they disappear then we will have no Arctic lakes in the long term,” says Christian Andresen from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Finding new targets to battle drug resistance

Bladder cancer cells, from Atlas of Science.     

Researchers have created a chemotherapy-resistant line of bladder cancer cells to study how tumors become resistant to chemotherapy, team includes Bin Hu, Patrick Chain, Momchilo Vuyisich, Cheryl Gleasner and Kim Mcmurry at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Bladder cancer affects 70,000 people in the U.S. each year and results in 15,000 deaths. In 80 percent of the deaths, the bladder cancer had invaded the bladder wall, but there were no obvious signs of metastasis. (Full Story)

Random number generator promises stronger encryption

Raymond Newell, LANL photo.

One weakness of encryption algorithms — one that simply increasing from 128-bit to 256-bit can’t solve — is that they are based on pseudo-random number generators; not truly random number generators.

As Raymond Newell, research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and contributor to Whitewood Encryption Systems's creation, explains, "We take the randomness we create and spread it across the network." (Full Story)

Pine, Juniper forests predicted to disappear

Dead conifers in the Sandia Mountains, from NM in Depth.         

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other institutions predict the disappearance of the Southwest’s pine-juniper forests.

In the new study, scientists simulated drought conditions to see how evergreen trees will respond to warming in the coming decades. Over five years, they studied how trees perform certain functions, like photosynthesis and the absorption of water during drought. (Full Story)

See the YouTube Video

Robotics are all the rave

Neon robot at the Robo Rave, from the RG Sun.

The event was sponsored by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and had participation from most of the local schools.

Janelle Vigil-Maestas of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Community Programs Office said she met with Russ Fisher-Ives from Bernalillo’s Inquiry Facilitators Inc., approximately eight years ago, and thought having the event in Northern New Mexico would be a wonderful opportunity to promote science and robotics. (Full Story)

United Way Of Northern New Mexico recognizes donors

LANL Community Programs Office Director Kathy Keith, left, accepts the Philanthropist of the Year Award for LANL/LANS, the largest Employee Giving Campaign in Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties, from United Way Director Kristy Ortega. 'This past year, with no confirmation for a match to donations, LANL employees pledged more than $2.3 million for nonprofits around the world,' Ortega said. (Full Story)

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