Friday, April 15, 2016

Science on the Hill: Why space weather matters

Van Allen belts yield surprises, NASA image.

Many people think of space as a silent, empty void and the sun as a distant source of light and heat. Not true. The sun and the Earth are connected in complex, intimate and sometimes dangerous ways.

Recent research by Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA, the New Mexico Consortium and others, however, has painted a new picture of the Van Allen belts with important implications for everyday life and national security. (Full story)

Also from the New Mexican this week:

Parched land worries fire forecasters

2013 wildfire in the Jemez Mountains, New
Mexican photo.

Climate change is also causing longer fire seasons for an obvious reason: Fires burn better in warmer, drier weather, said Nate McDowell, a Los Alamos National Laboratory tree physiologist.

“To some extent, it’s that simple,” he said. There are always exceptions, he said, “but the trend is warmer, warmer, warmer and, therefore, [wildfires last] longer." (Full story)

The antibacterial resistance threat

Mukundan, LANL photo.

“We need to be very careful in using antimicrobial agents for everything from hand washing to toothpaste,” Harshini Mukundan, microbiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, explains. “Increased selection of drug resistant organisms means that future generations will be helpless in fighting even the most common bacterial infections.”

Mukundan and her colleagues have been working on biosurveillance and tracking the emergence of drug resistant strains in high disease burden populations where emerging antibiotic resistance is a huge concern. (Full story)

Space scientist tapped for French knighthood

Roger Wiens, right, and Christophe Lemoine,
Consul General of France.  From the Daily Post.

Los Alamos space scientist Roger Wiens was awarded the honorary title of chevalier (knight) in France’s Academic Order of Palms for his work in forging strong ties between the French and American scientific communities.

Wiens is the principal investigator of the ChemCam, a laser spectroscopy instrument on NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover that was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in collaboration with numerous French scientists. (Full story) 

LANL powers Trinity and MarFS with Scality RING storage 

Trinity supercomputer, LANL image.

Scality, the storage that powers digital business, today announced the production deployment of the Scality RING to power Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) Trinity supercomputer, projected to be one of the world’s fastest. Trinity, part of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program, is expected to be the first platform large and fast enough to begin to accommodate finely resolved 3D calculations for mission-critical simulations. (Full story)

AlgaStar/BioStim and Los Alamos National Laboratory renew research

Biostim test setup at LANL. From
the Post.

The objective of the NMSBA project, which allows local small businesses to work with scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is to map the conditions under which biostimulation enhances the growth rate and metabolism for several biological cultures involving algae and bacteria by means of microwave energy for use in the future development of nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, food and alternative fuels production. (Full story)

Unexpected Security Holes

Raymond Newell, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratories, for example, has developed an optical module that it is licensing to private industry to reduce those fluctuations. “With this kind of approach you need physical access to a device, and there is no reasonable way to do that,” said Raymond Newell, R&D scientist in the Physics Division of Los Alamos. (Full story)

So how exactly do we get to Alpha Centauri?

 Sailing on laser power, UCSB illustration.          

Two physicists formerly of Fermilab and Los Alamos National Laboratory are planning a Kickstarter to build a prototype antimatter drive. However, all current methods of manufacturing antimatter only produce infinitesimal amounts of it — it could cost $100 billion or more to produce a gram of the stuff.Even if humanity could generate enough antimatter for interstellar travel, it remains unknown whether one could store and manipulate it safely. (Full story)


95 New Mexico students receive LAESF scholarships

From left, 2016 LAESF gold-level $20,000 scholarship
recipients Katherine Wang, Solomon Sindelar and
Arasely Rodriguez, LANL photo.

Katherine Wang of Los Alamos High School, Arasely Rodriguez of Taos High School and Solomon Sindelar of New Mexico Military Institute are recipients of the 2016 Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund Gold scholarships. They are among the 95 students from seven Northern New Mexico counties receiving LAESF scholarships, which are funded through pledges from Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and a $250,000 matching amount from Los Alamos National Security, LLC. (Full story)
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