Friday, September 30, 2016

Carter meets with Google CEO during Los Alamos visit

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter with Lab Director Charlie 
McMillan (right) and Bob Webster (left), Principal Associate Director for Weapons Programs, LANL photo.

Joining Secretary of Defense Ash Carter this week on a trip to the Los Alamos National Laboratory was Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google parent company Alphabet who is also the head of the Defense Innovation Board.

Los Alamos is home to Plutonium Facility 4, the US government’s science, technology and manufacturing center for plutonium. Press were not invited to visit the lab, but a Los Alamos press release said Carter visited the pit casting area, “where molten plutonium is shaped into a pit, the plutonium core of a nuclear weapon." (Full story)

Arctic river flood plains are home to hidden carbon

The Colville River runs across northern Alaska. Nat Geo photo.     

A preliminary study of ten Arctic rivers suggests that they cycle roughly three to seven times more carbon through their flood plains than eventually exits the river into the ocean, says Joel Rowland, a geomorphologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The fate of that flood-plain carbon isn’t known. It may be respired into the atmosphere, or be redeposited on riverbanks farther downstream. Either way, it represents an important chunk of the Arctic carbon budget that researchers do not yet understand, Rowland says. “There’s a lot of action going on that’s been ignored." (Full story)

Feeling the burn: Understanding how biomass burning changes climate

Each year, during the dry season, a large swath of the African countryside goes up in flames. During two distinct seasons—October through March in the northern hemisphere, and June through November in the southern hemisphere—fires are set to clear land, remove dead and unwanted vegetation and drive grazing animals to less-preferred growing areas.

Aerosol research at Los Alamos began decades ago, stemming from a need to better understand nuclear fallout, specifically the feedbacks between particles, clouds, land-atmosphere interactions, and the hydrological cycle—the infamous “nuclear winter.” It’s interesting to think that the work to understand the harmful impacts of a very modern technology is now helping us understand the harmful impacts of a tool as old as civilization itself: fire. (Full story)

How Los Alamos is learning to track disease outbreaks around the World


Despite the ancient origins of biosurveillance, there is little agreement over how best to pursue it. Consequently, the field is plagued with difficulties over how to define diseases, their symptoms, infectious agents, their carriers, and so on.

Now that looks set to change thanks to the work of Ashlynn Daughton at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and few pals who have come up with a new method for describing disease that is designed to bring this disparate field together and gain international traction. Their new system of classification is called the Anthology of Biosurveillance Diseases, and they have set up an online database to support it. (Full story)

Deep Moonquakes reveal thickness
of lunar crust

Charlotte Rowe of Los Alamos National Laboratory's Geophysics group and collaborators from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have reported the first use of the seismic interferometry technique applied to study the internal structure of the Moon. 

Rowe and collaborators applied body-wave seismic interferometry to the data to study clusters of deep moonquakes (hypocenters at depths between 700 and 1200 km). Seismic interferometry creates new seismic responses by cross-correlating seismic observations from multiple, nearly co-located sources, at each of several different receiver locations. (Full story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, September 23, 2016

New insights into ‘plant memories’

Artist's impression of a long, non-coding RNA system, LANL image.

A special stretch of ribonucleic acid (RNA) called COOLAIR is revealing its inner structure and function to scientists, displaying a striking resemblance to an RNA molecular machine, territory previously understood to be limited to the cells’ protein factory (the ‘ribosome’) and not a skill set given to mere strings of RNA.

"We are uncovering the nuts and bolts of plant memories," said Karissa Sanbonmatsu of Los Alamos National Laboratory, lead author on a new article in the journal Cell Reports. (Full Story)

Also from PhysOrg

See the video on YouTube

A revolution in supercomputing is coming. From a remote mountain town. In New Mexico.

Trinity first phase installation, LANL photo.

While a remote mountain town might seem to be an odd place for this computer to call home, it makes sense when you consider Los Alamos’ history. Founded during World War II as the location of the top-secret Manhattan Project, scientists toiled away to build the first atomic bomb. What they didn’t realize is that, in the process, they were pioneering the advent of Big Science. Today, Big Science brings together theory, modeling, experiments that produce massive amounts of data, and supercomputers to run incredibly sophisticated simulations providing feedback and validation to those theories and models. (Full Story)

LANL cleanup agreement a model for the complex, DOE says

Excavation of waste from MDA-B, completed in 2011, LANL photo.

With its budget for legacy nuclear cleanup squeezed, the Energy Department thinks remediation projects across the country could benefit from a change in strategy similar to what was laid out this summer in an expansive new framework approved for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, senior agency officials said last week at a major industry meeting. (Full Story)

Summer Reading Program encourages elementary students to read

The student who read the most books, Lennox Chung of McCurdy School, Daily Post photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in partnership with New Mexico’s own award winning author Rudolfo Anaya and the Christopher Montalvo Memorial recently sponsored a Summer Reading Program for students in grades 9-6 from Los Alamos, Pojoaque, Santa Fe and Rio Arriba County.

The goal of the program was to encourage students to read during the summer months. Those who read the most books were awarded prizes at a recent party for those students who participated. (Full Story)

Projects advance Native economic diversification

Reanna Agunio is president of Tsay Professional Services, Tsay photo.          

Founded in 1994, Tsay focuses on federal contracting. It does work all over the country, including with Los Alamos National Lab, in areas such as construction and building maintenance.

“LANL gave us a shot when we had no track record,” said Ron Lovato, Tsay Corp.’s CEO. “We’ve been able to leverage this business relationship nationwide.”

He said there are 3,000 enrolled members, with 2,000 living in New Mexico. In addition to the casino, the Ohkay Owingeh also own and lease several office buildings off the reservation in Rio Rancho, said Lovato. (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, September 16, 2016

Science on the Hill: Trinity ushers in new age of supercomputing

Gary Grider and the new Trinity super-
computer, LANL photo.

As Los Alamos National Laboratory begins testing the second half of its new supercomputer, Trinity, the occasion highlights how intertwined scientific breakthroughs and computer innovations have become — and what a seminal and central role the lab has played in that synergy.

Big Science, which today brings together theory, modeling, experiments that produce massive amounts of data and supercomputers to run incredibly sophisticated simulations providing feedback and validation to those theories and models, was largely pioneered at Los Alamos more than 70 years ago. (Full story)

Get ready for a sky ride

Lockheed Martin technicians
prepare OSIRIS-REx for launch. LockMart photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists in collaboration with colleagues around the country have been interested  for some time in issues involving planetary defense against the low-probability, high consequence hazard of an asteroid or meteor strike. As a preliminary measure, LANL theoretical physicist C.S. Plesko has been working with counterparts at sister laboratory Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to study how such hazards might be mitigated. (Full story)


Funding boosts Exascale research
at Los Alamos

In a recent DOE announcement from the Exascale Computing Project, six Los Alamos National Laboratory partnership projects were tagged for full funding and one for seed money. The projects, all collaborations with other national laboratories and universities, target advanced modeling and simulation solutions to specific challenges supporting key DOE missions in science, clean energy and national security, as well as collaborations such as the National Cancer Institute’s Precision Medicine Initiative. (Full story)

Entrepreneurs discuss starting a business based on LANL technology

Panel includes entrepreneurs who started
businesses with Lab technology. Monitor photo.

Vladimir Matias stated that of the four companies he had negotiated with for patents, LANL was the easiest. “Yes, there are delays. It takes six months for bureaucracy to go through,” Matias said. “But in our case it was very simple, very easy, very good terms.”

“Los Alamos was quite accommodating. I have nothing but best things to say about TT in Los Alamos. They were very good to us. They helped us with our whole bailment agreement and everything else and supported us since then." (Full story)

Beyond balloons

The Bradbury Science Museum, LANL photo.

Less than 100 miles from Albuquerque is Los Alamos, made world-famous for its secret role in the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bombs credited with ending World War II.

There’s a fascinating self-guided Historic Walking Tour that includes iconic sites from that era, public art, an ancestral Pueblo dwelling dating from 1225 B.C. and the Bradbury Science Museum, with more than 60 interactive exhibits focusing on the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)
To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, September 9, 2016

Breakthrough research could lead to new weapon against cancer

Isotope Production Facility at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

A new weapon against cancer could be just around the corner now that a Cal Poly Pomona professor and her colleagues from Stanford, Cornell and Los Alamos National Laboratory have unlocked some of the secrets of a fickle radioactive element.

To learn more about how actinium bonds with other atoms to create chemical compounds, the team made use of X-ray absorption spectroscopy, a technique in which the sample being analyzed is bombarded with powerful X-rays, causing its atoms to absorb the rays in a way that reveals information about their atomic structure. (Full Story)

The Exascale Computing Project awards $39.8M to 22 projects

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. As part of a $39.8 million award round, the ECP will provide full funding to 15 application development proposals and seed funding for seven more proposals, impacting 22 total projects and 45 research and academic organizations, including Los Alamos National Laboratory.  (Full Story)

LANL and SFCC partner to build work place skills

Los Alamos Laboratory is partnering with Santa Fe Community College and Innovate+Educate to offer an Engineered Systems Technician course beginning Saturday, Sept. 10. The course offers workplace skills that will prepare students for level 1 or 2 engineered systems technicians at the Laboratory.

"Creating pipelines to address future workforce needs is crucial to ensuring that the Laboratory meets its mission needs and continues to serve the nation," said C.J. Bacino of the Laboratory's Office of Diversity and Strategic Staffing. " (Full Story)

LANL Foundation provides funds for school program

Two people, Mathilde Schaumberg and her husband Joseph, recently came forward to publicly thank the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation for helping the kids in their program have a great time this summer.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the grant for transportation from the LANL Foundation,” Joseph Schaumberg said. The LANL Foundation has annually provided $1,500 in support for the program through the foundation’s “Education and Community Grants Program. (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, September 2, 2016

Plants regulate leaf temperature to 
boost carbon uptake

Thermal image of plant leaves, LANL photo.

A new study has found that plants regulate their leaf temperature with some independence from the surrounding air temperature, a trait that increases carbon uptake through photosynthesis.

"This research combines theory for leaf energy flows with globally distributed temperature data for diverse plant taxa to show that leaves generally do not match air temperature, but instead thermoregulate," said Sean Michaletz, a plant ecologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which led the study. (Full story)

Los Alamos lab is among top 50 employers for Latinas

Latina Style magazine has named Los Alamos National Laboratory as a top 50 employer for Latina women, the first national laboratory to achieve the distinction.

“This recognition from Latina Style magazine speaks to our commitment to making the Laboratory an employer of choice for Latinas and other women who are considering careers at scientific and technical institutions,” lab director Charlie McMillan said in a news release. (Full story) 

Eight finalists for 2016 R&D Awards from LANL

Eight Los Alamos National Laboratory innovations were selected as finalists for the 2016 R&D 100 Awards, which honor the top 100 proven technological advances of the past year as determined by a panel selected by R&D Magazine.

The finalists, with projects covering energy, computing, health care, and materials, demonstrate the continued success of Laboratory researchers in technical innovation for national security science. (Full story)

Los Alamos to investigate solar dangers to the power grid

Next month Los Alamos National Laboratory launches a new investigation of how those solar events could affect a grid like a long string of Christmas lights – increasingly long and susceptible to a cascade of problems.

The three-year Los Alamos program will be funded internally for about $5 million – and will determine what transformers, circuits, stations and conduits could be fried by a flare-up from the sun, said Mike Henderson, leader of the national security-focused program. (Full story) 

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at