Friday, January 13, 2017

Science on the Hill: What cosmology tells us about quantum mechanics

Cosmology, the study of the universe at gargantuan distances, has recently become good enough to test our understanding of quantum mechanics, which describes minuscule, subatomic systems. A possibly surprising consequence is that quantum mechanics, in turn, helps cosmologists understand observations of the vastness of space, including those soon to be made with forthcoming “extremely large” telescopes.

Given Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 70-plus years of research in nuclear physics, and its nuclear stockpile mission, the lab has a vested interest in knowing everything about the subatomic world, now and way back then. (Full Story)

Quantum computing is real, and D-Wave just open-sourced it

D-Wave hardware, from D-Wave.

IBM demonstrated a working quantum computer in 2000 and continues to improve on its technology. Google is working on its own quantum computer and also teamed up with NASA to test D-Wave’s system in 2013. Lockheed Martin and the Los Alamos National Laboratory are also working with D-Wave machines. But today’s quantum computers still aren’t practical for most real-world applications.

That’s where the company’s new software tool Qbsolv comes in. Last year Scott Pakin of Los Alamos National Laboratory–and one of Qbsolv’s first users–released another free tool called Qmasm, which also eases the burden of writing code for D-Wave machines. (Full Story)

NASA's bold plan to save Earth from killer asteroids

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), NASA image.

If we don't have 50 years or a fast enough battering ram, we might need to break up an asteroid instead. Catherine Plesko of Los Alamos National Laboratory uses supercomputers to study how to break up asteroids using nuclear explosions and "kinetic impactors," essentially giant space cannonballs.

"Cannonball technology is actually very good technology, because you're intercepting the object at very high speed, so it ends up being more effective than conventional high explosives," Plesko said at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in December. (Full Story)

And the Oscar goes to “Organ-On-A-Chip”

Lung module from the PuLMo system, LANL image.

In a world of nanotechnologies and microchips, the ability for large-scale processes to take place on the microscale are becoming increasingly prevalent, even in the environment of combating chemical and biological threats to our warfighters. A research effort by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Joint Science and Technology Office, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Wake Forest University has resulted in an award-winning miniature technology in the eX-vivo Capability for Evaluation and Licensure (XCEL) program, the Pulmonary Lung Model (PuLMo). (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