Friday, February 24, 2017

Science versus the 'Horatio Alger myth'

Horatio Alger was a prolific 19th-century American writer, from Wikipedia.

In a new study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have taken a condensed matter physics concept usually applied to the way substances such as ice freeze, called "frustration," and applied it to a simple social network model of frustrated components. They show that inequality of wealth can emerge spontaneously and more equality can be gained by pure initiative.

It's a computer-modeling exploration of the 19th-century Horatio Alger theme, whereby a motivated young person overcomes poor beginnings and lives the "rags to riches" life thanks to strength of character. "Most theories of wealth inequality rely on social stratification due to income inequality and inheritance," said Cristiano Nisoli, of the Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems group at Los Alamos and lead author of the study. (Full Story)

Confessions of a dark matter detective

The HAWC Observatory in Mexico. HAWC image.

As a national nuclear security facility, Los Alamos National Laboratory studies dark matter under its global security mission, which includes a focus on particle physics. Increasing our understanding of high-energy astrophysical phenomena helps us develop expertise and capabilities in particle detection, data acquisition  systems, and Big Data analysis. That work brought me to the HAWC team at Los Alamos, where I could pursue the deep mystery of dark matter. (Full Story)

Alien particles wreaking havoc on personal electronic devices

A section of the LANSCE accelerator, LANL image.

To determine the rate of SEUs in 16-nanometer chips, the Vanderbilt researchers took samples of the integrated circuits to the Irradiation of Chips and Electronics (ICE) House at Los Alamos National Laboratory. There they exposed them to a neutron beam and analyzed how many SEUs the chips experienced. Experts measure the failure rate of microelectronic circuits in a unit called a FIT, which stands for failure in time. One FIT is one failure per transistor in one billion hours of operation. (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Math And Science Academy offers partnership opportunities

Monica Martinez-Archuleta of LANL's Math and Science Academy facilitates a teacher discussion. LANL photo.

The Math and Science Academy of Los Alamos National Laboratory is inviting elementary schools and institutions of higher education in northern New Mexico to partner with them in opportunities to influence educational outcomes, practice and policy.

These opportunities include developing and operating a partnership school and developing and participating in a math teacher leader network. Information sessions are scheduled for the previously announced opportunities to partner with the Laboratory's Math and Science Academy. (Full Story)

Physics greats of the 20th century mixed science and public service

Enrico Fermi, from Science News

When he arrived in the United States in 1939, Fermi almost immediately went to work studying nuclear fission, discovered only weeks earlier in Hitler’s Germany. Eventually Fermi took a major role in the Manhattan Project, leading the team that first demonstrated a controlled nuclear fission chain reaction.

Fermi, a foreigner, assumed a lead role because he was so widely recognized among the world’s physicists as infallible — hence his nickname “the pope.” In The Pope of Physics, Gino Segrè and Bettina Hoerlin chronicle Fermi’s life and science with insight and rich detail. (Full Story)

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