Friday, March 3, 2017

How bioinformatics tools are bringing genetic analysis to the masses

Illustration from Nature.     

For doctors trying to treat people who have symptoms that have no clear cause, gene-sequencing technologies might help in pointing them to a diagnosis. But the vast amount of data generated can make it hard to get to the answer quickly.

Patrick Chain, who led the development of the software1, at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico, says that EDGE was created to try to square the rapidly growing availability of low-cost DNA sequencers with the relative paucity of know-how required to make sense of the data. (Full story)

What if black holes … weren’t holes after all?

Photo by Elena Giorgi.

The concept of a “black hole” — a celestial body so dense and massive that not even light can escape its gravitational field — dates back to the 18th century, with the theoretical work of Pierre-Simon Laplace and John Michell. But it wasn’t until the early 20th century that these mysterious dark objects were first described mathematically by German physicist Karl Schwarzschild.       

Emil Mottola, a physicist in T-Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, laughs as he explains this bit of history behind black holes. “Would black holes have captured the popular imagination if they were still known as Schwarzschild’s solution?” The name “black hole” was coined by the American physicist John Wheeler in the 1960s, when these objects became the subject of serious study and first entered the popular vocabulary. (Full story)

Revamped thermonuclear missile warhead passes key milestone

USS Alabama, US Navy image.          

The Department of Energy said Thursday its scientists are taking the final steps to modernize the W88 thermonuclear warhead for Navy Trident II ballistic missiles.

After a four-year effort to alter the warhead with new arming, fuzing and firing components and add a new safety feature, a team from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories has been authorized to begin production engineering, with the first unit scheduled for delivery in late 2019. (Full story)