Friday, April 14, 2017

Science on the Hill: If these (Martian) rocks could talk

ChemCam fires its laser in this NASA illustration.

It’s all about answering a simple question: Could past or present conditions on Mars support life?

To help find out, Los Alamos National Laboratory, in collaboration with the French Space Agency CNES, developed an instrument called ChemCam. Although Los Alamos isn’t often associated with space exploration, the Lab has been building and operating instruments since the early 1960s to monitor the space radiation environment and on other missions, as well. (Full story)

Wanna go to Mars? Or at least remotely control a science buggy up there?

Nina Lanza, LANL photo.

Nina Lanza is a staff scientist in the Space and Remote Sensing group at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a member of the ChemCam instrument team for the Curiosity Mars rover. I always love talking to her because her enthusiasm for her work is like that of a kid who’s gotten turned on to science and wants everyone else to share in the discovery. We talk today about what a geologist can do on Mars without going there, how Mars looks a lot like New Mexico, and whether people–maybe even Nina herself–might go there some day. (Full story)

Looking for clues for past life on Mars

Curiosity Rover, NASA image.

On August 6, 2012, the NASA Curiosity rover landed on Mars at the base of Mount Sharp, a mountain the size of Kilimanjaro (roughly 19,000 feet) in the middle of Gale Crater. Nina Lanza, space scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, remembers the day well. As part of the team that built ChemCam, one of the ten instruments on the rover, she spent three months at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, living on “Mars time” to follow Curiosity’s first “steps.” (Full story)

Asteroids are bad at making waves

Ocean asteroid impacts far from a shoreline are unlikely to travel far, LANL image.

"The folklore has been that tsunamis from impactors will be the danger," Galen Gisler, who studies the physics of geological processes at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference last month in The Woodlands, Texas. (Gisler also presented the work at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in December 2016.) He ran 3D simulations that modeled wave formation from falling rocks of various sizes, as shown in this video, and found that the waves formed by smaller asteroids resemble landslide tsunamis on Earth. (Full story)

On-the-range detection technology could corral bovine TB

Mycobacterium bovis causes bovine tuberculosis, LANL photo.

A research breakthrough allowing the first direct, empirical, blood-based, cow-side test for diagnosing bovine tuberculosis (TB) could spare ranchers and the agriculture industry from costly quarantines and the mass slaughter of animals infected with this easily spread disease.

“We have adapted an assay originally developed for human TB to bovine TB, a particular challenge because the bovine disease is caused by a different species of the pathogen,” said Harshini Mukundan, leader of the Chemistry for Biomedical Applications team at Los Alamos National Laboratory (Full story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

UbiQD announces record efficiency from its cadmium-free quantum dots

Prototype quantum dot window, UbiQD photo.

UbiQD, LLC, a New Mexico-based quantum dot manufacturer, announced today that it has achieved greater than 80 percent quantum yield, or optical efficiency, for its quantum dots over a broad spectrum from the visible to the near infra-red.

Licensing technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UbiQD envisions a future where quantum dots are ubiquitous in a wide spectrum of applications. (Full story)