Friday, September 13, 2019

Twist on ‘survival of the fittest’ could explain how reality emerges from the quantum haze

Wojciech Zurek, LANL photo.

In the 1980s, Wojciech Zurek, a theorist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, argued that the wave function of a here-and-there cup would inevitably meld with those of surrounding objects. That "entanglement" wouldn't collapse the cup's wave function, but it would obscure the exact relationship between the here and there parts of its quantum state. In quantum theory, that's enough to put the cup in one place or the other.

The right kind of entanglement is key to the theory. The cup must interact with the environment in a way that depends on position rather than, say, momentum. But Zurek says most interactions between a big object and its environment depend on its location. Whether a cup reflects photons into your eye depends on where it is, he notes. (Full story)

The unexpected space center: Los Alamos National Laboratory

This US research center has been part of more than 200 space missions, but it’s not a NASA facility! The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico gave the Voyager spacecraft their power sources, is building nuclear generators for future Martians, and accidentally invented the field of High Energy Astrophysics. That’s just some of what we’ll learn from Lab historian Alan Carr and longtime Lab astrophysicist Ed Fenimore. The Planetary Society’s Jason Davis has the latest news about India’s lunar lander, while Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan go where no acronym has gone before. (Full story)

LANL bioscientist selected for If/Then ambassador program

Harshini Mukundan, LANL photo.

Harshini Mukundan, a bioscientist with Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been selected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s If/Then ambassador program, which seeks to help women in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

The ambassadors are contemporary role models who represent a variety of STEM-related professions in the U.S., ranging from academia to business to sports to entertainment.

If/Then is a national initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. (Full Story)

2020 Breakthrough Prize honors Los Alamos astrophysicists for work on first black hole image

Benjamin Ryan and George Wong, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory astrophysicists Benjamin Ryan and George Wong are members of the Event Horizon Telescope team that just won the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for creating the first image of a black hole.

“The observations themselves were carried out by a large team of radio astronomers across the world,” Ryan said. “The image was the result of worldwide coordination of radio telescopes, along with some surprisingly good weather across the globe for the few days when the observations took place. (Full story)

Also from the Post this week:

LANL Foundation welcomes new board members

Thom Mason, LANL photo.

Thom Mason joined the LANL Foundation Board as an ex officio member when he became Director of LANL and President and CEO of Triad National Security, LLC under the Laboratory management contract in November 2018.

Prior to becoming Director of the Lab, Mason worked for Battelle as Senior Vice President for Global Laboratory Operations and spent much of his prior career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including 10 years as its director. Mason is a resident of Santa Fe. (Full story)

UC President Janet Napolitano Announces Nearly $800,000 Grant From Triad National Security Supports Northern New Mexico Students And Teachers 

Two grants from Los Alamos National Laboratory operator Triad National Security, LLC, will benefit students and teachers across Northern New Mexico.

Triad’s Community Commitment Program awarded $599,600 to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation and $200,000 to the Regional Development Corporation (RDC), both based in EspaƱola. (Full story)

Students tackle nuclear security at Aggie Invent competition  

Teams assembled prototypes and pitched
presentations during the competition, Eagle photo.

Lloyd Brown, a retired Los Alamos scientist and former engineering professor with the U.S. Naval Academy — along with an additional nine Los Alamos representatives, including seven A&M alumni — served as a mentor to students and created the need statements prior to the event.

“The odds that students will come up with some solution that Los Alamos doesn’t already have aren’t high, but that’s not the point,” Brown said. “It’s about giving them a challenging problem to work on, and it’s just gravy if they come up with a workable idea. For us [at Los Alamos], it’s also a recruiting opportunity.” (Full story)

Friday, September 6, 2019

A mini chemical lab could one day test for toxic nerve agents in the field

A portable device that detects the chemical fingerprints of different compounds, LANL photo.

A mini version of lab equipment that identifies chemicals in suspect substances could someday help perform on-the-ground testing for chemical warfare agents.

Collecting samples of sarin, VX or other nerve agents and shipping them to a lab for testing can take weeks, says Robert Williams, a physical organic chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “If you can turn this into a portable system, you can make it a lot easier for people to use,” he says. “And you could get the results immediately.” (Full Story)

Quantum Darwinism spotted in diamond spins

Spins in diamond have been used to chart the transition between the quantum and classical worlds. Courtesy: iStock.

Quantum Darwinism, put forward by Wojciech Zurek of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, argues that the classical states we perceive are robust quantum states that can survive entanglement during decoherence. His theoretical framework posits that the information about these states will be duplicated many times and disseminated throughout the environment. Just as natural selection tells us that the fittest individuals in a species must survive to reproduce in great numbers and so go on to shape evolution, the fittest quantum states will be copied and appear classical. This redundancy means that many individual observers will measure any given state as having the same value, so ensuring objective reality. (Full Story)

LAB SCIENCES: Welcome to nuclear inspector school

Nuclear material samples at the IAEA inspector training. LANL photo.

The IAEA sends out teams of nuclear inspectors who scrutinize nuclear facilities around the world to ensure that their nuclear materials are used only for peaceful purposes.

Inspectors go through training at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in one of the laboratory’s nuclear facilities, as part of their requirements to become qualified inspectors. The reason is simple: Los Alamos has been doing this work for a long time and, consequently, is home to abundant expertise in all things nuclear. (Full Story)

California earthquake alert: Big One fears as scientists hope to predict next major quake

Illustration from The Express.

Seismologists could be able to predict when the Big One is about to strike after discovering a series of mini tremors occur in the build-up to a major earthquake.

It was believed that there would be little or no forewarning to the major seismic event which could effect the entire west coast of the United States – but recent developments show they might. Experts at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have analysed almost two million small tremors in California – many of which were below a magnitude one on the Richter scale. (Full Story)

Governor’s STEM Challenge confirms 600+ participants

Laboratory Director Thom Mason. LANL photo.

Sixty-five New Mexico high schools have created student teams to imagine, design and develop a technological solution for the 2019-20 New Mexico Governor’s STEM Challenge.

“Los Alamos National Laboratory is excited to support the STEM Challenge. The competition is a win-win that both encourages New Mexican students in STEM fields, and will help meet future workforce needs of the Laboratory and the state,” LANL Director Thom Mason said. (Full Story)

Lisa Danielson brings NASA background and excitement to LANL

Lisa Danielson speaks at the August Science on Tap event. Reporter photo.

Lisa Danielson joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in April as the lead for planetary science in the Space and Remote Sensing Group. She brought with her that amazing energy, cheerful countenance and sense of humor that affects people wherever she goes.

After 15 years at NASA at the Johnson Space Center, Danielson said two things brought her to the Lab.

“About two years ago I was looking for the next thing I wanted to do with my career. I felt that I had kind of gone as far as I was going to go at JSC and I kept coming back to the fact that there are just so many things to do here at LANL. (Full Story)

Geology camp gives educators field experience

G-Camp participants explore a slot canyon at Tent Rocks National Monument. From Hart Energy.

Later legs of the trip took the group south to Santa Fe, N.M., where the educators visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Texas A&M University System is part of a consortium that runs and operates the LANL. Giardino said researchers at the LANL offered a series of lectures to the G-Camp educators that focused on the work the laboratory is conducting in earthquake modeling, hydrology in Alpine environments and forest fire prevention.

Also in New Mexico, the group visited the White Sands, the world’s largest gypsum dune field. Azar said he utilized a 360-degree camera during his trip to create virtual reality (VR) videos and images for his students.  (Full Story)

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Fighting wildfires with computer models

Image from SciAm.

The FIRETEC modeling tool, developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, leverages fluid-dynamics research originally developed for national security science and uses physics to represent the critical interactions among the multiple ignitions of a prescribed burn in very complex terrain.

Based on specific details about ignition patterns, terrain, weather, atmospheric conditions, fuel loads, vegetation and more, FIRETEC simulates the buoyant rise of air, the way the fire draws in competing drafts of air, mutual influence among fire lines, and interactions among the gases of the fire and the fuel loads, terrain, atmosphere and so on. (Full story)

Also in Scientific American:

A Missing Link in Predicting Hurricane Damage

Image from SciAm.

Eroding coastlines are a significant factor in how infrastructure will be affected—but a new computer model now factors them in.

Using supercomputers at Los Alamos, we’ve developed a model that processes data about the physical characteristics of coastlines—including soil, vegetation and sensitivity to erosion—and how those characteristics would interact with a hurricane and its storm surge.

Although many studies have been conducted in laboratory settings to understand changing coastlines, the limitations of lab research mean that the resulting models are only relevant for a very small geographical area. To overcome this issue, Los Alamos has developed a model that describes the physics of changing coastlines. Because it’s based on physics and not a single geographical area, the model can be applied on a regional scale and include any coastal city. (Full story)

Supercomputers pave the way for new machine learning Approach

New deep learning models predict the
interactions between atoms in organic
molecules, LANL image.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a machine learning approach called transfer learning that lets them model novel materials by learning from data collected about millions of other compounds. The new approach can be applied to new molecules in milliseconds, enabling research into a far greater number of compounds over much longer timescales.

The new technique, called ANI-1ccx potential, promises to advance the capabilities of researchers in many fields and improve the accuracy of machine learning-based potentials in future studies of metal alloys and detonation physics. (Full story)

New technology could help scientists predict earthquakes

Scientists are utilizing new technology that allows them to study millions of small earthquakes in hopes of being able to predict the next big one.

The study comes out of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It shows how advancing computer technology is now able to read 10 times the number of earthquakes previously recorded, as local expert of geology, Patrick Abbott explained. (Full story)

Most of California's big earthquakes are preceded by ghostly 'foreshocks' weeks in advance

Image from Live Science.

"We're hoping that these observations will help inform improved physical models of how earthquakes get started," lead study author Daniel Trugman, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told Live Science. "With this improved physical understanding, we'll eventually be able to improve earthquake forecasting as well."

Trugman and his colleagues began their hunt for foreshocks by compiling a catalogue of some 284,000 earthquakes detected by various monitoring stations around Southern California between 2008 and 2017. (Full story).

Quantum Darwinism, a new theory on the nature of reality

Wojciech Zurek, LANL photo.

Wojciech H. Zurek, a Polish theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico, first proposed the extraordinary concept of Quantum Darwinism in a paper published in 2009.

Zurek claims his theory explains why the transition from quantum to classical transition happens. In other words, why the tendency of particles to adopt specific state when we observe the system obeying macroscopic physics suddenly.

Zurek thinks the interaction of quantum systems with the environment is the cause of decoherence that forces a particle to lose its ability to stay in a superposition state. (Full story)

Possible detection of a black hole so big it ‘should not exist’

Black hole illustration from NASA.

Black hole physicists have been excitedly discussing reports that the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors recently picked up the signal of an unexpectedly enormous black hole, one with a mass that was thought to be physically impossible.

The rumor is “pushing us to alternative formation mechanisms,” said Chris Fryer, an astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who has studied binary black hole formation and the mass gap. “In any event it will be an exciting event — if it’s true.” (Full story)

Scenes from the Hazmat Challenge at LANL

A Hazmat Team working in a decimation
exercise, Daily Post photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory hosted a Hazmat Challenge this past week at its Hazardous Materials Training Center, one of the most complete training facilities in the Nation.

Ten teams attended the event from New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The challenge provides a unique training venue for hazmat responders to test and develop their technical response capabilities in a difficult but safe environment.

The event requires participants to respond to simulated hazardous material emergencies involving aircraft, rail and highway transportation, in industrial piping, a biological lab, a confined space event and more. (Full story).

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Scenes from Robotics Night at the Bradbury Museum

Robotics Night featured robotics teams from regional schools and local groups with robots used by Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos Police Department and UMN-LA. The event was brought to the community by the Bradbury Science Museum Association and supported by New Mexico Bank & Trust. (Full story)