Friday, August 16, 2019

Groundbreaking earthquake catalog may have just solved a seismic mystery

A crack in Highway 178 appeared after a 6.4
magnitude earthquake hit Ridgecrest, California.
Image from NatGeo,

In a recent study in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists examined a massive dataset of the region’s big and small rumbles, and they report a distinct increase in seismic activity in the weeks and days leading up to the majority of earthquakes.

Data from such experiments suggest that main quakes should be preceded by foreshocks, with tiny failures splintering across a fault when it approaches a critically stressed state.

But “real earthquakes are a much more complex system than our simple laboratory experiments,” says lead author Daniel Trugman, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

It's really hard to predict an earthquake, but scientists are getting closer

Image from Popular Mechanics.

Earthquakes are among the most surprising natural disasters. Unlike, say, hurricanes, the early-warning systems for quakes are still in their earliest stages. But new studies from the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Lab are painting a more accurate picture of the stresses within the earth's crust.

"It's very difficult to unpack what triggers larger earthquakes because they are infrequent, but with this new information about a huge number of small earthquakes, we can see how stress evolves in fault systems," says Daniel Trugman, a post-doctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

Also from Popular Mechanics this week:

The power source for a Mars outpost could be ready in 3 years

Engineers prepare the Kilopower reactor core.
NASA image.

An experimental miniature nuclear reactor known as Kilopower, meant to power manned outposts beyond Earth, could be ready for an in-flight test as early as 2022, says a project lead project at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

In a recent NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group weekly teleconference, Kilopower lead Patrick McClure spoke for himself and not the government when he said, "I think we could do this in three years and be ready for flight." (Full story)

Nuclear reactor for Mars outpost could be ready to fly by 2022

Watch this video

A new type of nuclear reactor designed to power crewed outposts on the moon and Mars could be ready for its first in-space trial just a few years from now, project team members said.

A flight test is the next big step for the Kilopower experimental fission reactor, which aced a series of critical ground tests from November 2017 through March 2018. No off-Earth demonstration is on the books yet, but Kilopower should be ready to go by 2022 or so if need be, said Patrick McClure, Kilopower project lead at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Full story)

Preparing the quantum workforce of the future

Lukasz Cincio, LANL photo.

In a hot auditorium deep in the Laboratory’s Physics Building at Los Alamos National Laboratory, college physics and computing students, veteran scientists and esteemed Laboratory fellows file in after lunch for the Director’s Colloquium, as they have done for decades. The well-worn fabric seats and wood panel walls have seen some of the world’s most influential scientists speak.

But this lecture is different and a sense of anticipation fills the crowd. Quantum computing guru Scott Aaronson from the University of Texas at Austin is giving the final lecture in the Quantum Computing Summer School, a new program aimed at building a global workforce capable of working on the computers of the future – quantum computers. (Full story)

LANL scientists pioneer fast leak detection system

Manvendra Dubey, left, Bryan Travis and
Keeley Costigan. LANL photo.

Natural gas is used to heat our homes, cook our food and keep our lights on. Increased production activity — spread over millions of miles of pipeline and thousands of processing facilities across the globe — brings with it costly, hard-to-detect leaks.

Enter ALFa LDS, the Autonomous, Low-cost, Fast Leak Detection System, pioneered by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists in collaboration with Aeris Technologies and Rice University. ALFa LDS is an affordable, robust, autonomous system for the detection of natural gas leaks. (Full story)

LANL officials detail potential building boom

At a meeting attended by some 700 representatives of construction firms from around the country Thursday, plans for different kind of explosion – a building and hiring boom – were described for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

LANL Director Thomas Mason, in an interview Friday, said the lab currently has 1,400 openings and has been hiring about 1,000 people annually over the past several years, with about 500 each year placed in new job slots as opposed to replacing retirees or others who’ve left the lab. (Full story)

Also from the Journal this week:

LANL operator Triad gives $500K to local development non-profit

Laboratory Director Thomas Mason.
LANL photo.

Triad National Security, LLC — operator of Los Alamos National Laboratory — is providing a $500,000 grant to a local economic development non-profit.

“The laboratory boosts the region’s economy through employment and procurement and we are always looking for direct ways to increase that impact,” said lab director Thomas Mason, who also is president of Triad. “Triad’s partnership with RDC helps businesses provide jobs across all of northern New Mexico.” (Full story)

Also reported by the LA Daily Post

Small businesses loans available via Regional Development Corp.

The Regional Development Corp., based in Española, has $269,000 available for no-interest microloans to small businesses and loans for technology and manufacturing companies in seven Northern New Mexico counties. The Regional Development Corp. receives financial support from Triad National Security, which operates Los Alamos National Laboratory; the cities of Española and Santa Fe; Los Alamos and Santa Fe counties; and the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership. (Full story)

Thursday, August 8, 2019

How Does Classical Reality Emerge from Quantum Environments?

Quantum computing concept. Digital communication network.
Technological abstract. Getty Image/Forbes.

Quantum Darwinism is an approach is largely promoted by Wojciech Zurek of Los Alamos National Lab, who has long been associated with the idea of decoherence (picking up on work by Heinz-Dieter Zeh), in which environmental interactions are responsible for destroying quantum superpositions leading to the single observed outcomes of classical measurements. Quantum Darwinism is an outgrowth of this, which springs from the recognition that the most essential characteristic of classical reality is its objectivity: everybody agrees about the state of a classical object.

Zurek notes that in order for multiple observers to agree about the state of a quantum object, they each must be getting some information about its state from its larger environment, which is built up of a lot of other quantum objects. Interactions between the quantum object and each of the individual components of the quantum environment lead to their states becoming entangled: the state of the quantum object of interest and the state of a particular component of the environment are correlated in such a way that measuring one gives you information about the other. That entanglement is the source of the information that individual observers are using to determine the state of the quantum object of interest. (Full story)

Resurrected detector will hunt for some of the strangest particles in the universe

The ICARUS detector, seen being placed at Fermilab
in Batavia, Illinois,  will hunt for a particle called the
sterile neutrino. REIDAR HAHN/FERMILAB.

After four days Lazarus rose from the grave, but physicists here at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) are resurrecting a massive particle detector by lowering it into a tomblike pit and embalming it with a chilly fluid. In August 2018, workers eased two gleaming silver tanks bigger than shipping containers, the two halves of the detector, into a concrete-lined hole. Hauled from Europe 2 years ago, ICARUS—an outdated acronym for Imaging Cosmic And Rare Underground Signals—will soon start a second life seeking perhaps the strangest particles physicists have dreamed up, oddballs called sterile neutrinos.

The first experimental hint of sterile neutrinos came from the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector (LSND), which ran from 1993 until 1998 at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Researchers shot protons into a target to generate a beam of pure muon neutrinos. But they spotted dozens of electron neutrinos in their detector 30 meters away, far more than they were expecting for such a short distance. The result suggested muon neutrinos were quickly morphing into heavier sterile neutrinos and then into electron neutrinos, in a kind of flavor-changing shortcut. The sterile neutrino's higher mass would make the oscillation happen more quickly. (Full story)

Foreshocks Could be Big Development in Predicting Earthquakes

Scientists have discovered that, out of nearly 2 million earthquakes surveyed, foreshocks preceded about 75 percent of quakes that struck in Southern California.

The revelations could be a huge advancement earthquake forecasting.

For more, KCBS's Rebecca Corral spoke with  Daniel Trugman, Seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

Curiosity Has Now Been on Mars For 7 Years, So Here Are 7 Amazing Things It Has Seen


On 6 August 2012, after an epic six-month journey, NASA rover Curiosity finally arrived at her new home on Mars. This week marks seven Earth years since touchdown. here are seven amazing things it has shown us about Mars, including the discovery of Boron, which was found Using the ChemCam Instrument created at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Boron is a chemical signature of evaporated water, and while we still don't know if Mars once hosted life, the discovery is further evidence that the planet was once plentiful with water, and therefore habitable. (Full story)

Friday, August 2, 2019

Quantum Darwinism Could Explain What Makes Reality Real

Contrary to popular belief, says physicist Adán Cabello,
“quantum theory perfectly describes the emergence of
the classical world.” Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine

It’s not surprising that quantum physics has a reputation for being weird and counterintuitive. The process by which “quantumness” disappears into the environment is called decoherence. It’s a crucial part of the quantum-classical transition, explaining why quantum behavior becomes hard to see in large systems with many interacting particles.

To explain the emergence of objective, classical reality, it’s not enough to say that decoherence washes away quantum behavior and thereby makes it appear classical to an observer. Somehow, it’s possible for multiple observers to agree about the properties of quantum systems. Zurek, who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, argues that two things must therefore be true.

First, quantum systems must have states that are especially robust in the face of disruptive decoherence by the environment. Zurek calls these “pointer states,” because they can be encoded in the possible states of a pointer on the dial of a measuring instrument. A particular location of a particle, for instance, or its speed, the value of its quantum spin, or its polarization direction can be registered as the position of a pointer on a measuring device. Zurek argues that classical behavior—the existence of well-defined, stable, objective properties—is possible only because pointer states of quantum objects exist. (Full story)

California earthquake: Scientists closer to predicting when the Big One will strike

California is a hotspot for seismic activity, and experts have been warning of a theoretical ‘Big One’ for some time. When the Big One strikes, it will devastate the Golden State – but scientists previously had no way of predicting when it will come. However, a new study has yielded some major results and it could be the key to forecasting a major earthquake in California.
Related articles

Scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory have analyzed a staggering 1.8 million minor earthquakes in California – many of which were below a magnitude one on the Richter scale.

The team found that a series of minor tremors preceded a “mainshock” in 72 percent of cases. (Full story)

Quantum computers to clarify the connection between the quantum and classical worlds

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have developed a new quantum computing algorithm that offers a clearer understanding of the quantum-to-classical transition, which could help model systems on the cusp of quantum and classical worlds, such as biological proteins, and also resolve questions about how quantum mechanics applies to large-scale objects.

"The quantum-to-classical transition occurs when you add more and more particles to a quantum system," said Patrick Coles of the Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, "such that the weird quantum effects go away and the system starts to behave more classically. For these systems, it's essentially impossible to use a classical computer to study the quantum-to-classical transition. We could study this with our algorithm and a quantum computer consisting of several hundred qubits, which we anticipate will be available in the next few years based on the current progress in the field." (Full story)

Melting ice may change shape of Arctic river deltas

Kolyma Delta, Russia. Landsat natural color
satellite image. May 30, 2013. Credit: USGS

Thawing ice cover and easily erodible permafrost may destabilize Arctic river deltas, according to new research. A new study in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters finds sea ice and permafrost both act to stabilize channels on Arctic river deltas.

"Your channels tend to stay in one place when you have really thick ice or when you have permafrost that's really hard to erode," said Rebecca Lauzon, environmental educator at the Rochester Museum and Science Center's Cumming Nature Center in New York and the lead author of the new study.

Lauzon, who was working an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory during the time of the research, and her co-authors, created two versions of a model: One to predict the effects that ice thickness might have on Arctic river deltas and another to predict the effects of permafrost strength. (Full story)

Numerical Model Pinpoints Source of Pre-Cursor to Seismic Signals

Numerical simulations have pinpointed the source of acoustic signals emitted by stressed faults in laboratory earthquake machines. The work further unpacks the physics driving geologic faults, knowledge that could one day enable accurately predicting earthquakes.

“Previous machine-learning studies found that the acoustic signals detected from an earthquake fault can be used to predict when the next earthquake will occur,” said Ke Gao, a computational geophysicist in the Geophysics group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “This new modeling work shows us that the collapse of stress chains inside the earthquake gouge emits that signal in the lab, pointing to mechanisms that may also be important in Earth.”

Stress chains are bridges composed of grains that transmit stresses from one side of a fault block to the other. (Full story)