Friday, April 25, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for April 21-25

Maps Point the Way to Fighting the Flu Virus
An international team of researchers has crafted software that illustrates interactions between immune systems and the flu st
rains trying to breach their defenses--on a global scale

Flu vaccines work by introducing the body to inactive strains of a recent flu virus. But before scientists can decide which strains of flu to use in a vaccine, they must first determine how the body's immune system reacts to the different flu strains it encounters. This difference between viruses-as our immune system interprets them-is known as the "antigenic difference," says Derek Smith, professor of infectious disease informatics at the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, who wrote the antigenic cartography software in collaboration with Alan Lapedes, a computational biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and Ron Fouchier, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. (Read all about it!)

Challenge helps build young scientists
Supercomputing event gives student participants chance to get creative, network

Sponsored mostly by Los Alamos National Laboratory's technology royalty funds, with help from Sandia National Laboratories, the state and other groups, the Supercomputing Challenge, in its 18th year, gave out $70,000 in scholarships and numerous awards. Students often go on to careers at national laboratories or in other prominent fields of science and technology, said David Kratzer, who organizes the program for LANL. "We have somewhere between 70 and 100 former Challenge students at the lab," he said. "Some stay on after working as students and become staff members. Others go on to other things." (Enjoy the full story here.)

New Science Examines Old Quakes

The ancient Roman military fort of Carnuntum in present-day Austria was home to as many as 50,000 residents, as well as the occasional emperor, until disaster struck. Homes collapsed, archways crumbled and a stone wall 2 feet thick toppled over. Fast forward 1,700 years to a ballroom at the Santa Fe Hilton Wednesday, where a pair of geologists described the major earthquake that they believe destroyed the 4th century community. About 475 seismologists are attending the week-long conference at the Hilton and Eldorado hotels hosted by Los Alamos National Laboratory. (See what's shaking.)

Tuning Terahertz
A new device gives researchers unprecedented control over an unwieldy part of the spectrum

"Terahertz is the last spectrum band to be explored," says Hou-Tong Chen, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead researcher on the project. It has great promise as a security-imaging tool because its frequencies, which range from 300 gigahertz to 3 terahertz, easily pass through clothes but reflect off biological tissue. And since the waves don't have the energy that x-rays do, they don't pose the health risks. In addition, terahertz waves oscillate much faster than microwaves used in Wi-Fi do, which means that they can carry thousands of times more information than today's wireless signals can, albeit over shorter distances. (Want to know more?)

Lab employees doing their part to clean up
Great Garbage Grab

Christina Reichelt of Waste and Environmental Services picks up litter around the soccer field at the Pueblo Complex on Tuesday. Reichelt was part of Team Pueblo participating in the fifth annual Great Garbage Grab to pick up litter from around Laboratory offices and work areas. "The Great Garbage Grab is a friendly competition between organizations to pick up trash, and it is our responsibility to get involved and keep our environment beautiful," said Angelica Gurule of the Risk Reduction Office. (Read the full text here.)

N.M. labs take on world's environmental woes
Sandia, LANL work to understand climate change, meet future energy needs

If the federal government were to make a green-focused Christmas list for New Me
xico's national laboratories, it might look something like this:

Dear Labs, Can you ... 1. Create a detailed model of all aspects of the climate so we better understand processes like global warming …

The response from Los Alamos and Sandia national labs?

We're on it.

(Read the rest of Sue Vorenberg's excellent article here.)

Sprouting young scientists
GUTS program exposes middle-school students to the world of science, computers and critical thinking

Throngs of Santa Fe middle schoolers poured through the Bradbury Science Museum looking a bit like water trying to overtop a large, complicated dam. They trickled into corners, playing with interactive exhibits about computers, physics and the history of Los Alamos National Laboratory, then crowded around Gordon McDonough, museum educator, to watch a demonstration about radiation. (Interested in what else these youngsters are up to? Click here!)

Friday, April 18, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for April 14-18

Anastasio testifies before Senate subcommittee

Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio testifies along with the directors of Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national labs before the Senate Energy and Water Development Subcommittee on Wednesday, April 16, 2008. Read Anastasio's written testimony.

Climate Models Match Well
With Current Observations
Future predictions are less certain

More than a dozen centers around the world develop climate models to enhance our understanding of climate change and serve as the basis for policy decisions. But just how good are those models, and can they truly be relied upon? A new study by meteorologists at the University of Utah shows that current climate models are quite accurate and can be valuable tools for those seeking solutions to global warming trends. "Coupled models are becoming increasingly reliable tools for understanding climate and climate change, and the best models are now capable of simulating present-day climate with accuracy approaching conventional atmospheric observations," said Thomas Reichler of Utah’s Department of Meteorology. "We can now place a much higher level of confidence in model-based projections of climate change than in the past." See the story here.

Lab scientists say estimates of HIV progression fell short
Discovery on disease's spread suggests i
t will be tougher to combat

When it comes to understanding HIV, looking at the big picture sometimes isn't enough. What's really needed to understand how truly prolific the virus is, is to look at the big movie. That's what Los Alamos National Laboratories researcher Alan Perelson did when he was trying to figure out how fast the disease replicates throughout the human body. And it turns out the big movie — a lifetime history of how the disease spreads from a single cell — shows that HIV spreads a lot more quickly than anybody previously thought. See the New Mexican story here.

Tunable metamaterial zips 'terahertz gap'

U.S. scientists say they've created a unique metamaterial that can be tuned over a range of frequencies in the so-called "terahertz gap." The team of researchers from Boston College, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Boston University said they incorporated semiconducting materials in critical regions of tiny metallic split-ring resonators that interact with light in order to tune metamaterials beyond their fixed point on the electromagnetic spectrum. See the full story.

Mapmaker for the World of Influenza

Derek Smith didn't want to do rocket science--literally. That's how he ended up becoming an internationally recognized expert in influenza virus evolution. Smith wanted to create clear, accessible influenza maps. Just as mathematicians can reconstruct a decent map of a country from the distance table in the back of a road atlas, it should be possible to map influenza strains based solely on each strain's antigenic distance from the others, he says. So in 1999, Smith teamed up with Alan Lapedes, a mathematician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who, with Robert Farber, had laid part of the theoretical groundwork for such maps. Read the whole story here.

Students showcase research at Supercomputing Challenge Expo

More than 250 New Mexico middle- and high-school students and their teachers are at the Laboratory next Monday and Tuesday (April 21-22) for judging and the awards ceremony in the 18th annual New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge. Forty-seven teams are involved in the competition, said David Kratzer of High Performance Computing Systems (HPC-3), Laboratory coordinator of the Supercomputing Challenge. Another 40 Growing Up Thinking Scientifically (GUTS) teams also are presenting projects that they have been working on for several months, he said. Read the LANL Daily NewsBulletin

Friday, April 11, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for April 7-11

Knocking on the Door of the Petaflops Era (HPC Wire)

The International Supercomputing Conference has long had the reputation as the conference to attend to get the answers to the most pressing questions in high performance computing. But when ISC '08 convenes June 17-20, one question is likely to predominate: will the twice-yearly TOP500 list of the world's top supercomputers be dominated by a system performing one quadrillion calculations per second (one petaflop/s)? "While I was willing to go out on a limb in 1997 and predict that within eight years we would only have teraflops systems on the TOP500 list in 2005 -- and fortunately this was the case -- I am not quite ready to predict what we will see in June at position number one," said Prof. Hans Meuer, general chair of ISC '08 and co-founder of the TOP500 list. "But there is certainly a hot candidate in IBM's Roadrunner machine at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S." (full story)

Sonoma eyes wastewater as an energy source

When most people think alternative energy, solar, wind or biofuels come to mind. Sonoma County officials want to add another source to the list: treated wastewater. A pilot program taking root in a nondescript business park near the Charles M. Schulz Airport just north of Santa Rosa would use highly treated water pumped from a nearby plant to heat and cool buildings, with the additional promise of using the piped water to irrigate landscaping and vineyards. If the ambitious, expensive plan gets off the ground, environmental planners in similar-size cities around the country theoretically could use the template - developed in part by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory - to slash power bills and better use every last drop of water. (full story)

BBC visits Laboratory

Principal Associate Director for Science, Technology, and Engineering Terry Wallace, with Stephen Fry, left, listen to producer John Paul Davidson, right, in the Scanning Probe Microscopy Laboratory at Los Alamos's Materials Science Laboratory last Friday. The BBC television crew was preparing for the filming of an episode of Stephen Fry in America. The BBC production is scheduled to air in England this fall and in the United States in 2009.

Davidson is the nephew of the late Manhattan Project pioneer Hans Bethe.

Read all about it!

Sound unleashes strength beneath surface
LANL scientist says vibrations break down material underground, helping spread quakes

The ground doesn't quickly forget the loud pumping guitar riffs of an outdoor AC/DC conc
ert. It remembers the sound for 24 hours or longer, well after the band has packed up and the throngs of screaming fans have left the area. This memory isn't something you can see, not with the naked eye. But if you pass the same sound through the ground again in that 24-hour phase, the sound wave will travel faster than it did the first time, and gradually slow down until the ground resets a day or two later, said Paul Johnson, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (full story)

Friday, April 4, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory, March 27-April 4

LANL telescope captures star's spectacular implosion
Ed Fenimore likes to explain the massive power of a gamma ray burst with the example of a raisin. If you set off a nuclear weapon, the Los Alamos National Laboratory fellow said, you essentially convert the mass of one raisin into energy — creating a hell of a blast.

"When a gamma ray burst happens, you're converting 400,000 times the mass of the Earth directly into energy," Fenimore said
. "That's a lot of raisins. That's a lot of energy. And that's why you can see it from billions of light years away."

See the complete story here.

LANL scientist reads rocks' clues about dawn
of man
Every now and then, the Earth uncovers a time capsule from its distant past that can teach us more about who we are, as humans, and where we came from.

The most prolific spot for these capsules lies in the Ethiopian homeland of Los Alamos National Laboratory geologist Giday WoldeGabriel, who's been studying the area for decades.

It's there, in one of the most geologically interesting rift valleys in the world - at a boundary between three tectonic plates called the Afar Triple Junction - that WoldeGabriel and other scientists have found specimens of ancestral humans and other creatures at several sites dating between 150,000 and 6 million years old.

Read reporter Sue Vorenberg's coverage in its entirety here.

Los Alamos technology turns up on television
A state-of-the-art sampling device developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory was to be featured thi
s week in an episode of Crime Scene Investigation-New York (CSI: NY) on CBS. Although the device didn’t make the show’s final cut, CBS affiliate KRQE (Albuquerque) aired in advance an informative segment about the technology.

The "sampler gun" rapidly collects and tracks radiological, chemical, and biological samples in solid, liquid, or gaseous forms. The technology has a hands-off capability that minimizes the
risk of sample cross-contamination and exposure risks to sampling personnel.

Read KRQE’s text and watch the video!

Lab posts April issue of Currents magazine
The future of actinide science, technology transfer, cultural stewardship, and supercomputing challenges for high school students are covered in the latest issue of the Lab’s magazine for employees.
Read and enjoy the entire issue of Currents online.

Lab’s nanotechnology center honored by DOE
Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman recently honored the Los Alamos National Laboratory-Sandia National Laboratories Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) for effective management of construction and instrumentation projects at CINT’s Gateway to Los Alamos facility and Albuquerque’s Core facility.

Read the entire story in LANL's online Daily NewsBulletin.

New Mexico girls expand their horizons
More than 100 New Mexico girls came to the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The 29th annual Expanding Your Horizons conference and workshop is cosponsored by the Laboratory, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, UNM-LA, and Los Alamos Women in Science.

Laboratory scientist Emily Schultz-Fellenz (pictured) of Environmental Geology and Spatial was one of the presenters.

The LANL online Daily NewsBulletin has the whole story.