Friday, October 31, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Oct. 25 - 31

TIME's best inventions of 2008

10. The World's Fastest Computer

On May 26, at 3:30 in the morning, a $133 million supercomputer nick-named Roadrunner broke the long-sought-after petaflop barrier: 1 quadrillion calculations per second.

Built by IBM for Los Alamos National Laboratory, Roadrunner will be
used primarily to simulate the effects of aging on nuclear weapons. Next up: the exaflop barrier.

Read all about Time's
top 50 innovations for 2008.

Energy visionary says quadruple LANL budget

public forum Wednesday explored possible responses to the national energy crisis from the Los Alamos and New Mexico perspectives. Hosted by the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos, the meeting brought together several energy experts who agreed that major efforts are needed immediately.

Miro Kovacevich, president of an energy and economic policy advocacy organization, ViviLux, was one of the drivers behind the Solar Energy Research Park and Academy at Northern New Mexico College and other renewable energy developments in EspaƱola. Read all about it

Lab to offer jobs to subcontractor's workers

Los Alamos National Laboratory plans to offer jobs to hundreds of workers now employed by KSL Services, the lab's largest subcontractor, before its contract expires in December.

The move means Los Alamos will be handling its own building maintenance, trash collection and other "support" services for the first time in its history. It will also be the first time that workers under collective bargaining agreements are employed directly by the lab. See the
story here.

New cycle for startups kicks in

Technical Ventures Corporation's mission as a matchmaker between technology innovators and equity capital investors was written into the Lockheed-Martin contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories as an economic development concept.

Since then, TVC has gone on to perform a larger role in technology transfer and commercialization projects coming out of other national laboratories as well, including Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Nevada Test Site. See the whole story here.

Gates gives rationale for expanded deterrence

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that the United States would hold "fully accountable" any country or group that helped terrorists to acquire or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

The statement was the Bush administration’s most expansive yet in trying to articulate a vision of deterrence for the post-Sept. 11 world. It went beyond the cold war notion that a president could respond with overwhelming force against a country that directly attacked the United States or its allies with unconventional weapons. See the story here.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Oct. 20-24

Cosmic rays detect hidden nuclear cargo

Here's a question for you. How would you find a nuclear bomb in the millions of trucks and cargo containers that come into the United States every year? The answer worries anti-terrorism experts a lot. Nobody knows. Cosmic rays may help.

Engineers and scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory are building a new sensor that uses cosmic rays to detect uranium or lead used to shield it. In case you've forgotten, cosmic rays are streams of particles that bombard the earth all the time from space. (Read the entire story here.)

Satellite will explore mysterious region of space

The satellite, called IBEX, or the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, launches today at 11:45 a.m. from an island in the Pacific Ocean. It is a joint project between LANL, the Southwest Research Institute in Texas and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

What it will do is map out the area between the heliosphere and interstellar medium and give us a "global view" of what's going on there, said Herb Funsten, a LANL scientist on the project. (Read all about it!)

W76-1 first production unit delivered
Security milestone for the nation

The Stockpile Stewardship program achieved another major technical milestone late month with the production of the first life extended W76-1 Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead. This culminates more than a decade of work by scientists and engineers at the Laboratory and across the nuclear weapons complex.

The achievement relied on many of the newest tools of the stockpile stewardship, including the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility (DARHT) at Los Alamos, Site 300 at Lawrence Livermore, supercomputers at both physics laboratories, the environmental testing capability at Sandia National Laboratories, and a series of successful flight tests with the U.S. Navy. (Read the entire NewsBulletin story here.)

Dogs' DNA gives glimpse into their evolution

Why does a lifelong cat-lover become one of the world's experts on dogs' DNA and their evolutionary history?

Maybe because he's a scientist. Scientists reputedly need a degree of detachment from their subjects, and Thomas Leitner of Los Alamos National Laboratory has that. He's never owned a dog in his life, he told the Journal. Yet he's involved in a years-long study of canine DNA and how they evolved from wolves not so very long ago. "It's an interesting study.

From a scientific point of view, this study uses the same mathematical tools as my main work, studying the evolution of viruses, especially HIV," Leitner said. (Read it all here.)

DOE selects projects to advance nanomanufacturing
Projects will improve nanomaterials production, scale-up manufacturing processes

Nanotechnology, the understanding and control of matter at the atomic or molecular level, has the
potential for major improvements in energy applications. Over the past 7 years, the U.S. Government has invested $8.3 billion in nanotechnology and made great strides in gaining fundamental knowledge at the nanometer scale.

The selected projects will advance the state of nanomanufacturing by improving the
reliability of nanomaterials production and scaling-up manufacturing processes that use nanomaterials.

Areas of interest [include]:

Ultratough Thermally Stable Polycrystalline (TSP) Diamond/Silicon Carbide Nanocomposites for Drill Bits (Los Alamos National Laboratory)—The thermomechanical performance of bulk diamond compacts will be enhanced by applying an advanced nanosynthesis process to manufacture superhard and ultratough diamond/silicon carbide nanocomposites with nanofiber reinforcement. The development of advanced nanocomposites with exceptional ability to resist thermal degradation and impact fracture will have significant technological implications. (Read the entire story here.)

V-Site captures national preservation award

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized today the restoration of a modest building where the world’s first plutonium bombs were assembled At the 2008 National Preservation Conference, meeting in Tulsa, Okla., the trust named the V-Site project at Los Alamos National Laboratory as one of 21 national award winners.

“The V-Site is architecturally humble but historically significant,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in an announcement. “Thanks to an innovative preservation partnership, the centerpiece of a crucial time in history will not be lost.” (See coverage in the Los Alamos Monitor here and in the Santa Fe New Mexican here.)

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Friday, October 17, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Oct. 13 - 17

LANL awards $120M in contracts

Pictured from left to right are San Ildefonso Pueblo Gov. Leon Roybal, Ohkay Owingeh Gov. Earl Salazar, Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio, U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Don Winchell, manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Site Office. Standing near Bingaman is Evelyn Maes of the lab’s Government Affairs Office.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has awarded four new subcontracts, worth a total of $120 million, to four New Mexico-based businesses.

The awards include a five-year, $65 million contract with TSAY Construction and Services LLC to provide custodial services to LANL.

TSAY is owned and operated by Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. The award is the largest contract ever won by an American Indian business from the laboratory, drawing praise from U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM. See the full story here.

Beam solves the 'case of the gold'

One of the largest specimens of single crystalline gold ever found rests in Heinz Nakotte's palm.

Several valuable nuggets have been locked in a safe every night at Los Alamos National Laboratory lately, and that isn't a reference to weapons codes or nuclear secrets.

A New Mexico State University neutron physicist working with a geologist from Ohio has kept some precious pieces of raw gold in the vault at the Lujan Neutron Scattering Center.

That's where they are secured when Heinz Nakotte is not actually peering inside one or another to see how it's made. Get the rest of the golden facts here.

Researchers develop new technology to detect breast cancer

X-ray computed tomography (CT) image compared with the ultrasonic migration reconstruction image of the inclusion, both show a small feature that was an unintentional part of the simulated, water filled, cyst.

Though screening for breast cancer through mammograms can be uncomfortable, expensive and potentially risky, new technology being developed by a team of scientists may help offset those concerns.

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are now collaborating to develop ultrasound-computed tomography to better screen for breast cancer. The effort is led by the Detroit-based Karmanos Cancer Institute. See the story here.

Exploded view

One might think that the last thing the world needs right now is another high explosive material. However, there are countless applications for civilian explosives in demolition, mining, and engineering, so researchers are always on the look out for compounds with a lot of pent up energy that can be put to good use.

Now, David Chavez of the of High Explosives Science and Technology group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, USA, and colleagues Michael Hiskey and Darren Naud, in collaboration with Damon Parrish of the Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, DC, have produced a melt-castable nitrate ester that is a highly explosive solid at room temperature.

Read the whole explosive story here.

LANL names a new leader of public affairs

Los Alamos National Laboratory named Lisa Franklin Rosendorf on Tuesday to head the Communications and Government Affairs Division. She takes the place of David McCumber, who has expressed his desire to return to the practice of law and has been reassigned to the office of Legal Council, according to a lab announcement.

"There is a real transformation underway as the laboratory becomes a 21st century hub for national security science," Rosendorf said in a telephone interview this morning. Read the whole story here.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Oct. 6-10

Making a pitch for nuclear warhead program

Continued study and development of a new generation of nuclear weapons and modernization of the aging manufacturing infrastructure needed to build them are necessary to maintain "the ultimate deterrent capability that supports U.S. national security."

That is the conclusion of a nuclear policy paper released quietly last month by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

The secretaries warn that without the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, which Congress has delayed, the United States will have to keep an inventory of older, non-deployed nuclear warheads (Read all about it here.)

A new explosive: Melt-castable nitrate ester with high explosive energy

Since the discovery of nitroglycerin in 1846, the nitrate ester group of compounds has been
known for its explosive properties. A whole series of other nitrate esters have been subsequently put to use as explosives and fuels.

A research team led by David E. Chavez at Los Alamos National Laboratory has now developed a novel tetranitrate ester.

As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the compound has a particularly interesting characteristic profile: it is solid at room temperature, is a highly powerful explosive, and can be melt-cast into the desired shape. (Get the whole story!)

In quantum channels, zero plus zero can equal nonzero

Physicists have discovered a strange characteristic of quantum communication channels. If two quantum channels each have a transmission capacity of zero, they may still have a nonzero capacity when used together.

This effect, which has no classical counterpart, reveals a new complexity in the fundamental nature of quantum communication.

The coauthors of the study, Graeme Smith of the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, and Jon Yard of Los Alamos National Laboratory have published their research in a recent issue of Science. (Want to know more?)

Nuclear weapons complex changes advance

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Energy Department moved ahead Thursday on further restricting the nation's most dangerous nuclear material, part of a plan to scale back and modernize management of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. . . . The plan would concentrate manufacture of plutonium triggers and other plutonium research at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Here's the scoop.)

LANL awarded Patriot Award for Guard support

Melvin Borrego dodged incoming rockets and survived routine threats of daisy-chained roadside bombs in Iraq.

He’s a sergeant first-class for the 1115th transportation company of the New Mexico National Guard. His company has also been called up for humanitarian missions in the states for hurricanes Katrina and Rita and snow-disaster relief in Chama last winter.

His regular job is working as a research tech supervisor at the Lujan Neutron Scattering Center, where he customizes instruments, machines vacuum applications and stages pretty much whatever neutron experimenters need to conduct their tests at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

On Tuesday, Monitor Publisher Ralph Damiani, chairman of the Los Alamos Chapter of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, presented the organization’s Patriot Award to Alan Hurd, group leader of the Lujan center, for supporting Borrego through the thick and thin of his military duties. (Read it here.)

Lockheed Martin and Los Alamos sensors aboard IBEX mission

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission -- the first designed to globally image the extreme edge of our solar system -- is ready for launch on a Pegasus rocket from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, on October 19.

IBEX-Lo is one of two sensors on the spacecraft that will measure the interaction of the solar wind with interstellar medium -- the gas, dust and radiation environment between the stars.

The energy bands are split into two ranges, one measured by IBEX-Lo and the other by IBEX-Hi, built by a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Southwest Research Institute. (Click here for more information.)

Lab grants license for muon tomography technology
Los Alamos National Laboratory has granted Decision Sciences Corporation an exclusive worldwide license to commercialize muon tomography, a Lab-developed technology to detect and identify concealed nuclear threat materials. (More information available here.)

DHS designates port-security system an anti-terrorist technology

A system developed by Cargotec Port Security, LLC has been awarded Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology Designation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. . . . Cargotec Port Security uses the Monte Carlo N-Particle Transport Code software package developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Cargotec Port Security radiation isotope database . . . is based on the Los Alamos Monte-Carlo nuclear simulation tool. (Know the whole story.)

Chevron visit fosters successful alliance
Lab technology tested in company’s oil fields

High-tech solutions to some of Chevron’s biggest challenges are the product of a five-year relationship with the Laboratory, called the Alliance for Advanced Energy Solutions. Last month, 17 Chevron Corporation executives got a first-hand look at just how the alliance works as they toured the Lab to view technologies soon to be used in the
company’s oil fields and rigs. (Learn more.)

Science subverted in AIDS dispute

In March 1987 the question of whether scientists at the Pasteur Institute of Paris or the National Institutes of Health had invented the blood test for the virus known as HIV seemed settled.

Just days later, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico, a scientist specializing in the genetic analysis of viruses sent senior officials at the National Institutes of Health a confidential memo warning that "a double fraud" had been perpetrated on the scientific community.

The Los Alamos scientist, Gerald Myers, had compared the genetic codes of the French and American AIDS viruses and determined they were not independent discoveries but had undoubtedly come from the same patient. (Click here for more information.)

Latest issue of Actinide Research Quarterly online

Plutonium processing at Los Alamos’s Technical Area 55 is the topic under discussion in the latest issue of Actinide Research Quarterly. The work at TA-55 supports a wide range of national programs, including stockpile stewardship, nuclear materials stabilization, materials disposition, and nuclear energy; all of the programs revolve around plutonium. (Click for the latest isssue.)

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Monday, October 6, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Sept. 29 - Oct. 3

New Lab home page debuts

A home page designed to be more useful and attractive went live today. The new Web presence includes more accessible navigation to provide easier and more logical access to a wide variety of information about the work of the national security science laboratory.

HIV dates back to around 1900, study shows

A genetic analysis of a biopsy sample recently discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has led researchers to conclude that the virus that causes AIDS has existed in human populations for more than a century, according to a study released Wednesday. . . .

"The HIV virus evolves incredibly quickly," said geneticist Bette Korber of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who did an analysis in 2000. "Those mutations get passed on to the next individual. So we have that evolutionary pace to enable a look backward."

See the Los Angeles Times story here.

Exotic materials could combat a kind of quantum-mechanical stickiness

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, think they may have the answer to a vexing problem called stiction, which causes ultrasmall components of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) to stick together.

This impediment to micromovement is caused by the Casimir effect (after the Dutch theoretical physicist Hendrik Casimir), an odd attractive force that influences only objects that are very close together. As MEMS components are shrunk to a scale of hundreds of nanometers or less, many engineers predict that the Casimir effect will become more of a problem. Read the whole story here.

Good bacteria, each cell is a self-propagating microcosm

Image: Magnified cell detail

What is the boundary between life and non-life? Viruses are perhaps technically dead, or is it? What constitutes life is still being debated by science. Steen Rasmussen has been trying to create life in the artificial life movement at Los Alamos which was started by Rasmussen in the 80s with Chris Langton and Norman Packard (1987) called ALife launched at the AI workshop in Los Alamos. See the story here.

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