Friday, November 21, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Nov. 15–21

Los Alamos computer keeps title as the fastest

A supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory remained the world's fastest, narrowly edging out another massive machine at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, according to a twice-yearly ranking of the 500 largest scientific systems. International Business Machines Corp.'s 188 systems accounted for the most computing power on the so-called Top500 list, and it supplied machines rated first, fourth and fifth. (Read it all now!)

Supercomputers break petaflop barrier, transforming science

A new crop of supercomputers is breaking down the petaflop speed barrier, pushing high-performance computing into a new realm that could change science more profoundly than at any time since Galileo, leading researchers say.

When the Top 500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers was announced at the international supercomputing conference in Austin, Texas, on Monday, IBM had barely managed to cling to the top spot, fending off a challenge from Cray.

But both competitors broke petaflop speeds, performing 1.105 and 1.059 quadrillion floating-point calculations per second, the first two computers to do so. (Get wired in to the whole story here.)

Superconductivity does the twist
Electron fluctuations could explain why exotic material conducts without resistance

Sometimes a twist might be as good as a jiggle. Or at least, a new study suggests, twisting electrons appear to take the place of jiggling ions in an exotic kind of superconductor.

It's the first experiment to show that a certain kind of twisting fluctuations among the electrons in the material could explain its superconductivity, scientists report in the Nov. 20 Nature.

The research also supports a 20-year-old theory about how such twists in the spin axes of electrons in general could enable superconductivity for some materials. (Here's the full twist!)

Iran said to have nuclear fuel for one weapon

Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.

Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory said the growing size of the Iranian stockpile "underscored that they are marching down the path to developing the nuclear weapons option." (Read about it here!)

Stephen Fry in America: dark matter & quantum computers

The BBC television series visits Los Alamos: "Well, this is just another old Santa Fe courtyard stuffed with colorful knick-knacks for the tourist trade -- you might think -- but actually, this was once the most secret address in the world. It was simply a post-office box, 1663, and it was the only conduit to a rather special place in the mountains. . . ."

Wallace discusses LANL's growing mission

inding solutions to the nation's energy dilemmas, including the means to store energy, is at the fore front of research underway at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL): Research critical to both the nation and the world. (Read the full story.)

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Friday, November 14, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Nov. 8 - 14

Jaguar, Roadrunner in horse race to be world's fastest supercomputer

Just five months after IBM's hybrid Roadrunner became the first supercomputer to break the lofty petaflop barrier, a second, more traditional machine has made the same leap.

And at least one industry watcher said the move of Cray's XT Jaguar supercomputer -- with the help of a $100 million upgrade -- into the petaflop realm is swinging the doors wide open for other systems that are on the verge of following it to a new level of power and speed. Read about it here.

NASA Tests Lunar Rovers and
Oxygen Production Technology

NASA has concluded nearly two weeks of testing equipment and lunar rover concepts on Hawaii's volcanic soil. The agency's In Situ Resource Utilization Project. Instruments that were field tested will be used to improve understanding of minerals found on the moon.

The equipment tested includes an X-ray diffraction unit called mini CheMIN from NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. See the
NASA news release here.

LANL has new environmental leader

Michael Graham has been named to lead environmental programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, taking over from Susan Stiger who is moving on to a new assignment with Bechtel National.

Graham has spent the last four years with Bechtel Savanna River, Inc. a contractor partnered with URS/Washington Group at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The company was responsible environmental remediation, project management and design and construction services.
Read more here.

STI Reports Third Quarter 2008 Results

We continue to move forward in our collaborative agreement with the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory to apply our material sciences expertise to its research initiative to develop HTS coated conductors for next generation electricity distribution systems," Said Jeff Quiram, STI's president and chief executive officer. See the story here.

Math and science teachers lauded at graduation ceremony

Link Math and Science Academy master teacher Lorenzo Gonzalez, left, congratulates Beth Sanchez, a teacher in the EspaƱola Public School system, right, at a graduation ceremony on November 7 at Northern New Mexico College in EspaƱola.

Sanchez was recognized as one of 20 teachers who completed a master's degree in teaching math and science from New Mexico State University.
Learn more here.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Nov. 1–7

Star struck

The endless race for fusion energy pits a giant reactor in France against two upstarts in North America. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are working on a compression-ignition program, and they think the idea has merit.

T. Kenneth Fowler, a professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at UC, Berkeley who helped plan ITER, was impressed when he looked closely at Laberge's concept at the request of venture firms. "A lot of people would say this is like the last Rube Goldberg machine that came into my office," says Fowler. "But this has something to it." (Entire story here.)

Blacker than black

Nothing's cooler than black - and nothing converts more of the sun's energy into useable electric current. A cutting-edge technology called ENABLE, the focus of a new collaboration between Los Alamos National Laboratory and RoseStreet Labs Energy, Inc., targets converting more of the sun's energy into usable electrical current than previously thought possible using a process that grows thin films the color of night. (Entire story here.)

Dispatches from the bio frontier

The time is ripe for the general public to become conversant with the basic ingredients of modern biology and particularly about structural genomics, one of its promising branches.

By now intellectually curious adults and precocious children will surely have noticed at least one of those colorful swirling ribbons that are used to represent a protein.

“Proteins are little molecular machines,” said Thomas Terwilliger, a biochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of the world’s leaders in developing methods for developing three-dimension pictures of proteins. (Entire story here.)

Contractor awards $3M to lab foundation

Los Alamos National Security LLC has given the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation a $3 million grant to provide educational enrichment and educational outreach funding for education programs in Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos.

The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration and LANS have focused on regional science education and outreach to strengthen the economic diversification of northern New Mexico. (Read the story here.)

Time's Top 50 innovations for 2008
18. The New Mars Rover

The last two rovers the U.S. sent to Mars are still running more than four years later. The next one, the Mars Science Laboratory, is even tougher. Launching in 2009, it is 9 ft. (2.7 m) long, runs on a chunk of plutonium [actually a Radiological Thermoelectric Generator made at Los Alamos National Laboratory] and carries 176 lb. (80 kg) of scientific instruments, including a neutron gun - for firing at the ground to detect permafrost, not at hostile Martians. [The rover will also carry Chem-Cam, a LANL designed laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument (illustrated in use at right) to measure the chemical content of the target samples.] (Entire story here.)

Lab assuming services contract, employees

os Alamos National Laboratory is on track to assume the management of the services now provided by its major subcontractor KSL.
KSL Services has been LANL’s site services subcontractor since 2003, when the partnership of KBR Shaw and Los Alamos Technical Associates, was awarded a five-year contract worth about $800 million, with an option for an additional five years. (Read story here.)

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