Saturday, January 10, 2009

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Dec. 25 – Jan. 9

A Spurt of Quake Activity Raises Fears in Yellowstone

The Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park flows past other geysers, including Old Faithful, part of the Yellowstone Caldera. Image from Time Magazine.

n 2000, Ken Wohletz, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, postulated that an even bigger Krakatoa eruption in 6th century A.D. may have sent a tall plume of vaporized seawater into the atmosphere, causing the formation of stratospheric ice clouds with superfine hydrovolcanic ash, which literally cast a pall over much of the world at the beginning of what became known as the Dark Ages. See this explosive story here.

This Machine Might* Save the World

* that's a big, fat "might"

The interior of the proof-of-concept fusion reactor

Governments just have not seen a need to pour resources into an idea that they perceive as being decades from reality. In 1982, for example, Congress passed a plan calling for fusion energy in 20 years. "What happened?" says Glen Wurden, who heads up the Magnetized Target Fusion program at Los Alamos.

"The U.S. didn't fund it. In the 1980s the U.S. was the world leader in fusion research. [Our funding is] a factor of three behind Europe right now and a factor of two behind Japan." See the story here.

LANL awards $250,000 to four companies

Los Alamos National Laboratory has approved $250,000 in new funding for four companies from its Venture Acceleration Fund. The fund provides investments of up to $100,000 to regional entrepreneurs, companies, investors or strategic partners who use LANL technology or expertise to create or grow regional businesses. Award recipients are chosen based on potential for regional impact, team composition, technical feasibility, market opportunity, and the availability of matching funds or in-kind contributions. Read the whole story here.

When Weather Changed History

The Laboratory's early history in the run-up to the Trinity test and the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 are the focus of a documentary that aired recently on the Weather Channel.

The 41-minute documentary, "Nagasaki" is part of the Weather Channel's When Weather Changed History series.

Most of the historical footage in the documentary, including video and still photographs, were provided to the Weather Channel by the Laboratory. Watch the documentary here.

LANL probes lives of nuclear particles

Numerous, mainly unnoticed neutrinos may have been forces behind formation of today's universe

Jasmine Ma, a summer student working on the MiniBooNE experiment, inspects one of the phototubes that detects light from neutrino interactions.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, physicists are working with Fermilab in Illinois to try to figure out if the weak, humble little neutrino could explain why there is a huge imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe.

And by spinning, smashing and tormenting the little guys in particle accelerators at Fermilab and Los Alamos, they might have found a hint that could explain some of that mystery, said Geoffrey Mills and Bill Louis, two LANL physicists. Explore the mystery here.

Mind-bending conundrums

Brain teaser exhibit provides a gateway into scientific thinking

Katherine Hunton, 10, tries to manipulate several blue wooden blocks to fit into triangle and hexagonal patterns. New Mexican Photo.

Puzzles may seem like time suckers, designed solely to entertain, but actually they can build critical-thinking skills that people like scientists use every day, said Gordon McDonough, the museum's science educator.
"The solutions are of no use to anybody, actually, but the solving of it is," McDonough said.

"The thought process keeps the brain agile. And if you think about Los Alamos National Laboratory, the scientists there are solving puzzles all the time." Solve the whole puzzle here!

United Way president talks about giving

Jerry Ethridge [president of the Board of Trustees for the United Way of Northern New Mexico] explained that United Way has benefited greatly since Los Alamos National Security assumed management of the Laboratory and initiated its matching funds program. LANS annually matches whatever amount is raised up to $1 million. Read more about it here.

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