Friday, May 29, 2009

Lab highlights distinguished innovations

Scanning Electron Micrograph of well-defined, 200-nm diameter pillars etched with ENABLE. (LANL image)

The seekers and finders of technological advances at Los Alamos National Laboratory celebrated another year of ingenuity Tuesday evening at Fuller Lodge. Mark Hoffbauer of the Chemistry Division won the Distinguished Licensing Award.

Terry Wallace, the principal associate director for science, technology and engineering, who emceed the awards, called Hoffbauer's nanotech processing technology, known as ENABLE, "important for building the next generation of devices from microprocessors to solar films to light-emitting diodes." Read the whole Monitor story here.

Opinion: Quarantine may be solution to flu disaster

A group at Los Alamos, devised the elegant computer models EPISIMS and TRANSIMS, for predicting the spread of infection, and maintained the influenza sequence database, ISD, critical for identifying the genetic contributions to the current epidemic strain.

Support for the work was terminated in 2007. But the cat is out of the bag, and quarantine and treatment modalities with antiviral agents will dictate how well health officials cope with the current outbreak. See the
full story here.

Siegfried Hecker on recent nuclear
and missile tests by North Korea

Siegfried Hecker is well versed in the issues raised by North Korea's actions. He has spent much of his career working in nuclear science and is director emeritus of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

He is currently co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford, as well as a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a research professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering.
Read the Q&A with Sig Hecker here.

From Pyongyang to Tehran, with nukes

North Korea advertises its missile capability.
Photo from

International condemnation of North Korea's underground nuclear test Monday resonated the world over -- just in time for Pyongyang to defiantly test two short-range missiles.

After the U.N. Security Council condemned Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch on April 5, the country walked away from all previous nuclear agreements and threatened to restore normal operation of the Yongbyon nuclear plant. Read Sig
Hecker's blog here.

Energy research, economic development
discussed on KSFR radio

Solar- and nuclear-energy technology advancements and economic development programs that help strengthen Northern New Mexico's economy were discussed on two recent radio programs featuring Laboratory employees. Listen to the interview here!

Belinda Padilla of LANL’s Technology Transfer Division and Mariann Johnston of the Lab’s Community Programs Office spoke on KSFR-FM about efforts at the Lab that support economic development in the region. Listen to that
interview here!

Firefighter training

Los Alamos County firefighters spray a dry chemical fire extinguisher inside a glove box at a specially built training area. The nuclear facility response training also includes classroom sessions.

Los Alamos Fire Department personnel attend Laboratory training sessions to learn specialized techniques for responding to a variety of emergency firefighting scenarios inside nuclear facilities. The training includes classroom sessions.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Pandemic passenger screening for airports

Four major US national laboratories have worked together to develop a computer model to help airport authorities screen passengers for pandemic influenza.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Richland, Washington, and teams at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, report details of their simulations in the current issue of the International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management. (Full story)

New Zealander uses mathematics to unlock virus secrets

Swine flu researcher Catherine Macken and her colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are trying to pinpoint why the latest swine influenza virus can move relatively quickly between humans.

Macken estimates there have been around 50 distinct incidences of pig-human transmission in the last three decades, but every other time the virus has hit a "dead-end" once it reached a human host. (Full story)

Magnetic cactus demonstrates mathematical plant patterns

In a recent study, researchers have experimentally demonstrated for the first time a celebrated model of "phyllotaxis," the study of mathematical regularities in plants. Now, researchers have constructed a "magnetic cactus" with 50 outward-pointing magnets acting as spines.

With this setup, the researchers, from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico; Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; and The Pennsylvania State University (PSU), have verified Levitov's model, and their study has been published in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters. (Full story)

LANL conference eyes energy futures

The speakers who laid the foundation for a high-level conference on 21st century energy saw many of the same problems in a talk Monday. They differed in examples and emphasis, but they agreed that the world is facing an extreme test. The Los Alamos National Laboratory-hosted conference that runs this week at the La Fonda Hotel has about 125 participants. (Full story)

LANL workers give $170K to campaign

Employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory for the eighth consecutive year are the largest contributors to the United Way of Santa Fe County's annual giving campaign.

Lab employees and Los Alamos National Security LLC, the company that manages the lab for the National Nuclear Security Administration, donated $170,000 to the campaign. (Full story)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Los Alamos employees raised more than $2 million in pledges and donations in its most recent United Way giving campaign, which supported both United Way of Santa Fe County and United Way of Northern New Mexico. The figure includes a dollar-for-dollar match from LANS.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Health and science briefs

LANL scientists named SIAM fellows

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists Mac Hyman, Alan Perelson, David Sharp and Burt Wendroff have been named fellows of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

Hyman…was recognized for his work in partial differential equations and modeling biological systems. Perelson…was recognized for his contributions to viral dynamics and other problems of mathematical biology. Sharp…was recognized for his work in dynamical systems, turbulence theory and biology. Wendroff…was recognized for his contributions toward solutions of partial differential equations.

LANL worker wins security award

David Telles of Los Alamos National Laboratory has won the National Nuclear Security Administration's Security Professional of the Year Award.

Telles leads the Vulnerability Analysis Office at the lab. He manages seven security professionals who conduct vulnerability analyses, write lab-site safeguards and security plans, and administer the performance-assurance program.

Solar- and nuclear-energy technology advancements from Los Alamos National Laboratory could help the nation in its quest to capture viable sources of alternative energy, thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Los Alamos will be home to two new Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs)-each designed to advance scientific research in alternative and renewable energy-through a five-year funding commitment by DOE.

The two LANL centers each will receive $3.8 million a year in funding ($19 million each total over the five-year term).

One center, led by Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow Victor Klimov, will focus on exploiting the physical properties of nanomaterials…to more efficiently convert solar energy into electric power, or develop materials such as highly efficient solar collectors that could be painted onto a surface to generate electricity.

The other center, led by Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow Michael Nastasi, will focus on developing robust materials that will be able to withstand extreme conditions such as constant bombardment by radiation or around-the-clock mechanical beatings.

Matthew Ellis and Miro Kovacevich of Los Alamos radio station KRSN-AM interview Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Amit Misra and Blas Pedro Uberuaga about the Department of Energy's Energy Frontier Research Centers initiative. Listen to an excerpt from KRSN’s “Venus Transit Authority” talk show!

Anastasio: Budget request is 'pretty good news'

The Obama administration request will carry Los Alamos National Laboratory for another year, while potentially restoring and raising funding levels for the nuclear non-proliferation mission….
At an all-hands meeting Thursday at LANL, Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio told employees that DOE’s budget request is “pretty good news” for Los Alamos, according to the online LANL NewsBulletin.

Also this week in the Monitor:

LANS has new staff director

Jerry Ethridge has been selected as the new executive staff director for Los Alamos National security, LLC, the partnership that manages the laboratory. (Full story)

May Currents available

The May issue of the Currents magazine is now online. Coverage includes changing the way satellites are built, leadership in electrical safety, and a new approach to creating electronic circuits. Read all of Currents here.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

LANL studies flu outbreak

KOB-TV's Gadi Schwartz visited Los Alamos National Laboratory, where researchers say an outbreak this fall could spread very quickly.

“World health officials warn second and third outbreaks of an influenza virus are usually the worst.

“Today we visited Los Alamos National Lab. Researchers there created a program several years ago to map out what a bird flu pandemic would look like. Now they're using it for the H1N1 virus.” (Story available here—click "play media" link below image)

Editorial: Lab fights microbes of mass infection

Los Alamos National Laboratory turned its supercomputer modeling expertise, honed in studying what happens inside a warhead, to the chain-reaction of contagion. The focus of the modeling, reported in the April 2006 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was a strain of influenza virus similar to that which caused the 1918 pandemic. The lab most associated with developing nuclear weapons of mass destruction has an important role to play against microbes of mass infection. (Full story—advertisement view or subscription required)

Also this week from the Albuquerque Journal:

$2 billion LANL project pushed

A massive plutonium laboratory at Los Alamos that is nearly 60 years old, has languished as a result of "an accumulation of delayed decisions about the nuclear weapons program," the commission, headed by former Defense Secretary William Perry, concluded. Replacing the most troubled buildings will cost billions of dollars, and if funding is insufficient to do all the work at once, the plutonium lab at Los Alamos should be the first priority, according to the commission. (Full story—advertisement view or subscription required)

Los Alamos scientist maps swine flu genome to determine origin

A Los Alamos scientist has been mapping the genes of the H1N1 Swine Influenza to get a better idea of where the virus originated. KUNM's Jim Williams spoke with him Tuesday and has this report. (Click to listen)

Anastasio gives upbeat update

In the past couple of years, many businesses have scaled back their budgets in an effort to cut costs and save money. For a lot of employees, layoffs have been a grim byproduct of a weak economy.

Despite the nation's problems, however, Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio remains optimistic about the lab's future. During Tuesday night's county council meeting Anastasio gave councilors a general briefing on the lab. (Full story)

Also in the Los Alamos Monitor this week:

New LANL energy center peers over the edge

Extremity is the outermost environment. Beyond the limit looms the uncertain and the unknown. Extremity is also a boundary where what's good enough today breaks down tomorrow. Future breakthroughs may still be possible, but researchers will have to take it to the limit to get there.

The Department of Energy last week announced the creation of 46 new Energy Frontier Research Centers, selected because they have unique perspectives at the leading edge of energy research. The centers can expect to be funded for five years at nearly $20 million apiece. Two of them will be hosted at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

LANL science fuels new photophysics energy center

In early April, when Energy Secretary Steven Chu visited Los Alamos National Laboratory, Victor Klimov briefed him on research about a project for improving solar cells.

As Chu moved slowly through a gallery of scientific posters especially selected for his introductory moments at the lab, he listened intently to Klimov's overview and immediately began asking questions about his findings. (Full story)

DOE awards Los Alamos, Sandia for sustainability

The Department of Energy has recognized two national laboratories in New Mexico for their environmentally sustainable practices. The National Nuclear Security Administration says Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories and six other projects nationwide were presented with EStar awards from among 150 projects nominated nationwide. (Full story)

Star crust 10 billion times stronger than steel

Performed on a large computer cluster at Los Alamos National Laboratory and built upon smaller versions created on special-purpose molecular dynamics computer hardware at Indiana University, the simulations identified a neutron star crust that far exceeded the strength of any material known on earth.

The crust could be so strong as to be able to elicit gravitational waves that could not only limit the spin periods of some stars, but that could also be detected by high-resolution telescopes called interferometers, the modeling found. (Full story)

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Friday, May 1, 2009

LANL Analysis Shows How To Slow Flu's Spread

The Los Alamos influenza model indicates that without intervention, a flu pandemic in the U.S. peaks in about 85 days.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists using some of the most sophisticated computers in the world helped develop a plan to slow the spread of a nasty flu strain to give health officials time to produce and distribute an effective vaccine.

Some of their conclusions: stay home, wash your hands, take your medicine and consider closing schools. Don't bother trying to limit domestic travel. Some strategies work better than others in slowing the spread of the virus, a LANL researcher said Tuesday.
Full Story.

Swine flu fears hit home

What works is a combination of interventions - drugs to combat the flu virus and ways to keep people away from each other, such as telecommuting for work, closing schools, and taking hygienic measures such as people wearing masks and frequently washing their hands, said Tim Germann, a Los Alamos computational biologist. Researchers are working to develop a vaccine against swine flu. If all goes well, it would be available in about six months, in time for the next flu season. Full Story.

Also from this week’s New Mexican

Scientist: Spring break a likely factor in flu's spread

Catherine Macken has a theory about the rapid spread of swine flu: She blames it on spring break. Macken, a theoretical biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, helped create a computer model to test the potential spread of a pandemic avian flu after the H5N1 outbreak appeared in Asia in 2003. The notion that an outbreak of swine flu would come from Mexico six years later didn't really cross anybody's minds at the time - since scientists already knew where avian flu had started. Full Story.

First Large-scale Computer Simulation Of Gene Therapy

A section of human DNA. National Institutes of Health illustration.

A group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Los Alamos National Laboratory have completed the first comprehensive, molecular-level numerical study of gene therapy. Their work should help scientists design new experimental gene therapies and possibly solve some of the problems associated with this promising technique. Full Story.

Group aims to 'green up' power grid

Electricity flows a lot like water through Santa Fe's power grid, rushing through high-capacity areas like the south side, then slowing in other parts of the city, whirling, and perhaps bottlenecking in older infrastructure.

A group of local businesses, partnering with experts from Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, aims to find out exactly what the addition of new alternative energy sources
will do to Santa Fe's power grid, in hopes of fostering a network that is as green, safe and efficient as possible. Full Story.

DOE Hands Out Cleaner Coal Funding

The funding comes as part of a massive $777 million
push from the White House to create 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers over the next five years.

In addition to carbon capture projects at the Berkeley lab, the DOE plans to fund a research center at UCLA that will focus on nanoscale materials for
separating and capturing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as renewable energy applications.

Carbon Dioxide molecules are separated from the waste stream at an advanced clean coal power station for eventual sequestration. National Energy Technology Laboratory image.

Other centers at MIT, Princeton University, the Los Alamos National Lab, and elsewhere will look at various aspects of clean power generation and energy efficiency, many of them using nanotech.
Full Story.

Innovation: How your search queries can predict the future

At the FutureMe website you can send yourself an email scheduled to arrive at any date between now and 30 years hence.
Johan Bollen of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Alberto Pepe of the University of California, Los Angeles, applied a mood rating system to the text from over 10,000 FutureMe emails sent in 2006 to gauge people's hopes, fears and predictions for the future.

They found that emails directed at 2007 to 2012 were significantly more depressed in tone than messages aimed at the subsequent six years. Could they have predicted the world's current economic slump?
Full Story.

Where it is hip to count flops

Last summer the Department of Energy's $120 million dollar IBM Roadrunner supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory was declared the fastest computer in the world, churning out an incredible 1.026 petaflops, the first system ever to break the petaflops barrier.

The word "flops" is an acronym for Floating Point Operations Per Second, and 1 petaflops represents 1,000 trillion calculations per second. The Roadrunner accomplishment is all the more remarkable given the fastest machine the year before was another IBM supercomputer. Full story.

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