Friday, July 31, 2009

Lightning inside hurricane could predict intensity

They're deceptively simple looking detectors: one an antenna with built-in GPS, the other electronic sensors inside a large, upside-down metal salad bowl.

The sensors are the basis of a Los Alamos National Laboratory project studying lightning inside a hurricane to improve the accuracy and timeliness of forecasts for people in a storm's path.

The effort is in the second of three years of research. The team is gearing up for the Atlantic hurricane season that peaks in August and September. (Full story.)

McMillan will lead Los Alamos weapons program

An associate director at Los Alamos National Laboratory has been appointed to oversee the lab’s weapons program.

Charles McMillan succeeds Glenn Mara, who recently retired.

Labs prove their worth [editorial]

If anyone asks why Sandia National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratories are needed in a post-nuclear age of Obama, the labs need only flash the nine R&D 100 Awards they won this year. Sandia also won shared honors for a tenth project. (Full story—subscription or viewing of advertisement required.)

Teams compete in annual Hazmat Challenge at LANL

Sitting in a mail truck on Los Alamos National Laboratory property is a sealed letter which reads “YOU DIE NOW” across its front in the cut-and-pasted style of a ransom note. This is what's called a “suspicious package.”

Cue a Hazmat team of four, each wearing crinkly, super-sealed “Level B” suits with heavy metal air tanks on their backs. Breathing like Darth Vader, a team member sorts through mail bins, finds the “YOU DIE NOW” letter and two others (they're not all that easy) and they're passed to the back of the truck to be analyzed, then packaged. (Full story—subscription or viewing of advertisement required.)

N.M. lab technologies get R&D 100 awards

Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories had 10 technologies named as part of this year's R&D 100 Awards.

The awards, given by R&D Magazine, go to the best technological advances at universities, private corporations and government labs around the world. The magazine has presented them each year since 1963.

Five technologies from Los Alamos National Laboratory made the list. (Full story.)

LANL, UNM to head $14.5M systems biology center

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of New Mexico will co-direct a newly formed National Center for Systems Biology.

The National Institute for General Medical Sciences—part of the National Institutes of Health—has approved $14.5 million for a Spatiotemporal Modeling Center that will be housed under the new systems biology center at UNM. (Full story.)

Researchers from LANL, UNM and Sandia National Laboratories will work together under the leadership of Janet Oliver of UNM’s Cancer Center.

LANL offers mentoring to two veteran-owned firms

Los Alamos National Laboratory will provide mentoring services to two veteran-owned businesses, SDV Construction and Trillacorpe Construction.

The assistance is provided under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Mentor Protégé Program, which helps small businesses become successful contractors to government agencies and private industry. (Full story.)

Vital Alert gains $2.5M investment

Vital Alert, a New Mexico-based startup that presented at the Technology Ventures Corp.’s Equity Capital Symposium in May, received a $2.5 million investment from two Canadian venture capital firms in late July.

Vital Alert uses technology licensed from Los Alamos National Laboratory to provide emergency wireless communications in places where most systems break down, such as in skyscrapers or underground. (Full story.)

Los Alamos names new weapons leader

Los Alamos National Laboratory announced a change at the top Tuesday.

Charles McMillan becomes principal associate director for Weapons Programs, succeeding Glenn Mara, who has retired.

McMillan advances from his previous role as associate director for weapons physics.

His new responsibilities call for providing oversight and direction for the nuclear weapons program at the lab and its core mission, “ensuring the safety, reliability and performance of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.” (Full story.)

NNSA administrator looks to future of nuclear security

Administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today discussed the future of the Nuclear Security Enterprise and its strategic deterrence mission in light of President Obama’s unprecedented nuclear security agenda.

Administrator D’Agostino spoke at the U.S. Strategic Command’s first Strategic Deterrence Symposium in Omaha. He was joined by the directors of NNSA’s three nuclear security laboratories for a panel entitled “The Weapons and Infrastructure of the Nuclear Inventory.” (Full story.)

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Friday, July 24, 2009

LANL scientists win R&D awards

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists won four of R&D Magazine's 2009 R&D 100 Awards. Recognized as the “Oscars of Invention” by the Chicago Tribune, these awards honor the top 100 proven technological advances of the past year.

Winning LANL projects are MagViz, the SIMTECHE CO2 Capture Process, Lasonix and TeraOps Software Radio. (Read all about it—subscription or viewing of advertising required.)

LANL computers on Green 500 list

For most people, a $100,000 monthly electricity bill would raise eyebrows. But as giant supercomputers go, the cost of running Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roadrunner is a bargain.

Roadrunner, famous as the world's fastest supercomputer, is also one of the world's most energy efficient. Which is a good thing, according to Roadrunner project director Andy White. (Read the whole story—subscription or viewing of advertising required.)

Digging at black holes' mysteries

Try looking at a black object that's 50 million light years from Earth, then describe what you see.

If you said "nothing," then you understand the first problem with studying black holes.

They might be some of the most powerful objects in the universe, but viewing them is well, kind of a let down.

To understand how they work, scientists instead have to look at the space near black holes, at other objects, energies and magnetic fields that are influenced by them.

"We believe most galaxies have black holes in the center," said Bill Junor, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Black holes might be very important in the evolution of any galaxy, but there's still a lot of mystery about them, about how they work." (Read all about it!)

Staying a step ahead of natural disasters
LANL hurricane modeling program helps prepare for aftermath

If you want to see the future, don't look to one of those Merlin-like wizards from the movies, mysteriously waving his hands over a translucent orb.

The modern version of the crystal ball is much more likely to be hidden inside the silicon, wires and transistors of the nation's most powerful computers.

It's that technology — not magic — that has created the field of computer modeling, which is a considerably more practical and accurate method of fortunetelling than the wizards of old would care to admit.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory also don't plan to use their fortunetelling power for personal gain or to support a king. Instead one of their major efforts is to use it to help foresee the damage that natural disasters might do — so help can get to victims more quickly. (Read the whole story.)

White House honors LANL physicist

The White House has awarded Ivan Vitev, a Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The honor is the highest bestowed by the federal government to outstanding scientists early in their careers. (Read the whole story.)

BioCel automation system: Taking the panic out of pandemics

Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Agilent have teamed up to create a system that can sequence the DNA pattern of an influenza virus anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than previous methods. (The whole story is here.)

LANS awards $100,000 to Santa Fe college

Los Alamos National Security (LANS), which manages and operates Los Alamos National Laboratory, has awarded a $100,000 grant to Santa Fe Community College’s planned Sustainable Technologies Center.

The center will provide education and training for alternative energy and green jobs. (Read all about it!)

LANL stimulus work saves and creates jobs

Los Alamos National Laboratory has received $212 million for environmental clean up activities under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The funds will shore up environmental compliance efforts and the clean up of Cold War-era buildings slated for demolition, said George Rael, assistant manager for environmental operations at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos office. (Read the entire story.)

Lujan Center touts string of successes

A burgeoning number of college students and seasoned scientists from across the globe are conducting research projects together at the Manuel Lujan, Jr. Neutron Scattering Center.

The 150,000 square-foot facility is unique in many ways as nationally recognized, award-winning scientist Alan Hurd pointed out during an in-depth tour on Tuesday afternoon. (Read it all

White House honors young quantum theoretician

Ivan Vitev knew he had been nominated for a Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers because he was asked to provide curriculum vitae very quickly for the review process. (Read the full story.)

United Way gives nearly $1 million to member agencies

Nearly $1 million in United Way of Northern New Mexico designations and allocations went to its member agencies this year from the 2009 campaign that ended Dec. 31.

“We really appreciate the generosity of the community, Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and the Los Alamos National Security (LANS) dollar for dollar match,” said United Way Executive Director Donna Schroeder in an interview this morning. (Read the whole story.)

House passes energy bill with a boost

In a rare gesture, the House added a special gratuity to a funding bill for the Department of Energy and national science laboratories that passed with a substantial majority Friday.

In the process, they boosted the funds available for Laboratory Directed Research and Development by an extra 1 percent.

“It is wonderfully refreshing to see the house show support for LDRD, which I don’t think we have seen for some time,” said Bob Kraus, deputy director for the Los Alamos LDRD. (Read the full story.)

Pueblo youth study Valles watershed

Some 65 students from Northern New Mexico Pueblos came out to get some hands-on experience and wrap their minds around the teeming environment of Vales Caldera National Preserve.

Counting the students, interns and scientists from the preserve and Los Alamos National Laboratory, sponsors of the event, there were more than 100 people. (Read the full story.)

Having fun with science

Researchers, educators, innovators, businesses and artisans from Los Alamos and the surrounding areas shared their hands-on activities and ideas with the crowd at the Next Big Idea Festival near Ashley Pond on Saturday.

Children and adults alike gathered around tents that featured a myriad of scientific experiments. While some were reminiscent of school science experiments, others were more complicated. (Read the full story.)

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Smart Grid bid brightens state's future

Los Alamos, arguably home of more gray matter per household than any other county in the country, is playing a central role in a state initiative to catch a wave on a promising green business opportunity.

“If your lights go off in your house, the local electrical substation doesn’t know,” said DV Rao, a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “You have to call and tell them.” (Read all about it.)

Scientists keep tabs on rare owls

The regular explosions in the Los Alamos National Laboratory backcountry do not seem to bother the Mexican spotted owls that have taken up residence in the steep canyons that slice through the nuclear weapons research center. (Read the whole story—subscription or ad view required)

Supercomputers more power hungry but more efficient

IBM is keen to point out that what it calls""the world's fastest supercomputer" an IBM supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratories, which first broke through the petaflop barrier, is ranked the fourth most energy efficient supercomputer in the world. (Read all about it!)

Not all iron superconductors are the same

The orientation of the magnetic moments in iron-based compounds FeTe (Iron Telluride) and SrFe2As2 (Strontium Iron Arsenide). Note the diagonal ordering in FeTe, these differences reflect a profound difference in the character of the magnetism.

An angle-resolved photoemission study suggests that different physics may underlie two major classes of iron-based superconductors. (Read the whole story.)

Creeping up on a big black hole

There are probably few scenes of violence in the universe that can compare to what goes on in the energetic activity of an accretion disk spiraling down around a monster black hole at the center of a large galaxy. (Read the whole story.)

Also from the Los Alamos Monitor this week:

The Next Big Idea Festival kicks off Friday

This weekend's annual Next Big Idea Festival is designed to be bigger and better than last year. More than 60 junior and senior high-school students from around the state are participating in the Next Big Idea STEM Student Day, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Friday. (Read the whole story.)

LANS to give $100,000 to college

Los Alamos National Security is set to contribute $100,000 to the Sustainable Technologies Center at Santa Fe Community College. The funds will be presented to SFCC President Sheila Ortego by LANS Executive Staff Director Jerry Ethridge this morning. (Read the whole story.)

Read Currents magazine online

Currents is geared to employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory, but others often also find it interesting. The July issue, focused on Lab environmental matters, is available on LANL’s Web site.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

President honors outstanding early-career scientists

President Obama today [July 9] named 100 beginning researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

This year’s honoree from Los Alamos National Laboratory is Ivan Vitev of Theoretical Division, Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology. See the White House
press release here.

Making green fireworks 'greener'

Scientists are helping pyrotechnicians make fireworks displays less environmentally hazardous (ABC News photo).

In the 1990s, Disney recruited scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to develop fireworks that produce less smoke and contaminants.

"If everything in a firework worked perfectly, you would just make gaseous products like carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas," said LANL chemist David Chavez.

But imperfections in the chemical reactions leave a fog of particles that include unburned carbon and crystallized metals such as barium. See the
full story here.

LANL ships last of radioactive waste

The last shipment heads down the road to WIPP.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has shipped its final canister of a special type of radioactive waste to southern New Mexico.

Sixteen canisters of robotic handled radioactive waste had been stored at the laboratory in vertical, concrete shafts since 1995. See the
story here.

Watch a cool video about the
last shipment on YouTube.

Stimulus ramps up in New Mexico
Bruce Shappell, deputy associate director for environmental programs, laid out the outlines of the lab's $212 million stimulus project. The project, which is funded directly through the Department of Energy, aims to tear down and haul away contaminated waste from former plutonium processing facilities and a major hazardous waste disposal area along DP Road. See the Monitor
story here.

VLBA locates superenergetic
bursts near giant black hole

Artist's impression of s supermassive black hole ripping apart a star and consuming some of its matter. NASA illustration.

Worldwide telescope collaboration pinpoints mysterious origin of extremely energetic gamma rays coming from giant galaxy's core.

The scientific team includes Bill Junor of Los Alamos National Laboratory. See the
supermassive story here.

Building the computer that could halt nuclear Armageddon

Roadrunner “nodes” are built around a unique “hybrid” architecture. LANL photo.

One exaflop is 1,000 times faster than a petaflop. The fastest computer in the world is currently the IBM-based Roadrunner, which is located in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Roadrunner runs at an astounding one petaflop, which equates to more than 1,000 trillion operations per second. Read more about Roadrunner here.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eco-friendly fireworks offer safer pyrotechnics

Fireworks are fun, exciting and often free to watch, but there may be a hidden cost: The flashing displays can harm the environment and pose risks to human health.

"Everyone at or downwind of a pyrotechnic display is getting subjected to levels of these metals that aren't natural levels," said David E. Chavez, a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Celebrate enlightenment here!)

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.

Teams from Los Alamos, Pacific Northwest, Oak Ridge, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, report details of their simulations in the current issue of the International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management. (Infect yourself with knowledge here!)

Keck study sheds new light on 'dark' gamma-ray bursts

For more than a decade, astronomers have puzzled over the nature of so-called dark bursts, which produce gamma rays and X-rays but little or no visible light. They make up roughly half of the bursts detected by NASA's Swift satellite since its 2004 launch.

Swift is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. It was built and is being operated in collaboration with Pennsylvania State University and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Become illuminated here!)

Friday bird blogging: Mexican spotted owls

That cordon of security [at the Laboratory] has created some nice Mexican spotted owl habitat in the canyons at Los Alamos. Lab biologists first spotted a pair of owls in 1994, and there are now two nesting pairs. David Keller, the biologist who does the lab's bird monitoring, sends along this insanely cute picture of the chick. (Hoot about it here!)

Physics of pancakes

Searching for a less-permeable pancake, The Desperate Cook turns to LANL scientists. Studying [The Physics of Pancakes], I learned that "as a pancake cooks, it undergoes a chemical change and becomes a solid. If you look closely, it is a mixture of solid and gas, like a sponge or piece of foam." Pancakes bubble as they cook, according to LANL scientists, because "rising agents, such as baking soda and baking powder, produce carbon dioxide." (Eat it all up here!)

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