Friday, January 25, 2013

Los Alamos Report for January 25, 2013

Trail of minerals is evidence for Mars water

Curiosity.  NASA image.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French Space Agency have tracked a trail of minerals that point to the prior presence of water at the Curiosity rover site on Mars.    

“Since the Mars Science Laboratory mission is focused on whether Mars is or was habitable, this new evidence of water on or below the planet’s surface is very exciting,” said ChemCam team leader Roger Wiens
. (Full story)

Nature has a formula that tells us when it’s time to die

 SFI's Geoffrey West.

Every living thing is a pulse. We quicken, then we fade. Everything alive will eventually die, we know that, but now we can read the pattern and see death coming. We have recently learned its logic, which "You can put into mathematics," says physicist Geoffrey West, former Los Alamos scientists now President of the Santa Fe Institute. It shows up with "extraordinary regularity," not just in plants, but in all animals, from slugs to giraffes. Death, it seems, is intimately related to size. (Full story)

Obama names Drell as a winner of the National Medal of Science

Sidney Drell, right, with former Sec. of State George
Shultz. Stanford photo.

President Barack Obama named twelve scientists, including Sidney Drell, Hoover senior fellow and member of the Hoover Institution’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy, as winners of the National Medal of Science.

Drell was recognized for his research on quantum electrodynamics and quantum chronodynamics and for applying basic physics to public policy, notably, national security and intelligence.

Drell has been a long-time member of the Los Alamos Natiional Security LLC Mission Committe that reports to the LANS Board of Governors. (Full story)


Los Alamos County science fair draws 319 students

Some of the contestants in the 2012 Regional Science
Fair.  From the Post.

This year there are more than 300 student projects registered for the Science Fair. Local fair sponsors, who provide special awards, make the Los Alamos County Science Fair a memorable event.

Los Alamos National Security, LLC and Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos Kiwanis and the Los Alamos Elks are corporate sponsors for the 2013 fair. (Full story)

N.M. building a biotech bonanza

Scientist Magdalena Torrance with nanoMR. Journal Photo.

The University of New Mexico and the state’s two national laboratories have long enjoyed stellar reputations for cutting-edge biotech research and development. Now, aggressive efforts to commercialize new technologies, build an entrepreneurial culture among scientists, and attract seasoned businesspeople and investors to help move discoveries to market have led to a flurry of local startups in recent years.   

Assets include top-notch medical researchers and engineers, substantial federal funding, and world-class research facilities at UNM, Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

Los Alamos National Lab demonstration validates the SHINE production process

SHINE's Greg Piefer.  Courtesy photo

SHINE Medical Technologies, Inc. announced today that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) successfully demonstrated the production and separation of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) from uranium sulfate solution.

This demonstration represents validation of SHINE’s technology in that it utilized both a low-enriched uranium solution and the process flows that will be used in the commercial operations of SHINE. (Full story)

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Mars rover ready to dig in

NASA's Curiosity rover is ready to scratch the surface of Mars, positioning itself this week to drill into the crust of the red planet and wildcat for evidence of life for the first time.

"We are now less than a mile from where we landed yet the geology is intensely diverse," said space scientist Roger Wiens at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who is principal investigator for the rover's laser sensor. "It is a scientist's dream." (full story)

ChemCam follows the ‘Yellowknife Road’ to Martian wet area

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French Space Agency have tracked a trail of minerals that point to the prior presence of water at the Curiosity rover site on Mars.

Researchers from the Mars Science Laboratory’s ChemCam team today described how the laser instrument aboard the Curiosity Rover—an SUV-sized vehicle studying the surface of the Red Planet—has detected veins of gypsum running through an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located some 700 meters away from where the Curiosity Rover landed five months ago. (full story)

Decision Sciences awarded contract for nuclear detection technology

Decision Sciences International, an advanced technology provider of security and detection systems, today announced it has been awarded a contract by National Security Technologies (NSTec) for a muon tomography scanner system.

Based on technology originally invented by scientists at the renowned Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Multi-Mode Passive Detection System™ was then developed with considerable private sector investment and expertise. (full story)

DoE calls for 30 petaflop supercomputer, invites proposals from all comers

The Department of Energy wants to keep pushing the supercomputer envelope and it’s calling for proposals on how to make that happen. Early drafts of a joint request for proposal  call for two new supercomputing systems to be built at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory. (full story)

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Friday, January 11, 2013


New approach for simulating supernovas

Two University of Texas at Arlington researchers want to bridge the gap between what is known about exploding stars and the remnants left behind thousands of years later. So they're trying something new -- using SNSPH, a complex computer code developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Co-authors of the abstract include: Gabriel Rockefeller and Chris Fryer, of the Computer, Computational, and Statistical Sciences division at Los Alamos National Laboratory (full story).

Killing trees in the name of science

Scientists do not fully understand how trees die. Why do some live and others die? How long does the process take?What is the impact of stress? Nate McDowell is one of the scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory trying to find answers.

McDowell runs what you might call a "tree torture" lab. Plastic gutters keep rain away from the tree roots, to simulate drought. The trees themselves are growing inside clear plastic chambers -- tubes with no tops. Silvery hoses carry heated air into the chambers (full story).

DOE announces grants to establish 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers

DOE Office of Science will invest $777 million in Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) including The Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics and The Center for Extreme Environment-TolerantMaterials at LANL.

The CASP is directed by Victor Klimov and has the objective to capitalize on recent advances in the science of how nanoparticles interact with light to design materials that have vastly greater efficiencies for the conversion of sunlight into electricity.

The CEETA is directed by Michael Nastasi and has the objective to understand, at the atomic scale, the behavior of materials subject to extreme radiation doses and mechanical stress (full story).

NASA researchers studying advanced nuclear rocket technologies

Advanced propulsion researchers at NASA are a step closer to solving the challenge of safely sending human explorers to Mars and other solar system destinations.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is using non-nuclear materials to simulate nuclear thermal rocket fuels.  Marshall researchers are partnering with NASA's Glenn Research Center, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and others (full story).
Nuclear power in space? Petition asks White House to rekindle project

There was a time when the federal government tested nuclear thermal rocket technology for the flights that would follow the Apollo moonshots.

Back in the 1960s, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and its industrial partners set up Project NERVA, which stands for Nuclear Energy for Rocket Vehicle Application.

The idea was to use a nuclear reactor to heat up liquid hydrogen propellant and blast a rocket out of Earth orbit. A trip to the moon would take just 24 hours, Mars only three months (full story).

Jews had big role building A-Bomb

While the Holocaust was still raging during World War II, a small group of Jews was helping devise a plan that ultimately ended the war in the Pacific Theater. They were members of the Theoretical Division at Project Y – now known as Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Dr. Jack Shlachter, an ordained rabbi who has worked at LANL since 1979, was surprised to discover how many of them in leadership positions were Jewish – at least by some definition of the term (full story).

Homestead lecture kicks off series

In commemoration of its 70th anniversary, Los Alamos National Laboratory kicks off a year-long lecture series at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, with a presentation about homesteading on the Pajarito Plateau at the Bradbury Science Museum.

The inaugural lecture is based on a book by local writers Dorothy Hoard, Judy Machen and Ellen McGehee, about the area’s settlement between 1887 and 1942 (full story).

Local scientist competing in 3,000-mile race

Local athlete Lisa Dougherty is a Ph.D. materials scientist, Project Management Professional and Certified Quality Engineer working full-time as an engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In November, she qualified to participate in the 3,000mile non-stop Race Across AMerica - RAAM. She will start in Oceanside, Calif., June 11 and finish in Annapolis, Md. (full story)

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Friday, January 4, 2013

As forests disappear, examining the mechanisms of their death

An outdoor experiment in New Mexico, where 63 piƱon and juniper trees are being monitored intensely. NYT Photo.      

Why do some trees die while others survive? What happens deep inside a tree under stress? How slowly or quickly do different species die?

Nate McDowell, a staff scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, aims to find answers. Like a doctor trying to learn why his patient is sinking into a coma, Dr. McDowell, a plant physiologist, has set up a kind of intensive care unit for trees to find out precisely how they die, though unlike his physician counterparts, Dr. McDowell is nudging his patients toward an early death. (Full Story)

Los Alamos top science news of year

The ChemCam instrument aboard the Mars Curiosity rover was the undisputed top science story for 2012.  NASA image.

During 2012, Los Alamos National Laboratory made its scientific mark in a variety of areas, and the stories that caught the public’s attention and that of the science community reflect the lab’s broad capabilities.

Top science stories for the year traveled from the canyons of Mars to the high desert forests of New Mexico, from cosmic particles to the structure of proteins and enzymes. Computer models of wildfires and nuclearmagnetic resonance signatures of plutonium, and it was fascinating for those following Los Alamos’ science news. Part 1  Part 2 

Also from the Monitor this week:

Los Alamos assesses nukes

U.S. Navy Trident D5 missile test.

The Annual Assessment process of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile is the authoritative method for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration to evaluate the safety, reliability, performance and military effectiveness of the nuclear weapons stockpile, and it is a principal factor in the country’s ability to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent without nuclear explosive testing. (Full Story)

Researchers find new way to explore permafrost soils

The scientists use data from airborne LIDAR, surface geophysical measurements, and point measurements.

What does pulling a radar-equipped sled across the Arctic tundra have to do with improving our understanding of climate change? It’s part of a new way to explore the little-known world of permafrost soils, which store almost as much carbon as the rest of the world’s soils and about twice as much as is in the atmosphere.

The Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE-Arctic) project is a collaboration among scientists and engineers at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Brookhaven, Berkeley Lab, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. (Full Story)

NNSA heralds milestones

The NNSA, in conjunction with its Management and Operating contractor partners, reached significant milestones in its nonproliferation and counterterrorism portfolios, made a host of achievements through its work with the United States’ nuclear weapons stockpile, and maintained a focus on continuous improvement.

All of the projects NNSA completed in FY12 were on or under budget, including the Sanitary Effluent Reclamation Facility and the demolition of Building South Mesa 43 at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

The 10 most bizarre biofuels stories of the year: 2012

Blue green algae. 

6. Growing magnetic algae

In New Mexico, a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have genetically engineered “magnetic” algae to investigate alternative, more efficient harvesting and lipid extraction methods for biofuels.

At LANL, the researchers took a gene that is known to form magnetic nanoparticles in magnetotactic bacteria and expressed it in green algae, where a permanent magnet can be used to separate the transformed algae from a solution. (Full Story)

Voices of the Manhattan Project echo into history

Cindy Kelly, Heather McClenahan and D. Ray Smith at a hearing on the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act.  From the Monitor.

The proposed Manhattan Project National Historical Park still has some Congressional hurdles to overcome, but its supporters are doing what they can to make that history more accessible now.

To that end, the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society partnered to create “Voices of the Manhattan Project,” a public archive of oral histories collected from Manhattan Project veterans and their families. (Full Story)

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