Friday, March 29, 2013

The glorious boneyard: A report from our starting line

Woldegabriel in a NatGeo video.  From National Geographic.

A friendly, athletic man from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Giday WoldeGabriel is the team’s chief geologist: a connoisseur of the stacked volcanic tuffs that the bone prospectors employed to date their finds.

I asked him why, geologically speaking, this improbably discrete patch of the Rift was the Klondike of the fossil hominid world. It turned out to be complicated. A combination of biochemistry and tectonics. But WoldeGabriel circled back to the common ingredient in both life and death. (Full Story)

Los Alamos researchers help forecast how melting ice will affect sea levels

Stephen Price is also studying the effects of melting ice sheets on sea levels. From the New Mexican.

At a conference in Hobart, Tasmania, last month, Los Alamos National Laboratory climate scientist Phil Jones addressed one of the outstanding unknowns in global warming — the problem of projecting and quantifying how fast and how high sea levels will rise in the future. His presentation, representing the recent work of a team of researchers at the laboratory, focused on Greenland and Antarctica, and how quickly water that is locked up in ice sheets and glaciers might be released into the surrounding oceans. (Full Story)

LANL wants students’ glimpse of lab’s future

What kind of issues will scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory be addressing 70 years from now? That’s a question lab officials are posing to sixth- through 12th-grade students in northern New Mexico in an online contest.

The Los Alamos STEM Challenge asks students to envision the next 70 years of discovery and create a poster, video, written essay or an idea for an application software that communicates what they foresee. (Full Story)

Online Competition Challenges Northern New Mexico Students

As part of Los Alamos National Laboratory's 70th anniversary of service to the nation, LANL is sponsoring an online science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) challenge for Northern New Mexico students in grades six through 12. LANL's STEM Challenge invites students to learn the history of the Laboratory and the work currently being performed and then design a poster, create a video, write an essay or design an app on their version of a LANL science or technology in the year 2083. (Full Story)

Scientists examine proton radiography of brain mockup

Proton radiograph of a high-fidelity mockup of a human head. From Medical Xpress.

Los Alamos researchers and German collaborators have investigated the application of giga-electron volt energy proton beams for medical imaging in combination with proton radiation treatment for cancer.

The use of such a high-energy proton beam is ideal for imaging small tumors within patients for targeted proton therapy. Proton radiography, which was invented at Los Alamos, employs a high-energy proton beam to image the properties and behavior of materials. (Full Story)

Has Curiosity found Martian rock varnish?

Before and after image of a rock lasered by Curiosity. The surface of the rock has darkened around the spot hit by the laser. NASA image.

Scientists studying data from the Curiosity rover have found another interesting puzzle, one which may easily have gone unnoticed were it not for one diligent researcher in particular, Nina Lanza of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The ChemCam's laser is one of the most important tools Curiosity has to study the composition of Martian rocks. It vapourizes a tiny spot on a rock's surface, and the resulting sample can then be analyzed by the spectrometer. (Full Story)

Laser empties atoms from the inside out

An international team of plasma physicists has used one of the world's most powerful lasers to create highly unusual plasma composed of hollow atoms.

Lead author Dr James Colgan, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said: “The conditions under which the hollow atoms were produced were highly non-equilibrium and the production mechanism was quite surprising. (Full Story)

Also from PhysOrg this week:

Under the hood of the ribosome

A computerized depiction of the e. coli ribosome. From PhysOrg.

With macroscopic machines, getting under the hood is a straightforward process, but when it comes to the molecular machines driving biological functions inside our cells, things get a lot more complicated, according to Paul Whitford, an assistant professor of physics.

Collaborators from Cornell Medical School, UC Berkeley, and Los Alamos National Laboratory present a computational framework that estimates those random kicks for the molecular machine known as the ribosome. (Full Story)

Cloud storage with OpenStack Swift

A team from Los Alamos National Laboratory has revealed how they used the Swift Object Store from OpenStack as their disk-based cloud storage system. For the team, Swift has provided an “open source software for creating redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of standardized servers to store petabytes of accessible data.” (Full Story)

Documenting Stone Age cleverness by tool development

Ancient stone tools showing the pace of remarkable technological enhancements over time. LANL image.

Stone Age man’s gradual improvement in tool development, particularly in crafting stone handaxes, is providing insight into the likely mental advances these early humans made a million years ago. Better tools make for better hunting, and better tools come from more sophisticated thought processes.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow Giday WoldeGabriel and a team of Ethiopian, Japanese, American and German researchers recently examined the world’s oldest handaxes and other stone tools from southern Ethiopia. (Full Story)

Officials optimistic over stopgap spending measure’s effect on lab

Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan talks with Ray Chavez of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. LANL photo.

Top officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory are optimistic that a stopgap spending bill signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama won’t significantly decrease funding for the lab’s operations.

“The continuing resolution is basically funding the government at the 2012 budget level, said LANL Director Charles McMillan during a community outreach breakfast at the Ohkay Casino Resort. (Full Story)

Scott Runnels of Computational Physics to Teach at West Point

Scott Runnels.  Courtesy photo.

Under an agreement between Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. Military Academy, Scott Runnels has been selected for a two-year faculty post in the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering at West Point.

"We're looking forward to having someone with Scott's academic, industry, and national laboratory experience join the faculty of our department," said Col. Edward Naessens Jr., Professor and Head of the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering. (Full Story)

Council Honors LANL’s 70 Years with Proclamation

LANL Director Charlie McMillan presents Lab highlights to the Los Alamos County Council. From the Post.

The Los Alamos County Council Tuesday evening presented a proclamation to Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charles McMillan honoring the Laboratory on its 70th Anniversary.

WHEREAS: In 1943, the U.S. Army and the University of California joined together in Los Alamos and created one of the most influential projects of the 20th century: the Manhattan Project. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Mars rover under pressure to reach mountain goal

Roger Wiens. LANL photo.

Seven months after it hurtled to a landing on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover has rolled just 738 metres across the surface. It remains about 10 kilometres from its primary goal: Aeolis Mons, a 5-kilometre-high mountain thought to contain layers formed in ancient ponds.

Since 23 January, the rover has more or less stayed in one place, a region called Yellowknife Bay. Yellowknife “has been a great place to start”, says team member Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Full Story)

Laser instrument aboard Curiosity rover provides well over 40,000 shots so far

ChemCam mast unit being prepared in a clean room prior to the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory. LANL image.

"ChemCam has performed flawlessly in its first six months, providing more than a gigabyte of exciting new information about the Red Planet," said Los Alamos National Laboratory planetary scientist Roger Wiens, Principal Investigator of the ChemCam Team. "Since Curiosity's successful landing on Mars on August 6, 2012, ChemCam has fired more than 40,000 shots at more than a thousand different locations with its high-powered laser." (Full Story)

Los Alamos science sleuth on the trail of a Martian mystery

Nina Lanza.  LANL photo.

The ChemCam laser vaporizes a small amount of material that can be read by a spectrometer to determine the target's composition. Los Alamos National Laboratory postdoctoral researcher Nina Lanza is studying whether Martian rocks are coated with dust or some other substance, and she presented her research at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at The Woodlands, Texas. (Full Story)

Culturing technique reveals full genome from single cell

Two GMD containing gut-community microcolonies are shown, with green fluorescence marking the DNA. LANL image.

A new technique for genetic analysis helps scientists generate complete genomes from a single cell, helping to understanding the bacteria, viruses and eukaryotes that form “microbiome” communities.

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego have made a breakthrough that gives researchers the bigger picture of the multi-organism genome, using the complete genome from a single cell. (Full Story)

Giant sequoias face looming threat from shifting climate

Giant sequoia. From Yale Climate 360.

In the worst case long-term scenarios, however, the Save the Redwods League projects that most habitat for coastal redwoods would eventually be rendered unsuitable for the big trees. In the near term, however, coastal redwoods may have an environmental advantage over their inland sequoia cousins since fog condensate provides as much as 45 percent of their annual water needs, says Park Williams, a climate and forest researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Full Story)

Los Alamos says surveys show normal radiation

Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory say two recent aerial flyovers show normal radiation levels around the city and county.

Los Alamos Field Office acting manager Juan Griego says the surveys conducted August 2011 and June 2012 in the vicinity of the northern New Mexico nuclear facility found that radioisotopes and their associated exposure rates are consistent with those expected from normal background radiation. (Full Story)

First-Ever Demonstration of Quantum Cryptography to Improve Security of the Electric Grid

The miniature transmitter communicates with a trusted authority to generate random cryptographic keys to encode and decode information. LANL photo.

A Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) team has successfully completed the first-ever demonstration of securing control data for electric grids using quantum cryptography. The demonstration was conducted in the test bed that is part of the OE-funded Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG) project at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. (Full Story)

LANL Director Charlie McMillan dines for charity

From left, LANL Director Charlie McMillan, Steve Girrens, Los Alamos Daily Post Publisher Carol A. Clark and TRK Management owner Roger Waterman.

Lunch with the Laboratory director was an auction item at this year's Red and Black Ball that raised nearly $1,000 for the Los Alamos Family YMCA. As a charity, the local YMCA ensures that health and wellness programs are available for all individuals and families despite an inability to pay. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Ancient stone tools show the pace of remarkable technological enhancements over time

Ancient stone tools showing the pace of remarkable technological enhancements over time (1.75 to 0.85 million years ago). LANL image

Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow Giday WoldeGabriel and a team of Ethiopian, Japanese, American and German researchers recently examined the world's oldest handaxes and other stone tools from southern Ethiopia. Their observation of improved workmanship over time indicates a distinct advance in mental capabilities of the residents in the entire region, with potential impacts in tool-development skills, and in overall spatial and navigational capabilities, all of which improved their hunting adaptation. (Full Story)

Curiosity's mission to Mars with x-ray vision

The first CheMin diffraction pattern from Mars. NASA image.

David Bish’s interest in planetary science started at Los Alamos, thanks in part to the close proximity of a space science group. ‘We would get together and we would ask them questions about the moon or Mars.

After a three year postdoc at Harvard, working on x-ray diffraction, Bish moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, where he remained for 23 years. (Full Story)

“Seven minutes of terror”: The secret story of the Mars rover landing

Curiosity's tension-filled landing.  NASA illustration.

Excerpted with permission from "Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity" by Roger Wiens.

The idea that the whole series of events would come off perfectly seemed rather improbable. In all, seventy-six pyrotechnic devices, mostly bolt or cable cutters, would have to do their job flawlessly. I tried not to think about it much. (Full Story)

Opportunity knocks: But which door should you open?

Eric Brown.  LANL photo.

Game-changing career opportunities for postdocs are everywhere. Whether it is a paper to write, a fellowship to chase, or an informal conversation to have, any opportunity could be “the one”  —how do you pick which avenues to pursue?    

For any opportunity, Eric Brown, deputy group leader in the Physics Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory, advises weighing “the potential return on investment versus the time you would put in and whether you’ve done something that can achieve this goal in a different way.” (Full Story)

Social media experts to speak on technology’s benefits during disasters

The Lab's Emergency Operations Center during the Las Conchas Fire.  LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory jumped heavily into using social media during the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, as did national forest managers in New Mexico. In 2011, the magazine Emergency Management said incident commanders at wildfires, floods and other natural disaster events needed to pay attention to what was happening on the social media front. (Full Story)

Two years after Fukushima: Carlsbad radiation center helped monitor US for nuclear fallout

Schematic of Fukushima Reactor One. LANL image.

As the disaster unfolded, 10,000 miles away, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, an independent environmental monitoring laboratory, began monitoring the air for radiation fallout.         

“We study and collect data on our air, groundwater, drinking water, the soil and sediments in the river bed,” said Russell Hardy, CEMRC director. “We work closely with Los Alamos National Laboratory. We also work with scientists from all over the world. (Full Story)

LANL economic impact focus of successful house memorial

Rep. Garcia Richard. From the Post.

The New Mexico Legislature recognized the critical importance of the National Laboratories to the state’s economy. The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities supported passage of the House Memorial.

"I am thrilled that my colleagues around the state have come together to recognize the immense impact that LANL and our other national laboratories and DOE facilities have on the overall economy of New Mexico," said State Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard, a newly elected representative from Los Alamos. (Full Story)

Opinion: Give families, teachers and students tools to succeed

The LANL Foundation wanted to have more than the “curriculum du jour” so we researched and found a program called Inquiry Science. It is hands-on learning that puts science kits in classrooms, trains teachers how to use them, and provides continued professional development for teachers. (Full Story)

Improved synchronicity: Preventive care for the power grid

Scientists have identified conditions and properties that keep power generators in the desired synchronized state and help make a self-healing power grid a reality. Co-authors include Marian Anghel of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Albuquerque Business First announces BizTech Innovation Awards honorees

The presence of major entities like Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory has helped to spin off and influence a research community that’s creating some incredible technologies. (Full Story)

Fuel Cell Technologies - Most experienced companies in the fuel cell industry

Fuel Cell Technologies, based in Albuquerque, NM, incorporated in 1993, is one of the most experienced companies in the fuel cell industry.  Founded by Chuck Derouin and Software Engineer, Don McMurry, each worked for over 15 years in the Los Alamos National Laboratory Fuel Cell Core Research Program. (Full Story)

Astronomers conduct first remote reconnaissance of another solar system

Researchers have conducted a remote reconnaissance of a distant solar system. From Space Daily.                

"The variation in the spectra of the four planets is really intriguing," said Didier Saumon, an astronomer at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was not involved in this study. "Perhaps this shouldn't be too surprising, given that the four gaseous planets of the solar system are all different. The hundreds of known exoplanets have forced us to broaden our thinking, and this new data keeps pushing that envelope." (Full Story)

New radioactive waste repackaging facility in Los Alamos

A delivery arrives at the box line.  LANL photo.               

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has brought a third waste repackaging facility online to increase its capability to process nuclear waste for permanent disposal. The box line facility is largest of its kind ever built.

Built inside a dome once used to house containers of waste at the Laboratory, the facility is the largest Perma-Con structure ever constructed. A Perma-Con is a modular structure typically used for radiological or hazardous containment. (Full Story)

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