Friday, February 19, 2016

Decoding the Dark Matter of the Human Genome

Three genetically identical mice that do not look the same. Why? Photo credit: Nature Publishing.

In 1994, researchers from Harvard and Stanford published a paper in which they described three mice: one was yellow and fat, one mottled and fat, and the last one was brown and lean. An ordinary image, except for one thing: despite being so different, all three mice were genetically identical.

At the time, Karissa Sanbonmatsu--staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory--was working on plasma physics, and she had no idea that one day she would tap into this mystery. Even though she started from a completely different field, from the very beginning she was obsessed by one question: What distinguishes life from matter? (Full story)

Los Alamos scientist helps date gorilla-like fossils, shedding new light on human evolution

An analysis of these 8 million-year-old Chororapithecus abyssinicus teeth fossils provided insights into the human-gorilla evolutionary split. Courtesy Gen Suwa.

As research into human evolution has accelerated in recent years, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory contributed to a fossil study that found humans may have split off from other primates earlier than previously thought — and that a common ancestor of apes and humans likely evolved in Africa, not Eurasia.

According to an article on the research, published this month in the journal Nature, humans went their separate ways from gorillas about 10 million years ago and from chimpanzees about 8 million years ago. “That’s at least 2 million years earlier than previous estimates, which were based on genetic science that lacked fossil evidence,” LANL geologist and senior team leader Giday WoldeGabriel said in a news release. (Full story)

Ice sheet modeling of Greenland, Antarctica helps predict sea-level rise

Irina Tezaur and Ray Tuminaro analyze a model of Antarctica. They are part of a Sandia National Laboratories team working to improve the reliability and efficiency of computational models that describe ice sheet behavior and dynamics. Image courtesy Dino Vournas, Sandia National Laboratories.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will make a dominant contribution to 21st century sea-level rise if current climate trends continue. However, predicting the expected loss of ice sheet mass is difficult due to the complexity of modeling ice sheet behavior.

This research is part of a five-year project called Predicting Ice Sheet and Climate Evolution at Extreme Scales (PISCEES), funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program. PISCEES is a multi-lab, multi-university endeavor that includes researchers from Sandia, Los Alamos, Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge national laboratories. (Full story)

LANL scientist takes time off from Mars mission to hunt meteorites in Antarctica

Nina Lanza from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Ellen Crapster-Pregont were part of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites team that recently completed a search for space rocks. (Courtesy of Nina Lanza)

Nina Lanza’s regular job at Los Alamos National Laboratory is shooting a laser at rocks on Mars from the Curiosity Rover.

When she takes a break from that, she goes looking for meteorites in Antarctica. (Full story)

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Gravitational waves found, black-hole models led the way

Two merging black holes, creating gravitational waves. LIGO image.

Gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity in 1916, and now, almost exactly 100 years later, the faint ripples across space-time have been found. The advanced Laser Interferometric Gravitational-wave Observatory (aLIGO) has achieved the first direct measurement.

"We already have indirect evidence of gravitational wave emission from binary pulsars like the Hulse-Taylor system. But this aLIGO measurement provides the first direct detection and confirms what our modeling and simulation results have been suggesting - Einstein was right," said Christopher Fryer, Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow and longtime researcher in this field. (Full Story)

Also in Space Daily

Scientists detect Einstein-predicted gravitational ripples

Gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. CalTech JPL illustration.

In an announcement that electrified the world of astronomy, scientists said Thursday that they have finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago.

Scientists from New Mexico contributed to the discovery, through use of models and super-computing technology.

“Working with experts in radiation transport and atomic physics in the Advanced Simulation and Computing program at Los Alamos, members of the theoretical astrophysics center are modeling this emission to compare theoretical models with direct observations,” said Charlie McMillan, Los Alamos National Laboratory director. (Full Story)

Also from the New Mexican this week:

Science on the Hill: Turning windows into solar panels

Quantum Dots at various color wavelengths, LANL image.

Given New Mexico’s border-to-border sunshine and vast expertise in energy-related research, there’s no question our state plays a significant role in the nation’s turn to a more diverse energy portfolio.

A joint research team from the Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Milano-Bicocca, working with intriguing materials called quantum dots, the team achieved a breakthrough in solar-concentrating technology that can turn windows into electric generators and revolutionize the way we think about where and how we generate energy. (Full Story)

Los Alamos virus expert gave early warning on Zika

Microbiologist Brian Foley, LANL photo.

Research scientist Brian Foley has worked in bioinformatics since 1984. He has spent 20 years in HIV research at Los Alamos National Laboratory and has published 98 papers currently listed on Research Gate, the science networking site.

“Although Zika virus is generally considered a relatively benign Flavivirus, it is hypothesized that the study of this virus is useful as an indicator of other more virulent viruses," said Foley. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Five Los Alamos scientists receive 2015 Fellows Prize

Five Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists were honored for their achievements in the fields of leadership and science at an award ceremony Tuesday.

Hou-Tong Chen, Manvendra Dubey and Herbert Van De Sompel are the winners of the 2015 Fellows Prize for Outstanding Research; Rebecca Chamberlin and David Morris are the winners of the Fellows Prize for Outstanding Leadership.

“These scientists demonstrate excellence in both scientific research and leadership and represent the highest of research standards we encourage at Los Alamos,” said Dipen Sinha of Laboratory’s Materials Synthesis and Integrated Devices Group and the Coordinator for the Fellows Organization. “I congratulate all of them on their achievements.” (Full Story)


Innovative internship program building workforce development

The internship program—titled the Community Internship Collaboration—is built on a recent partnership between UNM-LA, Los Alamos High School and LANL Community Programs Office. It differs from other workforce development initiatives in that it provides both high school and college students with real-world work experience in local small businesses. Each student is matched with a project from a business, which will serve as a mentor to the students during the paid one-credit internship. (Full Story)

Young scientists show skills

Fifth-graders Monique Candelario and Miquela Peña display their "Wacky Water" experiment, RG Sun photo.

Cariños de los Niños Charter School held its first-ever science fair and projects were judged by a panel from the Northern New Mexico Inquiry Science Education Consortium. The Consortium is comprised of a collective of public school educators in the region, organized by the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation.

Len Valerio, network professional at the Los Alamos Laboratory and former Española School Board member, said he was very impressed with the variety of projects. (Full Story)

Native groups receive $60K in grants

Four businesses owned and operation by Native Americans in Northern New Mexico have been awarded a total of $60,000 in grants through a Native American Venture Acceleration Fund created by Los Alamos National Security LLC and the Regional Development Corporation. (Full Story)

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Confessions of a meteorite hunter

Lanza poses with a meteorite find. Photo by
Constantine Tsang.

Nina Lanza knows space rocks. In her day job as a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she operates the Curiosity Rover’s ChemCam, using a rock-vaporizing laser to analyze the Martian surface. But as of last week, Lanza was having a very different kind of encounter with space rocks: She was picking them up off of the Antarctic ice. For the past six weeks, Lanza has been a rookie member of the ANSMET (the Antarctic Search for Meteorites) 2015-2016 field team. (Full story)

New imaging system for steady-state fusion

Glen Wurden in the stellarator’s vacuum vessel.
LANL photo.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have designed new imaging systems which will help physicists get detailed insights into the German stellarator, Wendelstein 7-X.

Glen Wurden, of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plasma Physics group, began the development and installation of imaging systems while the W7-X was still being built. The imaging systems will study plasma edge effects and interactions within the armored walls of the three-dimensional magnetic geometries in the machine. (Full story)

Exploring inertial confinement fusion turbulence

Mounting a NIF target, LLNL photo.

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are leading an experimental campaign on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) designed to further understand turbulent mix models used in both high energy density (HED) and inertial confinement fusion (ICF) experiments. NIF is the only facility with the energy and shot-to-shot reproducibility needed for the experiments.

"We have created a system that reproduces instability features similar to those of traditional hydro experiments that have not previously been seen in HED experiments," said LANL scientist Kirk Flippo, the lead experimental investigator. (Full story)

DOE plan could help provide plutonium for space missions

Plutonium 238, LANL photo.

The space agency uses Pu-238 to fuel many of its deep space missions, including New Horizons, Voyager, the Curiosity rover, and the Mars 2020 rover.

NASA's Outer Planets Assessment Group says the government plans to get better at making plutonium for deep space missions by upgrading a lot of the equipment that's being used to produce Pu-238 at the Los Alamos, Idaho, and Oak Ridge national laboratories. (Full story)

LANL Foundation awards scholarships

LANL Foundation has awarded 17 Northern New Mexicans $1,000 Regional College/Returning Student scholarships from the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund, including students from Taos County.

Funding comes from donations made by Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and Los Alamos National Security, LLC. Scholarships are administered by the LANL Foundation with student selection and program oversight provided by an advisory committee of volunteer donors. (Full story)

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