Friday, March 25, 2016

Getting through an airport is a nightmare if you have this insanely cool job

Explosives test at Los Alamos National Laboratory, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists talked about using “biology, physics, chemistry, engineering, [and] high-performance computing…to keep America safe” in a Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) live online chat yesterday. They also talked about the difficulties of getting through airport security because their belongings are often covered in the vestiges of explosives.

So be thankful for this team. Not only do they help keep the US safe, but we can pretty much guarantee that their trip through security is going to be much more annoying than yours. (Full Story)

Strawberry’s the best flavor

Illustration from Tech Crunch.

A Homeland Security Department science and technology program manager is high on new tech at Los Alamos. “Right now, most forms of cryptography can be broken with the right tools — but what if there were a development in the works that could change the game completely?” the DHS official, Michael Pozmantier, writes for TechCrunch. “At Los Alamos National Laboratory, scientists have taken the first step toward exactly that. It’s a device the size of a Starburst candy, which fits on a small circuit board the size of a video card. Inside that unassuming exterior is a crazily fluctuating quantum light field — the quickest and most reliable true random number generator ever made.” (Full Story)

See the original article at Tech Crunch

Novel water-removal technique boosts performance of carbon nanomaterials

Fuel cell in a test stand, LANL image.

New research illuminating water’s critical role in forming catalysts for oxygen reduction in materials has revealed the key to designing next-generation carbon nanomaterials with enhanced performance for fuel cells and batteries.

“The implications of understanding water’s role in achieving high-performance layered materials for energy generation and storage devices will be transformational,” said Gautam Gupta of the Materials Synthesis and Integrated Devices group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

What is quantum cloud computing?

Heart of the D-Wave Quantum Computer, D-Wave image.

“As conventional computers reach their limits in terms of scaling and performance per watt, we need to investigate new technologies to support our mission,” said Mark Anderson of the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Weapons Physics Directorate. “Researching and evaluating quantum annealing as the basis for new approaches to address intractable problems is an essential and powerful step, and will enable a new generation of forward thinkers to influence its evolution in a direction most beneficial to the nation." (Full Story)

LANL critical watersheds on exhibit at White House water summit

Richard Middleton's view, courtesy photo.

A Los Alamos National Laboratory project was included in a White House celebration of the 23rd annual United Nations World Water Day Tuesday.

The White House hosted a Water Summit, including demonstrations, exhibitions, announcements and revelations intended to spotlight creative solutions and transform the way we think about solving the water problems today and tomorrow.

The full LANL project is half-way through a three-year $3 million Critical Watershed program, funded by a LDRD (Lab Directed Research and Development) grant. The principal investigator, Richard Middleton is an expert in energy infrastructure modeling. (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory and Seagate heat up data archiving

Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, Seagate and Los Alamos are working together on power-managed disk and software solutions for deep data archiving.

“We see huge opportunities to bring power-aware cold storage to the market as organizations—including and beyond the Department of Energy—seek new ways to address data storage in resourceful ways,” said Gary Grider, division leader of high-performance computing (HPC) at Los Alamos. (Full Story)

Four firms picked to work with LANL

Four small businesses will be working with Los Alamos National Laboratory to accelerate the nation’s transformation toward a clean energy economy as part of the Department of Energy’s Small Business Vouchers pilot project.

The following four businesses were awarded the pilot vouchers, for a total of $590,000: Amsen Technologies, Sustainable Innovations, KWJ Engineering, and Treadstone Technologies.  (Full Story)

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Friday, March 18, 2016

An exclusive look at the world’s largest-ever nuclear cleanup

LANL's Chris Morris on the PBS NewsHour.

TEPCO has turned to a team of scientists and engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory for some assistance. They are helping build a device designed to see through the walls of the reactor buildings and hopefully make what looks like three-dimensional X-rays of the reactor cores.

Physicist Chris Morris leads the team. "You can reconstruct the amount of material at the core in the reactor. And we can actually measure if there’s any uranium there, if there’s a lot of uranium there, how much is left." (Full story)


Melting of ice wedges adds to Arctic warming

Arctic ice, from VOA

Ice wedges are a particularly cool surface feature in the Arctic tundra. And new research suggests they are melting fast, which is bad news for the ecosystem at the top of the world — and the planet in general.

"The unique structure of ice wedge polygon landscapes promotes ponding of water and the accumulation of vast stores of soil carbon as wetland vegetation dies off seasonally and is buried and frozen over thousands of years" said Cathy Wilson, the Los Alamos National Laboratory geomorphologist. (Full story)

Also in Science Codex

Science on the Hill: Can we someday predict earthquakes?

Paul Johnson holds a cracked sample of
acrylic used to study damage effects linked
to faulting, LANL photo.

Millions of earthquakes shake the globe every year, the ground suddenly lurching in response to movements of the tectonic plates that form Earth’s crust.

We still don’t fully understand the details inside faults or how those details might control the location and timing of earthquakes, but geophysicists and computer scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their colleagues are wielding an array of new tools to study the interactions among earthquakes, precursor quakes (often very small earth movements) and faults. (Full story)

Bringing MRI where it’s needed most

Al Urbaitis and the portable MRI device, LANL photo.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we’ve developed a portable MRI, also called Battlefield MRI that uses ultra-low-field magnetic resonance imaging to create images of the brain that can be used in field hospitals for wounded soldiers or in remote villages in developing countries.

Conventional MRI machines use very large magnetic fields that align the protons in water molecules to create magnetic resonance signals, which are detected by the machine and turned into images. The large magnetic fields create exceptionally detailed images, but they are difficult and expensive to make. (Full story)


Seagate sets sights on broader HPC market

Trinity supercomputer, LANL image.

Today, four of the top ten supercomputer sites in the world run on Seagate, including all of the newcomers to the top ten. It leads the SAGE project, a Horizon 2020 storage technology program in support of Europe’s exascale effort, and it’s the storage provider (with Cray) on the second phase of the Trinity Supercomputer at Los Alamos National Lab, which when finished will be the fastest storage system in the world at 1.6 TB/s. (Full story)

LANL employees pledge record $2.2 million in 2016 giving campaign

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees pledged a record $2.2 million to United Way and other nonprofits during the 2016 Employee Giving Campaign. More than 500 community and social service organizations will benefit. (Full story)


Small businesses win technical support to develop clean energy technologies

Four small businesses will be working with Los Alamos National Laboratory to accelerate the nation’s transformation toward a clean energy economy as part of the Department of Energy’s Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot project.

These businesses will gain access to world-class laboratory resources to help move innovative ideas and technologies closer to the marketplace. (Full story)

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Surprise nuclear strike? Here's how we'll figure out who did it

Trinitite, the green-hued glass left by the first U.S. nuclear blast, for use in forensic studies. From Science

“Each type of weapon has a distinct fingerprint,” says Michael Pochet, a U.S. Air Force electrical engineer detailed to DTRA. In plutonium bombs, for example, the fissile isotope is plutonium-239, made in nuclear reactors and extracted by reprocessing spent fuel, which contains a mix of plutonium isotopes and other actinides like americium. Detecting those nuclei indicates that the bomb’s core was plutonium.

Their proportions hold clues to the bomb’s history, says Joel Ullom, a physicist at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, who, with colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, has developed a superconducting sensor that speedily differentiates plutonium isotopes. (Full Story)

Many of world’s lakes are vanishing

Lake PoopĆ³ in 2013 (left), and January 2016 (right), NASA image.

Bolivia’s second largest lake has vanished into thin air. In December, Lake PoopĆ³ became a dry salt pan and its largest lake – Lake Titicaca – is heading towards trouble, too.

This is largely due to the permafrost thawing. When frozen soil thaws, the water can drain, bursting out sideways or disappearing underground. “These ponds are the baby lakes, and if they disappear then we will have no Arctic lakes in the long term,” says Christian Andresen from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Finding new targets to battle drug resistance

Bladder cancer cells, from Atlas of Science.     

Researchers have created a chemotherapy-resistant line of bladder cancer cells to study how tumors become resistant to chemotherapy, team includes Bin Hu, Patrick Chain, Momchilo Vuyisich, Cheryl Gleasner and Kim Mcmurry at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Bladder cancer affects 70,000 people in the U.S. each year and results in 15,000 deaths. In 80 percent of the deaths, the bladder cancer had invaded the bladder wall, but there were no obvious signs of metastasis. (Full Story)

Random number generator promises stronger encryption

Raymond Newell, LANL photo.

One weakness of encryption algorithms — one that simply increasing from 128-bit to 256-bit can’t solve — is that they are based on pseudo-random number generators; not truly random number generators.

As Raymond Newell, research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and contributor to Whitewood Encryption Systems's creation, explains, "We take the randomness we create and spread it across the network." (Full Story)

Pine, Juniper forests predicted to disappear

Dead conifers in the Sandia Mountains, from NM in Depth.         

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other institutions predict the disappearance of the Southwest’s pine-juniper forests.

In the new study, scientists simulated drought conditions to see how evergreen trees will respond to warming in the coming decades. Over five years, they studied how trees perform certain functions, like photosynthesis and the absorption of water during drought. (Full Story)

See the YouTube Video

Robotics are all the rave

Neon robot at the Robo Rave, from the RG Sun.

The event was sponsored by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and had participation from most of the local schools.

Janelle Vigil-Maestas of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Community Programs Office said she met with Russ Fisher-Ives from Bernalillo’s Inquiry Facilitators Inc., approximately eight years ago, and thought having the event in Northern New Mexico would be a wonderful opportunity to promote science and robotics. (Full Story)

United Way Of Northern New Mexico recognizes donors

LANL Community Programs Office Director Kathy Keith, left, accepts the Philanthropist of the Year Award for LANL/LANS, the largest Employee Giving Campaign in Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties, from United Way Director Kristy Ortega. 'This past year, with no confirmation for a match to donations, LANL employees pledged more than $2.3 million for nonprofits around the world,' Ortega said. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 4, 2016

Earth’s radiation belts change wildly with solar storms

Van Allen belts can vary, NASA illustration.

Satellites can short-out if they encounter a surge of radiation in Earth orbit and a new study of the Van Allen belts’ shape — an intensely charged region surrounding our planet — could help better protect them from this highly-charged environment, researchers say.

"The shape of the belts is actually quite different depending on what type of electron you're looking at," said lead author Geoff Reeves, of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
 (Full story)

New dates obtained for great ape fossils from Ethiopia

Teeth of Chororapithecus abyssinicus, Gen
Suwa photo.

New dates have been obtained for fossils discovered in Ethiopia’s Chorora Formation. Argon dating and paleomagnetic methods, combined with fieldwork, volcanic ash chemistry, and geochronology, suggest that the nine gorilla-like teeth of Chororapithecus abyssinicus, a common ancestor of apes and humans, are younger than previously thought.

“Our analysis of C. abyssinicus fossils reveals the ape to be only eight million years old, younger than previously thought. This is the time period when human and African ape lines were thought to have split, but no fossils from this period had been found until now,” said geologist Giday WoldeGabriel of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)


 Affordable fuel cell components developed

An X-ray computed microtomograph for non-
destructive 3-D-imaging of fuel cell components,
LANL photo.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne and Los Alamos national laboratories have teamed up to support a DOE initiative through the creation of the Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat), a collaboration devoted to finding an effective but cheaper alternative to platinum in hydrogen fuel cells.

ElectroCat is dedicated to finding new ways to replace rare and costly platinum group metals in fuel cell cathodes with more accessible and inexpensive substitutes - such as materials based on the earth-abundant metals iron and cobalt. (Full story)


Genetic tree sheds new light on disease outbreaks

Los Alamos National Laboratory is working
to more clearly understand how diseases
such as HIV are spread, LANL image.

Scientists have a new tool for unraveling the mysteries of how diseases such as HIV move through a population, thanks to insights into phylogenetics, the creation of an organism’s genetic tree and evolutionary relationships.

“It turns out that three different types of transmission histories are possible between two persons who might have infected each other,” said Thomas Leitner of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

Also in Health Medicine Network


Los Alamos ‘cube sat’ team wins secretary’s award

Members of the Prometheus Team at the Lab award
ceremony, LANL photo.

More than 60 Los Alamos National Laboratory staff instrumental in the success of the Prometheus project were honored Monday with the Secretary of Energy Achievement Award at a special ceremony in Los Alamos.

Prometheus is the name of the cube satellite (“cube sat”) constellation developed by Los Alamos for U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). LANL Director Charlie McMillan and Principal Associate Director Terry Wallace for Global Security, presented the awards, which recognize team members for their “deep technical expertise” and “tight collaboration ... to accomplish challenging performance goals under an aggressive launch timeline.”​ (Full story)

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