Friday, November 18, 2016

Science on the Hill: Fires set to clear African land are stoking climate change

Each year in the dry season, flames sweep across a large swath of the African countryside, engulfing every kind of grass and woody plant in their way. From October through March in the northern hemisphere and June through November in the southern hemisphere, people torch the land to clear it, remove dead and unwanted vegetation, and drive away grazing animals.   

Los Alamos National Laboratory, as part of a team of scientists on the project, focuses on ensuring high-quality measurements and studying the data to answer critical questions about biomass aerosols. (Full Story)

Using Wikipedia to forecast the flu

Sara Del Valle, LANL photo.

Forecasting the impact of not just the flu, but other infectious—and preventable—diseases such as HIV and measles could allow public health workers to focus on mitigation strategies and potentially save millions of lives around the world.   

Los Alamos researchers mathematics, computer science, statistics and information about how disease develops and spreads to forecast the flu season and even next week’s sickness trends. (Full Story)

Five Los Alamos innovations win R&D 100 Awards

Section of the PuLMo device, LANL photo.

Five Los Alamos National Laboratory technologies won R&D 100 Awards last week at R&D Magazine’s annual ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“These awards are representative of the multidisciplinary character of the work we do at Los Alamos, and result from partnerships with other national laboratories, private industry, and universities,” LANL Director Charlie McMillan said. “I applaud all of the R&D 100 award winners for their success and for showcasing the innovative science and technology that Los Alamos is known for.” (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Los Alamos honored with 2016 HPCwire Award

Gary Grider, left, accepts the HPCwire Readers’ Choice award. HPCwire photo.           

Los Alamos National Laboratory has been recognized with an HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Award for the Lab’s collaboration with Seagate on next-generation data storage technologies. The award was presented at the 2016 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC16), in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Full Story)

Exascale computing project to establish co-design centers

Tim Germann, LANL photo.

The Department of Energy has selected four co-design centers as part of a 4 year, $48 million funding award. The first year is funded at $12 million, and is to be allocated evenly among the four award recipients.

Co-design proposals and their principal investigators include the Co-design center for Particle Applications (CoPA) and its Principal Investigator Tim Germann at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This co-design center will serve as a centralized clearinghouse for particle-based ECP applications, communicating their requirements and evaluating potential uses and benefits of ECP hardware and software technologies using proxy applications. (Full Story)

Teams receive Laboratory Distinguished Performance Awards

Creedon praised the achievements of the award winners. LANL photo.              

Principal Deputy Administrator Madelyn Creedon of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Director Charlie McMillan presented the 2015 Distinguished Performance Award at an awards ceremony on November 2 to five teams of LANL employees.

“The achievements of these teams demonstrate the scientific excellence and operational effectiveness found at the national nuclear security laboratories,” said Creedon. “These employees should be very proud of their efforts. Their work at Los Alamos is essential to NNSA achieving its vital national security missions. They and other lab employees are our greatest asset.” (Full Story)

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Smoking causes extensive damage to DNA, study shows

Ludmil Alexandrov, LANL photo.

“Tobacco smoking damages DNA in organs directly exposed to smoke as well as speeds up a mutational cellular clock in organs that are both directly and indirectly exposed to smoke.” said Ludmil Alexandrov of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, who led the study.

In other words, it accelerates the occurrence of genetic mutations, increasing the risk of cancer.

"Before now, we had a large body of epidemiological evidence linking smoking with cancer, but now we can actually observe and quantify the molecular changes in the DNA due to cigarette smoking," Alexandrov said. (Full Story)

Also from Smithsonian and Nature World News

Humans on Mars

Animation of a prototype nuclear powered deep space explorer, LANL image.

"Mars is in the air. We grew up with the Apollo program," said Patrick McClure, Los Alamos National Lab. "We really want to make that happen in our lifetime. We think it would be a great contribution to humanity."

Like his other far-flung team members, Los Alamos nuclear reactor scientist Patrick McClure is bubbling with enthusiasm about the end uses for the small nuclear reactor his team will test in the Nevada Desert in 2017. The reactor is named Kilopower. (Full Story)

LANL captures multiple R&D 100 Awards

Pulak Nath holds the Pulmonary Lung Model, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory captured several R&D 100 awards: Two, for co-developed cyber security products, Entropy Engine and Path-Scan; two for a pair of large collaborations, the CCSI (Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative) Toolset and the Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications (VERA); one for a medical device, the PulMo (Pulmonary Lung Model); and another Special Recognition Award Winner for Quantum-Dot Solar Windows. (Full Story)

Fermi biography takes readers to ground zero

A valuable new biography recognizes the lifelong contributions of a physicist who had roles in the work of all three legs of the project that developed the bomb – at Hanford, Wash., at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and at Los Alamos.

His name is Enrico Fermi.          

At Los Alamos Fermi was a valuable member of the team that fit “all the pieces together. He was the person to consult about almost any physics question.” Fermi, a native of Italy, received the 1938 Nobel Prize for Physics. (Full Story)

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Here's how smoking scars your DNA

Yearly number of mutations produced in a given type of cell, Illustration by Genome Research Limited.

An international team of researchers found a batch of genetic mutations caused by smoking — mutations that could be expected to cause cancer.

Cancer is a disease caused by DNA damage, and the team, including Ludmil Alexandrov of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Mike Stratton of Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, found a lot of damage. Lung cells accumulated 150 different mutations for each year of smoking, they found.

Throat cells did, also — larynx cells on average undergo 97 new mutations in a year of smoking, and pharynx cells get 39. The team found 18 new mutations in bladder cells. (Full Story)

Every 50 cigarettes smoked cause one DNA mutation per lung cell

Photo from NewScientist.

Epidemiological studies previously linked tobacco smoking with at least 17 classes of cancer, but this is the first time researchers have been able to quantify the molecular damage inflicted on DNA.

Ludmil Alexandrov at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and his colleagues achieved this by comparing tumour DNA from 2500 smokers and 1000 non-smokers. This allowed them to identify which mutations were associated with smoking.

Theoretically, every DNA mutation has the potential to trigger a cascade of genetic damage that causes cells to become cancerous. However, we still don’t know what the probability is of a single smoking-related DNA mutation turning into cancer, or which mutation types are likely to be more malignant. “This is research we are currently pursuing,” Alexandrov says. (Full Story)

Smoking-linked cancer mutations mapped

Illustration from The Scientist.

Ludmil Alexandrov of the Los Alamos National Lab, along with the Wellcome Trust’s Michael Stratton  and their colleagues, used whole-genome sequences of 610 tumors and the exomes of 4,633 additional tumors, together covering 17 smoking-associated forms of cancer. The researchers examined each tumor as a mixture of multiple genomic mutation signatures identified in a previous study, which spanned a wider range of tumor types.  Of the 5,243 tumors the researchers examined in the present study, 2,490 were derived from tobacco smokers and 1,063 from never-smokers. (Full Story)

Also from the BBC and Fox News

Watch the video on YouTube

Outsmarting the art of camouflage

A modern-day soldier in camouflage. From Discover.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we study camouflage in nature to learn how we can identify things trying to disguise themselves. We do that by looking at marine organisms that are exceptionally good at the art of blending in: flounders, skates, cuttlefish, and octopi.

Take, for example, flounders. They’re not completely flat, but they appear flat—with two eyes on top of their heads. Similar to the octopus, they are able to change both the color and texture of their skin to imitate those found on the ocean floor. Identifying them is no easy task. (Full Story)

Watch the video

Experiment helps to advance nuclear explosion monitoring

A canister holding explosives and diagnostic equipment at NNSS, LANL photo.

Last month, Los Alamos National Laboratory participated in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) sixth detonation of an underground conventional explosive at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) as part of its ongoing Source Physics Experiment (SPE) series.

“By conducting the experiments near the location of previous underground nuclear tests, we are more able to compare data between conventional and nuclear explosions,” said Cathy Snelson, R&D manager in Geophysics at the Laboratory. “This helps us improve the U.S. capability to differentiate low-yield nuclear test explosions from other seismic activity, such as mining operations and earthquakes.” (Full Story)

New APS Fellows for Los Alamos announced

From top left, Evgenya Simakov, James Werner, Joel Kress, Paul Johnson. From lower left, Herbert Funsten, John Kline, Richard Gustavsen and Jian-Xin Zhu.

Eight Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists are being honored as new Fellows in the American Physical Society (APS).

"Success in accomplishing Los Alamos’s essential national-security missions requires innovation across an incredible breadth of scientific and technical disciplines,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan. "The American Physical Society’s recognition of eight Los Alamos researchers as Fellows helps underscore the Laboratory’s ongoing requirements to attract and retain the best scientists in their fields. We are immensely proud of these eight individuals, and I applaud their innovative contributions to research and to helping make our world a safer place.” (Full Story)

California SCAQMD partnering with Los Alamos on H2 sensors

A closeup of a sensor element (left) at a refueling station in Burbank, SCAQMD photo.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, is partnering with researchers from Los Alamos and Livermore National Laboratories on a demonstration of highly sensitive hydrogen sensor prototypes.

The initial development of the sensors has spanned more than a decade, mostly led by teams headed by chemist Bob Glass at Livermore and Eric Brosha at Los Alamos. (Full Story)

Good vibrations at LANL quarterly community meeting

Director McMillan, Post photo.            

The theme of the Los Alamos National Laboratory community update in the Buffalo Thunder conference center last week was about how everything at the lab works together “to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.”

Early morning talks featured LANL Director Charlie McMillan; Doug Hintze, LANL Environmental Management field office manager; and Harris Walker, National Nuclear Security intergovernmental affairs director. The morning concluded with four separate breakout sessions. (Full Story)

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