Friday, December 13, 2019



We’re finally figuring out how to forecast the flu — and this season isn’t looking good

A test that enables CDC officials to quantify flu viruses, CDC photo.

Every year since 2013, the CDC has held a competition called FluSight, in which researchers put their probabilistic models up against one another to see which can best predict the course of the flu season. Last year’s winning model, Dante, was helmed by Dave Osthus at Los Alamos National Laboratory. And here’s the bad news: “Dante is a little worried that it’s going to be a bad and early peaking season,” says Osthus. That’s because the illness level for the season so far is trending higher than normal for this time of year, he explains. The onset of flu occurred in the first week of November, when usually it starts a week or two after Thanksgiving, and Osthus notes that “often when we have an early peaking season, it’s usually one of the more intense seasons.” (Full Story)





Early flu season and expert warns 'this could be a precursor to something pretty bad'

Preparing a flu shot in Atlanta, AP photo.

Dave Osthus, a statistician and flu forecaster at Los Alamos National Laboratory told The Associated Press the early start may mean people get sick at the same time.

"This could be a precursor to something pretty bad. But we don't know," Osthus said.

Osthus told Newsweek the flu season has started about a month earlier this year than is typical, and is largely driven by elevated flu activity in the Southeastern states.

"There is an elevated likelihood of a higher than normal peak this season," he said.

"The main reason is how high flu activity already is," Osthus said, adding: "The 2019/20 season is already worse than three of the past 20 flu seasons ever were, and the worst part of the flu season—historically late December through early March—hasn't happened yet. (Full Story)


This story also appeared in the Los Angeles Times



Evidence of new X17 particle, scientists are wary

Illustration from SciAm.

“This fifth force really means there is a new particle that intermediates new interactions, or new forces,” says Daniele Alves, a particle physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who was not involved in the Hungarian team’s work. “It’s possible that this particle is part of a larger ‘dark sector,’ meaning it could also interact with dark matter particles. It could be a portal to this sector.”

Alves and her colleagues are exploring the possibility of using Los Alamos to search for the particle, too. “We are investigating whether some of the studies that Los Alamos does for other purposes could also be repurposed to look for signs of this new particle,” says Alves, who notes that their method of searching would be somewhat different from the Hungarian team’s. (Full Story)

Also from Scientific American this week:


What’s shaking in Oklahoma?


LANL image.        

Mysterious seismic signals lead to some scientific detective work. Joshua Carmichael is a seismologist and applied mathematician at Los Alamos National Laboratory who specializes in explosion monitoring.

We did not see surface waves in these signals in Oklahoma, so we knew it wasn’t an earthquake—but not much more than that.

My initial suspicion, along with other researchers who saw the signals, was that they were telemetry spikes in the seismometers—voltage changes that can be caused by anything from a lightning strike to a power surge. (Full Story)



Muons: probing the depths of nuclear waste

IAEA image.

Muons offer a way to establish how much waste there is in a container without having to open or move the container in question. That capability would become vital, according to Matt Durham of Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US, should inspectors or the countries involved ever lose confidence in their monitoring. “This issue is only getting worse as more plutonium piles up around the world,” he says.

Atmospheric muons were first used in this way back in the mid-1950s by British physicist Eric George, who measured the thickness of ice above a mining tunnel in Australia. But it was not until 2003 that Durham’s Los Alamos colleague Christopher Morris and several co-workers proposed using the scattering of muons, instead of their absorption, to image concealed dense objects, particularly nuclear material. (Full Story)



LANL announces winners of first-ever New Mexico Governor’s STEM Challenge

Judges from Los Alamos National Laboratory Jake Miner and James Owen listen to students from Taos Academy Charter School, LANL photo.       

Led by New Mexico’s Office of the Governor, the first-ever New Mexico Governor’s STEM Challenge was a collaboration between the Department of Public Education, the Department of Workforce Solutions, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and 18 other STEM employers in the state.

Each team was composed of up to 10 students who have made a computer simulation or prototype answering the question posed by Los Alamos National Laboratory, “How can you use science and technology to make the world safer?” (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail listmanager@lanl.gov and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at www.lanl.gov

Friday, December 6, 2019



 Los Alamos works to fight deepfakes









It's a growing trend popping up all over the internet, and now New Mexico researchers at one of our national labs are creating software to help detect it.

You've probably seen them, and might not even know it. They're called deepfakes.

They "are an emerging type of media, that have emerged in the last couple years that involve the use of artificial intelligence technology to create images or videos or other media that are not realistic but look very realistic to humans," said Juston Moore, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (full story)





Study predicts more dominant effect of extreme drought on plants


A study, reported recently in Nature Climate Change, reveals that the effect of extreme drought on plants will become increasingly dominant under future climate change.

"Even though plants can, in many cases, benefit from increased levels of carbon dioxide that are predicted for the future atmosphere, the impact of severe drought on destroying these plants will be extreme, especially in the Amazon, South Africa, Mediterranean, Australia, and southwest USA," said Chonggang Xu, the study's lead author, from Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)





Announcements from SC19

Eideticom NoLoad CSP, Eideticom Introduction image.

Eideticom and Los Alamos National Laboratory announced the results of a collaboration to develop the world’s first NVMe-based compressed parallel filesystem. 

The company says this high-performance Lustre/ZFS-based parallel filesystem leverages Eideticom’s NoLoad, an NVMe-based, Computational Storage Processor (CSP) that offers high performance and efficiency benefits for High Performance Computing .

The collaborative effort was sponsored under LANL’s Efficient Mission Centric Computing Consortium (EMC3). (Full story)





Should Santa deliver by drone?

Coordinated vehicle/drone delivery to a
grid of locations, LANL image.          

A new routing algorithm anticipates the day trucks and drones cooperate to drop packages at your doorstep quickly and efficiently. “People have considered combinations of ground vehicles and drones for deliveries in the past,” said study coauthor Kaarthik Sundar of the Information Systems and Modeling group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, “but they focused on trucks that would move from one point to the next, park while the drones visited various nearby locations, and then wait for the drones to return before moving on. We instead propose solutions for a truck that moves continuously, while a drone flies out and returns to the truck as it proceeds along its route.” (Full story)

Also from the Reporter this week:

Chemist Jennifer Hollingsworth named AAAS Fellow

Jennifer Hollingsworth, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory chemist Jennifer A. Hollingsworth is being honored as a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her work in materials chemistry.

“We’re thrilled that Jennifer is receiving this well-deserved honor and joining the ranks of Los Alamos staff that are AAAS Fellows. Not only is Jennifer an outstanding researcher but also she is deeply committed to community engagement and STEM education,” said John Sarrao, Los Alamos deputy director for Science, Technology & Engineering. (Full story)



 
Building a workforce, one intern at a time

Intern Mario Martinez is participating in
the PILAS program, SF New Mexican photo.

The PILAS program was started with $40,000 from Los Alamos National Security to pay first-semester student salaries, followed by $40,000 from the Santa Fe Community College Foundation for the second semester. The recently completed third semester was funded with $40,000 from the EspaƱola-based Regional Development Corp., which is largely funded by LANL operator Triad National Security LLC. The SFCC foundation is funding the spring semester for $40,000 with an additional $10,000 from Triad. (Full story)

Friday, November 29, 2019



Unraveling the mysteries of the tiniest living things

Understanding the genetic makeup of microbes could benefit applications in medicine, energy, environment and agriculture, LANL image.

There are trillions of them – millions fitting through the eye of a needle – and they are everywhere. They live and thrive in vast communities in the environment, such as soil, rivers and oceans, and atmosphere, and in the human body. But they also exist in the oddest of places, such as extreme environments like volcanic hot springs and long-frozen ice in the Arctic.         

What’s fascinating about microbiomes is how they contribute to the “big” world. For example, various types of microbiomes thrive in the human body. Those in the human stomach help the gut absorb nutrients and minerals, as well as synthesize vitamins, enzymes and amino acids. (Full Story)




Drought impact study shows new issues for plants and carbon dioxide

Drought is the most widespread factor affecting plant production, Dreamstime image.           

Extreme drought’s impact on plants will become more dominant under future climate change, as noted in a paper out today in the journal Nature Climate Change. Analysis shows that not only will droughts become more frequent under future climates, but more of those events will be extreme, adding to the reduction of plant production essential to human and animal populations.

“Even though plants can, in many cases, benefit from increased levels of carbon dioxide that are predicted for the future atmosphere, the impact of severe drought on destroying these plants will be extreme, especially in the Amazon, South Africa, Mediterranean, Australia, and southwest USA,” said lead study author Chonggang Xu of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)



Should Santa deliver by drone?

A promising solution to coordinated vehicle/drone delivery. LANL image.             

Santa has always run a one-sleigh operation, but a new analysis could help him speed deliveries and save energy, if he ever decided to add a drone to his route.

“People have considered combinations of ground vehicles and drones for deliveries in the past,” said study coauthor Kaarthik Sundar of the Information Systems and Modeling group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, “but they focused on trucks that would move from one point to the next, park while the drones visited various nearby locations, and then wait for the drones to return before moving on. We instead propose solutions for a truck that moves continuously, while a drone flies out and returns to the truck as it proceeds along its route.” (Full Story)



Understanding the mechanism of a viral explosion

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding (in green), CDC image.
          
One of the dreaded features of an Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection can be the possible rebound of the virus after undergoing an otherwise successful antiretroviral (ART) regimen. Understanding the viral replication and dramatic growth that sometimes appears subsequent to ART treatment is the subject of a new study by scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (Full Story)



Machine Fault

 

A rock sample is sandwiched between sensor-equipped steel plates, Penn State photo.        

About 5 years ago, Paul Johnson, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico, found himself stuck as he was studying how acoustic emissions might be used in earthquake forecasting.

“We were kind of running in circles with the same data sets, and I just didn’t know what to do,” he said. A colleague suggested that Johnson look into applying machine learning “to let the signal tell you what information it contains.”

Johnson began talking to other physicists, materials scientists, computational scientists, and mathematicians about the possibility. (Full Story)



Los Alamos lab makes pledge to tackle gender barriers

Laboratory Director Thom Mason, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory says it’s committed to breaking down gender barriers and making equality a reality when it comes to nuclear policy. The northern New Mexico lab made the announcement last week, saying it’s the first national laboratory to make an official pledge.

The lab joined the national Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy group, a leadership network that brings together heads of organizations working in nuclear policy. Lab Director Thom Mason says nuclear policy, like many technological fields, has long been a male-dominated space and as a result, woman in the field have too often been marginalized. (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail listmanager@lanl.gov and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at www.lanl.gov

Friday, November 22, 2019



What is dark matter made of? These are the top candidates

The MiniBooNE detector is filled with mineral
oil and tiny sensors, FermiLab photo.

While it’s too soon to chalk up the observed flavor anomalies to sterile neutrinos, they do slot in nicely. “There’s clearly something going on, and it’s tantalizing,” says Richard Van de Water, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and MiniBooNE co-spokesman.

Assuming sterile neutrinos prove legit, they are still likely neither sufficient in mass nor number to constitute the bulk of dark matter. But just as normal neutrinos come in three flavors, multiple kinds of sterile neutrinos, with different masses, may also exist. And going a step further, neutrinos may not be the only kind of particle with a sterile counterpart. (Full story)




It's still not aliens: 'Mars Bug' claim could damage the search for life

The Martian landscape, NASA image.

An Ohio scientist claims to have found photographic proof of "insect and reptile-like" life on Mars. But, as always, it's not aliens, other researchers say.

"I think it's really easy to find patterns in images, especially when they're out of context," Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, told Space.com. "They're little clips of larger images and there's no scale bar on them ... you could imagine a lot of different shapes in there. That's not a good way to do this kind of assessment." (Full story)




Understanding the mechanism of a viral explosion

Sometimes, after anti-viral medicines are administered, a 'rebound' occurs and the virus again replicates (and at a rapid pace). The mechanisms behind this have been the subject of new research.

One of the dreaded features of a Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection can be the possible rebound of the virus after undergoing an otherwise successful antiretroviral (ART) regimen. Understanding the viral replication and dramatic growth that sometimes appears subsequent to ART treatment is the subject of a new study by scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The virologists have defined the principles governing whether HIV-1 spread among cells fails or becomes established by coupling stochastic modelling with laboratory experiments. HIV-1 is the most common and pathogenic strain of the virus (one of the challenges for the treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus is its high genetic variability). (Full story)




Los Alamos National Laboratory commits to advancing gender equality In nuclear policy

Los Alamos Director Thom Mason,
LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is the first national lab to join Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, a leadership network that brings together heads of organizations working in nuclear policy who are committed to breaking down gender barriers and making gender equality a reality in their spheres of influence.

“Nuclear policy, like many technological fields, has long been a male-dominated space,” LANL Director Thom Mason said. “As a result, women in the field have too often been marginalized. In joining Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, the Laboratory is committing to actively working to bring more women into the field, amplify their voices, and foster a culture of respect. We’re proud to be a part of this network and look forward to seeing the positive changes that result.” (Full story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Beierschmitt Briefs RCLC On Lab Infrastructure Plans

Beierschmitt shares infrastructure plans with
the RCLC Board, Daily Post photo.

It’s no secret Los Alamos National Laboratory has growing pains. Increased budgets and increased staff are a plus, but the extra projects and people have stretched the infrastructure resources at LANL … and the future goals of the Lab will stretch them even more.

LANL Deputy Director of Operations Kelly Beierschmitt addressed these issues during a presentation to the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Board Friday in City Council Chambers in EspaƱola. Beierschmitt is responsible for the Lab's operations and facilities services, maintenance and infrastructure planning. (Full story)


‘The Ribosome’ exhibit opens at the Bradbury Science Museum

Augmented Reality brings the ribosome to
life. LANL photo.

This visual and interactive exhibit provides an insight into how life works as 3D and Augmented Reality brings the ribosome to life. It also explores the potential for developing new antibiotics and fighting diseases like cancer and genetic diseases.

The friendly exhibit also features a cartoon ribosome that helps visitors including STEM students to understand the science behind the ribosome. Curated by scientist Karissa Sanbonmatsu of the Lab’s Theoretical Biology and Biophysics group, the exhibit leverages the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s supercomputing technology. (Full story)




Harvesting of red light accelerates plant growth

Quantum dot-enabled retrofit greenhouse
film, UbiQD photo.

A Los Alamos startup’s quantum dots that emit red light could rake in plenty of green for greenhouse growers.

That’s according to the global market research firm Frost & Sullivan, which this month bestowed its 2019 New Product Innovation Award on UbiGro, a new window film for greenhouses created by New Mexico-based Ubiquitous Quantum Dots, or UbiQD Inc.

That’s a huge endorsement for a small New Mexico startup that launched in 2014 with technology licensed from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Full story)

Monday, November 18, 2019



Artificial intelligence can help stop nuclear proliferation

Guest column author Thom Mason,
Laboratory Director, LANL photo.    

The international nuclear arms control regime is approaching a critical juncture. If new nuclear weapons treaties are to be negotiated, ratified and enforced, they will need to be underpinned by strong technical monitoring capabilities. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is leveraging its expertise and technology to meet this challenge, understanding that in nuclear nonproliferation, you can’t verify what you can’t see.

The United States is placing renewed urgency on developing the science and technology required to monitor our adversaries’ nuclear activity — specifically by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and the unmatched, high-performance computing capabilities found at DOE’s national laboratories. DOE houses four of the world’s top 10 fastest supercomputers, including the top two, and we are already at work on developing three next-generation, exascale machines, able to conduct a billion billion calculations per second. Coupled with our advances in AI, those technologies will strengthen our nonproliferation efforts while helping to ensure that our own nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe, reliable and effective.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we are using AI to sift through data from an international network of sensors that look for underground seismic events that could indicate an illicit nuclear explosive test. With more than half a million seismic events worldwide each year, automated calculations are required to distinguish potential nuclear explosions from naturally occurring earthquakes. (Full story)




Precise proton beam takes aim at cancer

One of the biggest challenges in battling cancerous tumors is destroying all the cancer cells while protecting the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. Removing a tumor surgically or treating it with radiation is a risky business, particularly when the tumor grows close to vital organs.

Proton therapy is a precise and highly accurate nonsurgical cancer treatment method. But the technique is only as good as the ability to accurately kill cancer tissue and spare the healthy tissue around it.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are advancing a technology known as proton radiography to increase the precision and accuracy of proton therapy. (Full story)


Boom times on the Hill need to be shared

Change is coming to Los Alamos National Laboratory — and it’s important that Northern New Mexico residents pay attention to what is happening on the Hill.

There is the nuclear laboratory’s evolving mission, with the lab expanding plutonium pit production for nuclear weapons. By 2026, LANL is being asked to build 30 pits a year; another 50 pits are supposed to be built at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Along with construction work — at a price tag in the billions, once the money is awarded and spent — LANL Director Thom Mason says the lab is hiring additional workers, about 1,000 a year for the foreseeable future. Of those, about half are new, with the remainder replacing retiring scientists and other lab workers. Mason called it the biggest increase in hiring in at least 30 years, and lab officials expect the jobs boom to continue at least through 2023.

And what does that mean to Northern New Mexico? Consider that this year, around $400 million in money spent for subcontractors has gone to New Mexico companies, also hiring because of the work. Over half the new lab hires, too, are from New Mexico, Mason said. (Full story)




Fluid dynamics provides insight into wildfire behavior

Stream traces of winds reaching the  left flank and head
of a simulated fire spreading up a steep slope.

The Kincade Fire has been burning through Sonoma County, California, displacing people from their homes and leaving destruction in its wake. It is a stark reminder of the increasingly pressing need for a better understanding of how fires begin and spread.

This is where Rodman Linn and his research come in. He develops and uses computational models of the coupled interaction between the wildfires and surrounding atmosphere at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In the November 2019 issue of Physics Today, Linn describes a few of the many ways that fluid dynamics controls the behavior of fires.

It's incorrect to view wildfires as advancing walls of flame, as they often are conceptualized. The movement and behavior of fires are far more complex.

"The buoyancy caused by the energy release of the fire itself interacts with the ambient winds to produce complex patterns of air movement that dictate the fire's behavior," said Linn, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)



A Black Hole Threw a Star Out of the Milky Way Galaxy

An artist’s impression of the black hole at the center
of the Milky Way hurling a star called S5-HVS1 from
the galaxy’s Credit: James Josephides/Swinburne
Astronomy Productions, from NYT.

There are fastballs, and then there are cosmic fastballs. Now it seems that the strongest arm in our galaxy might belong to a supermassive black hole that lives smack in the middle of the Milky Way.

Astronomers recently discovered a star whizzing out of the center of our galaxy at the seriously blinding speed of four million miles an hour. The star, which goes by the typically inscrutable name S5-HVS1, is currently about 29,000 light-years from Earth, streaking through the Grus, or Crane, constellation in the southern sky. It is headed for the darkest, loneliest depths of intergalactic space.

The astronomers hypothesize that the runaway star was once part of a double-star system that came too close to the black hole. One of the pair fell in, and the other was sling-shotted away at hyper speed. The process, a three-body gravitational dance, was first predicted by Jack Hills, a theorist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in 1988. (Full story)