Friday, December 20, 2019

How to stop a killer asteroid


Illustration of how DART's impact will alter the orbit of Didymos B about Didymos A. Credit: JHUAPL.

This week — asteroids. Could a space rock really slam into us and destroy the world? And if we did spot one heading straight for us, is there anything we could do to stop it? We speak with asteroid researcher Dr. Alan Harris, astrophysicist Dr. Sergey Zamozdra, Los Alamos computational physicist Dr. Cathy Plesko, and physicist Dr. Andy Cheng. (Full story)

New Mexico scientist creates flu forecasting software

Dave Osthus, from KRQE.  

The flu is unpredictable, at least until now. A scientist at Los Alamos National Lab is responsible for creating software that forecasts flu activity across the country and that software is showing things are not looking good for this flu season.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know your chances of getting the flu? That’s possible now, thanks to a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dave Osthus created a software known as Dante, that can actually forecast flu activity. Dante has some bad news this season, it’s predicting flu activity will continue to increase across the state, and it expects a severe flu season nationwide. (Full story)

Monitoring algal health is key to biofuel development

Alagal biofuel, LANL photo.               

New methods are being applied to identify new and improved algae strains for the production of biofuels. An example is with fluorescence-based, high-throughput flow cytometry, which is being pioneered at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Applying flow cytometry equipped with a sorting module enables scientists to separate cells that differ in cell size, morphology, or fluorescence being derived from photosynthetic pigments (autofluorescence) or from applied fluorescent probes. This technology s key to algae optimization, and the use of algae are in turn important for the production of biofuels. (Full story)

Los Alamos preliminary assessment finds promise in Enchant Energy’s carbon capture project

San Juan Generating Station, Daily Times photo.         

A Los Alamos National Laboratory preliminary assessment states that, from a technological standpoint, Enchant Energy could successfully retrofit the San Juan Generating Station with carbon capture and keep it open after 2022.

The report is not a detailed engineering assessment and relied on publicly-available information, including the Sargent & Lundy pre-feasibility report completed earlier this year. The Los Alamos team did not assess non-technical aspects such as costs, financing and potential regulatory changes. (Full story)

LANL Director joins Aspen Elementary School third graders for Hour of Code lesson

Director Thom Mason participates in a computer science coding activity at Aspen Elementary. LA Reporter photo.          

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason observed Computer Science Education Week Friday by participation in an Hour of Code lesson with third grade students in the Maker Space at Aspen Elementary School.

Each year, Hour of Code teaches K-12 students coding basics and broadens participation in the field of computer science and Mason is one of 60 Laboratory volunteers in 94 classrooms in 24 area schools.  At Aspen, under the direction of teacher Rachel Bartram, Mason and the students navigated a spherical robot through a maze using programming they developed during Hour of Code. (Full story)

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)

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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)