Friday, May 31, 2019

100 years ago, Einstein and an eclipse changed physics forever

Einstein, from the Washington Post.

Inside a black hole, Einstein's equations suggest that matter and energy become so compressed they reach infinite density. But what does that mean? The theorists suspect it means they need a better theory.

"You can't calculate anything beyond that point, once the numbers become infinite. You've lost all control," says Emil Mottola, a theoretical physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"That doesn't tell you that nature can't do that, but it's very suspicious." (Full Story)

Startups strive to recycle emissions for 'new carbon economy'

Oil pipeline, image from WPR.

With captured CO2 most sought after by oil operations, a nationwide network of pipelines more than 4,500 miles (7,240 km) long carries it to wells, according to a 2017 study by the Great Plains Institute.

But pipelines could also one day be plugged into manufacturing hubs that use recycled CO2 to make chemicals and building materials - if those industries really take off, said Richard Middleton with the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Middleton is one of a group of scientists mapping an expansive grid of pipelines that, if built out, would maximize the amount of CO2 taken from sources like energy plants and heavy industry to sites where demand is highest. (Full Story)

Quantum information gets a boost from thin-film breakthrough

Controlling single-photon emission for specific locations in 2D materials, LANL graphic.

Efforts to create reliable light-based quantum computing, quantum key distribution for cybersecurity, and other technologies got a boost from a new study demonstrating an innovative method for creating thin films to control the emission of single photons.

"Efficiently controlling certain thin-film materials so they emit single photons at precise locations—what's known as deterministic quantum emission—paves the way for beyond-lab-scale quantum materials," said Michael Pettes, a Los Alamos National Laboratory materials scientist and leader of the multi-institution research team. (Full Story)

Earth notes: Pajarito Plateau birds

Common Nighthawk, All About Birds photo.

After the Cerro Grande Fire burned through in the year 2000, foresters decided to thin trees to reduce wildfire danger. Ecologists at Los Alamos National Laboratory wanted to survey birds in thinned and unthinned areas, to find how they responded to this management technique.

Then something unexpected happened. Almost all the pinyon pines in the study sites died—left vulnerable to bark beetle attacks. Only juniper was left.

Over the next decade, bird populations on the Pajarito Plateau plummeted by 73 percent, on both thinned and unthinned sites. Eight species disappeared—including the common nighthawk, band-tailed pigeon, hairy woodpecker, and pygmy nuthatch—cutting the region’s diversity almost in half. (Full Story)

Mary Anne With receives 2019 NPS distinguished service award

Mary Anne With, LANL photo.

Mary Anne With of the Office of Partnerships and Pipeline, PPO, at Los Alamos National Laboratory is the recipient of the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA)’s 2019 Distinguished Service Award.

The community is invited to join the Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows in a celebration of With's incomparable contributions to the Laboratory since she joined the Postdoc program in 1991. (Full Story)

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Friday, May 24, 2019

This is the world's rarest form of gold. New clues are revealing why

The "Ram's Horn," Harvard image.

Researchers just got their first peek inside the exquisite sample, known as the Ram's Horn, with the assistance of a half-mile-long particle accelerator at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The results revealed that the bundle, which seems to be dozens of glimmering golden wires, is actually either one massive crystal or only a few crystals growing together.

“That’s probably the most valuable item that I ever held in my hand or put my hands on,” says Sven Vogel, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory's neutron science center. (Full story)

Also in The Sun

LANL helps build a SuperCam for Mars

Bruno Dubois, a SuperCam mechanical engineer from L’Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie,working on SuperCam at Los Alamos.

When NASA approved Los Alamos National Laboratory’s SuperCam for the next Mars rover, officials referred to it as a “Swiss Army knife of an instrument.”

The nickname came from all the different tools the device will be able to use to study rocks and soil on the Red Planet, according to Roger Wiens, LANL scientist and principal investigator of SuperCam.

By expanding the scope of what’s been possible with the ChemCam camera currently on Mars aboard the Curiosity rover, Wiens says, scientists will be able to unlock more clues about whether life did or did not once exist out there. (Full story)

Watch the video

Data mining paves the way for a better understanding of seismic activity

When handled effectively, data mining combined with automation can help advance industries and even save lives. Just last month, researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory were able to track seismic activity through data mining, resulting in a better understanding of how stress impacts the earth’s crust. Here in North Carolina we were recently hit by yet another string of earthquakes earlier this year, and the findings from Los Alamos have the potential to help earthquake prevention measures nationwide. (Full story)

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Española company lands $52M contract at LANL

PMI CEO Eric Quintana, left, with LANL Director Thom Mason, PMI photo.

Performance Maintenance Inc. of Española has won a five-year, $52 million subcontract to provide janitorial services and supplies to Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Performance Maintenance is a 25-year-old family-run business that started as a part-time cleaning business. It now has 170 employees and provides commercial and residential building maintenance, food service and hotel supplies as well as janitorial services. It also offers a line of green cleaning products. (Full story)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Basic quantum research will transform science and industry

LANL image.

The promise of quantum computing seems limitless—faster internet searching, lightning-quick financial data analysis, shorter commutes, better weather prediction, more effective cancer drugs, revolutionary new materials, and more. But we’re not there yet.

In recent years, Los Alamos has developed a quantum-key distribution device based on this principle for creating hack-proof communications, a major step forward in cybersecurity.

That is one example of how basic science research ultimately spawns technology. Wojciech Zurek, of Los Alamos National Laboratory continues his theoretical work in quantum mechanics and is currently studying the breakdown of quantum coherence of space time near a black hole. (Full Story)

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Kilopower system earns award in quest to support a future Moon base

The Kilopower assembly at the Nevada National Security Site, NASA image.

By 2028, NASA is aiming to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon. What power system will fuel the long-duration stay on the moon, as well as other planetary surfaces? An answer may reside in Kilopower, with the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) project proving its worth in a successful demonstration last year.

“We threw everything we could at this reactor, in terms of nominal and off-normal operating scenarios and KRUSTY passed with flying colors,” David Poston, the chief reactor designer at NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, says. (Full Story)

UNM-LA grads told to ‘pay it forward’ at 38th annual graduation ceremony

Los Alamos Laboratory Director Thom Mason speaks at the UNM graduation ceremony.

It was their time on the stage, but if there was one universal message at the 38th annual University of New Mexico-Los Alamos graduation, it was for the graduates to pay it forward.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason told the students that their newly-acquired education is not only a tool to better their lives, but of those around them.

“…take it and improve it wisely to improve your communities, to teach others, and to build the kind of life you want, hopefully with an exciting job that will get you out of bed every morning,” Mason said. (Full Story)

Faces of Innovation: Gary Grider, supercomputing scientist

Gary Grider, LA Reporter photo.

In the world of supercomputers, “fastest” traditionally equates to “best.” But Los Alamos’ High Performance Supercomputing Division leader, Gary Grider, is shaking up tradition.

Rather than continuing to aspire to the fastest computers, Grider chooses to focus the division’s efforts on computing efficiency, a more relevant and timely consideration for U.S. national security applications. For decades, the TOP500 list—a notable world ranking of supercomputers by speed—was the gold standard for determining who could boast the top computer. Los Alamos played prominently in the competition, earning first-place rankings several times over. (Full Story)

Also from the LA Reporter this week:

Giving back to help the region: LANL employees volunteer on nonprofit projects

Vangie Trujillo helps out at Kaune Early Learning Center in Santa Fe, LANL image.
April was National Volunteer Month, and more than 20 Laboratory employees gave up their free time to help out nonprofits across Northern New Mexico on three days of service co-ordinated by the Laboratory’s Community Partnerships Office.

The first project saw volunteers at Barrios Unidos in Chimayo on April 19, working on improvement projects such as painting trim, planting flowers and bushes, and adding base course to a garden meditation/prayer labyrinth. (Full Story)

3D printed polymer can localize shocks

3-D printed polymer-based foam structure that responds to the force of a shock wave, LANL image.  

The US Air Force Research Laboratory and research partners at Los Alamos National Laboratory have reportedly developed a 3D printed polymer-based foam structure that can respond to the force of a shock wave to act as a one-way switch, a long sought-after goal in shock research.

The material is a foam-like structure that contains a series of specifically-engineered tiny holes that determine the overall behavioral characteristics. Scientists used computer modeling to run trials to determine the most effective hole geometries to achieve the desired material response. (Full Story)

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Why top scientists are pretending an asteroid is headed for Earth

Cathy Plesko speaks with Wired Magazine
from the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference
in College Park, Maryland.

Some of the world's best scientists are running drills to practice for a near earth object collision. WIRED's Robbie Gonzalez spoke with Cathy Plesko from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, to find out how we would respond to an incoming collision. Would nuclear detonations work? What does a "City Killer" look like? Would impact in the water be worse than impact on land? Find out more from Plesko. (Full story)

Mars doesn't need our microbes

A topological map of Mars (blues represent
low areas; reds, high) NASA image.

When humans do make it to Mars, they’re going to take a few trillion tiny friends along for the ride, no matter what. 

Even if the current protocols don’t need to change, not everyone is as careful as NASA. “I think it’s fantastic that [private] companies are pushing the limits and pushing the ideas and are getting people excited,” says Nina Lanza, a planetary geologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. But she’s also afraid that as those companies seek to be the first to land humans on Mars, the competition will overshadow and even hurt the scientific process. “That’s awesome, but it’s not as careful as we really need to be thinking,” she says. (Full story)

Machine learning in geoscience: Riding a wave of progress

Illustration from EOS.

The geosciences are data rich, with petabytes of readily and publicly available data. This availability, combined with the complexity of unsolved problems in the field, has motivated vigorous interest in the application of machine learning (ML) techniques. ML offers a new “lens” for viewing data and scientific hypotheses that differs from the perspective of traditional domain expertise. Initial uses of ML have tended to be limited in scope and isolated in application, but recent efforts to promote benchmark geoscientific data sets and competitions promise to propel broader, deeper, and increasingly coordinated and collaborative efforts. (Full story)

The loudest places you can’t hear

Infrasonic hot spots, LANL image.

“Any kind of mechanical process is going to generate energetic waves, said Omar Marcillo, staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Some of that goes through the atmosphere as acoustic waves, and some goes through the ground as seismic waves.” Marcillo’s work focuses on the seismic.

When researchers track seismic activity, they’re sensing the waves that make the Earth roll and rumble, of course. But those waves aren’t that much different than what we hear as sound. Some kinds of waves produced by earthquakes have even been known to generate sounds that people can hear before the ground starts to shake beneath them. (Full story)

New HeSpaDDA algorithm distributes parallel workloads on LANL supercomputers

Adaptive resolution situation (AdResS)
simulation of an atomistic protein,
from Inside HPC.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Lab have developed new software to distribute computation more efficiently and across increasing numbers of supercomputer processors. This new decomposition approach for molecular dynamics simulation is called the heterogeneous spatial domain decomposition algorithm, or HeSpaDDA. Areas of different density were assessed and rearranged to distribute the processing workload. (Full story)

Friday, May 3, 2019

The plan to dodge a killer asteroid—Maybe even good ol’ Bennu

Cathy Plesko speaking at the 2019 PDC, LANL photo.

Plate tectonics and erosion have swept most dings, dents, and saucer-shaped depressions neatly away, leaving only the artifacts of bigger collisions—like Meteor Crater in Arizona. “If that had happened in modern times, it would have taken out the entire city of Flagstaff,” says Cathy Plesko, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Nobody’s getting out of that one alive.”

In the early 20th century, a space rock hundreds of feet wide exploded over the Siberian taiga. The impact blast was so bright “you could read by the afterglow of the trail,” says Plesko—in London. It knocked the forest flat for miles. (Full Story)

Measles outbreak hits 25-year high

The nationwide measles outbreak hit an alarming milestone, as the number of cases hit a 25-year high. The CDC said 78 new cases were reported over the past week. That brings this year's total to 704 in 22 states.

Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher Sara Del Valle speaks to CBS News about how scientists at the Laboratory are using social media to track and sometimes predict disease outbreaks worldwide. (Full Story on YouTube)

Was that a small nuclear test…or just a football game?

Image from Defense One.

How do we know a seismic reading is an underground nuclear test and not a mining explosion, an earthquake, or something else? It’s harder to determine than you might think. Dale Anderson is a mathematician specializing in seismology at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Take, for example, the earthquake that was recorded last summer when soccer fans all across Mexico City cheered their team’s goal in a World Cup match. The initial assertion was that their collective jump-up-and-down energy shook the ground. It might have, but the energy was too dispersed. That earthquake measurement was caused by, well, an actual earthquake. (Full Story)

Scientists are mapping the industrial hums that travel through the Earth

Map of industrial vibrations, LANL image.    

Across the U.S., industrial machinery creates a constant underground hum that sends vibrations through the surface of the Earth. Scientists are now mapping that subterranean humming.

The industrial “hum” is much like a hum you hear when you walk into a room where a fan is running—a persistent signal, but much lower in frequency. Wind turbines and turbines in hydroelectric systems can produce these hums, which can get in the way when you’re trying to study earthquakes, said Omar Marcillo from Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Also from PhysOrg

Helping health workers understand unfolding disease outbreaks

Alina Deshpande, LANL photo.

A quick tool to help develop actionable information is the plan for a web-based disease-outbreak tool developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a quick analysis resource called AIDO (“I-do”) for Analytics for Investigation of Disease Outbreaks.

Unlike traditional epidemiological models, this tool can be used by diverse group of users, such as analysts, scientists, practitioners, decision makers and the public, at no cost. The website provides historic information for key outbreaks of nearly 40 different diseases and it helps responders select the historic similarities to each new situation, even as an outbreak evolves over the first hours and days. (Full Story)

SuperCam one step closer to Mars

The SuperCam has completed testing and is on its way to JPL for full system integration. LANL photo.              

The SuperCam instrument – designed, built and tested at Los Alamos National Laboratory in partnership with the French Space Agency – and destined for the exploration of Mars – has completed testing and evaluation at Los Alamos and is on its way to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for full system integration.

The SuperCam instruments left Los Alamos Monday, April 29. SuperCam will be one of two* Los Alamos instruments on the next rover, called Mars 2020, an upgraded version of the current rover on Mars, Curiosity. (Full Story)

LANL faces of innovation: David Funk

Dave Funk leads Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments, LANL photo.      

Dave Funk has a complicated job. He leads a multi-lab effort to design and build a linear induction accelerator that can take x-rays (radiographs) of the late stages of implosion experiments at NNSS. Not only that, his team has to assemble the accelerator in a tunnel 960 feet underground.

Funk, of the Laboratory’s Accelerator Development Program Office, is the senior director of the Advanced Sources and Detectors (ASD) Project, part of the Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments (ECSE), a federally directed portfolio to enable studies of what happens to plutonium during the late stages of its implosion (compression) inside a nuclear weapon. (Full Story)
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