Friday, August 23, 2019

Scientists finally know how big earthquakes start: With many smaller ones

Image from the LA Times.

The vast majority of earthquakes we feel come soon after smaller ones, according to new research that provides unprecedented insights into how seismology works.

Sometimes days or even weeks before most temblors of at least magnitude 4.0, scientists have found, smaller ones start rippling beneath the Earth’s surface — activity that can be detected thanks to an advanced computing technique.

“One of the biggest questions in earthquake seismology is how earthquakes get started,” said the study’s lead author, Daniel Trugman, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Small cluster of earthquakes may be warning sign of larger one to come, researcher says

Daniel Trugman on KGO-TV.

Another day of "Earthquake Roulette" in California and the East Bay, in particular, where the best we can say is that even if the ground didn't t move today, we're still 24 hours closer to the inevitable.

"There has been a long history of seismologists making earthquake predictions and they are generally wrong," said Daniel Trugman at Los Alamos National Laboratory. But he's getting closer and making headlines after publishing a study of quakes in Southern California.

His findings indicate that a flurry of very small quakes, or foreshocks, precede moderate or large ones like the quakes in Ridgecrest this summer. But there's a catch. How do we tell a foreshock? (Full Story)

Also from KPIX-TV and The Daily Dive

Record-breaking lightning as long as Kansas spotted

Map shows the largest lightning flash spotted in the satellite data. LANL image.

One evening while working, Michael Peterson found himself staring at an enormous spider. But Peterson, a remote sensing scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, wasn’t looking at a critter of the eight-legged variety. Instead the form crawling across his screen was a monstrous flash of so-called spider lightning—a twisting network of light stretching hundreds of miles across stormy skies. “I was just blown away,” he says. (Full Story)

Zap! Scientists fire laser for NASA's Mars 2020 rover for 1st time

NASA's Mars 2020 rover reached another milestone with the first successful test of its SuperCam instrument.

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory recently tested the instrument's ability to focus on a target, take a picture, and then record spectra while firing the laser. For the test, researchers used a block of calcite rock and were able to get a nice picture and spectral signals of the calcite minerals, Roger Wiens, principal investigator for the SuperCam instrument, told (Full Story)

'Game-changer' for cosmic research

Kilopower reactor, NASA image.

The announcement comes a week after NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group pledged that its portable nuclear reactor, called Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY), will be ready to fly to Mars by 2022.

Earlier, NASA and the Los Alamos National laboratory successfully tested a prototype Kilopower system which will be essential for day-to-day requirements, such as lighting, water and oxygen, and for mission objectives, like running experiments and producing fuel for the long journey home, according to NASA's official website. (Full Story)

A tissue sample from 1966 held traces of early HIV

Image from The Atlantic.

The study is “admirable,” says Bette Korber from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and “the reconstruction of HIV’s emergence and spread is very important.” Korber pioneered such reconstructions: She created the first decent estimate of HIV’s date of origin, using a genetic database that she and others (including Worobey’s team) have repeatedly turned to. She notes that 60 million to 100 million people have been infected with HIV, and 25 million to 50 million have died—a scale of suffering comparable to past world wars. “HIV has left a wound of deepest sorrow across humanity,” she says. “It is part of the human experience. We need to understand it.” (Full Story)

Working Scientist podcast: Switching scientific disciplines

Anna Lappala, LANL photo.

Moving to a new branch of science is scary, but learning new skills and collaborating with different colleagues can be exhilarating, Julie Gould discovers.

In the penultimate episode of this six-part series about physics careers, Julie Gould talks to Anna Lappala, who moved from biochemistry to physics. Lappala, a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, describes how she was initially terrified of people discovering she was not a "real physicist" and worked hard to learn about general physics, quantum field theory, and soft matter, among other things. (Full Story)

Teams compete in LANL’s annual HAZMAT Challenge


LANL's Jeff Dare on KRQE-TV.

First responders are testing their skills in the Los Alamos National Lab’s Annual HAZMAT Challenge.

Ten hazardous materials teams from Nebraska, Tennessee, Oklahoma and New Mexico are participating. The event requires teams to respond to emergencies in aircraft, labs, and confined spaces. They then earn points based on their response.

“Every scenario we put together is real world. We minimize any situations so that teams come out here, they get scenarios, they see every day during their day job,” group leader Jeff Dare said. (Full Story)

National lab details $13B in building plans over next decade

Officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory have plans for $13 billion worth of construction projects over the next decade at the northern New Mexico complex as it prepares to ramp up production of plutonium cores for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.

Beyond the new infrastructure related to plutonium assignment, other work likely will be aimed at serving a growing workforce — from planned housing projects and parking garages to a potential new highway that would reduce commute times from Albuquerque and Santa Fe for the 60% of employees who live outside of Los Alamos County. (Full Story)

$500K grant boosts Regional Development Corp. lending program

The EspaƱola-based Regional Development Corp. will use a $500,000 grant from Los Alamos National Laboratory operator Triad National Security LLC to fund its loan programs to small business, technology and manufacturing firms, plus tribal economic diversity grants.

“This is a very big deal,” Alonzo said. “It can make the difference for someone. A guy had to buy a power nail gun to grow the business. A lot of times rural businesses don’t have an extra $500 or $1,000.” (Full Story)

Also from the New Mexican this week:

The Mexican spotted owl thrives on Los Alamos land

A Mexican spotted owl in Three-mile Canyon at Los Alamos National Laboratory. LANL image.

Mexican spotted owl habitat at the laboratory, like that found in Three-mile Canyon, is protected against loss or alteration, and during the owl’s breeding season, noise disturbances from construction and other activities are prohibited. The precautions the laboratory takes to protect the habitat of these owls sets it apart from other facilities in the United States. The habitat management plan developed in 1999 was novel for its time. This formal agreement between the Department of Energy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows the Laboratory to successfully execute its national security mission while protecting wildlife. (Full Story)

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