Friday, September 27, 2019

Making a material difference

These components were fabricated at the Signma Complex at Los Alamos National Laboratory, LANL photo.

High-tech additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a good way to take the guesswork out of precisely fabricating a hollow metal object, while tweaking and fine-tuning the properties of the material composing it.         

Additive manufacturing is a potential way to solve the performance challenges a component faces with hard use in harsh environments … Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Sigma Complex apply fundamental science and research to take this advanced manufacturing to an even higher level. (Full story)

AI helps seismologists predict earthquakes

A polarizing lens shows the buildup of
stress along a fault line, LANL photo.             

More than a dozen slow slips have been detected by the region’s sprawling network of seismic stations since 2003. And for the past year and a half, these events have been the focus of a new effort at earthquake prediction by the geophysicist Paul Johnson, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Johnson’s team is among a handful of groups that are using machine learning to try to demystify earthquake physics and tease out the warning signs of impending quakes. Two years ago, using pattern-finding algorithms similar to those behind recent advances in image and speech recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence. (Full story)

Nuclear Winter May Bring a Decade of Destruction

DOE Photo            

What exactly happens during a nuclear winter is a complex scenario, said Jon Reisner, a numerical modeler at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Reisner was not involved in the study but researches how nuclear weapons can affect global climate.

“The impact on climate from a nuclear exchange is still an unresolved issue,” Reisner said. He added that the researchers’ predictions appeared to be on the upper end of the spectrum for global cooling. “They’re assuming the worst, worst-case scenario,” said Reisner.
Reisner said he thinks the researchers are “exaggerating how much soot is being produced from fires” and noted that soot produced from urban fires is not well understood. “The big question is: What is the actual fuel loading?” He noted the intensity and duration of a fire can also affect soot production.

Although he thinks more work needs to be done to better define global climate effects, Reisner noted “at the end of the day, the direct impacts [of a nuclear war] will be significant—you can’t downplay those. (Full story)

Curiosity fueled alumnus’ journey to Mars

Sam Clegg has contributed to new ways of
researching and understanding Mars.

Clegg (Chemistry, ’92), a laser spectroscopist and chemist at Los Alamos, served as a co-investigator and instrument developer for Curiosity on a team focused specifically on ChemCam, a chemistry and camera tool that used a laser, camera, and spectrograph to identify the chemical composition of soil and rock on the Martian surface. In the months after touching down, Curiosity would ultimately beam to Earth the clearest and most detailed images ever produced of the Red Planet. (Full story)

Can neutrinos help explain what’s the matter with antimatter?

The assembled exterior field cage of the
Mini-CAPTAIN, Mauger photo.

Christopher Mauger and his team built a 400-kilogram prototype of the DUNE detector, known as Mini-CAPTAIN, and collected data from a neutron beam at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Former Penn postdoc Jorge Chaves, who worked as the analysis leader for this research, says that the bulk of the work involved reconstructing the signals from the detector into meaningful insights about the properties that they are interested in studying further. (Full story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory is buying a 5,000-qubit quantum computer

D-Wave Systems has announced that they will be providing Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) with a state-of-the-art 5,000-qubit quantum computer. This computer will allow LANL to solve problems that traditional computers just aren't fast enough for.

LANL was originally created during the Second World War as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear weapon. Currently, they conduct research in many scientific fields including renewable energy, medicine, and national security. These areas require vast amounts of computing resources to solve their types of problems. (Full story)

LANL researchers join MOSAiC team to travel to the Arctic

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers are underway! The Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, MOSAiC, launched Friday to head to the Arctic for a critical scientific mission.

“This is the largest experiment ever conducted in the Arctic,“ said Jim Bossert, Earth and Environmental Sciences Division Leader at Los Alamos. “The data collected has the potential to transform our understanding of the way the Arctic is responding to climate change—so important to improving our ability to predict global climate impacts of a rapidly changing Arctic environment.” (Full story)

Also from the LA Reporter this week:

Triad awards $150k grant to address substance abuse issues in northern New Mexico

An innovative program to tackle substance abuse in the EspaƱola and Pojoaque Valleys will benefit from a $151,500 grant to United Way of Northern New Mexico (UWNNM) from Los Alamos National Laboratory operator Triad National Security, LLC.

“Before Triad even began operating the Laboratory, the people of Rio Arriba County and the Pojoaque Valley made it clear to us that substance abuse is a significant, pressing issue for their communities,” said Thom Mason, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

UNM-LA participates in Los Alamos National Lab event

UC President Janet Napolitano,
UC photo.             

UNM-Los Alamos Chancellor Dr. Cindy Rooney and presidents and chancellors from other northern New Mexico institutions including UNM-Taos, was honored to participate in the Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Conversation on Education event held recently.

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced Triad’s investments in both the LANL Foundation and the Regional Development Corporation (RDC). The RDC will provide funds to local institutions of higher education for workforce initiatives. Their investment will support professional development workshops, accelerated learning programs and paid internships in the region to strengthen STEM education and pathways to careers at LANL. (Full story)

Friday, September 20, 2019

Mysterious waves have been pulsing across Oklahoma

Storm clouds hover over a field in Oklahoma, from NatGeo.

It all started when a wave swept across Oklahoma on June 24, just before 11:11 a.m. local time. It buzzed one seismometer after another. “There’s still a lot of strange unknowns here,” says Joshua Carmichael of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who analyzed the earthquake data after National Geographic reached out for comment.

Carmichael spotted something that suggests sound might not be the only phenomena at work. The motion of the rollicking pulses logged by many of the seismometers points to a surface wave radiating through the ground. While rare, a slow surface wave is not impossible, he says, and perhaps in just the right atmospheric and geologic conditions, such a wave could sweep far and wide. (Full Story)

Lightning flashes illuminate storm behavior

Idealized energy distribution for a large thunderstorm over South America. LANL image.

The new technique is "essentially lightning-based tomography, similar to a medical X-ray," said Michael Peterson, an atmospheric physicist at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico and author of the new study, published in AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

"Using lightning flashes as the light source, we can identify contrasts in cloud layers that are indicative of dense regions, such as ones that might be laden with hail," he said. Peterson drew upon data gathered by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on NOAA's GOES satellites. (Full Story)

Also from the Los Alamos Daily Post

Artificial Intelligence takes on earthquake prediction


Paul Johnson with a block of acrylic plastic, one of the materials his team uses to simulate earthquakes in the laboratory. LANL photo.

Phantom earthquakes, which occur deeper underground than conventional, fast earthquakes, are known as “slow slips.” More than a dozen slow slips have been detected by the region’s sprawling network of seismic stations since 2003.  And for the past year and a half, these events have been the focus of a new effort at earthquake prediction by Paul Johnson, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

More than a decade ago, Johnson began studying “laboratory earthquakes,” made with sliding blocks separated by thin layers of granular material. Like tectonic plates, the blocks don’t slide smoothly but in fits and starts: They’ll typically stick together for seconds at a time, held in place by friction, until the shear stress grows large enough that they suddenly slip. (Full Story)

Black hole: How NASA's emergency warning over ‘cataclysmic event’ disturbed scientists

Illustration of SWIFT and an event horizon, from The Express.

These cosmic phenomena are said to form when massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle, falling into themselves and engulfing other black holes to form what is known as a supermassive black hole. Scientists were left slightly hot under the collar when they got a front-row ticket to see this event unfold more than a decade ago, thanks to one of NASA telescopes.

It was revealed during YouTube series “Monster black hole” how researchers around the world were put on high alert. “Tom Vestrand heads a robotic telescope project at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. Dr Vestrand told viewers: “It was the most luminous thing ever detected by mankind." (Full Story)

UC President Janet Napolitano announces $800,000 grant to LANL Foundation and RDC

NM Rep. Christine Chandler, left, speaks with UC president Janet Napolitano, LA Reporter photo.

Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, two-term governor of Arizona and 20th president of the University of the California Janet Napolitano announced Thursday morning $800,000 in grants to the LANL Foundation and the Regional Development Corporation.

Napolitano, speaking at an education-focused community event hosted by Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Hotel.

Started out by saying she was raised in New Mexico and graduated from Sandia High School in Albuquerque. (Full Story)

Also from the LA Reporter this week:

LANL Director praises RDC and LANL Foundation at education-focused community event

Laboratory Director Thom Mason, LANL photo.

LANL director and president of Triad Thom Mason told attendees that the LANL Foundation and Regional Development Corporation are creating and supporting programs that provide people from Northern New Mexico with a range of pathways to work at the Lab or for other employers throughout the region.

“They’ve been really fantastic to work with and are helping us to develop our worker pipeline as the Lab’s mission space expands and we also go through what is a pretty historic rejuvenation of our workforce as many people who’ve been with the Lab for a long time are retiring and we’re bringing in new people.” Mason said. (Full Story)

Physicist Tess Light’s Frontiers in Science lecture on lightning draws capacity crowd

Bradbury Science Museum director Linda Deck, right, with physicist Tess Light, LA Reporter photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Tess Light spoke to a capacity crowd Wednesday evening at the Cottonwood on the Greens Community Room as part of the Fellows of Los Alamos National Laboratory Frontiers in Science lecture series.

Light discussed lightning’s role in the atmosphers, the different types of lightning, what triggers it and what determines the shape of a lightning bolt. The Frontiers in Sciences lecture series is intended to increase local public awareness of the diversity of science and engineering research at the LANL. (Full Story)

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Twist on ‘survival of the fittest’ could explain how reality emerges from the quantum haze

Wojciech Zurek, LANL photo.

In the 1980s, Wojciech Zurek, a theorist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, argued that the wave function of a here-and-there cup would inevitably meld with those of surrounding objects. That "entanglement" wouldn't collapse the cup's wave function, but it would obscure the exact relationship between the here and there parts of its quantum state. In quantum theory, that's enough to put the cup in one place or the other.

The right kind of entanglement is key to the theory. The cup must interact with the environment in a way that depends on position rather than, say, momentum. But Zurek says most interactions between a big object and its environment depend on its location. Whether a cup reflects photons into your eye depends on where it is, he notes. (Full story)

The unexpected space center: Los Alamos National Laboratory

This US research center has been part of more than 200 space missions, but it’s not a NASA facility! The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico gave the Voyager spacecraft their power sources, is building nuclear generators for future Martians, and accidentally invented the field of High Energy Astrophysics. That’s just some of what we’ll learn from Lab historian Alan Carr and longtime Lab astrophysicist Ed Fenimore. The Planetary Society’s Jason Davis has the latest news about India’s lunar lander, while Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan go where no acronym has gone before. (Full story)

LANL bioscientist selected for If/Then ambassador program

Harshini Mukundan, LANL photo.

Harshini Mukundan, a bioscientist with Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been selected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s If/Then ambassador program, which seeks to help women in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

The ambassadors are contemporary role models who represent a variety of STEM-related professions in the U.S., ranging from academia to business to sports to entertainment.

If/Then is a national initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. (Full Story)

2020 Breakthrough Prize honors Los Alamos astrophysicists for work on first black hole image

Benjamin Ryan and George Wong, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory astrophysicists Benjamin Ryan and George Wong are members of the Event Horizon Telescope team that just won the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for creating the first image of a black hole.

“The observations themselves were carried out by a large team of radio astronomers across the world,” Ryan said. “The image was the result of worldwide coordination of radio telescopes, along with some surprisingly good weather across the globe for the few days when the observations took place. (Full story)

Also from the Post this week:

LANL Foundation welcomes new board members

Thom Mason, LANL photo.

Thom Mason joined the LANL Foundation Board as an ex officio member when he became Director of LANL and President and CEO of Triad National Security, LLC under the Laboratory management contract in November 2018.

Prior to becoming Director of the Lab, Mason worked for Battelle as Senior Vice President for Global Laboratory Operations and spent much of his prior career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including 10 years as its director. Mason is a resident of Santa Fe. (Full story)

UC President Janet Napolitano Announces Nearly $800,000 Grant From Triad National Security Supports Northern New Mexico Students And Teachers 

Two grants from Los Alamos National Laboratory operator Triad National Security, LLC, will benefit students and teachers across Northern New Mexico.

Triad’s Community Commitment Program awarded $599,600 to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation and $200,000 to the Regional Development Corporation (RDC), both based in EspaƱola. (Full story)

Students tackle nuclear security at Aggie Invent competition  

Teams assembled prototypes and pitched
presentations during the competition, Eagle photo.

Lloyd Brown, a retired Los Alamos scientist and former engineering professor with the U.S. Naval Academy — along with an additional nine Los Alamos representatives, including seven A&M alumni — served as a mentor to students and created the need statements prior to the event.

“The odds that students will come up with some solution that Los Alamos doesn’t already have aren’t high, but that’s not the point,” Brown said. “It’s about giving them a challenging problem to work on, and it’s just gravy if they come up with a workable idea. For us [at Los Alamos], it’s also a recruiting opportunity.” (Full story)