Friday, November 8, 2019

A new strain of HIV is recorded under group that caused pandemic

A virus sample from Abbott Laboratories. WSJ photo.

Scientists using advanced DNA sequencing technology have documented a previously unidentified strain of HIV under the group that is responsible for the vast majority of human infections.

Researchers and epidemiologists don’t expect the new Group M strain to change the way HIV is diagnosed or treated. Still, they say new strains can offer clues on how HIV evolved and spread.

“There’s a lot of mystery around why certain things happened. New strains can unravel some of that unknown history,” said Brian Foley, an HIV geneticist at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, which holds the largest HIV gene bank and sets the guidelines on classifying new strains. Dr. Foley wasn’t involved in Abbott’s research. (Full story)

Why U.S. must win race to build first practical quantum computers

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

Today, Los Alamos and other Department of Energy national laboratories, working closely with industry, continuously push the farthest frontiers of computing and related technologies in support of scientific discovery. Many of those breakthroughs trickle down to everyday life.

That technological landscape may splinter as Moore’s law ends, threatening to undermine the broad-based economic growth and scientific advancement that has enabled U.S. global leadership for decades. Disruptions will reverberate from the economy to science to national security. (Full story)

Navigating a career in secret physics

Astrophysicist Chris Fryer and his family were driving back from a monthlong workshop on neutron-star mergers when he got word of a new gravitational-wave discovery. The fifth of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory’s catches, the August 2017 event appeared to be the first detected from two colliding neutron stars. “I recall vividly having my wife read me the email while I was driving and me telling her I didn’t believe her,” he says. His wife, Aimee Hungerford, is also an astrophysicist. A few days later, data started to become available. (Full story)

Between a varnished rock and a hard place

Nina Lanza (left) studying rock varnish
in California, photo from Nina Lanza.

In this episode, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Nina Lanza and Chris Yeager discuss their investigations into rock varnish in New Mexico, which could help them understand whether life is present on Mars. Rock varnish is a mysterious coating found on rocks in some of the harshest and most Mars-like landscapes on Earth, but no one knows whether rock varnish is created by living things. If so, finding it on Mars would be a sign that Martian life exists now or has existed in the past. (Full story)

Voyager 2 reveals new details about interstellar space

Voyager test model at the Kennedy
Space Center in 1976, NASA photo.

Dan Reisenfeld, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who was not involved in the research, says astronomers took bets on when they were going to make it through [the heliosphere]. “Voyager’s fame came from its exploration of the planets,” Reisenfeld tells Inverse. “Then it went quiet for years because it’s just traveling through the depths of space beyond the planets.”

The second set of data also gave a better idea of the shape of the heliosphere.

“When Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause, it showed us that our heliosphere is not perfectly round but that it’s asymmetric,” Reisenfeld says. (Full story)

Nine Los Alamos National Laboratory projects win R&D 100 Awards

Histato Yamaguchi holding a photosensitive
cell that has been coated with Atomic Armor,
a R&D 100 winning project. LANL photo.

“It’s an honor to have Los Alamos National Laboratory’s innovation recognized by the broader community with these nine R&D 100 awards,” said Laboratory Director Thom Mason. “Behind all of these awards are people willing to take risks and think unconventionally about big problems in areas like national security, big data, and energy transmission. Their originality has brought the Laboratory to where we are today. Congratulations to the winners, special recognition awardees, and finalists for their outstanding achievements.” (Full story)

Tech startup FidelityEHR receives innovation grant

FidelityEHR developed an electronic health records system for behavioral health, funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health, to provide care coordination for at-risk populations with complex needs.

FidelityEHR also is collaborating with the New Mexico Small Business Association and Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop artificial intelligence/machine learning technology to quickly identify factors for clients at risk for suicide or opioid overdose. (Full story)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Using quantum computers to test the fundamentals of physics

White crosses represent non-interfering quantum states that behave classically for a simple quantum problem, LANL image.

A quantum-computing algorithm, developed by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of California, Davis — including Andrew Sornborger and Andreas Albrecht  — opens a new window on the connection between the quantum and classical worlds and the transition that must occur as we zoom out from the smallest scales.

To study the quantum-to-classical transition, physicists need to evaluate how close a quantum system is to acting classically. Among other effects, physicists must consider the fact that quantum objects are subject to wave-particle duality. (Full Story)

LANL protects milkweed to preserve monarchs

Makenzie Quintana, a student at Los Alamos National Laboratory, provides a perch for a monarch butterfly, LANL photo.

As part of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s environmental stewardship efforts, a Los Alamos team has been documenting the cycles and seasons of monarch butterflies, and the location of milkweed on laboratory property. These efforts will better inform management decisions if this species is listed under the Endangered Species Act. They were able to document eggs on milkweed in late June and caterpillars enjoying milkweed into September. (Full Story)

Weatherwatch: cloud 'x-rays' seek to reveal anatomy of a storm

GLM imagery of a convective storm over southern Brazil. LANL image.

Scientists have long used satellite cameras, such as the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), to count lightning flashes and monitor storms. Now Michael Peterson, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, is using the pulses of illumination to produce “fulminograms” showing clouds from inside.

“The output resembles an x-ray image of the storm,” Peterson says. “When light must penetrate thick convective cells, they stand out as dark spots in the image, while the brightest spots show us where lots of light can leak out of the cloud.” (Full Story)

VW to test quantum navigation app in real traffic

A quantum computer, D-Wave photo.

Volkswagen AG plans to test a quantum-computer-powered navigation app in Lisbon next week, part of a larger plan to include such a feature in its vehicles within the next few years.

“What’s exciting about this work is that it’s being applied in the real world,” said Scott Pakin, a computer scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Other auto makers including Ford Motor Co. are experimenting with how quantum computing could quickly optimize driving routes and improve the structure of batteries for electric vehicles. (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Lab wins CDC’s FluSight Challenge

“Accurately forecasting diseases is similar to weather forecasting in that you need to feed computer models large amounts of data so they can ‘learn’ trends,” Dave Osthus, a statistician at Los Alamos and developer of the computer model, Dante, said. “But it’s very different because disease spread depends on daily choices humans make in their behavior—such as travel, hand-washing, riding public transportation, interacting with the healthcare system, among other things. Those are very difficult to predict.” (Full Story)

LANL receives $5 billion to upgrade aging facilities

Some facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory — the nation’s foremost nuclear weapons research center — date to the 1950s, said Thom Mason, LANL director.

That reality, coupled with the lab’s evolving mission, is spurring a $5 billion upgrade to aging buildings and equipment still in use in the 21st century, Mason said in an interview this week. Though state of the art when built during the Cold War, some aging infrastructure is now outdated. (Full Story)

Five LANL scientists elected 2019 APS Fellows

Top row from left, Herrmann, Hsu and Hurd. Bottom row from left, Prestridge and Van de Water, LANL photo.

Five LANL scientists have been elected 2019 Fellows of the American Physical Society (APS). Hans Herrmann, Scott Hsu, Alan Hurd, Katherine Prestridge and Richard Van de Water and were chosen for their “exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise”.

Fewer than one half of one percent of APS members are elected as Fellows each year.
These five scientists represent the breadth of physics contributions made at the Laboratory. Van de Water said of the award, “The thrill of doing science is an award itself, an APS Fellowship honor makes it that much better.” (Full Story)

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