Friday, March 27, 2020

IBM and White House to deploy supercomputer power to fight coronavirus outbreak

Covid-19, CDC image.

IBM is partnering with the White House to make a vast amount of supercomputing power available to help researchers stop the spreading coronavirus pandemic, according to the Trump administration.

Other partners in the new consortium include NASA, MIT, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, and the National Science Foundation. (Full Story)

Sandia, LANL help hunt for vaccine

Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory are playing roles in the search for a vaccine and other medications to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Although the labs are known more for their nuclear energy and nuclear weapons research, they’ve already been involved in the design of medications. Los Alamos has been involved with cancer research.

“This taps into an effort already underway in the industry and academia,” said Irene Qualters, Los Alamos associate director for simulation and computation. (Full Story)

DoE expands on role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

Supercomputer installation at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

Key government partners so far include Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, National Science Foundation, and NASA. Among industry partners are IBM, HPE, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft. A few examples from academia include MIT, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Chicago, and Northwestern University. (Full Story)

LANL limits onsite operations consistent with CDC; State

While Los Alamos National Laboratory is not closed, the Lab is limiting onsite operations consistent with guidance from the CDC and the State of New Mexico. The vast majority of LANL employees are working from home. Onsite, the Lab is maintaining a minimum staff to support limited, key national security activities that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has deemed mission-essential. This is a view of a LANL parking lot showing a reduction in the normally high number of vehicles.  (Full Story)

Tunable microwave reflector could be the next-generation antenna

Spatio-temporally modulated metasurface reflector, LANL graphic.

Engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are reinventing the mirror, at least for microwaves. Their invention could replace the familiar satellite dishes and microwave horns seen on rooftops and cell towers with flat panels that are compact, versatile and better adapted for modern communications.

“Our new reflectors offer lightweight, low-profile alternatives to conventional antennas. This is a potential boon for satellites, where minimizing weight and size is crucial,” says Abul Azad, of the MPA-CINT group at Los Alamos National Laboratory.  (Full Story)

Also from Space Daily

New law paves way for labs’ technology to reach marketplace

A new state law may pave the way for more technology being developed at New Mexico’s national laboratories to make their way to the commercial market.

It could also pave the way for more companies licensing technology from Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to Jackie Kerby Moore, manager of technology and economic development at Sandia.

“We hope it will draw more companies to the labs,” Kerby Moore said. “We’re excited about the opportunities for job creation.” (Full Story)

To subscribe toLos Alamos Press Highlights, please e-maillistmanager@lanl.govand include the wordssubscribe PressHighlightsin the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, includeunsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, March 20, 2020

Are we ready for quantum computers?

Quantum illustration from SciAm.

As we wait for the hardware to catch up with theory, researchers in quantum information science will continue to study and implement quantum algorithms useful for the currently available noisy, fault-ridden machines. But many of us are also taking a longer view, pushing theory deep into the intersection of quantum physics, information theory, complexity and mathematics and opening up new frontiers to explore, once we have the quantum computers to take us there.

This column's author, Rolando Somma, conducts research on quantum information theory and condensed matter physics in the Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems Group of the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet

Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev after signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991. Photo from Nature.

Comparisons with giant wildfires could also help in resolving a controversy about the scale of the potential impacts. A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico argues that Robock’s group has overestimated how much soot burning cities would produce and how high the smoke would go.

The Los Alamos group used its own models to simulate the climate impact of India and Pakistan setting off 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs. The scientists found that much less smoke would get into the upper atmosphere than Toon and Robock reported. With less soot to darken the skies, the Los Alamos team calculated a much milder change to the climate — and no nuclear winter. (Full Story)

Scientists design water splitting technology to create affordable renewable energy

Illustration from Energy News 24

A collaborative team of scientists including those from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Washington State University have discovered an innovative way of splitting water into parts in order to make renewable energy, even if the sun and the wind are at its weakest.

The method uses solar and wind power when it is available for water splitting. Furthermore, the process uses electricity to split H20 into hydrogen and oxygen and thus stores energy in the form of hydrogen fuel.

“The current water electrolysis system uses a very expensive catalyst. In our system, we use a nickel-iron based catalyst, which is much cheaper, but the performance is comparable,” explains Yu Seung Kim, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and corresponding author on the paper. (Full Story)

New program helps New Mexico small businesses bring technology to market

New Mexico companies who find themselves up a creek without venture capital to ferry them across the research and development gap from invention to commercialization may receive a life-preserver thanks to a new law recently passed by the New Mexico Legislature and signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Qualifying companies may receive up to $150,000 per year in technical assistance from Los Alamos National Laboratory or Sandia National Laboratories, applicable toward activities such as prototyping, field demonstrations, technical validation, and testing—expensive endeavors critical to any new product’s success.  (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory ‘s Community Programs Office provides food staples for seniors

Joanna Gillespie of the Los Alamos National Laboratory ‘s Community Programs Office hands off ‘shelf staples’ provided to seniors of local senior centers to provide meals to seniors. Seniors 60 and over are welcome to join the centers for free in White Rock or Los Alamos. Call (505) 662-8920 for information or visit (Full Story)

Also from the Reporter this week:

LANL Foundation awards $741,000 To 110 Northern New Mexico scholarship recipients

Monica Chavez, a graduating senior at the New Mexico School for the Deaf, LANL Foundation photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation, in partnership with the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF), has awarded $741,000 during its 2020 four-year scholarship cycle. These scholarships will support the educational goals of 110 Northern New Mexico students.

Three graduating seniors, Monica Chavez, New Mexico School for the Deaf, Lillian Peterson, Los Alamos High School and Kyran Romero, Santa Fe Indian School, were awarded the top-level $20,000 Gold Scholarship. (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, March 13, 2020

U.S. flu season beginning to ease, modelers say

Image from NPR.

Each year, the CDC invites computer scientists to run enter a competition called FluSight to see which model gave the best prediction. Last year Dave Osthus, a statistician at Los Alamos National Laboratory won for a model he called Dante, which bases its predictions almost exclusively on historical patterns of disease.

He says his model, and others models he's aware of, all say the worst of this year's season is behind us. "That said, levels currently are still quite high," Osthus says. "So we have good news — sort of — on the horizon, but we're still in an elevated situation." (Full story)

Mutations can reveal how the coronavirus moves — but they’re easy to overinterpret

Covid-19 illustration, CDC image.

“This is an incredibly important disease. We need to understand how it is moving,” says Bette Korber, a biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who is also studying the genome of SARS-CoV-2. “With very limited evolution during the outbreak, [these researchers] are doing what they can and they are making suggestions, which I think at this point should be taken as suggestions.”

Now, more diversity is emerging. Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 evolves over time through random mutations, only some of which are caught and corrected by the virus’s error correction machinery. (Full story)

Also from Science this week:

Next generation water splitter could help renewables power the globe

A new electrolyzer enables hydrogen generation
from water without expensive catalysts. LANL photo.

Running the world on renewable energy is simple, in principle: Harvest solar and wind energy, and use any extra to power devices called electrolyzers that split water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen gas. Hydrogen (H2) can serve as a fuel; it is also a staple of the chemical industry. The trouble is that current electrolyzers are costly, requiring either expensive catalysts or pricey metal housings.

Yu Seung Kim and his colleagues at Los Alamos, along with researchers at Washington State University, say their new device creates a highly alkaline environment to encourage water splitting. But it does so with the proton-exchange membrane approach of tethering catalysts to opposite faces of an ion-conducting membrane ... without the big-ticket materials. (Full story)

What is the Fifth Force?

Is there a new force in nature? Image from Discover.

“From a particle physics perspective, anomalies come and go,” says Daniele Alves, a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We’ve learned over time to not be too biased with one interpretation or the other. The important thing is to get to the bottom of this.”

“People are paying attention to see whether this is really a nuclear physics effect or whether it’s something systematic,” Alves says. “It’s important to repeat those experiments ... to be able to test whether this is real or if it’s an artifact of the way they’re doing the experiment.” (Full story)

Mapping Lightning Strikes from Space

Credit: Unsplash/Josep Castells.

If lightning strikes anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, odds are it has already been detected and mapped by satellite-bound cameras orbiting some 35,000 kilometers above Earth.

Lightning flashes are more typically mapped from ground-based networks using radio frequencies to generate precise data on the order of meters. However, ground-based systems have a limited line of sight. The view from a satellite does not, for example, need to “account for things like tree lines or city skylines or even just general dissipation over distance,” said Michael Peterson, an atmospheric scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The idea of using a satellite to detect lightning has been around since at least the 1980s, but with the launch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite–R Series (GOES-R) weather satellites starting in 2016, researchers and forecasters have attained unprecedented levels of lightning data from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) instruments attached to the satellites. (Full story)

LANL scientists launching gut bacteria study in space

LANL researcher Armand Dichosa, LANL image.

New Mexico scientists are launching an experiment to the International Space Station to find out how gut bacteria and people’s overall health changes over time in space.

The testing aims to help protect future astronauts and find out how to prevent negative effects on everyone’s gut health. “We are really excited. We want to find out what is going to happen when these microbes are in space,” LANL Microbiologist Anand Kumar said.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Labs are sending off two dozen so-called gut microbiome samples to the International Space Station on the SpaceX 20 Friday night. (Full story)

Also reported in the LA Daily Post

Friday, March 6, 2020

How computer modeling of COVID-19's spread could help fight the virus

Viral particles in a color-enhanced micrograph from a COVID-19 patient, CDC image.

Sara Del Valle, a mathematical and computational epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, says she'd like to see a global center set up to constantly collect information about circulating infectious illnesses.

Much like how the National Weather Service provides forecasts to help people prepare for their local weather, she says, such a center could tell people about their local risk of infectious diseases.

"People could actually, you know, just open their phones and open an app and then see the probability of infection," she says. "It could say like, 'There's a 20% probability of getting flu in your community, based on what is spreading there.'" (Full Story)


How changes to the climate will impact the spread of infectious diseases

Bats take flight, image from The Week.

Most of the new diseases we humans have faced in the past several decades have come from animals. "As people move and wildlife move in response to a changing environment, humans and wildlife and animals will come in contact more regularly," said Jeanne Fair from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Fair argues that by shifting animal habitats, climate change will also make the opportunities for disease spillover more frequent.

"Everything is sort of shifting and will shift into the future as the environment changes through climate change," Fair said.

Scientists, including climatologists and epidemiologists on Fair's team at Los Alamos, are beginning to model how changes to the climate will impact the spread of infectious diseases. (Full Story)

Space weather model gives earlier warning of satellite-killing radiation storms

Electron observations (top) and predictions, LANL image.

A new machine-learning computer model accurately predicts damaging radiation storms caused by the Van Allen belts two days prior to the storm, the most advanced notice to date, according to a new paper in the journal Space Weather.

"Radiation storms from the Van Allen belts can damage or even knock out satellites orbiting in medium and high altitudes above the Earth, but predicting these storms has always been a challenge," said Yue Chen, a space scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and principal investigator on the project jointly funded by NASA and NOAA. (Full Story)

Also from Space Ref

NASA’s Mars rover has captured the planet’s surface in unprecedented detail

NASA image.

Last year, Curiosity found a mysterious ‘oasis’ on the surface of Mars, raising hopes that evidence of life may also one day be found on the Red Planet.

‘We’ve learned over the years of Curiosity’s traverse across Gale Crater that Mars’ climate was habitable once, long ago,’ said Roger Wiens, the principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of a paper on the research. ‘What these new findings show is that the climate on Mars was not as stable as we thought it was. ‘There were very wet periods and very dry periods.’ (Full Story)

Enlisting bacteria to make ‘green’ nylon

Image from Digital Journal.

Using bacteria to convert sugars into “green” products, such as polymer precursors for nylon, is progressing due to advances with metabolic engineering such as a specially designed biosensor from Los Alamos.

The Los Alamos project forms part of the Agile BioFoundry, which is a multi-national lab consortium funded by U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO).

“Using the LANL-created biosensor we were able to screen the microbe for both growth and muconate production simultaneously” explains Niju Narayanan, a lead contributor to this research. (Full Story)

Also from KRQE-TV

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at