Friday, April 24, 2020

What 5 Coronavirus models say the next month will look like

Reported deaths are rolling 7-day averages

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Lab have released a model with state-level predictions that assume social distancing interventions will continue. Their predictions for New York State include a broad range of possibilities, including cumulative totals of less than 25,000 deaths and more than 60,000 deaths by the end of May. Four of the other modelers are publishing estimates for individual states as well as the nation as a whole. (Full Story)

Also from the New York Times this week:

How New Mexico, one of the poorest states, averted a steep death toll

Medical personnel prepared to test people for the virus in Albuquerque last month. ABQ Journal Photo.

New Mexico is drawing from a team of national defense scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory — which was created in 1943 to design and build an atomic bomb — to assist with contagion forecasts.

Sara del Valle and Carrie Monroe, mathematical epidemiologists at Los Alamos, said that by April 19, New Mexico had already experienced a stunning decline of more than 40 percent in the number of originally forecast total cases.

“Because of the stay-at-home order,” Ms. del Valle and Ms. Monroe said in a statement, “the virus had fewer people to infect so the growth rate declined.” (Full Story)

Virus forecast model from defense team in Los Alamos draws attention

NM HHS Secretary Dr. David Scrase gives an update on the COVID-19 outbreak in New Mexico, AP photo.

A team of national defense scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory that studies contagions with award-winning accuracy has developed its own U.S. forecast for the spread of the coronavirus.

With support from the U.S. Energy Department, the Los Alamos model builds upon a decade of past experience in forecasting contagions, including the seasonal flu, the Ebola virus and mosquito-borne Chikungunya.

Last year, Los Alamos statisticians beat out more than 20 teams in a CDC competition aimed at improving flu forecasting using supercomputing power. The lab’s “Dante” model was most successful in predicting the peak and short-term intensity of the unfolding flu season – and became the basis for the new COVID-19 model. (Full Story)

LANL forecast suggests NM has hit peak already

A forecast released by Los Alamos National Laboratory suggests New Mexico has already hit its peak in new coronavirus cases – or is about to.

The statistical model estimates a 57% chance that New Mexico is past its peak in the number of new virus cases confirmed each day.

Carrie Manore, a scientist and mathematician at Los Alamos, said the forecast covers the next six weeks only. It’s based on data reported so far, she said, not an attempt to factor in potential changes to people’s behavior or other new information that might emerge. (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Lab COVID-19 model helping guide the country

While the country looks to experts and scientists to help guide people through the pandemic, epidemiologists from Los Alamos National Laboratory are helping in the battle against the coronavirus.

For more than a decade, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have been tracking and forecasting infectious diseases from all over the world. Currently, the CDC is using the LANL model for COVID-19 to help keep people safe.

“It gives us something to expect and something to plan for, and I think that’s a utility of this model is that folks who are planning for hospitalizations, and planning on what to do next, have at least something to go on,” explained Carrie Manore, Mathematical Epidemiologist with LANL. (Full Story)

Also from KRQE this week

How New Mexico's national labs joined the COVID-19 fight

Electron microscopy of SARS-CoV-2, NIH image.

Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory are undertaking a wide array of initiatives aimed at helping the state and nation cope with the unprecedented health crisis. They include computer modeling to predict a surge, boosting key medical supplies, testing people for COVID-19 and even hunting for a vaccine.

The lab’s vaccine research draws from its experience designing an HIV vaccine. It includes the groundbreaking work of the lab’s noted biologist Bette Korber.

Korber designed a “mosaic” vaccine composed of various HIV genomes, which recently underwent human trials. She is now on a team that’s pursuing a COVID-19 vaccine. (Full Story)

Novel Coronavirus prompts computer sharing

Supercomputers are essential for solving so-called influence maximization problems, PNNL image.

One resource that’s not in short supply during the pandemic is computing power. For researchers working to combat COVID-19, access to these resources has recently gotten easier, thanks to a collective effort that unites the computing capabilities of 33 government labs, universities, and private companies in the US.

Simulating a complex molecule with molecular dynamics can take “vast quantities of time,” explains Irene Qualters, Associate Laboratory Director for Simulation and Computing at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico. That’s why many of the projects are incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) to guide the calculations. “AI is being used to target a simulation for a particular aspect of the virus.” (Full Story)

The heavy cost of ignoring biosurveillance

It was Aug. 28, 2012 in a Washington, D.C., hotel near Union Station where the National Defense Industrial Association held its first and only Biosurveillance Conference. NDIA members with their expertise in information technology could have a lot to offer building such a network, I reasoned, so it was worth reporting. Let’s pull some quotes out of that 2012 story. Harshini Mukundan, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said diseases emerge from people, plants and animals. (Full Story)

Stopping the devil in the dust

Most people who inhale the dust-borne fungal spores that cause Valley fever experience no symptoms. But in around 40% of people, the infection manifests, usually as pneumonia.

Morgan Gorris, a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, was the first author on the paper about the pathogen’s range if climate change continues unabated. “In our baseline model, looking at where Valley fever is currently, we estimated that the fungus is probably in 12 states, and by the end of the 21st century that could increase up to 17 states,” Gorris said. “And, as a result, the number of Valley fever cases could increase by up to 50%.” (Full Story)

Scientists fashion new class of X-ray detector

X-ray detectors made with 2-dimensional perovskite thin films, LANL graphic.

"The perovskite material at the heart of our detector prototype can be produced with low-cost solution process fabrication techniques," said Hsinhan (Dave) Tsai, an Oppenheimer postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "The result is a cost-effective, highly sensitive and self-powered detector that could radically improve existing X-ray detectors, and potentially lead to a host of unforeseen applications."

The development and analysis of the perovskite material was a close collaboration between Argonne APS (Sector 8-ID-E) and a Los Alamos team lead by device physicist Wanyi Nie. The material and thin film was created at Los Alamos and brought to Argonne to perform grazing incidence wide-angle X-ray scattering. (Full Story)

Planetary lightning: Same physics, distant worlds

Lightning illuminates Jupiter’s north pole in this artist’s rendering, NASA image.

But thunderstorms aren’t the only environment that creates the conditions needed for lightning. “Volcanic lightening is really common in explosive eruptions. It’s not a rare, unusual phenomenon,” explained Alexa Van Eaton, a volcanologist at the USGS.

“You can expect that if it’s an ash-producing eruption, it is capable of making lightning,” said Sonja Behnke, a scientist who researches volcanic lightning at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “It’s very common, and even if it doesn’t produce lightning, the ash plume might still have charge to it.” (Full Story)

SFCC, Los Alamos lab join to offer machinist program

Machinists are in demand at the Laboratory, in New Mexico, and nationwide. LANL photo.

Santa Fe Community College and Los Alamos National Laboratory announced last week a new collaboration to revamp the college’s machinist program.

Director Thomas Mason said LANL is investing $400,000 in equipment and paid internships to help support the machine engineering technologies program for five years. Starting salary for a machinist at the lab is around $60,000 per year, with growth potential, and students who are hired at the lab after completion of the program will be reimbursed for tuition, fees and books, Mason said. (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, April 17, 2020

Disease outbreaks happen all the time, but...

Electron microscopy of SARS-CoV-2, NIH image.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, to increase the accuracy of real-time models, we’re using anonymized, publicly available social media posts to understand how diseases like the flu spread. The model can tell us when a large number of people from a certain city are posting about flulike symptoms, which can then be used to quickly identify areas at risk of increased exposure instead of waiting for clinical data, which can take days or even weeks to receive.

We are also improving the tools and methods used to detect and diagnose infectious diseases—called biological assays. As diseases evolve, the accuracy of assays deteriorates because the biological signatures change, which could result in a misdiagnosis (either a false positive or negative).  (Full Story)

New study shows coronavirus is twice as infectious than previously thought

Covid-19, CDC illustration.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory looked at figures in Wuhan and discovered that the coronavirus passed from 1 person to another between an estimated 2.3 to 3.3 days. This was twice as quickly as previously feared. The study found that 82% of people would need to be immune to stop the spread of infection. Immunity could either be through receiving a vaccine or from recovering from already the disease. 

Scientists discovered that the incubation period of the virus is 4.2 days, one day shorter than the previous estimates. The incubation period is described as the period starting from when a person is first exposed to the virus, to the time when they start showing symptoms. (Full Story)

LANL researchers developing coronavirus vaccine design

The coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world as researchers and scientists fight to create a vaccine. Bette Korber has been a researcher with Los Alamos National Labs for 30 years focusing on HIV research, but recently that focus has shifted.

"When this outbreak happened, when the pandemic happened we had skills that were useful in general, both from a vaccine design perspective and from a database perspective," Korber said.

She's been working 12 to 18 hour long days, seven days a week since February trying to figure out how to stop the spread of the coronavirus. "In the last 20 years, we've had three really serious epidemics due to coronavirus hopping into humans and spreading," Korber said. All that time in the lab is paying off. (Full Story)

Amid uncertainty, NM health officials turn to statistics

Sara Del Valle, LANL photo.

Predicting how high the death toll will climb is incredibly difficult, scientists say. Changes in assumptions lead to an almost breathtaking difference in the potential outcomes.

“There’s so much uncertainty because this is a new virus and so there’s a lot of information we don’t know,” said Sara Del Valle, a mathematical epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The unknowns include the number of people who are infected but don’t have symptoms, how contagious those people are, and whether people who have survived the disease are immune from getting it again. (Full Story)

Thin-film perovskite detectors could enable extremely low-dose medical imaging

The perovskite thin-film X-ray detector is 100 times more sensitive than conventional detectors, LANL photo.

“Our materials, hybrid perovskites, contain heavy elements such as lead and iodine that can stop X-rays more effectively than silicon,” explains corresponding author Wanyi Nie from Los Alamos National Laboratory. “In this study, we hoped to demonstrate a much thinner layer of perovskite semiconductor than silicon that can still maintain detection performance.”

The thin-film perovskite detectors could enable medical and dental imaging at extremely low radiation dose, while also boosting resolution in security scanners and X-ray research applications.  “The improved lower limit of detection will allow the same quality image to be generated using a much reduced X-ray dose, which is safer for patient,” says Nie. (Full Story)

Also from Inverse

Los Alamos National Laboratory and Santa Fe Community College announce new program for machinists

Machinists are in demand at the Laboratory, in New Mexico, and nationwide. LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason and Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) President Becky Rowley announce a collaboration creating a new training program for machinists.

“The Laboratory is pleased to work with partners like SFCC to help bring good-paying, technical job opportunities to workers in our local area,” said Director Thom Mason. “Building the regional workforce benefits both Northern New Mexico and the Laboratory and is one of the concrete ways that we support the people in our communities.” (Full Story)

Also from the Los Alamos Daily Post

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, April 10, 2020

What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic

The newly identified coronavirus that emerged late last year in central China started a pandemic that’s already killed tens of thousands of people. The contagiousness of the virus, which causes a lung illness dubbed Covid-19, has health experts worried it could rival the most devastating outbreaks in recent decades.

How contagious is it? A mathematical analysis from Los Alamos National Laboratory found the figure was 5.7 during the early epidemic in Wuhan. The Los Alamos team’s results were specific to the Wuhan outbreak. But if they hold true elsewhere in the world, the pandemic may be more difficult to control than some authorities have anticipated. By way of comparison, seasonal flu has an r0 of about 1.3 and killed an estimated 61,000 people in the U.S. in the 2017-18 season. (Full Story)

Race for vaccine intensifies as coronavirus hits Asia with a second wave of outbreaks

First-stage clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 at the Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. AP photo.

Researchers racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 face an even more urgent task in light of recent reports that the coronavirus has rebounded in Asia despite efforts to tamp it down.

Los Alamos National Lab, which developed the first atomic bomb, has been working in biological sciences since 1945 and is applying its earlier pioneering research on HIV and influenza to the new coronavirus, said Kirsten Taylor-McCabe, a biochemist and program manager at the New Mexico lab.

“We do see resurgence and second waves in the future,” she said. “As you ease off restrictions in place and transportation increases, you can see resurgence over time. A vaccine will be very important in preventing a resurgence.” (Full Story)

Virus may spread twice as fast as earlier thought

COVID-19, CDC illustration.

The new coronavirus raced through China much faster than previously thought, a U.S. research team said, suggesting that extremely widespread vaccination or immunity will be necessary to end the pandemic.

Each person infected early in the epidemic in Wuhan probably passed the virus to an average of 5.7 other people, according to a mathematical analysis from Los Alamos National Laboratory. That’s more than twice what the World Health Organization and other public health authorities reported in February. (Full Story)

Also from the New York Post and Newsmax

Will it be safe to hold the Olympics in 2021?

Fixing a date for the Olympics is really one piece of a much larger question, image from PopSci.

“It’s a little too early to say how everything will evolve,” says Sara Del Valle, a mathematical and computational epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. But slowing transmission could also mean that many people are still susceptible to COVID-19 next year. “If that’s the case, then we’re not going to be able to have international events next year because it would still be spreading.”

Del Valle and her colleagues have studied how past crises—including the 2009 swine flu pandemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic—have played out. Usually, these pandemics cause an enormous first wave of infections, followed by a somewhat smaller second wave the following year. (Full Story)

Also from Popular Science this week:

Did Uranus get smacked so hard it spun sideways?

The sideways Uranus system, NASA image.

So what tipped the Uranus system over? Many planetary scientists assume that the young planet—when it was just a few hundred million years into its billions of years of life—suffered a cataclysmic collision. 

Two years ago a team including Don Korycansky of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Chris Fryer of Los Alamos National Laboratory pushed the idea even farther. Harnessing three decades of computing advances, they simulated a range of collisions between two planets each made up of millions of pieces. 

New research picks up where the previous simulations left off. “They take it to the next level,” Fryer says. “It’s getting quite exciting.” (Full Story)

Can AI take us where no human has gone before?

Polymer dielectric materials could replace traditional inorganic dielectric materials. LANL image.

When good data sets contain only hundreds of points, algorithms can learn faster if they don’t have to teach themselves fundamental or empirical rules of nature, says Ghanshyam Pilania, a materials scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The trade-off is that encoding these rules inevitably means encoding human bias about where useful molecules will be found. “The potential for discovery gets limited” if you tell the AI algorithm too much, Pilania says. He’s used AI algorithms to search for new materials for radiation detectors and electronics. Pilania and others have found that both approaches have their place in exploration.  (Full Story)

AI pinpoints renewable energy resources

From left, Richard Middleton, Maruti Mudunuru and Velimir “Monty” Vesselinov make up a team that is studying geothermal resources in New Mexico. LANL photo.

Rather than rely on humans to ascertain the key subsurface characteristics that make for ideal geothermal prospects, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory aim to dramatically improve geothermal exploration through machine learning – computer programs that can process vast amounts of data, learn from it, and then automatically modify their algorithms to analyze it with increasing accuracy and efficiency.

Rather than a team of scientists and engineers poring over huge stacks of images, maps and other data to hypothesize which sites are likely the best, these mountains of information are instead fed to a computer. (Full Story)

Gamma ray experiment suggests speed of light is constant

The HAWC Observatory in Mexico. HAWK photo.

In the latest experiment, led by Andrea Albert, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, researchers with the HAWC were looking to test the Lorentz Invariance.

This is part of Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity that says the speed of light is constant across the universe, regardless of where you are or how fast you are moving. 

"How relativity behaves at very high energies has real consequences for the world around us," Pat Harding, an astrophysicist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in a statement. "Most quantum gravity models say the behavior of relativity will break down at very high energies." (Full Story)

Also from Science Alert

Dark matter decoys

The ADMX experiment trains scientists to deal with real signals—by creating fake ones. Symmetry illustration.

The axion is one of several dark matter candidates. The particle was originally proposed in the 1970s as a potential solution to the strong CP problem in particle physics. Later, researchers saw that the particle could also explain dark matter. 

“This is two for one,” says ADMX analysis team member Leanne Duffy of the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Not only do you solve this existing problem with the Standard Model, but you also get an excellent dark matter candidate out of it.”

Assuming dark matter axions exist, the Earth and everyone on it is traveling through a “galactic halo” that is thick with them. To touch an axion, we don’t need to do anything.  (Full Story)

Reinventing the mirror to transform antennas, wireless and cell phone communications

What goes in is not what comes out with a spatio-temporally modulated metasurface reflector. LANL graphic.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are reinventing the mirror, at least for microwaves, potentially replacing the familiar 3-D dishes and microwave horns we see on rooftops and cell towers with flat panels that are compact, versatile, and better adapted for modern communication technologies.

“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,” said Abul Azad, of the MPA-CINT group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “The panels could be easily incorporated onto surfaces of buildings or terrestrial vehicles as well.” (Full Story)

Triad National Security pledges $50,000 In emergency grants to local philanthropies

Triad National Security, the management and operations contractor of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has pledged $50,000 to four local philanthropies to address emergency needs caused by the COVID-19 public health crisis. Funds are prioritized in the areas of healthcare, food security, childcare for essential workers and education.

“These community partners are experts in responding to the urgent needs of their respective communities,” said Thom Mason, president of Triad National Security. “They have proven track records of mobilizing resources quickly and delivering relief effectively.” (Full Story)

South Africa’s National Integrated Cyberinfrastucture system joins LANL’s Efficient Mission Centric Computing Consortium

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Efficient Mission Centric Computing Consortium (EMC3) recently welcomed its first international partner, the South African National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS).

“We are pleased to collaborate with NICIS on experiences in deploying a scalable cool data storage tier. Sharing requirements, solutions and experiences on challenges in providing an efficient computing environment is an important part of EMC3,” said Gary Grider, division leader for High Performance Computing at Los Alamos. (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