Friday, May 29, 2020

Infectious disease models aren't crystal balls but are useful tools in Florida's fight against COVID-19

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Miami Gardens, from USA Today.

Sara Del Valle, a senior scientist and mathematical epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said people can use infectious disease forecasts in a similar way as they use weather forecasts “to determine whether or not they’re going to bring an umbrella to work.”

“If your state seems to be trending up, then I think that that should be good information for the public to know that they should start taking more precautions,” she said. “If you're trending down, it doesn't mean that you should quit and party with everybody." (Full Story)

COVID-19, the Texas A&M system responds

Thom Mason interviewed remotely by John Sharp, Texas A&M Chancellor. Image from the Bryan Eagle.

On the latest episode of “COVID-19: The Texas A&M System Responds” I interview Dr. Thom Mason, director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, about the lab’s work in the fight against COVID-19.

You might be wondering why the guardians of our country’s nuclear arsenal have a role in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. I think the answers will surprise you.

The lab, which is managed by a group including the Texas A&M System, is doing some truly fascinating work…including making artificial human organs for vaccine testing. (Full Story)

The new and improved Tomahawk missile now runs on corn

DoD photo.

One of the nation’s most prestigious national labs has developed a new fuel substitute for the same jet fuel that powers cruise missiles. Los Alamos National Labs has come up with a replacement fuel for JP-10 that uses corn bran and other feedstocks instead of petroleum products. The result is a fuel that can be sourced directly from America’s most plentiful crop, bypassing foreign sources.

LANL believes that JP-10’s high energy density might lead more high-performance jet engines to use the fuel. This would result in planes with longer ranges or that need to carry less fuel to get from Point A to Point B. If so, this new fuel could be yet another military innovation that carries over to the civilian world. (Full Story)

New software predicts power loss during natural disasters

Los Alamos National Laboratory has released new software designed to help predict power loss during natural disasters. The software takes into account the three major grid connections in the United States as well as substations that help deliver power. LANL says the program will help the administrator’s become more efficient in restoring power to affected areas and in making sure power is delivered to other parts of the country that are connected to it. (Full Story)

Meteor that blasted millions of trees in Siberia only 'grazed' Earth, new research says

Blast in 1908 flattened a Siberian forest, image from Live Science.

A new explanation for a massive blast over a remote Siberian forest in 1908 is even stranger than the mysterious incident itself.

Known as the Tunguska event, the blast flattened more than 80 million trees in seconds, over an area spanning nearly 800 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) — but left no crater.

However, some lingering questions about this scenario remain, said Mark Boslough, a research professor at the University of New Mexico and physicist with Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

Boslough, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science in an email that if an object "skimmed through the atmosphere" and didn't blow up, the resulting shock wave would be significantly weaker than an explosion's blast wave. (Full Story)

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