Friday, May 15, 2020

Predicting mosquito populations to keep diseases in check

Photo from SciAm.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we’re studying the dynamics of mosquito populations to understand how they grow, how they change with the seasons and, in particular, how they spread infectious diseases to humans and to other animals. The goal is to create a computer-based model that will accurately simulate these populations based on data about precipitation, temperature, water levels and other environmental factors in a given area, so people will know ahead of time about an increased risk of disease transmission.

For this project, we’re specifically looking at West Nile virus, which birds transmit to humans via mosquitoes. We analyzed 15 years of data from several different locations in the United States and Canada, making it one of the largest modeling studies of mosquito populations over time ever conducted. (Full Story)

El Niño-linked decreases in soil moisture could trigger massive tropical-plant die offs

El Niño weather pattern, NOAA graphic.

Associated with warmer than average ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific, El Niños can in turn influence global weather patterns and tropical precipitation, and these changes can lead to massive plant die-offs if other extreme factors are also at play.

"We know a lot about El Niño in terms of its impact on weather and surface water resources," said Kurt Solander, a research hydrologist in the Computational Earth Science group at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author of the paper. "This new study drills down to reveal how El Niño can affect the moisture content of soil, which controls the growth of plants, the food we eat, and how much water from land gets fed back into the atmosphere through evaporation." (Full Story)

How do we know the nukes still work?

The centrifuge facility at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

I visited Los Alamos in June 2019 to learn more about this program. Experiments there attempt to recreate the conditions that a nuclear device might face as it approaches its target. A steel tube about the height and width of a semi-truck but much longer sits in the scrubby fields behind security-guarded outposts at the lab, which is located about 60 miles northeast of Albuquerque. Warheads with dummy nuclear pits are placed at one end of the pipe, and more than 100 pounds of the conventional explosive C4 is set off at the other. The tube guides the shockwave toward the warhead, where scientists image the interaction using high-speed cameras. Beside the shock tube, a low concrete building contains a blue-and-white centrifuge that can spin test warheads to 200 revolutions per minute to ensure they can survive the 12-g force of reentry into the atmosphere. (Full Story)

Organic spacers improve LED performance

Light-emitting diode arranged in a "perovskite" crystal structure. BNL image.

A team led by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Los Alamos National Laboratory in collaboration with Brookhaven and Argonne National Laboratories has demonstrated that the choice of organic spacer significantly impacts LED performance. By using organic spacers with atoms arranged in a ring instead of a linear chain, the scientists increased device efficiency by two orders of magnitude (to around 12 percent) and brightness by 70 times, with a luminance approaching that of typical green organic LEDs.

"The large organic spacers slice the 3-D perovskite crystal lattice into a 2-D layered structure consisting of graphene-like atomic sheets each less than a billionth-of-a-meter thick," explained Wanyi Nie, a scientist at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) at Los Alamos. (Full Story)

LANL starts small pilot program for COVID-19 testing of employees

Microscopic image of Covid-19, from NIH.

A small pilot program for COVID-19 testing of Los Alamos National Laboratory employees is slated to begin on-site Tuesday.

Testing will be by appointment only and employees selected for initial testing will be among those working on-site in mission critical functions, medical professionals and emergency response personnel.

“Our goal,” said Laboratory Director Thom Mason, “is to protect the health and safety of our workforce, to prevent the spread of this disease, and to maintain our ability to deliver on mission critical work.” (Full Story)

Also from Defense Daily

Fast science is still slow, and that’s not bad

Image from Bloomberg.

Scientists still don’t know exactly how infectious children are and how re-opening schools and daycares will affect spread in communities. A vaccine is probably at least 18 months away. And while the virus is clearly mutating, scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory raised eyebrows worldwide with a recent paper—published online prior to peer review—that suggested one variant might be more contagious.

Science’s questioning dance of hypothesis, experiment, analysis, conclusions and more hypothesis usually plays out further from the political stage. But now, with politicians—and their worried and sometimes angry constituents—demanding quick solutions, the gap is growing between how fast science really works and how fast we wish it would work. (Full Story)

Quantum technologies go the distance

QKD equipment, ORNL photo.

For the second year in a row, a team from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge and Los Alamos national laboratories led a demonstration hosted by EPB, a community-based utility and telecommunications company serving Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Using an isolated portion of EPB’s fiber-optic network, the team experimented with quantum-based technologies that could improve the cybersecurity, longevity and efficiency of the nation’s power grid. Among other successes, the researchers drastically increased the range that these resources can cover in collaboration with their new industry partner, Qubitekk. (Full Story)

2020 Supercomputing Challenge award winners announced

Participants come from public, private, parochial, and home-based schools in all areas of New Mexico. The important requirement for participating is a real desire to learn about science and computing. Supercomputing Challenge teams tackle a range of interesting problems to solve.

The main sponsors are Triad, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the New Mexico  Consortium. The Awards Ceremony specially thanked LANL Director Thom Mason and New Mexico Consortium CEO Steven Buelow as instrumental to this year’s successful challenge. (Full Story)

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