Friday, July 24, 2020

Why R0 is problematic for predicting COVID-19 spread

R0 Log Scale, from The Scientist.

To estimate the biological parameters needed to determine R, such as the period over which an infected person can transmit a pathogen and the probability that she will do so, “we try to borrow information from similar viruses,” explains Sara Del Valle, a mathematical and computational epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. To model Brazil’s Zika virus epidemic in 2015, for example, her team used data on the transmissibility of dengue. During the 2011 H1N1 flu pandemic, they turned to data from influenza outbreaks in the 1960s.

For COVID-19, Del Valle, like many other researchers, plugged in parameters documented for other coronaviruses, including MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, to estimate R0. However, the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 turned out to be markedly different from that of these viruses. (Full Story)

Coronavirus: Are mutations making it more infectious?

University College Hospital in London, where the changing virus is being studied, from BBC.

One of the studies' leads, Prof Bette Korber, at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US, said there was not a consensus, but the idea the mutation increased patients' viral load was "getting less controversial as more data accrues".

When it comes to looking at the population as a whole, it's difficult to observe the virus becoming more (or less) infectious. Its course has been drastically altered by interventions, including lockdowns. But Prof Korber says the fact the variant now appears to be dominant everywhere, including in China, indicates it may have become better at spreading between people than the original version. Whenever the two versions were in circulation at the same time, the new variant took over. (Full Story)

State enlists LANL to analyze school opening options


Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are helping New Mexico analyze four scenarios for reopening schools – one of which would involve keeping teenagers home so younger students could spread out in high schools.

In briefings to lawmakers and reporters, Human Services Secretary David Scrase said Friday that the calculations are incredibly complex and require massive computing power at the laboratory to determine how each option would affect the spread of COVID-19. (Full Story)

LANL volunteer takes to the skies to help fight COVID-19

Pilot Josh Payne is a scientist at theLaboratory. From the Reporter.

On a typical day, Payne, a scientist in the Laboratory’s Applied Computer Science Group, is writing high performance computer codes or taking his plane out for fun in the skies over Santa Fe. But on this day, Payne is on one of several self-directed missions to make critical supply drops in Arizona and New Mexico to communities hit hard by COVID-19 and lacking resources to fight its spread.

When COVID-19 broke out, Payne began looking for ways to help. Using his Lab-honed computer skills, he initially 3D printed masks and face shields at home, before logistical issues derailed his work. (Full Story)

New Mars rover, with LANL components, to search for life

NASA’s Perseverance rover, NASA illustration.

NASA is now poised to take the next step to answer this question with the upcoming launch of the Perseverance rover.

The mission of this new rover is several-fold. Its primary and unique purpose is to collect samples that a future spacecraft can bring back to Earth. Every time a rover goes to Mars, it stays there, with no way to fly back home. No rock or soil samples have ever been brought back to Earth. This mission proposes to change that by caching rock and soil samples on the Martian surface for a future mission to bring home. (Full Story)

LANL, NNSA honor 75th anniversary of the Trinity Test

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty (center) with Thom Mason (left) and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan at the Laboratory's V-site. LANL photo.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the testing of the nuclear bomb, known as the Trinity test, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) officials along with representatives from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) gathered at V-Site located in the LANL campus Thursday afternoon to honor the milestone that led to the end of World War II.

V-Site was a fitting venue. Before the “Gadget” or the prototype of the nuclear bomb “Little Boy,” exploded in the Alamogordo desert July 16, 1945, it was pre-assembled and had some early testing done at V-Site.

LANL Director Thom Mason and U.S. Under Secretary of Energy for NNSA Lisa Gordon-Hagerty spoke during the event, which was also attended by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujàn, although he did not make a presentation. (Full Story)

NNSA Administrator views Manhattan Project era artifacts

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty (left) views artifacts from the Manhattan Project with Director Thom Mason (center) and Ben Ray Lujan (right).  LANL photo.

Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty spoke Thursday at V-Site on the Los Alamos National Laboratory during a commemoration event for the 75th anniversary of the Trinity Test.

The V-Site buildings and the nearby Gun Site are the last significant structures still standing at Los Alamos associated with the development and assembly of the world’s first nuclear devices. Located away from the main laboratory for safety and security reasons, the V-Site consisted of a cluster of wooden buildings built in January 1944 as a high explosives handling and assembly facility.  (Full Story)

Also from the Reporter this week:

Ribbon-cutting dedicates new building to former LANL director Donald Kerr

NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty cuts the ribbon on the new Donald M. Kerr Office Building, LANL photo.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Thursday at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a new modular office building was officially named the Donald M. Kerr Office Building, in honor of the former Laboratory Director.

Department of Energy National Nuclear SecurityAdministrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty and NNSA Los Alamos Site Office Manager Michael Weis were on hand cut the ribbon to dedicate the building, which is the first top-secret facility to be built at the Laboratory in 15 years. (Full Story)

New atomtronic device to probe weird boundary between quantum and everyday worlds

A schematic of an atomtronic SQUID, LANL image.

A new device that relies on flowing clouds of ultracold atoms promises potential tests of the intersection between the weirdness of the quantum world and the familiarity of the macroscopic world we experience every day. The atomtronic Superconducting QUantum Interference Device (SQUID) is also potentially useful for ultrasensitive rotation measurements and as a component in quantum computers.

“In a conventional SQUID, the quantum interference in electron currents can be used to make one of the most sensitive magnetic field detectors,” said Changhyun Ryu, a physicist with the Material Physics and Applications Quantum group at Los Alamos National Laboratory.  (Full Story)

Wildfire smoke’s bad – but scientists find a silver lining

USFS photo.

The Los Alamos study measured the chemistry of four large plumes produced by the Woodbury Fire that ravaged the Superstitions, closed the Apache Trail and now threatens road and reservoir damaging erosion off denuded slopes. The scientists measured the plumes both close to the source and as the smoke drifted over New Mexico. They found the center of the plume remained loaded with brown carbon, but oxidation and other chemical changes reduced the brown carbon over time at the edge of the plume.

“Mixing and oxidation lightened the brown carbon, reducing its ability to absorb light and cause warming. This implies that the warming effects of wildfire brown carbon is likely smaller than published model assessments,” the researchers concluded. (Full Story)

Newly-completed weather enclosure at DARHT facility

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty cuts the ribbon on the new enclosure for DARHT, LANL photo.

New weather enclosure improves quality of work life, enhances safety, and increases productivity at the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility.

NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty attended the Weather Enclosure’s ribbon cutting ceremony on July 16, during a visit to LANL. Speaking to the accomplishment, Administrator Gordon-Hagerty noted, “This facility will not only protect millions of dollars of equipment from the elements but will also boost experimental capabilities and provide a safe, year-round working environment for employees to accomplish stockpile stewardship which is at the heart of the LANL’s mission.” (Full Story)

DOE concludes Exascale Cooling Project at Los Alamos National Lab

Gordon-Hagerty cuts the ribbon in front of the new cooling towers, LANL photo.

The Exascale Class Computer Cooling Equipment Project reached the Critical Decision-4 milestone in May and was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at Los Alamos National Laboratory, DOE said the same day. The project concluded 10 months earlier than scheduled with $20 million saved.

“High-performance computing continues to be key to the future of our science-based stockpile stewardship program, and completing this project ahead of schedule allows the enterprise to keep moving forward towards its next milestones,” said Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration. (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