Friday, August 21, 2020

Why some people get terribly sick from COVID-19

Illustration from SciAm.

Women are inclined toward more protective conduct. They were about 50 percent more likely than men to wear a face mask, wash their hands and avoid public transit during earlier respiratory disease epidemics such as bird flu and SARS, according to a 2016 meta-analysis by Kelly Moran and Sara Del Valle, both at Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

Such gender differences in attitude and behavior have continued in the current pandemic, according to a survey conducted in March and April by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Responses from 21,649 people in eight developed nations indicated that women are more likely to take COVID-19 seriously and agree to comply with public safety measures. (Full Story)

Cats and llamas could offer a path to coronavirus therapies

Covid-19 cell infection, NIH image.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, structural biologist Julian Chen is modeling the interactions between the spike protein and the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) on the human cell surface that is the path to infection. “We know that viruses make use of the path of least resistance to get into the cell,” he says. 

“SARS-CoV-2 certainly did not evolve specifically to bind to a human ACE2 receptor, so it’s a good enough interaction, but likely not an optimal one.” It should be possible to design molecules that can outcompete the virus in binding with ACE2, thereby preventing infection, he says. (Full Story)

Does the Butterfly Effect exist? Maybe, but not in the quantum realm

Illustration from Discover. 

Two researchers at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico, created a simulation where a qubit, a quantum bit, moved backwards and forwards in “time” on a quantum computer. Despite being damaged, the qubit held on to its original information — instead of becoming unrecognizable like the time traveler’s world after he killed the butterfly. In the study, the process used to simulate time travel forwards and backwards is known as “evolution.”

“From the point of view of classical physics, it's very unexpected because classical physics predicts that complex evolution has a butterfly effect, so that small changes deep in the past lead to huge changes in our world,” says Nikolai Sinitsyn, a theoretical physicist and one of the researchers who conducted the study. (Full Story)

Also from Vice

Machine learning unearths signature of slow-slip quake origins in seismic data

Machine learning model used historical data from the Cascadia region, Shutterstock image.

"The machine learning model found that, close to the end of the slow slip cycle, a snapshot of the data is imprinted with fundamental information regarding the upcoming failure of the system," said Claudia Hulbert, a computational geophysicist at ENS and the Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author of the study, published today in Nature Communications. 

"Our results suggest that slow-slip rupture may well be predictable, and because slow slip events have a lot in common with earthquakes, slow-slip events may provide an easier way to study the fundamental physics of earth rupture." (Full Story)

Also from Cosmos Magazine

Photonic instruments, components driving (and steering) NASA’s Mars rover

SuperCam is attached to the Perseverance rover at JPL, NASA photo.

The SuperCam is one of several major instruments that make up Perseverance. Its optical sensing capabilities ensure its aptitude for determining chemical composition and mineralogy. Enhanced Raman and TRF spectroscopy technologies employ a transmission spectrometer with a volume phase holographic (VPH) grating and gated detector. 

Roger Wiens, from Los Alamos National Laboratory, designed and built the spectrometer itself. The laboratory also built the laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument for SuperCam, from a design based on the ChemCam used in a previous mission that found spectroscopic evidence of water on Mars.  (Full Story)

Scientist with local roots is key to device on Mars rover

Sam Clegg with a lab-based version of ChemCam, LANL photo.

The Perseverance rover is somewhere along its nearly seven-month trip to Mars, carrying with it a piece of machinery that was developed by someone with roots in the Yuba-Sutter area.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Senior Scientist Sam Clegg grew up in Yuba City and has worked at the lab since 2003. For most of the last 17 years he has been working with Los Alamos Principal Investigator Roger Wiens on a technique called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS).  (Full Story)

Searching Mars for signatures of life

Today, Mars is an arid, dusty, and frigid landscape with an average temperature of minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit—inhospitable to life as we know it. But it wasn’t always that way. NASA’s Perseverance rover is headed straight for a spot scientists believe was an ancient river delta billions of years ago to search for signs that life once existed on the Red Planet. A new episode of the podcast Mars Technica will talk to three experts about what these signs are, and what they might mean.

“The rocks on Mars tell us that, not only did freshwater lakes once exist there, but the water was habitable,” said Roger Wiens, who leads the team for the SuperCam instrument, which is now headed to Mars aboard the Perseverance rover. (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory builds an AI system to detect illicit crypto miners

Los Alamos National Laboratory, partly-owned by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, has developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-based system to detect illicit cryptocurrency miners.

The system is specifically designed for malicious actors that target supercomputers to mine cryptocurrencies like bitcoin (BTC) and monero (XMR), the laboratory announced on Thursday. Recent reports have indicated that academic supercomputers are targeted by would-be attackers to install crypto mining hardware. (Full Story)

Also from Cryptopolitan

Going with the flow: Computer tool tracks water’s changing impact in the warming Arctic

Collapsed permafrost block of coastal tundra on Alaska’s Arctic Coast. USGS photo.

Understanding how water moves through the permafrost landscape is vital to understanding permafrost-carbon-climate feedbacks. Water carries nutrients; it carries energy. It can increase not only the rate of permafrost thaw, but the carbon dioxide and methane output, too. 

To understand the impact of these hydrologic feedbacks, Los Alamos National Laboratory, with collaborators from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, led the development of a new open-source simulation tool called Amanzi-ATS. (Full Story)

Melting permafrost could mean return of ancient diseases

Aedes aegypti mosquito, CDC image.

Jeanne Fair from the Los Alamos National Laboratory said, "mosquitoes moving their range north are now able to overwinter in some temperate regions...[with] longer breeding periods." The Aedes aegypti carries diseases such as dengue, zika, malaria, and eastern equine encephalitis.

Since 2010, the Europe Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has reported 40 cases of locally transmitted dengue. Experts fear that over the next few years, Europe may report more cases of tropical diseases and have dengue seasons due to climate change. (Full Story)

Heavy metal Psyche: Biggest main belt asteroid might be planet remnant

Artist’s conception of asteroid Psyche, NASA image.

New 2D and 3D computer modeling of impacts on the asteroid Psyche, the largest Main Belt asteroid, indicate it is probably metallic and porous in composition, something like a flying cosmic rubble pile. 

“This mission will be the first to visit a metallic asteroid, and the more we, the scientific community, know about Psyche prior to launch, the more likely the mission will have the most appropriate tools for examining Psyche and collecting data,” said Wendy K. Caldwell, Los Alamos National Laboratory Chick Keller Postdoctoral Fellow and lead author on a paper published recently in the journal Icarus.  (Full Story)

Recovering record-setting lightning strikes obscured by a software glitch

The world-record single stratiform lightning flash.

Back in 2016, NASA built its Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), a single-channel, near-infrared optical transient detector, then put it on the GOES-16 satellite in a geostationary orbit. 

To see if there was more information that could be pulled from GLM’s sliced and diced images, Los Alamos National Laboratory had one of its software experts, Michael Peterson, develop a software program to repair the data.

Once Peterson got it running and he stitched several large flash events together, he discovered two “megaflashes” that were declared world records—one for flash distance and the other for flash duration—by the World Meteorological organization. (Full Story)

LANL astrophysicist Didier Saumon chats with Los Alamos Reporter

Astrophysicist Didier Saumon, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory astrophysicist Didier Saumon is one of a large group of international researchers who have developed an experimental technique to measure the basic properties of matter by using lasers to compress hydrocarbon samples to 100 to 450 million times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure – the highest pressures achieved to date in a controlled laboratory experiment.

Saumon said his main research interest is the properties of matter such as that found in stars, in giant planets like Jupiter and also in experiments like inertial confinement fusion which he said is a very large national project that tries to achieve the fusion of deuterium and tritium to reproduce the energy source that powers the sun in the laboratory. (Full Story)

Also from the LA Reporter this week:

Deniece Korzekwa named Los Alamos National Laboratory Senior Fellow

Deniece Korzekwa, LANL photo.

Deniece Korzekwa, of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Sigma Division, has been named Senior Fellow for outstanding leadership and seminal contributions to nuclear weapons manufacturing science, global security initiatives and international scientific exchanges involving plutonium and uranium.

Korzekwa is a world recognized expert in actinide casting with significant technical contributions across the entire Weapons Program including manufacturing, Directed Stockpile Work and Science Campaigns. Her insights have been critical for the Intelligence Community on the topic of weapon manufacturing proliferation.  (Full Story)


LANL and EspaƱola-based contractor win three DOE Small Business Awards

Eric Quintana, left, and Thom Mason, celebrate the signing of the company’s contract last year. LANL photo.

“The Laboratory spent $289 million on New Mexico small business contracts last year because we know regional collaborations are a winning proposition for us and for the local economy,” said Director Thom Mason. “My hat goes off to Performance Maintenance for its spectacular sense of duty. 

When the company won a Laboratory contract for janitorial services and supplies, we never expected a pandemic to elevate cleaning standards to current levels. Performance Maintenance rose to the occasion and is a key reason that the Laboratory can safely conduct its mission for the country. Thanks to the Department of Energy for recognizing the Laboratory and Performance Maintenance with these Small Business Awards.” (Full Story)

Grandparents’ letters, photos tell the story of Evanston couple’s small part in the Manhattan Project 

Fred Fragassi Sr. during his time with the Manhattan Project, from the Sun-Times

It was only by happenstance that this modest Italian American couple [Fred and Clara Fragassi]  from Evanston ended up living in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and working on “history’s biggest secret” for two years, between 1944 and 1946.

“People will think about Nobel laureates and all these famous scientists who were obviously very important, but the Manhattan Project simply would not have happened without all these other people, like construction workers and secretaries," according to Alan B. Carr, senior historian of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

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