Friday, September 25, 2020


The quantum butterfly non-effect

Illustration from SciAm.

The butterfly effect is well accepted in our everyday world, where classical physics describes systems above the atomic scale. But in the submicroscopic world where quantum mechanics reigns, different—and very strange—rules apply. Does the butterfly effect still hold true? If not, what happens instead?

As we describe in a peer-reviewed article in Physical Review Letters, we explored this facet of quantum mechanics when we were developing a novel method to protect quantum information. Exploiting the property of quantum entanglement induced by a complex evolution, we wanted to put qubits (quantum bits) into a state where they would be immune to damage.

The authors: Nikolai Sinitsyn is a theoretical physicist in the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Bin Yan is a postdoc in the Center for Nonlinear Studies at the Laboratory. (Full story)

Up to 15 inches of sea-level rise from ice sheets by 2100

Antarctic melt model, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, working with three dozen other institutions from around the world, has helped to create the most accurate prediction of how melting ice in Antarctica and Greenland will contribute to global sea-level rise.

The six-year effort, called the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project (ISMIP6), found that by the year 2100, sea levels could rise by as much as 15 inches, from melting of the ice sheets alone. This is in addition to 5 to 26 inches of sea-level rise expected to come from ocean thermal expansion, the melting of mountain glaciers around the world, and changes in storage of water on land. (Full story)

 Also from the Los Alamos Reporter

Los Alamos’ Gary Grider argues efficiency in HPC is king

Gary Grider with the Trinity Supercomputer, LANL photo.

This interview is with Gary Grider, leader of the High Performance Computing (HPC) Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory. As Division Leader, Gary is responsible for all aspects of high performance computing technologies and deployment at Los Alamos. Additionally, Gary is responsible for managing the R&D portfolio keeping the new technology pipeline full to provide solutions to problems in the lab’s HPC environment, through funding of university and industry partners. Gary also helps manage the U.S. government investments in data management, mass storage, and IO. Gary has 26 granted patents, with 17 pending in the data storage area and has been working in HPC and HPC-related storage since 1984. (Full story)



Phil Tubesing awarded Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 2020 Global Security Medal

Phil Tubesing, LANL photo.

Philip K. “Phil” Tubesing is the 2020 awardee of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s prestigious Global Security Medal, which recognizes the exceptional achievements of active or recently retired employees who have made significant contributions to the Laboratory’s global security mission.

“Phil’s leadership and technical expertise in weapons and nuclear nonproliferation have had a tremendous impact on the Laboratory’s global security work,” said Thom Mason, Laboratory director. “He is not only a technical expert on actinide processes, but he has consistently demonstrated a unique ability to apply his expertise to a variety of global security programs at the national and international levels." (Full story)


Also from the Reporter this week:

Rod Borup named 2020 Electrochemical Society Fellow

Rod Borup, LANL photo.

Rod Borup, of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Materials Synthesis and Integrated Devices group, has been named a 2020 Electrochemical Society (ECS) Fellow. The distinction recognizes advanced individual technological contributions in electrochemical and solid-state science and technology and service to the society.

“Rod is one of the Laboratory’s distinguished leaders in chemistry and materials as applied to energy applications. His recognition as an Electrochemical Society Fellow is a significant honor that he deeply deserves,” said Toni Taylor, associate laboratory director for Physical Sciences. (Full story)





Nathan Moody to share in 2021 IEEE particle accelerator award

Nathan Moody, LANL photo.

 Nathan Moody of Los Alamos National Laboratory is a co-winner of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS) 2021 Particle Accelerator Science and Technology (PAST) Award.

“We’re very excited about Nathan Moody’s recognition with the 2021 PAST Award, which is testament to his leadership, and Nathan’s and his colleagues’ technical achievements,” said John Sarrao, deputy director for Science, Technology, and Engineering at Los Alamos. “We also look forward to watching his future accomplishments on behalf of the Laboratory and the accelerator community." (Full story)


Friday, September 18, 2020

How New Mexico controlled the spread of COVID-19


A Presbyterian Healthcare Services registration staffer processes a driver in Albuquerque, from SciAm.

Early in the spring, the state put together a team of 150 researchers and clinicians to advise its officials, and New Mexico has been “very proactive in implementing science-based decisions,” says Sara Del Valle, a mathematical and computational epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.


Modeling the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s transmission patterns is important for understanding ways of containing the outbreak. So in the spring New Mexico created its own modeling project in collaboration with researchers at Sandia National Laboratory and Los Alamos, as well as Presbyterian Healthcare Services, a nonprofit health care system in the state. (Full Story)


Mutant virus: should we be worried that Sars-CoV-2 is changing?


Coronavirus artwork painted on a road in Bhopal, India, from the Guardian.

Back in the spring, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the computational biologist Bette Korber and her team were busy building the mathematical tools that would flag up such repeat offenders in the GISAID data.


Korber and others reported their finding officially in the journal Cell in August, along with their conclusion that the switch had made the virus more transmissible but not more – or less – dangerous. Whether the virus has become better at spreading between people since the spring is a matter of lively debate, but most researchers agree that the switch has had no impact on disease severity. (Full Story)



Up to 15 inches of sea-level rise from ice sheets by 2100


See the computer model on LANL YouTube.


Los Alamos National Laboratory, working with three dozen other institutions from around the world, has helped to create the most accurate prediction of how melting ice in Antarctica and Greenland will contribute to global sea-level rise. The six-year effort, called the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project (ISMIP6), found that by the year 2100, sea levels could rise by as much as 15 inches, from melting of the ice sheets alone. This is in addition to 5 to 26 inches of sea-level rise expected to come from ocean thermal expansion, the melting of mountain glaciers around the world, and changes in storage of water on land. (Full Story)



The Hall effect links superconductivity and quantum criticality in a strange metal


Hall effect as a function of composition x and temperature T. From PhysOrg.


Over the past few decades, researchers have identified a number of superconducting materials with atypical properties, known as unconventional superconductors. Many of these superconductors share the same anomalous charge transport properties and are thus collectively characterized as "strange metals."


Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and Los Alamos National Laboratory have been investigating the anomalous transport properties of strange metals, along with several other teams worldwide. (Full Story)



Why neural networks struggle with the Game of Life


Illustration from TechTalks

The Game of Life is a grid-based automaton that is very popular in discussions about science, computation, and artificial intelligence. It is an interesting idea that shows how very simple rules can yield very complicated results.


Despite its simplicity, however, the Game of Life remains a challenge to artificial neural networks, AI researchers at Swarthmore College and the Los Alamos National Laboratory have shown in a recent paper. Titled, “It’s Hard for Neural Networks To Learn the Game of Life,” their research investigates how neural networks explore the Game of Life and why they often miss finding the right solution. (Full Story)



Android-based devices under attack by crypto mining botnet


Illustration from be[in]crypto.

Cyber threat responders are fighting back with counter weapons of their own. For example, last month, computer scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were able to design a new state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) system that has the capability to possibly identify malware aimed at penetrating supercomputers to mine for cryptocurrency.


Gopinath Chennupati, a researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said, “Based on recent computer break-ins in Europe and elsewhere, this type of software watchdog will soon be crucial to prevent cryptocurrency miners from hacking into high-performance computing facilities and stealing precious computing resources. Our deep learning artificial intelligence model is designed to detect the abusive use of supercomputers specifically for the purpose of cryptocurrency mining.” (Full Story)

What it takes to shoot a laser On Mars


“I’ve been fascinated by Mars ever since I was a little kid,” said Lisa Danielson, ChemCam operations manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “I studied physics and astronomy, but I got my advanced degrees in geology because I realized that, to study other planets, I needed to understand rocks. I went to work for NASA and now I’m here, helping to direct the instrument that shoots lasers on Mars, which is a pretty cool job to have.” 


In this episode, Danielson is joined by Nina Lanza, another planetary scientist who is also on the ChemCam team. This is the seventh and final episode of Mars Technica, a new seven-series podcast produced by Los Alamos National Laboratory, which delves into the Lab’s role on the Mars Perseverance mission.  (Full Story)


Also from the Reporter this week:


Parents, teachers and students find free remote-learning resources at New Mexico STEAM Hub


Parents, teachers, and students can find an array of regional and national resources for science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) education consolidated in one convenient place at New this year and supported by Los Alamos National Laboratory, it’s an online, one-stop shop for child care resources, parent guides for online learning, and STEAM activities to do at home. 


“Back-to-school 2020 has challenged all of us to become more resourceful and creative,” said Thom Mason, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Now more than ever, it’s critical for the Laboratory to be a partner in education. I commend the New Mexico STEAM Coalition for seeing the need for the STEAM Hub and applaud the enthusiasm of our regional partners who joined the effort.” (Full Story)


Symposium focuses on the impact of the Manhattan Project and the world 75 years later


Women work as "computers" during the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. LANL photo.


On Saturday, Sept. 19, The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will host the virtual symposium, “They Changed the World: The 75th Anniversary of World War II and the Use of Atomic Weapons.” The symposium includes two panels – the first is heavily focused on the Manhattan Project, the second is focused on the world 75 years later.


The second panel focuses on the last 75 years following the world’s first atomic testing ... world-renowned speakers for the symposium include former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Professor Siegfried Hecker; and more. (Full Story)



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Friday, September 11, 2020

The coronavirus is mutating — does it matter?

Researcher Thomas Nyalile at the U Mass Medical School tests D614G spike-protein variant on infectivity.  Image from Nature.

In March, David Montefiori, who directs an AIDS-vaccine research laboratory at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, contacted Bette Korber, an expert in HIV evolution and a long-time collaborator. Korber, a computational biologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Sante Fe, New Mexico, had already started scouring thousands of coronavirus genetic sequences for mutations that might have changed the virus’s properties as it made its way around the world.

Compared with HIV, SARS-CoV-2 is changing much more slowly as it spreads. But one mutation stood out to Korber. It was in the gene encoding the spike protein, which helps virus particles to penetrate cells.  (Full Story)

New antiseptic kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria

A: Healthy bacteria. B: CAGE causes degradation after five minutes. C: Death after 60 minutes. LANL image.

To battle super-resilient bacteria, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new topical ointment designed to kill what were once considered “unkillable” bacteria. Collaborating with Northern Arizona University and Dixie State University, Los Alamos scientists discovered what they have dubbed CAGE, a variation of something called a choline capable of penetrating the deepest skin layers to deliver antibiotics. Choline helps the body improve memory and cognition, protect the heart and boost metabolism, among other things.

To test the effectiveness of CAGE, Los Alamos scientists developed a skin ointment and applied it on 11 clinically isolated bacteria known to be strongly resistant to topical treatment.  (Full Story)

LANL scientists study impact of wildfires on health, environment

The wildfires burning across the western United States have been sending smoke across New Mexico.  Scientists at Los Alamos National Lab wanted to take a closer look, so they turned on their aerosol-gas forensics instruments. "Serendipitously to our surprise, one hour later the Medio Fire started by lightning,” said Manvendra Dubey, who runs the Laboratory’s Center for Aerosol-gas Forensics.

These scientists were able to track the Medio Fire from the start. The fire began in a dense, dry forest and spread rapidly.  It put out black smoke for a few days. "The way we measured the fire growth was by measuring black carbon in our lab,” Dubey said. (Full Story)

Mars 2020 mission looks to find signs of ancient microbial life

Scientists use patterns found in extreme environments on Earth to help them narrow their search for life on Mars. Dr. Nina Lanza, is a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She helped create SuperCam, an instrument which identifies the chemical composition of rocks and soils, and whether or not it contains organic compounds. SuperCam is traveling to Mars as an attachment on NASA’s Perseverance rover for the Mars 2020 mission which launched on July 30, 2020.

According to Dr. Lanza, “living microbes play a role in forming rock varnish on Earth—one we don’t fully understand yet—so maybe they play a role in forming rock varnish on Mars, too. We know that microbes in varnish are well suited to the martian environment.  (Full Story)

The mystery of the neutron lifetime

Neutron decay diagram, from APS.

Scientists would like to have a solid number for the neutron lifetime to plug into these equations. They need the uncertainty of the lifetime down to less than a second. But getting this certainty is more difficult than it initially seemed. "The neutron lifetime is one of the least well-known fundamental parameters in the Standard Model," said Zhaowen Tang, a physicist at DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory

"We cannot leave any stones unturned," said Tang. "There are so many examples of people who have seen something, just chucked something to a mistake, not worked on it hard enough, and someone else did and they got the Nobel Prize." (Full Story)

Nascent exascale supercomputers offer promise, present challenges

Roadrunner, the world’s first petascale supercomputer, included innovations to save electricity. LANL photo.

The transition to exascale will not be easy. “As these machines grow, they become harder and harder to exploit efficiently,” says Danny Perez, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We have to change our computing paradigms, how we write our programs, and how we arrange computation and data management.”

That’s because supercomputers are complex beasts, consisting of cabinets containing hundreds of thousands of processors. For these processors to operate as a single entity, a supercomputer needs to pass data back and forth between its various parts, running huge numbers of computations at the same time, all while minimizing power consumption. (Full Story)

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