Friday, November 27, 2020


Evidence builds that an early mutation made the pandemic harder to stop


A Covid-19 intensive care ward in Italy, early in the pandemic, NYT photo.


The mutation, known as 614G, was first spotted in eastern China in January and then spread quickly throughout Europe and New York City. Within months, the variant took over much of the world, displacing other variants.


For months, scientists have been fiercely debating why. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory argued in May that the variant had probably evolved the ability to infect people more efficiently. 


But a host of new research — including close genetic analysis of outbreaks and lab work with hamsters and human lung tissue — has supported the view that the mutated virus did in fact have a distinct advantage. (Full Story)



Los Alamos scientists say their new technology could cut methane emissions By 90%


Image from Forbes.


Lead scientist Manvendra Dubey and his two Los Alamos team members, Bryan Travis and Jeremy Sauer, have already spoken with several potential commercial partners interested in working with them to commercialize the technology. The team hopes that their software — a type of machine learning code called a “neural net” — will be adopted widely by the energy industry. 


“This is probably the most meaningful thing I’ve worked on since graduate school,“ said Dubey in a phone interview, recalling his days as a PhD student in atmospheric chemistry at Harvard, where he studied stratospheric ozone depletion. (Full Story)


Also from Shale Magazine

Novel chemical process a first step to making nuclear fuel with fire


Microscopic image of cerium nitride foam, LANL photo.


Anew "combustion synthesis" process recently established for lanthanide metals—non-radioactive and positioned one row above actinides on the periodic table—could be a guide for the production of safe, sustainable nuclear fuels.


"Actinide nitride fuels are potentially a safer and more economical option in current power-generating systems," said Bi Nguyen, Los Alamos National Laboratory Agnew postdoc and lead author of research recently published in the journal Inorganic Chemistry, which was selected as an American Chemical Society Editors' Choice Featured Article. (Full Story)


Also from Lab Manager Magazine and Engineering and Technology Magazine


'Superbolts' are real, and they flash up to 1,000 times brighter than regular lightning


Photo from Live Science.


"We focused on superbolts that are substantially brighter than normal lightning — at least 100 times more energetic — and then looked at the top pulses above that threshold, said Michael Peterson, lead author on both studies and a remote-sensing researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory.


The brightest superbolts tended to cluster in geographic regions where large thunderstorms are common, and superbolt appearance was associated with "long-horizontal lightning flashes that can span hundreds of kilometers, which have been recently termed 'megaflashes,'" Peterson said. (Full Story)


Also from Science Alert

Tracking and fighting fires on earth and beyond


The 2011 Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos, USFS photo.


Ateam from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, introduced new developments to a computational fluid dynamics model that can incorporate fuels of varying moisture content. Many existing environmental models average the moisture of all the fuels in an area, but that approach fails to capture the variations found in nature, said chemical engineer Alexander Josephson, a postdoctoral researcher who studies wildfire prediction at Los Alamos. As a result, those models may yield inaccurate predictions in wildfire behavior, he said.


"If you're walking through the forest, you see wood here and grass there, and there's a lot of variation," said Josephson. Dry grasses, wet mosses, and hanging limbs don't have the same water content and burn in different ways.  (Full Story)


AAAS and LANL announce 2020 Fellows


New Fellows, from left, David Chavez, Chris Fryer, Pat Fitch, Bob Williams and Marcelo Jaime. LANL photos.


Five Los Alamos scientists have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. Members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.


“The range of science contributions that this year’s Fellows have made is an excellent example of the high quality and extensive impact of our national security science at Los Alamos,” said John Sarrao, Deputy Director for Science, Technology & Engineering. “We are honored to have these five researchers among the Laboratory community.” (Ful Story)


Also from the Reporter this week:


DisrupTECH features superior plastics recycling, smart software, predictive mapping


Winners of the LANL DisrupTECH awards, clockwise from top left, Juan Leal, Eric Davis, Tony Shin, and Neil Loychik, LANL photos.


Cutting-edge technologies ranging from more effective plastics recycling to using AI for systems monitoring were recently showcased by a select group of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists to businesses and investment groups as part of the Laboratory’s annual DisrupTECH event.


“Part of the mission of Los Alamos National Laboratory is to transition technology that was developed here to the commercial sector so the public can benefit from it,” said Kathleen McDonald, acting director of the Feynman Center for Innovation, which is the tech-transfer division of the Laboratory and host of the event.  (Full Story)


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Friday, November 20, 2020

Lightning ‘superbolts’ can be 1,000 times brighter than ordinary flashes, study finds


A mapped superbolt from February of 2019, NOAA image.


Earlier this year, researchers confirmed a pair of ultra-long-distance lightning strikes in South America that spanned up to 442 miles and lasted for nearly 17 seconds. Ongoing research has turned to how much power these fierce discharges contain, as well as their relative rarity.


The study was led by Michael Peterson, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. His team examined two years’ worth of data from the GOES weather satellites, which peer down on North and South America with ultrahigh resolution.(Full story)


Also from Space Daily



From New Mexico to Mars


A technician works on the SuperCam mast unit,

LANL photo.


The spacecraft carrying NASA’s latest Perseverance rover is scheduled to reach the Red Planet this February after launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last July. Once the rover touches down on Mars’ surface, it will search for signs of ancient life, and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.


Perseverance includes sophisticated laser, sensing and detection devices built by Los Alamos National Laboratory in collaboration with international partners to conduct the critical geologic and mineral analysis that could determine if life ever existed on Mars. (Full story)




Will the Coronavirus evolve to be less deadly?


Electron microscope image of a human cell

(purple) heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus

particles (yellow), NIH image.


A team led by Bette Korber, a computational biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, published a paper in the journal Cell in July showing that a strain carrying a mutation identified as D614G appeared to be replacing the initial strain that first emerged out of Wuhan, China.


Korber and her team suggested that, on the basis of their research — conducted in cells in culture — the new strain seemed to be more infectious than the original. While the paper notes in its limitations that “infectiousness and transmissibility are not always synonymous,” Korber says the findings are consistent with higher transmissibility. (Full story)



Study: New mutation sped up spread of Coronavirus


Image from WebMD.


The virus that causes COVID-19 is not the same strain as what first emerged from China. A new study shows it has changed slightly in a way that makes it more contagious to humans.


Compared to the original strain, people infected with the new strain -- called 614G -- have higher viral loads in their nose and throat, though they don’t seem to get any sicker. But they are much more contagious to others.


The new study backs up earlier research by a team of scientists led by Bette Korber, PhD, at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The team first noticed the rapid spread of the new strain and questioned whether the virus wasn’t evolving to become more easily passed between people. (Full story)



Super storage for scientific computing



Illustration from GCN.


With a mission of solving national security challenges with science, it’s no surprise Los Alamos National Laboratory wants to optimize computational storage by bringing processing power closer to storage devices or even into the storage system itself.


Complex scientific storage software stacks can’t take advantage of emerging high-speed storage devices because of insufficient compute resources on storage servers. Today, common storage system operations that require several passes over memory – such as data compression and indexing – just can’t keep up with fast storage devices and networks. (Full story)

Also from Next Platform



Los Alamos-led study finds how to improve natural gas production in shale


Dense methane trapping in nanopores, LANL image.


A new hydrocarbon study led by researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory contradicts conventional wisdom about how methane is trapped in rock, revealing a new strategy to access the valuable energy resource more easily. Their open-access study is published in Nature’s new Communications Earth & Environment journal.


lead author, Chelsea Neil of Los Alamos, integrated molecular dynamics simulations with novel in situ high-pressure small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) to examine methane behavior in Marcellus shale in the Appalachian basin, the nation’s largest natural gas field, to better understand gas transport and recovery as pressure is modified to extract the gas. (Full story)