Friday, February 26, 2021

Discovery in quantum theory could solve Baryon Asymmetry problem


Quantum annealing: a rugged cost/energy landscape, from The Science Times.


One of the longstanding "errors" in the field of quantum computing is in quantum annealing: in order to operate properly, these computers have to run at a relatively slow rate. While examining the behavior of quantum annealing computers at speeds faster than those required for operation, they found something unexpected - a previously undiscovered phenomenon that could help explain the perceived imbalance between matter and antimatter in the Universe and could also guide a new approach for isolating isotopes.


"Although our discovery did not cure the annealing time restriction, it brought a class of new physics problems that can now be studied with quantum annealers without requiring they be too slow," shared Nikolai Sinitsyn, a theoretical physicist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of the authors of the study. (Full Story)


Also from PhysOrg, and Newswise

Fleets of radar satellites are measuring movements on Earth like never before


InSAR data show Ethiopia’s Corbetti volcano has been rising nearly 7 centimeters per year, from Science


Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) ... correctly found simulated and historical events, including ones that had eluded human InSAR experts, says Bertrand Rouet-Leduc, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who presented preliminary results in December 2020 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.


Rouet-Leduc and his team now plan to monitor faults around the world using the same approach. He says it’s mostly a matter of exploiting the vast quantity of data that “sits on servers without being looked at,” because it’s simply too much for scientists to tackle. The researchers hope they will be able to answer questions like when and why slow earthquakes happen, and whether they can trigger big, damaging events by increasing stress on other parts of a fault. (Full Story)


A look into the mysteries of proton structure and the dynamics of antiquarks and gluons


Ratios in the proton (red filled circles) with their statistical (vertical bars) and systematic (yellow boxes) uncertainties extracted. LANL image.


complex high-energy nuclear physics experiment, aiming to measure the contributions of antiquarks to the structure of the proton and neutron, has produced results that are the opposite of what had previously been understood about proton structure and the dynamics of strong interacting antiquarks and gluons.


“The main physics result of this experiment has very significant impact on our understanding of the proton structure, and also on the dynamics of strong interacting antiquarks and gluons inside the proton,” said Ming Xiong Liu, a Los Alamos National Laboratory author on the new paper, which was published in the journal Nature this week and describes results from the Fermilab E-906/SeaQuest experiment. (Full Story)


Los Alamos National Lab scientists help inform public policy


Throughout the pandemic, some of the scientists on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 are here in New Mexico at Los Alamos National Lab. KRQE News 13 spoke with one of the lab’s senior scientists about how their data helps inform public policy.


“We’ve modeled many other diseases, but each disease or each outbreak is a little bit different, and also each region is a little bit different,” explained Nick Hengartner, Senior Scientist at Los Alamos National Lab.


The applied mathematician works with a group at LANL to study, track, and model how fast COVID-19 is spreading. The LANL team forecasts new infections, and now the impact of vaccinations and any new viral strains. (Full Story)


Also from KRQE this week


Los Alamos National Lab reports record spending with small businesses


Los Alamos National Lab is having a record spending year with New Mexico small businesses and they say it’s having a great impact on the state’s economy — even leading to an expansion. Small businesses in the state are getting an extra boost, thanks to LANL’s spending in 2020.


“We had a record year and just completed at the end of September 2020,” said Thom Mason, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We awarded over $413 million in contracts to New Mexico small businesses. They’re really an essential part of how we get our job done.”


That’s an increase of a whopping 43% from the year before. Since the country relied even more on the lab during the pandemic, they kept going — needing help for everything from supplies to software. (Full Story)


NASA's Mars mission goal: Find evidence of past life on the red planet


Nina Lanza, LANL image.


NPR's Noel King speaks with Nina Lanza, a geologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Adam Steltzner, chief engineer of the Perseverance Mars rover, about NASA's Mars Exploration Program.


NINA LANZA: We can learn so much from literally any sample from Mars because we've never actually brought them back. But what I'm really hoping for and what one of the biggest goals of our mission is, is to find signs of biosignatures, so evidence that there was life in the past on Mars, which would be incredible. (Full Story)

New Mexico's NASA connection


Perseverance as it was lowered to the Martian surface, NASA image.


When NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on Mars Thursday, the car-sized machine brought some New Mexico-built technology along with it.


Two of the machine's various scientific instruments were developed in part at Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of those pieces of equipment is called a "SuperCam." The equipment has a laser that can "zap" rocks as far as 25 feet away, allowing for the study of rock samples that cannot be reached with Perseverance's robotic arm. The apparatus will help identify elements in the martian dust that could be harmful to people


The second instrument aboard the Mars rover is called "SHERLOC." The tech sits on the arm of the rover and will use laser-induced fluorescence to search for molecules that may be signs of life. (Full Story)


Perseverance rover landing virtual ‘after-party’ a big hit


Virtual show introduced by John Sarrao, LANL image.


Los Alamos National Laboratory hosted a virtual after-party Thursday evening for more than 300 people to mark the successful landing of the Perseverance rover in the Jezero Crater on Mars just hours earlier, watched by millions of people around the world.


LANL deputy director for Science, Technology and Engineering John Sarrao in opening remarks said he was thrilled to be able to witness the incredible feat of science and engineering that this landing is.


“We in the Los Alamos community are especially excited because the Laboratory, once again is playing a major role in one of NASA’s Mars missions. Not only is the rover powered by a plutonium heat source developed at Los Alamos but we also helped develop two of the scientific instruments aboard the rover that will study this Martian surface and tell us whether life ever existed there,” he said. (Full Story)


Also from the Reporter this week:


Freshwater outflow from Beaufort Sea could alter global climate patterns


Dye tracer released from the Beaufort Gyre region of the western Artic Ocean, UT Austin image.


The Beaufort Sea, the Arctic Ocean’s largest freshwater reservoir, has increased its freshwater content by 40 percent over the last two decades, putting global climate patterns at risk. A rapid release of this freshwater into the Atlantic Ocean could wreak havoc on the delicate climate balance that dictates global climate.


“A freshwater release of this size into the subpolar North Atlantic could impact a critical circulation pattern, called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which has a significant influence on northern-hemisphere climate,” said Wilbert Weijer, a Los Alamos National Laboratory author on the project. (Full Story)




LANL, local groups reach out to homeless of Northern New Mexico


LANL's Selena Valencia, left, Kiwanis President Cheryl Pongratz and Kiwanian Linda Daly helppack clothing, LA Reporter photo.


The Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Partnership Office is providing 633 bags of new clothing for homeless people in the Santa Fe, Taos, Espanola and Los Alamos area. The Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos packed bags Wednesday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church Parish Hall for delivery to seven different homeless shelters.


LANL community outreach specialist Selena Valencia Valencia was on hand with the group at IHM. Valencia made all the arrangements for the purchases of sweat pants, T-shirts, socks and a hat to be included in each bag. (Full Story)


Explosives chemist David Chavez added to editorial advisory board of Journal of American Chemical Society


Chavez at work in the lab, LANL photo.


David Chavez, deputy group leader of High Explosives Science and Technology (Q-5) group at Los Alamos National Laboratory has been added to a newly formed Editorial Advisory Board for the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) by the new Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, Erick Carreira.


“This is a huge honor for me as JACS is one of the premier chemistry journals in the world and now I have a hand in help shaping its future,” Chavez said. “The intent is to broaden the diversity of the Associate Editors and the Editorial Advisory Board in terms of gender, ethnicity, age and subject matter expertise.  I was selected to partly due to my ethnicity and age, technical accomplishments, and to serve as a voice for national laboratories and other government research labs.” (Full Story)



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Friday, February 19, 2021

Two variants have merged into heavily mutated coronavirus


People get tested for covid-19 in Los Angeles, from NewScientist.


Two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes covid-19 have combined their genomes to form a heavily mutated hybrid version of the virus. The “recombination” event was discovered in a virus sample in California, provoking warnings that we may be poised to enter a new phase of the pandemic.


The recombinant was discovered by Bette Korber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who told a meeting organised by the New York Academy of Sciences on 2 February that she had seen “pretty clear” evidence of it in her database of US viral genomes. Korber has only seen a single recombinant genome among thousands of sequences and it isn’t clear whether the virus is being transmitted from person to person or is just a one-off. (Full Story)


Also from Salon

The sounds of Mars: NASA's Perseverance rover will put ears on the Red Planet for the 1st time


Perseverance rover on Mars, NASA illustration.


Perseverance is equipped with two microphones, which will break new ground as well. Past rovers have seen, touched, tasted and smelled Mars in their own robotic fashion, but none has yet captured true audio on the Red Planet. 


"Having a sound of another planet is another way that we can start to realize that it feels familiar," Nina Lanza, team lead for space and planetary exploration at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told


"It will add a dimension that will make [Mars] more of a real place to us," said Lanza, who's on the science team for Perseverance's rock-zapping, microphone-equipped SuperCam instrument. (Full Story)


New Mexico scientists wait for Mars rover landing


Nina Lanza, from KRQE.


New Mexico scientists are preparing for the landing of the Mars rover. Roger Wiens who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory says he is waiting for the Perseverance Rover to send a photo back to them that it has landed safely.


Meanwhile, leading up to the landing Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at LANL talked about the differences in sound on Mars. “Because of the differences between Earth air and Mars air we would experience sound on the surface of Mars very differently than we would on Earth. The main difference is that it’s actually slower,” said Lanza. (Full Story)


Mars rover has New Mexico connection

NASA is hoping for its new rover, Preserverance, to land safely on Mars Thursday afternoon. 


Scientists from Los Alamos National Lab will also be hoping everything goes smoothly — because part of New Mexico is on the rover. 


"We built here at Los Alamos part of the instrument in this poster behind me, SuperCam, and it sits on top of the rover and it fires a laser beam at rock and soil anywhere about 25 feet away from the rover," said Roger Wiens, the SuperCam prinicpal investigator. 


The SuperCam's goal is to analyze the minerals and see whether there is evidence of any past microbial life. (Full Story)


Latest Mars mission gets help from New Mexico


Perseverance Rover's complex landing system, NASA illustration.


The Mars rover will be using a key tool developed at Los Alamos called SuperCam, which sits on the rover’s mast and has a laser that can examine rocks 25 feet away, allowing Perseverance to study samples from a distance.


The technology, developed in partnership with the French space agency and academic partners in other several other counties, also will feature the first microphone to operate on Mars and provides another opportunity to understand the physical property of rocks on the planet.


“I’m really interested in how much wind noise we are going to get and how things are going to sound. There has got to be something unexpected there,” said Roger Wiens, the lead scientist on the SuperCam project. (Full Story)


Minnesota native played crucial role in designing Mars rovers


Roger Wiens (left) with his brother Doug in 1969, from the Star-Tribune


Roger Wiens is the principal investigator of the SuperCam instrument mounted on NASA's Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars at 2:55 p.m. Thursday.


The SuperCam is an updated and improved version of the ChemCam — of which Wiens was also the principal investigator — that was attached to the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in 2012.


Wiens, who works out of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said he has been a space junkie for as long as he can remember. The Mountain Lake community where he grew up emphasized education and understanding the world around them, and that attitude has stuck with him throughout his career. (Full Story)


This ragtag crew are shaking up the world of earthquake prediction


Paul Johnson, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and lead author of the new study, thought that machine learning may be able to help with earthquake prediction. Instead of using equations designed around a human understanding of seismology, these codes would be starting afresh, consuming data and using that data alone to make predictions – and removing potentially erroneous or human assumptions from the mix.


An earlier study made use of an artificial quake-making machine in a laboratory. Steel blocks sandwiched a block of fault gouge, a rock typically found in natural faults. The blocks were mechanically moved around, pushing, squashing and pulling at the block. If the block cracks and there is a jolt forwards, voilĂ , you just made an earthquake. (Full Story)


‘Digital head’ helps diagnose traumatic brain injuries


Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are developing a computer modeling software that can simulate the brain and how it reacts to trauma. The model includes several unique factors that reveal what is happening to the brain at the cellular level and also pinpoint where injury has occurred. Knowing this can help alert medical professionals and identify the root cause of cognitive impairments a person may suffer, especially for an unconscious victim.


While computer models of the brain are not new, Los Alamos’ digital head takes into account a patient’s specific brain anatomy – a factor that is important in accurately determining the location of brain injury. Previous models have treated the brain as one solid object, rather than a complex organ made up of many different parts, and those models are restricted to the anatomy of an average adult. (Full Story)


Colloidal quantum dot lasers poised to come of age


Colloidal quantum dots change color with decreasing dot size. LANL photo.


Anew paper by authors from Los Alamos and Argonne national laboratories sums up the recent progress in colloidal-quantum-dot research and highlights the remaining challenges and opportunities in the rapidly developing field, which is poised to enable a wide array of new laser-based and LED-based technology applications.


“These tiny specs of semiconductor matter can generate spectrally tunable lasing light, opening tremendous opportunities in areas of photonic circuits, optical communications, lab-on-a-chip sensing, and medical diagnostics,” said Victor Klimov, lead author of the review article published in Nature Reviews Materials and leader of the team at Los Alamos National Laboratory that has pioneered a range of discoveries with colloidal quantum dots. (Full Story)


LANL spends big in Santa Fe


Santa Fe County accounted for about $41.5 million spent at about 125 small businesses, according to a news release from the lab.


“Last year’s increase in small business subcontracting was largely the result of our increased efforts to collaborate with small business partners and to bring in new business partnerships,” Mason wrote in an email. “We hit the ground running on that goal in FY19 and really saw the pace ramp up in FY20.”


When Triad National Security — a consortium composed of Battelle Memorial Institute, the Texas A&M University System and the University of California — took over management of the lab in 2019, it set clear priorities to strengthen the lab’s effect on economic growth in the region, Mason said. (Full Story)


Also from the New Mexican this week:


Editorial: LANL in Santa Fe? A boost in economic arm


LANL's new office space in downtown Santa Fe, from the New Mexican.


Los Alamos National Laboratory will be renting space in downtown Santa Fe — the first time in 58 years the laboratory will have a physical presence here.


In recent years, the lab has made a concerted effort to do more business with New Mexico companies, reporting last week that it spent a record $413 million in procurement contracts with small New Mexico businesses during the 2020 federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30.


Spending was up 43 percent from the $289 million that went to New Mexico small businesses in 2019, with lab Director Thom Mason indicating even more dollars will go to local businesses in 2021.


These are dollars Santa Fe desperately needs right about now. Welcome, Los Alamos National Laboratory employees. We’re glad to have you. (Full Story)




Stamp honors woman who worked on Manhattan Project


new “forever” stamp commemorates a Chinese American scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project during her groundbreaking career as a nuclear physicist who broke gender barriers.


“She wasn’t one to go around bragging about the honors she had gotten,” said Yuan, a nuclear physicist at the Los Alamos lab. “What would mean a lot to her would be all the work accomplishments, and whether they were recognized by her fellow citizens and people in the field.”


Born in 1912, Wu moved to the U.S. from China in 1936 and earned a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1940 from the University of California, Berkeley. (Full Story)


Los Alamos National Laboratory staff recognized for outstanding response to pandemic


Los Alamos National Laboratory employees were recently recognized with Honor and Achievement Awards from the Department of Energy Secretary; 248 Laboratory employees on eight teams won the awards, which are the highest honor a DOE employee or contractor can receive.


“Congratulations to the recipients, many of whom innovated and persevered through a tough time in our global history,” said Thom Mason, Laboratory Director. “These awards reinforce the fact that our national laboratories’ most important asset is a skilled, dedicated workforce.” (Full Story)


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Friday, February 12, 2021

Einsteinium is mysterious. Scientists have unlocked some of its secrets


LANL-designed holder used for spectroscopic measurements, LANL photo.


David L. Clark, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who was not involved with the research, said the end result was a “tour de force” and part of a renaissance in the study of these heavy elements ... and could be used in novel nuclear reactors or cancer therapies. “This kind of work hasn’t been done before,” Dr. Clark said. “It’s state of the art.”


During one of the early preparations, a sample was too acidic, causing a container to fail. Even though no radiation leaked out, Dr. Abergel said, “because we have so many safety protocols — and rightfully so — we were told we had to re-evaluate everything, reassess our techniques.”


Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of atomic bombs, designed a new container for the Berkeley team. That took a few months, and finally, Dr. Abergel and her colleagues were able to conduct their experiments. (Full Story)


Einsteinium complex isolated


Einsteinium (III) complex, from C&EN


Rebecca J. Abergel of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory co-led the research with Stosh A. Kozimor of Los Alamos National Laboratory. The researchers worked with less than 200 ng of 254Es, which was produced at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Flux Isotope Reactor.


The scientists measured the first bond length involving einsteinium and confirmed that the complex was in the +3 oxidation state. The research helps fill data gaps in the actinide series of elements and should enable researchers to better understand chemical and physical trends across the series. (Full Story)

Bond distance of rare element einsteinium is measured


Researchers placed a 250 ng sample in a specialized holder, which was 3D printed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. With this setup, they could analyse the sample using X-ray absorption spectroscopy, carried out at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource. The sample was synthesized using the High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge.


By measuring the resulting spectrum of the sample, which was complemented by the luminescence of the ligands, Abergel’s team determined the bond distance of einsteinium, which is crucial in understanding how metallic atoms bind to molecules. In addition, they uncovered aspects of einsteinium’s physical chemistry that deviate from expected trends across the actinide series. (Full Story)


LANL models show vaccine no magic bullet


At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we’re using mathematical models and computational simulations enabled by the laboratory’s supercomputing capabilities to understand how best to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. And what we’ve learned is: While the vaccine is a critical weapon in fighting this virus, it’s not a magic bullet, at least not yet.


Our models look at individual communities based on government data. To understand the different outcomes based on how the vaccine will be distributed, we create various what-if scenarios that were developed in collaboration with local, state and federal governments to help them effectively plan for vaccine distribution and complementary mitigation strategies. (Full Story)

Microphones on NASA's rover will record audible sounds on Mars


Nina Lanza, LANL photo.


One of the microphones is on an instrument called SuperCam. That mic can be used to study wind speed and direction at the landing site. It can also be used to study rocks. Nina Lanza is a geologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. SuperCam has a laser that shoots at rocks, revealing their chemical composition.


NINA LANZA: You can actually hear the change in the zapping sound as we penetrate through thin layers of material. That was really interesting to me because I'm really interested in rock coatings because that's a great place for microbes to live.


Or, in the case of Mars, microbes to once have lived. That's one of the goals of the Perseverance mission, to search for signs there might once have been life on Mars. Now, the microphone on SuperCam is for serious science. (Full Story)


The best books about Mars, by the Mars explorers themselves


Planetary scientists work under a handicap: Their laboratory is millions of miles away. Getting there requires competing with other researchers vying to get their instrument on one of NASA’s outbound spacecraft, followed by years of planning, building, testing, and waiting before ever seeing a scrap of data. Roger Wiens of the Los Alamos National Laboratory learned this difficult business on the 2001 Genesis mission to capture samples of the solar wind, then had an instrument accepted for Curiosity, called ChemCam, to study the chemistry of Mars rocks.


At Los Alamos he had seen his first demonstration of a technique called LIBS, for laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy—a fancy name for zapping a rock with a laser, then observing the resulting flash to determine the rock’s chemical makeup. (Full Story)


Los Alamos Medal winners recognized for revolutionary contributions


Fred Mortensen (left) and Bette Korber, LANL photo.


Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) announced today that two scientists have been awarded the Los Alamos Medal, the Laboratory’s highest honor, for revolutionary scientific contributions to national security and science. Fred Mortensen and Bette Korber are recognized for their distinguished achievements that have enhanced the success of the Laboratory. 


“Throughout their careers, Fred and Bette have made significant impacts to the success of the Laboratory and helped make the world a safer, better place,” LANL Director Thom Mason said. “Stockpile stewardship would not be where it is today without Fred’s contributions, and Bette’s work in vaccine design is unparalleled. I am proud that these exceptional individuals work at our Laboratory.” (Full Story)


New virtual platform shows students the science behind everyday objects


What makes bread rise? Why does hand sanitizer keep you from getting sick? How does a microwave oven heat your food? These are just a few of the concepts covered in the new virtual learning platform, See the Science, unveiled in celebration of International Women and Girls in Science Day, February 11, 2021.


“I want our Laboratory’s education-outreach projects to inspire all students, and particularly girls in New Mexico,” said Laboratory Director Thom Mason. “That’s why I congratulate our See the Science partners, especially Laboratory scientist Harshini Mukundan, an AAAS If/Then Ambassador who has spent the last year inspiring young women to pursue science through initiatives like this.” (Full Story)



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