Friday, April 30, 2021

LANL director fields questions about nuclear weapons, growth


Thom Mason, LANL photo.


Los Alamos National Laboratory’s primary mission will remain national security into the foreseeable future — with the nuclear weapons program as the mainstay — even as the lab branches further into medical science, ecology and space exploration, Thom Mason, the lab’s director, said during an online forum with residents Thursday.


While national defense is still the hub of operations, Mason grew animated when he talked about the lab’s other scientific ventures, such as computer modeling that helps measure the coronavirus’s spread, a high-tech tool that gauges whether wildfire smoke warms the climate and the plutonium heat source powering the Mars Perseverance rover. (Full Story)

New LANL study looks at how COVID misinformation spreads


COVID was not the only thing spreading for the past year. Researchers at Los Alamos National Labs said they’ve been looking into how misinformation spreads, too. LANL information scientists like Ashlynn Daughton are trying to dive a bit deeper into why and how COVID conspiracy theories came to be. 


“For this study my team and I used machine learning and artificial intelligence to track different conspiracy theories related to COVID-19,” she said.The team gathered a huge amount of data—1.8 billion COVID-related tweets—and built a machine model that could analyze the tweet and determine whether it was true or false. (Full Story)


Colorado River Basin could see more intense heat, drought


The Animas River in Farmington is part of the Colorado River Basin system, Journal photo.


Climate change is projected to increase such simultaneous extreme events as heat waves, droughts and flooding across the massive Colorado River Basin, according to new research from a Los Alamos National Laboratory hydrologist.


“The way that humans and our human systems are going to experience climate change is through extreme events,” said hydrologist Katrina E. Bennett. “Slow changes in temperature are noticeable in ecology, but a flood or a drought or a heat wave is really a very big shock to our system.” Bennett’s research, conducted with Carl Talsma and Riccardo Boero, was published earlier this month in “Water,” a peer-reviewed academic journal. (Full Story)


As a hotter, drier climate grips the Colorado River, water risks grow across the Southwest


Lake Mead in 2019, at 40% of its capacity, from the AZ Republic.


group of scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory recently looked at how interconnected extremes influenced by climate change — from floods to droughts and heatwaves — are expected to intensify in the future in the Colorado River Basin. They found these sorts of concurrent extreme climatic events “are projected to increase in the future and intensify” in key regions of the watershed.


“Heat waves and drought are both strongly driven by increases in temperature, which is really where we have the greatest confidence in those types of predictions,” said Katrina Bennett, a hydrologist and lead author of the study. “Droughts are projected to increase as we move ahead in the future.” (Full Story)


How climate change moved Earth's axis


When glaciated lands melt they lose mass and, consequently, some of their gravitational pull. This means ocean water is then tugged towards other places, ultimately resulting in even more sea level rise in regions far from areas like Greenland or Antarctica. "There’s definitely global winners and losers due to these changes," explained Matthew Hoffman, a glaciologist and computer scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who had no role in the new research. "Some cities will be hit harder if West Antarctica collapses relative to other cities," he said, referencing the accelerated melting and potential collapse of colossal Antarctic glaciers. Cities along the eastern U.S. coastline are some of these vulnerable places. (Full Story)


Prescribed burns tamp down wildfire threat


ABQ Journal photo.


At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we study climate change and its impact on the environment – both natural and human – because they have a direct impact on the things we care about: national security, economic security, energy security, societal security – in the sense of protecting people from social disruption – and environmental protection, which includes preserving nature and natural resources.


For decades, the Lab has been studying wildfire behavior and its close cousin, prescribed burns. Our work with FIRETEC, a computer modeling tool, springs from related research into the complicated field of fluid dynamics. That branch of science focuses on the motions of gases and liquids, which has applications to our mission of stockpile stewardship science, or assuring the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons. (Full Story)


Using cosmic-ray neutron bursts to understand gamma-ray bursts from lightning


HAWC Cosmic Ray Observatory in Mexico.


Analysis of data from a lightning mapper and a small, hand-held radiation detector has unexpectedly shed light on what a gamma-ray burst from lightning might look like -- by observing neutrons generated from soil by very large cosmic-ray showers. The work took place at the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Cosmic Ray Observatory in Mexico.


"This was an accidental discovery," said Greg Bowers, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author of the study published in Geophysical Research Letters. "We set up this system to study terrestrial gamma-ray flashes -- or gamma-ray bursts from lightning -- that are typically so bright you can see them from space. The idea was that HAWC would be sensitive to the gamma-ray bursts, so we installed a lightning mapper to capture the anatomy of the lightning development and pinpoint the lightning processes producing them." (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory touts biothreat detecting device


Optical biosensor, LANL photo.


Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) researchers are espousing the benefits of a device capable of detecting biothreats from samples such as blood, water, CSF, food, and animal samples.


“The ability to detect pathogens, biological threats or toxins, quickly and accurately, without prior knowledge of the agent, would lead to improved human and environmental health outcomes,” Harshini Mukundan, lead researcher, said. “This is an important step toward understanding what an emergency responder is dealing with and providing them with quick results.” (Full Story)


TinMan helps protect aircraft semiconductor parts


new technology developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Honeywell is providing needed atmospheric environment information to the aerospace industry. The device, called TinMan, has quantified the number of thermal neutrons – particles created by natural solar radiation — giving the aerospace industry a standard by which it can evaluate its semiconductor parts.


Unlike protons and electrons, neutrons aren’t charged and can pass through the atmosphere and solid objects like the metal hull of a plane. When these neutrons strike something like a microprocessor, the energy it deposits in the system can result in a single effect event, which may impact component reliability. (Full Story)


Two Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers named Fellows by the American Statistical Association


James Wendelberger, left, and Earl Lawrence, LANL photos.


Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Earl Lawrence and James Wendelberger, both in the Lab’s Statistical Sciences group, were named fellows by the American Statistical Association (ASA).


“I am pleased to see Earl and James recognized by the American Statistical Association and I congratulate both of them,” said Irene Qualters, associate Laboratory director for Simulation and Computation. “Less than one percent of ASA members are elected as fellows, and this honor reflects their contributions to the field of statistical science. Peer recognition is an important aspect of science and no one is more deserving than Earl and James.”  (Full Story)


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