Friday, September 22, 2017


The Mars rover just fired half a million laser shots

Mars Curiosity, NASA photo.

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity hit a milestone on Tuesday, firing its element-identifying laser for the 500,000th time.

ChemCam fires its laser in pulses that each last just 5 billionths of a second and can hit a target about 25 feet away. It packs a serious punch in those: 3 megaWatts of power. That’s about 500 million times more powerful than your average laser pointer, according to ChemCam’s lead scientist Roger Wiens, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)



Bidding farewell to Cassini mission that explored Saturn

Cassini illustration, from NASA.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists led the development of two scientific sensors on NASA’s spacecraft Cassini that provided key measurements of the space environment around Saturn after its launch in 1997, arrival in 2004 and continuing mission that ended Friday, when it burned up in the Saturn atmosphere. The Laboratory also provided the plutonium heat sources that were part of the spacecraft’s Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) that provided electrical power to Cassini throughout its mission. (Full Story)



Collider serves up drop of primordial soup

Reconstructed particle tracks picked up by the detector, from BNL.

A tiny drop of an exotic ultra-hot "soup" that permeated the universe for an instant immediately after the Big Bang appears to have been created in collisions between gold nuclei and deuterons at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

One such signature is the abundance and flow pattern of different types of particles emitted in the collisions. Collaboration member Darren McGlinchey of Los Alamos National Laboratory says that abundance data provide information on the temperature of a QGP or quark–gluon plasma. (Full Story)

Also from Science Daily



Los Alamos National Laboratory gains role in high-performance computing for materials program

The Trinity supercomputer at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

A new high-performance computing (HPC) initiative announced this week by the U.S. Department of Energy will help U.S. industry accelerate the development of new or improved materials for use in severe environments.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, with a strong history in the materials science field, will be taking an active role in the initiative.

“Understanding and predicting material performance under extreme environments is a foundational capability at Los Alamos,” said David Teter, Materials Science and Technology division leader at Los Alamos. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:


Los Alamos recognized as top diversity employer


For the second straight year, Los Alamos National Laboratory is recognized as a top diversity employer by LATINA Style and STEM Workforce Diversity magazine. Los Alamos rose in ranking to 10 on STEM Workforce Diversity magazine’s Top Government Employers list and to 41 on LATINA Style’s Top 50 Companies list.

“We are pleased that the Laboratory is being recognized for its efforts to build a diverse and engaged workforce. This is an integral aspect of our staffing plans,” said Carol Burns, deputy principal associate director for Science, Technology, and Engineering. (Full Story)

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Friday, September 15, 2017

 Neutralizing biothreats through disease forecasting

Forecasting disease is a tricky business. Health records are an obvious source, but their built-in lag time in reporting limits their usefulness for disease forecasting. So a multidisciplinary team with expertise in epidemiology, ecology, mathematics, data science, computer programming and remote sensing at Los Alamos National Laboratory have turned to data from some surprisingly familiar sources. Look no farther than what’s under your thumb, plus extensive satellite imagery. (Full story)

Detection of mineral bolsters argument that Mars was once habitable

Mars, as it may have looked 4.2 billion years ago (left) and today (right). Credit: Kevin Gill

Despite the existence of both a thicker atmosphere and water, questions remain as to whether or not Mars was truly habitable in the past. According to a new study from a team of researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the discovery of a specific mineral (boron) has added weight to the argument that Mars was once a potentially life-bearing world.

The study, titled “In situ detection of boron by ChemCam on Mars“, was recently published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters. For the sake of this study, the LANL research team consulted data collected by the  Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument aboard the Curiosity rover, which showed evidence of boron on the surface of Mars. (Full story)
  


Will the gut-brain connection revolutionize wellness?

The Viome in-home test kit, from Viome.

While there are a variety of blood, saliva, urine, and stool tests that can evaluate your gut and the various indicators we’ve been describing, most fail to give you a full picture of everything that’s going on inside your digestive tract. Fortunately, a technology originally designed for the national security at Los Alamos National Lab and recently licensed by Viome has allowed for a way to test your complete microbiome, allowing you to determine what type of foods to eat in order to support your microbiome. You can discover which bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus or mold are present in too great quantities, which need to be replenished, and which markers of chronic inflammation are present in your gut. (Full story)

Friday, September 8, 2017


Boron found on Mars is a crucial building block for life

 Mars Curiosity rover, NASA image.

The discovery of boron in the Gale Crater on Mars has given scientists a clue to the potential of life having once existed on the Red Planet.

"Because borates may play an important role in making RNA—one of the building blocks of life—finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet," said Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico and lead author of a paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters. (Full Story)



Curiosity raises more questions about life on Mars

The ChemCam instrument, NASA image.

Researchers studying Curiosity’s data say the rover has detected boron in the 3.8 billion year-old Gale crater. Boron is an element that can catalyze the formation of RNA—or ribonucleic acid, the single-stranded carbon copy of DNA found in all living cells—when dissolved in water.

“Because borates may play an important role in making RNA—one of the building blocks of life—finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet,” the study’s lead author, Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory (Full Story)

Also from R&D Magazine,  and on YouTube




Machine-learning earthquake prediction in lab shows promise

Simulation that models the buildup and release of stress along an artificial fault, LANL image.

By listening to the acoustic signal emitted by a laboratory-created earthquake, a computer science approach using machine learning can predict the time remaining before the fault fails.

“At any given instant, the noise coming from the lab fault zone provides quantitative information on when the fault will slip,” said Paul Johnson, a Los Alamos National Laboratory fellow and lead investigator on the research, which was published Aug. 30 in Geophysical Research Letters. (Full Story)



Carlsten, Nguyen and Sheffield win free-electron laser prize

Bruce Carlsten, Richard Sheffield and Dinh Nguyen receive the 2017 Free Electron Laser Prize, Daily Post image.

At an international science conference hosted recently in Santa Fe, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists Bruce Carlsten, Dinh Nguyen and Richard Sheffield were awarded the 2017 Free-Electron Laser (FEL) Prize.

“The very brightest sources of x-rays are the latest generation of x-ray ‘light sources’ called free electron lasers,” Laboratory physicist Cris Barnes said. “And those free electron lasers would be far less likely to exist and work without the pioneering contributions recognized by this year’s FEL Prize.” (Full Story)


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Friday, September 1, 2017

Unique imaging of a dinosaur’s skull tells evolutionary tale

3D image of Bistahieversor sealeyi, LANL image.           

Using Los Alamos National Laboratory’s unique neutron-imaging and high-energy X-ray capabilities, researchers have exposed the inner structures of the fossil skull of a 74-million-year-old tyrannosauroid dinosaur nicknamed the Bisti Beast in the highest-resolution scan of tyrannosaur skull ever done. The results add a new piece to the puzzle of how these bone-crushing top predators evolved over millions of years. (Full story)


Machine-learning earthquake prediction in lab shows promise

A simulator models the buildup and release of stress along an artificial fault. LANL photo.

By listening to the acoustic signal emitted by a laboratory-created earthquake, a computer science approach using machine learning can predict the time remaining before the fault fails.

"At any given instant, the noise coming from the lab fault zone provides quantitative information on when the fault will slip," said Paul Johnson, a Los Alamos National Laboratory fellow and lead investigator on the research, which was published today in Geophysical Research Letters. (Full story)


Computer modeling helps us learn to live with wildland fires

Prescribed burn in the Valles Caldera, Journal photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has a long history of bringing its unique capabilities in physics, computational modeling and high-performance computing to just this kind of multidisciplinary problem as part of its national security mission work.

With the U.S. Forest Service, the lab is using a tool called FIRETEC to simulate the fire/atmosphere interaction that controls fire behavior, from low-intensity fires under marginal conditions to catastrophic wildfires – two extremes where our ability to predict fire behavior is least developed. (Full story)


High-impact innovations honored as R&D 100 Award finalists

Carl Gable, left, and Hari Viswanathan discuss R&D 100 finalist selection dfnWorks, LANL photo.

Eight Los Alamos National Laboratory innovations were selected as finalists for the 2017 R&D 100 Awards, which honor the top 100 proven technological advances of the past year as determined by a panel selected by R&D Magazine. The finalists, with projects covering energy, modeling and simulation, health, materials and engineering, demonstrate the continued success of Laboratory researchers in technical innovation for national security science. (Full story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Scenes from robotics night at Bradbury museum

Every area of the Bradbury Science Museum was busy, Daily Post photo.

Bradbury Science Museum was buzzing inside and out Friday during Robotics Night. The museum log book shows 795 people signed in for the popular event at which regional school robotics teams, and others, demonstrate their robots to the public.

Visitors had an opportunity to see the robots used by organizations such as Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos County Police Department and the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos. (Full story)