Friday, May 27, 2011

New director named for Los Alamos lab

Charles McMillan. LANL photo.

56-year-old nuclear weapons program veteran will take over the helm of Los Alamos National Laboratory next week, inheriting a tradition that goes back to the famed tenure of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

"This laboratory is rich with history, full of intellectual vitality, and singularly endowed with an innovative spirit," said Charles McMillan in a statement issued Thursday afternoon after officials announced his selection. (
Full Story)

Much progress claimed in quest for hydrogen fuel

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Gang Wu, left, and Piotr Zelenay examine the data. LANL photo.

ommercial hydrogen production today requires the use of platinum as a catalyst, which now sells for about $18,000 an ounce.

Following a different course, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have had some success experimenting with a compound of carbon, iron and cobalt as a [less expensive] catalyst. (
Full Story)

Projects in profusion: A skeptical look at 3 wild fusion-energy schemes

Schematic of a LANL magnetized target fusion system. LANL image.

esearchers have studied magnetized target fusion since the 1970s. Another variant, currently pursued by researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, eschews the liquid metal and mechanical compressors, instead using a magnetic pulse to implode a metal cylinder. (
Full Story)

Bomb technicians compete while learning valuable skills

Several law enforcement agencies and their robots were put the test on Wednesday for the 5th Annual Robot Rodeo out at Sandia National Laboratories.

Six law enforcement teams were put to the test in ten challenging scenarios. Bob Clark with Los Alamos Labs said, "A bomb tech can be faced with anything. And anything that we do affects the public because were keeping the public safe." (
See the video here!)

Robot rodeo

he fifth annual Western National Robot Rodeo is a four day, 10-event technical competition for bomb squads and other public safety organizations that use hazardous duty robots.

The rodeo is a partnership among Sandia's Robotic and Security Systems Department, Los Alamos National Laboratory's Emergency Response Group and the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators Region II. (
See the video here! - Subscription or viewing an add may be required)

Plutonium lab work gets go-ahead

The location of the proposed CMRR-nuclear facility is shown adjacent to the RLUOB and plutonium facility at TA-55. LANL image.

n Albuquerque judge Monday gave the green light to continue work on a proposed Los Alamos plutonium lab, dismissing a lawsuit by activists attempting to halt the project while new environmental studies are completed. U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera ruled that a new analysis being completed by the National Nuclear Security Administration is sufficient to meet federal law. (
Full Story - Subscription Required)

Lab touts pollution reductions

enny Hjeresen of the Los Alamos National Laboratory probably summed it best Tuesday night at the Cities of Gold conference room when in the middle of his presentation, he said, “we have the most sampled sites on earth.”

Hjeresen, the division leader for environmental protection at LANL, was describing how the lab is complying with a new EPA storm water permit that regulates runoff at several hundred
Cold War-era environmental sites. (Full Story)

Also from the Monitor this week:

Historical figures immortalized in bronze

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s grandson Charles Oppenheimer checks out the work of sculptor Susann Vertel. Monitor photo.

ouncil Chair Sharon Stover leaned down and handed the red ribbon to Lucy Oppenheimer, the great grand daughter of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. Lucy smiled as she held the ribbon in her hands. The ribbon that was cut had been around the new bronze statues of Oppenheimer and General Leslie B. Groves, the two World War II leaders whose partnership built the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. (
Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Report, please e-mail and include the words subscribe losalamosreport in the body of your email message; to unscubscribe, include unsubscribe losalamosreport.

Please visit us at

And follow us on
Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr

Friday, May 20, 2011

Research questions reality of 'supersolid' in helium-4

The long-held, but unproven idea that helium-4 enters into an exotic phase of matter dubbed a "supersolid" when cooled to extremely low temperatures has been challenged in a new paper by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Alexander Balatsky and Matthias Graf published recently in Science (full story).

A much more technical take appeared in PhysOrg

Video gaming comes to nuclear security

Some staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory is getting paid to play video games. However, these video games, actually designed by lab artists and engineers, are helping to solve some critical, real-world problems (watch the full story on KRQE).

Greenland ice in no hurry to raise seas

Good news is rare when it comes to the Greenland ice sheet. Yet a model that accurately mimics the way the ice responds to rising temperatures by slipping and sliding into the sea suggests the resulting rise in sea levels may be smaller than feared.

Using data from the last decade, Stephen Price of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has shown that his modelled ice sheet moves in the same way as the real one does (full story).

Melting model for Greenland's accelerating ribbons of ice shows 'locked-in' sea level rise

The Greenland Ice Sheet, the second largest ice body in the world, looks likely to push up sea-levels in 2100 up by 3.5 inches, according to new research by glaciologists from the UK and US.

The team, led by Stephen Price from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, developed a computer model of the most recent changes in Greenland's biggest three glaciers. These have been fairly well studied since they started accelerating sea-wards in the mid-1990's (full story).

Researchers investigate Greenland ice-mass

Sebastian Mernild of the Laboratory's Computational Physics and Methods group, William Lipscomb of the Lab's Fluid Dynamics and Solid Mechanics group, and collaborators have investigated ice-mass loss for the Mittivakkat Gletscher in Greenland (full story—subscription required).

The quest for an HIV vaccine - Success on the horizon?

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed what is known as a mosaic vaccine which they believe is capable of helping the human body's immune system to respond to HIV despite its ability to mutate.

Tests have found that the mosaic vaccine is capable of greatly increasing the immune responses in lab animals such as monkeys and mice. Spurred by donations from different foundations, researchers are hoping to begin human trials of this type of vaccine sometime in late 2012 (full story).

Innovation at Los Alamos unlocking a new source of domestic oil . . . from algae

DOE researchers led by Babetta Marrone of Los Alamos’ Bioscience Division, who are taking this challenge head-on. Marrone’s team is busy perfecting the Ultrasonic Algal Biofuel Harvester, which modulates the frequency of sound waves to separate oils, proteins and water from algae (full story).

LANL earns volunteer award

Los Alamos National Laboratory has earned an award as the top corporate volunteer organization among large employers in VolunteerMatch’s network of more than 140 leading companies and brands.

Debbi Wersonick of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Community Programs Office, coordinator of volunteer programs at the Laboratory, traveled to Chicago to receive the Corporate Volunteer Program of the Year Award, given by the San Francisco-based nonprofit organization for outstanding achievement and results in program reach, connection rate, volunteer hours tracked per 1,000 employees, and volunteer impact.

The Laboratory ranked ahead of dozens of other qualifying companies with 10,000 or more employees. Other finalists among large employers included Google, UnitedHealth Group, Morgan Stanley, and three-time winner Exelon Corporation (full story—subscription required).

Also from the Los Alamos Monitor this week:

Lab honors 400 employees

LANL's 2011 Pollution Prevention Awards Ceremony, held recently 21 on the lawn at Fuller Lodge, honored more than 400 Lab employees for their success in incorporating pollution prevention strategies (full story—subscription required).

Another truck uncovered at TA-21

And surprise, surprise, guess what excavators have unearthed in the past month? Another truck. "This one was really mangled," said Patricia Jones, who works in the environmental programs division for the Recovery Act projects at LANL (full story—subscription required).

To subscribe to Los Alamos Report, please send an email and include the words "subscribe losalamosreport" in the body of your email message; to unscubscribe, include "unsubscribe losalamosreport".

Please visit us at

And follow us on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dawn probe shifts to approach phase

The Dawn Spacecraft is depicted orbiting Vesta. NASA illustration.

ontrollers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are using 12-in. ion thrusters to ease NASA’s Dawn spacecraft into orbit around Vesta, a protoplanet in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that may have one of the oldest planetary surfaces in the Solar System.

Dawn was built by Orbital Sciences Corp. Other partners in its development include the Los Alamos National Laboratory (gamma ray and neutron detector) and the German Aerospace Center DLR (framing camera fabrication, integration and test). (
Full Story)

Intelligence leader hush on juicy job details

Andy Erickson. LANL photo.

ndy Erickson can't say much about his job — which is understandable, because he's the program director for intelligence, analysis, integration and exploitation at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Last month, Will Rees, a senior LANL manager responsible for global security, revealed a little more about the enigmatic operative during a National Academy of Science meeting. He referred to Erickson as a model participant in an information-sharing program in the intelligence and national security community. (
Full Story)

Too hard for science? Simulating the human brain

Luis Bettencourt. SciAm photo.

he scientist: Luis Bettencourt, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

The idea: The brain is the most powerful computer we know of, "and understanding it is one of the ultimate challenges in science," says Bettencourt.

The human brain has approximately 100 billion neurons with roughly one quadrillion (one million billion) connections wiring these cells together. Nevertheless, the most advanced computers to date are now almost powerful enough to model it, Bettencourt explains. (
Full Story)

No testing allowed

Simulation of compressible, turbulent mixing is used for verification and validation of physics models. LANL image.

imulating the thermodynamics of a nuclear blast requires millions of variables. The events being modeled contain stresses and shocks that cannot be produced by any ordinary means, heat like nothing on earth, and millions of nanosecond time steps.

As Scott Doebling, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has pointed out, "Simulations of this scale and complexity are filled with uncertainties. The details of what actually happens in thermonuclear devices during an explosion are still the subject of considerable study among scientists." (
Full Story)

Take a look

hysicist Rod McCrady works in the control room at LANSCE. Journal photo.

os Alamos National Laboratory announced this week it would be giving tours of LANSCE on Friday, May 20. They’ve quickly run out of slots, with more than 300 people signed up, including students on field trips and nuclear history fans pining to see one of the world’s most powerful scientific instruments. (
Full Story - subscription required)

LANL kicks off scholarship drive

he scholarship drive began May 2 and runs through May 31. Donations to the fund will be used to award scholarships in 2012. So far, $90,000 has been raised and LANS LLC will match what is raised.

The Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund encourages Los Alamos National Labor
atory employees, retirees, and subcontract personnel to donate to a fund that awards college scholarships to Northern New Mexico students. (Full Story - subscription required)

UNM bureau tallies LANL impact

rom Business Outlook -- Los Alamos National Laboratory is the sixth-largest employer in New Mexico and contributes nearly 24,000 jobs to the state, according to a University of New Mexico study based on 2009 numbers. (
Full Story)

‘How far we’ve come’
Residents recall 11-year-old fire like it happened yesterday

National Forest Service photo.

he 48,000-acre Cerro Grande Fire of May 2000 began as a well-intended controlled burn effort on the part of the National Park Service to protect Los Alamos National Laboratory and the community of Los Alamos.

Major devastation resulted from those intentions when high winds and drought conditions caused the fire to quickly grow out of control, crown and run across the face of the local mountain, damage and destroy structures at LANL and destroy hundreds of homes. (
Full Story - subscription required)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Report, please e-mail and include the words subscribe losalamosreport in the body of your email message; to unscubscribe, include unsubscribe losalamosreport.

Please visit us at
And follow us on Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr

Friday, May 6, 2011

LANL's economic ripple effect grows in state

hen you start doing these estimates you see it (LANL) is a huge entity and it impacts us in so many ways," economist Doleswar Bhandari said. "The total economic impact of LANL to the state is 23,641 in employment, $1.6 billion in labor income — $2.9 billion in economic output." (
Full Story)

Sixty-seven NM students receive Los Alamos Employees' Scholarship Fund scholarships

Madjolene Khweis of Taos is this year’s recipient of the platinum scholarship.

Sixty-seven New Mexico students are receiving scholarships thanks to the generosity of Los Alamos National Laboratory employees who donated to the Los Alamos Employees' Scholarship Fund. (Full Story)

LinkHow methane will reach the atmosphere

Global View of the Arctic Ocean. NASA image

The two-part study that recently concluded paints the most complete picture of how rising temperatures today are influencing the methane reserves stored under the waters. The work was carried out by experts from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

NNSA begins verification experiments at Nevada National Security Site

The experiment was conducted by the NNSS management and operations contractor National Security Technologies in partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. (Full Story)

Teen gets supercomputer challenge top prize

Cole Kendrick of Los Alamos Middle School.

Cole Kendrick would have had a long wait to track the rotation of an entire galaxy, so he used Python code to write a computer program that condensed 1 billion years into about 15 days. (Full Story)

Study helps explain behavior of latest high-temp superconductors

A Rice University-led team of physicists this week offered up one of the first theoretical explanations of how two dissimilar types of high-temperature superconductors behave in similar ways. Co-authors include Jian-Xin Zhu, staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Also in R&D:

Methane trapped under Arctic Ocean could bubble to surface

A two-part study by scientists from the U.S Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Los Alamos National Laboratory paints one of the most detailed pictures yet of how climate change could impact millions of tons of methane frozen in sediment beneath the Arctic Ocean. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases. (Full Story

Hurricane damage to forests: Scientists study impacts on carbon cycle

Berkeley Lab scientist Jeffrey Chambers and researchers at other institutions, including the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of Maryland and Tulane University, are developing models that evaluate the impact of tree mortality on the carbon cycle. (Full Story)

Cheaper Hydrogen Fuel Cells on the Horizon

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Gang Wu, left, and Piotr Zelenay examine a new non-precious-metal catalyst. LANL photo.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have found a way to avoid the use of expensive platinum in hydrogen fuel cells, the environmentally-friendly devices used to power automobiles. (Full Story)

Several baffling puzzles in protein molecular structure solved with new method

Image of a protein from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. RCSB photo.

An international collaboration has led to a new, high-performance method that rapidly determined the structure of protein molecules. One of the lead authors is Thomas C. Terwilliger of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Beard selected to lead Business and Operations Directorate, Girrens named head of Engineering

Carl Beard is the new principal associate director for business and operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Beard succeeds Mike Mallory, who earlier this year announced his retirement.

Steve Girrens will become the Lab's new associate director for engineering. (Full Story)

Hecker to be featured in Domenici documentary

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Sig Hecker is interviewed by Albuquerque-based TV producer Chris Schueler about the career of former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici.

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Sig Hecker will be featured in a documentary about Pete Domenici to air this fall.

A couple of weeks ago, an Albuquerque-based TV producer Chris Schueler interviewed Hecker and they discussed a number of topics.

“We talked about Domenici’s support for LANL, how he was great at gathering information, how he championed several LANL initiatives and really helped the country understand the lab’s importance to our nation,” Schueler said Wednesday, a day before he was heading overseas to shoot another documentary. (Full Story -- subscription required to view entire story and both photos)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Report, please e-mail and include the words subscribe losalamosreport in the body of your email message; to unscubscribe, include unsubscribe losalamosreport.

Please visit us at