Friday, September 30, 2011

President Obama honors outstanding early-career scientists

Presidential Early Career Award recipient Evgenya Simakov. LANL photo.

resident Obama today named 94 researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, including Dr. Evgenya I. Simakov of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"It is inspiring to see the innovative work being done by these scientists and engineers as they ramp up their careers—careers that I know will be not only personally rewarding but also invaluable to the Nation," President Obama said. (
White House News Release)

This news also appeared on the PhysOrg website and in the Los Alamos Monitor

What about the nuclear option for spaceflight?

Artist's concept of a nuclear rocket. NASA image.

uclear propulsion should be included when considering deep-space travel," said Princeton physicist Gene H. McCall, retired chief scientist for the Air Force Space Command and a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"The engines could also be used for years as a power source for establishing a base on the moon or Mars, or any long-term base where gathering power from the sun would be difficult.” (
Full Story)

Experts offer measures to save lives after nuclear explosion

Air Force personnel don protective equipment in a nuclear attack drill. USAF photo.

ocal governments and communities today are not well equipped to deliver preparedness knowledge before or after an incident, according to Schoch-Spana, a member of the Nuclear Resilience Expert Advisory Group that prepared the document.

"The bottom line is the only way for us to be prepared is to know what to do in advance," Tammy Taylor, head of the Nonproliferation Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and member of the advisory group, told the audience. (
Full Story)

Mars rover to sport UNM-made devices

ChemCam is tested at JPL. JPL photo.

mong the many tools on the "Curiosity" is the brand new ChemCam instrument, developed by a joint US-French team led by Dr. Roger Wiens of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and included UNM professors and students from the Institute of Meteoritics (IOM). (
Full Story)

Biosensor to help detect disease

os Alamos National Laboratory successfully completed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Biomagnetics Diagnostics, Inc., in June 2011.

The CRADA was created to continue work on developing a commercial product that could detect a specific biomarker in urine that could aid in the diagnosis of tuberculosis infection. However, a commercially available product has not yet been built or clinically tested. (
Full Story)

Building a microgrid

Construction of the Microgrid is underway. ABQ Journal photo.

he project is being carried out by NEDO, a quasi-government agency from Japan, along with the state, Mesa del Sol, Public Service Company of New Mexico, Sandia and Los Alamos national labs and Los Alamos County. (
Full Story)

The arXiv at 20: a global resource

Cornell professor Ginsparg started arXiv while at LANL. Cornell photo.

s the e-print arXiv of scientific publications celebrates its 20th anniversary, what started as an effort to "level the playing field" for researchers has created a whole new playing field on which the white lines are still not clearly drawn.

"But what I was trying to do was set up a system that eliminated the hierarchy in my field," said Paul Ginsparg. As a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, "I was receiving preprints long before graduate students further down the food chain." (
Full Story)

Seashore to host global climate research

he Cape Cod National Seashore will be a research site for a yearlong global study to improve the forecasting of hurricanes, droughts, smog and other climate events.

Starting in July 2012 at a site near the Highland Center in Truro, researchers will be measuring the amount and composition of tiny dust particles blown this way and out to sea.

The scientists are part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility, the largest funded climate change research project in the world. It involves 350 scientists at permanent sites all over the globe, according to project manager Kim Nitschke from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (
Full Story)

Research from Los Alamos National Laboratory provides new data on microbiology

"The importance of soil fungi in complex carbon degradation and the recent identification of genes involved in this process have sparked considerable interest in examining fungal gene expression in situ . Expression of target eukaryotic genes is commonly examined using reverse transcription PCR, during which single-stranded complementary DNA is synthesized from an oligo primer and the gene of interest is subsequently amplified by PCR using gene specific primers," researchers in Los Alamos, New Mexico report. (Full Story)

Can the tree whisperer save our forests?

A Pine beetle and larvae at the Northern Forestry Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

he dry spell descended on the Southwest in the mid-1990s, after twenty years of wet weather, and didn't let go until 2005. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory, ecologist David Breshears could look out his window at a pinyon study plot the size of a football field and actually watch the trees die.

"I would see the trees go from vibrant green to pale, gasping green to pale brown to dropping all their needles," he remembers. Between 2002 and 2003, the die-off was so extensive that patches of graying trees could be seen from outer space. It extended over 4,600 square miles, an area the size of Germany's Black Forest. (
Full Story)

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Too hard for science? Peter Watts - Fusing brains

One could always resort to doing these experiments as simulations,” says Peter Watts, science fiction author and one-time marine mammal biologist. For instance, Luis Bettencourt at Los Alamos National Laboratory has discussed the progress that has already been made towards computer simulation of whole brains. “It’s not doable now, but in a decade or two, who knows?” Watts says (full story).

Also in Scientific American, this look back at the “physicist’s physicst” Robert Wilson, who served at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project

Protons and Pistols: Remembering Robert Wilson

One day in 1969, the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy convened in Washington, DC, to hear testimony from a number of scientists concerning a proposed multimillion dollar particle accelerator to be built in Batavia, Illinois.

Physics had enjoyed strong government support for two decades in the wake of the Manhattan Project, which helped bring an end to World War II. But many in Congress simply couldn’t see the point of spending all that money on a big machine that didn’t seem to benefit US national interests in quite the same way.

Wilson, to his credit, answered just as bluntly: “No sir, I don’t believe so.”

“Nothing at all?” Pastore asked.

“Nothing at all.”

Pastore pressed further: “It has no value in that respect?”

And then Wilson knocked it out of the park. . . (full story).

Astronomers find extreme weather on an alien world

A University of Toronto-led team of astronomers has observed extreme brightness changes on a nearby brown dwarf that may indicate a storm grander than any seen yet on a planet. Because old brown dwarfs and giant planets have similar atmospheres, this finding could shed new light on weather phenomena of extra-solar planets. Co-authors include Didier Saumon at Los Alamos National Laboratory (full story).

Two exhibits to open at Bradbury

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Bradbury Science Museum will unveil two exhibits next week and hosts a talk about Manhattan Project physicist Richard Feynman on Sept. 29. The trinitite exhibit uses the famous green glass produced by the first atomic device test at Trinity Site to tell a story about the scientific method (full story).

Lab completes dump site excavation

Los Alamos National Laboratory announced Thursday it has completed excavation of its oldest hazardous waste dump, known as Area B.

The excavation removed about 43,000 cubic yards of toxic debris and soil from the 6-acre site, which was used from 1944-48 during Manhattan Project nuclear research and production. . . .

To protect workers and the public, the excavation was done under special metal structures equipped with special filters and fire and dust suppression systems (full story).

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Eye in the sky among Los Alamos projects

If computers can drive our cars and watch cat videos on YouTube, what’sto stop them from overthrowing the human race?

“It’s no more a Terminator than Google is,” said Michael Ham, a member of the applied machine learning team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, of the computer they’ve built that can see and identify animals (including a cat in motion on YouTube) and track vehicles by satellite.

Tuesday was Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Day at Buffalo Thunder casino. It’s an annual event of poster presentations where LANL unveils dozens of projects. LDRD takes up about6 percent of the lab’s budget for research related to realizing long-term scientific goals.

LDRD program director William Pierdhorsky said the projects on display “are the kinds of things that will change lives in 20-50 years.”

LANL to host third annual research, development event

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists are working on a lot of nifty projects that have little to do with nuclear stockpiles.

Take theor

etical physicist Luis M.A. Bettencourt and his team studying how the brain sees. Let's say you spot a warm pizza coming out of an oven. Your brain processes a ton of information insta

ntly c

oming through your eyes — the toppings, the size, the crust thickness, the distance between the delectable food and your stomach. Bettencourt isn’t studying pizza, but he has spent three years working on computer models to understand how information is translated betw

een eyes and brain cells.

LANL looks to tweets in epidemic

Scientists at Los Alamos

National Laboratory have their eyes on some of you, specifically those on the social media website Twitter.

They are looking at millions and millions of tweets could help them help others when it comes to a deadly disease outbreak.

Each day people send 50 million tweets, cyber thoughts and statements, on everything from sports to weather.

But LANL scientist Sara DelValle said the tweets could help save lives.

NM labs to benefit from geothermal research funds

Two of New Mexico's national laboratories and a separate research firm will share nearly $5 million in federal funds for the development of geothermal energy technologies.

The U.S. Department of Energy is awarding the funds to Sandia and Los Alamos laboratories and Applied Technology Associates in Albuquerque through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Terahertz radiation's impact on cellular function and gene expression

Terahertz (THz) technologies show promise for myriad medical, military, security, and research applications ranging from the detection of cancer to airport security systems to shipment inspection to spectroscopy.

Relatively little is known, however, about the effect of THz radiation on biological systems. So a team of researchers, led by Los Alamos National Laboratory, evaluated the cellular response of mouse stem cells exposed to THz radiation.

. . . and here is the technical paper:

Non-thermal effects of terahertz radiation on gene expression in mouse stem cells

Terahertz (THz) technologies are emerging with many promising medical, military, security, and research applications, e.g., detection of cancer.

Despite this emerging ubiquity of THz applications, relatively little is known about the effect of THz radiation on biological systems.

NASA’s Dawn collects a bounty of beauty from Vesta

PASADENA, Calif. - A new video from NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes us on a flyover journey above the surface of the giant asteroid Vesta.

The data obtained by Dawn's framing camera, used to produce the visualizations, will help scientists determine the processes that formed Vesta's striking features. It will also help Dawn mission fans all over the world visualize this mysterious world, which is the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt.

Astronomers find extreme weather on an alien world

Cosmic oddball may harbour a gigantic storm

TORONTO – A University of Toronto-led team of astronomers has observed extreme brightness changes on a nearby brown dwarf that may indicate a storm grander than any seen yet on a planet. Because old brown dwarfs and giant planets have similar atmospheres, this finding could shed new light on weather phenomena of extra-solar planets.

“We found that our target’s brightness changed by a whopping 30 per cent in just under eight hours,” said PhD candidate Jacqueline Radigan, lead author of a paper to be presented this week at the Extreme Solar Systems II conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and submitted to the

Astrophysical Journal. “The best explanation is that brighter and darker patches of its atmosphere are coming into our view as the brown dwarf spins on its axis,” said Radigan.

Other co-authors of this work are David Lafrenière and Étienne Artigau at the Université de Montreal, Didier Saumon at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Mark Marely at NASA Ames Research Center.

U.S., Germany formalize partnership during WIPP visit

CARLSBAD - A high-ranking energy official from Germany formalized a partnership between her country and the United States during a visit to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Wednesday.

Dr. Dorothee Mûhl, deputy director general manager of Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, and other German officials visited WIPP, the U.S. Department of Energy's underground repository for disposal of defense-generated transuranic waste and signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to an exchange of knowledge between the two nations on matters related to radioactive waste disposal.

Representatives from URS Washington TRU Solutions LLC, Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory joined Mûhl and the Carlsbad Field Office in signing the agreement at DOE offices in Carlsbad. Mûhl and her staff toured the WIPP site itself, 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, earlier in the day.

A closer look at Los Alamos and how they interpret their history

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — I was fortunate to have been invited by the Los Alamos Historical Society to speak at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos, N.M., on Oak Ridge's history.

The trip was also filled with tours of historic sites in Los Alamos, The Los Alamos County Historical Museum, The Bradbury Science Museum, The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and The Trinity Site. It was a great week of intense visual stimulation and getting to see many new historic artifacts. It made me wish for more such exhibits in Oak Ridge.

When I returned to Oak Ridge, I could hardly wait to tell readers what I had seen in Los Alamos. I wanted to chide us about our lack of attention to the same details they were exceptional at featuring.

I tried in a Historically Speaking article and in presentations to civic groups around town, but was never satisfied that I had succeeded in adequately conveying my frustration. Eventually, I came to realize that what I felt was not conveyed was the important single element of statues.

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