Friday, December 18, 2015

Los Alamos turns its nuclear weapons power to war on cancer

Eva Birnmbaum (right) talks to NBC News reporter Janet Shamlian. From NBC News.

Hidden amid the mountains and mesas of northern New Mexico lies Los Alamos National Laboratory. It's shrouded in secrecy. Once known simply as Project Y, it was a classified lab where scientists built the atomic bomb.

Now, 70 years later, scientists there still work on nuclear weapons, but they're also using some of that same knowledge to battle cancer.

NBC News got exclusive access to the secure facility, where physicist Eva Birnbaum is working to use radioactive elements to battle cancer. (Full Story)

KOB-TV does a preview

Mars Rover finds changing rocks, surprising scientists

ChemCam instrument. NASA image.

After arriving at a spot the scientists named Marias Pass, an intersection between the older mudstone and younger sandstone near the base of the mountain, Curiosity spied a patch of light-toned bedrock, part of the mudstone. It fired a laser to vaporize the rock in several places; the instrument identifies the constituent elements from the colors of light given off.

“The science team decided to make the rare decision to go back and investigate this more,” said Jens Frydenvang, a member of the science team from Los Alamos National Laboratory and from the University of Copenhagen. (Full Story)

Curiosity Rover finds piles of silica on Mars

Curiosity drills two holes in the "Buckskin" rock on Mars, NASA image.

NASA says its Curiosity rover has found very high concentrations of silica on the red planet.  Explanations for the high silica levels "all require considerable water activity," says Jens Frydenvang of Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Copenhagen. He adds, "and on Earth high silica deposits are often associated with environments that provide excellent support for microbial life."

Silica, NASA reminds us, "is a rock-forming chemical containing silicon and oxygen, commonly found on Earth as quartz." It was found in an area that also had significantly higher levels of hydrogen than other parts of Mars explored by Curiosity. (Full Story)

Rocks rich in silica present puzzles for Mars Rover team

Seven months ago, Curiosity approached "Marias Pass," where two geological layers are exposed in contact with each other. The rover's laser-firing instrument for examining compositions from a distance, Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), detected bountiful silica in some targets the rover passed on its way to the contact zone. The rover's Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument simultaneously detected that the rock composition was unique in this area.

"The high silica was a surprise -- so interesting that we backtracked to investigate it with more of Curiosity's instruments," said Jens Frydenvang of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. (Full Story)

See the video on YouTube

Also from PhysOrg

Flu season will peak at an unusual time this winter

A team of mathematicians and computer scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico say it’s probable that this season’s flu cases will spike in February. That’s in contrast to the past three years, when the flu peaked in mid-to-late-December.

Scientist Sara Del Valle, who leads a group tracking flu cases for the federal government, said her team looks at two types of data to make their predictions: the number of ‘flu-like’ virus symptoms being reported at doctor’s offices, and actual lab samples of the flu. (Full Story)

Also from the Santa Fe New Mexican

Could UN climate pact work? This is one way we’d actually know

Sign on the Eiffel Tower during the Paris talks, from Reuters.

The need is highlighted by China's recent acknowledgement that it had underreported its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning coal by 17 percent, notes Mavendra Dubey, a climate researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“The good news is that everybody agrees that climate change is a problem,” says Los Alamos’s Dr. Dubey. “Now we have to verify and monitor – not punitive, but to build capacity and evidence that we're moving in the right direction.” (Full Story)

LANL’s work on portable MRI earns breakthrough award

Michelle Espy, LANL photo.                 

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s portable MRI, featured in a Journal article in May, was named one of the Top 10 Breakthroughs of the Year by Physics World, the member magazine of the Institute of Physics.

Portable MRI, also called Battlefield MRI (bMRI), uses ultra-low-field magnetic resonance imaging to create images of injured soft tissues, such as the brain. (Full Story)

Also from KRQE-TV

'Hoverboard' scooter fires: Faulty batteries may be to blame

Image from Live Science.

Lithium-ion batteries, first commercialized by Sony Corporation in 1991, give power to countless electronics, including cellphones, laptops, power tools and children's toys. Lithium itself is fairly dangerous; it can explode if it comes into contact with oxygen or water. But Sony developed a way to contain the metal, said Lloyd Gordon, the chief electrical safety officer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The invention keeps lithium ions in "some sort of a suspension or chemical so that it's never pure lithium," Gordon told Live Science. (Full Story)

New model tracks gases for underground nuclear explosion detection

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new, more thorough method for detecting underground nuclear explosions (UNEs) by coupling two fundamental elements--seismic models with gas-flow models--to create a more complete picture of how an explosion's evidence (radionuclide gases) seep to the surface. (Full Story)

Magnetic field helps qubit electrons store information longer

Semiconductor nanostructures.

Physicists at the Technical University of Munich, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Stanford University (USA) have tracked down semiconductor nanostructure mechanisms that can result in the loss of stored information – and halted the amnesia using an external magnetic field. The new nanostructures comprise common semiconductor materials compatible with standard manufacturing processes.

Quantum bits, qubits for short, are the basic logical elements of quantum information processing (QIP) that may represent the future of computer technology. (Full Story)

New seed treatment accelerates nutrient uptake

The plant-growth biological technology in Take Off ST is a discovery made by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and made into a seed treatment by Verdesian Life Sciences for use on soybeans, corn and wheat to accelerate the crop plant’s natural ability to acquire nutrients and put them to work during seed germination and early plant growth.

According to Verdesian data, tests on wheat treated with Take Off ST showed nitrogen content increased 48 percent compared to the untreated crop. (Full Story)

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Friday, December 11, 2015


Los Alamos scientist describes Antarctica Meteor Hunt: Mind blown in 60 seconds

There are plenty of attempts at making science accessible. Researchers have tried to use simple words, interpretive dance, or really cool videos to explain complex scientific concepts. This new one might have all of those beat, at least when it comes to speed.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has unveiled a video where they challenged staff scientist Nina Lanza of LANL’s Space and Remote Sensing group describe her upcoming trip to Antarctica to hunt for meteorites in just 60 seconds. (Full story)

Also see it on YouTube

 Sinha discusses acoustics for energy, national security challenges

Laboratory fellow Dipen Sinha of discusses acoustics and its applications, including how it is possible to use sound to solve problems in health, national security and industry, in a Santa Fe Radio Cafe interview.

“I take advantage of the nature of sound waves and often manipulate these waves to solve technically challenging problems related to energy and national security,” Sinha said. “How an object vibrates also tells a lot about it. (Full story) 

Science of Sound on the LANL YouTube Channel

LANL receives second Presidential Award

The award team, LANL photo.

In recognition of their proactive commitment to protecting the environment of Northern New Mexico from the potential impacts of a changing climate, a consortium of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s federal and contractor staff received the GreenGov Presidential Award Nov. 30.

“We recognized the need for a different approach after a devastating wildfire and a series of impactful environmental events,” said Michael Brandt, associate director for the Laboratory’s Environment, Safety and Health directorate. (Full story)

A cloud-free satellite map of Earth

A cloud-free view of vegetation patterns across
the world, from Descartes

Descartes Labs was founded to commercialize image-recognition software developed for satellite and aerial imagery at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The software has been trained to identify features of Earth’s surface such as agriculture, water features, and types of forest by comparing annotated maps from sources like the U.S. Geological Survey with color, infrared, and ultraviolet satellite imagery. (Full story)

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Friday, December 4, 2015

 Sequencing algae’s genome may aid biofuel production

Haptophytes Chrysochromulina, from Biomass.

Scientists have sequenced the complete genetic makeup of haptophytes algae. First author Blake Hovde is now a postdoc at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Co-authors include LANL’s Ramesh Jha and Shawn Starkenburg.

The researchers hope to better understand haptophytes and perhaps transform them into an important new tool for aquaculture, biofuel production and nutrition. They discovered that a haptophyte type, called Chrysochromulina, would make an ideal subject for investigating how algae make fat, a process important for nutrition, ecology and biofuel production. (Full Story)

Understanding the origins of human cancer

Ludmil Alexandrov, of the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, made strong points this week in the journal Science about the basic formation of human cancers, winning a 2015 Science & SciLifeLab Prize, on “Understanding the Origins of Human Cancer.”

“I have always been passionate about solving complex genomics puzzles and applying my skills towards better understanding the mechanism underlying cancer development,” said Alexandrov, Oppenheimer Fellow at Los Alamos. “It is a great honor to be recognized as one of the winners of the 2015 Science & SciLifeLab Prize,” he said. (Full Story)

Why fusion researchers are going small

Scylla I, the 0-pinch device that in 1958 produced the first thermonuclear fusion in any laboratory. From Los Alamos Science Magazine.

One representative project, run by Tustin, Calif.–based company Magneto-Inertial Fusion Technologies, is designed to “pinch” a plasma with an electric current until it compresses itself enough induce fusion. The approach has pedigree: scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory used the pinch technique in 1958 to create the first sustained fusion reaction in a laboratory. (Full Story)

LANL scientists and partners make quantum computer

New semiconductor nanostructures help qubit electrons store information longer, from CS.

Physicists at the Technical University of Munich, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Stanford University (USA) have tracked down semiconductor nanostructure mechanisms that can result in the loss of stored information - and halted the amnesia using an external magnetic field. The new nanostructures comprise common semiconductor materials compatible with standard manufacturing processes. (Full Story)

Imaging startup moves forward in Los Alamos

Agricultural corn yields mapped by Descartes Labs.  From Descartes.

A Los Alamos startup that uses satellite images to decipher changes on the Earth's surface has received a new round of venture capital.

The $5 million to Descartes Labs is led by Cultivian Sandbox, a venture fund in Chicago focused on agriculture, as well as Crosslink Capital, TenOneTen, DataCollective and ValueStream Labs.

Descartes was formed last December by a team of former scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory. It includes co-founder Steven P. Brumby, a theoretical physicist who led a machine-learning team at LANL for seven years. (Full Story)

LANL’s R&D 100 Award … A lot of credit to go around

The Lab’s Engineering Institute located at Los Alamos Research Park, LANL photo.

Like Oscars for films and Emmys for television, R&D 100s are among the best known annual awards in the domain of new inventions, setting standards of excellence and spotlighting new technologies.

In a competition where all the winners are considered equal, full credit goes to LANL’s winning entry, a software package known as SHMTools. The system is designed to help monitor structural health, an emerging engineering capability useful for measuring and sustaining the safety and integrity of all kinds of infrastructure from buildings and bridges to aircraft and spacecraft. (Full Story)

Best secret ski towns of North America

Pajarito Mountain ski hill.  From NatGeo.

For years Los Alamos wasn’t just a secret ski town, it was a secret town, period. High on the hidden Pajarito Plateau of the Jemez Mountains, 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was established here by the U.S. government at the height of World War II.

Best Off-the-Slopes Activity — "Learn about Los Alamos National Laboratory research and history at Bradbury Science Museum or visit the museums, galleries, and shopping of Santa Fe." (Full Story)

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Quenching New Mexico’s thirst with brackish water

Major aquifers containing brackish water in NM. From the New Mexican.

Whether today turns out damp or dry, drought is a fact of life in New Mexico. With our rivers and aquifers already divvied up to the last drop, where can we get more water to ease the pressure on our freshwater resources?

One major source is right below our feet in New Mexico and has gone mostly untapped: likely billions of gallons of brackish groundwater. Focused efforts now underway can divert this salty water into the mix for drinking and other uses if we overcome the challenges of inventorying the aquifers and desalinating, or treating, the water cost-effectively while protecting the environment. (Full Story)

New climate model predicts dire thresholds

Greenland ice loss, LANL photo.

A new computer model of accumulated carbon emissions predicts the likelihood of crossing several dangerous climate change thresholds. These include global temperature rise sufficient to lose the Greenland Ice Sheet and generate seven meters of long-term sea level rise, or tropical region warming to a level that is deadly to humans and other mammals.

"The model is based on idealized representations of societal, technological and policy factors," said lead researcher Jeremy Fyke, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Theoretical Division, Fluid Dynamics and Solid Mechanics group. (Full Story)

See the YouTube Video

Also in the Los Alamos Daily Post

LANL software wins R&D 100

A software package called SHMTools, which can detect damage in a variety of structures and was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, won an R&D 100 Award Friday.

“This R&D100 award highlights the Laboratory’s tremendous strength in structural health monitoring, and our long-standing collaborations with the University of California,” said Carol Burns, deputy principal associate director of the Laboratory’s Science, Technology and Engineering directorate. (Full Story)

Concrete nuclear containment

Cooling towers of a nuclear power station, from MIT News.

A new study by researchers from the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub and the joint MIT-French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) lab known as Multi-Scale Materials Science for Energy and Environment (MSE2) is the first to show that cement is effective for nuclear containment of radioactive materials.

Co authors include Alfredo Caro of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“In short, what the research showed is that cement is a good choice for storing nuclear waste from the fission reaction in nuclear plants,” said MIT postdoc Lucile Dezerald. (Full Story)

Betting on quantum computing

Inside the D-Wave system, from D-Wave.     

The Los Alamos National Laboratory is buying a new quantum computing processor from Canadian company D-Wave, the national security technology laboratory announced this week.

Los Alamos, which develops a wide variety of technology, including systems for monitoring nuclear stockpiles, will be the first federal entity to purchase a D-Wave system directly from the company. (Full Story)

LANL looks to Aeon for Lustre

Aeon Computing announced that the company will provide two Lustre file systems to enhance LANL’s technical and supercomputing capabilities. Each of the two Lustre file systems provide 14 Petabytes of data storage capacity and are capable of up to 160 Gigabytes per second of parallel access performance. According Aeon, this next generation system pushes the limits of Lustre storage performance. (Full Story)

Recognition for Los Alamos employees

Don Quintana, left, and Pulak Nath with their PIE awards, LANL photo.           

Two Los Alamos National Laboratory employees were recently recognized in an awards ceremony for providing their technical expertise and access to lab capabilities to help small businesses through the New Mexico SBA Program.

Both Quintana and Nath received Principal Investigator Excellence (PIE) awards, which were commemorated with, of course, fresh pies. (Full Story)

And another from this week’s Daily Post

Los Alamos technology gains national backing

Descartes Labs artificial intelligence can read a landscape in seconds, NASA image.

Los Alamos pixels and Los Alamos dots were both riding high this week.

Descartes Labs, Inc., a one-year-old company specializing in satellite imagery recognition and analysis, announced Tuesday that it had raised $5 million in a venture capital round, thanks to a group of investors led by Cultivian Sandbox, a firm based in Chicago.

At the same time, UbiQD, LLC, a quantum dot manufacturer that also got its start in 2014, reported that it had won a Northern New Mexico 20/20 Award as one of the most promising high growth companies in the region. UbiQD recently completed another round of seed funding, bringing their financing total up to more than $700,000. (Full Story)

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