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There are thousands of films of the nuclear age. They document the 210 atmospheric nuclear tests the United States conducted between 1945 and 1962.

Until recently, these government-commissioned films had been scattered around different archives, though the bulk of them sat in boxes at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Fortunately, a team of physicists and film archivists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California decided to digitize the films before it was too late.

Digitization Unearths New Data From Cold War-Era Nuclear Test Films

Image: YouTube/Screenshot by NPR

6

VLA REVEALS NEW OBJECT NEAR SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE IN FAMOUS GALAXY

Pointing the Very Large Array (VLA) at a famous galaxy for the first time in two decades, a team of astronomers got a big surprise, finding that a bright new object had appeared near the galaxy’s core. The object, the scientists concluded, is either a very rare type of supernova explosion or, more likely, an outburst from a second supermassive black hole closely orbiting the galaxy’s primary, central supermassive black hole.

The astronomers observed Cygnus A, a well-known and often-studied galaxy discovered by radio-astronomy pioneer Grote Reber in 1939. The radio discovery was matched to a visible-light image in 1951, and the galaxy, some 800 million light-years from Earth, was an early target of the VLA after its completion in the early 1980s. Detailed images from the VLA published in 1984 produced major advances in scientists’ understanding of the superfast “jets” of subatomic particles propelled into intergalactic space by the gravitational energy of supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.

“This new object may have much to tell us about the history of this galaxy,” said Daniel Perley, of the Astrophysics Research Institute of Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K., lead author of a paper to appear in the Astrophysical Journal [http://apj.aas.org, preprint will appear on arXiv.org by tomorrow morning] announcing the discovery.

“The VLA images of Cygnus A from the 1980s marked the state of the observational capability at that time,” said Rick Perley, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). “Because of that, we didn’t look at Cygnus A again until 1996, when new VLA electronics had provided a new range of radio frequencies for our observations.” The new object does not appear in the images made then.

“However, the VLA’s upgrade that was completed in 2012 made it a much more powerful telescope, so we wanted to have a look at Cygnus A using the VLA’s new capabilities,” Perley said.

Daniel and Rick Perley, along with Vivek Dhawan, and Chris Carilli, both of NRAO, began the new observations in 2015, and continued them in 2016.

“To our surprise, we found a prominent new feature near the galaxy’s nucleus that did not appear in any previous published images. This new feature is bright enough that we definitely would have seen it in the earlier images if nothing had changed,” said Rick Perley. “That means it must have turned on sometime between 1996 and now,” he added.

The scientists then observed Cygnus A with the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) in November of 2016, clearly detecting the new object. A faint infrared object also is seen at the same location in Hubble Space Telescope and Keck observations, originally made between 1994 and 2002. The infrared astronomers, from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, had attributed the object to a dense group of stars, but the dramatic radio brightening is forcing a new analysis.

What is the new object? Based on its characteristics, the astronomers concluded it must be either a supernova explosion or an outburst from a second supermassive black hole near the galaxy’s center. While they want to watch the object’s future behavior to make sure, they pointed out that the object has remained too bright for too long to be consistent with any known type of supernova.

“Because of this extraordinary brightness, we consider the supernova explanation unlikely,” Dhawan said.

While the new object definitely is separate from Cygnus A’s central supermassive black hole, by about 1,500 light-years, it has many of the characteristics of a supermassive black hole that is rapidly feeding on surrounding material.

“We think we’ve found a second supermassive black hole in this galaxy, indicating that it has merged with another galaxy in the astronomically-recent past,” Carilli said. “These two would be one of the closest pairs of supermassive black holes ever discovered, likely themselves to merge in the future.”

The astronomers suggested that the second black hole has become visible to the VLA in recent years because it has encountered a new source of material to devour. That material, they said, could either be gas disrupted by the galaxies’ merger or a star that passed close enough to the secondary black hole to be shredded by its powerful gravity.

“Further observations will help us resolve some of these questions. In addition, if this is a secondary black hole, we may be able to find others in similar galaxies,” Daniel Perley said.

Rick Perley was one of the astronomers who made the original Cygnus A observations with the VLA in the 1980s. Daniel Perley is his son, now also a research astronomer.

“Daniel was only two years old when I first observed Cygnus A with the VLA,” Rick said. As a high school student in Socorro, New Mexico, Daniel used VLA data for an award-winning science fair project that took him to the international level of competition, then went on to earn a doctoral degree in astronomy.

Also at the time of those first VLA observations of Cygnus A, Carilli and Dhawan were office mates as graduate students at MIT.

Carilli, now NRAO’s Chief Scientist, was Rick’s graduate student while working as a predoctoral fellow at NRAO. His doctoral dissertation was on detailed analysis of 1980s VLA images of Cygnus A.

TOP IMAGE….Artist’s conception of newly-discovered secondary supermassive black hole orbiting the main, central supermassive black hole of galaxy Cygnus A. Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF


UPPER IMAGE….VLA radio images (orange) of central region of Cygnus A, overlaid on Hubble Space Telescope image, from 1989 and 2015. Animated GIF. Credit: Perley, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, NASA


CENTRE IMAGE….VLA radio image (orange) of central region of Cygnus A, overlaid on Hubble Space Telescope image, from 1989. edit: Perley, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, NASA

LOWER IMAGE….2015 VLA radio image (orange) of Cygnus A, overlaid on Hubble Space Telescope image. Credit: Perley, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, NASA


BOTTOM IMAGE….1989 VLA radio image of the central region of Cygnus A.
Credit: Perley, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF

LAST IMAGE….2015 VLA radio image of the central region of Cygnus A.
Credit: Perley, et al., NRAO

Inside an underground nuclear explosion created cavity, 1961.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Project Gnome, the first nuclear Plowshare experiment, was designed to explore the feasibility of using a deeply buried explosion in a dry salt bed for energy recovery and scientific nuclear experiments. The 3.1-kiloton device was detonated at a depth of 360 meters near Carlsbad, New Mexico. A researcher explores the created cavity, 23 meters high with a diameter of 49 meters.

photo: llnl/flickr

Spiral galaxy NGC 4911 in the Coma Cluster

A long-exposure Hubble Space Telescope image shows a majestic face-on spiral galaxy located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, which lies 320 million light-years away in the northern constellation Coma Berenices.

The galaxy, known as NGC 4911, contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its centre. These are silhouetted against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. Hubble has also captured the outer spiral arms of NGC 4911, along with thousands of other galaxies of varying sizes. The high resolution of Hubble’s cameras, paired with considerably long exposures, made it possible to observe these faint details.

NGC 4911 and other spirals near the centre of the cluster are being transformed by the gravitational tug of their neighbours. In the case of NGC 4911, wispy arcs of the galaxy’s outer spiral arms are being pulled and distorted by forces from a companion galaxy (NGC 4911A), to the upper right. The resultant stripped material will eventually be dispersed throughout the core of the Coma Cluster, where it will fuel the intergalactic populations of stars and star clusters.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: K. Cook (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA)

Sterile neutrino search hits roadblock at reactors

SYMMETRY MAGAZINE

by Kathryn Jepsen

A new result from the Daya Bay collaboration reveals both limitations and strengths of experiments studying antineutrinos at nuclear reactors.

As nuclear reactors burn through fuel, they produce a steady flow of particles called neutrinos. Neutrinos interact so rarely with other matter that they can flow past the steel and concrete of a power plant’s containment structures and keep on moving through anything else that gets in their way.

Physicists interested in studying these wandering particles have taken advantage of this fact by installing neutrino detectors nearby. A recent result using some of these detectors demonstrated both their limitations and strengths.

The reactor antineutrino anomaly

In 2011, a group of theorists noticed that several reactor-based neutrino experiments had been publishing the same, surprising result: They weren’t detecting as many neutrinos as they thought they would.

Or rather, to be technically correct, they weren’t seeing as many antineutrinos as they thought they would; nuclear reactors actually produce the antimatter partners of the elusive particles. About 6 percent of the expected antineutrinos just weren’t showing up. They called it “the reactor antineutrino anomaly.”

The case of the missing neutrinos was a familiar one. In the 1960s, the Davis experiment located in Homestake Mine in South Dakota reported a shortage of neutrinos coming from processes in the sun. Other experiments confirmed the finding. In 2001, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Ontario demonstrated that the missing neutrinos weren’t missing at all; they had only undergone a bit of a costume change.

Neutrinos come in three types. Scientists discovered that neutrinos could transform from one type to another. The missing neutrinos had changed into a different type of neutrino that the Davis experiment couldn’t detect.
Since 2011, scientists have wondered whether the reactor antineutrino anomaly was a sign of an undiscovered type of neutrino, one that was even harder to detect, called a sterile neutrino.

A new result from the Daya Bay experiment in China not only casts doubt on that theory, it also casts doubt on the idea that scientists understand their model of reactor processes well enough at this time to use it to search for sterile neutrinos.

The word from Daya Bay

The Daya Bay experiment studies antineutrinos coming from six nuclear reactors on the southern coast of China, about 35 miles northeast of Hong Kong. The reactors are powered by the fission of uranium. Over time, the amount of uranium inside the reactor decreases while the amount of plutonium increases. The fuel is changed—or cycled—about every 18 months.
The main goal of the Daya Bay experiment was to look for the rarest of the known neutrino oscillations. It did that, making a groundbreaking discovery after just nine weeks of data-taking.

But that wasn’t the only goal of the experiment. “We realized right from the beginning that it is important for Daya Bay to address as many interesting physics problems as possible,” says Daya Bay co-spokesperson Kam-Biu Luk of the University of California, Berkeley and the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For this result, Daya Bay scientists took advantage of their enormous collection of antineutrino data to expand their investigation to the reactor antineutrino anomaly.

Using data from more than 2 million antineutrino interactions and information about when the power plants refreshed the uranium in each reactor, Daya Bay physicists compared the measurements of antineutrinos coming from different parts of the fuel cycle: early ones dominated by uranium through later ones dominated by both uranium and plutonium.

In theory, the type of fuel producing the antineutrinos should not affect the rate at which they transform into sterile neutrinos. According to Bob Svoboda, chair of the Department of Physics at the University of California, Davis, “a neutrino wouldn’t care how it got made.” But Daya Bay scientists found that the shortage of antineutrinos existed only in processes dominated by uranium.

Their conclusion is that, once again, the missing neutrinos aren’t actually missing. This time, the problem of the missing antineutrinos seems to stem from our understanding of how uranium burns in nuclear power plants. The predictions for how many antineutrinos the scientists should detect may have been overestimated.

“Most of the problem appears to come from the uranium-235 model (uranium-235 is a fissile isotope of uranium), not from the neutrinos themselves,” Svoboda says. “We don’t fully understand uranium, so we have to take any anomaly we measured with a grain of salt.”

This knock against the reactor antineutrino anomaly does not disprove the existence of sterile neutrinos. Other, non-reactor experiments have seen different possible signs of their influence. But it does put a damper on the only evidence of sterile neutrinos to have come from reactor experiments so far.

Other reactor neutrino experiments, such as NEOS in South Korea and PROSPECT in the United States will fill in some missing details. NEOS scientists directly measured antineutrinos coming from reactors in the Hanbit nuclear power complex using a detector placed about 80 feet away, a distance some scientists believe is optimal for detecting sterile neutrinos should they exist.

PROSPECT scientists will make the first precision measurement of antineutrinos coming from a highly enriched uranium core, one that does not produce plutonium as it burns.

A silver lining

The Daya Bay result offers the most detailed demonstration yet of scientists’ ability to use neutrino detectors to peer inside running nuclear reactors.

“As a study of reactors, this is a tour de force,” says theorist Alexander Friedland of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. “This is an explicit demonstration that the composition of the reactor fuel has an impact on the neutrinos.”

Some scientists are interested in monitoring nuclear power plants to find out if nuclear fuel is being diverted to build nuclear weapons.

“Suppose I declare my reactor produces 100 kilograms of plutonium per year,” says Adam Bernstein of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “Then I operate it in a slightly different way, and at the end of the year I have 120 kilograms.” That 20-kilogram surplus, left unmeasured, could potentially be moved into a weapons program.

Current monitoring techniques involve checking what goes into a nuclear power plant before the fuel cycle begins and then checking what comes out after it ends. In the meantime, what happens inside is a mystery.

Neutrino detectors allow scientists to understand what’s going on in a nuclear reactor in real time.

Scientists have known for decades that neutrino detectors could be useful for nuclear nonproliferation purposes. Scientists studying neutrinos at the Rovno Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine first demonstrated that neutrino detectors could differentiate between uranium and plutonium fuel.

Most of the experiments have done this by looking at changes in the aggregate number of antineutrinos coming from a detector. Daya Bay showed that neutrino detectors could track the plutonium inventory in nuclear fuel by studying the energy spectrum of antineutrinos produced.

“The most likely use of neutrino detectors in the near future is in so-called ‘cooperative agreements,’ where a $20-million-scale neutrino detector is installed in the vicinity of a reactor site as part of a treaty,” Svoboda says.

“The site can be monitored very reliably without having to make intrusive inspections that bring up issues of national sovereignty.”

Luk says he is dubious that the idea will take off, but he agrees that Daya Bay has shown that neutrino detectors can give an incredibly precise report. “This result is the best demonstration so far of using a neutrino detector to probe the heartbeat of a nuclear reactor.”

change.org
IUPAC, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Name new element 117 Octarine, in honour of Terry Pratchett's Discworld
This petition is to name element 117, recently confirmed by the International Union of Applied Chemistry, as 'Octarine', with the proposed symbol Oc (pronounced 'ook'), in honour of the late Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series of books. The Discworld series has sold more than 70 million books worldwide, in 37 different languages. Terry Pratchett died in 2015 and his final book, The Shepherd's Crown, was published in the same year. He was well-known as a lover of science and, with two well-known science writers, co-wrote a series of four books called The Science of the Discworld, which took a sideways look at 'roundworld' (Earth) science. Octarine, in the Discworld books, is known as 'the colour of magic', which forms the title of Pratchett's first ever Discworld book. According to Disc mythology, octarine is visible only to wizards and cats, and is generally described as a sort of greenish-yellow purple colour, which seems perfect for what will probably be the final halogen in the periodic table. Octarine is also a particularly pleasing choice because, not only would it honour a world-famous and much-loved author, but it also has an 'ine' ending, consistent with the other elements in period 17. Octarine is being counted as 'a mythological concept' under IUPAC rules, which state that elements must be named after "a mythological concept or character; a mineral, or similar substance; a place or geographical region; a property of the element; or a scientist". The Discworld stories are certainly stories about gods and heroes, and 70 million books surely count for something.

Like the idea? Go sign the petition. I did.

usatoday.com
Attackers sever fiber-optic cables in San Francisco area, latest in a string
Someone deliberately severed two AT&T fiber optic cables in the Livermore, Calif., Monday night, the latest in a string of attacks against the Internet's privately run backbone.

Someone deliberately severed two AT&T fiber optic cables in the Livermore, Calif., Monday night, the latest in a string of attacks against the Internet’s privately run backbone.

AT&T is offering a $250,000 reward in connection with the latest attacks. AT&T’s fiber optic network is legally considered a critical piece of the nation’s Internet infrastructure, and any attackers are subject to both state and federal prosecution. The FBI already has an open investigation into 14 similar attacks on California Internet backbones since last summer.

Livermore is a San Francisco Bay Area suburb that’s home to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and many high-tech commuters.

“It’s a serious matter and affects public safety at large,” AT&T spokesman Jim Greersaid Tuesday.

The high-capacity lines, which aren’t much thicker than a pencil, carry vast amounts of data. Everything from phone calls to computer transactions, emails, and even the security cameras feeds watching the cables themselves travel down the plastic or glass fibers as pulses of light. The cables are the interstate highways of the information superhighway.

The FBI says whoever has been attacking the cables usually opens a underground vault, climbs inside and then cuts through the cables’ protective metal conduit before severing the lines themselves.

“It’s being taken very seriously by the FBI and our law enforcement partners,” said Michele Ernst, a spokeswoman for the bureau’s San Francisco field office.

Security experts say the attacks could be the work of a disgruntled employee or of terrorists probing the nation’s infrastructure to see how long repairs take. FBI officials say it’s possible whoever has been attacking the cables is dressed as a utility company employee.

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3-D Printer Uses Light To Make Superstiff Materials

by Michael Keller

Engineers report they have made ultralight, ultrastiff materials using a light-based 3-D printing method. 

With a technique called projection microstereolithography, MIT and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers shine a pattern of light onto a pool of liquid resin to form precise lattice structures. This light hardens the liquid where it touches, building layer after layer until the object is completed. So far, the team has used the method to form tiny lattices made of polymer, metal and ceramic.

By determining the exact geometry of the diagonal, horizontal and vertical beams that make up the tiny latticework, the team can design tiny lightweight structures made mostly of air that are incredibly stiff. 

Keep reading

Txch This Week: Recreating Pressure At Jupiter’s Core On Earth And Smartphone Psychology

by Annie Epstein

This week on Txchnologist, we were reacquainted with Don Wetzel, the New York Central Railroad engineer who in 1966 piloted an experimental train powered by two jet engines bolted to its roof. His adventure culminated in the vehicle reaching a speed of almost 184 mph, which set the record as the world’s fastest jet-powered train. Today, the M-497 is still America’s fastest train and Wetzel’s story remains a fascinating one.

On the international front, researchers in Denmark are putting the Danish healthcare system to good use. They have just published a  study encompassing the medical history of the entire country’s population over 15 years. Using Big Data analytics that crunched the medical history of roughly 6.2 million Danes, researcher Søren Brunak and his team examined disease trajectories and followed the diagnostic paths of a variety of diseases, finding links between the diagnosis of maladies like asthma and diabetes. Korean researchers, meanwhile, are busy perfecting the TransWall, a two-sided translucent touchscreen. It allows people to interact with it and each other, and provides audio and tactile feedback to users. The holographic screen was created to facilitate gaming and social interaction.

Engineers are taking inspiration from nature’s planes and creating smaller flying machines modeled off of bats, birds, and bees. Animals use flexible flight surfaces to maneuver in the air, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research wants to replicate this flight method to create tools for surveillance and warfare.

In the world of virtual reality, Brown University researchers are examining the dynamics of group behavior by observing individual participants placed in virtual crowds. Experimental psychologist William Warren says humans naturally coordinate movements with the people around them, similar to other animals that travel in formations like birds or fish.

Now we’re bringing you the news we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

Keep reading

4

World’s largest laser produces nuclear fusion!*

No, that’s not giant pencil. It’s the inside of a fusion reactor, where lasers are focused onto a tiny pellet of frozen hydrogen gas (image courtesy of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory). Those photos at the bottom show the capsule that contains this fuel. Here’s a video that explains how the giant laser system (housed at the National Ignition Facility) works:

*Have we harnessed the energy of the stars? Not quite. Strictly speaking, while more energy came from fusion than went into the hydrogen fuel, only about 1 percent of the laser’s energy ever reached the fuel. The process still used a lot more energy than it generated.

Read all the details, from NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel, here.

http://nerdi.st/1Yc09O0

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California recently released a study theorizing a laser hotter than the sun. Let that sink in for a minute. A solid, controlled beam of energy that is hotter than the sun in the hands of a human. Super villains all over the world are…

#Fusion, #LawrenceLivermoreNationalLaboratory, #NuclearFusion, #Science, #TheoreticalPhysics

Actual News

Scientists led by Omar Hurricane at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory say that they have successfully created nuclear fusion with the aid of a giant laser that has taken them years to develop.

Omar Hurricane.

Has created nuclear fusion.

With the giant laser he built.

In his laboratory.

Omar Hurricane.

(NPR)

Sequoia Throws Petaflops at Fusion Simulation

by Txchnologist Staff

One of the world’s fastest supercomputers has performed a record number of simulations to help physicists in their quest to produce fusion energy.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers set all of their Sequoia supercomputer’s 1,572,864 processors (known as cores) on a single problem: modeling the motion of charged particles after a powerful laser beam strikes a dense cloud of ionized gas, called plasma. Using all of its cores, Sequoia can process 16.3 quadrillion calculations per second.

The machine is letting the team follow the simultaneous evolution of tens of billions to trillions of individual particles and the electromagnetic interactions between them. Such simulations are used extensively in plasma physics.

Keep reading

youtube

What looks like frozen smoke and is the lightest solid material on the planet?