Debardeleben and Blanchard's Work Featured in WIRED!


Scientists have learned that cosmic ray neutrons coming from space slam in to the processors of supercomputers and cause them to have memory errors or even to crash. This has been a problem sicne Seymour Cray built a supercomputer and gave it to Los Alamos National Laboratory for a 6 month trial in the 1970s.

Engineers now know to account for space particles when they are creating hardware and software. Nathan Debardeleben and Sean Blanchard, of the High Performance Computing Design group and the Ultra Scale Research Center, have been working hard at how to improve supercomputers so that cosmic particles do not become a problem.

Now, before even installing new equipment, Blanchard and Debardeleben test it by placing the equipment into a beam of neutrons. They bombard it with many more particles than will typically rain down from space and will make it crash. One way the supercomputers can protect themselves is to crash intentionally at certain checkpoints while saving data. This way not all the data is lost. Besides running tests and making these kinds of improvements, DeBardeleben and Blanchard also place neutron detectors inside the supercomputer in order to measure the strength of the cosmic particles and to learn more about the lifetime of these electronics.

To read more about this important research on protecting our supercomputers read the full WIRED article: Cosmic Ray Showers Crash Supercomputers. Here's What to Do About It.



Hjelm Publishes in AIP Review of Scientific Instruments

Rex Hjelm, a New Mexico Consortium Biolab Researcher publishes his work on Flow-through compression cell for small-angle and ultra-small-angle neutron scattering measurements.
This research aims to understand measurements of geological materials taken in the field that are under compression with hydrostatic fluid pressure. Understanding the behavior of these materials provides critical information for application-driven research.
Understanding the role of nano- to micro-scale porosity in the subsurface liquid and gas flow is critical for a more efficient extraction of resources.  
This research shows that the neutron optics they are using are suitable for the experimental objectives and that the system is highly stable to the stress and pressure conditions of the measurements.
To read the entire publication see:
Flow-through compression cell for small-angle and ultra-small-angle neutron scattering measurements. Rex P. Hjelm1, Mark A. Taylor,   Luke P. Frash, Marilyn E. Hawley, Mei Ding, Hongwu Xu, John Barker,  Daniel Olds, Jason Heath, and Thomas Dewers.Review of Scientific Instruments 89, 055115 (2018);

NMC Researchers Solve the Case of the Relativistic Particles during NASA Missions

May 29, 2018.  Encircling Earth are two enormous rings — called the Van Allen radiation belts — of highly energized ions and electrons. Various processes can accelerate these particles to relativistic speeds, which endanger spacecraft unlucky enough to enter these giant bands of damaging radiation. Scientists had previously identified certain factors that might cause particles in the belts to become highly energized, but they had not known which cause dominates.
In a background magnetic field, represented by the cyan arrows, two electrons are propagating to the right, executing identical gyromotion. A circularly polarized electromagnetic wave approaches the upper electron from the left. Credits: NASA. To see more videos go here.
Now, with new research from NASA’s Van Allen Probes and Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms — THEMIS — missions, published in Geophysical Research Letters, the verdict is in. The main culprit is a process known as local acceleration, caused by electromagnetic waves called chorus waves. Named after their characteristic rising tones, reminiscent of chirping birds, chorus waves speed up the particles pushing them along like a steady hand repeatedly pushing a swing. This process wasn’t a widely accepted theory before the Van Allen Probes mission. 
Establishing the main cause of the radiation belt enhancements provides key information for models that forecast space weather — and thus protect our technology in space.
Chorus waves as heard by the EMFISIS instrument aboard NASA’s Van Allen Probes as it passed around Earth. Credits: NASA/University of Iowa. Click on the Soundcloud webpage to hear these plasma chorus waves.
“We’ve had studies in the past that look at individual events, so we knew local acceleration was going to be important for some of the events, but I think it was a surprise just how important local acceleration was,” said Alex Boyd, lead author and researcher at New Mexico Consortium, Los Alamos, New Mexico. “The results finally address this main controversy we’ve been having about the radiation belts for a number of years.”
There are two main causes of particle energization in the Van Allen belts: radial diffusion and local acceleration. Radial diffusion, which often occurs during solar storms — giant influxes of particles, energy and magnetic fields from the Sun, which can alter our space environment — slowly and repeatedly nudges particles closer to Earth, where they gain energy from the magnetic fields they encounter. Many scientists had long thought this was the primary, or even only, cause of energization.
However, early on in its mission, the Van Allen Probes showed that local acceleration, which is caused by particles interacting with waves of fluctuating electric and magnetic fields can also provide energy to the particles. The new research, which looked at nearly a hundred events over almost five years, shows that these wave-particle interactions are responsible for energizing particles around Earth 87 percent of the time.
The scientists knew that local acceleration was at work because they observed mountains of energetic particles growing in one place, as the local acceleration mechanism predicts, rather than sliding in Earthwards as diffusion would.
That's a large percentage for a process that wasn't perceived as a strong candidate even five years ago. "Radial diffusion is definitely important for the radiation belts, but wave-particle interactions are much more important than we realized," said Geoff Reeves, co-author at the New Mexico Consortium.
By Mara Johnson-Groh, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
To see this article on the NASA webpage in it's orginal format go here.
Related Links:

Learn more about NASA's research on the Sun-Earth System



Sayre's Cassava Vitamin A Trial Featured on Cover Page of Plant Biotechnology Journal


New Mexico Consortium Biolab Researcher Richard Sayre, founder of start-up company Pebble Labs Inc., recently published his work titled Provitamin A biofortification of cassava enhances shelf life but reduces dry matter content of storage roots due to altered carbon partitioning into starch. This research is also featured on the cover page of the  Plant Biotechnology Journal. 

Cassava (Manihot esculento Crantz) is an important subsistence crop in sub-Saharan Africa, but unfortunately this calorie rich root crop is deficient in micronutrients essential to health, including provitamin A β-carotine. In this study, researchers enhanced β-carotine concentrations in cassava storage roots by co-expression of transgenes for deoxy‐d‐xylulose‐5‐phosphate synthase (DXS) and bacterial phytoene synthase (crtB), mediated by the patatin‐type 1 promoter.

The results of the roots harvested from field grown plants showed a 20-fold increase when compared to regular nontransgenic cassava roots.

To read more about the results of this research see the full publication:
Beyene, G., Solomon, F.R., Chauhan, R.D., Gaitan-Solis, E., Narayanan, N., Gehan, J., Siritunga, D., Stevens, R.L., Jifon, J., Van Eck, J., Linsler, E., Gehan, M., Ilyas, M., Fregene, M., Sayre, R.T., Anderson, P., Taylor, N.J. and Cahoon, E.B. (2018) Provitamin A biofortification of cassava enhances shelf life but reduces dry matter content of storage roots due to altered carbon partitioning into starch. Plant Biotechnol. J.,

Wataru Nishima Co-author's Study using Computer Modeling to Gain Insight on How to Fight Ebola and Zika viruses


Wataru Nishima of the New Mexico Consortium has co-authored a recent publication showing a computational approach to provide insight into the structure of both Ebola and Zika viruses as they invade a host’s cells.

Both the Ebola and Zika viruses are similar in how they first infiltrate a host’s cells. They use a surface protein in a process called “membrane fusion” where the virus gains entry into the host cell. Before the fusion takes place, the proteins must go through changes in shape in order to fuse with the cell. In this study, the scientists modeled the protein’s structures while in the membrane fusion state. From their models, they have learned how different antibodies in our body can fight the infection and block the virus from entering.

This research will be useful in medical applications to fight off Ebola and Zika in the future. The publication, Structural Transition and Antibody Binding of EBOV GP and ZIKV E Proteins from Pre-Fusion to Fusion-Initiation State, has been published in Biomolecules. The authors are Anna Lappala, Wataru Nishima, Jacob Miner, Paul Fenimore, Will Fischer, Peter Hraber, Benjamin McMahon and Chang-Shung Tung of Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as Ming Zhang of the University of Georgia. Nishima is also a member of the New Mexico Consortium.

To read more see Los Alamos National Laboratory’s article: Mapping the body’s battle with Ebola and Zika



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