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Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Quarterly, Fall 2002
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Code Validation Experiments
Tracing Biothreats
Sound Solutions
Render Safe
Mesa View by John C. Browne, Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Fall 2002

For nearly sixty years
, Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed and applied cutting-edge science and technology to critical national security challenges. That work, led by our talented and dedicated scientists and engineers, has sparked significant scientific breakthroughs and technical innovations.

Such service to the nation often lies hidden behind the language of scientific disciplines or the restrictions of security requirements. As a result, the public cannot appreciate the Laboratory's ongoing scientific contributions and how they support national needs in security, health, environmental stewardship, and other areas. I am pleased, therefore, to introduce the Los Alamos Research Quarterly, a publication that will highlight our research, introduce the creative people responsible for our achievements, and explain the importance of our programs to national priorities.

Our feature article describes experiments to study how vortices form and interact at the interfaces of different fluids moving through each other. This common event in our everyday world—like cream swirling into coffee, for example—becomes critically important in nuclear weapons, when the fluids are metals driven together under extremely high temperatures and pressures. Our experiments help validate the computational models needed to assess weapon reliability and safety and provide insights into this basic, natural phenomenon.

Another article discusses the use of sound to inspect sealed containers. Subjecting an artillery shell or gas cylinder to a small impulse of sound and analyzing the reverberations can reveal information about its contents, much like listening to a bell's tone reveals its composition. Inspectors now apply this technology to look for deadly biological or chemical munitions.

We also have applied our expertise in analyzing genetic information to categorize strains of the anthrax-causing bacterium Bacillus anthracis. By teasing apart an organism's genetic structure, we can identify key features to track its kinship or geographic origin, for example. This expertise supported federal investigations in last year's criminal anthrax attacks.

The publication also offers a look at Los Alamos's support for the Nuclear Emergency Support Team, volunteers drawn from all the national laboratories to provide a national emergency response capability.

Los Alamos ranks alongside the best of the world's scientific institutions because of the excellence and dedication of our staff and our unique experimental and computational facilities. We undertake a multidisciplinary approach to solving complex scientific problems that few other institutions can match—and future advances likely will be made at the intersections of different scientific fields.

At Los Alamos, our emphasis is on use-driven research intended to benefit our society. You will have the chance to read about our work and its benefits in this and future issues of the Los Alamos Research Quarterly.

I hope you enjoy what we have to offer you.


John C. Browne,


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