Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Frontiers in Science Archive

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  • LInda Anderman
  • (505) 665-9196
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The Frontiers in Science lecture series are a public service of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows. Fellows are appointed by the Laboratory Director in recognition of sustained outstanding contributions and exceptional promise for continued professional achievement. All lectures are open to the public and free of charge.

PAST LECTURES

2015

December

Hacking Photosynthesis: Growing Plants to Power Our Engines and Feed the World

Richard Sayre
Bioenergy and Biome Sciences

Growing Plants to Power Our Engines and Feed the World
1:48

Growing Plants to Power Our Engines and Feed the World

Photosynthesis uses light from the sun and carbon dioxide from the air to make chemicals that can be converted into energy-rich biofuels. Plants, however, transform less than five percent of the solar energy they capture into harvestable chemical energy. This talk will describe strategies to improve the energy yield in algae and plant systems, resulting in more fuel in our tanks and more food on our plates, without releasing additional carbon into the atmosphere.


August

Beyond Pluto: The Search for the Edge of the Solar System

Herbert O. Funsten
Intelligence & Space Research

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1:13

Beyond Pluto: The Search for the Edge of the Solar System

In July, we finally visited the last major body of our solar system, Pluto. But what lies beyond? The stellar wind from our Sun forms an enormous nearby bubble. This “sphere of our Sun,” or heliosphere, extends far beyond Pluto and forms a protective cocoon that shields us from cosmic radiation.

In this talk, we will travel to the edge of the solar system, peer into the structure and dynamics of the outer heliosphere as it interacts with the interstellar medium and anticipate the future of the solar system as it moves through our galactic neighborhood.


March/April

The Microbe Strikes Back: The Return of Tuberculosis

Harshini Mukundan
Physical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, Los Alamos National Laboratory

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1:20

Disease Diagnostics Research at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Human evolution and persistent diseases have existed side-by-side. A recent concern is the re-emergence of tuberculosis, one of the oldest and most challenging diseases known to man.

Effective diagnosis can save lives and prevent its spread. This talk will cover how our immune system discriminates between itself and foreign entities and how a new laboratory and natureinspired strategy can detect tuberculosis equally well in human and animal populations. The approach is being extended to other applications such as the identification of strep throat and respiratory infections.


2014

November

Does One Big Earthquake Lead to Another?

Paul Johnson
Geophysics Group-Earth and Environmental Sciences, Los Alamos National Laboratory

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1:17

Does One Big Earthquake Lead to Another?

While large earthquakes have occurred throughout the Earth's history, their number has dramatically increased in the last ten to fifteen years.

  • What is it that makes the earth move under our feet?
  • How is it that earthquakes can cause other earthquakes?
  • Can human activities, such as "fracking," also trigger earthquakes?

July/August

Sound Science: Seeing, building and moving with acoustics

Dipen Sinha
Materials Synthesis and Integrated Devices, Los Alamos National Laboratory

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1:08

Science of Sound at Los Alamos National Laboratory

From tin whistles to sonic booms, sound waves interact with each other and with the medium through which they travel.

By observing these interactions, we can identify substances that are hidden in sealed containers and obtain images of buried objects.

By manipulating the ability of sound to push matter around, we can create novel structures and unique materials.

The Lab’s own sound hound, Dipen Sinha, describes how he uses fundamental research in acoustics for solving problems in industry, security and health.


April

Forests and Climate Change: It's not easy staying green

Nathan McDowell
Earth Systems Observations Group,
Los Alamos National Laboratory

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0:51

Tree Drought and Climate Changes

Climate warming is imposing a threat upon our forests unlike any other they have experienced in thousands of years. Warming dries the forests so that, from the perspective of the trees, even short droughts are severe.

No forests appear to be immune to this challenge.

This talk explains the scientific basis for these conclusions and discuss the options we have for maintaining our forests in the face of this massive threat.


2013

November

Matter vs Antimatter: How did we survive the big bang?

Vincenzo Cirigliano
Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astrophysics, and Cosmology, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Every fundamental particle in nature has a corresponding antiparticle: when the two meet, they annihilate into a burst of radiation.

Particles and antiparticles were produced in equal numbers in the aftermath of the big bang: so, as the primordial soup cooled, they should have completely destroyed each other, leaving behind a universe with no matter.

Instead, an imbalance of matter over antimatter developed, eventually leading to galaxies and stars and planets and ... us!

How did this asymmetry arise? Can the known laws of physics explain it? What can subatomic physics experiments teach us?


August

Nature, Nurture, or Neither? The new science of epigenetics

Karissa Sanbonmatsu
Theoretical Biology and Biophysics Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Is our behavior and physical appearance hardwired by our DNA, or a product of our environment?

New advances in molecular biology are providing a third option to the age-old debate of "Nature versus Nurture." While DNA is often considered the blueprint of life, environmental factors can affect genes for more than three generations (mother, child, grandchild, and great-grandchild).

This heritable switching on and off of genes is called "epigenetics," and has been associated with diet, exercise, mate preference, depression, autism, eating disorders and response to abuse.

In this lecture, Dr. Sanbonmatsu discusses the new science of epigenetics and how it relates to a wide range of biological phenomena, from plant growth to how newborn mammals handle stress.


May

Exploring Mars: Curiosity and its laser

Roger Wiens
Space and Remote Sensing Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory

On August 6, 2012, the one-ton Curiosity rover was lowered to the Martian soil by a ‘Sky Crane,’ settling on its own six wheels.

Curiosity sports 10 instruments, an arm that weighs as much as a whole previous generation Mars rover, and a laser that vaporizes bits of rock up to 25 feet away to determine their compositions. The setting for its travels is 90 mile-wide Gale crater and the ultimate destination is a 3-mile high mountain of Martian sedimentary layers.

This talk describes the rover, its journey to Mars, and Curiosity's new discoveries.


2012

October/November

Higgs Boson and Beyond: The quest for new laws of physics

Michael L Graesser
Theoretical Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory

In 2012 a highly-anticipated particle was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider. Is this particle the Higgs boson? The Higgs boson gives mass to quarks and electrons but how and why are mysteries. This talk describes what we know about this new particle and speculate about discoveries that might now be on the horizon.



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