Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Snapshots from the Hill

Four science capabilities at Los Alamos and how they came about.
August 1, 2018
Power to the Planet

Mission accomplished: On October 16th, 1945, General Leslie Groves held an awards ceremony in recognition of the successful efforts of the Laboratory and its first scientific director, J. Robert Oppenheimer, marking the end of the Laboratory as a temporary and single-minded wartime effort. The following day Norris Bradbury succeeded Oppenheimer as director, and over the next 25 years would transform the Lab into a permanent and prestigious institution with broad expertise and an array of unique capabilities. CREDIT: LANL photo archive

Each Science Pillar allows the Laboratory to draw on the necessary scientific capabilities to address national security challenges as they arise.

At its inception, the Laboratory’s task was to build the first atomic bomb, a tremendous scientific endeavor that drew together numerous technologies and scientific fields. Over the past 75 years, as the Laboratory has continued to pioneer national security science, those initial scientific capabilities have progressed, branched, and evolved into a diverse and unparalleled research program. Presently, research efforts at Los Alamos are organized into four “Science Pillars”: Information Science and Technology, Nuclear and Particle Futures, Materials for the Future, and the Science of Signatures. In recognition of the Laboratory’s 75th anniversary, specific capabilities from each of these pillars are presented, in brief, along with their evolutionary backstory: how computers and computing lie at the heart of Laboratory science; the illustrious legacy of neutrino detection at Los Alamos; a world-class high-magnetic-field user facility built on timing and serendipity; and seismic nuclear-detonation detection going back to the first-ever nuclear explosion. To be sure, the Laboratory boasts many more capabilities than just these four; these are simply examples of some of the top national-security science that Los Alamos, since the beginning, has been home to.