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  • richardmitnick 8:41 am on August 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Livermore Lab: “Livermore researchers create engineered energy absorbing material” 

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    James A Bono, LLNL, (925) 422-9919,

    Livermore researchers create engineered energy absorbing material

    Materials like solid gels and porous foams are used for padding and cushioning, but each has its own advantages and limitations. Gels are effective as padding but are relatively heavy; gel performance can also be affected by temperature, and possesses a limited range of compression due to a lack of porosity. Foams are lighter and more compressible, but their performance is not consistent due to the inability to accurately control the size, shape and placement of the voids (or air pockets) during the foam manufacturing process.

    To overcome these limitations, a team of engineers and scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has found a way to design and fabricate, at the microscale, new cushioning materials with a broad range of programmable properties and behaviors that exceed the limitations of the material’s composition, through additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing.

    The research is the subject of a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials.

    Livermore researchers, led by engineer Eric Duoss and scientist Tom Wilson, focused on creating a micro-architected cushion using a silicone-based ink that cures to form a rubber-like material after printing. During the printing process, the ink is deposited as a series of horizontally aligned filaments (which can be fine as a human hair) in a single layer. The second layer of filaments is then placed in the vertical direction. This process repeats itself until the desired height and pore structure is reached.

    LLNL researchers constructed cushions using two different configurations, one in an inline stacked configuration and the other in a staggered configuration (see figure). While both architectures were created out of the same constituent material and have the same degree of porosity, they each exhibited markedly different responses under compression and shear. The stacked architecture is stiffer in compression and, with increased compression, undergoes a buckling instability. The staggered architecture is softer in compression and undergoes more of a bending type of deformation. The stacked structure has solid columns of material beneath it to offer more support, while the staggered structure has voids under each filament that offer much less resistance to compression.

    A silicone cushion with programmable mechanical energy absorption properties was produced through a 3D printing process using a silicone-based ink by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers.

    With the help of LLNL engineer Todd Weisgraber, the team was able to model and predict the performance of each of the architectures under both compression and shear. This feat would be difficult or impossible to replicate with foams due to their random structure.

    “The ability to dial in a predetermined set of behaviors across a material at this resolution is unique, and it offers industry a level of customization that has not been seen before”, said Eric Duoss, research engineer and lead author.

    The researchers envision using their novel energy absorbing materials in many applications, including shoe and helmet inserts, protective materials for sensitive instrumentation and in aerospace applications to combat the effects of temperature fluctuations and vibration.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 8:02 am on August 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “A Spectacular Landscape of Star Formation” 

    European Southern Observatory

    20 August 2014
    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany

    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655

    This image, captured by the Wide Field Imager at ESO’s La Silla Observatory [on the 2.2 meter telescope] in Chile, shows two dramatic star formation regions in the southern Milky Way. The first is of these, on the left, is dominated by the star cluster NGC 3603, located 20 000 light-years away, in the Carina–Sagittarius spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. The second object, on the right, is a collection of glowing gas clouds known as NGC 3576 that lies only about half as far from Earth.


    NASA/ESA Hubble

    NGC 3576

    ESO Wide Field Imager 2.2m LaSilla
    WFI at LaSilla

    ESO 2.2 meter telescope
    2.2 meter telescope

    ESO LaSilla

    NGC 3603 is a very bright star cluster and is famed for having the highest concentration of massive stars that have been discovered in our galaxy so far. At the centre lies a Wolf–Rayet multiple star system, known as HD 97950. Wolf–Rayet stars are at an advanced stage of stellar evolution, and start off with around 20 times the mass of the Sun. But, despite this large mass, Wolf–Rayet stars shed a considerable amount of their matter due to intense stellar winds, which blast the star’s surface material off into space at several million kilometres per hour, a crash diet of cosmic proportions.

    NGC 3603 is in an area of very active star formation. Stars are born in dark and dusty regions of space, largely hidden from view. But as the very young stars gradually start to shine and clear away their surrounding cocoons of material they become visible and create glowing clouds in the surrounding material, known as HII regions. HII regions shine because of the interaction of ultraviolet radiation given off by the brilliant hot young stars with the hydrogen gas clouds. HII regions can measure several hundred light-years in diameter, and the one surrounding NGC 3603 has the distinction of being the most massive in our galaxy.

    The cluster was first observed by John Herschel on 14 March 1834 during his three-year expedition to systematically survey the southern skies from near Cape Town. He described it as a remarkable object and thought that it might be a globular star cluster. Future studies showed that it is not an old globular, but a young open cluster, one of the richest known.

    NGC 3576, on the right of the image, also lies in the Carina–Sagittarius spiral arm of the Milky Way. But it is located only about 9000 light-years from Earth — much closer than NGC 3603, but appearing next to it in the sky.

    >NGC 3576 is notable for two huge curved objects resembling the curled horns of a ram. These odd filaments are the result of stellar winds from the hot, young stars within the central regions of the nebula, which have blown the dust and gas outwards across a hundred light-years. Two dark silhouetted areas known as Bok globules are also visible in this vast complex of nebulae. These black clouds near the top of the nebula also offer potential sites for the future formation of new stars.

    NGC 3576 was also discovered by John Herschel in 1834, making it a particularly productive and visually rewarding year for the English astronomer.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 10:45 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “South Korea Sign Agreement on ALMA “ 

    ESO ALMA Array

    Tuesday, 19 August 2014
    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6258
    Cell: +56 9 75871963

    On August 17, 2014, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) signed an agreement concerning the operations and development of ALMA. With this agreement, Korea officially joined in the East Asia ALMA consortium whose current members are Japan and Taiwan.

    The picture shows the attendees of the signing ceremony (from left): Chul-Sung Choi (Director of Space Science Division, KASI), Jongsoo Kim (Director of Radio Astronomy Division, KASI), Youngdeuk Park (Vice President of KASI), Katsuhiko Sato (President of NINS), Inwoo Han (President of KASI), Masahiko Hayashi (Director General of NAOJ), Hideyuki Kobayashi (Deputy Director of NAOJ), Satoru Iguchi (East Asia ALMA Project Manager, NAOJ) Credit: Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI)

    Japan and Korea have promoted active collaboration in the field of astronomy. In 2001, the two countries made a successful VLBI observation for the first time by linking the 45-m radio telescope of the Nobeyama Radio Observatory (NRO) of the National Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and the 14-m radio telescope of the Taeduk Radio Astronomy Observatory of Korea. The following year, NAOJ and KASI officially signed an agreement to further strengthen the collaboration. And a decade later, in March 2012, NAOJ and KASI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the collaboration of ALMA.

    This agreement enables Korea’s participation into the ALMA project as well as their contribution to the operations of ALMA and development of new instruments. It is expected that this agreement will enhance the cooperation of two countries in astronomy and greatly promote the diversity and innovativeness of East Asian astronomical researches.

    See the full article here.

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

    NRAO Small

    ESO 50


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  • richardmitnick 10:35 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Kavli: “New Survey Begins Mapping Nearby Galaxies “ 


    The Kavli Foundation

    August 18, 2014
    (Originally published by Kavli IPMU)

    A new survey called MaNGA (Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory) has been launched that will greatly expand our understanding of galaxies, including the Milky Way, by charting the internal structure and composition of an unprecedented sample of 10,000 galaxies.

    Apache Point Observatory
    Apache Point Observatory

    MaNGA is a part of the fourth generation Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-IV) and will make maps of stars and gas in galaxies to determine how they have grown and changed over billions of years, using a novel optical fiber bundle technology that can take spectra of all parts of a galaxy at the same time.

    Sloan Digital Sky Survey Telescope
    Sloan Digital Sky Survey Telescope

    The new survey represents a collaboration of more than 200 astronomers at more than 40 institutions on four continents. With the new technology, astronomers will gain a perspective on the building blocks of the universe with a statistical precision that has never been achieved before.

    “Because the life story of a galaxy is encoded in its internal structure—a bit like the way the life story of a tree is encoded in its rings—MaNGA would, for the first time, enable us to map the evolutionary histories of galaxies of all types and sizes, living in all kinds of environments,” said Kevin Bundy, MaNGA’s Principal Investigator from the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, the University of Tokyo.

    Previously, SDSS has mapped the universe across billions of light-years, focusing on the time from 7 billion years after the Big Bang to the present and the time from 2 billion years to 3 billion years after the Big Bang. SDSS-IV will focus on mapping the distribution of galaxies and quasars 3 billion years to 7 billion years after the Big Bang, a critical time when dark energy is thought to have started to affect the expansion of the Universe. Image credit: SDSS collaboration and Dana Berry / SkyWorks Digital, Inc. WMAP cosmic microwave background (Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

    This new survey will provide a vast public database of observations that will significantly expand astronomer’s understanding of how tiny differences in the density of the early universe evolved over billions of years into the rich structure of galaxies today. This cosmic story includes the journey of our own Milky Way galaxy from its origins to the birth of our sun and solar system, and eventually the necessary conditions that gave rise to life on Earth.

    “MaNGA will not only teach us about what shapes the appearance of normal galaxies,” said SDSS Project Scientist, Matthew Bershady from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “It will also almost surely surprise us with new discoveries about the origin of dark matter, super-massive black holes, and perhaps even the nature of gravity itself.” This potential comes from MaNGA’s ability to paint a complete picture of each galaxy using an unprecedented amount of spectral information on the chemical composition and motions of stars and gas.

    To realize this potential, the MaNGA team has developed new technologies for bundling sets of fiber-optic cables into tightly-packed arrays that dramatically enhance the capabilities of existing instrumentation on the 2.5-meter Sloan Foundation Telescope in New Mexico. Unlike nearly all previous surveys, which combine all portions of a galaxy into a single spectrum, MaNGA will obtain as many as 127 different measurements across the full extent of every galaxy. Its new instrumentation enables a survey of more than 10,000 nearby galaxies at twenty times the rate of previous efforts, which did one galaxy at a time.

    But local galaxy studies are far from the only astronomical topic the new SDSS will explore. Another core program called APOGEE-2 will chart the compositions and motions of stars across the entire Milky Way in unprecedented detail, using a telescope in Chile along with the existing Sloan Foundation Telescope.

    The new SDSS will measure spectra at multiple points in the same galaxy, using a newly created fiber bundle technology. The left-hand side shows the Sloan Foundation Telescope and a close-up of the tip of the fiber bundle. The bottom right illustrates how each fiber will observe a different section of each galaxy. The image (from the Hubble Space Telescope) shows one of the first galaxies that the new SDSS has measured. The top right shows data gathered by two fibers observing two different part of the galaxy, showing how the spectrum of the central regions differs dramatically from outer regions. Image Credit: David Law, SDSS collaboration, and Dana Berry / SkyWorks Digital, Inc. Hubble Space Telescope (Credit:( NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University))

    And the new SDSS will continue to improve our understanding of the Universe as a whole. The third core program, eBOSS, will precisely measure the expansion history of the Universe through 80% of cosmic history, back to when the Universe was less than three billion years old. These new detailed measurements will help to improve constraints on the nature of dark energy, the most mysterious experimental result in modern physics.

    “SDSS has a proud history of fostering a breadth of cosmic discoveries that connect a deep understanding of the origins of the universe with key insights on the nature of galaxies and the makeup of our own Milky Way,” said Hitoshi Murayama, Director of the Kavli IPMU. “We are delighted to be a part of this endeavor to understand the Universe in the broadest sense, and particularly happy to see our Kevin Bundy playing such a crucial role to make it all happen.”

    With new technology and surveys like MaNGA and the continuing generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and participating institutions, the SDSS will remain one of the world’s most productive astronomical facilities. Science results from the SDSS will continue to reshape our view of the fundamental constituents of the cosmos, the universe of galaxies, and our home in the Milky Way.


    Funding for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Participating Institutions. SDSS-IV acknowledges support and resources from the Center for High-Performance Computing at the University of Utah.

    SDSS-IV is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions of the SDSS Collaboration including the Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Mellon University, the Chilean Participation Group, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, The Johns Hopkins University, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) / University of Tokyo, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Leibniz Institut fur Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP),Max-Planck-Institut fur Astrophysik (MPA Garching), Max-Planck-Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE), Max-Planck-Institut fur Astronomie (MPIA Heidelberg), National Astronomical Observatory of China, New Mexico State University, New York University, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, United Kingdom Participation Group, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, University of Arizona, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Portsmouth, University of Utah, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University.

    SDSS Website –

    See the full article, with video and additional material here.

    The Kavli Foundation, based in Oxnard, California, is dedicated to the goals of advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work.

    The Foundation’s mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes, professorships, and symposia in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics as well as prizes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

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  • richardmitnick 10:00 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Livermore Lab: “New project is the ACME of addressing climate change” 

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Anne M Stark, LLNL, (925) 422-9799,

    High performance computing (HPC) will be used to develop and apply the most complete climate and Earth system model to address the most challenging and demanding climate change issues.

    Eight national laboratories, including Lawrence Livermore, are combining forces with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, four academic institutions and one private-sector company in the new effort. Other participating national laboratories include Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest and Sandia.

    The project, called Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy, or ACME, is designed to accelerate the development and application of fully coupled, state-of-the-science Earth system models for scientific and energy applications. The plan is to exploit advanced software and new high performance computing machines as they become available.


    The initial focus will be on three climate change science drivers and corresponding questions to be answered during the project’s initial phase:

    Water Cycle: How do the hydrological cycle and water resources interact with the climate system on local to global scales? How will more realistic portrayals of features important to the water cycle (resolution, clouds, aerosols, snowpack, river routing, land use) affect river flow and associated freshwater supplies at the watershed scale?
    Biogeochemistry: How do biogeochemical cycles interact with global climate change? How do carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles regulate climate system feedbacks, and how sensitive are these feedbacks to model structural uncertainty?
    Cryosphere Systems: How do rapid changes in cryospheric systems, or areas of the earth where water exists as ice or snow, interact with the climate system? Could a dynamical instability in the Antarctic Ice Sheet be triggered within the next 40 years?

    Over a planned 10-year span, the project aim is to conduct simulations and modeling on the most sophisticated HPC machines as they become available, i.e., 100-plus petaflop machines and eventually exascale supercomputers. The team initially will use U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Leadership Computing Facilities at Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories.

    “The grand challenge simulations are not yet possible with current model and computing capabilities,” said David Bader, LLNL atmospheric scientist and chair of the ACME council. “But we developed a set of achievable experiments that make major advances toward answering the grand challenge questions using a modeling system, which we can construct to run on leading computing architectures over the next three years.”
    To address the water cycle, the project plan (link below) hypothesized that: 1) changes in river flow over the last 40 years have been dominated primarily by land management, water management and climate change associated with aerosol forcing; 2) during the next 40 years, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a business as usual scenario may drive changes to river flow.

    “A goal of ACME is to simulate the changes in the hydrological cycle, with a specific focus on precipitation and surface water in orographically complex regions such as the western United States and the headwaters of the Amazon,” the report states.

    To address biogeochemistry, ACME researchers will examine how more complete treatments of nutrient cycles affect carbon-climate system feedbacks, with a focus on tropical systems, and investigate the influence of alternative model structures for below-ground reaction networks on global-scale biogeochemistry-climate feedbacks.

    For cryosphere, the team will examine the near-term risks of initiating the dynamic instability and onset of the collapse of the Antarctic Ice Sheet due to rapid melting by warming waters adjacent to the ice sheet grounding lines.

    The experiment would be the first fully-coupled global simulation to include dynamic ice shelf-ocean interactions for addressing the potential instability associated with grounding line dynamics in marine ice sheets around Antarctica.

    Other LLNL researchers involved in the program leadership are atmospheric scientist Peter Caldwell (co-leader of the atmospheric model and coupled model task teams) and computer scientists Dean Williams (council member and workflow task team leader) and Renata McCoy (project engineer).

    Initial funding for the effort has been provided by DOE’s Office of Science.

    More information can be found in the Accelerated Climate Modeling For Energy: Project Strategy and Initial Implementation Plan.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 9:37 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO- VIPERS 2013: “Huge Map of the Distant Universe Reaches Halfway Point” 

    European Southern Observatory

    12 March 2013
    VLT survey charts positions of 55 000 galaxies


    Luigi Guzzo
    INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera
    Merate, Italy
    Tel.: +39 039 5971 025
    Mobile: +39 366 773 9704

    Richard Hook
    ESO, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591

    The largest project ever undertaken to map out the Universe in three dimensions using ESO telescopes has reached the halfway stage. An international team of astronomers has used the VIMOS instrument on the ESO Very Large Telescope to measure the distances to 55 000 galaxies [1] as part of the VIPERS survey [2]. This has already allowed them to create a remarkable three-dimensional view of how galaxies were distributed in space in the younger Universe. This reveals the complex web of the large-scale structure of the Universe in great detail.

    ESO VLT Interferometer


    By studying the cosmic web astronomers can test theories of how the Universe formed and evolved and help to track down the properties of the mysterious dark energy that is making the expansion of the Universe speed up. By mapping how large-scale structure grows with time they can also check whether [Albert] Einstein’s theory of general relativity holds precisely, or whether it may need to be revised.

    VIPERS is the most detailed survey so far of galaxies that are seen from the time when astronomers think that the Universe became dominated by dark energy, as it is today. This happened when the Universe was between about five and nine billion years old — about half its current age of 13.7 billion years. Although it is not yet complete, VIPERS is already delivering exciting science results, including both a first estimate of the growth rate of large-scale structure at this time and the best census ever of the average number of massive galaxies during this period of the Universe’s history.

    This week, to mark this milestone, the team is submitting several papers that describe the survey and the initial results for publication in scientific journals. The results from VIPERS are made public for use by astronomers around the world. The current catalogue of galaxy distances will be released in September this year.

    [1] The light of each galaxy is spread out into its component colours within VIMOS. Subsequent careful analysis then allows astronomers to work out how fast the galaxy appears to move away from us — its redshift. This in turn reveals its distance and, when combined with its position on the sky, its location in the Universe.

    [2] VIPERS stands for the VIMOS Public Extragalactic Redshift Survey. Further information is available here.

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    See the full article here.

  • richardmitnick 8:58 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESO zCOSMOS   

    From ESO: News from 2005, 2007, and 2014 of the zCOSMOS project 


    zCOSMOS Data Release DR1
    30 October 2007

    zCOSMOS (P.I. Simon Lilly) is a large redshift survey that is being undertaken in the COSMOS field using the VIMOS spectrograph mounted at the Melipal Unit Telescope of the VLT at ESO’s Cerro Paranal Observatory, Chile. zCOSMOS (ESO Large Programme LP175.A-0839) has been awarded about 600 hours of Service Mode observing time on the ESO VLT, making it the largest single observing project undertaken so far on that facility.


    The zCOSMOS redshift survey has been designed to efficiently utilize VIMOS by splitting the survey into two parts. The first, zCOSMOS-bright, aims to produce a redshift survey of approximately 20,000 I-band selected galaxies at redshifts z < 1.2. Covering the approximately 1.7 deg2 of the COSMOS field (essentially the full ACS-covered area), the transverse dimension at z ~ 1 is 75 Mpc. The second part, zCOSMOS-deep, will observe about 10,000 galaxies selected through well-defined colour selection criteria which mostly lie at 1.5 < z 27 mag
    over 35,000 Lyman Break Galaxies (LBGs)
    extremely red galaxies out to z ~ 5

    The COSMOS field is equatorial, for easy access to telescopes in both hemispheres:
    RA (J2000) = 10:00:28.6
    DEC (J2000) = +02:12:21.0

    The primary goal of COSMOS is to study the relationship between large scale structure (LSS) in the universe and the formation of galaxies, dark matter, and nuclear activity in galaxies. This includes a careful analysis of the dependence of galaxy evolution on environment. The wide field of coverage of COSMOS will sample a larger range of LSS than any previous HST survey.

    COSMOS will detect:

    over 2 million objects with IAB > 27 mag
    over 35,000 Lyman Break Galaxies (LBGs)
    extremely red galaxies out to z ~ 5

    The COSMOS field is equatorial, for easy access to telescopes in both hemispheres:
    RA (J2000) = 10:00:28.6
    DEC (J2000) = +02:12:21.0

    Status of COSMOS: July 1, 2005

    COSMOS has completed all of its HST observations. This includes two years of observations with the ACS, WFPC2, and NICMOS instruments. Currently the first cycle of observations are available through the COSMOS Archive. Additional observations, such as the Subaru optical, VLA radio, and XMM X-ray surveys of the field have also been completed. Those data will be released over the next several months. Object catalogs are also being produced, and spectral observations of objects in the field are ongoing.

    The COSMOS collaboration is currently concentrating on producing the first batch of scientific papers on the survey. These papers should appear in print at the same time as the COSMOS special session at the January, 2006 AAS Meeting in Washington, D.C.

    Members of the COSMOS Collaboration
    PI: Dr. Nicholas Scoville (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)

    PM: Dr. Bill Green (Pasadena, USA/CA)

    Dr. Roberto G. Abraham (University of Toronto, Canada)
    Dr. James Aguirre (University of Colorado at Boulder, USA/CO)
    Mr. Masaru Ajiki (Tohuku University, Japan)
    Dr. Hervé Aussel (AIM, CNRS, France)
    Dr. Josh E. Barnes (University of Hawaii, USA/HI)
    Dr. Andrew Benson (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Frank Bertoldi (Radioastronomisches Institut der Universitaet Bonn, Germany)
    Dr. Andrew Blain (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Marcella Brusa (Max-Planck-Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik, Germany)
    Dr. Daniela Calzetti (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA/MD)
    Dr. Peter Capak (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Chris Carilli (National Radio Astronomy Observatory, USA/NM)
    Dr. John E. Carlstrom (University of Chicago, USA/IL)
    Dr. C. Marcella Carollo (Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule (ETH), Switzerland)
    Dr. Andrea Cimatti (INAF – Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Italy)
    Dr. Francesca Civano (Yale University, USA/CT)
    Dr. Andrea Comastri (INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, Italy)
    Dr. Thierry Contini (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Toulouse et de Tarbes, France)
    Dr. Emanuele Daddi (European Southern Observatory, Germany)
    Dr. Richard S. Ellis (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Martin Elvis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA/MA)
    Dr. Amr El-Zant (University of Toronto, Canada)
    Dr. Shawn Ewald (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Michael Fall (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA/MD)
    Dr. Giovanni Fazio (Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,USA/MA)
    Dr. Alexis Finoguenov (Max-Planck-Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik, Germany)
    Dr. Alberto Franceschini (University of Padova, Italy)
    Dr. Mauro Giavalisco (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA/MD)
    Dr. Richard E. Griffiths (Carnegie Mellon University, USA/PA)
    Dr. Luigi (Gigi) Guzzo (INAF – Osservatorio di Brera, Milano)
    Dr. Guenther Hasinger (Max-Planck-Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik, Germany)
    Dr. Olivier Ilbert (University of Hawaii, USA/HI)
    Dr. Chris Impey (University of Arizona, USA/AZ)
    Dr. Knud Jahnke (Max Planck Institut fur Astronomie, Germany)
    Dr. Jeyhan Kartaltepe (National Optical Astronomy Observatory, USA/AZ)
    Ms. Lisa Kewley (University of Hawaii, USA/HI)
    Dr. Manfred Kitbichler (Max-Planck-Institut fur Astrophysik, Germany)
    Dr. Jean-Paul Kneib (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Anton Koekemoer (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA/MD)
    Dr. Oliver Lefevre (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, France)
    Dr. Simon J. Lilly (Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule(ETH), Switzerland)
    Dr. Charles Liu (American Museum of Natural History, USA/NY)
    Dr. Christian Maier (Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule (ETH), Switzerland)
    Dr. Vincenzo Mainieri (European Southern Observatory, Germany)
    Dr. Eduardo Martin (University of Hawaii, USA/HI)
    Dr. Richard Massey (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Henry Joy McCracken (CNRS, Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris, France)
    Dr. Yannick Mellier (CNRS, Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris, France)
    Dr. Takamitsu Miyaji (Carnegie Mellon University, USA/PA)
    Dr. Satoshi Miyazaki (Subaru Telescope, NAO, Japan)
    Dr. Bahram Mobasher (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA/MD)
    Dr. Jeremy Mould (National Optical Astronomy Observatory, USA/AZ)
    Dr. Takashi Murayama (Tohuku University, Japan)
    Dr. Karel Nel (University of Witswatersrand, South Africa)
    Dr. Colin Norman (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA/MD)
    Dr. John Peacock (Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK)
    Dr. Cristiano Porciani (Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule (ETH), Switzerland)
    Dr. Alexandre Refregier (Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique (CEA), France)
    Dr. Alvio Renzini (Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Italy)
    Dr. Jason Rhodes (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Michael Rich (University of California at Los Angeles, USA/CA)
    Dr. Dimitra Rigopoulou (Oxford University, UK)
    Dr. Mara Salvato (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. David B. Sanders (University of Hawaii, USA/HI)
    Mr. Shunji Sasaki (Tohoku University, Japan)
    Dr. Claudia Scarlata (Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule (ETH), Switzerland)
    Dr. Kevin Schawinski (Yale University, USA/CN)
    Dr. David Schiminovich (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Eva Schinnerer (Max Planck Institut fur Astronomie, Germany)
    Dr. Marco Scodeggio (Instituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica, Italy)
    Dr. Kartik Sheth (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Yasuhiro Shioya (Tohoku University, Japan)
    Dr. Patrick Shopbell (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. John Silverman (Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule (ETH), Switzerland)
    Dr. Mari Takahashi (Tohoku University, Japan)
    Dr. Yoshi Taniguchi (University of Tokyo, Japan)
    Dr. Lidia Tasca (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, France)
    Dr. James Taylor (University of Waterloo, USA/CA)
    Dr. Dave Thompson (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Shana Tribiano (CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College, USA/NY)
    Dr. Jon Trump (University of Arizona, USA/AZ)
    Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (American Museum of Natural History, USA/NY)
    Dr. Claudia Megan Urry (Yale University, USA/CT)
    Dr. Ludovic Van Waerbeke (University of British Columbia, Canada)
    Dr. Paolo Vettolani (L’Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Italy)
    Dr. Simon D. M. White (Max-Planck-Institut fur Astrophysik, Germany)
    Dr. Lin Yan (California Institute of Technology, USA/CA)
    Dr. Gianni Zamorani (L’Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Bologna, Italy)

    The primary goal of COSMOS is to study the relationship between large scale structure (LSS) in the universe and the formation of galaxies, dark matter, and nuclear activity in galaxies. This includes a careful analysis of the dependence of galaxy evolution on environment. The wide field of coverage of COSMOS will sample a larger range of LSS than any previous HST survey.

    COSMOS will detect:

    over 2 million objects with IAB > 27 mag
    over 35,000 Lyman Break Galaxies (LBGs)
    extremely red galaxies out to z ~ 5

    The COSMOS field is equatorial, for easy access to telescopes in both hemispheres:
    RA (J2000) = 10:00:28.6
    DEC (J2000) = +02:12:21.0

    Further news:
    From 2014

  • richardmitnick 3:13 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Evolutionary Biology   

    From Astrobiology: “New home for an ‘evolutionary misfit’” 

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Aug 19, 2014
    No Writer Credit
    Source: University of Cambridge

    Worm-like creature with legs and spikes finds its place in the evolutionary tree of life

    One of the most bizarre-looking fossils ever found – a worm-like creature with legs, spikes and a head difficult to distinguish from its tail – has found its place in the evolutionary Tree of Life, definitively linking it with a group of modern animals for the first time.

    Fossil Hallucigenia sparsa from the Burgess Shale. Credit: M. R. Smith / Smithsonian Institute

    The animal, known as Hallucigenia due to its otherworldly appearance, had been considered an ‘evolutionary misfit’ as it was not clear how it related to modern animal groups. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered an important link with modern velvet worms, also known as onychophorans, a relatively small group of worm-like animals that live in tropical forests. The results are published in the advance online edition of the journal Nature.

    The affinity of Hallucigenia and other contemporary ‘legged worms’, collectively known as lobopodians, has been very controversial, as a lack of clear characteristics linking them to each other or to modern animals has made it difficult to determine their evolutionary home.

    What is more, early interpretations of Hallucigenia, which was first identified in the 1970s, placed it both backwards and upside-down. The spines along the creature’s back were originally thought to be legs, its legs were thought to be tentacles along its back, and its head was mistaken for its tail.

    This is a reconstruction of the Burgess Shale animal Hallucigenia sparsa. Credit: Elyssa Rider

    Hallucigenia lived approximately 505 million years ago during the Cambrian Explosion, a period of rapid evolution when most major animal groups first appear in the fossil record. These particular fossils come from the Burgess Shale in Canada’s Rocky Mountains, one of the richest Cambrian fossil deposits in the world.

    Looking like something from science fiction, Hallucigenia had a row of rigid spines along its back, and seven or eight pairs of legs ending in claws. The animals were between five and 35 millimetres in length, and lived on the floor of the Cambrian oceans.

    A new study of the creature’s claws revealed an organisation very close to those of modern velvet worms, where layers of cuticle (a hard substance similar to fingernails) are stacked one inside the other, like Russian nesting dolls. The same nesting structure can also be seen in the jaws of velvet worms, which are no more than legs modified for chewing.

    “It’s often thought that modern animal groups arose fully formed during the Cambrian Explosion,” said Dr Martin Smith of the University’s Department of Earth Sciences, the paper’s lead author. “But evolution is a gradual process: today’s complex anatomies emerged step by step, one feature at a time. By deciphering ‘in-between’ fossils like Hallucigenia, we can determine how different animal groups built up their modern body plans.”

    While Hallucigenia had been suspected to be an ancestor of velvet worms, definitive characteristics linking them together had been hard to come by, and their claws had never been studied in detail. Through analysing both the prehistoric and living creatures, the researchers found that claws were the connection joining them together. Cambrian fossils continue to produce new information on origins of complex animals, and the use of high-end imaging techniques and data on living organisms further allows researchers to untangle the enigmatic evolution of earliest creatures.

    “An exciting outcome of this study is that it turns our current understanding of the evolutionary tree of arthropods – the group including spiders, insects and crustaceans – upside down,” said Dr Javier Ortega-Hernandez, the paper’s co-author. “Most gene-based studies suggest that arthropods and velvet worms are closely related to each other; however, our results indicate that arthropods are actually closer to water bears, or tardigrades, a group of hardy microscopic animals best known for being able to survive the vacuum of space and sub-zero temperatures – leaving velvet worms as distant cousins.”

    “The peculiar claws of Hallucigenia are a smoking gun that solve a long and heated debate in evolutionary biology, and may even help to decipher other problematic Cambrian critters,” said Dr Smith.

    See the full article here.
    Astrobiology Magazine is a NASA-sponsored online popular science magazine. Our stories profile the latest and most exciting news across the wide and interdisciplinary field of astrobiology — the study of life in the universe. In addition to original content, Astrobiology Magazine also runs content from non-NASA sources in order to provide our readers with a broad knowledge of developments in astrobiology, and from institutions both nationally and internationally. Publication of press-releases or other out-sourced content does not signify endorsement or affiliation of any kind.
    Established in the year 2000, Astrobiology Magazine now has a vast archive of stories covering a broad array of topics.


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  • richardmitnick 2:57 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    From The New York Times: “The Intelligent-Life Lottery” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    AUG. 18, 2014
    George Johnson

    Almost 20 years ago, in the pages of an obscure publication called Bioastronomy News, two giants in the world of science argued over whether SETI — the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence — had a chance of succeeding. Carl Sagan, as eloquent as ever, gave his standard answer. With billions of stars in our galaxy, there must be other civilizations capable of transmitting electromagnetic waves. By scouring the sky with radio telescopes, we just might intercept a signal.

    But Sagan’s opponent, the great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, thought the chances were close to zero. Against Sagan’s stellar billions, he posed his own astronomical numbers: Of the billions of species that have lived and died since life began, only one — Homo sapiens — had developed a science, a technology, and the curiosity to explore the stars. And that took about 3.5 billion years of evolution. High intelligence, Mayr concluded, must be extremely rare, here or anywhere. Earth’s most abundant life form is unicellular slime.

    Since the debate with Sagan, more than 1,700 planets have been discovered beyond the solar system — 700 just this year. Astronomers recently estimated that one of every five sunlike stars in the Milky Way might be orbited by a world capable of supporting some kind of life.

    That is about 40 billion potential habitats. But Mayr, who died in 2005 at the age of 100, probably wouldn’t have been impressed. By his reckoning, the odds would still be very low for anything much beyond slime worlds. No evidence has yet emerged to prove him wrong.

    Maybe we’re just not looking hard enough. Since SETI began in the early 1960s, it has struggled for the money it takes to monitor even a fraction of the sky. In an online essay for The Conversation last week, Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, lamented how little has been allocated for the quest — just a fraction of NASA’s budget.

    “If you don’t ante up,” he wrote, “you will never win the jackpot. And that is a question of will.”

    Three years ago, SETI’s Allen Telescope Array in Northern California ran out of money and was closed for a while. Earlier this month, it was threatened by wildfire — another reminder of the precariousness of the search.

    Allen Telescope Array
    Allen Telescope Array

    It has been more than 3.5 billion years since the first simple cells arose, and it took another billion years or so for some of them to evolve and join symbiotically into primitive multicellular organisms. These biochemical hives, through random mutations and the blind explorations of evolution, eventually led to creatures with the ability to remember, to anticipate and — at least in the case of humans — to wonder what it is all about.

    Every step was a matter of happenstance, like the arbitrary combination of numbers — 3, 12, 31, 34, 51 and 24 — that qualified a Powerball winner for a $90 million prize this month. Some unknowing soul happened to enter a convenience store in Rifle, Colo., and — maybe with change from buying gasoline or a microwaved burrito — purchase a ticket just as the machine was about to spit out those particular numbers.

    According to the Powerball website, the chance of winning the grand prize is about one in 175 million. The emergence of humanlike intelligence, as Mayr saw it, was about as likely as if a Powerball winner kept buying tickets and — round after round — hit a bigger jackpot each time. One unlikelihood is piled on another, yielding a vanishingly rare event.

    In one of my favorite books, “Wonderful Life,” Stephen Jay Gould celebrated what he saw as the unlikelihood of our existence. Going further than Mayr, he ventured that if a slithering creature called Pikaia gracilens had not survived the Cambrian extinction, about half a billion years ago, the entire phylum called Chordata, which includes us vertebrates, might never have existed.

    Gould took his title from the Frank Capra movie in which George Bailey gets to see what the world might have been like without him — idyllic Bedford Falls is replaced by a bleak, Dickensian Pottersville.

    For Gould, the fact that any of our ancestral species might easily have been nipped in the bud should fill us “with a new kind of amazement” and “a frisson for the improbability of the event” — a fellow agnostic’s version of an epiphany.

    “We came this close (put your thumb about a millimeter away from your index finger), thousands and thousands of times, to erasure by the veering of history down another sensible channel,” he wrote. “Replay the tape a million times,” he proposed, “and I doubt that anything like Homo sapiens would ever evolve again. It is, indeed, a wonderful life.”

    Other biologists have disputed Gould’s conclusion. In the course of evolution, eyes and multicellularity arose independently a number of times. So why not vertebrae, spinal cords and brains? The more bags of tricks an organism has at its disposal, the greater its survival power may be. A biological arms race ensues, with complexity ratcheted ever higher.

    But those occasions are rare. Most organisms, as Daniel Dennett put it in “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” seem to have “hit upon a relatively simple solution to life’s problems at the outset and, having nailed it a billion years ago, have had nothing much to do in the way of design work ever since.” Our appreciation of complexity, he wrote, “may well be just an aesthetic preference.”

    In Five Billion Years of Solitude, by Lee Billings, published last year, the author visited Frank Drake, one of the SETI pioneers.

    “Right now, there could well be messages from the stars flying right through this room,” Dr. Drake told him. “Through you and me. And if we had the right receiver set up properly, we could detect them. I still get chills thinking about it.”

    He knew the odds of tuning in — at just the right frequency at the right place and time — were slim. But that just meant we needed to expand the search.

    “We’ve been playing the lottery only using a few tickets,” he said.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 2:39 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Nuclear magnetic resonance,   

    From Berkeley Lab: “News Center NMR Using Earth’s Magnetic Field” 

    Berkeley Logo

    Berkeley Lab

    August 19, 2014
    Rachel Berkowitz

    Earth’s magnetic field, a familiar directional indicator over long distances, is routinely probed in applications ranging from geology to archaeology. Now it has provided the basis for a technique which might, one day, be used to characterize the chemical composition of fluid mixtures in their native environments.

    Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) conducted a proof-of-concept NMR experiment in which a mixture of hydrocarbons and water was analyzed using a high-sensitivity magnetometer and a magnetic field comparable to that of the Earth.

    The work was conducted in the NMR laboratory of Alexander Pines, one of the world’s foremost NMR authorities, as part of a long-standing collaboration with physicist Dmitry Budker at the University of California, Berkeley, along with colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The work will be featured on the cover of Angewandte Chemie and is published in a paper titled Ultra-Low-Field NMR Relaxation and Diffusion Measurements Using an Optical Magnetometer. The corresponding author is Paul Ganssle, who was a PhD student in Pines’ lab at the time of the work.

    “This fundamental research program seeks to answer a broad question: how can we sense the interior chemical and physical attributes of an object at a distance, without sampling it or encapsulating it?” says Vikram Bajaj, a principal investigator in Pines’ group. “A particularly beautiful aspect of magnetic resonance is its ability to gently peer within intact objects, but it’s tough to do that from far away.”

    High-field and low-field NMR

    The exquisite sensitivity of NMR for detecting chemical composition, and the spatial resolution which it can provide in medical applications, requires large and precise superconducting magnets. These magnets are expensive and immobile. Further, the sample of interest must be placed inside the magnet, such that the entire sample is exposed to a homogeneous magnetic field. This well-developed method is called high-field NMR. The sensitivity of high-field NMR is proportional to magnetic field strength.

    (From left) Alex Pines, Dimitry Budker and Scott Seltzer led a proof-of-concept NMR experiment using a high-sensitivity magnetometer and a magnetic field comparable to that of the Earth. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

    But chemical characterization of objects that cannot be placed inside a magnet requires a different approach. In ex situ NMR measurements, the geometry of a typical high-field experiment is reversed such that the detector probes the sample surface, and the magnetic field is projected into the object. A main challenge with this situation is generating a homogeneous magnetic field over a sufficiently large sample area: it is not feasible to generate field strengths necessary to make conventional high-resolution NMR measurements.

    Instead of a superconducting magnet, low-field NMR measurements may rely on Earth’s magnetic field, given a sufficiently sensitive magnetometer.

    “One nice thing about Earth’s magnetic field is that it’s very homogeneous,” explains Ganssle. “The problem with its use in inductively-detected MRI [MRI – magnetic resonance imaging – is NMR’s technological sibling] is that you need a magnetic field that’s both strong and homogeneous, so you need to surround the whole subject with superconducting coils, which is not something that’s possible in an application like oil-well logging.”

    “Sensitivity of magnetic resonance depends profoundly on the magnetic field, because the field causes the detected spins to align slightly,” adds Bajaj. “The stronger the applied field, the stronger the signal, and the higher its frequency, which also contributes to the detection sensitivity.”

    Paul Ganssle is the corresponding author of a paper in Angewandte Chemie describing the ultra-low-field NMR using an optical magnetometer. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

    Earth’s magnetic field is indeed very weak, but optical magnetometers can serve as detectors for ultra-low-field NMR measurements in the ambient field alone without any permanent magnets. This means that ex-situ measurements lose chemical sensitivity due to field strength alone. But this method offers other advantages.

    Relaxation and diffusion

    In high-field NMR, the chemical properties of a sample are determined from their resonance spectrum, but this is not possible without either extremely high fields or extremely long-lived coherent signals (neither of which are possible with permanent magnets). In contrast, relaxation and diffusion measurements in low-field NMR are more than sufficient to determine bulk materials properties.

    “The approach at low-field, which you can achieve using permanent magnets or Earth’s magnetic field, is to measure spin relaxation,” explains Ganssle. Relaxation refers to the rate at which polarized spin returns to equilibrium, based on chemical and physical characteristics of the system. Additionally, NMR experiments resolve chemical compounds based on their different diffusion coefficients, which depend on the size and shape of the molecule.

    A key difference between this and conventional experiments is that the relaxation and diffusion properties are resolved through optically-detected NMR, which operates sensitively even in low magnetic fields.

    “A previous achievement of our collaboration has been the development of magnetometers for the detection of NMR,” says Bajaj. “This experiment represents the first time magnetometers have been used to make combined relaxation and diffusion measurements of multicomponent mixtures.”

    Relaxation and/or diffusion measurements are already commonly used in the oil industry for underground NMR measurements, though conventional probes use a permanent magnet to increase the local magnetic field. There were attempts to perform oil well logging starting in the 1950s using the Earth’s ambient field, but insufficient detection sensitivity led to the introduction of magnets, which are now ubiquitous in logging tools.

    “What’s novel here is that using magnetometers, we finally have technology that might be sensitive enough for efficient detection in the Earth’s field, perhaps ultimately enabling detection at longer distances,” explains Scott Seltzer, a co-author on the study.

    The design was tested in the lab by measuring relaxation coefficients first for various hydrocarbons and water by themselves, then for a heterogeneous mixture, as well as in two-dimensional correlation experiments, using a magnetometer and an applied magnetic field representative of Earth’s.

    “This proof of concept might be productively applied in the oil industry,” says Ganssle. “We mixed hydrocarbons and water, pre-polarized them with a magnet, and applied a magnetic field the same as the Earth’s. Then we made measurements with our magnetometer and determined that we had easily enough sensitivity to separate components of oil and water based on their relaxation spectra.”

    This technology could help the oil industry to characterize fluids in rocks, because water relaxes at a different rate from oil. Other applications include measuring the content of water and oil flowing in a pipeline by measuring chemical composition with time, and inspecting the quality of foods and any kind of polymer curing process such as cement curing and drying.

    The next step involves understanding the depth in a geological formation that could be imaged with this technology.

    “Our next study will be tailored to that question,” says Bajaj. “We hope that this technology will eventually peer a meter or more into the formation and elucidate the chemistry within.”

    Eventually, probes could be used to characterize entire borehole environments in this way, while current devices can only image inches deep. The combination of terrestrial magnetism and versatile sensing technology again offers an elegant solution.

    Other authors on the Angewandte Chemie paper include Hyun Doug Shin, Micah Ledbetter, Dmitry Budker, Svenja Knappe, John Kitching, and Alexander Pines. The current publication presents some of the work for which Berkeley Lab won an R&D 100 award earlierthis year on optically-detected oil well logging by MRI.

    This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    See the full article here.

    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California

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