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  • richardmitnick 4:39 pm on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/DLR Grace   

    From Goddard: “ESA to Develop Gravitational Wave Space Mission with NASA Support” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    June 22, 2017
    Francis Reddy
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    ESA (the European Space Agency) has selected the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) for its third large-class mission in the agency’s Cosmic Vision science program. The three-spacecraft constellation is designed to study gravitational waves in space and is a concept long studied by both ESA and NASA.

    ESA’s Science Program Committee announced the selection at a meeting on June 20. The mission will now be designed, budgeted and proposed for adoption before construction begins. LISA is expected to launch in 2034. NASA will be a partner with ESA in the design, development, operations and data analysis of the mission.

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Gravitational radiation was predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Massive accelerating objects such as merging black holes produce waves of energy that ripple through the fabric of space and time. Indirect proof of the existence of these waves came in 1978, when subtle changes observed in the motion of a pair of orbiting neutron stars showed energy was leaving the system in an amount matching predictions of energy carried away by gravitational waves.

    In September 2015, these waves were first directly detected by the National Science Foundation’s ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    The signal arose from the merger of two stellar-mass black holes located some 1.3 billion light-years away. Similar signals from other black hole mergers have since been detected.

    Seismic, thermal and other noise sources limit LIGO to higher-frequency gravitational waves around 100 cycles per second (hertz). But finding signals from more powerful events, such as mergers of supermassive black holes in colliding galaxies, requires the ability to detect frequencies much lower than 1 hertz, a sensitivity level only possible from space.

    LISA consists of three spacecraft separated by 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) in a triangular formation that follows Earth in its orbit around the sun. Each spacecraft carries test masses that are shielded in such a way that the only force they respond to is gravity. Lasers measure the distances to test masses in all three spacecraft. Tiny changes in the lengths of each two-spacecraft arm signals the passage of gravitational waves through the formation.

    For example, LISA will be sensitive to gravitational waves produced by mergers of supermassive black holes, each with millions or more times the mass of the sun. It will also be able to detect gravitational waves emanating from binary systems containing neutron stars or black holes, causing their orbits to shrink. And LISA may detect a background of gravitational waves produced during the universe’s earliest moments.

    For decades, NASA has worked to develop many technologies needed for LISA, including measurement, micropropulsion and control systems, as well as support for the development of data analysis techniques.

    For instance, the GRACE Follow-On mission, a U.S. and German collaboration to replace the aging GRACE satellites scheduled for launch late this year, will carry a laser measuring system that inherits some of the technologies originally developed for LISA.

    NASA/DLR Grace

    The mission’s Laser Ranging Interferometer will track distance changes between the two satellites with unprecedented precision, providing the first demonstration of the technology in space.

    In 2016, ESA’s LISA Pathfinder successfully demonstrated key technologies needed to build LISA.

    ESA/LISA Pathfinder

    Each of LISA’s three spacecraft must gently fly around its test masses without disturbing them, a process called drag-free flight. In its first two months of operations, LISA Pathfinder demonstrated this process with a precision some five times better than its mission requirements and later reached the sensitivity needed for the full multi-spacecraft observatory. U.S. researchers collaborated on aspects of LISA Pathfinder for years, and the mission carries a NASA-supplied experiment called the ST7 Disturbance Reduction System, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    For more information about the LISA project, visit:


    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA/Goddard Campus

  • richardmitnick 4:16 pm on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Broadband light harvesting and energy storage, broadband optical camouflaging (“invisibility cloaking”), Casting aside reciprocity, , Medicine and the environment and telecommunications, More electromagnetic energy can be stored in wave-guiding systems than previously thought, On-chip spectroscopy, , Q factor at Western Electric, The trick was to create asymmetric resonant or wave-guiding systems using magnetic fields   

    From EPFL: “A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    Generic image illustrating wave-interference and resonant energy transfer from
    one source to another distant source or object, pertaining to the fundamental concept of
    resonances. No image credit.

    Laure-Anne Pessina

    EPFL researchers have found a way around what was considered a fundamental limitation of physics for over 100 years. They were able to conceive resonant systems that can store electromagnetic waves over a long period of time while maintaining a broad bandwidth. Their study, which has just been published in Science, opens up a number of doors, particularly in telecommunications.

    At EPFL, researchers challenge a fundamental law and discover that more electromagnetic energy can be stored in wave-guiding systems than previously thought. The discovery has implications in telecommunications. Working around the fundamental law, they conceived resonant and wave-guiding systems capable of storing energy over a prolonged period while keeping a broad bandwidth. Their trick was to create asymmetric resonant or wave-guiding systems using magnetic fields.

    The study, which has just been published in Science, was led by Kosmas Tsakmakidis, first at the University of Ottawa and then at EPFL’s Bionanophotonic Systems Laboratory run by Hatice Altug, where the researcher is now doing post-doctoral research.

    This breakthrough could have a major impact on many fields in engineering and physics. The number of potential applications is close to infinite, with telecommunications, optical detection systems and broadband energy harvesting representing just a few examples.

    Casting aside reciprocity

    Resonant and wave-guiding systems are present in the vast majority of optical and electronic systems. Their role is to temporarily store energy in the form of electromagnetic waves and then release them. For more than 100 hundred years, these systems were held back by a limitation that was considered to be fundamental: the length of time a wave could be stored was inversely proportional to its bandwidth. This relationship was interpreted to mean that it was impossible to store large amounts of data in resonant or wave-guiding systems over a long period of time because increasing the bandwidth meant decreasing the storage time and quality of storage.

    This law was first formulated by K. S. Johnson in 1914, at Western Electric Company (the forerunner of Bell Telephone Laboratories). He introduced the concept of the Q factor, according to which a resonator can either store energy for a long time or have a broad bandwidth, but not both at the same time. Increasing the storage time meant decreasing the bandwidth, and vice versa. A small bandwidth means a limited range of frequencies (or ‘colors’) and therefore a limited amount of data.

    Until now, this concept had never been challenged. Physicists and engineers had always built resonant systems – like those to produce lasers, make electronic circuits and conduct medical diagnoses – with this constraint in mind.

    But that limitation is now a thing of the past. The researchers came up with a hybrid resonant / wave-guiding system made of a magneto-optic material that, when a magnetic field is applied, is able to stop the wave and store it for a prolonged period, thereby accumulating large amounts of energy. Then when the magnetic field is switched off, the trapped pulse is released.

    With such asymmetric and non-reciprocal systems, it was possible to store a wave for a very long period of time while also maintaining a large bandwidth. The conventional time-bandwidth limit was even beaten by a factor of 1,000. The scientists further showed that, theoretically, there is no upper ceiling to this limit at all in these asymmetric (non-reciprocal) systems.

    “It was a moment of revelation when we discovered that these new structures did not feature any time-bandwidth restriction at all. These systems are unlike what we have all been accustomed to for decades, and possibly hundreds of years», says Tsakmakidis, the study’s lead author. “Their superior wave-storage capacity performance could really be an enabler for a range of exciting applications in diverse contemporary and more traditional fields of research.” Hatice Altug adds.

    Medicine, the environment and telecommunications

    One possible application is in the design of extremely quick and efficient all-optical buffers in telecommunication networks. The role of the buffers is to temporarily store data arriving in the form of light through optical fibers. By slowing the mass of data, it is easier to process. Up to now, the storage quality had been limited.+

    With this new technique, it should be possible to improve the process and store large bandwidths of data for prolonged times. Other potential applications include on-chip spectroscopy, broadband light harvesting and energy storage, and broadband optical camouflaging (“invisibility cloaking”). “The reported breakthrough is completely fundamental – we’re giving researchers a new tool. And the number of applications is limited only by one’s imagination,” sums up Tsakmakidis.


    Source: Breaking Lorentz reciprocity to overcome the time-bandwidth limit in physics and engineering

    Cover image capture: Generic image illustrating wave-interference and resonant energy transfer from
    one source to another distant source or object, pertaining to the fundamental concept of

    Study conducted by:

    Kosmas Tsakmakidis, lead author, former researcher at the University of Ottawa and currently an EPFL Fellow in EPFL’s Bionanophotonic Systems Laboratory
    Linfang Shen and collaborators, Institute of Space Science and Technology, Nanchang University, Nanchang, China and State Key Laboratory of Modern Optical Instrumentation, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
    Prof. Robert Boyd and collaborators, University of Ottawa
    Prof. Hatice Altug, director of EPFL’s Bionanophotonic Systems Laboratory
    Prof. Alexandre Vakakis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    See the full article here .

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    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university with students, professors and staff from over 120 nations. A dynamic environment, open to Switzerland and the world, EPFL is centered on its three missions: teaching, research and technology transfer. EPFL works together with an extensive network of partners including other universities and institutes of technology, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and colleges, industry and economy, political circles and the general public, to bring about real impact for society.

  • richardmitnick 3:51 pm on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Biomass, Capturing methane gas, Living together a methane-loving methanotroph and a photosynthetic cyanobacterium, Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z, , the cyanobacteria absorb light and use carbon dioxide as fuel to produce oxygen fueling the methane-munching bacteria, The cyanobacteria Synechococcus species 7002   

    From EMSL: “From moo to goo: Cooperating microbes convert methane to alternative fuel source” 



    April 12, 2017 [Now in social media, better late than never.]
    Tom Rickey

    Hans Bernstein holds a test tube full of liquid biomass created from methane-rich gases, including biogas from dairy farms and natural gas from oil wells. No image credit.

    Oil and gas wells and even cattle release methane gas into the atmosphere, and researchers are working on ways to not only capture this gas but also convert it into something useful and less-polluting.

    Now scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a new system to convert methane into a deep green, energy-rich, gelatin-like substance that can be used as the basis for biofuels and other bioproducts, specialty chemicals — and even feed for cows that create the gas in the first place.

    “We take a waste product that is normally an expense and upgrade it to microbial biomass which can be used to make fuel, fertilizer, animal feed, chemicals and other products,” said Hans Bernstein, corresponding author of a recent paper in Bioresource Technology.

    Methane is an unavoidable byproduct of our lifestyle. Manure from dairy cows, cattle and other livestock that provide us food often breaks down into methane. Drilling processes used to obtain the oil and natural gas we use to drive our cars and trucks or heat our homes often vent or burn off excess methane to the atmosphere, wasting an important energy resource.

    A tale of two microbes

    PNNL scientists approached the problem by getting two very different micro-organisms to live together in harmony.

    One is a methane-loving methanotroph, found underground near rice paddies and landfills — where natural methane production typically occurs. The other is a photosynthetic cyanobacterium that resembles algae. Originally cultured from a lake in Siberia, it uses light along with carbon dioxide to produce oxygen.

    The two aren’t usually found together, but the two co-exist in harmony in a bioreactor at PNNL — thanks to a co-culture system created by Leo Kucek, Grigoriy E. Pinchuk, and Sergey Stolyar as well as Eric Hill and Alex Beliaev, who are two authors of the current paper.

    PNNL scientist Hans Bernstein collected methane gas from a Washington dairy farm and Colorado oil fields and fed it to the microbes in the bioreactor.

    One bacterium, Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z, ate the methane and produced carbon dioxide and energy-rich biomass made up largely of a form of carbon that can be used to produce energy.

    But Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z can’t do it alone. It needs the other micro-organism, Synechococcus species 7002, which uses light to produce the steady stream of oxygen its counterpart needs to carry out the methane-consuming reaction.

    Each one accomplishes an important task while supplying the other with a substance it needs to survive. They keep each other happy and well fed — as Bernstein puts it, they’re engaging in a “productive metabolic coupling.”

    “The two organisms complement each other, support each other,” said Bernstein. “We have created an adaptable biotechnology platform with microbes that are genetically tractable for the synthesis of biofuels and biochemicals.”

    Flick of a switch

    Agricultural and industrial biogas is typically used to generate electricity but engineers have developed ways of upgrading biogas to compressed or liquefied natural gas. But the biogas is typically filled with corrosive impurities like hydrogen sulfide that must be removed before it can be used.

    The PNNL process produces a much cleaner product, either liquid or solid, with simply the flick of a light switch or exposure to sunlight. When there’s methane to convert, the cyanobacteria absorb light and use carbon dioxide as fuel to produce oxygen, fueling the methane-munching bacteria. When there is not much methane, researchers dim the lights, reducing the oxygen, which slows the action of the methanotrophs. In recent tests the PNNL team ran the system continuously for about two months.

    “The beauty of this system is that it doesn’t matter where the methane comes from,” said Ron Thomas, deputy director of technology deployment and outreach at PNNL. “It could be agricultural waste; it could be methane from oil wells. The system can take waste from multiple waste streams and create a useful product.”

    The research was funded by DOE’s Office of Science (BER) and the Linus Pauling Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at PNNL. Cell imaging and sorting were performed at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at PNNL.

    See the full article here .

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    EMSL campus

    Welcome to EMSL. EMSL is a national scientific user facility that is funded and sponsored by DOE’s Office of Biological & Environmental Research. As a user facility, our scientific capabilities – people, instruments and facilities – are available for use by the global research community. We support BER’s mission to provide innovative solutions to the nation’s environmental and energy production challenges in areas such as atmospheric aerosols, feedstocks, global carbon cycling, biogeochemistry, subsurface science and energy materials.

    A deep understanding of molecular-level processes is critical to gaining a predictive, systems-level understanding of the impacts of aerosols and terrestrial systems on climate change; making clean, affordable, abundant energy; and cleaning up our legacy wastes. Visit our Science page to learn how EMSL leads in these areas, through our Science Themes.

    Team’s in Our DNA. We approach science differently than many institutions. We believe in – and have proven – the value of drawing together members of the scientific community and assembling the people, resources and facilities to solve problems. It’s in our DNA, since our founder Dr. Wiley’s initial call to create a user facility that would facilitate “synergism between the physical, mathematical, and life sciences.” We integrate experts across disciplines; experiment with theory; and our user program proposal calls with other user facilities.

    We proudly provide an enriched, customized experience that allows users to connect with our people and capabilities in an environment where we focus on solving problems. We collaborate with researchers from academia, government labs and industry, and from nearly all 50 states and from other countries.

  • richardmitnick 1:35 pm on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Magnetic materials, Magnetocaloric effect, ,   

    From Ames Lab- “Scientists’ surprising discovery: making ferromagnets stronger by adding non-magnetic element” 

    Ames Laboratory

    June 23, 2017
    Yaroslav Mudryk
    Division of Materials Science and Engineering
    (515) 294-2728

    Durga Paudyal
    Division of Materials Science and Engineering

    Laura Millsaps
    Ames Laboratory Public Affairs
    (515) 294-3474

    No image caption or credit.

    Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory discovered that they could functionalize magnetic materials through a thoroughly unlikely method, by adding amounts of the virtually non-magnetic element scandium to a gadolinium-germanium alloy.

    It was so unlikely they called it a “counterintuitive experimental finding” in their published work on the research.

    “People don’t talk much about scandium when they are talking magnetism, because there has not been much reason to,” said Yaroslav Mudryk, an Associate Scientist at Ames Laboratory. “It’s rare, expensive, and displays virtually no magnetism.”

    “Conventional wisdom says if you take compound A and compound B and combine them together, most commonly you get some combination of the properties of each. In the case of the addition of scandium to gadolinium, however, we observed an abrupt anomaly.”

    Years of research exploring the properties of magnetocaloric materials, relating back to the discovery of the giant magnetocaloric effect in rare earth alloys in 1997 by Vitalij Pecharsky and the late Karl Gschneidner, Jr., laid the groundwork for computational theory to begin “hunting” for hidden properties in magnetic rare-earth compounds that could be discovered by introducing small amounts of other elements, altering the electronic structure of known materials.

    “From computations, we projected that scandium may bring something really unusual to the table: we saw an unexpectedly large magnetic moment developing on its lone 3d electron,” said Ames Laboratory Associate Scientist Durga Paudyal. “It is the hybridization between gadolinium 5d and the scandium 3d states that is the key that strengthens magnetism with the scandium and transforms it to a ferromagnetic state.”

    “Basic research takes time to bear fruit. This is an exemplary case when 20 years ago our team started looking into what are called the 5:4 compounds,” said Ames Laboratory group leader and Iowa State University Distinguished Professor Vitalij Pecharsky. “Only now we have learned enough about these unique rare earth element-containing materials to become not only comfortable but precise in predicting how to manipulate their properties at will.”

    The discovery could greatly change the way scandium and other ‘conventionally’ non-magnetic elements are considered and used in magnetic materials research and development, and possibly creates new tools for controlling, manipulating, and functionalizing useful magnetic rare-earth compounds.

    The research is further discussed in the paper, Enhancing Magnetic Functionality with Scandium: Breaking Stereotypes in the Design of Rare Earth Materials, authored by Yaroslav Mudryk, Durga Paudyal, Jing Liu, and Vitalij K. Pecharsky; and published in the Chemistry of Materials.

    The work was supported by the U.S. Department of Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

    DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov.

    See the full article here .

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    Ames Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated research facility of the U.S. Department of Energy that is run by Iowa State University.

    For more than 60 years, the Ames Laboratory has sought solutions to energy-related problems through the exploration of chemical, engineering, materials, mathematical and physical sciences. Established in the 1940s with the successful development of the most efficient process to produce high-quality uranium metal for atomic energy, the Lab now pursues a broad range of scientific priorities.

    Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

    Ames Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.
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  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Breakthrough Starshot initiative, Red Dots campaign,   

    From Red Dots: “Is there life around the nearest stars? 

    Red Dots

    13th June 2017
    Avi Loeb


    Is there extra-terrestrial life just outside the solar system? The recent discovery of Proxima b [1], a habitable Earth-mass planet next to the nearest star, opened a unique opportunity in the search for extra-terrestrial life.

    Centauris Alpha Beta Proxima 27, February 2012. Skatebiker

    It is much easier to study nearby habitats for life, either by remote sensing of the feeble radiation signals from biologically-produced molecules (e.g. oxygen) or by sending spacecrafts that will image the planet’s surface or collect samples from its atmosphere through a close encounter. The Breakthrough Starshot initiative, announced in April 2016 (and whose advisory committee I chair) aims to send lightweight (gram scale) probes to the nearest stars at a fifth of the speed of light, so as to inform us of nearby life-hosting environments within our generation. To properly select the Starshot targets, we would like to know which nearby stars host habitable planets like Proxima b. The treasure of data expected from the Red Dots campaign will be invaluable for guiding and motivating the Starshot project.

    Artistic’s conception showing the Starshot project concept. A laser beam propels a light sail towards a nearby exoplanet such as Proxima b. The sail carries on its center a lightweight probe with several measuring instruments. Starshot will start soon the first five-year phase of technology demonstration at a funding level of $100M, provided by the entrepreneur and physicist Yuri Milner (Credit: Breakthrough Starshot).

    The chemistry of life as we know it requires liquid water, but being at the right distance from the host star for a comfortable temperature on the planet’s surface, is not a sufficient condition. The planet also needs to have an atmosphere. In the absence of an external atmospheric pressure, the warming of water ice transforms it into directly into gas phase rather than liquid. The warning sign is just next door: Mars has a tenth of the Earth’s mass and lost its atmosphere. Does Proxima b have an atmosphere? If so, the atmosphere and any surface ocean it sustains, will moderate the temperature contrast between its permanent day and night sides. In collaboration with Laura Kreidberg, we showed [2] that the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in October 2018, will be able to distinguish between the temperature contrast expected if Proxima b is bare rock compared to the case where its climate is moderated by an atmosphere.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star with 12% of the mass of the Sun. Another dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, with 8% of the solar mass, was discovered recently [3],[4] to host 3 habitable planets out of a total of 7 and if life forms in one of the three it will likely spread to the others [5].

    The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultracool dwarf, is orbited by seven Earth-size planets (NASA).

    ESO Belgian robotic Trappist National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile interior

    ESO Belgian robotic Trappist-South National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile

    Such dwarf stars have a lifetime that is up to a thousand times longer than the Sun. Hence, they provide excellent prospects for life in the distant future, a trillion years from now, long after the Sun will die and turn into an Earth-size cold remnant, known as a white dwarf. I therefore advise my wealthy friends to buy real estate on Proxima b, since its value is likely to go up dramatically in the future. But this also raises an important scientific question: is life most likely to emerge at the present cosmic time near a star like the Sun? By studying the habitability of the Universe throughout cosmic history from the birth of the first stars 30 million years after the Big Bang to the death of the last stars in ten trillion years, I concluded [6],[7] that unless habitability around low mass stars is suppressed, life is most likely to exist near dwarf stars like Proxima or TRAPPIST-1 ten trillion years from now. This highlights the importance of searching for life around these nearby red dwarf stars, namely the Red Dots campaign. Finding bio-signatures in the atmospheres of transiting Earth-mass planets around such stars will determine whether present-day life is indeed premature or typical from a cosmic perspective.

    References [no links provided]:

    Anglada-Escudé G. et al. “A Terrestrial Candidate in a Temperate Orbit Around Proxima Centauri”, Nature, 536, 437 (2016).
    Kreidberg, L. & Loeb, A. “Prospects for Characterising the Atmosphere of Proxima b”, ApJ, 832, L12 (2016).
    Gillon, M. et al. “Temperate Earth-Sized Planets Transiting a Nearby Ultracool Dwarf Star”, Nature, 533, 221 (2016).
    Gillon, M, et al. “Seven temperate terretrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1”, Nature, 542, 456–460
    Lingam, M., & Loeb, A. “Enhanced Interplanetary Panspermia in the TRAPPIST-1 System”, PNAS, in press (2017); arXiv: 1703.00878.
    Loeb, A., Batista, R. A., & Sloan, D. “Relative Likelihood for Life as a Function of Cosmic Time”, JCAP, 8, 40 (2016). “
    Loeb, A. “On the Habitability of Our Universe”, chapter for the book “Consolidation of Fine Tuning”, edited by R. Davies, J. Silk and D. Sloan (Oxford University, 2017); arXiv:1606.0892

    See the full article here .

    It seems to me that the author should have made mention of the Breakthrough Listen Project, a modest initiative using ground based telescopic assets.

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA


    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    Not to mention also missing

    Breakthrough Starshot Initiative Observatories

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    SPACEOBS, the San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations Observatory is located at 2450m above sea level, north of the Atacama Desert, in Chile, near to the village of San Pedro de Atacama and close to the border with Bolivia and Argentina

    SNO Sierra Nevada Observatory is a high elevation observatory 2900m above the sea level located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Granada Spain and operated maintained and supplied by IAC

    Teide Observatory in Tenerife Spain, home of two 40 cm LCO telescopes

    Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec (OAdM), located in the town of Sant Esteve de la Sarga (Pallars Jussà), 1,570 meters on the sea level

    Bayfordbury Observatory,approximately 6 miles from the main campus of the University of Hertfordshire

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    Red dots is a project to attempt detection of the nearest terrestrial planets to the Sun. Terrestrial planets in temperate orbits around nearby red dwarf stars can be more easily detected using Doppler spectroscopy, hence the name of the project.

  • richardmitnick 10:24 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Bragg Projection Ptychography, Crystal lattice of nanoscale materials, Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) beamline at NSLS-II, , Stephan Hruszkewycz,   

    From BNL- “National Synchrotron Light Source II User Profile: Stephan Hruszkewycz” 

    Brookhaven Lab

    June 19, 2017
    Laura Mgrdichian

    Stephan Hruszkewycz. No image credit.

    Stephan Hruskewycz is an assistant physicist in the Materials Science Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

    While he regularly conducts research at Argonne’s own synchrotron user facility, the Advanced Photon Source (APS), his work on the nanoscale structure and behavior of materials has led him to book beamtime at the DOE’s newest synchrotron, the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II). Both NSLS-II and APS are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.





    What are you studying at NSLS-II?

    The focus of our NSLS-II experiments has been to image defects and imperfections in the crystal lattice of nanoscale materials using a new imaging technique known as Bragg Projection Ptychography. Specifically, we have been studying stacking faults in nanowires made of III-V semiconductors, a class of semiconductor that results from the combination of elements from column III on the periodic table (mainly aluminum, gallium, and indium) and column V (nitrogen, phosphorous, arsenic, and antimony). These materials have properties that make them excellent for certain applications; for example, solar cells made of III-V cells are very efficient.

    During our next run, we will be imaging strain fields in complex oxide thin-film nanostructures. These classes of materials have potential uses for energy conversion in solar and fuel cell applications, and their nanoscale structure plays a large role in performance. By studying these structures in detail, we may be able to figure out how to make these materials perform better.

    Why is NSLS-II is particularly suited to your work?

    The Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) beamline at NSLS-II delivers a coherent hard x-ray beam focused to a few tens of nanometers and the ability to rotate the sample and detector to enable Bragg diffraction with a nanofocused beam. We are capitalizing on the coherence and stability of the focused beam to convert a series of Bragg diffraction patterns measured from different overlapping positions of the sample into an image of the lattice structure inside a specific region of the crystal. The result provides an image with a resolution down to just a few nanometers, as well as picometer-level sensitivity to lattice distortions.

    Tell us about your background and how you arrived at this field of research.

    I have been interested for some time in developing new methods to exploit coherent hard x-rays to reveal of the structure and dynamics of materials. Recently, I have focused on applying these methods to materials with inhomogeneous internal lattice structures that dictate their overall properties, such as nanostructured oxide thin films and semiconductors. To me, this is an exciting area of research, one where cutting-edge materials science questions can be answered with new x-ray imaging methods at state-of-the-art synchrotron sources that deliver highly coherent beams.

    Who else is involved in this work?

    So far, I have been joined at NSLS-II by Megan Hill, a graduate student in Northwestern University’s Materials Science and Engineering Department; Martin Holt, a staff scientist in Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials; and Brian Stephenson, a senior physicist in Argonne’s Materials Science Division.

    See the full article here .

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    BNL Campus

    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO, , Peking University, Taiyuan University of Technology China   

    From BNL: “New Efficient, Low-Temperature Catalyst for Converting Water and CO to Hydrogen Gas and CO2” 

    Brookhaven Lab

    June 22, 2017
    Karen McNulty Walsh
    (631) 344-8350

    Peter Genzer
    (631) 344-3174

    Low-temperature “water gas shift” reaction produces high levels of pure hydrogen for potential applications, including fuel cells.

    Brookhaven Lab chemists Ping Liu and José Rodriguez helped to characterize structural and mechanistic details of a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas from water and carbon monoxide. No image credit.

    Scientists have developed a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas while simultaneously using up carbon monoxide (CO). The discovery—described in a paper set to publish online in the journal Science on Thursday, June 22, 2017—could improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO.

    “This catalyst produces a purer form of hydrogen to feed into the fuel cell,” said José Rodriguez, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. Rodriguez and colleagues in Brookhaven’s Chemistry Division—Ping Liu and Wenqian Xu—were among the team of scientists who helped to characterize the structural and mechanistic details of the catalyst, which was synthesized and tested by collaborators at Peking University in an effort led by Chemistry Professor Ding Ma.

    Because the catalyst operates at low temperature and low pressure to convert water (H2O) and carbon monoxide (CO) to hydrogen gas (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2), it could also lower the cost of running this so-called “water gas shift” reaction.

    “With low temperature and pressure, the energy consumption will be lower and the experimental setup will be less expensive and easier to use in small settings, like fuel cells for cars,” Rodriguez said.

    The gold-carbide connection

    The catalyst consists of clusters of gold nanoparticles layered on a molybdenum-carbide substrate. This chemical combination is quite different from the oxide-based catalysts used to power the water gas shift reaction in large-scale industrial hydrogen production facilities.

    “Carbides are more chemically reactive than oxides,” said Rodriguez, “and the gold-carbide interface has good properties for the water gas shift reaction; it interacts better with water than pure metals.”

    Wenqian Xu and José Rodriguez of Brookhaven Lab and Siyu Yao, then a student at Peking University but now a postdoctoral research fellow at Brookhaven, conducted operando x-ray diffraction studies of the gold-molybdenum-carbide catalyst over a range of temperatures (423 Kelvin to 623K) at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven Lab. The study revealed that at temperatures above 500K, molybdenum-carbide transforms to molybdenum oxide, with a reduction in catalytic activity. No image credit

    “The group at Peking University discovered a new synthetic method, and that was a real breakthrough,” Rodriguez said. “They found a way to get a specific phase—or configuration of the atoms—that is highly active for this reaction.”

    Brookhaven scientists played a key role in deciphering the reasons for the high catalytic activity of this configuration. Rodriguez, Wenqian Xu, and Siyu Yao (then a student at Peking University but now a postdoctoral research fellow at Brookhaven) conducted structural studies using x-ray diffraction at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) while the catalyst was operating under industrial or technical conditions.


    These operando experiments revealed crucial details about how the structure changed under different operating conditions, including at different temperatures.

    With those structural details in hand, Zhijun Zuo, a visiting professor at Brookhaven from Taiyuan University of Technology, China, and Brookhaven chemist Ping Liu helped to develop models and a theoretical framework to explain why the catalyst works the way it does, using computational resources at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

    “We modeled different interfaces of gold and molybdenum carbide and studied the reaction mechanism to identify exactly where the reactions take place—the active sites where atoms are binding, and how bonds are breaking and reforming,” she said.

    Additional studies at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS), the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and two synchrotron research facilities in China added to the scientists’ understanding.

    “This is a multipart complex reaction,” said Liu, but she noted one essential factor: “The interaction between the gold and the carbide substrate is very important. Gold usually bonds things very weakly. With this synthesis method we get stronger adherence of gold to molybdenum carbide in a controlled way.”

    That configuration stabilizes the key intermediate that forms as the reaction proceeds, and the stability of that intermediate determines the rate of hydrogen production, she said.

    The Brookhaven team will continue to study this and other carbide catalysts with new capabilities at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), a new facility that opened at Brookhaven Lab in 2014, replacing NSLS and producing x-rays that are 10,000 times brighter.


    With these brighter x-rays, the scientists hope to capture more details of the chemistry in action, including details of the intermediates that form throughout the reaction process to validate the theoretical predictions made in this study.

    The work at Brookhaven Lab was funded by the U.S. DOE Office of Science.

    Additional funders for the overall research project include: the National Basic Research Program of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China, and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

    NSLS, NSLS-II, CFN, CNMS, and ALS are all DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

    See the full article here .

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    BNL Campus

    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 9:39 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adegoke Olubusi, , , Johns Hopkins grad from Nigeria wants to help hospitals in West Africa go digital, , OneMedical   

    From Hopkins: “Johns Hopkins grad from Nigeria wants to help hospitals in West Africa go digital” 

    Johns Hopkins
    Johns Hopkins University

    Katie Pearce

    Adegoke Olubusi. No image credit.

    OneMedical, founded by WSE alum Adegoke Olubusi, among 15 finalists in Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge

    Though paper-based health care is a thing of the past for many hospitals and clinics around the world, in West Africa it’s still the dominant standard.
    Adegoke Olubusi wants to change that.

    The tech entrepreneur, a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, started OneMedical to help hospitals in West Africa go digital. His team has already begun that process in Nigeria, partnering with more than a dozen hospitals.

    Now OneMedical is looking at big opportunity for new funding: the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. The team is one of 15 finalists in the digital innovation challenge, which includes a $10,000 People’s Choice Award open for votes through June 28.

    Olubusi, who was born and raised in Nigeria before moving to Maryland for school about a decade ago, has visited his home country often in recent years to work on tech projects like KingsChat, a leading social media platform in Africa.

    When his work brought him to hospitals, Olubusi says he found “chaos” in their record-keeping, complicating everything from patient data and billing to inventory. “It’s all on paper—it’s messy, inefficient, and there’s no way to analyze the data,” he says.

    But in launching a startup to address these problems, he and his team knew they couldn’t simply transplant U.S. standards into hospitals that had never used electronic records before.

    The training interface of OneMedical. No image credit.

    “We thought, ‘How can we make something simple and easy to adopt for hospitals to operate more efficiently?'” says Olubusi, who has also previously worked as an analyst for eBay, PayPal, and Goldman Sachs.

    So he and his team—including rising Johns Hopkins junior Sami Ayele—sat down with health care workers in Nigeria to develop prototypes.

    “Eventually that turned into an actual idea for a business, and a concept that a lot of people loved,” Olubusi says.

    OneMedical offers a user-friendly platform to help hospitals simplify records and streamline processes, with the goal of improving both quality of care and profit margins. It includes a searchable database of patient records, along with features for tracking finances, staff, and medical supplies. The system runs offline at hospitals and syncs to the cloud when there’s an Internet connection available, and it’s accessible through any smart device or operating system.

    Hospitals partnering with OneMedical in this early stage are seeing results such as shorter patient wait times and decreased workload for medical staff, the team says. Meanwhile, a waitlist is growing, with more than 25 facilities in Nigeria hoping to get on board.

    OneMedical aspires to reach 125 facilities within the next year, ultimately fanning out to other parts of West Africa. The startup is currently part of the Y Combinator accelerator program and last year won Etisalat’s Innovation Award.

    Now, with the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, the team is vying for a shot at a $100,000 grand prize, among other possibilities. OneMedical stood out from the more than 1,000 startups applying to land in the finals of the global competition, which seeks digital solutions to tackle economic, social, and environmental challenges.

    OneMedical’s entry for Cisco’s $10,000 People’s Choice award includes a video pitch from Olubusi and partner Nick Moore. Votes from the public can be cast online through June 28, and Cisco will announce the winners from all categories on June 29.

    OneMedical can be reached at team@onemedical.ng.

    See the full article here .

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    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

  • richardmitnick 9:23 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Calm the sepsis 'storm', Genomic storm, , , VU- Vanderbilt University   

    From VU: “VU scientists report a way to calm the sepsis ‘storm’ ” 

    Vanderbilt U Bloc

    Vanderbilt University

    Jun. 22, 2017
    Bill Snyder
    (615) 322-4747

    From left, Ruth Ann Veach, Pierre Antony, Ph.D., a visiting scientist from France, Jozef Zienkiewicz, Ph.D., Jacek Hawiger, M.D., Ph.D., Yan Liu, M.D., and Lukasz Wylezinski, Ph.D., contributed to the sepsis study.

    Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have found a way to calm the “genomic storm” that triggers the often-lethal consequences of sepsis.

    Sepsis, an exaggerated and overwhelming inflammatory response to various infections, is a leading cause of death in the United States and around the world.

    Using a cell-penetrating peptide they developed, the researchers suppressed in an animal model of polymicrobial sepsis the transport of pro-inflammatory transcription factors into the cell’s nucleus. That, in turn, prevented activation of inflammatory pathways and reduced resulting blood vessel damage, respiratory distress, multiple organ failure and death.

    Their findings, reported this week in the online journal PLOS ONE, highlight the potential benefit of targeting nuclear transport as an adjunctive therapy in the management of sepsis.

    “Sepsis is fast and furious, especially among the youngest and oldest patients,” said senior author Jacek Hawiger, M.D., Ph.D., the Louise B. McGavock Professor, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt.

    “We hope that this new treatment will prove safe and effective not only in increasing survival but also reducing serious complications in survivors of sepsis,” said Hawiger, who also is a research health scientist at the Nashville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

    After his mother succumbed to sepsis, Hawiger was determined to find better ways to control and prevent it.

    One way to restore physiologic barriers to sepsis and other inflammatory diseases is to deliver anti-inflammatory peptides and proteins across the cell membrane. During the past 20 years, Hawiger and his colleagues have pioneered platforms for doing so.

    In the current study, they tested a peptide called a Nuclear Transport Modifier or NTM in an animal model of sepsis caused by spillage of the gut’s microbes into the bloodstream.

    NTM not only suppressed production of pro-inflammatory factors but markedly reduced the amount of bacteria in the lungs and bloodstream even before antibiotic therapy was started. Signs of microvascular injury to the lining of tiny blood vessels were attenuated. And when NTM was combined with antibiotic therapy, survival nearly doubled.

    “The study of nuclear transport signaling … opens up a new avenue for exploring innovative approaches to restore the complex balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory mechanisms in blood and vascular systems that would allow for successful recovery from sepsis,” the researchers concluded.

    Ruth Ann Veach, research instructor in the Division of Nephrology, is first author. Co-authors include Yan Liu, M.D., Jozef Zienkiewicz, Ph.D., Lukasz Wylezinski, Ph.D., Kelli Boyd, Ph.D., DVM, and James Wynn, M.D.

    The study was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants DK058404, CA068485 and TR002243 and by a Veterans Affairs Merit Review Award.

    See the full article here .

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    Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was in his 79th year when he decided to make the gift that founded Vanderbilt University in the spring of 1873.

    The $1 million that he gave to endow and build the university was the commodore’s only major philanthropy. Methodist Bishop Holland N. McTyeire of Nashville, husband of Amelia Townsend who was a cousin of the commodore’s young second wife Frank Crawford, went to New York for medical treatment early in 1873 and spent time recovering in the Vanderbilt mansion. He won the commodore’s admiration and support for the project of building a university in the South that would “contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country.”

    McTyeire chose the site for the campus, supervised the construction of buildings and personally planted many of the trees that today make Vanderbilt a national arboretum. At the outset, the university consisted of one Main Building (now Kirkland Hall), an astronomical observatory and houses for professors. Landon C. Garland was Vanderbilt’s first chancellor, serving from 1875 to 1893. He advised McTyeire in selecting the faculty, arranged the curriculum and set the policies of the university.

    For the first 40 years of its existence, Vanderbilt was under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Vanderbilt Board of Trust severed its ties with the church in June 1914 as a result of a dispute with the bishops over who would appoint university trustees.

    kirkland hallFrom the outset, Vanderbilt met two definitions of a university: It offered work in the liberal arts and sciences beyond the baccalaureate degree and it embraced several professional schools in addition to its college. James H. Kirkland, the longest serving chancellor in university history (1893-1937), followed Chancellor Garland. He guided Vanderbilt to rebuild after a fire in 1905 that consumed the main building, which was renamed in Kirkland’s honor, and all its contents. He also navigated the university through the separation from the Methodist Church. Notable advances in graduate studies were made under the third chancellor, Oliver Cromwell Carmichael (1937-46). He also created the Joint University Library, brought about by a coalition of Vanderbilt, Peabody College and Scarritt College.

    Remarkable continuity has characterized the government of Vanderbilt. The original charter, issued in 1872, was amended in 1873 to make the legal name of the corporation “The Vanderbilt University.” The charter has not been altered since.

    The university is self-governing under a Board of Trust that, since the beginning, has elected its own members and officers. The university’s general government is vested in the Board of Trust. The immediate government of the university is committed to the chancellor, who is elected by the Board of Trust.

    The original Vanderbilt campus consisted of 75 acres. By 1960, the campus had spread to about 260 acres of land. When George Peabody College for Teachers merged with Vanderbilt in 1979, about 53 acres were added.

    wyatt centerVanderbilt’s student enrollment tended to double itself each 25 years during the first century of the university’s history: 307 in the fall of 1875; 754 in 1900; 1,377 in 1925; 3,529 in 1950; 7,034 in 1975. In the fall of 1999 the enrollment was 10,127.

    In the planning of Vanderbilt, the assumption seemed to be that it would be an all-male institution. Yet the board never enacted rules prohibiting women. At least one woman attended Vanderbilt classes every year from 1875 on. Most came to classes by courtesy of professors or as special or irregular (non-degree) students. From 1892 to 1901 women at Vanderbilt gained full legal equality except in one respect — access to dorms. In 1894 the faculty and board allowed women to compete for academic prizes. By 1897, four or five women entered with each freshman class. By 1913 the student body contained 78 women, or just more than 20 percent of the academic enrollment.

    National recognition of the university’s status came in 1949 with election of Vanderbilt to membership in the select Association of American Universities. In the 1950s Vanderbilt began to outgrow its provincial roots and to measure its achievements by national standards under the leadership of Chancellor Harvie Branscomb. By its 90th anniversary in 1963, Vanderbilt for the first time ranked in the top 20 private universities in the United States.

    Vanderbilt continued to excel in research, and the number of university buildings more than doubled under the leadership of Chancellors Alexander Heard (1963-1982) and Joe B. Wyatt (1982-2000), only the fifth and sixth chancellors in Vanderbilt’s long and distinguished history. Heard added three schools (Blair, the Owen Graduate School of Management and Peabody College) to the seven already existing and constructed three dozen buildings. During Wyatt’s tenure, Vanderbilt acquired or built one-third of the campus buildings and made great strides in diversity, volunteerism and technology.

    The university grew and changed significantly under its seventh chancellor, Gordon Gee, who served from 2000 to 2007. Vanderbilt led the country in the rate of growth for academic research funding, which increased to more than $450 million and became one of the most selective undergraduate institutions in the country.

    On March 1, 2008, Nicholas S. Zeppos was named Vanderbilt’s eighth chancellor after serving as interim chancellor beginning Aug. 1, 2007. Prior to that, he spent 2002-2008 as Vanderbilt’s provost, overseeing undergraduate, graduate and professional education programs as well as development, alumni relations and research efforts in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education, business, law and divinity. He first came to Vanderbilt in 1987 as an assistant professor in the law school. In his first five years, Zeppos led the university through the most challenging economic times since the Great Depression, while continuing to attract the best students and faculty from across the country and around the world. Vanderbilt got through the economic crisis notably less scathed than many of its peers and began and remained committed to its much-praised enhanced financial aid policy for all undergraduates during the same timespan. The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons for first-year students opened in 2008 and College Halls, the next phase in the residential education system at Vanderbilt, is on track to open in the fall of 2014. During Zeppos’ first five years, Vanderbilt has drawn robust support from federal funding agencies, and the Medical Center entered into agreements with regional hospitals and health care systems in middle and east Tennessee that will bring Vanderbilt care to patients across the state.

    studentsToday, Vanderbilt University is a private research university of about 6,500 undergraduates and 5,300 graduate and professional students. The university comprises 10 schools, a public policy center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education and human development as well as a full range of graduate and professional degrees. The university is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top 20 universities by publications such as U.S. News & World Report, with several programs and disciplines ranking in the top 10.

    Cutting-edge research and liberal arts, combined with strong ties to a distinguished medical center, creates an invigorating atmosphere where students tailor their education to meet their goals and researchers collaborate to solve complex questions affecting our health, culture and society.

    Vanderbilt, an independent, privately supported university, and the separate, non-profit Vanderbilt University Medical Center share a respected name and enjoy close collaboration through education and research. Together, the number of people employed by these two organizations exceeds that of the largest private employer in the Middle Tennessee region.
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  • richardmitnick 9:06 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Scientists Uncover Origins of the Sun’s Swirling Spicules, , Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope in La Palma Spain   

    From Goddard: “Scientists Uncover Origins of the Sun’s Swirling Spicules” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    June 22, 2017
    Lina Tran
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    No image caption or credit.

    At any given moment, as many as 10 million wild jets of solar material burst from the sun’s surface. They erupt as fast as 60 miles per second, and can reach lengths of 6,000 miles before collapsing. These are spicules, and despite their grass-like abundance, scientists didn’t understand how they form. Now, for the first time, a computer simulation — so detailed it took a full year to run — shows how spicules form, helping scientists understand how spicules can break free of the sun’s surface and surge upward so quickly.

    This work relied upon high-cadence observations from NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, and the Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. Together, the spacecraft and telescope peer into the lower layers of the sun’s atmosphere, known as the interface region, where spicules form. The results of this NASA-funded study were published in Science on June 22, 2017 — a special time of the year for the IRIS mission, which celebrates its fourth anniversary in space on June 26.

    NASA IRIS spacecraft

    Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope in La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Spain

    Watch the video to learn how scientists used a combination of computer simulations and observations to determine how spicules form.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Joy Ng, producer

    “Numerical models and observations go hand in hand in our research,” said Bart De Pontieu, an author of the study and IRIS science lead at Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, in Palo Alto, California. “We compare observations and models to figure out how well our models are performing, and to improve the models when we see major discrepancies.”

    Observing spicules has been a thorny problem for scientists who want to understand how solar material and energy move through and away from the sun. Spicules are transient, forming and collapsing over the course of just five to 10 minutes. These tenuous structures are also difficult to study from Earth, where the atmosphere often blurs our telescopes’ vision.

    A team of scientists has been working on this particular model for nearly a decade, trying again and again to create a version that would create spicules. Earlier versions of the model treated the interface region, the lower solar atmosphere, as a hot gas of electrically charged particles — or more technically, a fully ionized plasma. But the scientists knew something was missing because they never saw spicules in the simulations.

    The key, the scientists realized, was neutral particles. They were inspired by Earth’s own ionosphere, a region of the upper atmosphere where interactions between neutral and charged particles are responsible for many dynamic processes.

    The research team knew that in cooler regions of the sun, such as the interface region, not all gas particles are electrically charged. Some particles are neutral, and neutral particles aren’t subject to magnetic fields like charged particles are. Scientists had based previous models on a fully ionized plasma in order to simplify the problem. Indeed, including the necessary neutral particles was very computationally expensive, and the final model took roughly a year to run on the Pleiades supercomputer located at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and which supports hundreds of science and engineering projects for NASA missions.

    The model began with a basic understanding of how plasma moves in the sun’s atmosphere. Constant convection, or boiling, of material throughout the sun generates islands of tangled magnetic fields. When boiling carries them up to the surface and farther into the sun’s lower atmosphere, magnetic field lines rapidly snap back into place to resolve the tension, expelling plasma and energy. Out of this violence, a spicule is born. But explaining how these complex magnetic knots rise and snap was the tricky part.

    “Usually magnetic fields are tightly coupled to charged particles,” said Juan Martínez-Sykora, lead author of the study and a solar physicist at Lockheed Martin and the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute in Sonoma, California. “With only charged particles in the model, the magnetic fields were stuck, and couldn’t rise beyond the sun’s surface. When we added neutrals, the magnetic fields could move more freely.”

    Neutral particles provide the buoyancy the gnarled knots of magnetic energy need to rise through the sun’s boiling plasma and reach the chromosphere. There, they snap into spicules, releasing both plasma and energy. Friction between ions and neutral particles heats the plasma even more, both in and around the spicules.

    With the new model, the simulations at last matched observations from IRIS and the Swedish Solar Telescope; spicules occurred naturally and frequently. The 10 years of work that went into developing this numerical model earned scientists Mats Carlsson and Viggo H. Hansteen, both authors of the study from the University of Oslo in Norway, the 2017 Arctowski Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Martínez-Sykora led the expansion of the model to include the effects of neutral particles.

    The scientists’ updated model revealed something else about how energy moves in the solar atmosphere. It turns out this whip-like process also naturally generates Alfvén waves, a strong kind of magnetic wave scientists suspect is key to heating the sun’s atmosphere and propelling the solar wind, which constantly bathes our solar system and planet with charged particles from the sun.

    “This model answers a lot of questions we’ve had for so many years,” De Pontieu said. “We gradually increased the physical complexity of numerical models based on high-resolution observations, and it is really a success story for the approach we’ve taken with IRIS.”

    The simulations indicate spicules could play a big role in energizing the sun’s atmosphere, by constantly forcing plasma out and generating so many Alfvén waves across the sun’s entire surface.

    “This is a major advance in our understanding of what processes can energize the solar atmosphere, and lays the foundation for investigations with even more detail to determine how big of a role spicules play,” said Adrian Daw, IRIS mission scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “A very nice result on the eve of our launch anniversary.”


    IRIS Mission Overview
    New Space Weather Model Helps Simulate Magnetic Structure of Solar Storms

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA/Goddard Campus

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