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  • richardmitnick 4:02 pm on November 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From LLNL: “Tri-lab collaboration that will bring Sierra supercomputer to Lab recognized” 

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Sierra is the next in a long line of supercomputers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

    The collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne and Lawrence Livermore (CORAL) that will bring the Sierra supercomputer to the Lab in 2018 has been recognized by HPCWire with an Editor’s Choice Award for Best HPC Collaboration between Government and Industry.

    The award was received by Doug Wade, head of the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program, in the DOE booth at Supercomputing 2015 (SC15), and representatives from Oak Ridge and Argonne. HPCWire is an online news service that covers the high performance computing (HPC) industry.

    CORAL represents an innovative procurement strategy pioneered by Livermore that couples acquisition with R&D non-recurring engineering (NRE) contracts that make it possible for vendors to assume greater risks in their proposals than they would otherwise for an HPC system that is several years out. Delivery of Sierra is expected in late 2017 with full deployment in 2018. This procurement strategy has since been widely adopted by DOE labs.

    CORAL’s industry partners include IBM, NVIDIA and Mellanox. In addition to bringing Sierra to Livermore, CORAL will bring an HPC system called Summit to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a system called Aurora to Argonne National Laboratory.

    Summit supercomputer

    Aurora supercomputer

    Sierra will be an IBM system expected to exceed 120 petaflops (120 quadrillion floating point operations per second) and will serve NNSA’s ASC program, an integral part of stockpile stewardship.

    In other SC15 news, LLNL’s 20-petaflop (trillion floating point operations per second) IBM Blue Gene Q Sequoia system was again ranked No. 3 on the Top500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers released Tuesday. For the third year running, the Chinese Tiahne-2 (Milky Way-2) supercomputer holds the No. 1 ranking on the list followed by Titan at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. LLNL’s 5-petaflop Vulcan, also a Blue Gene Q system, dropped out of the top 10 on the list and is now ranked No. 12.

    IBM Blue Gene Q Sequoia system

    Tiahne-2 supercomputer

    Titan supercomputer

    The United States has five of the top 10 supercomputers on the Top500 and four of those are DOE and NNSA systems. In addition to China, other countries with HPC systems in the top 10 include Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.

    See the full article here .

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    Operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security
    DOE Seal

  • richardmitnick 8:55 am on November 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Applied Research & Technology, , ,   

    From SLAC: “$13.5M Moore Grant to Develop Working ‘Accelerator on a Chip’ Prototype” 

    SLAC Lab

    November 19, 2015

    The Goal: Build a Shoebox-sized Particle Accelerator in 5 Years

    Three “accelerators on a chip” made of silicon are mounted on a clear base. A shoebox-sized particle accelerator being developed under a $13.5 million Moore Foundation grant would use a series of these “accelerators on a chip” to boost the energy of electrons. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    A diagram shows one possible configuration for the shoebox-sized particle accelerator prototype. Designing the accelerating chips is just one of the challenges facing the project. The Stanford-led team will have to figure out the best way to distribute laser power among the chips, generate and steer the electrons, shrink the diameter of the electron beam 1,000-fold and a host of other technical details. SLAC and two other national labs will contribute expertise and make their facilities available for this effort. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    The accelerator-on-a-chip researchers are testing a variety of materials and structures to find the optimal components for a prototype accelerator. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    Much like the computer chips that made Gordon Moore famous, the accelerator on a chip could dramatically shrink the size of accelerator technology to benefit society. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    Members of the international scientific collaboration to build a working prototype of a particle accelerator based on “accelerator on a chip” technology gathered at the Moore Foundation in October for a kick-off meeting to discuss the endeavor. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded $13.5 million to Stanford University for an international effort, including key contributions from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, to build a working particle accelerator the size of a shoebox based on an innovative technology known as “accelerator on a chip.”

    This novel technique, which uses laser light to propel electrons through a series of artfully crafted chips, has the potential to revolutionize science, medicine and other fields by dramatically shrinking the size and cost of particle accelerators.

    “Can we do for particle accelerators what the microchip industry did for computers?” said SLAC physicist Joel England, an investigator with the 5-year project. “Making them much smaller and cheaper would democratize accelerators, potentially making them available to millions of people. We can’t even imagine the creative applications they would find for this technology.”

    Robert L. Byer, a Stanford professor of applied physics and co-principal investigator for the project who has been working on the idea for 40 years, said, “Based on our proposed revolutionary design, this prototype could set the stage for a new generation of ‘tabletop’ accelerators, with unanticipated discoveries in biology and materials science and potential applications in security scanning, medical therapy and X-ray imaging.”

    An international team of researchers has begun a 5-year effort to build a working particle accelerator the size of a shoebox based on an innovative technology known as “accelerator on a chip.”
    download mp4 video here.

    The Chip that Launched an International Quest

    The international effort to make a working prototype of the little accelerator was inspired by experiments led by scientists at SLAC and Stanford and, independently, at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) in Germany. Both teams demonstrated the potential for accelerating particles with lasers in papers published on the same day in 2013.

    In the SLAC/Stanford experiments, published in Nature, electrons were first accelerated to nearly light speed in a SLAC accelerator test facility. At this point they were going about as fast as they can go, and any additional acceleration would boost their energy, not their speed.

    The speeding electrons then entered a chip made of silica glass and traveled through a microscopic tunnel that had tiny ridges carved into its walls. Laser light shining on the chip interacted with those ridges and produced an electrical field that boosted the energy of the passing electrons.

    In the experiments, the chip achieved an acceleration gradient, or energy boost over a given distance, roughly 10 times higher than the SLAC linear accelerator can provide. At full potential, this means the 2-mile-long linac could be replaced with a series of accelerator chips 100 meters long ­– roughly the length of a football field.

    In a parallel approach, experiments led by Peter Hommelhoff of FAU and published in Physical Review Letters demonstrated that a laser could also be used to accelerate lower-energy electrons that had not first been boosted to nearly light speed. Both results taken together open the door to a compact particle accelerator.

    These microscopic images show some of the accelerator-on-a-chip designs being explored by the international collaboration. In each case, laser light shining on the chip boosts the energy of electrons traveling through it. (Left and middle images: Andrew Ceballos, Stanford University. Right image: Chunghun Lee, SLAC)

    A Tough, High-payoff Challenge

    For the past 75 years, particle accelerators have been an essential tool for physics, chemistry, biology and medicine, leading to multiple Nobel prize-winning discoveries. They are used to collide particles at high energies for studies of fundamental physics, and also to generate intense X-ray beams for a wide range of experiments in materials, biology, chemistry and other fields. But without new technology to reduce the cost and size of high-energy accelerators, progress in particle physics and structural biology could stall.

    The challenges of building the prototype accelerator are substantial, the scientists said. Demonstrating that a single chip works was an important step; now they must work out the optimal chip design and the best way to generate and steer electrons, distribute laser power among multiple chips and make electron beams that are 1,000 times smaller in diameter to go through the microscopic chip tunnels, among a host of other technical details.

    “The chip is the most crucial ingredient, but a working accelerator is way more than just this component,” said Hommelhoff, a professor of physics and co-principal investigator of the project. “We know what the main challenges will be and we don’t know how to solve them yet. But as scientists we thrive on this type of challenge. It requires a very diverse set of expertise, and we have brought a great crowd of people together to tackle it.”

    The Stanford-led collaboration includes world-renowned experts in accelerator physics, laser physics, nanophotonics and nanofabrication. SLAC and two other national laboratories ­– Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Germany and Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland – will contribute expertise and make their facilities available for experiments. In addition to FAU, five other universities are involved in the effort: University of California, Los Angeles, Purdue University, University of Hamburg, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and Technical University of Darmstadt.

    “The accelerator-on-a-chip project has terrific scientists pursuing a great idea. We’ll know they’ve succeeded when they advance from the proof of concept to a working prototype,” said Robert Kirshner, chief program officer of science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “This research is risky, but the Moore Foundation is not afraid of risk when a novel approach holds the potential for a big advance in science. Making things small to produce immense returns is what Gordon Moore did for microelectronics.”

    See the full article here .

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    SLAC Campus
    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

  • richardmitnick 11:34 am on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, Cleanroom,   

    From Symmetry: “Cleanroom is a verb” 


    Chris Patrick


    Although they might be invisible to the naked eye, contaminants less than a micron in size can ruin very sensitive experiments in particle physics.

    Flakes of skin, insect parts and other air-surfing particles—collectively known as dust—force scientists to construct or conduct certain experiments in cleanrooms, special places with regulated contaminant levels. There, scientists use a variety of tactics to keep their experiments dust-free.

    The enemy within

    Cleanrooms are classified by how many particles are found in a cubic foot of space. The fewer the particles, the cleaner the cleanroom.

    To prevent contaminating particles from getting in, everything that enters cleanrooms must be covered or cleaned, including the people. Scratch that: especially the people.

    “People are the dirtiest things in a cleanroom,” says Lisa Kaufman, assistant professor of nuclear physics at Indiana University. “We have to protect experiment detectors from ourselves.”

    Humans are walking landfills as far as a cleanroom is concerned. We shed hair and skin incessantly, both of which form dust. Our body and clothes also carry dust and dirt. Even our fingerprints can be adversaries.

    “Your fingers are terrible. They’re oily and filled with contaminants,” says Aaron Roodman, professor of particle physics and astrophysics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    In an experiment detector susceptible to radioactivity, the potassium in one fingerprint can create a flurry of false signals, which could cloud the real signals the experiment seeks.

    As a cleanroom’s greatest enemy, humans must cover up completely to go inside: A zip-up coverall, known as a bunny suit, sequesters shed skin. (Although its name alludes otherwise, the bunny suit lacks floppy ears and a fluffy tail.) Shower-cap-like headgear holds in hair. Booties cover soiled shoes. Gloves are a must-have. In particularly clean cleanrooms, or for scientists sporting burly beards, facemasks may be necessary as well.

    These items keep the number of particles brought into a cleanroom at a minimum.

    “In a normal place, if you have some surface that’s unattended, that you don’t dust, after a few days you’ll see lots and lots of stuff,” Roodman says. “In a cleanroom, you don’t see anything.”

    Getting to nothing, however, can take a lot more work than just covering up.

    Washing up at SNOLAB

    “This one undergrad who worked here put it, ‘Cleanroom is a verb, not a noun.’ Because the way you get a cleanroom clean is by constantly cleaning,” says research scientist Chris Jillings.

    Jillings works at SNOLAB, an underground laboratory studying neutrinos and dark matter. The lab is housed in an active Canadian mine.


    It seems an unlikely place for a cleanroom. And yet the entire 50,000-square-foot lab is considered a class-2000 cleanroom, meaning there are fewer than 2000 particles per cubic foot. Your average indoor space may have as many as 1 million particles per cubic foot.

    SNOLAB’s biggest concern is mine dust, because it contains uranium and thorium. These radioactive elements can upset sensitive detectors in SNOLAB experiments, such as DEAP-3600, which is searching for the faint whisper of dark matter. Uranium and thorium could leave signals in its detector that look like evidence of dark matter.

    DEAP Dark Matter detector
    DEAP-3600 dark matter detector

    Most workplaces can’t guarantee that all of their employees shower before work, but SNOLAB can. Everyone entering SNOLAB must shower on their way in and re-dress in a set of freshly laundered clothes.

    “We’ve sort of made it normal. It doesn’t seem strange to us,” says Jillings, who works on DEAP-3600. “It saves you a few minutes in the morning because you don’t have to shower at home.” More importantly, showering removes mine dust.

    SNOLAB also regularly wipes down every surface and constantly filters the air.

    Clearing the air for EXO

    Endless air filtration is a mainstay of all modern cleanrooms. Willis Whitfield, former physicist at Sandia National Laboratories, invented the modern cleanroom in 1962 by introducing this continuous filtered airflow to flush out particles.

    The filtered, pressurized, dehumidified air can make those who work in cleanrooms thirsty and contact-wearers uncomfortable.

    “You get used to it over time,” says Kaufman, who works in a cleanroom for the SLAC-headed Enriched Xenon Observatory experiment, EXO-200.

    SLAC EXO-200 experiment

    EXO-200 is another testament to particle physicists’ affinity for mines. The experiment hunts for extremely rare double beta decay events at WIPP, a salt mine in New Mexico, in its own class-1000 cleanroom—even cleaner than SNOLAB.

    As with SNOLAB experiments, anything emitting even the faintest amount of radiation is foe to EXO-200. Though those entering EXO-200’s cleanroom don’t have to shower, they do have to wash their arms, ears, face, neck and hands before covering up.

    Ditching the dust for LSST

    SLAC laboratory recently finished building another class-1000 cleanroom, specifically for assembly of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope [LSST]. LSST, an astronomical camera, will take over four years to build and will be the largest camera ever.

    LSST Exterior
    LSST Interior
    LSST Camera
    LSST camera, being built at SLAC, with the exterior and interior of the telescope building which will house it in Chile

    While SNOLAB and the EXO-200 cleanroom are mostly concerned with the radioactivity in particles containing uranium, thorium or potassium, LSST is wary of even the physical presence of particles.

    “If you’ve got parts that have to fit together really precisely, even a little dust particle can cause problems,” Roodman says. Dust can block or absorb light in various parts of the LSST camera.

    LSST’s parts are also vulnerable to static electricity. Built-up static electricity can wreck camera parts in a sudden zap known as an electrostatic discharge event.

    To reduce the chance of a zap, the LSST cleanroom features static-dissipating floors and all of its benches and tables are grounded. Once again, humans prove to be the worst offenders.

    “Most electrostatic discharge events are generated from humans,” says Jeff Tice, LSST cleanroom manager. “Your body is a capacitor and able to store a charge.”

    Scientists assembling the camera will wear static-reducing garments as well as antistatic wrist straps that ground them to the floor and prevent the buildup of static electricity.

    From static electricity to mine dust to fingerprints, every cleanroom is threatened by its own set of unseen enemies. But they all have one visible enemy in common: us.

    See the full article here .

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 9:08 am on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , , Helmholtz Young Investigators Groups   

    From DESY: “Three Helmholtz Young Investigators Groups for DESY” 



    The Helmholtz Association has awarded DESY grants to set up three new Young Investigators Groups. With annual funds of 250 000 euros each, three young scientists can set up their own research groups at DESY over a period of five years. Altogether, the Helmholtz Association is supporting 17 new Young Investigators Groups at its 18 centres. “I am very happy that no fewer than three of our candidates were able to convince the jury with their projects. This shows the outstanding quality of the young scientists we have at DESY”, says Prof. Helmut Dosch, chairman of DESY’s Board of Directors. DESY itself will be supplying half the overall funds in each case.


    In her group, Dr. Sadia Bari will be developing new methods for examining biomolecules. For this purpose, these proteins are to be placed in the beam of a bright X-ray source using a technique known as electrospray ionisation, making it possible to study them in a defined state without any substrate or solvent. Scientists are hoping that this will allow a range of fundamental questions to be answered, including the nature of the radiation damage that occurs in biological cells during medical radiation treatment, and the electrical charge transfer that occurs, for example, during photosynthesis in plants.

    Dr. Martin Beye was awarded the grant to develop new methods of investigation in materials science using X-rays. So-called soft X-rays, which have less energy than hard X-rays, are particularly suitable for studying active surfaces and boundary layers, because they are specifically sensitive to the active chemical elements in a compound. In this project, methods from optical laser spectroscopy are to be adapted for use with X-rays. The scientists are hoping that this will extend the scope of their analytical methods to a similar degree to that achieved through the introduction of optical lasers.

    Dr. Sarah Heim is setting up a group of young investigators to search for dark matter and other features of the so-called new physics, using the ATLAS detector at the world’s largest particle accelerator, the LHC. The scientists want to use two different approaches to look for candidates for the hitherto completely mysterious dark matter: on the one hand via the decay of the Higgs boson, which was discovered in 2012 at the LHC, into invisible particles which do not leave a trace in the detector; on the other hand indirectly by comparing the properties of the Higgs particle with the predictions of the so-called standard model of particle physics. DESY has various research groups involved in experiments at the LHC. Heim’s Young Investigators Group will be part of the ATLAS group at DESY.

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    DESY is one of the world’s leading accelerator centres. Researchers use the large-scale facilities at DESY to explore the microcosm in all its variety – from the interactions of tiny elementary particles and the behaviour of new types of nanomaterials to biomolecular processes that are essential to life. The accelerators and detectors that DESY develops and builds are unique research tools. The facilities generate the world’s most intense X-ray light, accelerate particles to record energies and open completely new windows onto the universe. 
That makes DESY not only a magnet for more than 3000 guest researchers from over 40 countries every year, but also a coveted partner for national and international cooperations. Committed young researchers find an exciting interdisciplinary setting at DESY. The research centre offers specialized training for a large number of professions. DESY cooperates with industry and business to promote new technologies that will benefit society and encourage innovations. This also benefits the metropolitan regions of the two DESY locations, Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin.

  • richardmitnick 8:33 am on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, Drug delivery,   

    From EPFL: “3D-mapping a new drug-delivery tool” 

    EPFL bloc

    Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne

    Nik Papageorgiou


    Scientists from EPFL and Nestlé have developed a new method that can “see” inside dispersed cubosomes (dispersed cubic liquid crystalline phases) with unprecedented detail. The breakthrough can help to improve their design significantly for better drug or nutrient delivery.

    Cubosomes are small biological “capsules” that can deliver molecules of nutrients or drugs with high efficiency. They have a highly symmetrical interior made of tiny cubes of assembled fat molecules similar to the ones in cell membranes. This also means that cubosomes are safe to use in living organisms. Such features have triggered great interest in the pharmaceutical and food industry, who seek to exploit the structure of cubosomes for the controlled release of molecules, improving the delivery of nutrients and drugs. EPFL scientists, working with Nestlé, have now been able to study the 3D structure of cubosomes in detail for the first time. Published in Nature Communications, the breakthrough can help and promote the use of cubosomes in medicine and food science.

    Molecules of a drug or a nutrient contained inside a cubosome can move by using the numerous tiny channels that make up its structure’s interior. The pharmaceutical industry already uses a similar system for drug delivery: the liposomes, which are also made of fats but in the shape of a sphere. Their intricate internal channels give cubosomes a very high internal surface, which offers great potential for the controlled delivery of nutrients and drugs.

    In short, the properties of cubosomes, like other lipid-based delivery vessels, depend on their particular structures. The problem is that cubosomes are self-assembled, occurring “spontaneously” after putting together the right ingredients (generally fats and a detergent) under the right conditions. This means that scientists have limited control over their final structure, which makes it hard to optimize their design. In addition, it is very difficult to “see” the interior of a cubosome and map out the various arrangements of its channels.

    Davide Demurtas and Cécile Hébert from EPFL’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Electron Microscopy (CIME), working with Laurent Sagalowicz at the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, have now uncovered the interior 3D structure of cubosomes, and have successfully matched their real-life findings to computer simulations.

    The researchers used a microscopy technique called cryo-electron tomography (CET). Their method involves embedding cubosomes in a type of “glass” ice that does not form crystals, which would damage the cubosomes. The samples are kept at -170oC. The microscope then takes photographs while tilting the cubosome at different angles. The technique, which was carried out at CIME, can reconstruct the three-dimensional information to create images of the cubosomes in their native state and with unprecedented detail.

    “This method allows us to get information about everything, both the inside and outside of the cubosomes,” says Cécile Hébert. “Because the CET microscope distinguishes the different densities between cubosome and ice, it is very sensitive and precise.”

    The CET images clearly showed the internal cubic structure, as well as the internal 3D organization of the channels. The researchers also compared the images to the prevailing mathematical models used to make computer simulations of the interface between the interior and exterior. The real-life data successfully matched the theory.

    “With this approach we can now forge a new understanding of the structure of the cubosomes’ interior,” says Davide Demurtas. The success is expected to make the study and design of cubosomes with controlled macroscopic properties (e.g. controlled release) easier.

    This work represents a collaboration of EPFL’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Electron Microscopy (CIME) with the Nestlé Research Center Lausanne, EPFL’s Institute of Cancer Research, and the Department of Health Science & Technology of ETH Zurich.


    Demurtas D, Guichard P, Martiel I, Mezzenga R, Hébert C, Sagalowicz L. Direct visualization of dispersed lipid bicontinuous cubic phases by cryo-electron tomography.Nature Communications 17 November 2015. DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS9915.

    See the full article here .

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    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

  • richardmitnick 8:11 am on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From SLAC: “X-ray Microscope Reveals ‘Solitons,’ a Special Type of Magnetic Wave” 

    SLAC Lab

    November 16, 2015

    Scientists Hope to Control its Properties to Create a New Form of Electronics

    X-rays at SSRL (purple) measure a special type of magnetic wave, called a spin wave soliton, that has the ability to hold its shape as it moves across a magnetic material. The arrows, like reorienting compass needles, represent localized changes in the material’s magnetic orientation. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    Researchers used a powerful, custom-built X-ray microscope at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to directly observe the magnetic version of a soliton, a type of wave that can travel without resistance. Scientists are exploring whether such magnetic waves can be used to carry and store information in a new, more efficient form of computer memory that requires less energy and generates less heat.

    Magnetic solitons are remarkably stable and hold their shape and strength as they travel across a magnetic material, just as tsunamis maintain their strength and form while traversing the ocean. This offers an advantage over materials used in modern electronics, which require more energy to move data due to resistance, which causes them to heat up.

    In experiments at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource [SSRL] , a DOE Office of Science User Facility, researchers captured the first X-ray images of solitons and a mini-movie of solitons that were generated by hitting a magnetic material with electric current to excite rippling magnetic effects. Results from two independent experiments were published Nov. 16 in Nature Communications and Sept. 17 in Physical Review Letters.

    SLAC SSRL Tunnel

    “Magnetism has been used for navigation for thousands of years and more recently to build generators, motors and data storage devices,” said co-author Hendrik Ohldag, a scientist at SSRL. “However, magnetic elements were mostly viewed as static and uniform. To push the limits of energy efficiency in the future we need to understand better how magnetic devices behave on fast timescales at the nanoscale, which is why we are using this dedicated ultrafast X-ray microscope.”

    “This is an exciting observation because it shows that small magnetic waves – known as spin-waves – can add up to a large one in a magnet,” explains Andrew Kent, a professor of physics at New York University and a senior author for one of the studies.. “A specialized X-ray method that can focus on particular magnetic elements with very high resolution enabled this discovery and should enable many more insights into this behavior.”

    Solitons are a form of spin waves, which are disturbances that propagate in a magnetic material as a patterned, rippling response in the material’s electrons. This response is related to the spin of electrons, a fundamental particle property that can be thought of as either “up” or “down” – like the head or tail sides of a coin.

    An ultrafast camera coupled to a custom-built X-ray microscope at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource allowed researchers to produce a six-frame “movie” of the soliton’s motion. It took about 12 hours to record enough X-ray data to produce the movie. (Stefano Bonetti/Stockholm University)

    In 1834 John Scott Russell, a Scottish civil engineer and shipbuilder, first described his observation of the soliton phenomenon in a boat-produced wave that held a uniform shape for over a mile as it traveled down a canal. Solitons had for decades been theorized to occur in magnets, but it took a specialized X-ray microscope like the one at SLAC to directly observe the effect.

    “We built a microscope that allowed us to look at these magnetic waves in a new way,” said Stefano Bonetti, the leading author of the study published in Nature Communications. Bonetti is a Stanford University postdoctoral fellow now at Stockholm University. “With this new microscope, we can actually see them moving,” he said. “We can see things directly.”

    An ultrafast camera coupled to the microscope allowed researchers to record six images that were compiled in sequence to form a “movie” of the soliton’s motion. It took about 12 hours to record enough X-ray data to produce the movie.

    The high resolution of the X-ray microscope revealed an anomaly in the spin-wave effects: While researchers expected the soliton to fully flip the local magnetic alignment of the material, like a compass switching from north to south, they found that the soliton caused the material’s magnetic orientation to change only slightly.

    “We would expect to see this reverse, or flip,” Bonetti said. “But it didn’t reverse – it just tilted about 25 degrees. The situation is not as simple as people thought.”

    Also, in one of the experiments researchers saw the soliton split in two: it was expected to take a spherical or circular form, but instead appeared split down the middle, as if an approaching ocean wave had split into two separate waves that were mirror images of each other. “In the simulations we were using before, we were blind to this possibility,” Bonetti said.

    More experiments are needed to understand both the tilting effect and the way that the soliton can split into a mirrored form, Bonetti said. Simulations could help researchers learn how to convert the mirrored pattern of the soliton into a more uniformly symmetrical shape, he said, or to understand how to use the split form for data applications.

    Researchers from Stanford University; SIMES, the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences at SLAC; University of Barcelona in Spain; KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden; New York University; HGST, a Western Digital Company; and Emory University in Georgia also contributed to the study. The work was supported by Everspin Technologies, the DOE Office of Science, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, the Catalan Government, the National Science Foundation, the Forsk Foundation, the European Commission, the U.S. Army Research Office and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

    Citations: S. Bonetti, et al., Nature Communications, 16 November 2015 (10.1038/NCOMMS9889)

    D. Backes, et al., Physical Review Letters, 17 September 2015 (10.1103/PhysRevLett.115.127205)

    See the full article here .

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    SLAC Campus
    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

  • richardmitnick 4:23 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , Help fight childhood cancer,   

    From HFCC at WCG: “New research phase will attack more types of childhood cancer” 

    New WCG Logo

    16 Nov 2015
    Dr. Akira Nakagawara, MD, PhD
    CEO of the Saga Medical Center KOSEIKAN and President Emeritus, Chiba Cancer Center

    Phase 2 of Help Fight Childhood Cancer will expand on the breakthrough discoveries from Phase 1. New collaborators, new disease targets and new therapy options will mean new hope for even more pediatric patients afflicted with cancer.


    Last year, our Help Fight Childhood Cancer (HFCC) team announced a breakthrough discovery with the potential to improve treatments for neuroblastoma – one of the most common and deadly types of childhood cancer. We have begun preparing for a second phase of our project which will investigate possible treatments for other types of tumors that occur in children. There are several new developments in the project, each of which increases its scope, potential effectiveness and eventual benefit for some of the most vulnerable pediatric patients.

    New project structure

    Phase 1 of HFCC was a joint effort by personnel at the Chiba Cancer Center Research Institute (which I formerly led) and Chiba University, (led by Dr. Hoshino and Dr. Tamura). Because of my new position, primary responsibility for the project is now shifting to the Saga Medical Center KOSEIKAN Research Institute (which I now lead). Phase 2 will also welcome several new collaborators, including teams from Hong Kong University (led by Dr. Godfrey C.F. Chan) and Texas Children’s Hospital (led by Dr. Ching C. Lau), both of whom are pediatric oncologists.

    New disease targets

    With the success of HFCC Phase 1 in identifying promising candidates for neuroblastoma, we are applying our proven research approach to considerably expand the scope of our work. In Phase 2, we will be examining a wider range of target childhood cancers, to include not only neuroblastoma but also other cancers in the nervous system, bones and liver. Our initial efforts in Phase 2 will target hepatoblastoma, neuroblastoma and Ewing’s sarcoma. Other cancers will be added later as specific protein targets are identified and their structures discovered.

    New therapy options

    Our move to Saga Medical Center KOSEIKAN means we also have access to the resources of the Saga International Heavy Charged Particle Cancer Therapy Foundation. This includes the use of heavy carbon ion beam radiotherapy, which could be indicated as one of the new radiotherapeutic strategies against childhood tumors like neuroblastoma. The combination of new drugs—like those discovered during HFCC Phase 1—and new radiotherapy shows great promise in helping children to conquer neuroblastoma in the future.

    New drug development partners

    In a previous update, one of the problems we mentioned is that many pharmaceutical companies are not interested in developing drugs for neuroblastoma, because the potential market is relatively small. That’s why we are especially excited to announce that recently, two organizations that support drug development in Japan – the National Institute of Biomedical Innovation (NIBIO) and the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) – have shown interest in our project of TrkB antagonists as candidate anti-cancer drugs. In addition, the Association Hubert Gouin: Enfance & Cancer, which supports researchers who develop new drugs against high-risk neuroblastoma, is also interested in our TrkB antagonists project. We hope to secure their support for our project in the near future.

    Once again, thank you to the thousands of volunteers who have made our work possible. We’re very excited to share these promising developments, and look forward to launching Phase 2 in the near future.

    See the full article here.

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    WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing.

    BOINC WallPaper


    “Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.

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  • richardmitnick 4:06 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , ,   

    From UCSD: “From the Field: Chilean Tsunami Rocks Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    Scripps Institution of Oceanography UCSD
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography

    Chance timing leads to first seismic observations of tsunami impacts on an ice shelf

    Nov 13, 2015
    Peter Bromirski

    Servicing a seismic station in subzero temperatures and high winds. Photo courtesy of Spencer Niebuhr

    The magnitude 8.3 earthquake on Sept.16, 2015 off the coast of Chile generated a tsunami that was felt throughout the Pacific. Serendipitously, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego-led project has a broadband seismic array deployed on the Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) in Antarctica.

    These seismic stations made the first large-scale broadband seismic array observations of the response of an ice shelf to tsunami arrivals. A team of Scripps researchers now in Antarctica is recovering seismic data from 34 seismic stations spanning the ice shelf. Strong signals generated by the tsunami impacting the shelf were detected at all stations from which data has been recovered, with the expectation that the entire ice shelf was rocked.

    Because the shortest direct path for the tsunami to the RIS goes through West Antarctica, refraction and scattering by seafloor ridges and seamounts must have diverted the tsunami energy that impacted the RIS.

    Ice shelves are slabs of ice that extend from land over the ocean like a half-cover on a jacuzzi. Ice shelves provide a buttressing effect, restraining the flow of grounded ice sheets to the sea. When this restraint is removed, the flow of land ice into the ocean accelerates, raising sea level. The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf in Antarctica that covers an area of the Ross Sea roughly the size of Texas, and restrains West Antarctic grounded ice sheet that could contribute as much as three meters of sea-level rise.

    The seismic survey studying the vibrations of the Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) in response to ocean wave impacts will provide information on the structure and strength of the RIS, giving baseline “state-of-health” ice shelf measurements that will be used to identify the magnitude of changes in its integrity over time.

    The servicing of the stations installed in November 2015 involves flying by Twin Otter aircraft to the stations and uncovering the instrument recording boxes buried by about 3-4 feet of snow. The Scripps team, led by Peter Bromirski with Anja Diez, Zhao Chen, and Jerry Wanetick, swap out the disc drives that contain the full year of data. Temperatures at the stations during data recovery have ranged from about -15 to -26° C (5 to -15° F), with winds as high as 40 knots.

    The National Science Foundation Division of Polar Programs-funded project will continue collecting seismic and GPS data for another full year, including through the austral winter.

    The triggers that initiated the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002 and the Wilkens Ice Shelf in 2008 have not been identified. While tsunamis were not factors in those events, West Antarctic ice shelves are exposed to circum-Pacific-generated tsunamis that could provide the trigger for the collapse of weakened ice shelves, removing their restraining influence.

    Institutions participating in the study include Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Washington University in St. Louis, Colorado State University, and Penn State University.

    See the full article here .

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

  • richardmitnick 1:13 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, Evil,   

    From New Scientist: “Is evil a disease? ISIS and the neuroscience of brutality” 


    New Scientist

    11 November 2015
    Laura Spinney

    It’s hard to understand how the Nazis, ISIS and other radical groups can turn ordinary people into brutal killers. But perhaps evil is a disease – one we can treat. This article was first published before the attacks in Paris on 13 November

    Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

    WHY would an apparently normal young adult drop out of college and turn up some time later in a video performing a cold-blooded execution in the name of jihad? It’s a conundrum we have been forced to ponder ever since a group calling itself ISIS declared war on infidels. But 70 years ago we were asking something similar of guards in Nazi concentration camps – and, sadly, there have been plenty of opportunities to ponder the matter in between.

    What turns an ordinary person into a killer? The idea that a civilised human being might be capable of barbaric acts is so alien that we often blame our animal instincts – the older, “primitive” areas of the brain taking over and subverting their more rational counterparts. But fresh thinking turns this long-standing explanation on its head. It suggests that people perform brutal acts because the “higher”, more evolved, brain overreaches. The set of brain changes involved has been dubbed Syndrome E – with E standing for evil.

    In a world where ideological killings are rife, new insights into this problem are sorely needed. But reframing evil as a disease is controversial. Some believe it could provide justification for heinous acts or hand extreme organisations a recipe for radicalising more young people. Others argue that it denies the reality that we all have the potential for evil within us. Proponents, however, say that if evil really is a pathology, then society ought to try to diagnose susceptible individuals and reduce contagion. And if we can do that, perhaps we can put radicalisation into reverse, too.

    The Srebrebica massacre was the worst in Europe since World War II. Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

    Following the second world war, the behaviour of guards in Nazi concentration camps became the subject of study, with some researchers seeing them as willing, ideologically driven executioners, others as mindlessly obeying orders. The debate was reignited in the mid-1990s in the wake of the Rwandan genocide and the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. In 1996, The Lancet carried an editorial pointing out that no one was addressing evil from a biological point of view. Neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried, at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to rise to the challenge.

    In a paper published in 1997, he argued that the transformation of non-violent individuals into repetitive killers is characterised by a set of symptoms that suggests a common condition, which he called Syndrome E (see “Seven symptoms of evil“). He suggested that this is the result of “cognitive fracture”, which occurs when a higher brain region, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) – involved in rational thought and decision-making – stops paying attention to signals from more primitive brain regions and goes into overdrive.

    The idea captured people’s imaginations, says Fried, because it suggested that you could start to define and describe this basic flaw in the human condition. “Just as a constellation of symptoms such as fever and a cough may signify pneumonia, defining the constellation of symptoms that signify this syndrome may mean that you could recognise it in the early stages.” But it was a theory in search of evidence. Neuroscience has come a long way since then, so Fried organised a conference in Paris earlier this year to revisit the concept.

    At the most fundamental level, understanding why people kill is about understanding decision-making, and neuroscientists at the conference homed in on this. Fried’s theory starts with the assumption that people normally have a natural aversion to harming others. If he is correct, the higher brain overrides this instinct in people with Syndrome E. How might that occur?

    Etienne Koechlin at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris was able to throw some empirical light on the matter by looking at people obeying rules that conflict with their own preferences. He put volunteers inside a brain scanner and let them choose between two simple tasks, guided by their past experience of which would be the more financially rewarding (paying 6 euros versus 4). After a while he randomly inserted rule-based trials: now there was a colour code indicating which of the two tasks to choose, and volunteers were told that if they disobeyed they would get no money.

    Not surprisingly, they followed the rule, even when it meant that choosing the task they had learned would earn them a lower pay-off in the free-choice trials. But something unexpected happened. Although rule-following should have led to a simpler decision, they took longer over it, as if conflicted. In the brain scans, both the lateral and the medial regions of the PFC lit up. The former is known to be sensitive to rules; the latter receives information from the limbic system, an ancient part of the brain that processes emotional states, so is sensitive to our innate preferences. In other words, when following the rule, people still considered their personal preference, but activity in the lateral PFC overrode it.

    Of course, playing for a few euros is far removed from choosing to kill fellow humans. However, Koechlin believes his results show that our instinctive values endure even when the game changes. “Rules do not change values, just behaviours,” he says. He interprets this as showing that it is normal, not pathological, for the higher brain to override signals coming from the primitive brain. If Fried’s idea is correct, this process goes into overdrive in Syndrome E, helping to explain how an ordinary person overcomes their squeamishness to kill. The same neuroscience may underlie famous experiments conducted by the psychologist Stanley Milgram at Yale University in the 1960s, which revealed the extraordinary lengths to which people would go out of obedience to an authority figure – even administering what they thought were lethal electric shocks to strangers.

    Fried suggests that people experience a visceral reaction when they kill for the first time, but some rapidly become desensitised. And the primary instinct not to harm may be more easily overcome when people are “just following orders”. In unpublished work, Patrick Haggard at University College London has used brain scans to show that this is enough to make us feel less responsible for our actions. “There is something about being coerced that produces a different experience of agency,” he says, “as if people are subjectively able to distance themselves from this unpleasant event they are causing.”

    However, what is striking about many accounts of mass killing, both contemporary and historical, is that the perpetrators often choose to kill even when not under orders to do so. In his book Ordinary Men, the historian Christopher Browning recounts the case of a Nazi unit called reserve police battalion 101. No member of this unit was forced to kill. A small minority did so eagerly from the start, but they may have had psychopathic or sadistic tendencies. However, the vast majority of those who were reluctant to kill soon underwent a transformation, becoming just as ruthless. Browning calls them “routinised” killers: it was as if, once they had decided to kill, it quickly became a habit.

    Habits have long been considered unthinking, semi-automatic behaviours in which the higher brain is not involved. That seems to support the idea that the primitive brain is in control when seemingly normal people become killers. But this interpretation is challenged by new research by neuroscientist Ann Graybiel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She studies people with common psychiatric disorders, such as addiction and depression, that lead them to habitually make bad decisions. In high-risk, high-stakes situations, they tend to downplay the cost with respect to the benefit and accept an unhealthy level of risk. Graybiel’s work suggests the higher brain is to blame.

    In one set of experiments, her group trained rats to acquire habits – following certain runs through mazes. The researchers then suppressed the activity of neurons in an area of the PFC that blocks signals coming from a primitive part of the brain called the amygdala. The rats immediately changed their running behaviour – the habit had been broken (PNAS, vol 109, p 18932). “The old idea that the cognitive brain doesn’t have evaluative access to that habitual behaviour, that it’s beyond its reach, is false,” says Graybiel. “It has moment-to-moment evaluative control.” That’s exciting, she says, because it suggests a way to treat people with maladaptive habits such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or even, potentially, Syndrome E.

    What made the experiment possible was a technique known as optogenetics, which allows light to regulate the activity of genetically engineered neurons in the rat PFC. That wouldn’t be permissible in humans, but cognitive or behavioural therapies, or drugs, could achieve the same effect. Graybiel believes it might even be possible to stop people deciding to kill in the first place by steering them away from the kind of cost-benefit analysis that led them to, say, blow themselves up on a crowded bus. In separate experiments with risk-taking rats, her team found that optogenetically decreasing activity in another part of the limbic system that communicates with the PFC, the striatum, made the rats more risk-averse: “We can just turn a knob and radically alter their behaviour,” she says (Cell, vol 161, p 1320).

    Palestinian children: who is to judge when behaviour is maladaptive? Shahid Aziz/EPA

    Whether society would condone such interventions is a different matter, as Graybiel acknowledges. If one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, then who should define maladaptive behaviour? This point is reinforced by anthropologist Scott Atran of the University of Michigan, who earlier this year addressed the UN Security Council about his research on ideologically motivated violence. “Al-Qaida and ISIS argue that the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, without regard to civilian casualties, are evil,” he says.

    Atran opposes the idea of pathologising evil and others share his qualms. For social psychologist Stephen Reicher at the University of St Andrews, UK, the problem with Syndrome E is that it divides the world into them and us. It supposes that only people with flawed minds are capable of evil, when in fact everyone is, given the right (or wrong) context. If we want to make the world a less violent place, he says, we have to consider that context. And that requires us to step back from the individual and look at the group.

    The notes that Milgram kept during his famous experiments are revealing, Reicher says, because they show that people actually displayed the whole gamut of responses, from enthusiastic participation to refusal via anxious indecision. What determined an individual’s response was whether they identified more with the experimenter – the authority figure – or the victim. He believes that the key question is how the perpetrators of massacres define themselves – the group they identify with and who, as a non-member, they perceive as a threat.

    This makes sense given what we know about group behaviour. Humans evolved as ultra-social animals, relying on group membership for survival. Our tendency to group together is so intense that just glimpsing a flash of colour is enough for us to affiliate with a stranger sporting the same colour. Cognitive neuroscientist Julie Grèzes, also at the École Normale Supérieure, argues that belonging to even such a small and ephemeral group determines how we perceive outsiders. We feel less empathy towards people outside our group, and we can literally dehumanise them.

    Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where detainees are “quarantined”. Zuma Press/Eyevine

    Because we tend to adopt the beliefs and values of any group we identify with, our groups also influence how we behave towards outsiders. “What is truly toxic,” says Reicher, “is a construction of in-group and out-group which makes genocide an act of virtue and construes the killers as the most noble among us.”

    But groups can be a good and civilising force too. In fact, resistance to violence also tends to occur in the form of collectives, as demonstrated by the three young people from the US who foiled a gunman’s attempted attack on a French train in August. Solitary types, on the other hand, might be the easiest prey for those espousing violent extremism.

    Herein lies the yin and yang of the problem. We should actually encourage group membership, Reicher argues, because it may be the best protection against the unhealthy conviction that we are more virtuous than people outside our group. We should also educate people to be wary of such black-and-white moral distinctions, he says.
    Spot the symptoms

    So where does that leave us? Both Reicher and Atran believe that future research should focus less on why people decide to perform extreme acts, and more on what draws them to extreme organisations in the first place. Speaking at the UN, Atran argued that young people need a dream. Appeals for moderation will never be attractive to “youth, yearning for adventure, for glory, for significance”, he said.

    But Fried is encouraged that neuroscience has bolstered the idea of Syndrome E, and still believes we can benefit from thinking in terms of what is going on inside the brain of a killer. What’s more, group dynamics might help explain why the PFC is at the root of evil. After all, the recently evolved parts of the brain respond to rules precisely because rules are essential for the smooth functioning of groups. The possibility that this useful response may go into overdrive is perhaps the price we pay.

    Fried is not a proponent of using drugs to treat Syndrome E. Instead, he thinks we should use our growing neuroscientific knowledge to identify radicalisation early, isolate those affected and help them change. “The signs and symptoms should be made widely known, so that people can spot them,” he says. When it comes to prevention, he thinks education is probably the key. And in that, at least, he agrees with his detractors.


    Seven symptoms of evil

    The idea that evil is a disease is predicated on the observation that mass killers share some common traits:

    Compulsive repetitive violence
    Obsessive beliefs
    Rapid desensitisation to violence
    Flat emotional state
    Separation of violence from everyday activities
    Obedience to an authority
    Perceiving group members as virtuous

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:08 am on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , Supervolcanoes   

    From livescience: “Earthquakes Could Trigger Massive Supervolcano Eruptions, Study Suggests” 


    November 13, 2015
    Charles Q. Choi

    In Yellowstone National Park, the rim of a supervolcano caldera is visible in the distance.Credit: National Park Service

    Supervolcanoes, such as the one dormant under Yellowstone National Park, may erupt when cracks form in the roofs of the chambers holding their molten rock, according to a new study.

    If scientists want to monitor supervolcanoes to see which ones are likely to erupt, this finding suggests they should look for telltale signs, such as earthquakes and other factors that might crack the magma chambers of these giant volcanoes.

    Supervolcanoes are capable of eruptions overshadowing anything in recorded human history — ones in the past could spew more than 500 times more magma and ash than Mount St. Helens did in 1980, the researchers said. These massive eruptions would also leave behind giant craters known as calderas that measure up to 60 miles (100 kilometers) wide. Twenty or so supervolcanoes exist today, including one beneath Yellowstone in the United States.

    Much remains unknown about what triggers supervolcano eruptions because no supervolcano has been active since the earliest human records began. Conventional volcanoes are known to erupt as molten rock flows into and pressurizes their magma chambers. However, previous research suggested this kind of trigger does not work for supervolcanoes, whose magma chambers can be dozens of miles wide and several miles thick — magma cannot fill these chambers fast enough to generate enough pressure for an eruption.

    “Supereruptions are very rare because they are very difficult to trigger,” study lead author Patricia Gregg, a volcanologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Live Science. “Part of what makes supereruptions so intriguing is that they are so infrequent. This indicates that there must be something different about supervolcano evolution and eruption versus smaller volcanoes that erupt more frequently.”

    Scientists recently suggested that supervolcanic eruptions occur because magma might be less dense than the rock surrounding it. This could force magma to buoy up through the ground, the way a balloon floats upward in water, potentially pressurizing magma chambers enough for eruptions.

    However, at supervolcano sites, “we don’t see a lot of evidence for pressurization,” Gregg said in a statement. When she and her colleagues incorporated magma buoyancy into their numerical models of supervolcanoes, they found it could not trigger eruptions.

    “We have ruled out a potential triggering mechanism for supereruptions,” Gregg said. “This is particularly important when investigating unrest at a supervolcano. If all it takes is buoyancy to trigger a catastrophic caldera-forming eruption, we should be very concerned when we see images of the large magmatic systems at Yellowstone and Toba, Indonesia, for example. However, through rigorous testing, we have found no link between buoyancy and the potential to erupt one of these systems. Buoyancy just does not produce a force strong enough to do it.”

    Yellowstone sits on top of four overlapping calderas. (US NPS)

    Instead, Gregg and her colleagues found the size of a supervolcano’s magma chamber is a much greater factor than magma buoyancy when it comes to eruptions.

    “As a magma chamber expands, it pushes the roof up and forms faults,” Gregg said in a statement. “As these very large magma chambers grow, the roof above may become unstable, and it becomes easier to trigger an eruption through faulting or failure within the rock.”

    The research team’s model suggests that, if a crack in the roof penetrates the magma chamber, the magma within uses the fault or crack as a vent to shoot to the surface. This could trigger a chain reaction that “unzips” the whole supervolcano, the researchers said.

    These findings suggest that if supervolcano eruptions are triggered by external factors, such as faults in the roofs of their magma chambers, “then we should look at seismicity, what types of faults are being developed, what is the stability of the roof and what kinds of activities are happening on the surface that could cause faulting,” Gregg said in a statement.

    In the future, Gregg and her colleagues want to use supercomputers to track the evolution of supervolcano magma chambers over time in greater detail. “I am very excited to see how the research develops over the next five to 10 years,” Gregg said.

    The scientists detailed their findings Nov. 2 at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Baltimore

    See the full article here .

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