in the News
Michael R. Anastasio
A Hitchhiker's Guide to Early
A New World of Maps
Solid-Oxide Fuel Cells Stack
Up to Efficient, Clean Power
Accomplishments in Laser Research
Livermore National Laboratory
Poised for the Future
THIS month marks the 50th
anniversary of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The world
was a different place on September 2, 1952, when a branch of the
University of California Radiation Laboratory opened its doors at
an abandoned naval air station near Livermore, California. The fear
then was the Soviet Union armed with its newly tested atomic weapon.
Fifty years later, the threat of a terrorist, perhaps armed with
nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, is driving our research
and development in new directions.
What has not changed in the
intervening 50 years is Livermores ability to respond to national
needs. As a large multidisciplinary organization, we need to be
flexible and fast on our feet. A striking example emerged early
in the Laboratorys history when the Department of Defense
challenged the Laboratory to miniaturize nuclear weapons. In a short
time, we did the seemingly impossible and produced the warhead for
the Polaris missile, the first nuclear weapon small enough to be
launched from a submarine.
Today, we are responding
to new and different threats. Chemical agents, bacteria, viruses,
biological toxins, and genetically altered organisms could wreak
havoc on urban populations, destroy livestock, and wipe out crops.
These agents are often difficult to detect and identify quickly
and reliably. Yet, early detection and identification are crucial
for minimizing their potentially catastrophic human and economic
cost. Fortunately, long before the anthrax attacks of last fall,
Livermore was already a leader in developing innovative methods
and technologies for early detection of chemical and biological
terrorism threats. Since the attack, the Laboratory has intensified
its efforts in this area so vital to national security.
of our successes have been achieved by teams of scientists and engineers
from many disciplines that come together quickly to respond to the
need at hand. This way of doing science is the legacy of the Laboratorys
founder, Ernest O. Lawrence, who believed strongly that scientists
from many fields working together would accelerate the quest for
fundamental knowledge. Over the past 50 years, this multidisciplinary
approach has resulted in major advances in basic and applied science
that in turn lead to new technologies to benefit society.
The technological accomplishments
of this interdisciplinary teamwork have often yielded exciting capabilities
with multiple applications to other fields. Materials developed
in the weapons program have found use in artificial hip joints designed
at Livermore. X-ray tomography developed to nondestructively examine
the inner components of nuclear weapons has also been used to reveal
the bone weakening
of osteoporosis. Quantum simulations, a physics tool that can describe
the fundamental interactions of weapons materials, are exposing
the inner workings of biochemical processes important to human health.
The article entitled A
Hitchhikers Guide to Early Earth is an excellent example
of the dual-use science at which Lawrence Livermore excels. Geophysicists,
analytical chemists, and forensic scientists, collaborating on shock
experiments using one of the Laboratorys gas guns, are exploring
the origins of life on Earth as well as the effect of a missile
intercept on chemical weapons. These subjects, which may appear
to have nothing in common, are connected at a fundamental level
by concern about the fate of organic liquids subjected to strong
shock compression. Basic science yet again benefits national security
and the world at large.
The next 50 years will undoubtedly
be a period of significant changes as have the past 50 years. I
am confident that Livermores distinguished staff will continue
to respond as they always have with innovation, integrity, and mission
focus when called upon to meet national needs.
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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
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Department of Energy
October 7, 2002