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3-D Earth model accurately pinpoints source of earthquakes, explosions

August 22, 2013 7:58 am | News | Comments

During the Cold War, U.S. and international monitoring agencies could spot nuclear tests and focused on measuring their sizes. Today, they’re looking around the globe to pinpoint much smaller explosives tests. Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory have partnered to develop a 3-D model of the Earth’s mantle and crust called SALSA3D, with the purpose to assist in locating explosions.

New theory points to “zombie vortices” as key step in star formation

August 21, 2013 7:47 am | News | Comments

A new theory by fluid dynamics experts at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, shows how “zombie vortices” help lead to the birth of a new star. In a recent report, a UC Berkeley-led team shows how variations in gas density lead to instability, which then generates the whirlpool-like vortices needed for stars to form.

Magma can survive in upper crust for hundreds of millennia

August 20, 2013 12:33 am | by Vince Stricherz, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Reservoirs of silica-rich magma can persist in Earth’s upper crust for hundreds of thousands of years without triggering an eruption, according to new modeling research. That means an area known to have experienced a massive volcanic eruption in the past, such as Yellowstone National Park, could have a large pool of magma festering beneath it and still not be close to going off as it did 600,000 years ago.

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Researchers examine dynamics of nanoscale liquid metal particles

August 15, 2013 2:31 pm | News | Comments

The evolution of fluid drops deposited on solid substrates has been a focus of large research effort for decades, and most recently it has focused on nanoscale properties. Two New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers are the first to demonstrate that simulations based on continuum fluid mechanics can explain the nanoscale dynamics of liquid metal particles on a substrate.

Low-temperature combustion enables cleaner, more efficient engines

August 14, 2013 8:45 am | News | Comments

As demand climbs for more fuel-efficient vehicles, knowledge compiled over several years about diesel engines and a new strategy known as “low-temperature combustion” (LTC) might soon lead auto manufacturers and consumers to broader use of cleaner diesel engines in the U.S.

Climate benefit for cutting soot, methane smaller than previous estimates

August 13, 2013 8:23 am | News | Comments

Cutting the amount of short-lived, climate-warming emissions such as soot and methane in our skies won't limit global warming as much as previous studies have suggested, a new analysis shows. The study also found a comprehensive climate policy (including methane) would produce more climate benefits by 2050 than if soot and methane were reduced alone.

Science is harnessing shock waves to create new materials

August 12, 2013 1:42 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Purdue Univ. are part of a national effort to develop new materials having super strength and other properties by using shock waves similar to those generated by meteorites striking the Earth. A new center has been established specifically for this type of investigation, and its primary mission is to predict shock conditions under which new materials can be synthesized.

Computer simulations reveal universal increase in electrical conductivity

August 12, 2013 9:16 am | News | Comments

A recent study in the U.K. investigated the electrical conductivity of a solid electrolyte, a system of positive and negative atoms on a crystal lattice. Computer simulations performed using this model have revealed how the electrical conductivity of many materials increases with a strong electrical field in a universal way. The discovery could significant implications for future materials and chemistry research.

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Virtual control room helps nuclear operators, industry

August 8, 2013 11:37 am | News | Comments

A new facility at Idaho National Laboratory is helping nuclear power plant operators like Duke Energy embark on an upgrade projects for their control rooms. The new Human System Simulation Laboratory (HSSL) is a full-scale virtual nuclear control room that can test the safety and reliability of proposed technology replacements before they are implemented in commercial nuclear control rooms.

Eye contact

August 8, 2013 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The human brain has 100 billion neurons, connected to each other in networks that allow us to interpret the world around us, plan for the future and control our actions and movements. Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist Sebastian Seung wants to map those networks, creating a wiring diagram of the brain that could help scientists learn how we each become our unique selves.

Simulating Sensors and Detectors

August 5, 2013 12:53 pm | by Tim Studt | Articles | Comments

One of the major driving forces for developing new sensors and detectors is in medical applications. This includes the integration of fiber optic sensors, smart sensors, silicon micromachined sensors and thin-film devices. Smart sensors are devices that incorporate electronic logic, control or signal processing functions and therefore offer enhanced measurement capabilities, information quality and functional performance.

Solar energy could supply one-third of power in U.S. West

August 1, 2013 4:13 pm | News | Comments

Low-cost solar power could supply more than a third of all energy needs in the western U.S., if the nation can hit its targets for reducing the cost of solar energy, according to a new study by researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. The researchers used a detailed computer model they developed of the west’s electric power grid to predict what will happen if the U.S. Dept. of Energy succeeds with its SunShot Initiative.

Engineers gain insight into turbulence formation and evolution in fluids

July 31, 2013 5:19 pm | by Katie Neith, Caltech | News | Comments

Wall turbulence develops when fluids—liquid or gas—flow past solid surfaces at anything but the slowest flow rates. Progress in understanding and controlling wall turbulence has been somewhat incremental because of the massive range of scales of motion involved, but recently engineers in the U.S. and the U.K. have developed a new and improved way of looking at the composition of turbulence near walls.

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Planetary “runaway greenhouse” more easily triggered, research shows

July 31, 2013 8:10 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

In the runaway greenhouse stage, a planet absorbs more solar energy than it can give off to retain equilibrium. As a result, the world overheats, boiling its oceans and filling its atmosphere with steam, which leaves the planet glowing-hot and forever uninhabitable, as Venus is now. Recent research shows this scenario might be more easily reached than previously thought.

Controlling contagion by restricting mobility

July 31, 2013 7:50 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering | News | Comments

In an epidemic or a bioterrorist attack, the response of government officials could range from a drastic restriction of mobility to moderate travel restrictions in some areas or simple suggestions that people remain at home. Deciding to institute any measure would require officials to weigh the costs and benefits of action, but at present there’s little data to guide them. However, a new study comparing contagion rates may come in handy.

New knowledge about permafrost is improving climate models

July 29, 2013 2:04 pm | News | Comments

The rate at which carbon dioxide is released from permafrost is poorly documented, and is a crucial uncertainty in current climate models. New findings by environmental scientists at the Univ. of Copenhagen, Denmark, document that permafrost during thawing may result in a substantial release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that the future water content in the soil is crucial to predict the effect of permafrost thawing.

Los Alamos lab upgrades Powerwall Theater with visualization projection

July 25, 2013 11:53 am | News | Comments

The Powerwall Theater (PWT) at Los Alamos National Laboratory is an innovative facility that enables researchers to view the complex models and simulations they have created using some of the world’s fastest supercomputers. Recently, PWT was upgraded with 40 double-stacked Christie Mirage 3-D LED projectors that will provide seamless, integrated 3-D visualization.

Cloth simulation requires six months of computing time

July 24, 2013 8:18 am | News | Comments

Taking advantage of the power of cloud computing, researchers have simulated almost every important configuration of cloth. Though computing all the ways cloth can move would be impossible, the 4,554 CPU hours and 33 GB of data generated represents an ambitious effort to improve graphics for next-generation computer games.

Ancient snowfall likely carved Martian valleys

July 24, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Brown Univ. have shown that some Martian valleys appear to have been caused by runoff from orographic precipitation—moisture carried part of the way up a mountain and deposited on the slopes. The new findings are the most detailed evidence yet of an orographic effect on ancient Mars.

Analysis of proton “hop” sheds new light on conductivity of water

July 23, 2013 2:34 pm | News | Comments

The principle of proton conduction in water has been known for 200 years and is named after its discoverer, Theodor Grotthuss. Using theoretical calculations, researchers have now been able to analyze this mechanism in more detail and have shown that the currently accepted picture of proton diffusion, which has been compared to a “bucket line”, may need to be revised.

New iceberg theory points to areas at risk of rapid disintegration

July 23, 2013 7:53 am | News | Comments

In events that could exacerbate sea level rise over the coming decades, stretches of ice on the coasts of Antarctica and Greenland are at risk of rapidly cracking apart and falling into the ocean, according to new iceberg calving simulations from the Univ. of Michigan.

Genome editing becomes more accurate

July 22, 2013 8:21 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Earlier this year, MIT researchers developed a way to edit the genomes of living cells. Now, the researchers have discovered key factors that influence the accuracy of the system. With this technology, scientists can deliver or disrupt multiple genes at once, raising the possibility of treating human disease by targeting malfunctioning genes. To help with that process, the team has now created a computer model.

Researchers warn that DNA puzzles are overwhelming computer systems

July 15, 2013 3:19 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in the new but fast-growing field of computational genomics are facing a dilemma. These researchers have begun to assemble the chemical blueprints of the DNA found in humans, animals, plants and microbes. But a flood of unassembled genetic data is being produced much faster than current computers can turn it into useful information, two scholars in the field are warning.

Study: Continuous satellite ice sheet monitoring to better predict sea-level rise

July 15, 2013 9:45 am | News | Comments

The length of the satellite record for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is currently too short to tell if the recently reported speed-up of ice loss will be sustained in the future or if it results from natural processes, according to a new study. Sheets are losing are about 300 billion tons of ice each year, but no consensus has emerged about the cause of this recent increase in mass loss.

Supercomputers solve microfluidics at the microscopic level

July 12, 2013 2:52 pm | by Aaron Dubrow, University of Texas at Austin | News | Comments

The Ranger supercomputer in Texas has recently been used to determine how to sculpt fluid flows by precisely placing tiny pillars in microfluidic channels. By altering fluid speed and stacking pillars, a wide arrays of controlled flows can be achieved. This could be a boon for clinicians who would like to separate white blood cells in a sample, or more quickly perform lab-on-a-chip-type operations.

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