Laboratory spotlights movie special effects

In a presentation open to the public at Lawrence Livermore, three computer graphic artists from Industrial Light and Magic, a special-effects company based in San Rafael, California, explained how they work movie magic behind the scenes on some of today's hottest films. Their presentation, "The Digital Creature Feature: Putting It All Together," walked the audience through a typical sequence of events, from the director's first phone call to the computer modeling work to assembling all the elements that make up the final shots as we see them on the screen.
The free presentation was part of the Laboratory's "Science on Saturday" lecture series, a nine-week series of talks geared to middle and high school students, and their teachers, parents, and chaperones. Topics are selected from the forefront of scientific research, covering a variety of disciplines.
Contact: Contact: Dolores Doyle (925) 422-5056 (doyle5@llnl.gov).

Laboratory produces largest optical crystal

Scientists at Livermore have succeeded in using a "rapid-growth" method to produce the world's largest single-crystal optical elements. The pyramid-shaped KDP (potassium dihydrogen phosphate) crystal, measuring about 3 feet tall and over 20 inches wide at the base and weighing nearly 500 pounds, was grown in a 6-foot-high tank filled with nearly a ton of supersaturated solution.
The fast-growth method was pioneered in Russia by Natalia Zaitseva at Moscow State University and perfected at Livermore by Zaitseva and Laboratory scientists over the past few years. It allowed scientists to grow the record crystal in six weeks. Previous methods would have required a growing period of 12 to 24 months to achieve the same result. Slices of the KDP crystals will be critical components of the world's largest laser, the National Ignition Facility, currently under construction at Livermore.
Contact: Natalia Zaitseva (925) 423-1505 (zaitseva1@llnl.gov).

Scientists fine-tune mine detection

Lawrence Livermore scientists are working with Ukrainian scientists to evaluate a new device to detect land mines.
"This may be a solution to a small part of a large problem," says Arthur Toor, physics project leader for Lawrence Livermore. An estimated 100 million land mines in 70 countries cause 26,000 casualties each year.
Toor and his Livermore colleague David Eimerl are working with Ukrainian scientists Gregory Pekarsky and Vitaly Bystritski to evaluate a new detection device that is similar to one the Russian military is using. The device is used like a metal detector, but its technology involves detecting large amounts of hydrogen. When it detects a large amount of hydrogen, its gauge rises, indicating that a land mine may be present. Then the spot is tested for certain high levels of nitrogen that indicate a land mine is present. In January, the scientists demonstrated Pekarsky's technology at the Buried Objects Detection Facility at the Nevada Test Site, a secure area with 296 defused mines.
Contact: Arthur Toor (925) 422-0953 (toor1@llnl.gov).

UC-managed labs rated excellent

The three national laboratories operated by the University of California for the Department of Energy received overall ratings of excellent from DOE for fiscal year 1997, based on annual assessments of the laboratories by the University as well as the Department's own reviews.
The findings, which a University spokesman said are consistent with those of previous years, stem from a five-year contract signed by DOE and the University in 1992, which pioneered the concept of performance-based management for nonprofit operators of DOE laboratories. The UC President's Council on National Laboratories characterized the science and technology activities at Los Alamos and Livermore as outstanding, the highest ratings available. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory received an excellent rating. The UC Laboratory Administration Office concluded that the administration and operations performance of each of the three laboratories exceeds expectations, which the University said is equivalent to an excellent rating. Based on these University assessments, DOE gave overall ratings of excellent to all three laboratories.
Contact: Public Affairs Office (925) 422-4599 (garberson1@llnl.gov).

NIF mammoth didn't live alone

The ancient mammoth excavated from Lawrence Livermore's National Ignition Facility construction site had loads of company, including at least one other mammal that apparently made a meal out of the mammoth, a scientist says.
Paleontologist C. Bruce Hanson found tooth marks on an upper leg bone of the elephant-like animal, which died roughly 10,000 years ago. "There are a few carnivores living then that could have been responsible," Hanson said. "I have to take a look and see if there's any chance of matching up the tooth marks with the known suspects."
The most likely culprit would have been a dire wolf similar in size to modern wolves, he said. But saber-toothed tigers and a type of lion that lived in the ancient, stream-crossed valley might have killed the mammoth or simply gnawed on its carcass.
Two other clusters of bones lie on the superlaser site, Hanson said. One includes the skull of an ancient horse, probably from the Pleistocene era, and the other cluster includes several ribs and a shoulder blade that appear to have come from a giant ground sloth, which probably stood 10 feet tall on its hind legs.
Contact: Public Affairs Office (925) 422-4599 (garberson1@llnl.gov).

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