• 70 percent of glaciers in Western Canada will be gone by 2100

    There are over 17,000 glaciers in B.C. and Alberta and they play an important role in energy production through hydroelectric power. The glaciers also contribute to the water supply, agriculture, and tourism. A new study says that 70 percent of glacier ice in British Columbia and Alberta could disappear by the end of the twenty-first century, creating major problems for local ecosystems, power supplies, and water quality.

  • Police department pays ransom after hackers encrypt department’s data

    Last December, cyberterrorists hacked into servers belonging to the Tewksbury Police Department, encrypted the data stored, and later asked for a $500 bitcoin ransom to be paid before department officials could regain control of their files. The attack is known as the CryptoLocker ransomware virus, and it points to a new frontier in cyberterrorism.

  • A very big concept lifts off

    In 2010, a group of defense contractors led by Northrop Grumman received a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to create a so-called Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) — a super-sized surveillance aircraft that had the capability of spending days in the air on a single mission. The first test flight of the Airlander took place in August 2012. In 2013, however, budget cuts led to the cancellation of the project, and U.K.-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), which was part of contractors group, bought the Airlander back from the DoD at effectively scrap value. So the Airlander came back to the United Kingdom, where it lives in a giant hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire. It is there because it is the only place in the United Kingdom that can house it, having been built for airship manufacture in 1915. HAH has big plans for it.

  • Extended Oregon drought raises concern over state’s water security

    Facing the fourth straight year of drought, Oregon officials are worried that the state’s water security may be in jeopardy, as is already the case in California, which has just announced its first-ever mandatory water restrictions. a historically warm winter this season has continued to shrink snowpack throughout the Oregon Cascades, including the usual five-foot levels which accumulate on Mt. Hood, leading experts to suggest that even bigger problems lie ahead. Without the usual snowfall, Oregonians can expect fewer healthy fish in the rivers, fewer seed sprouts, and more wild fires. Moreover, the need for more irrigation could hamper the state’s already hobbled farming economy.

  • NSA’s recruitment effort challenged by Snowden leaks, private sector competition

    The NSA employs roughly 35,000 people nationwide and anticipates on recruiting at least 1,000 workers each year. For 2015, the agency needs to find 1,600 recruits, hundreds of whom must come from highly specialized fields like computer science and mathematics. The agency has been successful so far, but still faces recruitment challenges in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations and competition from private sector firms who offer recruits much higher salaries.

  • Increasing use of antibiotics in livestock undermines effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans

    Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030, and possibly endanger the effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans, according to researchers. Five countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — will experience a growth of 99 percent in antibiotic consumption, compared with an expected 13 percent growth in their human populations over the same period. In the United States, antibiotic consumption in animals currently represents up to 80 percent of total antimicrobial sales. “The discovery and development of antibiotics was a major public health revolution of the twentieth century,” says one of the researchers. “Their effectiveness — and the lives of millions of people around the world — are now in danger due to the increasing global problem of antibiotic resistance, which is being driven by antibiotic consumption.”

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  • Future supply risks threaten metals used in high-tech products

    During the past decade, sporadic shortages of metals needed to create a wide range of high-tech products have inspired attempts to quantify the criticality of these materials, defined by the relative importance of the elements’ uses and their global availability. In a new paper, a team of researchers assesses the “criticality” of all sixty-two metals on the Periodic Table of Elements, providing key insights into which materials might become more difficult to find in the coming decades, which ones will exact the highest environmental costs — and which ones simply cannot be replaced as components of vital technologies.

  • Airship maker suing the U.S. Navy for loss of an advanced blimp in roof collapse

    Aeroscraft Aeronautical Systems has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy following the destruction of their Aeros airship. It was destroyed when a roof a 300,000 square foot Second World War-era hanger at Tustin Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, California, collapsed. Aeroscraft is seeking to reclaim all losses as well as an unspecified amount meant to compensate the company for the $3 billion capital financing plan which was halted after the airship was destroyed. The base closed in 1999, but the property is still owned by the Navy, which leased buildings and hangars on the base to private companies.

  • Why rooftop solar is disruptive to utilities – and the grid

    By Seth Blumsack

    Electric utilities have a unique role in society and the economy, one that is rooted in a set of arrangements with state regulators that goes back nearly a century. In exchange for being granted a geographic monopoly on the distribution of electric power, the utility is responsible for ensuring that its transmission and distribution systems operate reliably. In other words, it is the utility’s responsibility to ensure that blackouts occur infrequently and with short duration. Power-generating panels, called solar photovoltaics (PV), represent the fastest-growing source of electric power in the United States – but the proliferation of roof-top PVs poses a problem for the business model of electric utilities, a problem similar to that telephone companies have been facing: The rise of “cord cutters” — people with a cell phone but no land-line — places land-line phone companies in a quandary. They must continue to maintain their network infrastructure with fewer customers to pay for it. Roof-top solar technology will eventually force a conversation about the fundamental role of the electric utility and who should have ultimate responsibility for providing reliable electricity, if anyone. Going off the grid has a certain appeal to an increasing segment of the population, but it is far from clear that such a distributed system can deliver the same level of reliability at such a low cost.

  • Yahoo to offer user-friendly e-mail encryption service

    Yahoo has announced plans to create its own e-mail encryption plug-in for Yahoo Mail users this year, adding to already growing competition among Silicon Valley firms to capitalize on consumers increased privacy desires. The service will feature “end-to-end” encryption, or the locking up of message contents so that only the user and receiver have access to the information — typically a more advanced and time consuming process which involves specific software and encryption codes.

  • Chemical plants safety must be tightened to prevent a Bhopal-like disaster in the U.S.

    Late last week, hundreds of individuals and organizations sent a letter to President Barack Obama to say that time was running out for taking action to protect the U.S. population from the dangers of accidents or deliberate attacks at U.S. chemical plants. As a senator, Obama described chemical facilities in which dangerous chemicals were processed or stored as “stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country.” On 2-3 December 1984, more than 500,000 people in the Indian city of Bhopal were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals from the near-by Union Carbide plant. About 16,000 died and 558,000 injured — 3,900 of them permanently disabled. Security experts say that a Bhopal-like disaster could happen in the United States

  • Air-gapped computer systems can be hacked by using heat: Researchers

    Computers and networks are air-gapped – that is, kept approximately fifteen inches (40 cm) apart — when they need to be kept highly secure and isolated from unsecured networks, such as the public Internet or an unsecured local area network. Typically, air-gapped computers are used in financial transactions, mission critical tasks, or military applications. Israeli researchers have discovered a new method, called BitWhisper, to breach air-gapped computer systems. The new method enables covert, two-way communications between adjacent, unconnected PC computers using heat – meaning that hackers to hack information from inside an air-gapped network, as well as transmit commands to it.

  • People act to protect privacy – after learning how often apps share personal information

    Many smartphone users know that free apps sometimes share private information with third parties, but few, if any, are aware of how frequently this occurs. A new study shows that when people learn exactly how many times these apps share that information, they rapidly act to limit further sharing. In an experiment, researchers found that one of the more effective alert messages which g grabbed the attention of phone users and caused them to act to protect their privacy, was: “Your location has been shared 5,398 times.”

  • Living near railroad tracks? Prepare for crude-oil-train accidents, spills

    The Minnesota Department of Transportation(MnDOT) reports that 326,170 Minnesotans live within a half mile of railroad tracks used by trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region. An area covering a half mile on each side of the tracks, public safety officials say, is the area from which residents are likely to be evacuated in the event of an oil train incident or explosion. The department urges all residents living near an oil train track to be prepared for a train accident.

  • Airships offer a solution for aviation’s future challenges

    It is forecast that by 2020 the number of aircraft passengers will reach 400 million. The movement of freight by air is expected to increase by more than 340 percent over the next twenty years. During the same period congestion at many airports will squeeze out cargo operations because of economic and environmental reasons. Consequently, if market demand for air freight is to be met, either there will have to be significant investment in new airport infrastructure or alternative transport forms need to be considered. Researchers have completed a three year investigation into stratospheric passenger airships as part of a multi-national engineering project designed to provide a future sustainable air transport network. The researchers believe that airships offer a solution for future air transportation that is safe, efficient, cheap, and environmentally friendly.