Business

  • Anonymous messaging apps grow in popularity

    The recent surge in anonymous and ephemeral messaging apps like Backchat, Whipsper, Snapchat, Secret, and Ask.fm is a response to a growing demand for social media networks which allow users to interact without revealing their identify for fear of retribution or long-term stains on their personal records.

  • Researchers tackle rare Earth materials shortage

    The demand for rare Earth materials is growing much faster than production. Rare Earth metals do occur in the earth’s crust, but not in sufficiently high concentrations. This is why only one country — China — has so far been supplying the entire world with these elements. In recent years, however, China has begun to restrict its export of these materials. European research organizations have teamed up to address growing rare Earth materials by examining a more focused approach to recycling scrap.

  • Lockheed Martin launches updated, expanded Engineers in the Classroom (EITC) toolkit

    This week is National Engineers Week, and Lockheed Martin, a company which employs 60,000 of them, is marking the week by launching an updated and expanded Engineers in the Classroom (EITC) toolkit created in partnership with National Geographic. These materials, which can be found on Lockheed Martin’s EITC Web site, will help engineers and scientists engage students in hands-on, creative activities with a goal of inspiring them to consider careers in STEM.

  • Skeptics doubt voluntary Cybersecurity Framework will achieve its goal

    The Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, developedby NIST following Executive Order 13636to promote cybersecurity, has been received with both support and skepticism from critical infrastructure industries. The 41-page document, put together by industry and government experts, offers guidelines on cybersecurity standards and best practices to critical infrastructure firms. It says its role is to be a complement to industries’ existing risk management practices.Skepticssay that without incentives, legislation, or enforcement, the guidelines will not be adopted.”The marketplace will punish any company that implements anything that could be considered excessive security, because it will increase their costs,” says an industry insider.

  • Power cuts will be more common in the future

    U.S. figures show that since 2007, commercial and domestic air-conditioning alone consumed 484billion kilowatt hours of electricity — not much more than the country’s total energy consumption in the mid-1950s. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has warned that U.S. generation systems could collapse by 2020 without $100 billion of new investment in power stations. Demands of high-powered electrical appliances, a growing world population, and inadequate investment in the power sector will create more frequent power blackouts in Western societies.

  • Resistance shapes the discovery of new insecticides

    Recent news around the world has focused on the dangers of antibiotic resistance. – and the CDC estimates over two-million illnesses and 23,000 deaths occurred in 2013 as a result of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and fungus. But what of another type of resistance which can also have a huge impact on the population: that to insecticides? Livestock, for example, are affected by buffalo flies; farmers and customers are familiar with the total devastation caused by fruit flies; malaria mosquitoes and bed bugs are becoming more resistant to existing chemicals. Even our pets are affected: fleas and ticks are continuing their march, leading to a need for newer, often more expensive synthetic chemistries. The price of insecticide resistance — in the form of R&D costs for new compounds — is passed from chemical companies, to farmers, to consumers.

  • Cuba to lose its U.S. banking service today

    Today (Monday) Cuba’s bank in the United States, Buffalo-based M&T Bank, will stop accepting Cuba’s deposits. The bank will close Cuba’s accounts on 1 March 2014. One result will be that travel between Cuba and the United States will become more difficult because banking services are necessary for issuing travel visas. Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., and the Cuban Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York have been unable to find an American bank to handle the country’s U.S.-based accounts.

  • The entertainment industry understands the rare Earth crisis, why doesn’t everybody else?

    U.S. dependence on rare earths imports substantially exceeds our dependence on imported petroleum. In 2011, the United States imported 45 percent of the petroleum we consumed, but we imported 100 percent of the rare earth materials we consumed that same year — and rare earths are far more essential to a wider variety of industries than petroleum is. China controls the production, refining, and processing of over 95 percent of the world’s rare earth elements despite only controlling about half of the world’s rare earth resources. In the 1980s, there were approximately 25,000 American rare earth-related jobs; now we barely have 1,500. The United States must take action now to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of rare earth materials and bring back jobs.

  • German IT industry hopes to benefit from NSA leaks-inspired distrust of U.S. tech companies

    The German IT sector is hoping to benefit from trust lost in American technology firms in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks. The German government is looking to develop Internet security initiatives, with government departments vying with each other for a lead role. Both inside and outside the German government a proposal, known as “Schengen Routing,” is advanced which calls for data originated in Europe to be processed and stored within Europe. Critics warn that plans to create a European routing system could affect the openness of the Internet.

  • Israeli defense company launches cybersecurity solutions section

    In recent months the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has increased its cyberdefense-related activities. Esti Peshin, director of the company’s cyber section and a veteran of the IDF’s hush-hush sigint Unit 8200, says IAI is now developing solutions for clients in Israel and abroad. “We’re a start-up, but with the backing of a company that earns $3.5 billion a year,” she said. Ultimately, she implied, these defensive measures can be turned into offensive capabilities. “Intelligence is a subset of attack,” Peshin said. “This is, first of all, a national mission.”

  • Research on bacteria-invading virus to help the agriculture community

    Innovative work by two Florida State University scientists shows the structural and DNA breakdown of a bacteria-invading virus. This type of virus is called a bacteriophage, and the deconstruction of its DNA could be particularly useful for the agriculture community and seed companies. Important crop plants depend on biological nitrogen fixation by the bacteria which is preyed upon by this phage. Nitrogen fixation is the process by which abundant nitrogen gas in the atmosphere is converted to the scarce soil resources ammonia and nitrate.

  • Micro-windmills to recharge cell phones, used for home energy generation

    Researchers have designed a micro-windmill that generates wind energy and may become an innovative solution to cell phone batteries constantly in need of recharging, and home energy generation where large windmills are not preferred. The device is about 1.8 mm at its widest point. A single grain of rice could hold about ten of these tiny windmills. Hundreds of the windmills could be embedded in a sleeve for a cell phone.

  • Old-fashioned way to protect high-voltage substations

    There are about 45,000 substations in the United States, but far fewer high-voltage substations like the one attacked last April in Metcalf. California. Americans could see what the loss of just one important power substation can have when, in 2003, a failure in one such substation knocked out power to fifty million people in the United States and Canada for days. Illinois-based IDT says that since Biblical times, the method of thick-walled fortifications to halt manned and artillery attacks remains the best technology for protecting lives and important assets. The company says that its METALITH, a several-feet-thick prefabricated steel barrier structure filled with sand, would offer the best protection to vulnerable power substations. “While most of the electrical industry has been focused on the threat of cyber-terrorism, the San Jose [Metcalf is near San Jose] attack points to the need for physical protection of strategic power grid assets as well,” says Tom Carlton, IDT’s CEO.

  • FAA vetoes Valentine flower-delivery drone

    Detroit-area florist Flower Delivery Express wanted to use drones to deliver flowers to customers on Valentine Day. The FAA rejected the request, dryly noting that “A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot, and operating approval.” The florist is not giving up yet, cryptically saying it is testing “other guarded secret methods” for flower delivery.

  • W.Va. spill leads lawmakers, industry to look at reforming toxic substances law

    The government was slow to respond to the 9 January 2014 massive chemical spill in West Virginia because the law governing such response, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), limits regulatory agencies’ authority to investigate such spills.Under TSCA, the EPA must first prove that a chemical poses an unreasonable risk to health or the environment before it can require the needed testing that would show a potential risk. One observer called this a Catch-22, telling a congressional panel that “This is like requiring a doctor to prove that a patient has cancer before being able to order a biopsy.”