Sci-Tech

  • Climate & securityU.S. exposed in Arctic as a result of climate change: Military experts

    Senior former military commanders and security advisors warn that global warming is jeopardizing U.S. national security. They said that political gridlock in Washington over climate change has left the U.S. military exposed to Russia’s superior fleets in the Arctic, flooding in U.S. naval bases, and a more unstable world. “We’re still having debates about whether [climate change] is happening, as opposed to what we should do about it,” said a former undersecretary of defense. “We need to guard against the failure of imagination when it comes to climate change. Something is going to happen in the future years, and we’re not going to be prepared.”

  • FloodsMajor Midwest flood risk underestimated by as much as five feet: Study

    As floodwaters surge along major rivers in the Midwestern United States, a new study suggests federal agencies are underestimating historic 100-year flood levels on these rivers by as much as five feet, a miscalculation that has serious implications for future flood risks, flood insurance, and business development in an expanding floodplain. Moreover, high-water marks are inching higher as global warming makes megafloods more common.

  • Nuclear powerA new look for nuclear power

    By Nancy W. Stauffer

    Many experts cite nuclear power as a critical component of a low-carbon energy future. Nuclear plants are steady, reliable sources of large amounts of power; they run on inexpensive and abundant fuel; and they emit no carbon dioxide (CO2). A novel nuclear power plant that will float eight or more miles out to sea promises to be safer, cheaper, and easier to deploy than today’s land-based plants.

  • WaterOur mostly dry planetary neighbors once had lots of water -- what does that imply for us?

    By David A. Weintraub

    Our two closest solar system neighbors, Venus and Mars, once had oceans — planet-encircling, globe-girdling, Earth-like oceans, but neither Venus nor Mars could hold onto their water for long enough to nurture advanced life forms until they could flourish. The lessons from Venus and Mars are clear and simple: water worlds are delicate and fragile. Water worlds that can survive the ravages of aging, whether natural or inflicted by their inhabitants — and can nurture and sustain life over the long term — are rare and precious. If we allow the temperature of our planet to rise a degree or two, we may survive it as a minor environmental catastrophe. But beyond a few degrees, if we allow a runaway greenhouse effect to kick up the temperature a few more notches, do we know the point at which global warming sends our atmosphere into a runaway death spiral, turning Earth into Venus? We know what the endgame looks like.

  • First response gearAlumnus’s throwable tactical camera gets commercial release

    By Rob Matheson

    Unseen areas are troublesome for police and first responders: Rooms can harbor dangerous gunmen, while collapsed buildings can conceal survivors. Now Bounce Imaging, founded by an MIT alumnus, is giving officers and rescuers a safe glimpse into the unknown. In July, the Boston-based startup will release its first line of tactical spheres, equipped with cameras and sensors, which can be tossed into potentially hazardous areas to instantly transmit panoramic images of those areas back to a smartphone.

  • Oil spillsEco-friendly oil spill solution developed

    Chemists have developed an eco-friendly biodegradable green “herding” agent that can be used to clean up light crude oil spills on water. Derived from the plant-based small molecule phytol abundant in the marine environment, the new substance would potentially replace chemical herders currently in use.

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  • Coastal resilienceSea-level rise threatens $40 billion of national park assets, historical and cultural infrastructure

    U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell last week released a report revealing that national park infrastructure and historic and cultural resources totaling more than $40 billion are at high risk of damage from sea-level rise caused by climate change. The report was conducted by scientists from the National Park Service and Western Carolina University and is based on an examination of forty parks — about one-third of those considered threatened by sea-level rise — and the survey is on-going.

  • Cyber educationU.S. Cyber Challenge Eastern Regional Competition announces winner

    On Friday, participants of the annual U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) Eastern Regional Cyber Camp competed in a “Capture-the-Flag” competition to demonstrate their knowledge and skill of cybersecurity and compete to win one of a limited number of (ISC)2 scholarships. Participants of Eastern Regional Cyber Camp were selected based in part on their scores from Cyber Quests, an online competition offered through USCC in April, which drew more than 1,300 registrants from over 600 schools nationwide.

  • Coastal resilienceUNC-Chapel Hill launches Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officially launched its new Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC), made possible through a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, Office of University Programs five-year, $20 million grant. The CRC initiative led by UNC-Chapel Hill will include collaboration with more than a dozen partner universities to address the challenges facing communities across the United States which are vulnerable to coastal hazards.

  • WaterCalifornia Republicans introduce bill to improve Western water reliability

    Republican members of the California congressional delegation yesterday introducing a bill to modernize water policies in California and throughout the Western United States. The bill has the support of the entire California Republican delegation, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and chairman of the Western Caucus. The bill’s authors say that H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, aims to make more water available to families, farmers, and communities in California and bordering Western states. The bill takes aim at what the authors describe as the “dedication of vast quantities of water to protect certain species of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) [which] is a significant obstacle hindering water delivery in Central and Southern California.” H.R. 2898 will require federal agencies to use current and reliable data when making regulatory decisions, which in turn will provide more water for communities in need.

  • Food securityPrecision agriculture: Sensors and drones as farmers’ best friends

    The precision agriculture sector is expected to grow at a high rate over the coming years. This new way of farming is already a reality in northwest Italy, where technologies are being used to keep plants in a good state of health but also to avert the loss of quality yield. Sensors and drones can be among the farmers’ best friends, helping them to use less fertilizers and water, and to control the general condition of their crops.

  • FirefightingRobots on reins to be the “eyes” of firefighters in dark, smoke-filled buildings

    Currently, even when they have a map of the building, firefighters have to grope their way forward if smoke has badly affected visibility, feeling their way along a wall or following ropes laid by the first firefighter on the scene. But with only twenty minutes of oxygen per firefighter, there is a real need for any innovation that can help them move more quickly and easily. Now, firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings will save vital seconds and find it easier to identify objects and obstacles, thanks to revolutionary reins that enable robots to act like guide dogs.

  • FireGreen concrete is more fire-resistant

    Selecting materials with high fire endurance is particularly important when constructing tunnels and high-rise buildings, and when storing hazardous materials. Concrete made using an industrial by-product has shown better fire endurance than traditional concrete when exposed to fires of nearly 1,000 degrees Celsius.

  • WaterPowering desalination with the sun

    By Julia Sklar

    When graduate student Natasha Wright began her Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering, she had no idea how to remove salt from groundwater to make it more palatable, nor had she ever been to India, where this is an ongoing need. Although the available filters made water safe to drink, they did nothing to mitigate its saltiness — so the villagers’ drinking water tasted bad and eroded pots and pans, providing little motivation to use these filters. Almost 60 percent of India has groundwater that’s noticeably salty, so Wright began designing an electrodialysis desalination system, which uses a difference in electric potential to pull salt out of water.

  • STEM educationBay Area students learn value of science, engineering through My Brother's Keeper initiative

    It was an exciting day for more than sixty disadvantaged youth from Oakland, San Francisco, and Tracy, who visited the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on Friday for a special “Day at the Lab” as part of the White House initiative, My Brother’s Keeper. The My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative was launched by President Barack Obama to address opportunity gaps with disadvantaged and disconnected youth, specifically targeting minority boys, to encourage positive future life and career choices. The goal is to connect young people to mentoring and support networks and to instill a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).