• Food securityUnder climate change, farming is becoming riskier

    Climate change will have an impact on agriculture, but a new study puts these changes in terms which are directly applicable to farmers. For Illinois, for example, the corn planting window will be split in two to avoid wet conditions in April and May. Each planting window carries increased risk – the early planting window could be thwarted by frost or heavy precipitation, and the late window cut short by intense late-summer drought. Farmers and crop insurers must evaluate risk to avoid losing profits.

  • Science & securityMIT president calls for investing in basic science to maintain U.S. edge

    President Trump’s proposed budget slashes at least $7 billion in funding for science programs. That course of action would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, argues L. Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “Since World War II, the U.S. government has been the world’s biggest supporter of potentially transformative science — which is a key reason why the country continues to have the highest share of knowledge- and technology-intensive industries in the world, amounting to nearly 40 percent of the economy,” Reif writes in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs.

  • Science & securityNSF-funded research continues to support national security

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) is usually associated with supporting scientists who go on to win Nobel Prizes, leading exploration of the planet’s polar regions, and enabling discoveries about the universe, from the subatomic world to distant galaxies. But the foundation also has ties to national defense that go back to its beginnings, as a product of the U.S. government working to enhance security during and after the Second World War. The National Science Foundation Act of 1950 called for the creation of an agency to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.” NSF’s founder, Vannevar Bush, said: “It has become clear beyond all doubt that scientific research is absolutely essential to national security.”

  • Carbon emissionsCarbon Law, modeled after Moore’s Law, a pathway to halve emissions every decade

    Moore’s Law states that computer processors double in power about every two years. While it is neither a natural nor legal law, this simple rule of thumb or heuristic has been described as a golden rule which has held for fifty years and still drives disruptive innovation. Research say that a carbon roadmap, driven by a simple rule of thumb, or Carbon Law, of halving emissions every decade, could catalyze disruptive innovation. Following a Carbon Law, which is based on published energy scenarios, would give the world a 75 percent chance of keeping Earth below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, the target agreed by nations in Paris in 2015.

  • Emerging threatsHave humans transformed geological processes to create a new epoch -- the Anthropocene?

    The Anthropocene — the concept that humans have so transformed geological processes at the Earth’s surface that we are living in a new epoch — was formulated by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen in 2000. It has since spread around not just the world of science, but also across the humanities and through the media into public consciousness. An international group of scientists – the Anthropocene Working Group – is now analyzing the Anthropocene as a potential new addition to the Geological Time Scale, which would be a major step in its global scientific recognition. These scientists argue that “irreversible” changes to the Earth provide striking evidence of new epoch.

  • STEM educationForeign graduate students, postdocs consider leaving the U.S.

    On 6 March, President Donald Trump signed a second executive order to suspend immigration from six predominately Muslim countries, this time excluding Iraq from the list. According to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the move has prompted foreign graduate students and postdoctoral researchers currently in the United States to start looking elsewhere for educational, training and job opportunities.

  • Emerging threatsClimate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts

    The year 2016 made history, with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise, and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that the increased power of computing tools and the availability of long term climate data have made it possible today, through attribution studies, to demonstrate clearly the existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events in particular heatwaves.

  • Critical mineralsEvaluating critical mineral-resource potential in Alaska

    A new method for evaluating the resource potential for large, underexplored regions for critical minerals in Alaska is now available online. Critical minerals are used in products that are vital to national security, technology, and also play an integral role in our everyday modern life.

  • Critical mineralsThe challenge of sustainable mineral supply

    An international team of researchers says global resource governance and sharing of geoscience data is needed to address challenges facing future mineral supply. Specifically of concern are a range of technology minerals, which are an essential ingredient in everything from laptops and cell phones to hybrid or electric cars to solar panels and copper wiring for homes. However, base metals like copper are also a matter of immense concern.

  • DoomsdayAs the world ends, people remain calm and prosocial: Video-game study

    As the world ends, will you lock arms and sing “Kumbayah” or embark on a path of law-breaking, anti-social behavior? A new study, based upon the virtual actions of more than 80,000 players of the role-playing video game ArcheAge, suggests you will be singing. “We realize that, because this is a video game, the true consequences of the world ending are purely virtual. That being said, our dataset represents about as close as we can get to an actual end-of-the-world scenario,” says one researcher.

  • Nuclear sitesNextgen robots for nuclear clean-up

    The cost of cleaning up the U.K.’s existing nuclear facilities has been estimated to be between £95 billion, and £219 billion over the next 120 years or so. The harsh conditions within these facilities means that human access is highly restricted and much of the work will need to be completed by robots. Present robotics technology is simply not capable of completing many of the tasks that will be required. A research a consortium to build the next generation of robots that are more durable and perceptive for use in nuclear sites.

  • Coastal vulnerabilityExtreme sea levels could endanger European coastal communities

    Massive coastal flooding in northern Europe that now occurs once every century could happen every year if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, according to a new study. New projections considering changes in sea level rise, tides, waves and storm surge over the twenty-first century find global warming could cause extreme sea levels to increase significantly along Europe’s coasts by 2100. Extreme sea levels are the maximum levels of the sea that occur during a major storm and produce massive flooding.

  • STEM educationExamining susceptibility to cyberattacks through brain activity, eye gaze

    New research examines internet users’ susceptibility and ability to detect cybercriminal attacks by analyzing a user’s brain activity and eye gaze while they are performing security related tasks. “Keeping computer systems and networks secure often relies upon the decisions and actions of those using the system,” one researcher says. “Therefore, it is vital to understand users’ performance and behavior when an attack such as phishing or malware occurs. The analysis of neural activations depicts the users’ decision-making capacities, attention and comprehension of the security tasks.”

  • Coastal resilienceLouisiana wetlands threatened by with sea-level rise four times the global average

    Without major efforts to rebuild Louisiana’s wetlands, particularly in the westernmost part of the state, there is little chance that the coast will be able to withstand the accelerating rate of sea-level rise, a new study concludes. The study shows that the rate of sea-level rise in the region over the past six to ten years amounts to half an inch per year on average.

  • Water securityMap shows seawater threat to California Central Coast aquifers

    More than half the world’s population lives within 37 miles (60 kilometers) of the coast, and three-quarters of all large cities are located in coastal areas. Many coastal communities rely on groundwater to satisfy their drinking and farming water needs. But removing too much of that groundwater can change the fluid pressure of underground aquifers, drawing seawater into coastal aquifers and corrupting water supplies. Saltwater intrusion is often irreversible. Researchers have transformed pulses of electrical current sent 1,000 feet underground into a picture of where seawater has infiltrated freshwater aquifers along the Monterey Bay coastline.