Sci-Tech

  • National labsLos Alamos National Lab: Deploying 100 supercomputers over 60 years in support of national security

    From the 1952 MANIAC to Bonanza deployed just this month, Los Alamos National Laboratory has deployed 100 supercomputers in the last sixty years — a showcase of high-performance computing history. The Los Alamos computers deployed along the way include the MANIAC II, which started its nearly 20-year service life with over 5,000 vacuum tubes, all of which were replaced over time with circuit boards. Other deployed systems include Stretch, a technological stretch built in collaboration between Los Alamos and IBM, Serial Number 1 of the iconic Cray-1, and a Thinking Machines CM-5, with its lightning bolt footprint and fat-tree interconnect. By 2008 there came Roadrunner, the world’s first petaflop supercomputer.

  • LandslidesNew technology increases awareness of landslide risks

    Engineers have created a new way to use lidar technology to identify and classify landslides on a landscape scale, which may revolutionize the understanding of landslides in the United States and reveal them to be far more common and hazardous than often understood. The new, non-subjective technology can analyze and classify the landslide risk in an area of fifty or more square miles in about thirty minutes — a task that previously might have taken an expert several weeks to months. It can also identify risks common to a broad area rather than just an individual site.

  • In the trenchesTransforming planes into flying aircraft carriers

    Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets — and their pilots — at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range, and endurance of larger aircraft. These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach — one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch, and recover multiple small UAS. A flying carrier would allow the United States to use of drones in areas where the United States has no access to nearby airfields, but recovering a drone in mid-air remains a daunting technical challenge.

  • DetectionNew acoustic sensor for chemical, biological detection

    Testing for ovarian cancer or the presence of a particular chemical could be almost as simple as distinguishing an F sharp from a B flat, thanks to a new microscopic acoustic device that has been dramatically improved by scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory. The device, known as a surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensor, detects frequency changes in waves that propagate through its crystalline structure. This makes it ideal for detecting the presence of chemicals or biomarkers present in a liquid or gas.

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  • WaterWater sector ready for investment, technological innovation

    Investors looking for promising growth markets would do well to consider their water bill. Water’s artificially low price in most of the United States is one factor holding back innovative new water technologies, according to the report – but the time is right for change. Across the West, drought has left wide swaths of agricultural land brown, with massive wildfires raging through tinder-dry forests, residential wells tapped out and unemployed farm workers crowding food pantries. The drought is projected to cost the agricultural sector about $2.2 billion in 2014. The social and ecological damage is also profound. Technological innovation in the water sector could bring a raft of benefits ranging from the conservation of scarce water supplies to the expansion of water supplies through technologies that recycle or desalinate, for example.

  • DetectionWi-Fi signals enable through-wall detection

    Engineers prove the concept that local Wi-Fi signals can be used to monitor moving objects and bodies that are otherwise visually obscured. Although fundamentally similar to traditional radar systems, their novel approach is entirely passive — utilizing the wireless signals that already swamp our urban airways. This technology has a wide range of applications from healthcare monitoring, security and emergency disaster relief, to finding earthquake survivors in fallen buildings.

  • ClimatePorous molecules bind greenhouse gases

    While carbon dioxide presents the biggest greenhouse problem, several other compounds are hundreds or thousands of times more potent in their greenhouse effect per unit of mass. These compounds include Freons, used as common refrigerants, and fluorocarbons, highly stable organic compounds in which one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced with fluorine. Chemistry researchers have developed a molecule that assembles spontaneously into a lightweight structure with microscopic pores capable of binding large quantities of several potent greenhouse gases.

  • EarthquakesNew app turns smartphones into sensors for an earthquake early-warning system

    The MyShake app, still in test mode, uses smartphone accelerometers and locators to augment the data on incoming quakes issued by the 400 seismometers which are part of California’s ShakeAlert program.Registered phones act as additional earthquake sensors, as the app runs an algorithm which detects when the phone is still or shaking. Should several registered phones in the same area begin to shake at the same time, an earthquake alert is issued.

  • Killer robotsAutonomous weapons which select, destroy targets without human intervention proliferate

    More scientists are expressing concern over autonomous weapons which are able to select and destroy targets without human control or oversight. Armed drones can be operated by remote pilots, but weapons of the future will rely more on artificial intelligence to decide what to target and whom to kill.

  • EnergyGas can be a “bridge fuel” to a low-carbon future

    Major new suggests that gas could play an important role as a “bridging fuel” to a low-carbon economy, but warns that it will not be long before gas becomes part of the problem rather than the solution. The research combines the latest energy system modelling techniques with analysis of U.K. gas security to assess future demand.

  • African securityStudy ties conflict risk in sub-Saharan Africa to climate change, socioeconomics, geography

    A massive new study indicates there is a statistical link between hotter temperatures generated by climate change and the risk of armed conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa. A research team assessed more than 78,000 armed conflicts between 1980 and 2012 in the Sahel region of Africa — a semi-arid belt just south of the Saharan Desert that spans about 3,000 miles and more than a dozen countries from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans. The team was looking for links between armed conflicts and temperature and rainfall anomalies, as well as assessing other causes of violence in the Sahel.

  • FrackingEnergy engineers call for new, less restrictive regulatory framework for fracking

    Leading energy engineers are suggesting that U.K. regulations on the surface vibrations caused by shale gas fracking are unnecessarily restrictive. The engineers state in a new paper that widely applying restrictions similar to those currently in force on fracking would require a ban on heavy vehicles from passing houses or walking on wooden floors. They also state that the threat of serious earthquakes caused by fracking activity is considerably lower than commonly feared.

  • EnergyNew technology reduces cost to capture carbon

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) has signed an Exclusive Rights Agreement with Partnering in Innovation, Inc. of Orlando, Florida, in support of new carbon capture technology. Originally developed at SRNL, this approach will help open global markets for cost-effective industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and re-use.

  • Coastal infrastructureSea level rise threatens California coastal infrastructure

    Officials in Humboldt County, California are preparing for sea level rise, which experts say could threaten utilities and U.S. highway 101. The National Research Councilwarns that California, Oregon, and Washington could experience twelve inches of sea level rise by 2050 and thirty-six inches by 2100. Sea level on Humboldt Bay has increased by eighteen inches over the past century due to increasing tide elevation and subsidence. Gas, electrical, and water transmission lines are all buried in the farmlands behind dikes that fortify the shoreline.

  • EnergyGenerating fuel from sunlight

    Researchers have made significant progress towards developing a process of Artificial Photosynthesis (AP) that could replace the use of fossil fuels in the future. AP is the industrial process of preparing fuels and chemicals from nothing more than carbon dioxide, water and sunlight. It is a vital process that would be the foundation of a world that would no longer need fossil fuels.