Sci-Tech

  • Software helps World Cup emergency planning

    The organizers of this summer’s World Cup are using a simulation software developed by researchers at the University of Salford which allows emergency personnel and hospital better prepare for different emergencies

  • Report claiming 600,000 Iraqi civilians died in the second Gulf War based on fabrication and falsification

    The 2006 Lancet survey, written by Dr. Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins, claimed 654,965 Iraqi deaths related to the war, or 2.5 percent of the Iraqi population; scientists examining the survey found many flaws in it, and professional bodies censured Burnham for unethical and misleading methodology; John Hopkins University suspended Burnham for five years from being a principal investigator on human subject research; new paper offers evidence that Burnham engaged in data fabrication and falsification in nine broad categories

  • Indonesia to tap volcano power

    Indonesia is a country of 17,000 islands; the archipelago contains 265 volcanoes, estimated to hold around 40 percent of the world’s geothermal energy potential; investors, the World Bank, and the Indonesian government embark on an ambitious plan to add 4,000 megawatts of geothermal capacity — up from the existing 1,189 megawatts — by 2014, and 9,500 megawatts by 2025, by tapping the volcanoes

  • Drivers can now guide a car using their eyes, not hands

    German researchers develop a system which allows drivers to steer their cars using only their eyes: the wheel is turned in the direction the driver is looking; if the driver is distracted, the car begin to drive autonomously; and this, too: drivers may opt to use an iPhone application which lets them to control the car remotely

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  • Scent of a man: Odor-killing machine for hunters may aid terrorists

    A Texas-based company has developed a device for hunters which eliminates human odor, thus allowing hunters to get much closer to their prey unnoticed; trouble is, the same device may be used by terrorists to destroy the odor of explosives, thus allowing them to evade bomb-sniffing dogs at airports

  • Laser decontamination for post-chemical attacks, accident clean-up

    Many building materials — like cement and brick — are extremely porous; getting contaminants off surfaces like these is difficult, since they can inhabit cracks and pores; cleaning up chemical-contaminated structures can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming; what if terrorists attacked an urban center with chemicals? Researchers say the answer is to use laser to decontaminate an area after a terrorist attack or an industrial accident

  • Acoustic surveillance for border, critical infrastructure security

    A Montana company offers a new way to secure U.S. borders and critical infrastructure facilities: TerraEchos teams up with IBM to embed new IBM technology into a system of fiber-optic sensors; the sensors are capable of gathering real-time acoustic information, alerting of a possible security breach in remote and often unmanned areas

  • A pen-like device as a sensitive explosives detector

    Researchers develop a pen-size explosive detector; the sensitive detector can detect TATP, a peroxide bomb detonator used in many major terror attacks worldwide; the device is a disposable item that can be used by non-experts, like U.S. troops in the field, customs police, regular police, and even environmentalists

  • Breakthrough: new record bit rate for quantum key distribution

    Quantum encryption is the ultimate in unbreakable encrypted communication; it is based upon sending encoding single photons (particles of light) along the fiber; the laws of quantum physics dictate that any attempt by an eavesdropper to intercept and measure the photons alters their encoding, meaning that eavesdropping on quantum keys cannot not be detected; the major problem quantum encryption faces is the relatively short distance of encrypted transmissions

  • Smart plastic to be used in food packaging to monitor freshness of food

    New type of smart plastic could be used for packaging supermarket products or transporting produce; the new material has sensors embedded in it which will be used for measuring basic parameters such as temperature and humidity and more advanced markers that indicate produce quality; the new smart packaging will also measure the amount of hexanol — an indicator of deterioration in food — in the vapors emitted from foods

  • The U.S. faces severe helium-3 shortages; nuclear detection, science suffer

    The decay of tritium, the radioactive heavy-hydrogen isotope used in nuclear weapons, long produced more helium-3 than could be used; the United States stopped making new tritium in 1988, and so the remaining supply has been dwindling as it decays; the post 9/11 rush to build and deploy radiation detectors, however, increased dramatically the demand on the U.S. declining helium-3 resources — and now scientific research dependent on helium-3 suffers, and soon there will not enough even for security devices

  • Day of portable, brief-case size X-ray machine nears

    A California company is working on developing flat-panel image sensors which would enable it to make a briefcase-sized X-ray machine powered by a laptop battery; such a system might be used in the field by the military or instead of bulky bedside systems used in hospital intensive-care units

  • The real battle over Iran's nuclear weapons program takes place in courts, intelligence centers

    Iran has a voracious appetite for technology to feed its nuclear, missile, and other military programs; while diplomats in striped suits debate the fine points of new UN sanctions on Tehran because of its nuclear weapons program, the real struggle over Iran’s capabilities is taking place in courtrooms and intelligence centers, via sting operations, front companies, and falsified shipping documents

  • Laptops to serve as roaming earthquake detectors

    Newer models of laptops contain accelerometers — motion sensors meant to detect whether the computer has been dropped; if the computer falls, the hard drive will automatically switch off to protect the user’s data; researchers say this motion sensing ability allows laptop to serve as roaming earthquake detectors — even though laptop accelerometers are not as sensitive as professional-grade seismometers, so they can only pick up tremors of about magnitude 4.0 and above

  • DHS's researchers receive a 2-year, $2.3 billion appropriation

    In a vote of confidence, the House Homeland Security Committee unanimously passes a 2-year, $2.3 billion appropriation to fund the push-the-envelope R&D efforts of DHS’s Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate; among other things, the bill would create an Office of Public-Private Partnerships inside S&T to make sure that promising private-sector products and solutions get the support they need; to ensure good ideas do not fall through the cracks, S&T would also establish a Rapid Response Division