• Smart camera to describe what it sees -- and reason about what it cannot see

    Army scouts are commonly tasked with covertly entering uncontrolled areas, setting up a temporary observation post, and then performing persistent surveillance for twenty-four hours or longer; what if instead of sending scouts on high-risk missions the military could deploy taskable smart cameras? A truly “smart” camera would be able to describe with words everything it sees and reason about what it cannot see

  • Thawing permafrost to release nitrogen, carbon – doubling the amount of carbon in the atmosphere today

    As much as forty-four billion tons of nitrogen and 850 billion tons of carbon stored in arctic permafrost, or frozen ground, could be released into the environment as the region begins to thaw over the next century as a result of a warmer planet; for context, this is roughly the amount of carbon stored in the atmosphere today

  • U.S. East Coast braces for Sandy

    Residents along the U.S. Atlantic coast, from North Carolina to Maine, were bracing form Hurricane Sandy landfall; people began to evacuate certain areas, while in many other places school closures were announced and supplies were quickly disappearing from stores’ shelves; public transit services were suspended Sunday evening, and more than 3,000 flights canceled; the hurricane may be especially ferocious because it was on its path to meet a winter storm and a cold front, together with high tides from a full moon

  • Asteroid DA14 will be whizzing by Earth on 15 February -- the closest asteroid fly by in history

    On 15 February 2013, asteroid 2012 DA14, the size of a city block, will be whizzing within 14,000 miles of Earth, squeezing between Earth’s atmosphere and the geostationary satellites orbiting the planet; it will be the closest asteroid fly by in history; experts say there is no chance the asteroid will hit Earth — this time; with more than 4,700 asteroids NASA has identified as potential threats to Earth, however, some as big as sixteen football fields, these objects are getting a lot of attention

  • Paintballs may deflect an incoming asteroid

    With twenty years’ notice, paint pellets could cause an asteroid to veer off course; researchers say that, if timed just right, pellets full of paint powder, launched in two rounds from a spacecraft at relatively close distance, would cover the front and back of an asteroid, more than doubling its reflectivity, or albedo; the initial force from the pellets would bump an asteroid off course; over time, the sun’s photons would deflect the asteroid even more

  • U.S. shale gas drives up coal exports – and CO2 emissions

    U.S. CO2 emissions from domestic energy have declined by 8.6 percent since a peak in 2005, the equivalent of 1.4 percent per year; researchers warn, however, that more than half of the recent emissions reductions in the power sector may be displaced overseas by the trade in coal

  • Making toilets out of waste plastic

    Washington Open Object Fabricators (WOOF) has won the 3D4D Challenge, and awarded a prize of $100,000 to help toward implementing the winning project – which will enable waste plastic to be used as filament for 3D printing machines, to create new products; the winning team plans to use the winning technology to address local issues in water and sanitation in Oaxaca, Mexico

  • Understanding the effects of Fukushima by studying fish

    Japan’s “triple disaster,” as it has become known, began on 11 March 2011, and remains unprecedented in its scope and complexity; to understand the lingering effects and potential public health implications of that chain of events, scientists are turning to a diverse and widespread sentinel in the world’s ocean: fish; the data from Japan fisheries provide a look at how the ocean is faring eighteen months after the worst accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history

  • Safety glass – cut to any shape

    If an object slams into the glass façade of a high-rise building, the glass must not shatter and fall down, because it could harm pedestrians below; in addition, the window panes must hold if a person were to fall against it from the inside; architects and builders must therefore use something stronger than laminated safety glass on the façades of high rise buildings; scientists develop a method which offers more flexibility with the design and handling of safety glass

  • Carbon-negative fuel at projected cost of less than $1.50 per gallon

    Cool Planet Energy Systems the other day announced a major breakthrough in the commercialization and affordability of biofuels from non-food biomass that can run in any vehicle on the road today; a successful field testing was conducted at Google Campus

  • The DARPA Robotics Challenge begins

    The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) began yesterday, and DARPA wants to know whether you will be part of it; DARPA introduces teams for Tracks A and B, opens registration for Tracks C and D, and launches simulation software for download; the goal of the competition is to help advance robotic technology to the point where it can have a tangible impact on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief

  • Scientists improving process to recycle rare-earth materials

    Recycling keeps paper, plastics, and even jeans out of landfills. Could recycling rare-earth magnets do the same? Perhaps, if the recycling process can be improved; scientists are working more effectively to remove the neodymium, a rare earth element, from the mix of other materials in a magnet; initial results show recycled materials maintain the properties that make rare-earth magnets useful

  • Large-scale production of algae-based biofuels poses sustainability concerns

    Scaling up the production of biofuels made from algae to meet at least 5 percent — approximately thirty-nine billion liters — of U.S. transportation fuel needs would place unsustainable demands on energy, water, and nutrients, says a new report from the National Research Council; these concerns, however, are not a definitive barrier for future production, and innovations that would require research and development could help realize algal biofuels’ full potential

  • Looming sequestration causes Navy to looking at future technology, fleet size

    Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, offered a revealing look at the potential future for the Navy if sequestration, or automatic defense cuts, goes into effect in January; without some sort of adjustment by Congress, currently the subject of discussion on Capitol Hill, the nearly 10 percent across-the-board Department of Defense budget cuts are slated to commence in 2013 and continue for ten years

  • Assessing bridge resilience

    Across the United States, more than 600,000 bridges link travelers to millions of roadway miles, forming a critical part of the nation’s infrastructure; because bridges are typically more vulnerable than roadways to damage caused by natural and man-made hazards, they are also of interest to DHS, which funds cutting-edge research in various aspects of structural integrity testing and blast-resistant structural design