Sci-Tech

  • $1.4 million prize for best oil clean-up technology

    X Prize Foundation is offering $1.4 million in prize money for new technologies to clean up oil spills; competitors will be invited to test their technologies in 2011 in a 203- by 20-metre tank owned by the U.S. government’s Minerals Management Service (MMS); a moving bridge that simulates a boat pulling cleanup equipment and a wave generator create ocean-like conditions in the New Jersey-based facility

  • New funding, schedule agreed for nuclear fusion project

    The governing council of ITER, Europe’s fusion reactor project, reached the deal on the financing and timetable for the experimental reactor after a two-day meeting in Cadarache; Europe pledged to provide additional financing of a maximum €6.6 billion ($8.5 billion); the total estimated bill for the EU has doubled to €7.2 billion ($9.2 billion), with the overall cost now reckoned to be around €15 billion; the reactor will become operational in November 2019

  • Japanese rescue robot can sniff out, and help, buried disaster survivors

    Japanese emergency services are testing a search-and-rescue robot that can search rubble for survivors and deliver water, food, or cellphones in disaster zones; the device has a robotic arm that can be remote-controlled to turn doorknobs, maneuver through rubble and carry crucial survival items after an earthquake or other disaster

  • Detecting sticky bombs

    Sticky bombs — explosives affixed to a car, which explode when you turn the ignition key — as the stuff of movies dealing with the Mafia, but terrorists used them as well (as do the secret services of some countries); researchers at Argonne National Laboratory offer a way to detect surreptitiously placed sticky bombs

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  • Engineering graduate schools address homeland security

    In response to a variety of recent disasters — including high-profile hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and structural collapses — some graduate engineering schools are creating new courses of study that teach students how to address these catastrophes

  • Good business: Developers make buildings more disaster-secure than building code requires

    A Florida developer hopes to get more business by making his building hurricane-proof; with debris-resistant windows on all thirty-five of its stories, the developer says the building would withstand a Category 5 hurricane without significant damage; the extra hurricane proofing built into the Miami building shows that sometimes the private market can overtake the public sector when it comes to building design and safety standards; for example, in New York and Washington, D.C., some developers have put in anti-terrorism safeguards that exceed building codes

  • 3,000 chemical-filled barrels washed into major northeast China river

    Severe floods in China’s Jilin Province carried about 3,000 barrels containing toxic chemicals into the Songhuajiang River in Jilin City; in addition, 4,000 empty barrels containing chemical residues were also washed into the river — a major source of drinking water and fishing; each chemical-filled barrel contains about 170 kilograms of chemicals

  • X Prize to offer millions for Gulf oil cleanup solution

    The X Prize Foundation will tomorrow launch its Oil Cleanup X Challenge promising millions of dollars for winning ways to clean up crude oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico; past X Prize categories include mapping genomes, making an incredibly fuel efficient car, and exploring the moon’s surface with a robotic vehicle

  • Snake-like robots dispose of IEDs

    Snakes are flexible, and they can crawl, slither, swim, climb, or shimmy through narrow spaces; the U.S. military wants to emulate these characteristics in snake-like robots that can replace soldiers in dangerous search and rescue missions, surveillance operations, and IED disposal

  • U.S. Army to buy additional explosive disposal robots

    Boeing, iRobot receive a follow-on order for 94 additional explosive disposal ground robots, bringing to total number of robots the U.S. Army has ordered to 323; the robot has the ability to perform reconnaissance during extremely hazardous explosive disposal missions involving unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices

  • Research shows promise for nuclear fusion test reactors

    Fusion powers the stars and could lead to a limitless supply of clean energy. A fusion power plant would produce ten times more energy than a conventional nuclear fission reactor, and because the deuterium fuel is contained in seawater, a fusion reactor’s fuel supply would be virtually inexhaustible

  • Senate panels to discuss high-risk chemical facilities

    This is an important week in chemical facilities security legislation, as two Senate panels are set to hold hearings on how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DHS can most effectively monitor the security measures taken by U.S. chemical facilities:

  • Breakthrough: UCLA engineering devises new location-based cryptography method

    Location-based security is ensured by using quantum mechanics; this type of cryptography could be useful in several settings — for example, one could communicate with a military base with a guarantee that only someone physically present at the base will have access to the information; furthermore, the location-based method eliminates the need for distributing and storing keys, one of the most difficult tasks in cryptography

  • Flawed predictions of coal, CO2 production lead to flawed climate models, says research

    Most current climate change models assume unlimited coal and fossil fuel production for the next 100 years; one expert says this is an unrealistic premise which skews climate change models and proposed solutions; since widely accepted studies predict coal production will peak and decline after 2011, the expert says that climate change predictions should be revised to account for this inevitable peak and decline

  • Penn State Harrisburg hosts homeland security summer camp for kids

    Penn State Harrisburg has launched several degree and training program in homeland security, using program a $1 million federal grant from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; the latest addition to its roster of programs: a summer camp in homeland security and intelligence for kids from Pennsylvania