Sci-Tech

  • Nuclear energy central to climate debate

    There are 104 power reactors in 31 states, providing one-fifth of the U.S. electricity; they are also producing 70 percent of essentially carbon-free power and are devoid of greenhouse gas emissions; a study by the industry-supported Electric Power Research Institute says 45 new reactors are needed by 2030; the Energy Information Administration puts the number at 70; an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assumes 180 new reactors by 2050 for an 80 percent decline in greenhouse gas emissions

  • R. Brooks's robots are called upon to inspect pipes at nuclear power plants

    The growing interest in nuclear power is good news for Brooks, a maker of remotely operated robotic inspection devices for pipes, especially in nuclear power plants; all power plants have intricate systems of pipes and systems whose internal condition is impossible to inspect by human eyes

  • Counterfeit chips may hobble advanced weapons

    While most computer security efforts have until now been focused on software, tampering with hardware circuitry may ultimately be an equally dangerous threat; the Pentagon now manufactures in secure facilities run by American companies only about 2 percent of the more than $3.5 billion of integrated circuits bought annually for use in military gear

  • The brief

    Vetting a chip with a hidden agenda is not easy, and chip makers cannot afford to test every chip; also, today only Intel and a few other companies still design and manufacture all their own chips in their own fabrication plants; other chip designers — including LSI Corp. and, most recently, Sony — have gone “fabless,” outsourcing their manufacturing to off-shore facilities known as foundries

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  • Earthquake-proof airport terminal in Istanbul airport

    Large swaths of Turkey are earthquake prone; the 1999 Kocaeli earthquake, for example, killed 17,000 people, injured 50,000, and destroyed 27,000 buildings, leaving 500,000 homeless; estimates of property losses range from $3 billion to $6.5 billion; engineers claim they have made the terminal at Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport earthquake-proof

  • New high-precision chemical detector to be commercialized

    A start-up launched by the University of Delaware is preparing to commercialize a high-precision detector — a planar-array infrared spectrograph — that can identify biological and chemical agents in solids, liquids, and gases present at low levels in less than a second

  • DARPA announces a $40,000 red-balloon Network Challenge

    To celebrate the Internet’s 40th anniversary, DARPA will moor ten 8-foot red weather balloons across the continental United States during the daylight hours of 5 December; the first individual — or group — to identify the location of the balloon will receive $40,000

  • Questions raised about Obama's smart grid funding

    For the smart grid project to succeed, the business case for it needs to be widely accepted by the stakeholders involved (skeptics would say that if efficiency-mindedness was at the top of the agenda in utility boardrooms and state regulatory agencies, then no federal stimulus money would be needed to install these kinds of technologies); also: the Obama plan envisions a joint public-private smart grid expenditure of $8.1 billion — the government’s $3.4 billion is being matched by $4.7 billion in private investment; a recent analysis of what it would take to build a unified national smart grid put the tab for such a grid at $400 billion

  • Louisiana levee to use stabilizing fabric

    The 1,600-foot earthen levee, which runs south from the Old Estelle Pump Station, has failed twice, once in the early 1990s and again in 2007 when two sections totaling 600 feet long slumped badly; Army Corps of Engineers will use geotextile fabric to stabilize known trouble spots before raising the levee from 10 feet to 14.5 feet

  • The brief

    Smart grid technologies may themselves introduce new problems, such as increasing the vulnerability to cyber attack, as power grid resources become increasingly linked to the Internet

  • Vulnerability identified in Amazon's cloud computing

    Researchers show that it is possible to find would-be victims within cloud hardware; cloud technologies use virtual machines — remote versions of traditional onsite computer systems; the number of these virtual machines can be expanded or contracted on the fly to meet demand, creating tremendous efficiencies — but the actual computing is performed within one or more physical data centers, creating troubling vulnerabilities

  • Despite concerns, development still heads to the coast

    Many scientists predict that by 2100, sea levels would rise more than one meter; still, Florida has opened more vulnerable areas along the Atlantic coast to construction — and has done so more than any other state

  • Aussies worry about rising sea levels

    About 80 percent of Australians live in coastal areas, and a new parliamentary report recommends new laws banning further development in coastal regions

  • Robotic platform helps soldiers carry heavy gear

    Israel Aerospace Industries unveils robotic platform designed for ground forces; the platform, carrying up to 200kg of gear, follows the lead soldier from a distance; the soldiers control the platform by using simple commands, including “stop,” “fetch,” and “heel”

  • Kent State to train lab workers for biocontainment

    The increasing number of high-containment laboratories and the constant threat from emerging diseases and bioterrorism require more extensive biosafety training of the highest caliber, and more facilities in which to offer this training