Sci-Tech

  • 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

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  • 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

  • New sensor helps find parking spaces -- and make air traffic, shipping safer

    Every vehicle — a car in a parking lot or on the road, an airplane on the tarmac, a ship — slightly deforms its surrounding Earth’s magnetic field due to the vehicle’s metallic components and electronic devices; magnetic field sensors can detect these small changes; in contrast to surveillance cameras, which are influenced by fog or rain, magnetic field sensors are unaffected by weather conditions

  • U.S. needs better-trained math teachers to compete globally

    U.S. elementary and middle-school math teachers are not as prepared as those from other countries; this, combined with a weak U.S. math curriculum, produces similarly weak student achievement; while nearly all future middle-school teachers in the top-achieving countries took courses in linear algebra and basic calculus, only about half of U.S. future teachers took the fundamental courses

  • Indiana companies benefit from UAV trend

    Last year, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more pilots to operate unmanned vehicles than it did pilots for traditional fighter planes; UAV carry out more and more intelligence and operational missions; Indiana companies benefit

  • The 2010 Security Treasure Hunt cybersecurity competition launched in California

    California on Tuesday launched the 2010 Security Treasure Hunt; the online competition is part of a national effort to identify young men and women with the potential to become world-class cybersecurity professionals

  • DARPA unveils details of Transformer TX flying car

    DARPA is inviting proposals for flying car and accompanying technologies; in addition to being a capable ground vehicle, the TX should be able to lift off and land “without forward motion” and thereafter climb at least one unit upward for every six moved forward at sea level, or a minimum of 1:10 at higher altitudes; it should cruise in forward flight mode at speeds “representative of a light single-engine aircraft” and be able to achieve altitudes of 10,000 feet

  • Northrop Grumman unveils latest version of Wheelbarrow UGV

    Northrop Grumman’s Wheelbarrow unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) was first used by British Army bomb disposal teams during “The Troubles” in Ireland in the 1970s; since then it has gone through a number of design upgrades to extend its capabilities and meet changing military and first response needs; the company has just unveiled the latest version of this veteran robot