• Extreme weather tests U.K. gas security to the limit

    The National Grid, which manages the U.K.’s energy network, warned that it might not have enough gas to meet demand on March 1, due to plummeting temperatures and issues with supply. It has since withdrawn the warning, saying the market response has boosted supplies. But Britain’s lack of flexible energy supply is a serious issue. This isn’t the first time such a warning has been issued and it probably won’t be the last.

  • If you want to know how to stop school shootings, ask the Secret Service

    While President Donald Trump has not shied away from offering suggestions on how to prevent school shootings – including one controversial idea to arm teachers – what often gets overlooked in the conversation is research on the subject that has already been done. This research includes one major study of school shootings conducted in part by the very agency charged with protecting the president of the United States himself - the U.S. Secret Service. Has this research been ignored or just forgotten?

  • Flood risk for Americans is greatly underestimated

    A new study has found that forty-one million Americans are at risk from flooding rivers, which is more than three times the current estimate—based on regulatory flood maps—of thirteen million people. The study is based on a new high-resolution model that maps flood risk across the entire continental United States, whereas the existing regulatory flood maps produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cover about 60 percent of the continental United States. Avoiding future losses is particularly important as average flood losses in the United States have increased steadily to nearly $10 billion annually.

  • Protecting soldiers from blast-induced brain injury

    Researchers have developed a new military vehicle shock absorbing device that may protect warfighters against traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to exposure to blasts caused by land mines. During Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, more than 250,000 warfighters were victims of such injuries. Prior to this study, most research on blast-induced TBI has focused on the effects of rapid changes in barometric pressure, also known as overpressure, on unmounted warfighters.

  • U.S. firefighters and police turn to an Israeli app to save lives

    When Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys in September 2017, the new First Response app from Israeli-American company Edgybees helped first-responders identify distress calls in flooded areas. When wildfires hit Northern California a month later, the app steered firefighters away from danger. This lifesaving augmented-reality app — designed only months before as an AR racing game for drone enthusiasts — is now used by more than a dozen fire and police departments in the United States, as well as the United Hatzalah emergency response network in Israel.

  • Anti-Semitic incidents surged nearly 60% in 2017: ADL report

    The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a new report today that the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s. The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.

  • Why Trump’s idea to arm teachers may miss the mark

    President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers has sparked substantial public debate. As researchers of consumer culture and lead authors of a recent study of how Americans use and view firearms for self-defense, we argue that while carrying a gun may reduce the risk of being powerless during an attack, it also introduces substantial and overlooked risks to the carrier and others. Despite the widespread news coverage of mass shootings at schools, the reality is that school shootings are still a rare occurrence. In an FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents that FBI identified between 2000 and 2013, 27 – or about 17 percent – occurred at elementary, middle, and high schools. Given that rarity, the challenges of effectively using a gun to neutralize a shooter without taking additional lives, and added day-to-day risks, we argue that Trump’s proposal would not be effective in making schools safer overall for teachers or students.

  • Researchers join AI-enabled robots in “collaborative autonomy”

    A team of firefighters clears a building in a blazing inferno, searching rooms for people trapped inside or hotspots that must be extinguished. Except this isn’t your typical crew. Most apparent is the fact that the firefighters are not all human. They are working side-by-side with artificially intelligent (AI) robots who are searching the most dangerous rooms, and making life or death decisions. This scenario is potentially closer than you might think, but while AI-equipped robots might be technologically capable of rendering aid, sensing danger or providing protection for their flesh-and-blood counterparts, the only way they can be valuable to humans is if their operators are not burdened with the task of guiding them.

  • Global AI experts warn of malicious use of AI in the coming decade

    Twenty-six experts on the security implications of emerging technologies have jointly authored an important new report, sounding the alarm about the potential malicious use of artificial intelligence (AI) by rogue states, criminals, and terrorists. Forecasting rapid growth in cyber-crime and the misuse of drones during the next decade – as well as an unprecedented rise in the use of “bots” to manipulate everything from elections to the news agenda and social media. the report calls for governments and corporations worldwide to address the clear and present danger inherent in the myriad applications of AI.

  • Deep Fakes: A looming crisis for national security, democracy and privacy?

    Events in the last few years, such as Russia’s broad disinformation campaign to undermine Western democracies, including the American democratic system, have offered a compelling demonstration of truth decay: how false claims — even preposterous ones — can be disseminated with unprecedented effectiveness today thanks to a combination of social media ubiquitous presence and virality, cognitive biases, filter bubbles, and group polarization. Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron write in Lawfare that the resulting harms are significant for individuals, businesses, and democracy – but that the problem may soon take a significant turn for the worse thanks to deep fakes. They urge us to get used to hearing that phrase. “It refers to digital manipulation of sound, images, or video to impersonate someone or make it appear that a person did something—and to do so in a manner that is increasingly realistic, to the point that the unaided observer cannot detect the fake. Think of it as a destructive variation of the Turing test: imitation designed to mislead and deceive rather than to emulate and iterate.”

  • Analytical methods to help develop antidotes for cyanide, mustard gas

    Several Food and Drug Administration-approved antidotes are available for cyanide poisoning, but they have severe limitations. To develop effective antidotes for chemical agents, such as cyanide and mustard gas, scientists need analytical methods that track not only the level of exposure but also how the drug counteracts the effects of the chemical.

  • Sea levels rising more than previously expected

    Studying twenty-five years’ worth of satellite data, scientists paint a grim picture of global warming. Sea levels are going up at a faster rate each year, and even sooner than projected. The calculate that at the current pace, the total sea level rise could be twice as high as previous projections by 2100.

  • Working to halt outbreaks in 60 days or less

    The increasing threat of infectious diseases is intensifying the need for breakthrough technologies and capabilities to protect first responders and equip them with therapeutics that can halt the impact of infectious agents. Current approaches for recent public health emergencies due to infectious diseases have not produced effective preventive or therapeutic solutions in a relevant timescale. Examples from recent outbreaks such as H3N2 (flu), Ebola, and Zika viruses highlight the significant lag in deployment and efficacy of life-saving solutions. To address the growing threat from infectious diseases as well as to properly equip DoD Service members who regularly deploy worldwide to provide assistance in all manner of high-risk environments, DARPA launched the Pandemic Prevention Platform program (P3). DARPA notes that quickly produced nucleic-acid-based technologies may hold key to body creating protective antibodies.

  • Horsepox synthesis, dual-use research, and scientific research’s “action bias”

    Julius Caesar is said to have stated “alea iacta est” (the die is cast) as he led his army across the Rubicon river, triggering a point of no return in Roman history. In many ways, the horsepox synthesis, published by two Canadian scientists last month, is considered a new Rubicon for synthetic biology and the life sciences. Experts say that now that we’ve ventured across the river, it seems that we may be learning more about dual-use research in general. One expert notes that “Beyond the immediate issue of whether the horsepox work should have been performed (or published), the horsepox synthesis story highlights a more general challenge facing dual-use research in biotechnology: the unilateralist’s curse.” Research unilateralism contains an “action bias”: Horsepox synthesis is more likely to occur when scientists act independently than when they agree to a decision as a group.

  • Real-time Captcha technique bolsters biometric authentication

    A new login authentication approach could improve the security of current biometric techniques that rely on video or images of users’ faces. Known as Real-Time Captcha, the technique uses a unique challenge that’s easy for humans — but difficult for attackers who may be using machine learning and image generation software to spoof legitimate users.