Sci-Tech

  • New 3D technology helps in identifying long-distance threats

    At present, surveillance systems have difficulty capturing even 2D images at long range under normal sunlight conditions. The ability to extract high-resolution 3D video information up to hundreds of meters away, particularly in bright sunshine, would be a major advance. It would have immediate applications in the security and defense industries, for example for long-distance face-recognition, improved identification of left luggage, or the detection of concealed weapons.

  • Existing power plants will emit 300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide during use

    Existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas, according to a new study. The study is the first to quantify how quickly these “committed” emissions are growing — by about 4 percent per year — as more fossil fuel-burning power plants are built. Assuming these stations will operate for forty years, the power plants constructed globally in 2012 alone will produce about nineteen billion tons of CO2 during their existence, the researchers project.

  • Southwest may face “megadrought” within century: Study

    Due to global warming, scientists say, the chances of the southwestern United States experiencing a decade-long drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a “megadrought” — one that lasts up to thirty-five years — ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century. While the 1930s Dust Bowl in the Midwest lasted four to eight years, depending upon location, a megadrought can last more than three decades, which could lead to mass population migration on a scale never before seen in this country.

  • Muslim-majority countries can become liberal democracies

    A new study suggests that Islam is not as much of an impediment to liberal democracy as is often thought. The researchers used data from the World Values Survey — a global research project that explores people’s values and beliefs, how they change over time, and what social and political impact they have. They found that people living in Muslim-majority countries are on average less tolerant than people living in the West – but that a significant part of the reason for this difference is that Muslim-majority countries tend to be less economically developed and more economically unequal than Western countries.

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  • Islam’s silent majority: moderate voices drowned out by extremists

    Stretching from North Africa to east Asia, many Muslims are engaged in a life-and-death tussle with extremists who are bent on extinguishing the diversity of opinions within the Muslim community. The reality, however, is that there exists more than one Islamic faith. Islam is an umbrella term, which covers multiple differences within the religion. Diversity of opinion is not a recent feature of Islam; evidence of broad shades of opinion can be traced back to its origins. But today the global Salafist movement, funded greatly by the Saudi regime and other sources, publicly occupies most of the Muslim world and parts of Muslim communities in the West. Islam should not be considered from the perspective of fundamentalism as, in the end, this will strengthen the extremists’ position. Rather, it should be understood by opening a dialogue, supporting, and co-operating with the moderates who offer a different understanding of Islam.

  • James Foley murder: inside the mind of Britain’s jihadists

    As the murder of James Foley appears to have shown, foreign fighters are involved at the heart of the violence abroad — and understanding how they got there and what they might do on their return is an important task to which all carefully researched findings can contribute. There is a long history of people heading off to fight in foreign countries, and recent research has shown that, on balance, foreign fighters are more likely to be involved in high-risk conflicts. An important aspect of successfully recruiting foreign fighters is the creation of a wider communal identity and the sense of a threat to it — so Serbs versus Bosnians becomes Christians versus Muslims, and Assad versus protesters becomes false Muslims (or Alawites, or Shi’as) versus true (in this case, Sunni) Muslims. This process of highlighting the threat to the community and generating a sense of fear is especially effective in people who have a stronger identity to that community than they do to their state identity. So people who might be marginalized within their home countries might be more likely to leave those countries as the ties of state identity are weaker than the sense of duty to their transnational community.

  • U.S. military seeks to break the “more armor” paradigm for protection

    For the past 100 years of mechanized warfare, protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: More armor equals more protection. The trend of increasingly heavy, less mobile, and more expensive combat platforms has limited soldiers’ ability rapidly to deploy and maneuver in theater and accomplish their missions in varied and evolving threat environments. The U.S. military is now at a point where — considering tactical mobility, strategic mobility, survivability, and cost — innovative and disruptive solutions are necessary to ensure the operational viability of the next generation of armored fighting vehicles.

  • What goes on in the mind of a militant extremist?

    So far, the ongoing discussions about radicalization of extremists both at home and abroad have tended to emphasize its sociological aspects. These discussions have focused on concepts such as the religion and social environments of individuals. Psychological accounts of extremist activity are infrequent, and it is often forgotten that only a few of those who hold strong ideological, political, and religious views get involved in violent acts. Personal dispositions, feelings and beliefs may play a decisive role in explaining why people become radicalized. Psychological research into radicalization may thus complement political science and religious studies in countering terrorism in Western society. Monitoring the strength of militant extremist mindset endorsements in different communities could be helpful. It may be useful to establish regular polling practices that would gauge the extent of radicalization over time and in reaction to terrorist-related political acts at home and globally.

  • Smart-gun design met with suspicion by gun rights advocates

    Ernst Mauch, a mainstay of the weapons industry and a long-term gunmaker at Heckler & Koch, has recently upset gun rights advocates, who used to praise his work, with his new computer-assisted smart gun design. The new gun incorporates twenty-first century computing and intelligence features to eliminate the potential for danger in the wrong hands: it will only operate if the owner is wearing a special wrist watch.

  • Winners announced in U.S. Cyber Challenge Western regional competition

    Angela Rey, Lee Christensen, and Vincent Venem were on the winning team for the 2014 U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) Western Regional “Capture the Flag” competition. The seventy participants were selected based in part on their scores from Cyber Quests, an online competition offered through the USCC in April that drew more than 1,600 participants from almost 700 schools nationwide.

  • Antarctica to become major contributor to sea level rise faster than previously thought

    While Antarctica currently contributes less than 10 percent to global sea level rise and is a minor contributor compared to the thermal expansion of the warming oceans and melting mountain glaciers, it is Greenland and especially the Antarctic ice sheets with their huge volume of ice that are expected to be the major contributors to future long-term sea level rise.

  • “Active Physics” incorporates active-learning techniques while still being taught to large classes

    Large lecture courses notoriously discourage students from going into the sciences, but an innovative physics course helps to prevent this first-year slide. “Active Physics” incorporates active-learning techniques, but still is taught to large classes. Active Physics consistently outperformed traditional lecture courses in conceptual learning and in attitudes toward learning and problem solving.

  • Solar super-storms “inevitable”: Scientists

    Solar storms are caused by violent eruptions on the surface of the Sun and are accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CME). The largest ever solar super-storm on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event: This massive CME released about 1,022 kJ of energy — the equivalent to ten billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time — and hurled around a trillion kilograms of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3,000 km/s. These types of events are not just a threat, but inevitable. NASA scientists have predicted that the Earth is in the path of a Carrington-level event every 150 years on average — which means that we are currently five years overdue — and that the likelihood of one occurring in the next decade is as high as 12 percent.

  • Cold-formed steel construction withstands seismic challenges better than expected

    Engineering researchers have provided the building blocks necessary for enabling performance-based design for cold-formed steel buildings, structures that have shown in shake-test experiments at the State University of New York at Buffalo to withstand seismic loading much better than previously expected. Light, strong, and easy to construct cold-formed steel (CFS) buildings are repetitively framed with light steel members and conform to well-defined seismic design codes. Until this latest research, however, engineers and builders significantly underestimated the seismic strength of cold-formed steel structures.

  • Crime rates affected by who has administrative, budgetary responsibility for prisons

    In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court forced California to deal with the massive overcrowding in its prison system. The resulting reform shifted administrative and budgetary responsibility for low-level criminals from the state prison system to county jails. As a result, local California jails now face more overcrowding than ever, and local law enforcement is saddled with additional costs for imprisoning arrestees. In Israel, the trend has been in the opposite direction: an administrative reform which transferred authority over jails from the police to the Prison Authority resulted in the police sending more people to jail. A new study found that police are more inclined to issue arrests when prisons have administrative responsibility for detainees. The effect on crime: crime in Israel dropped as a result of the reform largely because the police — feeling less budgetary pressure — felt free to arrest more suspects, many of whom would have gotten off in the past with a warning.