• Can next-generation bomb ‘sniffing’ technology outdo dogs on explosives detection?

    With each terrorist attack on another airport, train station, or other public space, the urgency to find new ways to detect bombs before they’re detonated ratchets up. What researchers have wanted to develop for a long time is a new chemical detection technology that could “sniff” for explosives vapor, much like a canine does. Many efforts over the years fell short as not being sensitive enough. My research team has been working on this problem for nearly two decades – and we’re making good headway. Inspired by the tremendous detection capabilities of dogs, we’ve made remarkable advances toward developing technology that can follow in their footsteps. Deploying vapor analysis for explosives can both enhance security levels and provide a less intrusive screening environment. Continuing research aims to hone the technology and lower its costs so it can be deployed at an airport near you.

  • Electronic nose detects pesticides, nerve gas

    Detecting pesticides and nerve gas in very low concentrations? An international team of researchers has made it possible. The researchers have built a very sensitive electronic nose with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). The chemical sensor can easily be integrated into existing electronic devices.

  • Applying public health models to gun violence

    Research treats shootings like an epidemic — by applying public health models. Data indicate an individual’s odds of being a gunshot victim increase with exposure to gun violence. The work focuses not on mass shootings or isolated incidents of violence – rather, the researchers have worked to gather data on populations that face persistent threats of gun-related attacks and homicides, often connected to gang and drug activity.

  • Huge helium discovery in Tanzania is “a life-saving find”

    Helium does not just make your voice squeaky — it is critical to many things we take for granted, including MRI scanners in medicine, welding, industrial leak detection, and nuclear energy. However, known reserves are quickly running out. Until now helium has never been found intentionally — being accidentally discovered in small quantities during oil and gas drilling. Researchers have developed a new exploration approach, and the first use of this method has resulted in the discovery of a world-class helium gas field in Tanzania.

  • Thirty-one leading scientific societies call for action on climate change

    In a consensus letter to U.S. policymakers, a partnership of thirty-one leading nonpartisan scientific societies the other day reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change, noting that greenhouse gas emissions “must be substantially reduced” to minimize negative impacts on the global economy, natural resources, and human health. Climate-change impacts in the United States have already included increased threats of extreme weather events, sea-level rise, water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and disturbances to ecosystems and animals, the intersociety group reported.

  • Climate assessment must be relevant and useful to policymakers

    Climate change assessments must be more relevant to policymakers’ needs, experts say. They argue that coming off the Paris agreement late last year, ambition for fighting climate change is high. They assert that groups like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should capitalize on this increased enthusiasm by integrating studies and presenting their results in ways that are useful to policymakers.

  • Holocaust survivors give historic $400 million gift to Ben-Gurion University

    A couple who survived the Holocaust and made a fortune investing with Warren Buffett left a $400 million bequest to Ben-Gurion University (BGU). The bequest, much of which is earmarked to fund water-related research, is expected to double the size of BGU’s current endowment. The university’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research focuses on sustainability of water resources, desalination techniques, and improving water quality.

  • We need better information to understand extreme weather

    Scientists need more credible and relevant information to help communities become more resilient to extreme weather events such as floods. Researchers need improved techniques to be able to understand why the climate is changing, and the part humans play in this process, experts say.

  • Crop breeding is not keeping pace with climate change

    Crop yields will fall within the next decade due to climate change unless immediate action is taken to speed up the introduction of new and improved varieties, experts have warned. The researchers focused on maize in Africa but the underlying processes affect crops across the tropics.

  • Losing control: The dangers of killer robots

    New technology could lead humans to relinquish control over decisions to use lethal force. As artificial intelligence advances, the possibility that machines could independently select and fire on targets is fast approaching. Fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots,” are quickly moving from the realm of science fiction toward reality. While the process of creating international law is notoriously slow, countries can move quickly to address the threats of fully autonomous weapons. They should seize the opportunity presented by the Convention on Conventional Weapons review conference, to be held this December, because the alternative is unacceptable: Allowing technology to outpace diplomacy would produce dire and unparalleled humanitarian consequences.

  • The contribution of human dynamics to coastal communities’ resilience

    The National Academies of Sciences has established a $10 million grants program to fund projects that enhance the science and practice of coastal community resilience in the Gulf of Mexico region. Rather than focus on infrastructure needs or the built environment, as many existing resilience-focused programs do, the new grants program will support the study of the human dynamics that influence a community’s ability to respond to adverse events.

  • Western U.S. braces for “dangerous and deadly” 120 degrees heatwave

    Forecasters have warned that temperatures in the western United States are set to reach 120 degrees in a “rare, dangerous, and deadly” heatwave. The forecasts have worried officials, who are bracing for devastating wildfires and power cuts which will knock out air-conditioning systems, leading to heat-related fatalities. The area which will be subjected to the heat wave stretches from Oklahoma to California. It is home to sixty-six million people, one-fifth of the U.S. population.

  • Year-long heat streak results in new global heat records

    Fresh out of the oven that was a warm start to the year, global temperatures are on a roll: For the 13th consecutive month, the globe was record warm in May — the longest such stretch in 137 years of record-keeping. The more than yearlong heat streak also resulted in other new global heat records.

  • Nation’s elite cybersecurity talent participate in U.S. Cyber Challenge program

    A week from today, Illinois’ top cybersecurity talent will descend upon Moraine Valley Community College outside of Chicago to participate in the annual U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) Cyber Camp. During the week-long camp, individuals will participate in a variety of classes that cover such subjects as packet crafting and pen testing, and compete in a virtual Capture the Flag competition to demonstrate their cybersecurity abilities in a free-form environment in hopes of winning one of the limited (ISC)2 scholarship vouchers.

  • In Sweden, replacing nuclear power with wind power does not make sense

    The Swedish power supply is largely free of carbon emissions. Indeed, it is mainly based on a combination of hydroelectric and nuclear power combined with power exchange with neighboring Scandinavian countries. A new study, investigating the possibility of replacing nuclear power with wind power, which is by nature intermittent, concludes that a backup system, based on fossil fuel, namely gas, would be required in combination with wind power. In such a scenario, the CO2 emissions would double.