Sci-Tech

  • Protecting the security for networks of the future

    Today’s company networks comprise hundreds of devices: routers for directing data packets to the right receiver, firewall components for protecting internal networks from the outside world, and network switches. Such networks are extremely inflexible because every component, every router and every switch can carry out only the task it was manufactured for. If the network has to be expanded, the company has to integrate new routers, firewalls or switches and then program them by hand. This is why experts worldwide have been working on flexible networks of the future for the last five years or so, developing what is known as software-defined networking (SDN). It presents one disadvantage, however; it is susceptible to hacker attacks. Researchers have now developed a way to protect these future networks.

  • Missing oil from Deepwater Horizon 2010 accident found

    After 200 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the government and BP cleanup crews mysteriously had trouble locating all of it. Now, a new study finds that some six million to ten million gallons are buried in the sediment on the Gulf floor, about sixty-two miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta.

  • Reprogramming plants to withstand drought

    Crops and other plants are constantly faced with adverse environmental conditions, such as rising temperatures (2014 was the warmest year on record) and lessening fresh water supplies, which lower yield and cost farmers billions of dollars annually. Research in synthetic biology provides a strategy that has reprogrammed plants to consume less water after they are exposed to an agrochemical, opening new doors for crop improvement.

  • Handheld sensor sniffs out fish fraud

    It is estimated that up to 30 percent of the seafood entering the U.S. is fraudulently mislabeled, bilking U.S. fishermen, the U.S. seafood industry, and American consumers for an estimated $20-25 billion annually. Passing off other fish as grouper is one of the rackets this sensor aims to stop. Fighting seafood labeling fraud using rapid, on-site screening may benefit consumer wallets and U.S. seafood industry. Scientists at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science have developed a handheld sensor capable of debunking fraudulent seafood species claims, helping to ensure that consumers are getting what they pay for.

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  • Color-changing film detects chemical weapons

    In today’s world, in which the threat of terrorism looms, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tools to detect the release of deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs). Scientists are reporting progress toward thin-film materials that could rapidly change colors in the presence of CWAs — an advance that could help save lives and hold aggressors accountable.

  • Prolonged heatwaves in urban areas increase significantly over past 40 years

    The world’s urban areas have experienced significant increases in heatwaves over the past forty years, according to new research published last week. These prolonged periods of extreme hot days have significantly increased in over 200 urban areas across the globe between 1973 and 2012, and have been most prominent in the most recent years on record. The study is one of the first to focus solely on the extent of extreme weather on a global scale, as well as examining disparities between urban and non-urban areas.

  • New Chinese cyber rules aim to facilitate intellectual property theft: U.S. tech companies

    The Chinese government’s cyberspace policy group in late 2014 approved a 22-page document which contained strict procurement rules for technology vendors. Those rules would require U.S. firms selling computer equipment in China to turn over sensitive intellectual property — including source codes — submit their products for “intrusive security testing,” and use Chinese encryption algorithms. U.S. companies selling equipment to Chinese banks will be required to set up research and development centers in China, get permits for workers servicing technology equipment, and build “ports” which allow Chinese officials to manage and monitor data processed by their hardware. U.S. tech companies charge that the new rules would make it easier for China to steal U.S. companies’ intellectual property.

  • Smart-gun technology faces many hurdles

    At last Wednesday’s Seattle International Smart Gun Symposium, lawmakers, smart-gun industry representatives, and gun-safety advocates met to discuss the future of “authorized” guns which only discharge in the hands of pre-authorized owners. Representatives from Sentinl, maker of an add-on fingerprint sensor for existing handguns; TriggerSmart, an RFID-enabled system for existing and brand-new guns; and Allied Biometrix, a firm developing fully integrated biometric sensors which unlock a gun once they sense an individual’s “reflexive actions” and “grip style,” attended the event, though these companies do not yet have a ready-for-market product.

  • Corps of Engineers’ report details North Atlantic region’s coastal storm, flood risks

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week released to the public a report detailing the results of a two-year study to address coastal storm and flood risk to vulnerable populations, property, ecosystems, and infrastructure in the North Atlantic region of the United States affected by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012. The NACCS provides tools and information, including a nine-step Coastal Storm Risk Management Framework that can be used by communities, states, tribes, and the Federal government to help identify coastal risk and develop strategies for reducing those risks.

  • Projects using federal funds to adopt siting, building codes informed by sea-level rise

    Following remarks about climate change in his recent State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama issued an executive orderlast week directing federal, state, and local government agencies, using federal funds, to adopt stricter building and siting standards to reflect scientific projections that future flooding will be more intense and frequent due to climate change. Already, post-Superstorm Sandy, FEMA and (HUD) developed updated elevation standards for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and Rhode Island based on climate change projections, and required any approved projects to reflect those projections or local elevation requirements if they were tougher.

  • Severe-weather warnings most effective if probability included: Study

    Risk researchers find that the public may respond best to severe weather warnings if they include a probability estimate, an important finding not only for the present but also for the longer-term future as climate change brings more frequent and severe threats. As severe storm and other disaster warnings become more frequent, new research in this field could become critical for reducing weather-related injury and death.

  • Global warming won't lead to more storms, but will make storms stronger

    A study by atmospheric physicists finds that global warming will not lead to an overall increasingly stormy atmosphere, a topic debated by scientists for decades. Instead, strong storms will become stronger while weak storms become weaker, and the cumulative result of the number of storms will remain unchanged.

  • CODE program would allow UAVs to fly as collaborative teams

    The U.S. military’s investments in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have proven invaluable for missions from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to tactical strike. Most of the current systems, however, require constant control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator as well as a large number of analysts, all via telemetry. These requirements severely limit the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations and pose operational challenges in dynamic, long-distance engagements with highly mobile targets in contested electromagnetic environments. DARPA’s CODE program is offering the opportunity to participate in discussions to help develop groundbreaking software enabling unmanned aircraft to work together with minimal supervision.

  • Early warning systems to boost security for critical infrastructures

    Using data mining, data fusion, and what are known as “rule based engines,” the EU-funded ARGOS, which stands for Advanced Protection of Critical Buildings by Overhauling Anticipating Systems, has developed an innovative early warning security system for critical infrastructure facilities, letting site operators know whether there is a potential threat. The rule-based engines allow operators to “teach” the system what alarms are true enabling systems to ‘learn’ and improve over time. The early warning systems extend the sites’ “security zone” and helps vital infrastructure to become more secure against intruders.

  • Priorities for ocean science over next decade: Sea-level rise, geohazards

    A new report from the National Research Council identifies priority areas for ocean science research in the next decade, including the rate and impacts of sea-level rise, the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, greater understanding of marine food webs, and better approaches for forecasting hazards such as mega-earthquakes and tsunamis. The report also recommends that the National Science Foundation rebalance its funding for ocean science research, which in recent years has shifted toward research infrastructure at the expense of core science programs.