Sci-Tech

  • Electric bugs harnessed to detect water pollution

    Scientists have developed a low-cost device that could be used in developing countries to monitor the quality of drinking water in real time without costly lab equipment. The sensor contains bacteria that produce a small measurable electric current as they feed and grow. The researchers found that when the bacteria are disturbed by coming into contact with toxins in the water, the electric current drops, alerting to the presence of pollutants in the water.

  • Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

    Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

  • Tornado strength, frequency linked to climate change

    New research shows that climate change may be playing a key role in the strength and frequency of tornadoes hitting the United States. Though tornadoes are forming fewer days per year, they are forming at a greater density and strength than ever before. “We may be less threatened by tornadoes on a day-to-day basis, but when they do come, they come like there’s no tomorrow,” one of the researchers said.

  • Key U.S. coastal areas bracing for greater sea level rise challenges

    While climate change-related sea level rise is predicted to impact much of the country — whether directly or indirectly — over the next several decades, certain parts of the nation’s coasts are expecting to deal with more unique and intensive challenges.

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  • N.C. science panel begins updating sea level rise report

    North Carolina officials announced last week that the state-appointed science panel supported by the Coastal Resources Commission(CRC) has begun updating a controversial 2010 sea-level rise report. The CRC oversees development in North Carolina’s twenty coastal counties. In May, the CRC votedto narrow the scope of the pending report to reflect the effects of sea-level rise for the next thirty-years, as opposed to the original timeframe of 100 years in the 2010 report. “I think the concept of doing it for 30 years will add credibility to the study,” Frank Gorham, the CRC’s chairman, said last Thursday. “People can think in 30-year timeframes.”

  • Wi-Fi-equipped robots to see through solid walls

    Wi-Fi makes all kinds of things possible. We can send and receive messages, make phone calls, browse the Internet, even play games with people who are miles away, all without the cords and wires to tie us down. Researchers are now using this versatile, everyday signal to do something different and powerful: looking through solid walls and seeing every square inch of what is on the other side. Built into robots, the technology has far-reaching possibilities.

  • Training cyber security specialists for U.S. critical cyber infrastructure

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is joining Bechtel BNI and Los Alamos National Laboratory to train a new class of cyber defense professionals to protect the U.S. critical digital infrastructure. The Bechtel-Lawrence Livermore-Los Alamos Cyber Career Development Program is designed to allow the national labs to recruit and rapidly develop cyber security specialists who can guide research at their respective institutions and create solutions that meet the cyber defense needs of private industry. About 80 percent of the nation’s critical digital infrastructure and assets are owned and operated by private industry.

  • Tech firm creates software pairing response systems with open data

    A new application, called Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard (DAAD), harnesses emergency response data in real-time and across multiple departments and agencies. DAAD will function as a central hub for information in the event of a disaster — using more than 100 different interfaces that upload data. Additionally, the hub will work in accordance with all manner of local government organizations such as fire stations, police stations and hospitals to further create a larger picture during the actual moments of an emergency.

  • Encouraging innovation for better preparedness, recovery, and resilience tools

    Last week the White House hosted innovators in technology and emergency management to discuss new tools that can improve preparedness, recovery, and resilience in the wake of a disaster. The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative Demo Dayshowcased innovations from the private sector and government agencies aimed at aiding survivors of large-scale emergencies. The key goal was to “find the most efficient and effective ways to empower survivors to help themselves,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.

  • Helping grow the next generation of scientists

    Scientists, uniformed service members, and the DTRA’s Chemical/Biological Technologies Department (CB) leadership worked hard to make this year’s Joint Science and Technology Institute (JSTI), a summer program for high school-aged students, designed to increase awareness and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academics, a success.

  • Creating sustainable university and college STEM programs

    A new study has identified two factors that characterize sustainable university and college programs designed to increase the production of highly qualified physics teachers. Specifically, one or more faculty members who choose to champion physics teacher education in combination with institutional motivation and commitment can ensure that such initiatives remain viable. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher shortages are especially acute in physics, and the study points the way for institutions seeking to increase the number of STEM graduates prepared to teach.

  • “Aggressive” Islamic effort to influence Birmingham, U.K. schools: Report

    A report issued on 22 July by former U.K. antiterrorism chief suggests that some of the concerns raised in a letter which outlined Operation Trojan Horse — an attempt by Islamic extremists to take over British schools in Muslim neighborhoods – may be real, even if the letter itself was probably a hoax. The storm caused by the letter and the subsequent investigation and report concern more that public schools in the City of Birmingham. At issue are the clash between British and Islamic values and norms, and, more broadly, the efforts in Britain and other West Europe countries to assimilate a growing Muslim minority.

  • National vision needed to achieve comprehensive risk reduction along Atlantic, Gulf coasts

    A national vision for coastal risk management that includes a long-term view, regional solutions, and recognition of the full array of economic, social, environmental, and safety benefits that come from risk management is needed to reduce the impacts of natural disasters along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, says a new report. To support this vision, a national coastal risk assessment is needed to identify coastal areas that face the greatest threats and are high priorities for risk-reduction efforts.

  • Using natural, engineering solutions to help U.K. address extreme weather events

    The United Kingdom is seeing increased seasonal flood damage not only from coastal and river surges, but from rising groundwater as well. The scale and unpredictability of these events in recent years, while devastating, can also serve as a helpful mirror of future climate change and its predicted effects in the longer term. Experts say that natural solutions, such as reforestation, to improve flood defenses and attempts to keep water in place may provide both short and long term solutions.

  • Drought-driven use of underground water threatens water supply of western U.S.

    Scientists find that more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The Colorado River is the only major river in the southwest part of the United States. Its basin supplies water to about forty million people in seven states, as well as irrigating roughly four million acres of farmland. Monthly measurements in the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total — about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) — was from groundwater. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.