• Conspiracy theories and the people who believe in them: Book review

    In Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe in Them, Joseph Uscinski presents a collection that brings together contributors to offer an wide-ranging take on conspiracy theories, examining them as historical phenomena, psychological quirks, expressions of power relations an political instruments. While this is an interesting and expansive volume, it overlooks the conundrum posed by conspiracy theories that succeed in capturing the epistemological authorities.

  • “Vaccinating” algorithms against attacks on machine learning

    Algorithms “learn” from the data they are trained on to create a machine learning model that can perform a given task effectively without needing specific instructions, such as making predictions or accurately classifying images and emails. Researchers have developed a world-first set of techniques to effectively “vaccinate” algorithms against adversarial attacks, a significant advancement in machine learning research.

  • Mining the future

    China is set to dominate the next Industrial Revolution. A fight between the United States and China is brewing over 5G and the question of who can be trusted to control the world’s wireless infrastructure. But scant attention is being paid to an issue of arguably greater importance to the future of the world’s economy and security: China’s control of the raw materials necessary to the digital economy. No new phone, tablet, car, or satellite transferring your data at lightning speed can be made without certain minerals and metals that are buried in a surprisingly small number of countries, and for which few commonly found substitutes are available. Foreign Policy analysts write in a special report that Chinese firms, operating in niche markets with limited transparency and often in politically unstable countries, have locked up supplies of these minerals and metals with a combination of state-directed investment and state-backed capital, making long-term strategic plays, sometimes at a loss. Through in-depth analysis of company reports and disclosures, mapping of deal flows, quantification of direct and indirect equity stakes, and other primary research, FP Analytics has produced the first consolidated review of this unprecedented concentration of market power. Without rhetoric or hyperbole, this fact-based analysis reveals how rapidly and effectively China has executed its national ambitions, with far-reaching implications for the rest of the world.

  • Mass surveillance is coming to a city near you

    The tech entrepreneur Ross McNutt wants to spend three years recording outdoor human movements in a major U.S. city, KMOX news radio reports. Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic that if that sounds too dystopian to be real, you’re behind the times. McNutt, who runs Persistent Surveillance Systems, was inspired by his stint in the Air Force tracking Iraqi insurgents. He tested mass-surveillance technology over Compton, California, in 2012. In 2016, the company flew over Baltimore, feeding information to police for months (without telling city leaders or residents) while demonstrating how the technology works to the FBI and Secret Service.

  • NIST updates to help defend sensitive information from cyberattack

    An update to one of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) information security documents offers strategies to help protect sensitive information that is stored in computers supporting critical government programs and high value assets. The new companion publication offers enhanced security for information stored in critical programs and assets.

  • Shoe scanner may improve airport security

    The types of shoes you wear when flying matter. And not just shoe types. Size, material, soles and heels are also very important. Why? Shoes can become dangerous vehicles for terrorists’ plots. DHS wants to prevent future incidents, and this is why S&T is working on a millimeter wave technology for screening shoes as part of the larger Screening at Speed Program.

  • New technology to measures WMD threat exposures

    Researchers are looking to find molecular signatures in blood that identify previous exposures and time of exposure to materials that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction (including infectious agents, chemicals, and radiation). The epigenome is biology’s record keeper, and Epigenetic technology will provide a new tool in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

  • Optimizing use of future wave electricity generators during disaster

    When hurricanes strike, loss of electricity ranks as one of the top concerns for relief workers. Blackouts lasting a week or more can hamper recovery efforts, shutter hospitals, threaten public health and disrupt transportation. The months-long effort to restore power to Puerto Rico following the 2017 hurricane season has led to renewed interest in finding innovative ways to get affected power grids back online. Researchers look to develop a strategy for how floating devices that harness the energy of the oceans’ waves might be able to provide this much needed aid.

  • Satellite observations help in earthquake monitoring, response

    Researchers have found that data gathered from orbiting satellites can provide more accurate information on the impact of large earthquakes, which, in turn, can help provide more effective emergency response.

  • As global temperatures climb, risk of armed conflict likely to increase substantially

    As global temperatures climb, the risk of armed conflict is expected to increase substantially, according to experts across several fields. Synthesizing views across experts, the study estimates climate has influenced between 3 percent and 20 percent of armed conflict risk over the last century and that the influence will likely increase dramatically.

  • Melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled in recent years

    Almost one billion people depend on melt-water from Himalayan glaciers for the water they need, but global warming has dramatically increased the pace of glacier melting. A new analysis, spanning forty years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, indicates that glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot and half of ice each year since 2000 — double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000.

  • Cyber protection technology moves from the lab to the marketplace

    MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s technique to protect commodity software from cyberattacks has transitioned to industry and will soon be available as part of a security suite.

  • Deepfake myths: Common misconceptions about synthetic media

    There is finally some momentum to “do something” about deepfakes, but crucial misconceptions about deepfakes and their effect on our society may complicate efforts to develop a strategic approach to mitigating their negative impacts.

  • With floods and droughts increasing, communities take a new look at storing water underground

    Groundwater recharging – that is, actively moving water underground, a practice known as managed aquifer recharge (MAR) — is the latest wave in water security. There are about 1,200 managed aquifer recharge projects in 62 countries. MAR can be used to restore depleted aquifers, rehabilitate ecosystems and cleanse polluted water. But there are challenges as well.

  • A “Responsibility to Prepare”: A strategy for presidential leadership on the security risks of climate change

    Presidential candidates are offering their plans on climate change, and it’s a competition over who’s the most ambitious. That’s good news, given that it’s a major security threat that requires a major response. Thus far, most of the candidates’ plans understandably focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a low-carbon economy. These steps are critically important, not least because the world will likely experience significant security disruptions in the future if the scale and scope of climate change are not reduced. Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia, and John Conger write in War in the Rocks that this is only half a strategy. Indeed, if there is a silver lining to climate change and the attendant security risks, it’s that we can see many of these changes coming. American scientists, the U.S. government (see this administration’s National Climate Assessment) and private industry have all shown they are capable of modeling climate change futures with a high degree of certainty compared to other trends. A climate model from 1967 still has a strong predictive capacity. Exxon’s own internal calculations and climate modeling from 1982 about where emissions would likely be in the future, including by 2020, were fairly spot-on. A political scientist in 1967 or 1982 would have had much more difficulty predicting what the political landscape would look like in 2020 than she or he would have making predictions about the climate.