• Disaster relief: Can AI improve humanitarian assistance?

    The unique topic of artificial intelligence (AI) for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) was in the spotlight last week, as leading minds from academia, industry and the federal government met to discuss how modern technology can help victims of disasters around the globe.

  • Blocking sunlight to cool Earth won't reduce crop damage from global warming

    Injecting particles into the atmosphere to cool the planet and counter the warming effects of climate change would do nothing to offset the crop damage from rising global temperatures, according to a new analysis. “Shading the planet keeps things cooler, which helps crops grow better. But plants also need sunlight to grow, so blocking sunlight can affect growth. For agriculture, the unintended impacts of solar geoengineering are equal in magnitude to the benefits,” said the study’s lead author.

  • High- and low-tech solutions for bomb disposal

    To ensure bomb techs are on the cutting edge of technology as they address evolving threats, DHS S&T created the Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) program. REDOPS connects the 466 bomb squads of varying sizes and budgets across the country with the tools and information they need to perform their duties better, faster and more safely. They look at a variety of sources—including the commercial marketplace, responder communities and international partners—for high- and low-tech solutions.

  • Wanted: Smart ideas for grid modernization

    A consortium of national labs and nonprofit organizations has announced a call for concepts to engage the smart grid community in demonstrating visionary interoperability capabilities on how facilities with distributed energy resources, or DERs, integrate and interact with the utility grid.

  • New laser solution could slow spread of forest fires

    Aggressive wildfires are rampaging through many countries this summer, bringing death and destruction in their wake. In California alone, firefighters are scrambling to control 18 separate blazes. Texas, Oregon, Florida, New Jersey, as well as Canada, Greece, India, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. are among other areas battling massive forest fires, a phenomenon experts expect will only increase due to climate change. Israeli company Fighting Treetop Fire is developing a system of removing combustible foliage with algorithm-controlled laser beams controlled via helicopter or truck.

  • Planet at risk of heading towards “Hothouse Earth” state

    An international team of scientists has published a study showing that keeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed, and that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions. A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says.

  • Blocked from distributing plans for 3D-printed guns, "crypto-anarchist" is still in the DIY gun business

    Cody Wilson’s group Defense Distributed is known for attempting to upload the digital blueprints for 3D-printed guns. But he also helps customers make unregistered, unserialized conventional firearms, from Glocks to AR-15s.

  • From gun kits to 3D printable guns, a short history of rogue gun makers

    Gun rights activist Cody Wilson got a green light from the Trump administration in June to publish digital blueprints on the internet that will enable anyone with a 3D printer to make a plastic gun. Wilson’s harnessing of computer technology and his self-proclaimed radical ideology have added a new, unpredictable dimension to America’s struggle to reduce gun violence. But my research into the marketing, distribution and sales practices of the U.S. firearms industry reveals that there is nothing new in attempts by gun makers to exploit loopholes in government regulations. Since the 1980s, anyone can purchase the most lethal of firearms free from all legal restrictions. This has been made possible by small companies, operating on the margins of the gun industry, that sell complete weapons in the form of parts kits. Gun parts – as opposed to whole guns – are not subject to any of the federal regulations that govern firearms sales. No federal license is necessary to sell gun parts. And no background check is needed to purchase them.

  • Internet publication of 3D printing files about guns: Facts and what’s at stake

    When it comes to guns, nearly everyone has strong views. When it comes to Internet publication of 3D printed guns, those strong views can push courts and regulators into making hasty, dangerous legal precedents that will hurt the public’s ability to discuss legal, important, and even urgent topics ranging from mass surveillance to treatment of tear gas attacks. Careless responses to 3D-printed guns, even those that will do little to limit their availability, will have long-lasting effects on a host of activities entirely unrelated to guns.

  • It’s official: 2017 was one of three warmest years on record

    It is official: 2017 was the third-warmest year on record for the globe. The planet also experienced record-high greenhouse gas concentrations as well as rises in sea level. The concentration of greenhouse gasses — including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide – reached new record highs. The 2017 average global CO2 concentration was 405 parts per million, the highest measured in the modern 38-year global climate record and records created from ice-core samples dating back as far as 800,000 years.

  • If there are intelligent aliens, why have we not we seen them?

    Thousands of planets have been discovered in the last few decades, although astronomers tell us there are probably billions. In such a large and diverse set of solar systems, it seems impossible that humans could be the only intelligent life. This contradiction – between the high probability that life exists elsewhere in the universe and the lack of evidence for it – is known as Fermi’s Paradox. Coined by physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1960s, it’s a mystery that continues to invite consideration more than half a century later.

  • Building statistical foundation for next-gen forensic DNA profiling

    DNA is often considered the most reliable form of forensic evidence, and this reputation is based on the way DNA experts use statistics. When they compare the DNA left at a crime scene with the DNA of a suspect, experts generate statistics that describe how closely those DNA samples match. A jury can then take those match statistics into account when deciding guilt or innocence. These match statistics are reliable because they’re based on rigorous scientific research. However, that research only applies to DNA fingerprints, also called DNA profiles, that have been generated using current technology. Now, scientists have laid the statistical foundation for calculating match statistics when using Next Generation Sequencing, or NGS, which produces DNA profiles that can be more useful in solving some crimes.

  • Spotting spies in the sky

    The use of drones for surveillance is no longer in the realm of science fiction. Researchers have developed the first technique to detect a drone camera illicitly capturing video. The new technology addresses increasing concerns about the proliferation of drone use for personal and business applications and how it is impinging on privacy and safety.

  • Groundwater recharge project helps California’s sustainability efforts

    The depletion of California’s aquifers by over-pumping of groundwater has led to growing interest in “managed aquifer recharge,” which replenishes depleted aquifers using available surface waters, such as high flows in rivers, runoff from winter storms, or recycled waste water. At the same time, there is growing concern about contamination of groundwater supplies with nitrate from fertilizers, septic tanks, and other sources. Study shows how collecting storm-water runoff to replenish depleted groundwater supplies can be coupled with a simple strategy to reduce nitrate contaminants.

  • Climate taxes on agriculture may lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself

    New research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change. Smarter, inclusive policies are necessary instead.