• South Africa can avoid a national water crisis

    Even if South Africa uses less water and applies all of government’s existing plans, the country will still face a water crisis in the next twenty years. Solutions are within reach – but turning things around will take significant financial investment and political will. A new study sets out aggressive measures to offset guaranteed water shortages in the future.

  • Warm Arctic means colder, snowier winters in Northeastern U.S.

    Scientists have linked the frequency of extreme winter weather in the United States to Arctic temperatures. “Warm temperatures in the Arctic cause the jet stream to take these wild swings, and when it swings farther south, that causes cold air to reach farther south. These swings tend to hang around for awhile, so the weather we have in the eastern United States, whether it’s cold or warm, tends to stay with us longer,” one scientist explains.

  • Several ways limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C

    There are several ways to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100, new research says. The study is the first to look at how socioeconomic conditions such as inequalities, energy demand, and international cooperation might affect the feasibility of achieving these goals, and also considers technological and resource assumptions.

  • Expanding real-time radiological threat detection to include other dangers

    Advanced commercially available technologies—such as additive manufacturing (3-D printing), small-scale chemical reactors for pharmaceuticals, and CRISPR gene-manipulation tools—have opened wide access to scientific exploration and discovery. In the hands of terrorists and rogue nation states, however, these capabilities could be misused to concoct chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in small quantities and in form factors that are hard to detect. DARPA’s SIGMA+ program aims to create additional sensors and networks to detect biological, chemical, and explosives threats.

  • DTRA awards British university $1.1 million for improved radiation detectors

    The University of Surrey has been awarded $1.1 million by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to research new types of nanomaterials that produce high efficiency radiation detectors for use in nuclear security. The project will develop materials that are used as highly sensitive radiation detectors.

  • NSA, UWF partner to accelerate cybersecurity degree completion, workforce development

    The University of West Florida and the National Security Agency announced a partnership to enhance cybersecurity workforce development and create accelerated pathways toward completion of an undergraduate cybersecurity degree program. The agreement allows students who complete the Joint Cyber Analysis Course to earn undergraduate credit hours at UWF. JCAC is open to active military. The six-month JCAC course is designed to train individuals with limited computer experience and make them proficient in cyber analysis.

  • Small differences in the rate of global warming make a big difference in coastal areas

    The risk from extreme events is exacerbated by the rising global sea level, which in turn depends on the trajectory of global mean surface temperature. Even if global temperatures are stabilized, sea levels are expected to continue to rise for centuries, due to the long residence time of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, the thermal inertia of the ocean, and the slow response of large ice sheets to forcing. Higher temperatures will make extreme events much more common. In New York City, for example, they estimate that “100-year floods” will become annual events under a 1.5 degree rise and twice-annual events with a 2.0 degree rise.

  • Nerve agents: what are they and how do they work?

    The first nerve agents were invented by accident in the 1930s when researchers were trying to make cheaper and better alternatives to nicotine as insecticides. In their search, German scientists made two organic compounds containing phosphorus that were very effective at killing insect pests. However, they soon discovered that, even in minuscule amounts, the substances caused distressing symptoms in humans exposed to them. The two substances – too toxic to be used as commercial insecticides in agriculture – became known as tabun and sarin. Since then, other nerve agents have been developed, but much less is known about them, although they are thought to work in broadly the same way. Unlike street drugs, nerve agents cannot be made in your kitchen or garden shed, on account of their toxicity, even in tiny amounts. Synthesis of nerve agents requires a specialist laboratory, with fume cupboards. As more details emerge from the case of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, we’ll know more about the precise substance used and how it should be tackled. Either way, nerve agents are horrendously lethal and chemical warfare is an obscene use of chemicals.

  • School shooters: What can law enforcement do to stop them?

    Could the police have stopped Nikolas Cruz before he killed 17 students and teachers, and wounded many others, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School? The answer is: in all likelihood, No: The police did not have grounds to arrest Cruz and, even had they arrested him, that probably would not have prevented his rampage. Florida police have limited options when faced with a potential shooter like Cruz. They can take him to a mental hospital for evaluation. They can try to persuade him to surrender his firearms, but they cannot seize his guns. In Florida there is no “weapons seizure” or “red flag” law authorizing the police to seek a judicial warrant to take weapons away from a person deemed to be a serious threat to self or others. “Curing” Cruz would have been the best outcome. Disarming him would have been second best. Unfortunately, Florida does not have a “red flag” law, which five states already have and more than 20 are considering.

  • Sinking ground in San Francisco Bay exacerbates flooding from rising sea levels

    New research shows that sections of the San Francisco Bay shoreline are sinking at rates of nearly half an inch (10 millimeters) a year. But knowledge of where the ground in the Bay Area is sinking, and by how much, is not included in the official planning maps that authorities use to assess the local flooding risk from rising sea levels. The researchers used radar imaging to measure elevations to discover important gap in planning for sea level rise in Bay Area.

  • Combining old and new to create a novel power grid cybersecurity tool

    An innovative R&D project that combines cybersecurity, machine learning algorithms and commercially available power system sensor technology to better protect the electric power grid has sparked interest from U.S. utilities, power companies and government officials. Creating innovative tools and technologies to reduce the risk that energy delivery might be disrupted by a cyber incident is vital to making the nation’s electric power grid resilient to cyber threats.

  • Microgrids have a large impact

    As many as 1.3 billion people lack access to electrical power. Engineers make strides in technologies that promise to make electrical power more accessible almost anywhere on the planet. One of his solutions is microgrids, which provide independent power generation and storage systems capable of operating as mobile or standalone systems or as a supplemental part of larger conventional power grids.

  • MIT energy conference speakers say transformation can happen fast

    The pace of advances in key clean energy technologies has been growing faster than many experts have predicted, to the point that solar and wind power, combined with systems for storing their output, can often be the least expensive options for new types of power-generating capacity. In fact, a radical transformation of the world’s energy landscape is well-underway, experts say.

  • AI profiling: the social and moral hazards of “predictive” policing

    While the use of AI predictions in police and law enforcement is still in its early stages, it is vital to scrutinize any warning signs that may come from its use. One standout example is a 2016 ProPublica investigation which found that COMPAS software was biased against black offenders. Society needs to maintain a critical perspective on the use of AI on moral and ethical grounds. Not least because the details of the algorithms, data sources and the inherent assumptions on which they make calculations are often closely guarded secrets. Those secrets are in the hands of the specialist IT companies that develop them who want to maintain confidentiality for commercial reasons. The social, political and criminal justice inequalities likely to arise should make us question the potential of predictive policing.

  • Small-drone threats to infantry units require development of countermeasures

    The emergence of inexpensive small unmanned aircraft systems (sUASs) that operate without a human pilot, commonly known as drones, has led to adversarial groups threatening deployed U.S. forces, especially infantry units. Although the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are developing tactics and systems to counter single sUASs, a new report emphasizes the need for developing countermeasures against multiple sUASs — organized in coordinated groups, swarms, and collaborative groups — which could be used much sooner than the Army anticipates. The committee that conducted the study developed a classified report that details its findings and recommendations, along with an unclassified public version that discusses key background issues presented in this news release.