Sci-Tech

  • Warm ocean hot spots caused mid-1930s U.S. Dust Bowl

    The unusually hot summers of 1934 and 1936 broke heat records that still stand today. They were part of the devastating dust bowl decade in the United States when massive dust storms traveled as far as New York, Boston, and Atlanta, covering the decks of ships with silt 450 km off the east coast. Two ocean hot spots have been found to be the potential drivers of these hot 1934 and 1936 summers in the central United States, knowledge that may help predict future calamities.

  • Four African innovators selected for engineering innovation prize

    Following an open, competitive, application process which saw entries from fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, twelve African entrepreneurs were chosen to receive a package of six months of business training and mentoring from the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering. The four finalists showing the greatest promise have now been chosen, and are in with a chance to become the overall winner. Each will receive at least £10,000 with the grand prize of £25,000 to be awarded at a ceremony in Cape Town on 1 June. A low-cost sustainable water filter system to provide clean and safe drinking water, and a service that allows African mobile phone users to switch easily between multiple mobile networks are among the four African innovations selected by the Academy.

  • Young students compete at the Sea Level Measurement Device Design competition

    Global warming is bringing about a rise in the mean sea level, and this increases the risk of coastal flooding brought by storm surges during the passage of tropical cyclones. Two-hundred young students – from 4th grade to junior high — from twenty-five primary, secondary, and international schools designed and produced sea level measurement devices to compete for various prizes in the Sea Level Measurement Device Design Competition held last Sunday at the University of Hong Kong.

  • Disaster and recovery: The unexpected shall come to be expected

    In the days following the Nepal earthquake, the media has been focusing on the heart-wrenching human interest and hero-tragedy stories, but what must be emphasized is that this disaster was anticipated. More importantly, we now have the tools and building technologies to mitigate the impact of even major earthquakes. The frequency of earthquakes has not changed over the past few million years, but now millions of people live in vulnerable situations. The unexpected must come to be expected. Much-needed humanitarian assistance must transition into long-term development efforts. Simply put, instilling a culture of disaster risk reduction, investing in hazard mitigation, building as best as we can, and retrofitting what remains, will save lives.

  • Nano-coated mesh captures oil but lets water through

    The unassuming piece of stainless steel mesh does not look like a very big deal, but it could make a big difference for future environmental cleanups. Water passes through the mesh but oil does not, thanks to a nearly invisible oil-repelling coating on its surface. In tests, researchers mixed water with oil and poured the mixture onto the mesh. The water filtered through the mesh to land in a beaker below. The oil collected on top of the mesh, and rolled off easily into a separate beaker when the mesh was tilted. The nano-coated mesh could clean oil spills for less than $1 per square foot.

  • Aquifer Storage and Recovery should be phased in to reverse Everglades decline

    The aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) is a key component in the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a joint state-federal effort to reverse the decline of the Everglades ecosystem. CERP aims to “get the water right” by improving the quantity, timing, and distribution of water flows. Over a century of canal drainage and water management has led to extensive losses of natural water storage, leaving the Everglades in critical need of new storage. Although uncertainties about ecological impacts are too great to justify near-term, large-scale implementation of the ASR in the Everglades, the ASR could be phased in to answer several important scientific questions and provide some early restoration benefits, says a report from the National Research Council (NRC).

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  • Lawmakers reintroduce “Aaron’s Law” to curb CFAA abuses

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers have reintroduced a bill known as “Aaron’s Law,” which aims to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). CFAA has been cited by civil libertarians (EFF) as having been abused to the point where it now stifles research and innovation, as well as civil liberties. the measure is intended to honor Aaron Swartz, the Reddit co-founder who was apprehended after downloading millions of scholarly articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology database in 2011. Following his arrest, with charges under the CFAA which might lead to a maximum sentence of thirty-five years in prison, Swartz committed suicide at age 26, leading some to charge that the aggression of prosecutors led to the his decision.

  • Resilient rivers respond quickly to dam removal

    More than 1,000 dams have been removed across the United States because of safety concerns, sediment buildup, inefficiency, or having otherwise outlived usefulness. A paper published the other day finds that rivers are resilient and respond relatively quickly after a dam is removed. Studies show that most river channels stabilize within months or years, not decades, particularly when dams are removed rapidly.

  • Water scarcity increase Middle East instability

    At least1.6 billion people worldwide face water scarcity because their countries lack the necessary infrastructure to move water from rivers and aquifers. In the Middle East, this lack of water infrastructure combines with the effects of global warming — including prolonged in droughts — to make the entire region politically and economically unstable. Food supplies are diminished as farmers find it difficult to find water for crops, and even basic sanitary requirements are not met due to poor access to clean water, thus increasing the spread of disease.

  • Coffee production starting to decline as a result of warming

    Coffee is the world’s most valuable tropical export crop and the industry supports an estimated 100 million people worldwide. Scientists have provided the first on-the-ground evidence that climate change has already had a substantial impact on coffee production in the East African Highlands region. The study, using data from the northern Tanzanian highlands, verifies for the first time the increasing night time (minimum) temperature as the most significant climatic variable being responsible for diminishing Coffea arabica coffee yields between 1961 and 2012 and proves that climate change is an ongoing reality.

  • More than half of hot extremes are the result of climate change

    Torrential rains and blazing heat have been mentioned even in the oldest manuscripts and have always been part of the climate. A substantial proportion of today’s extreme high-temperature and heavy rainfall events, however, can be attributed to the observed warming. Scientists say it would be wrong to conclude that climate change has no effect on the frequency of such events based simply on the fact that weather extremes existed in the past. However, it is also clear that what is often referred to as “global weirding,” or the idea that all weather phenomena are becoming increasingly extreme, falls short.

  • DoD invests in STEM education

    The Department of Defense (DOD) is making an investment to ensure military children have access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education with the expansion of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) College Readiness Program. The program has experienced an 82 percent increase in qualifying advanced placement math and science scores in just the first year of the College Readiness Program for military-connected children. DOD notes that thanks the expanded program, an additional 17,000 military-connected students will have access to STEM education, bringing the program’s total impact to 50,000 military-connected students throughout the nation.

  • New MIT report details benefits of investment in basic research

    In 2014, European researchers discovered a fundamental new particle which sheds light on the origins of the universe; the European Space Agency successfully landed the first spacecraft on a comet; and Chinese researchers developed the world’s fastest supercomputer. As these competitors increase their investment in basic research, the percentage of the U.S. federal budget devoted to research and development has fallen from around 10 percent in 1968 to less than 4 percent in 2015. A new report by MIT researchers examines how funding cutbacks will affect the future of scientific studies in the United States. The report also highlights opportunities in basic research which could help shape and maintain U.S. economic power, and benefit society.

  • To improve diversity in STEM, fix higher education: Study

    Protecting national economic prosperity has been federal officials’ rationale for implementing programs to increase the numbers of U.S. youth preparing for careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) sectors. The United States, however, will make little progress toward changing the predominately white-male face of its science and technology workforce until higher education addresses the attitudes, behaviors, and structural practices that undermine minority students’ access and success at college, a new study suggests.

  • STEM education, STEM jobs, and immigration

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) is a leading critic of immigration reform which would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants, and a chief proponent of limiting the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States. One of his arguments is that Americans with college STEM degrees cannot get a job in their fields because these jobs are taken by skilled foreigners. There are two problems with Sessions’s argument: First, his definition of “STEM job” is so narrow, that Apple CEO Tim Cook and a Noble Prize scientist who works as a university professor would not be regarded as holding STEM jobs; second, his argument contradicts what basic economic teaches: Skilled immigrants contribute to American prosperity and security, and the labor market is not a zero-sum proposition.