• Globe continues to break heat records -- for 11th straight month

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, March set another heat record for the globe. As Earth continues to warm, and is influenced by phenomena such as El Niño, global temperature records are piling up. For 2016 year to date (January-March), the average temperature for the globe was 2.07 degrees F above the twentieth-century average. This was the highest temperature for this period in the 1880–2016 record.

  • Robot offers safer, more efficient way to inspect power lines

    Currently, line crews have to suit up in protective clothing, employ elaborate safety procedures, and sometimes completely shut off the power before inspecting a power line. It can be difficult, time-consuming, and often dangerous work. Researchers have invented a robot which could change the way power lines are inspected — providing a safer and more cost-effective alternative.

  • Coded apertures improves, shrinks mass spectrometers for field use

    A modern twist on an old technology could soon help detect rogue methane leaks, hidden explosives, and much more. Mass spectrometers were invented in the 1930s, and they are still typically the size of an oven or refrigerator. Inherent hurdles to miniaturization have made it difficult to use them outside of a laboratory. Researchers are using software to dramatically improve the performance of chemical-sniffing mass spectrometers. With the help of modern data analytics, researchers have demonstrated a technology using a so-called “coded aperture” that promises to shrink these devices while maintaining their performance.

  • Fossil fuels could be phased out worldwide in a decade: Study

    The worldwide reliance on burning fossil fuels to create energy could be phased out in a decade, according to energy experts. The experts analyzed energy transitions throughout history, and argue that only looking toward the past can often paint an overly bleak and unnecessary picture. The transition from wood to coal in Europe, for example, took between 96 and 160 years, whereas electricity took 47 to 69 years to enter into mainstream use. The future could be different: the scarcity of resources, the threat of climate change, and vastly improved technological learning and innovation could greatly accelerate a global shift to a cleaner energy future.

  • New way to clean contaminated groundwater

    A team of researchers has helped discover a new chemical method to immobilize uranium in contaminated groundwater, which could lead to more precise and successful water remediation efforts at former nuclear sites. Uranium is present in contaminated groundwater at various sites in the United States as a legacy of Cold War-era processing and waste disposal activities associated with nuclear materials production.

  • Registration opens for U.S. Cyber Challenge’s annual Cyber Quests competition

    U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) on Monday opened registration for the 2016 Cyber Quests online competition. The annual Cyber Quests competition determines who qualifies for the USCC Summer Cyber Camps, a leading nationwide program in cybersecurity workforce development.

  • Non-state actors exploiting emerging technologies, complex engineering

    In a special issue of the Journal of Strategic Security, experts explore the threat of violent non-state actors (VNSAs) exploiting emerging technologies and executing complex engineering operations to facilitate their violent and criminal activities. The special issue of the journal presents the results of a series of case studies of VNSAs and their attempts to increase their capabilities through engaging in sophisticated engineering efforts.

  • Pressure mounts to keep human control over killer robots

    Fully autonomous weapons would go a step beyond existing remote-controlled drones as they would be able to select and engage targets without human intervention. Although these weapons do not exist yet, the rapid movement of technology from human “in-the-loop” weapons systems toward “out-of-the-loop” systems is attracting international attention and concern. Countries should retain meaningful human control over weapons systems and ban fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic said in a new report. The concept of meaningful human control will be a centerpiece of deliberations at a week-long multilateral meeting on the weapons, opening 11 April 2016, at the United Nations in Geneva.

  • Sea Hunter, world’s first robot warship

    At the Pentagon nowadays, you are starting to see robots everywhere. They dispose of bombs, and throw out the occasional first pitch. They help Marines improve their target shooting. And, if they are human-robot teams that entered last year’s DARPA Robotic Challenged Finals, they drive vehicles, use tools, open doors, climb stairs, and do all sorts of other things. Now another robot — one designed and built by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — happens to be the very first robot warship.

  • Underestimate global warming by exaggerating cloud “brightening”

    As the atmosphere warms, clouds become increasingly composed of liquid rather than ice, making them brighter. Because liquid clouds reflect more sunlight back to space than ice clouds, this “cloud phase feedback” acts as a brake on global warming in climate models. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Yale University have found, however, that climate models are aggressively making clouds “brighter” as the planet warms. This may be causing models to underestimate how much global warming will occur due to increasing carbon dioxide.

  • Soil’s carbon storage could help limit impact of climate change

    Soils currently lock away around 2.4 trillion tons of greenhouse gases, which are stored underground as stable organic matter. Researchers say the world’s soils could store an extra eight billion tons of greenhouse gases, helping to limit the impacts of climate change. Growing crops with deeper root systems, using charcoal-based composts, and applying sustainable agriculture practices could help soils retain the equivalent of around four-fifths of annual emissions released by the burning of fossils fuels, the researchers say.

  • Water cycle instability posing major political and economic risks: UN experts

    The current instability and unpredictability of the world water cycle is here to stay, making society’s adaptation to new risks a vital necessity when formulating development policies, a UN water expert warns. “What we haven’t understood until now is the extent to which the fundamental stability of our political structures and global economy are predicated on relative stability and predictability of the water cycle — that is, how much water becomes available in what part of the year. As a result of these new water-climate patterns, political stability and the stability of economies in most regions of the world are now at risk,” the expert says.

  • Tougher steel could be used for body armor, shields for satellites

    A team of engineers has developed and tested a type of steel with a record-breaking ability to withstand an impact without deforming permanently. The new steel alloy could be used in a wide range of applications, from drill bits, to body armor for soldiers, to meteor-resistant casings for satellites.

  • Renewables and nuclear no substitute for carbon dioxide disposal

    Oxford scientist argues that there are only two things we can affect with policies today that will really matter for peak warming: reducing the cost of large-scale capture and disposal of carbon dioxide, and maximizing the average rate of economic growth we achieve for a given rate of emission in the meantime.

  • Islamist radicals from Muslim countries tend to have engineering qualifications

    Islamist radicals born and educated in Muslim countries are seventeen times more likely to have an engineering qualification than the general population in these countries. A new book, which relies on a study of over 800 members of violent Islamist groups, challenges a widely held view that many terrorists are “poor, ignorant and have nothing to lose,” according to its authors. “There is little doubt that violent Islamist radicals are vastly more educated than the general population born and educated in the Muslim world, and engineers are dramatically over-represented,” the authors say.