• Climate change poses “strategically significant risk” to U.S. national security

    Twenty-five national security and military leaders the other day released a statement declaring that: “the effects of climate change present a strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security,” and urging a “comprehensive policy” in response. The authors of the statement say that stresses resulting from climate change can increase the likelihood of intra or international conflict, state failure, mass migration, and the creation of additional ungoverned spaces, across a range of strategically-significant regions. They add that the impacts of climate change will place significant strains on international financial stability through contributing to supply line disruptions for major global industries in the manufacturing, energy, agriculture, and water sectors, disrupting the viability of the insurance industry, and generally increasing the political and financial risks of doing business in an increasingly unstable global environment.

  • Do teachers’ climate change beliefs influence students? The answer is yes and no

    A study of middle school science classes explored whether teachers’ beliefs about climate change influenced students’ perceptions. “The answer is yes and no,” says the study’s author. “While students generally mirror a teacher’s belief that global warming is happening, when it comes to the cause of climate change, students reason for themselves and reach different conclusions than their teachers do.”

  • Virginia Tech’s Thinkabit Lab: Hands-on STEM learning for students, training for teachers

    Virginia Tech and Qualcomm Inc. begin a multiyear collaboration this fall with the launch of the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church. The Thinkabit Lab offers both teachers and students an engaging learning environment — part lab, makerspace, and classroom – aiming to foster creativity, collaboration, and the critical skills.

  • How building design changed after 9/11

    When buildings collapse killing hundreds – or thousands – of people, it’s a tragedy. It’s also an important engineering problem. For structural engineers like me, that meant figuring out what happened, and doing extensive research on how to improve buildings’ ability to withstand a terrorist attack. Research has found ways to keep columns and beams strong even when they are stressed and bent. This property is called ductility, and higher ductility could reduce the chance of progressive collapse. Mixing millions of high-strength needle-like steel microfibers into concrete – to prevent the spreading of any cracks that occur because of an explosion or other extreme force – creates material which is superstrong and very ductile. This material, called ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete, is extremely resistant to blast damage. As a result, we can expect future designers and builders to use this material to further harden their buildings against attack. It’s just one way we are contributing to the efforts to prevent these sorts of tragedies from happening in the future.

  • New forensic method identifies people using human hair proteins

    In an important breakthrough for the forensic science community, researchers have developed the first-ever biological identification method that exploits the information encoded in proteins of human hair. The new protein identification technique will offer another tool to law enforcement authorities for crime scene investigations and archaeologists, as the method has been able to detect protein in human hair more than 250 years old.

  • Climate change already playing major roles

    While the effects of future climate change will be significant, the social and economic impacts of our current climate today are often just as severe. A new study looked at current climate impacts on areas such as economy, agriculture, trade, energy, violence, migration, and more. The authors calculate, for example, that high temperatures currently drive up rates of civil conflict in sub-Saharan Africa by 29 percent and slow the growth rate of the global economy by 0.25 percentage points per year.

  • Building a biosafety and biosecurity toolkit for a safer gene editing research

    A new DARPA program could help unlock the potential of advanced gene editing technologies by developing a set of tools to address potential risks of this rapidly advancing field. The Safe Genes program envisions addressing key safety gaps by using those tools to restrict or reverse the propagation of engineered genetic constructs. Safe Genes was inspired in part by recent advances in the field of “gene drives,” which can alter the genetic character of a population of organisms by ensuring that certain edited genetic traits are passed down to almost every individual in subsequent generations.

  • Climate change increased chances of record rains in Louisiana by at least 40 percent

    Human-caused climate warming increased the chances of the torrential rains that unleashed devastating floods in south Louisiana in mid-August by at least 40 percent, according to a team of NOAA and partner scientists. “We found human-caused, heat-trapping greenhouse gases can play a measurable role in events such as the August rains that resulted in such devastating floods, affecting so many people,” says the lead author of a new study.

  • Climate change likely to increase frequency, magnitude of severe U.K. flooding events

    Last December, following severe flooding across parts of Northern England and Scotland and on the eve of the climate summit in Paris – which was held 30 November – 12 December 2015 — Lord Deben, chairman of the U.. Committee on Climate Change, said: “Defenses that might historically have provided protection against a 1 in 100 year flood will, with climate change, provide a much lower level of protection and be overtopped more frequently. The latest projections suggest periods of intense rainfall could increase in frequency by a factor of five this century as global temperatures rise.”

  • U.S. experiences 5th warmest summer on record

    An oppressively hot Summer 2016 for many across the contiguous United States tied 2006 as the 5th warmest in 122 years of record keeping. The average summer U.S. temperature was 73.5 degrees F, 2.1 degrees above average, according to scientists from NOAA. . Every state in the continental United States and Alaska were warmer than average this summer – with lower 48 also having 3rd warmest year to date and second wettest August. Precipitation totaled 0.60 inch above average, making summer the 24th wettest on record.

  • Growing concern about amateur “biohackers” creating biological weapons

    American and European security agencies have been increasingly focusing on the risk that “biohackers” – scientists who use genome-editing techniques to change life forms by increasing or decreasing the function of genes — could develop biological weapons or other dangerous biological substances. The problem is not only – or even mostly – with the work of professional scientists. Rather, the real danger lies with amateur scientists around the world who have started to use gene-editing techniques after the tools became cheap and readily available.

  • Keeping pace with the fast-developing science of gene drives

    The emerging science of gene drives is drawing attention for its potential to help with critical health issues such as mosquito-borne diseases and environmental concerns such as agricultural pests and invasive species. At its most basic, a gene drive operates outside the traditional realm of genetics, in which an offspring has a 50-50 chance of inheriting a trait from one of its parents. A gene drive introduces a trait that will spread — or drive — through a population. “The science of gene drives is moving very fast,” says an expert. “[O]ur ability to assess the risks of gene drives, to oversee them with regulatory agencies, and to have a public discussion around gene drives is falling behind the science — We don’t want to wait until we have the technology in front of us to have discussions about regulation, oversight, ethics, and engagement.”

  • Human activity has been causing climate change for nearly two centuries

    An international research project has found human activity has been causing global warming for almost two centuries, proving human-induced climate change is not just a twentieth century phenomenon. The study found warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and is first detectable in the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, much earlier than scientists had expected.

  • Solar-powered Ring Garden combines desalination, agriculture for drought-stricken California

    With roughly 80 percent of California’s already-scarce water supply going to agriculture, it is crucial for the state to embrace new technologies that shrink the amount of water required to grow food. Alexandru Predonu has designed an elegant solution which uses solar energy to power a rotating desalination plant and farm that not only produces clean drinking water for the city of Santa Monica, but also food crops — including algae.

  • Data shows growing political polarization on climate change

    New research discusses the increasing partisan polarization of American attitudes toward climate change. The article details the escalation of partisan polarization, particularly toward environmental protection and climate change, over the past few decades in America, showing an increasing gap between self-identified Republicans’ and Democrats’ attitudes toward human-caused climate change. While Democrats have increasingly accepted the reality and seriousness of climate change over the past two decades, Republicans have become more skeptical.