• Reform of U.S. skilled-worker visa program wins praise

    The Trump administration’s new rules for a U.S. visa program widely used for technology workers are getting cautious praise from Silicon Valley amid surging demand for high-skill employees. The H-1B visa program, which admits 85,000 foreign nationals each year, will give higher priority to people with postgraduate degrees from U.S. universities, under a final rule the Department of Homeland Security published in January.

  • 2018 fourth warmest year in continued warming trend

    Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.

  • Lawmakers tell Pentagon to redo climate change report

    Earlier this month, the Pentagon, in compliance with a congressional mandate, released a landmark report which identified the 79 American military installations most vulnerable to the “effects of a changing climate.” Several Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee welcomed the report – but at the same time harshly criticized it for failing to include details requested by Congress, among them the estimates by each of the armed services of the cost of protecting or replacing the ten most vulnerable military bases.

  • Rising seas: to keep humans safe, let nature shape the coast

    Even under the most conservative climate change scenarios, sea levels 30cm higher than at present seem all but certain on much of the U.K.’s coast by the end of this century. Depending on emission scenarios, sea levels one meter higher than at present by 2100 are also plausible. The knee-jerk reaction to sea level rise has traditionally been to maintain the shoreline’s position at all cost, by building new flood defense structures or upgrading old ones, but this traditional approach of “grey” engineered sea defenses locks society into ever increasing costs of replacement and maintenance. The alternatives are “nature-based solutions” to coastal flooding and erosion, which work with natural processes to reduce flood risk and incorporate ecosystems into flood defense.

  • Diffusing the methane bomb

    The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing the carbon containing permafrost that has been frozen for tens or hundreds of thousands of years to thaw and release methane into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming. The findings of a study that included researchers from IIASA, however, suggest that it is still possible to neutralize this threat.

  • Artificial Intelligence to make life harder for hackers

    As the volume of digital information in corporate networks continues to grow, so grows the number of cyberattacks, and their cost. One cybersecurity vendor, Juniper Networks, estimates that the cost of data breaches worldwide will reach $2.1 trillion in 2019, roughly four times the cost of breaches in 2015. Now, computer scientists have developed a tool that could make it harder for hackers to find their way into networks where they don’t belong.

  • Under-road heating system to keep Europe’s highways ice-free

    Snow and ice can dramatically change the conditions of a road, where slippery surfaces make it harder to keep control of a vehicle, particularly when braking or turning. Under-road heating that melts ice and snow within 15 minutes and real-time information about icy road conditions could help prevent wintertime accidents.

  • New approach to defeating superbugs

    Researchers have developed a new way to identify second-line antibiotics that may be effective in killing germs already resistant to a first-line antibiotic – potentially helping overcome antibiotic resistance. This new research – based on tackling antibiotic resistance via existing drugs (with a twist) — provides an approach clinicians could consult when deciding which antibiotic treatment courses will be most effective for patients.

  • Want to squelch fake news? Let the readers take charge

    Would you like to rid the internet of false political news stories and misinformation? Then consider using — yes — crowdsourcing. That’s right. A new study co-authored by an MIT professor shows that crowdsourced judgments about the quality of news sources may effectively marginalize false news stories and other kinds of online misinformation.

  • Seas may be rising faster than thought

    A new Tulane University study questions the reliability of how sea-level rise in low-lying coastal areas such as southern Louisiana is measured and suggests that the current method underestimates the severity of the problem.

  • Thwarting cyberattacks by giving attackers “false hope”

    With almost every online purchase, a person’s personal information — name, date of birth and credit card number — is stored electronically often in the “cloud,” which is a network of internet servers. Now, as more people buy from online businesses, researchers hope to employ a new strategy in the ongoing struggle to protect digital information in the cloud from targeted cyberattacks. The strategy establishes a new artificial intelligence system to combat digital intrusions.

  • New computing architectures to deliver verifiable data assurances

    Whether a piece of information is private, proprietary, or sensitive to national security, systems owners and users have little guarantees about where their information resides or of its movements between systems. As is the case with consumers, the national defense and security communities similarly have only few options when it comes to ensuring that sensitive information is appropriately isolated, particularly when it’s loaded to an internet-connected system. A new program seeks to create new software and hardware architectures that provide physically provable assurances around data security and privacy.

  • Causal link established between climate, conflict, and migration

    Researchers have established a causal link between climate, conflict, and migration for the first time, something which has been widely suggested in the media but for which scientific evidence is scarce. There are numerous examples in recent decades in which climatic conditions have been blamed for creating political unrest, civil war, and subsequently, waves of migration. One major example is the ongoing conflict in Syria, which began in 2011. Many coastal Mediterranean countries in Europe are also inundated with refugees arriving by sea fleeing conflict in Africa.

  • To protect us from the risks of advanced artificial intelligence, we need to act now

    Artificial intelligence can play chess, drive a car and diagnose medical issues. Examples include Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo, Tesla’s self-driving vehicles, and IBM’s Watson. This type of artificial intelligence is referred to as Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) – non-human systems that can perform a specific task. With the next generation of AI the stakes will almost certainly be much higher. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will have advanced computational powers and human level intelligence. AGI systems will be able to learn, solve problems, adapt and self-improve. They will even do tasks beyond those they were designed for. The introduction of AGI could quickly bring about Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI). When ASI-based systems arrive, there is a great and natural concern that we won’t be able to control them.

  • Robots to operate in nuclear no-go zones

    Sturdy, intelligent robots which react to their surroundings are being developed to work in situations which are too dangerous for humans, such as cleaning up Europe’s decades-old radioactive waste or helping during a nuclear emergency.