Sci-Tech

  • Pumping Central Valley’s ground water increases number of California’s earthquakes

    Scientists have offered a new theory explaining the steady increase in the number of small earthquakes in parts of Central California. They say that the quakes are partly due to the pumping of groundwater. Groundwater is heavy, and depresses the Earth’s upper crust like a weight. Without that weight, the earth springs upward and the change in pressure can trigger more small earthquakes.

  • New technology tests ammo while saving joints

    Firing and testing thousands of rounds of ammunition weekly can challenge the human body — even ones in top physical condition — causing debilitating stress injuries and chronic nerve and joint pain. DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), with the help of agents from ICE Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs (OFTP) Armory Operations Branch (AOB), has taken an important step forward in reducing or eliminating these injuries by developing of the “Virtual Shooter.”

  • Abundant shale gas, by itself, not likely to alter climate projections

    While natural gas can reduce greenhouse emissions when it is substituted for higher-emission energy sources, abundant shale gas is not likely substantially to alter total emissions without policies targeted at greenhouse gas reduction, a new study finds. If natural gas is abundant and less expensive, it will encourage greater natural gas consumption and less of fuels such as coal, renewables and nuclear power. The net effect on the climate will depend on whether the greenhouse emissions from natural gas — including carbon dioxide and methane — are lower or higher than emissions avoided by reducing the use of those other energy sources.

  • UN mulling rules to govern autonomous killer robots

    On Tuesday, delegates from several international organizations and governments around the world began the first of many round of talks dealing with   some call “lethal autonomous weapons systems” (LAWS), and others call “killer robots.” Supporters of LAWS say the technology offers life-saving potential in warfare, as these robots y are able to get closer than troops to assess threats without letting emotions interfere in their decisions. This is precisely what concerns critics of the technology. “If we don’t inject a moral and ethical discussion into this, we won’t control warfare,” said one of them.

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  • Research reconfirms that public investment in scientific research promotes growth

    New and independent research has reconfirmed and quantified some of the economic and societal benefits of public investment in scientific research. The report says that for every £1 spent by the U.K. government on R&D, private sector R&D output rises by 20p per year in perpetuity, by raising the level of the U.K. knowledge base.

  • Colorado tries to increase safety of urban development in wildfire-prone areas

    Colorado continues to deal with the challenge of building new urban developments while reducing wildfire risks. There are currently 556,000 houses built in burn zones around the state, and the demand for water to sustain residents and industries continue to rise. A new study predicts that development will occupy 2.1 million acres in wildfire-prone forests by 2030, an increase from one million acres today — just as wildfires continue to burn roughly 900,000 acres a year since 2000, compared with just 200,000 acres a year in the 1990s.

  • Improving gloves to enhance first responders’ safety

    Firefighters wear protective gloves called “structure gloves” to keep their hands safe on the job. The structure gloves currently used by firefighters, however, are not designed for the precision movements first responders must perform. There are many different types of structure gloves available, but none fully satisfies modern firefighters’ needs. Today’s compact tools often have small buttons that require nimble movements. Bulky gloves can make it difficult for firefighters to complete simple tasks without removing their gloves and compromising their safety. As advanced textile technology and materials continue to develop, the science behind firefighter structure gloves has adapted.

  • Limiting methane emissions would more quickly affect climate than limiting CO2

    When discussing climate change, scientists point to “radiative forcing,” a measure of trapped heat in Earth’s atmosphere from man-made greenhouse gases. The current role of methane looms large, they say, contributing over 40 percent of current radiative forcing from all greenhouse gases. The role of methane as a driver of global warming is even more critical than this 40 percent value might indicate, they note, since the climate system responds much more quickly to reducing methane than to reducing carbon dioxide. The implication is that while it is true that in order to slow, or even reverse, global warming we must limit emissions of both carbon dioxide and methane, it makes more sense to concentrate now on limiting methane emissions because reducing methane emissions would buy society some critical decades of lower temperatures.

  • Coral reefs offer valuable protection for coastal infrastructure

    Growing natural hazards from coastal storms, flooding, and rising sea levels are leading to major investments worldwide in coastal defense structures such as seawalls and breakwaters. A new study shows that coral reefs can provide risk reduction benefits comparable to artificial defenses, and reef restoration and enhancement is a cost-effective alternative to manmade structures. Restoring coral reefs as a way to protect coastal infrastructure is also cheaper: the typical price for a tropical breakwater project is $197 million, compared with $129 million for restoring a reef.

  • Teams from U.S. service academies demonstrate potentially transformative technologies

    DARPA’s mission is to ensure the technological superiority of U.S. military forces, and the agency continually seeks new sources of talent to accomplish that goal. The U.S. three military service academies are a promising source of that talent. The U.S. Air Force Academy team wins new competition — DARPA Service Academies Innovation Challenge — designed to encourage students at U.S. military academies to develop groundbreaking solutions to challenges facing the U.S. armed forces.

  • Public schools must accept children regardless of citizenship, immigration status: DOJ

    Last week, the Obama administration reaffirmed its position on public school education for children, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. The state and district obligations regarding school enrollment are influenced by the result of the 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler V. Doe, which discarded a Texas law that denied education funding for undocumented children. Some states like Alabama and Arizona have passed their own education laws, but these have been superseded by the 1982 Supreme Court ruling.

  • FAA grants NJIT permission to test UAVs

    On 8 May the FAA awarded the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) a Certificate of Waiver/Authorization (COA), making it the first New Jersey university and first public institution in the state granted permission to test the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). NJIT will use the airstrip on the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May to test the systems.

  • Loss of West Antarctic glacier unstoppable, contributing significantly to sea level rise

    A rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in irreversible decline, with nothing to stop the entire glacial basin from disappearing into the sea, according to researchers at UC Irvine and NASA. The new study presents multiple lines of evidence — incorporating forty years of observations — that six massive glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector “have passed the point of no return.” The volume of melted ice would be enough to raise global sea level by four feet.

  • Large areas of Plains states now drier than during Dust Bowl

    As a result of the drought conditions that have largely remained a constant since 2011, parts of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, as well as northeastern New Mexico and southeaster Colorado, are now drier than they were during the infamous Dust Bowl of the 1930s. While experts explain that the possibility of another Dust Bowl is not likely due to modern farming and irrigation techniques which have been enacted as a response in the 1930s, greater erosion due to drought and wind has resulted in a number of vicious dust storms.

  • Active learning of STEM subjects improves grades, reduces failure

    A significantly greater number of students fail science, engineering, and math (STEM) courses which are taught lecture-style than fail in classes incorporating so-called active learning that expects them to participate in discussions and problem-solving beyond what they have memorized. Active learning also improves exam performance — in some cases enough to change grades by half a letter or more so a B-plus, for example, becomes an A-minus. The researchers found that, on average, in a STEM course with 100 students signed up, about 34 fail if they get lectured to but only 22 fail if they do active learning. If the failure rates of 34 percent for lecturing and 22 percent in classes with some active learning were applied to the seven million U.S. undergraduates who say they want to pursue STEM majors, some 2.38 million students would fail lecture-style courses vs. 1.54 million with active learning. This 840,000 additional students failing under lecturing, a difference of 55 percent compared to the failure rate of active learning.