• The why, how, where, and what of earthquake early warning

    Earlier this year, Los Angeles became one of the first cities in the country to roll out ShakeAlert – a dedicated earthquake early warning system. Advanced warning of an earthquake has long been a goal for everyone from seismologists to local governments. Especially in cities like Los Angeles, located along the notorious San Andreas fault. But what about cities like Seattle?

  • U.S., Russia, China race to develop hypersonic weapons

    Russia and China have recently touted their progress in developing hypersonic vehicles, which fly much faster than the speed of sound, which is 767 mph. Hypersonic missiles are rocket-boosted to high altitude and may be launched from land, sea or air. Over the past 60 years, U.S. interest in hypersonic vehicles has waxed and waned. Now it seems the U.S. is back in the hypersonic effort in a serious way.

  • Using AI in future hypersonic systems

    A test launch for a hypersonic weapon — a long-range missile that flies a mile per second and faster — takes weeks of planning. So, while the U.S. and other states are racing to deploy hypersonic technologies, it remains uncertain how useful the systems will be against urgent, mobile or evolving threats. Sandia National Laboratories thinks artificial intelligence and autonomy could slash these weeks to minutes for deployed systems.

  • China: Determined to dominate cyberspace and AI

    China is chasing dominance in emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in both the private and military sectors, as a central part of its effort to be the leading global cyber power, Chris C. Demchak writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The rise of AI – a subset of cyber as are machine learning, quantum computing, and other new technologies – does not herald a new arms race equivalent to that of the Cold War. Rather, the concern should be on the profound disruption to the existing Westernized global order. In the 1990s, Western nations, led by the United States, created what Demchak calls a “Westernized national creation”: cyberspace. Cyberspace, however, has created a multitude of ubiquitous, embedded vulnerabilities whose easy exploitation directly accelerated the rise of an otherwise impoverished authoritarian and aggressive China. Today, no single democracy has the scale and sufficient resources alone to match the foreknowledge and strategic coherence of the newly confident and assertive China. There is thus a need to create a Cyber Operational Resilience Alliance (CORA) to provide the scale and collective strategic coherence required to ensure the future wellbeing and security of democracy in an overwhelmingly authoritarian, post-Western, cybered world.

  • “Metamaterials” may mitigate earthquake damage

    In the past decade scientists have been experimenting with metamaterials, artificial materials designed with periodic internal structures to give them properties not found in natural materials. Some of these materials can control waves propagating through them, filtering sound or deflecting light so that an object appears “cloaked” or invisible, for instance. Could this same principle be applied to controlling seismic waves?

  • Mozambique hit by another unprecedented tropical cyclone

    A few weeks after Cyclone Idai which wreaked havoc on central Mozambique (and eastern Zimbabwe), the country is dealing with another unprecedented event. Tropical Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in northern Mozambique on 25 April, near the border with Tanzania, in an area where no tropical cyclone has been observed since the satellite era. There is no record of two storms of such intensity striking Mozambique in the same season. It has now weakened into a depression.

  • California: Coastal impacts of climate change

    The United States Geological Survey (USGS) says that sea-level rise is going to wreak widespread destruction on California’s coastal communities, unless these communities take urgent action to mitigate to risks. “Even the storms today have significant risk to California’s coastline,” said Patrick Barnard, the lead author of the study. “There are about $12 billion in properties that are at risk of extreme storm today, but if you look out into the future, let’s say mid-century, those numbers roughly triple to about $30 billion of property at risk with just a little bit of sea level rise, and it goes up from there,” USGS researchers Patrick L. Barnard and colleagues write in Scientific Reports.

  • How artificial intelligence systems could threaten democracy

    U.S. technology giant Microsoft has teamed up with a Chinese military university to develop artificial intelligence systems that could potentially enhance government surveillance and censorship capabilities. The advent of digital repression is profoundly affecting the relationship between citizen and state. New technologies are arming governments with unprecedented capabilities to monitor, track and surveil individual people. Even governments in democracies with strong traditions of rule of law find themselves tempted to abuse these new abilities.

  • Tech fixes cannot protect us from disinformation campaigns

    More than technological fixes are needed to stop countries from spreading disinformation on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to two experts. They argue that policymakers and diplomats need to focus more on the psychology behind why citizens are so vulnerable to disinformation campaigns.

  • Detecting rare metals used in smartphones

    A more efficient and cost-effective way to detect lanthanides, the rare earth metals used in smartphones and other technologies, could be possible with a new protein-based sensor that changes its fluorescence when it binds to these metals.

  • Rapid DNA technology ID’ed California wildfire victims

    Amid the chaos and devastation of a mass casualty evet, medical examiners often provide closure as they identify victims in the aftermath, but their ability to do this quickly can vary depending on the size, scope, and type of disaster. Such challenges were the case following the Camp Fire wildfire that killed eighty-five people and devastated communities in Paradise, California, in the fall of 2018. S&T’s Rapid DNA technology became the first resort as it provided identifying information in under two hours when dental records and fingerprints weren’t available.

  • Nuclear weapons might save the world from an asteroid strike – but we need to change the law first

    The schlocky 1998 Bruce Willis movie Armageddon was the highest grossing film of that year. The blockbuster saw a master oil driller (Willis) and an unlikely crew of misfits place a nuclear bomb inside a giant asteroid heading for Earth, blow it up – and save humanity. Armageddon isn’t exactly a documentary: it’s packed full of sci-fi nonsense. But, 20 years on, its basic plot – of using a nuclear explosion to avert a cataclysmic asteroid collision – doesn’t seem quite as silly as it did at the time.

  • Celestial menace: Defending Earth from asteroids

    Incoming asteroids have been scarring our home planet for billions of years. This month humankind left our own mark on an asteroid for the first time: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft dropped a copper projectile at very high speed in an attempt to form a crater on asteroid Ryugu. A much bigger asteroid impact is planned for the coming decade, involving an international double-spacecraft mission.

  • Insect-inspired arm technology improve drone design

    A drone delivery is great – on a perfect, sunny day. But what about when it’s windy? Most drones are not able to withstand wind because of their fixed-arm design. Researchers have come up with a patented design for drones that works in windy conditions, is more energy-efficient and can handle a larger payload.

  • Hurricane Maria's extreme rainfall due mostly to human-caused climate change

    Hurricane Maria dropped more rain on Puerto Rico than any storm to hit the island since 1956, a feat due mostly to the effects of human-caused climate warming, new research finds.