Sci-Tech

  • New smart key software enhances security for homes businesses

    Computer scientists and security specialists have created an innovative electronic smart key system that aims to provide a safer and more flexible security system for homes and businesses. eLOQ is a new software system for the creation and management of electronic keys and locks which cannot be copied or picked.

  • Building a network of canals to save Boston from sea level rise

    By the end of the century, sea-level rise on the U.S. east coast is predicted to reach six feet, so city planners in Boston recently met to discuss how to live with rising waters along the city’s historic streets. One suggestion is to turn Boston’s Back Bay district into a network of canals. The canals would alleviate sea-level rise by draining water into lower-lying back alleys and some main streets, but the proposed plan would have to contend with freezing temperatures in the winter.

  • Students point to future of ocean robotics in new global game

    College students from around the world demonstrated they could have a hand in shaping the future of ocean robotics as they competed in the first Maritime RobotX Challenge, which was held 24-26 October in Singapore. “Developing autonomy for surface vessels is still in its early stages, and these students have the opportunity to come up with solutions that could set new standards in this field,” said Assistant Chief of Naval Research Capt. Rob Palisin, who helped judge the competition. “In turn, the Navy gets the chance to observe the best young engineers in action and learn from their approaches.”

  • Next-generation technology for first responders: intuitive, instinctive, and interoperable

    DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has a vision for a new age of first responders, a vision which will enable first responders and their technology to be more intuitive, instinctive, and interoperable.TheNext-Generation First Responder suit will incorporates wearables, the Internet, and cellular connectivity, along with multiple environmental and biological sensors to help firefighters, law enforcement, and aid workers, better perform their jobs safely.

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  • Light frequencies help sniff out deadly materials from a distance

    Spectroscopic chemical sensing, which measures the frequency of light absorbed or scattered from a substance to help determine its molecular identity, can be used to detect traces of biological and chemical agents and residue from explosive materials. New program aims to develop chip-sized, optical frequency combs which accurately identify even tiny traces of dangerous biological and chemical substances several football fields away.

  • South Florida wants to secede from Florida over sea level rise

    When people talk of “secession” in the United States they typically have Texas, Vermont, or the former Confederate states in mind, and the reasons for driving secession typically have to do with politics or money. Not anymore. The city of South Miami earlier this month passed a resolution which called for southern Florida to secede from the rest of the state, citing climate change as the reason. There are many differences between north and south Florida: South Florida is largely urban and politically tends to lean left, while the north is mostly rural and much more conservative. If south Florida reminds people of New York, the Florida panhandle resembles Alabama. Then there is this: The northern part of the state is, on average, 120 feet above sea level, but much of the southern section averages only fifteen feet above sea level. South Floridian say that the state government in Tallahassee ignores the perils of sea level rise, which are particularly acute in south Florida, so the time has come to separate from the aloof north.

  • Sea level rise or not, coastal development in south Florida is booming

    Miami and Miami Beach are both considered ground zero for the challenges posed by climate change, as both cities will experience considerable sea level rise by mid-century. Constant flooding will become the norm as high tides reach shores, posing a threat to property and human life. As discouraging as the future may seem for South Florida, residents, real estate investors, and companies are increasing their investments in the area.

  • Study finds 1934 had worst drought of last thousand years

    A new study using a reconstruction of North American drought history over the last 1,000 years found that the drought of 1934 was the driest and most widespread of the last millennium. Using a tree-ring-based drought record from the years 1000 to 2005 and modern records, scientists found the 1934 drought was 30 percent more severe than the runner-up drought (in 1580) and extended across 71.6 percent of western North America. For comparison, the average extent of the 2012 drought was 59.7 percent.

  • A boom in global natural gas, by itself, will not slow climate change

    A new analysis of global energy use, economics, and the climate shows that without new climate policies, expanding the current bounty of inexpensive natural gas alone would not slow the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide over the long term. Because natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, many people hoped the recent natural gas boom could help slow climate change — and according to government analyses, natural gas did contribute partially to a decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions between 2007 and 2012. In the long run, however, according to this study, a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas would compete with all energy sources — not just higher-emitting coal, but also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. Inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use.

  • Floating cities increasingly attractive prospect in the face of sea level rise, floods

    More and more urban planners and disaster managers are asking the question: “Has the time come for floating cities?” Experts say thatin the face of climate change-driven sea level rise and shifting weather patterns poised seriously to impact many cities over the course of the next decades, the option of having cities that can accommodate shifting tides is making more and more sense.

  • U.S. seeking innovative solutions for protecting healthcare workers on Ebola front lines

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), saying the agency is looking for opportunities to co-create, co-design, co-invest, and otherwise collaborate in the development, testing, and scaling of practical and cost-effective innovations to help healthcare workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. USAID notes that this funding mechanism will not support research that does not provide a clear path to development and testing of prevention and intervention strategies. Awards are in the range of $100,000 to $1million.

  • New tool can be used as a universal Ebola drug target

    University of Utah biochemists have reported a new drug discovery tool against the Ebola virus. According to a study published in this week’s online edition of Protein Science, they have produced a molecule, known as a peptide mimic, which displays a functionally critical region of the virus that is universally conserved in all known species of Ebola. This new tool can be used as a drug target in the discovery of anti-Ebola agents which are effective against all known strains and likely future strains. The same group of biochemists has previously developed highly potent and broadly acting D-peptide inhibitors of HIV entry, currently in preclinical studies, and is now adapting this approach to Ebola using the mimics developed in this study.

  • In worst-case scenario, sea level would rise 1.8 meters

    The climate is getting warmer, the ice sheets are melting and sea levels are rising — but how much? The report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 was based on the best available estimates of future sea levels, but the panel was not able to come up with an upper limit for sea level rise within this century. Now researchers have calculated the risk for a worst-case scenario. The results indicate that at worst, the sea level would rise a maximum of 1.8 meters – but the much more likely rise in sea level would be around 80 cm.

  • More research needed to address synthetic biology security concerns

    Synthetic biology involves the design of new biological components, devices, or systems that do not exist in nature, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems. Synthetic biology aims to make biological systems work more efficiently or to design biological tools for specific applications — such as developing more effective antibiotics. A new paper examines security risks and policy questions related to the growing field of synthetic biology. While the author does not think the field is ripe for exploitation by terrorists, it does highlight significant gaps in our understanding of the nuts and bolts of lab work in synthetic biology that can contribute to security risks.

  • Building a better lie detector

    The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), announced the other day the winner of its first public challenge contest, Investigating Novel Statistical Techniques to Identify Neurophysiological Correlates of Trustworthiness (INSTINCT). The winning solution, JEDI MIND — Joint Estimation of Deception Intent via Multisource Integration of Neuropsychological Discriminators — uses a combination of innovative statistical techniques to improve predictions approximately 15 percent over the baseline analysis.