Sci-Tech

  • Public support for torture declines as people learn the explicit details of torture techniques

    Does the American public condone torture when the goal is to prevent terrorist attacks? News headlines reporting the results of a Pew Research Center poll released on 9 December indicate more than half of Americans do. That finding, however, is not necessarily valid, says Tufts University’s Richard Eichenberg, who argues that the poll is flawed because it is based on a faulty premise. A more accurate picture of the nation’s attitude can be found in responses to polls conducted by Pew, Gallup, and other news organizations and analyzed in a 2010 report. These surveys explained in graphic detail what interrogation techniques were being judged. So while response to more general questions on the use of torture may continue to produce mixed reactions, Eichenberg says public support for torture will decline as more people become aware of the explicit details of torture techniques contained in the Senate report.

  • Mecca faces severe air pollution during annual pilgrimage

    Dangerously high levels of air pollutants are being released in Mecca during the hajj, the annual holy pilgrimage in which millions of Muslims on foot and in vehicles converge on the Saudi Arabian city, according to findings of a new study. “Hajj is like nothing else on the planet. You have 3 to 4 million people — a whole good-sized city — coming into an already existing city,” said one researcher. “The problem is that this intensifies the pollution that already exists. We measured among the highest concentrations our group has ever measured in urban areas — and we’ve studied seventy-five cities around the world in the past two decades.”

  • Ethnic diversity among traders makes markets less likely to suffer bubbles: Study

    Stock market bubbles have led to economic catastrophes from the Great Depression through the dot-com boom of the 1990s and up to the recent housing financial crisis. Although these episodes cause widespread financial havoc, the reasons behind economic bubbles remain unclear. A new study proposes a cause: Bubbles happen when people mindlessly trust the behavior of others, particularly when surrounded by ethnic peers. The researchers found that markets of ethnically diverse traders are much less likely to suffer bubbles. These findings could have a lasting impact on economics — and ethnic diversity.

  • New chemical sponge would lessen the carbon footprint of oil industry

    U.K. scientists have discovered a ground-breaking technique with the potential dramatically to reduce the amount of energy used in the refinement of crude oil. The existing industrial process uses huge amounts of energy to separate and purify these gases, so the new technique has the potential to revolutionize the oil industry by significantly reducing carbon emissions and making the process more environmentally friendly.

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  • Helicopter steering innovation could herald new era for aerial transport

    For decades, flying cars have featured in our visions of what futuristic cities might look like. Now EU-funded researchers with the MYCOPTER project have developed a steering system that makes helicopters as easy to control as cars. While having your own personal aerial vehicle (PAV) may still be some way off, the success of the project opens up the possibility that one day flying vehicles could indeed be an integral part of the urban transportation network.

  • A first: U.S. Navy shipboard laser operates in Persian Gulf

    The U.S. Navy announced that a laser weapon system (LaWS) — a cutting-edge weapon that brings significant new capabilities to America’s Sailors and Marines — was for the first time successfully deployed and operated aboard a naval vessel in the Persian Gulf. The operational demonstrations, which took place from September to November aboard USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15), were historic not only because they showed a laser weapon working aboard a deployed U.S. Navy ship, but also because LaWS operated seamlessly with existing ship defense systems. During the tests, LaWS hit targets mounted aboard a speeding oncoming small boat, shot a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) out of the sky, and destroyed other moving targets at sea.

  • 2012-14 California drought the worst in 1,200 years

    New research shows that the California drought of 2012-14 has been the worst in 1,200 years. California is the world’s eighth largest economy and the source of a substantial amount of U.S. produce. Surface water supply shortages there have impacts well beyond the state’s borders. The research indicates that natural climate system variability is compounded by human-caused climate change and that “hot” droughts such as the current one are likely to occur again in the future.

  • Predicting future droughts in California

    According to a new NOAA-sponsored study, natural oceanic and atmospheric patterns are the primary drivers behind California’s ongoing drought. A high pressure ridge off the West Coast (typical of historic droughts) prevailed for three winters, blocking important wet season storms, with ocean surface temperature patterns making such a ridge much more likely. The study found no conclusive evidence linking human-caused climate change and the California drought.

  • Bionic bra one step closer

    A Bionic Bra which automatically tightens in response to breast movement is one step closer to reality with the development of a new prototype. The development of the bra is the result of findings by researchers that without the right breast support, the movement of women’s breasts during demanding physical activity – in sports, the military, first response, and more – may cause long-term damage, including numbness in the fingers caused by compression of nerves on the shoulders, as well as neck and back pain. “Unfortunately, the most supportive sports bras tend to be the most uncomfortable to wear.” Making matters worse, “research has found that 85 percent of women are wearing bras that do not fit or support their breasts correctly,” one of the researchers said.

  • Smaller lidars could be mounted on UAVs for underwater scans

    Bathymetric lidars — devices which employ powerful lasers to scan beneath the water’s surface — are used today primarily to map coastal waters. At nearly 600 pounds, the systems are large and heavy, and they require costly, piloted aircraft to carry them. Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) researchers have designed a new approach that could lead to bathymetric lidars that are much smaller and more efficient than the current full-size systems. The new technology would let modest-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) carry bathymetric lidars, lowering costs substantially. These advanced capabilities could support a range of military uses such as anti-mine and anti-submarine intelligence and nautical charting, as well as civilian mapping tasks. In addition, the new lidar could probe forested areas to detect objects under thick canopies.

  • Micro-capsules and bacteria used in self-healing concrete

    Researchers are aiming to develop a novel self-healing concrete that uses an inbuilt immune system to close its own wounds and prevent deterioration. Self-healing concrete could vastly increase the life of concrete structures, and would remove the need for repairs, reducing the lifetime cost of a structure by up to 50 percent. Over seven per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions are caused by cement production, so reducing the amount required by extending the lifetime of structures and removing the need for repairs will have a significant environmental impact.

  • CO2 warming effects already felt a decade after being emitted

    It takes just ten years for a single emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) to have its maximum warming effects on the Earth. This is according to researchers who have dispelled a common misconception that the main warming effects from a CO2 emission will not be felt for several decades. This means that the benefits from emission reductions — the avoidance of extreme weather events such as droughts, heatwaves, and flooding — will be felt by those who have worked to curb the emissions and not just future generations. Some of the bigger climate impacts from warming, however, such as sea-level rise, melting ice sheets, and long-lasting damage to ecosystems, will have a much bigger time lag.

  • Research shows how global warming links to carbon emissions

    A team of researchers from the Universities of Liverpool, Southampton, and Bristol have derived the first theoretical equation to demonstrate that global warming is a direct result of the build-up of carbon emissions since the late 1800s, when man-made carbon emissions began. The results are in accord with previous data from climate models. The results show every million-million tons of carbon emitted will generate one degree Celsius of global warming. They also show that the build-up of carbon emitted over the last 200 years will then last for many centuries to millennia even if carbon emissions are subsequently phased out.

  • Brainwashing and radicalization don’t explain why young people join violent causes

    Why do young people from Western societies join ISIS? Terms such as “brainwashing” and “radicalization” are typically and casually invoked to explain the phenomenon. Suggestions of brainwashing or radicalization imply that the object of such efforts has been profoundly diverted from their usual, reasonable way of thinking. The instigators of this mental trickery are implicitly credited with considerable psychological skill, while the target is simultaneously assumed to have some mental insufficiency or vulnerability. The young are commonly deemed to be easy prey for those seeking to enlist them for a “radical” cause. The problem is, it’s just not that simple. Arguing that a 15 or 16-year-old is able to make a reasoned choice about engagement in hostilities risks exposing that young person to the full force of the law – but using loose, inadequate concepts such as brainwashing and radicalization to explain young people’s engagement in political violence carries its own risks. It severely limits our ability to understand why young people are mobilized in support of a group such as Islamic State, and hinders intelligent debate about the wider changes needed to prevent them doing so. Moreover our efforts to reintegrate them once they come back are likely to prove desperately inadequate.

  • Southeastern Louisiana has a problem: "The sea is rising and the land is sinking"

    Southeastern Louisiana is drowning at the rate of one football field per hour, totaling up to sixteen square miles annually. In just eighty years, sea level rise, fossil fuel extraction, and having too few wetlands separating the Gulf from the flood protection levee systems have caused some 2,000 square miles of Louisiana’s coastal landscape to sink into the Gulf of Mexico. The issues facing Louisiana’s southeastern coast pose a threat to American energy and economic stability. A $50 billion, 50-year coastal restoration plan, formulated in 2007, is yet to be accepted and funded, but experts note that if sea-level rise is as bad as the worst case scenario, several projects at the heart of the restoration plan would become infective.