Sci-Tech

  • "Envy-free” algorithm may help in settling disputes

    Whether it is season tickets to Green Bay Packers’ games or silver place settings, divorce and inheritance have bred protracted disputes over the assignment of belongings. Now, a trio of researchers has found a method for resolving such conflicts in an envy-free way. The envy-free algorithm may be used by negotiators in intractable political or territorial disputes. “The problem of fairly dividing a divisible good, such as cake or land, between two people probably goes back to the dawn of civilization,” write the authors.

  • Eco-terrorist sentenced to five years and ordered to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book

    Last Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken imposed a 5-year sentence on radical environmental activist Rebecca Rubin for her involvement in several acts of arson, including the burning of Vail Colorado’s Twin Elks Lodge which caused millions of dollars in damage. Rubin spent almost eight years living underground, giving herself up to the FBI last October. She pleaded guilty to arson, attempted arson, and conspiracy to commit arson in connection with a radical environmental group calling itself The Family. Judge Aiken also ordered Rubin to read Malcolm Gladwell’s 2013 book David and Goliath, explaining that Rubin might learn a thing or two about non-violent environmental advocacy while serving her sentence.

  • Quantum encryption for wiretap-proof communication a step closer

    Polarized light, in which all the light waves oscillate on the same plane, forms the foundation for technology such as LCD displays in computers and TV sets, and advanced quantum encryption. There are two ways to create polarized light, but each has its problems: filtering normal unpolarized to block unwanted light waves (but here, half of the light emitted, and thereby an equal amount of energy, are lost), or using light which is polarized at the source (but here, polarization is either too weak or hard to control). Now there is a better way: By emitting photons from a quantum dot at the top of a micropyramid, researchers are creating a polarized light source with a high degree of linear polarization, on average 84 percent. As the quantum dots can also emit one photon at a time, this is promising technology for quantum encryption, a growing technology for wiretap-proof communication.

  • Senegal climate change-induced flooding reaching crisis proportions: UN

    Margareta Wahlstrom, the head of the UN disaster risk, last week warned that climate change-induced flooding had reached crisis proportions in Senegal, with some towns and villages now finding themselves underwater for large parts of the year. Wahlstrom, who was in Senegal for a 3-day visit as part of the UN preparations for a new global disaster risk-reduction strategy, said that mayors of coastal and riverside towns and villages told her their streets were flooded ten months out of twelve.

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  • Clouds influence how greenhouse gases affect climate

    The warming effect of human-induced greenhouse gases is a given, but to what extent can we predict its future influence? That is an issue on which science is making progress, but the answers are still far from exact, say researchers. Indeed, one could say that the picture is a “cloudy” one, since the determination of the greenhouse gas effect involves multifaceted interactions with cloud cover.

  • National cyber complex to open next to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev campus

    A new national cyber complex called CyberSpark will open at the Advanced Technology Park (ATP) which is located next to Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Fortune 500 companies Lockheed Martin and IBM announced they would invest in CyberSpark R&D facilities, joining other cybersecurity leaders Deutsche Telekom, EMC, RSA, and many startups. The 15-building ATP is the only type of complex of its kind in the world that includes Fortune 500 companies and cyber-incubators, academic researchers, and educational facilities as well as national government and security agencies. The CyberSpark will also include a high school geared toward science and technology.

  • Some citizens of low-lying Pacific island nations seeking climate-change refugee status

    More and more resident of Pacific island nations and territories are trying to claim refugee status in Australia and New Zealand, arguing that rising sea levels, caused by climate change, are forcing them out of their homes and destroying their livelihood. The New Zealand High Court has rejected the refugee status petition of Loane Teitota and his family, citizens of Kiribati, a low-lying Pacific Island nation near the equator, saying that Teitota’s argument was “novel” and “optimistic.” The court cautioned that if the argument were adopted, then millions of people suffering from the effects of climate change would seek refugee status in New Zealand or any other country.

  • The 9 January chemical leak in West Virginia is the latest in a long history of industrial accidents

    The chemical spill that affected the water source in nine West Virginia counties in early January is part of a long history of industrial accidents resulting from the concentration of chemical and coal-mining operations in the region. The 9 January spill, which saw coal-cleansing chemical which leaked from Freedom Industries’ storage tank into the Elk River, leaving more than 300,000 residents without access to clean tap water for days, is the latest in a history of pollution which has poisoned groundwater, spewed toxic gas emissions, and caused fires and explosions.

  • “Space cops” to help control traffic in space, prevent satellites from colliding

    Collisions in space of satellites and space debris have become increasingly problematic. A team of scientists are using mini-satellites that work as “space cops” to help control traffic in space. The scientists used a series of six images over a 60-hour period taken from a ground-based satellite to prove that it is possible to refine the orbit of another satellite in low earth orbit.

  • Increase in wildfires may significantly degrade air quality, health in the future

    As the American West, parched by prolonged drought, braces for a season of potentially record-breaking wildfires, new research suggests these events not only pose an immediate threat to people’s safety and their homes, but also could take a toll on human health, agriculture, and ecosystems.

  • The combination of drought and warming climate places severe strain on California’s water supply

    As stores of water in the West are reduced — whether by usage in drought, evapotranspiration in heat, or both — warming temperatures also see the snowpack on the wane. The two phenomena together could put severe strain on water supplies, with implications for ecosystems, industries, and people alike. Even at their most severe, the droughts of decades and centuries past did not occur in tandem with today’s degree of temperature change or have to contend with the demands of a population that in California alone now numbers above thirty-eight million residents. As needs for water grow ever greater, so, too, do the potential threats to its supply.

  • Cal Poly unveils ambitious cybersecurity educational initiative

    Cal Poly, with a grant from the Northrop Grumman Foundation, has established a Cybersecurity Center, opened a new cyber lab, and is developing a cybersecurity curriculum with an ambitious set of goals in mind: educating thousands of students in cybersecurity awareness and readiness; producing experts in cyber technologies and systems, including many professionals who will serve the military and defense industry; and graduating cyber innovators who are prepared for advanced study and applied research in emerging cyber issues.

  • The world likely to face more frequent, and more severe, blackouts

    U.S. household electricity usage increased by 1,300 percent between 1940 and 2001. In the last few decades, air conditioning has been the greatest factor in increased electrical consumption, and one of the greatest sources of systematic strain, with considerably more blackouts occurring in the summer months than during winter. The electricity used to fuel America’s air conditioning is currently of a similar volume to the U.S. entire energy consumption in the 1950s. A new study reveals that today’s occasional blackouts are dress rehearsals for the future, when they will occur with greater frequency and increased severity. Power cuts will become more regular around the globe as electrical supply becomes increasingly vulnerable and demand for technology continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.

  • Natural flood management as a solution against future flooding

    Natural Flood Management (NFM) aims to reduce the downstream maximum water height of a flood — the peak — or delay the arrival of the flood peak downstream, increasing the time available to prepare. Back-to-nature flood schemes which use the land’s natural defenses to slow river flow and reduce flooding could be a cost-effective way of tackling one of the biggest problems facing the United Kingdom today.

  • Deepwater Horizon: Identifying harmful elements of persisting oil

    Scientists are unraveling the composition of persisting oil residues collected from Gulf of Mexico beaches following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, insisting on further assessment of the toxic impact of these chemical remnants on the marine ecosystem. A new study targeted the most abundant compounds in the residual oil, dissecting their composition with unprecedented accuracy. This is important for understanding the environmental impact of persisting oil remnants, because ecotoxicologists have demonstrated that all three chemical groups can be harmful to living organisms. More worrisome, relatively little is known about the broader toxicity of saturates and oxygenated hydrocarbons in the marine ecosystem, like the Gulf of Mexico —where there are 223 offshore oil rigs — even though these compounds constitute most of the persisting oil.