• Mission to discover habitable Earths launched

    Mission to discover Earth-sized planets and super-Earths in the habitable zone of the solar system has been given the go-ahead by European Space Agency. PLATO will be launched 1.5 million km into space — and will monitor thousands of bright stars over a large area of the sky, looking for regular dips in brightness as planets pass by them. It will investigate seismic activity in some of the host stars, and determine their masses, sizes and ages — with unprecedented accuracy. The mission could lead to discovery of extra-terrestrial life.

  • Deadly heatwaves on the rise

    Seventy-four percent of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, according to a new study. Even if emissions are aggressively reduced, the percent of the world’s human population affected is expected to reach 48 percent. “We are running out of choices for the future,” says one expert. “For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible.”

  • U.S. still first in science, but China rising fast as funding stalls in U.S., other countries

    American scientific teams still publish significantly more biomedical research discoveries than teams from any other country, a new study shows, and the United States still leads the world in research and development expenditures. But American dominance is slowly shrinking, the analysis finds, as China’s skyrocketing investing on science over the last two decades begins to pay off. Chinese biomedical research teams now rank fourth in the world for total number of new discoveries published in six top-tier journals, and the country spent three-quarters what the United States spent on research and development during 2015.

  • Grenfell fire aftermath: how 20th-century buildings can be made safer, not more dangerous

    Despite the horror of the fire at Grenfell Tower, UK regulations for tall buildings are ahead of the curve in comparison with other countries. There have been huge improvements in construction materials and technological solutions throughout the modern era. And testing and certification methods have became even more rigorous, to ensure the quality of new products. Of course, many people are now asking what more could have been done to prevent the tragic loss of life in the Grenfell blaze. The truth is, while architects and engineers can work to mitigate the risk of fire, it cannot be completely eliminated. The addition of some materials to buildings, such as cladding, will obviously now come under scrutiny. But there are several improvements that can be made to old 20th-century tower blocks like Grenfell, to make them safer places to live.

  • Grenfell Tower disaster: how did the fire spread so quickly?

    In the middle of the night, while most residents were sleeping, a devastating fire started at Grenfell Tower in London. From an engineering perspective, there are a number of factors in the design of the 24-storey tower block that may have contributed to the speed and scale of the blaze. Most of the current guidelines across the world contain detailed design requirements for fire safety such as evacuation routes, compartmentation and structural fire design. But Grenfell Tower was built in 1974. At that time, the rules and regulations were not as clear and well-developed as they are now.

  • New materials to make buildings better, safer

    A new type of construction material, called cross-laminated timber, is currently approved for buildings with up to six stories. Designers would like to use it in taller buildings because it is environmentally sustainable and can speed the construction process. To use it for those taller buildings, the industry needs to understand how the timber would perform during a fire. NIST experiments are measuring the material’s structural performance and the amount of energy the timber contributes to the fire.

  • Navy tests new mine-detection drone

    The new Mine Warfare Rapid Assessment Capability (MIW RAC) system is a portable, remote-controlled system that can detect buried or underwater mines during amphibious beach landings. It’s designed to help explosive ordnance disposal teams quickly find mines and dangerous metal obstacles within coastal surf zones and very-shallow-water zones. MIW RAC consists of a one-pound quadcopter outfitted with an ultra-sensitive magnetometer sensor system to detect mines and provide real-time search data to a handheld Android device.


  • Four things schools can do to help tackle extremism and radicalization

    The terrorist attacks in Manchester and London renewed discussions about how to stop young Muslims being radicalized. A lot of the ideas focus on closing down social media sites, reporting “at-risk” individuals or organizations, and educating pupils on the evils of extremism. But while it’s important to be having these types of conversations, most of these suggestions are reactive. If there is any chance of stopping it, there has to be understanding of its roots, along with long-term strategies to undermine the causes. And as most terrorists are “home-grown” – in that they are often born and raised in the country they then go on to attack – what happens in schools may well be critical.

  • New director for CMU’s Software Engineering Institute's CERT Division

    Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute the other day announced the appointment of Roberta G. (Bobbie) Stempfley as director of the SEI’s CERT Division. A federally funded research and development center, SEI helps government and industry organizations develop and operate software systems that are secure and reliable. The CERT Coordination Center was founded at the SEI in 1988 as the world’s first computer security incident response team.

  • Meeting human resource needs of “full earth”

    A new concept proposes to provide food, energy and water resources for the world’s growing population by combining systems that simultaneously use different parts of sunlight’s spectrum to produce crops, generate electricity, collect heat and purify water. The world’s human population is expected to grow from seven billion to more than ten billion over the next two to three generations, leading to a “full earth” scenario.

  • Preventing autonomous vehicles from being hacked

    Although autonomous vehicles are essentially large computers on wheels, securing them is not the same as securing a communication network that connects desktop computers and smartphones to large geographical areas due to the roles that the sensors and actuators play in the physical layer of the network. Researchers have developed an intelligent transportation system prototype designed to avoid collisions and prevent hacking of autonomous vehicles.

  • Remote detection of hazardous radioactive substances

    Remote detection of radioactive materials is impossible when the measurement location is far from its source. A typical radiation detectors, like Geiger-Muller counters can detect 1 milli Curie (mCi) of Cobalt-60 (60Co) at a maximum distance of 3.5 meters, but are inefficient at measuring lower levels of radioactivity or at longer distances. Researchers have developed a method for the remote detection of hazardous radioactive substances. With the help of this newly developed detection device, the detection of various types of radioactive materials can be done from a remote distance.

  • Quicker identification of chemicals used in rare-Earth processing methods

    Rare-earth metals are vital to many modern energy technologies, but high commercial demand and mining challenges have made optimizing the U.S. production and use of them of vital importance. Testing and developing more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of extracting rare-earth metals as speedily as possible is thus important – and DOE’s Critical Materials Institute has developed a computer program, called ParFit, that can vastly reduce the amount of time spent identifying promising chemical compounds used in rare-Earth processing methods.

  • 2016 was a record-breaking year for renewable energy

    Additions in installed renewable power capacity set new records in 2016, with 161 gigawatts (GW) installed, increasing total global capacity by almost 9 percent over 2015, to nearly 2,017 GW. Solar PV accounted for around 47 percent of the capacity added, followed by wind power at 34 percent and hydropower at 15.5 percent, Global energy-related CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained stable for a third year in a row despite a 3 percent growth in the global economy and an increased demand for energy. This can be attributed primarily to the decline of coal, but also to the growth in renewable energy capacity and to improvements in energy efficiency.

  • Protective value of mangroves for coastlines

    The threat to coastal regions posed by climate change, overdevelopment and other human caused stressors is well-established. Among the most prized and valuable land throughout the world, shorelines everywhere are imperiled by sea level rise, beach erosion and flooding. But a recently published NASA-funded research study has discovered a new, natural phenomenon that could offer an economic and ecological solution to coastal wetland protection—the spread of mangrove trees.