• IdentificationRapid DNA technology verifies relationships after mass casualty events

    Rapid DNA technology developed by DHS S&T has recently been used to identify simulated “victims” in several mass casualty exercises across the United States. The technology greatly expedites the testing of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the only biometric that can accurately verify family relationships.

  • Law enforcementCost savings of LA county crime reform initiative uncertain

    While a California ballot initiative reducing penalties for some criminal offenses promised to save local governments money, quantifying such savings will require significant changes in the way local agencies track workloads, according to a new report. The researchers concluded there was too little information available to create credible estimates of cost savings, despite there being evidence that many of the departments saw a drop in workloads.

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

    By Feng Fu

    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.

  • Building safetyNew 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.

  • Layered defenseStacking countermeasures for layered defense against chemical, biological threats

    Just as we must protect computer systems against assaults in the form of viruses and trojans in the cyber world, we must protect our soldiers from a multitude of chemical and biological threats on the battlefield. No one countermeasure can mitigate every threat, which is why the Joint Science and Technology Office at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency is developing a portfolio of novel capabilities and medical countermeasures to protect our troops.

  • Flying mine detectorNavy 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.

     

  • RadicalizationGermany considering spying on children suspected of radicalization

    Germany is debating the question of whether the country’s intelligence and law-enforcement agencies should out under surveillance minors radicalized by extremist Muslim clerics. The law currently bars the country’s intelligence agencies to save any data on anyone under the age of 18 when the data was collected. Bavaria’s interior minister Joachim Herrmann said it is “divorced from reality” to argue that investigators should look the other way when they learn about a radicalized minor.

  • SurveillanceBringing transparency to cell phone surveillance

    Modern cell phones are vulnerable to attacks from rogue cellular transmitters called IMSI-catchers — surveillance devices that can precisely locate mobile phones, eavesdrop on conversations or send spam. Security researchers have developed a new system called SeaGlass to detect anomalies in the cellular landscape that can indicate where and when these surveillance devices are being used.

  • ExtremismWhite supremacists in U.S. inspired by ancient Nordic religion

    Inspired by an ancient heathen religion, known most commonly as Odinism, White supremacists carry out terrorist attacks on American soil. In at least six cases since 2001, professed Odinists have been declared guilty of plotting – or pulling off – domestic terrorism attacks. Today’s Odinists claim it is the only pure religion for white people, one not “mongrelized” by the Jewish prophet Jesus – thus making Odinism a perfect fit for a strain of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in America. “Now is a great time for Odinism because it fits into this historical narrative about European cultural greatness and a connection between whiteness and nationality,” says one expert.

  • Radiation detectionRemote 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.

  • Nuclear weaponsOvercoming the trust barrier in nuclear weapons verification measurements

    Trust but verify. The catchphrase for arms control popularized by President Ronald Reagan sounds simple. However, verification involving sensitive data is a very complex endeavor. Verifying that a nuclear warhead actually is a warhead may include confirming key attributes. But the act of confirming certain technical attributes might reveal critical design information — closely guarded national secrets for any country. Confirming these attributes will likely require overcoming the hurdle of protecting sensitive design data. Sandia National Laboratories physicist Peter Marleau has developed a new method for verifying warhead attributes.

  • Nuclear warWhy there’s no modern guide to surviving a nuclear war

    By John Preston

    The risk of thermonuclear war has rarely been greater. But despite the growing threat, the general public are less prepared than they ever have been to cope with an attack. Time is short – but the United Kingdom is not ready. In May 1980, the government created a series of public information films, radio broadcasts, and the booklet Protect and Survive. But the effort was mocked, and the government abandoned to effort. The failure of Protect and Survive is the reason the United Kingdom doesn’t have public information on how to prepare for a nuclear war today. There are good reasons for keeping us unaware. Releasing guidance may cause anxiety and even make other countries suspicious that our preparations are a sign that we intend to strike first. On the other hand, if the government does intend to issue information at the last minute then it is taking a huge risk as to whether it can get the advice out in time. If an accidental launch, or an unexpected first strike, occurs then there may be no time. Maybe now is the right time to buy that reprinted copy of Protect and Survive – just in case.

  • Big dataIsraeli data startups driving N.Y. ecosystem

    By Viva Sarah Press

    The ability to interpret big data and find the needle in the haystack of information to help in decision-making is crucial. Israel startups thrive at finding needle-in-the-haystack information in order to make sense of the data and help in decision-making. “Data is a natural resource. Data by itself is like bricks. It’s all about what you do with it,” says Amir Orad, CEO of Sisense.

  • Missile defenseRussia successfully tests hypersonic missile which renders Western defenses obsolete

    Russia says it has successfully tested a hypersonic missile, a year ahead of schedule. The missile is faster than any other missile currently deployed by the world’s armies, capable of reaching a speed of up to 4,600 mph, which is nearly six times the speed of sound— covering a distance of 155 miles in just 2.5 minutes. At that speed, no current missile defense would be capable of intercepting and destroying the missile as it travels toward its target. “We’re in a period of possible military parity again,” says a British defense analyst, adding that the new hypersonic missile will push Russia ahead.

  • Chemical weaponsDetecting and preventing the use of chemical weapons

    Like detectives looking for clues, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been working for nearly a decade on ways to identify the “fingerprints” of potential chemical threats. The ability to identify a particular agent and attribute its source is key to responding to and even preventing these threats.