• ForensicsS&T enhancing the Autopsy digital forensics tool

    Autopsy—an open-source, digital forensics platform used by law enforcement agencies worldwide to determine how a digital device was used in a crime and recover evidence—is being enhanced with the addition of several new capabilities requested by law enforcement.

  • WildfiresCalifornia needs to rethink urban fire risk, starting with where it builds houses

    By Max Moritz

    With widespread damage to structures, the wildfires raging across southern California highlight the importance of where and how we build our communities and, in particular, how land use planning and better building codes can reduce our exposure to such events. Despite an aversion by some to land use planning, this strategy is simply common sense. It will also save lives and massive amounts of public resources over the long term. Where we do choose to develop and inhabit hazard-prone environments, it may be necessary to design communities with “passive survivability” in mind, or the ability to withstand the event and have water and power for a few days. This provides both the built environment and the people within some basic protection for a limited time. Strategies exist to lower the risk of fire in the current housing stock and to more carefully design and site future development where wildfires are possible. With increasing extremes expected as climate continues to change, officially recognizing this link and creating a safer built environment will only become more urgent.

  • Considered opinionWhat is Vladimir Putin really up to? Carnegie scholars aim to find out

    By Carol Morello

    The Trump administration’s national security team – of not the president himself – is increasingly concerned that Russia is expanding its influence around the world at a time when the United States and leading Western powers in Europe are focused on their own domestic problems. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is about to launch a two-year project, called “The Return of Global Russia: A Reassessment of the Kremlin’s International Agenda,” aiming to examine and analyze Russia’s activist foreign and military policies. According to Carnegie researchers, Moscow is trying to systematically undermine democracies such as the United States and alliances like the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

  • Cybersecurity“Hacking for Defense” class an example of Stanford’s relationship with the U.S. military

    Alongside all the tech companies and consulting firms present at career fairs, Stanford students looking for employment are likely to encounter another major industry when talking to recruiters: the defense sector. Although anti-war activism in the Vietnam era severed many of the university’s ties with the U.S. military, the relationship between the two has seen a revival over the years, and national security and defense institutions are more visible on campus now than they were just a decade ago. A relatively new class, MS&E 297, adds yet another wrinkle to that ongoing narrative – and one that not everyone is happy about.

  • TerrorismThe moral questions in the debate on what constitutes terrorism

    By Jessica Wolfendale

    Even though domestic killings and nonterrorist mass shootings kill more Americans than terrorism and undermine our security, these acts typically don’t lead to calls for radical preventive measures. But if two acts of violence kill or injure similar numbers of people, have similar effects on victims and communities, and spread fear and terror, we, as a society, should see them as equally abhorrent, regardless of whether they are ideologically motivated. And we should see the goal of preventing such acts as equally urgent. Most of us, however, don’t. And that’s unfair. It’s unfair to the victims of mass killers and domestic violence, whose safety and security are not regarded as warranting the same outrage and demand for radical preventive measures that terrorist killings call for.

  • ViolenceViolence a matter of scale, not quantity

    Anthropologists have debated for decades whether humans living in tribal communities thousands of years ago were more or less violent than societies today. Researchers wonder whether the question of more or less violence is the wrong one — what if it’s a matter of scale? In a new paper, the researchers present data showing that the size of a society’s population is what drives the size of its “war group,” or number of people of fighting age who defend it. They also show that the size of the war group is what determines the number of casualties in a conflict.

  • WMDDHS establishes the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office

    Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen last week announced the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. DHS says that the CWMD Office will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. interests.

  • Gas masksBetter gas mask filters

    In research that could lead to better gas mask filters, scientists have been putting the X-ray spotlight on composite materials in respirators used by the military, police, and first responders, and the results have been encouraging. What they are learning not only provides reassuring news about the effectiveness of current filters in protecting people from lethal compounds such as VX and sarin, but they also provide fundamental information that could lead to more advanced gas masks as well as protective gear for civilian applications.

  • WildfiresControlled burning of forest land limits severity of wildfires

    Controlled burning of forestland helped limit the severity of one of California’s largest wildfires, geographers say. The researchers studying the Rim Fire, which in 2013 burned nearly 400 square miles of forest in the Sierra Nevadas, found the blaze was less severe in areas recently treated with controlled burns. “You can fight fire with fire. You can fight severe fires using these more controlled fires under conditions that are suitable,” says one expert.

  • WildfiresSmaller branches drive the fastest, biggest wildfires

    As the West tallies the damages from the 2017 wildfire season, researchers are trying to learn more about how embers form and about the blaze-starting potential they carry. Preliminary findings indicate the diameter of the branches that are burning is the biggest single factor behind which ones will form embers the most quickly and how much energy they’ll pack.

  • WildfiresHow to fight wildfires with science

    By Albert Simeoni

    In the month of October nearly 250,000 acres, more than 8,000 homes and over 40 people fell victim to fast-moving wildfires in Northern California, the deadliest and one of the costliest outbreaks in state history. Now more wind-drive wildfires have scorched over 80,000 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, forcing thousands to evacuate and closing hundreds of schools. What is the most efficient way to protect the wild and-urban interface – the area where houses meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland vegetation? And what is the best way to evacuate? Fire conditions are constantly evolving, and basic research coupled with engineering solutions must keep up. Designing more resilient communities and infrastructure and protecting people more effectively are not onetime goals – they are constant. Currently nations are failing to meet the challenge, and impacts on communities are increasing.

  • GunsA jump in gun sales, accidental gun deaths followed Sandy Hook Shootings

    The Sandy Hook school shooting five years ago prompted a political response that led to significantly higher gun sales; this resulted in greater numbers of accidental deaths by firearms for both adults and children, according to a new study. The research concluded that, in the wake of the 14 December 2012, Sandy Hook school shooting, the number of guns purchased in America spiked by 3 million compared with baseline levels, leading to 60 additional deaths related to firearms, 20 among children and 40 among adults.

  • GunsAnalyzing recent research on causes of gun violence

    In 2015, over 36,000 people died from gunfire in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with roughly two-thirds of those deaths being classified as suicide. America’s gun-murder rate is 25 times that of the other high-income nations, and the gun-suicide rate is eight times as high. Despite these numbers, the last extensive analysis of research into the origins of gun violence, conducted in 2004, was inconclusive. Consensus is growing in recent research evaluating the impact of right-to-carry concealed handgun laws, showing that they increase violent crime, despite what older research says.

  • EarthquakesShakeAlert System progresses toward public use

    A decade after beginning work on an earthquake early warning system, scientists and engineers are fine-tuning a U.S. West Coast prototype that could be in limited public use in 2018. The development of ShakeAlert has shown that a dense network of seismic stations, swift transfer of seismic data to a central processing and alert station, speedy paths for distributing alert information to users, and education and training on how to use the alerts are all necessary for a robust early warning system.

  • EarthquakesEarthquake codes used in 2017 Gordon Bell Prize research

    A Chinese team of researchers awarded this year’s prestigious Gordon Bell prize for simulating the devastating 1976 earthquake in Tangshan, China, used an open-source code developed by researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). Using the Sunway TaihuLight, which is currently ranked as the world’s fastest supercomputer, the team developed software that was able to efficiently process 18.9 Pflops (18.9 quadrillion calculations per second) of data and create three-dimensional visualizations of the 1976 earthquake that occurred in Tangshan, China, believed to have caused between 240,000 and 700,000 casualties.