• Vigilantism, Again in the News, Is an American Tradition

    As a scholar of vigilantism in U.S. history and a political scientist interested in how the state and law develop over time, I have found, as have others, that for many Americans, law and order has long been as much a private matter as something for the government to handle. But as Americans focus on the way in which people of color, in particular, have been policed in this country, they should disentangle the damaging forms of vigilantism from a deeper notion that democracy might require ordinary citizens to rely at least partly on themselves to enforce the law. Democracy requires Americans to somehow be vigilant over the use of force in their midst – without themselves becoming vigilantes.

  • Optimal Social Networks of No More Than 150 People

    “It takes a network to defeat a network,” wrote retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in his book Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. U.S. Army researchers agree, and in a new research they argue that new rules of engagement on the battlefield will require a deep understanding of networks and how they operate according to new Army research. Researchers confirmed a theory that find that networks of no more than 150 are optimal for efficient information exchange.

  • Ultrasensitive Measurements Detect Nuclear Explosions

    Imagine being able to detect the faintest of radionuclide signals from hundreds of miles away. Scientists have developed a system which constantly collects and analyzes air samples for signals that would indicate a nuclear explosion, perhaps conducted secretly underground. The system can detect just a small number of atoms from nuclear activity anywhere on the planet. In terms of sensitivity, the capability – in place for decades – is analogous to the ability to detect coronavirus from a single cough anywhere on Earth.

  • Gunshot Injuries in California Drop, but Percentage of Firearm Death Goes Up

    Gun-violence research experts say that despite a significant drop in firearm injuries in recent years in California, there has been a substantial increase in the state’s overall death rate among those wounded by firearms. “We found that the number of nonfatal firearm injuries in California decreased over an 11-year period, primarily due to a drop in firearm assaults,” said Sarabeth Spitzer, lead author and a UC Davis research intern at the time of the study. “However, the lethality of those and other firearm injuries did not go down. In fact, it went up.”

  • Next-Generation Explosives Trace Detection Technology

    Explosive materials pose a threat whether they are used by domestic bad actors or in a theater of war. Staying ahead of our adversaries is a job that DHS DOD share. The two departments’ research and development work is no different.

  • Handgun Purchaser Licensing Laws Associated with Lower Firearm Homicides, Suicides

    State handgun purchaser licensing laws—which go beyond federal background checks by requiring a prospective buyer to apply for a license or permit from state or local law enforcement—appear to be highly effective at reducing firearm homicide and suicide rates, according to a new analysis of gun laws.

  • Police solve just 2% of all major crimes

    As Americans across the nation protest police violence, people have begun to call for cuts or changes in public spending on police. But neither these nor other proposed reforms address a key problem with solving crimes. My recent review of fifty years of national crime data confirms that, as police report, they don’t solve most serious crimes in America. In reality, about 11 percent of all serious crimes result in an arrest, and about 2 percent end in a conviction. Therefore, the number of people police hold accountable for crimes – what I call the “criminal accountability” rate – is very low.

  • QAnon Conspiracies on Facebook Could Prompt Real-World Violence

    As Facebook continues to grapple with hate speech and violent extremism across the platform, QAnon conspiracy theorists are using public and private Facebook pages and groups to spread disinformation, racism, and thinly veiled incitement to violence. This conspiracy is estimated to have a Facebook audience of millions of users.

  • New Detection Method to Protect Army Networks

    U.S. Army researchers developed a novel algorithm to protect networks by allowing for the detection of adversarial actions that can be missed by current analytical methods. The main idea of this research is to build a higher-order network to look for subtle changes in a stream of data that could point to suspicious activity.

  • One Step Closer to Bomb-Sniffing Cyborg Locusts

    Researchers found that they could direct locust swarms toward areas where suspected explosives are located, and that the locusts’ brain reaction to the smell of explosives can be read remotely. Moreover, a study found locusts can quickly discriminate between different smells or different explosives. “This is not that different from in the old days, when coal miners used canaries,” says a researcher. “People use pigs for finding truffles. It’s a similar approach — using a biological organism — this is just a bit more sophisticated.”

  • Lethal Autonomous Weapons May Soon Make Life-and-Death Decisions – on Their Own

    With drone technology, surveillance software, and threat-predicting algorithms, future conflicts could computerize life and death. “It’s a big question – what does it mean to hand over some of the decision making around violence to machines, and everybody on the planet will have a stake in what happens on this front,” says one expert.

  • Fear of Stricter Regulations Spurs Gun Sales after Mass Shootings: Study

    Researchers used data science to study why gun sales tend to go up after a mass shooting. By working with spatio-temporal data from all the states in the United States, they determined that the increase in firearm purchases after mass shootings is driven by a concern about regulations rather than a perceived need for protection.

  • How a New Administration Might Better Fight White Supremacist Violence

    In the last four years, violence linked to white supremacy has eclipsed jihadi violence as the predominant form of terrorism in the United States, the Brookings Institution’s Dan Byman writes. “U.S. bureaucracies are slowly moving forward despite discouragement or indifference from on high,” he writes, noting that DHS has elevated the importance of white supremacist violence, and that the State Department has designated the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), an ultranationalist white supremacist group, as a terrorist organization — the first time the State Department ever designated a white supremacist group as such. What might a new administration do to more effectively target white supremacist violence? Byman highlight seven areas in which the new administration may want to take action

  • Might Technology Tip the Global Scales?

    Benjamin Chang, a fourth-year MIT graduate student, is assessing the impacts of artificial intelligence on military power, with a focus on the U.S. and China. “Every issue critical to world order — whether climate change, terrorism, or trade — is clearly and closely intertwined with U.S.-China relations,” says Chang. “Competition between these nations will shape all outcomes anyone cares about in the next 50 years or more.”

  • Justice Department Completes Review of Errors in FISA Applications

    The 2016 application by the FBI to the FISA court for permission to place Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, under surveillance over his suspicious contacts with Russian intelligence officers, was reviewed by the Justice Department’s Inspector General. The DOJ IG found the application to be proper and in line with the department’s guidelines, even though it contained a few minor errors. AG William Barr ordered a second thorough review of the FBI’s application, a review which included a review of the IG’s review as well. The Barr-ordered review has been completed, and the Justice Department reported that most of the errors identified by the Office of the Inspector General were minor, and none invalidated the surveillance application and authorizations. The DOJ review “should instill confidence in the FBI’s use of its FISA authorities,” said FBI Acting General Counsel Dawn Browning, committed the agency to “meeting the highest standard of exactness” and “eliminat[ing] errors of any kind.”