• General Dynamics completes USAF Space Fence radar array ground structure

    General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies earlier this month completed the construction and walk-through of the 7,000 square-foot radar receive array structure which is part of the U.S. Air Force Space Fence radar system. With the array structure complete, the General Dynamics Space Fence team will dismantle the 700,000-pound steel structure and ship it to Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, for reassembly and integration into the Space Fence system.

  • Hair analysis is flawed as a forensic technique

    Since 1989, seventy-four people who were convicted of serious crimes, in large part due to microscopic hair comparisons, were later exonerated by post-conviction DNA analysis. A new article highlights the statistical failings of microscopic hair analysis in criminal investigations, noting that more than twenty characteristics can be used to describe or identify a single hair, but many are subjective.

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  • Citizen seismologists enhance the impacts of earthquake studies

    From matchbook-sized sensors plugged into a desktop computer to location-tagged tweets, the earthquake data provided by “citizen seismologists” have grown in size and quality since 2000, according to the field’s researchers.

  • New Yorker sentenced to 16 years for trying to buy ricin

    It was a scary scenario: Chinese national Cheng Le, living in New York City, attempted to order ricin through the so-called dark Web. Ricin is a highly potent and potentially fatal toxin with no known antidote. What did Le plan to do with the ricin? Nothing good. According to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, “In Le’s own words, established at trial, he was looking for ‘simple and easy death pills’ and ways to commit ‘100 percent risk-free’ murder.”

  • Privacy advocacy groups ask NSA to halt changes to data sharing rules

    More than thirty organizations sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the National Security Agency, urging them to halt reported changes to the rules governing when and how the NSA can share the data it collects through overseas surveillance.

  • Pressure mounts to keep human control over killer robots

    Fully autonomous weapons would go a step beyond existing remote-controlled drones as they would be able to select and engage targets without human intervention. Although these weapons do not exist yet, the rapid movement of technology from human “in-the-loop” weapons systems toward “out-of-the-loop” systems is attracting international attention and concern. Countries should retain meaningful human control over weapons systems and ban fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic said in a new report. The concept of meaningful human control will be a centerpiece of deliberations at a week-long multilateral meeting on the weapons, opening 11 April 2016, at the United Nations in Geneva.

  • Sea Hunter, world’s first robot warship

    At the Pentagon nowadays, you are starting to see robots everywhere. They dispose of bombs, and throw out the occasional first pitch. They help Marines improve their target shooting. And, if they are human-robot teams that entered last year’s DARPA Robotic Challenged Finals, they drive vehicles, use tools, open doors, climb stairs, and do all sorts of other things. Now another robot — one designed and built by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — happens to be the very first robot warship.

  • Four questions Belgians should ask about the Patriot Act

    The Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks added a sense of urgency to calls for Belgium to enact its own counterterrorism bill. It is a call the French government has already answered. Increased use of surveillance is a worldwide trend. There is no guarantee, however, that even with the most sophisticated surveillance technology out there today, passing a bill or law to collect private information on citizens will protect us from terrorist threats and violence. Even more vexing: the nature of intelligence gathering means we may never know exactly how many attacks have been prevented by the Patriot Act, the French surveillance law — or a similar law that Belgium may soon pass.

  • U.S. more likely to use force in a military dispute when the president is a Southerner

    The United States is more likely to use force in a military dispute when the president is a Southerner, according to a new study. The study argues that “Southern honor” — an ethical code that emphasizes a reputation for resolve — pervasively shapes Southern presidents’ approach to disputes with other nations, making those presidents less willing than their peers from northern states to back down during international disputes. Consequently, Southern presidents have been more likely to use military force, resist withdrawal, and ultimately achieve victory, the study finds.

  • Historic preservation often neglected in disaster plans

    Many communities fail to take historic preservation into account when planning for natural disasters, risking a loss of heritage and critical engines of the local economy in the event of catastrophe. Thousands of historic sites are left exposed to risk from floods and storms. “A lot of cultural and historic resources worldwide are at risk when natural hazards strike,” said the author of a recent study. “And even though we know this, very few resources are dedicated to protecting them.”

  • What is a dirty bomb and how dangerous is it?

    The worrying news that individuals affiliated with the so-called Islamic State have undertaken hostile surveillance at a Belgian nuclear research facility has created growing speculation about the group’s nuclear ambitions. There are no indications that a terrorist group has obtained any fissile material to date. An easier option for a terrorist group would be to build a dirty bomb or, technically, a radiological dispersal device. This is the reason for sensible concern, rather than hysterical speculation about Islamic State’s recent activities in Belgium and, especially, Iraq and Syria. After all, without an effective government, it is unclear who controls the many radioactive sources in the region.

  • Tougher steel could be used for body armor, shields for satellites

    A team of engineers has developed and tested a type of steel with a record-breaking ability to withstand an impact without deforming permanently. The new steel alloy could be used in a wide range of applications, from drill bits, to body armor for soldiers, to meteor-resistant casings for satellites.

  • Rising world military spending in 2015

    World military expenditure totaled almost $1.7 trillion in 2015, an increase of 1 percent in real terms from 2014. The increase reflects continuing growth in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and some Middle Eastern states. The decline in spending in the West is also levelling off. At the same time, spending decreased in Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, the global military expenditure picture is mixed. The United States remained by far the world’s biggest spender in 2015, despite its expenditure falling by 2.4 per cent to $596 billion.

  • African parliaments lead the continent's fight against weapons of mass destruction

    Jihadist literature has, for a while, called for the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction — encouraging the production of ricin, botulinum, and sarin. The surge in terrorist acts and violent extremism on the continent should underscore, for all African states, the urgent need to actively prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors. It also confirms the relevance of UN Security Council resolution 1540

  • ISIS planning to use drones for radioactive attacks on Western cities

    Prime Minister David Cameron warned that ISIS terrorists are planning to use drones to spray nuclear material over Western cities in a lethal “dirty bomb” attack. Security experts are worried about jihadists buying simple drones, which are widely available, and use them to carry radioactive material into the centers of large cities in attacks which would kill thousands and contaminate large sections of cities, making entire areas uninhabitable for years.