• The U.S. Wants to Bury SC’s Plutonium Stockpile Forever. Its New Home Isn’t Sure It Wants It.

    How long will it take for weapons-grade plutonium stockpile, temporarily stored at the South Carolina’s Savanah River nuclear weapons complex, to decay, that it, to have its radioactivity reduced to a level at which it will no longer pose radiation risks or turned into nuclear weapons? About seven billion years, or a little more than double the age of planet Earth. The government’s plutonium plan calls for expanding a nuclear waste burial ground located inside an abandoned salt mine near Carlsbad, New Mexico, which is known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP. But New Mexico objects.

  • Earthquake Conspiracy Theorists Are Wreaking Havoc During Emergencies

    Scientists have been trying hard to be able to predict earthquakes, because accurately predicting an earthquake would save lives, decrease property damage, and allow people to have some measure of control over one of nature’s most frightening and unpredictable events. Scientific predictions of the location and time of specific tremors are modest in scope – which have created an opening for earthquake conspiracy theorists who “claim that they have discovered the key to accurate quake prediction, as well as the hidden secrets behind why these tremors happen,” Anna Merlan writes.

  • System Locates Shooters Using Smartphone

    Researchers have developed a system that can accurately locate a shooter based on video recordings from as few as three smartphones. When demonstrated using three video recordings from the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds wounded, the system correctly estimated the shooter’s actual location - the north wing of the Mandalay Bay hotel. The estimate was based on three gunshots fired within the first minute of what would be a prolonged massacre.

  • Victory: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Police Can’t Force You to Tell Them Your Password

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a forceful opinion on Wednesday holding that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from being forced to disclose the passcode to their devices to the police. The court found that disclosing a password is “testimony” protected by the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination.

  • Cryptocurrency and National Insecurity

    A recent exercise at Harvard’s Kennedy School explored the dangers of large sums of money being secretly sent to hostile nations. The exercise brought together administration veterans, career diplomats, and academics to dramatize a very real prospect — the rise of an encrypted digital currency that would upend the U.S. dollar’s dominance and effectively render ineffective economic sanctions, like those currently applied to North Korea.

  • Dealing with the Soviet Nuclear Legacy

    On 29 August 1949, the Soviet Union conducted their first nuclear test. Over a 40-year period, they conducted 456 nuclear explosions at Semipalatinsk, in eastern Kazakhstan — 116 aboveground and 340 underground. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of the scientists and military personnel abandoned the site and fled the country, leaving behind large quantities of nuclear materials, completely unsecured. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has been quietly helping Kazakhstan deal with the Soviet nuclear legacy.

  • Would Terrorists Set Off a Nuclear Weapon If They Had One? We Shouldn’t Assume So

    For decades, the nightmare of nuclear terrorism has haunted the corridors of power in Washington and the imagination of Western popular culture. While this was true even before September 11, 2001, in the days since, a consensus has formed from which few dare deviate: Terrorist organizations are trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and if they are successful, they will use them in an attack as soon as possible. But how valid is this “acquisition-use assumption,” Christopher McIntosh and Ian Store ask.

  • With Gang Violence Rising, Sweden Searches for Answers

    Crime in general in on the decline in Sweden, but violent crime – shooting, explosions, and killing – has been on a stead rise since 2014. Experts note that the violence is not perpetrated by organized gangs. Rather, it is carried out by “loose groups” without a real hierarchical structure or recruitment process: According to the researchers, a majority of the young people involved in the violence are of foreign origin, but most have been born in Sweden.

  • Beijing Will Give You Cold War Nostalgia

    America’s twenty-first-century competition with China is likely to be more dangerous and more complex than the U.S. Cold War with the Soviet Union. Walter Russell Mean writes that this is the result of two factors: First, China’s economic power makes it a much more formidable and resourceful opponent than the Soviet Union was., and, second, the technological environment has changed dramatically in the past generation.

  • FBI Releases Lone Offender Terrorism Report

    The FBI’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC) on Wednesday released its Lone Offender Terrorism Report. The study, reflecting BTAC’s focus on past terrorism and targeted violence events, reviewed 52 lone offender terrorist attacks within the United States between 1972 and 2015. The BTAC study compared numerous offender motivational factors encompassing their backgrounds, family and social networks, behavioral characteristics, radicalization, attack planning, and bystander observations.

  • Why Flooding Is Still So Difficult to Predict and Prepare for

    Given the huge costs to people and property when it floods, it’s a reasonable question to ask why, in one of the richest countries in the world, more cannot be done to prevent flooding. And if not prevent it, to know more precisely when and where it will hit.

  • Iran’s Nuclear Weapons “Breakout” Time Getting Shorter: Experts

    The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, and the administration’s “maximum pressure” policy, are failing to yield the desired results, as Iran, pursuing a methodical “creep-out” strategy, is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. In 2015, Iran’s “breakout” time, that is, the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, was three months. The 2015 agreement, by imposing serve technical restrictions and intrusive monitoring, increased Iran’s breakout time to about twelve months. Experts now say that since the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, Iran’s breakout time has been reduced to 6-10 months. “The breakout time will decrease further as Iran increases its stock of enriched uranium and installs more centrifuges,” the experts say.

  • Promoting Cooperation Between Humans, Autonomous Machines

    The trust between humans and autonomous machines is a top priority for U.S. Army researchers — as machines become integral to society, it is critical to understand the impact on human decision-making.

  • Data Science Could Help Californians Battle Future Wildfires

    A major wildfire spread through Colorado, and I spent long hours locating shelters, identifying evacuation routes and piecing together satellite imagery. As the Fourmile Canyon Fire devastated areas to the west of Boulder, ultimately destroying 169 homes and causing $217 million in damage, my biggest concerns were ensuring that people could safely evacuate and first responders had the best chance of keeping the fire at bay. The oddest thing about that 7 September 2010? I spent it sitting comfortably in my home in Bloomington, Indiana, a thousand miles away from the action.

  • Nevada Leaders Trying to Stay Ahead of Wildfire Destruction

    In 2016, a little over 265,000 acres in Nevada burned from wildfires. In 2017, around 1.3 million acres burned, and in 2018 a little over a million acres burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Nevada’s political leadership is continuing to develop measures to combat the increasing threats posed by wildfires across American West and in the Silver State.