Infrastructure

  • Oil & warNeed for oil the most important reason for interfering in another country’s war

    Researchers have for the first time provided strong evidence for what conspiracy theorists have long thought — oil is often the reason for interfering in another country’s war. Civil wars have made up more than 90 percent of all armed conflicts since the Second World War, and the research builds on a near-exhaustive sample of sixty-nine countries which had a civil war between 1945 and 1999. About two thirds of civil wars during the period saw third party intervention either by another country or outside organization. The researchers found that the decision to interfere was dominated by the interveners’ need for oil over and above historical, geographical, or ethnic ties.

  • Infrastructure protectionEarly warning systems to boost security for critical infrastructures

    Using data mining, data fusion, and what are known as “rule based engines,” the EU-funded ARGOS, which stands for Advanced Protection of Critical Buildings by Overhauling Anticipating Systems, has developed an innovative early warning security system for critical infrastructure facilities, letting site operators know whether there is a potential threat. The rule-based engines allow operators to “teach” the system what alarms are true enabling systems to ‘learn’ and improve over time. The early warning systems extend the sites’ “security zone” and helps vital infrastructure to become more secure against intruders.

  • CybersecurityPatriot Act’s reauthorization an obstacle for cyber information sharing bill

    Recent cyber hacking incidents have persuaded lawmakers to pass a cyber information sharing bill which will help protect U.S. private sector networks. Business groups and federal intelligence agencies insist that information exchange is critical to protecting the nation’s cyber infrastructure. One of the hurdles to passing such a bill is that by 1 June, Congress must reauthorize sections of the Patriot Act which are the basis for the NSA’s most controversial surveillance programs. Many lawmakers consider NSA reform to be essential before they can support the White House’s cybersecurity proposal, which would allow cyber information sharing between the public and private sector.

  • Coastal infrastructureN.C. considering regulations to cope with sea-level rise

    Later this week, researchers peer-reviewing the latest draft report that investigates sea-level rise along North Carolina’s coast, will submit their comments to the state Coastal Resources Commission’s(CRC) Science Panel. The initial 2010 report faced criticism from climate change skeptics and some property developers who claimed the report’s 100-year outlook on sea-level rise was unrealistic. The new report looks at changes along the coast for a period of thirty years.

  • Coastal infrastructurePriorities for ocean science over next decade: Sea-level rise, geohazards

    A new report from the National Research Council identifies priority areas for ocean science research in the next decade, including the rate and impacts of sea-level rise, the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, greater understanding of marine food webs, and better approaches for forecasting hazards such as mega-earthquakes and tsunamis. The report also recommends that the National Science Foundation rebalance its funding for ocean science research, which in recent years has shifted toward research infrastructure at the expense of core science programs.

  • Coastal infrastructureMiami Beach to raise West Avenue in the face of sea-level rise

    City planners in Miami Beach will begin the first phase of a two-part project to raise West Avenue between 1.5 to two feet during the next few years in an effort to prepare the area in the face of sea-level rise. The project will coincide with stormwater drainage and sewer improvements which include installing more pumps to prevent flooding from rain and high tides.

  • InfrastructureBoston's aging pipes leak high levels of heat-trapping methane

    The aging system of underground pipes and tanks that delivers natural gas to Boston-area households and businesses leaks high levels of methane, with adverse economic, public health, and environmental consequences. Now a group of atmospheric scientists at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has produced hard numbers that quantify the extent of the problem.

  • WaterInvention slows water evaporation, generates energy

    A new technology offers a positive environmental impact by slowing the evaporation of water from bodies of water such as mining tailings ponds and reservoirs, while simultaneously generating solar energy. The invention, called Hexocover, consists of floating hexagonal plastic panels that sandwich 4-inch balls linked together to form a cover to prevent evaporation. The panel design addresses the need for mobility through the inclusion of a propulsion system as well as GPS, so the panels can be built to be remotely configurable. Further, when configured with solar cells, the panels can generate electricity.

  • EarthquakesFracking-induced tremors lead to changes in building codes, insurance rates

    For its upcoming National Seismic Hazard Map, used by engineers to update building and construction codes and by insurers to set policy rates, the U.S. Geological Survey(USGS) will take into account risks posed by induced or man-made earthquakes. For North Texas, where earthquakes are historically uncommon, an increase in earthquake risk is likely as the Dallas area has suffered more than 120 earthquakes since 2008. Scientists have attributed these earthquakes to nearby fracking operations.

  • InfrastructureEngineers develop world’s longest “flat pack” arch bridge

    Civil Engineers at Queen’s University Belfast in collaboration with pre-cast concrete specialists Macrete Ireland have developed the world’s longest “flat pack” arch bridge. Based on the FlexiArch system, the bridge is unique in that it will be transported to site in flat-pack form but when lifted, will transform under gravity into an arch. A FlexiArch bridge requires little maintenance and should last 300 years, compared to the projected lifespan of up to 120 years that accompanies a conventional bridge.

  • CybersecurityU.S.-U.K. cyber war games to test the two countries’ cyber resilience

    American and British security agencies have agreed to a new round of joint cyber “war games” to test each country’s cyber resilience. The move comes after a year of high profile cyberattacks against the U.S. private sector and after warnings from the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters that computer networks of British firms face daily attacks by hackers, criminal gangs, competitors, and foreign intelligence services.

  • CybersecurityMandatory cybersecurity regulations necessary to protect U.S. infrastructure: Experts

    Since last year’s cyberattacks made public the cyber vulnerabilities of major U.S. firms including Sony Entertainment, JPMorgan Chase, and Target, President Barack Obama has been on the offensive, proposing strict rules better to prosecute hackers and make U.S. firms responsible for protecting consumer information. Experts say, though, that private firms are unlikely, on their own, to make the necessary financial investment to protect against a critical infrastructure cyberattack. What is needed, these experts say, is a mandatory cybersecurity framework followed by all entities involved with critical infrastructure, strong protection of information regarding cyberattacks shared with DHS, and a sincere effort from the private sector to secure their own networks.

  • ResourcesChallenges for sustainability as many renewable resources max out

    The days of assuming natural resources can be swapped to solve shortages — corn for oil, soy for beef — may be over. An international group of scientists demonstrate that many key resources have peaked in productivity, pointing to the sobering conclusion that “renewable” is not synonymous with “unlimited.” The researchers examined renewable resources, such as corn, rice, wheat, or soy, which represent around 45 percent of the global calorie intake. They also reviewed fish, meat, milk, and eggs. The annual growth rate of eighteen of these renewable resources — for example, increase in meat production or fish catch — peaked around 2006.

  • CybersecurityCyber protection of DHS’s and other federal facilities is weak: GAO

    While most cybersecurity threats against government agencies tend to focus on network and computer systems, a growing number of access control systems, responsible for regulating electricity use, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), and the operation of secured doors and elevators are also vulnerable to hacking. .” GAO warns that despite the seriousness of the vulnerabilities, agencies tasked with securing federal facilities have not been proactive.

  • Louisiana wetlandsLouisiana governor seeks to uphold law blocking wetlands damages lawsuit

    Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R) has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Act 544, a law passed to block the wetlands damages lawsuit levied by the East Bank Levee Authority against more than eighty oil, gas, and pipeline companies for the damage their operations have inflicted on Louisiana wetlands. On 3 December of last year by the 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark declared the law unconstitutional.