• Planetary securityNuclear weapons might save the world from an asteroid strike – but we need to change the law first

    By James A. Green

    The schlocky 1998 Bruce Willis movie Armageddon was the highest grossing film of that year. The blockbuster saw a master oil driller (Willis) and an unlikely crew of misfits place a nuclear bomb inside a giant asteroid heading for Earth, blow it up – and save humanity. Armageddon isn’t exactly a documentary: it’s packed full of sci-fi nonsense. But, 20 years on, its basic plot – of using a nuclear explosion to avert a cataclysmic asteroid collision – doesn’t seem quite as silly as it did at the time.

  • Planetary securityCelestial menace: Defending Earth from asteroids

    Incoming asteroids have been scarring our home planet for billions of years. This month humankind left our own mark on an asteroid for the first time: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft dropped a copper projectile at very high speed in an attempt to form a crater on asteroid Ryugu. A much bigger asteroid impact is planned for the coming decade, involving an international double-spacecraft mission.

  • Planetary securityDefending the Earth from asteroids

    A mere 17-20 meters across, the Chelyabinsk meteor caused extensive ground damage and numerous injuries when it exploded on impact with Earth’s atmosphere in February 2013. To prevent another such impact, researchers use a simple yet ingenious way to spot these tiny near-Earth objects (NEOs) as they hurtle toward the planet.

  • CybersecurityThere’s a massive cybersecurity job gap – we should fill it by employing hackers

    By John McAlaney and Helen Thackray

    Cybersecurity incidents are gaining an increasingly high profile. These attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, using psychological manipulation as well as technology. To face these challenges, society needs cybersecurity professionals who can protect systems and mitigate damage. There is already an active population with a strong passion for cybersecurity – hackers.

  • DetectorsNew sensors can sense and sort troublesome gases

    From astronauts and submariners to miners and rescue workers, people who operate in small, enclosed spaces need good air quality to work safely and effectively. Newly developed electronic sensors can simultaneously detect at least three critical parameters that are important to monitor to ensure human comfort and safety.

  • Space weatherAccurately predicting harmful space weather’s “killer” electrons

    A new space weather model reliably predicts space storms of high-energy particles that are harmful to many satellites and spacecraft orbiting in the Earth’s outer radiation belt. The model can accurately give a one-day warning prior to a space storm of ultra-high-speed electrons, often referred to as “killer” electrons because of the damage they can do to spacecraft such as navigation, communications, and weather monitoring satellites.

  • Urban floodingPredicting, understanding urban flooding

    Flooding is the natural hazard with the greatest economic and social impact on the population of the United States. Urban flooding is a complex and distinct kind of flooding, compounded by land use and high population density, and it requires a different approach to assess and manage.

  • Coastal risksOwners of unprotected coastal homes don’t rush to retrofit

    Many coastal homes have significant structural vulnerabilities that leave homeowners and their homes largely unprotected from storms. Additionally, the majority of coastal homeowners have little to no intention of reducing these structural vulnerabilities, even though they live in areas frequently affected by damaging hurricanes and flooding.

  • VolcanoesDriving force of volcanic super-hazards uncovered

    Volcanologists have discovered the driving force behind superheated gas-and-ash clouds from volcanic eruptions, which may help save lives and infrastructure around the globe. Endangering 500 million people worldwide, pyroclastic density currents (or pyroclastic flows) are the most common and lethal volcanic threat, causing 50 percent of fatalities caused  by volcanic activity.

  • Grid securityPredicting impacts of extreme events on grids

    A new, free, open-source software reliably predicts how damage from hurricanes, ice storms, earthquakes, and other extreme events will restrict power delivery from utility grids. The Severe Contingency Solver for Electric Power Transmission is the only software available—commercially or open-source—that reliably supports analysis of extreme events that cause widespread damage.

  • Climate mitigationA how-to guide for climate-proof cities

    Traditionally, Maurepas Swamp serves as a natural barrier against flooding that threatens New Orleans each year. Native flora soaks up the rainfall, spreading it across a network of cypress roots and cattail. But centuries of logging and canal construction have drastically altered the swamp’s ecological composition. The Mississippi levee system compounded the issue, isolating the swamp from vital sources of fresh water and nutrients. Flooded with saltwater, much of the existing cypress withered and died. Young trees, now, are few and scattered.

  • Rising seasMelting glaciers causing sea levels to rise at ever faster pace

    Melting ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic as well as ice melt from glaciers all over the world are causing sea levels to rise. Glaciers alone lost more than 9,000 billion tons of ice since 1961, raising water levels by 27 millimeters.

  • China syndromeNagging security concerns over using Huawei’s tech in Europe

    New report urges NATO members to look to emulate Britain, which created an entire government office to scrutinize Huawei’s products for security problems.

  • China syndromeBigger than Huawei: U.S. broadens scrutiny of Chinese technology

    A flurry of seemingly disconnected actions by the U.S. government to curb the involvement of Chinese technology firms in the U.S. economy over the past year reflects the Trump administration’s intensifying concern that those firms could — now or in the future — abet espionage by Beijing’s intelligence services.

  • Grid securityAI automatically detects disturbances in power supply grids

    The grid is changing as the big, centralized providers of the past are replaced by smaller, distributed suppliers. Keeping such complex networks running stable requires high-resolution sensor technology – AI provides a way to make accurate predictions and automatically detect any disturbances or anomalies in real time.