• These Dams Needed Replacing 15 Years Ago. Now Texas Will Drain Four Lakes Instead — Causing Other Problems.

    By Chase Karacostas

    Texas officials will start draining four lakes next week in Guadalupe County in Central Texas without a plan in place for when the lakes, and the 90-year-old dams that support them, will be rebuilt. Area homeowners, who got barely a month’s notice, said they felt blindsided by the plan, and they say it will slash their property values, kill their beloved century-old cypress trees and render the lakes — which have hosted water skiing tournaments for decades — unusable.

  • Faster, Smarter Security Screening Systems

    By now, attendees to sporting events, visitors to office buildings, and especially frequent fliers are all quite familiar with the technologies used at security checkpoints. You arrive at the security checkpoint, check your bags, show your ID and maybe your ticket or boarding pass, throw away the coffee or water you’ve been chugging, and then wait in a long line until it is your turn to be screened. The security lines can be inconvenient. S&T and partners are working to help security screening systems, whether at airports, government facilities, border checkpoints, or public spaces like arenas, to work faster and smarter.

  • Boosting Energy Security: Lessons from Post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico

    By Mariela Santos-Muñiz

    It took nearly a year for the government-run Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which is the only power company in Puerto Rico, to restore electricity throughout the island. This was the biggest and longest power outage in U.S. history.As scientists suggest that weather will probably become more extreme and weather-related natural disasters are likely to intensify in the coming decades,we can learn some valuable lessons from what Puerto Rico has gone through in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

  • Europe, U.S. Teaming up for Asteroid Deflection

    Asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from the U.S., Europe and around the world will gather in Rome next week to discuss the latest progress in their common goal: an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defense.

  • Want to Avoid Climate-Related Disasters? Try Moving

    By Peter Reuell

    The response to catastrophes — Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Michael — tended to be a defiant vow to rebuild, turn loss into lesson by making protective seawalls higher and stronger to hold back floods, or raising homes onto stilts to stay clear of the encroaching waves. To this, experts say, “Enough.” The time has come to consider a different path: retreat. Abandon areas prone to repeated disaster in favor of those that are safer and do so in a deliberate, thoughtful way.

  • Retreating from Rising Seas Isn’t a Win or a Defeat — It’s Reality

    “Managed retreat” is a controversial response to climate change. It’s the idea that communities and governments should be strategic about moving people away from areas that have become too waterlogged to live in safely. Retreating from coastlines and riversides might have once been considered unthinkable. But across the world, it’s already happening — in Australia, Colombia, Vietnam, and here in the United States. And Indonesia just found itself a new capital. The country’s president, Joko Widodo, announced on Monday that the new seat of government will be on the island of Borneo, hundreds of miles to the northeast of the current capital, Jakarta. The Java Sea threatens to swallow 95 percent of the city over the next 30 years.

  • DHS Seeks Standards for “Smart City” Sensors, Starting in St. Louis

    The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate is kicking off a pilot program that will test the integration of smart city technologies in St. Louis, Missouri. Working in collaboration with the city and the Open Geospatial Consortium, agency insiders will use the pilot to research, design and assess Homeland Security’s Smart City Interoperability Reference Architecture, or SCIRA.

  • Better Support Column Design to Help Bridges to Withstand Earthquakes

    Bridges make travel faster and more convenient, but, in an earthquake, these structures are subject to forces that can cause extensive damage and make them unsafe. Researchers are investigating the performance of hybrid sliding-rocking (HSR) columns. HSR columns provide the same support as conventional bridge infrastructure columns but are more earthquake-resistant.

  • Helping Structures Better Withstand Earthquakes, Wind, and Fire

    NIST is awarding more than $6.6 million to fund research into improving disaster resilience. Eleven organizations will receive 12 grants to conduct research into how earthquakes, wind and fire affect the built environment to inform building designs, codes and standards to help those structures better withstand such hazards.

  • How to Measure Cybersecurity

    Many experts agree that there are no universally recognized, generally accepted metrics by which to measure and describe cybersecurity improvements, and that, as a result, decision-makers are left to make choices about cybersecurity implementation based on qualitative measures rather than quantitative ones. Robert Taylo argues that the “search for quantitative metrics and dismissal of qualitative metrics ignores the dynamic nature of the challenge of ensuring cybersecurity, as well as the critical role of processes and procedures. Cybersecurity is a matter not just of the equipment and tools in place but also of how the equipment and tools are used by people, and how the organization ensures that the equipment and tools and methods of use are kept up to date. Qualitative measures that are discernible and reproducible are and will continue to be essential in helping to guide sound investment and operational decisions.”

  • Governments Mull “Managed Retreat” of Coastal Towns Before Rising Seas Claim Them

    More and more governments around the world are advised by experts to prepare to make a “managed retreat” from coasts as sea levels rise because of climate change. Scientists say that a decision to leave the coasts should not be “seen largely as a last resort, a failure to adapt, or a one-time emergency action.” Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity to build better communities away from the rising waters.

  • A Cyberattack Could Wreak Destruction Comparable to a Nuclear Weapon

    By Jeremy Straub

    People around the world may be worried about nuclear tensions rising, but I think they’re missing the fact that a major cyberattack could be just as damaging – and hackers are already laying the groundwork. The threat of a new nuclear arms race is serious – but the threat of a cyberattack could be as serious, and is less visible to the public. So far, most of the well-known hacking incidents, even those with foreign government backing, have done little more than steal data. Unfortunately, there are signs that hackers have placed malicious software inside U.S. power and water systems, where it’s lying in wait, ready to be triggered.

  • Whaley Bridge Dam Collapse Is a Wake-up Call: Concrete Infrastructure Will Not Last Forever Without Care

    By Mohammad Heidarzadeh

    Torrential rain in the Midlands and North of England that saw half a month’s rain fall in one day caused such volumes of water to pass through the spillway of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam, above the town of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, that the protective concrete facing was damaged – badly enough to put the dam at risk of a full collapse. It is clear from data of dam failures in the UK and worldwide that the most common cause is overtopping of the dam due to the spillway’s inadequate capacity to discharge floodwaters, due to damage or design. The lesson from Whaley Bridge dam is that the maintenance of dam spillways cannot be ignored – in any circumstances or at any cost.

  • When the Lights Went Out: On Blackouts and Terrorism

    When the Northeast Blackout of 2003 killed electricity to more than 50 million people in the United States and Canada, the FBI, like many in New York who were still reeling from the September 11, 2001 attacks, shared these concerns. Just the previous year the agency concluded that terrorists were studying weaknesses in power grids. Meanwhile, groups across the country had been preparing for and speculating about doomsday scenarios — scenarios that the first moments of the 2003 blackout mimicked to a disquieting degree.

  • The World's Aging Dams Are Not Built for Ever More Extreme Weather

    The town of Whaley Bridge in the UK has had to be evacuated after damage to a dam built in 1831. The Toddbrook Reservoir is just one of many ageing dams worldwide not designed for ever more extreme rainfall as the planet warms. Dams are typically designed to cope with a so-called 1-in-100-year flood event. But as the world warms the odds of extreme rainfall are changing, meaning the risk of failure is far greater. Engineers have been warning for years that many old dams around the world are already unsafe and need upgrading or dismantling.