Infrastructure

  • Using sound waves to spot cracks in pipes, aircraft engines, and nuclear power plants

    Researchers have developed a system for using sound waves to spot potentially dangerous cracks in pipes, aircraft engines, and nuclear power plants. The system is a model for a form of non-destructive testing (NDT), which uses high-frequency mechanical waves to inspect structure parts, and ensure they operate reliably, without compromising their integrity. It will be developed further and could potentially also have applications in medical imaging and seismology.

  • Some African storms intensify into Hurricanes – but which ones?

    Hurricanes require moisture, the rotation of the earth, and warm ocean temperatures to grow from a mere atmospheric disturbance into a tropical storm. Where do these storm cells originate, however, and exactly what makes an atmospheric disturbance amp up full throttle? Researchers found that most hurricanes over the Atlantic which eventually make landfall in North America actually start as intense thunderstorms in Western Africa. The finding has important implications for forecasts. “If we can predict a hurricane one or two weeks in advance — the entire lifespan of a hurricane — imagine how much better prepared cities and towns can be to meet these phenomena head on,” says one of the researchers.

  • Likelihood of Calif.’s Big One within next 30 years higher than previously thought: USGS

    The U.S. Geological Surveypredicts a 7 percent chance of a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake hitting California within the next thirty years. This is up from 4.7 percent from the last forecast. The reason for the increased estimate is due to better understanding of how different faults are connected.The new forecasts are not meant to startle the average citizen, but property developers and homeowners should be informed. City planners will consider these predictions when forming new building codes and the California Earthquake Authority will use the predictions to evaluate insurance premiums.

  • People in coastal zones in Asia, Africa are most vulnerable to sea-level rise

    The number of people potentially exposed to future sea level rise and associated storm surge flooding may be highest in low-elevation coastal zones in Asia and Africa, according to new projections. The researchers assessed future population changes by the years 2030 and 2060 in the low-elevation coastal zone and estimated trends in exposure to 100-year coastal floods. The number of people living in the low-elevation coastal zone, as well as the number of people exposed to flooding from 100-year storm surge events, was highest in Asia. China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Viet Nam had the largest numbers of coastal population per country and accounted for more than half of the total number of people living in low-elevation coastal zones.

  • Boston prepares for life with rising sea levels

    A 2013 World Bank studylisted only seven cities in the world as more vulnerable to flooding than Boston. The other American cities are Miami, New York, New Orleans, and Tampa. Faced with the prospect of having a significant portion of the city underwater, city officials and private developers have launched a competition to redesign Boston for the year 2100, with the assumption that sea levels will be five feet higher than they are today. The Living With Watercompetition looks to prove that the future of Boston can coexist with rising sea levels.

  • Geologists: Popular Irish tourism hotspot “slowly drowning”

    Geologists have found evidence that Connemara, described by Discover Ireland, a tourism body, as one of the country’s “most iconic destinations,” is slipping under the sea.”It’s certain that the sea has encroached considerably onto the land around Galway Bay since the ice melted…and that the strange, watery landscape is indeed being shaped by a slow drowning”of Connemara, said Jonathan Wilkins, a geologist with the Earth Science Ireland (ESI) group.

  • Controlling the adverse effects of radiation could change nuclear fuel

    The adverse effects of radiation on nuclear fuel could soon be better controlled. Researchers have studied how specific properties of materials involved in nuclear energy production, and their performance, can change their response to radiation. In particular, the other researchers looked at actinide materials — which include well-known elements like uranium and thorium — and their response to highly ionizing radiation.

  • Derailments, ruptures of new crude-oil tank cars raise safety concerns

    Following a series of crude-oil train derailments in 2013 and early 2014, the Transportation Department proposed new rules for tank cars carrying crude. The rules suggest three main options for tank cars: railroads would use the improved CPC-1232 tank cars, develop stronger cars, or retrofit existing cars. Critics of the rail industry’s growing volume of crude-oil shipments note that four recent oil train derailments relied on CPC-1232 cars, therefore improvements to crude by rail shipments must extend beyond new tank cars.

  • Oklahoma warns insurers not to deny claims for man-made-earthquake damage

    Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak is warning insurers about the practice by some insurance companies to exclude “man-made” earthquakes from their policies without clear intent. Some companies are marking quakes caused by waste water injection wells — or “fracking” — as “man-made” and therefore outside of the scope of coverage of policies. This denial of coverage follows a dramatic increase of tremors in the state since 2013. The increase in fracking activity in the state has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of earthquakes: Last year, the Oklahoma Geological Survey identified 567 tremors at or above a 3.0 magnitude, the point at which such quakes can be felt by humans and cause property damage.

  • Cyber researchers need to predict, not merely respond to, cyberattacks: U.S. intelligence

    The Office of the Director of National Intelligence wants cybersecurity researchers to predict cyberattacks rather than just respond to them, according to the agency’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) program. Current cyber defense methods such as signature-based detection “haven’t adequately enabled cybersecurity practitioners to get ahead of these threats,” said Robert Rahmer, who leads IARPA’s Cyber-attack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment (CAUSE) program. “So this has led to an industry that’s really invested heavily in analyzing the effects or symptoms of cyberattacks instead of analyzing [and] mitigating the cause.”

  • Bio-inspired analysis helps in recognizing, characterizing evolving cyberthreats

    Our reliance on cyber systems permeates virtually every aspect of national infrastructure. The volume of network traffic data generated has outpaced our ability effectively analyze it fast enough to prevent many forms of network-based attacks. In most cases new forms of attacks cannot be detected with current methods. The MLSTONES methodology leverages technologies and methods from biology and DNA research — LINEBACkER applies the MLSTONES methodology to the problem of discovering malicious sequences of traffic in computer networks. LINEBACkER allows cyber security analysts quickly to discover and analyze behaviors of interest in network traffic to enhance situational awareness, enable timely responses, and facilitate rapid forensic and attribution analysis.

  • FAA should address weaknesses in air traffic control systems: GAO

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken steps to protect its air traffic control systems from cyber-based and other threats, but significant security control weaknesses remain, threatening the agency’s ability to ensure the safe and uninterrupted operation of the national airspace system (NAS), the GAO says in a new report. The GAO report says that FAA also did not fully implement its agency-wide information security program.

  • Sea level rise causing changes in ocean tide levels, tidal ranges

    Scientists have found that ocean tides have changed significantly over the last century at many coastal locations around the world. Increases in high tide levels and the tidal range were found to have been similar to increases in average sea level at several locations.

  • North Korea’s cyber warriors target Western critical infrastructure

    North Korea has a team of roughly 3,000 cyber soldiers dedicated to launching attacks at Western interests in the private and government sector, according to Kim Heung-gwang, a former professor at North Korea’s Hamhung University of Computer Technology, a key military training facility. Heung-gwang, urging Western governments to do more to counter North Korean hacking, said the country’s hackers are targeting Western nuclear power plants, transportation networks, and electrical utilities.

  • Drones to help assess post-disaster infrastructure damage

    Drones can be used for a number of applications including civilian and military purposes. Monitoring and surveillance are two of the biggest uses for drones. Now, researchers are utilizing similar technology to develop an operational prototype that will use innovative remote sensing approaches and cameras mounted on low cost aircraft or unmanned drones to detect and map fine scale transportation infrastructure damage such as cracks, deformations, and shifts immediately following natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. The researchers hope the technology becomes the new, Department of Transportation approach to monitoring infrastructure after natural disasters.