Infrastructure

  • Recession-related cost measures blamed for U.S. infrastructure lagging development

    In an alarming fall, the United States is currently ranked 19th in the quality of its infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Additionally, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the country a D+ on its annual Infrastructure Report Card, arguing that $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 for maintenance and upgrades.

  • Connecticut preparing for sea level rise, adapting to climate change

    Earlier this year the University of Connecticut announced the creation of the Institute for Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation. the Institute is designed to increase the resilience and sustainability of vulnerable communities and individuals along Connecticut’s coast and inland waterways as they are affected by the growing impact of climate change on the environment.

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  • Connecting dead ends increases power grid stability

    Climate change mitigation strategies such as the German Energiewende – the post-Fukushima German policy of phasing out nuclear power — require linking vast numbers of new power generation facilities to the grid. As the input from many renewable sources is rather volatile, depending on how much the wind blows or the sun shines, there is a higher risk of local power instabilities and eventually blackouts. Scientists now employed a novel concept from nonlinear systems analysis called basin stability to tackle this challenge.

  • Six more bugs found in popular OpenSSL security tool

    OpenSSL is a security tool that provides facilities to other computer programs to communicate securely over the public Internet. OpenSSL is also used in some common consumer applications, such as software in Google’s Android smartphones. So when the Heartbleed vulnerability in OpenSSL was discovered and widely publicized in April this year, system administrators had to rush to update their systems to protect against it. Computer system administrators around the world are groaning again as six new security problems have been found in the OpenSSL security library.

  • Security guard industry lacks standards, training

    Despite playing a more important role in the wake of 9/11, the security guard industry remains plagued by inadequate training and standards in many states, new study of the $7 billion-a-year industry finds. Formal training of the nation’s one million-plus private security officers is widely neglected, a surprising finding when contrasted with other private occupations such as paramedics, childcare workers, and even cosmetologists.

  • Nationwide effort launched to weather-harden Canadian cities

    The frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events in Canada — from the floods in Southern Alberta and Toronto to the December ice storm in Central and Eastern Canada — are increasing, causing billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure, businesses and homeowners. Intact Financial Corporation and the University of Waterloo announced a national initiative involving the implementation of twenty climate change adaptation projects designed to reduce the physical, financial, and social impacts of extreme weather events in Canada.

  • It is almost certain there are aliens out there, but can we find the money to find them?

    UC Berkley Professor Dan Werthimer last month updated members of the House Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology on the search for extraterrestrial life, and provided a generally upbeat evaluation: ET microbial life likely is ubiquitous throughout the galaxy, and new technologies have improved the chances of detecting signals from advanced alien civilizations.

  • Adm. Michael Rogers: Businesses must “own” cybersecurity threats

    Cybersecurity threats are a vital issue for the nation, and like the Defense Department, businesses must own the problem to successfully carry out their missions, DOD’s top cybersecurity expert told a forum of businesspeople.

  • Better building design, maintenance would cut building sector’s emissions by around 80%

    The construction industry, which uses half of the 1.5 billion tons of steel produced each year, could slash its carbon emissions by as much as 50 percent by optimizing the design of new buildings, which currently use double the amount of steel and concrete required by safety codes. If buildings are also maintained for their full design life and not replaced early, the sector’s emissions could in total be cut by around 80 percent.

  • DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge aims to see fully automated network security systems developed

    There is an increasingly serious cybersecurity problem: the inadequacy of current network security systems, which require expert programmers to identify and repair system weaknesses — typically after attackers have taken advantage of those weaknesses to steal data or disrupt processes. Such disruptions pose greater risks than ever as more and more devices, including vehicles and homes, get networked in what has become known as “the Internet of things.” DARPA is addressing this problem, with teams from around the world starting a two-year track toward the world’s first tournament of fully automated network security systems. Computer security experts from academia, industry, and the larger security community have organized themselves into more than thirty teams to compete in DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge — first-of-its-kind tournament designed to speed the development of automated security systems able to defend against cyberattacks as fast as they are launched.

  • Roots of Trust research focuses on protecting cyber physical systems

    “Roots of Trust” refers to a set of security functions in a device or system, which are implicitly trusted by the device’s operating system and applications, and which constitute the foundation for security. The Cyber Security Research Alliance (CSRA) the other day said it will prioritize research in Roots of Trust for cyber physical systems (CPS), to help address growing cyber security threats to public and private critical infrastructure.

  • New material captures CO2 at natural gas wellheads

    Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel. Development of cost-effective means to separate carbon dioxide during the production process will improve this advantage over other fossil fuels and enable the economic production of gas resources with higher carbon dioxide content that would be too costly to recover using current carbon capture technologies. Rice University chemists invented a porous material which sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead, and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

  • Federal oversight of ammonium nitrate exceedingly weak

    A new Government Accountability Office(GAO) report found that the federal government has no way of fully knowing which chemical facilities stockammonium nitrate, a widely used fertilizer which was the cause of the explosion last year at a West, Texas fertilizer plan, which resulted in the death of fourteen people – and which was used by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City twenty years ago. Poor data sharing with states, outdated federal policies, and numerous industry exemptions have contributed to a weak federal oversight. Without improved monitoring, regulators “will not know the extent to which dangerous conditions at some facilities may continue to exist,’’ the GAO report said.

  • Santa Monica to require retrofit of earthquake-vulnerable buildings

    Last week, the Santa Monica City Councilauthorized city officials to hire engineering consultants to help identify buildings built before 1996 which could potentially be at risk in a major earthquake.. Owners of vulnerable buildings would be notified and provided recommendations on how to best retrofit their buildings to make them more resilient. Santa Monica will become the first city in California to require retrofitting for concrete, steel, and wood-frame. San Francisco last year required similar retrofitting, but only for wood apartment buildings.

  • Hurricanes with female names deadlier than male-named storms

    In the coming Atlantic hurricane season, watch out for hurricanes with benign-sounding names like Dolly, Fay, or Hanna. According to a new study, hurricanes with feminine names are likely to cause significantly more deaths than hurricanes with masculine names, apparently because storms with feminine names are perceived as less threatening.