• Sucking up oil spills is a cinch

    Cleaning up oil spills is a time consuming, difficult process, but a novel approach uses a new kind of vacuum cleaner that blows bark or other absorbent material onto oil spills, and then sucks the material up again. The vacuum cleaner is four times more efficient in cleaning up after oil accidents than conventional techniques

  • GWU earthquake simulator helps engineering prepare for the real thing

    George Washington University laboratory’s “shake table” — a $1 million, 10-by-10-foot metal structure that moves in six directions — replicates earthquakes and allows engineering students to test construction materials to see how they hold up under tremors of varying strength

  • New Orleans levee committee uneasy with Corps of Engineers modeling

    The Army Corps of Engineers uses complex computer models for hazard analysis calculations on which billions of dollars worth of repairs and improvements to the federal hurricane levee system are being based; the members of the regional levee commission want their own expert to scrutinize these computer models

  • Research to help reduce coastal flooding

    According to the Environment Agency’s Flooding in England Report, one in six homes in the United Kingdom are at risk from flooding, and 2.4 million properties are vulnerable to coastal/river floods; coastal areas could be saved from the misery of flooding thanks to new research from the University of Plymouth

  • Impact: Earth! Web site calculates asteroid impact effects on Earth

    Purdue University researchers unveils the Impact Earth! Web site; the site allows visitors to use a calculator to calculate the potential damage a comet or asteroid would cause if it hit the Earth; visitors enter parameters such as the diameter of the impact object, its density, velocity, angle of entry, and where it will hit the Earth, and the site estimates the consequences of its impact, including the atmospheric blast wave, ground shaking, size of tsunami generated, fireball expansion, distribution of debris, and size of the crater produced

  • Protecting the grid from solar storm-induced blackouts

    Since the beginning of the Space Age the total length of high-voltage power lines crisscrossing North America has increased nearly ten fold; this has turned power grids into giant antennas for solar storm-induced currents; with demand for power growing even faster than the grids themselves, modern networks are sprawling, interconnected, and stressed to the limit — a recipe for trouble

  • Landslide detector developed

    A new detector — thought to be the first system of its kind in the world — works by measuring and analyzing the acoustic behavior of soil to establish when a landslide is imminent so preventative action can be taken; noise created by movement under the surface builds to a crescendo as the slope becomes unstable, so gauging the increased rate of generated sound enables accurate prediction of a catastrophic soil collapse

  • Geologists warn of warming-induced landslides flattening cities

    There are 39 cities around the world with populations greater than 100,000 — and an untold number of smaller towns and villages — which are situated within 100 kilometers of a volcano that has collapsed in the past and which may, therefore, be capable of collapsing in the future; thinning glaciers on volcanoes could destabilize vast chunks of summit cones, triggering mega-landslides capable of flattening cities such as Seattle and devastating local infrastructure

  • NIST data enabling evacuation planning of high-rise buildings

    NIST researchers made video recordings of evacuation drills in stairwells at nine buildings ranging in height from six to sixty-two stories tall; the drills are part of a wide-ranging study to track the movement of people on stairs during high-rise building evacuation; the data sets created will ensure that architects, engineers, emergency planners, and others involved in building design have a strong technical basis for safer, more cost-effective building evacuations

  • With rising sea levels, the time for adapting is now

    Coastal development has accelerated over the past fifty years; many of the world’s megacities are situated at the coast and new infrastructure worth billions of dollars is being constructed; these developments assume that the stable sea levels of the past several millennia will continue — but this assumption is no longer true

  • Ocean-landing asteroid will create huge ozone holes

    To date, 818 asteroids that are at least 1-km wide have been discovered on orbits that could take them close to Earth; if a 1-km wide asteroid were to land in the ocean, it would create a big splash, throwing 42 trillion kilograms of water and vapor — enough to fill sixteen million Olympic-sized swimming pools — across an area more than 1,000 kilometers wide and up to hundreds of kilometers above the Earth’s surface; this will result in the destruction of the ozone layer above the Earth’s atmosphere, exposing humans, animals, and plants to civilization-threatening levels of UV radiation

  • Hurricane-proof data center built inside 770,000 gallon water tank

    The city of Altamonte Springs, Florida decided that the best protection against downtimes caused by hurricanes is to build the city’s data center inside a 770,000 gallon water tank; the dome-shaped tank offered 8-inch-thick walls of reinforced concrete and was situated only 100 feet from City Hall

  • Large parts of the world are drying up

    The soils in large areas of the Southern Hemisphere, including major portions of Australia, Africa, and South America, have been drying up in the past decade as a result of intensified “evapotranspiration” — the movement of water from the land to the atmosphere

  • Giant blimps to ferry hospitals, buildings to disaster zones

    Giant airship will be able to lift up to 150 tons — more than seven times the weight that helicopters are able to carry; the airship, which will be able to move aid — or even portable hospitals and entire buildings — to remote areas or disaster zones, harnesses aerostatic lift, meaning it is able to fly using lighter-than-air (LTA) gases that keep it buoyant rather than aerodynamic lift

  • California prepares for the Big One

    The scientific community in California is growing more and more wary of the potential for a major seismic event since the last that occurred was in 1857; a recent study projected that there was a 99 percent chance that a 6.7 magnitude earthquake would strike somewhere in California during the next thirty years