• How Western Europe came to dominate the globe

    Although Europe represents only about 8 percent of the planet’s landmass, from 1492 to 1914, Europeans conquered or colonized more than 80 percent of the entire world. There are many possible explanations for why history played out this way, but few can explain why the West was so powerful for so long. Caltech’s Philip Hoffman, a professor of business economics and history, has a new explanation: the advancement of gunpowder technology. The Chinese invented gunpowder, but Hoffman argues that certain political and economic circumstances allowed the Europeans to advance gunpowder technology at an unprecedented rate — allowing a relatively small number of people quickly to take over much of the rest of the globe. What lessons does his explanation of the West’s rise to dominance offer for today’s policy makers? “In a world where there are hostile powers, we really don’t want to get rid of spending on improving military technology,” Hoffman says. “I would much rather see expenditures devoted to infrastructure, or scientific research, or free preschool for everybody – things that would carry big economic benefits,” and “I wish we did live in that world, but unfortunately it’s not realistic.”

  • Prepaid card reader helps law enforcement in seizing fraudulent cards

    During arrests of criminal couriers, law enforcement officers rarely find bundles of cash wrapped in rubber bands anymore. Instead, they find stacks of plastic cards — bank credit and debit cards, retail gift cards, library cards, hotel card keys, even magnetic-striped Metrorail cards — which have been turned into prepaid cards. DHS S&T’s Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) Prepaid Card Reader is a small, handheld device which uses wireless connectivity to allow law enforcement officers in the field to check the balance of cards. This allows for identification of suspicious prepaid cards and the ability to put a temporary hold on the linked funds until a full investigation can be completed.

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  • Wearable device helps medics save lives in disasters, on the battlefield

    The First Response Monitor is a wearable device designed to measure and monitor the vital signs of multiple trauma patients for emergency response in disasters and battlefield situations. The device has been primarily designed with first response medics in mass casualty incidents in mind, but it has applications in many other fields — such as civilian medicine where additional monitoring of conditions has benefit in patient outcomes, wellness monitoring, and within sports for training and performance monitoring.

  • New technology solves city pipelines leakage problem without excavation

    In Mexico City there are twenty-six thousand kilometers of water pipes and drainage, of which about 8,000 are useless, with risk of collapse and resulting cuts in service. The water pipes infrastructure of many other cities is not much better. A Mexican start-up has created a technology to renew piping without the need for excavation, ensuring it lasts fifty years, twice as long as traditional piping.

  • Inspired by bats, sensor technology detects dangerous structural cracks

    Researchers have developed an ultrasound sensor for detecting dangerous cracks in structures such as aircraft engines, oil, and gas pipelines, and nuclear plants. The device, known as a transducer, identifies structural defects with varying ultrasonic frequencies and overcomes the limits of other, similar devices, which are based on rigid structures and have narrow ranges. It is thought to be the first device of its kind in the world.

  • U.S. Navy champions unmanned systems over, on, and under the sea

    The presence of unmanned systems in the maritime military domain is growing, and the U.S. Navy has decided to make several organizational, and conceptual, changes in order to deal with unmanned systems in a more holistic fashion. Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier has been named the Navy’s first director of unmanned weapon systems, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in April that he would appoint a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems, “so that all aspects of unmanned — in all domains — over, on and under the sea and coming from the sea to operate on land — will be coordinated and championed.”

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  • Florida teens hold their own in challenging maritime robotics competitions

    For the past three years, Team S.S. Minnow from Florida – consisting of Nick Serle, 15, and Abby Butka, 14 – has been competing against some of the finest technical universities in the world via the SeaPerch, RoboSub, and RoboBoat robotic competitions, all cosponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). “I’ve seen Nick and Abby rise through these contests and become fierce competitors,” said Kelly Cooper, a program officer in ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. “It is success stories like theirs that motivate us to support these competitions.”

  • Space elevator technology granted U.S. patent

    Pembroke, Ontario-based space company Thoth Technology has been granted the United States patent for a space elevator. The space elevator is a freestanding space tower which is pneumatically pressurized and actively guided over its base. The company envisions a tower 20 km tall, which is more than twenty times the height of current tall structures. The space tower will be used for wind-energy generation, communications, and tourism.

  • Counter-drone technologies demonstrated at DoD’s Black Dart event

    Small, unmanned aircraft systems (UASs, aka UAVs, for unmanned aerial vehicle), or drones, are easy to obtain and launch and they are hard to detect on radar, making them of particular concern to law enforcement and the Department of Defense. Earlier this month DHS circulated an intelligence assessment to police agencies across the United States warning about drones being used as weapons in an attack. DOD says that Black Dart 2015, which began 26 July and ran through 7 August, is the Department of Defense’s largest live-fly, live-fire joint counter-UAS technology demonstration. One of the innovative developers of counter-UAS technologies is SRC Inc., a not-for-profit company formerly affiliated with Syracuse University. The company showed its SR Hawk surveillance radar, which is integral to its layered approach to defending against UASs.

  • DHS S&T licenses innovative communication technology to commercial partners

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) last week announced that it has licensed the Radio Internet-Protocol Communications Module (RIC-M) to two commercial partners. RIC-M, used by local, state, and federal responders, is a low-cost, external, stand-alone, interface device that connects radio frequency (RF) system base stations, consoles and other RF equipment — regardless of brand — over the Internet or Private Internet Protocol (IP) network.

  • Three new Engineering Research Centers to advance U.S. resiliency, sustainability

    The NSF awards $55.5 million for compact mobile power, off-grid water treatment, and nature-inspired soil engineering. The NSF says that innovations that improve the affordability, availability, quality, and resilience of infrastructure services will enhance the nation’s economic competitiveness and societal well-being.

  • Cars to harvest energy from bumps in the road

    The 255 million cars on the road in the United States account for 40 percent of the country’s fuel consumption. Most of that fuel is wasted. Engineers may have a partial solution: harvesting energy from the car’s suspension. Only 10 to 16 percent of the fuel a car consumes is actually used to drive — that is, to overcome road resistance and air drag. Most of the rest is lost to heat and other inefficiencies. With clever engineering, however, that deficit can be reduced. Three major opportunities exist for recovering or generating energy while driving: the waste heat given off by the engine, the kinetic energy absorbed during braking, and the vibrational energy dampened by the shock absorbers.

  • Students race robot submarines in RoboSub competition

    High school and college engineering students from across the globe competed for bragging rights and cash prizes at the 18th International RoboSub Competition, which wrapped up 26 July. The mission theme for this year’s contest played on the theme of the “Back to the Future,” movie trilogy. The individual autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) had to navigate and complete an obstacle course — with tasks like “check the flux capacitor” and “travel through the time portal” — without human or computer interaction by team members.

  • New 3-D camera technology to uncover hidden landmines

    It is estimated there are 110 million landmines buried across the world, with the potential to kill and maim innocent men, women, and children for decades to come. Yet landmine detection techniques have barely changed since the Second World War. The UN estimates that, using current technology, it would take more than 1,100 years to clear the estimated 110 million landmines situated in seventy countries. Researchers are exploring new landmine detection technologies.

  • Safer structures to withstand earthquakes, windstorms

    A new cyberinfrastructure effort funded by a $13.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help engineers build safer structures that can better withstand natural hazards such as earthquakes and windstorms. Researchers aim to build a software platform, data repository, and tools that will help the United States design more resilient buildings, levees, and other public infrastructure that could protect lives, property and communities.