Transportation

  • AviationBomb-proof lining contains explosion in aircraft’s luggage hold

    A bomb-proof lining developed by an international team of scientists has successfully contained blasts in a series of controlled explosions in the luggage hold of a Boeing 747 and an Airbus 321. The Fly-Bag, which lines an aircraft’s luggage hold with multiple layers of novel fabrics and composites, was tested last week under increasing explosive charges on disused planes. The tests, using this technology, have demonstrated that a plane’s luggage hold may be able to contain the force of an explosion should a device concealed within a passenger’s luggage be detonated during a flight.

  • HazmatLos Alamos National Laboratory’s annual Hazmat Challenge begins today

    Twelve hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Missouri, and Nebraska test their skills in a series of graded, timed exercises at the 19th annual Hazmat Challenge held 27-31 July at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The competition tests skills of hazardous materials response teams in responding to simulated hazardous materials emergencies involving an aircraft, clandestine laboratories, various modes of transportation, industrial piping scenarios, a simulated radiological release, and a confined space event.

  • CyberjackingHackers take remote control of a Jeep, forcing it into a ditch

    Security experts have called on owners of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicles to update their onboard software to make their vehicles better protected against hackers. The call comes after researchers demonstrated they could hack and take control of a Jeep over the Internet. The researchers disabled the engine and brakes and crashed the Jeep into a ditch – while the driver was sill behind the wheel.

  • Rail securitySensors can help railways detect, cope with electromagnetic attacks

    Eleven years ago the Madrid train bombings proved how much European railway security still needed to be improved. Now that rail equipment — like in most other industries — is increasingly standardized and connected, however, another, more insidious type of offensive has become likely: electromagnetic (EM) attacks. An EU-funded project has developed detection technologies that can help the sector face this new threat. Virginie Deniau, coordinator of the SECRET project, discusses the devices developed by her team to identify electromagnetic (EM) attacks as they occur so that operators can switch to a safe railway mode.

  • AviationCyberjacking may be the new threat to air travel

    We accept lengthy queues in airport security as a small price to pay for a couple of weeks in the sun. Could the latest threat to air travel, however, be something that cannot be picked up by metal detectors and X-ray machines? Is cyberjacking — hacking into a plane’s computer systems — a possibility? Researchers warn that it is possible. There is no need to cancel that holiday just yet, however.

  • Crude-by-railNew rail safety rule appears to allow railroad companies to keep oil shipment info secret

    Some railroad companies are arguing that a clause in a new federal rule meant to improve outdated tanker car designs, allows rail companies not to share shipment information publicly except for of emergency services personnel. Though the DOT acknowledged that there had been significant public demand for total transparency, the language in the final ruling was vague enough to allow for the hauler’s interpretation.

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  • AviationMH370 Boeing 777 nosedived to the ocean floor: Mathematicians

    The plight of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (MH370) is one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history, but now an interdisciplinary research team has theorized the ill-fated plane plunged vertically into the southern Indian Ocean in March 2014. The researchers used applied mathematics and computational fluid dynamics to conduct numerical simulations of a Boeing 777 plunging into the ocean, a so-called “water entry” problem in applied mathematics and aerospace engineering. They say that based on all available evidence — especially the lack of floating debris or oil spills near the area of the presumed crash — the mostly likely theory is that the plane entered the water at a vertical or steep angle.

  • Crude-by-railChicago, center of fracking oil shipments, debates rail safety

    Chicago is home to the busiest crossroads of the nation’s rail network, and the country’s boom in oil fracking has led the city to see not only a massive increase in crude oil transferred by rail in the region, but also debates about the public safety of such an influx. The Windy City has experienced a 4,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008, with many of the densely packed suburbs surrounding the city located very close to rail lines and switches.

  • AviationTSA failed to identify 73 employees potentially associated with terrorism

    The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) yesterday released a report on TSA’s controls over the vetting of aviation workers who apply for credentials allowing unescorted access to secured airport areas. The TSA repeatedly screens about two million airport workers, but OIG says that the agency failed to identify seventy-three workers potentially associated with terrorism. One reason for this slip: the DHS watch-list, against which the TSA checks airline and airport applicants and workers, is not as comprehensive as the government’s terrorist database. TSA says it will begin to check applicants and employees against the broader list by the end of the year.

  • Crude-by-railWashington State requires railroads to plan for the “largest foreseeable spill”

    Washington State governor Jay Inslee (D) has signed a new state law last month which requires railroad companies to plan with the state for the worst possible conditions when shipping crude oil. The law will require companies to plan for the “largest foreseeable spill in adverse weather conditions.” Much of the impetus for the new bill came after BNSF told Washington emergency responders in April that the company considers the worst-case spill scenario to involve 150,000 gallons of crude oil from the Bakken region, which includes parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan, Canada. That amount of crude is carried by five tanker cars — but BNSF crude-oil trains often consist of 100 or more rail tank cars.

  • AviationAirport screeners missed 95% of mock explosives, weapons in tests; TSA acting director removed

    Following reports that screenings failed to detect mock explosives and weapons, carried out by undercover agents in tests, in 95 percent of cases, DHS secretary Jeh Johnson has ordered improved security at airports and reassigned Melvin Carraway, acting administrator of the TSA, to another role. DHS IG, in a forthcoming report, says that airport screeners, employed by TSA, did not detect banned weapons in 67 out of 70 tests at dozens of U.S. airports.

  • AviationCould better tests have predicted the rare circumstances of the Germanwings crash? Probably not

    By Norman A. Paradis

    When people do terrible things, it seems reasonable to believe we should have taken steps to identify them beforehand. If we can do that, then surely we can prevent them from doing harm. The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in March, which appears to have been an intentional act, is an example. It shocks us (and understandably so) when a trusted professional harms those who have entrusted their lives to him or her. So why not identify pilots at risk and take steps to prevent similar events from ever occurring again? Because it is likely impossible, and maybe even counterproductive. The limits of what can be achieved in predicting an event represent a dilemma we face all the time in biomedical testing. It may be possible to prevent rare events such as the Germanwings tragedy — “smart” cockpit doors or some such technological solution. But predicting their occurrence by looking more closely at the individuals involved is doomed to fail.

  • DetectionBetter detection of diseases, fraudulent art, chemical weapons, and more

    From airport security detecting explosives to art historians authenticating paintings, society’s thirst for powerful sensors is growing. Given that, few sensing techniques can match the buzz created by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Discovered in the 1970s, SERS is a sensing technique prized for its ability to identify chemical and biological molecules in a wide range of fields. It has been commercialized, but not widely, because the materials required to perform the sensing are consumed upon use, relatively expensive and complicated to fabricate. That may soon change.

  • HackingA growing threat: Car hacking

    A string of high-profile hacks — the most recent on President Obama’s personal email account — have made cybercrime an ever-growing concern in the United States. Despite the publicity, most people still think of hacking as something which is done only to information systems like computers and mobile devices. In reality, hacking is no longer confined to the information world. The level of automation in modern physical systems means that even everyday automobiles are now vulnerable to hacking. Researchers are now looking into the growing threat of automotive hacking. “More and more in your everyday life you see that we’re automating physical systems,” one researcher says. “And unlike an information system, a physical system could kill you by accident.”

  • Crude-by-railUpdated crude oil regulation worries environmental groups, increases shipments

    Following several deadly explosions of oil-tanker railroad cars in towns across the United States and Canada in the past several years, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an emergency order that required railroads publicly to inform states of movements of 100 crude oil tanker cars or more as part of any single shipment. However, on 1 May the agency revised the order with a long-awaited rule which would require carriers to upgrade tanker cars instead of having to report the information, leading some to question the safety of the new ruling.