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It depends on how deep you look into the DNA, according to new research.
Every explosion is an event rich with data. The challenge is capturing that fleeting and violent information and rendering it sterile and useful. Announced in February, the US Army has a new tool to better capture the data from explosions, at least from practice battlefields.
The trajectory of a bomb, the scattered patterns of its shrapnel, the peculiar shape of its crater, even the holes it tears into the body armor of a person unfortunate enough to be nearby—every part of the aftermath is information, if only it can be recorded.
The novel tool collecting this information is dubbed the Fragmentation Rapid Analysis Generator using Computed Tomography (FRAG-CT). It is designed to streamline the collection and analysis of explosion data, and then create useful files for further research, Lisa King-Schiappa, the lead of the team that designed FRAG-CT for the Army’s Development Command, said in a statement.
With better, faster analysis, the Army can use that information to design new armor—and new bombs.
What is FRAG-CT, and how does it work?
The FRAG-CT method creates a data file of the bombs’ “fragmentation characteristics,” as well as a data file that can be used to design armor. In addition, it creates 3D files of each scanned fragment, which can be used in future analysis. Most notably, the Army claims that this analysis process is 200 times faster than collecting data by hand, allowing analysis time to shrink from “months to hours.”
Presently, classifying debris and shrapnel from deliberately set explosions is a massive, labor-intensive process.
A manual from the Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board called “Procedures for the Collection, Analysis, and Interpretation of Explosion-Produced Debris” outlines exactly how much work goes into the traditional hand-cataloging method. This collection includes plotting out where each piece of debris falls, weighing it, describing its origin, and more.
It is not yet clear how, exactly, FRAG-CT will reduce the work of picking up and weighing individual debris pieces. The software as described can take in multiple data inputs, suggesting it would work with sensors and cameras.
How will it help the Army?
A better understanding of explosions can improve the design of both munitions and armor.
“Warhead development is an iterative process from design to prototype to testing and back to design,” Henry Hsieh, a mechanical engineer in the DEVCOM Armament Center, said in the press release. “This process is often cost prohibitive due to the time and labor required to collect and analyze vast amounts of data after a destructive warhead event. With this technology in place, warhead developers can rapidly and confidently design munitions adapted for our next generation of warfighters.”
Warhead design combines material science with a strong drive towards space efficiency. For a bomb to be useful, it needs to remain inert until deliberately armed, it needs to cause an explosion of a useful size, and it ideally uses the minimum amount of material to make all that work. After-effect analysis can let engineers know how much of the case was burnt in the blast, how much launched outward as shrapnel, and what sort of damage the blast caused. This can be applied to every kind of blast, from a grenade to an artillery round or a plane-dropped bomb.
Understanding the exact impact of a bomb on its surroundings, in useful detail and easily processed data, can also improve the design of armor.
[Related: U.S. Army contemplates 3D-printed warheads]
Mike Maffeo is a senior engineer with DECOM who works on armor design for soldiers on foot. He said: “FRAG‐CT looks to be a real game changer in getting new fragment files quickly for armor assessment and vulnerability analysis. With all the data that is being collected by FRAG‐CT, it opens opportunities to increase the fidelity of the modeling and analysis.”
Much like modeling improves the ability of the Army to design new explosives, it also improves the ability of the Army to design armor resistant to new explosions. Maffeo continued: “Some of these newer munitions have asymmetric (non‐symmetric) burst patterns that are difficult to model without the right data. FRAG‐CT should allow us to get this type of data quickly.”
For now, the application of FRAG-CT seems limited to tester exercises and controlled explosions, rather than actual in-field analysis. But, using software to shorten the time it takes to understand a blast will improve weapon and armor design now, and likely suggests that future data analysis tools could see use beyond the laboratory setting.
The new rules could force Apple and Google to allow alternative payment options, an issue at the center of Apple and Google’s lawsuits with Epic.
A review of the open source code shows an account under the executive’s name made a mistake that could lead to the kind of breach reported this weekend.
This story originally featured on Field & Stream.
A Massachusetts doctor may have discovered a shot that will prevent Lyme disease in humans. The drug received federal approval from the Food and Drug Administration to be tested on people at the end of 2020. The Phase 1 clinical trial on 66 human subjects began last week. If effective, the shot will be available in the Spring of 2023.
Mark Klempner of Massachusetts Biologics at the UMASS Medical School has been working on a cure for Lyme disease for a decade. With tick-related illnesses increasing in the eastern half of the country and on the rise in the Midwest, the state of Massachusetts invested $1 million in Klempner’s research. The doctor created a “pre-exposure prophylaxis” (PrEP) that delivers anti-Lyme antibodies directly to a patient. PrEPs are unlike vaccines, which trigger the patient’s immune system to produce antibodies. Instead, PrEPs supply antibodies directly. The shot would kill the bacteria from a tick bite before a person would be infected. Patients would need to be inoculated every year as the shot’s effectiveness would last for nine months.
Lincoln, Nebraska, was selected as the test site. Lyme disease is relatively uncommon in that state, which means that scientists can more easily prove that the Lyme bacteria was introduced in the lab as opposed to being contracted by a previous infection. The initial testing likely will extend through an entire tick season, or through the end of the year.
The withdrawal of a Lyme vaccine that once was publicly available fast-tracked the study. Klempner says “Since we understood the mechanism of protection there, we were able to go right after the molecule that we thought would be productive. The clinical trial is finally here, we started it, and it’s a novel way to approach prevention of Lyme Disease, and we’re highly hopeful it will be safe and effective.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Lyme disease may infect nearly a half-million Americans each year.
Ecology, like many areas of science, has a long way to go before it is truly inclusive and equitable, a new study reiterates. The research, published on March 1 in the open-access journal Conservation Letters, found that male researchers in predominantly wealthy countries have a severely bloated footprint in the major ecology journals.
“We are facing global challenges with the global climate and biodiversity crisis,” says lead author Bea Maas, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Vienna. “And we are very aware that we need global perspectives to address these challenges.”
The scientists looked at 13 well-known journals in ecology and conservation to find out who the top authors—the people who published the highest number of papers—were. Those scientists are often the ones who end up in institutional leadership positions, says coauthor Richard Primack, a biologist at Boston University. Using data from Web of Science, the researchers pinpointed the top (approximately) 100 study authors for each journal between the years 1945 and 2019, eventually analyzing a list of 1051 individual authors.
“We found that women and the Global South are strikingly underrepresented,” says Maas. The “Global South” is a term used to describe a group of less wealthy countries that are mostly located in the Southern Hemisphere, while the “Global North” are more wealthy countries that mostly occupy the Northern Hemisphere.
It may not be so surprising that women weren’t given prominent roles in 1950′s labs, but growth since then hasn’t been particularly explosive, the study found. Only 18 percent of the top names in these journals are women. Additionally, the top 10 countries affiliated with these leading authors are the United States, the U.K., Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden—all Western countries in the defined Global North.
“For the whole list of top authors, we have only 42 countries represented,” says Maas. “That means that more than 150 countries are not showing up in the list at all.”
Many researchers work for institutions that aren’t actually in their country of origin. Still, Maas says, that affiliation is important, since it relates to particular resources and opportunities. Maas also says that the study’s binary approach to gender is not ideal, but is based on the currently available data—and that in the future, it will be important to expand out. In recent years, researchers have made public, both in the popular press and in academic journals, a wide range of inequities in science, from entrenched racial bias to a disregard for Indigenous rights and perspectives and a “sense of invisibility” for LGBTQ+ scientists.
Various factors such as funding, educational opportunities, and bias against researchers who don’t speak English can all contribute to geographic bias in science, Martin Nuñez, an ecologist at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council, wrote in an email to Popular Science. And that geographic bias can manifest in a less-than-full picture of the world. For example, “It is very common to say that invasive species are not a problem in the tropics, but actually we don’t have that data!”
Asha de Vos, an adjunct research fellow at the Oceans Institute of the University of Western Australia and founder of the marine conservation organization Oceanswell in Sri Lanka, wrote in an email to Popular Science that she was pleased to see this study get published. “While the existence of these biases do not surprise me, the degree of bias is startling especially given the progress we think we have made in the past few years.”
A big problem in conservation science which could be reflected in these results, says de Vos, is “parachute” or colonial science—in which “researchers from the developed world come to countries in the global south, do research and leave without any investment in human capacity or infrastructure,” a process that can lead to publications that don’t include local partners.
The authors of the current study highlight a number of potential shifts in the ways leadership is assessed—suggesting, for example, that leaders seek out journal editors from underrepresented backgrounds and geographical areas, and that different metrics be used to assess academic recruits.
“If we keep selecting leaders of the community based on how much they publish,” says coauthor Primack, “we’re just going to keep perpetuating this situation of white men from English-speaking countries dominating science.”
Instead of raining water, the plasma hurricane unleashed electrons, researchers say.
A new study challenges the long-held view that the destruction of 13th-century societies in the heart of Asia was a direct result of the Mongol invasion.
Elon Musk’s Mars rocket is on the pad in Texas and preparations for launch are underway.