Leading the News
DHS Warns Of Vulnerability In “Widely-Used” Wi-Fi Security Protocol.
Reuters (10/16, Finkle, Volz) reports that DHS “on Monday warned of cyber risks associated with” the “widely used” WPA2 protocol “for securing Wi-Fi communications after Belgian researchers discovered a flaw that could allow hackers to read information thought to be encrypted, or infect websites with malware.” The alert “said the flaw could be used within range of Wi-Fi using the WPA2 protocol to hijack private communications,” and “recommended installing vendor updates on affected products.”
The Guardian (UK) (10/16, Hern) quotes security expert Mathy Vanhoef, who discovered the vulnerability, stressing that “the attack works against all modern protected wifi networks. Depending on the network configuration, it is also possible to inject and manipulate data. For example, an attacker might be able to inject ransomware or other malware into websites.”
The Washington Post (10/16, Shaban) quotes Vanhoef: “During our initial research, we discovered ourselves that Android, Linux, Apple, Windows, OpenBSD, MediaTek, Linksys, and others, are all affected by some variant of the attacks.”
AFP (10/16) reports, “According to the news site Ars Technica, the discovery was a closely guarded secret for weeks to allow Wi-Fi systems to develop security patches.” AFP adds, “The flaw was dubbed KRACK for Key Reinstallation AttaCK because it allows attackers to insert a new ‘key’ on a Wi-Fi connection that keeps data private.”
The Los Angeles Times (10/16, Masunaga) quotes computer science professor Matthew Green: “Nobody has ever found this vulnerability. … It’s pretty serious.” Also reporting are the Wall Street Journal (10/16, McMillan, Subscription Publication), CBS News (10/16), and Wired (10/16, Newman).
Clemson Grad Students Unveil Redesigned BMW MINI.
The Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail (10/18) reports that a team of 18 Clemson University grad students “have spent the last few years” working on a challenge from BMW to “recreate the iconic MINI car with the drivers of 2025 in mind.” The “finished, fully-functional and futuristic MINI reincarnation was recently revealed at the BMW Zentrum museum in Greer,” South Carolina. “Zoran Filipi, chair of Clemson’s department of automotive engineering, said the vehicle’s reveal was a powerful moment in the growing partnership between the university and the automotive industry giant.”
The Upstate Business Journal (SC) (10/14) reports that the students are part of Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), adding that the “vehicle is the seventh concept model developed as part of Clemson’s Deep Orange program. … Deep Orange is the flagship program of Clemson’s two-year master’s degree program in automotive engineering” and “gives students exposure to market analysis, target customer profiles, vehicle design, prototyping, and manufacturing.”
Continuing Coverage Of Gainful Employment Rule Lawsuit.
Inside Higher Ed (10/18) reports in continuing coverage that 18 attorneys general have sued ED “over the Trump administration’s move to pause enforcement of the so-called gainful-employment rule.” The piece reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “in June announced that the department would start over again on gainful employment with a rule-making process aimed at creating a new version of the rule.” ED has delayed implementation on the rule, and the AGs say this is illegal.
CNN (10/18, Tatum) reports that the lawsuit challenges DeVos “over the department’s lack of implementation of an Obama-era rule that was designed to protect students at for-profit colleges.” This piece quotes New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman saying, “From delaying student loan forgiveness to exposing students to misconduct by abusive schools, Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education have put special interests before students’ best interests.” However, said ED Press Secretary Liz Hill, “This is just the latest in a string of frivolous lawsuits filed by Democratic attorneys general who are only seeking to score quick political points.”
TIME (10/18) reports that the 18 Democratic attorneys general argue that ED “violated federal law by freezing the ‘gainful employment rule’ without sufficient justification or public input.” Politico Morning Education (10/18) also covers this story.
Colleges Increasingly Using Threat-Assessment Panels To Monitor Potentially Threatening Students.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/18) reports that a “group of administrators and staff members at Santa Monica College” regularly meets “to discuss students who have caused concern or raised suspicions on the community-college campus.” The piece notes that students are not present and generally are unaware that they are being discussed. After the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, hundreds of colleges across the nation created “these well-intentioned and somewhat secretive task forces.”
Northern Michigan University Offering Marijuana Studies Major.
TIME (10/18, Jenkins) reports that Northern Michigan University is offering a bachelor of science program featuring “marijuana studies,” and “it doesn’t seem like a fit for the classic stoner stereotype.” The program is titled “Medicinal Plant Chemistry” and “combines chemistry, biology, botany, horticulture, marketing and finance classes into one course study. There’s even specialized entrepreneurial and bio-analytical tracks for students who want to focus on the business or scientific aspects of the degree.”
Colleges Increasingly Sharing Facilities To Cut Costs.
Diverse Education (10/18) reports that the Robert W. Woodruff library in Atlanta is shared by Clark Atlanta University, Spelman, Moorhouse, and the Interdenominational Theological Center. “It’s a model other schools are increasingly considering, to help reduce the rising costs of doing business by leveraging purchasing power and collectively operating everything from shuttle buses to security and from course offerings to classroom space.”
Research and Development
GE, Apple Teaming Up To Develop Industrial Apps.
Bloomberg News (10/18, Webb) reports, “General Electric Co. is teaming up with Apple Inc. to develop mobile apps for managing machinery, factories and power plants as the industrial giant steps up efforts to sell software and services.” Bloomberg quotes GE Digital Division Head of Sales Kevin Ichhpurani pointing out that GM “will publish a toolkit it has built with Apple that helps developers build software for iPhones and iPads that uses its Predix data-collection and analysis tool,” and the article states that “Apple is making Predix its preferred tool for connected factories.” Ichhpurani adds, “More of the customers in the industrial world want to drive mobile experiences to their end users. Employees within those enterprises want those same experiences that they have in a consumer world.” Reuters (10/18, Nellis) reports the joint effort by the two companies “aims to make it easier to write software that can track power plants and jet engines on Apple’s iPhones and iPads.” Reuters adds, “The Predix software connects sensor-laden industrial machines like wind turbines, jet engines and elevators to data centers, so that streams of information from the machines can be analyzed to help predict failures and make the machines run more cost effectively.” Reuters quotes Ichhpurani giving an example of the software’s potential uses, saying, “a power plant manager might be debating the best time to take a generator offline for scheduled maintenance. With the Predix software, the manager can see data on the machine and could share notes and photographs from an iPad at the site of the generator and even start a video call.” He adds, “These decisions can be made at the power plant or on the factory floor, as opposed to being made at corporate.”
Researchers Achieve Ultra-efficient Photodetectors With 2-D Materials.
Chemical & Engineering News (10/18, Nguyen) explains that photodetector performance is determined by the efficiency with which they turn “incident photons into electrons and corresponding positively charged species called holes.” The result is an electron-hole (e-h) pair that then generates electricity by moving through the material. The article explains that materials shrunk to nanoscale improves photodetector efficiency, and using nanocrystal quantum dots, carbon nanotubes, and graphene, scientists have surpassed 100 percent efficiency. This means one photon creates more than one e-h pair in an effect known as e-h multiplication. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, led by Nathaniel M. Gabor, have reportedly achieved over 300 percent efficiency with transition-metal dichalcogenides, a class of ultrathin two-dimensional materials. Their photodetector material is reportedly “almost transparent and about the size of a camera pixel” and consists of “two atomic layers of WSe2 stacked on a single layer of MoSe2.”
US Air Force Research Laboratory To Develop Mini AgilePod Variant.
IHS Jane’s 360 (10/18, Scott) reports the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is looking into leveraging its “AgilePod multi-sensor payload pod prototype” by developing a scaled-down variant “that will form the basis of a family of scaled sensor pods to suit various airborne platforms.” Aerotech News and Review (10/18, Alia-Novobilski) reports the Agile Pod is “the first physical system to be trademarked by the Air Force.” AFRL Sensors Directorate Blue Guardian Program Manager Capt. Russell Shirley said that during testing, the Air Force “learned that a ‘one size fits all’ AgilePod limits its ability to be used with a number of sensors on multiple platforms,” and that the team was working to create a “family” of “small, medium and large sized pods to host optimized sensors and enable the pod to fit an increased number of aircraft.” AFRL engineers are working with “Leidos, the University of Dayton Research Institute and Advanced Consulting and Programmatics” researchers to design the AgilePod family. Shirley added that AFRL is looking into “ways to enable faster configuration of the pod by modifying fasteners and relocating screws and mounting structures,” as well as using an “open floor plan” inside the pod in contrast to dividing components into several compartments. AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate Senior AgilePod Engineer Erik Kvalheim added that AgilePod “is not just for sensors,” but “is a carrier for developments in other capabilities such as enhanced targeting, communications, data storage and onboard processing.”
NASA, Boeing Develop In-Orbit Payload Storage Platform.
ExecutiveGov (10/18, Martin) reports that NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Boeing have collaborated to “develop an in-orbit storage platform for payloads” to support scientific research efforts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS “currently houses multiple science payloads in eight shelving units,” or EXPRESS shelves, all of which will reach full capacity by the end of 2018. Together, Boeing and NASA developed the Basic Express Racks, which Marshall Space Flight Center Payload Facilities Team Lead Sean Thompson said are simplified versions of existing ISS payload racks. Basic Express Racks are scheduled for deployment aboard the ISS in late 2018.
Raytheon Opens New Engineering Facility In New Mexico.
Industrial Equipment News (10/18) reports that “Raytheon has opened a new facility in the Sandia Science and Technology Park” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and says the facility “will expand the company’s operations to develop and produce range monitoring and telemetry systems for the US and its allies.” The company’s expansion “will bring 60 new high-tech manufacturing jobs,” at a time when Raytheon “employs more than 350 workers in science, engineering, advanced manufacturing and management jobs at its facilities in Albuquerque and Diné, located on the Navajo Nation.” The article quotes Raytheon Naval Area and Mission Defense Vice President Todd Callahan saying, “Raytheon is growing its high-tech manufacturing footprint in rural and urban New Mexico, where workers are producing vital national security technology. New Mexico has a long history of scientific excellence, and we value our strong partnership with this state.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Iowa Gov. Reynolds Holds Press Conference Urging Trump To Preserve Ethanol Quotas.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/18, Rodriguez) reports that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday preserve the EPA production targets in the Renewable Fuel Standard program. Gov. Reynolds “elevated her concerns by speaking at a press conference alongside RFS supporters such as farmers.” She told reporters that she spoke with both President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and that “both of them personally affirmed to me their continued commitment to the renewable fuel standard.”
Reuters (10/18, Shepardson, Renshaw) reports that President Trump told Iowa’s governor he was committed to the renewable fuel standard in a phone call Wednesday, despite the fact that his administration is considering lowering the mandatory biofuel level. Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the administration “didn’t make any assurances” on renewable fuel standard levels.
Reuters (10/18, Shepardson, Flitter) reports, “Independent oil refiners have pushed the Trump administration to soften requirements for ethanol use, which costs them hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”
Wegmann: Sen. Grassley Could Block Judicial Nominees To Make Major Point On Ethanol Policy. The Washington Examiner (10/18, Wegmann) columnist Philip Wegmann reports that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that Midwestern senators opposed to the EPA’s new renewable-fuel proposals could block nominees to the agency over the dispute. Wegmann says that “if Grassley really wants to scare off Trump, he will go after his judicial nominees.” Wegmann predicts that Sen. Grassley could “cause significant pain” by blocking Trump from remaking the judiciary, “one of the last major things Republicans can still agree on.”
Despite Withdrawal, US Officials To Participate In UN Climate Talks Next Month.
The New York Times (10/18, Friedman, Subscription Publication) reports that when Administration officials travel to Germany next month for UN climate change talks, “they will face a fundamental contradiction: how to negotiate the terms of a deal they say they’re walking away from.” While the Trump Administration has declared it will abandon the global climate change pact, the US “cannot formally leave the accord until 2020, and in the interim administration officials have said they will continue to protect American interests, which essentially translates into helping to write the Paris Agreement’s rule book.” The Times notes that Secretary of State Tillerson and National Security Adviser McMaster have both “dangled the possibility that some as-yet undefined improved terms might one day persuade the president to reconsider.”
Fluor Wins $240 Million Contract To Help Restore Power In Puerto Rico.
The Dallas Morning News (10/18, Mosier, Energy, Writer) reports Puerto Rico will receive “help from Irving-based engineering and construction firm Fluor as part of federal efforts to return power to 3 million people.” Flour was awarded by the US Army Corps of Engineers “a $240 million contract this week to help restore the island’s electric grid.” Roughly “86 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power.” The company’s “role in the reconstruction wasn’t immediately clear, although it’s often hired for major infrastructure projects locally and globally.” A news released from “said the company would ‘augment current restoration activities.’”
ABC News (10/18) reports “just 10 months” before Hurricane Maria hit the island, “a scathing report commissioned by the Puerto Rican Electrical Power Authority (PREPA) warned that the energy infrastructure was facing a ‘crisis.’” The study “argued that Puerto Rico’s power grid is ‘literally falling apart,’ and noted that Puerto Ricans suffer service outages at rates four to five times higher average U.S. utilities customers.”
San Francisco Sues PG&E For Alleged Negligence That Caused 2016 Landslide.
SF Weekly (10/18, Mojadad) reports that City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced Wednesday that he filed suit against PG&E for its alleged role in a 2016 landslide that destroyed one home and damaged five others. The complaint “alleges that PG&E insufficiently relocated gas lines recently before the landslide in January 2016 between Casitas Avenue and Miraloma Drive.” If PG&E “used the right material to bed the new gas lines adjacent to the city’s water main and inadequately compacting the soil,” Herrera says the landslide could have been avoided.
The San Francisco Chronicle (10/19, Fracassa) reports that the damage from the landslide has cost the city nearly $8 million. Filed in San Francisco Superior Court, the suit specifically “alleges that negligent and shoddy workmanship by PG&E” that “set off a chain reaction” damaging city water mains, which “caused critical underground leaks that saturated and softened the sloping earth beneath Casitas Avenue, resulting in the landslide.” The city seeks to recoup from PG&E the $6.7 million paid to six homeowners and $1.1 million in construction costs and attorneys’ fees. Herrera said Wednesday, “PG&E’s shoddy work caused this problem, but the company is trying to shirk its responsibility.”
Also reporting is KNTV-TV San Jose (CA) San Jose, CA (10/18).
Lego Unveils “Women In NASA” Set.
The AP (10/18) reports, “Lego has unveiled a set of figures celebrating the women of NASA,” saying the set “features Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, and Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel in space.” Astronomer and educator Nancy Grace Roman and computer scientist Margaret Hamilton are also featured.
USA Today (10/18, Molina) reports that the company “said it would build the set in March, after science editor and writer Maia Weinstock pitched the idea through the Lego Ideas initiative, where the company fields ideas on future toy sets.” The set also includes “a posable Hubble Space Telescope and launchpad with Space Shuttle Challenger.” Newsweek (10/18, Williams) and Fox News (10/18) also cover this story.
NSF Gives Emporia State University Grant To Fund Computer Programs In Rural Schools.
The High Plains and Midwest AG (KS) Journal (10/18) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Kansas’ Emporia State University a $454,356 grant to allow it to extend its “focus on high-impact learning…to rural Kansas middle schools.” The project “involves creating curriculum and affordable equipment kits that classroom teachers can use to model a variety of practical agricultural tasks.” The piece quotes local high school teacher Joseph Kern saying, “The goal is to get eighth and ninth grade students in rural areas across the country excited about the powerful possibilities computer coding can add in the agricultural field.”
In Turnaround, New Mexico DOE Will Revise Controversial Science Standards.
The Santa Fe New Mexican (10/18) reports that “in a surprise turnaround,” New Mexico Secretary of Education-designate Christopher Ruszkowski “announced Tuesday night that his department will revise its controversial proposal for new science teaching standards, adding concepts that had been omitted, such as evolution, global warming and Earth’s age.” On Monday, “hundreds of scientists, educators and faith leaders attended a hearing on the standards and dozens voiced opposition to them, saying the teaching guidelines would weaken science education and could open the classroom door to politics, big business and religion.”
The AP (10/18) reports that state education officials “indicated that final standards will restore references to the 4.6 billion-year age of the Earth, the rise in global temperatures over the past century and the process of evolution due to genetic variation.” The AP quotes Ruszkowski saying, “We have listened to the thoughtful input received and will incorporate many of the suggestions into the New Mexico standards.”
Savannah River Site Museum Hosts Children For Robotics Week.
The Aiken (SC) Standard (10/18) reports that South Carolina’s Savannah River Site museum “was filled with excited children Tuesday, as they celebrated Robotics Week and were able to not only show off their own creations but work hands-on with robots and even see a robotic ‘celebrity’ on display.” Students were able to interact with “a robot designed by a team at SRS called ‘Jabberwock.’”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• University Of Michigan Researchers Working On Plasma Thrusters.
• Valparaiso Art Students Working With Engineering Professor On 3d Printed Sculptures.
• NSF Gives University Of Michigan $1.8 Million To Study Using Smart Tech To Control Flooding.
• Mexican Tech Sector Looks To Gain From Trump Anti-Immigration Policies.
• Natural Gas Affects Renewable Energy Growth.
• RAND Report: STEM Education Grows In Importance As Older Workers Retire.