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March 2013


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March 2013

NAS Celebrates 150th Anniversary

On March 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Act creating the National Academy of Sciences. This year, we celebrate our 150th anniversary with a range of activities that focus not only on the history of the NAS but also in large part on the story of science itself and its role in building and shaping our country and establishing its place in the world.

Please visit the special 150th anniversary Web site to learn more about celebration activities throughout the year.

New Releases

Energy Reduction at U.S. Air Force Facilities Using Industrial Processes
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Energy Reduction at U.S. Air Force Facilities Using Industrial Processes: A Workshop Summary

The Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government. In turn, the U.S. Air Force is the largest consumer of energy in the DoD, with a total annual energy expenditure of around $10 billion. Approximately 84 percent of Air Force energy use involves liquid fuel consumed in aviation whereas approximately 12 percent is energy (primarily electricity) used in facilities on the ground. This workshop was concerned primarily with opportunities to reduce energy consumption within Air Force facilities that employ energy intensive industrial processes-for example, assembly/disassembly, painting, metal working, and operation of radar facilities-such as those that occur in the maintenance depots and testing facilities. Air Force efforts to reduce energy consumption are driven largely by external goals and mandates derived from Congressional legislation and executive orders. To date, these goals and mandates have targeted the energy used at the building or facility level rather than in specific industrial processes.

An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy
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An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy

The potential for using fusion energy to produce commercial electric power was first explored in the 1950s. Harnessing fusion energy offers the prospect of a nearly carbon-free energy source with a virtually unlimited supply of fuel. Unlike nuclear fission plants, appropriately designed fusion power plants would not produce the large amounts of high-level nuclear waste that requires long-term disposal. Due to these prospects, many nations have initiated research and development (R&D) programs aimed at developing fusion as an energy source. Two R&D approaches are being explored: magnetic fusion energy (MFE) and inertial fusion energy (IFE). An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy describes and assesses the current status of IFE research in the United States; compares the various technical approaches to IFE; and identifies the scientific and engineering challenges associated with developing inertial confinement fusion (ICF) in particular as an energy source. It also provides guidance on an R&D roadmap at the conceptual level for a national program focusing on the design and construction of an inertial fusion energy demonstration plant.

Assessment of Inertial Confinement Fusion Targets
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Assessment of Inertial Confinement Fusion Targets

A Panel on Fusion Target Physics ("the panel") will serve as a technical resource to the Committee on Inertial Confinement Energy Systems ("the Committee") and will prepare a report that describes the R&D challenges to providing suitable targets, on the basis of parameters established and provided to the Panel by the Committee. The Panel on Fusion Target Physics will prepare a report that will assess the current performance of fusion targets associated with various ICF concepts in order to understand:
1. The spectrum output; 2. The illumination geometry; 3. The high-gain geometry; and 4. The robustness of the target design. The panel addressed the potential impacts of the use and development of current concepts for Inertial Fusion Energy on the proliferation of nuclear weapons information and technology, as appropriate. The Panel examined technology options, but does not provide recommendations specific to any currently operating or proposed ICF facility.
Energy-Efficiency Standards and Green Building Certification Systems Used by the Department of Defense for Military Construction and Major Renovations
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Energy-Efficiency Standards and Green Building Certification Systems Used by the Department of Defense for Military Construction and Major Renovations

Congress has an ongoing interest in ensuring that the 500,000 buildings and other structures owned and operated by the Department of Defense (DOD) are operated effectively in terms of cost and resource use. Section 2830 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the congressional defense committees on the energy-efficiency and sustainability standards used by DOD for military construction and major renovations of buildings.
Zero-Sustainment Aircraft for the U.S. Air Force
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Zero-Sustainment Aircraft for the U.S. Air Force: A Workshop Summary

The original intent of this 3‐day workshop was to focus on ways that science and technology (S&T) could help the Air Force reduce sustainment costs. However, as the workshop evolved, the discussions focused more and more on Air Force leadership, management authority, and culture as the more critical factors that need to change in order to solve sustainment problems. Many participants felt that while S&T investments could certainly help-particularly if applied in the early stages ("to the left") of the product life cycle-adopting a transformational management approach that defines the user‐driven goals of the enterprise, empowers people to achieve them, and holds them accountable, down to the shop level. Several workshop participants urged Air Force leaders to start the process now, even though it will take years to percolate down through the entire organization. These sustainment concerns are not new and have been studied extensively, including recent reports from the National Research Council's Air Force Studies Board and the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board

2011-2012 Assessment of the Army Research Laboratory
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2011-2012 Assessment of the Army Research Laboratory

The charge of the Army Research Laboratory Technical Assessment Board (ARLTAB) is to provide biennial assessments of the scientific and technical quality of the research, development, and analysis programs at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The ARLTAB is assisted by six panels, each of which focuses on the portion of the ARL program conducted by one of ARL's six directorates1. When requested to do so by ARL, the ARLTAB also examines work that cuts across the directorates. For example, during 2011-2012, ARL requested that the ARLTAB examine crosscutting work in the areas of autonomous systems and network science.

The overall quality of ARL's technical staff and their work continues to be impressive. Staff continue to demonstrate clear, passionate mindfulness of the importance of transitioning technology to support immediate and longer-term Army needs. Their involvement with the wider scientific and engineering community continues to expand. Such continued involvement and collaboration are fundamentally important for ARL's scientific and technical activities and need to include the essential elements of peer review and interaction through publications and travel to attend professional meetings, including international professional meetings. In general, ARL is working very well within an appropriate research and development niche and has been demonstrating significant accomplishments, as exemplified in the following discussion, which also addresses opportunities and challenges.

Adaptive Materials and Structures
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Adaptive Materials and Structures: A Workshop Report

In 2012, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) approached the National Research Council's TIGER standing committee and asked it to develop a list of workshop topics to explore the impact of emerging science and technology. One topic that came out of that list was adaptive structural materials. This workshop was held on July 11-12, 2012.

The objectives for the workshop were to explore the potential use of adaptive structural materials science and technology for military application. Understanding the current research in this area, and the potential opportunities to use this research by U.S. adversaries, allows the Defense Warning Office to advise U.S. policy makers in an appropriate and timely manner to take action on those areas deemed a national security risk.

DEPS Committee Member Laurencin Wins AAAS Mentor Award

The 2012 AAAS Mentor Award was presented to Dr. Cato T. Laurencin "for his transformative impact and scientific contributions toward mentoring students in the field of biomedical engineering." The award presentation took place February 15 at the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.

Laurencin is the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Chair and Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Professor of Chemical, Materials, and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He is one of only two designated University Professors at the school serving as the director of both the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center and the Institute for Regenerative Engineering.

He is an internationally recognized leader in the field of musculoskeletal tissue regeneration, and he has received numerous honors including the Presidential Faculty Fellow Award from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and in 2010, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Barack Obama. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.

Established by the AAAS Board of Directors in 1996, the Mentor Award honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students (women, minorities, and persons with disabilities) toward a Ph.D. degree in the sciences, as well as scholarship, activism, and community-building on behalf of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Congratulations on a well deserved honor!

Robert C. Richardson, Laureate in Physics, Dies

Robert C. Richardson, National Academy of Sciences member who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics for coaxing a rare form of helium into a liquid state that had never been seen before, died on Tuesday, February 19 in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 75.

Dr. Richardson and two colleagues - David M. Lee, also a physics professor, and Douglas D. Osheroff, a graduate student - in 1971 collaborated on a technically challenging experiment, exploring the properties of atoms a fraction of a degree above absolute zero.

They cooled helium-3, a lighter variant of helium, to within a few thousandths of a degree of absolute zero. Absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature, at which motion comes to almost a complete stop. In that deep freeze, liquid helium-3 turns into what physicists call a superfluid - a liquid that flows without friction.

Richardson served as co-chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy's 2010 Helium report, Selling the Nation's Helium Reserve and was a BPA member from 1994-2003 (and vice chair from 1997-2003) as well as a member of the condensed-matter and material research standing committee. He played a key role in the BPA in the late 1990s. Richardson suffered a stroke several years ago but continued to participate in advising the government on science.

Dr. Richardson is survived by his wife, Betty; his daughter, Jennifer Merlis; and four grandchildren.

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Tracking Asteroids and Other Near-Earth Objects

Last month, back-to-back asteroid events demonstrated the scope of possible scenarios involving near-Earth objects. The most energetic impact event recorded in more than a century, an asteroid initially weighing an estimated 11,000 tons entered the atmosphere at 3:20 pm (GMT) on February 15 and disintegrated over Chelyabinsk, Russia at an altitude of about 14.5 miles. The total impact energy of the fireball was equivalent to roughly 440 kilotons of TNT explosives. Reports indicate approximately 1,500 people were injured in the unexpected event, which was widely caught on car "dashcams" (video below).

Click image to watch

The second event, involving a flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14, was expected and carefully tracked by NASA. The event provided an opportunity for close-up observations of a near-Earth object, including a sequence of radar images captured by the Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California. The 2010 NRC report Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies explores tracking capabilities and discusses options for NASA to detect a full range of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.



Upcoming Meetings

March 6-8, 2013
NRC Space Science Week
Board on Physics and Astronomy and Space Studies Board
Washington, DC
Registration and Information

March 21-22, 2013
Committee on Review of Test Protocols Used by the DOD to Test Combat Helmets
Board on Army Science and Technology
Washington, DC

March 27-28, 2013
Professionalizing the Nation's Cybersecurity Workforce Workshop III
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board
San Antonio, TX






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