Every month, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN—the longest-running magazine in the U.S. and an authoritative voice in science, technology and innovation—provides insight into scientific topics that affect our daily lives and capture our imagination, establishing the vital bridge between science and public policy.
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• Torrential rainstorms that flooded northern California in late November and early December are a warning to the government and scientists of a bigger issue: the potential arrival of a megastorm. Using data from two previous large storm sequences, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have developed a scenario to test current emergency measures in the region. The research found many flaws in present emergency measures; the simulation shows that sustained flooding could occur over lowland areas of both northern and southern California; leading to thousands of deaths and around $700 billion in damages if better measures are not taken. See: Climate: The Coming Megafloods
SCIENCE AND POLICY
• The president and Congress face crucial science- and technology-related decisions in the next four years: ensuring a clean and secure energy supply; making our health care system smarter; and protecting free speech online. See: Science Agenda: A To-Do List for Washington
• Connecting prosthetic arms and hands directly to the nervous system of the body is the next big feat for bioengineering. The brain could control the prostheses as smoothly as if they were natural limbs, offering hope to amputees, such as veterans, and stroke patients. The first step is to create an “adapter cord” that can translate the body’s nerve impulses into electrical signals that can be processed by the prosthetics. See: Medical Engineering: Bionic Connections
• The progression of Alzheimer’s disease might be slowed down by treatment using intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). If a clinical trial confirms this, some worry that supplies of IVIG may run short. IVIG is also used to treat primary immunodeficiency disease (PIDD) and multiple sclerosis. See: Advances: Linking Immunity and Mental Health
• Data saved in quartz glass might last 300 million years. Hitachi recently announced that it has developed a storage medium that can outlast magnetic tape, CDs, DVDs, hard drives and MP3s. This can revolutionize the archival storage systems of cultural institutions and research laboratories. See: Advances: Super Long-term Storage