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.
>> Key information from this month’s issue:
In cities across the U.S., police are using technology to predict where and when crimes are about to happen. One example is Memphis’s predictive policing system, Blue CRUSH, that has lowered violent and major property crimes by 26 percent and murders by 40 percent, since its launch in 2006. The National Institute of Justice has issued grants in major cities to conduct tests to evaluate the effectiveness of predictive policing. See: Technology: The Department of Pre-Crime
Unmanned aircraft have transformed the way the U.S. wages war, but its military will not have a monopoly on this technology for long. As unmanned drones become smaller, cheaper and more numerous, it will become easier for hostile nations, and perhaps even terrorists, to acquire them. A combination of domestic regulation and international nonproliferation efforts could reduce the possibility that drones will fall into the wrong hands. See: Advances: Here Come the Drones
New U.S. county rankings clearly demonstrate that better health requires improved education, more access to nutritious food and greater economic opportunities. The goal of the County Health Rankings project is to bring these hidden health factors to light and thereby help elected officials, civic leaders and community groups take concrete steps that can improve the health of local residents. See: The Science of Health: Healing Kansas
Ten percent of the U.S. energy budget is used to produce food for 312 million Americans; in comparison, 5 percent of the world energy budget is used to produce food for the rest of the planet’s seven billion people. By examining our food supply chain from the standpoint of energy use during farming, transportation, processing, and storage, we can find opportunities for smart policies, innovative technologies, and new dietary choices that can potentially solve food and energy problems. See: Sustainability: More Food, Less Energy
If we do not preserve the essential organisms that live in the topsoil of our deserts, ranching and farming in the American West may be economically unviable 20 years from now, warns U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Jayne Belnap. Dust created by the rapid deterioration of desert topsoil can have dramatic effects, harming agriculture in dry valleys. See: Environment: Dust Up
A broad coalition of technology companies, think tanks and privacy advocates called Digital Due Process has formed to ask Congress to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) to better protect the digital rights of citizens. It asks that if a law-enforcement agency wants to look at private user data—whether e-mails, documents or cell-phone location information—that agency should have to obtain a warrant. See: Science Agenda: Read My E-mail?