Archaeologist Sarah Parcak uses satellite images and scanning technology to track down humanity’s oldest treasures, but she's more than a modern-day Indiana Jones. The professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham can spot topographical and chemical changes to the earth's surface, clues to where cultural heritage sites may have been disturbed and to what extent, and whether the activity could indicate looting. Stealing antiquities is an age-old endeavor, but instances are on the rise in countries, such as Egypt and Syria, where political and economic strife—along with an abundance of cultural artifacts and monuments—are prevalent. Such activity in the region occupied by the self-declared Islamic State has drawn public attention to the at-risk sites and antiquities. “We are at a tipping point right now, with conflict in the Middle East, with climate change and polluting and looting, where antiquities are really threatened," Parcak told The Washington Post. "If we don’t protect these sites, some of them are going to be gone.” Her work with satellite archaeology, or "space archaeology" as it is sometimes dubbed, recently earned her $1 million from the nonprofit TED foundation for a project that will be announced in February. [The Washington Post + The New York Times + TED]

In the not-so-distant future, should a fire break out on the upper floors of the 555-meter-tall (1,821-feet-tall) Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, first responders can simply power up their jetpacks and shoot skyward. That’s thanks to a recent agreement between the city’s emergency services and the Martin Aircraft Co. to provide 20 of the New Zealand–based aeronautics firm’s jetpacks, two training simulators, and, thankfully, user support to what is currently the world’s tallest building. [Gizmag]

Watch construction crews prep the U.S. Capitol’s 150-year-old rotunda for its first face-lift in more than half a century. [Gizmodo]

The self-repairing city of the future will be more than a network of sensors and regenerative building materials. Researchers at the University of Leeds, in England, also want to include small drones for infrastructure maintenance and repair. [Fast Company’s Co.Exist]

Elsewhere in the U.K., the Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol are teaming up on the Bristol Is Open project, which will aggregate data from a network of sensors to create a computer program that will run on an open-source operating system developed to keep cities working efficiently. [Motherboard]


Design app developer Morpholio is embracing the launch of Apple’s iPad Pro this month with a new version of its own sketching app. Trace Pro (shown above) offers hyper-zooming with scale, integrated stencils and rulers, intelligent layers, and formatting that allows users to export sketches as official project drawings, among other features. The New York–based team also released Board Pro, an app for interior designers and other creatives to collage ideas digitally. The Pro versions are updates of Morpholio's existing apps, Trace and Board. [Morpholio]

In other software news, Autodesk recently rolled out two new fabrication suites, one for structural applications and one for MEP systems. The platforms support BIM workflows for the design, detailing, fabrication, and construction of architectural systems for use by structural engineers, steel detailers, contractors, estimators, and fabricators. [Autodesk]