Science X Newsletter Friday, Sep 18

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for September 18, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

The observation of Bloch ferromagnetism in composite fermions

Poop knives, arachnophobic entomologists win 2020 Ig Nobels

Primary role of sleep changes from learning support to brain maintenance in early childhood: study

New design principles for spin-based quantum materials

Solar storm forecasts for Earth improved with help from the public

Immune system may have another job—combatting depression

Removal of a gene could render lethal poxviruses harmless

Bolsonaro's Indigenous land mining policy a billion-dollar backfire

Mapping the 1.6 billion people who live near forests

Biologists create new genetic systems to neutralize gene drives

Researchers discover a mechanism allowing immune cells to regulate obesity

How fear persists in the mouse brain

Newly-described fossils reveal an ancient origin for New Zealand penguins

Most homemade masks are doing a great job, even when we sneeze, study finds

When it comes to battery dendrite formation, a negative number yields positive results

Physics news

The observation of Bloch ferromagnetism in composite fermions

Composite fermions are exotic quasi-particles found in interacting 2-D fermion systems at relatively large perpendicular magnetic fields. These quasi-particles, which are composed of an electron and two magnetic flux quanta, have often been used to describe a physical phenomenon known as the fractional quantum Hall effect.

New design principles for spin-based quantum materials

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology—whether supporting communication while working remotely or streaming our favorite show—so too does our reliance on the data these devices create. Data centers supporting these technology ecosystems produce a significant carbon footprint—and consume 200 terawatt hours of energy each year, greater than the annual energy consumption of Iran. To balance ecological concerns yet meet growing demand, advances in microelectronic processors—the backbone of many Internet of Things (IoT) devices and data hubs—must be efficient and environmentally friendly.

Lighting the way to infrared detection

EPFL physicists propose a new path to detect infrared radiation with outstanding sensitivity, allowing detection of signals as low as that of a single quantum of light.

Resonant tunneling diode oscillators for terahertz-wave detection

A semiconductor device that is promising for both generating and detecting terahertz radiation has been demonstrated by physicists at RIKEN. This may aid the development of high-performance integrated solutions for terahertz imaging and sensing applications as well as for high-speed, next-generation wireless communications systems.

Engineers produce a fisheye lens that's completely flat

To capture panoramic views in a single shot, photographers typically use fisheye lenses—ultra-wide-angle lenses made from multiple pieces of curved glass, which distort incoming light to produce wide, bubble-like images. Their spherical, multipiece design makes fisheye lenses inherently bulky and often costly to produce.

Hot Stuff: Unusual thermal diode rectifies heat in both directions

You can feel it on your laptop and mobile phone. It's behind your refrigerator and office copy machine. While heat is desirable for appliances like a coffee maker, it can jeopardize the reliability and safety of electronic systems in other devices, causing premature failure at best and explosions at worst.

Anti-resonant hollow-core optical fiber reduces 'noise'

A new hollow optical fiber greatly reduces the "noise" interfering with the signals it transmits compared to the single-mode fibers now widely used, researchers at the University of Rochester report.

Astronomy and Space news

Solar storm forecasts for Earth improved with help from the public

Solar storm analysis carried out by an army of citizen scientists has helped researchers devise a new and more accurate way of forecasting when Earth will be hit by harmful space weather.Scientists at the University of Reading added analysis carried out by members of the public to computer models designed to predict when coronal mass ejections (CMEs)—huge solar eruptions that are harmful to satellites and astronauts—will arrive at Earth.

The four most promising worlds for alien life in the solar system

The Earth's biosphere contains all the known ingredients necessary for life as we know it. Broadly speaking these are: liquid water, at least one source of energy, and an inventory of biologically useful elements and molecules.

How planetary nebulae get their shapes

About 7.5 billion years from now, our sun will have converted most of its hydrogen fuel into helium through fusion, and then burned most of that helium into carbon and oxygen. It will have swollen to a size large enough to fill the solar system nearly to the current orbit of Mars, and lost almost half of its mass in winds. At this stage the very hot remnant star will ionize the ejected material, lighting it up and causing it to glow as a planetary nebula (so-called not because it is a planet but because it surrounds its star). All low-to-intermediate mass stars (stars with between about 0.8 to 8 solar masses) will eventually mature into stars hosting planetary nebulae. This simple description suggests that planetary nebulae should all be spherically symmetric shells, but in fact they come in a wide range of shapes from butterfly or bipolar to eye-like or spiral- shapes. Astronomers think that the stellar wind is somehow responsible for these asymmetries, or perhaps the rapid spinning of the host star plays a role, but so far most of the proposed processes are not efficient enough.

VLBA makes first direct distance measurement to magnetar

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) have made the first direct geometric measurement of the distance to a magnetar within our Milky Way Galaxy—a measurement that could help determine if magnetars are the sources of the long-mysterious Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).

Image: Mesh reflector for shaped radio beams

This prototype 2.6-m diameter metal-mesh antenna reflector represents a big step forward for the European space sector: versions can be manufactured to reproduce any surface pattern that antenna designers wish, something that was previously possible only with traditional solid antennas.

The detection of phosphine in Venus' clouds is a big deal, and here's how we can find out if it really is life

On Sept. 14, 2020, a new planet was added to the list of potentially habitable worlds in the Solar System: Venus.

Technology news

When it comes to battery dendrite formation, a negative number yields positive results

Consumer demand has driven engineers to design batteries that are more compact while at the same time maintaining, or even improving, their capacity.

Artificial intelligence expert originates new theory for decision-making

How should people make decisions when the outcomes of their choices are uncertain, and the uncertainty is described by probability theory?

Helping robots avoid collisions

George Konidaris still remembers his disheartening introduction to robotics.

Oceanbird cargo ship relies on wind to transport autos

The latest trend in cargo shipping has roots in a concept that's been around a while. Say, 7,000 years or so.

APT41, the China-based hacking operation spanning the world

A global hacking collective known as APT41 has been accused by US authorities of targeting company servers for ransom, compromising government networks and spying on Hong Kong activists.

Can robots write? Machine learning produces dazzling results, but some assembly is still required

You might have seen a recent article from The Guardian written by "a robot." Here's a sample:

Artificial intelligence called GPT-3 can write like a human but don't mistake that for thinking

Since it was unveiled earlier this year, the new AI-based language generating software GPT-3 has attracted much attention for its ability to produce passages of writing that are convincingly human-like. Some have even suggested that the program, created by Elon Musk's OpenAI, may be considered or appears to exhibit, something like artificial general intelligence (AGI), the ability to understand or perform any task a human can. This breathless coverage reveals a natural yet aberrant collusion in people's minds between the appearance of language and the capacity to think.

Don't write off government algorithms: Responsible AI can produce real benefits

Algorithms have taken a lot of flak recently, particularly those being used by the government and other public bodies in the UK. The controversial algorithm used to award student grades caused a huge public outcry, but national and local governments and several police forces have been withdrawing other algorithms and artificial intelligence tools from use throughout the year in response to legal challenges and design failures.

US to ban TikTok downloads, block WeChat use

The United States on Friday ordered a ban on downloads of popular video app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the Chinese super-app WeChat on US national security grounds, escalating a fight with Beijing over digital technology.

Could PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X be swan song for consoles?

The upcoming release of a ninth generation of games consoles by Sony and Microsoft is set to be a sales slam dunk with consumers seeking entertainment during pandemic confinement, but could it also be their swan song as the habits of gamers change?

German hospital hacked, patient taken to another city dies

German authorities said Thursday that an apparently misdirected ransomware attack caused the failure of IT systems at a major hospital in Duesseldorf, and a woman who needed urgent admission died after she had to be taken to another city for treatment.

Apple to open its first India online store

Apple will launch its first online store in India next week, the Silicon Valley giant said Friday, hoping to cash in on the country's festive season and grow its tiny share of the booming market.

Australia pays $3.7 M to help news agency though pandemic

The Australian government on Friday announced a 5 million Australian dollars ($3.7 million) grant to the national news agency as part of pandemic-related assistance to regional journalism.

As deadline looms, scramble on TikTok deal structure

Amid a looming deadline set by President Donald Trump, negotiators scrambled to find a new ownership structure for the popular video app TikTok that would pass muster in both the United States and China.

Ryanair slashes more flights on virus restrictions

Ryanair on Friday said it was cutting more flights than planned in October, blaming the move on virus-related flight restrictions imposed by governments.

Man 'asleep' in speeding self-driving car charged in Canada

A driver who allegedly set his car to autopilot and then took a nap as it broke the speed limit on a rural Canadian highway has been charged with dangerous driving, police said.

TikTok slams US action, says will challenge 'unjust' order

TikTok on Friday slammed a decision by US officials to ban new downloads of the popular smartphone app and vowed to fight the Trump administration's ongoing crackdown on the company.

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Science X Newsletter Thursday, Sep 17

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for September 17, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Reviewing recent efforts to improve the reversibility of zinc anodes in rechargeable batteries

Researchers discover effective pathway to convert carbon dioxide into ethylene

A scientific first: How psychedelics bind to key brain cell receptor

E-beam atomic-scale 3-D 'sculpting' could enable new quantum nanodevices

Supercooled water is a stable liquid, scientists show for the first time

Ecologists sound alarm on plastic pollution

Space communication: developing a one photon-per-bit receiver using near-noiseless phase-sensitive amplification

Making tuberculosis more susceptible to antibiotics

Astronomers capture stellar winds in unprecedented detail

GM Ultium Drives to power new generation of e-vehicles

New calculation refines comparison of matter with antimatter

Venus' ancient layered, folded rocks point to volcanic origin

The brain's memory abilities inspire AI experts in making neural networks less 'forgetful'

Human footprints dating back 120,000 years found in Saudi Arabia

Improving the efficacy of cellular therapies

Physics news

Supercooled water is a stable liquid, scientists show for the first time

Supercooled water is really two liquids in one. That's the conclusion reached by a research team at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory after making the first-ever measurements of liquid water at temperatures much colder than its typical freezing point.

Space communication: developing a one photon-per-bit receiver using near-noiseless phase-sensitive amplification

During space-communication researchers require high-space intersatellite data transfer connectivity for deep-space missions while monitoring Earth. The technology is fundamentally influenced by available transmission power and the aperture size of receiver sensitivity. The transition from radio-frequency links to optical links is now under consideration due to its ability to significantly reduce the channel loss caused by diffraction during communication. In a widely used approach, researchers can develop power-efficient formats along with nanowire-based photon-counting receivers cooled to a few Kelvins to function at speeds below 1-Gigabytes per second (Gb/s). In order to achieve data transfer at data rates of multi-GB/s (as expected for future space applications) the systems will have to rely on pre-amplified receivers together with advanced signal generation and processing techniques, including fibre communications.

New calculation refines comparison of matter with antimatter

An international collaboration of theoretical physicists—including scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and the RIKEN-BNL Research Center (RBRC)—has published a new calculation relevant to the search for an explanation of the predominance of matter over antimatter in our universe. The collaboration, known as RBC-UKQCD, also includes scientists from CERN (the European particle physics laboratory), Columbia University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Edinburgh, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Regensburg, and the University of Southampton. They describe their result in a paper to be published in the journal Physical Review D and has been highlighted as an "editor's suggestion."

Researchers develop the world's smallest ultrasound detector

Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed the world's smallest ultrasound detector. It is based on miniaturized photonic circuits on top of a silicon chip. With a size 100 times smaller than an average human hair, the new detector can visualize features that are much smaller than previously possible, leading to what is known as super-resolution imaging.

Scientists reveal the power behind the curtain—with neutrons

In a potential step forward for imaging technology, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Sandia National Laboratories have developed a way to use neutrons to detect electric fields in spaces that are unreachable by conventional probes.

Scientists obtain broad-band single-mode lasers in colloidal quantum dots

In the past two decades, great efforts have been made to achieve lasers based on colloidal quantum dots (CQDs), especially CQD-based single-mode lasers, which is important in on-chip optical processing and data storage due to low noise and good monochromaticity.

Self-imaging of a molecule by its own electrons

One of the long-standing goals of research on the light-induced dynamics of molecules is to observe time-dependent changes in the structure of molecules, which result from the absorption of light, as directly and unambiguously as possible. To this end, researchers have developed and applied a plethora of approaches. Of particular promise among these approaches are several methods developed in the last years that rely on diffraction (of light or electrons) as means of encoding the internuclear spacings between the atoms that together form the molecule.

All-optical method sets record for ultrafast high-spatial-resolution imaging

High-speed cameras can take pictures in quick succession. This makes them useful for visualizing ultrafast dynamic phenomena, such as femtosecond laser ablation for precise machining and manufacturing processes, fast ignition for nuclear fusion energy systems, shock-wave interactions in living cells, and certain chemical reactions.

Shedding light on the development of efficient blue-emitting semiconductors

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have discovered a new alkali copper halide, Cs5Cu3Cl6I2, that emits pure blue light. The combination of the two halide ions, chloride and iodide, gives the material a crystalline structure made of zigzag chains and peculiar properties that result in highly efficient photoluminescence. This novel compound could be readily used to produce relatively inexpensive and eco-friendly white LEDs and reduce the energy used in the generation of everyday artificial light.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers capture stellar winds in unprecedented detail

Astronomers have presented an explanation for the shapes of planetary nebulae. The discovery is based on a set of observations of stellar winds around aging stars. Contrary to common consensus, the team found that stellar winds are not spherical, but have a shape similar to that of planetary nebulae. The team concludes that interaction with an accompanying star or exoplanet shapes both the stellar winds and planetary nebulae. The findings were published in Science.

Venus' ancient layered, folded rocks point to volcanic origin

An international team of researchers has found that some of the oldest terrain on Venus, known as tesserae, have layering that seems consistent with volcanic activity. The finding could provide insights into the enigmatic planet's geological history.

Climate change impacts astronomical observations

Climate changes associated with global warming can affect astronomical observations. That is the result of a study involving scientists from the University of Cologne. The international research team investigated a range of climate parameters at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal in the Atacama Desert in Chile, where the European Southern Observatory (ESO) operates its telescopes. Among other things, the team evaluated the data for temperature, wind speed and wind direction, and the water vapor content in the atmosphere over a period of several decades. This revealed an increase in temperatures above the world average and also increasing image blur due to air turbulence—so-called seeing.

Hubble captures crisp new portrait of Jupiter's storms

This latest image of Jupiter, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 25, 2020, was captured when the planet was 406 million miles from Earth. Hubble's sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet's turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the famous Great Red Spot region gearing up to change color—again.

Technology news

Reviewing recent efforts to improve the reversibility of zinc anodes in rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable zinc metal batteries (RZMBs) could be a viable alternative to lithium ion batteries, which are currently used to power many types of electronic devices, as well as electric vehicles. Recent studies suggest that using optimized electrolytes could lead to RZMBs with highly reversible zinc plating/stripping, achieving Coulombic efficiencies (CEs) close to 100%.

GM Ultium Drives to power new generation of e-vehicles

General Motors on Wednesday announced plans for the production of a family of electric motors and drive units for its next generation of electric cars and trucks.

The brain's memory abilities inspire AI experts in making neural networks less 'forgetful'

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Baylor College of Medicine report that they have successfully addressed what they call a "major, long-standing obstacle to increasing AI capabilities" by drawing inspiration from a human brain memory mechanism known as "replay."

New mathematical tool can select the best sensors for the job

In the 2019 Boeing 737 Max crash, the recovered black box from the aftermath hinted that a failed pressure sensor may have caused the ill-fated aircraft to nose dive. This incident and others have fueled a larger debate on sensor selection, number and placement to prevent the reoccurrence of such tragedies.

Sony's new $500 PlayStation 5 will launch Nov. 12

Sony's upcoming PlayStation 5 video game console will cost $500 and launch Nov. 12, the company said Wednesday, setting up a holiday battle with Microsoft's Xbox Series X over whose new console will turn up under more trees this year.

Australia to amend law making Facebook, Google pay for news

The author of proposed Australian laws to make Facebook and Google pay for journalism said Thursday his draft legislation will be altered to allay some of the digital giants' concerns, but remain fundamentally unchanged.

Putting the 'eye' in AI: What can computers teach us about human vision?

Studying how AI process visual information could help humans understand our own visual system.

'I choose to be a cyborg': Why I implanted computer chips in my hands

I have computer chips in my hands.

What the wildfires tell us about the shortcomings of California's electric grid

In addition to the vast destruction they have caused, the wildfires that have engulfed California in recent weeks have laid bare serious concerns about the state's electric grid.

Cause of the detrimental charge voltage rise in lithium-air batteries identified

NIMS has found for the first time that a voltage increase that occurs in lithium-air batteries when they are being charged—a major issue preventing their practical use—is strongly and positively correlated with the degree of crystallinity of lithium peroxide (Li2O2), a compound produced during a discharge cycle. This discovery is expected to provide significant insight into resolving this issue.

Transition to renewables will change when security of supply risk occurs

The risk of blackouts is usually highest on very cold and sunny winter days when power demand for heating soars. However, this will change as the share of renewables in the electricity system increases, a new study by the S2S4E project shows.

New tool helps IT staff see why users click on fraudulent emails

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new tool called the Phish Scale that could help organizations better train their employees to avoid a particularly dangerous form of cyberattack known as phishing.

Cities press EU for tougher laws governing Airbnb rentals

An alliance of 22 European cities urged the EU on Thursday to enact tougher rules on Airbnb and other short-term holiday rental platforms, accusing them of driving up property prices and squeezing out locals.

Algorithm boosts efficiency, nutrition for food bank ops

Cornell University systems engineers examined data from a busy New York state food bank and, using a new algorithm, found ways to better distribute and allocate food, and elevate nutrition among its patrons in the process.

Price, launch dates, games... PlayStation 5 duels Xbox

Calling the "next generation"—get ready to choose your console. Targeting system supremacy, gaming behemoths Sony and Microsoft are about to go head to head with their latest offerings—PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

How the cheaper Series 3 and SE Apple Watch compare to the new Series 6

Consumers thinking about buying a new Apple Watch might be wondering what's the difference between the older (but still on sale) $199 model and the new $399 Series 6?

Facebook launches Oculus Quest 2: A lighter, cheaper, better-performing VR headset

Facebooked announced plans to release a next-level version of its Oculus Quest virtual reality headset.

Trump says no TikTok deal yet amid security concerns

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he wasn't ready to approve a deal for an American company to partner with Chinese-owned video app TikTok, which would allow it to continue operating in the United States.

Norwegian Air to cut emissions by 45% by 2030

Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle said Thursday it planned to slash CO2 emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and reduce its use of plastics as part of a new environmental strategy.

Ford to build electric truck plant in Michigan, add 300 jobs

Ford says it will add 300 jobs at a new factory that's being built to assemble batteries and manufacture an electric version of the F-150 pickup truck.

A fingerprint for the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of billions of sensors and other devices connected to each other via internet, all of which need to be protected against hackers with malicious purposes. A low-cost and energy efficient solution for the security of IoT devices uses the unique characteristics of the built-in memory chips. Ph.D. candidate Lieneke Kusters investigated how to make optimal use of the chip's digital fingerprint to generate a security key.

Card finally trumps cash in Germany as virus prompts change

Card payments will surpass cash transactions for the first time in Germany in 2020 as the pandemic changes shoppers' behaviour, a study said Thursday.

Comparing virtual and actual pants

The designing, pattern-making and prototype-making process of the apparel industry is a necessary step to confirm the appearance of the desired 3-D shape of a garment before manufacturing. However, it is a time-consuming and costly process involving designers, pattern makers and sewers, and the industry hopes to make improvements in this area. 3-D garment simulation technology using patterns can visually show the design of the garment without making a prototype, slimming down the laborious and often times waste-producing design and production process.

Facebook to curb private groups spreading hate, misinformation

Facebook on Thursday said it is cracking down on private groups where hate or misinformation is shared among members.

As U.S. TikTok ban nears, here's what we know about a deal

With just days to go until President Donald Trump's ban on TikTok in the U.S. comes into effect, the race is on for owner ByteDance to win approval for its plan to avoid a shutdown.

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