Science X Newsletter Monday, Nov 4

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 4, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Designing unmanned aerial vehicle trajectories for energy minimization

Extending electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to nanoliter volume protein single crystals

RoboBee powered by soft muscles

Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space: Scientists detect plasma density jump

Gene-OFF switches tool up synthetic biology

Scientists discover how potent bacterial toxin kills MRSA bacteria

City apartments or jungle huts: What chemicals and microbes lurk inside?

Nanoparticle drug delivery provides pain relief and more effective opioid alternative in animal study

National-scale study shows that invasive grasses promote wildfire

New study sheds more light on the properties of three polars

Complex society discovered in the vulturine guineafowl

Invasive species short-circuiting benefits from mercury reduction in the Great Lakes

Sea levels to continue rising after Paris agreement emission pledges expire in 2030

Tethered chem combos could revolutionize artificial photosynthesis

Study of African animals illuminates links between environment, diet and gut microbiome

Physics news

Extending electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to nanoliter volume protein single crystals

Biochemists can use electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) on protein single crystals to determine the ultimate electronic structure of paramagnetic protein intermediates and investigate the relative magnetic tensor to a molecular structure. The method is, however, withheld by typical protein crystal dimensions (0.05 to 0.3 mm) that do not provide sufficient signal intensity during protein crystallography. In a new study on Science Advances, Jason W. Sidabras and an interdisciplinary research team in the departments of Chemical Energy Conversion, Photobiotechnology, Institute for Biology and Experimental Physics in Germany presented a microwave self-resonant microhelix to quantify nanoliter samples. The scientists implemented the technique in a commercial X-band (mid-range frequency; 9.5 GHz) EPR spectrometer. The self-resonant microhelix provided a measured signal-to-noise improvement compared to other commercial EPR resonators. The work enables advanced EPR techniques to study protein single crystals for X-ray crystallography, without size-related exclusions or challenges. To demonstrate the method, Sidabras et al. used single crystal protein [FeFe]-hydrogenase (from Clostridium pasteurianum) with 0.3 mm by 0.1 mm by 0.1 mm dimensions.

New printer creates extremely realistic colorful holograms

Researchers have developed a new printer that produces digital 3-D holograms with an unprecedented level of detail and realistic color. The new printer could be used to make high-resolution color recreations of objects or scenes for museum displays, architectural models, fine art or advertisements that do not require glasses or special viewing aids.

Scientists spy unstable semiconductors

Scientists from Cardiff University have, for the first time, spotted previously unseen "instabilities" on the surface of a common compound semiconductor material.

Researchers find best classroom shapes for fish swimming in schools

A team of researchers has identified the best arrangements for fish swimming in schools—formations that are superior in terms of saving energy while also optimizing speed. Its findings, which appear in the journal Physical Review X, point to potential new ways to enhance energy-producing technologies.

Light-based 'tractor beam' assembles materials at the nanoscale

Modern construction is a precision endeavor. Builders must use components manufactured to meet specific standards—such as beams of a desired composition or rivets of a specific size. The building industry relies on manufacturers to create these components reliably and reproducibly in order to construct secure bridges and sound skyscrapers.

Why is ice so slippery?

The answer lies in a film of water that is generated by friction, one that is far thinner than expected and much more viscous than usual water through its resemblance to the "snow cones" of crushed ice we drink during the summer. This phenomenon was recently demonstrated by researchers from the CNRS and ENS-PSL, with support from the École polytechnique, in a study that appeared in Physical Review X on November 4, 2019.

In classical and quantum secure communication practical randomness is incomplete

Random bit sequences are key ingredients of various tasks in modern life and especially in secure communication. In a new study researchers have determined that generating true random bit sequences, classical or quantum, is an impossible mission. Based on these findings, they have demonstrated a new method of classified secure communication.

'Hot' electrons in metallic nanostructures—non-thermal carriers or heating?

What happens to a piece of metal when you shine light on it? This question, which has been one of the driving forces of modern physics, gained renewed interest in recent years, with the advances in fabrication of small metallic nano-particles. When a piece of metal is very small, it turns out that it can couple extremely well to visible light. The study of fundamental and applicable aspects of this interaction is typically referred to as plasmonics.

Commemorating 30 years of optical vortices: A comprehensive review

Commemorating the 30th anniversary of the prediction of optical vortices, researchers in China—Xing Fu at Tsinghua University, Xiaocong Yuan at Shenzhen University and co-authors—reviewed the 30-year development of the understanding and applications of these intriguing phenomena.

Astronomy & Space news

Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space: Scientists detect plasma density jump

Voyager 1 has a companion in the realm of the stars.

New study sheds more light on the properties of three polars

Cataclysmic variables (CVs) are binary star systems consisting of a white dwarf and a normal star companion. They irregularly increase in brightness by a large factor, then drop back down to a quiescent state. Although over 140 polars have been detected to date, only 33 of them have been identified as eclipsing systems. Observations of these rare objects could offer astronomers more opportunities to study magnetic accretion in binaries, for instance.

Boeing crew capsule completes major flight test in desert

Boeing's capsule for astronauts underwent its first major flight test Monday, shooting a mile into the air then parachuting back to the New Mexico desert.

42 years on, Voyager 2 charts interstellar space

A probe launched by NASA four days after Elvis died has delivered a treasure trove of data from beyond the "solar bubble" that envelops Earth and our neighbouring planets, scientists reported Monday.

Thousands of new globular clusters have formed over the last billion years

Globular clusters may contain hundreds of thousands of stars and may even have as many as ten million stars that essentially emerged at the same time. They are the oldest visible objects in the universe. Globular clusters come together in dense, spherical volumes with diameters hundreds of times smaller than the diameter of our galaxy. The Milky Way is surrounded by about 150 globular clusters, some of which are visible in the darkness of the night. But about ten or twenty thousand globular clusters can be found around the giant galaxies located at the centre of the galaxy clusters. Galaxy clusters contain hundreds or thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity and infused by hot gas (over ten times hotter than that at the Sun's core).

How to control biofilms in space

Researchers from MIT will be collaborating with colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder on an experiment scheduled to be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on Nov. 2. The experiment is looking for ways to address the formation of biofilms on surfaces within the space station. These hard-to-kill communities of bacteria or fungi can cause equipment malfunctions and make astronauts sick. MIT News asked professor of mechanical engineering Kripa Varanasi and doctoral student Samantha McBride to describe the planned experiments and their goals.

Image: ESA's Juice model cast in gold for antenna tests

In a decade's time, an exciting new visitor will enter the Jovian system: ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or Juice. As its name suggests, the mission will explore Jupiter and three of its largest moons—Ganymede, Callisto and Europa—to investigate the giant planet's cosmic family and gas giant planets in general.

Image: Hubble views a not-so-lonely galaxy

Galaxies may seem lonely, floating alone in the vast, inky blackness of the sparsely populated cosmos—but looks can be deceiving. This image of NGC 1706, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is a good example of this. NGC 1706 is a spiral galaxy, about 230 million light-years away, in the constellation of Dorado (the Swordfish).

25 years of science in the solar wind

In the early 1980s, heliophysicists needed answers. They wanted to learn how to protect astronauts and assets around Earth from the potentially damaging space weather that results from our tumultuous sun. To do that, they needed to better understand the constantly changing, dynamic space system around our planet—including measurements of the properties of the solar wind, the constant billowing of charged particles coming off the sun. Answering this call was the aptly named Wind mission, which launched 25 years ago, on Nov. 1, 1994. Wind currently orbits at the first Lagrange point, L1, a spot of gravitational balance between the sun and Earth, which allows the spacecraft to face the sun at all times.

A decade probing the sun

Ten years ago, a small satellite carrying 17 new devices, science instruments and technology experiments was launched into orbit, on a mission to investigate our star and the environment that it rules in space.

Technology news

Designing unmanned aerial vehicle trajectories for energy minimization

A team of researchers at the University of Luxembourg and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology have recently proposed a new approach to design trajectories for energy-efficient unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-enabled wireless communications. Their paper, prepublished on arXiv, specifically focuses on cases in which an UAV acts as a flying base station (BS) to serve ground users (GSs) within some predetermined latency constraints.

RoboBee powered by soft muscles

The sight of a RoboBee careening towards a wall or crashing into a glass box may have once triggered panic in the researchers in the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), but no more.

Better autonomous 'reasoning' at tricky intersections

MIT and Toyota researchers have designed a new model to help autonomous vehicles determine when it's safe to merge into traffic at intersections with obstructed views.

Patent talk: Transition lenses in broad daylight for AR

Will they or won't they? Headlines surface regularly that this, that or the other among digital brands are going to come out with a killer pair of augmented reality glasses, and it's hope, too, mixed with anticipation, feeding the buzz.

Bloodhound's 461-mph speed is big but team eyes bigger record ahead

The Bloodhound, the darling of The Bloodhound LSR jet car project, has good reason to be praised as a speed rockstar, with speed now at 461mph (741km/h).

Scientists create 'artificial leaf' that turns carbon into fuel

Scientists have created an "artificial leaf" to fight climate change by inexpensively converting harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) into a useful alternative fuel.

Navigation method may speed up autonomous last-mile delivery

In the not too distant future, robots may be dispatched as last-mile delivery vehicles to drop your takeout order, package, or meal-kit subscription at your doorstep—if they can find the door.

Huawei moving on 5G while politics plays out

Major state telecom operators are rolling out 5G wireless advances in China as the country races to close a technology gap with the United States amid a bruising trade war.

Google buying Fitbit in move into wearables, digital health

Google agreed Friday to buy Fitbit for $2.1 billion in a move giving the US tech giant a fresh entry in the wearable technology space and helping it ramp up its challenge to Apple.

Elon Musk says he is disconnecting from Twitter

Tesla chief Elon Musk fired off a tweet on Friday indicating that he is disconnecting from Twitter, perhaps in favor of popular news and discussion platform Reddit.

US opens national security probe of Chinese-owned app TikTok: report

The US government has opened a national security investigation into the Chinese-owned video app TikTok, the New York Times reported Friday.

For theaters, rise of streaming is a movie they've seen before

In his 60 years in the movie theater business in rural South Dakota, Jeff Logan has heard his share of gloomy predictions before, some of them long before the streaming era.

As 'streaming wars' rage, social networks create own TV series

Even as Disney, HBO and Apple lavish billions on content to gatecrash TV streaming wars, social networks like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat are creating their own original shows to get their piece of the advertising pie.

China gets into blockchain race with US

China has launched an ambitious effort to challenge the US dominance in blockchain technology, which it could use for everything from issuing digital money, to streamlining a raft of government services and tracking Communist Party loyalty.

Huawei pushes 5G in SEAsia, brushing off 'tech war' with US

Chinese phone giant Huawei said Sunday it was ready to roll out 5G infrastructure across Southeast Asia, dismissing US warnings its tech could be used to hoover up data for Beijing.

Crypto-currencies and criminality: myth or reality?

The recent bust of a worldwide international paedophile ring using Bitcoin payments highlighted one of the key fears surrounding crypto-currencies—their use by criminals.

Merkel: 1 million car charging points in Germany by 2030

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday she wants to drastically increase the number of charging stations for electric cars in Germany to give consumers more confidence to switch over to electric from internal combustion engines.

Learning from mistakes and transferable skills—the attributes for a worker robot

Practise makes perfect—it is an adage that has helped humans become highly dexterous and now it is an approach that is being applied to robots.

11 expert tips to search Google better, faster, more strategically

Searching on Google has become second nature for billions of people. In fact, Googling is so entrenched in our culture, it's become the generic word for looking things up online. Yet even though you long ago mastered the essentials, there's still a lot most of us can learn about how to search faster and more effectively.

Caught red-handed: Automatic cameras will spot mobile-using motorists, but at what cost?

Over the years, advances in technology and transport policy have greatly impacted drivers. In the 1980s this came in the form of random breath testing, and more recently, mobile drug testing.

Another approach to online platforms is possible: Cooperation

2000s, but there is growing societal concern. On the technological end, their are questions concerning their use of personal data as well as the ethics of algorithms. Their broader socioeconomic model is also hotly debated: such platforms are designed to generate value for their users by organizing peer-to-peer transactions, but some of the more dominant ones charge high fees for their role as an intermediary. They're also accused of dodging labor laws, with their high use of independent workers, practicing tax optimization or contributing to the growing commodification of our everyday lives. Such concerns have even driven some of their users to take collective action.

Project Silica proof of concept stores Warner Bros. 'Superman' movie on quartz glass

Microsoft and Warner Bros. have collaborated to successfully store and retrieve the entire 1978 iconic "Superman" movie on a piece of glass roughly the size of a drink coaster, 75 by 75 by 2 millimeters thick.

Apple offers $2.5 bn to address California housing crisis

Apple said Monday it would commit $2.5 billion over the next two years to help address the shortage of affordable housing in California and reduce homelessness.

Photostructurable pastes for 5G applications

For many years now, miniaturization has been the main driver of the electronics industry. This is particularly true for ceramic-based circuit boards, which have properties that make them especially suitable for high-frequency circuits. Increasingly demanding technical requirements have exposed the limits of the classic thick-film technologies used for the production of circuit-board conductors. Now, however, a new generation of thick-film pastes and their photolithographic structuring enable the manufacturing of extremely high-resolution thick-film structures necessary for 5G applications. Moreover, this process is suitable for mass production and industrial applications while maintaining low investment costs and only minimally extending production times. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS exhibit the new pastes at the Productronica trade fair in Munich from November 12 to 15 (Hall B2, Booth 228).

Neural networks enable autonomous navigation of catheters

When a patient has a stroke, every minute counts. Here, prompt action can prevent serious brain damage. If a clot is blocking a large blood vessel in the brain, surgeons can remove this occlusion by means of a catheter inserted in the patient's groin. However, this is a complicated procedure, requiring a lot of experience, and only a few specialists are capable of carrying it out. In new work, Fraunhofer researchers have been investigating whether artificial intelligence might be used to steer a catheter automatically and reliably to a blocked blood vessel. Initial tests with a simulation model and in the laboratory have been highly promising. The research team will be demonstrating this new technique on a blood vessel phantom at the MEDICA 2019 trade fair in Düsseldorf from November 18 to 21 (Hall 10, Booth G05).

Snowden warns of Web giants' 'irresistible power'

Technology has given internet giants "irresistible power" when they work in concert with governments, whistleblower Ed Snowden told the Web Summit that opened in Lisbon on Monday.

New Facebook logo arrives as its 'family' grows

Facebook on Monday unveiled a new logo to represent the Silicon Valley company, distinct from its core social network.

Fosun buys Thomas Cook brand for £11 million

Chinese conglomerate Fosun has snapped up the Thomas Cook brand for £11 million ($14.2 million), weeks after the renowned British travel group went bust and left hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers stranded abroad.

Airbnb bans 'party houses' after deadly US shooting

Airbnb's boss announced Saturday that the online platform, which offers private homes for rent for short periods, is banning "party houses" after a deadly shooting at a Halloween event in California.

Ryanair net profits flatten in first half

Irish no-frills airline Ryanair said Monday that first-half net profit flattened on lower ticket prices, weak British demand, fierce competition elsewhere in Europe and a soaring fuel bill.

'Silicon Saxony' stands on foundations laid under East Germany

When US computer processor maker AMD was building a factory in the eastern German city Dresden in the late 1990s, it sent around 200 local engineers for training to its site in Texas.

IAG buys Air Europa amid aviation sector upheaval

British Airways owner IAG agreed Monday to buy Spain's Air Europa as the global aviation sector charts a path through high-profile failures, fierce competition, economic woes and high fuel prices.

Philippines' Cebu Pacific places $4.8 bn Airbus order

The Philippines' largest budget airline Cebu Air Inc has ordered 16 Airbus planes worth $4.8 billion, the company said Monday, as it aims to expand carrying capacity with larger, more fuel-efficient jets.

Lufthansa faces German cabin crew strike on Thursday and Friday

A German union on Monday said it had called on Lufthansa cabin crew to stage a strike Thursday and Friday in an escalating battle for better pay and conditions.

Ferrari shares roar ahead on raised 2019 targets

Shares in Italian luxury sportscar maker Ferrari leapt ahead Monday after the company raised its 2019 targets and unveiled a partnership with Armani.

An intelligent network for better water management

EPFL-based startup Droople has developed a smart flow meter that can measure buildings' water consumption and identify potential savings in energy. The Montreux Jazz Café at EPFL has already tested the device and found a way to cut its energy bill.

SRNL radiation detection systems operating at ports of Tacoma and NY/NJ

After years of development and testing, a radiation detection system developed by the Department of Energy's Savannah River National Laboratory is now in full-scale operation at major United States shipping ports.

Google employees call for corporate climate change action

Google employees are demanding the company issue a climate plan that commits it to zero emissions by 2030.


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