Science X Newsletter Thursday, Nov 14

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 14, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A unifying approach for controlling flying robotic insects

A new theoretical model to capture spin dynamics in Rydberg molecules

Graphene: The more you bend it, the softer it gets

Simulation reveals how bacterial organelle converts sunlight to chemical energy

Researchers generate terahertz laser with laughing gas

Research team develops tiny low-energy device to rapidly reroute light in computer chips

IPTF14hls may be a variable hyper-wind from a very massive star, study suggests

Evolution can reconfigure gene networks to deal with environmental change

New RNA molecules may play a role in aging

Study finds 'hyperhotspots' that could predict skin cancer risk

Climate may have helped crumble one of the ancient world's most powerful civilizations

Future rainfall could far outweigh current climate predictions

No deliveries: How cells decide when to accept extracellular packages

China tests Mars lander in international cooperation push

Top cosmologist's lonely battle against 'Big Bang' theory

Physics news

A new theoretical model to capture spin dynamics in Rydberg molecules

Rydberg molecules are giant molecules made up of tens or hundreds of atoms bound to a Rydberg atom. These molecules have a permanent dipole (i.e., a pair of oppositely charged or magnetized poles), as one of their atoms is in a highly excited state.

Researchers generate terahertz laser with laughing gas

Within the electromagnetic middle ground between microwaves and visible light lies terahertz radiation, and the promise of "T-ray vision."

Research team develops tiny low-energy device to rapidly reroute light in computer chips

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues have developed an optical switch that routes light from one computer chip to another in just 20 billionths of a second—faster than any other similar device. The compact switch is the first to operate at voltages low enough to be integrated onto low-cost silicon chips and redirects light with very low signal loss.

Top cosmologist's lonely battle against 'Big Bang' theory

James Peebles won this year's Nobel prize in physics for helping transform the field of cosmology into a respected science, but if there's one term he hates to hear, it's "Big Bang Theory."

Quantum transition makes electrons behave as if they lack spin

The common phase transitions are those that occur as a function of temperature variation. Ice changes phase to become liquid water at 0 degrees Celsius. Liquid water changes phase to become water vapor at 100 degrees Celsius. Similarly, magnetic materials become nonmagnetic at critical temperatures. However, there are also phase transitions that do not depend on temperature. They occur in the vicinity of absolute zero [-273.15 degrees Celsius] and are associated with quantum fluctuations.

Physicists irreversibly split photons by freezing them in a Bose-Einstein condensate

Light can be directed in different directions, usually also back the same way. Physicists from the University of Bonn and the University of Cologne have, however, succeeded in creating a new one-way street for light. They cool photons down to a Bose-Einstein condensate, which causes the light to collect in optical "valleys" from which it can no longer return. The findings from basic research could also be of interest for the quantum communication of the future. The results are published in Science.

Quantum physics: Our study suggests objective reality doesn't exist

Alternative facts are spreading like a virus across society. Now it seems they have even infected science—at least the quantum realm. This may seem counter intuitive. The scientific method is after all founded on the reliable notions of observation, measurement and repeatability. A fact, as established by a measurement, should be objective, such that all observers can agree with it.

From a cloud of cold and a spark, researchers create and stabilize pure polymeric nitrogen for the first time

Scientists have long theorized that the energy stored in the atomic bonds of nitrogen could one day be a source of clean energy. But coaxing the nitrogen atoms into linking up has been a daunting task. Researchers at Drexel University's C&J Nyheim Plasma Institute have finally proven that it's experimentally possible—with some encouragement from a liquid plasma spark.

New solar power generator to be deployed to space station

A new solar power generator prototype developed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and research teams in the United States, will be deployed on the first 2020 NASA flight launch to the International Space Station.

From sci-fi to science lab: Holograms you can 'feel'

Walking, talking holograms have been a staple of sci-fi films since Princess Leia was magically brought to life in "Star Wars".

How do you make the world's most powerful neutrino beam?

What do you need to make the most intense beam of neutrinos in the world? Just a few magnets and some pencil lead. But not your usual household stuff. After all, this is the world's most intense high-energy neutrino beam, so we're talking about jumbo-sized parts: magnets the size of park benches and ultrapure rods of graphite as tall as Danny DeVito.

Astronomy & Space news

IPTF14hls may be a variable hyper-wind from a very massive star, study suggests

A source known as iPTF14hls, assumed to be a Type IIP supernova, may be a long-term outflow similar to stellar winds, according to a new study published November 5 on arXiv.org. The new research proposes that iPTF14hls is most likely a so-called "hyper-wind"—an extreme mass outflow from a massive star.

China tests Mars lander in international cooperation push

China showed off its Mars spacecraft during a landing test Thursday as the country pushes for inclusion in more global space projects.

Two cosmic peacocks show violent history of the magellanic clouds

Two peacock-shaped gaseous clouds were revealed in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) by observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). A team of astronomers found several massive baby stars in the complex filamentary clouds, which agrees well with computer simulations of giant collisions of gaseous clouds. The researchers interpret this to mean that the filaments and young stars are telltale evidence of violent interactions between the LMC and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) 200 million years ago.

What's the best way to sail from world to world? Electric sails or solar sails?

In the past decade, thousands of planets have been discovered beyond our solar system. This has had the effect of renewing interest in space exploration, which includes the possibility of sending spacecraft to explore exoplanets. Given the challenges involved, a number of advanced concepts are currently being explored, like the time-honored concept of a light sail (as exemplified by Breakthrough Starshot and similar proposals).

Now in space: A cutting-edge satellite the size of a shoebox built by students

Just be thankful there are students like Paige Northway and Nathan Wacker, two University of Washington students who think it's neat to work on stuff like a satellite the size of a shoebox.

New moon-seeking sensor aims to improve earth observations

A new instrument with its eye on the Moon is taking off aboard a high-altitude NASA plane to measure the Moon's brightness and eventually help Earth observing sensors make more accurate measurements.

NASA warned of safety risks in delayed private crew launches

NASA auditors warn the space agency faces "significant safety and technical challenges" that need to be solved before astronauts fly in private capsules.

Technology news

A unifying approach for controlling flying robotic insects

One of the key problems confronting researchers in the field of microrobotics is designing and implementing reliable controllers for insect-scale micro air vehicles (FWMAVs), which are tiny flying robots typically inspired by insects. In fact, although these insect-size robots could have numerous useful applications, for instance, assisting humans in search and rescue missions or in agriculture, developing controllers that match their size and structure has so far proved to be difficult.

Security problems found in 5G protocol

A combined team of researchers from the University of Iowa and Purdue University has found nearly a dozen security breaches in the 5G protocol. They have written a paper describing both their findings and a security breaching tool they developed called 5GReasoner, and have uploaded it to the Documentcloud server.

Design flaw could open Bluetooth devices to hacking

Mobile apps that work with Bluetooth devices have an inherent design flaw that makes them vulnerable to hacking, new research has found.

A new parallel strategy for tackling turbulence on Summit

Turbulence, the state of disorderly fluid motion, is a scientific puzzle of great complexity. Turbulence permeates many applications in science and engineering, including combustion, pollutant transport, weather forecasting, astrophysics, and more. One of the challenges facing scientists who simulate turbulence lies in the wide range of scales they must capture to accurately understand the phenomenon. These scales can span several orders of magnitude and can be difficult to capture within the constraints of the available computing resources.

AI for plant breeding in an ever-changing climate

How might artificial intelligence (AI) impact agriculture, the food industry, and the field of bioengineering? Dan Jacobson, a research and development staff member in the Biosciences Division at the US Department of Energy's (DOE's) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), has a few ideas.

Modeling every building in America starts with Chattanooga

Buildings use 40 percent of America's primary energy and 75 percent of its electricity, which can jump to 80 percent when a majority of the population is at home using heating or cooling systems and the seasons reach their extremes.

Facebook says AI getting better at spying unwanted content

Facebook on Wednesday said that its software is getting more skilled at spying banned content at the social network, then working with humans to quickly remove terrorist videos and more.

Taiwan halts sales of three Huawei phones in wording row

Taiwan has suspended sales of three Huawei smartphone models that listed it as "Taiwan, China" for timezones and contacts—a designation the self-ruled, democratic island bristles at.

Motorola flips for its futuristic foldable phone

Motorola is bracing for the future by returning to the past. The company is adapting its historical flip-phone design for a smartphone with a foldable screen.

Software helps planners design walkable cities

Walkable cities reduce traffic congestion, which causes around 3.3 million deaths and $121 billion in economic losses every year. But when architects are developing pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, they often rely on trial and error, intuition or specialized simulations that are hard to use and to incorporate into their designs.

Report exposes flaw in iVote system used in New South Wales election

Flaws in the iVote internet and telephone voting system used in the 2019 New South Wales election could have made it vulnerable to undetectable voter fraud, a new report has revealed.

Convoy, the 'Uber for Trucking' app, scores $400 million in new round of funding

Convoy, the Seattle-based company whose app promises to make the freight process more reliable and efficient, said it has raised $400 million in its latest funding round, announced Wednesday.

Buddy Adventures and Niantic Wayfarer coming to 'Pokémon Go'

Augmented reality has always been a key component to "Pokemon Go." It was a major feature when the mobile game was released, and over time, Niantic has expanded that element and refined it.

Five years ago Amazon introduced Alexa. The name may never be the same. Here's what happened

About 4,250 Alexas are turning five in the U.S. this year. One of them is Amazon's.

Google Flights aims to save air travelers money with new alerts on nearby airports, travel dates

Google Flights is trying to make the process of booking a flight a little easier—and less stressful—with some new updates.

Consumer Reports finds vehicle redesigns come with glitches

When it comes to buying a new car, the latest and greatest may not be the most dependable.

Scientists design built-in controls for mini-chemical labs on a chip

Since the 1990s, scientists have been exploring the possibilities of miniaturized chemical "laboratories" on a chip, which have potential as point-of-care diagnostics, analysis kits for field research and someday even conducting chemical tests on other planets.

WPI engineers creating miniaturized, wireless oxygen sensor for sick infants

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are developing a sensor the size of a Band-Aid that will measure a baby's blood oxygen levels, a vital indication of the lungs' effectiveness and whether the baby's tissue is receiving adequate oxygen supply. Unlike current systems used in hospitals, this miniaturized wearable device will be flexible and stretchable, wireless, inexpensive, and mobile—possibly allowing the child to leave the hospital and be monitored remotely.

WeWork loses $1.25 billion in third quarter

WeWork racked up $1.25 billion in losses in the third quarter as it geared up for, and ultimately scuttled, its debut as a public company.

Robots with benefits: How sexbots are marketed as companions

When thinking of sexbots, companionship might not be the first word that comes to mind. But sexbot advertising promises more than sex toys. It is also selling emotional intimacy: robots marketed as if they are capable of meeting both physical and psychological needs.

Tech Q&A: Some slow PCs can't be made much faster

Q: About three months ago, I purchased an HP Pavilion laptop, model 17-ar050wm, that is clearly the slowest PC I've ever owned or used. I had a technician look for anything that could be turned off or deleted to make the PC run faster, but it hasn't helped. Is this a problem with the PC that I'll have to live with, or is there a remedy?

Review: 'Death Stranding' is 'Oregon Trail' with detours through Kojima's imagination

Look up the word "enigma" in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of "Death Stranding." Since it was revealed in 2016, the game raised more questions than answers. The project seemed like an amalgamation of random images with gameplay that was equally as mysterious.

Computer scientists develop new tool that generates videos from themed text

In a world of novice photographers and videographers, capturing a deluge of content via their smartphones and handheld devices, there is a need for an intelligent, easy-to-use tool for automating the creation of movies and video montages. To date, many quality videos still rely on professional frame-based editing tools to manipulate raw footage and produce a coherent video with a captivating storyline.

A turbocharger for the supercomputer JUWELS

The Jülich supercomputer JUWELS will have a big brother, a so-called booster module, as Forschungszentrum Jülich, Atos, and ParTec have agreed. The module, equipped with several thousand graphics processors, is designed for extreme computing power and artificial intelligence tasks. It is designed as a Franco-German project together with NVIDIA and Mellanox using the co-design process. With the launch of the booster in 2020, the computing power of JUWELS will be increased from currently 12 to over 70 petaflops. This is equivalent to 70 trillion computing operations per second or the power of more than 300,000 modern PCs—no computer in Europe currently calculates faster.

New Jersey seeks $640M from Uber for misclassifying workers

New Jersey is seeking more than $640 million from Uber in taxes and penalties, saying the ride-hailing company misclassified its drivers as independent contractors.


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