Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Nov 20

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 20, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A technique to measure mechanical motion beyond the quantum limit

Hourglass-shaped silicon photodiodes with an enhanced near-infrared photoresponse

Astronomers investigate stellar content of the open cluster NGC 330

Bot can beat humans in multiplayer hidden-role games

First detection of the cosmic monster explosions with ground-based gamma-ray telescopes

'Epidermal VR' gives technology a human touch

To navigate, flies make flexible mental maps of the world

Researchers design an improved pathway to carbon-neutral plastics

New fossils shed light on how snakes got their bite and lost their legs

New hybrid device can both capture and store solar energy

Omega-3 fish oil as effective for attention as ADHD drugs for some children

Skipping breakfast linked to lower GCSE grades

TESS helps astronomers study red-giant stars, examine a too-close planet

New analytical tool locates shooters using smartphone video

A decade after the predators have gone, Galapagos Island finches are still being spooked

Physics news

A technique to measure mechanical motion beyond the quantum limit

Researchers at the University of Colorado have recently developed a new technique to measure mechanical motion using simultaneous electromechanical amplification and cooling processes. Their method, presented in a paper published in Physical Review Letters, allowed them to perform a nearly noiseless measurement of the position of a mechanical oscillator, which has so far proved to be difficult using alternative techniques for measuring motion.

Researchers substantially boost sensitivity of terahertz gas analysis

A new advance promises to increase the sensitivity of high-resolution spectrometers that perform chemical analysis using terahertz wavelengths. This higher sensitivity could benefit many applications, such as analysis of the complex gas mixtures found in industrial emissions and detection of biomarkers of disease in the breath of patients. It could also lead to new ways to detect food spoilage through gas detection.

Machine learning microscope adapts lighting to improve diagnosis

Engineers at Duke University have developed a microscope that adapts its lighting angles, colors and patterns while teaching itself the optimal settings needed to complete a given diagnostic task.

New water-based optical device revolutionizes the field of optics research

Light is versatile in nature. In other words, it shows different characteristics when traveling through different types of materials. This property has been explored with various technologies, but the way in which light interacts with materials needs to be manipulated to get the desired effect. This is done using special devices called light modulators, which have the ability to modify the properties of light.

What impacts will quantum fintech have on mainstream finance?

The evolution of modern finance was closely linked to the evolution of computers, communications, and financial mathematics. Two main changes happened in the 1970s with the beginning of derivative trading and after the crisis of 2007 with the massive introduction of fintech.

Designer lens helps see the big picture

Microscopes have been at the center of many of the most important advances in biology for many centuries. Now, KAUST researchers have shown how a standard microscope can be adapted to provide even more information.

Astronomy & Space news

Astronomers investigate stellar content of the open cluster NGC 330

Using the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, astronomers have conducted a spectroscopic study of the young open cluster NGC 330. Results of the research, published on, provide more details about the cluster's stellar content.

First detection of the cosmic monster explosions with ground-based gamma-ray telescopes

The strongest explosions in the universe produce even more energetic radiation than previously known: Using specialized telescopes, two international teams have registered the highest energy gamma rays ever measured from so-called gamma-ray bursts, reaching about 100 billion times as much energy as visible light. The scientists of the H.E.S.S. and MAGIC telescopes present their observations in independent publications in the journal Nature. These are the first detections of gamma-ray bursts with ground-based gamma-ray telescopes. DESY plays a major role in both observatories, which are operated under the leadership of the Max Planck Society.

TESS helps astronomers study red-giant stars, examine a too-close planet

NASA's planet-hunting TESS Mission keeps giving astronomers new realities to examine and explain.

Caught in the act: MeerKAT telescope spies stellar flare

Scientists using the MeerKAT radio telescope have discovered a unique and previously-unseen flare of radio emission from a binary star in our galaxy.

Outback telescope captures Milky Way center, discovers remnants of dead stars

A radio telescope in the Western Australian outback has captured a spectacular new view of the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The image from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope shows what our galaxy would look like if human eyes could see radio waves.

NASA applying AI technologies to problems in space science

Could the same computer algorithms that teach autonomous cars to drive safely help identify nearby asteroids or discover life in the universe? NASA scientists are trying to figure that out by partnering with pioneers in artificial intelligence (AI)—companies such as Intel, IBM and Google—to apply advanced computer algorithms to problems in space science.

Historic climate change on Mars might be detectable

Historical instances of extreme climate change on Mars could be detected through the measurement of subsurface temperatures, according to a new University of Stirling study.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope could find more of Earth's transient moons

It is a well-known astronomical convention that Earth has only one natural satellite, which is known (somewhat uncreatively) as "the moon." However, astronomers have known for a little over a decade that Earth also has a population of what are known as "transient moons." These are a subset of near-Earth objects (NEOs) that are temporarily scooped up by Earth's gravity and assume orbits around our planet.

Spain has permits to build giant telescope blocked in Hawaii

The director of a Spanish research center said Wednesday that a giant telescope, costing $1.4 billion, is one step nearer to being built on the Canary Islands in the event an international consortium gives up its plans to build it in Hawaii.

Breaking the limits: Discovery of the highest-energy photons from a gamma-ray burst

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are brief and extremely powerful cosmic explosions, suddenly appearing in the sky, about once per day. They are thought to result from the collapse of massive stars or the merging of neutron stars in distant galaxies. They commence with an initial, very bright flash, called the prompt emission, with a duration ranging from a fraction of a second to hundreds of seconds. The prompt emission is accompanied by the so-called afterglow, a less brighter but longer-lasting emission over a broad range of wavelengths that fades with time. The first GRB detected by the MAGIC telescopes, known as GRB 190114C, reveals for the first time the highest energy photons measured from these objects.

Possible meteor outburst this week worth a look up

Scientists are predicting a rare meteor outburst this week that may be brief but incredibly intense.

Hubble studies gamma-ray burst with the highest energy ever seen

New observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have investigated the nature of the gamma-ray burst GRB 190114C.

Technology news

Hourglass-shaped silicon photodiodes with an enhanced near-infrared photoresponse

Silicon photodiodes are semiconductor devices commonly used to detect visible light and measure its intensity, color and position. The fact that these devices are made of silicon has both advantages and disadvantages.

Bot can beat humans in multiplayer hidden-role games

MIT researchers have developed a bot equipped with artificial intelligence that can beat human players in tricky online multiplayer games where player roles and motives are kept secret.

'Epidermal VR' gives technology a human touch

Imagine holding hands with a loved one on the other side of the world. Or feeling a pat on the back from a teammate in the online game "Fortnite."

New hybrid device can both capture and store solar energy

Researchers from the University of Houston have reported a new device that can both efficiently capture solar energy and store it until it is needed, offering promise for applications ranging from power generation to distillation and desalination.

New analytical tool locates shooters using smartphone video

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a system that can accurately locate a shooter based on video recordings from as few as three smartphones.

Team saw how an attacker could hijack Android camera for spyfest

Android camera security threat, disclosed and since addressed, had spy vulnerabilities. These were fixed by Google and Samsung with a patch rolled out for Pixel and Samsung devices The recent headlines surrounding the flaw on Android devices teased a discomforting thought in the latest of numerous discomforting thoughts about security risks in the Android ecosystem.

This humidity digester breathes in atmospheric water and exhales energy

Integrating a super moisture-absorbent gel with light-active materials, researchers in Singapore have developed a humidity digester to dry the ambient air while generating energy. The method, presented November 20 in the journal Joule, is a green alternative to air conditioners with a trick—pulling water out of thin air.

Wind more effective than cold air at cooling rooms naturally

The effectiveness of non-mechanical, low-energy methods for moderating temperature and humidity has been evaluated in a series of experiments by researchers from the University of Cambridge.

Alibaba eyes $12.9 bn Hong Kong IPO after setting price

Chinese online retail titan Alibaba said Wednesday it could raise almost $13 billion in Hong Kong's biggest IPO for nearly a decade after announcing the pricing of its shares for the mega sale.

New SUVs and electric vehicles highlight L.A. Auto Show

New electric vehicles, several new small SUVs, a redesigned compact car, a plug-in version of Toyota's top-selling vehicle and a futuristic electric station wagon concept car from Volkswagen are among the new models on display this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Robochef: Sony cooks up new AI unit for food revolution

Cooking robots and tastier recipes: Japanese electronics giant Sony on Wednesday launched a new artificial intelligence unit they hope will change the way we cook and eat.

Digital battleground looms large for 2020 election

President Donald Trump has been on a social media ad spending spree for his 2020 re-election campaign, but he's about to endure a massive digital counterattack.

Multiple helical magnetic soft robots carry us closer to understanding collective behaviors

Magnetic soft robots are a promising option for contactless control in confined environments via external magnetic stimuli. Magneto-induced motions, i.e., magnetomotility, are driven by local deformation of a robot whereby particle alignments and alternating polar distributions are programmed into the body. Attempts to program magnetic anisotropy into the soft robots have been performed through direct laser printing (DLP), stereolithography (SLA) and fused filament fabrication (FDM) combined with multi-axial manipulation of electromagnets.

Mobile mapping more accurate with a novel algorithm

A novel algorithm developed by University of Twente Ph.D. candidate Phillipp Fanta-Jende improves the accuracy of surveyed mobile mapping imaging products. It can compensate for measurement errors introduced from erroneous satellite-based positioning usually occurring in urban areas. The novel technique is cost-efficient compared to traditional labor-intensive methods while enabling a comparable accuracy in the low-decimeter range.

Muted launch for Google's game-streaming service Stadia

Google's new game-streaming service Stadia demonstrates the possibilities of gaming from the cloud, but experts say it's hindered by a lack of compelling video games and a convoluted pricing scheme.

Aston Martin unveils first SUV, eyes luxury buyers in China

British carmaker Aston Martin unveiled its first-ever sports utility vehicle (SUV) Wednesday at events in Beijing and Los Angeles, signalling it was banking on China's growing appetite for luxury to prop up sales.

Forget 5G: Founder wants Boost Mobile back to keep prices for budget customers low

Don't get sucked into the whole 5G marketing bubble—that's the message Peter Adderton, founder of Boost Mobile, has for wireless customers on a budget. Why? It's no revolution, he says, calling it merely an evolution of wireless technology.

Qualcomm CEO's strategy through thick and thin: To win with better technology, led by 5G

For Qualcomm Chief Executive Steve Mollenkopf, an already nasty, two-year legal fight with Apple became even uglier this past January.

Rechargeable batteries in your favorite devices can ignite and burn down your house

We're all playing Russian roulette with devices powered by lithium ion batteries.

Harvesting energy from walking human body

A research team led by Professor Wei-Hsin Liao from the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has developed a lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester for scavenging energy from human motion, generating inexhaustible and sustainable power supply just from walking.

Spain court orders Ryanair to cancel cabin bag fee

A Spanish court has ordered Ryanair to refund a customer who was charged for taking a carry-on bag without a special ticket, and told the airline to remove the clause from its terms and conditions.

Uber to let users record audio of rides in Brazil, Mexico

Uber will allow passengers and drivers in Brazil and Mexico to record audio of their rides as it attempts to improve its safety record and image.

Soft skin-like robots you can put in your pocket

Stretchable skin-like robots that can be rolled up and put in your pocket have been developed by a University of Bristol team using a new way of embedding artificial muscles and electrical adhesion into soft materials.

Disney Plus blames past hacks for user accounts sold online

Disney says Disney Plus account passwords being sold in underground hacking forums are coming from previous breaches at other companies, predating last week's launch of its streaming service.

French media launch copyright case against Google

French media organisations lodged a complaint against Google to the country's competition authority Wednesday over the US internet giant's refusal to pay for displaying their content.

US probe faults Uber, human error in self-driving car crash

A US investigation into the death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving Uber car faulted driver inattention along with "inadequate" safety measures implemented by the company.

Road-safety regulator rapped over regulating autonomous cars

The nation's road-safety regulator is under fire again for what critics call lax oversight of tests involving autonomous vehicles.

US authorizes 'several' firms to sell to Huawei amid sanctions

US officials said Wednesday they have agreed to grant licenses to "several" firms to provide components to Chinese tech giant Huawei, which faces sanctions imposed over national security concerns.

Smart buildings face challenges but have plenty of potential

We often hear the word "smart" applied to everyday objects: smartphones, smart TVs, smart appliances—and now, smart buildings.

'Revenge porn,' leaked selfies: sextortion spreads in Iraq

The threat came by anonymous Instagram message one late Iraqi evening, making Hala's blood run cold: "I've got all your pictures and recordings. Shall I send them to your dad?"

Emirates opts for 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in revised deal

The Middle East's biggest carrier, the Dubai-based Emirates, announced on Wednesday a firm order for 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in a deal valued at $8.8 billion.

Protesters urge Twitter to ban white supremacists from platform

Members of advocacy groups converged on Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on Tuesday, bearing signs reading #StopRacistTwitter as they urged the company to ban white supremacists.

Review: 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare' succeeds by going back to basics

"Call of Duty" has seesawed between different eras. It's been to the future. It went back to World War II. It explored the concept of zombies and a dystopian global crisis.

Gadgets: Wireless earbuds and accessories for those on the go

True wireless earbuds are the rage for many but I often hear others who are skeptical simply from the fear of having them fall out.

Reimagined thermionic energy technology to help reduce electricity costs

Energy technology can be costly and inconvenient for commercial usage due to operational expenses. Atlas Energy Systems, a Purdue University-affiliated startup, is working to create a more robust form of energy technology.

French hotels protest 'outrageous' Airbnb-Olympics deal

French hotel owners assailed Airbnb on Wednesday over its new partnership with the International Olympic Committee, warning they would stop working on the planning for the Paris 2024 summer Games to protest against what they call an unfair competitor.

Li-ion battery components to be printed on an inkjet printer

Scientists from Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) are developing a technology for printing the electrodes for miniature li-ion batteries using an inkjet printer. The ongoing research may help to create power supplies for biosensors, wearable electronics, and other miniature devices. The results of the study are published in one of the leading scientific journals Energy Technology. The research was carried out with the financial support of the National Technological Initiative center of SPbPU and two Russian science foundation grants.

General Motors sues Fiat Chrysler over bribes to auto union

General Motors is suing Fiat Chrysler, alleging its rival benefitted from bribes to auto union officials that gave FCA an unfair benefit in labor talks, GM announced Wednesday.

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