Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Nov 6

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 6, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Electrodeposited surfaces with reversibly switching interfacial properties

Quantitative biology opens trail to ecological exploration, evolutionary prediction

Researchers discover new toxin that impedes bacterial growth

New measurement yields smaller proton radius

Liver-chip identifies drug toxicities in human, rat, and dog models

Dusty star-forming galaxy MAMBO-9 investigated in detail

Flatland light: Researchers create rewritable optical components for 2-D light waves

New fossil find sheds light on how humans learned to walk

Spiders and ants inspire metal that won't sink

Astronomers map new emission line to trace most common molecule in the universe

Differences in sensory brainwaves of autistic teenagers could assist in earlier diagnosis and support

EduSense: Researchers develop comprehensive classroom sensing system

Mutations linked to expression of genes associated with complex traits

Persistent drizzle at sub-zero temps in Antarctica

Why myelinated mammalian nerves are fast and allow high frequency

Physics news

New measurement yields smaller proton radius

Using the first new method in half a century for measuring the size of the proton via electron scattering, the PRad collaboration has produced a new value for the proton's radius in an experiment conducted at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

Flatland light: Researchers create rewritable optical components for 2-D light waves

In 1884, a schoolmaster and theologian named Edwin Abbott wrote a novella called Flatland, which tells the story of a world populated by sentient two-dimensional shapes. While intended as a satire of rigid Victorian social norms, Flatland has long fascinated mathematicians and physicists and served as the setting for many a thought experiment.

Engineers exploit the repeating structure of turbulence to create a more complete model of the phenomenon

A Caltech engineer has unlocked some of the secrets behind turbulence, a much-studied but difficult-to-pin-down phenomenon that mixes fluids when they flow past a solid boundary.

World-leading microscopes take candid snapshots of atoms in their 'neighborhoods'

We can directly see the hidden world of atoms thanks to electron microscopes, first developed in the 1930s. Today, electron microscopes, which use beams of electrons to illuminate and magnify a sample, have become even more sophisticated, allowing scientists to take real-world snapshots of materials with a resolution of less than half the diameter of a hydrogen atom.

Rotational form of spontaneous crystallographic ordering discovered in ferroic material

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan and Rutgers University has discovered a rotational form of spontaneous crystallographic ordering in a ferroic material. In their paper published in the journal Nature Physics, the group describes their work with ferro-rotational orders under different conditions and what they learned about them. Manfred Fiebig with ETH Zurich has published a News & Views piece on the work done by the team in the same issue—he also gives a brief history of ferromagnetism and what has been learned about it over the past 2,000 years.

Simulations show how massive black holes could be formed by mergers

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in the U.S. along with one in India and one in Hungary has created simulations that could explain how larger than expected black holes could form near supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes how they made their simulations and what they showed.

Researchers model avalanches in two dimensions

There's a structural avalanche waiting inside that box of Rice Krispies on the supermarket shelf. Cornell researchers are now closer to understanding how those structures behave—and in some cases, behave unusually.

Target practice: Perfecting the Mu2e production target

Before Mu2e, there was MECO.

Under pressure: a new experimental apparatus gathers more insight on magnetic and superconducting states

It is commonplace to be under pressure at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory— that is, if you happen to be a sample of material undergoing investigation by the lab's condensed matter physicists.

Intelligent metasurface imager and recognizer

The Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber physical systems have opened up possibilities for smart cities and smart homes, and are changing the way for people to live. In this smart era, it is increasingly demanded to remotely monitor people in daily life using radio-frequency probe signals. However, the conventional sensing systems can hardly be deployed in real-world settings since they typically require objects to either deliberately cooperate or carry an active wireless device or identification tag. Additionally, the existing sensing systems are not adaptive or programmable to specific tasks. Hence, they are far from efficient in many points of view, from time to energy consumptions.

CERN appoints Gianotti, first female chief, to second term

The European research center that runs the world's largest atom smasher says it has reappointed Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti, its first female director, for a second five-year term.

Astronomy & Space news

Dusty star-forming galaxy MAMBO-9 investigated in detail

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international team of astronomers has conducted detailed observations of the dusty star-forming galaxy MMJ100026.36+021527.9, better known as MAMBO-9. The study, described in a paper published October 29 on arXiv.org, provides physical characterization of this galaxy, shedding more light on its nature.

Astronomers map new emission line to trace most common molecule in the universe

Molecular hydrogen (H2) makes up 99 percent of the cold, dense gas in galaxies. So mapping where stars are born basically means measuring H2, which lacks a strong characteristic signature at low temperatures. Astronomers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the University of Groningen have now mapped an emission signal from the trace molecule hydrogen fluoride (HF) in a place where the standard trace molecule carbon monoxide is absent. They are the first to produce a map of HF for a region in space, creating a new tool to indirectly map H2. Publication on November 6th in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

China launches Sudan's first ever satellite: official

Sudan's first ever satellite for conducting research in military, economic and space technology has been launched by China, the northeast African country's ruling body said Tuesday.

Researcher makes the heart of Mars speak

For 20 years, Véronique Dehant, a space scientist at University of Louvain (UCLouvain) and the Royal Observatory of Belgium, has been working on understanding the Earth's core. In a few months, she will be able to complete her research by studying the heart of Mars, thanks to the ExoMars mission. Its purpose is to collect Martian radio science data and analyse the planet's rotation in order to better understand the red planet's innards and thus determine whether life is feasible on Mars. In the end, for Véronique Dehant, "This UCLouvain research is one more brick in the wall of understanding outer space."

132 grams to communicate with Mars

Dust storms, ionising cosmic radiation, extreme cold at night ... Mars is not very hospitable! It's for these extreme conditions that the research team of Christophe Craeye, a professor at the UCLouvain Louvain School of Engineering, developed antennas for the 'LaRa' measuring instrument (Lander Radioscience ), which will go to Mars in 2020.

Technology news

EduSense: Researchers develop comprehensive classroom sensing system

While training and feedback opportunities abound for K-12 educators, the same can't be said for instructors in higher education. Currently, the most effective mechanism for professional development is for an expert to observe a lecture and provide personalized feedback. But a new system developed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers offers a comprehensive real-time sensing system that is inexpensive and scalable to create a continuous feedback loop for the instructor.

UK needs to act to prevent electric vehicle battery waste mountain, new study says

Recycling technologies for end-of-life lithium ion batteries (LIBs) are not keeping pace with the rapid rise of electric vehicles, storing up a potentially huge waste management problem for the future, according to a new study.

When a light is a thief that tells your garage door to open

Shining lasers at voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, researchers from Michigan and Japan achieved a hack where lasers had the power of commands from the human voice.

Brain-like computer chips could address privacy concerns and greenhouse emissions

A team lead by Professor Simon Brown at the University of Canterbury (UC) has developed computer chips with brain-like functionality, that could significantly reduce global carbon emissions from computing.

On the way to intelligent microrobots

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and ETH Zurich have developed a micromachine that can perform different actions. First nanomagnets in the components of the microrobots are magnetically programmed and then the various movements are controlled by magnetic fields. Such machines, which are only a few tens of micrometers across, could be used, for example, in the human body to perform small operations. The researchers have now published their results in the scientific journal Nature.

Showing robots 'tough love' helps them succeed, finds new study

According to a new study by USC computer scientists, to help a robot succeed, you might need to show it some tough love.

An engineer proposes a new model for the way humans localize sounds

One of the enduring puzzles of hearing loss is the decline in a person's ability to determine where a sound originates, a key survival faculty that allows animals—from lizards to humans—to pinpoint the location of danger, prey and group members. In modern times, finding a lost cell phone by using the application "Find My Device," just to find it had slipped under a sofa pillow, relies on minute differences in the ringing sound that reaches the ears.

Software behind self-driving Uber crash didn't recognize jaywalkers

An Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman last year in Arizona failed to recognize her as a pedestrian because she was jaywalking, US transport regulators said Tuesday.

Video game 'Death Stranding' bids to rekindle hope

In a world fractured by political populism and divisive voices on social media, can a video game build bridges to harmony? The Japanese auteur behind "Death Stranding" hopes so.

SoftBank Group logs worst quarterly loss, Son admits 'poor' decisions

Japanese giant SoftBank Group said Wednesday it suffered an operating loss of $6.4 billion in the second quarter, the worst in its history, as it took a hit from investments in start-ups including WeWork and Uber.

Electric planes are here—but they won't solve flying's CO2 problem

The UK government plans to ban the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Clearly the plan is for all citizens to be driving electric or hybrid-electric cars, or—better still—riding bicycles. But can electrification help cut emissions from that other carbon-intensive form of passenger transport, flying?

Machine learning advances new tool to fight cybercrime in the cloud

Increased adoption of cloud applications, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, by private users has increased concern about use of cloud information for cybercrimes such as child exploitation, illegal drug trafficking and illegal firearm transactions.

Why Uber Works will probably be great for businesses but not for gig economy workers

Uber is still best known as a ride-hailing platform but it has been branching out into other industries. Food (Uber eats), electric scooters and bicycles (Jump), and now shift work with the launch of Uber Works. It is being trialled in Chicago, with plans to launch elsewhere soon, and enables casual workers such as cleaners, bar staff and warehouse workers to find work.

New antenna technology for extremely fast 5G and 6G successfully tested

Many connected devices, films downloaded in seconds, autonomous driving: the extremely fast 5G should make all this possible. The problem is that the fastest form of 5G now requires very fast connections within the network, which only works at short distances. New antenna technology has therefore been developed at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), making long-distance communication possible for this fast form of 5G and its successor, 6G. The first practical test was recently carried out from the roof of two buildings on the TU/e campus and proved successful.

Engineers invent smartphone device that detects harmful algae in 15 minutes

A team of engineers from NUS has developed a highly sensitive system that uses a smartphone to rapidly detect the presence of toxin-producing algae in water within 15 minutes. This invention can generate test results on-site, and findings can be reported in real-time using the smartphone's wireless communications capabilities.

Review: Facebook's Portal TV is video chat at its best. Too bad it's from Facebook

I don't like the idea of granting my TVs access to Facebook and allowing the social network to install a video camera and microphone in my living room.

Adaptive cruise systems are not made equal

Adaptive cruise control, once only seen on luxury vehicles, has now become increasingly available on entry-level models. For example, nearly every new Honda and Toyota vehicle comes with this feature as standard equipment. Five years ago, hardly any of them offered it, even as an option.

Boeing still hopes 737 Max will fly again this year

A top Boeing executive insisted Wednesday the aviation giant was confident its controversial 737 Max jets could be flying again before the end of the year.

Libra's regulatory hurdles appear taller after House hearing

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg provided only a few additional details about the company's proposed cryptocurrency to a House Financial Services Committee on Oct. 23 that generally didn't like what it heard.

Fewer protections come with digital payments like Apple Cash

My desperation to see Ariana Grande in concert created the perfect trap.

Pokemon Go maker Niantic making a game of the world

Pokemon Go maker Niantic on Wednesday moved closer to turning the world into a giant game board in a fun mix of fantasy and reality.

UPS makes first drone deliveries of CVS prescriptions to consumers' homes

UPS has completed its first commercial drone deliveries of CVS prescriptions to consumers' homes, as part of a partnership between the shipping giant and the drugstore chain to develop plans for drone delivery service.

Xerox eyes deal for PC maker HP: reports

Xerox is mulling a takeover deal worth $27 billion for HP Inc., the consumer technology unit created by the split of Silicon Valley-based Hewlett Packard, reports said Wednesday.

AI agents imitate engineers to construct effective new designs using visual cues like humans do

Trained AI agents can adopt human design strategies to solve problems, according to findings published in the ASME Journal of Mechanical Design.

California discloses probe on Facebook privacy practices

California attorney general says he has been investigating Facebook's privacy practices since 2018.

Study: Russia's web-censoring tool sets pace for imitators

Russia is succeeding in imposing a highly effective internet censorship regime across thousands of disparate, privately owned providers in an effort also aimed at making government snooping pervasive, according to a study released Wednesday.

Twitter offering 'topics,' from sports teams to K-pop

Twitter said Wednesday it is rolling out a feature that lets users follow topics the way they do people, starting with sports and K-pop, as part of its efforts to bring in and keep more users on the service.

How do solar panels work?

How do solar panels work? – Nathan, age 5, Melbourne, Australia.

Breaking down controls to better control wind energy systems

Researchers based in Brazil have developed a way to better control wind energy systems in electrical generation. Wind energy systems are typically expensive to maintain, and they can only convert a portion of their produced energy into storage.

Group says misinformation on the rise on Facebook

An advocacy group tracking misinformation says it has found an increase in fake political news shared on Facebook ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.

Lufthansa cancels 1,300 flights over two-day German strike

Lufthansa said Wednesday it was scrapping 1,300 flights as German cabin crew pressed ahead with a two-day strike, plunging passengers into travel chaos amid an escalating row over pay and conditions.

Apps have become safer after the EU's General Data Protection Regulation

Researchers have studied how apps' access to our personal data has changed since the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced in May 2018. The study shows that apps practice less access to personal data today, although many apps still have access to more functions than the ones described in their privacy policy.

Walmart, Tesla settle lawsuit over fiery solar panels

Walmart and Tesla have settled a lawsuit filed by the retail giant alleging that Tesla installed rooftop solar panels that caught fire.

Advertising woes hit NY Times, as digital subscriptions grow

The New York Times said Wednesday that profits slipped in the third quarter as declines in advertising revenues offset gains in its digital subscription efforts.

From Silicon Valley to Baltimore: Opportunity zone lures surgical robot maker and opens new investment

The robot looks like a stout, little filing cabinet with one long arm, a simple-looking contraption that belies the precision of the brain, ear and throat microsurgeries it is designed to improve.

New, free website helps teens, adults with special needs make new friends

Juliana Fetherman's love for her brother Michael inspired a new, free social media website to help teens and adults with autism and other special needs chat with new friends.

Huawei, barred in US, offers app inducements in Europe

Blacklisted in the United States, Chinese telecoms group Huawei is on a charm offensive at Europe's biggest tech gathering, wooing app developers to embrace its own operating ecosystem.

Airbnb to verify all 7 million properties to improve trust

Airbnb says it will spend the next year verifying that all 7 million of its listings are accurate and that the homes and rooms being offered for short-term stays meet basic quality standards.

Amazon to open new robotics hub outside Boston in 2021

Amazon says it plans to open a $40 million robotics innovation hub west of Boston.


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