Science X Newsletter Monday, Dec 23

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 23, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Printing wirelessly rechargeable solid-state supercapacitors for soft, smart contact lenses

An approach for constructing non-Hermitian topological invariants in real space

A new deep learning model for EEG-based emotion recognition

New Insights: Armies of strategically stationed T cells fight viral infections, cancer

Astronomers study peculiar kinematics of multiple stellar populations in Messier 80

Chimpanzees more likely to share tools, teach skills when task is complex

Study reveals a role for jumping genes during times of stress

Study finds whales use stealth to feed on fish

Gazing into crystal balls to advance understanding of crystal formation

Vitamin D alone doesn't prevent fractures, new study finds

FDA breakthrough status for screening algorithm is encouraging hopes to flag heart failure risks

Cheers! Scientists take big step towards making the perfect head of beer

Israeli museum explains the emojis of ancient Egypt

Europe marks 40th anniversary of first Ariane rocket launch

Boeing capsule returns to Earth after aborted space mission (Update)

Physics news

An approach for constructing non-Hermitian topological invariants in real space

In physics, non-Hermitian systems are systems that cannot be described by standard (i.e., Hermitian) laws of quantum mechanics, or more precisely, that can only be described by non-Hermitian Hamiltonians. Non-Hermitian systems are ubiquitous in nature. Many open systems, i.e., systems that are not fully isolated from the rest of the world, belong to this class. The topology of these systems (i.e., robust properties that are immune to any changes of parameters) is fundamentally shaped by the so-called "non-Hermitian skin effect," which leads to unconventional bulk-boundary correspondence, which has never been observed in Hermitian systems.

Gazing into crystal balls to advance understanding of crystal formation

Researchers at The University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science conducted simulations considering and neglecting hydrodynamic interactions to determine whether or not these interactions cause the large discrepancy observed between experimental and calculated nucleation rates for hard-sphere colloidal systems, which are used to model crystallization. The team obtained similar nucleation rates from both simulations, clarifying that hydrodynamic interactions cannot explain the mismatch observed between actual and simulated nucleation rates for hard-sphere systems.

The coolest LEGO in the universe

For the first time, LEGO has been cooled to the lowest temperature possible in an experiment which reveals a new use for the popular toy.

Electronics at the speed of light

A European team of researchers including physicists from the University of Konstanz has found a way of transporting electrons at times below the femtosecond range by manipulating them with light. This could have major implications for the future of data processing and computing.

New rules illuminate how objects absorb and emit light

Princeton researchers have uncovered new rules governing how objects absorb and emit light, fine-tuning scientists' control over light and boosting research into next-generation solar and optical devices.

Scientists develop gentle, microscopic hands to study tiny, soft materials

Handling very soft, delicate items without damaging them is hard enough with human hands, let alone doing it at the microscopic scale with laboratory instruments. Three new studies show how scientists have honed a technique for handling tiny, soft particles using precisely controlled fluid flows that act as gentle microscopic hands. The technique allows researchers to test the physical limits of these soft particles and the things made from them—ranging from biological tissues to fabric softeners.

'Tweezer clock' may help tell time more precisely

Atomic clocks are used around the world to precisely tell time. Each "tick" of the clock depends on atomic vibrations and their effects on surrounding electromagnetic fields. Standard atomic clocks in use today, based on the atom cesium, tell time by "counting" radio frequencies. These clocks can measure time to a precision of one second per every hundreds of millions of years. Newer atomic clocks that measure optical frequencies of light are even more precise, and may eventually replace the radio-based ones.

Powder, not gas: A safer, more effective way to create a star on Earth

A major issue with operating ring-shaped fusion facilities known as tokamaks is keeping the plasma that fuels fusion reactions free of impurities that could reduce the efficiency of the reactions. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found that sprinkling a type of powder into the plasma could aid in harnessing the ultra-hot gas within a tokamak facility to produce heat to create electricity without producing greenhouse gases or long-term radioactive waste.

Super-resolution at all scales with active thermal detection

When you search your lost keys with a flash lamp, when bats detect obstacles during their night flight, or when car radars locate other cars on the road, the very same physical principle works. Be it light, sound, or an electromagnetic wave in general, a probe beam is sent ahead, and a reflected wave of the same kind carries the relevant information back to the detector.

Buckyballs release electron-positron pairs in forward directions

When electrons collide with positrons, their antimatter counterparts, unstable pairs can form in which both types of particle orbit around each other. Named 'positronium,' physicists have now produced this intriguing structure using a diverse range of positron targets—from atomic gases to metal films. However, they have yet to achieve the same result from vapours of nanoparticles, whose unique properties are influenced by the 'gases' of free electrons they contain in well-defined, nanoscopic regions.

Astronomy & Space news

Astronomers study peculiar kinematics of multiple stellar populations in Messier 80

Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), astronomers have investigated one of the Milky Way's globular clusters, Messier 80. The new study concentrated on peculiar kinematics of Messier 80's multiple stellar population and provides important information about the cluster's formation and evolution. The research was published December 12 on arXiv.org.

Europe marks 40th anniversary of first Ariane rocket launch

The first Ariane space rocket lifted off over the forests of French Guiana 40 years ago, enabling Europe to at last take its place as an independent player in the international race for space.

Boeing capsule returns to Earth after aborted space mission (Update)

Boeing safely landed its crew capsule in the New Mexico desert Sunday after an aborted flight to the International Space Station that could hold up the company's effort to launch astronauts for NASA next year.

Massive gas disk raises questions about planet formation theory

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) found a young star surrounded by an astonishing mass of gas. The star, called 49 Ceti, is 40 million years old and conventional theories of planet formation predict that the gas should have disappeared by that age. The enigmatically large amount of gas requests a reconsideration of our current understanding of planet formation.

Astronomer probes 'DNA' of twin stars to reveal family history of the Milky Way

Twin stars appear to share chemical "DNA" that could help scientists map the history of the Milky Way galaxy, according to new research by astronomer Keith Hawkins of The University of Texas at Austin accepted for publication in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

After mission failure, Boeing Starliner returning to Earth early

Boeing's new Starliner spacecraft will return to Earth on Sunday, six days early, after a clock problem prevented a rendezvous with the International Space Station, NASA and the aerospace giant confirmed Saturday.

Supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy may have a friend

Do supermassive black holes have friends? The nature of galaxy formation suggests that the answer is yes, and in fact, pairs of supermassive black holes should be common in the universe.

Deaf people at risk of being 'excluded from astronomy'

The deaf community risks being excluded from aspects of modern science because the number of new advances is outpacing the development of sign language to explain them, a leading researcher says.

Technology news

A new deep learning model for EEG-based emotion recognition

Recent advances in machine learning have enabled the development of techniques to detect and recognize human emotions. Some of these techniques work by analyzing electroencephalography (EEG) signals, which are essentially recordings of the electrical activity of the brain collected from a person's scalp.

FDA breakthrough status for screening algorithm is encouraging hopes to flag heart failure risks

Heart failure is most commonly detected by echocardiogram imaging tests, but these tests are not normally part of a routine physical exam. Access to echocardiography is in this instance limited, and yet a late diagnosis makes life-prolonging treatment more challenging.

Honda self-driving concept offers on and off modes

Nervous about the self driving future? You are not alone. The AAA newsroom in March reported on the AAA's annual automated vehicle survey which found that 71 percent of people were afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles.

Rolls-Royce: Zero emissions bird set for 2020

Rolls-Royce has taken the wraps off its one-seater electric plane. This was a first look that drew global interest from news sites last week, as the big date is set for Spring next year to fly. The plane could become the world's fastest all-electric aircraft; the plane will target a speed of over 300 miles per hour.

As natural language processing techniques improve, suggestions are getting speedier and more relevant

With billions of books, news stories, and documents online, there's never been a better time to be reading—if you have time to sift through all the options. "There's a ton of text on the internet," says Justin Solomon, an assistant professor at MIT. "Anything to help cut through all that material is extremely useful."

Engineers show how an autonomous, drifting DeLorean can improve driver safety

As the DeLorean rolled to a stop and the cloud of tire smoke cleared, Jon Goh peeked out the sliver of the passenger-side window to see dozens of gathered spectators cheering and high-fiving the successful test.

Twitter, Facebook ban fake users; some had AI-created photos

Twitter has identified and removed nearly 6,000 accounts that it said were part of a coordinated effort by Saudi government agencies and individuals to advance the country's geopolitical interests.

As US Congress delays on privacy, California law in focus

As US lawmakers head home without agreeing on consumer privacy legislation, a new California law is set to become the de facto national standard, potentially leaving consumers and businesses confused over rules for personal data collection and protection.

Mock skyscrapers, simulated rain at Singapore self-driving test centre

The road sweeper and a golf buggy move around the track with ease, jamming their brakes on when a pedestrian steps out and negotiating sharp turns.

Robots, AI and drones: When did toys turn into rocket science?

I'm a geek. And as a geek, I love my tech toys. But over time I've noticed toys are becoming harder to understand.

Flexible thinking on silicon solar cells

Crystalline silicon solar panels could be just as effective when incorporated into stretchy wearable electronics or flexible robot skin as they are when used as rigid rooftop panels. KAUST researchers have devised a way to turn rigid silicon into solar cells that can be stretched by a record-breaking 95 percent, while retaining high solar energy capture efficiency of 19 percent.

Personal information on more than 3,000 Ring owners reportedly compromised

The personal data for thousands of owners of the Ring camera was reportedly compromised this week, exposing information such as login names and passwords.

Smart home guide: What you need to know to get plugged in to the connected life

If the idea of asking Alexa or Google to turn on and off your lights appeals to you, and you're not doing it already, the holidays could be a great time to finally get to it.

Apple reportedly has a team to create satellites

Apple has reportedly assembled a secret team of engineers across industries to create satellites.

Video games in 2030: Will I still need a console game system? That depends

There's a cloud hovering over the future of video games. Not a cloud of impending doom, but more of uncertainty.

Want to get better iPhone 11 pics? Here are a few tips from the pros

This year the revamped iPhone 11 Pro was one of the most acclaimed upgrades of the year, most notably for the improved camera. Apple added a third lens, to allow for ultra-wide, GoPro like shots, and the ability to shoot in super low light.

Russia tests 'sovereign' internet amid fears of online isolation

Russia carried out tests Monday to ensure the "security" of its internet infrastructure in case of a foreign cyberattack as part of measures that rights activists worry could also tighten censorship and lead to online isolation.

Government proposes release of Fukushima water to sea or air

Japan's economy and industry ministry proposed on Monday the gradual release or evaporation of massive amounts of treated but still radioactive water being stored at the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.

Major step toward producing carbon-neutral steel with green hydrogen

A crucial part of modern life, steel is indispensable for construction, infrastructure, machinery and household goods, but it also has a massive carbon footprint. According to a position paper by the World Steel Association, 1.83 t of CO2 on average were emitted for every t of steel produced in 2017. "The steel industry generates between 7 and 9 percent of direct emissions from the global use of fossil fuel."

Is seaweed the solution to sustainable biofuel?

Produced from organic matter or waste, biofuels play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and are one of the largest sources of renewable energy in use today. Most of Europe's renewable transport target is currently met with land-based biofuels. However, many of the feedstocks like corn and alfalfa used to produce such biofuels aren't economically and environmentally sustainable. Compared with fossil fuels, they do provide energy security and reduce air pollution. But the fact remains that they lead to more intensive use of resources, reduced biodiversity and even higher GHG emissions through land use change.

Detecting backdoor attacks on artificial neural networks

To the casual observer, the photos above show a man in a black-and-white ball cap.

Facebook is building an operating system for future devices

Facebook Inc. is building its own operating-system software to decrease its future dependence on rivals like Apple Inc. and Google, owners of the world's most popular mobile operating systems.

Amazon's van-buying spree delivers a gift to auto industry

The Amazon.com Inc. vans parked outside apartment buildings and along suburban cul de sacs aren't just bearing gifts to online shoppers this holiday season. The e-commerce giant's home-delivery push has been a boon to automakers, too.

Capturing carbon dioxide from trucks and reducing their emissions by 90%

In Europe, transport is responsible for nearly 30% of the total CO2 emissions, of which 72% comes from road transportation. While the use of electric vehicles for personal transportation could help lower that number, reducing emissions from commercial transport—such as trucks or buses—is a much greater challenge.

Report: Popular UAE chat app ToTok a government spy tool

A chat app that quickly became popular in the United Arab Emirates for communicating with friends and family is actually a spying tool used by the government to track its users, according to a newspaper report.

The U.S. Navy banned TikTok from government-issued smartphones over cybersecurity concerns

The U.S. Navy thinks TikTok is a threat to national cybersecurity.

Colombia orders Uber to suspend app services

Uber has been told to immediately suspend its ride-sharing services in Colombia, the industry and commerce authority announced Friday, citing unfair competition laws.

Cyber attack forces airline to cancel flights in Alaska

RavnAir canceled at least a half-dozen flights in Alaska on Saturday—at the peak of holiday travel—following what the company described as "a malicious cyber attack" on its computer network.

Facing industrial decline, Wales dreams of Silicon Valley

Wales is better known for its factory closures than high-tech achievements. But in Newport, a former bastion of the coal industry, a handful of semiconductor manufacturers dream of a new Silicon Valley.

German union threatens Lufthansa strikes after Christmas

A German cabin crew union on Sunday threatened Lufthansa with fresh walkouts after Christmas as discussions to resolve a bitter dispute over pay and conditions failed to make progress.

A look back: Here are Google's top searched people from every year over the past decade

Toward the end of each year, Google releases data on the most-searched-for people of the past 12 months.

3 internet language trends from 2019, explained

Social media has created an entirely new linguistic ecosystem, with new words, phrases and features for expressing ourselves cropping up all the time.

Boeing ousts Muilenburg, names David Calhoun as CEO amid MAX crisis

Boeing on Monday pushed out its embattled chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, as it attempts to pivot from a protracted crisis surrounding the grounding of its top-selling 737 MAX after two deadly crashes.

New Boeing CEO is corporate veteran who will be tested

Throughout a storied career in corporate America, David Calhoun has risen through the ranks at General Electric, taken Nielsen Holdings public and helped manage private equity giant Blackstone.


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