Science X Newsletter Monday, Sep 28

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for September 28, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Commercial battery cells that can monitor their own chemical and thermal state

The pace of environmental change can doom or save coral reefs

Plastic-eating enzyme 'cocktail' heralds new hope for plastic waste

MAXI J1348−630 is a black hole X-ray binary, observations suggest

Plasmonic enhancement of stability and brightness in organic light-emitting devices

Modern humans reached westernmost Europe 5,000 years earlier than previously known

New study shows converting to electric vehicles alone won't meet climate targets

AI learns to trace neuronal pathways

Insect Armageddon: Low doses of the insecticide, Imidacloprid, cause blindness in insects

Scientists precisely measure total amount of matter in the universe

Faced with shortages, researchers combine heat and humidity to disinfect N95 masks

160 genes linked to brain shrinkage in study of 45,000 adults

Tiny airborne particles may pose a big coronavirus problem

The testimony of trees: How volcanic eruptions shaped 2000 years of world history

Busy pictures hinder reading ability in children

Physics news

Plasmonic enhancement of stability and brightness in organic light-emitting devices

Scientists investigate free electrons and the resonant interactions of electromagnetic waves in the field of plasmonics. However, the discipline still remains to be extended to large-scale commercial applications due to the loss-associated with plasmonic materials. While organic light-emitting devices (OLEDs) are incorporated into mass-scale commercial products due to properties such as good color saturation, versatile form factor and low-power consumption, their efficacy and stability remain to be optimized. During its function, OLEDs accumulate localized build-up of slow-decaying, triplet excitons and charges, which gradually reduce the brightness of the device in an "aging" process, which can then cause a burn-in effect on the display. As a result, it is important to improve the performance of the OLED technology.

Quieter wind beneath the wings

Efficiently simulating the noise generated by wings and propellers promises to accelerate the development of quieter aircraft and turbines.

To kill a quasiparticle: A quantum whodunit

In large systems of interacting particles in quantum mechanics, an intriguing phenomenon often emerges: groups of particles begin to behave like single particles. Physicists refer to such groups of particles as 'quasiparticles'.

Quantum entanglement realized between distant large objects

A team of researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, have succeeded in entangling two very different quantum objects. The result has several potential applications in ultra-precise sensing and quantum communication and is now published in Nature Physics.

New machine to probe the ultrafast motion of matter

Researchers have established a novel high-frequency laser facility at the University of Tokyo. The coherent extreme ultraviolet light source can reveal details of biological or physical samples with unprecedented clarity. It also allows for investigation of time-dependent phenomena such as ultrafast chemical reactions. Existing facilities for such investigations necessarily require enormous particle accelerators and are prohibitive to many researchers. This new facility should greatly improve access for a broad range of researchers.

Research reveals how wounds heal in 'waves'

Many cells in our bodies are on the move and somehow seem to 'know' where to go. But how do they learn the location of their destination? This question is key to understanding phenomena such as the renewal of cells in our body, the migration of cancer cells, and especially how wounds heal. Edouard Hannezo and his group at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) in collaboration with Tsuyoshi Hirashima and his student at Kyoto University propose a new model of information transfer in which cells utilize long-distance traveling waves in a self-organized manner to close a wound. This study was recently published in the journal Nature Physics.

Avoiding environmental losses in quantum information systems

New research published in EPJ D has revealed how robust initial states can be prepared in quantum information systems, minimizing any unwanted transitions which lead to losses in quantum information.

New study may revise a 60-year-old theory about flowing viscous liquids

The international collaborative team of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) in Japan, Indian Institute of Technology Ropar (IIT Ropar) in India, and Osaka University in Japan has discovered for the first time a topological change of viscous fingering (one of classical interfacial hydrodynamics), which is driven by "a partially miscibility," where the two liquids do not mix completely with finite solubility. This topological change originates from a phase separation and the spontaneous motion driven by it. It is a phenomenon that cannot be seen with completely mixed (fully miscible) system with infinite solubility or immiscible system with no solubility.

Helium, a little atom for big physics

Helium atom precision measurements and calculations have a history of nearly a century. In the 1960s, theorists discovered that the fine-structure split (23P0-23P2) of the 23P energy level of helium is the best atomic system for measuring the fine structure constant α (approximately 1/137), which is the key parameter in the Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) theory. QED is the basic theory describing the quantum properties of electromagnetic interactions. It covers almost all physical systems from microscopic particles to macroscopic solids, and is currently the most accurate theory in physics. Such a measurement of α from precision spectroscopy of helium, compared with values determined from totally different methods, presents a perfect test of the consistency of physics. After 50 years of hard work, theorists have develoed different approaches to calculate the QED correction of helium to the 7th power series of α.

Astronomy and Space news

MAXI J1348−630 is a black hole X-ray binary, observations suggest

Using the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), an international team of astronomers has investigated a recently discovered X-ray transient designated MAXI J1348−630. Results of the new observations suggest that the source is a black hole X-ray binary. The study is detailed in a paper published September 16 on arXiv.org.

Scientists precisely measure total amount of matter in the universe

A top goal in cosmology is to precisely measure the total amount of matter in the universe, a daunting exercise for even the most mathematically proficient. A team led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside, has now done just that.

Astronomers find the first galaxy whose ultraviolet luminosity is comparable to that of a quasar

Using observations made with the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (Garafía, La Palma, Canary Islands), and with the ATACAMA Large Millimeter/submillimetre Array (ALMA), in Chile, astronomers have found the first galaxy whose ultraviolet luminosity is comparable to that of a quasar. The discovery was recently published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters.

First study with exoplanet satellite data describes one of the most extreme planets in the universe

CHEOPS keeps its promise: Observations with the space telescope have revealed details of the exoplanet WASP-189b—one of the most extreme planets known. CHEOPS is a joint mission by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Switzerland, under the aegis of the University of Bern in collaboration with the University of Geneva.

Study describes discovery of close binary trans-Neptunian object

A new study authored by Southwest Research Institute scientists Rodrigo Leiva and Marc Buie reveals the binary nature of a trans-Neptunian object (TNO). Leiva and Buie utilized data obtained by the Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network (RECON), a citizen science research net-work dedicated to observing the outer solar system. The study was published this month in The Astrophysical Journal.

New Mars rover is ready for space lasers

When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon, they brought devices with them called retroreflectors, which are essentially small arrays of mirrors. The plan was for scientists on Earth to aim lasers at them and calculate the time it took for the beams to return. This provided exceptionally precise measurements of the Moon's orbit and shape, including how it changed slightly based on Earth's gravitational pull.

Salty lake, ponds may be gurgling beneath Mars' South Pole

A network of salty ponds may be gurgling beneath Mars' South Pole alongside a large underground lake, raising the prospect of tiny, swimming Martian life.

Technology news

Commercial battery cells that can monitor their own chemical and thermal state

Battery technology can sometimes be unstable and volatile, two characteristics that impair its safety and reliability. Actively monitoring the chemical and thermal state of battery cells over time could help to detect changes that may cause incidents or malfunctions, giving users the chance to intervene before a problem arises.

AI learns to trace neuronal pathways

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) scientists have taught computers to recognize a neuron in microscope images of the brain more efficiently than any previous approach. The researchers improved the efficiency of automated methods for tracing neurons and their connections, a task that is increasingly in demand as researchers work to map the brain's densely interconnected circuits. They did it by teaching the computer to recognize different parts of neurons, each of which have different characteristics.

Researchers create fly-catching robots

An international team of Johannes Kepler University researchers is developing robots made from soft materials. A new article in the journal Communications Materials demonstrates how these kinds of soft machines react using weak magnetic fields to move very quickly—even grabbing a quick-moving fly that has landed on it.

3-D biometric authentication based on finger veins almost impossible to fool

Biometric authentication, which uses unique anatomical features such as fingerprints or facial features to verify a person's identity, is increasingly replacing traditional passwords for accessing everything from smartphones to law enforcement systems. A newly developed approach that uses 3-D images of finger veins could greatly increase the security of this type of authentication.

Amazon announced Ring's new indoor security drone: How will Always Home Cam work?

Consumer drones are notorious for being hard to fly at first, before you learn what you're doing, and the odds are, you will crash it. It's not a question of if, but when.

Facebook gets reprieve from Apple on live events cut

Facebook said Friday it struck a deal in which Apple agreed to temporarily forgo its cut of revenue from paid events at the leading social network to help pandemic-hit performers earn money during the pandemic.

US restricts technology sales to Chinese semiconductor giant

Washington has ordered US companies to seek permission before selling their technologies to Chinese semiconductor giant SMIC, its latest salvo in the battle for technological dominance over Beijing, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Ex-Audi boss to stand trial for 'dieselgate'

Former Audi boss Rupert Stadler on Wednesday becomes the first to stand trial in Germany over the "dieselgate" emissions scandal, five years after parent company VW admitted responsibility.

European airlines cutting fares to woo back passengers

With the coronavirus crisis putting a chill on travel, European airlines are reducing fares to attract passengers and fill the planes that are still flying.

Epic Games battles to get Fortnite back in App Store

Epic Games will strive anew Monday to convince a judge that its hit title Fortnite should be restored to Apple's App Store, despite sidestepping the tech titan's standard commission on transactions.

Why a dedicated Zoom device makes sense

In the beginning of the week, Microsoft announced something that, at first blush, sounds so cool, until you start to break it down.

TikTok gets reprieve as judge halts Trump download ban

TikTok won a last-minute reprieve late Sunday as a US federal judge halted enforcement of a politically charged ban ordered by the Trump administration on downloads of the popular video app, hours before it was set to take effect.

Amazon to kick off holiday shopping with October Prime Day

Amazon is aiming to kickstart the holiday shopping season early this year.

Predicting epidemics like the weather: How Microsoft Premonition can help in the global fight against disease

"What's the weather like outside?" It's a simple question that we don't think twice about. Our smart assistants, phones or a simple internet search can answer it. But it actually takes a global sensor network of weather stations, advanced data analytics and modern supercomputers to make these predictions.

Uber gets back London license after winning court challenge

Uber can keep operating in London after the ride-hailing company won a court appeal on Monday against the refusal by transit regulators to renew its license.

Wind forecasts power up for reliable energy production

Optimizing the integration of wind energy into a country's power network requires reliable forecasts of how wind speed and direction are likely to vary in time and space over the pending few hours. KAUST researchers have now developed a statistical model that provides the best forecasts yet for wind conditions across Saudi Arabia.

Researchers close to turning point with solar power research

Dr. Nathaniel Davis from Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington's School of Chemical and Physical Sciences says he and his research team are at a significant turning point in their solar power research.

Google policy will limit ads for election as it does for disasters

Google will halt election advertising after the polls officially close for the U.S. presidential election, a move designed to limit false messages about the outcome of the contest.

AI technology can predict vanadium flow battery performance and cost

Vanadium flow batteries (VFBs) are promising for stationary large-scale energy storage due to their high safety, long cycle life, and high efficiency.

Video streaming device leader Roku debuts new soundbar, player and Roku Channel app

The newest Roku products include a streaming device promising improved video delivery throughout the home, a smaller soundbar that also streams, and an updated mobile app for viewing on the go.

Wildly successful, TikTok becomes focus of US-China war

Known for its short-form videos popular with teens, TikTok has become a global social media sensation, and at the same time has found itself at the heart of a geopolitical war between the United States and China.

China opens auto show under anti-disease controls

Ford, Nissan and BMW unveiled new electric models with more range for the Chinese market on Saturday as the Beijing auto show opened under anti-virus controls that included holding news conferences by international video link.

American Airlines to get $5.5 bn loan from US Treasury

American Airlines has agreed to a $5.5 billion loan from the US Treasury as it aims to ride out the downturn caused by the coronavirus, the carrier announced Friday.

Google parent Alphabet settles sexual misconduct lawsuit

Alphabet on Friday announced moves to address sexual misconduct at Google and its other operating divisions, putting in place changes worked out to settle a lawsuit filed by shareholders.

Judge set to rule in TikTok case as deadline looms (Update)

A federal judge readied a crucial decision Sunday on whether to allow or block a Trump administration ban on downloads of the popular video-sharing app TikTok.

China chip giant SMIC shares dive on US export controls

Shares in China's biggest chip maker tumbled Monday on reports that Washington had imposed export controls on the company, the latest salvo in the battle for technological dominance over Beijing.

How waste CO2 is helping to turn renewable energy into liquid fuel

Storing power generated by strong winds or bright sunshine by turning it into liquid fuel such as methanol can help to ensure green energy does not go to waste, without having to rely on batteries.

Siemens' energy unit spinoff lags expectations in market debut

German industrial giant Siemens on Monday spun off its energy division, with a below-expectations valuation of 16 billion euros, in one of the largest stock market debuts in Europe this year.

Scientists explore optimal shapes of thermal energy storage

Scientists from Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), and the Institute of Automation and Control Processes of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IACP FEB RAS) have studied a correlation between the shape of thermal energy storage (TES) used in traditional and renewable energy sectors and their efficiency. Using the obtained data, design engineers might be able to improve TES for specific needs. A related article was published in Renewable Energy.

Google.com celebrates its 22nd birthday with an animated Zoom-style party logo

Google celebrated its 22nd birthday in the most 2020 way possible, with an animated Zoom-style party.

United Airlines reaches deal with pilots, avoids furloughs

United Airlines and its pilots have reached an agreement that both sides say will avoid about 2,850 furloughs that were set to take effect later this week and another 1,000 early next year.


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Science X Newsletter Week 39

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for week 39:

Astronomers discover an Earth-sized 'pi planet' with a 3.14-day orbit

In a delightful alignment of astronomy and mathematics, scientists at MIT and elsewhere have discovered a "pi Earth"—an Earth-sized planet that zips around its star every 3.14 days, in an orbit reminiscent of the universal mathematics constant.

Ecologists confirm Alan Turing's theory for Australian fairy circles

Fairy circles are one of nature's greatest enigmas and most visually stunning phenomena. An international research team led by the University of Göttingen has now, for the first time, collected detailed data to show that Alan Turing's model explains the striking vegetation patterns of the Australian fairy circles. In addition, the researchers showed that the grasses that make up these patterns act as "eco-engineers" to modify their own hostile and arid environment, thus keeping the ecosystem functioning. The results were published in the Journal of Ecology.

Surgical, N95 masks block most particles, homemade cloth masks release their own

Laboratory tests of surgical and N95 masks by researchers at the University of California, Davis, show that they do cut down the amount of aerosolized particles emitted during breathing, talking and coughing. Tests of homemade cloth face coverings, however, show that the fabric itself releases a large amount of fibers into the air, underscoring the importance of washing them. The work is published today (Sept. 24) in Scientific Reports.

Why there is no speed limit in the superfluid universe

Physicists from Lancaster University have established why objects moving through superfluid helium-3 lack a speed limit in a continuation of earlier Lancaster research.

Adequate levels of vitamin D reduces complications, death among COVID-19 patients

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were vitamin D sufficient, with a blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of at least 30 ng/mL (a measure of vitamin D status), had a significant decreased risk for adverse clinical outcomes including becoming unconscious, hypoxia (body starved for oxygen) and death. In addition, they had lower blood levels of an inflammatory marker (C-reactive protein) and higher blood levels of lymphocytes (a type of immune cell to help fight infection).

Discovery of a druggable pocket in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein could stop virus in its tracks

A druggable pocket in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein that could be used to stop the virus from infecting human cells has been discovered by an international team of scientists led by the University of Bristol. The researchers say their findings, published today in the journal Science, are a potential 'game changer' in defeating the current pandemic and add that small molecule anti-viral drugs developed to target the pocket they discovered could help eliminate COVID-19.

Young physicist 'squares the numbers' on time travel

Paradox-free time travel is theoretically possible, according to the mathematical modeling of a prodigious University of Queensland undergraduate student.

New analysis of black hole reveals a wobbling shadow

In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration delivered the first image of a black hole, revealing M87*—the supermassive object in the center of the M87 galaxy. The team has now used the lessons learned last year to analyze the archival data sets from 2009-2013, some of them not published before.

Metformin treatment linked to slowed cognitive decline

Metformin is the first-line treatment for most cases of type 2 diabetes and one of the most commonly prescribed medications worldwide, with millions of individuals using it to optimize their blood glucose levels.

Rosetta spacecraft detects unexpected ultraviolet aurora at a comet

Data from Southwest Research Institute-led instruments aboard ESA's Rosetta spacecraft have helped reveal auroral emissions in the far ultraviolet around a comet for the first time.

Unusual climate conditions influenced WWI mortality and subsequent Spanish flu pandemic

Scientists have spotted a once-in-a-century climate anomaly during World War I that likely increased mortality during the war and the influenza pandemic in the years that followed.

Researchers show conscious processes in birds' brains for the first time

By measuring brain signals, a neuroscience research group at the University of Tübingen has demonstrated for the first time that corvid songbirds possess subjective experiences. Simultaneously recording behavior and brain activity enabled the group headed by Professor Andreas Nieder to show that crows are capable of consciously perceiving sensory input. Until now this type of consciousness has only been witnessed in humans and other primates, which have completely different brain structures to birds. "The results of our study opens up a new way of looking at the evolution of awareness and its neurobiological constraints," says Nieder. The study has been published in the journal Science on September 24, 2020.

Researchers identify new type of superconductor

Until now, the history of superconducting materials has been a tale of two types: s-wave and d-wave.

Scientists predict potential spread, habitat of invasive Asian giant hornet

Researchers at Washington State University have predicted how and where the Asian giant hornet, an invasive newcomer to the Pacific Northwest, popularly dubbed the "murder hornet," could spread and find ideal habitat, both in the United States and globally.

New measurements show moon has hazardous radiation levels

Future moon explorers will be bombarded with two to three times more radiation than astronauts aboard the International Space Station, a health hazard that will require thick-walled shelters for protection, scientists reported Friday.

The first ultra-hot Neptune, LTT 9779b, is one of nature's improbable planets

An international team of astronomers, including a group from the University of Warwick, have discovered the first Ultra Hot Neptune planet orbiting the nearby star LTT 9779.

Wolves have been caring for the pack for at least 1.3 million years

Wolves today live and hunt in packs, which helps them take down large prey. But when did this group behavior evolve? An international research team has reported specimens of an ancestral wolf, Canis chihliensis, from the Ice Age of north China (~1.3 million years ago), with debilitating injuries to the jaws and leg. The wolf survived these injuries long enough to heal, supporting the likelihood of food-sharing and family care in this early canine.

Major wind-driven ocean currents are shifting toward the poles

The severe droughts in the USA and Australia are the first sign that the tropics, and their warm temperatures, are apparently expanding in the wake of climate change. But until now, scientists have been unable to conclusively explain the reasons for this, because they were mostly focusing on atmospheric processes. Now, experts at the AWI have solved the puzzle: the alarming expansion of the tropics is not caused by processes in the atmosphere, but quite simply by warming subtropical ocean.

Researchers find genetic signature of ancient MacDougall bloodline

Genetic markers for the Clan MacDougall have been discovered by Genealogy researchers at the University of Strathclyde.

Scientists discover why tarantulas come in vivid blues and greens

Why are some tarantulas so vividly colored? Scientists have puzzled over why these large, hairy spiders, active primarily during the evening and at night-time, would sport such vibrant blue and green colouration—especially as they were long thought to be unable to differentiate between colors, let alone possess true color vision.


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