Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jan 14

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 14, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

New classes of topological crystalline insulators having surface rotation anomaly

Connecting the dots in the sky could shed new light on dark matter

How to verify that quantum chips are computing correctly

AstroSat observations unveil properties of black hole binary MAXI J1820+070

Magnetic storms originate closer to Earth than previously thought, threatening satellites

Flame retardants and pesticides overtake heavy metals as biggest contributors to IQ loss

Life's clockwork: Scientist shows how molecular engines keep us ticking

The advantage of changing sex in fish population recovery

New climate models suggest Paris goals may be out of reach

How nodules stay on top at the bottom of the sea

Controlled phage therapy can target drug-resistant bacteria while sidestepping potential unintended consequences

New study finds evidence for reduced brain connections in schizophrenia

Custom-built molecules enable editing of genes previously obscured by DNA's innately protective structure

What we're learning about the reproductive microbiome

Gut bacteria could guard against Parkinson's, study finds

Physics news

New classes of topological crystalline insulators having surface rotation anomaly

In a new report on Science Advances, Chen Fang and Liang Fu from the Beijing National Laboratory for Condensed Matter Physics in China, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Sciences and the Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. Detailed the discovery of new types of quantum anomalies in two-dimensional systems with time-reversal symmetry (T) (conservation of entropy) and discrete rotation symmetry; where a shape retains the same structure after rotation by a partial turn and order. They then physically realized anomalous states on the surface of new classes of topological crystalline insulators (TCIs) normal to the rotation axis and supporting a helical mode. The presence of helical modes allowed them to form a new quantum device from a topological crystalline insulator known as a helical nanorod with quantized longitudinal conductance.

Connecting the dots in the sky could shed new light on dark matter

Astrophysicists have come a step closer to understanding the origin of a faint glow of gamma rays covering the night sky. They found that this light is brighter in regions that contain a lot of matter and dimmer where matter is sparser—a correlation that could help them narrow down the properties of exotic astrophysical objects and invisible dark matter.

How to verify that quantum chips are computing correctly

In a step toward practical quantum computing, researchers from MIT, Google, and elsewhere have designed a system that can verify when quantum chips have accurately performed complex computations that classical computers can't.

Magnetic storms originate closer to Earth than previously thought, threatening satellites

Beyond Earth's atmosphere are swirling clouds of energized particles—ions and electrons—that emanate from the sun. This "solar wind" buffets the magnetosphere, the magnetic force field that surrounds Earth.

Reliable and extremely fast quantum calculations with germanium transistors

Transistors based on germanium can perform calculations for future quantum computers. This discovery by the team of Menno Veldhorst is reported in Nature.

New quantum loop provides testbed for quantum communication technology

Scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago launched a new testbed for quantum communication experiments from Argonne last week.

Physicists prove that 2-D and 3-D liquids are fundamentally different

A 50-year-old puzzle in statistical mechanics has been solved by an international team of researchers who have proved that two-dimensional (2-D) liquids have fundamentally different dynamical properties to three-dimensional (3-D) liquids.

Solving complex problems at the speed of light

Many of the most challenging optimization problems encountered in various disciplines of science and engineering, from biology and drug discovery to routing and scheduling can be reduced to NP-complete problems. Intuitively speaking, NP-complete problems are "hard to solve" because the number of operations that must be performed in order to find the solution grows exponentially with the problem size. The ubiquity of NP-complete problems has led to the development of dedicated hardware (such as optical annealing and quantum annealing machines like "D-Wave") and special algorithms (heuristic algorithms like simulated annealing).

Galactic gamma-ray sources reveal birthplaces of high-energy particles

Nine sources of extremely high-energy gamma rays comprise a new catalog compiled by researchers with the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma-Ray Observatory. All produce gamma rays with energies over 56 trillion electron volts (TeV) and three emit gamma rays extending to 100 TeV and beyond, making these the highest-energy sources ever observed in our galaxy. The catalog helps to explain where the particles originate and how they are accelerated to such extremes.

Robotic gripping mechanism mimics how sea anemones catch prey

Most robotic gripping mechanisms to date have relied on humanlike fingers or appendages, which sometimes struggle to provide the fine touch, flexibility or cost-effectiveness needed in some circumstances to hold onto objects. Recent work looks to provide a path forward for gripping robots from an unlikely source—the doughnut-shaped sea anemone.

Colloidal quantum dot laser diodes are just around the corner

Los Alamos scientists have incorporated meticulously engineered colloidal quantum dots into a new type of light emitting diodes (LEDs) containing an integrated optical resonator, which allows them to function as lasers. These novel, dual-function devices clear the path towards versatile, manufacturing-friendly laser diodes. The technology can potentially revolutionize numerous fields from photonics and optoelectronics to chemical sensing and medical diagnostics.

Slow light to speed up LiDAR sensors development

Quicker is not always better, especially when it comes to a 3-D sensor in advanced technology. With applications in autonomous vehicles, robots and drones, security systems and more, researchers are striving for a 3-D sensor that is compact and easy to use.

Astronomy & Space news

AstroSat observations unveil properties of black hole binary MAXI J1820+070

Simultaneous spectral and temporal observations of the newly detected black hole X-ray binary (BHXB) MAXI J1820+070 using the AstroSat spacecraft, have delivered more insights into the properties of this source. Results of the study, presented in a paper published January 6 on arXiv.org, could be helpful in improving our understanding of black hole binaries in general.

Data from antipodal places: First use of CMB polarization to detect gravitational lensing from galaxy clusters

Galaxies. Amalgamations of stars, interstellar gas, dust, stellar debris and dark matter. They waltz through the cold universe, gravity nurturing their embrace. Occasionally, galaxies snowball into enormous galaxy clusters with masses averaging 100 trillion times that of our sun.

X-rays and gravitational waves combine to illuminate massive black hole collision

A new study by a group of researchers at the University of Birmingham has found that collisions of supermassive black holes may be simultaneously observable in both gravitational waves and X-rays at the beginning of the next decade.

'Cold Neptune' and two temperate super-Earths found orbiting nearby stars

A "cold Neptune" and two potentially habitable worlds are part of a cache of five newly discovered exoplanets and eight exoplanet candidates found orbiting nearby red dwarf stars, which are reported in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series by a team led by Carnegie's Fabo Feng and Paul Butler.

Final images from Cassini spacecraft

Researchers are busy analysing some of the final data sent back from the Cassini spacecraft which has been in orbit around Saturn for more than 13 years until the end of its mission in September 2017.

Hot gas feeds spiral arms of the Milky Way

An international research team, with significant participation of astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), has gained important insights into the origin of the material in the spiral arms of the Milky Way, from which new stars are ultimately formed. By analysing properties of the galactic magnetic field, they were able to show that the dilute so-called warm ionized medium (WIM), in which the Milky Way is embedded, condenses near a spiral arm. While gradually cooling, it serves as a supply of the colder material of gas and dust that feeds star formation.

NASA's Mars 2020 rover closer to getting its name

NASA's Mars 2020 rover is one step closer to having its own name after 155 students across the U.S. were chosen as semifinalists in the "Name the Rover" essay contest. Just one will be selected to win the grand prize—the exciting honor of naming the rover and an invitation to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Betelgeuse: Star's weird dimming sparks rumors that its death is imminent

Every season has its characteristic star constellations in the night sky. Orion—one of the most recognizable—is distinctly visible on crisp, clear winter nights in the northern hemisphere. The constellation is easy to spot even in light-polluted cities, with its bright stars representing the shape of a person.

Technology news

Panasonic charms VR fans with aviator-style glasses

Panasonic's gift to CES 2020? Panasonic shades. For a very special function. Virtual reality. The talking point about their being showcased at the event is that they are glasses in shape.

Man versus machine: Can AI do science?

Over the last few decades, machine learning has revolutionized many sectors of society, with machines learning to drive cars, identify tumors and play chess—often surpassing their human counterparts.

NSA finds major security flaw in Windows 10, free fix issued

The National Security Agency has discovered a major security flaw in Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system that could allow hackers to intercept seemingly secure communications.

New helmet design can deal with sports' twists and turns

As a neurologist, Robert Knight has seen what happens when the brain crashes around violently inside the skull. And he's aware of the often tragic consequences.

Clearing the air (inside your car)

Did you know that your biggest daily exposure to air pollutants comes while driving your car to work?

The G7 wants to regulate artificial intelligence. Should the US get on board?

With the introduction of new export controls on artificial intelligence software last week, the White House appealed to lawmakers, businesses, and European allies to avoid overregulation of artificial intelligence. It also maintained its refusal to participate in a project proposed by the Group of Seven leading economies, which seeks to establish shared principles and regulations on artificial intelligence, as the U.S. prepares to take over the presidency of the organization this year.

Are self-driving cars safe? Expert on how we will drive in the future

Cars are changing—fast. But are innovations such as autonomous and flying cars a bright new dawn, or just a wild pipe dream? And if they become the future's way of getting from A to B, can we trust them to take us there safely? Here are five key questions answered by an expert.

The psychology of human creativity helps artificial intelligence imagine the unknown

By learning to deviate from known information in the same way that humans do, an "imagination" algorithm for artificial intelligence (AI) is able to identify previously unseen objects from written descriptions.

CES behind us, so now it's onto the next Galaxy

Most of the products introduced at the just concluded CES will never see the light of day.

Cutting the cord: As prices go up, here's how you can still save money streaming

For years, cutting the pay-TV cord has been seen as a way to save money—you don't pay for channels you don't watch and are free from long-term contracts.

Robocalls continue to rise, and these states get the most: Where does yours rank?

Every state gets plenty of robocalls, but people in a few states, such as Maryland and Nevada, bear more than their share.

Tinder, Grindr accused of illegally sharing user data

Popular dating apps like Tinder and Grindr are sharing the personal data of their users to third parties in breach of EU regulations, a Norwegian consumer rights group said Tuesday.

Encryption battle reignited as US govt at loggerheads with Apple

Apple and the US government are at loggerheads for the second time in four years over unlocking iPhones connected to a mass shooting, reviving debate over law enforcement access to encrypted devices.

Google says it will phase out web-tracking 'cookies'

Google on Tuesday said is making progress in its quest to vanquish third-party "cookies" on its popular browser used to track people's online activities, a focus of many privacy activists.

Boeing reports net drop in 2019 orders amid MAX crisis

Boeing reported Tuesday a net drop in commercial plane orders in 2019 and much lower deliveries as its protracted 737 MAX crisis weighed heavily on operations.

German carmakers beat global sales slump

German car giants Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have posted strong sales growth in the face of a contracting global market in 2019, shifting massive numbers of SUVs ahead of a pivotal year for electric mobility.

Nissan denies reported plans to split with Renault

Nissan is "in no way" planning to end its partnership with Renault, the Japanese auto giant insisted on Tuesday after a report suggested a divorce was possible in the wake of the Carlos Ghosn scandal.

Softbank-funded hotel firm Oyo lays off 10% of India staff

Indian hotel giant Oyo said Tuesday it is cutting 1,000 employees, or 10 percent of its local staff, as it battles multiple allegations including bribery and pressure from Japanese backer SoftBank to cut costs.

New York Times hits 5 million subscribers

The New York Times said Tuesday it now has more than five million total subscribers after adding one million for its digital offerings in the past year.

Germany vows 62 billion-euro injection into railways

The German government on Tuesday agreed to pump 62 billion euros ($69 billion) into its rail network as part of a wider plan to promote greener transport.

Peugeot subsidiary Opel announces 2,100 job cuts in Germany

Peugeot subsidiary Opel said Tuesday it would offer 2,100 more German workers voluntary redundancies, as it struggles to stay afloat faced with collapsing demand and an EU emissions squeeze.

UK reaches deal to keep Flybe flying

The UK government announced a rescue deal Tuesday for the troubled no-frills airline Flybe aimed at keeping Europe's largest regional carrier flying and preserving around 2,000 jobs.


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