Science X Newsletter Monday, Apr 6

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 6, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A framework for indoor robot navigation among humans

Study explores the effects of bilingualism on the developing brain

A flexible microrobot that can survive almost any deformation

Viruses don't have a metabolism; but some have the building blocks for one

Breakthrough in unlocking genetic potential of ocean microbes

Neuroscientists find memory cells that help us interpret new situations

Climate change encouraged colonisation of South Pacific Islands earlier than first thought

Indigenous knowledge could reveal ways to weather climate change on islands

Quasar IRAS F11119+3257 has a high velocity two-sided jet, study finds

Nonreciprocal transport in the gate-induced strontium titanate polar superconductor

Cold War nuclear bomb tests reveal true age of whale sharks

Findings in mice reveal possibilities for fetal drug therapy for deafness

Scientists reveal brain tumors impact normally helpful cells

AI techniques used to improve battery health and safety

Monster storm strengthens in Pacific, lashing Vanuatu

Physics news

Nonreciprocal transport in the gate-induced strontium titanate polar superconductor

In materials science, two-dimensional electron systems (2DES) realized at the oxide surface or interface are a promising candidate to achieve novel physical properties and functionalities in a rapidly emerging quantum field. While 2-DES provides an important platform for exotic quantum events including the quantum Hall effect and superconductivity, the effect of symmetry breaking ; transition from a disorderly state in to a more definite state, on such quantum phases remain elusive. Nonreciprocal electrical transport or current-direction-dependent resistance is a probe for broken inversion symmetry (presence of a dipole), as observed on several noncentrosymmetric crystals and interfaces. In a new report, Yuki M. Itahashi and a team of scientists in applied physics, nanosystems and materials science in Japan and the U.S. reported nonreciprocal transport at the surface of a 2-D superconductor made of the superconducting material strontium titanate (SrTiO3). The team observed gigantic enhancement of the nonreciprocal region in the superconducting fluctuation region—at six orders of magnitude larger compared to its normal state. The results are now published on Science Advances and demonstrate unprecedented characteristics of the 2-D polar superconductor.

A twist connecting magnetism and electronic-band topology

Materials that combine topological electronic properties and quantum magnetism are of high interest for the quantum many-body physics they exhibit and for possible applications in electronic components. ETH physicists have now established the microscopic mechanism linking magnetism and electronic-band topology for one such material.

Magnetoacoustic waves: Towards a new paradigm of on-chip communication

Researchers have observed directly and for the first time magnetoacoustic waves (sound-driven spin waves), which are considered as potential information carriers for novel computation schemes. These waves have been generated and observed on hybrid magnetic/piezoelectric devices. The experiments were designed in a collaboration between the University of Barcelona (UB), the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) and the ALBA Synchrotron. The results show that magnetoacoustic waves can travel over long distances—up to centimeters—and have larger amplitudes than expected.

Researchers report new understanding of energy fluctuations in fluids

The Casimir Force is a well-known effect originating from the quantum fluctuation of electromagnetic fields in a vacuum. Now an international group of researchers have reported a counterpoint to that theory, adding to the understanding of energy fluctuations within fluids.

Astronomy and Space news

Quasar IRAS F11119+3257 has a high velocity two-sided jet, study finds

Astronomers have carried out very-long-baseline interferometric (VLBI) observations of the quasar IRAS F11119+3257 using the European VLBI Network (EVN). They found that the object has a high velocity two-sided jet, a finding detailed in a paper published March 25 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

Origins of Uranus' oddities explained by Japanese astronomers

The ice giant Uranus' unusual attributes have long puzzled scientists. All of the planets in the solar system revolve around the sun in the same direction and in the same plane, which astronomers believe is a vestige of how our solar system formed from a spinning disc of gas and dust. Most of the planets also rotate in the same direction, with their poles orientated perpendicular to the plane in which the planets revolve. However, uniquely among all the planets, Uranus is tilted at about 98 degrees.

Far stars firmly in sight thanks to telescope teamwork

Stars far, far away could appear a lot closer when viewed through our telescopes thanks to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).

Choosing rocks on Mars to bring to Earth

If you could bring something back from Mars to Earth, what would you choose? This question is becoming reality, as ESA opens a call for scientists to join a NASA team working to determine which martian samples should be collected and stored by the Perseverance rover set to launch this Summer.

Researchers provide new clue to solar coronal heating problem

Coronal heating is a topic dedicated to explaining how the corona may be heated up to a temperature of millions of degrees, far above that of the photosphere. To transport magnetic energy into the corona, Alfvén-wave turbulence is a promising candidate. However, how the wave is generated in the corona is still an open question.

The Milky Way's satellites help reveal link between dark matter halos and galaxy formation

Just as the sun has planets and the planets have moons, our galaxy has satellite galaxies, and some of those might have smaller satellite galaxies of their own. To wit, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a relatively large satellite galaxy visible from the Southern Hemisphere, is thought to have brought at least six of its own satellite galaxies with it when it first approached the Milky Way, based on recent measurements from the European Space Agency's Gaia mission.

Sulfur 'spices' alien atmospheres

They say variety is the spice of life, and now new discoveries from Johns Hopkins researchers suggest that a certain elemental 'variety'—sulfur—is indeed a 'spice' that can perhaps point to signs of life.

Catch this week's supermoon, biggest and brightest of year

A supermoon rises in the sky this week, looking to be the biggest and brightest of the year.

Image: Hubble captures a cannibal galaxy

This remarkable spiral galaxy, known as NGC 4651, may look serene and peaceful as it swirls in the vast, silent emptiness of space, but don't be fooled—it keeps a violent secret. It is believed that this galaxy consumed another smaller galaxy to become the large and beautiful spiral that we observe today.

Technology news

A framework for indoor robot navigation among humans

In order to tackle the tasks that they are designed to complete, mobile robots should be able to navigate real world environments efficiently, avoiding humans or other obstacles in their surroundings. While static objects are typically fairly easy for robots to detect and circumvent, avoiding humans can be more challenging, as it entails predicting their future movements and planning accordingly.

A flexible microrobot that can survive almost any deformation

An International research team led by Dr. Oliver Schmidt, working at Chemnitz University of Technology (TU Chemnitz) and Leibniz IFW Dresden has recently developed a microrobitic system with a wide range of possible applications, ranging from completing micro-surgeries to delivering goods to humans. This robot, presented in a paper published in Nature Electronics, builds on an idea introduced by the same team of researchers almost a decade ago.

AI techniques used to improve battery health and safety

Researchers have designed a machine learning method that can predict battery health with 10x higher accuracy than current industry standard, which could aid in the development of safer and more reliable batteries for electric vehicles and consumer electronics.

How Google is teaching a robot dog to learn to move like a real dog

A team of researchers at Google's AI lab is seeing results in its effort to develop a dog-like robot quadruped that learns dog behavior by studying how real dogs move. The team has posted an outline of the work they are doing on the Google AI blog.

Researchers hope to improve future epidemic predictions

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, a new mathematical model could offer insights on how to improve future epidemic predictions based on how information mutates as it is transmitted from person to person and group to group.

Pollen-based 'paper' holds promise for new generation of natural components

Scientists at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have created a paper-like material derived from pollen that bends and curls in response to changing levels of environmental humidity.

Hacker brings video to audio cassette tape

Admit it. Somewhere in your basement or attic are dust-covered boxes filled with your Dad's old cassette tape music collection (your Mom is likely tidier and disposed of hers years ago.) Although last year there was an uptick in sales for audio cassettes at levels not achieved since the early 2000s, the format generally has been considered a useless relic of a long-gone era.

Short-form streaming platform Quibi goes live as consumers retrench

The "quick bites" of video from deep-pocketed startup Quibi could become a new entertainment form for on-the-go smartphone users. The question is whether this is the right time.

Boeing extends factory shutdown in Washington state

Boeing has said it will indefinitely extend a shutdown at its factories in Washington state because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Talking about how we talk about the ethics of artificial intelligence

If you want to understand how people are thinking (and feeling) about new technologies, it's important to understand how media outlets are thinking (and writing) about new technologies.

Accelerating life science and health discoveries: Turning data into insights

As technologies like single-cell genomic sequencing, enhanced biomedical imaging, and medical "internet of things" devices proliferate, key discoveries about human health are increasingly found within vast troves of complex life science and health data.

Vermont team invents emergency ventilator

Over the last three weeks, a team of scientists, engineers and doctors at the University of Vermont have developed a new design—and built a working model—for a simple, inexpensive ventilator.

Zoom to focus on security, privacy, CEO says, as usage booms during coronavirus crisis

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan says the video conferencing service will forgo work on any new features over the next 90 days to focus on upgrading and bolstering the online platform's security and privacy protections.

On coronavirus lockdown, gamers seek solace and community in video games

Video games have always been a source of solace in tough times for Rosemary Kelley.

Facebook and COVID-19: They deleted the app, then came coronavirus

Cooped up at home outside Milwaukee with her husband, 17-year-old twins and the family dog, Sarah Giffin had big plans to reorganize the basement and read the classics.

Review: A look at offerings on new mobile platform Quibi

Quibi may specialize in small, bite-sized videos, but its volume of shows is large. The media platform launches Monday with 175 new original shows—everything from scripted series, comedic diversions, deep dramas and celebrity fluff. Here's a look at some of the notable and less notable shows.

Volkswagen loses 'damning' dieselgate UK class lawsuit

German car giant Volkswagen faces the threat of a hefty "dieselgate" payout in Britain after a court Monday ruled in favour of more than 90,000 VW drivers whose vehicles cheated emissions tests.

Flying high: how drones on cables are expanding the scope of wind energy

By harnessing the power of strong winds at higher altitude than turbines reach, airborne wind energy could be another key source of renewable energy, but it will need a combination of successful designs, more robust software and good storytelling to really take off.

What to do with newfound time at home during coronavirus crisis? Google's latest doodle has some ideas.

Google recently published a Doodle to underscore the importance of staying home during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Scammers are creating Netflix lookalikes to target people staying at home, study finds

Scammers are focusing more attention on people looking to stream content from Netflix during what has quickly become the stay-at-home era.

Q&A with Vyas Sekar on the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on cybersecurity

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted countless aspects of everyday life, and our cybersecurity is no exception, according to CyLab researchers.

UAE airlines resume limited passenger flights

UAE carriers Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways have resumed limited passenger flights two weeks after authorities grounded airlines as part of wider shutdowns to combat coronavirus.


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