Science X Newsletter Wednesday, May 27

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 27, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Using deep learning to give robotic fingertips a sense of touch

A new scheme for satellite-based quantum-secure time transfer

'Nature's antifreeze' provides formula for more durable concrete

Physicists measure a short-lived radioactive molecule for first time

New clues to deep earthquake mystery

Study shows erosion of ozone layer responsible for mass extinction event

Scientists unravel secrets from the faults in our genes

German firm introducing game-changing solar-wind-wave energy platform

Heat now more lethal than cold for people with respiratory diseases in Spain

Chimpanzees help trace the evolution of human speech back to ancient ancestors

Return of the Blob: Surprise link found to edge turbulence in fusion plasma

Scientists reveal new fundamental principles governing diving in animals

Exposure to 'good bacteria' during pregnancy buffers risk of autism-like syndrome

Researchers discover key player in hepatitis A virus infection

Designing a flexible material to protect buildings, military personnel

Physics news

A new scheme for satellite-based quantum-secure time transfer

Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China have recently introduced a new satellite-based quantum-secure time transfer (QSTT) protocol that could enable more secure communications between different satellites or other technology in space. Their protocol, presented in a paper published in Nature Physics, is based on two-way quantum key distribution in free space, a technique to encrypt communications between different devices.

Physicists measure a short-lived radioactive molecule for first time

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have combined the power of a super collider with techniques of laser spectroscopy to precisely measure a short-lived radioactive molecule, radium monofluoride, for the first time.

Return of the Blob: Surprise link found to edge turbulence in fusion plasma

Blobs can wreak havoc in plasma required for fusion reactions. This bubble-like turbulence swells up at the edge of fusion plasmas and drains heat from the edge, limiting the efficiency of fusion reactions in doughnut-shaped fusion facilities called "tokamaks." Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have now discovered a surprising correlation of the blobs with fluctuations of the magnetic field that confines the plasma fueling fusion reactions in the device core.

Designing a flexible material to protect buildings, military personnel

Stealth technology, the idea of reducing the ability of the enemy to detect an object, has driven advances in military research for decades. Today, aircraft, naval ships and submarines, missiles and satellites are often covered with radar-absorbent material, such as paint, to hide or cloak them from radar, sonar, infrared and other detection methods. A cloak is a coating material that makes an object indistinguishable from its surroundings or undetectable by external field measurements.

Quantum simulators for gauge theories

To simulate in a laboratory what happens in particle accelerators has been an ambitious goal in the study of the fundamental forces of nature pursued by high-energy physicists for many years. Now, thanks to research conducted by the groups of statistical physics of SISSA—Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati and the "Abdus Salam" International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), that goal is closer to reach.

New type of coupled electronic-structural waves discovered in magnetite

An international team of scientists uncovered exotic quantum properties hidden in magnetite, the oldest magnetic material known to mankind. The study reveals the existence of low-energy waves that indicate the important role of electronic interactions with the crystal lattice. This is another step toward fully understanding the metal-insulator phase transition mechanism in magnetite, and in particular, to learn about the dynamical properties and critical behavior of this material in the vicinity of the transition temperature.

Avalanche photodiode breaks performance record for LiDAR receivers

Electrical and computer engineers at the University of Virginia and University of Texas-Austin have developed an avalanche photodiode that achieved record performance and has the potential to transform next generation night-vision imaging and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) receivers. For LiDAR, the team's low-noise, two-micrometer avalanche photodiode enables higher-power operation that is eye-safe.

Physicists test titanium target windows for particle beam

In the late 2020s, Fermilab will begin sending the world's most intense beam of neutrinos through Earth's crust to detectors in South Dakota for the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, or DUNE. When the new PIP-II particle accelerator comes online, an intense beam of protons will travel near the speed of light through a series of underground accelerator components before passing through metallic windows and colliding with a stationary target to produce the neutrinos. Researchers intend to construct the windows out of a titanium alloy and are testing the fatigue endurance of samples exposed to proton beams to see how well they will perform in the new accelerator complex.

High-speed femtosecond laser plasmonic lithography of graphene oxide film

Graphene analogues such as graphene oxide (GO) and its reduced forms (rGO) are fascinating carbon materials due to the complementary properties endowed by the sp3-sp2 interconversion, revealing the substitutability and potential for industrialization of integrated graphene devices. Appropriate micro/nanostructural design of GO and rGO for controlling the energy band gap and surface chemical activity is important for developing strategic applications. The femtosecond laser plasmonic lithography (FPL) technology is a qualified candidate for generating the required structures due to its efficiency, high-quality, flexibility and controllability. However, as both the theoretical and experimental explorations of this method are still in their infancy, micro/nanoprocessing of graphene materials using FPL has not been realized. The feasibility of implementing the technique in practical applications is still questionable because most related studies only highlight the characteristics of the structure obtained from the processing but often ignore the complementary changes in the properties of the material itself.

Astronomy and Space news

SpaceX's moment of triumph arrives as astronauts ready for US launch

A new era in space begins Wednesday with the launch by SpaceX of two NASA astronauts into space, a capability that for six decades symbolized the power of a handful of states, and which the United States itself had been deprived of for nine years.

Cosmic bursts unveil universe's missing matter

Astronomers have used mysterious fast radio bursts to solve a decades-old mystery of "missing matter," long predicted to exist in the universe, but never before detected. The researchers have determined that all of the unaccounted normal matter exists in the vast space between stars and galaxies, as detailed today in the journal Nature.

Under pressure, black holes feast

A new, Yale-led study shows that some supermassive black holes actually thrive under pressure.

'Go for launch': SpaceX, NASA set for milestone mission

SpaceX's landmark launch to the International Space Station—the first crewed mission to blast off from US soil in almost a decade and a first for the commercial sector—was set to proceed on time Wednesday, following weather worries.

Historic SpaceX launch postponed because of stormy weather

The launch of a SpaceX rocket ship with two NASA astronauts on a history-making flight into orbit was called off with less than 17 minutes to go in the countdown Wednesday because of thunderclouds and the danger of lightning.

SpaceX readies for blast-off with NASA astronauts aboard

Gray skies loomed over Florida's Atlantic coast Tuesday, just one day before two astronauts were set to blast off aboard a SpaceX capsule on the most dangerous and prestigious mission NASA has ever entrusted to a private company.

Virgin Orbit analyzing data to find cause of rocket failure

Virgin Orbit engineers were analyzing data Tuesday to find out what caused the maiden flight of its air-launched satellite booster to fail.

Astronomers recategorize asteroid-like comet

Recently discovered object 2019 LD2, originally believed to be the first cometary "Jupiter Trojan" asteroid by astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy turns out to be an interloper comet masquerading as a member of the Trojan population. The distinction was first suggested by amateur astronomers Sam Deen and Tony Dunn on the Minor Planet Mailing List on May 21 and confirmed by UH's Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) colleagues Alan Fitzsimmons and Henry Hsieh that 2019 LD2 is in fact a comet with a chaotically changing orbit currently resembling that of a Trojan asteroid. The cometary nature of this object was announced in a Minor Planet Electronic Circular on May 22, giving it the slightly different new name of P/2019 LD2 that denotes it as a comet. On May 23, additional analysis by Japan astronomer Syuichi Nanako confirmed the evolving orbit was published by the Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams.

The costly collateral damage from Elon Musk's Starlink satellite fleet

A colossal chess game of immense consequences is being fought in outer space, right now. On March 18 and April 22 2020, two rockets from SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, each put 60 satellites into orbit. Those launches are but the sixth and seventh in a series intended to rapidly make 1,584 satellites available.

Terrestrial bacteria can grow on nutrients from space

In the past decade, there has been renewed thinking about human missions to the moon and perhaps even to Mars. Inevitably, terrestrial microorganisms on the bodies of astronauts, spaceships or equipment will come into contact with extraterrestrial environments. Researchers from the Radboudumc describe in an article in Astrobiology that bacteria can survive on an "extraterrestrial diet," which affected their pathogenic potential.

NASA chief "all in" for Tom Cruise to film on space station

NASA is rolling out the International Space Station's red carpet for Tom Cruise to make a movie in orbit.

SpaceX on cusp of launching astronauts, back on home turf

With bad weather threatening a delay, two NASA astronauts suited up for the launch of a SpaceX rocket ship Wednesday on a history-making flight to the International Space Station that was seen as a giant leap forward for the booming business of commercial space travel.

Bob and Doug, the best friends on historic SpaceX-NASA mission

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, the astronauts set to launch into orbit on a SpaceX rocket Wednesday, are both former military pilots, both recruited by NASA in 2000, and both married to fellow astronauts.

2 U.S. astronauts board SpaceX rocket for historic launch

With thunderstorms threatening a delay, two NASA astronauts climbed aboard a SpaceX rocket ship Wednesday for liftoff on a history-making flight that was seen as a giant leap forward for the booming business of commercial space travel.

How will we receive signals from interstellar probes like Starshot?

In a few decades, the Breakthrough Starshot initiative hopes to send a sailcraft to the neighboring system of Alpha Centauri. Using a lightsail and a directed-energy laser array, a tiny spacecraft could be accelerated to 20% the speed of light (0.2 c). This would allow Starshot to make the journey to Alpha Centauri and study any exoplanets there in just 20 years, thus fulfilling the dream of interstellar exploration within our lifetimes.

Technology news

Using deep learning to give robotic fingertips a sense of touch

Researchers at the University of Bristol have recently trained a deep-neural-network-based model to gather tactile information about 3-D objects. In their paper, published in IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, they applied the deep learning technique to a robotic fingertip with sensing capabilities and found that it allowed it to infer more information about its surrounding environment.

German firm introducing game-changing solar-wind-wave energy platform

A German power firm will launch demonstrations of a one-of-a-kind, triple-threat power generating platform off Iraklio, Greece, later this year.

Student finds privacy flaws in connected security and doorbell cameras

Ring, Nest, SimpliSafe and eight other manufacturers of internet-connected doorbell and security cameras have been alerted to "systemic design flaws" discovered by Florida Tech computer science student Blake Janes that allows a shared account that appears to have been removed to actually remain in place with continued access to the video feed.

Battery reuse systems could be profitable for electric vehicle companies and grid-scale solar operations

As electric vehicles rapidly grow in popularity worldwide, there will soon be a wave of used batteries whose performance is no longer sufficient for vehicles that need reliable acceleration and range. But a new study shows that these batteries could still have a useful and profitable second life as backup storage for grid-scale solar photovoltaic installations, where they could perform for more than a decade in this less demanding role.

Researchers incorporate computer vision and uncertainty into AI for robotic prosthetics

Researchers have developed new software that can be integrated with existing hardware to enable people using robotic prosthetics or exoskeletons to walk in a safer, more natural manner on different types of terrain. The new framework incorporates computer vision into prosthetic leg control, and includes robust artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that allow the software to better account for uncertainty.

Virus sparks record drop in energy investment: IEA

The energy industry is set to suffer a record drop in investment due to the coronavirus fallout, the IEA said on Wednesday, and while renewables are likely to fare better than oil, any swift economic recovery could create a global fuel crunch.

Amazon may buy robo-taxi startup Zoox: WSJ

Amazon is in talks to buy robo-taxi startup Zoox, accelerating its efforts when it comes to self-driving vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

After a breach, users rarely change their passwords, and when they do, they're often weaker

Have you been pwned?

Tightening up facial biometrics

Facial biometrics for security applications is an important modern technology. Unfortunately, there is the possibility of "spoofing" a person's face to the sensor or detection system through the use of a photograph or even video presented to the security system. A team from China has now developed a counter-measure that could preclude face spoofing and make such biometric security systems far less prone to abuse. The team reports details in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering.

AT&T launches HBO Max as it makes a big bet on streaming

AT&T's long-anticipated streaming service, HBO Max, officially launches Wednesday, thrusting the longtime wireless and pay TV provider into a crowded streaming market, perhaps forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Googlers can start returning to work July 6, but on limited basis

Search giant Google will start welcoming employees back to offers beginning July 6 but on a volunteer and limited basis.

Multifunctional e-glasses monitor health, protect eyes, control video game

Fitness tracker bracelets and watches provide useful information, such as step count and heart rate, but they usually can't provide more detailed data about the wearer's health. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have developed smart electronic glasses (e-glasses) that not only monitor a person's brain waves and body movements, but also can function as sunglasses and allow users to control a video game with eye motions.

Software solution predicts costs for manufacturers

New software designed to help manufacturers better predict and adjust costs may assist organizers one day with huge events such as the Olympic Games.

Smarter energy use is key to a greener future

LED lightbulbs, programmable thermostats, high-density insulation and electric vehicles—despite these innovations, about two-thirds of the energy produced in the U.S. is lost to inefficiencies, according to national studies.

Too much TV? Enter HBO Max, the latest streaming wannabe

Is a pandemic the perfect time to launch a new and relatively expensive streaming service? AT&T sure hopes so.

In pandemic, using drones to drop medical supplies from sky

With a loud whir and a whoosh, a fixed-wing drone slingshots out of a medical warehouse, zips through hazy skies at 80 mph, pops open a belly hatch and drops a box of medical supplies. Slowed by a little parachute, the box drifts downward and lands with a plop, less than 8 minutes after launch.

Boeing slashes 12,000 jobs as virus seizes travel industry

Boeing is cutting more than 12,000 jobs through layoffs and buyouts as the coronavirus pandemic seizes the travel industry, and more cuts are coming.

Virus apps expose tension between privacy and need for data

As more governments turn to tracing apps in the fight against the coronavirus, a deep-rooted tension between the need for public health information and privacy rights has been thrust into the spotlight.

Technology that could save 12% of the energy used in pressurized irrigation

Irrigation agriculture not only requires a large amount of water but it also uses a significant amount of energy, which in addition to affecting the environment, constitutes a major financial burden for the agricultural sector. According to a study by the Hydraulics and Irrigation research team at the University of Cordoba and Trinity College Dublin, recovering energy in water distribution networks for irrigation could mean a 12.8% savings of energy each year.

Augmented reality can improve online shopping, study finds

A recent survey found that online shoppers return 70% of the clothing they order, more than any other category of purchase. This has an indirect but real impact on the environment.

Shares in Latin America's biggest airline plunge after bankruptcy filing

Shares in Latin America's largest airline plunged on the New York and Santiago stock exchanges on Tuesday after LATAM filed for bankruptcy in the US.

Researchers develop ways to make IoT truly ubiquitous

In recent years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a reality. It has helped automatize our homes, healthcare and industrial manufacturing, to mention just a few application areas. In the home environment, this can mean that your energy supplier reads your energy meter automatically, or that you have a security system in your home that allows you to monitor and manage your property simply by using a mobile app.

Review: 'Trials of Mana' a pitch-perfect remake bridging old and new

Hollywood knows plenty about remakes. The industry has been doing it for decades as the website Film School Rejects noted: With every technological leap, the push to retell a previous film follows. The advent of sound led to a new "Count of Monte Cristo" movie and the introduction of computer-generated images produced an unending slew of live-action Disney classics.

Wineries turn to online sales to avoid getting crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic

Susan Tipton began making wine after she and her husband settled on an 18-acre property in Acampo, California in 2003. Inspired by a trip to the Southern Rhine region of France where she first tasted Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, Tipton planted rows of Grenache Blanc in the sandy soil there.

Tech review: Lighting up the darkness in your vehicle

Sometimes I get to review things that sound really cool, but after I use them, I find I'm not quite the target market.

System designed to improve database performance for health care, IoT

Sometimes it is best to work smarter and not harder. The same holds true when it comes to peak performance for databases.

Unique measurement system for 5G-MIMO and space applications

With the delivery of Keysight Technologies' custom-designed wideband microwave downconverters, all key components for the novel 5G-MIMO system are now in place at Ferdinand-Braun-Institut. The system was funded within Research Fab Microelectronics Germany and will enable unique measurements and research.

Observations of robotic swarm behavior can help workers safely navigate disaster sites

Using biologically inspired robotic swarms consisting of large groups of robots that have been programmed to operate cooperatively, much like individuals in an ant or bee colony, scientists from the University of Colorado demonstrate that the locally observed distribution of robots can be correlated to the location of environmental features, such as exits in office-like environments. The study's findings were published in IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.

France's virus tracing app ready to go, parliament to vote

French lawmakers were set to vote Wednesday on whether to endorse a contact-tracing app designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus amid sharp debate over privacy concerns.

New turbulence in high-stakes Lufthansa rescue drama

Coronavirus-stricken airline group Lufthansa wavered Wednesday on grabbing a nine-billion-euro ($9.9 billion) German state lifeline, throwing up new turbulence for a rescue that could decide the fate of the historic company.

Air France to cut 40% of domestic flights after bailout

Air France-KLM will slash 40 percent of its French domestic flights by next year in exchange for receiving seven billion euros ($7.7 billion) in emergency coronavirus funding backed by the French state, the company's chief executive said Wednesday.

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi deepen their alliance

Struggling automakers Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi unveiled Wednesday a plan to deepen their alliance, a top global producer of cars, that only months ago seemed on the verge of breakup.

Latest GE sale extinguishes lightbulb business

General Electric is getting out of the light bulb business, shedding a foundational enterprise from the days of Thomas Edison, the company announced Wednesday.


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