Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jun 30

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 30, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A scheme to enhance how swarm robots search for multiple targets

Quantum fridge works by superposing the order of events

Moving the diagosis of rheumatic diseases into the era of precision medicine

Mid-infrared flare detected in a nearby active galaxy

A revolutionary new treatment alternative to corneal transplantation

Researchers catch a wave to determine how forces control granular material properties

New treatment for common form of muscular dystrophy shows promise in cells, animals

A cosmic mystery: Very Large Telescope captures the disappearance of a massive star

Major new paleoclimatology study shows global warming has upended 6,500 years of cooling

Fat check: Researchers find explanation for stress' damage in brown fat

Countries group into clusters as COVID-19 outbreak spreads

Spider silk can create lenses useful for biological imaging

Face mask construction, materials matter for containing coughing, sneezing droplets

Respiratory droplet motion, evaporation and spread of COVID-19-type pandemics

To find giant black holes, start with Jupiter

Physics news

Quantum fridge works by superposing the order of events

Ever tried defrosting your dinner by popping it in one identical freezer after another? Strange as it sounds, recent studies of indefinite causal order—in which different orders of events are quantum superposed—suggest this could actually work for quantum systems. Researchers at the University of Oxford show how the phenomenon can be put to use in a type of quantum refrigeration.

Researchers catch a wave to determine how forces control granular material properties

Stress wave propagation through grainy, or granular, materials is important for detecting the magnitude of earthquakes, locating oil and gas reservoirs, designing acoustic insulation and designing materials for compacting powders.

Spider silk can create lenses useful for biological imaging

Spiders—what are they good for? The answer, it turns out, is more than just insect control.

Face mask construction, materials matter for containing coughing, sneezing droplets

Currently, there are no specific guidelines on the most effective materials and designs for facemasks to minimize the spread of droplets from coughs or sneezes to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19. While there have been prior studies on how medical-grade masks perform, data on cloth-based coverings used by the vast majority of the general public are sparse.

Respiratory droplet motion, evaporation and spread of COVID-19-type pandemics

It is well established that the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease is transmitted via respiratory droplets that infected people eject when they cough, sneeze or talk. Consequently, much research targets better understanding droplet motion and evaporation to understand transmission more deeply.

Light from inside the tunnel

Steering and monitoring the light-driven motion of electrons inside matter on the time-scale of a single optical cycle is a key challenge in ultrafast light wave electronics and laser-based material processing. Physicists from the Max Born Institute in Berlin and the University of Rostock have now revealed a so-far overlooked nonlinear optical mechanism that emerges from the light-induced tunneling of electrons inside dielectrics. For intensities near the material damage threshold, the nonlinear current arising during tunneling becomes the dominant source of bright bursts of light, which are low-order harmonics of the incident radiation. These findings, which have just been published in Nature Physics, significantly expand both the fundamental understanding of optical non-linearity in dielectric materials and its potential for applications in information processing and light-based material processing.

Mathematical noodling leads to new insights into an old fusion problem

A challenge to creating fusion energy on Earth is trapping the charged gas known as plasma that fuels fusion reactions within a strong magnetic field and keeping the plasma as hot and dense as possible for as long as possible. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have gained new insight into a common type of hiccup known as the sawtooth instability that cools the hot plasma in the center and interferes with the fusion reactions. These findings could help bring fusion energy closer to reality.

Researchers directly obtain 3-D, full-color images with conventional microscope

Conventional wide-field microscopy (WFM) cannot provide optical sectioning (OS) images that are required for 3-D volumetric reconstruction. The reason lies in the fact that the out-of-focus signals are always coupled within the in-focus plane. By introducing structured illumination microscopy (SIM), researchers have achieved removing the out-of-focus components from the in-focus plane in full color (FC).

Researchers propose generalized definition of cavitation intensity

Cavitation usually refers to the generation and subsequent dynamic behaviors of cavities when liquid is exposed to a sufficient pressure drop. It has been widely used in sonochemistry, biomedicine, environmental science, and other areas.

Versatile LED irradiation system: From disinfection to medical treatments

For disinfection purposes, a compact system can be equipped with UV LEDs to eliminate germs on critical surfaces such as mobile phones. It can also be assembled with LEDs providing the optimum emission spectrum for polymer curing and medical treatments—even multiple wavelengths are possible.

Astronomy and Space news

Mid-infrared flare detected in a nearby active galaxy

Chinese astronomers have reported the discovery of a mid-infrared flare in a nearby star-forming galaxy known as MCG-02-04-026. The finding is detailed in a paper published June 22 on arXiv.org, in which the authors try to explain what could be responsible for the observed flaring event.

A cosmic mystery: Very Large Telescope captures the disappearance of a massive star

Using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have discovered the absence of an unstable massive star in a dwarf galaxy. Scientists think this could indicate that the star became less bright and partially obscured by dust. An alternative explanation is that the star collapsed into a black hole without producing a supernova. "If true," says team leader and Ph.D. student Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, "this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner."

To find giant black holes, start with Jupiter

The revolution in our understanding of the night sky and our place in the universe began when we transitioned from using the naked eye to a telescope in 1609. Four centuries later, scientists are experiencing a similar transition in their knowledge of black holes by searching for gravitational waves.

What happens before a star explodes and dies: New research on 'pre-supernova' neutrinos.

A recent study on pre-supernova neutrinos—tiny cosmic particles that are extremely hard to detect—has brought scientists one step closer to understanding what happens to stars before they explode and die. The study, co-authored by postdoctoral researcher Ryosuke Hirai from the ARC Center of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) at Monash University investigated stellar evolution models to test uncertain predictions.

Spacecraft helps identify solar radiation patterns that expose the moon

Which way the wind blows in space has new importance for astronaut safety at the moon. Using data from several NASA missions, scientists discovered that wind created by high-speed particles from the sun can cause the tail of Earth's protective magnetic bubble to flap like a windsock in a strong breeze. This movement can pull the tail so far out of line that it exposes the moon to potentially damaging charged particles at times it was previously thought to be protected. The finding, which reveals a new challenge of predicting when solar activity exposes the moon, will help scientists and engineers prepare for future lunar missions.

Hungriest of black holes among the most massive in the universe

We now know just how massive the fastest-growing black hole in the Universe actually is, as well as how much it eats, thanks to new research led by The Australian National University (ANU).

TESS delivers new insights into an ultrahot world

Measurements from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) have enabled astronomers to greatly improve their understanding of the bizarre environment of KELT-9 b, one of the hottest planets known.

Revealing the magnetic nature of tornadoes in the sun's atmosphere

The first direct measurements of the magnetic field in the chromosphere of the sun by a team including University of Warwick physicists has provided the first observational evidence that huge tornadoes in our sun's atmosphere are produced by swirling magnetic fields.

Study finds the minimum number of Martian settlers for survival is 110

So you want to colonize Mars. Well, Mars is a long ways away, and in order for a colony to function that far from Earthly support, things have to be thought out very carefully. Including how many people are needed to make it work.

Solar Orbiter ready for science despite COVID-19 setbacks

ESA's Solar Orbiter has successfully completed four months of painstaking technical verification, known as commissioning. Despite the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the spacecraft is now ready to begin performing science as it continues its cruise towards the sun.

Explainer: A theoretical cosmologist describes how large black holes really are, and the 'point of no return'

Black holes are among the most fascinating phenomena of outer space, and we're learning more about them all the time. Just last week, a group of astronomers published a paper documenting a rare visible collision of black holes, which produced a flash of light that allowed scientists to see the event from Earth.

Hat tip to 'Star Trek'? US Space Force names new unit 'SpOC'

The United States' new Space Force military wing revealed Tuesday that one of its units would be named "Space Operations Command"—or "SpOC" for short, in an echo of pointy-eared "Star Trek" character Spock.

First all-female crew set for mission to Utah-based, simulated Mars research station

One of the first all-female crews to visit the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah is aiming to fill the data gap on women's performance in space exploration. Six engineers, geologists, and scientists, all under 28-years-old, will be going to the Mars simulation center for a two-week mission in February 2021.

Technology news

A scheme to enhance how swarm robots search for multiple targets

Over the past decade or so, researchers have been trying to develop techniques that could enable effective collaborative strategies among teams of robots. One of the tasks that teams of robots could complete better than individual robots is simultaneously searching for several targets or objects in their surrounding environment.

Politically extreme sources publish more COVID-19 news than scientifically-grounded outlets, study finds

In an initial study conducted at the University of Notre Dame, researchers found that least-biased news sources and scientific-based news sources published less than a quarter of all stories currently available about COVID-19. Sources evaluated as right-leaning, left-leaning or less factual (those that cite questionable sources or share conspiratorial-pseudoscientific information) account for more than 75 percent of all COVID-19 related news stories. Additionally, news articles about COVID-19 have steadily decreased since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic in March, regardless of coronavirus-related cases, deaths and policy changes.

MIT robot disinfects Greater Boston Food Bank

With every droplet that we can't see, touch, or feel dispersed into the air, the threat of spreading COVID-19 persists. It's become increasingly critical to keep these heavy droplets from lingering—especially on surfaces, which are welcoming and generous hosts.

Microsoft offers its own File Recovery Tool for Windows 10

It's hard to believe in this age of computer viruses, phishing attacks, ransomware, trojan horses, denial-of-service attacks and keystroke logging that there was once a time before the Internet when just about the only worry a computer user had was accidentally deleting a file.

Study reveals magnetic process that can lead to more energy-efficient memory in computers

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of California, Los Angeles have made an important advance that could lead to more energy efficient magnetic memory storage components for computers and other devices.

Could your computer please be more polite? Thank you

In a tense time when a pandemic rages, politicians wrangle for votes and protesters demand racial justice, a little politeness and courtesy go a long way. Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed an automated method for making communications more polite.

Social media platforms face a reckoning over hate speech

For years, social media platforms have fueled political polarization and hosted an explosion of hate speech. Now, with four months until the U.S. presidential election and the country's divisions reaching a boiling point, these companies are upping their game against bigotry and threats of violence.

Uber in talks to buy food delivery app Postmates

Uber is in talks to buy food delivery app Postmates in a multibillion dollar deal, US media reported.

Australia ramps up cyber spending after state-backed attacks

Australia unveiled the "largest-ever" boost in cybersecurity spending Tuesday, days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China.

Synthetic oils from municipal waste offers hope of alternative jet fuels

That pizza box that was too cheesy to be recycled may still have a shot at a second life outside of a landfill—and in the fuel tank of your next flight.

The New York Times pulls out of Apple News

The New York Times has become the highest-profile media organization to leave Apple News, saying the tech giant's service was not helping achieve the newspaper's subscription and business goals.

Citroen unveils new hatchback as virus pushes event online

PSA Group unveiled one of its most important new models Tuesday with 20 people physically present and 2,600 watching online - a marketing configuration that the coronavirus seems likely to accelerate across the industry now that next year's Geneva auto show was cancelled.

Facebook says will give priority to original news reporting

Facebook on Tuesday said it will give priority to original news reporting as part of an effort to divert attention from spam, click bait and specious articles.

Coal reaching 'tipping point' vs renewables: analysis

Renewable energy such as wind and solar projects are already cheaper to build than it is to continue operating 40 percent of the world's existing coal fleet, according to analysis released Tuesday.

Coronavirus: NASA invented a wearable that reminds you not to touch your face

Touching your face is a difficult habit to break, so NASA set out to invent a solution.

Airbus cuts 15,000 jobs to face aviation's 'gravest crisis'

European aircraft maker Airbus said on Tuesday it is planning to cut around 15,000 jobs worldwide, 11 percent of its total workforce, in response to the "gravest crisis" the industry has ever seen caused by the coronavirus.

Red Hat to remove contentious terms like 'master' and 'slave' from its source code

The technology company Red Hat said Tuesday that it would take measures to remove contentious terms like "master/slave" from its source code and other areas, in an effort to make its products more inclusive.

TikTok denies sharing Indian user data with China

TikTok on Tuesday denied sharing users' data with the Chinese government, after India banned the wildly popular app as ties with Beijing deteriorate sharply following a deadly border clash.

End of the line for France's oldest nuclear plant

France's oldest nuclear plant was switched off on Monday, ending four decades of output that built the local economy but also fuelled cross-border controversy.

Pandemic delays Yahoo Japan, Line merger past October

Online services Yahoo Japan and Line Corp. said Tuesday the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is causing delays that will push back their merger to later than the scheduled October date.

Airline SAS seeks $1.3bn to handle virus fallout

Scandinavian airline SAS unveiled Tuesday a plan to raise around 12 billion Swedish kronor ($1.3 billion or 1.1 billion euros) in new funds to deal with the impact of the novel coronavirus.

Automated shipping coming to Europe's waters

Moving more goods by water could reduce pressure on roads and cut emissions, yet Europe's shipping industry is held back by labour shortages. Automated shipping—which would work in a similar way to self-driving cars—could help expand capacity but safety and regulatory hurdles remain.

EasyJet may close 3 UK bases as it slashes staff

Budget carrier easyJet may close bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports in England as it consulted with unions on steps to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volkswagen ends shorter-hours scheme at German factories

German car giant Volkswagen said Tuesday its German factories would end in July a shorter hours scheme used to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as production ramps back up.

Inside Amazon's Kent fulfillment center, a proving ground for the company's coronavirus response

The four-year-old Amazon fulfillment center in Kent, Wash., has played an outsized role in the company's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Done with Facebook? Consider MeWe, Parler or old standbys like LinkedIn

MeWe is a social network that says it has no ads, spyware, targeting, political bias, or newsfeed manipulation. In other words, it bills itself as the "anti" Facebook.

LinkedIn, Microsoft launch free Learning Path job training courses to fight coronavirus unemployment

Microsoft and LinkedIn want to put a dent in the nation—and the world's—unemployment numbers.

Facebook, social media under more pressure from brands over hate speech

Starbucks on Sunday joined the drumbeat of brands pledging to pull advertising from Facebook and other social media platforms or taking other actions, putting economic pressure on the companies to address concerns about containing hate speech.

Facebook to open first data center in Illinois

Facebook plans to build an $800 million data center in DeKalb, Ill., that will rely solely on renewable energy and create about 100 jobs.

Teleworking tips for coping during COVID-19

Teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic can make you feel like you're working all the time. Know how to set boundaries between your work and personal life, as well as avoid professional isolation.


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