Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jul 22

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for July 22, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Deep-Grid MAP-Elites: An algorithm to produce collections of diverse and high performing solutions in noisy domains

New study shows retreat of East Antarctic ice sheet during previous warm periods

Proteins—and labs—coming together to prevent Rett syndrome

Chemists make tough plastics recyclable

Genomic basis of bat superpowers revealed: Like how they survive deadly viruses

Diamonds shine a light on hidden currents in graphene

Mapping the brain's sensory gatekeeper

Researchers diffract a beam of organic molecules

Faster identification and isolation of COVID-19 symptomatic individuals found to shorten average serial interval

Active leak of sea-bed methane discovered in Antarctica for first time

Flood data from 500 years: Rivers and climate change in Europe

Radio relic detected in a merging galaxy cluster

Earliest humans stayed at the Americas 'oldest hotel' in Mexican cave

First image of a multi-planet system around a sun-like star

Crown-of-thorns enhance their growth by switching diets early

Physics news

Researchers diffract a beam of organic molecules

A team of researchers from Austria, Germany, and the U.K. has succeeded in diffracting a beam of organic molecules. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers describe demonstrating Bragg diffraction of the molecules ciprofloxacin and phthalocyanine.

While birds chirp, plasma shouldn't: New insight could advance fusion energy

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have furthered understanding of a barrier that can prevent doughnut-shaped fusion facilities known as tokamaks from operating at high efficiency by causing vital heat to be lost from them.

Instantaneous color holography system for sensing fluorescence and white light achieved

The National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Toin University of Yokohama, and Chiba University have succeeded in developing a color-multiplexed holography system by which 3-D information of objects illuminated by a white-light lamp and self-luminous specimens are recorded as a single multicolor hologram by a specially designed and developed monochrome image sensor.

Researchers develop photonic crystal light converter

Spectroscopy is the use of light to analyze physical objects and biological samples. Different kinds of light can provide different kinds of information. Vacuum ultraviolet light is useful as it can aid people in a broad range of research fields, but generation of that light has been difficult and expensive. Researchers created a new device to efficiently generate this special kind of light using an ultrathin film with nanoscale perforations.

Valley Hall nanoscale lasers developed

Topological photonics underpins a promising paradigm for robust light manipulation, as well as smart design of optical devices with improved reliability and advanced functionalities that are governed by the nontrivial band topology. Nanostructures made of high-index dielectric materials with resonant elements and lattice arrangements show special promise for implementation of topological order for light at the nanoscale and optical on-chip applications. High-index dielectrics such as III-V semiconductors that can contain strong optical gain further enhanced by topological field localization form a promising platform for active topological nanophotonics.

New 'super light source' should allow fascinating insights into atoms

The 'Gamma Factory initiative'—an international team of scientists—is currently exploring a novel research tool: They propose to develop a source of high-intensity gamma rays using the existing accelerator facilities at CERN. To do this, specialized ion beams will be circulated in the SPS and LHC storage rings, which will then be excited using laser beams so that they emit photons. In the selected configuration, the energies of the photons will be within the gamma radiation range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This is of particular interest in connection with spectroscopic analysis of atomic nuclei. Furthermore, the gamma rays will be designed to have a very high intensity, several orders of magnitude higher than those of systems currently in operation. In the latest issue of the journal Annalen der Physik, the researchers claim that a 'Gamma Factory' constructed in this way will enable not only breakthroughs in spectroscopy but also novel ways of testing fundamental symmetries of nature.

Astronomy and Space news

Radio relic detected in a merging galaxy cluster

Using the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), an international team of astronomers has detected a radio relic in a merging galaxy cluster known as SPT-CL 2023-5535. The discovery is reported in a research paper published July 16 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

First image of a multi-planet system around a sun-like star

The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO's VLT) has taken the first ever image of a young, sun-like star accompanied by two giant exoplanets. Images of systems with multiple exoplanets are extremely rare, and—until now—astronomers had never directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the sun. The observations can help astronomers understand how planets formed and evolved around our own sun.

Study illuminates fates of distant planetary atmospheres

When telescopes became powerful enough to find planets orbiting distant stars, scientists were surprised to see that a lot of them didn't have atmospheres like Earth's. Instead, they appear to have thick blankets of hydrogen.

NASA's 'robot hotel' gets its occupants

Storage is just as important aboard the International Space Station as it is on Earth. While the space station is about the size of a football field, the living space inside is much smaller than that. Just as you wouldn't store garden tools in a house when you could store them in a shed outside, astronauts now have a "housing unit" in which they can store tools for use on the exterior of the space station.

Image: Letting a satellite breathe

This air intake collector is designed to harvest sufficient air particles as it skims the top of the atmosphere to fuel an "air-breathing" electric thruster. The aim is to help satellites to overcome atmospheric drag to operate on an ongoing basis in orbits from as low as 180 km to a maximum 250 km altitude.

Technology news

Deep-Grid MAP-Elites: An algorithm to produce collections of diverse and high performing solutions in noisy domains

Over the past few decades, research teams worldwide have developed a wide variety of computational tools and technological solutions. Quality-diversity (QD) optimization algorithms are an approach that can generate large collections of diverse and highly performing solutions to computational problems rather than identifying a single high-quality solution, as a more conventional optimization algorithm would.

Tracking misinformation campaigns in real-time is possible, study shows

A research team led by Princeton University has developed a technique for tracking online foreign misinformation campaigns in real time, which could help mitigate outside interference in the 2020 American election.

Is it a bird, a plane? Not superman, but a flapping wing drone

A drone prototype that mimics the aerobatic manoeuvres of one of the world's fastest birds, the swift, is being developed by an international team of engineers in the latest example of biologically inspired flight.

Investigating 3-D-printed structures in real time

A team of scientists working at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Brookhaven National Laboratory has designed an apparatus that can take simultaneous temperature and X-ray scattering measurements of a 3-D printing process in real time, and have used it to gather information that may improve finished 3-D products made from a large variety of plastics. This study could broaden the scope of the printing process in the manufacturing industry and is also an important step forward for Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University's collaborative advanced manufacturing program.

Report: Web security improves, but big gaps remain

A report released this week reveals good news and bad news concerning the current global state of security on the Internet. The good news, according to a massive study last spring conducted by the security analytics firm Rapid7, is that despite potential tremors the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 might have unleashed on the Internet, the system is actually holding up relatively well and security measures are improving.

Solar-driven membrane distillation technology that can double drinking water production

A joint research team from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), led by Dr. Kyung-guen Song from the KIST Water Cycle Research Center and Dr. Won-jun Choi from the KIST Center for Opto-Electronic Materials and Devices, has used solar energy technology to develop a highly efficient membrane distillation technology that can produce drinking water from seawater or wastewater.

Researcher uses social media data to analyze public reaction to the pandemic

From the moment news broke of an unknown, potentially deadly virus, the topic lit up social media channels—creating a trove of data for the University of Toronto's Jia Xue, who uses computational approaches to study social justice issues.

COVID-19 shutdown led to increased solar power output

As the Covid-19 shutdowns and stay-at-home orders brought much of the world's travel and commerce to a standstill, people around the world started noticing clearer skies as a result of lower levels of air pollution. Now, researchers have been able to demonstrate that those clearer skies had a measurable impact on the output from solar photovoltaic panels, leading to a more than 8 percent increase in the power output from installations in Delhi.

People 'fly to quality' news on social sites when faced with uncertainty

When information becomes a matter of life or death or is key to navigating economic uncertainty, as it has during the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears people turn to tried and true sources of information rather than iffy sites that have become increasingly part of the social media news diet in recent years.

Renewables now EU's biggest source of electricity: study

Renewable energy sources such as the wind and the sun overtook fossil fuels as the European Union's main generators of electricity in the first half of this year, according to a new report published on Wednesday.

Facebook and Instagram to study racial bias against African Americans, Hispanics on their platforms

Acknowledging complaints over censorship and harassment, Facebook is creating teams to examine and address racial bias on its platform and on Instagram.

A rapid-response chatbot to address freshmen queries

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has rolled out a new virtual assistant powered by Google Cloud to help some 6,000 incoming freshmen transition to university life on the NTU Smart Campus.

No honor among cyber thieves

A backstabbing crime boss and thousands of people looking for free tutorials on hacking and identity theft were two of the more interesting findings of a study examining user activity on two online 'carding forums,' illegal sites that specialize in stolen credit card information.

Optimizing neural networks on a brain-inspired computer

Many computational properties are maximized when the dynamics of a network are at a 'critical point," a state where systems can quickly change their overall characteristics in fundamental ways, transitioning e.g. between order and chaos or stability and instability. Therefore, the critical state is widely assumed to be optimal for any computation in recurrent neural networks, which are used in many AI applications.

Meet Scout: Amazon is taking its Prime Delivery Robots to the South

Amazon has put delivery robots to work during the pandemic and is now expanding its fleet to cities in the South.

Twitter takes down QAnon conspiracy theorist accounts

Twitter has removed more than 7,000 accounts linked to the "QAnon" movement over abuse and harassment concerns, saying Tuesday it will limit the spread of conspiracy theories by its supporters.

Benin tech innovation hub sees bright future

With crimson walls and violet, yellow and red awnings, it's a building that few people in Cotonou, the tranquil economic capital of Benin, are likely to miss.

Resurgent 'techlash' overshadows Silicon Valley earnings

Big Tech, its hands full with antitrust probes and complaints growing from activists and politicians, turns its attention to quarterly earnings in the coming days expected to show the growing power of Silicon Valley giants.

Privacy, perceptions and effectiveness: the challenges of developing coronavirus contact-tracing apps

To control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 50 countries have implemented applications to trace the contacts of people who may be infected.

How to solve California's digital divide

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare all manner of social issues and disparities, from child care accessibility to the weaknesses of an underfunded public health system.

Slack files anti-competitive complaint vs. Microsoft in EU

Workplace chatting service Slack has filed a complaint in the European Union against Microsoft, accusing the software company of anti-competitive behavior.


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