Science X Newsletter Monday, Nov 30

Dear ymilog,

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A strategy to transform the structure of metal-organic framework electrocatalysts

Abnormal conductivity in low angle twisted bilayer graphene

Indian astronomers detect companion star to V1787 Ori

New system optimizes the shape of robots for traversing various terrain types

Recombinant collagen polypeptide as a versatile bone graft biomaterial

Fingerprints' moisture-regulating mechanism strengthens human touch: study

Cortex over reflex: Study traces circuits where executive control overcomes instinct

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a global threat—oak surfaces might thwart their growth

Bacteria in iron-deficient environments process carbon sources selectively

Unexpected similarity between honey bee and human social life

New tech can get oxygen, fuel from Mars's salty water

Deep-sea volcanoes: Windows into the subsurface

Discoveries highlight new possibilities for magnesium batteries

Hitting the quantum 'sweet spot': Researchers find best position for atom qubits in silicon

UK's sole hydrogen car maker bets on green revolution

Physics news

Hitting the quantum 'sweet spot': Researchers find best position for atom qubits in silicon

Researchers from the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) working with Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC) have located the 'sweet spot' for positioning qubits in silicon to scale up atom-based quantum processors.

In search for dark matter, new fountain design could become wellspring of answers

You can't see it. You can't feel it. But the substance scientists refer to as dark matter could account for five times as much "stuff" in the universe as the regular matter that forms everything from trees, trains and the air you breathe, to stars, planets and interstellar dust clouds.

Air-filled fiber cables capable of outperforming standard optical fibers

The next generation of optical fiber could be a step closer as a new study has shown that fibers with a hollowed out center, created in Southampton, could reduce loss of power currently experienced in standard glass fibers.

Light confinement in a 3-D space

The emerging services such as data center cloud interconnection services, ultra-bandwidth video services, and 5G mobile services stimulate the fast development of photonic integrated circuits (PIC), which can meet the increasing demand of communication systems for internet.

Math enables custom arrangements of liquid 'nesting dolls'

While the mesmerizing blobs in a classic lava lamp may appear magical, the colorful shapes move in response to temperature-induced changes in density and surface tension. This process, known as liquid-liquid phase separation, is critical to many functions in living cells, and plays a part in making products like medicines and cosmetics.

A new hybrid X-ray detector goes toe-to-toe with state-of-the-art rivals

A new hybrid X-ray detector developed by the University of Surrey outperforms commercial devices—and could lead to more accurate cancer therapy.

Researching on-chip erbium-doped lithium niobate microcavity lasers

As a complement to silicon-based photonic chips, lithium niobate thin film (LNOI) has become a research hotspot in the field of optoelectronic integration due to its outstanding nonlinear, electro-optic, acousto-optic, piezoelectric and other physical properties. On-chip integrated frequency multipliers, modulators, and filters based on lithium niobate thin films have been developed, but the on-chip integrated communication band light source is still in urgent need of development. Recently, researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University publicly reported for the first time that they designed, fabricated, and realized the laser output of a microcavity on a lithium niobate chip on a self-developed erbium-doped LNOI.

Astronomy and Space news

Indian astronomers detect companion star to V1787 Ori

Astronomers from India have reported the finding of a companion star to an intermediate-mass Herbig Ae star known as V1787 Ori. The newly detected object turns out to be of M-type and is about 60% less massive than our sun. The discovery was detailed in a paper published November 20 on arXiv pre-print repository.

New tech can get oxygen, fuel from Mars's salty water

When it comes to water and Mars, there's good news and not-so-good news. The good news: there's water on Mars! The not-so-good news?

Fast-moving gas flowing away from young star caused by icy comet vaporisation

A unique stage of planetary system evolution has been imaged by astronomers, showing fast-moving carbon monoxide gas flowing away from a star system over 400 light years away, a discovery that provides an opportunity to study how our own solar system developed.

Brightly burning meteor seen across wide areas of Japan

A brightly burning meteor was seen plunging from the sky in wide areas of Japan, capturing attention on television and social media.

Researchers discover solid phosphorus from a comet

An international study led from the University of Turku, Finland, discovered phosphorus and fluorine in solid dust particles collected from a comet. The finding indicates that all the most important elements necessary for life may have been delivered to the Earth by comets.

An Earth-like stellar wind for Proxima Centauri c

Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun, and its planet, Proxima Cen b ("Proxima b"), lies in its habitable zone (the distance range within which surface water can be liquid), making the planet a prime target for exoplanet characterization. The star is an M- dwarf with a mass of only 0.12 solar-masses and an effective surface temperature of about 3000 kelvin. The comparatively low surface temperature means that its habitable zone lies very close to the star and Proxima b, with its mass of about 1.2 Earth-masses, lies about twenty times closer to the star than the Earth does to the Sun, orbiting in only 11.2 days. Being as close as it is to its star, Proxima b (like all habitable-zone exoplanets around M-dwarf stars) is susceptible to stellar flares, winds, X-rays, and other kinds of activity that could disrupt its atmosphere and possibilities for life. These activities are linked to the strong magnetic fields in M-dwarfs, and they remain active in dwarf stars over much longer timescales than in higher-mass stars like the Sun, so that the cumulative exposures are commensurately greater. All these issues have been investigated in some detail for Proxima b; one conclusion, for example, is that it is probably subject to wind pressures ten thousand times larger than those exertred bu the Sun on the Earth.

Laboratory experiments unravelling the mystery of the Mars moon Phobos

Of course, there is no weather in our sense of the word in space—nevertheless, soil can also "weather" in the vacuum of space if it is constantly bombarded by high-energy particles, such as those emitted by the sun. The Martian moon Phobos is affected by a special situation: it is so close to Mars that not only the solar wind but also the irradiation by particles from Mars plays a decisive role there. A research team from TU Wien has now been able to measure this in laboratory experiments. In just a few years, a Japanese space mission will take soil samples from Phobos and bring them back to Earth.

Astronomical instrument hunts for ancient metal

Researchers created a new astronomical instrument that has successfully aided in estimating the abundance of metals in the early universe. The WINERED instrument allows for better observations of astronomical bodies like quasars in the early universe, billions of years ago. Researchers hope this deeper level of exploration could help answer questions about the origins not only of metals in the universe but also of the stars themselves.

The solar system follows the galactic standard—but it is a rare breed

Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, have investigated more than 1000 planetary systems orbiting stars in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and have discovered a series of connections between planetary orbits, number of planets, occurrence and the distance to their stars. It turns out that our own solar system in some ways is very rare, and in others very ordinary.

LAMOST-Kepler/K2 survey announces the first light result

An international team led by Prof. Fu Jianning and Dr. Zong Weikai from Beijing Normal University released the first light result of medium-resolution spectroscopic observations undertaken by the LAMOST-Kepler/K2 Survey. The study was published in Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series on Nov. 12.

Figuring out how to breathe the moon's regolith

Oxygen ranks right up there as one of the most important resources for use in space exploration. Not only is it a critical component of rocket fuel, it's also necessary for astronauts to breathe anywhere outside Earth's atmosphere. Availability of this abundant resource isn't a problem—it's widely available throughout the solar system. One place it is particularly prevalent is lunar regolith, the thin material layer that makes up the moon's surface. The difficulty comes from one of the quirks of oxygen—it bonds to almost everything.

Rollercoaster research landed, next flight: Moon and Mars

It was a difficult campaign to organize, but the scientific results are some of the best ever. Earlier this month, over 60 researchers ran 11 experiments in an Airbus aircraft with no less than three pilots. This was no ordinary flight: the A310 "Air Zero G' flew in repeated arcs 600 m up and down, providing 'weightlessness' in freefall conditions for all passengers and their experiments, 20 seconds at a time.

Technology news

A strategy to transform the structure of metal-organic framework electrocatalysts

The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is a chemical process that leads to the generation of molecular oxygen. This reaction is of key importance for the development of clean energy technologies, including water electrolyzers, regenerative fuel cells and rechargeable metal-air batteries.

New system optimizes the shape of robots for traversing various terrain types

So you need a robot that climbs stairs. What shape should that robot be? Should it have two legs, like a person? Or six, like an ant?

Discoveries highlight new possibilities for magnesium batteries

Magnesium batteries have long been considered a potentially safer and less expensive alternative to lithium-ion batteries, but previous versions have been severely limited in the power they delivered.

UK's sole hydrogen car maker bets on green revolution

Hydrogen-powered car manufacturer Riversimple is hoping to steal a march on competitors ahead of Britain's promised "green revolution" that would see petrol-powered cars banned within 10 years.

Malicious dark web activity unevenly prevalent in free nations, researchers find

Even in nations with strict online censorship laws, citizens can still bypass firewalls and access hidden information.

Energy-generating synthetic skin for affordable prosthetic limbs and touch-sensitive robots

A new type of energy-generating synthetic skin could create more affordable prosthetic limbs and robots capable of mimicking the sense of touch, scientists say.

Headset over headphone: Canceling unnecessary and unwanted noise

Reporting in the journal Scientific Reports, the team of Tong Xiao, Xiaojun Qiu and Benjamin Halkon highlight the positive impacts for health and wellbeing of their 'virtual Active Noise Control/Cancelation (ANC) headphone' and its enhanced ability to reduce ambient noise.

Lower current leads to highly efficient memory

Researchers are a step closer to realizing a new kind of memory that works according to the principles of spintronics which is analogous to, but different from, electronics. Their unique gallium arsenide-based ferromagnetic semiconductor can act as memory by quickly switching its magnetic state in the presence of an induced current at low power. Previously, such current-induced magnetization switching was unstable and drew a lot of power, but this new material both suppresses the instability and lowers the power consumption too.

AI-fueled batteries

Machine learning is increasingly being used as a tool that helps researchers discover new materials and compounds for their unique design requirements. This novel approach cuts down the time researchers spend creating and experimentally testing various materials, so new discoveries can be made faster. At Carnegie Mellon University, mechanical engineering Ph.D. student and Tata Consultancy Services Presidential Fellow Adarsh Dave applied this approach to batteries and made a surprising discovery.

Apple may bring Force Touch to Macbook's Touch Bar

It appears Apple is planning an interesting touch for a future generation of its most powerful notebook, the Macbook Pro. In a recently disclosed patent application, Apple has indicated it will introduce Force Touch to an upgraded version of the Touch Bar.

Italy fines Apple 10 mn euros for water damage claims

Italy's competition authority said Monday it had fined Apple 10 million euros ($12 million) for misleading claims about the water resistant properties of various iPhone models.

Accurate and efficient 3-D motion tracking using deep learning

A new sensing method has made tracking movement easier and more efficient. A research group from Tohoku University has captured dexterous 3-D motion data from a flexible magnetic flux sensor array, using deep learning and a structure-aware temporal bilateral filter.

GM rethinks planned stake in electric vehicle maker Nikola

General Motors will not be taking a stake in the electric vehicle company Nikola, and the company said Monday that it was scuttling one of its marquee vehicles, an electric and hydrogen-powered pickup, after GM pulled technological support from the project.

Bitcoin on record tear towards $20,000

Top virtual currency bitcoin briefly soared to a new high Monday, heading towards $20,000 per unit.

Facebook buys online customer service startup Kustomer

Facebook on Monday announced it is buying a startup specializing in helping businesses interact with customers online.

Black Friday sees record online as US shoppers stay home

Black Friday online sales hit a new record this year as pandemic-wary Americans filled virtual carts instead of real ones.

UK to ban new Huawei gear installations after Sept

Wireless carriers in the U.K. won't be allowed to install Huawei equipment in their high-speed 5G networks after September 2021, the British government said Monday, hardening its line against the Chinese technology company.

Taiwan's GlobalWafers in talks to buy German rival Siltronic

Taiwan's GlobalWafers, the world's third-largest maker of semiconductor wafers, confirmed Monday it is in advanced talks to acquire German rival Siltronic AG in a deal worth an estimated $4.5 billion.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to leave telecom agency on January 20

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, says he is leaving the telecommunications regulator on Inauguration Day.


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Science X Newsletter Week 48

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for week 48:

Leaf-cutter ant first insect found with biomineral body armour

A well-known leaf-cutting ant grows its own body armour using biominerals, a protective power previously unknown in the insect world, scientists have discovered in research published Tuesday showing this makes the ants almost unbeatable in battle.

Amateur astronomer Alberto Caballero finds possible source of Wow! signal

Amateur astronomer and YouTuber Alberto Caballero, one of the founders of The Exoplanets Channel, has found a small amount of evidence for a source of the notorious Wow! signal. In his paper uploaded to the arXiv preprint server, Caballero describes searching the Gaia database for possible sun-like stars that might host an exoplanet capable of supporting intelligent life.

Melting ice patch in Norway reveals large collection of ancient arrows

A team of researchers affiliated with a host of institutions in Norway and one in the U.K., has unveiled their findings after collecting and studying a very large number of ancient arrows they found near a melting ice patch in Norway's Jotunheimen Mountains. In their paper published in the journal The Holocene, the group describes how they kept their research secret to avoid the possibility of others contaminating the site and what they have learned about the arrows thus far.

Neutrinos yield first experimental evidence of catalyzed fusion dominant in many stars

An international team of about 100 scientists of the Borexino Collaboration, including particle physicist Andrea Pocar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, report in Nature this week detection of neutrinos from the sun, directly revealing for the first time that the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) fusion-cycle is at work in our sun.

New Hubble data explains missing dark matter

New data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope provides further evidence for tidal disruption in the galaxy NGC 1052-DF4. This result explains a previous finding that this galaxy is missing most of its dark matter. By studying the galaxy's light and globular cluster distribution, astronomers have concluded that the gravity forces of the neighbouring galaxy NGC 1035 stripped the dark matter from NGC 1052-DF4 and are now tearing the galaxy apart.

Unprecedented accuracy in quantum electrodynamics: Giant leap toward solving proton charge radius puzzle

Physicists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have tested quantum mechanics to a completely new level of precision using hydrogen spectroscopy, and in doing so they came much closer to solving the well-known proton charge radius puzzle.

Research creates hydrogen-producing living droplets, paving way for alternative future energy source

Scientists have built tiny droplet-based microbial factories that produce hydrogen, instead of oxygen, when exposed to daylight in air.

Galaxy survives black hole's feast—for now

Black holes are thought to gobble up so much surrounding material that they put an end to the life of their host galaxy. In that process they create a highly energetic object called a quasar which was previously thought to halt star birth. Now researchers have found a galaxy that is surviving the ravenous forces of a quasar by continuing to birth new stars –about 100 Sun-sized stars a year.

Narcolepsy fiasco spurs Covid vaccine fears in Sweden

Take a vaccine developed in haste? Never again, says Meissa Chebbi, who, like hundreds of other young Swedes suffered debilitating narcolepsy after a mass vaccination campaign against the 2009-2010 swine flu pandemic.

Japan spacecraft carrying asteroid soil samples nears home

A Japanese spacecraft is nearing Earth after a yearlong journey home from a distant asteroid with soil samples and data that could provide clues to the origins of the solar system, a space agency official said Friday.

Study of partial left femur suggests Sahelanthropus tchadensis was not a hominin after all

A small team of researchers from France, Italy and the U.S., has found evidence that suggests Sahelanthropus tchadensis was not a hominin, and thus was not the earliest known human ancestor. In their paper published in Journal of Human Evolution, the group describes their study of the fossilized leg bone and what it showed them.

Earth faster, closer to black hole in new map of galaxy

Earth just got 7 km/s faster and about 2000 light-years closer to the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. But don't worry, this doesn't mean that our planet is plunging towards the black hole. Instead the changes are results of a better model of the Milky Way Galaxy based on new observation data, including a catalog of objects observed over the course of more than 15 years by the Japanese radio astronomy project VERA.

Trillion-transistor chip breaks speed record

The biggest computer chip in the world is so fast and powerful it can predict future actions "faster than the laws of physics produce the same result."

Physicist creates N95-type respirators using cotton candy machine

Mahesh Bandi, a physicist with the Nonlinear and Non-equilibrium Physics Unit, OIST Graduate University, Onna, Okinawa, has found a way to produce N95-type respirator filters that is less expensive and quicker than conventional approaches. In his paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, he describes the technique he developed and how well his filters performed.

Using artificial intelligence to help drones find people lost in the woods

A trio of researchers at Johannes Kepler University has used artificial intelligence to improve thermal imaging camera searches of people lost in the woods. In their paper published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, David Schedl, Indrajit Kurmi and Oliver Bimber, describe how they applied a deep learning network to the problem of people lost in the woods and how well it worked.

Study revealing the secret behind a key cellular process refutes biology textbooks

New research has identified and described a cellular process that, despite what textbooks say, has remained elusive to scientists until now—precisely how the copying of genetic material that, once started, is properly turned off.

Europe signs $102M deal to bring space trash home

The European Space Agency says it is signing a 86 million-euro ($102 million) contract with a Swiss start-up company to bring a large piece of orbital trash back to Earth.

A hint of new physics in polarized radiation from the early universe

Using Planck data from the cosmic microwave background radiation, an international team of researchers has observed a hint of new physics. The team developed a new method to measure the polarization angle of the ancient light by calibrating it with dust emission from our own Milky Way. While the signal is not detected with enough precision to draw definite conclusions, it may suggest that dark matter or dark energy causes a violation of the so-called "parity symmetry."

Charles Darwin notebooks 'stolen' from Cambridge University

Two of Charles Darwin's notebooks containing his pioneering ideas on evolution and his famous "Tree of Life" sketch are missing, believed stolen, the Cambridge University Library said on Tuesday.

New mechanism of pain control revealed

Researchers in Japan have revealed a previously unknown mechanism for pain control involving a newly identified group of cells in the spinal cord, offering a potential target for enhancing the therapeutic effect of drugs for chronic pain.


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