Science X Newsletter Thursday, Dec 3

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 3, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

RealitySketch: An AR interface to create responsive sketches

Searching for sub-eV sterile neutrinos using two highly sensitive detectors

Physicists capture the sound of a 'perfect' fluid

How plants compete for underground real estate affects climate change and food production

Mapping quantum structures with light to unlock their capabilities

Shuttering fossil fuel power plants may cost less than expected

Natural selection plays major role in an organism's capacity to evolve and adapt

Tire-related chemical is largely responsible for adult coho salmon deaths in urban streams

Observations unveil dynamic magnetosphere of the magnetar Swift J1818.0−1607

Neuroscientists find a way to make object-recognition models perform better

Researchers pioneer a revolutionary new method to directly observe dark excitons

Loon balloons get boost from Google AI

Voyager spacecraft detect new type of solar electron burst

Scientists predict 'optimal' organism stress levels

Incredible vision in ancient marine creatures drove an evolutionary arms race

Physics news

Searching for sub-eV sterile neutrinos using two highly sensitive detectors

The standard model of particle physics only accounts for 20% of matter in the universe. Physicists have theorized that the remaining 80% is made up by so-called dark matter, which consists of particles that do not emit, absorb or reflect light and thus cannot be directly observed using any existing instruments.

Physicists capture the sound of a 'perfect' fluid

For some, the sound of a "perfect flow" might be the gentle lapping of a forest brook or perhaps the tinkling of water poured from a pitcher. For physicists, a perfect flow is more specific, referring to a fluid that flows with the smallest amount of friction, or viscosity, allowed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Such perfectly fluid behavior is rare in nature, but it is thought to occur in the cores of neutron stars and in the soupy plasma of the early universe.

Mapping quantum structures with light to unlock their capabilities

A new tool that uses light to map out the electronic structures of crystals could reveal the capabilities of emerging quantum materials and pave the way for advanced energy technologies and quantum computers, according to researchers at the University of Michigan, University of Regensburg and University of Marburg.

Researchers pioneer a revolutionary new method to directly observe dark excitons

Heralding the end of a decade-long quest, in a promising new class of extremely thin, two-dimensional semiconductors, scientists have for the first time directly visualized and measured elusive particles, called dark excitons, that cannot be seen by light.

Supercharge your microscope: Researchers share guide for ultra-precise 3-D imaging

UNSW Sydney researchers have shared step-by-step instructions to empower other scientists to enhance the resolution and stability of single-molecule microscopes.

Researchers confront optics and data-transfer challenges with 3D-printed lens

Researchers have developed new 3-D-printed microlenses with adjustable refractive indices—a property that gives them highly specialized light-focusing abilities. This advancement is poised to improve imaging, computing and communications by significantly increasing the data-routing capability of computer chips and other optical systems, the researchers said.

Research leads to better modeling of hypersonic flow

Hypersonic flight is conventionally referred to as the ability to fly at speeds significantly faster than the speed of sound and presents an extraordinary set of technical challenges. As an example, when a space capsule re-enters Earth's atmosphere, it reaches hypersonic speeds—more than five times the speed of sound—and generates temperatures over 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on its exterior surface. Designing a thermal protection system to keep astronauts and cargo safe requires an understanding at the molecular level of the complicated physics going on in the gas that flows around the vehicle.

Physicists succeed in bringing movement of photons and electrons under same laws

Scientists from ITMO, Sheffield University, and the University of Iceland proved that the movement of electrons and photons in two-dimensional materials with hexagonal symmetry, such as graphene, submits to the same laws. Now, the properties of electrons in solids can be modeled with the help of classical optical systems where this task can be solved easier. The article was published in Nature Photonics.

Astronomy and Space news

Observations unveil dynamic magnetosphere of the magnetar Swift J1818.0−1607

Using the Parkes radio telescope, astronomers have investigated a radio-loud magnetar known as Swift J1818.0−1607. Results of these observations, providing more insights into the properties of this magnetar, unveiling its highly active and dynamic magnetosphere. The findings are reported in a paper published November 25 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Voyager spacecraft detect new type of solar electron burst

More than 40 years since they launched, the Voyager spacecraft are still making discoveries.

NASA: Mystery object is 54-year-old rocket, not asteroid

A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday.

Gaia: Most accurate data ever for nearly two billion stars

Today (3 December), an international team of astronomers announced the most detailed ever catalogue of the stars in a huge swathe of our Milky Way galaxy. The measurements of stellar positions, movement, brightness and colours are in the third early data release from the European Space Agency's Gaia space observatory, now publicly available. Initial findings include the first optical measurement of the acceleration of the Solar system. The data set, and early scientific discoveries, were presented at a special briefing hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society.

A three-dimensional view of the Milky Way

In our Milky Way, there are about 200 billion suns as well as large quantities of gas, some of which serves as raw material for star births. The gas collects in compact lumps but also appears as extended molecular clouds. Astronomers have used the Apex sub-millimeter telescope in Chile to look deep into the galactic plane and measure the interstellar medium. They studied the distribution of the cold molecular gas in the inner region of the Milky Way with unprecedented accuracy. The researchers cataloged more than 10,000 interstellar clouds. They found out that currently only about 10% of them contain stars. The project is called SEDIGISM (Structure, Excitation and Dynamics of the Inner Galactic Interstellar Medium) and covers an area of 84 square degrees in the southern sky.

120,000-year-old supernova remnants detected in neighboring galaxy

Western Sydney University researchers have discovered the 'senior citizens' of our neighboring galaxy—close to 120,000-year-old remains of exploding stars known as supernova remnants.

Chinese spacecraft carrying lunar rocks lifts off from moon

A Chinese spacecraft lifted off from the moon Thursday night with a load of lunar rocks, the first stage of its return to Earth, the government space agency reported.

Hubble captures unprecedented fading of Stingray nebula

Great things take time. This is true when it comes to many processes in the universe. For example, it takes millions of years for stars—the building blocks of the universe—to form. Then, many stars last for billions of years before they die and begin to eject shells of gas that glow against the vastness of space—what we call nebulas. It can be exceedingly rare to capture some of these processes in real time.

Midday fireball, boom thrill gazers from Ontario to Virginia

A noontime boom that was heard and felt from southern Ontario to Virginia was likely caused by a disintegrating meteor, according to an organization in western New York that keeps track of such phenomena.

China: Moon probe preparing to return rock samples to Earth

China said Thursday its latest lunar probe has finished taking samples of the moon's surface and sealed them within the spacecraft for return to Earth, the first time such a mission has been attempted by any country in more than 40 years.

New SIMPLEx mission small satellite to blaze trails studying lunar surface

A small-satellite mission to understand the lunar water cycle—detecting and mapping water on the lunar surface in order to investigate how its form, abundance, and location relate to geology—has received NASA approval to proceed with the next phase of its development.

Gaia space telescope measures solar system's acceleration

The measurement of the acceleration of our solar system by astronomers of TU Dresden is a scientific highlight of the third Gaia catalog, which is now being released. With its publication on December 3, 2020, at 12:00 , the public will have access to high-precision astronomical data, such as positions, velocities, magnitudes and colors of about 1.8 billion astronomical objects.

Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory 'not closing' after collapse

Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory could still have a future after its vast telescope dramatically collapsed this week, US officials said Thursday.

Technology news

RealitySketch: An AR interface to create responsive sketches

Researchers at University of Calgary, Adobe Research and University of Colorado Boulder have recently created an augmented reality (AR) interface that can be used to produce responsive sketches, graphics and visualizations. Their work, initially pre-published on arXiv, won the Best Paper Honorable Mention and Best Demo Honorable Mention awards at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST'20).

Neuroscientists find a way to make object-recognition models perform better

Computer vision models known as convolutional neural networks can be trained to recognize objects nearly as accurately as humans do. However, these models have one significant flaw: Very small changes to an image, which would be nearly imperceptible to a human viewer, can trick them into making egregious errors such as classifying a cat as a tree.

Loon balloons get boost from Google AI

Google's AI future is up in the air.

A more profitable and eco-friendly method for turning biomass into biochemicals and green hydrogen

Many have dreamed of being able to turn straw into gold like the fabled Rumpelstiltskin. While this may not be possible in the literal sense, scientists are using sunlight to turn straw into something more valuable.

Robot hands one step closer to human thanks to AI algorithms

The Shadow Robot Dexterous Hand is a robot hand, with size, shape and movement capabilities similar to those of a human hand. To give the robotic hand the ability to learn how to manipulate objects researchers from WMG, University of Warwick, have developed new AI algorithms.

Tech makes it possible to digitally communicate through human touch

Instead of inserting a card or scanning a smartphone to make a payment, what if you could simply touch the machine with your finger?

Japan set to ban sales of new petrol cars in mid-2030s: reports

Japan wants to ban sales of new petrol cars in around 15 years' time as part of efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, reports said Thursday.

Safe trip? Aboard the revamped Boeing 737 MAX's 1st public flight

Will this plane land safely?

Phishing ploy targets COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort

IBM security researchers say they have detected a cyberespionage effort using targeted phishing emails to try to collect vital information on the World Health Organization's initiative for distributing COVID-19 vaccine to developing countries.

Engineers invent fast and safe way to store natural gas for useful applications

Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels, but storing it safely and affordably remains a challenge. Now, engineers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have devised a method to convert natural gas into a non-explosive solid that can be easily stored and transported. Using a novel, low-toxicity additive mixture they formulated, the conversion can be completed in just 15 minutes—the fastest time so far.

Offshore wind industry prepares to ride economic high tide

The U.S. offshore wind energy pipeline is predicted to exceed 25,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030. But, with only two commercial offshore wind plants currently operating in the United States, developers need accurate modeling to evaluate prospective new projects, weigh realistic costs against financial returns, anticipate the impact of technological and process innovations, and quantify risk factors. While technological advancements and improved supply chain efficiencies are helping reduce wind energy costs and generate more energy, offshore wind installations must meet development and operational cost targets to be competitive in the broader energy market.

Why soft skills could power the rise of robot leaders

What would the world look like if socially skilled robots stepped into the roles normally reserved for humans?

3-D-printed magnets help create more efficient electric motors

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is leading a European consortium 3DREMAG which is developing a new material suitable for 3-D printing of permanent magnets, which can be utilized in electric and hybrid vehicle motors. The aim in the long run is to develop a fully 3-D printable electric motor, one that would be approximately 30% lighter than today's motors.

Improved remote control of robots

Sometimes you need to get human knowledge and skills to places that are hazardous or difficult to access for people. The project entitled Predictive Avatar Control and Feedback (PACOF) is creating a robotic system that allows the robot operator to experience the location just as the robot does. Three researchers representing the three different disciplines of the University of Twente's EEMCS faculty are working together in this project.

Boeing scores first 737 MAX order since grounding

Boeing picked up Thursday its first major order for the 737 MAX since the aircraft was grounded for 20 months following two fatal crashes, as Irish no-frills airline Ryanair signed a deal to acquire 75 of the planes.

App and infrastructure alert users about data collection around them

Billions of IoT devices—smart cameras, microphones, location trackers, and the like—are hidden in plain sight, and they're tracking everything from our movements and activities to our voices or even our facial expressions. Fortunately, there's an app and digital infrastructure that enables users to discover those devices, learn about the data they collect and any controls they might possibly give us such as opting in or out of their data collection and use practices.

Automakers prep for stronger mileage standards under Biden

Now that it's clear Joe Biden soon will be president, the fight over automobile pollution and fuel efficiency standards is likely to peter out, and U.S. consumers should see a broader selection of electric and efficient vehicles.

Porsche launches effort to make carbon-neutral 'e-gas'

Porsche has no plan to make an electric version of its iconic 911 sports cars. So, how to ensure continued sale of its flagship model far into the future, when governments around the world, including California's, are planning to eventually ban sales of new internal combustion cars?

Army computer models unveil secret to quieter small drones

It's no secret the U.S. Army wants its small unmanned aerial systems to operate quietly in densely-populated regions, but tests to achieve this can be expensive, time-consuming and labor-intensive according to researchers.

Proverbial wolf can't blow down modern timber high-rises, says researcher

With an increasing demand for a more sustainable alternative for high-rise construction, new research from UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with Western University and FPInnovations, points to timber as a sustainable and effective way to make tall, high-density, and renewable buildings.

Warner Bros to stream 2021 movie releases

Warner Bros. will release its entire 2021 slate of movies on HBO Max streaming and in theaters simultaneously, including "The Matrix 4" and Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" remake, the studio announced Thursday in a landmark response to the pandemic.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise to move headquarters to Texas

Tech giant Hewlett Packard Enterprise said it is moving its global headquarters to the Houston area from California, where the company's roots go back to the founding of Silicon Valley decades ago.

German car sales dip in November

New car sales in Germany dipped in November, official data showed Thursday, as a second coronavirus wave forced another round of shutdowns in Europe's top economy.

Facial beauty prediction via deep cascaded forest

Social media, networking, dating apps, and other resources, such as entertainment software, might have a use for an automated system that can analyse a photo of a person's face and determine how beautiful that face might be to other people. Research published in the International Journal of High Performance Systems Architecture suggests that a deep cascaded forest could be the answer to developing a prediction system of beauty.

Facebook to remove COVID-19 vaccine-related misinformation

Facebook said Thursday it will start removing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, in its latest move to counter a tide of coronavirus-related online misinformation.

Facebook changing 'race-blind' hate speech policy

Facebook on Thursday said it is revising its systems to prioritize blocking slurs against Black people, gays and other groups historically targeted by hateful vitriol, no longer automatically filtering out barbs aimed broadly at whites, men, or Americans.

Dish Network removes Nexstar's local TV stations in 115 markets over failed negotiations

Dish Network customers have fewer channels as of tonight—for the time being.

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