Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jan 9

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 9, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A new design strategy to fabricate 2-D electronic devices using ultrathin dielectrics

Of ants and men: Ant behavior might mirror political polarization

Goldilocks stars are best places to look for life

Hubble detects smallest known dark matter clumps

How do fruit flies see in color? Study uncovers human-like brain circuit at work

Scientists observe ultrafast birth of radicals

Contaminating a fake rubber hand could help people overcome OCD, study suggests

'Resurrection ecology' of 600-year-old water fleas used to understand pollution adaptation

Shark and ray vision comes into focus

Biologists identify pathways that extend lifespan by 500%

Abnormal neuron activity manifests as parental neglect

Study paves way for new vaccines to protect infants against infections

New study reveals the origin of complex malaria infections

How bacterial evolution of antibiotic arsenals is providing new drug blueprints

Ultrasound can make stronger 3-D-printed alloys

Physics news

Macroscopic spatial superposition

Wouldn't it be fascinating to live in New York and London at the same time? In the standard of everyday life, this is equivalent to daydreaming or sheer fantasy. Nevertheless, this is a perfectly normal phenomenon in quantum mechanics. This is known as the superposition principle, according to which two or more states of an object—for instance, our physical locations in New York and London—can coexist at the same time.

Researchers simulate quantum computer with up to 61 quantum bits using a supercomputer with data compression

When trying to debug quantum hardware and software with a quantum simulator, every quantum bit (qubit) counts. Every simulated qubit closer to physical machine sizes halves the gap in computing power between the simulation and the physical hardware. However, the memory requirement of full-state simulation grows exponentially with the number of simulated qubits, and this limits the size of simulations that can be run.

Randomness opens the gates to the land of attophotography

One of the last obstacles hindering the photography and filming of processes occurring on a scale of attoseconds, i.e. billionths of a billionth of a second, has disappeared. The key to its removal lies in the random nature of the processes responsible for the formation of X-ray laser pulses.

Astronomy & Space news

Goldilocks stars are best places to look for life

To date astronomers have discovered over 4,000 planets orbiting other stars. Statistically, there should be over 100 billion planets in our Milky Way galaxy. They come in a wide range of sizes and characteristics, largely unimagined before exoplanets were first discovered in the mid-1990s. The biggest motivation for perusing these worlds is to find "Genesis II," a planet where life has arisen and evolved beyond microbes. The ultimate payoff would be finding intelligent life off the Earth.

Hubble detects smallest known dark matter clumps

When searching for dark matter, astronomers must go on a sort of "ghost hunt." That's because dark matter is an invisible substance that cannot be seen directly. Yet it makes up the bulk of the universe's mass and forms the scaffolding upon which galaxies are built. Dark matter is the gravitational "glue" that holds galaxies as well as galaxy clusters together. Astronomers can detect its presence indirectly by measuring how its gravity affects stars and galaxies.

Cosmic magnifying glasses yield independent measure of universe's expansion

A team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has measured the universe's expansion rate using a technique that is completely independent of any previous method.

Stellar heavy metals can trace history of galaxies

Astronomers have cataloged signs of nine heavy metals in the infrared light from supergiant and giant stars. New observations based on this catalog will help researchers to understand how events like binary neutron star mergers have affected the chemical composition and evolution of our own Milky Way Galaxy and other galaxies.

NEID exoplanet instrument sees first light

The new NEID instrument, now installed at the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Southern Arizona, USA, has made its first observations. The NSF-NASA funded instrument is designed to measure the motion of nearby stars with extreme precision—roughly three times better than the previous generation of state-of-the-art instruments—allowing us to detect, determine the mass of, and characterize exoplanets as small as Earth.

Researchers take exploration of key 'building block' particles into space

As part of SpaceX's CRS-19 resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) launched Dec. 5, researchers from NASA, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and New York University (NYU) are set to begin a new scientific investigation to explore how a group of microscopic particles considered key "building blocks" for materials and products here on Earth, known as colloidal particles, behave and form in zero-gravity.

Moon river: Rocket part ferried on the mighty Mississippi

With a brass band playing and a parade of workers sporting Mardi Gras beads, a huge component of a new rocket system was wheeled slowly from a New Orleans spacecraft factory on Wednesday to a barge that will float it up the Mississippi River for testing.

A new tool for 'weighing' unseen planets

A new instrument funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation called NEID (pronounced "NOO-id"; sounds like "fluid") will help scientists measure the masses of planets outside our solar system—exoplanets—by observing the gravitational pull they exert on their parent stars. That information can help reveal a planet's composition, one critical aspect in determining its potential habitability.

WHOI underwater robot takes first-known automated sample from ocean

WHOI's robot, Nereid Under Ice (NUI), samples a patch of sediment from the mineral-rich floor of Kolumbo volcano off Santorini Island, Greece. This is the first known automated sample taken by a robot in the ocean.

Water could disappear from Mars faster than expected

Mars is losing water more quickly than theory and observations would suggest. The gradual disappearance of water (H2O) occurs in the upper atmosphere of Mars as sunlight and chemistry disassociate water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms that the weak gravity cannot prevent from escaping into space.

Lucy mission now has a new destination

Less than two years before launch, scientists associated with NASA's Lucy mission, led by Southwest Research Institute, have discovered an additional small asteroid that will be visited by the Lucy spacecraft. Set to launch in 2021, its 12-year journey of almost 4 billion miles will explore the Trojan asteroids, a population of ancient small bodies that share an orbit with Jupiter.

NASA TV coverage set for three spacewalks in January

Four astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station for three spacewalks in January to complete battery upgrades and finalize repairs to an invaluable cosmic ray detector.

Technology news

A new design strategy to fabricate 2-D electronic devices using ultrathin dielectrics

2-D semiconductors could have very useful applications, particularly as channel materials for low-power transistors. These materials display very high mobility at extreme thicknesses, which makes them particularly promising alternatives to silicon in the fabrication of electronics.

Nissan takes on EV road noise with lattice trap

Nissan drew interest this week at CES with its announcement of an acoustic meta-material to reduce road noise in electric vehicles.

Preparing for the hydrogen economy

In a world first, University of Sydney researchers have found evidence of how hydrogen causes embrittlement of steels. When hydrogen moves into steel, it makes the metal become brittle, leading to catastrophic failures. This has been one of the major challenges in moving towards a greener, hydrogen-fuelled future, where steel tanks and pipelines are essential components that must be able to survive in pure hydrogen environments.

Machine learning shapes microwaves for a computer's eyes

Engineers from Duke University and the Institut de Physique de Nice in France have developed a new method to identify objects using microwaves that improves accuracy while reducing the associated computing time and power requirements.

Facebook riles tiny Oregon town with plan for undersea cable

A battle playing out in Oregon is pitting residents of a tiny coastal town with no stoplights or cellphone service against one of the world's biggest tech companies.

Kitchens get smarter at CES tech show, not yet in many homes

Tell your refrigerator about your dietary preferences and it'll concoct a recipe plan for the coming week, sending a shopping list to your smartphone when it notices you've run out of the right ingredients.

From exoskeletons to education at CES

Exoskeletons to give wearers super-human strength and games to playfully teach children software skills for coding—such innovations were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show this week.

Chinese firms push ahead at CES despite trade war

Chinese makers of televisions, smartphones and much more were very much present at the premier Consumer Electronics Show here, undeterred by their country's trade war with the US.

Facebook again refuses to ban political ads, even false ones

Despite escalating pressure ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Facebook reaffirmed its freewheeling policy on political ads Thursday, saying it won't ban them, won't fact-check them and won't limit how they can be targeted to specific groups of people.

Winning at social media is probably simpler than you think

The world is starting to see the gradual decline of Facebook, with 15 million US users dropping off between 2017 and last year.

Could 5G replace cable broadband?

Recent proposals by the UK Labour Party to nationalize the country's cable broadband network prompted debate about the best way to make sure everyone has a fast home internet connection. Traditionally, governments have looked for ways to expand and upgrade their cable networks so that even remote communities have fast access. But with fifth-generation (5G) mobile technology now offering superfast internet speeds without the need for a fixed-line connection, could we one day do away with cables altogether?

Way clear for Tesla to buy Berlin factory site

German regional lawmakers gave the green light Thursday for electric carmaker Tesla to buy land just outside Berlin for its first European factory.

CES 2020: These gadgets can help you live your best lazy life

People like to call millennials "lazy" when in fact we're just a bunch of tech-savvy innovators who increasingly show that you don't have to do everything the same way your parents or grandparents did.

Apple: Record sales for apps over holidays up 16% to $1.42 billion

Apps are still alive and well, and when it comes to gaming, incredibly popular and still thriving.

First in flight again: Pilotless air taxi makes public demonstration flight in Raleigh

More than 100 people, including Gov. Roy Cooper, state lawmakers and leaders of the N.C. Department of Transportation, gathered at the State Highway Patrol's test track south of Raleigh Tuesday afternoon to witness a bit of aviation history.

Twitter to test limiting replies to tackle online abuse

Twitter has announced it will test new ways to limit online abuse by offering users control over who can reply to tweets.

Airbus to boost US production of A320 planes

European planemaker Airbus said Thursday that it would increase production of its best-selling A320 passenger jet in the United States, to seven per month from five starting next year.

Growing strained crystals could improve performance of perovskite electronics

A new method could enable researchers to fabricate more efficient and longer lasting perovskite solar cells, LEDs and photodetectors. By growing thin perovskite films on substrates with different compositions, engineers at the University of California San Diego have invented a way of fabricating perovskite single crystals with precisely deformed, or strained, structures.

CT startup brings collaborative robotics to children with special needs

Robots. These humanoid machines aren't just science fiction anymore. In fact, they are relatively common in everyday life, popping up in grocery stores, hospitals, airports, even in many homes. If you don't believe it, just ask Alexa or Siri.

California lawmakers eye back-up power for cellphone towers

When the nation's largest electric utility preemptively shut off power last fall to prevent wildfires in California, customers lost more than just their lights—some lost their phones, too.

Las Vegas says no data stolen in cyber attack on city system

No data was stolen or corrupted in a cyber attack this week on the city of Las Vegas computer system, according to the city.

US to probe fatal Indiana crash involving Tesla Model 3

The U.S. government's road safety agency is sending a special team to Indiana to investigate a fatal crash involving a Tesla electric vehicle.

Ukrainian airline crash another challenge for Boeing

The latest tragic plane crash involving another Boeing aircraft adds to the travails facing the company after its 737 MAX was grounded nearly a year ago following two deadly crashes.

Quibi hopes 'quick bite' TV for smartphones wins viewers

New streaming service Quibi on Wednesday provided a glimpse into its bid to win over smartphone users, vowing to shake up the industry with original programs lasting less than 10 minutes.

British Airways-owner switches pilot as CEO quits

Global airline titan IAG on Thursday said its chief executive Willie Walsh had quit, after a long stint that saw him oversee the group's creation and rapid expansion, and would be replaced by Luis Gallego, head of Spanish division Iberia.

Report: Grubhub considers sale as competition intensifies

Grubhub may put itself up for sale with competition in the online delivery business growing increasingly intense.

Microsoft looks to detect sex predators in video game chats

Microsoft says it has developed a technique to detect online predators who try to groom children for sexual purposes using the chat function in multiplayer video games.


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