Science X Newsletter Monday, Feb 10

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 10, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Inverted perovskite solar cells with a power conversion efficiency of 22.3%

New technology could help solve AI's 'memory bottleneck'

Long-term learning requires new nerve insulation

Himalayan glacier shows evidence of start of Industrial Revolution

Scientists show solar system processes control the carbon cycle throughout Earth's history

Molecular oxygen detected in the nearest quasar

Fast radio burst with steady 16-day cycle observed

The human brain's meticulous interface with the bloodstream now on a precision chip

Simulations identify missing link to determine carbon in deep Earth reservoirs

Coronavirus outbreak raises question: Why are bat viruses so deadly?

Distant giant planets form differently than 'failed stars'

Researchers use models and experiments to guide and harness transition waves in multi-stable mechanical structures

UCSC genome browser posts the coronavirus genome

China virus toll hits 722, with first foreign victim

Antarctica appears to have broken a heat record

Physics news

Using long-wavelength terahertz radiation to produce video with a high frame rate

A team of researchers at Durham University has found a way to use long-wavelength terahertz radiation to produce video with a high frame rate. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes their technique and its possible uses.

But what about flow? The effect of hydrodynamics on liquid-liquid transitions

For a long time, the liquid state of pure substances was believed to be a continuous state in which the component atoms or molecules are all equivalent. However, it has now been widely shown that there can be multiple phases within liquids, even those containing only one component. Understanding what causes the components of liquids to switch from one state to another is currently a subject of particular interest. Researchers from the University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science have expanded the understanding of liquid behavior by describing the role of hydrodynamics in these transitions. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Quantum technologies: New insights into superconducting processes

The development of a quantum computer that can solve problems, which classical computers can only solve with great effort or not at all—this is the goal currently being pursued by an ever-growing number of research teams worldwide. The reason: Quantum effects, which originate from the world of the smallest particles and structures, enable many new technological applications. So-called superconductors, which allow for processing information and signals according to the laws of quantum mechanics, are considered to be promising components for realizing quantum computers. A sticking point of superconducting nanostructures, however, is that they only function at very low temperatures and are therefore difficult to bring into practical applications.

Not everything is ferromagnetic in high magnetic fields

High magnetic fields have a potential to modify the microscopic arrangement of magnetic moments because they overcome interactions existing in a zero field. Usually, high fields exceeding a certain critical value force the moments to align in the same direction as the field, leading to ferromagnetic arrangement. However, a recent study showed that this is not always the case. The experiments took place at the high-field magnet at HZB's neutron source BER II, which generates a constant magnetic field of up to 26 Tesla. This is about 500,000 times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field. Further experiments with pulsed magnetic fields up to 45 Tesla were performed at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR).

Astronomy & Space news

Molecular oxygen detected in the nearest quasar

Observations using the IRAM 30 meter telescope and the NOEMA Interferometer have unveiled the presence of molecular oxygen in Markarian 231—the nearest known quasar. The finding, detailed in a paper published on the arXiv preprint server, could be crucial for better understanding the properties of molecular gas in this object.

Fast radio burst with steady 16-day cycle observed

A large team of space scientists working in Canada has found evidence of a fast radio burst with a steady 16-day cycle. The team has published a paper describing their findings on the arXiv preprint server.

Distant giant planets form differently than 'failed stars'

A team of astronomers led by Brendan Bowler of The University of Texas at Austin has probed the formation process of giant exoplanets and brown dwarfs, a class of objects that are more massive than giant planets, but not massive enough to ignite nuclear fusion in their cores to shine like true stars.

All about the laser (and microphone) atop Mars 2020, NASA's next rover

NASA is sending a new laser-toting robot to Mars. But unlike the lasers of science fiction, this one is used for studying mineralogy and chemistry from up to about 20 feet (7 meters) away. It might help scientists find signs of fossilized microbial life on the Red Planet, too.

Solar Orbiter blasts off to capture 1st look at sun's poles

Europe and NASA's Solar Orbiter rocketed into space Sunday night on an unprecedented mission to capture the first pictures of the sun's elusive poles.

The cosmic confusion of the microwave background

Roughly 380,000 years after the Big Bang, about 13.7 billion years ago, matter (mostly hydrogen) cooled enough for neutral atoms to form, and light was able to traverse space freely. That light, the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR), comes to us from every direction in the sky, uniform except for faint ripples and bumps at brightness levels of only a few part in one hundred thousand, the seeds of future structures like galaxies.

Surfing space dust bunnies spawn interplanetary magnetic fields

A 40-year-old enigma about ghostly magnetic fields in interplanetary space may have finally been solved by new data from a constellation of 12 satellites in near-Earth space.

Supercharged light pulverises asteroids, study finds

The majority of stars in the universe will become luminous enough to blast surrounding asteroids into successively smaller fragments using their light alone, according to a University of Warwick astronomer.

ESA's next sun mission will be shadow-casting pair

After Solar Orbiter, ESA's next mission observing the sun will not be one spacecraft but two: the double satellites making up Proba-3 will fly in formation to cast an artificial solar eclipse, opening up the clearest view yet of the sun's faint atmosphere—probing the mysteries of its million degree heat and magnetic eruptions.

Solar Orbiter set to launch in mission to reveal Sun's secrets

The US-European Solar Orbiter probe launches Sunday night from Florida on a voyage to deepen our understanding of the Sun and how it shapes the space weather that impacts technology back on Earth.

Iran satellite launch fails, in blow to space programme

Iran said it "successfully" launched a satellite Sunday but failed to put it into orbit, in a blow to its space programme that the US alleges is a cover for missile development.

Space station delivery from Virginia nixed at last minute

Northrop Grumman delayed a space station delivery from Virginia on Sunday because of trouble with ground equipment.

CHEOPS space telescope takes its first pictures

The tension was high: In front of a large screen at the house near Madrid where members of the Consortium participating in the commissioning of the satellite live, as well as at the other institutes involved in CHEOPS, the team waited for the first images from the space telescope. "The first images that were about to appear on the screen were crucial for us to be able to determine if the telescope's optics had survived the rocket launch in good shape," explains Willy Benz, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Bern and Principal Investigator of the CHEOPS mission. "When the first images of a field of stars appeared on the screen, it was immediately clear to everyone that we did indeed have a working telescope," says Benz happily. Now the remaining question is how well it is working.

Qarman CubeSat: Falling into a fireball

This Wednesday 12 February, ESA's latest mission will enter the vacuum of space, not aboard a rocket but by being released from the International Space Station. The first task of the shoebox-sized Qarman CubeSat is simply to fall. While typical space missions resist orbital decay, Qarman will drift down month by month until it reenters the atmosphere, at which point it will gather a wealth of data on the fiery physics of reentry.

Camera provides view into Sun's polar regions

The Solar Orbiter mission will use a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory-designed and -built heliospheric camera, known as SoloHI, to provide unique perspectives and unprecedented views of the Sun's North and South poles. The spacecraft, a NASA and European Space Agency collaboration, launched aboard an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Feb. 9.

Technology news

Inverted perovskite solar cells with a power conversion efficiency of 22.3%

Photovoltaic (PV) cells, which can generate energy from the sun, could be very useful in tackling the current environmental crisis. Perovskite PV cells, cells made of metal halide perovskite semiconductors, have recently proved to be particularly promising, as researchers have managed to improve their power conversion efficiencies substantially, from 3.8% all the way to 25.2%.

New technology could help solve AI's 'memory bottleneck'

Memory-hungry, power-sapping big data might finally have met its match.

Researchers use models and experiments to guide and harness transition waves in multi-stable mechanical structures

If you've ever opened an umbrella or set up a folding chair, you've used a deployable structure—an object that can transition from a compact state to an expanded one. You've probably noticed that such structures usually require rather complicated locking mechanisms to hold them in place. And, if you've ever tried to open an umbrella in the wind or fold a particularly persnickety folding chair, you know that today's deployable structures aren't always reliable or autonomous.

Information theft via manipulating screen brightness in air-gapped computers

Data can be stolen from an air gapped personal computer just by using variations in screen brightness. Researchers at Ben-Gurion University wrote a paper on it.

Study of free-falling paper shapes could aid the design of bio-inspired robotics

Research into the trajectories of hundreds of free-falling paper shapes can help inform the design of bio-inspired robotics that mimic nature.

DNA-like material could bring even smaller transistors

Computer chips use billions of tiny switches, called transistors, to process information. The more transistors on a chip, the faster the computer.

Motorcycle taxi ban brings Lagos to a halt

Even before a sudden controversial ban on motorcycle taxis and tricycles in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, crippling traffic jams were a daily ordeal for its more than 20 million inhabitants.

Unique Illinois privacy law leads to $550M Facebook deal

Adam Pezen, Carlo Licata and Nimesh Patel are among millions of people who have been tagged in Facebook photos at some point in the past decade, sometimes at the suggestion of an automated tagging feature powered by facial recognition technology.

Sony, Amazon, others drop out of big tech show over virus

Two big Japanese companies are the latest to pull out of a major European technology show due to fears over the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Electric car sales tripled last year. Here's what we can do to keep them growing

A total of 6718 electric vehicles were sold in Australia in 2019. That's three times as many as in 2018, but it's still small beer. More than a million fossil-fueled light vehicles (including SUVs and utes) were sold in the same period.

Tinder's new safety features won't prevent all types of abuse

The dating app Tinder has faced increasing scrutiny over abusive interactions on the service. In November 2019, an Auckland man was convicted of murdering British woman Grace Millane after they met on Tinder. Incidents such as these have brought attention to the potential for serious violence facilitated by dating apps.

Data compliance could be enforced by AI scan of internet for privacy violations

You're trailing bits of personal data—such as credit card numbers, shopping preferences and which news articles you read—as you travel around the internet. Large internet companies make money off this kind of personal information by sharing it with their subsidiaries and third parties. Public concern over online privacy has led to laws designed to control who gets that data and how they can use it.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing people find it more difficult to read hypertext

Young people who are deaf or hard of hearing have much more difficulties with reading than average. It is estimated that about 70% of this group are only semi-literate by adulthood. Behavioral scientist Helen Blom conducted research into the ability of deaf, hard-of-hearing and language-impaired adolescents to read online texts. It turns out that hyperlinks are a stumbling block. Blom, who also works at Kentalis, will defend her Ph.D. thesis at Radboud University on 14 February.

AAAS panel focuses on roadmap to 'radical transformation of the AI research enterprise'

When Dan Lopresti and his colleagues talk about the future of artificial intelligence (AI) during their upcoming panel at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), be prepared to imagine a better world.

Volvo Cars and owner Geely consider merger deal

Swedish automaker Volvo Cars and its owner Chinese automaker Geely Holding said Monday they are considering combining their businesses to create a company that "would accelerate financial and technological synergies between the two companies."

Move aside, GPS: Why people still love their paper maps

Even if everything navigation is pointing in the direction of GPS, you'll never tear some folks away from their paper maps.

What's the best streaming service for you? How cable alternatives compare for cord-cutters

Perhaps you cut the cord from cable or satellite and then came up empty when the Super Bowl was on, trying to find a way to watch the game with your antenna.

Oblique electrostatic inject-deposited titanium oxide film leads efficient perovskite solar cells

The need to efficiently harvest solar energy for a more sustainable future is increasingly becoming accepted across the globe. A new family of solar cells based on perovskites—materials with a particular crystal structure—is now competing with conventional silicon materials to satisfy the demand in this area. Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are continually being optimized to fulfill their commercial potential, and a team led by researchers from Kanazawa University has now reported a new and simple oblique electrostatic inkjet (OEI) approach to deposit a titanium oxide (TiO2) compact layer on FTO-pattern substrates without the need for a vacuum environment as an electron transport layer (ETL) for enhancing the efficiency of PSCs. The findings are published in Scientific Reports.

Faulty app exposes millions of Israeli voters' data

A security breach in an app used by Israel's ruling conservative party has exposed the personal information of nearly 6.5 million Israelis to hackers, a cybersecurity expert said Monday.

Xerox hikes bid for HP to $36 billion

Xerox said Monday it was raising its offer for computer and printer maker HP to some $36 billion as part of an effort to win over shareholders amid a heightened battle for control of the Silicon Valley firm.

Team develops robot hand capable of handling eggs and cutting paper with scissors

The Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials (President Chunhong Park; hereinafter "KIMM") developed a robot hand capable of handling various objects and tools in daily life, such as holding an egg and cutting paper with a pair of scissors. The hand can be easily mounted on a variety of robot arms, and offers the world's strongest grasping force against its own weight. It is expected that the use of robotic hands will be extended to industrial sites as well as everyday life.

Powering the future: Smallest all-digital circuit opens doors to 5 nm next-gen semiconductor

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Socionext Inc. have designed the world's smallest all-digital phase-locked loop (PLL). PLLs are critical clocking circuits in virtually all digital applications, and reducing their size and improving their performance is a necessary step to enabling the development of next-generation technologies.

'Even Facebook is hackable': Social networking website's Twitter page was compromised

Another day, another hack.

Amazon wants Trump testimony about huge Pentagon contract

Amazon is seeking testimony from US President Donald Trump and other top officials about how the tech giant was shut out of a $10 billion US military cloud computing contract, according to court documents made public on Monday.

Netflix now lets you disable autoplay previews. Here's how to set it up.

Know those previews that automatically play whenever you scroll to a movie or TV show on Netflix? You can now turn those off.

Electric bikes and silent trucks to green goods deliveries

Across Europe's cities, the demand for delivery services is increasing. But these deliveries affect urban life as they add to traffic congestion, noise and pollution and many cities are now trying out alternative modes of transport that could help.

Chinese military stole masses of Americans' data, US says

Four members of the Chinese military have been charged with breaking into the networks of the Equifax credit reporting agency and stealing the personal information of tens of millions of Americans, the Justice Department said Monday, blaming Beijing for one of the largest hacks in history to target consumer data.


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China is spraying entire city blocks to contain the outbreak

The Future Is Rock-Hunting Rovers

10 February 2020

Top Story

Next NASA Mars Rover Will Sport a Rock-Vaporizing Laser

The Mars 2020 rover, which NASA will be launching in July, is packing serious heat. Part of the rover's mission is to search for fossils or other evidence that Mars once hosted life — and NASA decided that the best way to do that is to use a laser so strong it can vaporize rocks, according to Digital Trends. It's a bizarre plan, but one that could finally determine whether the Red Planet ever hosted life.

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HEADLINES FROM TODAY

ONE Elon Musk Provides Peek Inside Starship Factory

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TWO Scientists Invent Device to Generate Electricity From Rain

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THREE Hackers Hijack Facebook's Twitter, Instagram Accounts

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FOUR That Story About Bill Gates Buying a $644 Million Yacht Is Fake

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FIVE DARPA Is Using Gamers' Brain Waves to Train Robot Swarms

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OF INTEREST

China Is Spraying Entire City Blocks to Contain Outbreak

Chinese state-owned newspaper People's Daily has uploaded a video of disinfection work in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that has spread across the globe. The clip is apocalyptic: workers roll giant machines down empty streets, blasting huge plumes of disinfecting spray.

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NEWS IN QUOTES

" The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire, but for now it's only a spark. "

 
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus



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