Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Feb 12

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 12, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Time crystals and topological superconductors merge

Training robots to identify object placements by 'hallucinating' scenes

Huge bacteria-eating viruses close gap between life and non-life

Half of US deaths related to air pollution are linked to out-of-state emissions

VLT observations detect a low-mass companion of the young massive star MWC 297

Animal simulations and smart drug design: Nanomaterial transport to individual cells

Bubble-capturing surface helps get rid of foam

New models hint at longer timescale for Mars formation

Programming the electron biocomputer with Dopamine redox shuttles

Fossilized insect from 100 million years ago is oldest record of primitive bee with pollen

Researchers shrink laser-induced graphene for flexible electronics

Vapers show chemical changes in their genome linked to cancer

'Genetic rewiring' drives cancer's drug resistance

Local genetic adaption helps sorghum crop hide from witchweed

Casting light on the brain's inner workings

Physics news

Time crystals and topological superconductors merge

"Powering a topological superconductor using a time crystal gives you more than the sum of its parts," says Jason Alicea, a researcher at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the US. The discovery of topological states has bred reams of research revealing new condensed matter and quantum physics, with potential technological applications in spintronics and quantum computing. Similarly, not long after the first observations of topological insulators in the late 2000s, the concepts of time crystals emerged, introducing another fresh arena for exploring new physics that could be exploited in precise timekeeping and quantum technologies.

New class of materials shows strange electron properties

A method to observe a new class of topological materials, called Weyl semimetals, was developed by researchers at Penn State, MIT, Tohoku University, Japan and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. The material's unusual electronic properties could be useful in future electronics and in quantum physics.

Moving precision communication, metrology, quantum applications from lab to chip

The field of photonic integration—the area of photonics in which waveguides and devices are fabricated as an integrated system onto a flat wafer—is relatively young compared to electronics. Photonic integration has focused on communications applications traditionally fabricated on silicon chips, because these are less expensive and more easily manufactured.

New quasiparticle unveiled in room temperature semiconductors

Physicists from Switzerland and Germany have unveiled fingerprints of the long-sought particle known as the Mahan exciton in the room temperature optical response of the popular methylammonium lead halide perovskites.

New material has highest electron mobility among known layered magnetic materials

All the elements are there to begin with, so to speak; it's just a matter of figuring out what they are capable of—alone or together. For Leslie Schoop's lab, one recent such investigation has uncovered a layered compound with a trio of properties not previously known to exist in one material.

ATLAS Experiment releases 13 TeV LHC open data for science education

The ATLAS Collaboration at CERN has just released the first open dataset from the Large Hadron Collider's (LHC) highest-energy run at 13 teraelectronvolts (TeV). The new release is specially developed for science education, underlining the collaboration's longstanding commitment to students and teachers using open-access ATLAS data and related tools.

Gold's wobbly nucleus: What the short-lived Au187 isotope teaches us about fundamental science research

As Earth rotates along its axis, it wobbles a little bit. This wobbling comes, in part, from how mass is distributed across the planet. Nuclear physics researchers have now observed this same type of wobbling in Au187—a gold isotope that lives for just eight minutes. Fundamental science research like this can lead to major breakthroughs in a range of fields, including medical care.

Antiferromagnetic bimeron shows chaotic behaviors

Magnetic bimeron is a topological spin texture with particle-like characteristics, which can exist in chiral magnets with in-plane magnetic anisotropy. The magnetic bimeron with topological charge of one can be regarded as a counterpart of the magnetic skyrmion in perpendicularly magnetized systems. So far, the studies on magnetic bimerons focus on the ferromagnetic systems. The dynamics of the bimeron in antiferromagnets still remain elusive.

Astronomy & Space news

VLT observations detect a low-mass companion of the young massive star MWC 297

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, astronomers have discovered a low-mass stellar companion embedded in the disk of the young pre-main-sequence (PMS) massive star designated MWC 297. The finding is detailed in a paper published February 5 on the arXiv pre-print server.

New models hint at longer timescale for Mars formation

The early solar system was a chaotic place, with evidence indicating that Mars was likely struck by planetesimals, small protoplanets up to 1,200 miles in diameter, early in its history. Southwest Research Institute scientists modeled the mixing of materials associated with these impacts, revealing that the Red Planet may have formed over a longer timescale than previously thought.

Scientists discover the nearest-known 'baby giant planet'

Scientists from Rochester Institute of Technology have discovered a newborn massive planet closer to Earth than any other of similarly young age found to date. The baby giant planet, called 2MASS 1155-7919 b, is located in the Epsilon Chamaeleontis Association and lies only about 330 light years from our solar system.

Asteroid experts catch final glimpse of Solar Orbiter

Last night, ESA's Planetary Defence team observed the rare moment in which an object escaped our planet's gravity, in contrast to their normal objects of study—potentially hazardous rocks that could strike it.

Citizen scientists discover rare cosmic pairing

Citizen scientists have uncovered a bizarre pairing of two brown dwarfs, objects much smaller than the Sun that lack enough mass for nuclear fusion. The discovery, reported in The Astrophysical Journal and confirmed by a scientific team led by astrophysicist Jackie Faherty at the American Museum of Natural History, shows that brown dwarf systems—the formation of which are still poorly understood—can be very low mass and extremely far apart yet inexorably linked.

Astronomers discover potential near earth objects

Three astronomers from Leiden University (the Netherlands) have shown that some asteroids that are considered harmless for now can collide with the earth in the future. They did their research with the help of an artificial neural network. The results have been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Salt water may periodically form on the surface of Mars

Briny water may form on the surface of Mars a few days per year, research by Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Norbert Schorghofer shows. 

Love the stars? Astronomers have a unique suggestion for Valentine's Day

Few sights are more romantic than a star-filled sky, but there are fewer and fewer places on Earth where we can still enjoy a truly dark, star-filled sky. Light pollution means we risk losing one of the most romantic spectacles in nature, so this Valentine's Day astronomers are asking the public to help show their love for the stars by making light pollution observations as part of the Globe at Night program. 

Astronomers have serious concerns about satellite constellations

Picture the space around Earth filled with tens of thousands of communications satellites. That scenario is slowly coming into being, and it has astronomers concerned. Now, a group of astronomers has written a paper outlining detailed concerns, and how all of these satellites could have a severe, negative impact on ground-based astronomy.

Ten things we've learned about the sun from NASA's SDO this decade

In February 2020, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory—SDO—is celebrating its 10th year in space. Over the past decade the spacecraft has kept a constant eye on the sun, studying how the sun creates solar activity and drives space weather—the dynamic conditions in space that impact the entire solar system, including Earth.

Hackers could shut down satellites–or turn them into weapons

Last month, SpaceX became the operator of the world's largest active satellite constellation. As of the end of January, the company had 242 satellites orbiting the planet with plans to launch 42,000 over the next decade. This is part of its ambitious project to provide internet access across the globe. The race to put satellites in space is on, with Amazon, U.K.-based OneWeb and other companies chomping at the bit to place thousands of satellites in orbit in the coming months.

Video: Lagrange mission to provide solar warning

Earth's magnetic field protects life on Earth from the intense radiation and titanic amounts of energetic material our Sun blasts in every direction. However, astronauts and satellites in space, future explorers travelling to the Moon and Mars, and infrastructure on Earth such as power grids and communication systems remain vulnerable to these violent outbursts.

Technology news

Training robots to identify object placements by 'hallucinating' scenes

With more robots now making their way into a number of settings, researchers are trying to make their interactions with humans as smooth and natural as possible. Training robots to respond immediately to spoken instructions, such as "pick up the glass, move it to the right," etc., would be ideal in many situations, as it would ultimately enable more direct and intuitive human-robot interactions. However, this is not always easy, as it requires the robot to understand a user's instructions, but also to know how to move objects in accordance with specific spatial relations.

Making 3-D printing smarter with machine learning

3-D printing is often touted as the future of manufacturing. It allows us to directly build objects from computer-generated designs, meaning industry can manufacture customized products in-house, without outsourcing parts. But 3-D printing has a high degree of error, such as shape distortion. Each printer is different, and the printed material can shrink and expand in unexpected ways. Manufacturers often need to try many iterations of a print before they get it right.

A brain implant system may become path to sight for blind

A woman who was blind for 16 years was able to see with a brain implant rather than artificial eye, and that has sparked a number of new reports about the latest progress made in exploring the sight restoring potential of brain implants.

Bridging the gap between human and machine vision

Suppose you look briefly from a few feet away at a person you have never met before. Step back a few paces and look again. Will you be able to recognize her face? "Yes, of course," you probably are thinking. If this is true, it would mean that our visual system, having seen a single image of an object such as a specific face, recognizes it robustly despite changes to the object's position and scale, for example. On the other hand, we know that state-of-the-art classifiers, such as vanilla deep networks, will fail this simple test.

Second wind: New technology to help diagnose and manage respiratory diseases

Monash University researchers in Australia have developed radical non-invasive technology that can be used to diagnose respiratory lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and lung cancer, and potentially fast-track treatments for patients.

New air-pressure sensor could improve everyday devices

A team of mechanical engineers at Binghamton University, State University of New York investigating a revolutionary kind of micro-switch has found another application for its ongoing research.

Automated system can rewrite outdated sentences in Wikipedia articles

A system created by MIT researchers could be used to automatically update factual inconsistencies in Wikipedia articles, reducing time and effort spent by human editors who now do the task manually.

DIY tools TalkBox and SenseBox help people with disabilities to communicate

Researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) have developed do-it-yourself (DIY) assistive technology prototypes that are revolutionizing how people with disabilities can access tools that will help them interact with the world.

Boeing sounds alarm about virus impact on aviation

Boeing issued a stark warning Wednesday about the impact of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying there was "no question" it would hammer the aviation industry and the broader economy.

GM Korea to suspend assembly line as virus hits parts supply

The biggest US car company General Motors was caught up on Wednesday in the supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus in China when its South Korean unit announced a partial suspension of operations next week.

Esports league starts strong on ambitious global schedule

They stood, they cheered, they booed and they boozed. Turns out, esports fans in New York aren't much different from their traditional sports counterparts.

Political ad spending surges; Facebook dominates digital: survey

Political ad spending is surging for the US election, with digital campaigns—led by Facebook—accounting for nearly one-fifth of the total, researchers said Wednesday.

Create a WTO-equivalent to oversee the internet, recommends new report

The internet needs an international World Trade Organization (WTO)-style body to protect and grow it as one of the world's unique shared resources: a communications infrastructure that is open, free, safe and reliable, concludes a new report published today.

Google, EU bring battle to court

Google and the EU battled in court Wednesday as the search engine giant tried to persuade judges that it was unfairly accused of ill-treating rivals of its Shopping service.

Australia's Chief Scientist: We need to transform our world into a sustainable 'electric planet'

I want you to imagine a highway exclusively devoted to delivering the world's energy.

Something from nothing: Using waste heat to power electronics

Collecting energy from environmental waste heat such as that lost from the human body is an attractive prospect to power small electronics sustainably. A thermocell is a type of energy-harvesting device that converts environmental heat into electricity through the thermal charging effect.

The epicenter of law enforcement's battle to unlock encrypted smartphones

Inside a steel-encased vault in lower Manhattan, investigators are bombarding an Apple iPhone 7 with a jumble of numerical codes generated by nearby computers.

How kirigami can help us study the muscular activity of athletes

The upcoming Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 represent a big opportunity for governments to promote a healthy lifestyle and sports, and the turn of the decade is a great opportunity to showcase how recent technological developments can be used to help us understand human motion during sports. In this regard, the combination of high-speed cameras and surface electromyographic sensors, which record the electromyographic activity of palm muscles, has been employed to obtain a better understanding of the fine control athletes and sportspeople exert on their palm muscles.

Deepfakes: Five ways in which they are brilliant business opportunities

A visitor to The Dalí Museum in St Petersburg, Florida presses a doorbell beside a dark life-sized screen. A darkened figure wearing a dapper suit and sporting a pencil mustache slowly leaves his easel and comes toward her into the light.

WhatsApp defends encryption as it tops 2 billion users

The Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp said Wednesday it now has more than two billion users around the world as it reaffirmed its commitment to strong encryption to protect privacy.

Audit slams safety US oversight of Southwest Airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration's lax oversight allowed Southwest Airlines to put millions of passengers at risk, according to a new audit that adds to scrutiny of the US regulator.

Study shows explosive growth in time spent streaming TV

Streaming services like Netflix or Hulu account for 19% of television viewing in the United States now for people who have that capacity, virtually double what it was less than two years ago, a report out Wednesday said.

Are robots designed to include the LGBTQ+ community?

In a new short paper in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, Roger A. Søraa from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and co-authors Eduard Fosch-Villaronga from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and Adam Poulsen from Charles Sturt University in Australia discuss what a queering of robots might entail.

Nissan files $90 mn suit against Ghosn

Japanese car giant Nissan on Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit to reclaim some 10 billion yen ($90 million) from former chairman Carlos Ghosn for what it called "years of his misconduct and fraudulent activity".

SoftBank Group nine-month net profit down nearly 70%

Major Japanese technology investor SoftBank Group said Wednesday its net profit plunged nearly 70 percent for the nine months to December as investments in sharing economy companies including WeWork and Uber took a hit.

Google vs EU: a decade-long saga goes to court

Google and the EU have a big day in court Wednesday as the search engine giant enters a new phase of a legal saga that began a decade ago.

Nokia latest to drop out of mobile tech fair over virus

Nokia on Wednesday became the latest company to drop out of one of the world's biggest technology fairs over worries about the viral outbreak from China.

The 3-D-printed healthcare revolution

Need brain surgery? We'll get printing now.

Sprint and T-Mobile merger approved by federal judge: What it means for consumers

Sprint and T-Mobile have moved yet another step closer to a merger, and it could lead to consumers paying more for wireless plans.

Twitter follows Facebook cracking down on census misinformation

Social media company Twitter Inc. extended policies meant to protect election integrity to the U.S. Census Tuesday, saying it will prohibit posts containing false or misleading information about how to participate in the national survey.

Condition monitoring and data analysis in the cloud

In today's factories, to prevent damage to machines, sensors often trigger an alarm as soon as equipment begins to exhibit suspicious behavior—but rarely is this sensor data fully exploited. At the Hannover Messe Preview on February 12, 2020, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK will be showing just what is possible when sensor technology is connected to a cloud platform: perfectly coordinated workflow management and the optimization of entire fleets of machine tools.

Additively manufactured rocket engine features an aerospike nozzle for microlaunchers

Microlaunchers are an alternative to conventional launch vehicles. Able to carry payloads of up to 350 kilograms, these midsized transport systems are designed to launch small satellites into space. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden and TU Dresden's aerospace experts developed an additively manufactured rocket engine with an aerospike nozzle for microlaunchers. The scaled metal prototype is expected to consume 30 percent less fuel than conventional engines. It will feature prominently at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 12 and in the showcase at booth C18 in hall 16 at the Hannover Messe from April 20 through 24, 2020.

Ford recalls over 240K vehicles to fix suspension problem

Ford is recalling over 240,000 SUVs and cars worldwide because a suspension part can fracture and increase the risk of a crash.

Facebook purges more accounts linked to Russia in new crackdown

Facebook said Wednesday it purged dozens of accounts linked to Russian military intelligence in the latest effort to root out manipulation and disinformation of the huge social network.

World Mobile Congress cancelled over coronavirus fears

Organisers of the World Mobile Congress said Wednesday they have cancelled the world's top mobile trade fair due to fears stemming from the coronavirus that sparked an exodus of industry heavyweights.

Britain starts setting up 'first internet watchdog'

The British government said Wednesday it plans to allow its broadcast regulator to police the internet and issue substantial fines when social media giants fail to remove "online harm".


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