Science X Newsletter Monday, Feb 24

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 24, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A perspective on the study of artificial and biological neural networks

Large-area electronic-grade graphene grows on the cheap

A new transverse tunneling field-effect transistor

One billion-year-old green seaweed fossils identified, relative of modern land plants

Why monkeys choose to drink alone

Watching magnetic nano 'tornadoes' in 3-D

When coronavirus is not alone: Team of complexity scientists present 'meme' model for multiple diseases

Mirrored chip could enable handheld dark-field microscopes

First direct seismic measurements of Mars reveal a geologically active planet

Programmable droplet manipulation by a magnetic-actuation robot

Let it snow: Researchers put cloud seeding to the test

Going super small to get super strong metals

Team discovers new way to control the phase of light using 2-D materials

Ancient DNA from Sardinia reveals 6,000 years of genetic history

Anonymous no more: combining genetics with genealogy to identify the dead in unmarked graves

Physics news

When coronavirus is not alone: Team of complexity scientists present 'meme' model for multiple diseases

Interacting contagious diseases like influenza and pneumonia follow the same complex spreading patterns as social trends. This new finding, published in Nature Physics, could lead to better tracking and intervention when multiple diseases spread through a population at the same time.

Mirrored chip could enable handheld dark-field microscopes

Do a Google search for dark-field images, and you'll discover a beautifully detailed world of microscopic organisms set in bright contrast to their midnight-black backdrops. Dark-field microscopy can reveal intricate details of translucent cells and aquatic organisms, as well as faceted diamonds and other precious stones that would otherwise appear very faint or even invisible under a typical bright-field microscope.

Team discovers new way to control the phase of light using 2-D materials

Optical manipulation on the nano-scale, or nanophotonics, has become a critical research area, as researchers seek ways to meet the ever-increasing demand for information processing and communications. The ability to control and manipulate light on the nanometer scale will lead to numerous applications including data communication, imaging, ranging, sensing, spectroscopy, and quantum and neural circuits (think LIDAR—light detection and ranging—for self-driving cars and faster video-on-demand, for example).

Ability to control spin of atom-like impurities in 2-D material hexagonal boron-nitride demonstrated

A team of international scientists investigating how to control the spin of atom-like impurities in 2-D materials have observed the dependence of the atom's energy on an external magnetic field for the first time.

ATLAS experiment searches for natural supersymmetry using novel techniques

In new results presented at CERN, the ATLAS Experiment's search for supersymmetry (SUSY) reached new levels of sensitivity. The results examine a popular SUSY extension studied at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC): the "Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model" (MSSM), which includes the minimum required number of new particles and interactions to make predictions at the LHC energies. However, even this minimal model introduces a large amount of new parameters (masses and other properties of the new particles), whose values are not predicted by the theory (free parameters).

A simple retrofit transforms electron microscopes into high-speed atom-scale cameras

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their collaborators have developed a way to retrofit the transmission electron microscope—a long-standing scientific workhorse for making crisp microscopic images—so that it can also create high-quality movies of super-fast processes at the atomic and molecular scale. Compatible with electron microscopes old and new, the retrofit promises to enable fresh insights into everything from microscopic machines to next-generation computer chips and biological tissue by making this moviemaking capability more widely available to laboratories everywhere.

Researchers shine light on the defects responsible for messy behavior in quantum materials

In a future built on quantum technologies, planes and spaceships could be fueled by the momentum of light. Quantum computers will crunch through complex problems spanning chemistry to cryptography with greater speed and energy efficiency than existing processors. But before this future can come to pass, we need bright, on-demand, predictable sources of quantum light.

Scientists reveal infrared spectroscopy of neutral water dimer

A research team led by Profs. Jiang Ling, Yang Xueming and Zhang Donghui from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with Prof. Li Jun from Tsinghua University, revealed infrared spectroscopy of neutral water dimer based on a tunable vacuum ultraviolet free electron laser.

Electron-hole recombination mechanism in halide perovskites

A research team led by Prof. Zhao Jin from Department of Physics, University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences found low-frequency lattice phonons in halide perovskites resulting in high defect tolerance toward electron-hole recombination with their independently-developed software, Hefei-NAMD. The study published in Science Advances.

Novel laser crystal emerges as a promising candidate for 2.7 μm lasers

In recent years, ~ 3 μm mid-infrared lasers have attracted much attention due to wide applications in biomedical treatments, molecular fingerprint identification and optical parametric oscillation (OPO) pumping source.

Team develops optical communications technology to double data transfer speed

Researchers in South Korea have developed a new optical communications technology that can transfer data at lightning speed. The new technology sends and receives twice as much data as conventional methods. It is expected to contribute to solving data traffic congestion in 5G networks.

Astronomy & Space news

New binary millisecond pulsar discovered in NGC 6205

Using the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), astronomers have detected a new binary millisecond pulsar (MSP) in the globular cluster NGC 6205. The newly found pulsar received designation PSR J1641+3627F. The finding is reported in a paper published February 14 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

The seismicity of Mars

On 26 November 2018, the NASA InSight lander successfully set down on Mars in the Elysium Planitia region. Seventy Martian days later, the mission's seismometer SEIS began recording the planet's vibrations. A team of researchers and engineers at ETH Zurich, led by ETH Professor Domenico Giardini, had delivered the SEIS control electronics and is responsible for the Marsquake Service. The latter is in charge of the daily interpretation of the data transmitted from Mars, in collaboration with the Swiss Seismological Service at ETH Zurich. Now, the journal Nature Geoscience published a series of articles on the results of the mission in the first months of operation on Mars.

Skeptic of world being round dies in California rocket crash

A California man who said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is round has died after his home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to earth.

Image: Hubble fingerprints a galaxy

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is no stranger to spiral galaxies. The telescope has brought us some of the most beautiful images ever taken of our spiral neighbors—and the galaxy known as NGC 4689 is no exception.

Pioneering black NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies

Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits for NASA's early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film "Hidden Figures," about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died. She was 101.

How interferometry works, and why it's so powerful for astronomy

When astronomers talk about an optical telescope, they often mention the size of its mirror. That's because the larger your mirror, the sharper your view of the heavens can be. It's known as resolving power, and it is due to a property of light known as diffraction. When light passes through an opening, such as the opening of the telescope, it will tend to spread out or diffract. The smaller the opening, the more the light spreads, making your image more blurry. This is why larger telescopes can capture a sharper image than smaller ones.

Technology news

A new transverse tunneling field-effect transistor

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have recently fabricated a transverse tunneling field-effect transistor. This is a semiconductor device that can be used to amplify or switch electrical power or signals, operating through a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling. The new transistor, introduced in a paper published in Nature Electronics, was built using a van der Waals heterostructure, a material with atomically thin layers that do not mix with each other, but are instead attached via van der Waals interactions.

Microsoft Defender coming to devices running Android, iOS

Microsoft Defender software will extend its activity to fight the good fight against malware on iOS and Android mobile platforms. Expect to see the Defender software for these devices later this year, according to reports. But why bother? Matthew Humphries in PC Magazine says, "Microsoft believes there's a market for its security software on mobile devices, so Android and iOS users will soon have the option of running Microsoft Defender on their devices."

Predicting how well neural networks will scale

For all the progress researchers have made with machine learning in helping us doing things like crunch numbers, drive cars and detect cancer, we rarely think about how energy-intensive it is to maintain the massive data centers that make such work possible. Indeed, a 2017 study predicted that, by 2025, internet-connected devices would be using 20 percent of the world's electricity.

Hey, Alexa: Sorry I fooled you

A human can likely tell the difference between a turtle and a rifle. Two years ago, Google's AI wasn't so sure. For quite some time, a subset of computer science research has been dedicated to better understanding how machine learning models handle these "adversarial" attacks, which are inputs deliberately created to trick or fool machine learning algorithms.

Device mimics the mangrove's water-purifying power

The mangrove tree survives in its subtropical habitat by efficiently converting the salty water of its environment into fresh water—an engineering feat that has long baffled scientists.

Swarming robots avoid collisions, traffic jams

For self-driving vehicles to become an everyday reality, they need to safely and flawlessly navigate one another without crashing or causing unnecessary traffic jams.

Fox and NBCUniversal in talks to acquire streaming platforms: report

Media groups Fox Corp. and NBCUniversal are looking to buy ad-supported streaming platforms meant to lure customers who don't want to spend money on subscriptions, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

EU wants battery autonomy, but first it needs graphite

As Europe looks to declare its tech independence by becoming a leader in next-generation batteries, it will have to start by making its own graphite. The problem is, nearly all of it now comes from Asia, mainly China.

The holy grail of clean energy may still be on its way

Recent reports from scientists pursuing a new kind of nuclear fusion technology are encouraging, but we are still some distance away from the "holy grail of clean energy."

Electricity market transforming apace but security a worry

The transformation of the national electricity market has "progressed at a remarkable pace and scale" over the last year as it moves towards renewables, but security is a critical issue, according to the Energy Security Board.

Mobility technology: Will transport revolution live up to the hype?

Over the past decade almost US$200 billion has been invested globally in mobility technology that promises to improve our ability to get around. More than US$33 billion was invested last year alone. Another measure of interest in this area is the number of unicorns, which has doubled in the past two years.

New method: More timely and reliable transmission of wireless sensor networks

Since sensor nodes in wireless sensor networks (WSNs) are cheap and powered by batteries, their capabilities in communication and energy supply are relatively weak and limited. The deployment of relay nodes in constructing robust network topology can significantly enhance connectivity and reduce energy consumption of WSNs.

Anxiety, depression, PTSD: A hidden epidemic of data breaches and cybercrime

After a restorative getaway last July—a week in Stockholm, another exploring Norway's fjords and a picturesque hike deep into the peaceful wilds of western Sweden's forests—Christopher Lane returned home to his Chicago condo and an overflowing mailbox.

Venmo did what with my data? My location was shared when I paid with the app

Many of us have ditched cash and, instead, use smartphone apps like Venmo to pay for goods and services.

New artificial intelligence tools could help tackle online abuse

New tools which could be used to automatically detect and counter abuse on social media, are being developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield.

Pentagon adopts new ethical principles for using AI in war

The Pentagon is adopting new ethical principles as it prepares to accelerate its use of artificial intelligence technology on the battlefield.

New method proposed to achieve better robot self-learning

Human beings show amazing adaptability when dealing with complex tasks in daily life. This adaptability is the direct embodiment of individual learning ability, which enables human beings to improve their own behavior ability independently and incrementally.

Renault files civil claim against Ghosn

French car giant Renault said Monday it was filing a civil claim for damages against former CEO Carlos Ghosn over alleged financial misconduct.


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