Science X Newsletter Friday, Apr 17

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 17, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A robust, sensitive thin-film X-ray detector using 2-D layered perovskite diodes

A lab that reads—and writes—our dreams

Some worms programmed to die early for sake of colony

ISS crew lands in Kazakhstan after more than 200 days

Scientists try 'cloud brightening' to protect Great Barrier Reef

Olive oil leads to discovery of new universal law of phase transitions

Water heaters' methane leaks are high, but fixable

Genetic tracing 'barcode' is rapidly revealing COVID-19's journey and evolution

Advance could enable remote control of soft robots

Exhaled 'aerosols' spread coronavirus up to 13 feet—and shoes carry the virus, too

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently

Electronic health records help study drug-effectiveness in Alzheimer's disease

Deploying better, more conversational chatbots for customer service

Scientists conduct first census of viruses and bacteria living in Florida Springs

COVID-19 possibly striking more children than expected

Physics news

Olive oil leads to discovery of new universal law of phase transitions

A simple drop of olive oil in a system of photons bouncing between two mirrors has revealed universal aspects of phase transitions in physics. Researchers at AMOLF used an oil-filled optical cavity in which light undergoes phase transitions similar to those in boiling water. The system they studied has memory because the oil causes photons to interact with themselves. By varying the distance between the two mirrors and measuring the transmission of light through the cavity, they discovered a universal law describing phase transitions in systems with memory. These results are published on April 15th in Physical Review Letters.

Advance could enable remote control of soft robots

Soft materials, such as rubber or polymers that can endure drastic changes to their shape, are promising for applications where flexibility and shapeshifting abilities are paramount.

New discovery settles long-standing debate about photovoltaic materials

Scientists have theorized that organometallic halide perovskites— a class of light harvesting "wonder" materials for applications in solar cells and quantum electronics— are so promising due to an unseen yet highly controversial mechanism called the Rashba effect. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have now experimentally proven the existence of the effect in bulk perovskites, using short microwave bursts of light to both produce and then record a rhythm, much like music, of the quantum coupled motion of atoms and electrons in these materials.

Researchers propose theoretical model to describe capillary force balance at contact line

Recently, a group led by Prof. Wu Heng'an and Prof. Wang Fengchao from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in collaboration with Prof. Joel De Coninck from University of Mons has provided a theoretical insight into capillary forces at the contact line and validated Young's equation based on a mechanical interpretation. The research results were published online in Physical Review Letters.

Scientists model role of aerosol-photolysis interaction in winter haze formation

A research team led by Prof. Li Guohui from the Institute of Earth Environment (IEE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences quantitatively assessed how much PM2.5 could be attributed to the combination of ARI and API during a persistent heavy haze episode in the North China Plain in winter.

Researchers discover novel optical sensing technology

Researchers at Northumbria University have developed a new optical sensing technology which can light up areas of an object or material by creating microscopic wrinkles and folds within its surface.

How to develop a new generation of faster, cheaper and greener optical networks

A team of scientists has developed a novel circuit architecture for high-speed optical transceivers to facilitate full automation, agility and efficiency in future data centres.

Astronomy and Space news

ISS crew lands in Kazakhstan after more than 200 days

A U.S.-Russian crew landed safely Friday in the steppes of Kazakhstan following a stint on the International Space Station and was greeted with extra precautions due to the coronavirus.

Fragmentation of comet ATLAS observed on the first crowd-sourced pictures from citizen astronomers

A group of citizen astronomers scattered all over the world has just demonstrated how a network of digital Unistellar eVscopes can work together to deliver the first-of-its-kind crowd-generated images of Comet ATLAS while its disintegrating.

Dust devils may roam hydrocarbon dunes on Saturn's moon Titan

Meteorological conditions on Saturn's large moon Titan, the strange, distant world that may be the most Earth-like in the solar system, appear conducive to the formation of dust devils, according to new research in AGU's journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Impacts on asteroids produce regolith, erase small craters

Impact cratering both produces new regolith and causes seismic events that can degrade and erase small craters on the surface of asteroids, a paper by Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist James Richardson says. 

NASA announces first SpaceX crewed flight for May 27

A SpaceX rocket will send two American astronauts to the International Space Station on May 27, NASA announced on Friday, the first crewed spaceflight from the US in nearly a decade.

California nebula stars in final mosaic by NASA's Spitzer

Five days before NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope ended its mission on Jan. 30, 2020, scientists used the spacecraft's infrared camera to take multiple images of a region known as the California Nebula—a fitting target considering the mission's management and science operations were both based in Southern California at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech. This mosaic is made from those images. It is the final mosaic image taken by Spitzer and one of hundreds the spacecraft captured throughout its lifetime.

ESA helps analyze untouched Moon rocks

Almost 50 years after the Apollo missions returned lunar material to Earth, ESA experts are helping to uncover the secrets of two previously unopened samples to learn more about ancient processes on the Moon—and to refine and practice techniques for future sample return missions.

Video: Views of Earth from BepiColombo's flyby

A compilation of about 200 images collected by the joint European-Japanese mission BepiColombo during its first—and only—flyby of Earth on 10 April 2020, a manoeuvre needed to adjust its trajectory en route to its destination, Mercury. The spacecraft, equipped with three 'selfie' cameras, captured a series of stunning images of our home planet as it closed in, approached, and finally departed.

Technology news

A lab that reads—and writes—our dreams

The world's great thinkers probably lost a lot of sleep dwelling on the mysteries of dreams. Mathematician and philosopher Rene Descarte was so spellbound by the vivid imagery of dreaming that he questioned the existence of reality. "Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses," he said "But occasionally I have found that they have deceived me [in dreams], and it is unwise to trust completely those who have deceived us even once."

Deploying better, more conversational chatbots for customer service

The comedian Bill Burr has said he refuses to call into automated customer service lines for fear that, years later on his death bed, all he'll be able to think about are the moments he wasted dealing with chatbots.

Facebook bots to create a friendlier universe

All Facebook is saying is give peace a chance.

'Fog harp' harvests water even in the lightest fog

What do you get when you cross a novel approach to water harvesting with a light fog? The answer: a lot more water than you expected.

Singapore disinfecting robot trialled in virus fight

Singapore researchers have invented a disinfecting robot with an arm that mimics human movement, to help take the load off overworked cleaners during the coronavirus pandemic.

Zoom rolls out new measures as security fears mount

Videoconferencing platform Zoom is rolling out a number of measures meant to stem criticism over how it has handled security as users flock to the application during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public trust key, EU insists, in developing virus apps

The European Union is urging its 27 member countries to make the use of mobile telephone tracing apps voluntary and to apply similar standards to ensure that national systems can work together in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

Scientists develop high-performance lithium-sulfur batteries

Recently, research groups led by Prof. Liu Jian and Prof. Wu Zhongshuai from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed Fe1-xS-decorated mesoporous carbon spheres as the nanoreactor for a lithium-sulfur battery cathode. The nanoreactor showed excellent polysulfide catalytic activity and cyclic stability. The study was published in Advanced Energy Materials on Apr. 16.

California COVID-19 traffic report finds silver lining

Traffic accidents and crash-related injuries and deaths were reduced by half during the first three weeks of California's shelter-in-place order, which began March 20. The reductions save the state an estimated $40 million per day—about $1 billion over the time period—according to an updated special report released this week from the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.

The new iPhone SE is the cheapest yet: Smart move, or a premium tech brand losing its way?

At face value, Apple's decision to launch the second-generation iPhone SE with a recession looming may not make sense. But there's likely more to this move than meets the eye.

No webcam? New Mevo can fill the void and stream to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

The Mevo tiny webcam-like camera, invented as a pure livestreaming solution for those who didn't want to use their bulky cameras or battery-challenged phones, has been reinvented as live streaming has suddenly come of age.

Google to waive ad fees as part of journalism relief effort

Google said Friday it would waive fees for publishers using its Ad Manager platform for the next five months as part of its efforts to support news organizations reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Can sub-Saharan Africa achieve sustainable access to energy for all by 2030?

In 2019, the global population without access to electricity dipped below 1 billion for the first time. This progress has however been uneven, both across and within different regions. A new IIASA study shows that to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern electricity services by 2030 in sub-Saharan Africa, the pace of electrification must more than triple.

Beyond encryption: Protecting consumer privacy while keeping survey results accurate

It comes as no surprise that consumer data is continuously being collected by various organizations, including local governments, marketing agencies and social media companies. These organizations assure anonymity and confidentiality when collecting this data, however, existing data privacy laws don't guarantee that data breaches won't occur. According to a recent report, more than 2,000 confirmed data breaches occurred in 2019 alone, with 34% of those executed by internal actors such as employees. To add to that, city and state agencies collect sensitive data that they are required by law to share with the public—courtesy of Open Data movements and the Freedom of Information Act.

Valorizing wastewater can improve commercial viability of biomass oil production

Oil produced from biomass can provide a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. But technological challenges make it difficult to scale up production and make it economically viable.

Facebook offers a hug—from a distance—with emoji update

Facebook is reaching out to give the world a hug—in the form of an emoji people can share while staying safely apart.

Virus lockdowns send European car sales down 55%

European automobile sales fell by 55 percent last month due to the coronavirus outbreak as lockdown measures went into effect in most nations, the industry's trade association said Friday.

Amazon workers group calls for strike over virus and climate concerns

Amazon tech workers are calling for a virtual one-day strike to pressure the online retail giant over warehouse safety conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Eco-friendly coal-fired technology for stackless power plants without emissions

Coal-fired power plants in Korea are one of the main sources of air pollutants, CO2 and the other precursor materials to ultra-fine dust particulates such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide. Therefore, FEPCRC is developing key technologies for eco-friendly coal-fired stackless power generation without emissions in flue gas.

Using AI to improve energy and resource efficiency in various industries

The power of machine learning in enhancing the quality of the manufacturing process is getting increasingly recognized. AI and machine learning have become popular tools for manufacturers to improve throughput and optimize energy consumption. The EU-funded FUDIPO project is making great strides in integrating AI into several critical process industries on a wide scale to achieve radical improvements in energy and resource efficiency.

Increasing fire protection through virtual reality

Fire is one of the most dreaded anxieties in households worldwide. In 2018 Dutch insurance companies registered no less than 80,000 domestic fires. The most common cause is smoking, followed by technical malfunctions in appliances and cooking. Preventive measures can avoid many of the consequences and there is a lot to be gained. Ph.D. researcher Patty Jansen (Human-Technology Interaction group) researched if it is possible to increase the willingness to take fire protection measurements.

Q&A with Lujo Bauer on how the pandemic is affecting individuals' privacy and security

Many Americans have been working remotely for over a month now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in new paradigms in their own and their employers' cybersecurity and privacy. CyLab's Lujo Bauer, a professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Institute for Software Research, has been monitoring the situation.

Trade friction: Adaptiveness of swarms of complex networks

Trade friction between industries involved in information communication technology (ICT) has become apparent in recent years. This trade friction has a striking impact on various industries. Adaptations to these economic fluctuations are necessary for industry and companies in respective regions to survive. However, such phenomena are difficult to analyze because the required datasets cannot be obtained synchronously and spatiotemporally. However, social media and other forms of data collection are making it possible to do more analysis in this field.

Ford expects $2 bn loss in Q1 as virus shutdowns hit sales

Ford said Friday it expects a loss of about $2 billion in the first quarter as sales tumble following broad economic shutdowns throughout the US and Europe caused by the coronavirus.


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