Science X Newsletter Friday, May 29

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 29, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Algorithm quickly simulates a roll of loaded dice

Making matter out of light: high-power laser simulations point the way

Flexible low-voltage high-frequency organic thin-film transistors

Greedy for glucose: Cancer cells rely on a primeval energy-producing pathway to proliferate and spread

Researchers create active material out of microscopic spinning particles

Groundbreaking all-electric plane paving way to greener aviation

Paper-thin gallium oxide transistor handles more than 8,000 volts

'Single pixel' vision in fish helps scientists understand how humans can spot tiny details

Mergers between galaxies trigger activity in their core

Climate could cause abrupt British vegetation changes

Two bacteria allow spittlebugs to thrive on low-nutrient meals

Researchers track how bacteria purge toxic metals

New research reveals Cannabis and Frankincense at the Judahite Shrine of Biblical Arad

Wearing face masks at home might help ward off COVID-19 spread among family members

World's largest 'lava lamp bubble' under NZ

Physics news

Making matter out of light: high-power laser simulations point the way

A few minutes into the life of the universe, colliding emissions of light energy created the first particles of matter and antimatter. We are familiar with the reverse process—matter generating energy—in everything from a campfire to an atomic bomb, but it has been difficult to recreate that critical transformation of light into matter.

Researchers find mathematical structure in biological complexity

What is and is not possible for natural evolution may be explained using models and calculations from theoretical physics, say researchers in Japan.

A non-destructive method of analysing molecules in cells

When investigating how tumors grow, or how pharmaceuticals affect different types of cells, researchers have to understand how molecules within a cell react—and interact. This is possible with modern laser microscopy. Until now, however, molecules in cell specimens had to be labelled with fluorescent substances in order to make them visible, and this can distort the very behavior of the molecules. Research groups from Bielefeld University and the University of Hong Kong have developed a laser microscope that works without having to label the molecules. For this, the researchers innovated a unique compact fibre laser instead of the solid-state lasers that had previously been used. The new microscope generates far less noise when in use than customary designs, making it suitable for use in operating rooms. The researchers presented their innovative technology in the journal Light: Science and Applications, which is published by Springer Nature.

Astronomy and Space news

Mergers between galaxies trigger activity in their core

Active galactic nuclei (AGNs) play a major role in galaxy evolution. Astronomers from SRON and RuG have now used a record-setting sample of galaxies to confirm that galaxy mergers have a positive effect on igniting AGNs. They were able to compile about 10 times more pictures of merging galaxies than previous studies by using a machine-learning algorithm.

MAXI J1820+070: Black hole outburst caught on video

Astronomers have caught a black hole hurling hot material into space at close to the speed of light. This flare-up was captured in a new movie from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Solar Orbiter to pass through the tails of Comet ATLAS

ESA's Solar Orbiter will cross through the tails of Comet ATLAS during the next few days. Although the recently launched spacecraft was not due to be taking science data at this time, mission experts have worked to ensure that the four most relevant instruments will be switched on during the unique encounter.

Astronomers predict bombardment from asteroids and comets in other planetary system

The planetary system around star HR8799 is remarkably similar to our solar system. It has four gas giants in between two asteroid belts. A research team led by RuG and SRON used this similarity to model the delivery of materials by asteroids, comets and other minor bodies within the system. Their simulation shows that the four gas planets receive material delivered by minor bodies, just as in our solar system.

After 14 years, first COSMIC satellite mission comes to an end

The last of six tiny satellites that were rocketed into space 14 years ago—and then went on to prove that the wealth of accurate atmospheric data that can be gleaned from existing GPS signals can improve operational weather forecasts—was officially decommissioned on May 1, outliving its original planned lifespan by a dozen years.

Experiments in isolation: Training astronauts for long-term solo missions

Isolation can feel like a state of limbo, but being separated from others can also be a huge driver of change and give us a great chance to experiment.

Data-relay satellite ready for service

The second node in the most sophisticated laser communication network ever designed is ready to go into service.

Image: Hubble grabs a stellar latte

Far away in the Ursa Major constellation is a swirling galaxy that would not look out of place on a coffee made by a starry-eyed barista. NGC 3895 is a barred spiral galaxy that was first spotted by William Herschel in 1790 and was later observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Take 2 for SpaceX's 1st astronaut launch with more storms

SpaceX pressed ahead with its second attempt to launch astronauts for NASA—a historic first for a private company—but more stormy weather threatened more delays.

Russia to send team to Guiana Space Center after fuel leak

Russia's space agency says it will send a team of specialists to South America to investigate the leak of toxic fuel from a Russian rocket stage at the Guiana Space Center.

Video: Europe's Spaceport, back to business

Workers are returning to Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana to resume preparations for Vega and Ariane 5 launches. Construction of the new Ariane 6 launch pad has also restarted.

Technology news

Algorithm quickly simulates a roll of loaded dice

The fast and efficient generation of random numbers has long been an important challenge. For centuries, games of chance have relied on the roll of a die, the flip of a coin, or the shuffling of cards to bring some randomness into the proceedings. In the second half of the 20th century, computers started taking over that role, for applications in cryptography, statistics, and artificial intelligence, as well as for various simulations—climatic, epidemiological, financial, and so forth.

Flexible low-voltage high-frequency organic thin-film transistors

Electronic applications on unconventional substrates that require low-temperature processing methods have primarily driven the development of organic thin-film transistors (TFTs) in the past few decades. Such applications primarily require high-frequency switching (rate at which an electronic switch performs its function) or amplification at low operating voltages. However, most organic-TFT technologies show limited dynamic performance unless researchers apply high operating voltages to overcome their high contact resistances and large parasitic capacitances, i.e. a capacitance that exists between parts of electronic components or a circuit due to their proximity to each other. In this work, James W. Borchert and a team of interdisciplinary researchers in nanoscience, chemistry, quantum science and solid state research in Germany and Italy, presented low-voltage organic TFTs. The devices recorded static and dynamic performances including contact resistances as small as 10 Ω·cm, on/off current ratios as large as 1010 and transit frequencies as high as 21 MHz. The inverted coplanar TFT structure developed in this work can be readily adapted to industry-standard lithographic techniques.

Groundbreaking all-electric plane paving way to greener aviation

The world's largest all-electric plane has successfully completed a test flight, the first step in a long process its developers say will led to an era of low-cost, pollution-free air travel.

Paper-thin gallium oxide transistor handles more than 8,000 volts

People love their electric cars. But not so much the bulky batteries and related power systems that take up precious cargo space.

Researchers thwart DDoS technique that threatened large-scale cyberattack

In October 2016, a cyberattack temporarily took down Amazon, Reddit, Spotify and Slack for users along the U.S.'s East Coast. Mirai, a botnet of hacked security cameras and internet routers, aimed a flood of junk traffic at the servers of Dyn, a company that provides the global directory (or phonebook) for the web known as the Domain Name System or DNS.

IoT labels will help consumers figure out which devices are spying on them

When hungry consumers want to know how many calories are in a bag of chips, they can check the nutrition label on the bag. When those same consumers want to check the security and privacy practices of a new IoT device, they aren't able to find even the most basic facts.

VW spending $2.2B to expand in China's electric car market

Volkswagen is spending 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to expand its presence in China's electric car industry in the biggest foreign investment announced since the country's economy began to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic.

Hello and welcome: Robot waiters to the rescue amid virus

You can always count on a robot for perfect timing.

Renault to cut 15,000 jobs in 'vital' cost-cutting plan

Carmaker Renault said Friday that it would cut nearly 15,000 jobs, including 4,600 at its core French operations, as it seeks to steer out of a cash crunch exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis.

Tesla performance opens door to Elon Musk payday

Tesla has hit financial marks that let its colorful chief executive Elon Musk reap the first portion of a multi-billion dollar compensation package, the electric car maker said Thursday.

Inertia and the power grid: A guide without the spin

The power grid is evolving to include ever-higher levels of wind and solar generation—which do not provide inertia, historically a key source of grid reliability. Should system planners and operators panic? A new video and guidebook from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) explain why not.

The coronavirus could mark the rise of automation

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive surge in global unemployment. It has also highlighted the increasingly valuable role of automation in today's world.

Clean energy is outperforming fossil fuels in America, UK and Europe

Renewable power is outperforming fossil fuels in US and European markets, according to a new report published by Imperial College Business School.

A Zen Buddhist monk's approach to democratizing AI

Colin Garvey, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and Institute for Human-centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), took an unusual path to his studies in the social science of technology. After graduating from college, he taught English in Japan for four years, during which time he also became a Zen Buddhist monk. In 2014, he returned to the U.S., where he entered a Ph.D. program in science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. That same year, Stephen Hawking co-authored an editorial in The Guardian warning that artificial intelligence could have catastrophic consequences if we don't learn how to avoid the risks it poses. In his graduate work, Garvey set out to understand what those risks are and ways to think about them productively.

Nearly half of the Twitter accounts discussing 'reopening America' may be bots

Encountering a bot account while scrolling through Twitter is more likely to occur in the era of COVID-19. Carnegie Mellon University researchers have discovered that much of the discussion around the pandemic and stay-at-home orders is being fueled by misinformation campaigns that use convincing bots.

The coronavirus pandemic is boosting the big tech transformation to warp speed

The coronavirus pandemic has sped up changes that were already happening across society, from remote learning and work to e-health, supply chains and logistics, policing, welfare and beyond. Big tech companies have not hesitated to make the most of the crisis.

Digital-only local newspapers will struggle to serve the communities that need them most

This week News Corp Australia announced the end of the print editions of 112 suburban and regional mastheads – about one-fifth of all of Australia's local newspapers. Of those, 36 will close and 76 become purely online publications.

If all cars were electric, UK carbon emissions would drop by 12%

The COVID-19 lockdown has led to reduced pollution and emissions in the UK and around the world, providing a clear indication of how cars affect air quality and carbon emissions. But such a change is only temporary—millions of petrol cars are waiting for restrictions to ease. Then, higher levels of emissions will resume.

Trump's social media order expected to have agencies review whether Twitter, Facebook can be sued for content

President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order Thursday designed—in theory—to make it easier to sue social media companies such as Twitter, days after the site placed a fact check label on two of his tweets.

Britain pushing US to form 5G club of nations to cut out Huawei

Britain said Friday it was pushing the United States to form a club of 10 nations that could develop its own 5G technology and reduce dependence on China's controversial telecoms giant Huawei.

Smartphone tool helps users keep social distance

Smartphone users have a new way to keep their distance—a tool that lets them know when people are getting closer than pandemic guidelines recommend.

Really Australia, it's not that hard: 10 reasons why renewable energy is the future

Australia's latest greenhouse gas figures released today show national emissions fell slightly last year. This was by no means an economy-wide effort—solar and wind energy did most of the heavy lifting.

There is no specific crime of catfishing. But is it illegal?

Twenty-year-old Sydney woman Renae Marsden died by suicide after she was the victim of an elaborate catfishing scam.

How to develop accurate and efficient methods for audiovisual content management

Audiovisual media content is not only an essential tool for communication and entertainment, it is also seen as a useful source of modern history. To enable everyone to benefit from such informative documents, it's crucial to translate moving images and sounds into words in an efficient and cost-effective way. Enter the EU-funded MeMAD project that is developing automatic language-based methods for managing, accessing and publishing pre-existing and originally produced digital content within the creative industries. Focusing on TV broadcasting and on-demand media services, the MeMAD project also aims to enhance digital storytelling.


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Reminder: Announcing the AI and surveillance in the age of coronavirus special issue


Hi VentureBeat insider,

Last week we launched our third of a series of special issues, "AI and surveillance in the age of coronavirus." There's a lot in here, and we understand it's hard to find time during the work day. So, we hope you take some time this weekend to dive deep into the topic at hand. 

Technology solutions available are varied, none are perfect, and there are big privacy challenges, too. The world has to track the spread of disease and the movements of people, and enforce quarantines. Experts are counting on phone contact tracing, but even this method is riddled with questions. AI and big data will play a significant role, and some countries are using monitoring systems that employ facial recognition. Tracking systems that are constructed may never be dismantled, and the immense reach of those systems could give authoritarian governments unprecedented powers to subjugate people.

In the age of coronavirus, more AI-powered surveillance and tracking is inevitable, but the trick is how to do it constructively.

Thanks for reading,
VB Editorial Team

Read Now: AI and surveillance in the age of coronavirus
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