Science X Newsletter Monday, Aug 24

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Could Planet 9 be a primordial black hole?

Nanoscale imaging of dopant nanostructures in silicon-based devices

New large optically bright supernova remnant discovered

Locust swarm could improve collision avoidance

Nooks, crannies and critters: Researchers develop new way to measure complexity of habitats

Wireless device makes clean fuel from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water

Advanced biofuels show real promise for replacing some fossil fuels

Biologists discover a gene critical to the development of columbines' iconic spurs

Controlled tissue regeneration with 3-D bioprinted spatiotemporally defined patterns of growth factors

Follow NASA's Perseverance rover in real time on its way to Mars

Autistic people's nerve cells differ before birth

Home automation rules are more risky and less risky than we thought

Early immune response may contribute to severe COVID-19

COVID-19 pooling test method identifies asymptomatic carriers

Neural networks show potential for identifying gamma rays detected by the Cherenkov telescope array

Physics news

Could Planet 9 be a primordial black hole?

For several years, astronomers and cosmologists have theorized about the existence of an additional planet with a mass 10 times greater than that of Earth, situated in the outermost regions of the solar system. This hypothetical planet, dubbed Planet 9, could be the source of gravitational effects that would explain the unusual patterns in the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) highlighted by existing cosmological data. TNOs are celestial bodies that orbit the sun and are located beyond Neptune.

Adapting ideas from quantum physics to calculate alternative interventions for infection and cancer

Published in Nature Physics, findings from a new study co-led by Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University teams show for the first time how ideas from quantum physics can help develop novel drug interventions for bacterial infections and cancer.

High-resolution and large field-of-view Fourier ptychographic microscopy

Fourier ptychographic microscopy (FPM) is a computational imaging and quantitative phase imaging (QPI) technique. It effectively tackles the trade-off between resolution and field-of-view (FOV) in conventional microscopy. It can obtain a gigapixel image without mechanical scanning and has been applied in digital pathology in recent years.

Ocean hitchhiker's sucker mechanism offers potential for underwater adhesion

A new study has revealed how remora suckerfish detach themselves from the surfaces they've clung to—and how the mechanism could provide inspiration for future reversible underwater adhesion devices.

A novel approach produces a completely new kind of dynamic light structure

It is not every day that scientists are able to produce an entirely new kind of light, but when they do the implications can be dramatic. When twisted light beams carrying orbital angular momentum were uncovered in 1992, researchers realized the potential to increase data transmission speeds over current approaches. Separately, in 2005, the Nobel prize in physics was awarded for the invention of the optical frequency comb—a device that creates a spectrum of equally spaced frequencies of non-twisted light. Such combs have become fundamental tools for metrology and atomic clocks.

Researchers develop flat lens a thousand times thinner than a human hair

A lens that is a thousand times thinner than a human hair has been developed in Brazil by researchers at the University of São Paulo's São Carlos School of Engineering (EESC-USP). It can serve as a camera lens in smartphones or be used in other devices that depend on sensors.

Less flocking behaviour among microorganisms reduces the risk of being eaten

When algae and bacteria with different swimming gaits gather in large groups, their flocking behavior diminishes, something that may reduce the risk of falling victim to aquatic predators. This finding is presented in an international study led from Lund University in Sweden.

Super-Kamiokande gets an upgrade to see neutrinos from ancient supernovae

The Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory can detect different kinds of neutrino-related phenomena, including supernova explosions in our own galaxy. It is normally full of pure water, but it has recently received a dose of the rare-earth element gadolinium. This will give the observatory the ability to see supernova explosions in more distant galaxies as well.

A light touch for membrane selectivity

Membranes that change their pore size in response to external stimuli, such as pH, heat and light, are set to transform separation science and technology. Such smart membranes developed by KAUST researchers display tunable pore size, which means they can selectively separate compounds according to their size when exposed to different light wavelengths.

A new quantum paradox throws the foundations of observed reality into question

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Perhaps not, some say.

Study enables predicting computational power of early quantum computers

Quantum physicists at the University of Sussex have created an algorithm that speeds up the rate of calculations in the early quantum computers which are currently being developed. They have created a new way to route the ions—or charged atoms—around the quantum computer to boost the efficiency of the calculations.

Lensless light-field imaging through diffuser encoding

Microlens array based light-field imaging generally suffers from an intrinsic trade-off between the spatial and angular resolutions. To this end, scientists in China and German jointly proposed a lensless light-field imaging modality by using a diffuser as an encoder. Light rays can be decoupled from a detected image with adjustable spatio-angular resolutions, breaking through the resolution limitation of the sensor. This work indicates the possibility of using scattering media for lensless light-field recording and processing.

Routing valley exciton emission of a monolayer via in-plane inversion-symmetry broken PhC slabs

The valleys of two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) offer a new degree of freedom for information processing and have attracted tremendous interest for their possible applications in valleytronics. To develop valleytronics devices based on TMDCs, effective approaches to separate valleys in the near or far field are indispensable. In recent research, kinds of nanostructures are proposed to separate valleys and much progress has been made.

Astronomy and Space news

New large optically bright supernova remnant discovered

Astronomers have reported the discovery of a new galactic supernova remnant (SNR) in the Cepheus constellation. The newly detected SNR is relatively large and optically bright, but faint in radio and X-ray bands. The finding is detailed in a paper published August 13 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

Follow NASA's Perseverance rover in real time on its way to Mars

The last time we saw NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission was on July 30, 2020, as it disappeared into the black of deep space on a trajectory for Mars. But with NASA's Eyes on the Solar System, you can follow in real time as humanity's most sophisticated rover—and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter traveling with it—treks millions of miles over the next six months to Jezero Crater.

Neural networks show potential for identifying gamma rays detected by the Cherenkov telescope array

With the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) that is currently under construction, researchers hope to observe highly energetic gamma rays that could lead to the discovery of new objects in and outside of our galaxy and even unravel the mystery of dark matter. However, identifying these gamma rays is not easy. Researchers from the CTA consortium are now trying to perfect it with neural networks trained on the Piz Daint supercomputer.

Ground segment testing a success for James Webb Space Telescope

Testing teams have successfully completed a critical milestone focused on demonstrating that NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will respond to commands once in space.

Deep space mine

Many resources essential to the technology on which we depend are dwindling or are increasingly inaccessible to certain nations for geopolitical reasons. A case in point is that several of the rare metallic elements that are needed to construct the components of modern electronic devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs, fuel cells, rechargeable batteries, photovoltaic systems, and other technology are by definition low in abundance.

Could there be life in the cloudtops of Venus?

When it comes to places with the potential for habitability, Venus isn't usually on that list. The hot, greenhouse-effect-gone-mad neighboring planet with a crushing surface pressure and sulfuric acid clouds certainly isn't friendly to life as we know it, and the few spacecraft humanity has sent to Venus' surface have only endured a few minutes.

Did Jupiter push Venus into a runaway greenhouse?

Venus has been garnering a lot of attention lately, though primarily in the scientific community, as the last Hollywood movie about the planet was released in the 1960s. This is in part due to its dramatic difference from Earth, and what that difference might mean for the study of exoplanets. If we can better understand what happened during Venus' formation to make it the hellscape it is today, we might be able to better understand what truly constitutes the habitable zone around other stars.

Asteroid 2018 VP₁ may be heading for Earth. But there's no need to worry

Social media around the world lit up over the weekend, discussing the possibility that an asteroid (known as 2018 VP₁) could crash into Earth on November 2.

Technology news

Locust swarm could improve collision avoidance

Plagues of locusts, containing millions of insects, fly across the sky to attack crops, but the individual insects do not collide with each other within these massive swarms. Now a team of engineers is creating a low-power collision detector that mimics the locust avoidance response and could help robots, drones and even self-driving cars avoid collisions.

Wireless device makes clean fuel from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water

Researchers have developed a standalone device that converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into a carbon-neutral fuel, without requiring any additional components or electricity.

Home automation rules are more risky and less risky than we thought

According to home automation company IFTTT (an initialism of If This, Then That) around 11 million people use over 1 billion home automation rules, commonly referred to as "applets," each month in their homes. But a 2017 study found that nearly half of the IFTTT applets may pose a security or privacy threat to users.

Using a smartphone and audio software to pick a physical lock

A trio of researchers has found a way to pick an ordinary physical lock using a smartphone with special software. The three, Soundarya Ramesh, Harini Ramprasad, and Jun Han, gave a talk at a workshop called HotMobile 2020 at this year's International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications, outlining their work.

Heron AI prevails over human in air combat

His motto is "Aim high, fly-fight-win." But for a top U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and weapons school graduate, aiming high—and in one instance aiming low—wasn't enough to prevail against an AI opponent in a simulated competition last week.

Novel 3-D-printed device demonstrates enhanced capture of carbon dioxide emissions

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have designed and additively manufactured a first-of-its-kind aluminum device that enhances the capture of carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel plants and other industrial processes.

'FreeFortnite' tournament taunts Apple amid legal battle

The maker of video game sensation Fortnite is taunting Apple amid its legal battle with the tech titan, launching a tournament on Sunday to highlight its war on the App Store fee policy.

Microsoft defends Fortnite maker in Apple fight

Microsoft came to the defense of the maker of video game sensation Fortnite on Sunday, saying in a court filing that Apple's moves to cut off the company from programming tools would hurt other game creators and players as well.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is fulfilling another Steve Jobs vision

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, was a tough act to follow. But Tim Cook seems to be doing so well at it that his eventual successor may also have big shoes to fill.

Taiwan says Alibaba-linked e-commerce site a security risk

Taiwan declared an e-commerce platform linked to China's Alibaba Group a potential security risk and told its operator Monday to register as a company from the rival mainland or dispose of its ownership stake.

Algorithms workers can't see are increasingly pulling the management strings

"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that." HAL's cold, if polite, refusal to open the pod bay doors in 2001 A Space Odyssey has become a defining warning about putting too much trust in artificial intelligence, particularly if you work in space.

Army robo-teammate can detect, share 3-D changes in real-time

Something is different, and you can't quite put your finger on it. But your robot can.

Fiat Chrysler recalls diesel engines to fix stalling problem

Fiat Chrysler is recalling nearly 132,000 vehicles worldwide to fix a problem that could cause some diesel engines to stall.

American Airlines deploys new anti-COVID spray in planes

American Airlines on Monday said it will be spraying its airplane interiors with a long-lasting product specifically designed to guard against the coronavirus as it tries to coax passengers back into flying.

Zoom experiences partial outages in the United States

Zoom has slowed down.

California is rushing to add solar power. Did recent blackouts just shade state's green future?

They sit on oceanfront property in Southern California, a fleet of aging gas-fired power plants that not only pollute the air but also kill sea lions and other marine life. They're also capable of powering up to 2.8 million homes.

TikTok sues over ban ordered by Trump

Video app TikTok on Monday filed a lawsuit challenging the US government's crackdown on the popular Chinese-owned platform, which Washington accuses of being a national security threat.

Flexible production system enables variety of variants

From sports shoes to car accessories—there is an increasing demand for individualized products. The economic and competitive production of industrial and consumer goods with a high degree of individualization and improved quality standards in correspondingly smaller quantities requires suitable production processes. Together with some industrial partners, researchers at KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) are developing a novel, user-friendly production planning system that combines the high productivity and accuracy of special machines with the flexibility and versatility of industrial robots.

Geothermal energy from shell limestone

In 2017 a huge storage facility in the pores of a sandstone layer at a depth of between 1015 and 1045 meters below Berlin's Grunewald forest that had been used to temporarily store natural gas, to cover the city's fluctuating needs, was shut down.


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