Science X Newsletter Week 43

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for week 43:

Driver of the largest mass extinction in the history of the Earth identified

Life on Earth has a long, but also an extremely turbulent history. On more than one occasion, the majority of all species became extinct and an already highly developed biodiversity shrank to a minimum again, changing the course of evolution each time. The most extensive mass extinction took place about 252 million years ago. It marked the end of the Permian Epoch and the beginning of the Triassic Epoch. About three quarters of all land life and about 95 percent of life in the ocean disappeared within only a few thousand years.

Einstein's theory of relativity, critical for GPS, seen in distant stars

What do Albert Einstein, the Global Positioning System (GPS), and a pair of stars 200,000 trillion miles from Earth have in common?

Researcher proposes new theory of consciousness

Electromagnetic energy in the brain enables brain matter to create our consciousness and our ability to be aware and think, according to a new theory developed by Professor Johnjoe McFadden from the University of Surrey.

Precision metrology closes in on dark matter

Optical clocks are so accurate that it would take an estimated 20 billion years—longer than the age of the universe—to lose or gain a second. Now, researchers in the U.S. led by Jun Ye's group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado have exploited the precision and accuracy of their optical clock and the unprecedented stability of their crystalline silicon optical cavity to tighten the constraints on any possible coupling between particles and fields in the standard model of physics and the so-far elusive components of dark matter.

Geologists 'resurrect' missing tectonic plate

The existence of a tectonic plate called Resurrection has long been a topic of debate among geologists, with some arguing it was never real. Others say it subducted—moved sideways and downward—into the earth's mantle somewhere in the Pacific Margin between 40 and 60 million years ago.

Monsanto lose case against French farmer

France's highest appeals court rejected Wednesday a Monsanto bid to overturn a ruling against it in a suit brought by farmer Paul Francois, who was intoxicated by the firm's weed-killer Lasso.

High levels of microplastics released from infant feeding bottles during formula prep

New research shows that high levels of microplastics (MPs) are released from infant-feeding bottles (IFBs) during formula preparation. The research also indicates a strong relationship between heat and MP release, such that warmer liquids (formula or water used to sterilise bottles) result in far greater release of MPs.

New insight brings sustainable hydrogen one step closer

Leiden chemists Marc Koper and Ian McCrum have discovered that the degree to which a metal binds to the oxygen atom of water is decisive for how well the chemical conversion of water to molecular hydrogen takes place. This insight helps to develop better catalysts for the production of sustainable hydrogen, an important raw material for the chemical industry and the fuel needed for environmentally friendly hydrogen cars. Publication in Nature Energy.

Researchers discover molecular link between diet and risk of cancer

An international team of researchers has identified a direct molecular link between meat and dairy diets and the development of antibodies in the blood that increase the chances of developing cancer. This connection may explain the high incidence of cancer among those who consume large amounts of dairy products and red meat, similar to the link between high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease.

Tools made by some of North America's earliest inhabitants were made only during a 300-year period

There is much debate surrounding the age of the Clovis—a prehistoric culture named for stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico in the early 1930s—who once occupied North America during the end of the last Ice Age. New testing of bones and artifacts show that Clovis tools were made only during a brief, 300-year period from 13,050 to 12,750 years ago.

COVID-19: Distancing and masks are not enough

Wear a mask, keep your distance, avoid crowds—these are the common recommendations to contain the COVID-19 epidemic. However, the scientific foundations on which these recommendations are based are decades old and no longer reflect the current state of knowledge. To change this, several research groups from the field of fluid dynamics have now joined forces and developed a new, improved model of the propagation of infectious droplets. It has been shown that it makes sense to wear masks and maintain distances, but that this should not lull you into a false sense of security. Even with a mask, infectious droplets can be transmitted over several meters and remain in the air longer than previously thought.

Lily the barn owl reveals how birds fly in gusty winds

Scientists from the University of Bristol and the Royal Veterinary College have discovered how birds are able to fly in gusty conditions—findings that could inform the development of bio-inspired small-scale aircraft.

A math idea that may dramatically reduce the dataset size needed to train AI systems

A pair of statisticians at the University of Waterloo has proposed a math process idea that might allow for teaching AI systems without the need for a large dataset. Ilia Sucholutsky and Matthias Schonlau have written a paper describing their idea and published it on the arXiv preprint server.

Ancient Maya built sophisticated water filters

Ancient Maya in the once-bustling city of Tikal built sophisticated water filters using natural materials they imported from miles away, according to the University of Cincinnati.

Energy scavenging nanogenerator finds power all around us

Imagine a mobile phone charger that doesn't need a wireless or mains power source. Or a pacemaker with inbuilt organic energy sources within the human body.

Spacecraft design could get to Titan in only 2 years using a direct fusion drive

Fusion power is the technology that is 30 years away, and always will be, according to skeptics, at least. Despite its difficult transition into a reliable power source, the nuclear reactions that power the sun have a wide variety of uses in other fields. The most obvious is in weapons; hydrogen bombs are to this day the most powerful weapons we have ever produced. But there's another use case that is much less destructive and could prove much more interesting—space drives.

Smile, wave: Some exoplanets may be able to see us, too

Three decades after Cornell astronomer Carl Sagan suggested that Voyager 1 snap Earth's picture from billions of miles away—resulting in the iconic Pale Blue Dot photograph—two astronomers now offer another unique cosmic perspective:

New study details atmosphere on 'hot Neptune' 260 light years away that 'shouldn't exist'

A team led by an astronomer from the University of Kansas has crunched data from NASA's TESS and Spitzer space telescopes to portray for the first time the atmosphere of a highly unusual kind of exoplanet dubbed a "hot Neptune."

New theory on the origin of dark matter

A recent study from the University of Melbourne proposes a new theory for the origin of dark matter, helping experimentalists in Australia and abroad in the search for the mysterious new matter.

Mouthwashes, oral rinses may inactivate human coronaviruses

Certain oral antiseptics and mouthwashes may have the ability to inactivate human coronaviruses, according to a Penn State College of Medicine research study. The results indicate that some of these products might be useful for reducing the viral load, or amount of virus, in the mouth after infection and may help to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.


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