Science X Newsletter Friday, Dec 18

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 18, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Exploring the role of prefrontal-amygdala brain circuits in social decision-making

Best of Last Year: The top Tech Xplore articles of 2020

Sound waves spin droplets to concentrate, separate nanoparticles

New topological properties found in "old" material of Cobalt disulfide

Ultra-fast gas flows through tiniest holes in 2-D membranes

The 'crazy beast' that lived among the dinosaurs

'Poverty line' concept debunked by new machine learning model

SARS-CoV-2-like particles very sensitive to temperature

Fire-resistant tropical forest on brink of disappearance

Cell atlas of tropical disease parasite may hold key to new treatments

Researchers deconstruct ancient Jewish parchment using multiple imaging techniques

Machine intelligence accelerates research into mapping brains

Wildfire smoke can carry microbes that cause infectious diseases

Three things NASA learned from Mars InSight

Say again? AI provides the latest word in clearer audio

Physics news

Sound waves spin droplets to concentrate, separate nanoparticles

Mechanical engineers at Duke University have devised a method for spinning individual droplets of liquid to concentrate and separate nanoparticles for biomedical purposes. The technique is much more efficient than traditional centrifuge approaches, working its magic in under a minute instead of taking hours or days, and requires only a tiny fraction of the typical sample size. The invention could underline new approaches to applications ranging from precision bioassays to cancer diagnosis.

New topological properties found in "old" material of Cobalt disulfide

Leading a collaboration of institutions in the U.S. and abroad, the Princeton University Department of Chemistry is reporting new topological properties of the magnetic pyrite Cobalt disulfide (CoS2) that expand our understanding of electrical channels in this long-investigated material.

Quantum wells enable record-efficiency two-junction solar cell

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of New South Wales achieved a new world-record efficiency for two-junction solar cells, creating a cell with two light-absorbing layers that converts 32.9% of sunlight into electricity.

Compressive fluctuations heat ions in space plasma

New simulations carried out in part on the ATERUI II supercomputer in Japan have found that the reason ions exist at higher temperatures than electrons in space plasma is because they are better able to absorb energy from compressive turbulent fluctuations in the plasma. These finding have important implications for understanding observations of various astronomical objects such as the images of the accretion disk and shadow of the M87 supermassive black hole captured by the Event Horizon Telescope.

Developing smarter, faster machine intelligence with light

Researchers at the George Washington University, together with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the deep-tech venture startup Optelligence LLC, have developed an optical convolutional neural network accelerator capable of processing large amounts of information, on the order of petabytes, per second. This innovation, which harnesses the massive parallelism of light, heralds a new era of optical signal processing for machine learning with numerous applications, including in self-driving cars, 5G networks, data-centers, biomedical diagnostics, data-security and more.

Researchers set new bounds on the mass of leptoquarks

At the most fundamental level, matter is made up of two types of particles: leptons, such as the electron, and quarks, which combine to form protons, neutrons and other composite particles. Under the Standard Model of particle physics, both leptons and quarks fall into three generations of increasing mass. Otherwise, the two kinds of particles are distinct. But some theories that extend the Standard Model predict the existence of new particles called leptoquarks that would unify quarks and leptons by interacting with both.

Speed of magnetic domain walls found to be fundamentally limited

A team of researchers from MIT and several institutions in Korea has found that the speed of magnetic domain wall movement is fundamentally limited. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes testing a theory regarding the maximum speed of domain walls to prove them correct. Matthew Daniels and Mark Stiles with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. have published a Perspective piece outlining the work by the researchers in the same journal issue and sum up the implications of their findings.

When light and atoms share a common vibe

An especially counter-intuitive feature of quantum mechanics is that a single event can exist in a state of superposition—happening both here and there, or both today and tomorrow.

Topological phases in biological systems

LMU physicists have shown that topological phases could exist in biology, and in so doing they have identified a link between solid-state physics and biophysics.

Experts develop new mechanism that can trap submicron particles in minutes

A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but a new Loughborough-led study suggests a dash of salt is key to progressing important medical areas such as drug delivery and biological sample analysis.

New discovery brings analog spintronic devices closer

The observation of nonlinearity in electron spin-related processes in graphene makes it easier to transport, manipulate and detect spins, as well as spin-to-charge conversion. It also allows analog operations such as amplitude modulation and spin amplification. This brings spintronics to the point where regular electronics was after the introduction of the first transistors. These results by University of Groningen physicists were published in the journal Physical Review Applied on 17 December.

Recreating Big Bang matter on Earth

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN usually collides protons together. It is these proton–proton collisions that led to the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. But the world's biggest accelerator was also designed to smash together heavy ions, primarily the nuclei of lead atoms, and it does so every year for about one month. And for at least two good reasons. First, heavy-ion collisions at the LHC recreate in laboratory conditions the plasma of quarks and gluons that is thought to have existed shortly after the Big Bang. Second, the collisions can be used to test and study, at the highest manmade temperatures and densities, fundamental predictions of quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the strong force that binds quarks and gluons together into protons and neutrons and ultimately all atomic nuclei.

Astronomy and Space news

Three things NASA learned from Mars InSight

NASA's InSight spacecraft touched down Nov. 26, 2018, on Mars to study the planet's deep interior. A little more than one Martian year later, the stationary lander has detected more than 480 quakes and collected the most comprehensive weather data of any surface mission sent to Mars. InSight's probe, which has struggled to dig underground to take the planet's temperature, has made progress, too.

A thread of the cosmic web: Astronomers spot a 50 million light-year galactic filament

At the very largest scale, the Universe consists of a "cosmic web" made of enormous, tenuous filaments of gas stretching between gigantic clumps of matter. Or that's what our best models suggest. All we have seen so far with our telescopes are the stars and galaxies in the clumps of matter.

Juno spacecraft updates quarter-century Jupiter mystery

Twenty-five years ago, NASA sent history's first probe into the atmosphere of the solar system's largest planet. But the information returned by the Galileo probe during its descent into Jupiter caused head-scratching: The atmosphere it was plunging into was much denser and hotter than scientists expected. New data from NASA's Juno spacecraft suggests that these "hot spots" are much wider and deeper than anticipated. The findings on Jupiter's hot spots, along with an update on Jupiter's polar cyclones, were revealed on Dec. 11, during a virtual media briefing at the American Geophysical Union's fall conference.

Solar Orbiter prepares for festive Venus flyby

Solar Orbiter is getting ready for the first of many gravity assist flybys of Venus on 27 December, to start bringing it closer to the sun and tilting its orbit in order to observe our star from different perspectives.

Jupiter, Saturn merging in night sky, closest in centuries

Jupiter and Saturn will merge in the night sky Monday, appearing closer to one another than they have since Galileo's time in the 17th century.

The Milky Way's primordial history and its fossil findings

Just as archaeologists dig hoping to find traces of the past, an international group of astrophysicists managed to get into the thick cloud of dust around the center of the Milky Way (also known as the bulge) discovering primordial clumps of gas and stars never before seen. They named this new class of stellar system 'Bulge Fossil Fragments.' A research team led by Francesco Ferraro (Department of Physics and Astronomy "Augusto Righi" at the University of Bologna and member of the National Institute for Astrophysics—INAF) carried out a study published in Nature Astronomy.

Telescope photographs the next target asteroid for Hayabusa2

On December 10, 2020 (Hawai'i Standard Time), the Subaru Telescope imaged the small asteroid 1998 KY26, the target of Hayabusa2's extended mission. The positional data for 1998 KY26 collected during the observations will be used to more accurately determine the orbital elements of this object.

Recently discovered comet seen during 2020 total solar eclipse

As Chile and Argentina witnessed the total solar eclipse on Dec. 14, 2020, unbeknownst to skywatchers, a little tiny speck was flying past the Sun—a recently discovered comet.

NASA's Webb sunshield successfully unfolds and tensions in final tests

Lengthened to the size of a tennis court, the five-layer sunshield of NASA's fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope successfully completed a final series of large-scale deployment and tensioning tests. This milestone puts the observatory one step closer to its launch in 2021.

NASA moves forward with campaign to return Mars samples to Earth

NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are moving to the next phase in a campaign to deepen understanding of whether life ever existed on Mars and, in turn, better understand the origins of life on Earth.

Russia launches UK telecom satellites into space

A Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia's Far East on Friday carrying 36 UK telecommunications and internet satellites, the Roscosmos space agency said.

Russia lifts UK telecom satellites into orbit

A Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia's Far East on Friday, putting into orbit 36 UK telecommunications and internet satellites, the Roscosmos space agency said.

Technology news

Best of Last Year: The top Tech Xplore articles of 2020

It was a good year for technology research of all kinds; a team at Japan's SkyDrive Inc., demonstrated their "flying car"—it took off with a person aboard, hovered approximately 1 to 2 meters above the ground for approximately four minutes and then returned safely to the ground. Tomohiro Fukuzawa, who heads the company, said at the demonstration that he hopes to have a product for sale within a couple of years.

Say again? AI provides the latest word in clearer audio

If you've been listening to more podcasts while stuck at home this year, you may have noticed a side effect of the uptick in virtual conversations: a decline in audio quality. Interviews conducted by phone or video chat often include background noise, reverberation and distortion.

To boost emissions reductions from electric vehicles, know when to charge

Transportation-related emissions are increasing globally. Currently, light-duty vehicles—namely passenger cars, such as sedans, SUVs, or minivans—contribute about 20 percent of the net greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. But studies have shown that switching out your conventional gas-guzzling car for a vehicle powered by electricity can make a significant dent in reducing these emissions.

Want cheaper nuclear energy? Turn the design process into a game

Nuclear energy provides more carbon-free electricity in the United States than solar and wind combined, making it a key player in the fight against climate change. But the U.S. nuclear fleet is aging, and operators are under pressure to streamline their operations to compete with coal- and gas-fired plants.

Researchers reveal link between cryptocurrency coding and market behavior

A new study by Reader in City's Department of Mathematics, Dr. Andrea Baronchelli, published in the Science Advances journal, has revealed a connection between the coding of cryptocurrencies and their market behavior.

Cyberpunk 2077 pulled from PlayStation Store after bug backlash

Sony said Friday it is pulling the much-hyped Cyberpunk 2077 from PlayStation stores around the world after a flood of complaints and ridicule over bugs, compatibility issues and even health risks.

Hack against US is 'grave' threat, cybersecurity agency says

Federal authorities expressed increased alarm Thursday about a long-undetected intrusion into U.S. and other computer systems around the globe that officials suspect was carried out by Russian hackers. The nation's cybersecurity agency warned of a "grave" risk to government and private networks.

Google says Australian law on paying for news is unworkable

A Google executive said on Friday that a proposed Australian law to make digital platforms pay for news was unworkable and its proposed arbitration model was biased toward media businesses.

Transparency about autonomous military systems is critical to acceptance, research says

When it comes to military use of autonomous systems, transparency about them, perceived usefulness and perception of ease of use all contribute to acceptance and adoption by personnel, according to new research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System.

Digital concert formats to be examined following impact of pandemic

In the first study of its kind, the team, which includes researchers from Zeppelin University, the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt am Main, and the University of Bern in Switzerland, will look at how classical music concerts and cultural events can take place in the virtual space in a way that best appeals to the public.

Artificial Intelligence that can run a simulation faithful to physical laws

A research group led by Associate Professor Yaguchi Takaharu (Graduate School of System Informatics) and Associate Professor Matsubara Takashi (Graduate School of Engineering Science, Osaka University) have succeeded in developing technology to simulate phenomena for which the detailed mechanism or formula are unexplained. They did this by using artificial intelligence (AI) to create a model, which is faithful to the laws of physics, from observational data.

World's first transmission of 1 Petabit/s using a single-core multimode optical fiber

A group of researchers from the Network System Research Institute of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT, Japan) led by Georg Rademacher, NOKIA Bell Labs (Bell Labs, USA) led by Nicolas K. Fontaine and Prysimian Group (Prysimian, France) led by Pierre Sillard succeeded in the world's first transmission exceeding 1 petabit per second in a single-core multi-mode optical fiber. This increases the current record transmission in a multi-mode fiber by a factor of 2.5.

New York State can achieve 2050 carbon goals: Here's how

By delving into scientific, technological, environmental and economic data, Cornell University engineering researchers examined whether New York could achieve a statewide carbon-free economy by 2050. Their finding: Yes, New York can reach this goal—and do it with five years to spare.

China's Alibaba 'dismayed' by Uighur facial-recognition software

Chinese tech giant Alibaba has sought to distance itself from a face-recognition software feature devised by its cloud computing unit that could help users to identify members of the country's Muslim Uighur minority.

Tesla to join elite S&P index, shaking up Wall Street

Tesla is set to join an elite group of companies in a key Wall Street index, a move which gives greater prominence to the high-flying electric carmaker and forces money managers to reshuffle their portfolios.

LSU engineering students design prosthetic for high school student

It's incredible the chain of events that a chance meeting can set off.

US blacklists Chinese companies including chip giant SMIC

The United States on Friday announced it has imposed export controls on 77 Chinese companies including the country's biggest chipmaker, SMIC, restricting its access to US technology over its alleged ties to China's military.

Developing a better way to address vulnerabilities at the source-code level

The need to patch a problem in a program that is embedded in an existing system, perhaps to introduce or enhance security, is a common one, according to UC Santa Barbara computer science professor Giovanni Vigna. "But, why would you do that?" he asks rhetorically. "Why not just write a different program?"

Massive cyberattack grows beyond US, heightening fears

A devastating cyberattack on US government agencies has also hit targets worldwide, with the list of victims still growing, according to researchers, heightening fears over computer security and espionage.

Volkswagen faces "massive" shortage of electronic parts

Volkswagen said Thursday it was facing production slowdowns due to a "massive" supply bottleneck caused by a shortage of semiconductor components for car electronics as global automobile markets bounce back from the pandemic sales slump.


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