Science X Newsletter Friday, Jan 15

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 15, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

An algorithm for optimizing the cost and efficiency of human-robot collaborative assembly lines

Astronomers document the rise and fall of a rarely observed stellar dance

Intimate associations between SARS-CoV-2 and mitochondria suggest new angles of attack

X-rays surrounding 'Magnificent 7' may be traces of sought-after particle

Engineers find a way to control chemical catalysts with sculpted light

Examination of Theia 456 finds its nearly 500 stars were born at same time

Guppies have varying levels of self-control

Climate change doesn't spare the smallest

Acute itching in eczema patients linked to environmental allergens

Researchers offer insights on how diet ultimately reshapes language

New fossil provides clarity to the history of Alligatoridae

Researchers rewind the clock to calculate age and site of supernova blast

Researchers model regional impacts of specific anthropogenic activities, their influence on extreme fire weather risk

Changing resilience of oceans to climate change

An unexpected, and novel, target for prostate cancer—our biological clock

Physics news

Engineers find a way to control chemical catalysts with sculpted light

Like a person breaking up a cat fight, the role of catalysts in a chemical reaction is to hurry up the process—and come out of it intact. And, just as not every house in a neighborhood has someone willing to intervene in such a battle, not every part of a catalyst participates in the reaction. But what if one could convince the unengaged parts of a catalyst to get involved? Chemical reactions could occur faster or more efficiently.

A new way to look for gravitational waves

In a paper published today in Physical Review Letters, Valerie Domcke of CERN and Camilo Garcia-Cely of DESY report on a new technique to search for gravitational waves—the ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first detected by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations in 2015 and earned Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017.

Optical computing at sub-picosecond speeds

Vanderbilt researchers have developed the next generation of ultrafast data transmission that may make it possible to make already high-performance computing "on demand." The technology unjams bottlenecks in data streams using a hybrid silicon-vanadium dioxide waveguide that can turn light on and off in less than one trillionth of a second.

Precise measurements of cluster formation in outer neutron 'skin' of a range of tin isotopes

A large international team of researchers has developed a way to measure cluster formations in the outer neutron 'skin' of a range of tin isotopes rich in neutrons. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes using knockout reactions to obtain evidence of the formation of α clusters at the surface of tin isotopes rich in neutrons. Or Hen, with MIT, has published a Perspectives piece in the same journal issue outlining the study and its relevance to neutron star research.

Artificial intelligence beats us in chess, but not in memory

In the last decades, artificial intelligence has shown to be very good at achieving exceptional goals in several fields. Chess is one of them: in 1996, for the first time, the computer Deep Blue beat a human player, chess champion Garry Kasparov. A new piece of research shows now that the brain strategy for storing memories may lead to imperfect memories, but in turn, allows it to store more memories, and with less hassle than AI. The new study, carried out by SISSA scientists in collaboration with Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience & Centre for Neural Computation, Trondheim, Norway, has just been published in Physical Review Letters.

Scientists' discovery is paving the way for novel ultrafast quantum computers

Scientists at the Institute of Physics of the University of Tartu have found a way to develop optical quantum computers of a new type. Central to the discovery are rare earth ions that have certain characteristics and can act as quantum bits. These would give quantum computers ultrafast computation speed and better reliability compared to earlier solutions. The University of Tartu researchers Vladimir Hizhnyakov, Vadim Boltrushko, Helle Kaasik and Yurii Orlovskii published the results of their research in the scientific journal Optics Communications.

Understanding how sound waves travel through disordered materials

A team of researchers lead by the University of Tsukuba have created a new theoretical model to understand the spread of vibrations through disordered materials, such as glass. They found that as the degree of disorder increased, sound waves traveled less and less like ballistic particles, and instead began diffusing incoherently. This work may lead to new heat- and shatter-resistant glass for smartphones and tablets.

Physicists propose a new theory to explain one dimensional quantum liquids formation

Liquids are ubiquitous in Nature: from the water that we consume daily to superfluid helium which is a quantum liquid appearing at temperatures as low as only a few degrees above the absolute zero. A common feature of these vastly different liquids is being self-bound in free space in the form of droplets. Understanding from a microscopic perspective how a liquid is formed by adding particles one by one is a significant challenge.

Towards applications: ultra-low-loss on-chip zero-index materials

A refractive index of zero induces a wave vector with zero amplitude and undefined direction. Therefore, light propagating inside a zero-index medium does not accumulate any spatial phase advance, resulting in perfect spatial coherence. Such coherence brings several potential applications, including arbitrarily shaped waveguides, phase-mismatch-free nonlinear propagation, large-area single-mode lasers, and extended super radiance. A promising platform to achieve these applications is an integrated Dirac-cone material that features an impedance-matched zero index. However, although this platform eliminates ohmic losses via its purely dielectric structure, it still entails out-of-plane radiation loss (about 1 dB/μm), restricting the applications to a small scale.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers document the rise and fall of a rarely observed stellar dance

The sun is the only star in our system. But many of the points of light in our night sky are not as lonely. By some estimates, more than three-quarters of all stars exist as binaries—with one companion—or in even more complex relationships. Stars in close quarters can have dramatic impacts on their neighbors. They can strip material from one another, merge or twist each other's movements through the cosmos.

X-rays surrounding 'Magnificent 7' may be traces of sought-after particle

A new study, led by a theoretical physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), suggests that never-before-observed particles called axions may be the source of unexplained, high-energy X-ray emissions surrounding a group of neutron stars.

Examination of Theia 456 finds its nearly 500 stars were born at same time

The Milky Way houses 8,292 recently discovered stellar streams—all named Theia. But Theia 456 is special.

Researchers rewind the clock to calculate age and site of supernova blast

Astronomers are winding back the clock on the expanding remains of a nearby, exploded star. By using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, they retraced the speedy shrapnel from the blast to calculate a more accurate estimate of the location and time of the stellar detonation.

Project maps 'astronomical' number of celestial objects

Nearly 700 million astronomical objects have been carefully cataloged and made public as part of a major international collaboration involving researchers from The Australian National University (ANU).

Six-wavelength spectroscopy can offer new details of surface of Venus

A trio of papers provide new insight into the composition and evolution of the surface of Venus, hidden beneath its caustic, high temperature atmosphere. Utilizing imaging from orbit using multiple wavelengths—six-band spectroscopy proposed as part of the VERITAS and EnVision missions—scientists can map the iron content of the Venusian surface and construct the first-ever geologic map.

Mars is still an active world—here's a landslide in Nili Fossae

Since the 1960s and '70s, scientists have come to view Mars as something of a "dead planet." As the first close-up images from orbit and the surface came in, previous speculation about canals, water and a Martian civilization were dispelled. Subsequent studies also revealed that the geological activity that created features like the Tharsis Mons region (especially Olympus Mons) and Valles Marineris had ceased long ago.

Technology news

An algorithm for optimizing the cost and efficiency of human-robot collaborative assembly lines

Robots are rapidly making their way into a variety of settings, including industrial and manufacturing facilities. So far, they have shown great potential for speeding up and automating a number of manufacturing processes by substituting or assisting human workers on assembly lines. To be adopted on a large scale, however, robots for manufacturing should be both efficient and relatively affordable.

New research technique sheds light on least understood part of lithium batteries

One of the aspects of lithium-ion batteries least understood by scientists has now been elucidated by a new research approach, opening the door to major improvements in battery performance, according to a new study by Berkeley Lab scientists.

New Windows 10X aims for simplicity

Leaks of Microsoft's Windows 10X for single screen PCs reveal a simplified OS with an emphasis on simplicity.

US blacklists Xiaomi, CNOOC, Skyrizon, raising heat on China

The U.S. government has blacklisted Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. and China's third-largest national oil company for alleged military links, heaping pressure on Beijing in President Donald Trump's last week in office.

As Wikipedia turns 20 it aims to reach more readers

Wikipedia celebrates its 20th anniversary on Friday and the collaborative, volunteer-produced internet encyclopedia aims to spend the next 20 years further expanding free access to information.

Tech, health firms team up on digital vaccination certificates

A coalition of technology firms and health organizations announced plans Thursday for a digital vaccination certificate, which can be used on smartphones to show evidence of inoculation for COVID-19.

Newly developed GaN based MEMS resonator operates stably even at high temperature

Liwen Sang, independent scientist at International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics, National Institute for Materials Science (also JST PRESTO researcher) developed a MEMS resonator that stably operates even under high temperatures by regulating the strain caused by the heat from gallium nitride (GaN).

Biomass-driven technology allows for enhanced energy conversion

Organic waste—whether from households, agriculture or agroforestry—can be used as energy resource, but is often underexploited. A team of EPFL scientists has developed a methodology to better incorporate this resource into existing power grids and gas distribution systems, depending on local availability and demand.

Carbon fiber optimized for wind turbine blades could bring cost, performance benefits

A new carbon fiber material could bring cost and performance benefits to the wind industry if developed commercially, according to a study led by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories.

The UK has some of the least energy-efficient housing in Europe—here's how to fix this

Poorly constructed housing can seriously affect people's health and wellbeing. And with the UK having some of the oldest buildings in Europe, that's a lot of housing not fit for purpose.

WhatsApp delays data sharing change after backlash

WhatsApp on Friday postponed a data-sharing change as users concerned about privacy fled the Facebook-owned messaging service and flocked to rivals Telegram and Signal.

Report calls for multipronged action to mitigate small aircraft lead emissions

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released on Jan. 12 a congressionally mandated report on reducing lead emissions from small aircraft—the single largest lead emitter in the United States. The report summarizes a study chaired by Amy Pritchett, professor and head of aerospace engineering in Penn State's College of Engineering, involving experts both in aviation fuels and technology and in lead emissions and effects on human health.

A new tool to facilitate fast, error-free software design

Any building project requires the formulation of a series of initial plans prior to starting construction to serve as a basis and guide for the whole process. A similar procedure is followed in software development, with the inclusion of a specific step known as modeling. "The process is equivalent to the production of a set of plans for a building before its construction," explained Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications professor and member of the SOM Research Lab research group from the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Robert Clarisó.


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Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jan 14

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 14, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Evolvable neural units that can mimic the brain's synaptic plasticity

Acoustofluidic centrifuge for nanoparticle enrichment and assortment

Model analyzes how viruses escape the immune system

New state of matter in one-dimensional quantum gas

Foraging humans, mammals and birds who live in the same place behave similarly

Sharpening clinical imaging with AI and currently approved contrast dyes

How plants produce defensive toxins without harming themselves

Building a giant 2-D map of the universe to prepare for the largest 3-D map

Concept for a hybrid-electric plane may reduce aviation's air pollution problem

Low cost chlorine dispensing device improves tap water safety in low-resource regions

Scientists discover the secret of Galapagos' rich ecosystem

A climate in crisis calls for investment in direct air capture, news research finds

Honeybees reveal how our floral landscape has changed over the last 65 years

Climate change is hurting children's diets, global study finds

Sexual harassment claims considered more credible if made by 'prototypical' women

Physics news

New state of matter in one-dimensional quantum gas

As the story goes, the Greek mathematician and tinkerer Archimedes came across an invention while traveling through ancient Egypt that would later bear his name. It was a machine consisting of a screw housed inside a hollow tube that trapped and drew water upon rotation. Now, researchers led by Stanford University physicist Benjamin Lev have developed a quantum version of Archimedes' screw that, instead of water, hauls fragile collections of gas atoms to higher and higher energy states without collapsing. Their discovery is detailed in a paper published Jan. 14 in Science.

How aerosols are formed

ETH Zurich researchers conducted an experiment to investigate the initial steps in the formation of aerosols. Their findings are now aiding efforts to better understand and model that process—for example, the formation of clouds in the atmosphere.

Physical virology shows the dynamics of virus reproduction

The reproductive cycle of viruses requires self-assembly, maturation of virus particles and, after infection, the release of genetic material into a host cell. New physics-based technologies allow scientists to study the dynamics of this cycle and may eventually lead to new treatments. In his role as physical virologist, Wouter Roos, a physicist at the University of Groningen, together with two longtime colleagues, has written a review article on these new technologies, which was published in Nature Reviews Physics on 12 January.

Keeping the costs of superconducting magnets down using ultrasound

Superconductivity already has a variety of practical applications, such as medical imaging and levitating transportation like the ever-popular maglev systems. However, to ensure that the benefits of applied superconductors keep spreading further into other technological fields, we need to find ways of not only improving their performance, but also making them more accessible and simpler to fabricate.

Researchers conduct security analysis and improve quantum random number generation

Recently, the research team led by academician GUO Guangcan from the University of Science and Technology of China of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has made security analysis and improvement of source independent quantum random number generators with imperfect devices.

Astronomy and Space news

Building a giant 2-D map of the universe to prepare for the largest 3-D map

Before DESI, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, can begin its 5-year mission from an Arizona mountaintop to produce the largest 3-D sky map yet, researchers first needed an even bigger 2-D map of the universe.

Students discover bright lensed galaxy in the early universe

The night sky is a natural time machine, used by cosmologists to explore the origins and evolution of the universe. Reaching into the depths of the past, a class of undergraduate students at the University of Chicago sought to do the same—and uncovered an extraordinarily distant galaxy in the early cosmos.

Shining a new light on dark energy

The Dark Energy Survey has released a massive, public collection of astronomical data and calibrated images from six years of work. Containing data on nearly 700 million astronomical objects, this second data release in the Survey's seven-year history is the topic of sessions today and tomorrow at the 237th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Citizen scientists contribute to 3-D map of cosmic neighborhood

Scientists tapped into the worldwide network of volunteers using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 to map dozens of new brown dwarfs, or balls gas not heavy enough to be stars.

Doubling the number of known gravitational lenses

Data from the DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument) Legacy Imaging Surveys have revealed over 1200 new gravitational lenses, approximately doubling the number of known lenses. Discovered using machine learning trained on real data, these warped and stretched images of distant galaxies provide astronomers with a flood of new targets with which to measure fundamental properties of the Universe such as the Hubble constant, which describes the expanding Universe.

Galaxies hit single, doubles, and triple (growing black holes)

When three galaxies collide, what happens to the huge black holes at the centers of each? A new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other telescopes reveals new information about how many black holes are furiously growing after these galactic smash ups.

Blue Origin launches capsule to space with astronaut perks

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company launched a new capsule into space Thursday to test all the astronaut perks before people strap in.

RIP: Mars digger bites the dust after 2 years on red planet

NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.

NASA's Juno mission expands into the future

NASA has authorized a mission extension for its Juno spacecraft exploring Jupiter. The agency's most distant planetary orbiter will now continue its investigation of the solar system's largest planet through September 2025, or until the spacecraft's end of life. This expansion tasks Juno with becoming an explorer of the full Jovian system—Jupiter and its rings and moons—with multiple rendezvous planned for three of Jupiter's most intriguing Galilean moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

Mars 2020 Perseverance rover to capture sounds from the red planet

When the Mars Perseverance rover lands on the red planet on Feb. 18, 2021, it will not only collect stunning images and rock samples; the data it returns may also include some recorded sounds from Mars.

NASA's SDO spots first lunar transit of 2021

On Jan. 13, 2021, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced its first lunar transit of the year when the moon crossed its view of the sun. The transit lasted about 30 minutes, between 12:56 and 1:25 a.m. ET. During this time, the moon happened to cover two of the spacecraft's fine-guidance sensors, causing its view of the sun to jitter slightly. SDO recovered a steady view shortly after the transit.

Final data release from DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys issued

Astronomers using images from Kitt Peak National Observatory and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory have created the largest ever map of the sky, comprising over a billion galaxies. The ninth and final data release from the ambitious DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys sets the stage for a ground-breaking 5-year survey with the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), which aims to provide new insights into the nature of dark energy. The map was released today at the January 2021 meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Asteroids vs. microbes

Inside one of the containers of this 40-cm-across miniature laboratory in orbit, a battle is set to start between asteroid-like fragments and rock-hungry microbes, to probe their use for space mining in the future.

Technology news

Evolvable neural units that can mimic the brain's synaptic plasticity

Machine learning techniques are designed to mathematically emulate the functions and structure of neurons and neural networks in the brain. However, biological neurons are very complex, which makes artificially replicating them particularly challenging.

Concept for a hybrid-electric plane may reduce aviation's air pollution problem

At cruising altitude, airplanes emit a steady stream of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, where the chemicals can linger to produce ozone and fine particulates. Nitrogen oxides, or NOx, are a major source of air pollution and have been associated with asthma, respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disorders. Previous research has shown that the generation of these chemicals due to global aviation results in 16,000 premature deaths each year.

New method makes better predictions of material properties using low quality data

Advancements in energy technologies, healthcare, semiconductors and food production all have one thing in common: they rely on developing new materials—new combinations of atoms—that have specific properties enabling them to perform a needed function. In the not-too-distant past, the only way to know what properties a material had was by performing experimental measurements or using very expensive computations.

Experts reduce search times for novel high-entropy alloys 13,000-fold using Cuckoo Search

A major roadblock to computational design of high-entropy alloys has been removed, according to scientists at Iowa State University and Lehigh University. Engineers from the Ames Lab and Lehigh University's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics have developed a process that reduces search time used for predictive design 13,000-fold.

Deep learning outperforms standard machine learning in biomedical research applications, research shows

Compared to standard machine learning models, deep learning models are largely superior at discerning patterns and discriminative features in brain imaging, despite being more complex in their architecture, according to a new study in Nature Communications led by Georgia State University.

AI algorithm over 70% accurate at guessing a person's political orientation

A team of researchers at Stanford University has developed an AI algorithm that proved to be slightly over 70% accurate at guessing a person's political affiliation after studying a single photograph. In their paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, the group describes building and testing their algorithm and how well it worked.

New algorithm mimics electrosensing in fish

While humans may struggle to navigate a murky, turbid underwater environment, weakly electric fish can do so with ease. These aquatic animals are specially adapted to traverse obscured waters without relying on vision; instead, they sense their environment via electric fields. Now, researchers are attempting to adapt these electrosensing techniques to improve underwater robotics.

Impulse Neuro-Controller executes game moves with thoughts instead of mouse clicks

George Will, a political commentator for nearly half a century at The Washington Post, is known to also enjoy weighing in on sports on occasion, most notably baseball. He is fond of repeating the simple but critical observation that these games are a matter of "seconds and inches."

WhatsApp growth slumps as rivals Signal, Telegram rise

Encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram are seeing huge upticks in downloads from Apple and Google's app stores. Facebook-owned WhatsApp, by contrast, is seeing its growth decline following a fiasco that forced the company to clarify a privacy update it had sent to users.

Tech show offers transport solutions for COVID-changed world

The global pandemic has put the brakes on a number of mobility trends, prompting the transportation industry to rethink strategy.

US regulator asks Tesla to recall 158,000 cars over safety-related defect

US regulators asked Tesla Wednesday to recall 158,000 cars in the United States because of a safety-related defect.

Researchers explore how to share data and keep privacy

A new book from researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) outlines how we can improve the way we share sensitive data and preserve people's privacy.

What does a rock climbing belay device have in common with a subsea cable installation vessel?

,What does a rock climbing belay device have in common with a subsea cable installation vessel?

Solar panels capture more sunlight with capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers spicy

Here's some news hot off the press. Researchers have found a secret ingredient for making solar panels that absorb the sun's energy more efficiently. Depending on what you like to eat, there's a good chance you can find it at home. Capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their spicy sting, also improves perovskite solar cells—the devices that make up solar panels.

Samsung promises new phones will deliver more for less money

Samsung's next crop of smartphones will boast bigger screens, better cameras, and longer-lasting batteries at lower prices than last year's lineup that came out just before the pandemic toppled the economy.

Renault draws on past in aiming for profitable e-future

French automaker Renault on Thursday unveiled an electric revamp of a beloved hatchback from the 70s to spearhead a new revival plan after years of turmoil, hoping to move upmarket as the industry races to make a clean-energy shift.

Toyota to pay $180 mln to settle US emissions violations: govt

Toyota will pay $180 million to settle charges it failed to comply with rules mandating that auto companies report problems with vehicle emissions to authorities, the US Department of Justice said on Thursday.

For first time in 5 years, US gas mileage down, emissions up

A new government report says gas mileage for new vehicles dropped and pollution increased in model year 2019 for the first time in five years.

Google muscles up with Fitbit deal amid antitrust concerns

Google has completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness-gadget maker Fitbit, a deal that could help the internet company grow even stronger while U.S. government regulators pursue an antitrust case aimed at undermining its power.

US agency updating auto safety ratings for new technology

The U.S. government's road safety agency wants to update its ratings system for vehicle safety to include testing of some new advanced driver-assist systems as it tries to keep up with changing technology.

Zapping Covid: Tech sector takes aim at virus with new gadgetry

From virus-zapping drones to smart masks to disease-predicting wearables, the tech sector is showcasing ways to detect and mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.

Twitter CEO defends Trump ban, warns of dangerous precedent

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey banned Trump entirely, then smacked down the president's attempts to tweet using other accounts.

Brexit adds to airline virus woes in Britain

Already grounded by the coronavirus pandemic, airlines operating in the UK are facing post-Brexit obstacles to flying across the European Union, and their shareholders are paying the price.

Hong Kong internet firm blocked website over security law

A Hong Kong internet service provider on Thursday said it had blocked access to a pro-democracy website to comply with the city's national security law.

Norwegian Air to end long-haul flights, focus on Europe

Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle said Thursday it will focus on European destinations and close its long-haul operations as it struggles with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and debt restructuring.

Social media giants mishandled Trump: Wikipedia founder

Twitter and Facebook repeatedly mishandled Donald Trump as he pushed baseless claims, including his assertion that US presidential election he lost was rigged, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told AFP.

Connecticut probing Amazon's e-book deals with publishers

Connecticut authorities are investigating whether Amazon's e-book deals with certain publishers are anticompetitive and violate antitrust laws, state Attorney General William Tong said Thursday.

Snapchat permanently suspends Trump, saying it is "in the interest of public safety" after Capitol riots

A week after indefinitely suspending President Donald Trump's Snapchat account, the social network has confirmed it has permanently banned him.

Delta Air Lines reports huge annual loss but eyes better 2021

Delta Air Lines reported a massive loss Thursday for 2020 following the devastating impact of the coronavirus on air travel, but said it expects to return to profitability later this year.


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