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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