Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jan 13

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 13, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Concept whitening: A strategy to improve the interpretability of image recognition models

Bound-charge engineering: A new strategy to develop nanowire transistors

The compound that makes chili peppers spicy also boosts perovskite solar cell performance

The dire wolf was a distinct species, different from the gray wolf, biologists discover

Engineers observe avalanches in nanoparticles for the first time

Melting icebergs key to sequence of an ice age, scientists find

Earth to reach temperature tipping point in next 20 to 30 years, new study finds

Fish-inspired robots coordinate movements without any outside control

Study investigates emission from a distant red quasar

Storm in a cosmic teacup: A new paradigm for understanding plasma turbulence

Mistaken identity: A presumed supernova is actually something much rarer

Could we harness energy from black holes?

Astronomers find signature of magnetar outbursts in nearby galaxies

Studying chaos with one of the world's fastest cameras

Grey camouflage 'better than zebra stripes'

Physics news

Storm in a cosmic teacup: A new paradigm for understanding plasma turbulence

On the path to writing his Ph.D. dissertation, Lucio Milanese made a discovery—one that refocused his research, and will now likely dominate his thesis.

Could we harness energy from black holes?

A remarkable prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity—the theory that connects space, time, and gravity—is that rotating black holes have enormous amounts of energy available to be tapped.

Studying chaos with one of the world's fastest cameras

There are things in life that can be predicted reasonably well. The tides rise and fall. The moon waxes and wanes. A billiard ball bounces around a table according to orderly geometry.

Using neural networks for faster X-ray imaging

A team of scientists from Argonne is using artificial intelligence to decode X-ray images faster, which could aid innovations in medicine, materials and energy.

Error-protected quantum bits entangled for the first time

For the first time, physicists from the University of Innsbruck have entangled two quantum bits distributed over several quantum objects and successfully transmitted their quantum properties. This marks an important milestone in the development of fault-tolerant quantum computers. The researchers published their report in Nature.

Mathematics explains how giant whirlpools form in developing egg cells

Egg cells are among the largest cells in the animal kingdom. If moved only by the random jostlings of water molecules, a protein could take hours or even days to drift from one side of a forming egg cell to the other. Luckily, nature has developed a faster way: cell-spanning whirlpools in the immature egg cells of animals such as mice, zebrafish and fruit flies. These vortices enable cross-cell commutes that take just a fraction of the time. But until now, scientists didn't know how these crucial flows formed.

Limits of atomic nuclei predicted: Scientists simulate large region of the chart of nuclides

Novel calculations have enabled the study of nearly 700 isotopes between helium and iron, showing which nuclei can exist and which cannot. In an article published in Physical Review Letters, scientists from TU Darmstadt, the University of Washington, the Canadian laboratory TRIUMF, and the University of Mainz report how they simulated for the first time using innovative theoretical methods a large region of the chart of nuclides based on the theory of the strong interaction.

Pivotal discovery in quantum and classical information processing

Working with theorists in the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, researchers in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have achieved a scientific control that is a first of its kind. They demonstrated a novel approach that allows real-time control of the interactions between microwave photons and magnons, potentially leading to advances in electronic devices and quantum signal processing.

APS upgrade takes first practice run building modules for the new storage ring

If you ever built a complex model out of LEGOs, you know the value of assembling parts of that model in pieces before attaching them to the whole. That same strategy is being used to upgrade the electron storage ring at the heart of the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility at Argonne National Laboratory.

Astronomy and Space news

Study investigates emission from a distant red quasar

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, an international team of astronomers has performed observations of HSC J120505.09−000027.9—the most distant red quasar so far detected and found that it showcases an extended emission of ionized carbon. The finding is reported in a paper published January 4 on arXiv.org.

Mistaken identity: A presumed supernova is actually something much rarer

In a case of comic mistaken identity, an international team of astronomers revealed that what they once thought was a supernova is actually periodic flaring from a galaxy where a supermassive black hole gives off bursts of energy every 114 days as it tears off chunks of an orbiting star.

Astronomers find signature of magnetar outbursts in nearby galaxies

Apart from black holes, magnetars may be the most extreme stars in the universe. With a diameter less than the length of Manhattan, they pack more mass than that of our sun, wield the largest magnetic field of any known object—more than 10 trillion times stronger than a refrigerator magnet—and spin on their axes every few seconds.

Rare star's giant gamma-ray burst GRB 200415A captured close to our home galaxy

Earth gets blasted by mild short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) most days. But sometimes, a giant flare like GRB 200415A arrives at our galaxy, sweeping along energy that dwarfs our sun. In fact, the most powerful explosions in the universe are gamma-ray bursts.

A robot made of ice could adapt and repair itself on other worlds

Some of the most tantalizing targets in space exploration are frozen ice worlds. Take Jupiter's moon Europa, for instance. Its warm, salty subsurface ocean is buried under a moon-wide sheet of ice. What's the best way to explore it?

Wormholes may be lurking in the universe—and new studies are proposing ways of finding them

Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity profoundly changed our thinking about fundamental concepts in physics, such as space and time. But it also left us with some deep mysteries. One was black holes, which were only unequivocally detected over the past few years. Another was "wormholes"—bridges connecting different points in spacetime, in theory providing shortcuts for space travelers.

Image: Underwater astronaut training

Prepping for a spacewalk typically means diving underwater to rehearse and fine-tune operations.

Technology news

Concept whitening: A strategy to improve the interpretability of image recognition models

Over the past decade or so, deep neural networks have achieved very promising results on a variety of tasks, including image recognition tasks. Despite their advantages, these networks are very complex and sophisticated, which makes interpreting what they learned and determining the processes behind their predictions difficult or sometimes impossible. This lack of interpretability makes deep neural networks somewhat untrustworthy and unreliable.

The compound that makes chili peppers spicy also boosts perovskite solar cell performance

Scientists in China and Sweden have determined that a pinch of capsaicin, the chemical compound that gives chili peppers their spicy sting, may be a secret ingredient for more stable and efficient perovskite solar cells. The research, published January 13 in the journal Joule, determined that sprinkling capsaicin into the precursor of methylammonium lead triiodide (MAPbI3) perovskite during the manufacturing process led to a greater abundance of electrons (instead of empty placeholders) to conduct current at the semiconductor's surface. The addition resulted in polycrystalline MAPbI3 solar cells with the most efficient charge transport to date.

Fish-inspired robots coordinate movements without any outside control

Schools of fish exhibit complex, synchronized behaviors that help them find food, migrate and evade predators. No one fish or team of fish coordinates these movements nor do fish communicate with each other about what to do next. Rather, these collective behaviors emerge from so-called implicit coordination—individual fish making decisions based on what they see their neighbors doing.

Taking the lab into the ocean: A fleet of robots tracks and monitors microbial communities

Researchers from MBARI, the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (UH Mānoa), and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, after years of development and testing, have successfully demonstrated that a fleet of autonomous robots can track and study a moving microbial community in an open-ocean eddy. The results of this research effort were recently published in Science Robotics.

Wielding a laser beam deep inside the body

Minimally invasive surgeries in which surgeons gain access to internal tissues through natural orifices or small external excisions are common practice in medicine. They are performed for problems as diverse as delivering stents through catheters, treating abdominal complications, and performing transnasal operations at the skull base in patients with neurological conditions.

Flexible thermoelectric devices enable energy harvesting from human skin

A thermoelectric device is an energy conversion device that uses the voltage generated by the temperature difference between both ends of a material; it is capable of converting heat energy, such as waste heat from industrial sites, into electricity that can be used in daily life. Existing thermoelectric devices are rigid because they are composed of hard metal-based electrodes and semiconductors, hindering the full absorption of heat sources from uneven surfaces. Therefore, researchers have conducted recent studies on the development of flexible thermoelectric devices capable of generating energy in close contact with heat sources such as human skins and hot water pipes.

What if opting out of data collection were easy?

While many websites offer users choices to opt out of some of their data collection and use practices, most of these choices are buried deep in the text of long, jargon-filled privacy policies and are never seen by users.

Researchers create a highly sensitive biohybrid olfactory sensor

A keen sense of smell is a powerful ability shared by many organisms. However, it has proven difficult to replicate by artificial means. Researchers combined biological and engineered elements to create what is known as a biohybrid component. Their volatile organic compound sensor can effectively detect odors in gaseous form. They hope to refine the concept for use in medical diagnosis and the detection of hazardous materials.

Samsung robot feeds you and helps with the laundry

AI is making stunning inroads in the fields of medicine and science. It is helping to cure disease, combat global warming, grow crops and provide cleaner, cheaper energy.

WhatsApp stresses privacy as users flock to rivals

WhatsApp on Tuesday reassured users about privacy at the Facebook-owned messaging service as people flocked to rivals Telegram and Signal following a tweak to its terms.

Uber and Lyft drivers challenge California 'gig worker' ballot

Drivers for ride-share and meal delivery apps filed a lawsuit Tuesday to nullify a referendum passed by California voters that lets such "gig workers" be treated as contractors.

Tech giants hope for US data privacy law

Google, Twitter and Amazon are hopeful that Joe Biden's incoming administration in the United States will enact a federal digital data law, senior company officials said at CES, the annual electronics and technology show.

TikTok tightens privacy features for younger users

A month after federal regulators ordered it to disclose how its practices affect children and teenagers, TikTok is tightening its privacy practices for the under-18 crowd.

Razer unveils smart mask, video game throne that can totally immerse you in 'Fortnite'

Video games often deliver futuristic outlooks with adventures such as "Halo" and "The Last of Us." But game hardware company Razer has an imaginative vision of how you might play games in the near future: the Project Brooklyn concept gaming chair.

Are robot-made 'printed' buildings a solution to Bay Area housing crisis?

In a cavernous warehouse near the Oakland Coliseum, a 3-D printer extrudes a secret blend of minerals and plastic polymer that's hardened into a heavy stone-like form under ultraviolet light.

Adobe Flash is dead—it's time to remove it from your computer

I had a few emails from readers asking about the end of Adobe Flash and what they should do about it.

How the U.S. power system could evolve with widespread electrification

The fifth report in NREL's Electrification Futures Study (EFS) series is now available, presenting analysis on the potential impacts of widespread electrification on the U.S. electricity system—specifically generation and transmission infrastructure investments, fuel use, system costs, and emissions.

Indonesia's aviation safety has improved, but a lot remains to be done

The Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 disaster serves as a warning for aviation safety regulators, not only in Indonesia but worldwide.

Seawater as an electrical cable? Wireless power transfers in the ocean

Associate professor Masaya Tamura, Kousuke Murai (who has completed the first term of his master's program), and their research team from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Information Engineering at Toyohashi University of Technology have successfully transferred power and data wirelessly through seawater by using a power transmitter/receiver with four layers of ultra-thin, flat electrodes. In the field of wireless power transfers, seawater behaves as a dielectric with extremely high loss, and achievement through capacitive coupling is difficult. Up until now, it had been thought that wireless power transfers could only be achieved through magnetic coupling. This time, with a focus on the high-frequency properties of seawater, a third method for conductive coupling was devised, and a power transmitter/receiver was developed to achieve highly-efficient power transfers.

Transforming oil wells into batteries for the sun and wind

What happens when oil and gas wells run dry? The answer: little good.

Intel replaces its chief executive after a rocky stretch

Intel is replacing its CEO after only two years in what had been a rough stretch for the chipmaker.

EU court opinion leaves Facebook more exposed over privacy

Any EU country can take legal action against companies like Facebook over cross-border violations of data privacy rules, not just the main regulator in charge of the company, a top court adviser said Wednesday.

Digital euro could happen 'within five years': Lagarde

A digital euro should be a reality within five years, European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde said Wednesday.

Artificial intelligence can deepen social inequality. Here are 5 ways to prevent this

From Google searches and dating sites to detecting credit card fraud, artificial intelligence (AI) keeps finding new ways to creep into our lives. But can we trust the algorithms that drive it?

How explainable artificial intelligence can help humans innovate

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has created computers that can drive cars, synthesize chemical compounds, fold proteins and detect high-energy particles at a superhuman level.

How to keep drones flying when a motor fails

Robotics researchers at the University of Zurich show how onboard cameras can be used to keep damaged quadcopters in the air and flying stably—even without GPS.

How will we achieve carbon-neutral flight in future?

Carbon-neutral aviation is possible, but in future, aircraft are likely to continue to be powered by fossil fuels. The CO2 they emit must be systematically stored underground. This is the most economical of various approaches that ETH researchers have compared in detail.

NTSB says vehicle battery fires pose risks to 1st responders

Electric vehicle fires pose safety risks to first responders and guidelines from manufacturers about how to deal with them have been inadequate, according to U.S. investigators.

Microsoft ousts rivals from CES marquee as show moves online

This week, Microsoft had a big test on its hands—how to help transform the world's biggest gadget show into an online-only event.

5 CES Trends to Watch

CES, the annual gadget show that showcases the buzziest and brightest tech, looks different this year—less Vegas glitz, more internet efficiency. With no physical conference in Las Vegas due to the pandemic, 1,800 companies are instead taking to streaming video to show off new products and technology to 150,000 attendees across the globe.

YouTube suspends Trump's channel for at least a week

YouTube has suspended U.S. President Donald Trump's channel for at least a week amid concerns over "ongoing potential for violence," making it the latest platform to limit the president's online activities.

Tech review: Designed by Porsche, the Acer Book RS has looks and speed

In the crowded laptop market, standing out can be a good thing.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles gets into air taxi business with Silicon Valley's Archer

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, known for its love of heavy-duty horsepower in its Hemis and Hellcats, is partnering with a Silicon Valley air taxi start-up with plans to produce electric aircraft in 2023.

Gadgets: Smart water bottle

Monos' new powered Kiyo UVC Water Bottle ensures people on the go have clean, purified drinking water. According to Monos, the UVC kills up to 99.9 percent of bacteria and other pathogens lurking inside the water. They also hope each Kiyo bottle can eliminate more than 100 plastic bottles per year for each user.

Sales of electric vehicles surge in China

Sales of electric vehicles in China rose 10 percent last year, data showed Wednesday, amid a post-pandemic economic recovery and a push to establish the world's largest auto market as a leader for green technology.

Apple announces education funding under racial justice plan

Apple on Wednesday announced it was funding technology education efforts as part of its racial justice initiative launched last year during the civil unrest sparked by police killings of African Americans.

EU clears LSE's $27bn takeover of Refinitiv with conditions

EU regulators on Wednesday authorised the London Stock Exchange's $27-billion (22-billion-euro) takeover of US financial data provider Refinitiv with certain conditions.

Airbnb, Google move to curb organized inauguration violence

Airbnb and Google on Wednesday unveiled steps aimed at heading off attacks on US democracy as inauguration day neared for President-elect Joe Biden.

Air Canada cuts 1,900 jobs due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

Air Canada said Wednesday it was cutting 1,900 staff because bookings plunged after the government imposed new stricter travel restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 illnesses.

DOJ should investigate social media platform Gab and its CEO over Capitol riots, according to anti-hate group

A national anti-hate group is calling for the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate a conservative social media company and its CEO over allegations that they may have "intentionally aided, conspired with or directed" rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.


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