Science X Newsletter Week 08

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for week 08:

Researchers find a single-celled slime mold with no nervous system that remembers food locations

Having a memory of past events enables us to take smarter decisions about the future. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS) and Technical University of Munich (TUM) identify the basis for forming memories in the slime mold Physarum polycephalum—despite its lack of a nervous system.

The Milky Way may be swarming with planets with oceans and continents like here on Earth

Astronomers have long been looking into the vast universe in hopes of discovering alien civilisations. But for a planet to have life, liquid water must be present. The likelihood of that scenario has seemed impossible to calculate because it has been the assumption that planets like Earth got their water by chance when a large ice asteroid hit the planet.

Bird believed extinct for 170 years spotted in Borneo

A team of researchers from Indonesia and Singapore has found evidence of the continued existence of a bird long thought extinct. In their paper published in the journal BirdingASIA, the team describes the history of the bird, why it was thought to be extinct and how it was found in Borneo.

Roman chariot unearthed 'almost intact' near Pompeii

An ornate Roman chariot has been discovered "almost intact" near Italy's buried city of Pompeii, the archaeological park announced on Saturday, calling it a discovery with "no parallel" in the country.

'Like a horror movie': Caterpillar silences tomato's cry for help, scientists find

While there's a famous horror-movie spoof about killer tomatoes, no one seems to have made one about caterpillars—the insect pests that eat the juicy red fruits of summer.

Record-high Arctic freshwater will flow to Labrador Sea, affecting local and global oceans

Freshwater is accumulating in the Arctic Ocean. The Beaufort Sea, which is the largest Arctic Ocean freshwater reservoir, has increased its freshwater content by 40% over the past two decades. How and where this water will flow into the Atlantic Ocean is important for local and global ocean conditions.

Ghost particle from shredded star reveals cosmic particle accelerator

Tracing back a ghostly particle to a shredded star, scientists have uncovered a gigantic cosmic particle accelerator. The subatomic particle, called a neutrino, was hurled towards Earth after the doomed star came too close to the supermassive black hole at the center of its home galaxy and was ripped apart by the black hole's colossal gravity. It is the first particle that can be traced back to such a 'tidal disruption event' (TDE) and provides evidence that these little understood cosmic catastrophes can be powerful natural particle accelerators, as the team led by DESY scientist Robert Stein reports in the journal Nature Astronomy. The observations also demonstrate the power of exploring the cosmos via a combination of different 'messengers' such as photons (the particles of light) and neutrinos, also known as multi-messenger astronomy.

Light unbound: Data limits could vanish with new optical antennas

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found a new way to harness properties of light waves that can radically increase the amount of data they carry. They demonstrated the emission of discrete twisting laser beams from antennas made up of concentric rings roughly equal to the diameter of a human hair, small enough to be placed on computer chips.

A new study reveals that quantum physics can cause mutations in our DNA

Quantum biology is an emerging field of science, established in the 1920s, which looks at whether the subatomic world of quantum mechanics plays a role in living cells. Quantum mechanics is an interdisciplinary field by nature, bringing together nuclear physicists, biochemists and molecular biologists.

Mars rover's giant parachute carried secret message

The huge parachute used by NASA's Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team.

'Missing ice problem' finally solved

During glacial periods, the sea level falls, because vast quantities of water are stored in the massive inland glaciers. To date, however, computer models have been unable to reconcile sea-level height with the thickness of the glaciers. Using innovative new calculations, a team of climate researchers led by the Alfred Wegener Institute has now managed to explain this discrepancy. The study, which was recently published in the journal Nature Communications, could significantly advance research into our planet's climate history.

Colombia's apiarists say avocado buzz is killing bees

For the second time in two years, Gildardo Urrego is scooping up piles of dead bees after an invisible evil invaded his hives in northwest Colombia, wreaking havoc among his swarms.

A 4.4 million-year-old skeleton could reveal how early humans began to walk upright

Evolutionary expert Charles Darwin and others recognized a close evolutionary relationship between humans, chimps and gorillas based on their shared anatomies, raising some big questions: how are humans related to other primates, and exactly how did early humans move around? Research by a Texas A&M University professor may provide some answers.

Atheists and believers both have moral compasses, but with key differences

A new study suggests that, while atheists and theists share moral values related to protecting vulnerable individuals, atheists are less likely to endorse values that promote group cohesion and more inclined to judge the morality of actions based on their consequences. Tomas Ståhl of the University of Illinois at Chicago presents these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on February 24, 2021.

NASA releases first audio from Mars, video of landing (Update)

The US space agency NASA on Monday released the first audio from Mars, a faint crackling recording of a gust of wind captured by the Perseverance rover.

New study suggests supermassive black holes could form from dark matter

A new theoretical study has proposed a novel mechanism for the creation of supermassive black holes from dark matter. The international team find that rather than the conventional formation scenarios involving 'normal' matter, supermassive black holes could instead form directly from dark matter in high density regions in the centers of galaxies. The result has key implications for cosmology in the early Universe, and is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

After 20 years, physicists find a way to keep track of lost accelerator particles

A high-intensity accelerator beam is formed of trillions of particles that race at lightning speeds down a system of powerful magnets and high-energy superconductors. Calculating the physics of the beam is so complex that not even the fastest supercomputers can keep up.

Paleontologists discover new insect group after solving 150-year-old mystery

For more than 150 years, scientists have been incorrectly classifying a group of fossil insects as damselflies, the familiar cousins of dragonflies that flit around wetlands eating mosquitoes. While they are strikingly similar, these fossils have oddly shaped heads, which researchers have always attributed to distortion resulting from the fossilization process.

Asteroid dust found in crater closes case of dinosaur extinction

Researchers believe they have closed the case of what killed the dinosaurs, definitively linking their extinction with an asteroid that slammed into Earth 66 million years ago by finding a key piece of evidence: asteroid dust inside the impact crater.

New 'metalens' shifts focus without tilting or moving

Polished glass has been at the center of imaging systems for centuries. Their precise curvature enables lenses to focus light and produce sharp images, whether the object in view is a single cell, the page of a book, or a far-off galaxy.


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Science X Newsletter Friday, Feb 26

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 26, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Signal transduction without signal-receptor clusters can direct cell movement

Using deep-sea fiber optic cables to detect earthquakes

Sub-diffraction optical writing enables data storage at the nanoscale

Bird believed extinct for 170 years spotted in Borneo

A deep learning technique to solve Rubik's cube and other problems step-by-step

Seafaring nightmare: Aerosol transmission drove SARS-CoV-2's spread aboard a star-crossed cruise ship

Scalable software system conducts integrative single-cell chromatin accessibility analysis

Were it not for humans, woolly mammoths would have lived for 4,000 more years, simulation shows

Radioactivity in meteorites sheds light on origin of heaviest elements in our solar system

Study uncovers flaws in process for maintaining state voter rolls

Study highlights need for improving methane emission database

Nuclear physicists on the hunt for squeezed protons

Landmark study details sequencing of 64 full human genomes to better capture genetic diversity

Scientists use Doppler to peer inside cells

First complete coronavirus model shows cooperation

Physics news

Radioactivity in meteorites sheds light on origin of heaviest elements in our solar system

A team of international researchers went back to the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago to gain new insights into the cosmic origin of the heaviest elements on the period-ic table.

Nuclear physicists on the hunt for squeezed protons

While protons populate the nucleus of every atom in the universe, sometimes they can be squeezed into a smaller size and slip out of the nucleus for a romp on their own. Observing these squeezed protons may offer unique insights into the particles that build our universe.

Light-twisting 'chiral' nanotechnology could accelerate drug screening

A new approach makes liquid-crystal-like beacons out of harmful amyloid proteins present in diseases such as Type II diabetes.

Study reveals cause of 3-D asymmetry in inertial confinement fusion implosions

Inertial confinement fusion (ICF) implosions require very high levels of symmetry in order to reach the high densities and temperatures required for fusion induced self-heating. Even percent-level deviations from perfect spherical symmetry can lead to significant distortions of the implosion and ultimately degrade fusion performance.

How photoblueing disturbs microscopy

The latest developments in fluorescence microscopy make it possible to image individual molecules in cells or molecular complexes with a spatial resolution of up to 20 nanometres. However, under certain circumstances, an effect occurs that falsifies the results: the laser light used can cause very reactive oxygen molecules to form in the sample. These can then damage the fluorescent dyes used to such an extent that they no longer fluoresce. Among microscopy experts, this effect is known as photobleaching.

The hunt for the quantum collapse

The most famous cat in science is Schrödinger's cat, the quantum mechanical mammal, which can exist in a superposition, a state that is alive as well as dead. The moment you look at it, one of both options is chosen. Leiden University physicists simulated an experiment to catch this mysterious moment of choice red handed.

Using neutron scattering to better understand milk composition

Neutron scattering is a technique commonly used in physics and biology to understand the composition of complex multicomponent mixtures and is increasingly being used to study applied materials such as food. A new paper published in EPJ E by Gregory N Smith, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, shows an example of neutron scattering in the area of food science. Smith uses neutron scattering to better investigate casein micelles in milk, with the aim of developing an approach for future research.

Considering disorder and cooperative effects in photon escape rates from atomic gases

Whilst a great deal of research has studied the rates of photons escaping from cold atomic gases, these studies have used a scalar description of light leaving some of its properties untested. In a new paper published in EPJ B Louis Bellando, a post-doctoral researcher at LOMA, University of Bordeaux, France, and his coauthors—Aharon Gero and Eric Akkermans, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel, and Robin Kaiser, Université Côte d'Azur, France—aim to numerically investigative the roles of cooperative effects and disorder in photon escape rates from a cold atomic gas to construct a model that considers the vectorial nature of light. Thus, the study accounts for properties of light, previously neglected.

Astronomy and Space news

The GRANTECAN discovers the largest cluster of galaxies known in the early universe

A study, led by researchers at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and carried out with OSIRIS, an instrument on the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), has found the most densely populated galaxy cluster in formation in the primitive universe. The researchers predict that this structure, which is at a distance of 12.5 billion light years from us, will have evolved becoming a cluster similar to that of Virgo, a neighbor of the Local Group of galaxies to which the Milky Way belongs. The study is published in the specialized journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).

Imaging space debris in high resolution

Litter is not only a problem on Earth. According to NASA, there are currently millions of pieces of space junk in the range of altitudes from 200 to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth's surface, which is known as low Earth orbit (LEO). Most of the junk is comprised of objects created by humans, like pieces of old spacecraft or defunct satellites. This space debris can reach speeds of up to 18,000 miles per hour, posing a major danger to the 2,612 satellites that currently operate at LEO. Without effective tools for tracking space debris, parts of LEO may even become too hazardous for satellites.

What geologists see when they look at Perseverance's landing site

Geologists love fieldwork. They love getting their specialized hammers and chisels into seams in the rock, exposing unweathered surfaces and teasing out the rock's secrets. Mars would be the ultimate field trip for many of them, but sadly, that's not possible.

Artemis: How ever-changing U.S. space policy may push back the next moon landing

Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan blasted off from the Taurus-Littrow valley on the moon in their lunar module Challenger on December 14 1972. Five days later, they splashed down safely in the Pacific, closing the Apollo 17 mission and becoming the last humans to visit the lunar surface or venture anywhere beyond low-Earth orbit.

Technology news

A deep learning technique to solve Rubik's cube and other problems step-by-step

Colin G. Johnson, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham, recently developed a deep-learning technique that can learn a so-called "fitness function" from a set of sample solutions to a problem. This technique, presented in a paper published in Wiley's Expert Systems journal, was initially trained to solve the Rubik's cube, the popular 3-D combination puzzle invented by Hungarian sculptor Ernő Rubik.

A fluid-magnetic solution for sorting plastic waste

With the ever-increasing worldwide mass production of plastic, the inefficiency of current plastic recycling strategies has raised several environmental, societal, and economic concerns. Magnetic density separation (MDS) is an efficient state-of-the-art recycling technique that uses magnetized fluids to separate different types of plastic particles. Researcher Sina Tajfirooz has developed and validated a model to predict the collective motion of particles in MDS systems. Simulation results shed new light on the separation process in MDS systems and provide data that can help optimize the performance of future MDS systems. Tajfirooz defended his thesis on February 22nd at the department of Mechanical Engineering.

Researchers develop roadside barrier design to mitigate air pollution

Imperial researchers have designed a unique curved barrier which can protect people from the damaging effects of air pollution.

Can a robot operate effectively underwater?

If you've ever watched Planet Earth, you know the ocean is a wild place to live. The water is teeming with different ecosystems and organisms varying in complexity from an erudite octopus to a sea star. Unexpectedly, it is the sea star, a simple organism characterized by a decentralized nervous system, that offers insights into advanced adaptation to hydrodynamic forces—the forces created by water pressure and flow.

From microsaws to nanodrills: Laser pulses act as subtle machining tools

If light is strongly concentrated in time and space, resulting in extreme photon densities, it can enable interaction with all conceivable materials. By using these ultrashort laser foci, even transparent materials can be modified, even though they ordinarily would not interact. Short, focused laser pulses can overcome this transparency and allow energy to be deposited completely contact-free. The exact response of the material to the radiation can be very diverse, ranging from marginal refractive index changes to destructive microscale explosions that evacuate entire areas.

New sustainable building simulation method points to the future of design

A team from Cornell University's Environmental Systems Lab, led by recent graduate Allison Bernett, has put forth a new framework for injecting as much information as possible into the pre-design and early design phases of a project, potentially saving architects and design teams time and money down the road.

Facebook signs pay deals with 3 Australian news publishers

Facebook announced on Friday preliminary agreements with three Australian publishers, a day after the Parliament passed a law that would make the digital giants pay for news.

Hi, Robot: Japan's android pets ease virus isolation

Nami Hamaura says she feels less lonely working from home thanks to her singing companion Charlie, one of a new generation of cute and clever Japanese robots whose sales are booming in the pandemic.

NASA to begin high-voltage ground testing on all-electric X-57

NASA is set to start high-voltage functional ground testing of the agency's first all-electric X-plane, the X-57 Maxwell, which will perform flights to help develop certification standards for emerging electric aircraft. NASA is also supporting these new electric aircraft by developing quiet, efficient, reliable technology these vehicles will need in routine use.

Airbnb customers choose accommodation based on a non-monetary price and past experience

Inés Küster and Juan J. Pascual, researchers in the Department of Marketing and Market Research at the University of Valencia, point out that non-monetary price and experience are the variables that most influence the purchasing decision Airbnb users. In addition, in an article published in the journal Management Letters / Cuadernos de Gestión, they recommend that hosts focus on generating enjoyable experiences rather than maximizing the value of their offering.

A call for electric car charging points at home

One of the many changes needed for Switzerland to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions is to make its road mobility electric, with sales on new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to cease by 2030 or soon after. As numerous research studies have shown, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are the only practical alternative to ICEs within this timeframe, and the alternative with the lowest environmental impact. So what would it take to make 100 percent of new car buyers opt for a BEV?

How can the dead send us emails? The ethical dilemma of digital souls

Tim Hart was sitting on his couch one evening in November 2011 when he got an email with the subject line: "I'm watching." The message that followed was short and to the point …

Facebook launches PR campaign to defend targeted ads in spat with Apple

Facebook is not backing down in its fight with Apple over a new privacy feature that could curb tracking needed for the social network's targeted ads, launching a major media campaign to defend a practice that is a big revenue generator.

Explainable AI: A must for nuclear nonproliferation, national security

We've all met people so smart and informed that we don't understand what they're talking about. The investment advisor discussing derivatives, the physician elaborating about B cells and T cells, the auto mechanic talking about today's computerized engines—we trust their decisions, even though we do not completely grasp the meaning of their words.

Researchers develop all-round grippers for contact-free society

The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM) successfully developed all-round gripper technology, enabling robots to hold objects of various shapes and stiffnesses. With the new technology, a single gripper can be used to handle different objects such as screwdrivers, bulbs, and coffee pots, and even food with delicate surfaces such as tofu, strawberries, and raw chicken. It is expected to expand applications in contact-free services such as household chores, cooking, serving, packaging, and manufacturing.

Imec demonstrates 18nm pitch line/space patterning with a high-chi directed self-assembly process

This week, at the 2021 SPIE Advanced Lithography Conference, imec demonstrates for the first time the capability of directed self-assembly (DSA) to pattern line/spaces with a pitch as small as 18 nm, using a high-chi block copolymer (high-χ BCP) based process under high volume manufacturing (HVM) conditions. An optimized dry-etch chemistry was used to successfully transfer the pattern into an underlying thick SiN layer—which will enable further defectivity inspection. These results confirm the potential of DSA to complement traditional top-down patterning for the industrial fabrication of sub-2 nm technology nodes.

Airbnb and DoorDash log losses as they ride out pandemic

Airbnb and DoorDash on Thursday reported their first financial results as publicly traded companies, each of the tech industry darlings logging losses as they ride out the pandemic.

VW expects 'significant' revenue increase in 2021

German auto giant Volkswagen on Friday said it expected to see a significant sales increase this year as the industry bounces back from the coronavirus shock.

G20 advances on digital tax after US drops key obstacle

The G20 looked closer to an agreement Friday on a global digital tax after a change of heart from the United States removed a key stumbling block in the discussions.

TikTok agrees $92 mn deal to settle US privacy lawsuits

TikTok has agreed to pay $92 million in a deal to settle a cluster of US class-action lawsuits accusing the video-snippet sharing platform of invading the privacy of young users.


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