Science X Newsletter Friday, Feb 19

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 19, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers observe stationary Hawking radiation in an analog black hole

Retooling small molecule kinase inhibitors for SARS-CoV-2

Scalable representation of time in the hippocampus

Quartz crystals in the stomach of fossil bird complicates the mystery of its diet

How to calculate the social cost of carbon? Researchers offer roadmap in new analysis

Spina bifida can be caused by uninherited genetic mutations

Making sense of the mass data generated from firing neurons

COVID-19: Future targets for treatments rapidly identified with new computer simulations

Pfizer/BioNTech first dose 85% effective after 2-4 weeks: study

CSI Solid-State: The fingerprints of quantum effects

Good cop, bad cop: What can zebrafish tell us about immune-cancer relations?

Potassium nucleus loses some of its magic

Origin of life: Did Darwinian evolution begin before life itself?

The future of electronics is stretchy

Arctic and tropical Pacific synergistic effects cause extremely cold winter in China

Physics news

Researchers observe stationary Hawking radiation in an analog black hole

Black holes are regions in space where gravity is very strong—so strong that nothing that enters them can escape, including light. Theoretical predictions suggest that there is a radius surrounding black holes known as the event horizon. Once something passes the event horizon, it can no longer escape a black hole, as gravity becomes stronger as it approaches its center.

CSI Solid-State: The fingerprints of quantum effects

In solid-state physics, the precise interactions of electrons are analyzed through meticulous detective work, ultimately to gain a better understanding of fundamental physical phenomena.

Potassium nucleus loses some of its magic

A new study at ISOLDE finds no signature of a "magic" number of neutrons in potassium-51, challenging the proposed magic nature of nuclei with 32 neutrons.

Seeing stable topology using instabilities

We are most familiar with the four conventional phases of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Changes between two phases, known as phase transitions, are marked by abrupt changes in material properties such as density. In recent decades a wide body of physics research has been devoted to discovering new unconventional phases of matter, which typically emerge at ultra-low temperatures or in specially-structured materials. Exotic "topological" phases exhibit properties that can only change in a quantized (stepwise) manner, making them intrinsically robust against impurities and defects.

Forget the Large Hadron Collider: Our team has designed a particle accelerator the size of a large room

In 2010, when scientists were preparing to smash the first particles together within the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), sections of the media fantasized that the EU-wide experiment might create a black hole that could swallow and destroy our planet. How on Earth, columnists fumed, could scientists justify such a dangerous indulgence in the pursuit of abstract, theoretical knowledge?

Extending maser techniques to Floquet systems

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in China and one in Germany has investigated the possibility of extending maser techniques to Floquet systems. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their approach to creating a new type of maser by amplifying radio frequencies in Floquet systems. Ren-Bao Liu, with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has published a Perspectives piece in the same journal issue outlining prior work with extending the capabilities of masers and the work done by the team on this latest effort.

Physicists discover new route to active matter self-organisation

An international team led by Professor Yilin Wu, Associate Professor of the Department of Physics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has made a novel conceptual advance in the field of active matter science. The team discovered a new route in which the self-organization of active fluids in space and time can be controlled by a single material property called viscoelasticity. This new finding may pave the way for fabricating a new class of self-driven devices and materials, such as the ability to control the rhythmic movement of soft robots without relying on electronic circuits, and for the study of microbial physiology. It has been published in the scientific journal Nature.

A speed limit also applies in the quantum world

Even in the world of the smallest particles with their own special rules, things cannot proceed infinitely fast. Physicists at the University of Bonn have now shown what the speed limit is for complex quantum operations. The study also involved scientists from MIT, the universities of Hamburg, Cologne and Padua, and the Jülich Research Center. The results are important for the realization of quantum computers, among other things. They are published in the prestigious journal Physical Review X, and covered by the Physics Magazine of the American Physical Society.

A powerful, pocket-sized optical imager, no longer science fiction

Before Wilhelm Röntgen, a mechanical engineer, discovered a new type of electromagnetic radiation in 1895, physicians could only dream of being able to see inside the body. Within a year of Röntgen's discovery, X-rays were being used to identify tumors. Within 10 years, hospitals were using X-rays to help diagnose and treat patients.

Spin Hall effect of light achieved with near 100% efficiency

A POSTECH-KAIST joint research team has successfully developed a technique to reach near-unity efficiency of SHEL by using an artificially-designed metasurface.

Astronomy and Space news

Mars rovers safe from lightning strikes, research finds

If experiments done in small bottles in a University of Oregon lab are accurate, the friction of colliding Martian dust particles are unlikely to generate big electrical storms or threaten the newly arrived exploration vehicles or, eventually, human visitors.

Astronomers publish map showing 25,000 supermassive black holes

An international team of astronomers has published a map of the sky showing over 25,000 supermassive black holes. The map, to be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, is the most detailed celestial map in the field of so-called low radio frequencies. The astronomers, including Leiden astronomers, used 52 stations with LOFAR antennas spread across nine European countries.

Sounding rocket CLASP2 elucidates solar magnetic field

Cooperative operations between a solar observation satellite and a sounding-rocket telescope have measured the magnetic field strength in the photosphere and chromosphere above an active solar plage region. This is the first time that the magnetic field in the chromosphere has been charted all the way up its top. This finding brings us closer to understanding how energy is transferred between layers of the Sun.

Cold dust cores in the central zone of the Milky Way

The Milky Way's central molecular zone (CMZ) spans the innermost 1600 light-years of the galaxy (for comparison, the Sun is 26,600 light-years away from the galactic center) and includes a vast complex of molecular clouds containing about sixty million solar-masses of molecular gas. The gas in these clouds exists under more extreme physical conditions than elsewhere in the galaxy on average, with higher densities and temperatures, more intense pressures, magnetic fields, and turbulence, and higher cosmic-ray abundances and ultraviolet and X-ray radiation. The CMZ is therefore a unique laboratory for studying star formation: not only are these conditions rarely observed in the rest of the Milky Way, they appear to be similar to the conditions in extremely luminous star forming galaxies in the early universe and offer an indirect glimpse into understanding the cosmic history of star formation not otherwise currently possible. However there is a puzzle: the star formation rate in the CMZ is much less than would be expected, barely one-tenth of a solar-mass per year.

Insight-HXMT gives insight into origin of fast radio bursts

The latest observations from Insight-HXMT were published online in Nature Astronomy on Feb. 18. Insight-HXMT has discovered the very first X-ray burst associated with a fast radio burst (FRB) and has identified that it originated from soft-gamma repeater (SGR) J1935+2154, which is a magnetar in our Milky Way.

Mars landing team 'awestruck' by photo of descending rover

The world got its first close-up look at a Mars landing on Friday, as NASA released a stunning picture of its newest rover being lowered onto the dusty red surface.

Touchdown: NASA's Perseverance rover ready to search for life on Mars

After seven months in space, NASA's Perseverance rover overcame a tense landing phase with a series of perfectly executed maneuvers to gently float down to the Martian soil Thursday and embark on its mission to search for signs of past life.

'Perseverance will get you anywhere': After 300-million-mile journey, NASA's Mars rover shares Twitter updates

"I'm safe on Mars" isn't a tweet you see every day.

Researchers developing drugs to enable longer space missions

The University of Adelaide is sending pills to the International Space Station (ISS) to determine if it will be possible to produce medicine in space to enable longer-term space missions.

We could find extraterrestrial civilizations by their air pollution

Upcoming telescopes will give us more power to search for biosignatures on all the exoplanets we've found. Much of the biosignature conversation is centered on biogenic chemistry, such as atmospheric gases produced by simple, single-celled creatures. But what if we want to search for technological civilizations that might be out there? Could we find them by searching for their air pollution?

Has Earth been visited by an alien spaceship? Harvard Professor Avi Loeb vs. everybody else

A highly unusual object was spotted traveling through the solar system in 2017. Given a Hawaiian name,ʻOumuamua, it was small and elongated—a few hundred meters by a few tens of meters, traveling at a speed fast enough to escape the Sun's gravity and move into interstellar space.

Space Force sounds like a joke thanks to pop culture—that could be a problem for an important military branch

The U.S. Space Force has a serious role to play in the modern world. Its stated mission is to train and equip personnel to defend U.S. interests in space. Given the increasing military and economic importance of space, the USSF is likely to grow in importance.

Technology news

Artificial intelligence predicts nonlinear ultrafast dynamics in optics

Researchers at Tampere University have successfully used artificial intelligence to predict nonlinear dynamics that take place when ultrashort light pulses interact with matter. This novel solution can be used for efficient and fast numerical modeling, for example, in imaging, manufacturing and surgery. The findings were published in the prestigious Nature Machine Intelligence journal.

Researchers design more secure mobile contact tracing

For public health officials, contact tracing remains critical to managing the spread of the coronavirus—particularly as it appears that variants of the virus could be more transmissible.

Australian leader urges Facebook to lift its news blockade

Australia's prime minister on Friday urged Facebook to lift its ban on news access for Australian users and return to the negotiating table with media organizations, warning that other countries would follow his government's example in making digital giants pay for journalism.

Kia and Hyundai recovering from days-long network outages

Kia Motors America says it's restoring services crippled by a computer network outage that began Saturday and which apparently affected dealers' ability to order vehicles and parts and knocked offline a smartphone app that owners use to remotely start and warm up vehicles.

Massive breach fuels calls for US action on cybersecurity

Jolted by a sweeping hack that may have revealed government and corporate secrets to Russia, U.S. officials are scrambling to reinforce the nation's cyber defenses and recognizing that an agency created two years ago to protect America's networks and infrastructure lacks the money, tools and authority to counter such sophisticated threats.

Facebook inflated its advertising audiences: lawsuit

Facebook inflated estimates about how many people would see targeted ads, but ignored the problem in order to generate more revenue, according to civil suit documents unveiled Thursday.

Chatty robot Franzi cheers up German patients

Cleaning robot Franzi makes sure floors are spotless at the Munich hospital where she works, and has taken on a new role during the pandemic: cheering up patients and staff.

Bitcoin goldrush sparks fears of speculative bubble

Bitcoin has enjoyed a record-breaking week after electric carmaker Tesla and Wall Street finance giants sparked a goldrush for the world's most popular virtual currency, but bubble fears persist.

UK top court shakes up gig economy with ruling against Uber

Britain's top court on Friday ruled that drivers at US ride-hailing giant Uber are entitled to workers' rights, in a judgement with huge implications for the "gig economy".

Honda taps tech expert as chief to steer in ecological times

Toshihiro Mibe, a research expert tapped to be president of Japanese automaker Honda on Friday, promised to steer the company toward new growth by focusing on ecological models and safety technology.

French village says 'non' to Elon Musk's space-age internet

To realise his dream of satellite-powered internet, tech billionaire Elon Musk needs to install antennas around the world. In northern France, a village hopes he'll decide to keep those antennas far away.

Scientists use smartphone gyroscopes to sync time across devices

Skoltech researchers have designed a software-based algorithm for synchronizing time across smartphones that can be used in practical tasks requiring simultaneous measurements. This algorithm can essentially help turn several devices into a full-fledged network of sensors. The paper was published in the journal Sensors.

Researchers highlight the need to address remote control of self-driving cars by human operators

A new article published by Royal Holloway and TRL highlights that the self-driving vehicles of the future will require occasional remote human intervention in the event that the vehicle's technology fails. Current industry figures estimate that an automated vehicle may need remote human assistance approximately every 13,000 miles.

Water leaks indicate new damage at Fukushima nuclear plant

Cooling water levels have fallen in two reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant since a powerful earthquake hit the area last weekend, indicating possible additional damage, its operator said Friday.

Securing the clouds

Cloud computing has revolutionized the way files are stored and shared, and processing carried out from the corporate down to the individual private user level. Security remains a contentious issue. As such, there is an ongoing need to ensure data is protected optimally. Research published in the International Journal of Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, discusses an efficient and optimized approach for the secure sharing of files in the cloud.

Amination strategy improves efficiency of carbon dioxide electrocatalytic reduction

Carbon dioxide (CO2) electrocatalytic reduction driven by renewable electricity can solve the problem of excessive CO2 emissions. Since CO2 is thermodynamically stable, efficient catalysts are needed to reduce the energy consumption in the process.

Location tracking apps and privacy implications

How much personal information can our phone apps gather through location tracking? To answer this question, two researchers—Mirco Musolesi (University of Bologna, Italy) and Benjamin Baron (University College London, UK)—carried out a field study using an app specifically developed for this research. Through the app employed in the study—published in Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies— researchers were able to identify which kind of personal information the app extracted and its privacy sensitivity according to users.

Bitcoin market hits $1.0 trillion in value

The total value of all bitcoin topped $1.0 trillion on Friday, capping a spectacular record-breaking week for the world's most popular cryptocurrency.

Facebook blocks medical data shared by apps

Facebook has started blocking sensitive health information that third-party apps had been sharing with the social network in violation of its own rules, said New York officials who investigated the situation.

Australia and Facebook in talks over sweeping news ban

Australia and Facebook held high-stakes talks Friday after the social media giant sparked global outrage by blacking out news for its Australian users, as Canberra insisted it wouldn't back down on a new law that would force the tech firm to pay for journalistic content.

Winter weather closes Texas chip plants, worsening shortages

The winter storm ravaging the United States has forced the shutdown of computer chip manufacturing in Texas, threatening to worsen a global semiconductor shortage.

Renault says pandemic pushed it into record loss in 2020

French automaker Renault said Friday it booked a record loss in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic hit its performance and looked set to weigh on the outlook this year as well.

Congress to question US internet giants over disinformation

The chiefs of Facebook, Google and Twitter are slated to testify on March 25 at a US congressional hearing on misinformation plaguing online platforms.

Brussels okays EU-UK personal data flows

The European Commission lifted the threat of crucial data flows between Europe and Britain being blocked in a move that would have crippled business activity as it said Friday that privacy safeguards in the UK met European standards.

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.

An eco-route for heavy-duty vehicles could reduce fuel consumption

Semi-trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles are responsible for nearly half of road transportation carbon dioxide emissions in Europe, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation. A team of researchers in Italy has proposed a plan to reduce the emissions without compromising priorities such as delivery times. They published their approach in IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica, a joint publication of the IEEE and the Chinese Association of Automation.


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