Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Feb 9

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 9, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A machine learning framework that exploits memristor variability to implement Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling

How virally derived transposons are domesticated to evolve new forms of life

Galaxy Mrk 335 examined with AstroSat

Scientists measure temperature under shock conditions

SINGLE: An open-source software package to identify the atomic-resolution structure of nanocrystals

Quantum computing enables simulations to unravel mysteries of magnetic materials

Early Indian monsoon forecasts could benefit farmers

Soft robots use camera and shadows to sense human touch

Biologists uncover forests' unexpected role in climate change

Happiness really does come for free: study

Arab spacecraft closes in on Mars on historic flight

Fossil fuel pollution causes one in five deaths globally: study

Time to wear a better mask, experts say

Tumor-suppressor protein dynamics determine if tissues survive radiation

New study finds climate change shrinks and shifts juvenile white shark range

Physics news

Scientists measure temperature under shock conditions

Temperature is tough to measure, especially in shock compression experiments. A big challenge is having to account for thermal transport—the flow of energy in the form of heat.

Quantum computing enables simulations to unravel mysteries of magnetic materials

A multi-institutional team became the first to generate accurate results from materials science simulations on a quantum computer that can be verified with neutron scattering experiments and other practical techniques.

Quantum causal loops

Normally, causal influence is assumed to go only one way—from cause to effect—and never back from the effect to the cause—the ringing of a bell does not cause the pressing of the button that triggered it. Now, researchers from the University of Oxford and the Université libre de Bruxelles have developed a theory of causality in quantum theory, according to which cause-effect relations can sometimes form cycles. This theory offers a novel understanding of exotic processes in which events do not have a definite causal order. The study has been published in Nature Communications.

ATLAS finds evidence of a rare Higgs boson decay

Since the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, scientists in the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have been hard at work characterizing its properties and hunting down the diverse ways in which this ephemeral particle can decay. From the copious but experimentally challenging decay to b-quarks, to the exquisitely rare but low-background decay into four leptons, each offers a different avenue to study the properties of this new particle. Now, ATLAS has found first evidence of the Higgs boson decaying to two leptons (either an electron or a muon pair with opposite charge) and a photon. Known as "Dalitz decay," this is one of the rarest Higgs boson decays yet seen at the LHC.

School closures may not reduce coronavirus deaths as much as expected: study

School closures, the loss of public spaces, and having to work remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic have caused major disruptions in people's social lives all over the world.

Porous materials unfavorable for coronavirus survival

As COVID-19 spreads via respiratory droplets, researchers have become increasingly interested in the drying of droplets on impermeable and porous surfaces. Surfaces that accelerate evaporation can decelerate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Advanced simulations reveal how air conditioning spreads COVID-19 aerosols

The detailed physical processes and pathways involved in the transmission of COVID-19 are still not well understood. Researchers decided to use advanced computational fluid dynamics tools on supercomputers to deepen understanding of transmission and provide a quantitative assessment of how different environmental factors influence transmission pathways and airborne infection risk.

Physicists finesse the storing of light to create rainbows of color

In nature, as in everyday life, we are surrounded by resonance—the phenomenon that describes how each object has a frequency that it prefers to vibrate at. The note of a guitar string and the sound of Big Ben chiming are examples of resonance.

Collective worm and robot 'blobs' protect individuals, swarm together

Individually, California blackworms live an unremarkable life eating microorganisms in ponds and serving as tropical fish food for aquarium enthusiasts. But together, tens, hundreds, or thousands of the centimeter-long creatures can collaborate to form a "worm blob," a shape-shifting living liquid that collectively protects its members from drying out and helps them escape threats such as excessive heat.

Engineers 3-D-print a miniaturized spectrometer

The miniaturization of spectroscopic measurement devices opens novel information channels in medical science and consumer electronics. Scientists of the University of Stuttgart, Germany, developed a 3-D-printed miniature spectrometer with a volume of 100 by 100 by 300 μm3 and a spectral resolution of up to 10 nm in the visible range. This spectrometer can be manufactured directly onto camera sensors, and a parallel arrangement allows for quick ("snapshot") and low-profile, highly customizable hyperspectral cameras.

THz spectroscopy tracks electron solvation in photoionized water

Photoionization of water involves the migration and solvation of electrons, with many transient and highly active intermediates. The process results in a large blue shift in the absorption spectrum, from the THz or gigahertz region to the visible range. While the behavior of low-density quasifree electrons excited by small pump power density has been investigated extensively, we still know little about the transient evolution of photoexcited plasma in liquid water. Valuable insights were recently provided by an international research team in a study published in Advanced Photonics.

Astronomy and Space news

Galaxy Mrk 335 examined with AstroSat

Using the AstroSat spacecraft, Indian astronomers have performed multiwavelength observations of a Narrow-Line Seyfert 1 (NLS1) galaxy known as Mrk 335. Results of this investigation, presented in a paper published February 1 on the arXiv preprint server, deliver crucial information about the emission from this source.

Arab spacecraft closes in on Mars on historic flight

A spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates was set to swing into orbit around Mars in the Arab world's first interplanetary mission Tuesday, the first of three robotic explorers arriving at the red planet over the next week and a half.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx to fly a farewell tour of Bennu

On April 7, NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission will give asteroid Bennu one last glance before saying farewell. Before departing for Earth on May 10, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will perform a final flyby of Bennu—capturing its last images of sample collection site Nightingale to look for transformations on Bennu's surface after the Oct. 20, 2020, sample collection event.

Super-Earth atmospheres probed at Sandia's Z machine

The huge forces generated by the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories are being used to replicate the gravitational pressures on so-called "super-Earths" to determine which might maintain atmospheres that could support life.

Embry-Riddle alumna helps unravel key mysteries of rare stars

Within the constellation Cygnus, an elderly star and its massive companion are having one last hurrah, flinging off mass at an incredible rate before they explode as supernovae and collapse into a black hole.

Astronomers offer possible explanation for elusive dark-matter-free galaxies

A team led by astronomers at the University of California, Riverside, has found that some dwarf galaxies may today appear to be dark-matter free even though they formed as galaxies dominated by dark matter in the past.

Can super-Earth interior dynamics set the table for habitability?

New research led by Carnegie's Yingwei Fei provides a framework for understanding the interiors of super-Earths—rocky exoplanets between 1.5 and 2 times the size of our home planet—which is a prerequisite to assess their potential for habitability. Planets of this size are among the most abundant in exoplanetary systems. The paper is published in Nature Communications.

Jupiter's Trojan asteroids offer surprises

A new study out this month suggests that Jupiter's Trojan asteroids may be more peculiar than previously thought. The Trojan asteroids are rocky objects which orbit the sun just ahead of and just behind the gas giant, in gravitational sweet spots known as Lagrange points. The swarm ahead of Jupiter, known as the L4 (Greek) group, is slightly larger than the L5 (Trojan) swarm behind, but until now, astronomers believed that there was otherwise little differentiation between the two swarms. The paper released this month appears to change that.

Six ways satellites make the world a better place

Almost 3,000 operational spacecraft orbit our Earth. This number is growing constantly, thanks to cheaper materials and smaller satellites.

Sentinel-6 passes in-orbit tests with flying colors

In November 2020, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite was launched into orbit from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US. Now, months later, the satellite has successfully passed what is known as the 'in-orbit verification phase," where its equipment is switched on and the instruments' performance is checked.

UAE's 'Hope' probe enters Mars orbit in first for Arab world

The United Arab Emirates' "Hope" probe on Monday successfully entered Mars' orbit, making history as the Arab world's first interplanetary mission.

NASA's first mission to the trojan asteroids installs its final scientific instrument

With less than a year to launch, NASA's Lucy mission's third and final scientific instrument has been integrated onto the spacecraft.

Millie Hughes-Fulford, trailblazing astronaut, dies at 75

Millie Hughes-Fulford, a trailblazing astronaut and scientist who became the first female payload specialist to fly in space for NASA, died following a yearslong battle with cancer, her family said. She was 75.

Turkey unveils space program including 2023 moon mission

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled an ambitious 10-year space program for his country Tuesday that includes missions to the moon, sending Turkish astronauts into space and developing internationally viable satellite systems.

Explainer: how the UAE probe reached Mars' orbit

The first Arab interplanetary mission reached Mars' orbit Tuesday in the most critical stage of its journey to unravel the secrets of weather on the Red Planet.

Technology news

A machine learning framework that exploits memristor variability to implement Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling

Memristors, or resistive memory devices (RRAM) are nanometer-sized electronic components that can serve as memories for portable computers and other devices. When they are organized in a cross-bar structure, these tiny memories can be used to perform matrix multiplications with low energetic requirements.

Soft robots use camera and shadows to sense human touch

Soft robots may not be in touch with human feelings, but they are getting better at feeling human touch.

Fabricating fully functional drones

From "Star Trek" replicators to Richie Rich's wishing machine, popular culture has a long history of parading flashy machines that can instantly output any item. While 3-D printers have now made it possible to produce a range of objects that include product models, jewelry, and novelty toys, we still lack the ability to fabricate more complex devices that are essentially ready-to-go right out of the printer.

New coating is a breakthrough for hydrogen fuel

Photocatalysis using particles in water is a promising technology for generating fuels from sunlight. One major obstacle to producing these solar fuels cheaply and abundantly, though, is that it requires semiconductors that are efficient but prone to corrosion.

Combining convolutional neural network with computational neuroscience to simulate cochlear mechanics

A trio of researchers at Ghent University has combined a convolutional neural network with computational neuroscience to create a model that simulates human cochlear mechanics. In their paper published in Nature Machine Intelligence, Deepak Baby, Arthur Van Den Broucke and Sarah Verhulst describe how they built their model and the ways they believe it can be used.

Cyberpunk 2077 video game developer hit by hack attack

Polish video game maker CD Projekt RED, the company behind The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077, said Tuesday hackers had stolen data in a "targeted cyber attack".

Scientists found a way to maintain the cybersecurity of electronics in vehicles

Specialists from Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) improved the cybersecurity system mechanism, based on the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) in modern vehicles. The research results were published in the scientific journal Nonlinear Phenomena in Complex Systems.

A button that tells your boss you're unhappy: Why mental health wearables could be bad news at work

With gyms closed and millions cooped up and restless at home, it's little wonder that "healthtech" is now being billed as the next big battleground over which the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Google will fight. Chief among their products are wearable devices that measure your heart rate, your step count, and dozens of other data points that keep you informed about your physical health.

People are driving electric vehicles less than projected

New data indicates that electric vehicles may not be an easy future substitute for the gasoline-powered fleet, as EVs are currently being used half as much as conventional cars. That is according to a paper published from the University of Chicago, University of California, Davis, and UC Berkeley.

The SolarWinds hack was all but inevitablewhy national cyber defense is a 'wicked' problem and what can be done about it

The SolarWinds hack was more than just one of the most devastating cyber attacks in history. It was a major breach of national security that revealed gaps in U.S. cyber defenses.

Forget 5G, the US and China are already fighting for 6G dominance

Most of the world is yet to experience the benefits of a 5G network, but the geopolitical race for the next big thing in telecommunications technology is already heating up.

General Motors lengthens plant shutdowns amid chip shortage

General Motors plans to shutter three idled plants at least through mid-March due to the global shortage of semiconductors, the automaker said Tuesday.

Boeing lands few orders but delivers 26 Max jets to airlines

Boeing raised cash in January by delivering 26 new planes—including 21 Max jets—to airline customers, but it still suffered canceled orders for the plane with a troubled history.

Snapchat to launch feature that prompts users to review their friends lists

Snapchat will launch a new feature that prompts users to review their friends lists and ask if they still want to be connected to them.

Delta Air Lines to leave middle seats empty through April

Delta Air Lines said Monday it will continue to block some seats on all flights through spring break and Easter to provide a bit more space between passengers.

Party over at Clubhouse, the app that had China talking

The repression of Muslim Uighurs, the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and S&M hook-ups—nothing was off-limits in the rambunctious, unfiltered chatrooms of Clubhouse, before China's censors silenced the conversation.

Family sues trading app Robinhood over suicide

The family of a college student who killed himself after thinking he'd lost a fortune using Robinhood sued the free trading app Monday.

Nissan upgrades annual forecast despite Q3 net loss

Crisis-hit Japanese carmaker Nissan on Tuesday upgraded its full-year forecast for the second straight quarter, as the global auto industry shows signs of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Efficiency limits of next-generation hybrid photovoltaic-thermal solar technology

Spectral-splitting hybrid photovoltaic-thermal (SSPVT) technology has emerged as a promising route toward high-performance solar harvesting. In this research, scientists have developed a comprehensive framework for modeling SSPVT solar collectors. The framework can be used to determine the efficiency limits of such collectors and to indicate how these limits can be approached through the selection of optimal designs and materials. This work promotes and provides guidance to the design, development and deployment of next-generation solar systems.

Aging dams are 'ticking time bombs'

Perched high up in the Western Ghats, adjacent to Kerala's famed Periyar wildlife sanctuary, is a 126-year-old dam that has dangerously outlived the 50 years of life intended for it by colonial British engineers.

In Florida city, a hacker tried to poison the drinking water

A hacker gained entry to the system controlling the water treatment plant of a Florida city of 15,000 and tried to taint the water supply with a caustic chemical, exposing a danger cybersecurity experts say has grown as systems become both more computerized and accessible via the internet.

Buoyed by stock market mania, Reddit raises fresh capital

Reddit, the online bulletin board at the center of the recent stock market frenzy, said Tuesday it had raised some $250 million at a valuation of $6 billion to fuel expansion of the service.

Biden's auto dilemma: How hard to push for electric cars?

After four years of bitter fighting, California and the federal government agree they need to set ambitious climate goals, and major automakers are increasingly betting that the future of their business lies with electric cars.

Air Canada suspends US, international routes and lays off 1,500

Air Canada announced Tuesday the suspension of 17 US and international routes until the end of April and layoffs of 1,500 workers, citing a drop in demand for travel after a tightening of public health restrictions to slow the spread of new COVID-19 variants.

Twitter posts strong Q4 results as user base, revenue jumps

Twitter posted solid results for the last three months of 2020, capping what CEO Jack Dorsey called "an extraordinary year" for the platform. New users signed on in large numbers to follow the world's events in real time despite the challenges of election misinformation and intensifying calls to ban now former President Donald Trump.

Facebook steps up vaccine misinfo efforts. Will it work?

As inoculation efforts for the coronavirus ramp up around the world, Facebook says it's going all in to block the spread of bogus vaccine claims. In practice, that means the social network plans to ban a new bunch of false claims in addition to the manifold false claims about vaccines and COVID-19 that it has already banned.


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