Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Mar 31

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 31, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A new strategy to enhance the performance of silicon heterojunction solar cells

Neuroscientists have identified a brain circuit that stops mice from mating with others that appear to be sick

Snakes, rats and cats: the trillion dollar invasive species problem

Researchers achieve world's first manipulation of antimatter by laser

Deep diamonds contain evidence of deep-Earth recycling processes

450-million-year-old sea creatures had a leg up on breathing

New study discovers ancient meteoritic impact over Antarctica 430,000 years ago

Scientists create the next generation of living robots

'Sweat sticker' diagnoses cystic fibrosis on the skin in real time

Indian astronomers probe X-ray pulsar 2S 1417–624

Small-molecule therapeutics: Big data dreams for tiny technologies

Quantum material's subtle spin behavior proves theoretical predictions

Decades of hunting detects footprint of cosmic ray superaccelerators in our galaxy

Greenland caves: Time travel to a warm Arctic

Scientists discover unique Cornish 'falgae'

Physics news

Researchers achieve world's first manipulation of antimatter by laser

Researchers with the CERN-based ALPHA collaboration have announced the world's first laser-based manipulation of antimatter, leveraging a made-in-Canada laser system to cool a sample of antimatter down to near absolute zero. The achievement, detailed in an article published today and featured on the cover of the journal Nature, will significantly alter the landscape of antimatter research and advance the next generation of experiments.

Quantum material's subtle spin behavior proves theoretical predictions

Using complementary computing calculations and neutron scattering techniques, researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories and the University of California, Berkeley, discovered the existence of an elusive type of spin dynamics in a quantum mechanical system.

Lab-made hexagonal diamonds stiffer than natural diamonds

Nature's strongest material now has some stiff competition. For the first time, researchers have hard evidence that human-made hexagonal diamonds are stiffer than the common cubic diamonds found in nature and often used in jewelry.

'Agricomb' measures multiple gas emissions from... cows

After the optical frequency comb made its debut as a ruler for light, spinoffs followed, including the astrocomb to measure starlight and a radar-like comb system to detect natural gas leaks. And now, researchers have unveiled the "agricomb" to measure, ahem, cow burps.

Super-precise Fermilab experiment carefully analyzing the muon's magnetic moment

Modern physics is full of the sort of twisty, puzzle-within-a-puzzle plots you'd find in a classic detective story: Both physicists and detectives must carefully separate important clues from unrelated information. Both physicists and detectives must sometimes push beyond the obvious explanation to fully reveal what's going on.

New theory suggests uranium 'snowflakes' in white dwarfs could set off star-destroying explosion

A pair of researchers with Indiana University and Illinois University, respectively, has developed a theory that suggests crystalizing uranium "snowflakes" deep inside white dwarfs could instigate an explosion large enough to destroy the star. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, C. J. Horowitz and M. E. Caplan describe their theory and what it could mean to astrophysical theories about white dwarfs and supernovas.

Heat conduction record with tantalum nitride

A thermos bottle has the task of preserving the temperature—but sometimes you want to achieve the opposite: Computer chips generate heat that must be dissipated as quickly as possible so that the chip is not destroyed. This requires special materials with particularly good heat conduction properties.

A successful phonon calculation within the quantum Monte Carlo framework

The focus and ultimate goal of computational research in materials science and condensed matter physics is to solve the Schrödinger equation—the fundamental equation describing how electrons behave inside matter—exactly (without resorting to simplifying approximations). While experiments can certainly provide interesting insights into a material's properties, it is often computations that reveal the underlying physical mechanism. However, computations need not rely on experimental data and can, in fact, be performed independently, an approach known as "ab initio calculations." The density functional theory (DFT) is a popular example of such an approach.

Study shows promise of quantum computing using factory-made silicon chips

The qubit is the building block of quantum computing, analogous to the bit in classical computers. To perform error-free calculations, quantum computers of the future are likely to need at least millions of qubits. The latest study, published in the journal PRX Quantum, suggests that these computers could be made with industrial-grade silicon chips using existing manufacturing processes, instead of adopting new manufacturing processes or even newly discovered particles.

Development of a broadband mid-infrared source for remote sensing

A research team of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences, National Institute for Fusion Science and Akita Prefectural University has successfully demonstrated a broadband mid-infrared (MIR) source with a simple configuration. This light source generates highly-stable broadband MIR beam at 2.5-3.7 μm wavelength range maintaining the brightness owing to its high-beam quality. Such a broadband MIR source facilitates a simplified environmental monitoring system by constructing a MIR fiber-optic sensor, which has the potential for industrial and medical applications.

Astronomy and Space news

Indian astronomers probe X-ray pulsar 2S 1417–624

Using the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) instrument aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and NASA's Swift spacecraft, astronomers from India have investigated an X-ray pulsar known as 2S 1417–624. Results of the study, published March 24 on arXiv.org, provide important information about the evolution of different timing and spectral properties of this source during its recent outburst.

Decades of hunting detects footprint of cosmic ray superaccelerators in our galaxy

An enormous telescope complex in Tibet has captured the first evidence of ultrahigh-energy gamma rays spread across the Milky Way. The findings offer proof that undetected starry accelerators churn out cosmic rays, which have floated around our galaxy for millions of years. The research is to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters on Monday, April 5.

NASA tests mixed reality, scientific know-how and mission operations for exploration

Mixed reality technologies, like virtual reality headsets or augmented reality apps, aren't just for entertainment—they can also help make discoveries on other worlds like the Moon and Mars. By traveling on Earth to extreme environments—from Mars-like lava fields in Hawaii to underwater hydrothermal vents—similar to destinations on other worlds, NASA scientists have tested out technologies and tools to gain insight into how they can be used to make valuable contributions to science.

Two strange planets: Neptune and Uranus remain mysterious after new findings

Uranus and Neptune both have a completely skewed magnetic field, perhaps due to the planets' special inner structures. But new experiments by ETH Zurich researchers now show that the mystery remains unsolved.

New study sows doubt about the composition of 70 percent of our universe

Until now, researchers have believed that dark energy accounted for nearly 70 percent of the ever-accelerating, expanding universe.

First X-rays from Uranus discovered

Astronomers have detected X-rays from Uranus for the first time, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. This result may help scientists learn more about this enigmatic ice giant planet in our solar system.

US, China consulted on safety as their crafts headed to Mars

As their respective spacecrafts headed to Mars, China and the U.S. held consultations earlier this year in a somewhat unusual series of exchanges between the rivals.

NASA's Webb Telescope General Observer scientific programs selected

Mission officials for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope have announced the selection of the General Observer programs for the telescope's first year of science, known as Cycle 1. These specific programs will provide the worldwide astronomical community with one of the first extensive opportunities to investigate scientific targets with Webb.

Venus plots a comeback

In terms of space exploration, Mars is all the rage these days. This has left our closest neighbor, Venus—previously the most attractive planet to study because of its proximity and similar atmosphere to Earth—in the lurch. A new article in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, highlights how scientists and space agencies are turning their eyes back toward Venus to learn more about its atmosphere and geology.

Technology news

A new strategy to enhance the performance of silicon heterojunction solar cells

Crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells are among the most promising solar technologies on the market. These solar cells have numerous advantageous properties, including a nearly optimum bandgap, high efficiency and stability. Notably, they can also be fabricated using raw materials that are widely available and easy to attain.

Scientists create the next generation of living robots

Last year, a team of biologists and computer scientists from Tufts University and the University of Vermont (UVM) created novel, tiny self-healing biological machines from frog cells called "Xenobots" that could move around, push a payload, and even exhibit collective behavior in the presence of a swarm of other Xenobots.

The global race to develop 'green' hydrogen

It's seen as the missing link in the race for carbon-neutrality: "green" hydrogen produced without fossil fuel energy is a popular buzzword in competing press releases and investment plans across the globe.

Roboreptile climbs like a real lizard

While a Mars rover can explore where no person has gone before, a smaller robot at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia could climb to new heights by mimicking the movements of a lizard.

Scientists design 'smart' device to harvest daylight

A team of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) researchers has designed a 'smart' device to harvest daylight and relay it to underground spaces, reducing the need to draw on traditional energy sources for lighting.

Thermal power nanogenerator created without solid moving parts

As environmental and energy crises become increasingly more common occurrences around the world, a thermal energy harvester capable of converting abundant thermal energy—such as solar radiation, waste heat, combustion of biomass, or geothermal energy—into mechanical energy appears to be a promising energy strategy to mitigate many crises.

Assessing how much data iOS and Android share with Apple and Google

The School of Computer Science and Statistics in Dublin, Ireland, has begun investigating how much user data iOS and Android send to Apple and Google, respectively. Overall, they discovered that, even when the devices are idle or minimally configured, each tends to share an average of 4.5 minutes' worth of data every day.

Even without a brain, these metal-eating robots can search for food

When it comes to powering mobile robots, batteries present a problematic paradox: the more energy they contain, the more they weigh, and thus the more energy the robot needs to move. Energy harvesters, like solar panels, might work for some applications, but they don't deliver power quickly or consistently enough for sustained travel.

Volkswagen hoaxes media with fake news release as a joke

Volkswagen of America issued false statements this week saying it would change its brand name to "Voltswagen," as a way to stress its commitment to electric vehicles, only to reverse course Tuesday and admit that the supposed name change was just a joke.

A hydrogen future for planes, trains and factories

Hydrogen could potentially power trains, planes, trucks and factories in the future, helping the world rid itself of harmful emissions.

A physical party to prove you're a real virtual person

The ease of creating fake virtual identities plays an important role in shaping the way information—and misinformation—circulates online. Could 'pseudonym' parties, that would verify proof of personhood not proof of identity, resolve this tension?

New AI tool 85% accurate for recognizing and classifying wind turbine blade defects

Demand for wind power has grown, and with it the need to inspect turbine blades and identify defects that may impact operation efficiency.

ESAIL captures 2 million messages from ships at sea

The ESAIL microsatellite for making the seas safer has picked up more than two million messages from 70 000 ships in a single day.

Facebook's new tool lets users control what they see, share on their News Feeds

Facebook is launching new updates that allows users to control their News Feed algorithm, according to a statement by the tech giant.

Tesla's range put to the test

Edmunds' test team recently published the results of its real-world range testing for electric vehicles. Notably, every Tesla the team tested in 2020 came up short of matching the EPA's range estimate. Almost all other EVs Edmunds tested met or exceeded those estimates.

High production rates for fuel cells

To create a sustainable road traffic system, hundreds of thousands of fuel cells will be needed for hydrogen-powered cars in the future. Until now, though, fuel cell production has been complex and too slow. The Fraunhofer team is therefore developing a continuous production line that will be able to process fuel cell components in cycles lasting just seconds. The pilot line is set to be presented at the Hannover Messe Digital Edition from April 12 to April 16, 2021.

Smart algorithms make packaging of meat products more efficient

In supermarkets you can find a large variety of poultry products, all conveniently packaged in fixed-weight quantities. However, poultry processing plants face numerous challenges due to these fixed-weight batches, growing throughput requirements and small profit margins. To assist the poultry processing plant industry, TU/e-researcher Kay Peeters has developed new production control and planning strategies that reduce operational costs.

PayPal to let users pay for purchases at checkout using Bitcoin, other cryptocurrency

Will you be paying with a Visa, Mastercard or Bitcoin?

Spotify acquires Clubhouse competitor Betty Labs as live audio popularity grows

Spotify is entering the live audio market after it announced Tuesday its acquisition of Betty Labs, the creators of the live audio app Locker Room.

Advocacy groups urge FTC to be tougher on Google with protecting kids privacy on apps

Two advocacy groups want the Federal Trade Commission to take a tougher stance against Google, accusing its app store of recommending apps that transmit kids' personal information such as location without their parents' consent in violation of a 1998 law that protects children online.

How many countries are ready for nuclear-powered electricity?

As demand for low-carbon electricity rises around the world, nuclear power offers a promising solution. But how many countries are good candidates for nuclear energy development?

New OnePlus models take the flagship phone game up a notch

There isn't much in the tech world that makes me happier than a day when we get new flagship phones.

New Hampshire coastal recreationists support offshore wind

As the Biden administration announces a plan to expand the development of offshore wind energy development (OWD) along the East Coast, research from the University of New Hampshire shows significant support from an unlikely group, coastal recreation visitors. From boat enthusiasts to anglers, researchers found surprisingly widespread support with close to 77% of coastal recreation visitors supporting potential OWD along the N.H. Seacoast.

Microsoft wins $22 billion deal making headsets for US Army

Microsoft won a nearly $22 billion contract to supply U.S. Army combat troops with its augmented reality headsets.

Japan's Hitachi acquires GlobalLogic for $9.6 billion

Hitachi Ltd. is buying U.S. digital engineering services company GlobalLogic Inc. for $9.6 billion, the Japanese industrial, electronic and construction conglomerate said Wednesday.

Deliveroo skids on stock market debut

Deliveroo skidded on its stock market launch Wednesday, with its share price slumping by almost a third in value after the app-driven meals delivery company faced criticism from institutional investors over its treatment of self-employed riders.

Counting begins in vote on first Amazon labor union

Counting of votes cast by Amazon employees at an Alabama warehouse began Tuesday to determine whether it would become the first union shop at the e-commerce colossus.

Huawei posts record profit but US pressure, pandemic hit revenue

Chinese telecom giant Huawei said Wednesday it achieved the latest in a string of record profits last year, but revenue growth slowed sharply because of the pandemic and tightening US pressure that has pushed it into new business lines to survive.

Sports cards have gone virtual, and in a big way

Maybe the Luka Doncic rookie basketball card that recently sold at auction for a record $4.6 million was a bit rich for your blood. Perhaps you'd be interested in a more affordable alternative—say, a virtual card of the Dallas Mavericks forward currently listed for a mere $150,000?

Delta joins other US airlines in ending empty middle seats

Delta Air Lines, the last U.S. airline still blocking middle seats, will end that policy in May as air travel recovers and more people become vaccinated against COVID-19.


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