Science X Newsletter Wednesday, May 12

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 12, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers observe two-fold symmetric superconductivity in 2D niobium diselenide

Remapping and realignment in the hippocampal formation predict context-dependent spatial behavior

CaSiNo: A collection of campsite-based dialogs to develop automatic negotiation systems

How to thermally cloak an object

Brain computer interface turns mental handwriting into text on screen

Astronomers detect substellar companion of HD 47127

How fasting diets could harm future generations

Same gene drives male water striders' long legs and the inclination to use them as weapons

Nearly a fifth of Earth's surface transformed since 1960

Artificial intelligence tool uses chest X-ray to differentiate worst cases of COVID-19

Brand new physics of superconducting metals refuted by Lancaster physicists

Harnessing the hum of fluorescent lights for more efficient computing

Ancestors may have created 'iconic' sounds as bridge to first languages

Higher antibiotic doses may make bacteria 'fitter': study

Gold leaf could help diagnose viral infections in low-resource settings

Physics news

How to thermally cloak an object

Can you feel the heat? To a thermal camera, which measures infrared radiation, the heat that we can feel is visible, like the heat of a traveler in an airport with a fever or the cold of a leaky window or door in the winter.

Brand new physics of superconducting metals refuted by Lancaster physicists

Lancaster scientists have demonstrated that other physicists' recent "discovery" of the field effect in superconductors is nothing but hot electrons after all.

Harnessing the hum of fluorescent lights for more efficient computing

The property that makes fluorescent lights buzz could power a new generation of more efficient computing devices that store data with magnetic fields, rather than electricity.

X-ray ptychography performed for first time at small-scale laboratory

In recent years, X-ray ptychography has revolutionized nanoscale phase contrast imaging at large-scale synchrotron sources. The technique produces quantitative phase images with the highest possible spatial resolutions (10's nm) – going well beyond the conventional limitations of the available X-ray optics—and has wide reaching applications across the physical and life sciences. A paper published in Physical Review Letters on 12 May 2021, reveals that an international collaboration of scientists has demonstrated for the first time how the technique of high-resolution phase contrast diffraction imaging can be performed with small-scale laboratory sources.

Physicists extract proton mass radius from experimental data

Researchers have recently extracted the proton mass radius from experimental data. A research group at the Institute of Modern Physics (IMP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) presented an analysis of the proton mass radius in Physical Review D on May 11. The proton mass radius is determined to be 0.67 ± 0.03 femtometers, which is obviously smaller than the charge radius of the proton.

Better integrated circuits with glide symmetry

Surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) are highly localized surface waves on the interface between metal and dielectric in the optical frequency band. SPPs do not naturally exist in the microwave and terahertz frequencies, so "spoof" surface plasmon polaritons (SSPPs) are necessary for operations in those lower frequency bands.

Excitation spectral microscopy integrates multi-target imaging and quantitative biosensing

The multiplexing capability of fluorescence microscopy is severely limited by the broad fluorescence spectral width. Spectral imaging offers potential solutions, yet typical approaches to disperse the local emission spectra notably impede the attainable throughput and place substantial constraints on temporal resolution. Tunable bandpass filters provide a possibility to scan through the emission wavelength in the wide field. However, applying narrow bandpasses to the fluorescence emission results in inefficient use of the scarce signal.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers detect substellar companion of HD 47127

Using the Harlan J. Smith Telescope, astronomers have discovered that the star HD 47127 has a substellar companion. The newly identified object, designated HD 47127 B, appears to be a brown dwarf or a brown dwarf binary. The finding is reported in a paper published May 4 on

Perseverance's robotic arm starts conducting science

NASA's newest Mars rover is beginning to study the floor of an ancient crater that once held a lake.

SETI: microbes may already be communicating with alien species – new research

Are we alone in the universe? The famous SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program has been trying to answer this question since 1959. American astronomer Carl Sagan, and many others, believed that other human-like civilisations must exist, and that we could communicate with them. But skeptics are not convinced, arguing the lack of evidence for such civilisations suggests they are exceedingly rare.

Seeing Ingenuity Mars helicopter fly in 3D

When NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took to the Martian skies on its third flight on April 25, the agency's Perseverance rover was there to capture the historic moment. Now NASA engineers have rendered the flight in 3D, lending dramatic depth to the flight as the helicopter ascends, hovers, then zooms laterally off-screen before returning for a pinpoint landing. Seeing the sequence is a bit like standing on the Martian surface next to Perseverance and watching the flight firsthand.

Image: OSIRIS-REx bids farewell to Asteroid Bennu

On April 9, 2021, NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft took one last look at Bennu, the asteroid from which it scooped up a sample last October. Slated for return to Earth in 2023, the mission is on track to deliver a sample of pristine material left over from the formation of our solar system into the hands of researchers on Earth.

Starlink and OneWeb have their first avoidance maneuver with each other's constellations

Two companies, OneWeb and SpaceX, are racing to put fleets of thousands of communication satellites into orbit. In March, they had their first near miss. Avoidance maneuvers were successful, but how many more close calls will they face in the future?

Scientists invent method for predicting solar radio flux for two years ahead

Since the launch of Sputnik, the Earth's first artificial satellite, in 1957, more than 41,500 tons of manmade objects have been placed in orbit around the sun, the Earth, and other planetary bodies. Since that time, the majority of objects, such as rocket bodies and large pieces of space debris, re-entered the Earth's atmosphere in an uncontrolled way, posing a potential hazard to people and infrastructure. Predicting the re-entry date and time is a challenging task, as one needs to specify the density of the upper Earth atmosphere that strongly depends on solar activity which, in turn, is hard to predict. Earth atmosphere can become very heated due to solar activity which causes it to expand, and a satellite can decay in its orbit and fall back to the Earth due to the effect known as atmospheric drag. In addition, there is a lot of space debris, much of it very small; if a spacecraft unexpectedly changes its orbit and encounters even a small piece of debris, this would be equivalent to hitting a bomb because of the high speed.

How to keep spacesuit 'underwear' clean?

Spacewalking is a major highlight of any astronaut's career. But there is a downside: putting on your spacesuit means sharing some previously-worn underlayers. A new ESA study is looking into how best to keep these items clean and hygienic as humans venture on to the Moon and beyond.

Technology news

CaSiNo: A collection of campsite-based dialogs to develop automatic negotiation systems

Artificial agents that negotiate with humans could have a broad range of valuable applications, for instance, helping humans to improve their negotiation skills in a variety of fields. To enhance the development of these agents, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) recently created CaSiNo, a dataset containing realistic negotiation dialogs grounded in a camping scenario.

Brain computer interface turns mental handwriting into text on screen

Scientists are exploring a number of ways for people with disabilities to communicate with their thoughts. The newest and fastest turns back to a vintage means for expressing oneself: handwriting.

A long-lasting, stable solid-state lithium battery

Long-lasting, quick-charging batteries are essential to the expansion of the electric vehicle market, but today's lithium-ion batteries fall short of what's needed—they're too heavy, too expensive and take too long to charge.

AI learns to type on a phone like humans

Touchscreens are notoriously difficult to type on. Since we can't feel the keys, we rely on the sense of sight to move our fingers to the right places and check for errors, a combination of tasks that is difficult to accomplish simultaneously. To really understand how people type on touchscreens, researchers at Aalto University and the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) have created the first artificial intelligence model that predicts how people move their eyes and fingers while typing.

Researchers' new best friend? Robot dog gets to work

Deep underground in eastern France, a four-legged bundle of energy named Scar steps gingerly through vast caverns, loaded with sensors for taking measures in places where humans might fear to tread.

Computer designs magnonic devices

Magnonic devices have the potential to revolutionize the electronics industry. Qi Wang, Andrii Chumak from University of Vienna and Philipp Pirro from TU Kaiserslautern have largely accelerated the design of more versatile magnonic devices via a feedback-based computational algorithm. Their "inverse-design" of magnonic devices has now been published in Nature Communications.

Eco-friendly device detects real-time pipe damage

A researcher at University of Limerick has developed a low-cost, environmentally friendly sensor that can detect damage in pipelines and could save water as a result.

New system cleans messy data tables automatically

MIT researchers have created a new system that automatically cleans "dirty data"— the typos, duplicates, missing values, misspellings, and inconsistencies dreaded by data analysts, data engineers, and data scientists. The system, called PClean, is the latest in a series of domain-specific probabilistic programming languages written by researchers at the Probabilistic Computing Project that aim to simplify and automate the development of AI applications (others include one for 3D perception via inverse graphics and another for modeling time series and databases).

Study explores privacy of prison communications

People serving time in prison or jail in the United States, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world, are almost constantly being monitored. The surveillance even stretches into communications between inmates and their relatives.

Smaller chips open door to new RFID applications

Researchers at North Carolina State University have made what is believed to be the smallest state-of-the-art RFID chip, which should drive down the cost of RFID tags. In addition, the chip's design makes it possible to embed RFID tags into high value chips, such as computer chips, boosting supply chain security for high-end technologies.

Amazon, Apple and Google unite to certify smart home devices

Tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google have announced their support of Matter, a standard focusing on capable and secure smart devices for homes. Also known as Internet of Things (IoT) products, these devices include smart door locks, light bulbs and thermostats.

Toyota annual net profit jumps 10.3%, further growth forecast

Toyota's full-year net profit jumped 10.3 percent even as the pandemic hit the auto industry, the Japanese firm said Wednesday, projecting growth despite the ongoing semiconductor crisis.

Lessons from 2011 disaster help Toyota ride out chip shortage

The global microchip shortage dragging on the auto industry has put barely a dent in production at Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, thanks to lessons it learned after Japan's 2011 tsunami disaster.

Amazon wins EU court appeal in Luxembourg tax case

Amazon scored a major legal victory on Wednesday when an EU court annulled an order from the bloc's powerful antitrust authority that Luxembourg recoup 250 million euros ($295 million) in back taxes.

Emergency program to give people $50 off internet bill

Americans can begin applying for $50 off their monthly internet bill on Wednesday as part of an emergency government program to keep people connected during the pandemic.

Apple to invest $45 million Corning, makers of glass tech for iPhone 12

Apple announced it will award $45 million to Corning, which makes a special glass used on the iPhone 12.

Using machine learning and radar to detect drones in complicated urban settings

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's…actually pretty easy for radar to tell the difference. Flying aliens from Krypton notwithstanding, there are simply not many things moving through the mostly empty, wide-open skies that are as big and fast as an airplane.

Eco-energy without limits? Research may find ways to make it happen

The Earth has its limits, as the climate crisis demonstrates. With the increasing extinction of species and the littering of the oceans (and even space) as a result of human activity, governments and institutions the world over are championing the concept of a circular economy. By closing material cycles, the environmental impacts associated with the extraction of raw materials are avoided and the waste problem solved. This approach is, however, not sufficient to build a sustainable society in and of itself, as it leaves the questions open of how much and how quickly materials can be cycled and what energy is used to power these cycles. After all, in a truly sustainable society, not only material flows but also energy flows must remain within the limits set by our home planet.

Why we should use electric rather than hydrogen cars

Last night's Federal Budget did not have any promising signals for encouraging uptake of electric vehicles, or to increase spending on installing the essential infrastructure needed to allay fears that motorists won't be able to recharge on long trips away from home.

How a slender, snake-like robot could give doctors new ways to save lives

You might call it "zoobotics." Jessica Burgner-Kahrs, the director of the Continuum Robotics Lab at U of T Mississauga, and her team are building very slender, flexible and extensible robots, a few millimeters in diameter, for use in surgery and industry. Unlike humanoid robots, so-called continuum robots feature a long, limbless body—not unlike a snake's—that allows them to access difficult-to-reach places.

New resource will help to guide innovations in virtual reality locomotion

Experts in virtual reality locomotion have developed a new resource that analyzes all the different possibilities of locomotion currently available.

Expert discusses the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack

On May 7, Colonial Pipeline announced that it fell victim to a ransomware attack and had shut down one of the largest fuel pipelines in the U.S. as a result. Thomas Holt, director and professor in Michigan State University's School of Criminal Justice, answers common questions about ransomware and how we can protect critical infrastructure from future attacks.

Violinmaking meets artificial intelligence

How to predict the sound produced by a tonewood block once carved into the shape of a violin plate? What is the best shape for the best sound? Artificial intelligence offers answers to these questions.

Scientists develop interactive typeface for digital text

Language is without doubt the most pervasive medium for exchanging knowledge between humans. However, spoken language or abstract text need to be made visible in order to be read, be it in print or on screen. How does the way a text looks affect its readability, that is, how it is being read, processed, and understood? A team at TU Darmstadt's Centre for Cognitive Science investigated this question at the intersection of perceptual science, cognitive science, and linguistics. Electronic text is even more complex. Texts are read on different devices under different external conditions. And although any digital text is formatted initially, users might resize it on screen, change brightness and contrast of the display, or even select a different font when reading text on the web.

Twitter analysis finds national lockdown announcement helped minimise COVID-19 misinformation

A new study by the University of Liverpool has shown that the prevalence of misinformation on Twitter fell in the 48-hour period after Boris Johnson's announcement of a national lockdown on March 2020.

As chip shortage goes on, cars are scarce and prices are up

For the next few months, Charlie Gilchrist figures his 11 car dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will sell just about every new vehicle they can get from the factories—and at increased prices.

Court orders Air France, Airbus trial over Rio-Paris crash

Air France and Airbus must stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges over the 2009 crash of a Rio de Janeiro to Paris flight that killed all 228 people on board, a Paris court ruled on Wednesday.

On the road to smart cities: Where smart vehicles stand and where they're going

Central to any technological progress is the enrichment of human life. The internet and wireless connectivity have done that by allowing not only virtually anyone anywhere to connect real time, but by making possible connections between humans and a range of intelligent devices both indoors and outdoors, putting smart cities on the horizon.

Exploring partial synchronization in networked systems

Synchronization is all around us: from thousands of fireflies congregating near trees and lighting up simultaneously to an excited audience taking part in "Mexican waves" during a football match, and the list goes on. In large, complex networks of interconnected systems, an incomplete form of synchronization is also present. Referred to as partial synchronization, it emerges such that systems can be grouped into clusters such that synchrony is only observed in each cluster. For his Ph.D. research, Libo Su has investigated partial synchronization in networks of dynamical systems that are interconnected via time-delay couplings. Su defended his Ph.D. thesis on May 11th at the department of Mechanical Engineering.

UK law to give regulator powers to fine tech companies

Britain's online regulator could be given powers to impose hefty fines on technology companies that fail to remove harmful content, as part of draft legislation unveiled by the government on Wednesday.

Where to find gas: GasBuddy goes down as drivers fill up after Colonial Pipeline cyberattack

As drivers line up at gas stations on the East Coast in the aftermath of a cyberattack on a vital fuel pipeline, GasBuddy has been a go-to app for finding the nearest spot to fill up.

Amazon rolls out new Echo Show smart video displays, including version for kids

Amazon is rolling out new versions of its Echo devices with screens, including its first model for kids.

Boulder, Colorado woman identified as person who voiced Amazon's Alexa

"Alexa, who is the woman behind your voice?"

Electric 3-wheeled car factory, jobs coming to Mesa, Arizona

ElectraMeccanica, known for its tiny, single passenger, three-wheeled electric cars, has chosen Mesa, Arizona, as the location for its U.S. assembly and engineering plant.

Instagram lets users pick preferred gender pronouns

Instagram on Wednesday began letting English-language users enhance profiles to show new gender pronouns they want applied to them in conversation.

Pentagon agrees to remove Xiaomi from blacklist

The US Defense Department has agreed to remove smartphone maker Xiaomi from its blacklist of companies tied to the Chinese Communist Party, according to a court filing released late Tuesday.

US targets July for trade accord between Boeing and Airbus

The United States wants to resolve the long-running trade conflict between aviation giants Boeing and Airbus by July, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai told a congressional panel Wednesday.

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