Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jun 10

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 10, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A bio-inspired technique to mitigate catastrophic forgetting in binarized neural networks

'Vegan spider silk' provides sustainable alternative to single-use plastics

A technique for labeling and retrieving DNA data files from a large pool could help make DNA data storage feasible

Cause, scope determined for deadly winter debris flow in Uttarakhand, India

How cells measure themselves

Hydrogen sulfide critical to innate ability of bacteria to survive antibiotics

Connecting a star's chemical composition and planet formation

Astronomers probe layer-cake structure of brown dwarf's atmosphere

New globular cluster exhibiting extreme kinematics detected

An insect-computer hybrid system for search operations in disasters

Global weight of all active SARS-CoV-2 viruses is between 0.1 and 10 kilograms

Scientists explore lipid metabolism with simulations and experiments

Ceramics provide insights into medieval Islamic cuisine

Scientists identify distinctive deep infrasound rumbles of space launches

New insight into biosynthesis and architecture of photosynthetic membranes in bacteria

Physics news

Researchers take quantum encryption out of the lab

In a new study, researchers demonstrate an automated, easy-to-operate quantum key distribution (QKD) system using the fiber network in the city of Padua, Italy. The field test represents an important step toward implementing this highly secure quantum communication technology using the type of communication networks already in place in many regions around the world.

Scientists create unique instrument to probe the most extreme matter on Earth

Laser-produced high energy density plasmas, akin to those found in stars, nuclear explosions, and the core of giant planets, may be the most extreme state of matter created on Earth. Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), building on nearly a decade of collaboration with the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), have designed a novel X-ray crystal spectrometer to provide high-resolution measurements of a challenging feature of NIF-produced HED plasmas.

Researchers use transoceanic fiber link for geophysical sensing

In a new study, researchers show that the fiber optic cables that carry data across the world's oceans can also be used to sense geophysical events and monitor ocean and seafloor conditions.

Say goodbye to your camera bump: Miniaturized optics through new counterpart to lens

Can you imagine one day using a telescope as thin as a sheet of paper, or a much smaller and lighter high-performance camera? Or no longer having that camera bump behind your smartphone?

A quantum hack for microscopes can reveal the undiscovered details of life

You've probably seen images of scientists peering down a microscope, looking at objects invisible to the naked eye. Indeed, microscopes are indispensable to our understanding of life.

GEM simplifies the internal structure of protons and their collisions

Inside each proton or neutron there are three quarks bound by gluons. Until now, it has often been assumed that two of them form a "stable" pair known as a diquark. It seems, however, that it's the end of the road for the diquarks in physics. This is one of the conclusions of the new model of proton-proton or proton-nucleus collisions, which takes into account the interactions of gluons with the sea of virtual quarks and antiquarks.

Novel materials: Sound waves traveling backward

Acoustic waves in gases, liquids, and solids usually travel at an almost constant speed of sound. So-called rotons are an exception: their speed of sound changes significantly with the wavelength, and it is also possible that the waves travel backward. Researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are studying the possibilities of using rotons in artificial materials. These computer-designed metamaterials, produced by ultra-precise 3D laser printing, might be used in the future to manipulate or direct sound in ways that have never been possible before. A report on the researchers' work has been published in Nature Communications.

Mystery object caused by spontaneous symmetry breaking revealed

Hiromitsu Takeuchi, a lecturer at the Graduate School of Science, Osaka City University, and a researcher at the Nambu Yoichiro Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (NITEP), has theoretically identified the nature of a mysterious topological defect produced by the recently discovered non-equilibrium time evolution of spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB). Since the SSB realized in this system is like the SSB that has been known to occur in isotropic superconductors and superfluid 4He, it was expected to produce topological defects with vortex-like properties in the fluid, called quantum vortices. However, the topological defect observed in this experiment has a structure that bore little resemblance to the previously mentioned SSB, and its physical properties have been shrouded in mystery. In this research, the idea of applying the Joukowski transform, which is used to calculate the lift of airplane wings, to quantum vortices was introduced for the first time, and the analysis revealed that the most stable state of this mysterious topological defect is a new topological defect called a quantum elliptic vortex. The results of this research were published online in Physical Review Letters, considered to be one of the most prestigious journals in the field of physics.

Printing flexible wearable electronics for smart device applications

The demand for flexible wearable electronics has spiked with the dramatic growth of smart devices that can exchange data with other devices over the internet with embedded sensors, software, and other technologies. Researchers consequently have focused on exploring flexible energy storage devices, such as flexible supercapacitators (FSCs), that are lightweight and safe and easily integrate with other devices. FSCs have high power density and fast charge and discharge rates.

CLEAR study paves the way for novel electron-based cancer therapy

There are some cancer tumors that not even surgery, chemotherapy or traditional radiation therapy can cure. These resistant tumors contribute to making the disease one of the main causes of mortality worldwide, but the scientific community is teeming with ideas to make cancer fatalities a thing of the past. Among the latest medical and technological innovations, progress in particle therapy—the process of irradiating tumors using highly energetic particle beams generated by a particle accelerator—allows the treatment of tumors that would otherwise have been fatal.

When physics meets financial networks

Generally, physics and financial systems are not easily associated in people's minds. Yet, principles and techniques originating from physics can be very effective in describing the processes taking place on financial markets. Modeling financial systems as networks can greatly enhance our understanding of phenomena that are relevant not only to researchers in economics and other disciplines, but also to ordinary citizens, public agencies and governments. The theory of Complex Networks represents a powerful framework for studying how shocks propagate in financial systems, identifying early-warning signals of forthcoming crises, and reconstructing hidden linkages in interbank systems.

Searching for heavy new particles with the ATLAS Experiment

Since discovering the Higgs boson in 2012, the ATLAS Collaboration at CERN has been working to understand its properties. One question in particular stands out: why does the Higgs boson have the mass that it does? Experiments have measured its mass to be around 125 GeV—yet the Standard Model implies it has much larger mass and requires a very large correction to the mathematics in order to align theory with observation, leading to the "naturalness problem."

Observing quantum coherence from photons scattered in free-space

Quantum coherence is a key ingredient of many fundamental tests and applications in quantum technology, including quantum communication, imaging, computing, sensing and metrology. However, the transfer of quantum coherence in free-space has so far been limited to direct line-of-sight channels, as atmospheric turbulence and scattering degrade the quality of coherence severely.

Astronomy and Space news

Connecting a star's chemical composition and planet formation

Researchers from Penn's Department of Physics and Astronomy have developed a new method for better understanding the relationship between a star's chemical composition and planet formation. The study was led by recent graduate Jacob Nibauer for his senior thesis with Bhuvnesh Jain and was co-supervised by former Penn postdoc Eric Baxter. The researchers found that the majority of stars in their dataset are similar in composition to the sun, somewhat at odds with earlier work and implying that many stars in the Milky Way could host their own Earth-like planets. These results were presented at the 238th American Astronomical Society conference and also published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Astronomers probe layer-cake structure of brown dwarf's atmosphere

Brown dwarfs are the cosmic equivalent of tweeners. They're too massive to be planets and too small to sustain nuclear fusion in their cores, which powers stars. Many brown dwarfs are nomadic. They do not orbit stars but drift among them as loners.

New globular cluster exhibiting extreme kinematics detected

Astronomers from the Andrés Bello National University, Chile, and elsewhere, have discovered a new nearby globular cluster (GC) with extreme kinematics. The newly found cluster, designated VVV-CL160, has an unusually large proper motion when compared to other galactic GCs. The finding is reported in a paper published on

Scientists identify distinctive deep infrasound rumbles of space launches

After their initial blast, space rockets shoot away from the Earth with rumbles in infrasound, soundwaves too low to be heard by human ears that can travel thousands of miles.

Lunar sample tells ancient story through international collaborative effort

Curtin University researchers have helped uncover the four billion year old story of a lunar sample brought from the moon to Earth, by the manned Apollo 17 mission more than 50 years ago.

NASA's Perseverance rover begins its first science campaign on Mars

On June 1, NASA's Perseverance Mars rover kicked off the science phase of its mission by leaving the "Octavia E. Butler" landing site. Until recently, the rover has been undergoing systems tests, or commissioning, and supporting the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter's month of flight tests.

Liquid water on exomoons of free-floating planets

The moons of planets that have no parent star can possess an atmosphere and retain liquid water. Astrophysicists at LMU have calculated that such systems could harbor sufficient water to make life possible—and sustain it.

Rocket on pad, China ready to send 1st crew to space station

The rocket that will send the first crew members to live on China's new orbiting space station has been moved onto the launch pad ahead of its planned blastoff next week.

Partial eclipse sweeps over northern hemisphere

People across Earth's northern hemisphere viewed an annular solar eclipse Thursday with parts of Canada and Siberia privy to the best view of the celestial event.

'Metasurface' technology could advance Earth science from orbit

Sunlight traveling through the atmosphere becomes polarized in different ways as it is scattered by water vapor, ice, aerosols created by living organisms, dust, and other particulates.

ESA flying payloads on wooden satellite

The world's first wooden satellite is on the way, in the shape of the Finnish WISA Woodsat. ESA materials experts are contributing a suite of experimental sensors to the mission as well as helping with pre-flight testing.

Sunrise special: Solar eclipse thrills world's northern tier

The top of the world got a sunrise special Thursday—a "ring of fire" solar eclipse.

Then there were 3: NASA to collaborate on ESA's new Venus mission

On June 10, 2021, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the selection of EnVision as its newest medium-class science mission. EnVision will make detailed observations of Venus to understand its history and especially understand the connections between the atmosphere and geologic processes. As a key partner in the mission, NASA provides the synthetic aperture radar, called VenSAR, to make high-resolution measurements of the planet's surface features.

Venus hotter than ever: 3rd new robotic explorer on horizon

Venus is hotter than ever, with a third new robotic explorer on the horizon.

Technology news

A bio-inspired technique to mitigate catastrophic forgetting in binarized neural networks

Deep neural networks have achieved highly promising results on several tasks, including image and text classification. Nonetheless, many of these computational methods are prone to what is known as catastrophic forgetting, which essentially means that when they are trained on a new task, they tend to rapidly forget how to complete tasks they were trained to complete in the past.

An insect-computer hybrid system for search operations in disasters

A team of researchers affiliated with institutions in Singapore, China, Germany and the U.K., has developed an insect-computer hybrid system for use in search operations after disasters strike. They have written a paper describing their system, now posted on the arXiv preprint server.

New twist on DNA data storage lets users preview stored files

Researchers from North Carolina State University have turned a longstanding challenge in DNA data storage into a tool, using it to offer users previews of stored data files—such as thumbnail versions of image files.

Training robots to manipulate soft and deformable objects

Robots can solve a Rubik's cube and navigate the rugged terrain of Mars, but they struggle with simple tasks like rolling out a piece of dough or handling a pair of chopsticks. Even with mountains of data, clear instructions, and extensive training, they have a difficult time with tasks easily picked up by a child.

Latest tests on 6G return surprising results

Imagine you're a fisherman living by a lake with a rowboat. Every day, you row out on the calm waters and life is good. But then your family grows, and you need more fish, so you go to the nearby river. Then, you realize you go farther and faster on the river. You can't take your little rowboat out there—it's not built for those currents. So, you learn everything you can about how rivers work and build a better boat. Life is good again...until you realize you need to go farther still, out on the ocean. But ocean rules are nothing like river rules. Now you have to learn how ocean currents work, and then design something even more advanced that can handle that new space.

Discovery of ray sperms' unique swimming motion demonstrated with bio-inspired robot

It is generally agreed that sperm "swim" by beating or rotating their soft tails. However, a research team led by scientists from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has discovered that ray sperms move by rotating both the tail and the head. The team further investigated the motion pattern and demonstrated it with a robot. Their study has expanded the knowledge on the microorganisms' motion and provided inspiration for robot engineering design.

Facebook to launch NetHack Challenge at NeurIPS 2021

Historically, significant progress in the area of reinforcement learning (RL) has resulted from simulation environments in games such as Dota 2, Minecraft and StarCraft II. Unfortunately, these developments came with a taxing amount of computation, typically requiring the usage of thousands of GPUs at once for just one experiment. Even despite these costs, many of these RL methods didn't prove to be very applicable to solving real-world issues.

'Transportation is a form of freedom': How to make it more equitable

The routes and schedules of public transit, the presence or absence of sidewalks, the availability of different transportation options, and the design of highways that divide cities—these are examples of aspects of transportation systems that can profoundly impact underserved communities' access to basic needs like jobs, health care, education and even food.

Own an Echo? Amazon may be helping itself to your bandwidth

Do you own an Amazon smart device? If so, odds are good that the company is already sharing your internet connection with your neighbors unless you've specifically told it not to.

Meat company JBS confirms it paid $11M ransom in cyberattack

The world's largest meat processing company says it paid the equivalent of $11 million to hackers who broke into its computer system late last month.

El Salvador's adoption of bitcoin delights cryptocurrency fans

El Salvador's approval of bitcoin as legal tender, making it the first country in the world to do so, has delighted cryptocurrency fans but left markets unconvinced.

Facebook remote work made permanent as offices re-open

Facebook on Wednesday said it will give employees the option of sticking with remote work for the long term, even offering to help some interested in moving to other countries.

Peugeot to be prosecuted in France over 'dieselgate'

French car maker Peugeot is facing prosecution in France over the "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal, its parent company Stellantis said Wednesday, after similar charges were announced against Renault and Volkswagen.

Modeling the mysteries of the universe, from dark matter to COVID-19

At first glance, astrophysics may not seem to have much in common with tracking and predicting the spread of a global virus. But to Professor Niayesh Afshordi, the link was clear—even early last year as our collective reaction to COVID-19 played out in real time.

Toshiba sought govt help to influence shareholder vote: probe

Japan's Toshiba sought government help to try and influence a boardroom vote proposed by activist shareholders at its last regular annual general meeting, according to an independent probe published Thursday.

Global internet outage points to weakness of the cloud infrastructure, says expert

After the massive internet outage Tuesday that shut down websites and apps across the world, Virginia Tech computer scientist Ali Butt says the incident points to the weakness of the cloud infrastructure upon which many prominent websites are built.

Closing the digital divide by smoothing the breaks in broadband access data

High-speed internet access has gone from an amenity to a necessity for working and learning from home, and the COVID-19 pandemic has more clearly revealed the disadvantages for American households that lack a broadband connection.

Generating energy from salt concentration differences between sea water and river water

Generating energy from the difference in salt concentration between sea water and river water sounds like magic, yet it really works! Blue energy, as this rather obscure form of sustainable power is commonly known, has huge potential. In theory, an average river could produce as much blue energy as a hydropower plant generating power using a waterfall 142 meters in height! Ph.D. researcher Diego Pintossi has developed new ways of understanding and solving the problem of dirt clogging up the membranes used in generating blue energy. He will defend his thesis on Friday June 11th at TU/e.

3 things rooftop solar can teach us about Australia's electric car rollout

Governments and car manufacturers are investing hundreds of billions of dollars on electric vehicles. But while the electric transport revolution is inevitable, the final destination remains unknown.

NCCoE preliminary draft report on ransomware risk management

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) has released a new preliminary draft report, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Interagency or Internal Report (NISTIR) 8374, Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Ransomware Risk Management.

How rain, wind, heat and other weather can affect your internet connection

When your Netflix stream drops out in the middle of a rainstorm, can you blame the wild weather?

World's largest outdoor earthquake simulator undergoes major upgrade

A major upgrade to the world's largest outdoor earthquake simulator reached a milestone mid-April when the facility's floor—all 300,000 lbs of it—was put back into place. When completed this fall, the simulator will have the ability to reproduce multi-dimensional earthquake motions with unprecedented accuracy to make structures and their residents safer during strong shakes.

Zoning rules change in Buffalo shows parking reform could reenergize downtowns

For urban planners, parking rules established decades ago have become a contentious 21st-century challenge. Parking takes up about one-third of land area in U.S. cities; nationwide, there are an estimated eight parking spaces for every car.

Molecular coating enhances organic solar cells

An electrode coating just one molecule thick can significantly enhance the performance of an organic photovoltaic cell, KAUST researchers have found. The coating outperforms the leading material currently used for this task and may pave the way for improvements in other devices that rely on organic molecules, such as light-emitting diodes and photodetectors.

First-ever NFT sells for $1.47 mn at auction

The first non-fungible token (NFT) ever created sold at auction on Thursday for $1.47 million, Sotheby's said, the latest sale in the technological revolution sweeping the art market.

French carmaker Citroen charged in 'dieselgate' scandal

Citroen became on Thursday the fourth automaker to reveal this week that it has been charged in France in connection with the "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal.

Microsoft taking Xbox games directly to TVs

Microsoft on Thursday said it is working on software to let people play Xbox video games on internet-linked televisions without need of consoles.

Video game maker EA says hackers stole source code

Electronic Arts said Thursday hackers managed to steal source code and other software tools from the video game giant, but that the attack was unlikely to have an impact on gamers or business operations.

Russia fines Facebook, Telegram over banned content

Russian authorities on Thursday ordered Facebook and the messaging app Telegram to pay steep fines for failing to remove banned content, a move that could be part of growing government efforts to tighten control over social media platforms amid political dissent.

Wray: FBI frowns on ransomware payments despite recent trend

The FBI's director told lawmakers Thursday that the bureau discourages ransomware payments to hacking groups even as major companies in the past month have participated in multimillion-dollar transactions aimed at getting their systems back online.

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