Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jun 2

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 2, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Text2App: A framework that creates Android apps from text descriptions

Researchers learn how swimming ducks balance water pressure in their feathers while diving

World's lakes losing oxygen rapidly as planet warms

Hexagonal boron nitride's remarkable toughness unmasked

Blood clot-busting nanocapsules could reduce existing treatment's side effects

Dead zones formed repeatedly in North Pacific during warm climates, study finds

Astronomers inspect radio relics in galaxy cluster PSZ2 G096.88+24.18

Human brain and testis found to have the highest number of common proteins

New study suggests falcons have natural 'eye makeup' to improve hunting ability

New method developed to improve durability of nano-electronic components, further semiconductor manufacturing

Researchers develop prototype of robotic device to pick, trim button mushrooms

Scientists learn what fuels the 'natural killers' of the immune system

New algorithm could help enable next-generation deep brain stimulation devices

Turning the tables—how table corals are regenerating reefs

How an elephant's trunk manipulates air to eat and drink

Physics news

Researchers learn how swimming ducks balance water pressure in their feathers while diving

A team of students working with Jonathan Boreyko, associate professor in mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech, has discovered the method ducks use to suspend water in their feathers while diving, allowing them to shake it out when surfacing. The discovery opens the door for applications in marine technology. Findings were published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Professor works to maximize efficiency of solar light pipes

If you have witnessed the rainbow pattern that dances on the surface of a CD or DVD, then you have seen diffraction at work. The disk acts as a diffraction grating, an optical element that disperses light into various colors or wavelengths.

A better look at how particles move

If you take a bucket of water balloons and jostle one of them, the neighboring balloons will respond as well. This is a scaled-up example of how collections of cells and other deformable particle packings respond to forces. Modeling this phenomenon with computer simulations can shed light on questions about how cancer cells invade healthy tissue or how leaves and flowers grow. But the behavior of cell aggregates is extremely complex, and fully capturing their structure and dynamics has proved tricky.

World's smallest, best acoustic amplifier emerges from 50-year-old hypothesis

Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have built the world's smallest and best acoustic amplifier. And they did it using a concept that was all but abandoned for almost 50 years.

Research describes slow and fast light in plasma

Slow and fast light, or large changes in the group velocity of light, have been observed in a range of optical media, but the fine control over the refractive index necessary to induce an observable effect has not been achieved in a plasma.

Entangled quantum memories for a quantum repeater: A step closer to the Quantum Internet

During the '90s, engineers made major advances in the telecom arena spreading out the network to distances beyond the cities and metropolitan areas. To achieve this scalability factor, they used repeaters, which enhanced attenuated signals and allowed these to travel farther distances with the same features such as intensity or fidelity. Now, with the addition of satellites, it is completely normal to be in the middle of a mountain in Europe and talk with your loved ones living in the other part of the world.

Detecting mid-infrared light, one photon at a time

For some 30 years, scientists have used superconducting materials to record the tiniest specks of light imaginable—individual photons, or single particles of light. However, these detectors, which consist of ultracold wires only about one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, were limited to recording single photons at visible-light and slightly longer wavelengths, in the near infrared (IR).

A new dimension in the quest to understand dark matter

As its name suggests, dark matter—material which makes up about 85% of the mass in the universe—emits no light, eluding easy detection. Its properties, too, remain fairly obscure.

How is the genome like an open book? New research shows cells' 'library system'

The organization of the human genome relies on physics of different states of matter—such as liquid and solid—a team of scientists has discovered. The findings, which reveal how the physical nature of the genome changes as cells transform to serve specific functions, point to new ways to potentially better understand disease and to create improved therapies for cancer and genetic disorders.

THOR: Driving collaboration in heavy-ion collision research

In the universe's earliest moments, particles existed in an unimaginably hot plasma, whose behavior was governed by deeply complex webs of interaction between individual particles. Today, researchers can recreate these exotic conditions through high-energy collisions between heavy ions, whose products can tell us much about how hot, strongly-interacting matter behaves. Yet without extensive, highly coordinated collaborations between researchers across many different backgrounds, studies like this simply wouldn't be possible. This Topical Issue of EPJ A draws together a large collection of papers inspired by the theory of hot matter and relativistic heavy-ion collisions (THOR) European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action. Running between November 2016 and April 2021, THOR has provided a way for over 300 researchers involved in heavy-ion collision analysis to freely exchange their ideas, leading to exciting new advances in the wider field of particle physics.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers inspect radio relics in galaxy cluster PSZ2 G096.88+24.18

An international team of astronomers has performed radio and X-ray observations of radio relics in a merging galaxy cluster known as PSZ2 G096.88+24.18. Results of this monitoring campaign could shed more light on the nature of this galaxy cluster. The study was published May 18 on

Astronomers discover a massive star cluster, of intermediate age, in the constellation Scutum

An international team of astrophysicists led by the Stellar Astrophysics Group of the University of Alicante (UA), the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), and the University of Valparaíso (Chile) has discovered a massive cluster of stars of intermediate age in the direction of the Scutum constellation. This object, which has been named Valparaíso 1, lies some seven thousand light years away from the Sun, and contains at least fifteen thousand stars. To detect it, observations have been combined from ESA's Gaia satellite, and various ground-based telescopes, including the Isaac Newton Telescope at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (Garafía, La Palma, Canary Islands). The result has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).

What if the black hole at the center of the Milky Way is actually a mass of dark matter?

A team of researchers at the International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics has found evidence that suggests Sagittarius A* is not a massive black hole but is instead a mass of dark matter. In their paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters, the group describes the evidence they found and how it has stood up to testing.

Russians end 7-hour spacewalk at International Space Station

Two Russian cosmonauts ventured for more than 7 hours outside the International Space Station to prepare for the arrival of a new Russian module.

Creating exotic 'outer space' ice in the lab

The search for life beyond Earth typically focuses on first looking for water, the basis for life as we know it. Whether the water is a gas, liquid, or solid, its presence and composition can tell researchers a lot about the planet, moon, comet, or asteroid on which it is detected and whether it could support life.

2 Russian crew do spacewalk at International Space Station

Two Russian cosmonauts ventured out of the International Space Station Wednesday on a spacewalk to prepare for the arrival of a new Russian module.

The incredible adventures of the Hera mission

Meet Hera, our very own asteroid detective. Together with two briefcase-sized Cubesats—Milani the rock decoder and Juventas the radar visionary—Hera is off on an adventure to explore Didymos and Dimorphos, an asteroid pair typical of the thousands that pose an impact risk to planet Earth.

Space junk: Houston, we have a problem

When we think of space, we think big and empty but when it comes to Earth's orbit, it's cluttered with millions of pieces of garbage that we call space junk.

NASA's Lucy in the cleanroom

L'Ralph is one of the Lucy spacecraft's three primary science instruments. The L'Ralph instrument is a multicolor camera which will gather information on the surface composition of the Trojan asteroids, including organics. The L'Ralph camera sits atop the spacecraft's Instrument Pointing Platform (IPP) that's used to aim Lucy's instruments in a specific direction—seen here in the clean room at Lockheed Martin in Denver, Colorado, in late January 2021.

Image: It's a wrap! Multi-layer satellite insulation

Multi-layer insulation (MLI) is the reason that satellites often look as though they've been covered in shiny Christmas wrapping.

Technology news

Text2App: A framework that creates Android apps from text descriptions

Researchers at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and University of California- Los Angeles (UCLA) recently developed a framework that can create Android applications from text descriptions. This new app was presented in a paper pre-published on arXiv.

Researchers develop prototype of robotic device to pick, trim button mushrooms

Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have developed a robotic mechanism for mushroom picking and trimming and demonstrated its effectiveness for the automated harvesting of button mushrooms.

Studies show promise using drones to elicit emotional responses

As drones become more ubiquitous in public spaces, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have conducted the first studies examining how people respond to various emotional facial expressions depicted on a drone, with the goal of fostering greater social acceptance of these flying robots.

Microscopists push neural networks to the limit to sharpen fuzzy images

Fluorescence imaging uses laser light to obtain bright, detailed images of cells and even sub-cellular structures. However, if you want to watch what a living cell is doing, such as dividing into two cells, the laser may fry it and kill it. One answer is to use less light so the cell will not be damaged and can proceed with its various cellular processes. But, with such low levels of light there is not much signal for a microscope to detect. It's a faint, blurry mess.

Mass scale manipulation of Twitter Trends discovered

New EPFL research has found that almost half of local Twitter trending topics in Turkey are fake, a scale of manipulation previously unheard of. It also proves for the first time that many trends are created solely by bots due to a vulnerability in Twitter's Trends algorithm.

Bringing order to hydrogen energy devices

Researchers at Kyoto University's Institute for Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS) have developed a new approach to speed up hydrogen atoms moving through a crystal lattice structure at lower temperatures. They reported their findings in the journal Science Advances.

New algorithm for modern quilting

Stanford University computer science graduate student Mackenzie Leake has been quilting since age 10, but she never imagined the craft would be the focus of her doctoral dissertation. Included in that work is new prototype software that can facilitate pattern-making for a form of quilting called foundation paper piecing, which involves using a backing made of foundation paper to lay out and sew a quilted design.

Similarity of legs, wheels, tracks suggests target for energy-efficient robots

A new formula from Army scientists is leading to new insights on how to build an energy-efficient legged teammate for dismounted warfighters.

Shadow Figment technology foils cyberattacks

Scientists have created a cybersecurity technology called Shadow Figment that is designed to lure hackers into an artificial world, then stop them from doing damage by feeding them illusory tidbits of success.

Major advance in fabrication of low-cost solar cells also locks up greenhouse gases

Perovskite solar cells have progressed in recent years with rapid increases in power conversion efficiency (from 3% in 2006 to 25.5% today), making them more competitive with silicon-based photovoltaic cells. However, a number of challenges remain before they can become a competitive commercial technology.

AMD and Samsung are developing a new Exynos mobile chip with ray tracing

Computex Taipei announced on June 2, 2021 that the graphics and processors company AMD has collaborated with Samsung to develop RDNA 2 graphics technology for an Exynos mobile system-on-chip, with the goal of enhanced Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) performance in classic Samsung phones.

Researchers explore ways to detect 'deep fakes' in geography

Can you trust the map on your smartphone, or the satellite image on your computer screen?

Zoom's boom continues in 1Q, raising post-pandemic hopes

Zoom is still booming, raising prospects that the video-conferencing service will be able to sustain its momentum, even as the easing pandemic lessens the need for virtual meetings.

Huawei rolls out its own operating system to smartphones

Huawei launched its own HarmonyOS mobile operating system on its handsets on Wednesday as it adapts to having lost access to Google mobile services two years ago after the U.S. put the Chinese telecommunications company on a trade blacklist.

Amazon shifts policy on controversial worker monitoring system

Amazon shifted policy on a controversial employee productivity monitoring system Tuesday as a coalition of US labor unions took aim at the firm, saying a need for speed in warehouses led to injuries.

Environmentally friendly process to recover valuable materials from used lithium-ion batteries

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a solvent that results in a more environmentally friendly process to recover valuable materials from used lithium-ion batteries, supports a stable domestic supply chain for new batteries and keeps old ones out of landfills.

System diverts heat or coolness away from a building and stores it

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a novel envelope system that diverts heat or coolness away from a building and stores it for future use.

Technique inspired by lace making could someday weave structures in space

Lauren Dreier was paging through a 19th century book by the German architect Gottfried Semper when she spotted some intriguing patterns inspired by lace. A professional artist and designer who often incorporates technology into her work, Dreier, who is also a doctoral candidate at the School of Architecture at Princeton University, decided to recreate the printed illustrations in 3D.

New magnetic tunnel junction quad tech provides endurance and reliable data retention

Professor Tetsuo Endoh's Group at Tohoku University's Center for Innovative Integrated Electronics has announced a new magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) quad-technology that provides better endurance and reliable data retention—over 10 years—beyond the 1X nm generation.

Yes, the global microchip shortage is COVID's fault. No, it won't end any time soon

The manufacturing world is facing one of its greatest challenges in years—a global shortage of semiconductors—and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight any time soon.

Unpaved forest road quality assessment using airborne lidar data

Forest road quality control is a time-consuming task, but it can help reduce road management costs and allocate resources to the most urgent renovation needs. While in Finland the aging forest road network requires extent maintenance in the upcoming year, in Canada one of the biggest challenges to assess the existing road network system before building new forest roads.

Britain approves eBay merger with Adevinta

Britain's antitrust authority on Wednesday approved Norwegian firm Adevinta's acquisition of US e-commerce giant eBay's classified advertising business after the two agreed to sell off UK units.

Transparent data collection increases trust among users

If online services like Google are more transparent about what data they collect on their users, it can inspire more trust. This is the conclusion reached by researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy (MPI-SP) in Bochum, together with colleagues from the The George Washington University. In an online study, they had 153 participants look at the data Google had stored about them and asked the participants before and after about their privacy concerns. They also examined whether the participants wanted to change their Google settings in the future after being confronted with the data stored about them.

Sick of dangerous city traffic? Remove left turns

To reduce travel times, fuel consumption and carbon emissions, in 2004, UPS changed delivery routes to minimize the left-hand turns drivers made. Although this seems like a rather modest change, the results are anything but: UPS claims that per year, eliminating left turns—specifically the time drivers sit waiting to cut across traffic—saves 10 million gallons of fuel, 20,000 tons of carbon emissions and allows them to deliver 350,000 additional packages.

Why are there so many text scams all of a sudden?

A new "fraud wave" has been reported in the UK, targeting mobile phone users with texts that, at first glance, appear to be from delivery companies or government institutions.

Social media influencing grows more precarious in digital age

Influencing millions of people on social media and being paid handsomely is not as easy as it looks, according to new Cornell University research.

Amazon to hold Prime Day over 2 days in June

Amazon said Wednesday that it will hold its annual Prime Day over two days in June this year, the earliest it has ever held the sales event.

Amazon's Sidewalk feature will share your internet connection. Here's how to opt out.

Amazon is planning to automatically enroll owners of its devices in a program that would share a slice of their internet connection with neighbors.

Volkswagen tests electric cars, transit apps on Greek island

German carmaker Volkswagen launched a five-year project Wednesday on the small Greek Aegean island of Astypalea to test the adoption of electric vehicles in areas switching to sustainable energy generation.

Bill Gates company to build reactor at Wyoming coal plant

A next-generation, small nuclear plant will be built at a soon-to-be retired coal-fired power plant in Wyoming in the next several years, business and government officials said Wednesday.

Specialized tools for geothermal energy via additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing can make the design and production of specialized tools for geothermal energy cheaper and more efficient, according to a study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Toshiba's triple-gate IGBT power semiconductors cut switching power losses by 40.5%

Toshiba Corporation has developed a prototype triple-gate IGBT that reduces overall power loss by up to 40.5% when switching on and off (switching losses), the process of allowing and stopping electricity flow, in power semiconductors used to control electric power.

Hashtags felt dated and cringeworthy. So why are influencers still using them?

Internet fads tend to have a distinct life cycle. First, the embrace by early adopters and tastemakers, particularly the young. Next, an explosion of popularity leading to inescapable ubiquity. Finally, death by overexposure and a wretched zombie afterlife of continued usage by parents and the terminally uncool.

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