Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jun 9

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A social robot that could help children to regulate their emotions

Dynamics of contact electrification

Key to carbon-free cars? Look to the stars

Researchers develop tool to aid in development, efficiency of hydrogen-powered cars

Asteroid 16 Psyche might not be what scientists expected

People more afraid of catching COVID-19 are more judgemental, study finds

'PrivacyMic': For a smart speaker that doesn't eavesdrop

How your phone can predict depression and lead to personalized treatment

Scientists discover new exoplanet with an atmosphere ripe for study

Spacecraft buzzes Jupiter's mega moon, 1st close-up in years

Researchers create quantum microscope that can see the impossible

CHIME telescope detects more than 500 mysterious fast radio bursts in its first year of operation

How the amphibians got their vertebrae

Gender differentiates how facial expressions are processed in the brains of alcoholics

Low doses of 'laughing gas' could be fast, effective treatment for severe depression

Physics news

Dynamics of contact electrification

A new report on Science Advances developed by Mirco Kaponig and colleagues in physics and nanointegration in Germany, detailed the very basic concept of contact electrification between two metals. In a new experimental method, the researchers followed the charge of a small sphere bouncing on a grounded planar electrode on a timescale down to 1 microsecond. The team noted how the sphere discharged in the moment of contact lasting for 6 to 8 microseconds. At the moment of disruption of the electrical contact, the sphere regained charge far beyond expectations relative to the contact potential difference. The excess charge arose with increasing contact area.

Researchers create quantum microscope that can see the impossible

In a major scientific leap, University of Queensland researchers have created a quantum microscope that can reveal biological structures that would otherwise be impossible to see.

Achieving UV nonlinearity with a wide bandgap semiconductor waveguide

The field of ultrafast nonlinear photonics has now become the focus of numerous studies, as it enables a host of applications in advanced on-chip spectroscopy and information processing. The latter in particular requires a strongly intensity-dependent optical refractive index that can modulate optical pulses faster than even picosecond timescales and on sub-millimeter scales suitable for integrated photonics.

Technique characterizes phases of superfluids changing to supersolids and back

A team of researchers from the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information and the University of Innsbruck, has developed a technique for characterizing the phases a superfluid undergoes as it changes to a supersolid and then back again. The group has written a paper describing their technique and have uploaded it to the arXiv preprint server.

Physicists achieve significant improvement in spotting accelerator-produced neutrinos in a cosmic haystack

How do you spot a subatomic neutrino in a "haystack" of particles streaming from space? That's the daunting prospect facing physicists studying neutrinos with detectors near Earth's surface. With little to no shielding in such non-subterranean locations, surface-based neutrino detectors, usually searching for neutrinos produced by particle accelerators, are bombarded by cosmic rays—relentless showers of subatomic and nuclear particles produced in Earth's atmosphere by interactions with particles streaming from more-distant cosmic locations. These abundant travelers, mostly muons, create a web of crisscrossing particle tracks that can easily obscure a rare neutrino event.

ATLAS experiment searches for 'charming' decay of the Higgs boson

Key to understanding the Higgs boson and its role in the Standard Model is understanding how it interacts with matter particles, i.e. quarks and leptons. There are three generations of matter particles, varying in mass from the lightest (first generation) to the heaviest (third generation). Although hints of second-generation lepton interactions have started to appear, physicists have only experimentally confirmed that the masses of the heaviest quarks originate from their interactions with the Higgs field. So far, lighter quarks have not yet been observed interacting with the Higgs boson.

Researchers reveal relationship between magnetic field and supercapacitors

Since energy storage devices are often used in a magnetic field environment, scientists regularly explore how an external magnetic field affects the charge storage of nonmagnetic aqueous carbon-based supercapacitor systems.

X-ray flash imaging of laser-induced bubbles and shockwaves in water

Researchers have created tiny bubbles in high-pressure water via intense focused lasers. Under these conditions, the bubbles expand at supersonic speed and push a shockwave consisting of a spherical shell of highly compressed water. The research team led by the University of Göttingen, together with the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchroton (DESY) and the European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser (European XFEL) used an innovative technique involving holographic flash imaging and nanofocused X-ray laser pulses. The research was published in Nature Communications.

Study: Important contribution to spintronics has received little consideration until now

The movement of electrons can have a significantly greater influence on spintronic effects than previously assumed. This discovery was made by an international team of researchers led by physicists from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). Until now, a calculation of these effects took, above all, the spin of electrons into consideration. The study was published in the journal Physical Review Research and offers a new approach in developing spintronic components.

X-ray scanner spots cancers and analyzes drugs in minutes

Engineers at Duke University have demonstrated a prototype X-ray scanning machine that reveals not just the shape of an object but its molecular composition. With unprecedented resolution and accuracy, the technology could revolutionize a wide range of fields such as cancer surgery, pathology, drug inspection and geology.

Normal breathing sends saliva droplets 7 feet; masks shorten this

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control recommend keeping a certain distance between people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These social distancing recommendations are estimated from a variety of studies, but further research about the precise mechanism of virus transport from one person to another is still needed.

Researchers achieve synergetic effects between spin-orbit coupling and Stark effect

Each electron carries one negative elementary charge, whose collective motion generates electric currents that drive the operation of lights, transistors and all kinds of electronic devices. However, as being an elementary particle, electron also possesses an intrinsic angular momentum, i.e. spin of 1/2. It has been a tempting goal to manipulate electron spins for developing faster and more energy-efficient electronic devices since Datta and Das proposed the idea of spin field-effect transistor in the 1990s.

Transformation toughening of ceramics made crystal clear

Ceramic materials that are resistant to cracking are used in a variety of industries from aerospace engineering to dentistry. Toughening them to improve their efficiency and safety is therefore an important area of investigation. Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have used time-resolved X-ray diffraction to observe transformation toughening in zirconia ceramics during dynamic fracture. Their findings are published in Applied Physics Letters.

Cabling for Large Hadron Collider upgrade project reaches halfway mark

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has passed the halfway mark in the multi-year process of fabricating crucial superconducting cables as part of a project to upgrade the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. This upgrade, now in progress, will greatly increase the facility's collision rate and its scientific productivity.

Researchers realize unconventional coherent control of solid-state spin qubits

A research team led by Prof. Guo Guangcan from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), together with Prof. Adam Gali from Wigner Research Centre for Physics, realized robust coherent control of solid-state spin qubits using anti-Strokes (AS) excitation, broadening the boundary of quantum information processing and quantum sensing. This study was published in Nature Communications.

Astronomy and Space news

Asteroid 16 Psyche might not be what scientists expected

The widely studied metallic asteroid known as 16 Psyche was long thought to be the exposed iron core of a small planet that failed to form during the earliest days of the solar system. But new University of Arizona-led research suggests that the asteroid might not be as metallic or dense as once thought, and hints at a much different origin story.

Scientists discover new exoplanet with an atmosphere ripe for study

An international group of collaborators, including scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and The University of New Mexico, have discovered a new, temperate sub-Neptune sized exoplanet with a 24-day orbital period orbiting a nearby M dwarf star. The recent discovery offers exciting research opportunities thanks to the planet's substantial atmosphere, small star, and how fast the system is moving away from the Earth.

Spacecraft buzzes Jupiter's mega moon, 1st close-up in years

NASA's Juno spacecraft has provided the first close-ups of Jupiter's largest moon in two decades.

CHIME telescope detects more than 500 mysterious fast radio bursts in its first year of operation

To catch sight of a fast radio burst is to be extremely lucky in where and when you point your radio dish. Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are oddly bright flashes of light, registering in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum, that blaze for a few milliseconds before vanishing without a trace.

A study shows the unexpected effect of black holes beyond their own galaxies

At the heart of almost every sufficiently massive galaxy there is a black hole whose gravitational field, although very intense, affects only a small region around the center of the galaxy. Even though these objects are thousands of millions of times smaller than their host galaxies, our current view is that the Universe can be understood only if the evolution of galaxies is regulated by the activity of these black holes, because without them the observed properties of the galaxies cannot be explained.

Astronomers discover a 'changing-look' blazar

A University of Oklahoma doctoral student, graduate and undergraduate research assistants, and an associate professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy in the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences are lead authors on a paper describing a "changing-look" blazar—a powerful active galactic nucleus powered by supermassive blackhole at the center of a galaxy. The paper is published in The Astrophysical Journal.

NASA's Roman Space Telescope selects 24 flight-quality heat-vision 'eyes'

NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope team recently flight-certified all 24 of the detectors the mission needs. When Roman launches in the mid-2020s, these devices will convert starlight into electrical signals, which will then be decoded into 300-megapixel images of large patches of the sky. These images will allow astronomers to explore a vast array of celestial objects and phenomena, bringing us closer to solving many pressing cosmic mysteries.

Lunar IceCube passes critical testing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

The Lunar IceCube CubeSat successfully passed essential environmental testing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft, pictured above, will fly aboard the upcoming Artemis I mission to the moon as a secondary payload to investigate the amount and distribution of water ice on the moon.

Solar eclipse chaser: What to expect from this week's partial eclipse

In December 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, I made the somewhat questionable decision to fly 11,200km from where I live in Belfast, Northern Ireland to Santiago, Chile. Then, I boarded a connecting two-hour flight and drove for a further two hours, just to experience two minutes and 20 seconds of darkness.

XRISM telescope filter wheel, calibration system sent to Japan for assembly

On June 9, SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research sends its contributions to the XRISM X-ray telescope to Japan, where space agency JAXA will mount it on the satellite. SRON has been working on a filter wheel plus calibration system for the past few years. In 2023, XRISM will be launched into space, where it will observe phenomena such as black holes and supernovae.

Technology news

A social robot that could help children to regulate their emotions

In recent years, roboticists have developed a broad variety of social robots, robots designed to communicate with humans, assist them and support them in several different ways. This includes robotic toys and other robots designed to be used by children.

'PrivacyMic': For a smart speaker that doesn't eavesdrop

Microphones are perhaps the most common electronic sensor in the world, with an estimated 320 million listening for our commands in the world's smart speakers. The trouble is that they're capable of hearing everything else, too.

New pathway to improve polycrystalline thin-film solar cell performance

Puzzling out and testing new ways to improve the efficiency of cadmium telluride (CdTe) polycrystalline thin-film photovoltaic materials is a typical day in the life of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) research scientists Matthew Reese and Craig Perkins. Like any good puzzlers, they bring curiosity and keen observation to the task. These skills led them, over time, to make an intriguing observation. In fact, their discovery may prove to be a boon for the next generation of several different types of thin-film solar cells.

Researchers build supply chain model to support hydrogen economy

Over the past decades, the need for carbon-free energy has driven increasing interest in hydrogen as an environmentally clean fuel. But shifting the economy away from fossils fuels to clean-burning hydrogen will require significant adjustments in current supply chains. To facilitate this transition, an MIT-led team of researchers has developed a new hydrogen supply chain planning model.

An atomic look at lithium-rich batteries

Batteries have come a long way since Volta first stacked copper and zinc discs together 200 years ago. While the technology has continued to evolve from lead-acid to lithium ion, many challenges still exist—like achieving higher density and suppressing dendrite growth. Experts are racing to address the growing global need for energy-efficient and safe batteries.

Increasing the memory capacity of intelligent systems based on the function of human neurons

Researchers from the University of Liège (Belgium) have recently developed a new artificial neuron inspired by the different modes of operation of human neurons. Called a Bistable Recurrent Cell (BRC), this process has enabled recurrent networks to learn temporal relationships of more than a thousand discrete time units where classical methods failed after only a hundred time units. These important results are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Largest password data breach in history has been leaked online

Back in 2009, threat actors hacked into the website servers of social app RockYou, accessing over 32 million user passwords stored in plaintext. Now, in what appears to be the largest data breach in history, attackers have compromised 262 times as many passwords. With 3.2 billion leaked passwords from multiple databases, this attack has been dubbed RockYou2021.

Gucci digitally outfits Gen-Z in metaverse foray with Roblox

Anyone whose virtual alter ego is wandering around the Roblox online game platform these days might run into other avatars sporting Gucci handbags, sunglasses or hats.

Amazon may prove exception to global tax rules

The Group of Seven wealthy nations may have endorsed a plan to ensure the world's biggest companies pay a minimum global tax rate, but US tech behemoth Amazon may escape it.

US state sues to have Google declared a public utility

The state of Ohio on Tuesday filed an unprecedented lawsuit calling on a local court to declare Google as much a public utility as an electric company.

Chile inaugurates Latin America's first thermosolar plant

Chile on Tuesday inaugurated Latin America's first-ever thermosolar energy plant, a vast complex dubbed Cerro Dominador in the Atacama desert that gives a boost to the country's quest for carbon-neutrality by 2050.

Ferrari taps European chip-maker executive as new CEO

Luxury sports carmaker Ferrari has tapped Benedetto Vigna, an Italian executive at Europe's largest semiconductor chipmaker, as its new CEO, the company announced Wednesday.

Fastly blames global internet outage on software bug

Fastly, the company hit by a major outage that caused many of the world's top websites to go offline briefly this week, blamed the problem on a software bug that was triggered when a customer changed a setting.

Fastly global internet outage: What happened, and what is a CDN, anyway?

If you were having difficulty accessing your favorite website on Tuesday evening Australian time, you're not alone. A jaw-dropping number of major websites around the globe suddenly became unavailable with no immediately obvious explanation—before reappearing an hour later.

Urban and transportation planning: The solution to physical inactivity?

Urban and transportation planning influence population-level physical activity, a recently published doctoral dissertation shows. Increases in community structure density, mixed land use, and access networks were associated with increased walking and cycling and decreased car use.

COVID-19 messages make emergency alerts just another text in the crowd on your home screen

On a spring day in 2020, residents of El Paso, Texas, saw their phones light up with a text message: "Avoid parks/family gatherings this Easter. Stay home, stay safe. Do it for your loved ones."

New processes for automated fabrication of fiber and silicone composite structures for soft robotics

Researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) have developed novel techniques, known as Automated Fiber Embedding (AFE), to produce complex fiber and silicone composite structures for soft robotics applications. Their work was published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.

Eying deal, GM softens on tough standards for car pollution

The nation's largest automaker said Wednesday it can support greenhouse gas emissions limits that other car manufacturers negotiated with California—if they are achieved mostly by promoting sales of fully electric vehicles.

Facebook working on smartwatch

Facebook on Wednesday confirmed it is working on a smartwatch that might on day connect with augmented reality glasses being developed by the leading social network.

Engineers apply physics-informed machine learning to solar cell production

Today, solar energy provides 2% of U.S. power. However, by 2050, renewables are predicted to be the most used energy source (surpassing petroleum and other liquids, natural gas, and coal) and solar will overtake wind as the leading source of renewable power. To reach that point, and to make solar power more affordable, solar technologies still require a number of breakthroughs. One is the ability to more efficiently transform photons of light from the Sun into useable energy.

Startup Lordstown Motors warns it may not stay in business

Startup commercial electric vehicle maker Lordstown Motors says it may not be in business a year from now as it tries to secure funding to start full production of an electric pickup truck.

Interior Dept. gauging interest in Gulf of Mexico wind power

President Joe Biden's administration wants to know whether offshore wind companies want to move into the Gulf of Mexico.

Bitcoin proves double-edged sword for criminals

Regulators have repeatedly criticised the growth of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin because of their popularity with criminals but the technology's transparent transactions can also work against law breakers.

Global tax still far from becoming reality

After the accolades, an agreement among the world's wealthiest countries to set a global minimum tax on the biggest companies now faces a long, bumpy road to implementation.

EU court annuls approval of aid for German airline Condor

A top European Union court on Wednesday annulled the EU's approval of 550 million euros ($670 million) in state aid for German airline Condor, backing a challenge by budget carrier Ryanair but suspending the application of the ruling because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

France to 'fight' for Amazon inclusion in digital tax

France said Wednesday it would make sure that internet commerce giant Amazon is subject to a minimum global tax endorsed by the Group of Seven wealthy nations.

Former VW boss to pay firm $13 million over diesel scandal

Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has agreed to pay 11.2 million euros ($13.6 million) in compensation for what the company called his failure to quickly get to the bottom of the 2015 scandal over diesel engines rigged to cheat on emissions tests, the company said Wednesday.

Internet ads are a popular tax target for both parties

Last month, Robert Reeve, a digital tech worker from Washington, D.C., went to visit his mom in Michigan for a week. Shortly after, ads for a brand of toothpaste his mom uses—and that he also used during his stay at her house—popped up in his Twitter feed.

Biden drops plan to ban Chinese-owned apps TikTok, WeChat

President Joe Biden on Wednesday revoked executive orders from his predecessor Donald Trump seeking to ban Chinese-owned mobile apps TikTok and WeChat over national security concerns, the White House said.

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