Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jul 28

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for July 28, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A single-molecule laser nanospectroscopy technique with micro-electron volt energy resolution

A new taxonomy to characterize human grasp types in videos

Managing earthquakes triggered by oil production: Scientists demonstrate safer wastewater disposal method

First detection of light from behind a black hole

Laws of friction tested in the collapsing crater of an erupting volcano

A caffeine buzz helps bees learn to find specific flowers

Chaotic electrons heed 'limit' in strange metals

Oldest fossils of animals may be in Canada rocks, study says

Icy waters of 'Snowball Earth' may have spurred early organisms to grow bigger

Genetic variant linked to hearing loss in children treated with common chemotherapy drug

Earth's 'vital signs' worsening as humanity's impact deepens

A 'greener' process for extracting compounds from agricultural and food waste

Finding the source of the impactor that wiped out the dinosaurs

Heart cell protein could lead to new treatments for heart failure and recovery

Motivation depends on how the brain processes fatigue

Physics news

A single-molecule laser nanospectroscopy technique with micro-electron volt energy resolution

When molecules are excited, they can give rise to a variety of energy conversion phenomena, such as light emission and photoelectric or photochemical conversion. To unlock new energy conversion functions in organic materials, researchers should be able to understand the nature of a material's excited state and control it.

Chaotic electrons heed 'limit' in strange metals

Electrons in metals try to behave like obedient motorists, but they end up more like bumper cars. They may be reckless drivers, but a new Cornell-led study confirms this chaos has a limit established by the laws of quantum mechanics.

Superconductivity in high-Tc cuprates: 'From maximal to minimal dissipation'—a new paradigm?

Researchers from the University of Bristol's School of Physics used some of Europe's strongest continuous magnetic fields to uncover evidence of exotic charge carriers in the metallic state of copper-oxide high-temperature superconductors (high-Tc cuprates). Their results have been published this week in Nature. In a related publication in SciPost Physics last week, the team postulated that it is these exotic charge carriers that form the superconducting pairs, in marked contrast with expectations from conventional theory.

Novel method for fast 3D microscopy

In the past, many discoveries have been made because better, more accurate measurement methods have become available, making it possible to obtain data from previously unexplored phenomena. For example, high-resolution microscopy has begun to dramatically change our perspectives of cell function and dynamics. Researchers at the ImmunoSensation2 Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bonn, the University Hospital and the research center caesar have now develop a method that allows using multi-focal images to reconstruct the movement of fast biological processes in 3D. The study has been recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Machine-learning method to find optimal solutions in extremely large design spaces

Electrical engineers at Duke University have devised a new method for solving difficult design problems with many potential solutions in a large design space using machine learning. Dubbed the "neural-adjoint method," the approach successfully unearths an optimized design for an electromagnetic communications device and could also be used for many other design challenges ranging from biomedical imaging to holography.

Water as a metal

Under normal conditions, pure water is an almost perfect insulator. Water only develops metallic properties under extreme pressure, such as exists deep inside of large planets. Now, an international collaboration has used a completely different approach to produce metallic water and documented the phase transition at BESSY II. The study is published now in Nature.

Non-linear effects in coupled optical microcavities

Scientists from the Faculty of Physics of the University of Warsaw have demonstrated exciton-polariton lasing and parametric scattering of exciton-polaritons in a system of coupled optical microcavities. The results have been published in the prestigious journal Nanophotonics.

Berkeley Lab's CAMERA leads international effort on autonomous scientific discoveries

Experimental facilities around the globe are facing a challenge: their instruments are becoming increasingly powerful, leading to a steady increase in the volume and complexity of the scientific data they collect. At the same time, these tools demand new, advanced algorithms to take advantage of these capabilities and enable ever-more intricate scientific questions to be asked—and answered. For example, the ALS-U project to upgrade the Advanced Light Source facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will result in 100 times brighter soft X-ray light and feature superfast detectors that will lead to a vast increase in data-collection rates.

Astronomy and Space news

First detection of light from behind a black hole

Watching X-rays flung out into the universe by the supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy 800 million light-years away, Stanford University astrophysicist Dan Wilkins noticed an intriguing pattern. He observed a series of bright flares of X-rays—exciting, but not unprecedented—and then, the telescopes recorded something unexpected: additional flashes of X-rays that were smaller, later and of different "colors" than the bright flares.

Finding the source of the impactor that wiped out the dinosaurs

The impactor believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs and other life forms on Earth some 66 million years ago likely came from the outer half of the main asteroid belt, a region previously thought to produce few impactors. Researchers from Southwest Research Institute have shown that the processes that deliver large asteroids to Earth from that region occur at least 10 times more frequently than previously thought and that the composition of these bodies match what we know of the dinosaur-killing impactor.

Magnetic 'balding' of black holes saves general relativity prediction

Black holes aren't what they eat. Einstein's general relativity predicts that no matter what a black hole consumes, its external properties depend only on its mass, rotation and electric charge. All other details about its diet disappear. Astrophysicists whimsically call this the no-hair conjecture. (Black holes, they say, "have no hair.")

Magnetic fields implicated in the mysterious midlife crisis of stars

Middle-aged stars can experience their own kind of midlife crisis, experiencing dramatic breaks in their activity and rotation rates at about the same age as our Sun, according to new research published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. The study provides a new theoretical underpinning for the unexplained breakdown of established techniques for measuring ages of stars past their middle age, and the transition of solar-like stars to a magnetically inactive future.

Scientists capture most-detailed radio image of Andromeda galaxy to date

Scientists have published a new, detailed radio image of the Andromeda galaxy—the Milky Way's sister galaxy—which will allow them to identify and study the regions of Andromeda where new stars are born.

A hot and dry Jupiter: SPIRou reveals the atmosphere of the exoplanet Tau Boötis b

Using the SPIRou spectropolarimeter on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, a team led by Stefan Pelletier, a PhD student at Université de Montréal's Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), studied the atmosphere of the gas giant exoplanet Tau Boötis b, a scorching hot world that takes a mere three days to orbit its host star. 

First test of Europe's new space brain

ESA has successfully operated a spacecraft with Europe's next-generation mission control system for the first time. The powerful software, named the "European Ground System—Common Core' (EGS-CC), will be the 'brain' of all European spaceflight operations in the years to come, and promises new possibilities for how future missions will fly.

Rocket tanks of carbon-fiber–reinforced plastic are proven possible

Future rockets could fly with tanks made of lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic thanks to ground-breaking research carried out within ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Program.

Will AI leave human astronomers in the stardust?

Machine learning is coming for astronomy. But that doesn't mean astronomers and citizen scientists are obsolete. In fact, it may mean exactly the opposite.

Upgrades to NASA's space communications infrastructure pave the way to higher data rates

The ability to transmit and receive data is crucial in space exploration. Spacecraft need robust networking capabilities to send data—including large files like photos and videos—captured by onboard instruments to Earth as well as simultaneously receiving commands from control centers. NASA has made significant strides to improve the agency's space communications capabilities while simultaneously maintaining ongoing operations and service to a large number of missions.

Supernova explosions are sustained by neutrinos from neutron stars, a new observation suggests

A model for supernova explosions first proposed in the 1980s has received strong support from the observation by RIKEN astrophysicists of titanium-rich plumes emanating from a remnant of such an explosion.

Technology news

A new taxonomy to characterize human grasp types in videos

Over the past few decades, roboticists and computer scientists have developed a variety of data-based techniques for teaching robots how to complete different tasks. To achieve satisfactory results, however, these techniques should be trained on reliable and large datasets, preferably labeled with information related to the task they are learning to complete.

Machine learning applications need less data than has been assumed

A combined team of researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta has found that at least some machine learning applications can learn from far fewer examples than has been assumed. In their paper published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, the group describes testing they carried out with machine learning applications created to predict certain types of molecular structures.

Hybrid cars are twice as vulnerable to supply chain issues as gas-powered models

The global computer chip shortage has hit car manufacturers especially hard, indicating the importance of supply chain resilience. Yet, for hybrid electric vehicles, it isn't clear how their production could be impacted by fluctuating supplies and high prices. To get a grasp of these vulnerabilities compared to those for gas-powered models, researchers reporting in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology conducted a thorough analysis, finding that hybrid models have twice the vulnerability to supply chain disruptions.

Neural network trained to properly name organic molecules

Skoltech researchers and their colleagues from Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Syntelly start-up have developed and trained a neural network to generate names for organic compounds in accordance with the IUPAC nomenclature system. Their research published in the Scientific Reports shows that modern neural networks are able to efficiently deal with exact algorithmic problems.

Indiana to test 'magment': a magnetized concrete to charge electric vehicles

The governor of Indiana has announced that the Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University will soon begin testing the viability of "Magment"—a magnetized concrete for use in charging electric vehicles as they drive. Magment was developed by a German company with the same name.

Dark mode may not save battery life as much as anticipated

When Android and Apple operating system updates started giving users the option to put their smartphones in dark mode, the feature showed potential for saving the battery life of newer phones with screens that allow darker-colored pixels to use less power than lighter-colored pixels.

Researchers pave the way toward finding suitable solvents for perovskite inks

Perovskite solar cells have gained attention in recent years because of their ability to deliver high photovoltaic performance under a low-cost and low-temperature solution-based fabrication processing, which allows materials to be dissolved in suitable solvents to produce inks.

Record-setting super shoes are here to stay, say experts

Derided by purists, evangelised by innovators: "super shoes" are the tools of the trade for today's athletes and will continue to radically change the landscape of track and road running, experts have told AFP.

3 tech giants report combined profits of more than $50B

Three tech companies—Apple, Microsoft and Google owner Alphabet—reported combined profits of more than $50 billion in the April-June quarter, underscoring their unparalleled influence and success at reshaping the way we live.

Cloud, business services lift Microsoft earnings

Microsoft on Tuesday reported a jump in profits in the recently ended quarter, keeping strong momentum from accelerated gains in cloud computing during the pandemic.

'Metaverse': the next internet revolution?

Imagine a world where you could sit on the same couch as a friend who lives thousands of miles away, or conjure up a virtual version of your workplace while at the beach.

Japan's Nissan returns to profit, forecasts profit for year

Nissan reported a 114.5 billion yen ($1 billion) profit for the April-June quarter as its sales and profitability improved, especially in the U.S. market.

'AirBubble' offers respite from Warsaw pollution

At a new playground in central Warsaw, algae feast on pollutants and carbon dioxide to provide a bubble of clean oxygen in a city ranked as one of the most polluted capitals in the EU.

Innovative transmitter IC architecture enables >80GHz analog output bandwidth

The growing popularity of data-intensive applications, such as cloud services, video streaming, high-performance computing and 5G, poses ever-increasing demands on optical communication networks within data centers. Here, the most performant optical links operate at speeds up to 400Gb/s, using for example 4 x 100Gb/s channels. Data center operators are however forecasting a need for terabit/s capable optical transceivers within a few years from now. In parallel to this evolution, co-packaged paradigms are emerging to help optical switches cope with the massive bandwidth density at their input—soon reaching 100 terabit/s. In these co-packaged optics, Si photonics transceivers are tightly integrated with the high-speed electronic circuits.

Lower battery costs, high value of backup power influence distributed storage deployment

There is economic potential for up to 490 gigawatts per hour of behind-the-meter battery storage in the United States by 2050 in residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, or 300 times today's installed capacity. But only a small fraction could be adopted by customers, according to the latest phase of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) Storage Futures Study.

Offshore wind turbines could number 30,000 by 2030: New ideas in ocean engineering are needed to install them

The UK is planning to install 40 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030—enough to provide electricity to every home in the country. This would require 5,000 wind turbines—double the number installed offshore worldwide at the end of 2020. Current projections indicate 234 gigawatts of offshore wind energy will be installed globally by 2030, which could mean around 30,000 turbines.

Delivery apps expand reach to meet customer demands

Spurred by skyrocketing consumer demand during the pandemic, restaurant delivery companies like DoorDash and Uber Eats are rapidly expanding their services to grocers, convenience stores, pharmacies, pet stores and even department stores.

Boeing reports surprise profit and says it will cut fewer jobs

Boeing landed its first quarterly profit since 2019 on higher defense earnings and a recovering commercial aviation market that will enable the company to cut fewer jobs than initially planned, according to results released Wednesday.

Researchers design AI system for social distance breach detection

Griffith University researchers have developed an AI video surveillance system to detect social distancing breaches in an airport without compromising privacy.

As cyberattacks skyrocket, Canada needs to work with—and not hinder—cybersecurity experts

Cyberattacks are on the rise, impacting people, systems, infrastructures and governments with potentially devastating and far-reaching effects. Most recently, these include the massive REvil ransomware attack and the discovery that the Pegasus spyware was tracking more than 1,000 people.

Fact check: Facebook didn't pull the plug on two chatbots because they created a language

The claim: Facebook discontinued two "AI robots" after they developed their own language

After rocket ride of growth, Robinhood heads to the market

After a rocket rise where it introduced millions of people to investing and reshaped the brokerage industry, all while racking up a long list of controversies in less than eight years, Robinhood is about to take the leap itself into the stock market.

Google delays return to office, mandates vaccines

Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.

Sony says PS5 sales top 10 mn as demand surges

Sony Interactive Entertainment on Wednesday said that PlayStation 5 has become the company's hottest selling video game console, with demand outpacing supply.

Twitter tests shopping in e-commerce move

Twitter on Wednesday began testing a feature allowing businesses sell goods from their profile pages at the one-to-many messaging platform.

Taiwan probes reported hack of officials' messaging accounts

Taiwan's police on Wednesday said they had launched an investigation after local media reported more than 100 LINE messaging app accounts used by officials had been hacked and the company admitted "abnormal activities" had been detected.

EXPLAINER: Risks underlie tumbling Chinese company shares

Foreign shareholders in China's tech companies are learning what its entrepreneurs have long known: The ruling Communist Party's decisions about what is good for the economy can hurt your business.

Activision launches sexism review ahead of walkout

Video games giant Activision Blizzard announced a far-reaching review of its workplace practices Wednesday as it faced a staff walkout over accusations of widespread sexism and harassment.

US acting to better protect infrastructure from cyberthreats

The Biden administration is taking steps to harden cybersecurity defenses for critical infrastructure, announcing on Wednesday the development of performance goals and a voluntary public-private partnership to protect core sectors.

Celebrity gossip site relaunches after sex tape forced shutdown

Gawker, the gossip website forced into bankruptcy following its posting of a celebrity sex tape, is relaunching under new ownership, the publisher said Wednesday.

Workers walk out over treatment of women at game giant Activision

Workers at video games giant Activision Blizzard walked out to protest sexism and harassment on Wednesday as a call went out online to boycott hit titles such as "Call of Duty" and "Candy Crush."

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