Science X Newsletter Monday, Aug 9

Dear ymilog,

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A framework for robot path finding in unstructured environments

Mars rover comes up empty in 1st try at getting rock sample

New carnivorous plant must balance trapping prey and being pollinated

Some past sea levels may not have been as high as thought, says study of rising and sinking landmasses

Fifteen new variable stars detected in the galaxy NGC 247

'Cool' stars may not be so unique

Researchers design three-dimensional kirigami building blocks to make dynamic metamaterials

Want to pretend to live on Mars? For a whole year? Apply now

Hot dates: 2 spacecraft to make Venus flyby

Researchers find a 'fearsome dragon' that soared over outback Queensland

'Code red': UN scientists warn of worsening global warming

No good news here: Key IPCC findings on climate change

The burden of the COVID-19 pandemic may contribute to outbreaks of violent protest and antigovernment sentiment

Youth, the pandemic and a global mental health crisis

Vaping just once raises oxidative stress levels in nonsmokers, increasing disease risk

Physics news

Releasing the heat: A new model to streamline the design of thermally efficient electrical contacts

When we think of modern technology in our daily lives, phones, tablets, and laptops, immediately come to mind. Using these electronic devices for extended periods of time leads to a familiar problem–overheating. As electronics have gotten smaller, getting rid of heat has become more challenging and more necessary.

Qubit in a crystal lattice of boron nitride is a suitable sensor

An artificially created spin defect (qubit) in a crystal lattice of boron nitride is suitable as a sensor enabling the measurement of different changes in its local environment. The qubit is a boron vacancy located in a two-dimensional layer of hexagonal boron nitride and has an angular momentum (spin).

New way to probe exotic matter aids in the study of atomic and particle physics

Physicists have created a new way to observe details about the structure and composition of materials that improves upon previous methods. Conventional spectroscopy changes the frequency of light shining on a sample over time to reveal details about them. The new technique, Rabi-oscillation spectroscopy, does not need to explore a wide frequency range, so can operate much more quickly. This method could be used to interrogate our best theories of matter in order to form a better understanding of the material universe.

Physicists have built a mathematical 'playground' to study quantum information

In a new study from Skoltech and the University of Kentucky, researchers have found a new connection between quantum information and quantum field theory. This work attests to the growing role of quantum information theory across various areas of physics. The paper was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Exploring the limits of light-matter coupling at the nanoscale

The interplay between light and matter encompasses a stunning spectrum of phenomena, from photosynthesis to the captivating colors of rainbows and butterfly wings. Diverse as these manifestations may be, they involve very weak light-matter coupling—in essence, light interacts with the material system but does not change its basic properties. A distinctively different set of phenomena arises, however, for systems that are artifically engineered to maximize light-matter coupling. Then intriguing quantum states can emerge that are neither light nor matter, but a hybrid of the two. Such states are of high interest from a fundamental point of view as well as for creating novel functionalities, for instance for enabling interactions between photons. The strongest couplings to date have been realized with semiconductor materials confined to tiny photonic cavities. In these devices the coupling is typically increased by making the cavity ever smaller. But even if associated fabrication challenges can be addressed, the approach is about to encounter fundamental physical limits, as a team led by Professors Giacomo Scalari and Jérôme Faist at the Institute of Quantum Electronics report in a paper published today in Nature Photonics. With this work, they set quantitative limits to the miniaturization of such nanophotonic devices.

Astronomy and Space news

Mars rover comes up empty in 1st try at getting rock sample

NASA's newest Mars rover came up empty Friday in its first attempt to pick up a rock sample to eventually be brought back to Earth.

Fifteen new variable stars detected in the galaxy NGC 247

Using the Gemini Observatory, astronomers have detected 15 new periodic and non-periodic variables in a nearby galaxy known as NGC 247. The finding, reported in a paper published July 29 on the arXiv pre-print repository, could improve our knowledge regarding stellar populations of this galaxy.

'Cool' stars may not be so unique

Stars scattered throughout the cosmos look different, but they may be more alike than once thought, according to Rice University researchers.

Want to pretend to live on Mars? For a whole year? Apply now

Want to find your inner Matt Damon and spend a year pretending you are isolated on Mars? NASA has a job for you.

Hot dates: 2 spacecraft to make Venus flyby

Two spacecraft are set to swoop past Venus within hours of each other this week, using the maneuver to do a little bit of bonus science on the way to their main missions at the center of our solar system.

The dust and gas in protoplanetary disks

Planets form as the dust grains in a protoplanetary disk grow into pebbles and then finally into planets. Because small dust grains interact with gas (via the drag it imparts), the gas in protoplanetary disks influences the distribution of small grains and hence the growth of planets. Astronomers trying to unravel how dust-gas interactions affect planet development are particularly interested in studying the disk thickness (its "vertical height") versus the distance from the star; the disk flares outward in most cases where the central star dominates the mass of the system. By independently measuring the heights of the gas and the small dust grains, astronomers can study fundamental disk characteristics such as the gas-to-dust mass ratio and turbulence in the disk.

Did nature or nurture shape the Milky Way's most common planets?

A Carnegie-led survey of exoplanet candidates identified by NASA's Transiting Exoplanets Satellite Survey (TESS) is laying the groundwork to help astronomers understand how the Milky Way's most common planets formed and evolved, and determine why our solar system's pattern of planetary orbits and sizes is so unusual.

NASA rover has been exploring surface sediments, not lake deposits, for last eight years: study

In 2012, NASA landed the rover Curiosity in the Gale crater on Mars because the crater was thought by many scientists to be the site of an ancient lake on Mars more than 3 billion years ago. Since that time, the rover has been driving along, carrying out geological analyses with its suite of instruments for over 3,190 sols (martian days, equivalent to 3278 earth days). After analyzing the data, researchers from Department of Earth Sciences, the Faculty of Science at HKU, have proposed that the sediments measured by the rover during most of the mission did not actually form in a lake.

Gearing up for third Sentinel-2 satellite

With the first Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite in orbit since 2015 and the second since 2017, engineers are busy preparing the mission's follow-on pair to eventually pick up the baton to supply images for a myriad of applications from food security to monitoring the decline of Earth's ice. Slated for launch at the beginning of 2024, Sentinel-2C has just started a punishing five-month testing program to ensure that it is fit for its life in space.

Image: Crater trio

This image was taken on 22 March 2021 in the Lunae Planum region [16.74°N, 300.9°E] of Mars by the CaSSIS camera on the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

Technology news

A framework for robot path finding in unstructured environments

In recent years, computer scientists have developed mobile robots that could be introduced in a variety of settings. To efficiently navigate unstructured environments, however, these robots should be able to plan safe paths to reach their desired destinations.

Artificial neural networks modeled on real brains can perform cognitive tasks

A new study shows that artificial intelligence networks based on human brain connectivity can perform cognitive tasks efficiently.

A better way to track methane in the skies

When Stanford University graduate student Jeff Rutherford began his doctorate in 2018, the amount of methane entering the atmosphere from oil and gas extraction operations—mostly due to fracking—had become a major matter of contention. Tracking this harmful greenhouse gas falls to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Vulnerability found in Kindle e-reader

A team of researchers at security firm Check Point Research has discovered a vulnerability in Kindle e-readers—one that could allow hackers to take over the device, delete data and potentially gain access to Amazon account information. The group has posted an extensive review of the work they have done to discover vulnerabilities in the e-reader on their web page, describing what they found and divulging what Amazon has done to correct the problem.

An interactive map for solar panel deployment across the US

Atmospheric scientist Richard Perez has long believed that solar energy will play a critical role in helping the United States achieve its ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Bioelectronics get upgrade with novel approach to create more stable, electrically efficient devices

Researchers at the University of Chicago have patented a new approach for developing carbon-based bioelectronic devices, which have a variety of applications in drug delivery, substance detection, and organ modulation.

Exact symbolic artificial intelligence for faster, better assessment of AI fairness

The justice system, banks, and private companies use algorithms to make decisions that have profound impacts on people's lives. Unfortunately, those algorithms are sometimes biased—disproportionately impacting people of color as well as individuals in lower income classes when they apply for loans or jobs, or even when courts decide what bail should be set while a person awaits trial.

Some praise, some doubts as Facebook rolls out a prayer tool

Facebook already asks for your thoughts. Now it wants your prayers.

China Telecom eyes $8.4 bn Shanghai IPO, world's biggest in 2021

China Telecom could raise more than $8 billion in a Shanghai initial public offering that would be the biggest this year, months after it was delisted in the United States amid Washington's stand-off with Beijing.

Should you sell your palm print to Amazon?

Amazon is offering $10 in store credit to anyone who hands over their palm prints for use at the company's register-free brick and mortar stores—a move that may make check-out quicker and more convenient for customers, but comes with plenty of privacy risk, say two Northeastern scholars of law and marketing.

Engineer turns error detection into 'secret language' for data security

Research into software error detection has led one Sandia National Laboratories engineer to develop a method—it works like two friends who speak their own language—to enhance the protection of digital content like email and social media messaging.

Sensor can detect when firefighters' protective clothing is no longer safe

Firefighters risk their lives battling blazes, and aging protective gear can put them at even greater risk.

The factory of the future speaks our language

The complexity of large industrial production plants is hardly manageable for a single person. In order to maintain, monitor and service an industrial production line, it therefore makes sense to rely on artificial intelligence (AI).

Cryptocurrency negotiators at 'impasse' over tax reporting rules

Senators hit a roadblock Thursday night on adjustments to the bipartisan infrastructure package's cryptocurrency reporting rules as the White House weighed in to push a smaller change.

Bad weather data could help autonomous vehicles see

Sensors that operate in Scotland's rain, snow and fog are providing data that could help autonomous vehicles see and operate safely in adverse weather.

AI researchers trust international, scientific organizations most, study finds

Researchers working in the areas of machine learning and artificial intelligence trust international and scientific organizations the most to shape the development and use of AI in the public interest.

Student researcher urges natural language processing research focus on signed languages

Advancements in natural language processing (NLP) enable computers to understand what humans say and help people communicate through tools like machine translation, voice-controlled assistants and chatbots.

Amazon to mandate masks for all its workers in warehouses

Starting Monday, Amazon will be requiring all of its 900,000 U.S. warehouse workers to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

Alibaba CEO sacks manager accused of rape, condemns 'forced drinking culture'

Alibaba on Monday fired a manager accused of rape, as its CEO condemned the "ugly forced drinking culture" affecting one of China's most famous companies.

TikTok executive talks shopping and the famous feta pasta

Feta cheese was scarce in some stores earlier this year. The culprit? TikTok, where videos that showed an easy-to-make baked feta pasta recipe went viral.


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