Science X Newsletter Thursday, Sep 2

Dear ymilog,

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A supra-photothermal catalyst inspired by the greenhouse effect

Study explores the influence of the X-chromosome on brain anatomy

These geckos crash-land on rainforest trees but don't fall, thanks to their tails

Materials for superconducting qubits

TRACS set the stage in flatworm regeneration

Going up: Birds and mammals evolve faster if their home is rising

Stellar collision triggers supernova explosion

Paving the path to electrically-pumped lasers from colloidal-quantum-dot solutions

Nano 'camera' made using molecular glue allows real-time monitoring of chemical reactions

Putting a new theory of many-particle quantum systems to the test

NASA's newest Mars rover snags 1st rock sample for return

New evidence supports idea that America's first civilization was made up of 'sophisticated' engineers

Tactile holograms are a touch of future tech

Bristol manuscript fragments of the famous Merlin legend among the oldest of their kind

Artificial fiber spun from liquid crystal elastomer using electricity performs like human muscle fiber

Physics news

Materials for superconducting qubits

The connection between microscopic material properties and qubit coherence are not well understood despite practical evidence that material imperfections present an obstacle to applications of superconducting qubits. In a new report now published on Communications Materials, Anjali Premkumar and a team of scientists in electrical engineering, nanomaterials, physics and angstrom engineering at Princeton University and in Ontario, Canada, combined measurements of transmon qubit relaxation (T1) times with spectroscopy, alongside microscopy of polycrystalline niobium (Nb) films used during qubit development. Based on films deposited via three different techniques, the team revealed correlations between transmon qubit relaxation times and intrinsic film properties, including grain size to enhance oxygen diffusion along grain boundaries, while also increasing the concentration of suboxides near the surface. The residual resistance ratio of the polycrystalline niobium films can be used as a figure of merit to understand qubit lifetimes, and the new approach charts a path for materials-driven improvements of superconducting qubit performance.

Paving the path to electrically-pumped lasers from colloidal-quantum-dot solutions

In a new review article in Nature Photonics, scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory assess the status of research into colloidal quantum dot lasers with a focus on prospective electrically pumped devices, or laser diodes. The review analyzes the challenges for realizing lasing with electrical excitation, discusses approaches to overcome them, and surveys recent advances toward this objective.

Putting a new theory of many-particle quantum systems to the test

New experiments using trapped one-dimensional gases—atoms cooled to the coldest temperatures in the universe and confined so that they can only move in a line—fit with the predictions of the recently developed theory of "generalized hydrodynamics." Quantum mechanics is necessary to describe the novel properties of these gases. Achieving a better understanding of how such systems with many particles evolve in time is a frontier of quantum physics. The result could greatly simplify the study of quantum systems that have been excited out of equilibrium. Besides its fundamental importance, it could eventually inform the development of quantum-based technologies, which include quantum computers and simulators, quantum communication, and quantum sensors. A paper describing the experiments by a team led by Penn State physicists appears September 2, 2021 in the journal Science.

New Bayesian quantum algorithm directly calculates the energy difference of an atom and molecule

As newly reported by the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, researchers from the Graduate School of Science at Osaka City University have developed a quantum algorithm that can understand the electronic states of atomic or molecular systems by directly calculating the energy difference in their relevant states. Implemented as a Bayesian phase different estimation, the algorithm breaks from convention by not focusing on the difference in total energies calculated from the pre- and post-phase evolution, but by following the evolution of the energy difference itself.

Photovoltaic perovskites can detect neutrons

A simple and cheap device for detecting neutrons has been developed by a team of EPFL researchers and their collaborators. The device, based on a special class of crystalline compounds called perovskites, could be used to quickly detect neutrons coming from radioactive materials, e.g. a nuclear reactor that has been damaged or that is being transported nefariously, the researchers say. The work is published in Scientific Reports.

Generating entangled photons with nonlinear metasurfaces

Quantum nanophotonics is an active research field with emerging applications that range from quantum computing to imaging and telecommunications. This has motivated scientists and engineers to develop sources for entangled photons that can be integrated into nano-scale photonic circuits. Practical application of nanoscale devices requires a high photon-pair generation rate, room-temperature operation, and entangled photons emitted at telecommunications wavelengths in a directional manner.

New superconducting material found

The phenomenon of superconductivity, providing current transmission without dissipation and a host of unique magnetic properties arising from macroscopic quantum coherence, was first discovered over a century ago. It was not understood until 1957, after which it quickly became clear that superconductors could in principle exist with a wide variety of the fundamental characteristic often referred to as the order parameter. Until the late 1970s, however, all superconductors found experimentally had the same class of order parameter.

A surprise result for solid state physicists hints at an unusual electron behavior

While studying the behavior of electrons in iron-based superconducting materials, researchers at the University of Tokyo observed a strange signal relating to the way electrons are arranged. The signal implies a new arrangement of electrons the researchers call a nematicity wave, and they hope to collaborate with theoretical physicists to better understand it. The nematicity wave could help researchers understand the way electrons interact with each other in superconductors.

Researchers find a way to check that quantum computers return accurate answers

Quantum computers are advancing at a rapid pace and are already starting to push the limits of the world's largest supercomputers. Yet, these devices are extremely sensitive to external influences and thus prone to errors which can change the result of the computation. This is particularly challenging for quantum computations that are beyond the reach of our trusted classical computers, where we can no longer independently verify the results through simulation. "In order to take full advantage of future quantum computers for critical calculations we need a way to ensure the output is correct, even if we cannot perform the calculation in question by other means," says Chiara Greganti from the University of Vienna.

How to calculate the ideal ingredients for nuclear fusion with the most energy

Nuclear fusion is regarded as the energy of the future. It does not emit CO2, it is safe and it provides a lot of energy that can easily supply large cities with electricity. Nuclear fusion is very interesting in theory, but not yet in practice. Scientists have already succeeded in making nuclear fusion happen, but to make it profitable a lot of research still needs to take place in the coming years. TU/e researcher Michele Marin takes his part with his research on nuclear fusion plasma.

Negative triangularity—a positive for tokamak fusion reactors

Tokamak devices use strong magnetic fields to confine and to shape the plasma that contains the fuel that achieves fusion. The shape of the plasma affects the ease or difficulty of achieving a viable fusion power source. In a conventional tokamak, the cross-section of the plasma is shaped like the capital letter D. When the straight part of the D faces the "donut hole" side of the donut-shaped tokamak, this shape is called positive triangularity. When the plasma cross-section is in a backwards D shape and the curved part of the D faces the "donut hole" side, then this shape is called negative triangularity. New research shows that negative triangularity reduces how much the plasma interacts with the plasma-facing material surfaces of the tokamak. This finding points to critical benefits for achieving nuclear fusion power.

Astronomy and Space news

Stellar collision triggers supernova explosion

Astronomers have found dramatic evidence that a black hole or neutron star spiraled its way into the core of a companion star and caused that companion to explode as a supernova. The astronomers were tipped off by data from the Very Large Array Sky Survey (VLASS), a multi-year project using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA).

NASA's newest Mars rover snags 1st rock sample for return

NASA's newest Mars rover has successfully collected its first rock sample for return to Earth, after last month's attempt came up empty.

US grounds Virgin Galactic after space flight 'mishap'

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday said it was grounding space flights by Virgin Galactic while it investigates why the company's July mission carrying Richard Branson deviated from its planned trajectory.

Examining asteroid Ryugu in opposition to Hayabusa2: A starkly lit distribution of dust and rock

New analysis of Hayabusa2 data of the asteroid Ryugu reveals much of the surface reflects and scatters light in ways that are consistent with studies of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites in the lab. This research looks specifically at data taken while Ryugu was in opposition to the spacecraft and Sun, and utilizes Hayabusa2's near infrared spectrometer, NIRS3, and Optical Navigation Camera, ONC, measurements and observations. PSI Deputy Director and Senior Scientist Deborah Domingue led this work, which appears in the latest issue of the Planetary Science Journal, and included PSI researchers Faith Vilas and Lucille Le Corre.

NASA works to give satellite swarms a hive mind

Swarms of small satellites could communicate amongst themselves to collect data on important weather patterns at different times of the day or year, and from multiple angles. Such swarms, using machine learning algorithms, could revolutionize scientists' understanding of weather and climate changes.

Technology news

A supra-photothermal catalyst inspired by the greenhouse effect

Over the past few decades, scientists worldwide have developing a variety of techniques and technologies that can convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into fuel using solar energy. This would ultimately be highly valuable, as it would diminish human reliance on fossil fuels and help to mitigate climate change.

Tactile holograms are a touch of future tech

A piece of science fiction technology could be one step closer to reality with a new development in haptic holograms.

Artificial fiber spun from liquid crystal elastomer using electricity performs like human muscle fiber

A team of researchers at the University of California has developed a way to create an artificial fiber that performs very much like human muscle fibers. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the researchers describe their process and how well the fiber worked when tested.

Using adversarial attacks to refine molecular energy predictions

Neural networks (NNs) are increasingly being used to predict new materials, the rate and yield of chemical reactions, and drug-target interactions, among others. For these applications, they are orders of magnitude faster than traditional methods such as quantum mechanical simulations.

Making methane from carbon dioxide: Carbon capture grows more affordable

In their ongoing effort to make carbon capture more affordable, researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a method to convert captured carbon dioxide (CO2) into methane, the primary component of natural gas.

China orders ride-hailing firms to correct unfair tactics

Chinese regulators have ordered ride-hailing platforms to correct unfair market tactics amid a broad crackdown on the internet sector that has spooked investors and shaved billions off the valuations of some of China's biggest technology companies.

Apple plans to loosen App Store payment policy

Apple announced on Wednesday it will loosen some of its App Store policies, allowing media apps to steer customers directly to their websites without paying commission.

US aiming new lawsuit at Google over ads: report

US officials are preparing a new antitrust lawsuit against Google over its power in the online advertising market, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Twitter lets star users make money from subscriptions

Twitter on Wednesday launched a long-promised "Super Follows" feature that lets creators sell subscriptions for access to special content.

Driver's license on your iPhone? These are the states where you can add ID to your Apple device

Eight states will be among the first to allow residents to add their driver's license or state identification card directly to their iPhone or Apple Watch.

Soft perching robot validates the benefit of having a fifth leg

Geckos' impressive climbing abilities give them agility rarely surpassed in nature. With their highly specialized adhesive lamellae on their feet, geckos can climb up smooth vertical surfaces with ease and even move on a ceiling hanging upside down. Their ability to run on water is another superpower. Now one more can be added.

Will the new E10 petrol be beneficial?

The introduction of a new type of petrol, E10, in the UK may create some extra costs for owners of older cars, but the aim is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Feds are increasing use of facial recognition systems despite calls for a moratorium

Despite growing opposition, the U.S. government is on track to increase its use of controversial facial recognition technology.

Irish watchdog fines WhatsApp $267M after EU privacy probe

Ireland's privacy watchdog has fined WhatsApp a record 225 million euros ($267 million) after an investigation found it breached stringent European Union data protection rules on transparency about sharing people's data with other Facebook companies.

AI weather forecasting for smart farms

Researchers working on smart irrigation systems have developed a way to choose the most accurate weather forecast out of those offered in the week leading up to a given day.

What will give electric cars a boost in the US?

Consumers, automakers, and the government will have to work together to pull off President Joe Biden's ambitious plan to shift the country away from gas-powered vehicles and cut carbon emissions, Wharton management professor John Paul MacDuffie said.

Synergistic value streams studied in hybrid power plants

Imagine an electric grid powered by clean, renewable energy. Now imagine that this grid provides all the comfort and convenience consumers have come to expect as well as grid reliability and resiliency services that are similar to—or better than—conventional plants. That is the promise of the FlexPower project.

Microwaves improve imaging systems, hasten infrastructure evaluation

Microwaves do more than just heat up your leftovers. These invisible waves of electromagnetic radiation can also be used in a variety of imaging applications.

Giving performers copyright over their work could protect them from deepfake technology, study shows

AI and other technology is increasingly being used to make fabricated videos or sound recordings that imitate the likeness of a person's face, voice or performance by manipulating authentic footage using machine learning technology.

GM, Ford halt some production as chip shortage worsens

The global shortage of computer chips is getting worse, forcing automakers to temporarily close factories including those that build popular pickup trucks.

Los Angeles is about to get its first robotaxi test fleet

It's not uncommon in the Bay Area to spot a driverless test car sharing the highway, a whirling lidar array atop its roof. Not so much in Southern California, where little robot car testing has been conducted to date.

Electric boats making waves without the noise

The auto industry has raced ahead on an electric wave with more manufacturers joining the race seemingly every day.

YouTube Music tops 50 million subscribers

YouTube's music streaming service reported Thursday it now has more than 50 million subscribers, saying it is growing quickly as it tries to close the gap with market-leader Spotify.

Apple bends, aiming to avoid Big Tech regulation

Apple has unveiled major changes to its app store after years of criticism, as the Silicon Valley colossus tries to stave off a deeper, swelling effort to regulate Big Tech, experts said Thursday.

Facebook invests in new partnerships with Argentine press

Social media giant Facebook will invest $1.5 million in Argentine media to train journalists and promote online development, a first in Latin America.

Texas is about to pass a new law Republicans say will stop censorship of conservatives on Facebook, Twitter

Texas is on the verge of passing a new law that would crack down on social media companies Republicans say are censoring conservative speech.

Tech conference dumps virus-hit Malaysia, stays in Hong Kong

A major tech conference has dropped plans to move to Malaysia and will remain in Hong Kong, organisers said Thursday, as the Southeast Asian nation faces a serious coronavirus outbreak.

Briton charged in Singapore in Wirecard-linked fraud

A British man has been charged in Singapore over a fraud linked to collapsed German payments firm Wirecard, authorities said Thursday, as the fallout from the scandal continues to spread.

Reddit bans anti-vaccine community after protests over COVID misinformation

Reddit has banned a community linked to misinformation about the COVID vaccine following a series of protests from other subreddits.

NHTSA: Traffic deaths rise again as drivers take risks

U.S. traffic deaths in the first quarter of 2021 rose by 10.5% over last year, even as driving has declined, the government's road safety agency reported Thursday.

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