Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jan 26

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 26, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A technique to estimate emotional valence and arousal by analyzing images of human faces

3-D creature construction: Building chromosomes from the ground up

High-speed 3-D memory with ferroelectric NAND flash memory

Study sheds more light on the properties of the X-ray pulsar XTE J1858+034

Computer-assisted Venus flytrap captures objects on demand

Inequality in medieval Cambridge was 'recorded on the bones' of its residents

Aircraft could cut emissions by better surfing the wind

Study sheds new light on the behaviour of the giant carnivorous dinosaur Spinosaurus

When—not what—obese mice ate reduced breast cancer risk

Toddlers who use touchscreens may be more distractible

Nixing bone cancer fuel supply offers new treatment approach, mouse study suggests

At three days old, newborn mice remember their moms

Iron-carrying extracellular vesicles are key to respiratory viral-bacterial co-infection

Air purifiers may do more harm than good in confined spaces with airborne viruses

Microwaves used to deactivate coronavirus, flu, other aerosolized viruses

Physics news

Air purifiers may do more harm than good in confined spaces with airborne viruses

The positions of air inlets and outlets in confined spaces, such as elevators, greatly affect airborne virus transmission. In Physics of Fluids, researchers from University of Nicosia in Cyprus show while air purifiers would be expected to help, they may actually increase the spread.

To find the right network model, compare all possible histories

Two family members test positive for COVID-19—how do we know who infected whom? In a perfect world, network science could provide a probable answer to such questions. It could also tell archeologists how a shard of Greek pottery came to be found in Egypt, or help evolutionary biologists understand how a long-extinct ancestor metabolized proteins.

Discovery makes the invisible visible

Australian scientists have discovered a new way to analyze microscopic cells, tissues and other transparent specimens, through the improvement of an almost 100-year-old imaging technique.

Supercomputers aid scientists studying the smallest particles in the universe

Since the 1930s, scientists have been using particle accelerators to gain insights into the structure of matter and the laws of physics that govern our world. These accelerators are some of the most powerful experimental tools available, propelling particles to nearly the speed of light and then colliding them to allow physicists to study the resulting interactions and particles that form.

Physicists use 'hyperchaos' to model complex quantum systems at a fraction of the computing power

Physicists have discovered a potentially game-changing feature of quantum bit behavior which would allow scientists to simulate complex quantum systems without the need for enormous computing power.

Nuclear physicist's voyage toward a mythical island

Theories were introduced as far back as the 1960s about the possible existence of superheavy elements. Their most long-lived nuclei could give rise to a so-called "island of stability" far beyond the element uranium. However, a new study, led by nuclear physicists at Lund University, shows that a 50-year-old nuclear physics manifesto must now be revised.

First direct band gap measurements of wide-gap hydrogen using inelastic X-ray scattering

Utilizing a newly developed state-of-the-art synchrotron technique, a group of scientists led by Dr. Ho-kwang Mao, Director of HPSTAR, conducted the first-ever high-pressure study of the electronic band and gap information of solid hydrogen up to 90 GPa. Their innovative high pressure inelastic X-ray scattering result serves as a test for direct measurement of the process of hydrogen metallization and opens a possibility to resolve the electronic dispersions of dense hydrogen. This work is published in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

A benchmark for single-electron circuits

Manipulating individual electrons with the goal of employing quantum effects offers new possibilities and greater precision in electronics. However, these single-electron circuits are governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, meaning that deviations from error-free operation still occur—albeit (in the best possible scenario) only very rarely. Thus, insights into both the physical origin and the metrological aspects of this fundamental uncertainty are crucial for the further development of quantum circuitry. To this end, scientists from PTB and the University of Latvia have collaborated to develop a statistical testing methodology. Their results have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Metamaterial tiles boost sensitivity of large telescopes

A multi-institutional group of researchers has developed new metamaterial tiles that will help improve the sensitivity of telescopes being built at the preeminent Simons Observatory in Chile. The tiles have been incorporated into receivers that will be deployed at the observatory by 2022.

Compelling evidence of neutrino process opens physics possibilities

The COHERENT particle physics experiment at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has firmly established the existence of a new kind of neutrino interaction. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral and interact only weakly with matter, the quest to observe this interaction drove advances in detector technology and has added new information to theories aiming to explain mysteries of the cosmos.

Engineers test LiDAR system intended for space missions

Two images of the same front steps: one taken with a camera and the other with a flash imaging LiDAR, the laser equivalent of radar, under development for future space missions.

Physicists discover new physical effect

Scientists have found that a perpendicular magnetic field makes electrically neutral quasiparticles (excitons) in semiconductors behave like electrons in the Hall effect. This discovery will help researchers to study the physics of excitons and Bose-Einstein condensates.

Astronomy and Space news

Study sheds more light on the properties of the X-ray pulsar XTE J1858+034

Using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), an international team of astronomers has conducted X-ray observations of an accreting X-ray pulsar known as XTE J1858+034. Results of the study, presented in a paper published January 18 on the arXiv pre-print server, provide more insights into the properties of this source.

1st private space crew paying $55M each to fly to station

The first private space station crew was introduced Tuesday: Three men who are each paying $55 million to fly on a SpaceX rocket.

Extreme black holes have hair that can be combed

Black holes are considered amongst the most mysterious objects in the universe. Part of their intrigue arises from the fact that they are actually among the simplest solutions to Einstein's field equations of general relativity. In fact, black holes can be fully characterized by only three physical quantities: their mass, spin and charge. Since they have no additional "hairy" attributes to distinguish them, black holes are said to have "no hair"—Black holes of the same mass, spin, and charge are exactly identical to each other.

Five ways artificial intelligence can help space exploration

Artificial intelligence has been making waves in recent years, enabling us to solve problems faster than traditional computing could ever allow. Recently, for example, Google's artificial intelligence subsidiary DeepMind developed AlphaFold2, a program which solved the protein-folding problem. This is a problem which has had baffled scientists for 50 years.

Barbs fly over satellite projects from Musk, Bezos

A spat erupted Tuesday between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk as the tech titans' space firms exchanged barbs over their rival satellite internet projects being evaluated by regulators.

Technology news

A technique to estimate emotional valence and arousal by analyzing images of human faces

In recent years, countless computer scientists worldwide have been developing deep neural network-based models that can predict people's emotions based on their facial expressions. Most of the models developed so far, however, merely detect primary emotional states such as anger, happiness and sadness, rather than more subtle aspects of human emotion.

High-speed 3-D memory with ferroelectric NAND flash memory

Ferroelectric memory is a well-researched topic in the past decade due to its capacity for higher speed, lower power consumption and longer endurance, compared to conventional flash memory. The performance of ferroelectric memory can be compromised substantially due to the formation of unwanted interfacial layers during the development of ferroelectric memory-based on perovskite oxides-on-silicon. In a new report, Min-Kyu Kim, and a team of scientists in materials science and engineering at the Pohang University of Science and Technology in Korea, demonstrated a unique strategy by applying hafnia-based ferroelectrics and oxide semiconductors for three-dimensional (3-D) integration. The strategy achieved memory performance beyond the conventional flash memory and exceeded those achieved by perovskite ferroelectric memories. The team then simulated the devices to confirm the ability to realize ultra-high-density 3-D memory integration.

Computer-assisted Venus flytrap captures objects on demand

Exploring new approaches to improve the capabilities and accuracy of robots, a team of researchers in Singapore has turned to an unexpected source: plants.

Aircraft could cut emissions by better surfing the wind

Airlines could save fuel and reduce emissions on transatlantic flights by hitching a better ride on the jet stream, new research has shown.

Keeping a clean path: Doubling the capacity of solid-state lithium batteries

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), Tohoku University, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Nippon Institute of Technology have demonstrated by experiment that a clean electrolyte/electrode interface is key to realizing high-capacity solid-state lithium batteries. Their findings could pave the way for improved battery designs with increased capacity, stability, and safety for both mobile devices and electric vehicles.

Smart algorithm cleans up images by searching for clues buried in noise

To enter the world of the fantastically small, the main currency is either a ray of light or electrons.

Chess engine sacrifices mastery to mimic human play

When it comes to chess, computers seem to have nothing left to prove.

Hyundai Motor's Q4 net profit jumps 78 percent

South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor defied the coronavirus pandemic to post a surprise 78 percent surge in fourth-quarter profits Tuesday, as robust domestic sales offset weak overseas demand.

Latin American newspapers bet on digital subscriptions

Facing a major slump in printed newspaper sales and advertising revenue, Latin America's press is fighting for survival—and increasingly betting on paid digital subscriptions as readers turn to the internet.

Listen-in social network Clubhouse readies for the masses

Invite-only audio social network Clubhouse is readying to let in the masses with the help of a fresh funding round reported to value it at nearly a billion dollars.

Engineers make smart plugs smarter

Singapore is in the midst of its Smart Nation transformation, and researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have a new invention that could take it a big step forward.

Kamala Harris abuse campaign shows how trolls evade social media moderation

As Vice President Kamala Harris settles into her first full week in the White House, thousands are heading online to celebrate her groundbreaking achievement. Unfortunately, thousands more are flooding social media with sexualised, transphobic, and racist posts which continue to highlight the particular abuse faced by female politicians online.

Norway to fine dating app Grindr $11.7M over privacy breach

Gay dating app Grindr faces a fine of more than $10 million from Norwegian regulators for failing to get consent from users before sharing their personal information with advertising companies, in breach of stringent European Union privacy rules.

Amazon to expand tech hub in Boston with 3,000 new jobs

Amazon announced plans Tuesday to expand its technology hub in the Boston area, creating some 3,000 jobs in the next few years.

Generating brake dust to set automotive safety and emissions standards

The VW Jetta Hybrid on the chassis dynamometer in Empa's Automotive Powertrains Technologies Laboratory had a couple of years of duty as a fleet vehicle. Strapped into the test chamber, it has been part of a new research purpose since July 2020: The goal is to generate brake dust, strictly following the standardized WLTP driving cycle, which is the cycle that is also used to determine exhaust emissions.

An army of sewer robots could keep our pipes clean, but they'll need to learn to communicate

Hidden from sight, under the UK's roads, buildings and parks, lies about one million kilometers of pipes. Maintaining and repairing these pipes require about 1.5 million road excavations a year, which causes either full or partial road closures. These works are noisy, dirty and cause a lot of inconvenience. They also cost around £5.5 billion a year.

EU approves more state aid to boost car batteries industry

The European Union has approved 2.9 billion euros in subsidies from 12 member countries for a second pan-European project to develop the electric battery industry and move away from its reliance on Asian imports.

Widespread internet outages hit northeast U.S.

Internet users across the northeast U.S. experienced widespread outages for several hours Tuesday, interrupting work and school because of an unspecified Verizon network issue.

Microsoft keeps chugging as pandemic continues

As the pandemic raged through the U.S., Microsoft's business continued chugging ahead and beat Wall Street expectations for the last three months of 2020, powered by ongoing demand for its workplace software and cloud computing services as people worked from home.

General Electric upbeat on 2021 after profitable 2020

General Electric scored higher fourth-quarter orders in key industrial segments as it reported a profitable 2020 and eyes further improvement in 2021, according to results Tuesday.

Team develops the world's first 5G indoor distributed antenna system

Researchers in Korea have developed an important network technology that allows users to enjoy 5G services seamlessly in an indoor environment. It is expected to be of great help in expanding the 5G coverage area and further improving the domestic telecommunications infrastructure.


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