Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Feb 24

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 24, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

How did dogs get to the Americas? An ancient bone fragment holds clues

Researchers detect cold gas pipelines feeding early, massive galaxies

Researchers take aim at the evolution of traditional technologies

Nature's funhouse mirror: Understanding asymmetry in the proton

New experiences enhance learning by resetting key brain circuit

Astronomers detect new super-Earth exoplanet orbiting nearby star

Asteroid dust found in crater closes case of dinosaur extinction

Indian agriculture: Groundwater depletion could reduce winter cropped acreage significantly in years

Scientists begin building highly accurate digital twin of our planet

New study suggests supermassive black holes could form from dark matter

Single-cell imaging to completely define tumor micro-metabolic state

Materials scientists show way to make durable artificial tendons from improved hydrogels

Merging boson stars could explain massive black hole collision and prove existence of dark matter

Researchers identify 'violent' processes that cause wheezing in the lungs

Game theory may be useful in explaining and combating viruses

Physics news

Nature's funhouse mirror: Understanding asymmetry in the proton

Asymmetry in the proton confounds physicists, but a new discovery may bring back old theories to explain it.

Machine learning aids in simulating dynamics of interacting atoms

A revolutionary machine-learning (ML) approach to simulate the motions of atoms in materials such as aluminum is described in this week's Nature Communications journal. This automated approach to "interatomic potential development" could transform the field of computational materials discovery.

Researchers capture how materials break apart following an extreme shock

Understanding how materials deform and catastrophically fail when impacted by a powerful shock is crucial in a wide range of fields, including astrophysics, materials science and aerospace engineering. But until recently, the role of voids, or tiny pores, in such a rapid process could not be determined, requiring measurements to be taken at millionths of a billionth of a second.

Experiment reveals new options for synchrotron light sources

Accelerator experts from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), the German federal metrology institute Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) and Tsinghua University in Beijing have used a laser to manipulate electron bunches at PTB's Metrology Light Source so that they emitted intense light pulses having a laser-like character. Using this method, specialized synchrotron radiation sources would potentially be able to fill a gap in the arsenal of available light sources and offer a prototype for industrial applications.

World's first video of a space-time crystal

A German-Polish research team has succeeded in creating a micrometer-sized space-time crystal consisting of magnons at room temperature. With the help of the scanning transmission X-ray microscope Maxymus at Bessy II at Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin, they were able to film the recurring periodic magnetization structure in a crystal. Published in the Physical Review Letters, the research project was a collaboration between scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, the Adam Mickiewicz University and the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznań in Poland.

Researchers produce beams of entangled atoms

Heads or tails? If we toss two coins into the air, the result of one coin toss has nothing to do with the result of the other. Coins are independent objects. In the world of quantum physics, things are different: Quantum particles can be entangled, in which case they can no longer be regarded as independent individual objects, they can only be described as one joint system.

Optimality in self-organized molecular sorting

The eukaryotic cell is the basic unit of animals and plants. Through the microscope, it looks highly structured and subdivided in many membrane-bound compartments. Each compartment has a specific function, and its membrane is populated by specific molecules. How does the cell preserve this amazing internal order, and (in the absence of pathologies) not degrade into a shapeless bunch of molecules? Such degradation is countered by a continuous process of molecular sorting by which similar molecules are collected and dispatched to the 'right' destinations, similarly to what happens when a house is kept clean and tidy by daily chores. It's still mysterious, however, how a living cell may achieve this task without a supervisor directing it.

Research shows how single celled algae rotate as they swim towards the light

Scientists have made a pivotal breakthrough in the quest to understand how single-cell green algae are able to keep track of the light as they swim.

High-throughput screening for Weyl semimetals with S4 symmetry

A new topological invariant χ is defined in systems with S4 symmetry to diagnose the existence of Weyl fermions. By calculating χ, the computational cost for searching Weyl semimetals is greatly reduced. Recently, Gao et al. implemented this method in the high-throughput screening and found a lot of new Weyl semimetal candidates with exotic properties, providing realistic platforms for future experimental study of the interplay between Weyl fermions and other exotic states.

Quantum shuttle to quantum processor made in Germany launched

The quantum computer race is in full swing. Germany has long been one of the world leaders in basic research. An alliance between Forschungszentrum Jülich and the semiconductor manufacturer Infinion, together with institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (IAF, IPMS) as well as the Leibniz Association (IHP, IKZ), the universities of Regensburg and Konstanz and the quantum start-up HQS, now aims to apply the results to industrial production. The goal is a semiconductor quantum processor made in Germany that is based on the "shuttling" of electrons and is to be achieved with technology available in Germany. The QUASAR project, which is funded with over 7.5 million euros by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), aims to lay the foundations for the industrial production of quantum processors over the next four years.

Astronomy and Space news

Researchers detect cold gas pipelines feeding early, massive galaxies

To come into being, galaxies need a steady diet of cold gases to undergo gravitational collapse. The larger the galaxy, the more cold gas it needs to coalesce and to grow.

Astronomers detect new super-Earth exoplanet orbiting nearby star

Using the radial velocity (RV) technique, astronomers have discovered a new super-Earth alien world as part of the HADES and CARMENES programs. The newfound exoplanet, designated GJ 740 b, orbits a bright star some 36 light-years away and is at least three times more massive than the Earth. The finding is reported in a paper published February 18 on the arXiv pre-print server.

New study suggests supermassive black holes could form from dark matter

A new theoretical study has proposed a novel mechanism for the creation of supermassive black holes from dark matter. The international team find that rather than the conventional formation scenarios involving 'normal' matter, supermassive black holes could instead form directly from dark matter in high density regions in the centers of galaxies. The result has key implications for cosmology in the early Universe, and is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Merging boson stars could explain massive black hole collision and prove existence of dark matter

An international team of scientists led by the Galician Institute of High Energy Physics (IGFAE) and the University of Aveiro shows that the heaviest black hole collision ever observed, produced by the gravitational-wave GW190521, might actually be something even more mysterious: the merger of two boson stars. This would be the first evidence of the existence of these hypothetical objects, which are a candidate for dark matter, believed to comprise 27% of the mass in the universe.

Mars rover's giant parachute carried secret message

The huge parachute used by NASA's Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team.

China's Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover

China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months.

NASA's Webb telescope will capture more stars at higher resolution: What that means for astronomy

The combination of high resolution and infrared-detecting instruments on NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will reveal stars that are currently hidden even from the powerful Hubble Space Telescope. The wealth of additional star data will allow astronomers to investigate a range of questions, from star birth to star death to the universe's elusive expansion rate. Early observations with Webb will demonstrate its ability to distinguish the individual light of stars in the local universe in a range of environments and provide astronomers with tools for making the most of Webb's powerful capabilities.

Magnetic fields drive astrophysical jet shapes

Outflows of matter are general features stemming from systems powered by compact objects such as black holes, active galactic nuclei, pulsar wind nebulae, accreting objects such as Young Stellar Objects (YSO) and mature stars such as our sun.

Scientist captures evidence of dynamic seasonal activity on a Martian sand dune

A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) scientist examined 11 Mars years of image data to understand the seasonal processes that create linear gullies on the slopes of the megadune in the Russell crater on Mars. In early spring images, captured by two different cameras on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, SwRI's Dr. Cynthia Dinwiddie noticed airborne plumes of dusty material associated with the linear dune gullies on the sand dune's downwind slope. These clues point to active processes involving chunks of frozen CO2, or dry ice, sliding down the sand dune, kicking up sand and dust along the way.

Perseverance rover gives high-definition panoramic view of landing site

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover got its first high-definition look around its new home in Jezero Crater on Feb. 21, after rotating its mast, or "head," 360 degrees, allowing the rover's Mastcam-Z instrument to capture its first panorama after touching down on the Red Planet on Feb 18. It was the rover's second panorama ever, as the rover's Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, also located on the mast, captured a 360-degree view on Feb. 20.

Apollo rock samples capture key moments in the Moon's early history, study find

Volcanic rock samples collected during NASA's Apollo missions bear the isotopic signature of key events in the early evolution of the Moon, a new analysis found. Those events include the formation of the Moon's iron core, as well as the crystallization of the lunar magma ocean—the sea of molten rock thought to have covered the Moon for around 100 million years after the it formed.

Parker Solar Probe offers stunning view of Venus

NASA's Parker Solar Probe captured stunning views of Venus during its close flyby of the planet in July 2020.

How were the Trojan asteroids discovered and named?

On Feb. 22, 1906, German astrophotographer Max Wolf helped reshape our understanding of the solar system. Again.

Image: ISS Biolab facility

Does this image make you anxious or are you already tracking where all the wires go? If the latter, you might have what it takes to be an astronaut!

Technology news

Data transfer system connects silicon chips with a hair's-width cable

Researchers have developed a data transfer system that can transmit information 10 times faster than a USB. The new link pairs high-frequency silicon chips with a polymer cable as thin a strand of hair. The system may one day boost energy efficiency in data centers and lighten the loads of electronics-rich spacecraft.

Experts call for home battery storage to protect vulnerable during outages

Extreme weather driven by climate change is making power outages more commonplace even as the need for electricity-dependent home health equipment grows. In this context, battery storage can help protect medically vulnerable households, according to researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. The article is published in the journal Futures.

Privacy issues and security risks in Alexa Skills

With the voice commands 'Alexa Skills,' users can load numerous extra functions onto their Amazon voice assistant. However, these Skills can often have security gaps and data protection problems, as a team of researchers from the Horst Görtz Institute for IT Security at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and North Carolina State University discovered, together with a former Ph.D. student who started to work for Google during the project. They will present their work at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS) conference on 24 February 2021.

Rethinking microchips' design pushes computing to the edge

Responding to artificial intelligence's exploding demands on computer networks, Princeton University researchers in recent years have radically increased the speed and slashed the energy use of specialized AI systems. Now, the researchers have moved their innovation closer to widespread use by creating co-designed hardware and software that will allow designers to blend these new types of systems into their applications.

US orders deeper testing after engine scare on Boeing plane

The US aviation regulator on Tuesday ordered a deeper inspection of the engines similar to the ones on a Boeing 777 aircraft that suffered a spectacular failure over Denver days earlier.

Victory for 'net neutrality' law in California

A federal judge late Tuesday cleared the way for California to begin enforcing a net neutrality law opposed by US telecom titans.

NASA takes steps to reduce aviation emissions, invigorate U.S. economy

NASA is seeking proposals for ground and flight demonstrations of integrated megawatt-class powertrain systems for subsonic aircraft. The deadline for proposals for this solicitation is 5 p.m. EST April 20.

AI predicts if storms will cause blackouts many days in advance

In Finland, stormy weather can happen at any time of year. This is an issue because Finland is heavily forested, and falling trees can knock out power lines and disable transformers, causing power blackouts for hundreds of thousands of people a year. Researchers at Aalto University and the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to try and predict when these weather-inflicted blackouts happen. Their new method can now predict these storms days in advance, allowing electricity companies to prepare their repair crews before the storm has even happened.

AI facial analysis is scientifically questionable. Should we be using it for border control?

Developments in global border control technologies are providing innovative ways to address issues relating to migration, asylum-seeking and the introduction of illegal goods into countries.

Revive the map: 4-D building reconstruction with machine learning

A research team from Skoltech and FBK (Italy) has presented a methodology to derive 4-D building models using historical maps and machine learning. The implemented method relies on geometric, neighborhood, and categorical attributes in order to predict building heights. The method is useful for understanding urban phenomena and changes that contributed to defining our cities' actual shape. The results were published in Applied Sciences.

What's behind $15,000 electricity bills in Texas?

Texans who made it through February's extreme cold weather without losing power or natural gas must have felt lucky.

AI is killing choice and chance—changing what it means to be human

The history of humans' use of technology has always been a history of coevolution. Philosophers from Rousseau to Heidegger to Carl Schmitt have argued that technology is never a neutral tool for achieving human ends. Technological innovations—from the most rudimentary to the most sophisticated – reshape people as they use these innovations to control their environment. Artificial intelligence is a new and powerful tool, and it, too, is altering humanity.

Scientists release report on the impact of online communities

The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering released a report, "The Power of Virtual Communities," which examines the role online groups play in creating opportunities for people to build new kinds of meaningful communities they often could not form in real space.

Italy fines Uber and food apps, says couriers are employees

Italian prosecutors on Wednesday told Uber Eats and other food delivery platforms their couriers were employees and not independent workers, fining them 733 million euros for breach of labour safety rules.

YouTube to roll out parent-approved accounts for tweens

YouTube on Wednesday said it will roll out new accounts that let tweens or young teens explore the streaming video service within boundaries set by their parents.

COVID variants to slow air traffic recovery: IATA

Global air passenger traffic will recover more slowly than expected this year because coronavirus variants have created strong headwinds, an industry group warned Wednesday.

T-Mobile extends new lower-priced 5G unlimited wireless smartphone plan to those 55 and older

Earlier this week, T-Mobile unveiled new 5G unlimited wireless plans with no data throttling and improved hotspot connectivity. Now, the provider is bringing similar improvements to customers aged 55 and older.

Samsung wants to give you 100 days to try its foldable devices, the Z Flip 5G and Z Fold2 5G smartphones

Did those folding Samsung Galaxy smartphones catch your eye when they hit the market last year?

Facebook pledges $1 bn for news, defends Australia blackout

Facebook on Wednesday pledged to invest at least $1 billion to support journalism over the next three years as the social media giant defended its handling of a dispute with Australia over payments to media organizations.

Chair of Japan automaker Suzuki to step down

Suzuki's chairman Osamu Suzuki will retire after more than four decades at the helm of the Japanese carmaker, the company said Wednesday.

FAA back under spotlight with latest Boeing incidents

In the wake of a weekend scare on a Boeing 777 over engine failure, the Federal Aviation Administration moved immediately to suspend flights on planes with the same model.

Canada and Australia to coordinate on tech regulation: Ottawa

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison plan to coordinate their efforts to make tech giants pay media outlets for their content, Ottawa said Tuesday after a conversation between the two leaders.

USPS selects Oshkosh Defense to build greener mail truck

The United States Post Office said Tuesday that it has chosen Oshkosh Defense to build its next-generation mail-delivery vehicle, part of an effort to make the USPS more environmentally friendly by switching a portion of its huge fleet to electric vehicles.

New York shuts cryptocurrency exchanges which hid losses

New York state authorities said they reached an agreement to shut down activities of two cryptocurrency trading platforms which hid an estimated $850 million in losses.

Biden to review key supply chains after semiconductor crunch

President Joe Biden will order a review of critical US supply chains in the wake of a semiconductors shortage that has curtailed US auto production, the White House announced Wednesday.


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