Science X Newsletter Monday, Mar 22

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 22, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A single day of competition in the wild is encoded in the songbird brain, finds study

Explosive origins of 'secondary' ice—and snow

Want to improve your health? Head to a national park, and absorb the sounds

To produce more food, scientists look to get more mileage out of plant enzymes

Chilean researchers investigate chemical composition of globular cluster NGC 6553

Researchers create map of undiscovered life

Researchers' algorithm designs soft-bodied robots that sense their own positions in space

Plasmonic nanoreactors regulate selective oxidation via energetic electrons and nanoconfined thermal fields

First closeups of how a lithium-metal electrode ages

Planting the seed for DNA nanoconstructs that grow to the micron scale

Microsoft Defender Antivirus now offers automatic on-premises Exchange Server mitigation

AstraZeneca: US data shows vaccine effective for all adults

No threat to Earth as huge asteroid zooms past

'Doodles of light' in real time mark leap for holograms at home

Deep seafloor nutrient vital in global food chain

Physics news

Scientists observe complex tunable magnetism tied to electrical conduction in a topological material

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have observed novel helical magnetic ordering in the topological compound EuIn2As2 which supports exotic electrical conduction tunable by a magnetic field. The discovery has significant implications for basic research into functional topological properties and may one day find use in a number of advanced technology applications.

Diamond color centers for nonlinear photonics

Researchers from the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Tsukuba demonstrated second-order nonlinear optical effects in diamonds by taking advantage of internal color center defects that break inversion symmetry of diamond crystal. This research may lead to faster internet communications, all-optical computers, and even open a route to next generation quantum sensing technologies.

A material that is superconductive at room temperature and lower pressure

A team of researchers from the University of Rochester, the State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of Nevada Las Vegas has reduced the amount of pressure required to force a material to become superconductive at room temperature, improving on their own previous results. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group outlines their technique and plans for the future.

Cold molecular clouds as cosmic ray detectors

The ionization of the neutral gas in an interstellar molecular cloud plays a key role in the cloud's evolution, helping to regulate the heating and cooling processes, the chemistry and molecule formation, and coupling the gas to magnetic fields. Usually starlight provides this ultraviolet radiation, but it is mostly restricted to localized regions near massive stars. For the bulk of the neutral gas in the Milky Way, ionization is governed by low energy cosmic-rays (CRs), fast-moving protons or atomic nuclei. Direct observations from the Earth can only probe high energy CRs because the solar wind restricts the penetration of CR into the solar system, but in the past few decades, the total CR ionization rate has been estimated indirectly with observations of diagnostic molecules and ions. Those values, however, rely on some uncertain estimates like the abundances of secondary species, gas densities, the rates of chemical reactions and not least, the amount of the dominant molecular species, molecular hydrogen.

Scientist bridges the gap between quantum simulators and quantum computers

A researcher from Skoltech has filled in the gaps connecting quantum simulators with more traditional quantum computers, discovering a new computationally universal model of quantum computation, the variational model. The paper was published as a Letter in the journal Physical Review A. The work made the Editors' Suggestion list.

Finding high-Q resonant modes in a dielectric nanocavity

Optical resonators provide the foundation of modern photonics and optics. Thanks to its extreme energy confinement, the high-Q-factor optical resonator optimizes light-matter interaction and photonic device performance by enabling low-threshold laser and enhanced nonlinear harmonic generation.

Faster fusion reactor calculations thanks to machine learning

Fusion reactor technologies are well-positioned to contribute to our future power needs in a safe and sustainable manner. Numerical models can provide researchers with information on the behavior of the fusion plasma, as well as valuable insight on the effectiveness of reactor design and operation. However, to model the large number of plasma interactions requires a number of specialized models that are not fast enough to provide data on reactor design and operation. Aaron Ho from the Science and Technology of Nuclear Fusion group in the department of Applied Physics has explored the use of machine learning approaches to speed up the numerical simulation of core plasma turbulent transport. Ho defended his thesis on March 17.

Superconductivity from buckled-honeycomb-vacancy ordering

Crystals inherently possess imperfections. Vacancies, as the simplest form of point defects, significantly alter the optical, thermal, and electrical properties of materials. Well-known examples include color centers in many gemstones, the nitrogen-vacancy center in diamond, vacancy migration in solid-state batteries, and the metal-insulator transition in phase-change materials. The vacancies in these cases are in frame-works with no or weak interactions. However, the role of vacancies in strongly correlated materials is thus far unclear due to the lack of an ideal prototype.

Astronomy and Space news

Chilean researchers investigate chemical composition of globular cluster NGC 6553

Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers from Chile have performed a chemical analysis of a sample of stars in the globular cluster NGC 6553. Results of this study, available in a paper published March 12 on the arXiv pre-print server, shed more light on the chemical composition of this cluster.

No threat to Earth as huge asteroid zooms past

The largest asteroid to pass by Earth this year has made its closest approach, posing no threat of a cataclysmic collision but giving astronomers a rare chance to study a rock formed during the beginning of our solar system.

Hubble captures re-energized planetary nebula

Located around 5,000 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus (the Swan), Abell 78 is an unusual type of planetary nebula.

Mars water loss shaped by seasons and storms

Mars has lost most of its once plentiful water, with small amounts remaining in the planet's atmosphere. ESA's Mars Express now reveals more about where this water has gone, showing that its escape to space is accelerated by dust storms and the planet's proximity to the Sun, and suggesting that some water may have retreated underground.

Five myths about the Big Bang

The whole universe was packed together in an infinitely small point, then it exploded, and the entire mass that made up the universe was sent out into space.

Russia puts 38 foreign satellites into orbit

Russia on Monday put 38 foreign satellites into orbit after a succesful launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan following delays due to technical issues.

Tunisia engineers reach for stars with satellite launch

Tunisia celebrated the launch Monday of its first domestically made satellite, hoping it would inspire young engineers to reach for the stars at home rather than join those emigrating overseas.

Mars findings cataloged in Navajo language

Native people have had ties to land in North America since time immemorial, and now that connection is expanding to the cosmos.

Technology news

Researchers' algorithm designs soft-bodied robots that sense their own positions in space

There are some tasks that traditional robots—the rigid and metallic kind—simply aren't cut out for. Soft-bodied robots, on the other hand, may be able to interact with people more safely or slip into tight spaces with ease. But for robots to reliably complete their programmed duties, they need to know the whereabouts of all their body parts. That's a tall task for a soft robot that can deform in a virtually infinite number of ways.

First closeups of how a lithium-metal electrode ages

The same process that drains the battery of your cell phone even when it's turned off is even more of a problem for lithium-metal batteries, which are being developed for the next generation of smaller, lighter electronic devices, far-ranging electric vehicles and other uses.

Microsoft Defender Antivirus now offers automatic on-premises Exchange Server mitigation

In light of the plethora of cybercriminals who have attempted to attack unpatched on-premises versions of Exchange Server 2013, 2016 and 2019, Microsoft has ramped up its support of customers and partners in securing their environments and responding to related incidents.

'Doodles of light' in real time mark leap for holograms at home

Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have devised and implemented a simplified algorithm for turning freely drawn lines into holograms on a standard desktop CPU. They dramatically cut down the computational cost and power consumption of algorithms that require dedicated hardware. It is fast enough to convert writing into lines in real time, and makes crisp, clear images that meet industry standards. Potential applications include hand-written remote instructions superimposed on landscapes and workbenches.

Expressing some doubts: Comparative analysis of human and android faces could lead to improvements

Researchers from the Graduate School of Engineering and Symbiotic Intelligent Systems Research Center at Osaka University used motion capture cameras to compare the expressions of android and human faces. They found that the mechanical facial movements of the robots, especially in the upper regions, did not fully reproduce the curved flow lines seen in the faces of actual people. This research may lead to more lifelike and expressive artificial faces.

Recyclable 'veggie' battery could power future devices more efficiently

A new type of 3D-printed battery which uses electrodes made from vegetable starch and carbon nanotubes could provide mobile devices with a more environmentally-friendly, higher-capacity source of power.

Big breakthrough for 'massless' energy storage

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have produced a structural battery that performs ten times better than all previous versions. It contains carbon fiber that serves simultaneously as an electrode, conductor, and load-bearing material. Their latest research breakthrough paves the way for essentially 'massless' energy storage in vehicles and other technology.

Wi-Fi Aware allows neighboring 8.0 Android phones to connect

Google's new Wi-Fi Aware functionality, also known as Neighbor Awareness Networking (NAN), allows devices running on Android 8.0 (API level 26) and higher to detect and directly connect to each other without any secondary connectivity, such as Bluetooth.

India has an ambitious plan for developing more renewable energy; researchers say the country can aim even higher

The world needs more electricity. As populations grow, standards of living increase and more people gain access to modern conveniences, countries will need to expand their energy generation capacity.

First ever tweet turns 15 years old

Fifteen years ago Jack Dorsey typed out a banal message—"just setting up my twttr"—which became the first ever tweet, launching a global platform that has become a controversial and dominant force in civil society.

Deliveroo eyes £8.8 bn valuation at London float

British meal delivery app Deliveroo is aiming for a higher-than-expected valuation of up to £8.8 billion when it launches shortly on the London stock market, the company said Monday following a pandemic-fuelled boom in demand.

Novel cathode designed for high-performance sodium ion batteries

Due to their large-scale energy storage, sodium ion batteries (SIBs) are a promising alternative to lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). However, it's challenging to develop high-energy and high-power SIBs due to the greater atomic mass and larger ionic radius.

Human fondness, faith in machines grows during pandemic

People are not very nice to machines. The disdain goes beyond the slot machine that emptied your wallet, a dispenser that failed to deliver a Coke or a navigation system that took you on an unwanted detour.

Why the semiconductor shortage won't end soon

Your smartphone? It runs on a semiconductor. The innards of your PlayStation? It runs on a semiconductor. The display in your car? Yes, that too runs on a semiconductor.

City planners need to design for flooding: These examples show the way

business-as-usual planning principles—especially as these disasters tend to disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations, increasing inequality in Australia.

Mini-fuel cell delivers maximum performance

EPFL startup INERGIO has just unveiled a prototype for a lightweight, eco-friendly, high-performance fuel cell that can supply energy in situations where there's no power grid. Its system can be used to run delivery drones, weather stations, environmental sensors, telecommunication antennae and even campsites.

Turning seawater into stored energy

Afew years ago, Harvard chemist Daniel Nocera, along with collaborators from Harvard Medical School, created a system that uses sunlight to split water molecules and combine them with carbon dioxide from air to produce renewable fuel. The system, known as the Bionic Leaf, surpassed the efficiency of photosynthesis, the system by which plants and some other organisms convert energy from sunlight into chemical energy in the form of sugar. In a new paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers address how to use seawater to power the Bionic Leaf. Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy, spoke with the Gazette to answer questions about his research and the latest advancement of the Bionic Leaf project. Q&A: Daniel Nocera

AI technique captures complexity of human faces to help create realistic photo edits

A half-century ago, we expected the future to hold sophisticated computers and robot helpers to slash the time we spend on work and household chores.

Tool created to aid cleanup from Microsoft hack in broad use

A tool designed to help businesses protect themselves from further compromises after a global hack of Microsoft email server software has been downloaded more than 25,000 times since it was released last week, the White House's National Security Council said Monday.

'Das Auto' goes electric as VW takes on Tesla

When Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess joined Twitter in January, he used his first tweet to warn pioneering electric car maker Elon Musk that he was coming after him.

COVID-19-related cyberattacks leveraged government announcements

There has been a remarkable surge in cyber-security crime experienced during the global COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular significance between governmental policy announcements and cyber-crime campaigns. A consortium of researchers, including WMG, University of Warwick report that some days as many as 3 to 4 new cyber-attacks were being reported.

Airbnb is funding deregulation campaigns in cities around the world

New research has found that online home rental marketplace Airbnb is funding deregulation campaigns in hundreds of cities around the world, as it uses so-called grassroots lobbying—apparently independent social movements acting on their behalf—to advocate for favorable regulation.

First tweet fetches $2.9 mn at auction

The first message ever fired off at Twitter sold on Monday for $2.9 million when its sender Jack Dorsey accepted the winning bid for the collectible as a "non fungible token" or NFT at an auction.

Big Tech critic gets nod for key US regulatory post

US President Joe Biden on Monday named a prominent advocate of breaking up Big Tech firms to a key regulatory post, in a move suggesting an aggressive posture on antitrust enforcement.

Auto industry braces for more chip shortages after fire

A fire at a plant owned by Japanese chipmaker Renesas could deepen the ongoing global semiconductor shortage that has especially hampered automobile production.

Trump to launch own social media platform: ex-aide

Donald Trump plans to return to social media soon, using "his own platform" after being banned from Twitter and other outlets, a former advisor said Sunday.

Norway is going to invest in hydrogen: What happens when there's a gas leak?

Hydrogen is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, especially for powering trucks, ships and planes, where using batteries isn't so easy.

Bill to aid US publishers vs. Google, Facebook rises again

A congressional effort to bolster U.S. news organizations in negotiations with Big Tech has supporters hoping that third time's the charm.

Italy's Amazon workers on 24-hour national strike

Amazon workers in Italy held their first 24-hour nationwide strike on Monday as unions claimed that employees were being pushed harder than ever during the coronavirus pandemic.

Microsoft to reopen HQ, step up in-person work worldwide

Microsoft said Monday it would start reopening its headquarters offices next week and implementing a "hybrid workplace" that brings back more employees around the world after a year of remote work during the pandemic.

Air travelers top 1.5 million for first time in over a year

More than 1.5 million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Sunday, the largest number since the pandemic tightened its grip on the United States more than a year ago.

Facebook touts war on misinformation ahead of US hearing

Facebook on Monday highlighted a ramped up effort to block fake accounts in an ongoing battle against misinformation ahead of a key hearing in Congress scrutinizing online platforms.

Researchers are helping artificial intelligence understand fairness

"What is fair?" feels like a rhetorical question. But for Michigan State University's Pang-Ning Tan, it's a question that demands an answer as artificial intelligence systems play a growing role in deciding who gets proper health care, a bank loan or a job.

Stuck on Zoom: How having more tech at home during COVID-19 creates longer, more stressful workdays

It's not just you. The workday working from home during the coronavirus pandemic doesn't just feel longer. For many of us, it actually is longer.


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