Science X Newsletter Monday, Nov 11

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 11, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Smart metamaterials that sense and reprogram themselves

A deep learning technique to generate real-time lip sync for live 2-D animation

Cracking the mystery of a rare bleeding disorder—and pursuing 'off-the-shelf' drugs to treat it

Hot town, springtime in the city: Urbanization delays spring plant growth in warm regions

Specific neurons that map memories now identified in the human brain

Scientists find eternal Nile to be more ancient than previously thought

Moving diagnostics out of the lab and into your hand

'Messy' production of perovskite material increases solar cell efficiency

What's the story, morning glory? Taxonomy, evolution and sweet potatoes

Study reveals how two strains of one bacterium combine to cause flesh-eating infection

Astronomers investigate a curious case of a supernova connected with gamma-ray burst

New tool highlights what generative models leave out when reconstructing a scene

New research explains how HIV avoids getting ZAPped

Prey-size plastics are invading larval fish nurseries

New fossil pushes back physical evidence of insect pollination to 99 million years ago

Physics news

Smart metamaterials that sense and reprogram themselves

Materials scientists aim to engineer intelligence into the fabric of materials or metamaterials for programmable functions. Engineering efforts can vary from passive to active forms to develop programmable metasurfaces using dynamic and arbitrary electromagnetic (EM) wavefields. Such metasurfaces, however, require manual control to switch between functions. In a new study now published on Light: Science & Applications, Qian Ma and an interdisciplinary research team in the State Key Laboratory, Cyberspace Science and Technology, and the Department of Electronics in China engineered a smart metasurface for self-adaptive programmability.

'Messy' production of perovskite material increases solar cell efficiency

Scientists at the University of Cambridge studying perovskite materials for next generation solar cells and flexible LEDs have discovered that they can be more efficient when their chemical compositions are less ordered, vastly simplifying production processes and lowering cost.

A distinct spin on atomic transport

One of the more unexpected things that can be done with charge-neutral atoms is using them to emulate the fundamental behavior of electrons. Over the past few years, the group of Tilman Esslinger at the Institute of Quantum Electronics in the Department of Physics of ETH Zurich has pioneered a platform in which atoms cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero are transported through one- and two-dimensional structures, driven by a potential difference. In this way, defining phenomena occuring in mesoscopic electronic systems can be studied in great detail, including quantized conductance. In a pair of papers published today in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review A, postdoc Laura Corman, former Ph.D. student Martin Lebrat and colleagues in the Esslinger group report that they have mastered in their transport experiments control over quantum spin.

New particle analysis technique paves way for better air pollution monitoring

A new technique for continuously monitoring both the size and optical properties of individual airborne particles could offer a better way to monitor air pollution. It is especially promising for analyzing fine particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), which can reach deep into the lungs and cause health problems.

LHCf gears up to probe birth of cosmic-ray showers

Cosmic rays are particles from outer space, typically protons, travelling at almost the speed of light. When the most energetic of these particles strike the atmosphere of our planet, they interact with atomic nuclei in the atmosphere and produce cascades of secondary particles that shower down to the Earth's surface. These extensive air showers, as they are known, are similar to the cascades of particles that are created in collisions inside particle colliders such as CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC). In the next LHC, run starting in 2021, the smallest of the LHC experiments—the LHCf experiment—is set to probe the first interaction that triggers these cosmic showers.

Non-volatile control of magnetic anisotropy through change of electric polarization

Researchers at Kanazawa University controlled the magnetic properties of a metal layer through the electrical polarization of a neighboring metal oxide layer. Computational simulations and experimental measurements revealed that the magnetism of a cobalt-platinum alloying layer strongly depended on the polarization direction of an overlying magnesium zinc oxide layer. The concept of magnetic property control using electrical polarization shows potential to advance the development of nonvolatile magnetic memory.

Astronomy & Space news

Astronomers investigate a curious case of a supernova connected with gamma-ray burst

Using a set of space and ground-based telescopes, an international team of astronomers has conducted a detailed study of the supernova SN 2017htp associated with the gamma-ray burst GRB 171010A. Results of the study, presented in a paper published October 26 on, could shed more light on the nature of such phenomena.

Small satellite to study resources needed for sustained lunar presence

As we venture forward to the Moon and establish a sustained lunar presence, finding and understanding water on the lunar surface becomes increasingly important. Lunar water is largely in the form of, but not necessarily limited to, water ice. Astronauts on the Moon could use this ice for various crew needs, potentially including rocket fuel. The Lunar IceCube mission, led by Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, will study water distribution and interaction on the Moon. The mission will carry a NASA instrument called Broadband InfraRed Compact High-Resolution Exploration Spectrometer (BIRCHES) to investigate the distribution of water and other organic volatiles. NASA scientists will use this data to understand where the water is on the Moon, its origins and how we can use it.

Image: Hubble touts a team of stars

Within a galaxy hosting around 300 billion stars, here the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured a mere handful or two—just about enough to form a single football team. These stellar "teammates" play under the banner of NGC 1333, the cloud of gas and dust that formed them and that they continue to call home.

SpaceX launches 60 more mini satellites for global internet

SpaceX launched 60 mini satellites Monday, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global internet coverage.

Mini Mercury skips across sun's vast glare in rare transit

Mini Mercury skipped across the vast, glaring face of the sun Monday in a rare celestial transit.

Luca to lead most challenging spacewalks since Hubble repairs

The date is set for ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano's first spacewalk of his Beyond mission. Friday 15 November marks the start of a series of complex spacewalks to service the cosmic-particle-hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02).

Near-Earth asteroid pairs offer clues to composition, dynamics and environmental conditions of early solar system

Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are small solar system bodies whose orbits sometimes bring them close to the Earth, making them potential collision threats. NEOs also offer clues to the composition, dynamics and environmental conditions of the early solar system and its evolution, and because they are relatively close to the Earth they lend themselves to astronomical measurements. Most NEOs are discovered in optical searches, but one crucial NEO parameter, its size, usually cannot be determined from optical detections alone. This is because an NEO's optical light is reflected sunlight, and an object can be bright either because it is large or because it has a high reflectivity. A CfA team has been using the IRAC infrared camera on Spitzer to measure NEO infrared emission signals which provide an independent measure of its size.

How to see stars and tackle light pollution in your own backyard

The dark skies of the great outdoors help people to see the wonders of space, either with the naked eye or using telescopes. That's why observatories are usually placed in high altitudes or remote locations, where there's often outstanding natural beauty and little light pollution.

Stingray-inspired spacecraft aims to explore dark side of Venus

Venus is Earth's neighbor, yet scientists' understanding of the planet is relatively limited, especially on the so-called "dark side."

Technology news

A deep learning technique to generate real-time lip sync for live 2-D animation

Live 2-D animation is a fairly new and powerful form of communication that allows human performers to control cartoon characters in real time while interacting and improvising with other actors or members of an audience. Recent examples include Stephen Colbert interviewing cartoon guests on The Late Show, Homer answering live phone-in questions from viewers during a segment of The Simpsons, Archer talking to a live audience at ComicCon, and the stars of Disney's Star vs. The Forces of Evil and My Little Pony hosting live chat sessions with fans via YouTube or Facebook Live.

New tool highlights what generative models leave out when reconstructing a scene

Anyone who has spent time on social media has probably noticed that GANs, or generative adversarial networks, have become remarkably good at drawing faces. They can predict what you'll look like when you're old and what you'd look like as a celebrity. But ask a GAN to draw scenes from the larger world and things get weird.

Teachable Machine 2.0 expands machine learning experience

What, it's that easy to grasp machine learning basics? Good news from Google's Teachable Machine crew. Previously, the Teachable Machine provided lessons on how AI works but a new 2.0 puts you to work in making your machine learning model come to life in apps, websites and more.

Cube-​shaped mag­netic build­ing blocks for soft ro­bot­ics ap­plic­a­tions

ETH scientists have developed cube-shaped magnetic building blocks that can be assembled into two-dimensional shapes and controlled by an external magnetic field. They can be used for soft robotics applications.

Stress testing the healthcare system

Scientists at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna (CSH) have developed a stress test to determine the resilience of regional health care in real time. They used a 1:1 computer model of the Austrian primary health care system in the form of patient flows in regional physician networks as a basis. The innovative model provides concrete answers to questions: How important is a certain doctor for the functioning of primary care in my region? How many and which doctors' retirements can the system absorb? At what point can primary health care no longer be guaranteed for everyone in a region?

Large-scale integrated circuits produced in printing press

Researchers at Linköping University and RISE, Campus Norrköping, have shown for the first time that it is possible to print complete integrated circuits with more than 100 organic electrochemical transistors. The result has been published in Nature Communications.

A patch that simultaneously measures six health-related biomarkers by analyzing sweat

A team of researchers from Tsinghua University and Northwest University, both in China, has developed a patch that can be used to measure six health-related biomarkers by analyzing sweat. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their patch and how well it worked when tested.

Scientists develop sensor to save children, pets left in vehicles

A small, inexpensive sensor could save lives by triggering an alarm when children or pets are left alone in vehicles.

Chinese e-commerce giants report booming Singles Day sales

Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and reported a total of more than $50 billion in sales on Monday in the first half of Singles Day, an annual marketing event that is the world's busiest online shopping day.

'New T-Mobile' announces budget plan for $15 monthly and 5G coming Dec. 6

T-Mobile plans to light up its 5G network on Dec. 6 and, with it, is making long-term commitments to low-income families and first responders.

Alexa as your new bestie: Can an AI robot or voice assistant help you feel less lonely?

You: "Alexa, I'm lonely."

Team of 'white hat' hackers found bugs in Amazon Echo and Galaxy S10

A team of leading security researchers was recently crowned top hackers after finding vulnerabilities across multiple devices including an Alexa-powered Amazon Echo and a Samsung Galaxy S10.

Hackers are now targeting councils and governments, threatening to leak citizen data

In recent weeks, Johannesburg's computer network was held for ransom by a hacker group called Shadow Kill Hackers. This was the second time in three months a ransomware attack has hit South Africa's largest city. This time, however, hackers didn't pose the usual threat.

Smart tech systems cut congestion for a fraction of what new roads cost

The new transport projects governments are constantly announcing are expensive. In the recent New South Wales and Victorian elections, the returned state governments' transport infrastructure promises added up to A$165 billion. What's mostly missing from the promised transport solutions is smart technology that provides higher benefits at a fraction of the cost—when retrofitting existing roads in particular. The benefit-to-cost ratio can be more than a dozen times greater than for a new road.

Indonesia's first scientific data bank is a step toward strengthening 'open data' practices

A large number of researchers among Indonesia's scientific community have been known to perform unethical data tampering.

The transition from fossils to renewables and its impact on consumer prices

The transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energies is a global pursuit. But it's faster and more intensive in some countries than others. Take the case of South Africa. Heavily dependent on coal, the country is proceeding with a more intense transition in which renewable energies are set to play a growing role.

Social media design that seeks to mitigate polarization could increase ideological distance

In a study by Matti Nelimarkka and his colleagues, interviewees brought up the fact that content recommendation models on social media may be poor solutions for reducing polarization in discussions. In another recently published article, Nelimarkka looks into how political science and HCI researchers could move toward an improved trading zone.

Why's that an emoji? The ethos and birthing process behind the icons we use to communicate

If you have a smartphone, or use the internet at all in 2019, you probably know emoji—those small pictures that seem to punctuate nearly every written exchange today. (Some of you are probably even thinking your responses in emoji right now.)

Will 'Death Stranding,' a mysterious game about building connections, connect with gamers?

Mysterious. Surreal. Empowering. And boring?

Civil servants, solar panels, and patronage: A Ghanaian case study

Electricity is a hot political issue in Ghana. Ghanaians demand access to the electricity grid as a right of citizenship. And, when not connected, they have threatened in the past to boycott national elections with slogans such as: "No light, no vote!"

What slowdown? Chinese shoppers set new 'Singles' Day' spending record

Chinese consumers spent a record amount on Alibaba platforms Monday during the annual "Singles' Day" buying spree, the world's biggest 24-hour shopping event, which kicked off this year with a glitzy show by US singer Taylor Swift.

A Whole New World: Disney streaming debuts with hit brands

Disney will sprinkle its pixie dust on the streaming arena Tuesday, as its Disney Plus service debuts with an arsenal of marquee franchises including Marvel and Star Wars, original series with a built-in fan base and a cheap price to boot.

Boeing says 737 MAX expected to resume flying in January

Boeing on Monday said it expects the 737 MAX airplane, which was grounded after two crashes killed 346 people, to resume flying in January, delaying its return by one month.

Is Spotify the new Tinder? It is for this couple

Swipe right. Then left, another left, then left again. That's the typical movement your thumb might go through if you're trying to find "the one" on any dating app. In some circles, it's becoming more common to hear friends say they met their significant other via dating apps Tinder, Bumble or Hinge, but what about Spotify?

Redditor creates a massive, working AirPod replica that's pretty impossible to lose

It's no secret that Apple's tiny AirPods earbuds get lost—a lot.

World's deadliest inventor: Mikhail Kalashnikov and his AK-47

What is the deadliest weapon of the 20th century?

Making ceramic tile production greener with reused heat

With its wide range of applications from construction to consumer goods, industrial processes and cutting-edge technologies, the ceramics industry is an integral part of EU manufacturing. A key component of energy-intensive industries (EIIs) that include sectors like iron, steel, cement, chemicals, pulp and paper, ceramics also have a climate footprint and their production processes involve high costs.

Black Facebook employees complain racism, discrimination has gotten worse

An anonymous memo alleging Facebook still has a black people problem is circulating inside the company one year after a former employee complained of racism and discrimination there.

Transition to electric vehicles puts heavy pressure on production of critical metals

The current production of a number of critical metals is insufficient for the large-scale transition to electric vehicles. This is the conclusion of a report by environmental scientists Benjamin Sprecher and organisations Copper8 and Metabolic. As a solution, they advocate more electric car-sharing, cars with a smaller battery and improved recycling.

Adidas shifts German, US smart factories to Asia

Sportswear maker Adidas announced Monday it was closing two niche but flagship factories in Germany and the United States that use robots and 4D printing to make sneakers, shifting the manufacturing to cheaper Asian factories instead.

Safety officials probing records of work on Southwest jets

Federal regulators have threatened to ground dozens of Southwest Airlines jets if the airline can't confirm that the planes, which it bought used from foreign operators, meet all safety standards.

Canadian legion asks Fortnite gamers for pause to honor war dead

No bullets, no bombs. Players of the hugely popular online game Fortnite were encouraged to pause for a moment of silence Monday to commemorate the armistice that ended the First World War.

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