Science X Newsletter Monday, Nov 18

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 18, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

An imitation learning approach to train robots without the need for real human demonstrations

A single-digit-micrometer thickness wood speaker

Cryptosporidium: Hot on the trail of a new anti-infective

How to observe a 'black hole symphony' using gravitational wave astronomy

Study sheds more light on the nature of the transient X-ray pulsar MAXI J1409-619

Researchers create better light-trapping devices

Scientists make vampire bats 'glow' to simulate vaccine spread

A four-way switch promises greater tunability of layered materials

Protein imaging at the speed of life

Dozens of potential new antibiotics discovered with free online app

Directional control of self-propelled protocells

New, slippery toilet coating provides cleaner flushing, saves water

When stuck in water, bees create a wave and hydrofoil atop it, study finds

Can plants tell us something about longevity?

'Dual login' mechanism found to resist fungal infection in cells

Physics news

Researchers create better light-trapping devices

Anyone who's ever played the drums, tuned a guitar, or even made a wine glass "sing" by circling a finger along its edge knows about resonance. Acoustic resonators, like the cavity of a drum or a half-full wine glass, naturally vibrate at certain frequencies of sound waves to produce specific tones. The phenomenon of resonance can also be applied to light waves, with optical resonators being key components of devices such as lasers and sensors.

A four-way switch promises greater tunability of layered materials

A scientific team from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University has made the first experimental observation of a material phase that had been predicted but never seen. The newly discovered phase couples with a known phase to enable unique control over material properties—an advance that paves the way to eventual manipulation of electrical conduction in two-dimensional (2-D) materials such as graphene.

Protein imaging at the speed of life

To study the swiftness of biology—the protein chemistry behind every life function—scientists need to see molecules changing and interacting in unimaginably rapid time increments—trillionths of a second or shorter.

When stuck in water, bees create a wave and hydrofoil atop it, study finds

Walking on Caltech's campus, research engineer Chris Roh (MS '13, Ph.D. '17) happened to see a bee stuck in the water of Millikan Pond. Although it was a common-enough sight, it led Roh and his advisor, Mory Gharib (Ph.D. '83), to a discovery about the potentially unique way that bees navigate the interface between water and air.

ADMX experiment places world's best constraint on dark matter axions

ADMX, with its world-leading sensitivity, has ruled out axions of a certain mass range as dark matter.

Foam offers way to manipulate light

There is more to foam than meets the eye. Literally. A study by Princeton scientists has shown that a type of foam long studied by scientists is able to block particular wavelengths of light, a coveted property for next-generation information technology that uses light instead of electricity.

Quantum computers learn to mark their own work

A new test to check if a quantum computer is giving correct answers to questions beyond the scope of traditional computing could help the first quantum computer that can outperform a classical computer to be realized.

Quantum light improves sensitivity of biological measurements

In a new study, researchers showed that quantum light can be used to track enzyme reactions in real time. The work brings together quantum physics and biology in an important step toward the development of quantum sensors for biomedical applications.

Blowing bubbles: Scientist confirms novel way to launch and drive current in fusion plasmas

An obstacle to generating fusion reactions inside facilities called tokamaks is that producing the current in plasma that helps create confining magnetic fields happens in pulses. Such pulses, generated by an electromagnet that runs down the center of the tokamak, would make the steady-state creation of fusion energy difficult to achieve. To address the problem, physicists have developed a technique known as transient coaxial helicity injection (CHI) to create a current that is not pulsed.

Astronomy & Space news

How to observe a 'black hole symphony' using gravitational wave astronomy

Shrouded in mystery since their discovery, the phenomenon of black holes continues to be one of the most mind-boggling enigmas in our universe.

Study sheds more light on the nature of the transient X-ray pulsar MAXI J1409-619

Turkish astronomers have analyzed the observational data of the transient X-ray pulsar MAXI J1409-619 to probe the properties of this source. The study provided a comprehensive timing and X-ray spectral analysis of the pulsar, shedding more light on the nature of this object. Results of the research were published November 7 on

First global geologic map of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, completed

The first map showing the global geology of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has been completed and fully reveals a dynamic world of dunes, lakes, plains, craters and other terrains.

Image: Orion A in infrared

Stars form within giant clouds of gas and dust that pervade galaxies like our own Milky Way. This image depicts one such cloud, known as Orion A, as seen by ESA's Herschel and Planck space observatories.

The measurements of the expansion of the universe don't add up

Physicists use two types of measurements to calculate the expansion rate of the universe, but their results do not coincide, which may make it necessary to update the cosmological model. "It's like trying to thread a cosmic needle," explains researcher Licia Verde of the University of Barcelona, co-author of an article on the implications of this problem.

How LISA pathfinder detected dozens of 'comet crumbs'

LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by ESA (the European Space Agency) that included NASA contributions, successfully demonstrated technologies needed to build a future space-based gravitational wave observatory, a tool for detecting ripples in space-time produced by, among other things, merging black holes. A team of NASA scientists leveraged LISA Pathfinder's record-setting sensitivity for a different purpose much closer to home—mapping microscopic dust shed by comets and asteroids.

Hibernating astronauts would need smaller spacecraft

If a sci-fi spaceship does not come with hyperdrive then it is usually fitted with hibernation capsules instead. In movies from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Event Horizon, Alien to Passengers, fictional astronauts get put into "suspended animation" to cross the vastness of space. Now ESA has investigated how real life crew hibernation would impact space mission design.

Zeroing in on baby exoplanets could reveal how they form

Twenty-four years ago, Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz discovered the first planet orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system—a milestone recognised by this year's Nobel prize in physics. Today we know of thousands more 'exoplanets," and researchers are now trying to understand when and how they form.

Technology news

An imitation learning approach to train robots without the need for real human demonstrations

Most humans can learn how to complete a given task by observing another person perform it just once. Robots that are programmed to learn by imitating humans, however, typically need to be trained on a series of human demonstrations before they can effectively reproduce the desired behavior.

Marine bioplastic made with fish waste, red algae wins prize

Laura Parker in National Geographic last year: Scientists have tried to get a handle on the amount of plastic that ends up in the seas and harm to birds, marine animals, and fish. .Billions of tons of plastic have been made over the past decades, say reports, and much of it is becoming trash and litter.

A hands-on look at Google's Stadia cloud game service

Gamers were counting down to Tuesday's launch of Google's feature-rich, on-demand offering Stadia. But is its bang as big as its much-advertised buck?

Google enters battle for cloud gaming market

Ever-expanding Google becomes a gaming company Tuesday with the launch of its Stadia cloud service that lets people play console-quality video games on a web browser or smartphone.

New continuum robot design achieves motion resolutions of 1 micron or less

A new continuum robot designed by Vanderbilt engineers achieves multi-scale motion and may open up a huge world of previously impossible complex microsurgeries.

How much energy do we really need?

Two fundamental goals of humanity are to eradicate poverty and reduce climate change, and it is critical that the world knows whether achieving these goals will involve trade-offs. New IIASA research for the first time provides a basis to answer this question, including the tools needed to relate basic needs directly to resource use.

An artificial intelligence algorithm can learn the laws of quantum mechanics

Artificial intelligence can be used to predict molecular wave functions and the electronic properties of molecules. This innovative AI method developed by a team of researchers at the University of Warwick, the Technical University of Berlin and the University of Luxembourg, could be used to speed-up the design of drug molecules or new materials.

Google's new system captures character lighting for virtually any environment

Even novice photographers and videographers who rely on their handheld devices to snap photos or make videos often consider their subject's lighting. Lighting is critical in filmmaking, gaming, and virtual/augmented reality environments and can make or break the quality of a scene and the actors and performers in it. Replicating realistic character lighting has remained a difficult challenge in computer graphics and computer vision.

AI's ethics problem: Abstractions everywhere but where are the rules?

Machines that make decisions about us: what could possibly go wrong? Essays, speeches, seminars pose that question year after year as artificial intelligence research makes stunning advances. Baked-in biases in algorithms are only one of many issues as a result.

Microsoft hires ex-AG Holder to audit face-scanning firm

Microsoft is hiring former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review its investment in a facial recognition startup that scans faces at Israeli military checkpoints.

Researchers bring gaming to autonomous vehicles

Researchers have designed multiplayer games occupants of autonomous vehicles can play with other players in nearby self-driving cars.

HP rejects takeover bid from Xerox

HP Inc. said Sunday it turned down a $33 billion hostile takeover bid from Xerox, saying it undervalued the computer and printer maker.

Facial recognition makes subtle advance in Britain

The experiment was conducted discreetly. Between 2016 and 2018, two surveillance cameras were installed in the Kings Cross area of London to analyse and track passers-by using facial recognition technology.

SoftBank's Yahoo Japan to merge with Line app operator

Japan's Softbank said Monday it will merge its Z Holdings unit—formerly called Yahoo Japan—with popular chat app Line in a multibillion-dollar deal it hopes will help it better compete against big guns in the digital services sector such as Amazon.

Airbus nails $30B in new plane orders at Dubai Airshow

Airbus nailed down $30 billion in new plane orders on the second day of the Dubai Airshow after previous rounds of the biennial showcase saw its competitor Boeing take the lion's share of deals.

Ford Mustang SUV starts a blitz of new electric vehicles

Ford is unveiling its first all-electric SUV, marking the start of an avalanche of battery-powered vehicles coming from mainstream and luxury automakers during the next two years that industry analysts say will boost electric vehicle sales.

'Kawaii!' Olympic robot mascots thrill Tokyo students

Robot versions of Japan's Olympic and Paralympic mascots thrilled hundreds of school children in Tokyo on Monday, striking sporting poses and displaying hearts in their electronic eyes.

Yahoo Japan, Line to merge business to form online giant

Online services Yahoo Japan and Line Corp. have announced they are merging.

The main problem with virtual reality? It's almost as humdrum as real life

Just a few years ago, virtual reality (VR) was being showered with very real money. The industry raised an estimated US$900 million in venture capital in 2016, but by 2018 that figure had plummeted to US$280 million.

New laser hits mark on cancer imaging to airport security

The terahertz frequency range—which sits in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared light—offers the potential for high-bandwidth communications, ultrahigh-resolution imaging, precise long-range sensing for radio astronomy, and much more.

Twitter's political ad ban will exempt some 'issue' ads

Twitter Inc. is making some exceptions to its recent ban on all political advertising, announcing Friday that it will allow "cause-based" ads for some economic, environmental or social issues.

Moody's: AT&T is making 'an error in judgment' in its HBO Max pricing

AT&T's streaming service, HBO Max, hasn't yet debuted, but credit agency Moody's Investors Service is already predicting customers may have sticker shock.

AI could transform how we monitor the structural health of civil infrastructure

The University of Surrey and King's College London have developed a new machine learning algorithm (AI) that could transform the way we monitor major infrastructure—such as dams and bridges.

Apple Music's new Replay feature will show your most-played music of 2019

Apple Music is rolling out a new feature that is similar to one Spotify users have had for years.

CyLab researchers propose new rules for Internet fairness

Just weeks after a team of Carnegie Mellon researchers showed that Google's new congestion control algorithm (CCA) was giving an unfair advantage to its own traffic over services using legacy algorithms, the same team has proposed new guidelines on how future algorithms should be developed.

Engineering team invents novel direct thermal charging cell for converting low-grade waste heat to usable electricity

Dr. Tony Shien-Ping Feng of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and his team invented a Direct Thermal Charging Cell (DTCC) which can effectively convert heat to electricity, creating a huge potential to reduce greenhouse effects by capturing exhaust heat and cutting down primary energy wastage.

US extends license for businesses to work with Huawei by 90 days

The United States on Monday granted another 90 days for companies to cease doing business with China's telecoms giant Huawei, saying the move would allow service providers to continue to offer coverage in rural areas.

New York loses rideshare provider as Juno drops out

New York-based rideshare firm Juno said Monday it was shutting down its service, citing a "changing market situation," as its Israeli-based parent company announced a partnership with Lyft.

UAW members ratify Ford labor agreement

Members of United Auto Workers have approved a new labor agreement with auto giant Ford, the union announced late Friday.

Renault-Nissan alliance in flux a year after Ghosn shock

A year on from the shock fall of boss Carlos Ghosn, the Renault-Nissan automobile alliance is bent on a reboot to leave behind the upheaval and dust kicked up by the affair.

Colorful T-Mobile CEO leaving, even as Sprint deal not done

T-Mobile said Monday its colorful CEO John Legere is stepping down next year, even as the wireless company's long-running effort to merge with rival Sprint remains unfinished.

Russian internet giant Yandex to restructure under pressure

Yandex, the internet giant said to be Russia's answer to Google, unveiled planned governance changes Monday as authorities seek to tighten control over the internet.

Germany pumps 1 bn euros into 'embarrassing' mobile dead zones

German ministers agreed Monday to spend more than one billion euros plugging gaps in its mobile phone networks, whose patchy coverage has been blasted as "embarrassing" for the advanced industrial nation.

Technology strengthens connectivity of 1 in 8 of world's smartphones

Today, your smartphone's switch from Wi-Fi to 4G goes completely unnoticed. The key is an open technology developed by UCLouvain, used by one in eight people around the world, called the Multipath Transmission Control Protocol (Multipath TCP).

New assessment finds EU electricity decarbonization discourse in need of overhaul

It's well known that the EU is focusing its efforts on decarbonizing its economy. In many respects, Germany's Energiewende personifies the poster child of that effort. Unfortunately, substantial investments in the Energiewende have not yet yielded significant reductions in GHG emissions and political disillusionment has emerged as an unwelcome result. Decarbonization efforts in other European countries risk making similar blunders unless the contemporary EU policy discourse is thoroughly cross-examined.

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