Science X Newsletter Thursday, Dec 5

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 5, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A ferroelectric ternary content-addressable memory to enhance deep learning models

Can a single-celled organism 'change its mind'? New study says yes

New instrument extends LIGO's reach

Wildlife in tropics hardest hit by forests being broken up

Three types of cells help the brain tell day from night

Investigating the rise of oxygenic photosynthesis

With cellular blueprint for lungs, researchers look ahead to organ regeneration

Astronomers probe the nature of a peculiar pulsar wind nebula

Scientists reveal potential new class of X-ray star system research

A platform for stable quantum computing, a playground for exotic physics

OSIRIS-REx mission explains Bennu's mysterious particle events

2019: the year gene therapy came of age

Carbon emissions from volcanic rocks can create global warming: study

Genome testing for siblings of kids with autism may detect ASD before symptoms appear

A gnu way to control room temperature

Physics news

New instrument extends LIGO's reach

Just a year ago, the National Science Foundation-funded Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, was picking up whispers of gravitational waves every month or so. Now, a new addition to the system is enabling the instruments to detect these ripples in space-time nearly every week.

A platform for stable quantum computing, a playground for exotic physics

Move over Godzilla vs. King Kong—this is the crossover event you've been waiting for. Well, at least if you're a condensed matter physicist. Harvard University researchers have demonstrated the first material that can have both strongly correlated electron interactions and topological properties. Not entirely sure what that means? Don't worry, we'll walk you through it. All you need to know right now is that this discovery not only paves the way for more stable quantum computing but also an entirely new platform to explore the wild world of exotic physics.

A momentous view on the birth of photoelectrons

The creation of photoelectrons through ionisation is one of the most fundamental processes in the interaction between light and matter. Yet, deep questions remain about just how photons transfer their linear momentum to electrons. With the first sub-femtosecond study of the linear photon momentum transfer during an ionisation process, ETH physicists provide now unprecedented insight into the birth of photoelectrons.

Non-adiabatic dynamics of strongly driven diffusive Josephson junctions

Understanding how microwave absorption changes the transport properties of diffusive Josephson junctions is at the forefront of interest in the quantum transport community. It is especially relevant for current efforts to address the current-phase relation in topological Josephson junctions, and more generally, the microwave transport in quantum devices.

Scientists see defects in potential new semiconductor

A research team has reported seeing, for the first time, atomic scale defects that dictate the properties of a new and powerful semiconductor.

Fusion by strong lasers

Nuclear physics usually involves high energies, as illustrated by experiments to master controlled nuclear fusion. One of the problems is how to overcome the strong electrical repulsion between atomic nuclei which requires high energies to make them fuse. But fusion could be initiated at lower energies with electromagnetic fields that are generated, for example, by state-of-the-art free electron lasers emitting X-ray light. Researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) describe how this could be done in the journal Physical Review C.

Astronomy & Space news

Astronomers probe the nature of a peculiar pulsar wind nebula

Using ESA's XMM-Newton spacecraft, astronomers have investigated the nature of a peculiar pulsar wind nebula (PWN) in the supernova remnant (SNR) CTB 87. Results of the study, presented in a paper published November 26, shed more light on the morphology and spectral properties of this object.

Scientists reveal potential new class of X-ray star system research

A scientist at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian has announced the discovery that mass in triple star systems takes on the characteristics of recipient stars before mass is actually transferred, which may allow scientists to re-examine previously labeled binary star systems for evidence of a third companion.

OSIRIS-REx mission explains Bennu's mysterious particle events

Shortly after NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission's science team revealed that the asteroid could be active, or consistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu—and its sample that will eventually be returned to Earth—could potentially shed light on why this intriguing phenomenon is occurring.

Evidence suggests some super-puffs might be ringed exoplanets

A pair of researchers from the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science and the California Institute of Technology have reported evidence that some super-puff exoplanets might be ringed exoplanets. Anthony Piro and Shreyas Vissapragada have written a paper describing their theory and the evidence supporting it and have posted it on the arXiv preprint server.

SpaceX launches beer malt, caring robot and 'mighty mice'

SpaceX launched a 3-ton shipment to the International Space Station on Thursday, including "mighty mice" for a muscle study, a robot sensitive to astronauts' emotions and a miniature version of a brewery's malt house.

New clues about the origin of stellar masses

An international team led by the Astrophysics Department-AIM Laboratory of CEA-Irfu has just obtained new clues about the origin of star mass distribution, combining observational data from the large interferometer ALMA and the APEX radio telescope operated by the European Austral Observatory (ESO) and the Herschel Space Observatory.

Why is the sun's atmosphere so hot? Spacecraft starts to unravel our star's mysteries

If you ask a child to paint a picture of the sun, you will most likely get a bright yellow circle on a piece of paper. This is actually quite accurate, given that the sun is a ball of hot gas and that its surface (called the photosphere) mostly shines in bright yellow light. The yellow color is determined by the temperature of the photosphere, which is about 5,500°C.

Life on Mars? Europe commits to groundbreaking mission to bring back rocks to Earth

It will be one of the most daunting, complicated and, potentially, scientifically rewarding missions ever undertaken to the red planet. Ministers at a recent meeting of the European Space Agency (ESA) have fully committed to plans to collect samples from the surface of Mars and return them to Earth, in a joint effort with NASA. Official approval for the NASA budget to cover this mission is anticipated early next year.

Mice in space: NASA's latest experiment

Scientists are sending mighty mice to space, but rather than being gym rats, their strength was enhanced through genetic experimentation in the hopes of preventing human astronauts from experiencing muscle loss in microgravity.

Image: Thermal enclosure for Orion

The Orion spacecraft with European Service Module at NASA's Plum Brook Station. The first Orion will fly farther from Earth on the Artemis I mission than any human-rated vehicle has ever flown before—but first it will undergo testing to ensure the spacecraft withstands the extremes of spaceflight.

Technology news

A ferroelectric ternary content-addressable memory to enhance deep learning models

Most deep-learning algorithms perform well when trained on large sets of labeled data, but their performance tends to decline when processing new data. Researchers worldwide have thus been trying to develop techniques that could improve the ability of these algorithms to generalize well across both new and previously processed data, enabling what is known as lifelong learning.

A gnu way to control room temperature

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems—called HVAC systems—can be a delicate balance. There are many factors to consider, from air flow between rooms to the effect of human body heat. In the past decade, researchers have turned to machine learning to optimize these systems. With smarter controllers, buildings can save on energy without sacrificing comfort.

New record set for cracking encryption keys

An international team of computer scientists had set a new record for two of the most important computational problems that are the basis for nearly all of the public-key cryptography that is currently used in the real world.

Intelligent tow tank automatically carries out 100,000 experiments in just one year

A team of researchers working in a MIT lab has built an intelligent tow tank (ITT) that is capable of carrying out fluid dynamics experiments, and have used it to carry out 100,000 such experiments in just one year. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the team describes the ITT, its capabilities and what it has been working on for the past year.

Privacy gets top billing in Firefox moves

Tech watchers were discussing Mozilla this week over its new moves, new plans, new Firefox features.

SMAC in the DARQ: the tech trends shaping 2020

In 2020, will the wow factor return to consumer hardware? Will blockchain and 5G punch into the mainstream? Or will the world unify against Big Tech's privacy-busting, tax-avoiding practices?

At 50, Europe's oldest nuclear plant not ready to retire

Europe's oldest functioning nuclear reactor, at Switzerland's Beznau plant, will turn 50 next week—a lifespan deemed dangerously long by environmentalists who are demanding that it be shut down immediately.

Deployable human-scale immersive virtual environments?

Imagine being inside Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Collaborative Research Augmented Immersive Virtual Environment Laboratory (CRAIVE Lab), which features a front-projection 360-degree panoramic display to immerse you visually, while 134 loudspeakers render a spatially superb sound.

High-speed fire footage reveals key insights for power plant safety

High energy arcing faults are high-power electrical discharges between two or more conductors that can release tens of thousands of amps of current. They can result in explosions that reach about 35,000 degrees Celsius—about the temperature of lightning strikes—and vaporize steel and spew hot metal particles into the air.

Rainforest preservation through machine learning

Computer scientist David Dao develops intelligent algorithms that use satellite and drone images of rainforests to predict where the next sites of deforestation will be. He will be presenting his research at the climate conference in Madrid today, and will start a pilot project in Chile in January.

To stop a tech apocalypse we need ethics and the arts

If recent television shows are anything to go by, we're a little concerned about the consequences of technological development. Dystopian narratives abound.

More accurate solution for cross-border internet purchases

How can cross-border internet purchases be accurately estimated? Researchers Quinten Meertens, Cees Diks, Jaap van den Herik and Frank Takes of the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS), Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) present their solution to this problem with an animation.

Filtering out social bots can help critical response teams see what's happening in real time

Researchers have created an algorithm that distinguishes between misinformation and genuine conversations on Twitter, by detecting messages churned out by social bots.

Professors working to eliminate gender-biased 'bugs' in open-source software

The cycle of open source software (OSS) development and gender representation is, perhaps, unsurprising—women are vastly underrepresented among OSS developers. As a result, women miss out on development and professional opportunities, and as jobs in OSS development open up, women lack the experience to get them. And the cycle continues.

Remove car lanes, restrict vehicles and improve transit to reduce traffic congestion

During a trip to the United States, I was surprised to hear a transportation planner from a major American metropolis say that traffic congestion was not a problem because it was a sign of economic vitality.

Mobile devices blur work and personal privacy raising cyber risks, says QUT researcher

Organisations aren't moving quickly enough on cyber security threats linked to the drive toward using personal mobile devices in the workplace, warns a QUT privacy researcher.

Security is one problem that small businesses need to take care of pronto

So where's the best place to spend your company's technology budget next year? The answer may surprise you.

Two Russians charged in multimillion-dollar malware scheme

The Justice Department unsealed charges Thursday against the alleged leader and an administrator of a Russian cyber-criminal gang that U.S. officials say developed and distributed malware used to steal at least $100 million from banks and other financial institutions in more than 40 countries over the past decade.

Can 3-D-printing musical instruments produce better sound than traditional instruments?

Music is an art, but it is also a science involving vibrating reeds and strings, sound waves and resonances. The study of acoustics can help scientists produce beautiful music even with musical instruments fashioned with high-tech methods, such as 3-D printing.

Water animation gets easier

From early story concepts to a theatrical release, full-length animated films can take years to create. One of the biggest time commitments comes during the animation process when the animators are simulating fluid materials, like water or hair.

Developing a digital twin

In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location to location.

Huawei asks court to throw out US telecom funds ban

Chinese tech giant Huawei is asking a U.S. federal court to throw out a rule that bars rural phone carriers from using government money to purchase its equipment on security grounds.

South African Airways begins last-ditch rescue plan to prevent 'collapse'

South African Airways was placed under a state-approved rescue plan on Thursday to avoid the embattled airline's collapse following a costly week-long strike last month.

Artists cash in on China's online sticker craze

When "Silly Piggy" appeared in China's popular WeChat social media app, the sticker became an instant hit, with people sending it more than 30 million times in its first month to express their feelings in text messages.

Designing AI that better understands humans' goals

When researchers design machine learning systems, their goal is typically to automate certain functions. Instead of being fully autonomous, however, most of these systems work together with humans. In order to be truly helpful, they need to understand what goals people have.

Robocalls on the rise: Americans get 18 spam calls per month, report says

The United States is again the eighth-most-spammed nation in the world and the annoying calls are on the rise, according to a new report.

The future is now: Flying car comes to Miami

If you grew up watching "The Jetsons," you may have thought that by the 21st century, we'd all have flying cars. It hasn't quite worked out that way, but that could be changing—if you have $599,000 and a pilot's license.

17 tips you need to know to make you a super searcher on Google

"I love your tips," a woman said to me recently.

GM, Korea's LG Chem in venture to build factory in Ohio

General Motors and Korea's LG Chem have formed a joint venture to build an electric vehicle battery cell factory near Lordstown, Ohio, east of Cleveland.

2019 tech gifts: A little something for everyone

Some gift guides have a theme, but this week we have a variety of very cool gifts that would be welcome Christmas gifts for anyone - techies or not.

This startup is designing cashierless stores—and just raised $30M

A technology startup in San Diego has just raised $30 million from investors to continue building out its software for cashier-less, "grab-and-go" stores. The model, popularized by Amazon Go, allows shoppers to simply walk into a store, grab items from the shelves, and walk out—with the receipt sent directly to their mobile device.

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