Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Dec 18

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A skin-like 2-D pixelized full-color quantum dot photodetector

Study highlights the potential of nanotube digital electronics

Parkes radio telescope observations shed more light on the mode switching phenomenon in PSR J0614+2229

Researchers determine age for last known settlement by a direct ancestor to modern humans

Drops of liquid crystal molecules branch out into strange structures

First images of an 'upgraded' CRISPR tool

Caribbean settlement began in Greater Antilles, researchers say

Grain traits traced to 'dark matter' of rice genome

Specialized dye, delivered along with a vaccine, could enable 'on-patient' storage of vaccination history

Why some planets eat their own skies

GISMO instrument maps inner Milky Way, sees cosmic 'candy cane'

Researchers crack Newton's elusive three-body problem

Nanopores can identify the amino acids in proteins, the first step to sequencing

Can good sleep patterns offset genetic susceptibility to heart disease and stroke?

Meerkat mobs do 'war dance' to protect territory

Physics news

A skin-like 2-D pixelized full-color quantum dot photodetector

Full-color photodetectors that can convert light to electric signals without sophisticated color filters and interferometric optics have gained considerable attention for widespread applications. However, technical challenges have impeded scientists from combining multispectral semiconductors and improving photon-transfer efficiency to form high-performance optoelectronic devices in practice. In a recent report on Science Advances, Jaehyun Kim and a research team in materials science and engineering in the U.S. and Korea, described a low-temperature fabricated (150 degrees C), two-dimensionally (2-D) pixelated, full-color photodetector using monolithic integration of quantum dots coupled to amorphous indium-gallium-zinc-oxide semiconductors.

Researchers crack Newton's elusive three-body problem

It's been nearly 350 years since Sir Isaac Newton outlined the laws of motion, claiming "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." These laws laid the foundation to understand our solar system and, more broadly, to understand the relationship between a body of mass and the forces that act upon it. However, Newton's groundbreaking work also created a pickle that has baffled scientists for centuries: The Three-Body Problem.

Research reveals a singular moment: When a bubble breaks free

Understanding how a drop or bubble suspended in a larger mass of fluid divides into multiple pieces is invaluable for engineers designing chemical reactors, engines and ships, as well as for geoscientists studying interactions of oceans and the atmosphere. But the difficult math underlying the phenomenon has forced scientists to rely on idealized systems that lack real-world nuance. Now, researchers at Princeton University have described the breakup of bubbles surrounded by turbulent flows like those found in industrial processes or in nature.

Topological materials for information technology offer lossless transmission of signals

New experiments with magnetically doped topological insulators at BESSY II have revealed possible methods of lossless signal transmission that involve a surprising self-organization phenomenon. In the future, it might be possible to develop materials with such characteristics at room temperature that can be used as processing units in quantum computing, for example. The study has been published in Nature.

Short story collection to entangle readers in the quantum world

Are you ready to get entangled in the science of the very small? That's the thread running through a new anthology, Quantum Shorts: Collected Flash Fiction Inspired by Quantum Physics.

Astronomy & Space news

Parkes radio telescope observations shed more light on the mode switching phenomenon in PSR J0614+2229

Using Parkes radio telescope in Australia, Chinese astronomers have conducted a multifrequency study of the pulsar PSR J0614+2229 (also known as B0611+22). The new research, presented in a paper published December 9 on, provides insight into the mode switching phenomenon occurring in this pulsar.

Why some planets eat their own skies

For many years, for all we knew, our solar system was alone in the universe. Then better telescopes began to reveal a treasure trove of planets circling distant stars.

GISMO instrument maps inner Milky Way, sees cosmic 'candy cane'

A feature resembling a candy cane appears at the center of this colorful composite image of our Milky Way galaxy's central zone. But this is no cosmic confection. It spans 190 light-years and is one of a set of long, thin strands of ionized gas called filaments that emit radio waves.

Boeing sends first crew capsule to ISS this week

Boeing is all set to launch its Starliner spacecraft for the first time to the International Space Station at the end of this week, a key mission as NASA looks to resume crewed flight by 2020.

European planet-studying mission launches from South America

A European spacecraft launched from South America Wednesday on a three-year mission to study planets in other solar systems.

NASA's Webb telescope to search for young brown dwarfs and rogue planets

How small are the smallest celestial objects that form like stars, but don't produce their own light? How common are they compared to full-fledged stars? How about "rogue planets," which formed around stars before being tossed into interstellar space? When NASA's James Webb Space Telescope launches in 2021, it will shed light on these questions.

NASA's Mars 2020 rover completes its first drive

NASA's next Mars rover has passed its first driving test. A preliminary assessment of its activities on Dec. 17, 2019, found that the rover checked all the necessary boxes as it rolled forward and backward and pirouetted in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The next time the Mars 2020 rover drives, it will be rolling over Martian soil.

Europe's exoplanet hunter blasts off from Earth (Update)

Europe's CHEOPS planet-hunting satellite left Earth on Wednesday a day after its lift-off was delayed by a technical rocket glitch during the final countdown.

Europe powers up for third and fourth Orion spacecraft

Europe will power the NASA spacecraft that take astronauts to a new international outpost and forward to the moon, following decisions made by ESA Member States at Space19+ in Seville, Spain.

A warm space station welcome for cool new hardware

Astronaut Christina Koch recently gave a warm welcome to a very cool arrival to the International Space Station: a new piece of hardware for the Cold Atom Lab, an experimental physics facility that chills atoms to almost absolute zero, or minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 273 degrees Celsius). That's colder than any known place in the universe.

Europe's exoplanet hunter reaches orbit around Earth

Europe's CHEOPS planet-hunting space telescope left Earth on Wednesday and moved into orbit, a day after its lift-off was delayed by a technical rocket glitch during the final countdown.

New clues on dark matter from the darkest galaxies

They are called low-surface-brightness galaxies and it is thanks to them that important confirmations and new information have been obtained on one of the largest mysteries of the cosmos: dark matter. "We have found that disc galaxies can be represented by a universal relationship. In particular, in this study we analysed the so-called Low-Surface-Brightness (LSB) galaxies, a particular type of galaxy with a rotating disc so called because they have a low-density brightness," says Chiara di Paolo, astrophysicist at SISSA and lead author of a study recently published in MNRAS together with Paolo Salucci (astrophysicist at SISSA) and Erkurt Adnan (Istanbul University).

New NASA-funded CubeSat poised to take Earth's temperature from space

All of a sudden, a tiny NASA-funded satellite, one of many passengers aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, shot into the sky on a mission to prove its new technology could change the way we measure Earth, and eventually, the Moon.

Boeing's Starliner crew capsule makes space debut this week

Boeing's shiny new Starliner crew capsule makes its debut this week with a launch to the International Space Station, the company's last hurdle before flying astronauts for NASA next year.

Technology news

Study highlights the potential of nanotube digital electronics

Some experts in the field of electronics engineering have suggested that the use of silicon complementary metal-oxide semiconductors (CMOS) will start declining rapidly by the end of 2020. Despite their predictions, a class of alternative materials that can effectively sustain the computational power of new devices, while maintaining good energy efficiencies is yet to be clearly established.

Online hate speech could be contained like a computer virus, researchers say

The spread of hate speech via social media could be tackled using the same "quarantine" approach deployed to combat malicious software, according to University of Cambridge researchers.

House size a factor in tackling global climate emergency

New research led by the University of St Andrews reveals that in order to achieve ambitious global climate change targets, energy policy must factor in that average space per person is increasing in homes.

A soft robotic insect that survives being flattened by a fly swatter

Imagine swarms of robotic insects moving around as they perform tasks. It might sound like science fiction, but it's actually more plausible than you might think. Researchers at EPFL's School of Engineering have developed a soft robotic insect propelled at 3 cm per second by artificial muscles.

Apple, Google, Amazon eye common standard for smart home devices

Will Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google Assistant finally get along?

Commuting in the sky: Flight system tech in demo debut

No potholes, no fender-benders, no middle-finger greetings when you try to pass, no lane closings, no long delays....just travel between cities quickly if done skyward, and for the tired commuters (cut to mighty violins) a welcomed future of transport.

Solar power from 'the dark side' unlocked by a new formula

Most of today's solar panels capture sunlight and convert it to electricity only from the side facing the sky. If the dark underside of a solar panel could also convert sunlight reflected off the ground, even more electricity might be generated.

German crossbow YouTuber fights video giant for rights

At his out-of-the-way house in the forested German hills, Joerg Sprave spends his time building mutant crossbows and powerful slingshots—and hounding one of the world's biggest technology companies.

Lab results of 15 million Canadians hacked

Privacy watchdogs have launched an investigation into a hack of health records, which a laboratory said Tuesday may have compromised data on up to 15 million Canadians or nearly half the population.

Facebook says it can locate users who opt out of tracking

Facebook can determine where users are even if they opt out of having their whereabouts tracked, the company revealed in a letter sent to US senators.

PSA, Fiat Chrysler join to create world's fourth-largest carmaker

French carmaker PSA and US-Italian rival Fiat Chrysler said Wednesday they had agreed on the terms of a merger to create the world's fourth-largest automaker as the industry grapples with the costly and complicated transition to cleaner and more sustainable mobility.

Edmunds picks top fuel-sipping SUVs

Hybrids have evolved in recent years, moving on from the original Toyota Prius to a new crop of efficient crossover SUVs. These larger utility-focused vehicles combine green technology with the space and capability that today's buyers want. The resulting fuel economy can be eye-opening as well, with 40 mpg or more becoming commonplace.

Sanctions-hit Huawei plans components plant in Europe

Chinese telecommunications group Huawei is working on a plan to build its own components at a site in Europe, its chairman told AFP, as the 5G leader strives to overcome US sanctions.

AI-powered astronaut assistant returns to space with 'emotional intelligence'

CIMON, the world's first AI-powered astronaut assistant, returned to the International Space Station—this time with a heightened ability to analyze human emotion.

Apple Watch shopper's guide: What you need to know before buying

The Apple Watch is far and away the best-selling watch in the world, at least according to Apple, and many are looking to put a new Watch under a certain tree this holiday season.

How the price of bandwidth can be cut in African countries

All over the world, the internet has provided extraordinary socioeconomic opportunities to businesses, governments, and individuals. But less developed countries still face numerous obstacles to maximise its potential. The problems range from obsolete infrastructure, the nonavailability, non-accessibility, cost, power fluctuations, policies and regulation.

Email users should have 'more control' over post-mortem message transmission

Email users should have far more control over the transmission of their messages upon death, a new study suggests.

A self-healing sweat sensor

Wearable sensors that track heart rate or steps are popular fitness products. But in the future, working up a good sweat could provide useful information about a person's health. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have developed a headband that measures electrolyte levels in sweat. And unlike many previous sweat sensors, the device can heal itself when cut or scratched during exercise.

Efficient methods to simulate how electromagnetic waves interact with devices

It takes a tremendous amount of computer simulations to create a device like an MRI scanner that can image your brain by detecting electromagnetic waves propagating through tissue. The tricky part is figuring out how electromagnetic waves will react when they come in contact with the materials in the device.

UK watchdog set to challenge Google, Facebook ad dominance

Britain's competition watchdog on Wednesday signaled its willingness to push for stricter rules to counter Google and Facebook 's dominance of online advertising.

Chicago to Cleveland in 32 minutes? A hyperloop system could make that possible. But first, the technology has to work.

A hyperloop, a high-tech, high-speed transportation system, could take you from Chicago to Cleveland in 32 minutes, or less time than it takes to watch two "Hot in Cleveland" episodes on your phone.

New coating hides temperature change from infrared cameras

An ultrathin coating developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers upends a ubiquitous physics phenomenon of materials related to thermal radiation: The hotter an object gets, the brighter it glows.

A new smart-facade lift for older buildings

Can a smart new facade improve air quality in older buildings, cut energy demands on heating and cooling systems, and perhaps mitigate carbon emissions to some extent? A detailed answer might lie in research published in the World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development.

A more intuitive online banking service would reinforce its use among the over-55s

Experts from the MAD (Analytical and Digital Marketing) Research Group from the University of Seville have drawn attention to the fact that the very nature of online banking, according to the data analysed, is the cause of the reticence of the over-55s to use it as they do not feel comfortable navigating the 'digital world.' To combat this situation, the experts recommend developing more intuitive applications with appropriate signposting and instructions to help avoid errors. This would make it possible for them to know that they were doing the right thing, so reinforcing their confidence.

Calif consumer privacy law can affect businesses across U.S.

If the thousands of Californians who use Josh Simons' app for musicians demand next month that Vampr delete their personal information, Simons will be ready to comply.

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▼ Google Stadia should have stayed in beta

I have been playing a lot of Stadia lately. Not because I think Google's game streaming service is amazing, but because in order to get anything out of Assassin's Creed Odyssey (about which I have many thoughts) you have to play a lot. It's a long game.

I'll put down a few more points about my experiences with Stadia — and how it's the worst gaming launch since the Xbox One and maybe before that, after the links.

- Dieter

News from The Verge

Mossberg: Tim Cook's Apple had a great decade but no new blockbusters

Essential reading from Walt Mossberg himself. I expect (actually I know, because the tweets have happened) it will be a little polarizing. But I think it's a cipher: people will be angered because it doesn't give enough credit to AirPods and the Apple Watch, other people will think it gives too MUCH credit to other products.

I think it's spot-on. The MacBook line wasn't just a miss, it was a years-long blunder. And while Apple's new products are very successful, nothing will ever match the iPhone.

Google employee says she was fired for sending internal pop-ups about labor rights

It is increasingly difficult -- bordering on impossible -- to think that Google management is acting in good faith anymore. If Sundar Pichai isn't careful, this is going to be his legacy.

New Away leaks reveal employees worked without heat, struggled with headaches and nausea

Pinterest slashes contractor pay for the holidays

Sony's new Back Button Attachment brings customizable paddles to the DualShock 4

I LOVE that this can be remapped on the fly using just the included screen instead of having to dig through a settings menu or an app or whatever. More stuff like this, please!

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt joins Xbox Game Pass in time for the Netflix premiere

Xbox Game Pass might be one of the best deals in gaming right now.

AI super resolution lets you 'zoom and enhance' in Pixelmator Pro


Research into super resolution has been ongoing for some time now, with tech companies like Google and Nvidia creating their own algorithms in the past few years. In each case, the software is trained on a dataset containing pairs of low-resolution and high-resolution images. The algorithm compares this data and creates rules for how the pixels change from image to image. Then when it's shown a low-resolution picture it's never seen before, it predicts what extra pixels are needed and inserts them.

The lightbulb revolution has just begun

Great Verge Science video with the debut of Justine Calma on our channel. Watch!

Verge Deal of the day 

The Alienware m17 gaming laptop is $1,150 off right now

Alienware's m17 gaming laptop with an Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics chip is steeply discounted right now at Dell. It has one of Intel's older 8th Gen CPUs, but otherwise its 16GB of RAM and 512GB of fast PCIe SSD storage will ensure some great performance for far less cash required than usual. You can get it for just $1,699.99 with the offer code AWAFF1150, but Dell warns that quantities are limited at this price.

Google Stadia should have stayed in beta

I have put in enough hours in enough conditions to say that this is a beta product and Google should have labeled it as such and launched it differently. Because even in the best conditions, this ain't the best. I have what I think is probably the most ideal connection imaginable: Google Fiber (technically WebPass) in Oakland, 500 up and down with very low latency. And I still get weird internet lag jitters sometimes. Woof.

Woof but also, shrug? I find that by and large it works well enough for me and I really do love that I can play it on many different devices (including a Surface Go!). The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that as with the Xbox One, the biggest problem is simply the size of the library.

So while I'm happy that Google Stadia finally keeps a promise with three new games and its first exclusive feature, I think it's way too little — though not necessarily too late. If Google can do even half of what Nintendo achieved in terms of growing the Switch library, it has half a chance.

All the Games Of The Year lists are coming out (here's ours) and I can't tell you how many times I've thought "Huh I might want that on Stadia rather than PlayStation" and realized that, haha no, Stadia is still a beta product with a beta product-sized library.

Google has thus far failed to ship a hunk of plastic that helps you attach your phone to a controller. A thing that should have been packed in with the original controller, a thing that costs $15 for some reason, a thing that it nothing more than molded plastic and a spring. So, you know, execution still not this division's strong suit. That's also in beta.

Thing is, Google has asked for and received Real Money from people, so treating Stadia like a beta isn't just embarrassing, it's irresponsible. Google should have tried an entirely different way of launching this service. Call it a beta for real, make it an invite system to have it seem more exclusive, and don't charge money for it until it's out of beta.

Hindsight is 20/20 (or maybe it's 4K with low latency), though. All we can hope for now is that Google will fix it quickly. Maybe by the time I get through Assassin's Creed, it will be better. That's probably too long to wait, though.

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