Science X Newsletter Friday, Dec 20

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 20, 2019:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

An interactive drone to assist humans in office environments

Scientists build an exceptional surface out of exceptional points

Scientists link common immune cell to failure of checkpoint inhibitors in lung cancer

In Brazil's pampas, a Triassic Park once flourished

One-off genetic score can detect stroke risk from birth

CRISPR-Cas9 datasets analysis leads to largest genetic screen resource for cancer research

Genetic variation gives mussels a chance to adapt to climate change

Finding familiar pathways in kidney cancer

Discovering a new fundamental underwater force

Could every country have a Green New Deal? Stanford report charts paths for 143 countries

High carbon footprint families identified by sweets and restaurant food, not higher meat consumption

Targeted screening could prevent one in six prostate cancer deaths

Quorum sensing molecules: How the body cells spy out bacteria

A new way to remove contaminants from nuclear wastewater

Researchers produce first laser ultrasound images of humans

Physics news

Scientists build an exceptional surface out of exceptional points

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are exceptional in many respects. Working in collaboration with the Imperial College London, for example, they have conducted research on a phenomenon in information processing systems called "exceptional points." This phenomenon has found applications in microwave, optical and mechanical technologies.

Discovering a new fundamental underwater force

A team of mathematicians from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Brown University has discovered a new phenomenon that generates a fluidic force capable of moving and binding particles immersed in density-layered fluids. The breakthrough offers an alternative to previously held assumptions about how particles accumulate in lakes and oceans and could lead to applications in locating biological hotspots, cleaning up the environment and even in sorting and packing.

Researchers produce first laser ultrasound images of humans

For most people, getting an ultrasound is a relatively easy procedure: As a technician gently presses a probe against a patient's skin, sound waves generated by the probe travel through the skin, bouncing off muscle, fat, and other soft tissues before reflecting back to the probe, which detects and translates the waves into an image of what lies beneath.

No storm in a teacup: It's a cyclone on a silicon chip

University of Queensland researchers have combined quantum liquids and silicon-chip technology to study turbulence for the first time, opening the door to new navigation technologies and improved understanding of the turbulent dynamics of cyclones and other extreme weather.

Using light to encrypt communications

Researchers of the UT found a new way to protect data from attacks with quantum computers. As they published today in New Journal of Physics. With quantum computers on the rise, we can no longer exclude the possibility that a quantum computer will become so powerful it can break existing cryptography. Single particles of light are already being used to protect data but the transmission of one bit per photon is slow. Pepijn Pinkse led the experiment to increase the transmission speed up to seven bits per photon.

Space-time metasurface makes light reflect only in one direction

Light propagation is usually reciprocal, meaning that the trajectory of light travelling in one direction is identical to that of light travelling in the opposite direction. Breaking reciprocity can make light propagate only in one direction. Optical components that support such unidirectional flow of light, for example isolators and circulators, are indispensable building blocks in many modern laser and communication systems. They are currently almost exclusively based on the magneto-optic effect, making the devices bulky and difficult for integration. A magnetic-free route to achieve nonreciprocal light propagation in many optical applications is therefore in great demand.

Study suggests universal method for measuring light power

Always on the lookout for better ways to measure all kinds of things, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have published a detailed study suggesting an "elegant" improved definition for the standard unit of light power, the optical watt.

Counting photons is now routine enough to need standards

Since the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) built its first superconducting devices for counting photons (the smallest units of light) in the 1990s, these once-rare detectors have become popular research tools all over the world. Now, NIST has taken a step toward enabling universal standards for these devices, which are becoming increasingly important in science and industry.

'The Demon in the Machine' is named physics book of the year in UK

Paul Davies' newest book, The Demon in the Machine, takes aim at one of the great outstanding scientific enigmas—what is life, how and why does it emerge and what distinguishes the living from the non-living? The book, which was published this past October in the U.S. has now been named the top physics book of 2019 by Physics World, a publication of the UK Institute of Physics.

Astronomy & Space news

Spitzer studies a stellar playground with a long history

This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Perseus Molecular Cloud, a massive collection of gas and dust that stretches over 500 light-years across. Home to an abundance of young stars, it has drawn the attention of astronomers for decades.

Beleaguered Boeing's Starliner returns early from failed mission (Update)

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft won't achieve its mission objective of docking with the International Space Station, NASA said Friday, dealing a blow to the agency's plans to end US dependence on Russian rockets for astronaut taxi rides.

Nightside barrier gently brakes 'bursty' plasma bubbles

The solar wind that pummels the Earth's dayside magnetosphere causes turbulence, like air over a wing. Physicists at Rice University have developed new methods to characterize how that influences space weather on the nightside.

Boeing sends 'Rosie' dummy to space in key crewless mission

Boeing is set to launch its Starliner capsule Friday on a crewless eight-day journey to the International Space Station and back, a dry run for NASA's plans to end US dependence on Russia for space rides.

Ethiopia celebrates launch of first satellite

Ethiopia's first satellite was sent into space on Friday, a landmark achievement for the ambitious country that also caps a banner year for Africa's involvement in space.

Boeing's Starliner capsule makes launch debut, but hits snag (Update)

Boeing's new Starliner capsule ran into trouble in orbit Friday minutes after blasting off on its first test flight, a crucial dress rehearsal for next year's inaugural launch with astronauts.

International Space Station computer gets a heart transplant

The Space Station has grown to the size of a football field and space agencies are looking to extend its lifetime until 2030. European-built computers have quietly been keeping this orbital outpost on track and in the right position, running in the background since 2000.

Early trouble for Boeing Starliner on key space mission

Boeing launched its Starliner capsule Friday on a crewless eight-day journey to the International Space Station and back, but the mission ran into early trouble with its orbit procedure.

Capturing alien comets: Simulating rogue bodies on their journey through the solar system

There should be interstellar comets hiding in our solar system after making a journey of many light-years. Maybe we have already seen one but believed it was a "normal" comet formed in the solar system, according to Tom Hands, astrophysicist at the University of Z├╝rich and member of the NCCR PlanetS.

Image: Hubble's close-up of spiral's disk, bulge

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows IC 2051, a galaxy in the southern constellation of Mensa (the Table Mountain) lying about 85 million light-years away. It is a spiral galaxy, as evidenced by its characteristic whirling, pinwheeling arms, and it has a bar of stars slicing through its center.

Video: ExoMars parachute extraction tests

A series of clips from different angles and at different speeds showing parachute extraction tests using a NASA/JPL test rig powered by compressed air. The lid of the parachute assembly is pulled along a suspended cable at high speed while the end of the assembly is fixed to a wall.

Technology news

An interactive drone to assist humans in office environments

Researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have recently developed an interactive drone designed to assist humans in indoor environments such offices or laboratories. In a paper prepublished on arXiv, the researchers presented the results achieved by their drone when completing simple tasks in the laboratory.

'Grow and prune' AI mimics brain development, slashes energy use

It may come as a shock to parents facing the daily chaos of toddler life, but the brain's complexity peaks around age three.

New security system to revolutionize communications privacy

A new, uncrackable security system created by researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the University of St Andrews and the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences) is set to revolutionize communications privacy.

Massive errors found in facial recognition tech: US study

Facial recognition systems can produce wildly inaccurate results, especially for non-whites, according to a US government study released Thursday that is likely to raise fresh doubts on deployment of the artificial intelligence technology.

China names and shames tech giants for app privacy violations

Chinese tech giants Tencent and Xiaomi have been reprimanded by Beijing for designing apps that infringe on users' privacy, even as the Communist regime amasses its own collection of personal data.

In first, Switzerland shuts down ageing nuclear power station

One of four Swiss nuclear power stations was permanently disconnected Friday after 47 years of service, marking a first in Switzerland, as the country begins to gradually phase out atomic energy.

France fines Google $166 million for abusing ad dominance

France's competition authority fined Google 150 million euros ($166 million) on Friday for "abusing its dominant position" in the online ad market.

Flickr is losing money, and CEO Don MacAskill is asking users of the photo sharing website for financial help

It's rare for a tech company to let people in on a dirty little secret. Many of them lose lots of money in their pursuit of customers.

New liquid metal wearable pressure sensor for health monitoring applications

Soft pressure sensors have received significant research attention in a variety of fields, including soft robotics, electronic skin, and wearable electronics. Wearable soft pressure sensors have great potential for real-time health monitoring and for the early diagnosis of diseases.

Advances in the characterization of high dynamic range images

In image processing, computer graphics and photography, high dynamic range (or HDR) images are a set of techniques that allow a better dynamic range of luminance between lighter and darker areas in an image than can be achieved by standard digital imaging techniques or other photographic methods.

Just Eat confirms taste for bid

British online takeaway delivery service Just Eat, the target of competing takeover bids, on Friday confirmed its appetite for a tie-up with Dutch peer over a hostile offer by consumer-tech company Prosus.

New Alphabet chief Pichai sees big pay boost

Google parent Alphabet boosted the salary of newly anointed chief Sundar Pichai and promised more than $200 million in shares if the company hits performance goals, a regulatory filing Friday said.

Researcher: Data on 267 million Facebook users exposed

A Ukrainian security researcher reported finding a database with the names, phone numbers and unique user IDs of more than 267 million Facebook users—nearly all U.S.-based—on the open internet. That data was likely harvested by criminals, said researcher Bob Diachenko, an independent security consultant in Kyiv.

United again delays return of Boeing's 737 MAX

For the second time in about a month, United Airlines on Friday pushed back the date for its grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to return to service.

GE-Safran venture to buid more Airbus engines: report

A General Electric-Safran aviation joint-venture plans to manufacture more engines for Airbus planes amid the travails of the Boeing 737 MAX, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Wawa says data breach affected thousands over 10 months

The Wawa convenience store chain says a data breach may have collected debit and credit card information from thousands of customers.

French telecom company Orange convicted over suicides

France's leading phone and internet provider Orange was found guilty Friday of a string of employee suicides and its former CEO was sentenced to prison, in a landmark ruling against a major European telecommunications player.

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Famous Fluid Equations Spring a Leak

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Famous Fluid Equations Spring a Leak


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Black, Hot Ice May Be Nature's Most Common Form of Water


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No Dark Energy? No Chance, Cosmologists Contend


A study challenged the evidence for the mysterious antigravitational force known as dark energy. Then cosmologists shot back.

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Cosmologists Debate How Fast the Universe Is Expanding


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Sleeping Brain Waves Draw a Healthy Bath for Neurons


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Dueling Brain Waves Anchor or Erase Learning During Sleep


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