Science X Newsletter Friday, Jun 26

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 26, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A deep reinforcement learning framework to identify key players in complex networks

New study examines recursive thinking

Geochemists solve mystery of Earth's vanishing crust

The evolution of the synapse

A Rubik's microfluidic cube

Norway to build wireless charging network for Jaguar taxis

Bizarre saber-tooth predator from South America was no saber-tooth cat

Unorthodox desalination method could transform global water management

Chemicals released into the air could become less hazardous, thanks to a missing math formula for droplets

Common food additive causes adverse health effects in mice

Virgin Galactic marks second glide flight over New Mexico

To boldly go: NASA launches Lunar Loo challenge

Developing new techniques to improve atomic force microscopy

A focused approach to imaging neural activity in the brain

Gender bias kept alive by people who think it's dead

Physics news

Chemicals released into the air could become less hazardous, thanks to a missing math formula for droplets

Drones and other aircraft effectively spray pesticides over miles of crops, but the method also can pollute the environment if wind carries the mist off-target.

CERN experiment makes first observation of rare events producing three massive force carriers

Modern physics knows a great deal about how the universe works, from the grand scale of galaxies down to the infinitesimally small size of quarks and gluons. Still, the answers to some major mysteries, such as the nature of dark matter and origin of gravity, have remained out of reach.

A new material for light-matter interactions

Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne scientists have coupled a new material with light at the level of a single photon. The achievement opens up prospects for better controlling and understanding the properties of quantum-correlated systems, where theoretical calculations are difficult.

Record-breaking metalens could revolutionize optical technologies

Traditional lenses—like the ones found in eyeglasses—are bulky, heavy and only focus light across a limited number of wavelengths. A new, ultrathin metalens developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, uses an array of tiny, connected waveguides that resembles a fishnet to focus light at wavelengths spanning from the visible to the infrared with record-breaking efficiencies.

Precise measurement of liquid iron density under extreme conditions

Using the large synchrotron radiation facility SPring-8 in Japan, a collaboration of researchers from Kumamoto University, the University of Tokyo, and others from Japan and France have precisely measured the density of liquid iron under conditions similar to those at Earth's outer core: 1,000,000 atm and 4,000 degrees C. Accurate density measurements of liquid iron under such extreme conditions is very important for understanding the chemical make-up of our planet's core.

Theorists calculate upper limit for possible quantization of time

A trio of theoretical physicists at the Pennsylvania State University has calculated the upper limit for the possible quantization of time—they suggest 10−33 seconds as the upper limit for the period of a universal oscillator. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, Garrett Wendel, Luis Martínez and Martin Bojowald outline their theory and suggest a possible way to prove it.

Could we extract energy from a black hole? Our experiment verifies old theory

A rotating black hole is such an extreme force of nature that it drags surrounding time and space around with it. So it is only natural to ask whether black holes could be used as some sort of energy source. In 1969, mathematical physicist Roger Penrose proposed a method to do just this, now known as the "Penrose Process".

Case for axion origin of dark matter gains traction

In a new study of axion motion, researchers propose a scenario known as "kinetic misalignment" that greatly strengthens the case for axion/dark matter equivalence. The novel concept answers key questions related to the origins of dark matter and provides new avenues for ongoing detection efforts. This work, published in Physical Review Letters, was conducted by researchers at the Institute for Advanced Study, University of Michigan, and UC Berkeley.

Light nucleus predicted to be stable despite having two strange quarks

Adding an exotic particle known as a Xi hyperon to a helium nucleus with three nucleons could produce a nucleus that is temporarily stable, calculations by RIKEN nuclear physicists have predicted. This result will help experimentalists search for the nucleus and provide insights into both nuclear physics and the structure of neutron stars.

The nature of nuclear forces imprinted in photons

IFJ PAN scientists together with colleagues from the University of Milano (Italy) and other countries confirmed the need to include the three-nucleon interactions in the description of electromagnetic transitions in the 20O atomic nucleus. Vital for validating the modern theoretical calculations of the nuclear structure was the application of state-of-the-art gamma-ray detector systems and the newly developed technique for measurements of femtosecond lifetimes in exotic nuclei produced in heavy-ion deep-inelastic reactions.

ChipScope – a new approach to optical microscopy

For half a millennium, people have tried to enhance human vision by technical means. While the human eye is capable of recognizing features over a wide range of size, it reaches its limits when peering at objects over giant distances or in the micro- and nanoworld. Researchers of the EU funded project ChipScope are now developing a completely new strategy towards optical microscopy.

Astronomy and Space news

Virgin Galactic marks second glide flight over New Mexico

Virgin Galactic on Thursday celebrated the second successful glide flight of its spaceship over Spaceport America in southern New Mexico.

To boldly go: NASA launches Lunar Loo challenge

Everyone poops.

Spacewalking astronaut loses mirror, newest space junk

A spacewalking astronaut added to the millions of pieces of junk orbiting the Earth on Friday, losing a small mirror on his sleeve as soon as he emerged from the International Space Station for battery work.

Inferring the temperature structure of circumstellar disks from polarized emission

Polarized light is a familiar phenomenon because the scattering or reflection of light results in one of its two components being preferentially absorbed. The majority of sunlight on Earth, for example, is preferentially polarized due to scattering in the atmosphere (this helps make polarized sunglasses effective). Electromagnetic radiation from astrophysical sources can also be polarized, typically because of scattering from elongated dust grains that are aligned with each other by the local magnetic fields. These fields are thought to play a major, perhaps even a dominant role in controlling the shapes and motions of interstellar gas clouds and are extremely difficult to measure directly. Observations of polarization by dust grains offer a unique way to probe the magnetic fields.

NRL telescope onboard SOHO discovers 4000th comet

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) instrument identified the 4000th comet discovered by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA on June 15.

Technology news

A deep reinforcement learning framework to identify key players in complex networks

Network science is an academic field that aims to unveil the structure and dynamics behind networks, such as telecommunication, computer, biological and social networks. One of the fundamental problems that network scientists have been trying to solve in recent years entails identifying an optimal set of nodes that most influence a network's functionality, referred to as key players.

Norway to build wireless charging network for Jaguar taxis

In its bid to become auto-emissions free by 2024, Oslo is poised to become the first city in the world to boast a network of high-powered wireless automotive-battery charging bays.

Answer to energy storage problem could be hydrogen

Hydrogen has the greatest potential among technologies for seasonal energy storage in the future, according to an analysis conducted by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Shedding light (and sound) on hidden IoT devices in your next hotel room

More than 1 in 10 Airbnb guests have found hidden cameras in their rooms, according to a survey of 2,000 people conducted last year. This isn't unique to Airbnb; hidden cameras have been found in hotels and hostels all around the world. Some of these incidents have led to lawsuits.

Identifying a melody by studying a musician's body language

We listen to music with our ears, but also our eyes, watching with appreciation as the pianist's fingers fly over the keys and the violinist's bow rocks across the ridge of strings. When the ear fails to tell two instruments apart, the eye often pitches in by matching each musician's movements to the beat of each part.

Spin-gapless semiconductors review: Candidates for next-generation low-energy, high efficiency spintronics

A University of Wollongong team has published an extensive review of spin-gapless semiconductors (SGSs) .

Computational model decodes speech by predicting it

The brain analyzes spoken language by recognizing syllables. Scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Evolving Language National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) have designed a computational model that reproduces the complex mechanism employed by the central nervous system to perform this operation. The model, which brings together two independent theoretical frameworks, uses the equivalent of neuronal oscillations produced by brain activity to process the continuous sound flow of connected speech.

Ford plays it safe with revamped F-150, focuses on interior

Six years ago, Ford made a Texas-size wager on the top-selling vehicle in America, rolling out a radical new version of the F-Series pickup with a lighter aluminum body instead of the customary steel.

Expansion of California privacy law qualifies for ballot

California voters will decide a ballot measure in November that would give them more power over how companies use their data, an extension of a landmark privacy law passed in 2018.

'Digital twins' can help monitor infrastructure and save us billions

Urban infrastructure—bridges, roads, railways, pipelines, power transmission towers and so on—must be inspected regularly to operate safely. Imagine if we used advanced technologies available to us, such as wireless sensors, mobile apps and machine learning, to remotely inspect and maintain this infrastructure. This could eliminate the need for regular daily inspections, save time and money for engineers and asset owners, and reduce the risks of working on job sites.

EPFL lab develops method for designing lower-power circuits

An Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) lab has come up with a new type of logic diagram and related optimization methods, that can be used to design computer chips with a nearly 20% gain in energy efficiency, speed or size. The lab has just entered into a license agreement with Synopsys, a global leader in electronic design automation and chip fabrication software.

Folding@home's fight against COVID-19 enlists big tech, gamers, and pro soccer

The crowdsourced supercomputing project Folding@home harnesses the combined processing power of computers whose owners download the project's software and run simulations to model protein motion. In response to COVID-19, individuals, universities and companies have joined the effort. In the video, new simulations already have modeled how the coronavirus' spike protein opens up to bind to the ACE2 receptor—found on the surface of many human cells—and causes infection.

Amazon looks to self-driving future by acquiring Zoox

Amazon said Friday that it is buying self-driving technology company Zoox, which is developing an autonomous vehicle for a ride-hailing service that people would request on their phones.

Expanding access to cyber research tools

Faculty and students at Purdue University now have access to cybersecurity research software developed at Sandia National Laboratories. This marks the first time Sandia has collaborated with an academic community to make its cyber software widely available.

Microsoft to permanently close its retail stores

Microsoft said Friday it will close its stores around the world, moving its retail operations online and keeping only four locations that will be transformed into "experience centers."

Facebook ramps up efforts to curb 'hateful content' in ads

Facebook said Friday it would ban a "wider category of hateful content" in ads as the embattled social media giant moved to respond to widening protests over its handling of inflammatory posts.

US 737 MAX test flight could be as soon as next week: sources

US regulators are getting close to undertaking a test flight of Boeing's grounded 737 MAX and could schedule the key step for as soon as next week, two sources said Friday.

US Cybercom virtual war game girds against increased threats

Foreign hackers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to undermine institutions and threaten critical infrastructure, a top U.S. military cyber official said Thursday.

Bain wins bid to buy ailing Australian airline Virgin

Administrators for Virgin Australia said Friday they had accepted a bid from US private equity giant Bain Capital to buy the pandemic-felled airline.

Artificial intelligence in medicine: Getting smarter one patient at a time

What if doctors had more time to spend addressing their patients' concerns? That's the thrust behind the push for integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into medicine. By using complex algorithms to detect patterns in large datasets—like lab test results, current medications, and symptoms, to name a few—AI might actually make medicine more personable—not less.

Philippines probes possible ploy to 'mislead' Wirecard investigation

Philippine authorities are investigating immigration records that show the ex-chief operating officer of collapsed payments provider Wirecard entered the country this week before leaving for China, the Filipino justice secretary said Friday.

KLM gets 3.4 bn euro Dutch bailout

The Dutch government on Friday approved a 3.4-billion-euro ($3.8-billion) bailout to prop up KLM through the coronavirus pandemic.

American Airlines will book flights to full capacity

American Airlines will start booking flights to full capacity next week, ending any effort to promote social distancing on its planes while the United States sets records for new reported cases of the coronavirus.

Brussels probes German regulator over Wirecard scandal

The European Commission has asked the EU financial authority to probe whether German regulators were at fault in the build-up to the spectacular collapse of payments provider Wirecard.

Coronavirus confirms FCA-PSA merger a good idea: Elkann

The coronavirus pandemic has "further underlined the compelling logic" of the mega-merger between Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Peugeot Citroen (PSA), the Italian-American automaker's chairman John Elkann said Friday.

New wave of ransomware from Russian-led hackers

Russia-based hackers are stepping up ransomware attacks against major US firms seeking to cripple computer networks if their demands for millions of dollars are not met, security researchers are warning.

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