Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jun 11

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 11, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Human embryo-like model created from human stem cells

Cascade sets the stage for superconductivity in magic-angle twisted bilayer graphene

Nature provides roadmap to potential breakthroughs in solar energy technology

Denisovan DNA influences immune system of modern day Oceanian populations

An ion channel senses cell swelling and helps cells to choose a response

Scientists detect unexpected widespread structures near Earth's core

More than 1000 tons of plastic rains into western US protected lands annually

Quantum 'fifth state of matter' observed in space for first time

Powerful X-ray flare detected from the protostar HOPS 383

Extremely brilliant giga-electron-volt gamma rays from a two-stage laser-plasma accelerator

Tiny pump builds polyrotaxanes with precision

Scientists carry out first space-based measurement of neutron lifetime

Astronomers discover how long-lived Peter Pan discs evolve

Reprogramming of immune system cures child with often-fatal fungal infection

Google quietly rolls out test version of Android upgrade

Physics news

Cascade sets the stage for superconductivity in magic-angle twisted bilayer graphene

Place a single sheet of carbon atop another at a slight angle and remarkable properties emerge, including the highly prized resistance-free flow of current known as superconductivity.

Quantum 'fifth state of matter' observed in space for first time

Scientists have observed the fifth state of matter in space for the first time, offering unprecedented insight that could help solve some of the quantum universe's most intractable conundrums, research showed Thursday.

Extremely brilliant giga-electron-volt gamma rays from a two-stage laser-plasma accelerator

Laser-wakefield accelerators have led to the development of compact, ultrashort X-ray or gamma-ray sources to deliver peak brilliance, similar to conventional synchrotron sources. However, such sources are withheld by low efficiencies and limited to 107-8 photons per shot in the kiloelectron volt (KeV) to megaelectron volt (MeV) range. In a new report now published on Science Advances, Xing-Long Zhu and a research team in physics and astronomy in China and the U.K., presented a new approach to efficiently produce collimated, ultrabright gamma (γ)-ray beams. The resulting photon energies were tunable for up to gigaelectron volts by focussing a multi-petawatt laser pulse into a 2-stage wakefield accelerator. The high-intensity laser allowed them to efficiently generate a multi-gigaelectron volt electron beam with a high density and charge during the first stage of the experiment. The laser and electron beams entered a high-density plasma region in the second stage thereafter. Using numerical simulations, they demonstrated the production of more than 1012 gamma ray photons per shot with energy conversion efficiency above 10 percent for photons above 1 megaelectron volt (MeV) and achieved a peak brilliance above 1026 photons S-1mm-2mrad-2 per 0.1 percent bandwidth at 1 MeV. This research outcome will offer new avenues in both fundamental and applied physics and engineering.

Scientists carry out first space-based measurement of neutron lifetime

Scientists have found a way of measuring neutron lifetime from space for the first time—a discovery that could teach us more about the early universe.

Physics principle explains order and disorder of swarms

Current experiments support the controversial hypothesis that a well-known concept in physics—a critical point—is behind the striking behavior of collective animal systems. Physicists from the Cluster of Excellence Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behavior at the University of Konstanz showed that light-controlled microswimming particles can be made to organize into collective states such as swarms and swirls. By studying the particles fluctuating between these states, they provide evidence for critical behavior—and support for a physical principle underlying the complex behavior of collectives. The research results were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Ultra-thin camera lenses of the future could see the light of day

In the future, camera lenses could be thousands of times thinner and significantly less resource-intensive to manufacture. Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, now present a new technology for making artificial materials known as metasurfaces, which consist of a multitude of interacting nanoparticles that, together, can control light. They could have great use in the optical technology of tomorrow.

Exotic electron-electron interactions found unnecessary for conduction in nickelates

Some metal oxides, such as nickelates, have a tuneable resistivity, which makes them an interesting material for adaptable electronics and cognitive computing. These materials can change their nature from metallic to insulating. How exactly this metal-insulator transition takes place is a topic of great interest in condensed matter physics. However, even the metallic behavior in nickelates seems unusual. Scientists from the University of Groningen, together with colleagues from Spain, have now found that it is not as complex as was previously assumed. The results were published on 11 June in the journal Nature Communications.

A breakthrough in developing multi-watt terahertz lasers

Terahertz lasers could soon have their moment. Emitting radiation that sits somewhere between microwaves and infrared light along the electromagnetic spectrum, terahertz lasers have been the focus of intense study due to their ability to penetrate common packaging materials such as plastics, fabrics, and cardboard and be used for identification and detection of various chemicals and biomolecular species, and even for imaging of some types of biological tissue without causing damage. Fulfilling terahertz lasers' potential for us hinges on improving their intensity and brightness, achieved by enhancing power output and beam quality.

Matrix imaging: an innovation for improving ultrasound resolution

In conventional ultrasounds, variations in soft tissue structure distort ultrasound wavefronts. They blur the image and can hence prove detrimental to medical diagnosis. Researchers at the Institut Langevin (CNRS/ESPCI Paris-PSL)1 have developed a new non-invasive ultrasound method that avoids such aberrations.

Astronomy and Space news

Powerful X-ray flare detected from the protostar HOPS 383

Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope, astronomers have conducted X-ray observations and near-infrared imaging of a protostar named HOPS 383. The monitoring campaign detected a powerful X-ray flare from the source, which could help astronomers to better understand the earliest stages of star formation. The finding is detailed in a paper accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and posted June 4 on

Astronomers discover how long-lived Peter Pan discs evolve

New research from scientists at Queen Mary University of London has revealed how long-lived Peter Pan discs form, which could provide new insights into how planets arise.

Black hole model reveals star collapse without bright explosion

A team of scientists, including Chief Investigator Ilya Mandel from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) at Monash University, recently studied what happens to rotating massive stars when they reach the end of their lives.

How four newborn exoplanets get cooked by their sun

Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) examined the fate of the young star V1298 Tau and its four orbiting exoplanets. The results show that these recently born planets are roasted by the intense X-ray radiation of their young sun, which leads to the vaporization of the atmospheres of these planets. The innermost planets could be evaporated down to their rocky cores, so that there is no atmosphere left.

New method to study barred spiral galaxies

Analysis of gas motion in 20 nearby spiral galaxies has revealed a clear difference between those with bars and those without bars. This suggests that already available data on gas motion can be used to study bars in spiral galaxies, even in the absence of high-resolution imaging data.

New distance measurements bolster challenge to basic model of universe

A new set of precision distance measurements made with an international collection of radio telescopes have greatly increased the likelihood that theorists need to revise the "standard model" that describes the fundamental nature of the Universe.

First space tourists will face big risks, as private companies gear up for paid suborbital flights

On May 30, 2020, millions of Americans watched the inaugural SpaceX Crew Dragon launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. This mission marked two significant events: First, the return of launch to orbit capability for human spaceflight from the United States. Secondly, it successfully demonstrated private sector capability to build and operate a launch vehicle for human spaceflight.

Technology news

Google quietly rolls out test version of Android upgrade

Google has released a test version of its annual upgrade to its Android software without the usual fanfare heralding the latest operating system powering most smartphones.

Drug-carrying platelets engineered to propel themselves through biofluids

A team of researchers from the University of California San Diego and the University of Science and Technology Beijing has developed a way to engineer platelets to propel themselves through biofluids as a means of delivering drugs to targeted parts of the body. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the group outlines their method and how well it worked when tested in the lab. In the same issue, Jinjun Shi with Brigham and Women's Hospital has published a Focus piece outlining ongoing research into the development of natural drug delivery systems and the method used in this new effort.

Sound waves transport droplets for rewritable lab-on-a-chip devices

Engineers at Duke University have demonstrated a versatile microfluidic lab-on-a-chip that uses sound waves to create tunnels in oil to touchlessly manipulate and transport droplets. The technology could form the basis of a small-scale, programmable, rewritable biomedical chip that is completely reusable to enable on-site diagnostics or laboratory research.

Reports: Intel chips have new security flaws

A pair of new security threats to Intel-based computer systems have been revealed. The beleaguered semiconductor chip manufacturer has faced a seemingly endless series of vulnerabilities over the past two years.

Engineers offer smart, timely ideas for AI bottlenecks

Rice University researchers have demonstrated methods for both designing innovative data-centric computing hardware and co-designing hardware with machine-learning algorithms that together can improve energy efficiency by as much as two orders of magnitude.

Amazon bans police use of its face recognition for a year

Amazon banned police use of its face-recognition technology for a year, making it the latest tech giant to step back from law-enforcement use of systems that have faced criticism for incorrectly identifying people with darker skin.

Twitter moves to limit sharing on unread articles

Twitter said Wednesday it was testing a new feature that seeks to limit the sharing of articles by users who haven't read them.

Scientific collaboration buoys future of offshore wind, could double U.S. electricity supply

Throughout history, adventurers have taken to the seas, propelled by the wind and a passion for new discoveries. Today, researchers at the Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are charting a similar course of intrepid exploration, in search of new energy solutions where the water meets the sky.

Debate: Smile, you're under surveillance!

Will history remember the COVID-19 pandemic as a moment during which citizens gave up their civil rights for health reasons?

Aqua-Fi: Underwater WiFi developed using LEDs and lasers

Aquatic internet that sends data through light beams could enable divers to instantly transmit footage from under the sea to the surface.

Engineers quintuple the efficiency of moving data bits in silicon chips for artificial intelligence applications

The Green IC research team at the National University of Singapore has developed an innovative technique that allows the transfer of bits (the basic unit of information in computing) across a silicon chip up to five times more efficiently than standard setups.

Sound beacons support safer tunnel evacuation

Research conducted as part of the project EvacSound demonstrates that auditory guidance using sound beacons is an effective aid during the evacuation of smoke-filled road tunnels. This is good news. It is a fact that vehicle drivers and passengers cannot normally expect to be rescued by the emergency services during such accidents.

Airbnb sees 'bounce' in travel, aims to promote local tourism

Airbnb said Thursday it has seen a "bounce" in bookings as the home-sharing platform unveiled an initiative to promote short-range travel as pandemic restrictions ease.

Attack on autopilots

How fast the development from assisted to fully automated vehicles will progress is uncertain. One crucial factor here is the reliability with which a vehicle can navigate in its surroundings and react to unforeseeable incidents. Our group at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems showed that methods for motion analysis based on deep neural networks—likely components in future autonomous vehicles—can be confused by small patterns designed to "attack" these networks.

New report calls for 'niche market' to develop marine renewables

A report published today has called on industry and government to work together to develop opportunities for the use of marine renewables in the oil and gas sector.

Researchers find new ways to test swarming drones

The U.S. Army has implemented a one-of-a-kind outdoor system to test swarming drones—with a capacity of more than 1,500 times the volume of a typical testing facility.

How to handle fraudulent reviews on online portals? Study gives tips to managers

Consumers who use the Internet to learn about products are increasingly looking at online reviews to make purchasing decisions. The growing interest in online product reviews for legitimate promotion has been accompanied by a rise in fraudulent reviews; these are reviews placed by firms that artificially inflate ratings of their own products, or reviews by firms or third parties that give lower ratings to competitors' products. A new study sought to determine how consumers respond to potentially fraudulent reviews and how review portals (e.g., Amazon, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Yelp) can leverage this information to design better fraud-management policies and increase consumers' trust. It found that portals that include fraudulent reviews are more likely to boost buyers' trust.

Microsoft joins Amazon, IBM in pausing face scans for police

Microsoft has become the third big tech company this week to say it won't sell its facial recognition software to police, following similar moves by Amazon and IBM.

Boeing contractor to halt work on 737 MAX, furlough staff

Spirit AeroSystems, a major contractor on the 737 MAX, will furlough staff after being directed by Boeing to pause work on the embattled plane, Spirit announced late Wednesday.

Snapchat to deliver breaking news, adds wellness features

Snapchat announced Thursday it would deliver breaking news as youth-focused social network unveiled a series of new features focused on information, entertainment and wellness.

Self-driving cars that recognize free space can better detect objects

It's important that self-driving cars quickly detect other cars or pedestrians sharing the road. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have shown that they can significantly improve detection accuracy by helping the vehicle also recognize what it doesn't see.

Green energy revolution powered by global South

The global South made record renewable energies investments in 2019, a new global trends report has found, as analysts say developing economies are outpacing their developed counterparts in green power generation.

Lufthansa warns 22,000 jobs at risk despite bailout

German airline Lufthansa says 22,000 full-time jobs may need to be cut worldwide due to the drop in demand for flights caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lightning in a (nano)bottle: new supercapacitor opens door to better wearable electronics

Researchers from Skoltech, Aalto University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a high-performance, environmentally friendly and stretchable supercapacitor that can potentially be used in wearable electronics. The paper was published in the Journal of Energy Storage.

Apple launches $100 ml racial justice initiative

Apple on Thursday launched a racial justice initiative aimed at breaking down barriers to opportunity for minorities.

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