Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jun 16

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 16, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A quantum metrology protocol for locating noncooperative targets in 3-D space

A fractional corner anomaly reveals higher-order topology

Dark Energy Survey detects thousands of low-surface-brightness galaxies

ExoMars spots unique green glow at the Red Planet

Your brain shows if you are lonely or not

Scientists propose explanation for baffling form of childhood OCD

Turning faces into thermostats: Autonomous HVAC system could provide more comfort with less energy

Wearable patch may provide new treatment option for skin cancer

Hunting in savanna-like landscapes may have poured jet fuel on brain evolution

Australian fossil reveals new plant species

Could the cure for IBD be inside your mouth?

How does our brain trigger different sighs? New findings could provide answers

Persistent DNA damage in the placenta affects pregnancy outcomes

Determining effective magnetic moment of multicore nanoparticles

Previously undetected brain pulses may help circuits survive disuse, injury

Physics news

A quantum metrology protocol for locating noncooperative targets in 3-D space

Radar technology, which stands for radio detection and ranging, has been around for several decades and has a wide range of real-world applications. Radar is currently used to detect targets or other objects in many settings. For instance, it is employed during military and aerospace operations to determine the location, range, angle and/or velocity of aircrafts, ships, spacecrafts, missiles or other vehicles.

A fractional corner anomaly reveals higher-order topology

Topological insulators (TIs) have an insulating interior and support conducting surface states with additional interfacing properties. The exotic metallic states on their surfaces can provide new routes to generate new phases and particles with potential applications in quantum computing and spintronics. Researchers have developed a theoretical framework to help identify and characterize such exotic states using new topological markers such as fractional charge density to detect topological states of matter. The resulting agreement between experimental work and theory has encouraged applications across topological platforms. In this work, Christopher W. Peterson and a team of scientists in electrical and computer engineering, physics, and mechanical science at the University of Illinois and the Pennsylvania State University in the U.S. discuss this new topological indicator introduced to identify higher-order topology and demonstrate the associated higher-order bulk-boundary correspondence. The work is now published on Science.

Flushing toilets create clouds of virus-containing particles

Researchers used a computer simulation to show how a flushing toilet can create a cloud of virus-containing aerosol droplets that is large and widespread and lasts long enough that the droplets could be breathed in by others.

Quantum cryptography keys for secure communication distributed 1,000 kilometers farther than previous attempts

The exchange of a secret key for encrypting and decrypting messages over a distance of 1,120 kilometers is reported in Nature this week. This achievement is made using entanglement-based quantum key distribution, a theoretically secure communication technique. Previous attempts to directly distribute quantum keys between two ground users under real-world conditions have reached distances of only around 100 kilometers.

Feel the beat: implanted microlasers scan heart from inside

It sounds like science fiction—but lasers beating to the rhythm of a live heart is exactly what researchers at the University of St Andrews have developed to improve the understanding of heart failure and to help develop more effective treatments.

What do 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Macbeth,' and a list of Facebook friends all have in common?

To an English scholar or avid reader, the Shakespeare Canon represents some of the greatest literary works of the English language. To a network scientist, Shakespeare's 37 plays and the 884,421 words they contain also represent a massively complex communication network. Network scientists, who employ math, physics, and computer science to study vast and interconnected systems, are tasked with using statistically rigorous approaches to understand how complex networks, like all of Shakespeare, convey information to the human brain.

Borrowing from robotics, scientists automate mapping of quantum systems

Scientists at the University of Sydney have adapted techniques from autonomous vehicles and robotics to efficiently assess the performance of quantum devices, an important process to help stabilize the emerging technologies.

Quantum material research facilitates discovery of better materials that benefit our society

A joint research team from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Institute of Physics at Chinese Academy of Science, Songshan Lake Materials Laboratory, Beihang University in Beijing and Fudan University in Shanghai, has provided a successful example of modern era quantum material research. By means of the state-of-art quantum many-body simulations, performed on the world's fastest supercomputers (Tianhe-I and Tianhe-III protype at National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin and Tianhe-II at National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou), they achieved accurate model calculations for a rare-earth magnet TmMgGaO4 (TMGO). They found that the material, under the correct temperature regime, could realize the the long-sought-after two-dimensional topological Kosterlitz-Thouless (KT) phase, which completed the pursuit of identifying the KT physics in quantum magnetic materials for half a century. The research work has been published in Nature Communications.

The smallest motor in the world

A research team from Empa and EPFL has developed a molecular motor which consists of only 16 atoms and rotates reliably in one direction. It could allow energy harvesting at the atomic level. The special feature of the motor is that it moves exactly at the boundary between classical motion and quantum tunneling - and has revealed puzzling phenomena to researchers in the quantum realm.

Multicolor super-resolution imaging made easy

Scientists at EPFL have developed robust and easy-to-implement multicolor super-resolution imaging. The approach is based on the simultaneous acquisition of two spectral channels followed by spectral cross-cumulant analysis and unmixing. They exploit fluorophore blinking and spectral crosstalk for the generation of additional color channels with super-resolved images.

New ideas in the search for dark matter

Since the 1980s, researchers have been running experiments in search of particles that make up dark matter, an invisible substance that permeates our galaxy and universe. Coined dark matter because it gives off no light, this substance, which constitutes more than 80 percent of matter in our universe, has been shown repeatedly to influence ordinary matter through its gravity. Scientists know it is out there but do not know what it is.

Ultraviolet laser induces color centers in ytterbium-doped silica glasses

Ytterbium-doped silica fiber (YDF) has important applications in material processing and scientific research. The photodarkening (PD) effect, which originates from the formation of color centers, can decrease the laser output power over 1,000 h by about 10% and will seriously restrict the power stability of the fiber laser. However, the nature of the PD color centers has not been adequately elucidated until now.

Combining magnetic data storage and logic

Computers normally store and process data in separate modules. But now researchers at ETH Zurich and the Paul Scherrer Institute have developed a method that allows logical operations to be performed directly within a memory element.

A 'pause button' for light particles

How do you stop something that is faster than anything else, intangible and always in motion by nature? A team led by physicists Dr. Thorsten Peters and Professor Thomas Halfmann is doing the seemingly impossible: stopping light for tiny fractions of a second. They then end the stopover at the push of a button letting the light pulse continue its journey. The researchers are even stopping individual light particles.

Physicists document method to improve magnetoelectric response

University of Arkansas physicists have documented a means of improving the magnetoelectric response of bismuth ferrite, a discovery that could lead to advances in data storage, sensors and actuators.

Astronomy and Space news

Dark Energy Survey detects thousands of low-surface-brightness galaxies

An international team of astronomers has identified nearly 21,000 low-surface-brightness galaxies (LSBGs) in the Dark Energy Survey (DES). The detection of such a huge sample could be essential to improving our knowledge about how LSBGs form and evolve. The finding is reported in a paper published June 8 on

ExoMars spots unique green glow at the Red Planet

ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has detected glowing green oxygen in Mars' atmosphere—the first time that this emission has been seen around a planet other than Earth.

Evidence for volcanic craters on Saturn's moon Titan

Volcano-like features seen in polar regions of Saturn's moon Titan by NASA's Cassini spacecraft could be evidence of explosive eruptions that may continue today, according to a new paper by Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Charles A. Wood and coauthor Jani Radebaugh of Brigham Young University.

This supernova 'pizza' in a lab mimics the cosmic blast's splendid aftermath

Nestled in the constellation Taurus, a spectacle of swirling cosmic gasses measuring half a dozen lightyears across glows in shades of emerald and auburn. The Crab Nebula was born of a supernova, the explosion of a giant star, and now, a lab machine the size of a double door replicates how the immense blasts paint the astronomical swirls into existence.

Solar Orbiter makes first close approach to the sun

ESA's sun-exploring mission Solar Orbiter has made its first close approach to the star on June 15, getting as close as 77 million kilometers to its surface, about half the distance between the sun and Earth.

Scientists find clues to solar variability in observations of other stars

One of the fundamental questions for climate scientists is the extent to which solar output may vary in the future. The sun's all-encompassing effect on Earth's atmosphere means that even slight changes in irradiance can have significant implications for global climate.

Supergiant atmosphere of Antares revealed by radio telescopes

An international team of astronomers has created the most detailed map yet of the atmosphere of the red supergiant star Antares. The unprecedented sensitivity and resolution of both the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) revealed the size and temperature of Antares' atmosphere from just above the star's surface, throughout its chromosphere, and all the way out to the wind region.

As many as six billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, according to new estimates

To be considered Earth-like, a planet must be rocky, roughly Earth-sized and orbiting Sun-like (G-type) stars. It also has to orbit in the habitable zones of its star—the range of distances from a star in which a rocky planet could host liquid water, and potentially life, on its surface.

Meteorites from Mars contain clues about the red planet's geology

Despite the pandemic, NASA is on track to launch its Mars rover, Perseverance, this July from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its central mission will be to search for evidence of previous life on Mars.

China delays launch to complete GPS-like Beidou network

Citing technical reasons, China has delayed the launch of the final satellite to complete its Beidou Navigation Satellite System constellation that emulates the U.S. Global Positioning System.

PICASSO, ESA's CubeSat to sift secrets from sunrise

There is always a sunrise and sunset happening somewhere on our planet. Soon ESA's newest CubeSat—flying aboard Europe's Vega launcher this Friday—will be keeping watch. The miniature PICASSO mission will use the filtering of sunlight by Earth's atmosphere to check the health of our protective ozone layer.

Simba CubeSat to swivel from Earth to sun to help track climate change

Due to launch aboard Friday's Vega rocket, ESA's Simba CubeSat is a tiny mission with a big ambition: to measure one of the fundamental drivers of climate change in a new way. The 30-cm long nanosatellite will turn from Earth to space to the sun and back again, to calculate our planet's overall energy budget.

Storm hunter turns two

The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor or ASIM, mounted outside the European laboratory of the International Space Station, enters its second year of science operations.

FSSCat/Ф-sat-1 ready for launch

The first artificial intelligence to be carried onboard a European Earth observation mission will be launched this week from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The pioneering artificial intelligence technology named ɸ-sat-1, pronounced PhiSat-1, will be the first experiment to improve the efficiency of sending vast quantities of data back to Earth.

Dancing stars and black holes in a cosmic cloud of gas: New research of the 'common envelope phase'

Most massive stars are born in binaries (and sometimes triples, quadruples, and so on). As stars age, they grow larger in size by a hundred-fold or even thousand-fold expansion. When stars in binaries expand, parts of them approach the other star in the binary, whose gravity can then pull off the outer portions of the expanding star. The result is mass transfer from one star to the other.

Martian rover motors ahead

European engineers, together with Canada, are working on the technologies needed to find and retrieve samples from Mars, as part of ESA's plans to send material from the Red Planet to Earth.

If there is life out there, can we detect it?

Instruments aboard future space missions are capable of detecting amino acids, fatty acids and peptides, and can even identify ongoing biological processes on ocean moons in our solar system. These are the exciting conclusions reached by two studies from an international team led by scientists of the Planetary Sciences research group at Freie Universität Berlin. The two studies were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Astrobiology.

Almost 90% of astronauts have been men. But the future of space may be female

Only 566 people have ever travelled to space. Sixty-five of them, or about 11.5%, were women.

Amyloid formation on the International Space Station

Amyloids, abnormal fibrillar aggregates of proteins, are associated with various disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms of amyloid formation is critical for developing clinical strategies and drugs against these diseases. However, accumulating evidence suggests that amyloid formation processes and the consequent morphology of fibrils can be affected by various environmental factors. This is an obstacle for the integrative understanding of the mechanisms underlying amyloid formations. As gravity causes convectional perturbations in the microenvironments surrounding amyloid fibrils in solution, it may unavoidably affect the processes of molecular assembling.

Tunisia's first satellite to highlight country's technology

When 35-year-old Tunisian farmer Azyz Ben Mustapha looks to the future, he feels a growing sense of unease.

Using sunlight to save satellites from a fate of 'space junk'

No satellite stays the same once launched into space. How much it changes can go unnoticed—until something bad happens.

Technology news

Turning faces into thermostats: Autonomous HVAC system could provide more comfort with less energy

As lockdown requirements ease, COVID-19 is changing the way we use indoor spaces. That presents challenges for those who manage those spaces, from homes to offices and factories.

New method ensures complex programs are bug-free without testing

A team of researchers have devised a way to verify that a class of complex programs is bug-free without the need for traditional software testing. Called Armada, the system makes use of a technique called formal verification to prove whether a piece of software will output what it's supposed to. It targets software that runs using concurrent execution, a widespread method for boosting performance, which has long been a particularly challenging feature to apply this technique to.

Intel Tiger Lake to have built-in malware defense

Intel Corporation announced Monday that its forthcoming Tiger Lake processors will pack a defense mechanism against Spectre-type malware attacks.

Digitize your dog into a computer game

Researchers from the University of Bath have developed motion capture technology that enables you to digitize your dog without a motion capture suit and using only one camera.

Open-source, low-cost, quadruped robot makes sophisticated robotics available to all

Robots capable of the sophisticated motions that define advanced physical actions like walking, jumping, and navigating terrain can cost $50,000 or more, making real-world experimentation prohibitively expensive for many.

T-Mobile says it's working to fix widespread network issues

T-Mobile, one of the three largest mobile carriers in the U.S., said it's working to fix a widespread network issue.

Online news wins subscribers around world but trust low: survey

Increasing numbers of readers are paying for online news around the world even if the level of trust in the media in general remains very low, according to a report published Tuesday.

Molten salt solutions may supply scientists with new insights into nuclear energy

Molten salt reactors could become a cornerstone of the future nuclear energy industry, allowing companies to generate carbon-free power in a safe and efficient way. But first, researchers have to better understand how salt solutions behave in nuclear environments.

EU authorities open two Apple antitrust investigations

European Union regulators began two antitrust investigations on Tuesday into Apple's mobile app store and payment platform over concerns its practices distort competition, opening a new front in the EU's battle against the dominance of big tech companies.

Researchers overcome fundamental operation challenge for voltage-controlled magnetic RAM

This week, at the 2020 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits, imec, a world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, presents a deterministic write scheme for voltage-controlled magnetic anisotropy (VCMA) magnetic random access memories (MRAMs), obviating the need for pre-reading the device before writing. This significantly improves the write duty cycle of the memory, enabling ns-scale write speeds. As a second improvement, a manufacturable solution for external-field-free VCMA switching operation was demonstrated. Both innovations address fundamental write operation challenges for VCMA MRAMs, making them viable candidates for future high-performance low-power memory applications.

How your behaviour on social media could be limiting the quality of your news feeds

An international team of researchers including The University of Western Australia has examined how people's online behaviour and preferences on social media could be limiting the quality and balance of information they receive through their news feed.

Researcher builds solution to work-from-home cloud-computing 'storms'

The outbreak of COVID-19 pushed rapid deployment of the work-from-home movement. Azure Cloud Computing saw a 775% increase in cloud usage in social-distanced areas, while Amazon Web Services experienced 33% growth in the first quarter of this year alone.

Coronavirus tracing app a test for privacy-minded Germany

Germany launched a the continent's strict data privacy standards.

Dog-like robots now on sale for $75,000, with conditions

You can now buy one of those unnerving animal-like robots you might have seen on YouTube—so long as you don't plan to use it to harm or intimidate anyone.

Amazon unveils visual aid to workplace distancing

Amazon said Tuesday it was introducing a "distance assistant" as part of its effort to reduce virus infections at its workplaces.

US eases conditions for working with Huawei on 5G standards

The US is letting blacklisted Chinese technology giant Huawei back into the fold when it comes to companies working together to set standards for 5G telecom networks.

Czech sculptor creates 3D-printed floating house

A Czech sculptor has teamed up with a group of architects to create a 3D-printed house prototype that could become a holiday home for the future.

Aviation hub Singapore suspends construction of airport terminal

Singapore will suspend the construction of a major airport terminal for at least two years as global aviation struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the transport minister said Tuesday.

Plane speaking: IEA says aviation to hold back oil recovery

Demand for petrol and diesel is set to heal by the end of the year but the coronavirus crisis is likely to leave scars on the airline industry and the oil market, the International Energy Agency said on Tuesday.

Research suggests significant benefits to investing in advanced machinery maintenance

The maintenance of machinery in the manufacturing industry consists of three primary approaches: reactive, preventive, and predictive. Reactive maintenance is when a manufacturer runs the machinery until it breaks down and requires maintenance. Preventive maintenance is when maintenance is scheduled based on time or cycles. This is similar to changing a car's oil after 3 months or 3000 miles. Lastly, predictive maintenance is based on data and observations. This is similar to how newer cars track different variables and indicate when the oil needs to be changed.

Warner Bros to hold massive virtual event for DC Comics fans

Comic-Con may be canceled this year, but Warner Bros. will convene a 24-hour virtual gathering of the biggest names in the DC Comics universe.

Study shows Ohio freeway median cable barriers stop vehicles from crashing into oncoming traffic

As America slowly reopens and people resume hitting the open road, travelers through the Buckeye State can rest assured median cable barriers are doing their job. A University of Dayton Transportation Engineering Lab study of 2,209 highway crashes where a vehicle hit or crossed median cable barriers shows only 1.7% of vehicles involved breached the barriers and crashed into oncoming traffic.

Amnesty sounds alarm over Gulf, Norway virus apps

Amnesty International warned Tuesday that contact-tracing technology developed to contain the novel coronavirus threatens users' privacy, highlighting Bahraini, Kuwaiti and Norwegian apps as "among the most dangerous".

'Smart Gear': An innovative gear principle

As part of his master's thesis at TU Graz, Philipp Eisele developed a concept for a collaborative robot in 2019, i.e. an industrial robot that works together with humans. As a doctoral student at TU Graz's Institute of Production Engineering, he developed the concept further—and is now the inventor of 'Smart Gear.' This is an innovative and meanwhile patented drive system which is currently being implemented as a prototype and could be a watershed in drive technology.

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