Science X Newsletter Thursday, Aug 6

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for August 6, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

New reconfigurable circuits for a wide range of applications

Fossil mystery solved: Super-long-necked reptiles lived in the ocean, not on land

New fossil discovery shows how ancient 'hell ants' hunted with headgear

Why shaving dulls even the sharpest of razors

Record EOS measurement pressures shed light on stellar evolution

Controlling ice formation on gradient wettability surfaces for high-performance bioinspired materials

Hubble uses Earth as proxy for identifying oxygen on potentially habitable exoplanets

A 'Devonian' aquarium: Modern mutant fishes replicate creatures of ancient oceans

How cells keep growing even when under attack

AAA: Partially automated driving systems don't always work

New research shows parasites 'mite' help curb the spread of invasive lizards

Non-invasive nerve stimulation boosts learning of foreign language sounds

Genes related to Down syndrome abnormalities may protect against solid tumors

Chemists create the brightest-ever fluorescent materials

This fruit attracts birds with an unusual way of making itself metallic blue

Physics news

Demonstrating the Mpemba effect in a controlled setting

A pair of physicists at Simon Fraser University has developed a means for demonstrating the Mpemba effect in a controlled setting. In their paper published in the journal Nature, Avinash Kumar and John Bechhoefer describe the setup they used, what it showed and other possible uses for it.

Harnessing chaos could help climate modeling take leap forward

Understanding the chaotic variability of the climate and its response to climate change could help scientists better forecast changes that still elude even the most sophisticated models.

New class of laser beam doesn't follow normal laws of refraction

University of Central Florida researchers have developed a new type of laser beam that doesn't follow long-held principles about how light refracts and travels.

An electrical switch for magnetism

NUS physicists have demonstrated the control of magnetism in a magnetic semiconductor via electrical means, paving the way for novel spintronic devices.

Thermal chaos returns quantum system to its unknown past

Building on last year's breakthrough 'time reversal' experiment, two researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and Argonne National Laboratory have published a new theoretical study in Communications Physics. While their previous paper dealt with a predefined quantum state, this time the physicists have devised a way to time-reverse the evolution of an object in an arbitrary, unknown state.

Innovative method offers a new way of studying developmental cardiac biomechanics, live in 4-D

How a valveless embryonic heart tube pumps blood is a long-standing scientific mystery. Thanks to innovations in light-based technology, fresh insights are now available into the biomechanics of mammalian cardiogenesis—and in particular, the pumping dynamics of the mammalian tubular embryonic heart.

Astronomy and Space news

Record EOS measurement pressures shed light on stellar evolution

Using the power of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world's highest-energy laser system, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and an international team of collaborators have developed an experimental capability for measuring the basic properties of matter, such as the equation of state (EOS), at the highest pressures thus far achieved in a controlled laboratory experiment.

Hubble uses Earth as proxy for identifying oxygen on potentially habitable exoplanets

Taking advantage of a total lunar eclipse, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have detected Earth's own brand of sunscreen—ozone—in our atmosphere. This method simulates how astronomers and astrobiology researchers will search for evidence of life beyond Earth by observing potential "biosignatures" on exoplanets (planets around other stars).

Explaining glaciers of solid methane and nitrogen on Pluto

Planetary scientist Dr. Helen Maynard-Casely and associates have reported for the first time how solid methane and nitrogen expand in response to temperature changes and resolved an historic ambiguity relating to the structure of nitrogen.

NASA scientists leverage carbon-measuring instrument for Mars studies

Insights and technology gleaned from creating a carbon-measuring instrument for Earth climate studies is being leveraged to build another that would remotely profile, for the first time, water vapor up to nine miles above the Martian surface, along with wind speeds and minute particles suspended in the planet's atmosphere.

Decades-long deep giant cloud disruption discovered on Venus

A planetary-scale cloud discontinuity has been periodically lashing the depths of the thick blanket of clouds on Venus for at least 35 years, says a study with the participation of the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA).

Statistical evidence for temperature inversions in ultra-hot Jupiters 

The thermal structure of hot gas giant exoplanet atmospheres is likely to be inverted for the hottest planets, a class of planets known as ultra-hot Jupiters. This is the conclusion from astrophysicists based at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in collaboration with an international team from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Fragments of asteroids may have jumped the gap in the early solar system

Using some cosmic detective work, a team of researchers has found evidence that tiny pieces of asteroids from the inner solar system may have crossed a gap to the outer solar system, a feat once thought to be unlikely.

NASA's Maven observes Martian night sky pulsing in ultraviolet light

Vast areas of the Martian night sky pulse in ultraviolet light, according to images from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. The results are being used to illuminate complex circulation patterns in the Martian atmosphere.

Global magnetic field of the solar corona measured for the first time

An international team of solar physicists, including academics from Northumbria University, in Newcastle upon Tyne, has recently measured the global magnetic field of the outer most layer of the Sun's atmosphere, the solar corona, for the first time.

OSIRIS-REx is one rehearsal away from touching asteroid Bennu

NASA's first asteroid sampling spacecraft is making final preparations to grab a sample from asteroid Bennu's surface. Next week, the OSIRIS-REx mission will conduct a second rehearsal of its touchdown sequence, practicing the sample collection activities one last time before touching down on Bennu this fall.

Weightless action on the space station – power, bones and bubbles

European science progressed at a slower pace on the International Space Station in the past month. As a series of spacewalks to power up the space habitat came to an end and two of its passengers left for home Earth, intriguing bubbles puzzled researchers and left them wanting to know more.

Stellar pulsations distribute key ingredient for life

As Carl Sagan famously said, "We're made of star stuff"—but how do stars distribute their essential "stuff" for life into space? NASA's telescope on an airplane, SOFIA, is finding some answers by watching pulsating stars as they expand and contract, almost like-beating hearts.

Crater investigators explore Mars from afar

What can impacts from space teach us about the red planet?

Observatory returns from tropical storm Isaias lockdown to track asteroid for NASA

The Earth has one less asteroid to worry about thanks to the research of an international team of scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Technology news

New reconfigurable circuits for a wide range of applications

Electronic components that can process information with high levels of efficiency are crucial for the development of most contemporary devices and computational tools. Reconfigurable electronics, flexible systems that can change configurations to best utilize available hardware resources, are a possible solution for enhancing processing efficiency.

AAA: Partially automated driving systems don't always work

Two tests by AAA during the past two years show that partially automated driving systems don't always function properly, so the auto club is recommending that car companies limit their use.

A pathway to longer-lasting lithium batteries

Just about everyone has endured the frustration of their cell phone running out of power before they get a chance to recharge, and although electric cars are growing in popularity, they remain limited by how far they can drive before their battery runs out of juice. Indeed, the energy density of batteries—how much energy they pack in a given mass or volume—has been a major challenge for consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and renewable energy sources.

30-year-old file format behind MacOS hack

A security expert revealed this week that an exploit commonly used against Windows users who own Microsoft Office can sneak into MacOS systems as well.

Analysis of renewable energy points toward more affordable carbon-free electricity

As more states in the U.S. push for increased reliance on variable renewable energy in the form of wind or solar power, long-term energy storage may play an important role in assuring reliability and reducing electricity costs, according to a new paper published by Caltech researchers.

Will automated vehicles cut parking revenue? Not overnight, but cities should plan ahead

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will challenge cities in ways that are difficult to fully predict, and yet critical to address early. A particular challenge is the potential for AVs to upset municipal budgets, as they upend traditional auto-related funding streams like vehicle registration fees and parking revenues. To prepare for this uncertain future, cities should practice scenario planning to understand revenue implications and identify alternative solutions.

Promising new research identifies novel approach for controlling defects in 3-D printing

With its ability to yield parts with complex shapes and minimal waste, additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize the production of metallic components. That potential, however, is currently limited by one critical challenge: controlling defects in the process that can compromise the performance of 3-D-printed materials.

California sues Uber, Lyft for driver wage theft

California has filed lawsuits against Uber and Lyft for alleged wage theft by misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, the Labor Commissioner's Office said Wednesday.

Toyota warns of 64% drop in full-year net profit

Toyota on Thursday warned of a 64 percent drop in full-year net profit and reported a slump in quarterly earnings, as the coronavirus pandemic shreds the global auto market.

TikTok grab could extend—or undermine—US online dominance

A tie-up of TikTok with Microsoft could extend American dominance of the online and social media world. But it may have some unintended, negative consequences too for US firms and the open internet.

US wants to eliminate Chinese apps from US app stores

The US is expanding its China-targeted Clean Network program to include Chinese-made cellphone apps and cloud computing services that it claims are security risks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday.

Nintendo reports bumper $1 bn net profit in first quarter

Nintendo made a $1 billion net profit in the first quarter, it said Thursday, with gamers stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic driving extraordinary demand for the industry.

New radiation-resistant material makes it safer and cheaper to recycle spent nuclear fuel

Scientists have developed a radiation-resistant material that makes it safer and cheaper to capture radioactive off gases that are generated during the recycling of spent nuclear fuel and the operation of some advanced reactors. Current technologies are expensive, and this new material makes it more efficient to capture noble gasses like xenon and krypton, which are byproducts of nuclear fission. Plus, captured non-radioactive xenon can be repurposed for use in medicine and commercial lighting.

"I'm not addicted!" Kids have a right to play – even digitally

Parents, teachers and the media need to stop pathologising game play as "addictive" or a "disorder" as it is potentially harmful to a child's sense of identity and the benefits of play, according to new research.

Between renting and buying, Unagi offers personal scooters with a subscription

A small California startup says it might have the answer to getting scooters into more hands for contact-free transportation: a subscription plan.

Google has an answer to keeping your work and school life at home on time amid COVID-19 pandemic: Family Bell

There are many things about doing school at home that aren't much like being at school. No lines of cars with kids dragging oversized backpacks, no recess games and no bells to alert students when to get to class.

Harnessing the sun to purify concentrated waste streams

Reverse osmosis is one of the most common methods for purifying saline water, but the process produces limited results. About 20% to 50% of the water that enters the system remains as a concentrated waste stream.

Flexible management of hydropower plants would contribute to a secure electricity supply

Researchers from the UPV/EHU's Institute of Public Economics and BC3, the Basque Centre for Climate Change, have been cooperating for several years on the study and projection of so-called security of electricity supply in Spain. The country is regarded as an 'electricity island' owing to its scant interconnection with neighboring countries. This feature underlies the projections of the country's power demand, generation capacity, and supply over the coming decades. Drawing on these projections the researchers evaluate the degree of security of supply and assess how it will change in response to the sources of electricity that are gradually abandoned or promoted. The scientific journal Energy has recently published the second article relating to this study in which another two BC3 researchers have taken part.

Anode material for safe batteries with a long cycle life

Researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Jilin University in Changchun/China investigated a highly promising anode material for future high-performance batteries—lithium lanthanum titanate with a perovskite crystal structure (LLTO). As the team reported in the Nature Communications journal, LLTO can improve the energy density, power density, charging rate, safety, and cycle life of batteries without requiring a decrease of the particle size from micro to nano scale.

Lufthansa warns of forced layoffs on virus turbulences

German airline giant Lufthansa said Thursday that demand for air travel will return to pre-crisis levels only in 2024 or even later as it announced forced layoffs on the back of a significant loss.

Apple shines in pandemic with $2 trillion value on horizon

Early in 2020, Apple appeared to be caught in a horrible bind.

US central bank unveils alternative to Facebook's Libra

Noting security concerns posed by Facebook's digital currency Libra, the Federal Reserve on Thursday revealed details of its own instant payments system.

Brussels Airlines lost 182 mn euros in six months

Belgium's biggest airline, Lufthansa subsidiary Brussels Airlines, said Thursday it had lost 182 million euros in the first six months of 2020 because of the coronavirus crisis.

Twitter users may have changed their behavior after contact with Russian trolls

In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, thousands of Twitter users changed their behavior after coming in contact with social media bots created by a notorious troll farm in Russia—adopting increasingly negative language in their tweets, among other shifts.

How open data could tame Big Tech's power and avoid a breakup

On July 29, the heads of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google testified (virtually) in front of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee to defend their dominant market positions in advertising (Facebook and Google), in e-commerce (Amazon) and in applications (Apple).

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways posts $758M in half-year losses

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said Thursday core operating losses amounted to $758 million for the first half of the year, driven by a nearly 40% drop in revenue due in part to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

TikTok: Time running out for ByteDance boss

The Chinese billionaire behind teen phenomenon TikTok is a 37-year-old tech guru whose eye for youth trends has blasted the app to global success –- but his inventiveness may not be enough to save the company's lucrative US market.

Intellivision video game system reboot delayed amid coronavirus pandemic, now due in April 2021

The latest repercussion from the coronavirus pandemic? A delay in the arrival of the rebooted Intellivision video game console.

Samsung AirDresser: A $1,049 smart closet meant to save you trips to the dry cleaner

Samsung is bringing an innovative way to clean your clothes to the U.S. as dry cleaning businesses struggle due to the pandemic.

Twitter moves to reduce reach of 'state-affiliated' media

Twitter on Thursday unveiled new steps to curb the spread of content from "state-affiliated media" used to advance a government's political agenda—a move affecting key outlets from Russia and China.

Personality-based approach may be key to partnering with robots

Human facial expressions could be one of the keys in building trust between Soldiers and autonomous agents.

US Senate votes to ban TikTok on government phones

The US Senate voted Thursday to bar TikTok from being downloaded onto US government employees' telephones, intensifying US scrutiny of the popular Chinese-owned video app.

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