Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Sep 16

Dear ymilog,

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A new strategy for the viral manipulation of interneurons in mice and other mammals

Liquid carbon characterized using a free electron laser

Research reveals an enormous planet quickly orbiting a tiny, dying star

Research team pinpoints brain circuitry underlying dissociative experiences

World's largest DNA sequencing of Viking skeletons reveals they weren't all Scandinavian

How Dantu Blood Group protects against malaria—and how all humans could benefit

Native stinging tree toxins match the pain of spiders and scorpions

Five new giant radio galaxies discovered

Discovery of a new mass extinction

Mapping cavefish brains leads to neural origin of behavioral evolution

Scientist searches for stellar phosphorus to find potentially habitable exoplanets

Can life survive a star's death? Webb telescope can reveal the answer

Google announces AI-boosted virtual meeting system

An extremely social robotic fish helps unravel the collective patterns of animal groups

Finding in 100-million-year-old amber reveals sexual intercourse of ostracods

Physics news

Liquid carbon characterized using a free electron laser

From common soot to precious diamonds, carbon is familiar in many guises, but there have been little more than glimpses of carbon in the liquid form. Researchers at the FERMI Free Electron Laser (FEL) source have now not only generated a liquid carbon sample, but have characterized its structure, tracking the ultrafast rearrangements of electron bonding and atomic coordinates that take place as their carbon samples melt. "As far as I know, that is the fastest structural transition in condensed matter," says Emiliano Principi, principal investigator on the project.

A new way to search for dark matter reveals hidden materials properties

New research from Chalmers, together with ETH Z├╝rich, Switzerland, suggests a promising way to detect elusive dark matter particles through previously unexplored atomic responses occurring in the detector material.

How to train a machine to see 3-D in the dark

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have developed a new way to create an almost perfect hologram in near darkness.

Liquid water at 170 degrees Celsius: X-ray laser reveals anomalous dynamics at ultra-fast heating

Using the X-ray laser European XFEL, a research team has investigated how water heats up under extreme conditions. In the process, the scientists were able to observe water that remained liquid even at temperatures of more than 170 degrees Celsius. The investigation revealed an anomalous dynamic behavior of water under these conditions. The results of the study, which are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), are of fundamental importance for the planning and analysis of investigations of sensitive samples using X-ray lasers.

Molecular 'dances' determine how liquids take up heat

Scientists have uncovered a link between the microscopic movements of particles in a liquid and its ability to absorb heat.

Researchers demonstrate record speed with advanced spectroscopy technique

Researchers have developed an advanced spectrometer that can acquire data with exceptionally high speed. The new spectrometer could be useful for a variety of applications including remote sensing, real-time biological imaging and machine vision.

Researchers 3-D print tiny multicolor microstructures

Researchers have developed an automated 3-D printing method that can produce multicolor 3-D microstructures using different materials. The new method could be used to make a variety of optical components including optical sensors and light-driven actuators as well as multimaterial structures for applications such as soft robotics and medical applications.

Researchers synthesize artificial solid-state crystal structures using laser light

Researchers at the Hybrid Photonics Laboratories in Skoltech and Southampton (U.K.), in collaboration with Lancaster University (U.K.), have demonstrated a new optical method to synthesize artificial solid-state crystal structures for cavity polaritons using only laser light. The results could lead to the realization of field-programmable polariton circuitry and new strategies to create guided light and robust confinement of coherent light sources. The results were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Collaboration yields promising material for quantum computing

Researchers at the Microsoft Quantum Materials Lab and the University of Copenhagen, working closely together, have succeeded in realizing an important and promising material for use in a future quantum computer. For this end, the researchers have to create materials that hold the delicate quantum information and protect it from decoherence.

Physicists make electrical nanolasers even smaller

Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and King's College London cleared the obstacle that had prevented the creation of electrically driven nanolasers for integrated circuits. The approach, reported in a recent paper in Nanophotonics, enables coherent light source design on the scale not only hundreds of times smaller than the thickness of a human hair but even smaller than the wavelength of light emitted by the laser. This lays the foundation for ultrafast optical data transfer in the manycore microprocessors expected to emerge in the near future.

Astronomy and Space news

Research reveals an enormous planet quickly orbiting a tiny, dying star

Thanks to a bevy of telescopes in space and on Earth—and even a pair of amateur astronomers in Arizona—a University of Wisconsin-Madison astronomer and his colleagues have discovered a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting at breakneck speed around a distant white dwarf star. The system, about 80 light years away, violates all common conventions about stars and planets. The white dwarf is the remnant of a sun-like star, greatly shrunken down to roughly the size of Earth, yet it retains half the sun's mass. The massive planet looms over its tiny star, which it circles every 34 hours thanks to an incredibly close orbit. In contrast, Mercury takes a comparatively lethargic 90 days to orbit the sun. While there have been hints of large planets orbiting close to white dwarfs in the past, the new findings are the clearest evidence yet that these bizarre pairings exist. That confirmation highlights the diverse ways stellar systems can evolve and may give a glimpse at our own solar system's fate. Such a white dwarf system could even provide a rare habitable arrangement for life to arise in the light of a dying star.

Five new giant radio galaxies discovered

With the help of citizen scientists, astronomers have detected five new giant radio galaxies (GRGs). The new GRGs have sizes ranging from 2.3 to 2.6 million light years, and have been identified at redshift between 0.28 and 0.43. The finding is reported in a paper published September 8 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Scientist searches for stellar phosphorus to find potentially habitable exoplanets

A Southwest Research Institute scientist has identified stellar phosphorus as a probable marker in narrowing the search for life in the cosmos. She has developed techniques to identify stars likely to host exoplanets, based on the composition of stars known to have planets, and proposes that upcoming studies target stellar phosphorus to find systems with the greatest probability for hosting life as we know it.

Can life survive a star's death? Webb telescope can reveal the answer

When stars like our sun die, all that remains is an exposed core—a white dwarf. A planet orbiting a white dwarf presents a promising opportunity to determine if life can survive the death of its star, according to Cornell University researchers.

How scientists around the world track the solar cycle

Every morning, astronomer Steve Padilla takes a short walk from his home to the base of a tower that soars 150 feet above the ground. Tucked in the San Gabriel Mountains, about an hour's drive north from Los Angeles, the Mount Wilson Observatory has long been a home for space science—it's Padilla's home too, one of the perks to his work as Mount Wilson's sun observer. Mount Wilson has several solar system sentinels; the telescope perched at the top of this tower keeps constant watch on the sun. Observers study the sun closely, so we can better understand the life and activity of our star.

Meteorite study calls into doubt a popular theory about the early solar system

It is generally accepted that the inner region of the early solar system was subject to an intense period of meteoric bombardment referred to as the late heavy bombardment. However, researchers have found evidence that suggests this period occurred slightly earlier than thought and was less intense but also more prolonged. Such details about this period could impact theories about the early Earth and the dawn of life.

Dynetics completes building full-scale human landing system test article for evaluation by NASA for Artemis program

Dynetics has announced on its website that it has completed building a human landing system (HLS) for evaluation by NASA. It is now on display at a facility in Huntsville, Alabama. The HLS by Dynetics is one of three HLS designs being evaluated by NASA for use in the Artemis program. The other two companies are Blue Origin and SpaceX.

Unraveling a spiral stream of dusty embers from a massive binary stellar forge

With almost two decades of mid-infrared (IR) imaging from the largest observatories around the world including the Subaru Telescope, a team of astronomers was able to capture the spiral motion of newly formed dust streaming from the massive and evolved binary star system Wolf-Rayet (WR) 112. Massive binary star systems, as well as supernova explosions, are regarded as sources of dust in the Universe from its early history, but the process of dust production and the amount of the ejected dust are still open questions. WR 112 is a binary system composed of a massive star in the very late stage of stellar evolution losing a large amount of mass and another massive star at the main sequence. Dust is expected to be formed in the region where stellar winds from these two stars are colliding. The study reveals the motion of the dusty outflow from the system and identifies WR 112 as a highly efficient dust factory that produces an entire Earth mass of dust every year.

Astronomers discover a 2-km asteroid orbiting closer to the sun than Venus

Astronomers have painstakingly built models of the asteroid population, and those models predict that there will be ~1 km-sized asteroids that orbit closer to the sun than Venus does. The problem is, nobody's been able to find one—until now.

Image: Making waves in space

The International Space Station is an exciting place for experiments. This one in particular was making waves in space. Called Fluidics, the experiment studies fluid dynamics in microgravity and recently performed another successful round of science on board the Space Station. 

Solar cycle 25 has begun

In the past one and a half years, the sun has been rather dull: hardly a sunspot covered its surface, hardly a solar flare hurled radiation and particles into space. As observational data now show, for the last nine months solar activity has been slowly picking up again. Already in December 2019, our star passed its activity minimum, an event which occurs approximately every eleven years. This confirms predictions made by the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, an international panel of experts organized by NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), in March last year. The panel, whose members include Robert Cameron from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, expects the sun to be as tame in the now beginning solar cycle 25 as it has been in the previous eleven years.

Technology news

Google announces AI-boosted virtual meeting system

The coronavirus epidemic has brought virtually nothing other than misery, pain, fear and disruption. Though we may still be far off from the day we can close the book on this scourge, we are now inching towards what seems like such a long-lost sense of normalcy. Sports are resuming, schools are cautiously reopening, diners are once again patronizing their favorite eateries.

Future autonomous machines may build trust through emotion

Army research has extended the state-of-the-art in autonomy by providing a more complete picture of how actions and nonverbal signals contribute to promoting cooperation. Researchers suggested guidelines for designing autonomous machines such as robots, self-driving cars, drones and personal assistants that will effectively collaborate with soldiers.

Analytical model helps researchers fine-tune battery performance

A simpler and more efficient way to predict performance will lead to better batteries, according to Rice University engineers.

New data processing module makes deep neural networks smarter

Artificial intelligence researchers at North Carolina State University have improved the performance of deep neural networks by combining feature normalization and feature attention modules into a single module that they call attentive normalization (AN). The hybrid module improves the accuracy of the system significantly, while using negligible extra computational power.

Medical robotic hand? Rubbery semiconductor makes it possible

A medical robotic hand could allow doctors to more accurately diagnose and treat people from halfway around the world, but currently available technologies aren't good enough to match the in-person experience.

Unfriended abroad, China's tech giants seek home comfort

China's tech titans can rely on their massive home market to ride out a Donald Trump-led campaign against them overseas, and in the long-term their global prospects remain strong, analysts say.

The cardboard crash helmet

In the age of plastic waste, the environmentally conscious are hoping to replace many of the common materials, such as expanded polystyrene in everyday objects with sustainable and recyclable materials. Now, researchers in China report successful crash tests of a new bicycle safety helmet that uses honeycombed and corrugated cardboard instead of polymer foam to provide protection.

Renewables rescue stability as the grid loses spin

The high-altitude Atacama Desert of northern Chile is a surprising location for scientific insights: Its dry and dusty likeness to Mars makes it ideal for interplanetary testing, and distant worlds are particularly visible to telescopes through the altiplano's clear night skies. But it is the area's record amount of solar radiation that enabled the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) own breakthrough in the Atacama: a proof that bulk renewable resources can stabilize the power grid.

Detecting environmental pollutants with a smaller, portable, fully electric gas chromatograph

Prof. Yogesh Gianchandani and Dr. Yutao Qin designed a fully electronic micro gas chromatography system to improve the detection and monitoring of indoor air pollutants. Their 2016 paper describing the research, "A fully electronic microfabricated gas chromatograph with complementary capacitive detectors for indoor pollutants," published in Microsystems & Nanoengineering, received an Outstanding Paper Award in 2020.

Automated mobility district 'digital twin' provides insights for urban transportation systems

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Researcher Stan Young has a vision of a downtown district characterized by transportation mobility systems that are as easy and efficient to use as the moving walkways found in airport terminals, but on a larger scale. While that may not be our exact future, his work on the Automated Mobility District (AMD) modeling and simulation toolkit makes it easier for researchers and city planners to quantify the advantages and disadvantages of similar transportation evolutions.

We need a code to protect our online privacy and wipe out 'dark patterns' in digital design

A digital building code is needed to help designers better protect the privacy of people when they use online platforms and websites.

Report: Hackers aimed at manufacturing firms during pandemic

In the first six months of the year, as most of the world shut down because of COVID-19 and workers everywhere shifted to working remotely, online criminals and state-backed hackers got busy breaking into computer networks, especially those of manufacturing, technology and telecom companies.

Boeing MAX crashes 'horrific' result of lapses by company, regulator

Congressional investigators blamed two deadly Boeing 737 MAX crashes on "repeated and serious failures" by the company and air safety officials, according to a report released Wednesday that called for an overhaul of the US aviation regulatory system.

Apple addition: How a $329 iPad can grow to almost $1K

That new entry level $329 iPad sounded really cool when Apple announced it Tuesday.

Spotify steps up antitrust war over Apple One bundling

Sweden's global number one music streamer Spotify is urging EU competition authorities to probe Apple's One bundled subscription services as it steps up its antitrust criticisms of the US tech titan.

Amazon cranks up its music service with podcasts

Amazon on Wednesday added podcasts to its streaming music service, tapping into a trend and taking on rivals including Spotify and Apple.

Amazon plans to put 1,000 warehouses in neighborhoods Inc. plans to open 1,000 small delivery hubs in cities and suburbs all over the U.S., according to people familiar with the plans. The facilities, which will eventually number about 1,500, will bring products closer to customers, making shopping online about as fast as a quick run to the store. It will also help the world's largest e-commerce company take on a resurgent Walmart Inc.

Facebook plans Ray-Ban smart glasses as it eyes AR

Facebook on Wednesday announced it would launch its own smart glasses next year which connect to smartphones as part of an alliance with eyewear titan EssilorLuxottica.

Google exec on hot seat in Congress over advertising power

A Senate panel put a top Google executive on the defensive Tuesday over the company's powerful position in online advertising as some lawmakers look hopefully toward an expected antitrust case against the tech giant by the Trump administration.

Hitachi scraps plan for UK nuclear plant

Japan's Hitachi on Wednesday scrapped its multi-billion-pound nuclear plant project in Wales in face of the deteriorating investment environment, in a blow to Britain's atomic energy programme.

Celebs join Instagram 'freeze' to protest Facebook inaction

Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio and other celebrities are taking part in a 24-hour Instagram "freeze" on Wednesday to protest against what they say is parent company Facebook's failure to tackle violent and hateful content and election misinformation.

Phone flip: New Quibi series 'Wireless' empowers the viewer

Most directors insist on having final edit approval of their films. Not the creators of "Wireless."

US announces charges against Chinese, Malaysian hackers

The US Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against five Chinese nationals and two Malaysians who ran global hacking operations for at least six years to steal identities and video game technology, plant ransomware, and spy on Hong Kong activists.

GoPro releases Hero9 with larger camera, bigger battery and a preview 'selfie' screen

GoPro's Hero9 camera update, out Wednesday, is its largest model yet, while still tiny, with a longer lasting battery and the ability to shoot higher-resolution 5K video.

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