Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jan 2

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 2, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers learn more about teen-age T.Rex

Researchers build a particle accelerator that fits on a chip

Early modern humans cooked starchy food in South Africa, 170,000 years ago

A close look at thin ice

New study estimates the global extent of river ice loss as Earth warms

All global sustainability is local

Delivering TB vaccine intravenously dramatically improves potency, study shows

Alzheimer 'tau' protein far surpasses amyloid in predicting toll on brain tissue

Heart attack discovery could give hope to people not able to be treated

Patent talk: Apple proposes speaker-illusion gift of enhanced audio

AI beats human breast cancer diagnosis

GMRT discovers a gigantic ring of hydrogen gas around a distant galaxy

Switching tracks: Reversing electrons' course through nature's solar cells

Some learning is a whole-brain affair, study shows

Researchers determine how a specific protein regulates tumor growth

Physics news

Researchers build a particle accelerator that fits on a chip

On a hillside above Stanford University, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory operates a scientific instrument nearly 2 miles long. In this giant accelerator, a stream of electrons flows through a vacuum pipe, as bursts of microwave radiation nudge the particles ever-faster forward until their velocity approaches the speed of light, creating a powerful beam that scientists from around the world use to probe the atomic and molecular structures of inorganic and biological materials.

Flexible photonic crystal from liquid thin-film metasurface

Photonic crystals are predicted to be one of the wonders of the 21st century. In the 20th century, new understanding of the electronic band structure-the physics that determines when a solid conducts or insulates-revolutionized the world. That same physics, when applied to photonic crystals, allows us to control light in a similar manner to how we control electrons. If photonic crystals live up to their promise, all-optical transistors that consume little power and enable even more powerful computers could become a reality.

Physicists find ways to overcome signal loss in magnonic circuits

Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Kotelnikov Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics, and N.G. Chernyshevsky Saratov State University have demonstrated that the coupling elements in magnonic logic circuits are so crucial that a poorly selected waveguide can lead to signal loss. The physicists developed a parametric model for predicting the waveguide configuration that avoids signal loss, built a prototype waveguide, and tested the model in an experiment. Their paper was published in the Journal of Applied Physics.

Astronomy & Space news

GMRT discovers a gigantic ring of hydrogen gas around a distant galaxy

A team of astronomers at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) in Pune, India have discovered a mysterious ring of hydrogen gas around a distant galaxy, using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT). The ring is much bigger than the galaxy it surrounds and has a diameter of about 380,000 light-years (about 4 times that of our Milky Way).

New device in New Mexico turns back clock on astronomy

A newly forged steel instrument that can pinpoint the path of stars and planets across the night sky using the naked eye is a throwback to the years just before the advent of telescopes, returning stargazers in the hills of northern New Mexico to the essentials of astronomy in the past.

India targets new moon mission in 2020

India plans to make a fresh attempt to land an unmanned mission on the moon in 2020 after a failed bid last year, the head of the country's space programme said Wednesday.

UNC expert helps treat astronaut's blood clot during NASA mission

"My first reaction when NASA reached out to me was to ask if I could visit the International Space Station (ISS) to examine the patient myself," said Stephan Moll, MD, UNC School of Medicine blood clot expert and long-time NASA enthusiast. "NASA told me they couldn't get me up to space quickly enough, so I proceeded with the evaluation and treatment process from here in Chapel Hill."

Astronomers say SpaceX's satellites are too bright in the sky. Friday's launch will try to fix that

They were seen sparkling across the skies of Montana right around Christmas: a tidy row of lights that some mistook to be UFOs. The glowing celestial train has been spotted in California, Texas, in the Netherlands and even Chile.

Technology news

Patent talk: Apple proposes speaker-illusion gift of enhanced audio

What about enjoying enhanced virtual surround sound audio? That is a gift to the ears that has been proposed by inventors at Apple, in the form of a patent filing focused on a type of audio system, fundamentally, virtual surround sound.

Tech show offers big and flashy, up-close and (very) personal

The screens will be bigger and bolder, the cars will be smarter and some of the technology will be up-close and personal—even intimate.

Once again, iPhones top tech seller of the year, but AirPods the hit

Once again, the Apple iPhone ended the year as the best-selling tech product, with sales of some 185 million units, according to Wedbush Securities.

This simple trick stops Google, Amazon and Facebook from listening to you all the time

Smart home devices from Google, Amazon and Facebook are engineered to listen for your commands and respond to them. Usually, they only engage when you say your "wake" word such as "OK, Google" or "Hey, Google."

Volkswagen in talks to settle German 'dieselgate' mass lawsuit

Car giant Volkswagen said Thursday it would open talks on a possible settlement in a mass lawsuit brought by hundreds of thousands of German diesel car owners over emissions cheating.

Tech review: Are two screens better than one? LG's answer to flagship phone race

I've got to hand it to LG. They are trying hard to keep up in the flagship phone race.

Trump administration says it will approve largest solar farm in US

Federal officials plan to approve a massive solar farm with energy storage in the desert outside Las Vegas, paving the way for a $1-billion project that will provide electricity to Nevada residents served by billionaire Warren Buffett's NV Energy.

Amazon and Google to hit CES with digital assistants in tow

The world's biggest technology companies are heading to Las Vegas for the annual CES trade show next week, with even Apple Inc. making a rare official appearance. But don't expect any breakthrough new hardware.

In 2020, Californians will have new privacy rights online. But they might have to show ID

The internet is going to look, and work, a little different starting today. That's because Californians have new rights over how their personal information is gathered, stored and sold by any company operating in the state as of Jan. 1, thanks to the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA.

On University of Texas at Dallas' growing campus, meal-delivering robots make splashy debut

Topped with a ball cap and sporting six wheels, one of the newest members of the University of Texas at Dallas introduced itself to students and staff at the campus' annual fashion show.

Feds will investigate deadly Tesla crash in California

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the crash of a speeding Tesla that killed two people in a Los Angeles suburb, the agency announced Tuesday.

Expect faster cell phones, better weather forecasts and cashier-less stores in 2020

Better weather forecasts. Faster cellular service. Quicker wildfire detection. Easier ways to buy MTS passes. And speedy, cashier-free convenience stores.

Should Amazon pay warehouse workers while they wait for security screenings? Pa. Supreme Court will decide

Does Amazon have to pay its warehouse workers for the time they spend going though security checks after their shifts?

Has AT&T actually stopped selling your location data? We could find out in 2020

A digital rights nonprofit is pressuring a U.S. district court to force AT&T to turn over evidence that it no longer sells customers' location data collected by mobile phones to third party aggregators.

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Announcing Processor, the new name for this newsletter

Hello and well met! You're reading the first newsletter we're calling Processor. It's a newsletter about "computers," but I am using that term in a winky way. What I mean is consumer technology: gadgets, tablets, computers, phones, software, and the companies that make the products we use every day. So Processor is about the computers that are all around us — on your wrist, on your wall, and yes, your lap, too.

Every day I'll be rounding up the most important tech stories from The Verge and delivering them into your inbox with short commentaries and the occasional editorial essay. You can find an archive of previous newsletters here if you're looking for examples of what I mean. That archive exists, by the way, because this newsletter has until now been called Command Line — if you're already subscribed to that, Processor is the same thing.

This newsletter's goal will be to catch you up quickly on the biggest news in consumer tech every morning and also to give you sharp, pithy commentary on it.

Hopefully that's not any different from what you've already been getting in your inbox from Command Line. Thanks to TC, Jake, and everybody who started that newsletter (which is this newsletter) and for letting me take the reins. Command Line is dead. Long live Command Line, er, Processor.

Okay, I promised some thoughts on CES last year and so I'll deliver those after the links. It's starting this weekend!

- Dieter

News from The Verge

└ No one is ready for California's new consumer privacy law

Kim Lyons:

But the CCPA is likely to be an even greater compliance challenge. It's the first sweeping legislation in the US to give consumers control over how their personal information is used online, and may signal how other states will seek to protect their residents' privacy, Hirsch says.

└ Netflix claims The Witcher is already one of its most popular shows of 2019

Somehow I suspect this metric is not an indicator of quality -- among other things.

Netflix stated that rankings were determined by counting the total number of accounts that streamed a title for a minimum of two minutes during the first 28 days of its release.

└ US Army bans soldiers from using TikTok

└ TikTok claims zero takedown requests from China in first transparency report

└ Could this be Samsung's bezel-less 8K TV?

└ Trump signs law increasing max robocall fine to $10,000

Fines can now reach $10,000 per call. The law also requires major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to use a new technology called STIR/SHAKEN to help customers know if they're being targeted by a robocaller with a spoofed number.

└ FDA expected to ban most flavored e-cigarette pods

The flavored pod ban would be a step back from the nearly complete flavored vape ban the Trump administration initially floated back in September, as lung injuries from vaping were on the rise. There are two notable changes: menthol flavoring would be allowed, in addition to tobacco; and the flavor ban would only be applied to pods — flavored nicotine liquids could still be sold for open tank systems, according to the reports.

What's coming for gadgets in 2020 and at CES

This editorial appears on our full CES preview, which also has a breakdown of a few big categories in consumer tech, including phones, rideables, PCs, headphones, gaming, and more. It's going up on The Verge today, look for it!

In 2020, this is what to expect in the world of consumer tech: the best stuff is going to get more powerful and more premium. At The Verge, we actually don't like calling stuff "premium" because it's such an overused word. But this year, it's going to get used even more and, well, it fits. It tells you that the best stuff is going to get better and — more importantly — more expensive.

The changes are also premium because a lot of the improvements at the high end are going to be things that most people won't need: 5G phones are going to be everywhere — maybe even coming from Apple — but the networks for them are still nascent. TVs are going to get new features like high refresh rates that will matter to gamers, but perhaps no one else. And the latest PC chips could be the biggest leap for laptops we've seen in years, but we won't know until they start getting released at scale. 

A lot of gadgets will fold in half, too — which is going to be neat, but we don't know if it will be necessary.

Other innovations will be a little more practical. Those scooters you see everywhere? They're not going away, but they should be getting a little more robust and a little less disposable. And as the year winds on, we'll see the console wars heat up again as Sony and Microsoft get their new consoles ready for battle.

There's one more big trend to talk about that's more software than hardware: streaming TV. The streaming wars are in full tilt and we'll get even more services launching in 2020. How many will most people be willing to subscribe to and how much will all these competitors spend on making new shows? Answers, respectively: more than they want to and way more than you'd expect.

All of these trends are set to kick off at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Verge will be there, with coverage starting in earnest on Sunday, January 5th. CES won't have every major gadget that will matter this year, but it is a place to see where the electronics industry is going. Walk into any big box store and you'll see TVs for a couple hundred dollars with features that were multithousand-dollar curiosities just a few years ago. Phones with in-screen fingerprint sensors debuted at CES only to become ubiquitous a couple years later. 

Since the biggest tech companies usually save their best products for their own announcements, you can also expect CES to be a place where smaller players have a better shot at their time in the spotlight.

Trickle-down economics isn't a viable economic theory anymore, but it still applies to gadgets. The stuff at the top eventually gets commoditized, with prices coming down and fancy features hitting the mainstream. In 2020, that'll keep happening — and the premium gadgets will mostly be about making existing categories better instead of creating new ones.

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You are reading Processor, a newsletter about computers by Dieter Bohn. Dieter writes about consumer tech, software, and the most important news of the day from The Verge. This newsletter delivers about four times a week, at least a couple of which include longer essays.

If you enjoyed this email, please feel free to forward to a friend. You can subscribe to Processor and our other newsletters by clicking right here. You can also follow Dieter on Twitter: @backlon.

Processor is also a video series with the same goal: providing smart and surprising analysis with a bit of humor (there will be dad jokes). Subscribe to all of The Verge's great videos here - please do!


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