Science X Newsletter Monday, Jan 6

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Robotic architecture inspired by pelican eel: Origami unfolding and skin stretching mechanisms

Constructive molecular configurations for surface-defect passivation of perovskite photovoltaics

Scientists develop new method to detect oxygen on exoplanets

Antarctic waters: Warmer with more acidity and less oxygen

Finding a new way to fight late-stage sepsis by boosting cells' antibacterial properties

Polluted wastewater in the forecast? Try a solar umbrella

Poplars genetically modified not to harm air quality grow as well as non-modified trees

Collaborative conservation approach for endangered reef fish yields dramatic results

Glitch detected in the pulsar PSR J0908−4913

Best of Last Week: Particle accelerator on a chip, new lidar system and sleep impact on pulmonary fibrosis

Laser pulse creates frequency doubling in amorphous dielectric material

Scientists find new way to sustainably make chemicals by copying nature's tricks

Music evokes 13 key emotions. Scientists have mapped them

In a nearby galaxy, a fast radio burst unravels more questions than answers

Research continues showing gains in DNA computing

Physics news

Constructive molecular configurations for surface-defect passivation of perovskite photovoltaics

Materials scientists aim to enable surface-trap-mediated nonradiative charge recombination to engineer highly efficient metal-halide perovskite photovoltaics (solar cells). Since unproductive charge recombination at surface defects can limit the efficiency of hybrid perovskite solar cells, scientists can passivate the defects (induce an acid-base chemical treatment) using small molecular binding. The ionic character of perovskite lattice can allow molecular defect passivation through interactions between functional groups and surface defects. However, there exists a lack of in-depth understanding on how molecular configurations can influence passivation effectiveness to facilitate rational molecular design.

Laser pulse creates frequency doubling in amorphous dielectric material

Researchers have demonstrated a new all-optical technique for creating robust second-order nonlinear effects in materials that don't normally support them. Using a laser pulse fired at an array of gold triangles on a titanium dioxide (TiO2) slab, the researchers created excited electrons that briefly doubled the frequency of a beam from a second laser as it bounced off the amorphous TiO2 slab.

Exploring the 'dark side' of a single-crystal complex oxide thin film

Analysis from a team led by Argonne researchers reveals never-before-seen details about a type of thin film being explored for advanced microelectronics.

Moving domain walls induce losses in superconductor/ferromagnet hybrid systems

Physicists have shown that the motion of domain walls can be detected by monitoring voltage generated in superconducting devices. This finding can facilitate magnetic racetrack memory applications. The result was published in Physical Review Letters. The international research group included researchers from the University of Jyväskylä.

Astronomy & Space news

Scientists develop new method to detect oxygen on exoplanets

Scientists have developed a new method for detecting oxygen in exoplanet atmospheres that may accelerate the search for life.

Glitch detected in the pulsar PSR J0908−4913

Using the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), astronomers have detected a glitch in the radio pulsar PSR J0908−4913. The finding, detailed in a paper published December 18 on the arXiv preprint server, could be helpful in shedding more light on the properties and nature of this pulsar.

In a nearby galaxy, a fast radio burst unravels more questions than answers

For more than a decade, astronomers across the globe have wrestled with the perplexities of fast radio bursts—intense, unexplained cosmic flashes of energy, light years away, that pop for mere milliseconds.

Astronomers find wandering massive black holes in dwarf galaxies

Astronomers seeking to learn about the mechanisms that formed massive black holes in the early history of the Universe have gained important new clues with the discovery of 13 such black holes in dwarf galaxies less than a billion light-years from Earth.

Simulated image demonstrates the power of NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope

Imagine a fleet of 100 Hubble Space Telescopes, deployed in a strategic space-invader-shaped array a million miles from Earth, scanning the universe at warp speed.

NASA's Great Observatories help astronomers build a 3-D visualization of exploded star

In the year 1054 AD, Chinese sky watchers witnessed the sudden appearance of a "new star" in the heavens, which they recorded as six times brighter than Venus, making it the brightest observed stellar event in recorded history. This "guest star," as they described it, was so bright that people saw it in the sky during the day for almost a month. Native Americans also recorded its mysterious appearance in petroglyphs.

Astronomers detect first stars 'bubbling out' from the cosmic Dark Ages

Astronomers using the Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, a program of NSF's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, have identified several overlapping bubbles of hydrogen gas ionized by the stars in early galaxies, a mere 680 million years after the Big Bang. This is the earliest direct evidence from the period when the first generation of stars formed and began reionizing the hydrogen gas that permeated the universe.

NASA's Hubble surveys gigantic galaxy

Galaxies are like snowflakes. Though the universe contains innumerable galaxies flung across time and space, no two ever look alike. One of the most photogenic is the huge spiral galaxy UGC 2885, located 232 million light-years away in the northern constellation, Perseus. It's a whopper even by galactic standards. The galaxy is 2.5 times wider than our Milky Way and contains 10 times as many stars, about 1 trillion. This galaxy has lived a quiescent life by not colliding with other large galaxies. It has gradually bulked up on intergalactic hydrogen to make new stars at a slow and steady pace over many billions of years. The galaxy has been nicknamed "Rubin's galaxy," after astronomer Vera Rubin (1928—2016). Rubin used the galaxy to look for invisible dark matter. The galaxy is embedded inside a vast halo of dark matter. The amount of dark matter can be estimated by measuring its gravitational influence on the galaxy's rotation rate.

The turbulent life of two supermassive black holes caught in a galaxy crash

An international team of astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to create the most detailed image yet of the gas surrounding two supermassive black holes in a merging galaxy.

New evidence shows that the key assumption made in the discovery of dark energy is in error

The most direct and strongest evidence for the accelerating universe with dark energy is provided by the distance measurements using type Ia supernovae (SN Ia) for the galaxies at high redshift. This result is based on the assumption that the corrected luminosity of SN Ia through the empirical standardization would not evolve with redshift.

Astronomers spot distant galaxy group driving ancient cosmic makeover

An international team of astronomers funded in part by NASA has found the farthest galaxy group identified to date. Called EGS77, the trio of galaxies dates to a time when the universe was only 680 million years old, or less than 5% of its current age of 13.8 billion years.

Flying observatory maps the Milky Way

A new panoramic image based on data captured by NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) shows the bustling center of our galaxy like it has never been seen before.

New research looks at neutron star blasts

X-ray bursts are highly energetic releases of radiation from the surfaces of neutron stars, triggered by the explosive burning of material accumulated on the surface. It's the same type of burning that happens in the cores of ordinary stars like the sun, but in this case, happening on the surface. Thus, unlike the sun, where it takes hundreds of thousands of years for this radiation to escape—and in a much weaker form—it happens almost instantly in an X-ray burst. This means that anything surrounding the neutron star is going to get blasted with radiation.

Expert discusses clearest image known of a cluster of galaxies from 10 billion years ago

Using high-powered telescopes including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, scientists from Canada, the United States and Denmark have captured the clearest image known of a cluster of galaxies from 10 billion years ago in a discovery that provides clues the universe was more evolved than previously thought.

Image: Hubble sights galaxy's celestial sequins

This smattering of celestial sequins is a spiral galaxy named NGC 4455, located in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair). This might sound like an odd name for a constellation—and in fact it is somewhat unusual. It's the only modern constellation to be named in honor of a real person from history: Queen Berenice II of Egypt.

NASA's SLS moon rocket readies for next pit stop on way to Kennedy Space Center

The next rocket NASA wants to send to the moon is about to leave the house it was built in for a new home, but isn't quite ready for Kennedy Space Center.

Technology news

Robotic architecture inspired by pelican eel: Origami unfolding and skin stretching mechanisms

Artificial intelligence and robotics architectures are often inspired by patterns occurring in nature, both in humans and animals. Patterns of movement observed in animals have been replicated in robots via a number of shape-changing mechanisms such as chemical swelling, skin stretching or origami morphing.

Research continues showing gains in DNA computing

For the uninitiated in biological computing, the ZDNet headline may have suggested a language processing experiment gone haywire: "Test tube DNA computer calculates the square root of 900."

Robotic trunk support assists those with spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injuries (SCI) can cause devastating damage, including loss of mobility and sensation. Every year, there are an estimated 17,000 new SCIs in the US alone, a rate higher than in most regions of the world. In addition, the rate of SCIs in people 65-years or older is expected to rise in the US, from 13.0% in 2010 to 16.1% by 2020. Data also shows a high survival rate for these patients, who need to function in everyday life but find sitting to be a major challenge.

Bosch unveils smart virtual sun visor for cars at tech show

Bosch Sunday unveiled a virtual visor inspired by LCD televisions which uses AI to block the glare of the sun from a driver's eyes, a major cause of road accidents.

Superfast 5G on the slow road at gadget gala

It will be revolutionary when superfast 5G mobile networks come to our gadgets, cars and digital lives.

Tool predicts how fast code will run on a chip

MIT researchers have invented a machine-learning tool that predicts how fast computer chips will execute code from various applications.

CES Gadget Show: Toilet paper robot and tracking the elderly

A robot that can fetch toilet paper when you're stranded on the loo and services to keep track of the elderly from afar were among the technologies showcased this week at the annual CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

Engineers design on-skin electronic device providing a personal air conditioner without needing electricity

One day, soldiers could cool down on the military battlefield—preventing heat stroke or exhaustion—by using "wearable air conditioning," an on-skin device designed by engineers at the University of Missouri. The device includes numerous human health care applications such as the ability to monitor blood pressure, electrical activity of the heart and the level of skin hydration.

CEO Tim Cook sees pay ebb along with Apple performance

Apple chief Tim Cook saw his annual pay slip to $11.6 million in 2019 after the company registered a weaker financial performance compared with the previous year, according to documents filed Friday.

Hey Google, do you really record everything I say? Yes.

Google says it only records interactions with connected devices like the Google Home speaker when we use the "wake word," of "Hey, Google," or "OK, Google."

What to expect at CES 2020: Ivanka Trump, flying cars, sex toys and 8K TVs—oh my!

Flying cars, sex toys, 8K TV, even Ivanka Trump. That's some of what to expect from the tech industry's annual pilgrimage to the desert.

Popular Mideast app accused of spying back on Google Play

The popular UAE-developed mobile application ToTok has returned to the Google Play Store after it was removed on claims it was being used for government spying, the company said Saturday.

Tesla aims to build 500,000 vehicles per year near Berlin

Tesla plans to build half a million electric vehicles a year at its future factory outside Berlin.

Gym class without the gym? With technology, it's catching on

Grace Brown's schedule at West Potomac High School in northern Virginia is filled with all the usual academics, and she's packed in Latin, chorus and piano as extras.

Austria's foreign ministry says facing 'serious cyber attack'

Austria's foreign ministry is facing a "serious cyber attack", it said late Saturday, warning another country could be responsible.

Insider Q&A: How YouTube decides what to ban

Matt Halprin, the global head of trust and safety for YouTube, has a tough job: He oversees the teams that decide what is allowed and what should be prohibited on YouTube.

Amid tech turmoil, celebration at global electronics show

The Consumer Electronics Show opening Tuesday offers a chance to showcase the newest and shiniest gadgetry, looking past the turmoil engulfing the global technology industry.

CES gadget show: How watching TV will change in the 2020s

What will watching TV be like in the 2020s? Amid new gadgets and glitz, the CES tech show in Las Vegas aims to offer some answers, many of which boil down to more streaming and more efforts to glue you to your phone.

Record tech spending expected in US, show organizers say

Consumer technology spending is getting a boost from wearables, smart devices and streaming media services and should hit record levels in the United States this year, organizers of a major tech gathering said Sunday.

Fully exploiting the potential of supercomputers

An EU initiative has designed and developed a computing platform based on a new memory technology. It will help improve the input/output (I/O) performance of high-performance computing (HPC) systems.

Ontario can phase out nuclear and avoid increased carbon emissions

As wind and solar energy have become cheaper, they've become a more prominent and important way to generate clean electricity in most parts of the world.

As Digital Earth gains momentum, China is setting the pace

Al Gore's 1992 forecast of a Digital Earth—where satellites beam data to reveal all the planet's environmental dynamics—has gained momentum with the publication of the Manual of Digital Earth last month. The major anthology is sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It's a mark of the importance China attaches to what is now a United Nations-led project named the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

UK car sales hit six-year low in 2019: industry body

New UK car sales sank in 2019 to a six-year low on weak demand for high-polluting diesels and amid Brexit uncertainty, an industry body said Monday.

Plunging German car production heralds year of 'transformation'

Carmakers built just 4.7 million cars in Germany in 2019, industry data showed Monday, squeezing production to its lowest level since 1997 as US-China trade tensions sapped vital foreign markets.

Digitized faces reduce shoplifting risk at self-service checkouts

Digitised human-like faces at supermarket self-service checkouts may reduce the risk of shoplifting, according to an Abertay University study.

Bitcoin's threat to the global financial system is probably at an end

2020 could well be the year that the cryptocurrency dream dies. This is not to say that cryptocurrencies will die altogether—far from it. But to all the financial romantics who have cheered the rise of bitcoin and other digital currencies over the past decade, there is a reckoning coming. Like it or not, the vision of a world in which these currencies liberate money from the clutches of central banks and other corporate giants is fading rapidly.

Why Amazon, Google and Apple want to record you

Every person who brings a new Echo speaker from Amazon into their home gets automatically recorded every time they utter the "Alexa" wake word.

Building a digital archive for decaying paper documents

Paper documents are still priceless records of the past, even in a digital world. Primary sources stored in local archives throughout Latin America, for example, describe a centuries-old multiethnic society grappling with questions of race, class and religion.

Fisker's Ocean electric SUV will sell for $37,499, include Karaoke mode

American automaker Fisker provided more details on the price of its upcoming Ocean electric SUV, and unveiled new features such as a karaoke mode.

CES Gadget Show: Surveillance is in—and in a big way

From the face scanner that will check in some attendees to the cameras-everywhere array of digital products, the CES gadget show is all-in on surveillance technology—whether it calls it that or not.

Amazon revs up auto ambitions with in-car TV, Alexa integration

Amazon unveiled plans Monday to be a bigger player in the auto sector, announcing partnerships that will put its Fire TV platform in vehicles and offer more services through its Alexa digital assistant.

Ring-shaped container for better canned food

Canning is a sustainable way of storing food, but the method requires a lot of energy and water and can affect food quality. A newly developed can with a different shape may be the solution that makes canned food of the future more attractive.

How to exploit the potential of a meshed offshore grid through harmonized regulation

Offshore wind power's expansion is expected to continue, boosting efforts to decarbonize energy systems as it becomes a growing part of electricity supply. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global offshore wind market grew about 30 percent per year between 2010 and 2018. The IEA predicts that "global offshore wind capacity may increase 15-fold and attract around $1 trillion of cumulative investment by 2040," as stated in a news release. The IEA notes that "Europe has pioneered offshore wind technology, and the region is positioned to be the powerhouse of its future development." In its key findings from Offshore Wind Outlook 2019, the IEA states: "The growth of the offshore wind industry has been fostered in European countries bordering the North Seas, where high quality wind resources and relatively shallow water have provided exceptionally good conditions in which to develop offshore wind technologies and bring them to market." Parallel to this growth, an offshore power grid is also developing in the North Sea.

Solid 2019 US auto sales underscore consumer strength

US auto sales in 2019 dipped slightly from the prior year, but still demonstrated an underlying resilience as large vehicles strengthened their stranglehold over the market.

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