Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jan 16

Dear ymilog,

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

An electrically pumped surface-emitting semiconductor green laser

Researchers propose 'Human Screenome Project' to study the impacts of digital media

In death of dinosaurs, it was all about the asteroid—not volcanoes

Microscopy technique reveals cells' 3-D ultrastructure in new detail

Study finds billions of quantum entangled electrons in 'strange metal'

'PigeonBot' brings aircraft closer to feathered-flight

Competing crabs don't fight over 'homes'

Male songbirds can't survive on good looks alone, says a new study

The mysterious, legendary giant squid's genome is revealed

Molecular understanding of drug interactions suggests pathway to better malaria treatments

Discovery reveals how remora fishes know when to hitch a ride aboard their hosts

With these neurons, extinguishing fear is its own reward

New dinosaur discovered in China shows dinosaurs grew up differently from birds

Jumping genes threaten egg cell quality

Deep learning enables real-time imaging around corners

Physics news

An electrically pumped surface-emitting semiconductor green laser

Scientists and Engineers have used surface-emitting semiconductor lasers in data communications, for sensing, in FaceID and within augmented reality glasses. In a new report, Yong-Ho Ra and a research team in the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Advanced Electronics and Photonics in Canada, Korea and the U.S., detailed the first achievement of an all-epitaxial, distributed Bragg reflector (DBR)-free, electrically injected surface-emitting green laser. They optimized the device by exploring the photonic band edge modes formed in dislocation-free gallium nitride nanocrystal arrays, without using conventional DBRs. They operated the device at approximately 523 nm, with a threshold current of 400 A/cm2—an order of magnitude lower than previously reported blue laser diodes. The studies opened a new paradigm to develop low-threshold, surface-emitting laser diodes, ranging from the ultraviolet region to the deep visible range (approximately 200 to 600 nm). At this range, the device performance was not limited by the lack of high-quality DBRs, large lattice mismatch, or substrate availability. The results are now published on Science Advances.

Study finds billions of quantum entangled electrons in 'strange metal'

In a new study, U.S. and Austrian physicists have observed quantum entanglement among "billions of billions" of flowing electrons in a quantum critical material.

Deep learning enables real-time imaging around corners

Researchers have harnessed the power of a type of artificial intelligence known as deep learning to create a new laser-based system that can image around corners in real time. With further development, the system might let self-driving cars "look" around parked cars or busy intersections to see hazards or pedestrians. It could also be installed on satellites and spacecraft for tasks such as capturing images inside a cave on an asteroid.

Predicting hydraulic fracture propagation more accurately

Researchers at EPFL have developed a new model to calculate hydraulic fracture propagation. Acclaimed for its accuracy by experts, the model better predicts fracture geometry and the energy cost of hydraulic fracturing—a widely used technique in areas such as CO2 storage, hydrocarbon extraction, dams and volcano hazard monitoring.

Quantum physics: Controlled experiment observes self-organized criticality

Writing in Nature, researchers describe the first-time observation of 'self-organized criticality' in a controlled laboratory experiment. Complex systems exist in mathematics and physics, but also occur in nature and society. The concept of self-organized criticality claims that without external input, complex systems in non-equilibrium tend to develop into a critical state far away from a stable equilibrium. That way, they reinforce their own non-equilibrium.

What's MER? It's a way to measure quantum materials, and it's telling us new and interesting things

Experimental physicists have combined several measurements of quantum materials into one in their ongoing quest to learn more about manipulating and controlling the behavior of them for possible applications. They even coined a term for it— Magneto-elastoresistance, or MER.

Exploring tiny forces with single molecule force spectroscopy

In terms of space organization, DNA has powers rivaling Marie Kondo. A strand of DNA that is two meters long intricately folds itself into a cell nucleus only 10 microns across. (One of the hairs on your head has a diameter of 100 microns, and you can't see anything smaller than that without a microscope.) Everything that needs to happen biochemically for the DNA to function hinges upon the precise unpacking and unwinding of its strands from that tiny space.

AlphaZero learns to rule the quantum world

The chess world was amazed when the computer algorithm AlphaZero learned, after just four hours on its own, to beat the best chess programs built on human expertise. Now a research group at Aarhus University in Denmark has used the very same algorithm to control a quantum computer.

New optical technique captures real-time dynamics of cement setting

Researchers have developed a nondestructive and noninvasive optical technique that can determine the setting times for various types of cement paste, which is used to bind new and old concrete surfaces. The new method could aid in the development of optimized types of cement with less impact on the environment.

Astronomy & Space news

Possible discovery of a new super-Earth orbiting Proxima Centauri

Astronomers have discovered another candidate exoplanet orbiting our neighbor Proxima Centauri. A paper announcing these results was just published in the journal Science Advances. If confirmed, it will be the second exoplanet discovered to be orbiting the star.

How we spotted a potential new planet around the sun's neighboring star

Most exoplanets—bodies orbiting stars other than the sun—are too far away for us to be able to send probes to. So it's no wonder that the discovery of a possible habitable planet around the sun's nearest neighbor star, Proxima Centauri, a few years ago generated a lot of excitement. Now we have spotted what we think is a second planet around this star.

Behind howls of solar wind, quiet chirps reveal its origins

There's a wind that emanates from the sun, and it blows not like a soft whistle but like a hurricane's scream.

Nearly barren Icelandic landscapes guide search for extraterrestrial life

New research on microbial lifeforms living in nearly barren volcanic landscapes in Iceland may help scientists understand how best to search for life on other planets.

ExoMars Rover completes environmental tests

The Rosalind Franklin rover of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission completed a series of environmental tests at the end of 2019 at Airbus, Toulouse, France. This included final thermal and vacuum tests where the Rover is heated and cooled to simulate the temperatures of its journey through space and on the surface of Mars. For example, Rosalind Franklin can expect temperatures dropping to –120°C outside, and –50 °C inside the rover once on Mars. It must also be able to operate in less than one hundredth of Earth's atmospheric pressure—and in a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere.

Technology news

'PigeonBot' brings aircraft closer to feathered-flight

Since the dawn of the aviation era, inventors have strived to build aircraft that fly as nimbly as birds, whose morphable wings allow for faster, tighter turns and more efficient gliding.

Brain-like network uses disorder to detect order

A disordered network that is capable of detecting ordered patterns: This sounds contradictory, but it comes close to describing the way the brain works. Researchers of the University of Twente have developed a such brain-inspired network based on silicon technology that can be operated at room temperature. It makes use of material properties that electronic designers usually like to avoid. Thanks to "hopping conduction," the system evolves to a solution without making use of predesigned elements. The researchers publish their work in Nature on January 15, 2020.

Patent talk: Mobile device with solar panels

Are we to expect to see a future Surface Pro with solar panels? Microsoft has thought about a solar power idea as apparent in a patent that the tech giant filed with the USPTO, namely, "Mobile device cover with integrated solar panel." Tech watchers are poised to think this will be seen, if at all seen, in the Surface Pro.

Photoelectrochemical water-splitting efficiency hits 4.5%

Solar-to-fuel conversion offers a promising technology to solve energy problems, yet device performance could be limited by undesired sunlight absorption. Researchers show copper thiocyanate can assist hole transport in oxide photoelectrodes and enable a 4.55 percent solar-to-hydrogen efficiency in tandem devices.

'Invisible computing' startup unveils smart contact lens

A startup focused on "invisible computing" Thursday unveiled a smart contact lens which delivers an augmented reality display in a user's field of vision.

Improved brain chip for precision medicine

The Akay Lab biomedical research team at the University of Houston is reporting an improvement on a microfluidic brain cancer chip previously developed in their lab. The new chip allows multiple-simultaneous drug administration, and a massive parallel testing of drug response for patients with glioblastoma (GBM), the most common malignant brain tumor, accounting for 50% of all cases. GBM patients have a five-year survival rate of only 5.6%.

Toyota investing $400 million in flying car company

Japanese car giant Toyota said Thursday it is investing nearly $400 million in a company working on commercialising electric flying cars for "fast, quiet and affordable air transportation services".

UK police use of facial recognition tests public's tolerance

When British police used facial recognition cameras to monitor crowds arriving for a soccer match in Wales, some fans protested by covering their faces. In a sign of the technology's divisiveness, even the head of a neighboring police force said he opposed it.

Apps may soon be able to predict your life expectancy, but do you want to know?

This question has endured across cultures and civilizations. It has given rise to a plethora of religions and spiritual paths over thousands of years, and more recently, some highly amusing apps.

Screen time: Conclusions about the effects of digital media are often incomplete, irrelevant or wrong

There's a lot of talk about digital media. Increasing screen time has created worries about media's impacts on democracy, addiction, depression, relationships, learning, health, privacy and much more. The effects are frequently assumed to be huge, even apocalyptic.

The pitfalls of eco-efficiency

The saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" can be applied to many situations, and among them are companies' efforts to preserve natural resources. For example, changes intended to reduce resource use can in the end have the opposite effect.

Hydrogen is blowing up: From science experiment to export industry

Remember those science experiment cars powered by water? That technology could help Australia decarbonize its economy and become a major player in a zero-emissions world.

Remember DVDs? Two studios have a plan to preserve the near-dead format

The market for DVD and Blu-ray discs has been on life support for years, as streaming has become the technology of choice for home video customers.

What we can learn about ourselves from studying financial trading bots

In 2019, the world fretted that algorithms now know us better than we know ourselves. No concept captures this better than surveillance capitalism, a term coined by American writer Shoshana Zuboff to describe a bleak new era in which the likes of Facebook and Google provide popular services while their algorithms hawk our digital traces.

A technology for embedding data in printed objects

A team from Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), composed of Ph.D. Student Arnaud Delmotte, Professor Yasuhiro Mukaigawa, Associate Professor Takuya Funatomi, Assistant Professor Hiroyuki Kubo, and Assistant Professor Kenichiro Tanaka, has developed a new method to embed information in a 3-D printed object and retrieve it using a consumer document scanner. Information such as a serial ID can be embedded without modifying the shape of the object, and be simply extracted from a single image of a commercially available document scanner.

VW has 'one shot' to survive shift to digital era: CEO

Volkswagen needs to make urgent changes to become more of a tech company as the industry enters the digital era, CEO Herbert Diess said Thursday, warning that the German car giant had just "one shot" at staying in the game.

Microsoft: 'carbon-negative' by 2030 even for supply chain

Microsoft is pledging to become 100% "carbon-negative" by 2030 by removing more carbon from the environment than it emits.

European carmakers build out charging network for electrics

European automakers' network of highway charging stations for battery-powered vehicles is taking shape ahead of an expected surge in electric car sales as manufacturers strive to meet new emission limits.

Group finds US aircraft approval process effective and safe

A government committee reviewing how the Federal Aviation Administration certifies new passenger planes for flight has determined that the system is safe and effective but small changes need to be made.

Britain's green energy sector brightens: survey data

Green energy has boomed in Britain over the last three years, according to survey data published Thursday which also highlighted accelerating investment in wind power.

Nanoparticle levitated by light rotates at 300 billion rpm

A dumbbell-shaped nanoparticle powered just by the force and torque of light has become the world's fastest-spinning object.

European auto market grew by 1.2% in 2019: ACEA

The European auto market grew by 1.2 percent last year, with a push in December raising the total number of sales to 15.3 million vehicles, sector association ACEA said Thursday.

Detecting and mitigating network attacks with a multi-prong approach

To solve a problem, you must first see the problem. More than that, whatever fallout the problem is causing must be controlled while you solve it. That's the approach an international team of researchers has taken for combating network attacks. They have published their results in IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.

Will electric cars continue to be mainly for affluent buyers?

A column from Charles Lane of The Washington Post, which ran in print in The San Diego Union-Tribune on Jan.2, argued that excitement and belief in electric vehicles is overblown.

What CES 2020 taught us about this year's phones: Cheaper foldables, 5G and more

The phones of CES weren't many, but they were informative, hinting at important trends we'll see in 2020—including cheaper applications of 2019's most expensive features. Typically, the CES showing settles on midrange devices, but this year also brought us some interesting concepts to chew over, and a realistic look at what we can look forward to.

Southwest delays resumption of Boeing 737 MAX flights

Southwest Airlines announced Thursday it will once again delay resumption of Boeing 737 MAX flights until June 6, because of continued uncertainty over the troubled aircraft's return to service.

NBC to give price, details on new Peacock streaming service

NBCUniversal is expected Thursday to unveil the price and other details of its upcoming streaming service, Peacock.

Austria fails to win over neighbours for nuclear phase-out

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, on his first trip abroad Thursday since being re-elected, failed to persuade the governments of four central European countries to give up on nuclear energy which they largely depend on.

This email is a free service of Science X Network
You received this email because you subscribed to our list.
If you do not wish to receive such emails in the future, please unsubscribe here.
You are subscribed as You may manage your subscription options from your Science X profile


▼ The browser wars are back, but it’s different this time

If you weren't convinced we live in a new era for Microsoft's consumer-facing software, the one-two punch of Windows 7 closing down and the new Chromium-based version of Edge officially launching ought to do it for you. Microsoft's new Edge Chromium browser is out now for both Windows and macOS.

We'll be taking a closer, more critical look at the Edge browser now that it's no longer in beta over the coming days. Tom Warren has just as many thoughts about the future of Windows as I do about the implications of the switch over to the Chromium codebase, which is mostly maintained by Google.

We'll be getting into all of it, but I want to start with some very high-level things to know about browsers right now — because after many years of stasis, things are really about to change.

More after the links. Also a quick thank you to Paul for some recommendations on improving accessibility on this newsletter, specifically with the link colors. Now that CES is behind me I'll be tweaking the template more. If you use a screen reader or have other accessibility concerns with this newsletter, I am looking for feedback so I can prioritize what to fix next.

- Dieter

More from The Verge

└ Bose is closing all of its retail stores in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia

└ Google now treats iPhones as physical security keys

I have been enrolled in Google's Advanced Protection Program for a few months now and by-and-large it's not been a problem. But it is often a hassle. I can't seem to get my personal Gmail info working on Windows' default apps and often on phones where I use Login with Google things to haywire.

Anyway, this is a good step forward and hopefully builds up demand for more standardized support for FIDO security keys. But my Very Strongly Stated Advice if you sign up is to spend some time making sure the logins you absolutely need still work and — most of all — buy some backup security keys and keep them in a safe place. Because if you get locked out from losing a two-factor key, friend you are Locked The Eff Out.

└ Twitter's Jack Dorsey on edit button: 'We'll probably never do it'

So you're telling me there's a chance?

Verge Deal of the day 

Microsoft's Surface Pro X sees its first price cut

At Best Buy, you can save $100 on the Surface Pro X, Microsoft's reimagining of the stayed Surface Pro design that features 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a custom Qualcomm processor, and support for 4G LTE. It costs $899.99, but you'll first need to sign up to be a My Best Buy member (it's free).


└ Jabra Elite 75t earbuds review: the best AirPods alternative

Great review from Chris Welch. These earbuds look so much more elegant than AirPods. The main downsides are a lack of wireless charging and active noise cancellation. The upside is USB-C charging and working with two paired devices at once. And price! And battery life!

I haven't listened to them myself but my gut tells me that unless you really want active noice cancellation, these will be my default recommendation.

└ This global power adapter makes traveling with USB-C devices less of a pain

Cameron Faulkner reviews a very simple thing that significantly improves your quality of life when you travel internationally.

Some fun

└ Spotify will now make a playlist for your cat

└ This daily word guessing game is the perfect way to kill time — and confidence

Welp this is habit forming.

└ This Jigglypuff Bluetooth speaker could be a sleeper hit

Just trust me: click through and see the eldrich horror that is a plastic Jigglypuff in a brightly list FCC testing facility. Ominous. Looming. Scary.

Ad from our sponsor

The browser wars are back, but it's different this time

Just today, alongside the Edge launch we also got the very sad news that Mozilla had to lay off about 70 people, TechCrunch reports. In a public memo, interim CEO Mitchell Baker wrote that "to responsibly make additional investments in innovation to improve the internet, we can and must work within the limits of our core finances."

The Mozilla and Microsoft news isn't directly connected, but it is indirectly connected in a thousand ways. Both companies have in some sense spent the past few years contending with Google.

For Microsoft, it was the realization that its project to create its own web rendering engine was an uphill climb that wasn't worth the investment. Too many websites rendered oddly in Edge, often because they were coded specifically for Chrome or Safari's Webkit instead of following more generic standards. The deep irony is that long ago, Microsoft's Internet Explorer nearly broke the web because it demanded custom code from web developers.

So Microsoft made the tough call: it bailed and switched to the same technology that runs Chrome. But there are key differences: Microsoft has taken a different stance on web tracking than Google and it has also, obviously, plugged Edge into Microsoft's services.

For me, the key thing to watch will be whether or not this new Chromium-based Edge feels tacked-on to Windows. On a very personal note, the fact that some Microsoft email clients still revert to Word's HTML rendering engine is a huge thorn in my side. But there are a million ways that HTML rendering affects and OS, and I'll be waiting to see how Chromium affects Windows and vice verse. One of the old Edge's best features was how kind it was to battery life.

There's also the question of Microsoft's app framework future — how much of it will be Electron, how much will be Progressive Web Apps, and how much will be actual Windows apps. All open questions, and all questions I'm likely to defer to Tom Warren on. As with everything else, something to watch.

For Mozilla, it was switching back to Google Search as the default in Firefox and leading the charge to a more privacy-focused model. Firefox's decisions around blocking trackers inspired Apple to be even more aggressive in doing the same last year. This week even Google was forced to throw in the towel and commit to eventually disabling third-party cookie.

As I noted in my article on Tuesday about Chrome's decision, there are many, many (many!) forces at play in the coming browser wars. At a high level, if I had to explain what's happening without worrying too much about the details, here's how I'd put it in one incredibly overwrought sentence:

The mobile web is broken and unfettered tracking and data sharing have made visiting websites feel toxic, but since the ecosystem of websites and ad companies can't fix it through collective action, it falls on browser makers to use technological innovations to limit that surveillance, however each company that makes a browser is taking a different approach to creating those innovations, and everybody distrusts everybody else to act in the best interest of the web instead of the best interest of their employers' profits.

Here's a shorter sentence: the next browser war is here and it's a goat rodeo.

I've been avoiding getting into the precise details of the proposals out there to fix the tracking problem because things are changing so quickly across so many different tracks. I am sure that sometime soon I will break and tuck into Google's Privacy Sandbox and Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention and Mozilla's defaults that deserve credit for kicking a lot of this off. Until then, know that there are two important things to know.

First: there are new browser technologies and limits coming that could radically change how ads work and could make it easier for you to protect your privacy no matter what browser you use. Since this is the web, it'll take time, but everybody seems committed.

Second: the way many of us think about a Browser War is in terms of marketshare — and that is the wrong metric this time. There is a browser war, but it won't be won or lost based on who can convince the most people to switch to their browser. Because most people can't or won't switch on the platform that matters: mobile.

In 2020, the desktop is a minor skirmish compared to browsers on phones.

On phones, many people aren't really free to choose their browser. That's literally true on the iPhone, which Apple locks down so apps can only use its web rendering technology. And it's for-intents-and-purposes true on Android, where the vast majority of browsers just use Chromium. Yes, there is an Android browser ballot happening in Europe, but it's much too early to know what its effects will be.

That brings me back to the new Edge. Microsoft has committed itself to Android so fully that it is currently working on making its own Android-based Surface phone, due out later this year. And so if you're Microsoft, it makes perfect sense to want to get your own first-party browser that's fully kitted up with your services on that phone.

The easiest, best way to do that on Android is to just use Chromium. And if you want your company to be good at Chromium on mobile, it doesn't hurt to ensure it's also good at Chromium on Windows.

The fact that I've looped all the way back to Microsoft needing to provide services on mobile isn't (just) my usual rhetorical meandering, it's the whole point. The new Browser Wars aren't about who makes the fastest or best browser, they're about whose services you want and whose data policies you trust.

Anyway, here's how to download Microsoft's new Edge browser. You should do it. And install Firefox. And maybe Brave and Vivaldi and whatever else. A return to real browser competition on the desktop means we might have our best chance in years to fix up the web again — and it might just create some momentum that could make the mobile web better too.

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 and here is an RSS feed. 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!


Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy. View our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Service.

This email was sent to Manage your email preferences, or unsubscribe to stop receiving this email.

Vox Media, 1201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.