Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jan 29

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Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers achieve ultrafast spin-orbit torque switching in ferrimagnetic devices

RoboFly: An insect-sized robot that can fly, walk and drift on water surfaces

Quasi-periodic variability observed in two blazars

Qubits made from strontium and calcium ions can be precisely controlled by technology that already exists

Mystery at Mars pole explained

Not 'brains in a dish': Cerebral organoids flunk comparison to developing nervous system

Bionic jellyfish swim faster and more efficiently

Scientists learn how plants manipulate their soil environment to assure a cheap, steady supply of nutrients

Molecular machine tears toxic protein clumps apart

New insight into how cannabidiol takes effect in the brains of people with psychosis

First release of genetically engineered moth could herald new era of crop protection

Apple patent talk: Sheet of glass computer, finger wearables

Smart single mother bees learn from their neighbors

Scientists find far higher than expected rate of underwater glacial melting

Researchers use brain organoids to study pediatric brain tumors

Physics news

Researchers achieve ultrafast spin-orbit torque switching in ferrimagnetic devices

Spin-orbit torque (SOT) magnetization switching is a phenomenon induced by a spin current, which is in turn generated by a charge current. Eliciting this phenomenon could help to manipulate the magnetization in spintronic devices, potentially increasing their performance.

Qubits made from strontium and calcium ions can be precisely controlled by technology that already exists

Of the many divergent approaches to building a practical quantum computer, one of the most promising paths leads toward ion traps. In these traps, single ions are held still and serve as the basic units of data, or qubits, of the computer. With the help of lasers, these qubits interact with each other to perform logic operations.

Measuring a particle's spin in a rapidly rotating object

A team of researchers at the University of Melbourne has succeeded in measuring a single quantum spin in a rapidly rotating object for the first time. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes how they carried off the difficult feat and ways that their findings might be applied.

Improved mathematical model helps explain different lotus leaf types

A trio of researchers at Fudan University has improved a mathematical model to allow it to predict the shape of different leaf types on lotus plants. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes their mathematical work and how they tested it with real world materials.

Quantum logic spectroscopy unlocks potential of highly charged ions

Scientists from the PTB and the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (MPIK), both Germany, have carried out pioneering optical measurements of highly charged ions with unprecedented precision. To do this, they isolated a single Ar13 + ion from an extremely hot plasma and brought it practically to rest inside an ion trap together with a laser-cooled, singly charged ion. Employing quantum logic spectroscopy on the ion pair, they have increased the relative precision by a factor of a hundred million over previous methods.

Fourier's 200-year-old heat equation explains hydrodynamic heat propagation

Michele Simoncelli, a Ph.D. student at EPFL, Andrea Cepellotti, a former EPFL student now at Harvard, and Nicola Marzari, head of EPFL's Theory and Simulation of Materials laboratory, have developed a novel set of equations for heat propagation that goes beyond Fourier's law and explains why and under which conditions heat propagation can become fluid-like rather than diffusive. These "viscous heat equations" show that heat conduction is not only governed by thermal conductivity, but also by thermal viscosity. The theory is in striking agreement with pioneering experimental results in graphite published earlier this year ,and may pave the way for the design of the next generation of more efficient electronic devices. The paper, "Generalization of Fourier's law into viscous heat equations," has been published in Physical Review X.

An ultrafast microscope for the quantum world

The operation of components for future computers can now be filmed in HD quality, so to speak. Manish Garg and Klaus Kern, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, have developed a microscope for the extremely fast processes that take place on the quantum scale. This microscope—a sort of HD camera for the quantum world—allows the precise tracking of electron movements down to the individual atom. It should therefore provide useful insights when it comes to developing extremely fast and extremely small electronic components, for example.

Researchers' golden touch enhances quantum technology

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory discovered a new platform for quantum technologies by suspending two-dimensional (2-D) crystals over pores in a slab of gold. This new approach may help develop new materials for secure communication and sensing technologies based on the unique laws of physics at the atomic levels.

Smaller detection device effective for nuclear treaty verification, archaeology digs

Most nuclear data measurements are performed at accelerators large enough to occupy a geologic formation a kilometer wide, like the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center located on a mesa in the desert. But a portable device that can reveal the composition of materials quickly on-site would greatly benefit cases such as in archaeology and nuclear arms treaty verification.

Researchers rank 'smartest' schools of fish when it comes to travel formations

The concert of motion that fish schools are famous for isn't merely an elaborate display of synchronized swimming. Their seemingly telepathic collective movement is part of a time-tested strategy for improving the group's chances for survival as a whole, from defense against predators to food-finding and mating.

Coupled quantum dots may offer a new way to store quantum information

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues have for the first time created and imaged a novel pair of quantum dots—tiny islands of confined electric charge that act like interacting artificial atoms. Such "coupled" quantum dots could serve as a robust quantum bit, or qubit, the fundamental unit of information for a quantum computer. Moreover, the patterns of electric charge in the island can't be fully explained by current models of quantum physics, offering an opportunity to investigate rich new physical phenomena in materials.

Astronomy & Space news

Quasi-periodic variability observed in two blazars

An international team of astronomers reports the detection of quasi-periodic variability in optical and gamma-ray light curves of two blazars, namely 3C 66A and B2 1633+38. The discovery could be helpful in advancing our knowledge about such behavior in blazars. The finding is detailed in a paper published January 16 on

Mystery at Mars pole explained

In 1966, two Caltech scientists were ruminating on the implications of the thin carbon dioxide (CO2) Martian atmosphere first revealed by Mariner IV, a NASA fly-by spacecraft built and flown by JPL. They theorized that Mars, with such an atmosphere, could have a long-term stable polar deposit of CO2 ice that, in turn, would control global atmospheric pressure.

Voyager 2 engineers working to restore normal operations

Engineers for NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft are working to return the mission to normal operating conditions after one of the spacecraft's autonomous fault protection routines was triggered. Multiple fault protection routines were programmed into both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in order to allow the spacecraft to automatically take actions to protect themselves if potentially harmful circumstances arise. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers are still communicating with the spacecraft and receiving telemetry.

Citizen scientists discover a new form of the Northern Lights

Working together with space researchers, Finnish amateur photographers have discovered a new auroral form. Named "dunes" by the hobbyists, the phenomenon is believed to be caused by waves of oxygen atoms glowing due to a stream of particles released from the Sun.

NSF's newest solar telescope produces first images, most detailed images of the sun

Just released first images from the National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope reveal unprecedented detail of the sun's surface and preview the world-class products to come from this preeminent 4-meter solar telescope. NSF's Inouye Solar Telescope will enable a new era of solar science and a leap forward in understanding the sun and its impacts on our planet.

NASA shutting down space telescope, infrared eyes to cosmos

NASA is pulling the plug on one of its great observatories—the Spitzer Space Telescope—after 16 years of scanning the universe with infrared eyes.

A cubesat deployed a de-orbiting tether and now it's losing altitude 24 times faster than before

A company called Tethers Unlimited has deployed its de-orbiting tether in a successful test on the Prox-1 satellite. The satellite is one of four that are carrying the device, called the Terminator Tape. Rather than stay in space for years or decades and add to the growing problem of space debris, Prox-1 is using its Terminator Tape to slowly lower its orbit.

Image: Cosmic caller goes out with a bang

On 21 January, a foreign body crashed to Earth causing a cascade of bright light to trail through the sky.

CHEOPS opens its eye to the sky

Since the launch of CHEOPS on 18 December 2019, the project has progressed smoothly and successfully through its planned operations and test activities.

Cover of CHEOPS space telescope open

"Shortly after the launch on December 18, 2019, we tested the communication with the satellite. Then, on January 8, 2020, we started the commissioning, that is, we booted the computer, carried out tests, and started up all the components," explains Willy Benz, professor of astrophysics at the University of Bern and Principal Investigator of the CHEOPS mission. All the tests went outstandingly well, he says. "However, we were now looking forward excitedly and with a bit of nervousness to the next decisive step: the opening of the CHEOPS cover," continues Benz.

Better than reality: NASA scientists tap virtual reality to make a scientific discovery

NASA scientists using virtual reality technology are redefining our understanding about how our galaxy works.

Two defunct satellites speed toward possible collision

Two decommissioned satellites sped towards each other Wednesday at a combined speed of almost 33,000 miles (53,000 kilometers) an hour, raising the risk of a collision that would send thousands of pieces of debris hurtling through space.

Astrophysicists construct approximations for the metric of spherically symmetric black holes

RUDN astrophysicists have proposed a new method for approximate calculation of the parameters of spherically symmetric black holes in the Einstein-Maxwell theory. By comparing the shadow radii of the black holes obtained via this method with exact numerical solutions, astrophysicists have revealed that the approximation they suggested shows a reasonable accuracy in the second order. This means that it is possible to study the black holes themselves and the phenomena in their vicinity, for example, particle motion. The article is published in the journal Physical Review D.

Video: Intense 'Beyond' mission for Luca

Italian ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will return to Earth 6 February 2020, following his second long-duration mission on the International Space Station (ISS).

Technology news

RoboFly: An insect-sized robot that can fly, walk and drift on water surfaces

Insect-size robots could have numerous useful applications, for instance, aiding search and rescue (SAR) missions, simplifying the inspection of infrastructures and speeding up agricultural processes. Despite the advantages associated with their size, these robots can be very difficult to build, as their fabrication involves assembling several tiny components.

Bionic jellyfish swim faster and more efficiently

Engineers at Caltech and Stanford University have developed a tiny prosthetic that enables jellyfish to swim faster and more efficiently than they normally do, without stressing the animals. The researchers behind the project envision a future in which jellyfish equipped with sensors could be directed to explore and record information about the ocean.

Apple patent talk: Sheet of glass computer, finger wearables

Apple's ideas for future coolth are interesting in light of patent applications with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Team develops revolutionary reversible 4-D printing

Imagine having your curtains extended or retracted automatically without needing to lift a finger. Reversible 4-D printing technology could make these 'smart curtains' a reality without the use of any sensors or electric devices, and instead rely on the changing levels of heat over the course of the day to change its shape.

Engineers design bionic 'heart' for testing prosthetic valves, other cardiac devices

As the geriatric population is expected to balloon in the coming decade, so too will rates of heart disease in the United States. The demand for prosthetic heart valves and other cardiac devices—a market that is valued at more than $5 billion dollars today—is predicted to rise by almost 13 percent in the next six years.

Deep neural networks are coming to your phone

How does a self-driving car tell a person apart from a traffic cone? How does Spotify choose songs for my "Discover Weekly" playlist? Why is Gmail's spam filter so effective?

Microrobot system regenerates knee cartilage in rabbits

A team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in China and one in Korea has developed a micro-robot system that regenerated knee cartilage in rabbits. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their system and how well it worked.

Researchers develop new bio-inspired wing design for small drones

Researchers from Brown University have designed a new type of wing that could make small fixed-wing drones far more stable and efficient.

Researchers develop first all-optical, stealth encryption technology

BGN Technologies, the technology-transfer company of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Israel, is introducing the first all-optical "stealth" encryption technology that will be significantly more secure and private for highly sensitive cloud-computing and data center network transmission. The new all-optical encryption innovation will be introduced at the Cybertech Global Tel Aviv conference taking place January 28-30, 2020 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

In snub to US, Britain will allow Huawei in 5G networks

Britain decided Tuesday to let Chinese tech giant Huawei have a limited role supplying new high-speed network equipment to wireless carriers, ignoring the U.S. government's warnings that it would sever intelligence sharing if the company was not banned.

Apple holiday season tops projections as iPhone bounces back

Apple is still reaping huge profits from the iPhone while mining more moneymaking opportunities from the growing popularity of its smartwatch, digital services and wireless earbuds.

Forensic methods for getting data from damaged mobile phones

Criminals sometimes damage their mobile phones in an attempt to destroy evidence. They might smash, shoot, submerge or cook their phones, but forensics experts can often retrieve the evidence anyway. Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have tested how well these forensic methods work.

Americans are really creeped out by devices tracking and eavesdropping on them

You've heard it a million times: Americans don't care about our online privacy. Turns out that's not really true.

What you need to know before clicking 'I agree' on that terms of service agreement

We've all done it. We're updating the operating system on our mobile phone or installing an app, and we lazily skim through the privacy policy or we don't bother to read it at all before blindly clicking "I agree."

Soon your Cadillac will change lanes hands-free with upgraded Super Cruise system

General Motors is inching closer to self-driving vehicles with the introduction of a new feature that will enable some Cadillacs to change lanes on their own.

Gannett-backed Scroll launches subscription service for ad-free journalism

Frustrated with online ads?

Leaked report shows United Nations suffered hack

Sophisticated hackers infiltrated U.N. networks in Geneva and Vienna last year in an apparent espionage operation that top officials at the world body kept largely quiet. The hackers' identity and the extent of the data they obtained are not known.

EU announces strict 5G rules, but no Huawei ban

EU countries could ban telecoms operators deemed a security risk from critical parts of 5G infrastructure under guidelines issued Wednesday, amid US pressure to shut out Chinese giant Huawei.

Hybrids lose edge but Edmunds picks 5 still worth buying

Buying a hybrid in 2020 doesn't have the same cutting-edge feel that it used to back in the early 2000s. Today, all the hype surrounds the latest electric cars.

AI could revolutionise DNA evidence – but right now we can't trust the machines

DNA evidence often isn't as watertight as many people think. Sensitive techniques developed over the past 20 years mean that police can now detect minute traces of DNA at a crime scene or on a piece of evidence. But traces from a perpetrator are often mixed with those from many other people that have been transferred to the sample site, for example via a handshake. And this problem has led to people being wrongly convicted.

Ring app shares your personal data with Facebook and others, report finds

Ring, the Inc.-owned maker of high-tech doorbells and home security cameras, markets itself as protection from the world outside users' homes. But its app collects data from users' phones and shares that information with multiple third-party trackers, a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed this week.

Demand for drone delivery in e-retail is high, ability to meet that demand low

Consumers want what they want, and they want it now. Drone delivery has long been talked about as an option to satisfy consumer delivery demands, but how realistic is it? New research in the INFORMS journal Transportation Science looks at how possible and desirable it is to use drones for delivery for e-retailers considering cost and effectiveness in certain population areas and in certain locations.

News Corp aggregator aims to break free from tech platforms

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. on Wednesday unveiled an online news aggregation service, aiming to break away from the tech platforms that dominate digital media.

Toyota keeping China plants shut through Feb 9 over virus

Japanese automaker Toyota will keep its plants in China closed until at least February 9 over concerns about a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 130 people.

Review: AirPods were great, and AirPods Pro are better

Who knew AirPods would become so popular?

Boeing reports first loss since 1997 as MAX costs rise to $18.6 bn

Boeing reported its first annual loss in more than two decades Wednesday as the lengthy grounding of the 737 MAX undercut the company's revenues and exploded costs.

Frankfurt to lose German auto show: organisers

Frankfurt, which has been synonymous with one of the world's biggest auto shows, the IAA, for more than 70 years, has been eliminated from the race to host the next event in 2021, organisers said on Wednesday.

BBC to axe 450 newsroom jobs

The British Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday said it will axe 450 newsroom jobs as part of plans to adapt "to changing audience needs" and meet its savings target.

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