Science X Newsletter Monday, Feb 3

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 3, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Enhancing high-nickel layered oxide cathodes for lithium-ion batteries

Shape-morphing living composites

Heisenberg limit gets a meaningful update

New electrode design may lead to more powerful batteries

Exposing a virus's hiding place reveals new potential vaccine

Tumbleweeds or fibrils: Tau proteins need to choose

Closely spaced hydrogen atoms could facilitate superconductivity in ambient conditions

Observations detect distortion of magnetic fields in the protostellar core Barnard 335

How and when spines changed in mammalian evolution

Researchers create 'intelligent' interaction between light and material

New quantum switch turns metals into insulators

Making high-temperature superconductivity disappear to understand its origin

The one ring—to track your finger's location

Hot pots helped ancient Siberian hunters survive the Ice Age

How your clothes become microfibre pollution in the sea

Physics news

Heisenberg limit gets a meaningful update

One of the cornerstones of quantum theory is a fundamental limit to the precision with which we can know certain pairs of physical quantities, such as position and momentum. For quantum theoretical treatments, this uncertainty principle is couched in terms of the Heisenberg limit, which allows for physical quantities that do not have a corresponding observable in the formulation of quantum mechanics, such as time and energy, or the phase observed in interferometric measurements. It sets a fundamental limit on measurement accuracy in terms of the resources used. Now, a collaboration of researchers in Poland and Australia have proven that the Heisenberg limit as it is commonly stated is not operationally meaningful, and differs from the correct limit by a factor of π.

Closely spaced hydrogen atoms could facilitate superconductivity in ambient conditions

An international team of researchers has discovered the hydrogen atoms in a metal hydride material are much more tightly spaced than had been predicted for decades—a feature that could possibly facilitate superconductivity at or near room temperature and pressure.

Researchers create 'intelligent' interaction between light and material

A collaboration between McMaster and Harvard researchers has generated a new platform in which light beams communicate with one another through solid matter, establishing the foundation to explore a new form of computing.

New quantum switch turns metals into insulators

Most modern electronic devices rely on tiny, finely-tuned electrical currents to process and store information. These currents dictate how fast our computers run, how regularly our pacemakers tick and how securely our money is stored in the bank.

Making high-temperature superconductivity disappear to understand its origin

When there are several processes going on at once, establishing cause-and-effect relationships is difficult. This scenario holds true for a class of high-temperature superconductors known as the cuprates. Discovered nearly 35 years ago, these copper-oxygen compounds can conduct electricity without resistance under certain conditions. They must be chemically modified ("doped") with additional atoms that introduce electrons or holes (electron vacancies) into the copper-oxide layers and cooled to temperatures below 100 Kelvin—significantly warmer temperatures than those needed for conventional superconductors. But exactly how electrons overcome their mutual repulsion and pair up to flow freely in these materials remains one of the biggest questions in condensed matter physics. High-temperature superconductivity (HTS) is among many phenomena occurring due to strong interactions between electrons, making it difficult to determine where it comes from.

Scientists discover hidden symmetries, opening new avenues for material design

When you knock on a melon to see if it's ripe, you are using sound waves to probe the structure of the material inside. Physicists at the University of Chicago were using the same concept to explore how sound waves travel through patterned structures when they noticed an oddity: completely different structures sounded the same.

Harnessing the moiré effect to make transparent images

Researchers at EPFL have developed a material that combines transparent properties with the moiré effect to produce images. The technology could have interesting decorative and anti-forgery applications.

Scalable photonic computer solves the subset sum problem

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in China created a photonic computer that was able to solve the subset sum problem. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their computer and how well it performed.

Exotic new topological state discovered in Dirac semimetals

Fundamental research in condensed matter physics has driven tremendous advances in modern electronic capabilities. Transistors, optical fiber, LEDs, magnetic storage media, plasma displays, semi-conductors, superconductors—the list of technologies born of fundamental research in condensed matter physics is staggering. Scientists working in this field continue to explore and discover surprising novel phenomena that hold promise for tomorrow's technological advances.

Showing how the tiniest particles in our Universe saved us from complete annihilation

Recently discovered ripples of spacetime called gravitational waves could contain evidence to prove the theory that life survived the Big Bang because of a phase transition that allowed neutrino particles to reshuffle matter and anti-matter, explains a new study by an international team of researchers.

How nature tells us its formulas

Many of the biggest questions in physics can be answered with the help of quantum field theories: They are needed to describe the dynamics of many interacting particles, and thus they are just as important in solid state physics as in cosmology. Often, however, it is extremely complicated to develop a quantum field theoretical model for a specific problem—especially if the system in question consists of many interacting particles.

Astronomy & Space news

Observations detect distortion of magnetic fields in the protostellar core Barnard 335

Using the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), Japanese astronomers have investigated the magnetic field structure of the protostellar core Barnard 335. The new observations suggest that the magnetic field of Barnard 335 is distorted, which could have implications for our understanding of the nature of this object. The finding is detailed in a paper published January 22 on

Driving massive galaxy outflows with supermassive blackholes

Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies that are accreting material onto their hot circumnuclear disks, releasing the energy in bursts of radiation or as particle jets moving at close to the speed of light. These energetic outbursts in turn drive outflows of ionized, neutral, and molecular gas that can extend over thousands of light-years and move at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second. The gas flows can be launched directly from the hot accretion disc, though radiation pressure on the dust that is mixed in with the gas, by hot thermal winds, or other mechanisms that generate hot bubbles of gas. By driving the gas out of the galaxy, an active nucleus restricts the fuel available for further star formation and slows down the galaxy's growth. The mechanism is also self-limiting, since it ultimately suppresses gas accreting onto the black hole. Astronomers tracking the rate of star formation across cosmic time believe this process, called quenching, is responsible for the dramatic decline in star formation since the peak of star-formation activity about ten billion years ago.

How many stars eventually collide as black holes? The universe has a budget for that

Since the breakthrough in gravitational wave astronomy back in 2015, scientists have been able to detect more than a dozen pairs of closely located black holes—known as binary black holes—by their collisions into each other due to gravity. However, scientists still debate how many of these black holes are born from stars, and how they are able to get close enough for a collision within the lifetime of our universe.

Team identifies low-energy solar particles from beyond Earth near the Sun

Using data from NASA's Parker Solar Probe (PSP), a team led by Southwest Research Institute identified low-energy particles lurking near the Sun that likely originated from solar wind interactions well beyond Earth orbit. PSP is venturing closer to the Sun than any previous probe, carrying hardware SwRI helped develop. Scientists are probing the enigmatic features of the Sun to answer many questions, including how to protect space travelers and technology from the radiation associated with solar events.

Iran to launch observation satellite in 'coming days'

Iran is preparing to launch a new scientific observation satellite in the "coming days", the head of the country's national space agency told AFP on Saturday.

One step closer to prospecting the moon

The first European device to land on the moon this decade will be a drill and sample analysis package, and the teams behind it are one step closer to flight as part of Russia's Luna-27 mission.

Researchers find clues to how hazardous space radiation begins

Scientists at the University of New Hampshire have unlocked one of the mysteries of how particles from flares on the sun accumulate at early stages in the energization of hazardous radiation that is harmful to astronauts, satellites and electronic equipment in space. Using data obtained by NASA's Parker Solar Probe (PSP), researchers observed one of the largest events so far during the mission. These observations show how plasma that is released after a solar flare—a sudden flash of increased brightness—can accelerate and pile up energetic particles generating dangerous radiation conditions.

Technology news

Enhancing high-nickel layered oxide cathodes for lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-based batteries are used to power most existing electric vehicles, yet the amount of time they can keep a vehicle going before they need to be recharged is still somewhat limited. In the future, high-nickel layered oxide cathode materials could help to increase the driving range of electric vehicles, enabling the development of cheaper and better performing lithium-ion batteries.

The one ring—to track your finger's location

Smart technology keeps getting smaller. There are smartphones, smartwatches and now, smart rings, devices that allow someone to use simple finger gestures to control other technology.

Brainy item-picking robots show up for warehouse duty

At a warehouse on the outskirts of Berlin recently, a new addition to the warehouse, a robot, drew press attention.

OpenSK research platform cheered as boost for adoption of security keys

An implementation for security keys was in the news recently. The spotlight was on OpenSK.

Cloning musical heritage in the key of 3-D

When Mina Jang played the same melodious tune on two different flutes behind a screen, she said the examiners grading her couldn't tell the difference.

Researchers work on project to develop cleaner-burning, renewable fuels

Biofuels offer potential benefits as renewable fuels with cleaner emissions, but with thousands of types of biofuels to choose from, it makes it hard for the energy sector to focus on just a few for further development.

Using AI for drug discovery shows speed but draws discussions

A drug molecule developed though machine learning? An announcement has been made that a phase I clinical study of DSP-1181, that was created using Artificial Intelligence (AI), has been initiated in Japan.

'Wristwatch' monitors body chemistry to boost athletic performance, prevent injury

Engineering researchers have developed a device the size of a wristwatch that can monitor an individual's body chemistry to help improve athletic performance and identify potential health problems. The device can be used for everything from detecting dehydration to tracking athletic recovery, with applications ranging from military training to competitive sports.

Apple temporarily closes stores in China amid virus outbreak

Apple is temporarily closing its 42 stores in mainland China, one of its largest markets, as a new virus spreads rapidly and the death toll there rose to 259 on Saturday.

Google to raise ad fees to cover Austrian tax: source

American tech giant Google will ramp up charges to its advertisers to cover the costs of a new Austrian tax, a source close to the company said on Saturday.

China outbreak forces Hyundai to suspend flagship SUV production

Hyundai Motor, South Korea's largest automaker, suspended the domestic production of its flagship sport utility vehicle this weekend as a result of a supply disruption caused by the deadly virus outbreak in China.

FCC: At least 1 phone company broke law by sharing location

At least one U.S. phone company likely broke the law by sharing data that can pinpoint the location of smartphone users, the Federal Communications Commission said Friday.

Uber suspends 240 users accounts over possible virus contact

Uber has suspended the accounts of 240 users in Mexico who may have been in contact with drivers that ferried a person suspected of having the deadly coronavirus.

Huawei 5G troubles to test Nordic competitors' bandwidth

Tougher UK and EU rules restricting 5G network supplier Huawei should be a golden opportunity for competitors Nokia and Ericsson, but the companies may struggle to meet the increased demand, analysts warned.

Panasonic April-December operating profit hit by China sales

Panasonic said on Monday its operating profit for the April-December period dropped 18 percent on lower sales in China but it left its full-year forecast intact despite the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

What if half of Switzerland's rooftops produced electricity?

Researchers at EPFL are assessing Switzerland's solar power potential. Their results show that photovoltaic panels could be installed on more than half of the country's 9.6 million rooftops. The resulting power would meet more than 40 percent of Swiss electricity demand.

New deep learning model can accurately identify sleep stages

A new deep learning model developed by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland can identify sleep stages as accurately as an experienced physician. This opens up new avenues for the diagnostics and treatment of sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea.

Using a scientific approach to assess the value of travel time

Do you feel that you spend half your day on crowded trains, trams or buses to and from work? Losing your patience while stuck in traffic, or do you feel fortunate that you can cycle to work, burn some calories and reduce your carbon footprint? To what extent do you value travel time? The EU-funded MoTiV project is seeking answers to help commuters track, understand and evaluate their travel decisions and enable the development of more efficient mobility systems.

Smart water heating could help in South Africa's energy crisis

South Africa's energy crisis has many dimensions, from political and economic to technical and environmental. Recently, the country's power utility, Eskom, has been generating only about 60% of its capacity and has had to restrict usage to prevent a regional blackout.

You weren't the only one who streamed more videos in 2019—the whole world did

If you had a feeling you binged more streaming video last year, you likely did—and you had a lot of company.

Teaching tomorrow's automobiles to hear

Modern cars already feature a range of sophisticated systems such as remote-controlled parking, automatic lane-departure warning and drowsiness recognition. In the future, self-driving cars will also have auditory capabilities. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Oldenburg, Germany, have now developed a prototype system capable of recognizing external noises such as sirens.

A new test for internal diesel injector deposits

Southwest Research Institute has created a new test that significantly reduces the time and fuel needed to evaluate the formation of internal deposits on diesel engine fuel injectors. The test utilizes a custom-built injector rig. Any deposits formed in the injector are measured with a variable angle spectroscopic ellipsometer (VASE), which is a tool typically used by computer engineers to examine layers in microchips.

Disappointing growth hits Google parent Alphabet shares

Google parent Alphabet on Monday reported rising profits in the final three months of last year amid growth in digital advertising and cloud computing, but shares took a hit on disappointing revenue growth.

TCL set to end deal making BlackBerry smartphones

Chinese electronics group TCL will stop producing BlackBerry-branded smartphones this year, the companies said Monday, leaving it unclear whether that will be the end of the line for the once-dominant handsets.

Confidence in automated systems

When it comes to cars that drive themselves, most people are still hesitant. There are similar reservations with respect to onboard sensors gathering data on a driver's current state of health. As part of the SECREDAS project, a research consortium including the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE is investigating the safety, security and privacy of these systems. The aim is to boost confidence in such technology.

Safe and effective shipboard firefighting

"Fire on board!" This is a grave danger for any ship, but especially so when a ship is ostensibly safely docked in harbor—where "normal" firefighters are on duty and have to cope with the special challenges on board a ship. Since 2005, 44 potentially disastrous incidents have occurred in German ports alone, including 15 fires and 13 spills of hazardous materials. EFAS, a joint project coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE, is aimed at significantly improving firefighters' safety and effectiveness through optimum equipment and technological innovations.

Drone sighting disrupts air traffic at Madrid airport

Madrid's international airport was closed for over one hour on Monday due to the reported sighting of drones, authorities in Spain said.

YouTube: No 'deepfakes' or 'birther' videos in 2020 election

Better late than never, YouTube is making clear there will be no "birtherism" on its platform during this year's U.S. presidential election. Nevermind that the conspiracy theory around former President Barack Obama's citizenship emerged in 2008 and has not been a widespread issue since he last ran for president in 2012.

FTC sues to block Harry's sale to Schick owner Edgewell

Federal antitrust regulators say a proposed merger that would combine old-school shaving company Schick with upstart Harry's would end up costing consumers some skin.

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