Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Feb 19

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Spotlight Stories Headlines

A terahertz wave radar based on leaky-wave coherence tomography

3-D imaging the flavor content of the nucleon

Various variability phenomena observed in the binary star DQ Tau

Growing crystals to generate random numbers

Methane emitted by humans vastly underestimated, researchers find

New machine learning method could supercharge battery development for electric vehicles

What if we could teach photons to behave like electrons?

Scientists develop safer lead-based perovskite solar cell

Researchers discover new mechanism for the coexistence of species

Snakes help engineers design search and rescue robots

Ancient gut microbiomes shed light on human evolution

Mixed-signal hardware security thwarts powerful electromagnetic attacks

Biologists develop new defense in fight against crop infections

Improving the electrical and mechanical properties of carbon-nanotube-based fibers

Cancer researchers identify new areas in human genomes linked to skin cancer risk

Physics news

3-D imaging the flavor content of the nucleon

The Jefferson Lab Hall A Collaboration, in an experiment led by researchers at Faculté des Sciences de Monastir in Tunisia, Institut de Physique Nucléaire d'Orsay in France and Old Dominion University in the United States, has recently gathered the first experimental observations of deeply virtual Compton scattering (DVCS) in neutrons. Their experiment, whose results were published in Nature Physics, was motivated by generalized parton distributions (GPDs), a recently developed theoretical framework that describes the internal dynamics of the nucleon (proton or neutron) in terms of quarks and gluons. DVCS is the simplest process involving GPDs. It consists of the scattering of an electron off a nucleon and the emission of a high-energy photon while the nucleon remains intact.

What if we could teach photons to behave like electrons?

To develop futuristic technologies like quantum computers, scientists will need to find ways to control photons, the basic particles of light, just as precisely as they can already control electrons, the basic particles in electronic computing. Unfortunately, photons are far more difficult to manipulate than electrons, which respond to forces as simple as the sort of magnetism that even children understand.

Unraveling the physics behind tossing fried rice

A pair of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology has unraveled the physics behind the optimal way to toss fried rice while it is cooking. In their paper published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Hungtang Ko and David Hu describe filming chefs in Chinese restaurants cooking fried rice and what they learned about the physics involved.

A spookily good sensor

Scientists from the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST) at The University of Tokyo demonstrated a method for coupling a magnetic sphere with a sensor via the strange power of quantum entanglement. They showed that the existence of even a single magnetic excitation in the sphere could be detected with a one-shot measurement. This work represents a major advancement toward quantum systems that can interact with magnetic materials.

Cryo-chip overcomes obstacle to large-scale quantum computers

QuTech has resolved a major issue on the road toward a working large-scale quantum computer. QuTech, a collaboration of TU Delft and TNO, and Intel have designed and fabricated an integrated circuit that can controlling qubits at extremely low temperatures. This paves the way for the crucial integration of qubits and their controlling electronics in the same chip. The scientists have presented their research during the ISSCC Conference in San Francisco.

Five millimeter diameter motor is powered directly with light

Researchers at the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw, with colleagues from Poland and China used liquid crystal elastomer technology to demonstrate a rotary micromotor powered with light. The 5-millimeter diameter ring, driven and controlled by a laser beam, can rotate and perform work, e.g. by rotating another element installed on the same axis.

Measuring a dynamical topological order parameter in quantum walks

Nonequilibrium dynamical processes are central in many quantum technological contexts. However, it has remained a key challenge to identify concepts for their characterization and classification, as the resulting quantum states purposely defy a description in terms of equilibrium statistical physics in order to realize states not accessible by conventional means. Scientists have now achieved a characterization in terms of a dynamical topological order parameter for quantum walks, which represent a paradigmatic class of nonequilibrium processes.

Intelligent control of mode-locked femtosecond pulses by time-stretch-assisted spectral analysis

Researchers in China led by Lilin Yi at Shanghai Jiao Tong University developed apparatus and software algorithms allowing automatic 'intelligent control' over the femtosecond pulses generated by mode-locked fiber lasers. The system can manipulate key aspects of the wavelength range and composition of the pulses—technically their 'spectral width' and 'spectral shape'—more effectively than previously possible. The procedure also yields new technical insights into the factors determining the nature of femtosecond pulses generation.

Astronomy & Space news

Various variability phenomena observed in the binary star DQ Tau

Hungarian astronomers have observed a pre-main sequence (PMS) binary star known as DQ Tau using a set of space telescopes and ground-based facilities, finding numerous variability phenomena in this system, including energetic stellar flares. The findings are detailed in a paper published February 11 on

Findings from NASA's Juno update Jupiter water mystery

NASA's Juno mission has provided its first science results on the amount of water in Jupiter's atmosphere. Published recently in the journal Nature Astronomy, the Juno results estimate that at the equator, water makes up about 0.25% of the molecules in Jupiter's atmosphere—almost three times that of the Sun. These are also the first findings on the gas giant's abundance of water since the agency's 1995 Galileo mission suggested Jupiter might be extremely dry compared to the Sun (the comparison is based not on liquid water but on the presence of its components, oxygen and hydrogen, present in the Sun).

Engineers devise a decision map to identify the best mission type to deflect an incoming asteroid

On April 13, 2029, an icy chunk of space rock, wider than the Eiffel Tower is tall, will streak by Earth at 30 kilometers per second, grazing the planet's sphere of geostationary satellites. It will be the closest approach by one of the largest asteroids crossing Earth's orbit in the next decade.

Image: International Space Station transits the moon

Say cheese.

Tombaugh's discovery of Pluto revolutionized knowledge of our solar system

Ninety years ago today, Clyde Tombaugh, a young astronomer working at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, discovered Pluto. In doing so he unknowingly opened the door to the vast "third zone" of the solar system we now know as the Kuiper Belt, containing countless planetesimals and dwarf planets—the third class of planets in our solar system.

There could be meteors traveling at close to the speed of light when they hit the atmosphere

It's no secret that planet Earth is occasionally greeted by rocks from space that either explode in the atmosphere or impact on the surface. In addition, Earth regularly experiences meteor showers whenever it passes through clouds of debris in the solar system. However, it has also been determined that Earth is regularly bombarded by objects that are small enough to go unnoticed—about 1 mm or so in size.

Russia will replace 2 cosmonauts set for launch to space

Russia's space agency said Wednesday that two cosmonauts scheduled to launch to the International Space Station will be replaced with alternates for medical reasons.

BECEP array installed at South Pole

Professor Clem Pryke and his group are on their way back to Minnesota from the South Pole in Antarctica after completing installation of the new BICEP Array Telescope. Over the next few years this specialized radio telescope will study the Cosmic Microwave Background—an afterglow from the Big Bang—looking for the imprint of gravitational waves from the beginning of time. The project, which has been several years in the making, is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota, Caltech, Harvard and Stanford.

Galaxy Cruise—Your galactic journey as a citizen scientist

The Universe is full of galaxies of various shapes; some galaxies have spiral arms and others don't. Why do galaxies show such diversity? Galaxies are thought to grow by interacting and merging with other galaxies; and the galaxy mergers may be the key process creating the variety. Why don't you explore the Universe as a citizen scientist to help unlock the secrets of galaxies?

Technology news

A terahertz wave radar based on leaky-wave coherence tomography

Researchers at Keio University and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan have recently introduced a new design for a terahertz wave radar based on a technique known as leaky-wave coherence tomography. Their paper, published in Nature Electronics, could help to solve some of the limitations of existing wave radar.

New machine learning method could supercharge battery development for electric vehicles

Battery performance can make or break the electric vehicle experience, from driving range to charging time to the lifetime of the car. Now, artificial intelligence has made dreams like recharging an EV in the time it takes to stop at a gas station a more likely reality, and could help improve other aspects of battery technology.

Scientists develop safer lead-based perovskite solar cell

Researchers at Northern Illinois University and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, are reporting today (Feb. 19) in the journal Nature on a potential breakthrough in the development of hybrid perovskite solar cells.

Snakes help engineers design search and rescue robots

Snakes live in diverse environments ranging from unbearably hot deserts to lush tropical forests, where they slither up trees, rocks and shrubbery every day. By studying how these serpents move, Johns Hopkins engineers have created a snake robot that can nimbly and stably climb large steps.

Mixed-signal hardware security thwarts powerful electromagnetic attacks

Security of embedded devices is essential in today's internet-connected world. Security is typically guaranteed mathematically using a small secret key to encrypt the private messages.

Engineers' custom circuits would make IoT systems 14,000 times harder to crack than current tech

Rice University engineers have one-upped their own technique to increase security for the "internet of things."

Team develops bracelet that jams microphones

The very topic of digital assistants and home smart devices sporting microphones and the potential for the outside world to listen in on recordings is not a comfortable one, to say the least. It's no longer a simple case of who is listening, but what is listening in the connected world of devices in the home and beyond.

Research identifies barriers to development of seawater electrolysis technologies

Researchers at the University Of Liverpool, in collaboration with NUI Galway and TU Berlin, have identified the key technological and scientific challenges of producing hydrogen through seawater electrolysis.

New infrastructure will enhance privacy in today's Internet of Things

People navigating through the digital landscape of the Internet today are bombarded with notices about how their data is being collected. But in the physical world where Internet of Things technologies increasingly track our activities—few, if any, notices are provided.

EU seeks AI champions: Five things to know

From translation apps to facial recognition, artificial intelligence is becoming a major part of everyday life and the European Union is eager to bring order to this digital "wild west" where the US and China dominate.

Facebook faces off with IRS in big-ticket tax case

A multi-billion dollar dispute between Facebook and US tax authorities over profits shifted to an Irish subsidiary began playing out in front of a judge on Tuesday.

Dell sells RSA cyber-security unit for $2 bn

Dell Technologies on Tuesday announced a $2.08 billion cash deal to sell cyber-security unit RSA to a consortium led by Symphony Technology Group.

Cobalt supply can meet demand for electric vehicle and electronics batteries: study

Greater use of electric vehicles might be good for the environment, but further growth hinges on continued availability of critical battery components such as cobalt. Cell phones and other electronics also depend on the element's availability. Supplies of the metal are adequate in the short term, but shortages could develop down the road if refining and recycling aren't ramped up or made more efficient, according to research published in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology.

EU seeks 'responsible' AI to dispel Big Brother fears

The EU unveiled its strategy for artificial intelligence on Wednesday as it seeks to catch up with China and the US and dispel fears of Big Brother-like control.

E-scooters: The impact legalization would have in the UK

It is currently illegal to ride e-scooters in public spaces in the UK, but this has not stopped riders appearing on roads and pavements. An upcoming national consultation means it is a good time to consider the implications of e-scooters coming to UK streets.

Ring doorbell camera users required to use two-factor authentication to protect accounts

Users of Ring doorbell security cameras must improve their own security measures to boost privacy and prevent unauthorized access to the home safety systems.

Uber's new On-Trip Reporting tool lets you report uncomfortable rides in real-time

Uber just added a new tool for riders who find themselves in uncomfortable situations during a trip.

Standalone system produces water from the air, even in desert regions

Researchers at the Technion have developed a standalone system that produces water from the air, even in desert regions. The innovative system is capable of providing water to small and isolated communities, without the need to transport water for long distances.

Could water solve the renewable energy storage challenge?

Seasonal pumped hydropower storage (SPHS), an already established yet infrequently used technology, could be an affordable and sustainable solution to store energy and water on an annual scale, according to new IIASA research published in the journal Nature Communications. Compared with other mature storage solutions, such as natural gas, the study shows that there is considerable potential for SPHS to provide highly competitive energy storage costs.

EU proposes rules for artificial intelligence to limit risks

The European Union unveiled proposals Wednesday to regulate artificial intelligence that call for strict rules and safeguards on risky applications of the rapidly developing technology.

Qualcomm introduces third-generation 5G chips to boost speeds and performance of mobile devices

Continuing its efforts to drive 5G technology, Qualcomm on Tuesday introduced its third generation 5G mobile chip aimed at improving performance for smartphones and other gadgets.

Huawei loses legal challenge against US federal purchase ban

Washington has the right to block US federal agencies from buying products by Huawei on cybersecurity grounds, a judge has ruled, dismissing the Chinese telecom giant's legal challenge to a purchase ban.

Deutsche Telekom rings in record profits thanks to US

German telecom operator Deutsche Telekom on Wednesday reported record profits for 2019, with US unit T-Mobile gleaning millions more customers ahead of a merger with competitor Sprint.

Germany to tighten screws on online hate speech

With the danger growing from far-right extremists and torrents of threats against politicians, Germany plans to toughen online speech laws and tighten the screws on social networks.

Renault risks 'junk' credit rating, S&P warns

French automaker Renault could see its main long-term credit rating cut to below investment grade by Standard and Poor's, the agency said Wednesday, just days after Moody's lowered its own rating to "junk" status.

Virus-hit Jaguar rushes car parts to UK in suitcases: reports

Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover is rushing through deliveries of small car parts to Britain from China, where supply chains are hit by the deadly coronavirus, the Financial Times said Wednesday.

Sorting the social network fakers from the movers and shakers

How can we detect fake profiles to preclude their disruptive and deleterious effects on social media and social networks? Writing in the International Journal of Information and Computer Security, Somya Ranjan Sahoo and B.B. Gupta of the National Institute of Technology at Kurukshetra in Haryana, India, discuss the issues and possible solutions.

First millimeter-scale wireless transceiver for electronic pills

This week, at ISSCC 2020 (Feb 16-20, San Francisco), imec, a world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, presents the first mm-scale wireless transceiver for smart insertable pills. It is a first breakthrough in imec's aspiration to realize autonomous ingestible sensors that can measure health parameters such as gut health and transmit in real time the data outside the body.

Airbus Defence and Space to cut over 2,300 jobs

European plane-maker Airbus said Wednesday it planned to cut 2,362 jobs in its Defence and Space division over the next two years.

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