Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Feb 25

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Spotlight Stories Headlines

Modboat: A low-cost aquatic robot with a single motor

Cooling of a trapped ion to the quantum regime

Line of defense: Scientists report surprising evolutionary shift in snakes

Researchers report 'Sweyntooth' vulnerabilities in 480 Bluetooth devices

Two new double-lined spectroscopic binary white dwarfs identified by astronomers

'Electrical heat valve': Strontium cobalt oxide thin film changes thermal properties with applied voltage

Advancement simplifies laser-based medical imaging

Substance found in fossil fuels can transform into pure diamond

Lava flows tell 600-year story of biodiversity loss on tropical island

InSight detects gravity waves, low rumbles and devilish dust

Quadrupling turbines, US can meet 2030 wind-energy goals

New study associates intake of dairy milk with greater risk of breast cancer

Reducing nutrient pollution helps coral resist bleaching

Design of the W7-X fusion device enables it to overcome obstacles, scientists find

Want to catch a photon? Start by silencing the sun

Physics news

Cooling of a trapped ion to the quantum regime

Neutral atoms and charged ions can be cooled down to extremely low temperatures (i.e., to microkelvins, 1 millionth of a degree above absolute zero) using laser techniques. At these low temperatures, the particles have often been found to behave in accordance with the laws of quantum mechanics.

Advancement simplifies laser-based medical imaging

Photoacoustic imaging, a technique for examining living materials through the use of laser light and ultrasonic sound waves, has many potential applications in medicine because of its ability to show everything from organs to blood vessels to tumors.

Design of the W7-X fusion device enables it to overcome obstacles, scientists find

A key hurdle facing fusion devices called stellarators—twisty facilities that seek to harness on Earth the fusion reactions that power the sun and stars—has been their limited ability to maintain the heat and performance of the plasma that fuels those reactions. Now collaborative research by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald, Germany, have found that the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) facility in Greifswald, the largest and most advanced stellarator ever built, has demonstrated a key step in overcoming this problem.

Want to catch a photon? Start by silencing the sun

Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have created a 3-D imaging system that uses light's quantum properties to create images 40,000 times crisper than current technologies, paving the way for never-before seen LIDAR sensing and detection in self-driving cars, satellite mapping systems, deep-space communications and medical imaging of the human retina.

Simple self-charging battery offers power solutions for devices

A new type of battery combines negative capacitance and negative resistance within the same cell, allowing the cell to self-charge without losing energy, which has important implications for long-term storage and improved output power for batteries.

Team demos breakthrough in analog image processing

A research team of Vanderbilt engineers that includes a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has demonstrated a new ultrathin filter, based on metamaterials, that allows for analog optical image processing. Their work, Flat Optics for Image Differentiation, appears today in the scientific journal, Nature Photonics.

Researchers create new state of light

For 20 years, researchers have studied how light rotates around a longitudinal axis parallel to the direction light travels. But could it move in other ways? After two years of research, and thanks to a sabbatical, University of Dayton researchers Andy Chong and Qiwen Zhan became the first to create a new "state of light"—showing it also can rotate around a transverse axis perpendicular to the direction light travels, like a cyclone.

Radio waves detect particle showers in a block of plastic

When neutrinos crash into water molecules in the billion-plus tons of ice that make up the detector at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica, more than 5,000 sensors detect the light of subatomic particles produced by the collisions. But as one might expect, these grand-scale experiments don't come cheap.

Lights, camera, action... the super-fast world of droplet dynamics

Cameras shooting up to 25,000 frames a second have been used to capture the moment two droplets of liquid come together and mix—and it is opening up research into new applications for 3-D printing.

Stimulating resonance with two very different forces

Widely studied in many different fields, 'nonlinear' systems can display excessively dramatic responses when the forces which cause them to vibrate are changed. Some of these systems are sensitive to changes in the very parameters which define their driving forces, and can be well described using mathematical equations. These 'parametric' oscillators have been widely researched in the past, but so far, few studies have investigated how they will respond to multiple driving forces. In new research published in EPJ B, Dhruba Banerjee and colleagues at Jadavpur University in Kolkata explore this case in detail for the first time. They show that some parametric oscillators can be made to resonate when tuned by a high driving frequency to match a separate, far lower frequency.

A better starting point for exploring entanglement

Quantum entanglement is perhaps one of the most intriguing phenomena known to physics. It describes how the fates of multiple particles can become entwined, even when separated by vast distances. Importantly, the probability distributions needed to define the quantum states of these particles deviate from the bell-shaped, or 'Gaussian' curves which underly many natural processes. Non-Gaussian curves don't apply to quantum systems alone, however. They can also be composed of mixtures of regular Gaussian curves, producing difficulties for physicists studying quantum entanglement. In new research published in EPJ D, Shao-Hua Xiang and colleagues at Huaihua University in China propose a solution to this problem. They suggest an updated set of equations which allows physicists to easily check whether or not a non-Gaussian state is genuinely quantum.

From China to the South Pole: Joining forces to solve the neutrino mass puzzle

Among the most exciting challenges in modern physics is the identification of the neutrino mass ordering. Physicists from the Cluster of Excellence PRISMA+ at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) play a leading role in a new study that indicates that the puzzle of neutrino mass ordering may finally be solved in the next few years. This will be thanks to the combined performance of two new neutrino experiments that are in the pipeline—the Upgrade of the IceCube experiment at the South Pole and the Jiangmen Underground Neutrino Observatory (JUNO) in China. They will soon give the physicists access to much more sensitive and complementary data on the neutrino mass ordering.

CaPtAs: A new noncentrosymmetric superconductor

A research group from Zhejiang University in China has found that the noncentrosymmetric compound CaPtAs is a superconductor, which shows evidence of unconventional properties. This compound provides a new opportunity for studying unconventional superconductivity in systems with broken inversion symmetry.

Observation of non-trivial superconductivity on surface of type II Weyl semimetal

Topological superconductors, with bulk superconducting gap and Majorana fermion states on the surface or edge, are one of the most sought after quantum materials. Topological superconductivity is of fundamental importance with potentially powerful applications in topological quantum computation. The discovery of Weyl semimetals—in which the conduction and valence bands contact only at Weyl points in the Brillouin zone protected against gap formation by crystalline symmetry or time reversal symmetry—has stimulated great enthusiasm for exploring topological superconductivity in these materials. Especially, the superconductivity from the topological non-trivial surface state of Weyl semimetals could be very attractive but has not been reported yet.

Astronomy & Space news

Two new double-lined spectroscopic binary white dwarfs identified by astronomers

A team of U.S.-Canadian astronomers has conducted radial velocity observations of four binary white dwarf candidates. They report that two of them, designated WD 0311−649 and WD 1606+422, are apparently double-lined spectroscopic binary systems. The finding is detailed in a paper published February 14 on

InSight detects gravity waves, low rumbles and devilish dust

More than a year after NASA's Mars InSight lander touched down in a pebble-filled crater on the Martian equator, the rusty red planet is now serving up its meteorological secrets: Gravity waves, surface swirling "dust devils," and the steady, low rumble of infrasound, Cornell and other researchers have found.

Future space detector LISA could reveal the secret life and death of stars

A team of astrophysicists led by Ph.D. student Mike Lau, from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), recently predicted that gravitational waves of double neutron stars may be detected by the future space satellite LISA. The results were presented at the 14th annual Australian National Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (ANITA) science workshop 2020. These measurements may help decipher the life and death of stars.

A year of surprising science from NASA's InSight Mars mission

A new understanding of Mars is beginning to emerge, thanks to the first year of NASA's InSight lander mission. Findings described in a set of six papers published today reveal a planet alive with quakes, dust devils and strange magnetic pulses.

Less than infinite: Space is becoming an orbital landfill

It's mind-boggling to think about anything in terms of infinity.

This is how ESA telescope Euclid is going to visualize dark matter

How can you see something that's invisible? Well, with Euclid! This future ESA telescope will map the structure of the universe and teach us more about invisible dark matter and dark energy. Scientific coordinator of Euclid and Leiden astronomer Henk Hoekstra explains how this works.

An ultraviolet instrument for ESA's Jupiter mission

An ultraviolet spectrograph (UVS) designed and built by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is the first scientific instrument to be delivered for integration onto the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft. Scheduled to launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030, JUICE will spend at least three years making detailed observations in the Jovian system before going into orbit around the solar system's largest moon, Ganymede.

Technology news

Modboat: A low-cost aquatic robot with a single motor

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP Laboratory have recently designed Modboat, a robotic boat that could be used to monitor oceans or carry out marine operations. This low-cost aquatic robot, presented in a paper pre-published on arXiv, can swim in the water using a single motor.

Researchers report 'Sweyntooth' vulnerabilities in 480 Bluetooth devices

Researchers from Singapore say they have found security flaws in more than 480 Bluetooth devices including smart home gadgets, fitness bracelets and medical instruments. The vulnerabilities, which were found in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) software development kits, could cause crashes or permit hackers to gain read/write access to devices.

Quadrupling turbines, US can meet 2030 wind-energy goals

The United States could generate 20% of its electricity in a breezy way within 10 years according to new Cornell research.

A ground penetrating support for self driving navigation in bad weather

Consumer confidence in the safety of self-driving cars continues to be a challenge for auto makers planning for an automated driving future, but add to that uneasiness over how well a self-driving car will manage in roads hit by bad weather conditions.

Researchers develop framework that improves Firefox security

Researchers from the University of California San Diego, University of Texas at Austin, Stanford University and Mozilla have developed a new framework to improve web browser security. The framework, called RLBox, has been integrated into Firefox to complement Firefox's other security-hardening efforts.

How do we remove biases in AI systems? Start by teaching them selective amnesia

Imagine if the next time you apply for a loan, a computer algorithm determines you need to pay a higher rate based primarily on your race, gender or zip code.

Health tracking sensor for pets and people monitors vital signs through fur or clothing

Imperial College London researchers have invented a new health tracking sensor for pets and people that monitors vital signs through fur or clothing.

Heating and cooling that anticipates your needs

According to a recent survey, about half of Americans feel their office is either too hot or too cold. A number of factors play into this issue of thermal comfort, but the hardest factor to control for is the one we're most interested in: humans themselves. Clothing choice and body shape are intrinsically tied to what temperature an individual will be most comfortable at.

Japan's ANA says to buy 20 more Boeing 787 Dreamliners

Japan's ANA Holdings said Tuesday it will buy 20 new Boeing 787-10 and 787-9 aircraft, with the planes expected to go into service between 2022 and 2025.

Turbomachine expander offers efficient, safe strategy for heating, cooling

A new device to help homeowners cut electricity bills could also provide more efficient and safer cooling options for companies and vehicles.

Travel giant Expedia says it will cut 3,000 jobs

Online travel giant Expedia will cut about 3,000 jobs after what the company described in a statement as "disappointing" performance last year.

Sustainable light sources: LEDs from bacterial production

In the FET Open project ENABLED, TU Graz protein designer Gustav Oberdorfer is working together with researchers from Spain and Italy on environmentally friendly and inexpensive light-emitting diodes.

When buying online, customers prefer live chat to phonecall

A new study from the U.S. published in the International Journal of Business and Emerging Markets, suggests that when people interact with non-domestic, i.e. foreign, e-commerce websites they prefer to use online "live chat" channels rather than the telephone.

How heat can be used to store renewable energy

The effect that fossil fuels are having on the climate emergency is driving an international push to use low-carbon sources of energy. At the moment, the best options for producing low-carbon energy on a large scale are wind and solar power. But despite improvements over the last few years to both their performance and cost, a significant problem remains: the wind doesn't always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine. A power grid that relies on these fluctuating sources struggles to constantly match supply and demand, and so renewable energy sometimes goes to waste because it's not produced when needed.

NTSB: Driver in fatal Tesla crash was playing video game

The National Transportation Safety Board says the driver of a Tesla SUV who died in a Silicon Valley crash two years ago was playing a video game on his smartphone while his vehicle was being controlled by a partially automated driving system.

No checkout needed: Amazon opens cashier-less grocery store

Amazon wants to kill the supermarket checkout line.

Samsung says it leaked data on handful of UK customers

Samsung said Tuesday that a "technical error" caused its website to display other customers' personal information.

AFRL creates safer-than-steel synthetic winch cable for cargo aircraft

The C-17 Globemaster III aircraft fleet currently uses winch cables made of steel to pull pallets, vehicles and other items onto the aircraft from the ground via the aft ramp.

Driverless shuttles: what are we waiting for?

In the zero-carbon cities of the future, commuting to work may take the form of hailing a driverless shuttle through an app which ferries you from your door to the nearest public transport terminal. In fact, autonomous shuttles have been in development in restricted areas for the past few years. So what will it take to make them part of our daily commute?

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