Science X Newsletter Monday, Mar 2

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 2, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A model to design logic gates inspired by a single-cell organism

Exploring neural mechanisms behind the perception of control in stressful situations

Two stars merged to form massive white dwarf

Carbon chains adopt fusilli or spaghetti shapes if they have odd or even numbers

Early Earth may have been a 'waterworld'

Fish school by randomly copying each other, rather than following the group

Potassium metal battery emerges as a rival to lithium-ion technology

X-ray quasi-periodic eruptions detected in the galaxy RX J1301.9+2747

Sinking sea mountains make and muffle earthquakes

The 'Monday effect' is real—and it's impacting your Amazon package delivery

Artificial intelligence could enhance diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders

Not a 'math person'? You may be better at learning to code than you think

Researchers study role culture plays in feeling sick

NASA images show fall in China pollution over virus shutdown

New tools show a way forward for large-scale storage of renewable energy

Physics news

Fish school by randomly copying each other, rather than following the group

Fish school by copying each other and changing directions randomly, rather than calculating and adapting to an average direction of the group, a group of scientists co-led by UNSW has shown.

Scientists measure electron spin qubit without demolishing it

A group of scientists from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science in Japan has succeeded in taking repeated measurements of the spin of an electron in a silicon quantum dot (QD) without changing its spin in the process. This type of "non-demolition" measurement is important for creating quantum computers that are fault-tolerant. Quantum computers would make it easier to perform certain classes of calculations such as many-body problems, which are extremely difficult and time-consuming for conventional computers. Essentially, the involve measuring a quantum value that is never in a single state like a conventional transistor, but instead exists as a "superimposed state"—in the same way that Schrodinger's famous cat cannot be said to be alive or dead until it is observed. Using such systems, it is possible to conduct calculations with a qubit that is a superimposition of two values, and then determine statistically what the correct result is. Quantum computers that use single electron spins in silicon QDs are seen as attractive due to their potential scalability and because silicon is already widely used in electronics technology.

Why is an empty shampoo bottle so easy to knock over?

It becomes annoyingly easy to knock over a shampoo bottle when it's nearly empty. This is an easily observed and curiosity-provoking phenomenon that, according to Lehigh University physics professor Jerome Licini, yields insights into center-of-mass and impacts.

Scientists pair machine learning with tomography to learn about material interfaces

By using machine learning as an image processing technique, scientists can dramatically accelerate the heretofore laborious manual process of quantitatively looking for and at interfaces without having to sacrifice accuracy.

The natural direction of heat flows—from hot to cold—can be reversed thanks to quantum effects

In a hot summer Sunday braai or shisa nyama (South African barbecue), if you don't finish your favorite beverage quickly, the ice cubes will melt and the drink will get warm—undoubtedly spoiling your braai/shisa nyama. That's because the natural direction of the heat is always from hot to cold (Fig. 1). The reverse, a drink that grows increasingly colder—which would definitively save your Sunday—looks like science fiction. Indeed, this would be like reversing the arrow of time. Our recent study establishes that things might be very different in the quantum world.

Measuring the sound of a soap bubble popping

A team of researchers from Sorbonne Université and the University of Lille has measured the sounds that occur when a soap bubble pops. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes the action as it unfolds and the sounds that are emitted as ordinary soap bubbles pop.

The magnet that didn't exist

In 1966, Japanese physicist Yosuke Nagaoka predicted the existence of a rather striking phenomenon: Nagaoka's ferromagnetism. His rigorous theory explains how materials can become magnetic, with one caveat: the specific conditions he described do not arise naturally in any material. Researchers from QuTech, a collaboration between TU Delft and TNO, have now observed experimental signatures of Nagaoka ferromagnetism using an engineered quantum system. The results were published today in Nature.

KITE code could power new quantum developments

A research collaboration led by the University of York's Department of Physics has created open-source software to assist in the creation of quantum materials which could in turn vastly increase the world's computing power.

Gold in limbo between solid and melted states

If you heat a solid material enough, the thermal energy (latent heat) causes the material's molecules begin to break apart, forming a liquid. One of the most familiar examples of this phase transition from a well-ordered solid to less-ordered liquid state is ice turning into water.

Scientists expand memory effect range through spatial filtering

Speckle autocorrelation imaging is a new emergent imaging technique through scattering media, with its main advantages in simple experimental setup, single-shot fast detection and non-invasion. The prerequisite of speckle autocorrelation imaging is optical memory effect, whose range determines the field of view (FOV) of imaging. The memory effect range is inversely proportional to the thickness of a medium. For real scattering media, such as biological tissues, the memory effect range approaches zero once the thickness is larger than 1 mm, the limited FOV restrains the applications of speckle autocorrelation imaging to thick media.

Astronomy & Space news

Two stars merged to form massive white dwarf

A massive white dwarf star with a bizarre carbon-rich atmosphere could be two white dwarfs merged together according to an international team led by University of Warwick astronomers, and only narrowly avoided destruction.

X-ray quasi-periodic eruptions detected in the galaxy RX J1301.9+2747

Astronomers have performed observations of a galaxy known as RX J1301.9+2747 using ESA's XMM-Newton spacecraft. The study unveiled three strong and rapid X-ray quasi-periodic eruptions (QPEs) in the nucleus of this galaxy. The finding is reported in a paper published February 20 on

Scientists seize rare chance to watch faraway star system evolve

At only 1% the age of the sun, the DS Tuc binary system shows us how a planet might naturally develop before its orbit is disturbed by external forces.

Image: Hubble spots a spiral with a past

This image of an archetypal spiral galaxy was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

OSIRIS-REx students catch unexpected glimpse of black hole

University students and researchers working on a NASA mission orbiting a near-Earth asteroid have made an unexpected detection of a phenomenon 30 thousand light years away. Last fall, the student-built Regolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) onboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft detected a newly flaring black hole in the constellation Columba while making observations off the limb of asteroid Bennu.

Space weather model gives earlier warning of satellite-killing radiation storms

A new machine-learning computer model accurately predicts damaging radiation storms caused by the Van Allen belts two days prior to the storm, the most advanced notice to date, according to a new paper in the journal Space Weather.

What if mysterious 'cotton candy' planets actually sport rings?

Some of the extremely low-density, "cotton candy like" exoplanets called super-puffs may actually have rings, according to new research published in The Astronomical Journal by Carnegie's Anthony Piro and Caltech's Shreyas Vissapragada

Meteorite observation network sets out to catch a falling star

British scientists are turning their eyes to the skies to track meteorites before they land on UK soil—and they're looking for volunteers to help them recover the space rocks whenever and wherever they fall.

Ultrared, dusty star-forming galaxies in the early universe

Star formation takes place within natal clouds of dust and gas that absorb much of the emitted ultraviolet and optical radiation but which also block these regions from optical view. In recent decades, however, infrared space-based observatories like Herschel and Spitzer have revolutionized our understanding of obscured star formation in dusty galaxies because infrared light can penetrate the dust clouds to reveal the stars being formed. Herschel and Spitzer have discovered large numbers of very dusty, very red star-forming galaxies that are immensely luminous in the infrared (exceeding one trillion solar-luminosities) yet are not seen at shorter wavelengths. In fact, these dusty galaxies are responsible for most of the infrared background light in the cosmos. Some of these objects display the most extreme kinds of starbursts known, with star formation rates exceeding a thousand per year, but which are also exceedingly rare with on average only one of them in a volume of a few hundred thousand million cubic light-years.

Riding the wave of a supernova to go interstellar

When it comes to the challenges posed by interstellar travel, there are no easy answers. The distances are immense, the amount of energy needed to make the journey is tremendous, and the time scales involved are (no pun!) astronomical. But what if there was a way to travel between stars using ships that take advantage of natural phenomena to reach relativistic velocities (a fraction of the speed of light)?

First direct observation of elusive waves reveals energy channels in solar atmosphere

For the first time, torsional Alfvén waves have been directly observed in the solar corona by a team of researchers from the University of Oslo and the University of Warwick. The discovery sheds light on the origin of magnetic waves and their role in the heating of the sun's corona.

Improving shoes, showers, 3-D printing: Research launching to the space station

A variety of science investigations, along with supplies and equipment, launch to the International Space Station on the 20th SpaceX commercial resupply services mission. The Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to leave Earth March 6 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its cargo includes research on particle foam manufacturing, water droplet formation, the human intestine and other cutting-edge investigations.

Technology news

A model to design logic gates inspired by a single-cell organism

Natural phenomena and biological mechanisms can be great sources of inspiration for scientists developing mathematical approaches, computer systems and robots. Over the past few decades, research has repeatedly proved the value of replicating behaviors observed in nature through the introduction of many fascinating bio-inspired computational techniques and systems.

Potassium metal battery emerges as a rival to lithium-ion technology

From cell phones, to solar power, to electric cars, humanity is increasingly dependent on batteries. As demand for safe, efficient, and powerful energy storage continues to rise, so too does the call for promising alternatives to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which have been the dominant technology in this space.

New tools show a way forward for large-scale storage of renewable energy

A technique based on the principles of MRI has allowed researchers to observe not only how next-generation batteries for large-scale energy storage work, but also how they fail, which will assist in the development of strategies to extend battery lifetimes in support of the transition to a zero-carbon future.

Why deep networks generalize despite going against statistical intuition

Introductory statistics courses teach us that, when fitting a model to some data, we should have more data than free parameters to avoid the danger of overfitting—fitting noisy data too closely, and thereby failing to fit new data. It is surprising, then, that in modern deep learning the practice is to have orders of magnitude more parameters than data. Despite this, deep networks show good predictive performance, and in fact do better the more parameters they have. Why would that be?

Deep learning rethink overcomes major obstacle in AI industry

Rice University computer scientists have overcome a major obstacle in the burgeoning artificial intelligence industry by showing it is possible to speed up deep learning technology without specialized acceleration hardware like graphics processing units (GPUs).

AT&T launches new online TV service as video customers fall

AT&T is launching a new internet-delivered TV service Monday as it struggles with a shrinking DirecTV satellite business.

Satellite design applied to superyacht

Dutch shipbuilder Royal Huisman applied the same concurrent engineering process developed by ESA for space missions to the design of superyacht Sea Eagle II, due to become the world's largest aluminum sailing yacht when delivered to its owner this spring.

A current map for improving circuit design

A practical method for mapping the flow of a current in devices with complex geometries that could be used to optimize circuit design has been developed at KAUST.

Airlines take no chances with our safety—neither should artificial intelligence

You'd thinking flying in a plane would be more dangerous than driving a car. In reality it's much safer, partly because the aviation industry is heavily regulated.

Coronavirus: How Twitter could more effectively ease its impact

In the wake of a disaster or crisis, people turn to trusted sources for information.

Home genealogy kit sales plummet over data privacy concerns

Surprising news recently emerged from the personal genetics business. The two leading direct-to-consumer companies in North America, 23andMe and, announced within a week of each other that they were laying off a significant proportion of their workforce as a result of a steep drop in sales.

Study sheds light on new IEEE standard categories, showing power system impact

In 2003, when the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) first drafted standards around distributed energy resources (DERs) connecting with the grid, solar power capacity was less than 1% of its current capacity. The standards document, IEEE 1547-2003, could not anticipate the technical challenges that solar and other DERs would present more than a decade later as a growing share of generation. These challenges were addressed in 2018 through a comprehensive revision of the standard.

Bifacial solar advances with the times—and the sun

Traditional solar modules convert light to electricity using photovoltaic (PV) cells on the top side of the panels. Now, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers are shining a light on what lies beneath.

Father, son bond over engineering a record-smashing roadster

Sandia National Laboratories manager Joel Wirth, a mechanical engineer by training, studied a problem with his car. The weight was too far back, making the car fishtail whenever he drove it faster than 200 mph.

Wireless signals from ceiling lighting for connected manufacturing

WLAN and Bluetooth have limited bandwidth, making conventional wireless communication problematic in the production environment. Nevertheless, numerous components such as sensors and robots need to be wirelessly connected. To overcome this challenge, a team of researchers at Fraunhofer IOSB-INA in Lemgo is working on solutions with help from the Ostwestfalen-Lippe (OWL) University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Soon, it is hoped that machines in factory buildings will communicate with one another using light pulses. This technology is not new, but now it needs to be adapted for use in industry.

Light, efficient, affordable – the shape of things to come in components

Lightweight technology has long been and is sure to remain a mainstay of automotive and aerospace engineering, shipbuilding and a host of other industries. Lighter materials and components could also help cut emissions that drive climate change. But lighter options are pricier, and the relatively steep cost has impeded their adoption. That is about to change thanks to the efforts of a consortium of automakers, suppliers and research institutes. Called ALLIANCE and coordinated by Daimler and the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF, this project has some good news for designers: As it turns out, it is entirely possible to build components that are up to 33 percent lighter at an added cost of less than three euros per kilogram-saved.

Lack of polish, missing content mar AT&T's new cord-cutter service

You already needed a scorecard to tell all the players in this convoluted streaming, cord-cutting era. Monday's nationwide launch of AT&T TV not only ushers in a new player, but it invites even more confusion.

Before Nintendo and Atari: The black engineer who changed video gaming forever

Atari. Magnavox. Intellivision.

Tackling 5G-based mobile computing and cloud computing security concerns head-on

In a June 2019 report, telecommunications equipment provider Ericsson predicted that there will be 8.3 billion mobile broadband subscriptions by the end of 2024, which translates to 95 percent of all subscriptions by then. Total mobile data traffic will reach 131 exabytes per month (1 exabyte = 1 billion gigabytes), with 35 percent carried by 5G networks.

VW ditches natural gas to focus on e-cars

Volkswagen on Monday said it will stop developing natural gas-fuelled cars as the German auto giant bets on electric engines in the battle to woo climate-conscious drivers.

Americans wary of Facebook 'power,' survey shows

A large majority of Americans believe Facebook has "too much power" but many would be disappointed if the social networking giant disappeared, a survey showed Monday.

Abu Dhabi, Wizz Air to launch new low-cost carrier

New low-cost airline Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is to launch operations from the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi in the second half of 2020, the partners in the venture announced Monday.

Businesses at risk for cyberattack but take few precautions

Although businesses are increasingly at risk for cyberattacks on their mobile devices, many aren't taking steps to protect smartphones and tablets.

Apple agrees to $500 mn deal in iPhone-slowing suit

Apple has agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over claims it covertly slowed older iPhones to get users to upgrade.

Top airlines axe flights as coronavirus saps demand

British Airways and Ireland's Ryanair on Monday announced major flight cancellations particularly to Italy, in response to the worsening novel coronavirus outbreak, while Germany's Lufthansa extended cutbacks.

2 Chinese nationals charged in $100M cryptocurrency scheme

Two Chinese nationals were charged Monday with laundering over $100 million in cryptocurrency that had been stolen by North Korean hackers, U.S. prosecutors said.

Coder charged in massive CIA leak portrayed as vindictive

A software engineer on trial for the largest leak of classified information in CIA history was "prepared to do anything" to betray the agency, federal prosecutors said Monday as a defense attorney argued the man had been scapegoated for a breach that exposed secret cyberweapons and spying techniques.

Twitter shares rise on reports of activist investor stake

Twitter shares rose Monday following reports an activist investor took a stake in the social media service and plans to push for changes.

Lufthansa further slashes flight plan over virus

German airline group Lufthansa said Monday it was extending flight cancellations on Iran and China routes until late April, part of a broader rollback because of the novel coronavirus.

Nokia CEO Suri steps down, Lundmark named successor

The CEO of wireless networks company Nokia is stepping down from the post and will be succeeded by an energy executive.

New virus hits Mideast airlines with $100M loss, group says

Major travel disruptions due to the new coronavirus have already caused the equivalent of a roughly $100 million loss to airlines in the Middle East, which serves as a connection hub for east-west travel, the industry's main trade association said Monday.

AI and machine learning help scientists understand human face recognition

Scientists from Salk Institute (U.S.), Skoltech (Russia), and the Riken Center for Brain Science (Japan) investigated a theoretical model of how populations of neurons in the visual cortex of the brain may recognize and process faces and their expressions, and how they are organized. The research was recently published in Neural Computation and highlighted on its cover.

Solar energy solutions for facades

Photovoltaic elements are usually found on rooftops—after all, that's where solar irradiation is highest. However, as researchers at the Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics CSP have discovered, PV elements on facades can be a useful way to supplement the power supply. If appropriately designed, they can be attractively integrated and deliver 50 percent more energy than existing types of wall-mounted PV elements. Even concrete walls are suitable.

Keeping up with the conversation

Most people find it difficult to concentrate on a specific voice in a busy environment, but for those who are hard of hearing it's especially challenging. Now, however, a new type of hearing aid, developed with the assistance of Fraunhofer researchers, is designed to render speech more intelligible against a background of noise, thereby making it easier to follow a single speaker.

Engendering trust in an AI world

Can you imagine a world without personalised Spotify playlists, curated social media feeds, or recommended cat videos on the sidebars of YouTube? These modern-day conveniences, which were made possible by artificial intelligence (AI), also present a scary proposition—that the machines could end up knowing more about us than we ourselves do.

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