Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Mar 4

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Spotlight Stories Headlines

A theoretical approach to understand the mechanisms of 3-D spatiotemporal mode-locking

Tropical forests' carbon sink is already rapidly weakening

Google's robot learns to walk in real world

Probing microscopic wiggles in squishy materials

'It's like you have a hand again': An ultra-precise mind-controlled prosthetic

High energy Li-Ion battery is safer for electric vehicles

Pesticides impair baby bee brain development

Improved CRISPR gene drive solves problems of old tech

In US, changing self-concept can lower well-being

The brains of shrimps and insects are more alike than we thought

Hydrogen sulfide heightens disease in tuberculosis, suggesting a new therapeutic target

Biomaterial discovery enables 3-D printing of tissue-like vascular structures

Scientists demonstrate first non-volatile nano relay operation at 200 C

Embedded droplet printing-technology controllably prints and processes droplets that are suspended in place

Gold-coated pantyhose inspire a technique for comfortable light-emitting clothing

Physics news

A theoretical approach to understand the mechanisms of 3-D spatiotemporal mode-locking

Laser technology confines light inside a resonator containing a gain medium, a material with quantum properties that can amplify light. As laser resonators are generally far larger than the wavelength of light, lasing inside their cavities can occur in a wide range of patterns, which are known as modes.

Probing microscopic wiggles in squishy materials

The term "colloidal gel" may not be a household phrase, but examples of these materials are everywhere in our daily lives, from toothpaste and shower gel to mayonnaise and yogurt. Colloidal gels are mixtures of particles suspended in fluid, and depending on how they are manipulated, these gels can flow like liquid or hold their shape like a solid.

A sound boost to extreme laser performance

Diamond is a particularly interesting material for this type of laser for two key reasons. Its high thermal conductivity means it is possible to make miniature lasers that simultaneously have high stability and high power. The speed of sound is also much higher compared with other materials. This gives the laser a secondary ability to directly synthesize frequencies in the hard-to-reach millimeter wave band.

Mpemba effect: The fastest way to heat certain materials may be to cool them first

To heat a slice of pizza, you probably wouldn't consider first chilling it in the fridge. But a theoretical study suggests that cooling, as a first step before heating, may be the fastest way to warm up certain materials. In fact, such precooling could lead sometimes to exponentially faster heating, two physicists calculate in a study accepted in Physical Review Letters.

25 years on: A single top quark partners with the Z boson

A quarter-century after its discovery, physicists at the ATLAS Experiment at CERN are gaining new insight into the heaviest-known particle, the top quark. The huge amount of data collected during Run 2 of the LHC (2015-2018) has allowed physicists to study rare production processes of the top quark in great detail, including its production in association with other heavy elementary particles.

High-tech contact lenses correct color blindness

Researchers have incorporated ultra-thin optical devices known as metasurfaces into off-the-shelf contact lenses to correct deuteranomaly, a form of red-green color blindness. The new customizable contact lens could offer a convenient and comfortable way to help people who experience various forms of color blindness.

Coherent phonon dynamics realized in spatially separated mechanical resonators

A research group led by Prof. Guo Guoping, Song Xiangxiang, Deng Guangwei (now at UESTC), from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with Prof. Tian Lin from University of California, Merced, and Origin Quantum Company Limited, made progress in nanomechanical resonators. They realized coherent phonon manipulations within spatially separated mechanical resonators. The study was published online in PNAS.

Novel pulse duration achieved by laser beamline

Significant advances in ultra-intense and ultra-short laser technology have led numerous laboratories to develop tabletop PW-class laser systems as a means of investigating laser-matter interactions in a relativistic regime. The repetition rate of PW-class femtosecond lasers is an important issue for practical applications. And the development of repetitive PW-class lasers has attracted a great attention in recent years.

Exciting apparatus helps atoms see the light

Researchers in the Light-Matter Interactions for Quantum Technologies Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have generated Rydberg atoms—unusually large excited atoms—near nanometer-thin optical fibers. Their findings, published recently in Physical Review Research, mark progress toward a new platform for quantum information processing, which has the potential to revolutionize material and drug discoveries and provide more secure quantum communication.

First bufferless 1.5 μm III-V lasers grown directly on silicon wafers in Si-photonics

Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have reported the world's first 1.5 μm III-V lasers directly grown on the industry-standard 220 nm SOI (silicon-on-insulators) wafers without buffer, potentially paving an opening to the "holy grail" for present silicon (Si-) photonics research.

All optical control of exciton flow in a colloidal quantum well complex

Exciton-based solid-state devices have the potential to be essential building blocks for modern information technology to slow down the end of Moore's law. Exploiting excitonic devices requires the ability to control the excitonic properties (e.g., exciton flow, exciton recombination rates or exciton energy) in an active medium. However, until now, the demonstrated techniques for excitonic control have either been inherently complex or sacrificed the operation speed, which is self-defeating and impractical for actual implementation. Hence, a scheme with an emphasis on all-optical control, bottom-up fabrication and self-assembly is highly desired for real-world applications.

Astronomy & Space news

Curiosity Mars rover snaps its highest-resolution panorama yet

NASA's Curiosity rover has captured its highest-resolution panorama yet of the Martian surface. Composed of more than 1,000 images taken during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday and carefully assembled over the ensuing months, the composite contains 1.8 billion pixels of Martian landscape. The rover's Mast Camera, or Mastcam, used its telephoto lens to produce the panorama; meanwhile, it relied on its medium-angle lens to produce a lower-resolution, nearly 650-million-pixel panorama that includes the rover's deck and robotic arm.

3-D-printed thrust chamber passes first tests for vega evolutions

The 3-D-printed thrust chamber assembly of the methane-fueled M10 rocket engine has passed its first series of hot firing tests. The M10 engine will power the upper stage of future Vega evolutions from 2025.

Routine radio-frequency testing of moon-bound Orion spacecraft begins

Testing one, two and now, three.

Image: Vega's titanium propellant tank

This titanium propellant tank, on show in the laboratory corridor of ESA's technical heart, comes from Europe's Vega launcher—one of four serving its AVUM upper stage.

Japan suspends annual funding for Hawaii telescope project

Japan suspended its yearly funding for a giant telescope project in Hawaii, citing an ongoing stalemate over its construction.

Technology news

Google's robot learns to walk in real world

The field of robotics took one step forward—followed by another, then several more—when a robot called Rainbow Dash recently taught itself to walk. The four-legged machine only required a few hours to learn to walk backward and forward, and turn right and left while doing so.

High energy Li-Ion battery is safer for electric vehicles

A lithium-ion battery that is safe, has high power and can last for 1 million miles has been developed by a team in Penn State's Battery and Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Center.

Integrating electronics onto physical prototypes

MIT researchers have invented a way to integrate "breadboards"—flat platforms widely used for electronics prototyping—directly onto physical products. The aim is to provide a faster, easier way to test circuit functions and user interactions with products such as smart devices and flexible electronics.

Robot uses artificial intelligence and imaging to draw blood

Rutgers engineers have created a tabletop device that combines a robot, artificial intelligence and near-infrared and ultrasound imaging to draw blood or insert catheters to deliver fluids and drugs.

Households in Switzerland could feasibly be energy self-sufficient by 2050

By 2050, photovoltaic technologies that convert sunlight into electricity could enable many single- and multi-family buildings in Switzerland to produce enough energy to meet their own consumption needs, including the charging of electric vehicles. Ursin Gstöhl and Stefan Pfenninger of ETH Zürich report these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on March 4, 2020.

Fighting hand tremors: First comes AI, then robots

Robots hold promise for a large number of people with neurological movement disorders severely affecting the quality of their lives. Now researchers have tapped artificial intelligence techniques to build an algorithmic model that will make the robots more accurate, faster, and safer when battling hand tremors.

Streaming titans seek passage to India for new growth

Netflix and Amazon are battling a dizzying array of homegrown outfits, from Bollywood producers to broadcasters, for dominance of India's streaming market, a key target as growth in Western countries slows.

Senators scrutinize web-scraping facial recognition startup

U.S. senators are scrutinizing a facial recognition software company over privacy concerns and the possible sale of its services to authoritarian regimes.

Helping non-experts create mathematical models through natural selection

Science and engineering applications such as control of high-precision motion systems or electrochemical processes are often built on mathematical models of dynamic systems. Ph.D. candidate Dhruv Khandelwal developed a framework that allows people without experience in data-driven modeling to fairly easily develop high-quality, optimized mathematical models of these dynamic systems. This is a vital tool that can help researchers of any stripe navigate the complex maze of modeling technologies and systems dynamics, and support data-driven research output and valorization. For instance, electrical engineers managing the health of the electricity grid or researchers studying the growth of cancer cells. Khandelwal defends his Ph.D. thesis on March 4.

Tunnel fire safety: With only minutes to respond, fire education really counts

Global risk management experts are calling for fire education initiatives to be included in driver safety programs so that drivers are better prepared for an emergency if faced with it on the roads.

Collapsible basket technology aims to improve drug discovery, personalized medicine

A drug discovery scientist typically screens up to 10,000 compounds in the early stages of developing one FDA approved drug. During this high-throughput screening, candidate compounds are initially tested on cell and tissue samples.

GM shows 13 electric vehicles as it tries to run with Tesla

General Motors, trying to refashion itself as a futuristic company with technology to compete against Tesla, rolled out plans Wednesday for 13 new electric vehicles during the next five years.

Twitter preps ephemeral tweets, starts testing in Brazil

Twitter is starting to test tweets that disappear after 24 hours, although initially only in Brazil.

FBI working to 'burn down' cyber criminals' infrastructure

To thwart increasingly dangerous cyber criminals, law enforcement agents are working to "burn down their infrastructure" and take out the tools that allow them carry out their devastating attacks, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday.

Uber loses French case, driver declared employee

France's top civil court dealt ride-hailing giant Uber a setback on Wednesday with a key ruling that it had effectively employed one of its drivers.

UK airline Flybe nearing bankruptcy: reports

Struggling British regional airline Flybe could be on the brink of bankruptcy, according to reports Wednesday, as the coronavirus epidemic takes a heavy toll on airlines around the world.

Virus hammers business travel as wary companies nix trips

Amazon and other big companies are trying to keep their employees healthy by banning business trips, but they've dealt a gut punch to a travel industry already reeling from the virus outbreak.

Trade show blues: Exhibitions go virtual as virus spreads

Fine wines and hipster gin. Hunting rifles and knives. Contemporary paintings and million-dollar sports cars. They're all marketed at trade events that are quickly going dark across the globe due to the new coronavirus - and taking with them sales opportunities that may be difficult to make up.

US, China clash over head of UN intellectual property agency

Dozens of countries are voting Wednesday in a pivotal phase of an election to choose the next head of the U.N.'s intellectual property agency, a contest for a key post in the Digital Age that has pit the United States against China's candidate.

Are political texts flooding your phone? Here's why and how to stop them

Political groups have been revving up their outreach efforts to reach voters and texting has been all the rage. But for some people, the bombardment of political texts has become as much of a nuisance as robocalls.

Lufthansa to ground 150 planes over coronavirus

German airline giant Lufthansa said Wednesday it would ground 150 of its more than 750 planes worldwide, days after announcing a slimmed-down timetable over the effects of the novel coronavirus.

Researchers identify novel cybersecurity approach to protect Army systems

Researchers at the Army's corporate laboratory in collaboration with the University of California, Riverside have identified an approach to network security that will enhance the effectiveness and timeliness of protection against adversarial intrusion and evasion strategies.

United Airlines tightens its belt as virus hits demand

Citing diminished demand for flying due to the coronavirus epidemic, United Airlines said Wednesday it is putting a freeze on new hiring and delaying planned salary increases.

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