Science X Newsletter Thursday, Mar 5

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 5, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Computer model of face processing could reveal how the brain produces richly detailed visual representations so quickly

Organic molecules discovered by Curiosity Rover consistent with early life on Mars: study

Research investigates internal kinematics of the galaxy Mkn 938

Smallest Homo erectus cranium in Africa and diverse stone tools found at Gona, Ethiopia

New carbon-based nanomaterial: Facile diamond synthesis from lower 'diamondoids'

Fisherwomen contribute tons of fish, billions of dollars to global fisheries

Third-hand smoke is no joke, can convey hazardous chemicals

Even fake illness affects relationships among vampire bats

Synthetic biologists redesign the way bacteria 'talk' to each other

Researchers propose new physics to explain decay of subatomic particle

Study shows low carb diet may prevent, reverse age-related effects within the brain

Researchers one step closer to creating organic batteries

Zombie scanning enables the study of peptide-receptor interactions on the cell surface

Bacteria killed by new light-activated coating

What we don't know (about lakes) could hurt us

Physics news

Researchers propose new physics to explain decay of subatomic particle

Florida State University physicists believe they have an answer to unusual incidents of rare decay of a subatomic particle called a Kaon that were reported last year by scientists in the KOTO experiment at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex.

Researchers estimate size of bird with unusual vocal biomechanics by its song

A team of researchers from Universidad de Buenos Aires, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales and the University of M├╝nster accurately estimated the size of a white-tipped plantcutter bird by studying nothing but its song. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes their study of the unique bird and is raspy cry.

Light to electricity: New multi-material solar cells set new efficiency standard

Researchers from the University of Toronto Engineering and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have overcome a key obstacle in combining the emerging solar-harvesting technology of perovskites with the commercial gold standard—silicon solar cells. The result is a highly efficient and stable tandem solar cell, one of the best-performing reported to date.

Longest microwave quantum link

Physicists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated a five-meter-long microwave quantum link, the longest of its kind to date. It can be used both for future quantum computer networks and for experiments in basic quantum physics research.

Variations in the vibrations of beams of silicon create a sensitive way of measuring pressure changes

A micrometer-scale, low-power consumption pressure sensor has been developed by KAUST scientists, with potential applications in vacuum environments.

Simultaneous optical trapping and imaging in the axial plane for light-matter interaction

Optical trapping has become a powerful tool in numerous fields such as biology, physics, chemistry. In light-matter interaction, transfer of optical linear momentum and angular momentum gives rise to optical forces acting on the illuminated object, thus enabling the acceleration, three-dimensional (3-D) confinement, spinning, rotation, and even negative pulling of particles.

China Spallation Neutron Source: Beam power reaches design goal ahead of schedule

The China Spallation Neutron Source (CSNS) conducted on-schedule beam commissioning from Feb. 3 to Feb. 28, thus achieving its design goal of 100kW 18 months ahead of schedule. Since then it has conducted stable operations at 100 kW.

Astronomy & Space news

Organic molecules discovered by Curiosity Rover consistent with early life on Mars: study

Organic compounds called thiophenes are found on Earth in coal, crude oil and oddly enough, in white truffles, the mushroom beloved by epicureans and wild pigs.

Research investigates internal kinematics of the galaxy Mkn 938

Using the 6-meter telescope of the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SAO RAS), astronomers have conducted a detailed study of the central part of the galaxy Mkn 938. Results of the research shed more light on internal kinematics of this galaxy. The study was presented in a paper published February 25 on the arXiv pre-print server.

OSIRIS-REx swoops over sample site Nightingale

NASA's first asteroid-sampling spacecraft just got its best look yet at asteroid Bennu. Yesterday, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft executed a very low pass over sample site Nightingale, taking observations from an altitude of 820 feet (250 m), which is the closest that OSIRIS-REx has flown over the asteroid so far. Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx's primary sample collection site, is located within a crater in Bennu's northern hemisphere.

ALMA spots metamorphosing aged star

An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) captured the very moment when an old star first starts to alter its environment. The star has ejected high-speed bipolar gas jets which are now colliding with the surrounding material; the age of the observed jet is estimated to be less than 60 years. These are key features to understand how the complex shapes of planetary nebulae are formed.

Study reveals life in the universe could be common, but not in our neighborhood

To help answer one of the great existential questions—how did life begin?—a new study combines biological and cosmological models. Professor Tomonori Totani from the Department of Astronomy looked at how life's building blocks could spontaneously form in the universe—a process known as abiogenesis.

Meet Perseverance: Mars rover gets name ahead of July launch

NASA's next Mars rover finally has a name. Perseverance, a six-wheeled robotic explorer, will blast off this summer to collect Martian samples for eventual return to Earth.

Voyager 2 unable to receive commands during NASA's 70-meter-wide radio antenna upgrades

Starting in early March, NASA's Voyager 2 will quietly coast through interstellar space without receiving commands from Earth. That's because the Voyager's primary means of communication, the Deep Space Network's 70-meter-wide (230-feet-wide) radio antenna in Canberra, Australia, will be undergoing critical upgrades for about 11 months. During this time, the Voyager team will still be able to receive science data from Voyager 2 on its mission to explore the outermost edge of the Sun's domain and beyond.

New ESO study evaluates impact of satellite constellations on astronomical observations

Astronomers have recently raised concerns about the impact of satellite mega-constellations on scientific research. To better understand the effect these constellations could have on astronomical observations, ESO commissioned a scientific study of their impact, focusing on observations with ESO telescopes in the visible and infrared but also considering other observatories. The study, which considers a total of 18 representative satellite constellations under development by SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb and others, together amounting to over 26 thousand satellites, has now been accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Technology news

Computer model of face processing could reveal how the brain produces richly detailed visual representations so quickly

When we open our eyes, we immediately see our surroundings in great detail. How the brain is able to form these richly detailed representations of the world so quickly is one of the biggest unsolved puzzles in the study of vision.

Researchers one step closer to creating organic batteries

York University researchers have discovered a way to make Lithium-powered batteries more environmentally friendly while retaining performance, stability and storage capacity.

Robots on the march to walking like humans

A psychological theory could kickstart improvements in the way robots are able to walk, thanks to a University of Manchester study.

Google Assistant to read web pages aloud on some devices

"Hey Google, read this page."

In-sensor computing to speed up machine vision

By applying in-sensor computing of analog data, a team of researchers at Vienna University of Technology's Institute of Photonics has developed a way to speed up machine vision. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their design and how well it performed during testing. Yang Chai with Hong Kong Polytechnic University has published a News & Views piece in the same journal issue describing the work by the team.

Goodyear's biodegradable concept tire regenerates its tread

Goodyear recently unveiled a tire concept that could revolutionize the auto industry. Dubbed reCharge, this concept tire would never require replacements or rotations because it regenerates its tread as needed.

The Moral Machine reexamined: Forced-choice testing does not reveal true wishes

A pair of researchers at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is challenging the findings of the team that published a paper called "The Moral Machine experiment" two years ago. Yochanan Bigman and Kurt Gray claim the results of the experiment were flawed because they did not allow test-takers the option of choosing to treat potential victims equally.

Layered solar cell technology boosts efficiency, affordability

The future's getting brighter for solar power. Researchers from CU Boulder have created a low-cost solar cell with one of the highest power-conversion efficiencies to date, by layering cells and using a unique combination of elements.

Cathay Pacific fined by UK watchdog over massive data breach

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific has been fined HK$5 million by Britain's privacy watchdog over a huge data leak of more than nine million customers including passport numbers and credit card details.

Facebook spies on us but not by recording our calls. Here's how the social network knows everything

It's a given that Facebook is listening in on our conversations, right?

New approach to sustainable building takes shape in Boston

A new building about to take shape in Boston's Roxbury area could, its designers hope, herald a new way of building residential structures in cities.

With a speaker and four microphones, drones can echolocate like bats

Similarly to how bats use echolocation to orient themselves with their surroundings, mathematicians have found that the same can be done with microphones and a speaker on a drone with the help of algebra and geometry.

Study: Modern electric grid needs smarter modeling for improved resilience

Power systems and communication networks are increasingly interdependent, which can affect the response and recovery times when problems occur.

More wind, less hot air

Predictions about how much wind power will be in place by the year 2040 have been too conservative according to research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy.

World's smelliest fruit could charge your mobile phone

Imagine if we could use naturally-grown products, like plants and fruit, to store electricity that charges commonly used electronics like mobile phones, tablets, laptops or even electric cars?

FDA says pacemakers, glucose monitors and other devices could be vulnerable to hackers

Federal agencies warned patients and manufacturers Tuesday that a recently discovered problem with Bluetooth Low Energy communications may allow computer hackers to remotely disable or access pacemakers, glucose monitors, ultrasound devices and other medical systems.

The unfoldable bridge

There are many different methods for erecting bridges—but the new technique developed by TU Wien, the balanced lowering method, is quite spectacular: the bridge is not built horizontally, as would normally be case, but erected in a vertical position and then rotated into the horizontal position. The first large scale tests were carried out in 2010; since then, the method has been refined and tuned until finally finding its first application by the ASFINAG for two bridges of the F├╝rstenfeld Motorway S7. With the erection process successfully completed for the Lahnbach Bridge, the 116 m long bridge over the Lafnitz was "unfolded" on the 27th of February 2020. With no scaffolding needed, this new bridge construction method not only saves time but also money and resources.

Discovery of accurate and far more efficient algorithm for point set registration problems

A point set registration problem is a task using two shapes, each consisting of a set of points, to estimate the relationship of individual points between the two shapes. Here, a "shape" is like a human body or face, which is similar to another body or face but exhibits morphological diversity. Taking the face as an example: the center position of the pupil of an eye varies depending on individuals but can be thought to have a correspondence with that of another person. Such a correspondence can be estimated by gradually deforming one shape to be superimposable on the other. Estimation of the correspondence of a point on one shape to a point on another is the point set registration problem. Since the number of points of one shape could be millions, estimation of correspondence is calculated by a computer. Nonetheless, up to now, even when the fastest conventional method was used, it took a lot of time for calculation for registration of ca. 100,000 points. Thus, algorithms that could find a solution far faster without affecting accuracy have been sought. Furthermore, preliminary registration before automated estimation was a prerequisite for the conventional calculation method, so algorithms that do not need preliminary registration are desirable.

Drones can now scan terrain and excavations without human intervention

Drone pilots may become superfluous in the future. New research from Aarhus University has allowed artificial intelligence to take over control of drones scanning and measuring terrain.

Twitter CEO Dorsey to 'reconsider' Africa plans

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said Thursday he is rethinking plans to spend as long as six months in Africa, partly due to concerns over the new-coronavirus epidemic.

'Written in blood': bereaved engineer calls for reform after MAX deaths

After his sister died in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX one year ago, Javier de Luis, an engineer who once designed software for space stations, became a crusader.

Whither Boeing? Tough times persist one year after crash

One year after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX that killed 157 people and triggered the worst crisis in Boeing's history, the aviation giant is at a crossroads.

Los Angeles port, country's biggest, hit hard by coronavirus

The Port of Los Angeles, the biggest in the United States, has been significantly impacted by the new coronavirus outbreak and is forecasting a 15 to 17 percent drop in activity in the first quarter of the year, officials said Wednesday.

US lawmakers told of security risks from China-owned TikTok

US officials on Wednesday stepped up warnings about the potential security risks from the fast-growing, Chinese-owned TikTok as a lawmaker unveiled legislation to ban the social media app from government devices.

Industry group: Virus outbreak could cost airlines $113B

The International Air Transport Association says the virus outbreak that began in China could cost airlines as much as $113 billion in lost revenue due to the collapse of air travel.

Struggling Abu Dhabi's Etihad posts fourth year of losses

Abu Dhabi's struggling carrier Etihad on Thursday posted a $870 million loss for 2019, its fourth year in the red, and said its restructuring plan still has "some way to go".

Google cancels major I/O developer conference amid COVID-19 concerns

The coronavirus has claimed yet another major tech conference.

Self-driving car trajectory tracking gets closer to human-driver ideal

Have you taken an Uber ride and disagreed with the "fastest" route that the GPS app suggested because you—or the driver—know a "better" way?

TAP Air Portugal cancels 1,000 flights

Portugese airline TAP said Thursday it would cut roughly 1,000 flights in March and April as it seeks to adjust to a drop in demand due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Team develops new laser defense system against autonomous drones

A Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researcher has developed a laser-based defense system to defend against the next generation of autonomous attack drones in a wide range of homeland security settings.

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Mac, Windows or Chromebook: Which laptop is right for you?

On a budget? These laptops might be just what you need. Fit your MacBook or Windows laptop to suit your everyday needs.
CNET Insider
March 5, 2020
While they may not be as flashy as phones or tablets, laptops and desktops still handle most of the work in the world. And today, you've got an amazing array of choices at some pretty prices. CNET editors break down the best Windows 10 PCs, Macs and Chromebooks for your money.
Jason Hiner Jason Hiner
Editorial Director, CNET
Ex-Under Armour Execs make your new favorite jeans
Ex-Under Armour Execs make your new favorite jeans
How? by using a fabric made of Italian milled denim infused with the same stuff used in football uniforms and yoga pants
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