Science X Newsletter Monday, Mar 9

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 9, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

PedestriANS: A bipedal robot that adapts its walking style in response to environmental changes

Study achieves a new record fiber QKD transmission distance of over 509 km

Researchers find evidence of a cosmic impact that caused destruction of one of the world's earliest human settlements

Astronomers identify nearly 3,000 candidate stars of a nearby star-forming galaxy

Additive manufacturing of cellulose-based materials with continuous, multidirectional stiffness gradients

Astronomers pinpoint rare binary brown dwarf

Strong signals show how proteins come and go

'Strange' glimpse into neutron stars and symmetry violation

Researchers establish new viable CRISPR-Cas12b system for plant genome engineering

New type of pulsating star discovered

Stone-age 'likes': Study establishes eggshell beads exchanged over 30,000 years

Underrepresented college students benefit more from 'active learning' techniques in STEM

Our brains are powerful—but secretive—forecasters of video virality

Protecting DNA origami for anti-cancer drug delivery

Study of hunter-gatherer community shows that how humans rest may affect their risk for heart disease

Physics news

Study achieves a new record fiber QKD transmission distance of over 509 km

The sending-or-not-sending twin-field (SNS-TF) protocol has so far proved to be a highly promising strategy for achieving high rates over long distances in quantum key distribution (QKD) applications. In fact, by tolerating large misalignment errors, this protocol can surpass the repeaterless bound in more effective ways, which is a crucial factor in the realization of long-distance QKD.

'Strange' glimpse into neutron stars and symmetry violation

New results from precision particle detectors at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) offer a fresh glimpse of the particle interactions that take place in the cores of neutron stars and give nuclear physicists a new way to search for violations of fundamental symmetries in the universe. The results, just published in Nature Physics, could only be obtained at a powerful ion collider such as RHIC, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility for nuclear physics research at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Study reveals collective dynamics of active matter systems

Flocks of starlings that produce dazzling patterns across the sky are natural examples of active matter—groups of individual agents coming together to create collective dynamics. In a study featured on the cover of the March 6 issue of the journal Science, a team of researchers that includes Brown University physicists reveals new insights into what happens inside active matter systems.

Machine learning illuminates material's hidden order

Extreme temperature can do strange things to metals. In severe heat, iron ceases to be magnetic. In devastating cold, lead becomes a superconductor.

Crystal creates a supercontinuum breakthrough

Researchers have generated a wide range of colors from a single laser after discovering a new process for achieving so-called "supercontinuum generation."

How do you weigh a single molecule?

Utrecht scientists have succeeded in measuring the mass of individual molecules. By modifying an existing mass spectrometer and developing special software, the researchers succeeded in making ultra-sensitive measurements. This enables them to measure each particle separately in a mixture of molecules for the first time. This has far-reaching applications in, for example, gene therapy products, in which a precise measurement method is crucial. The researchers will publish their findings on 9 March in Nature Methods.

Looking outside the fiber: Researchers demonstrate new concept of optical fiber sensors

Optical fibers enable our era of the internet, as they carry vast amounts of data all around the world. Fibers are also an excellent sensor platform. They can reach over hundreds of kilometers, simply embedded within structures, and can be installed in hazardous environment where the use of electricity is prohibited. However, optical fiber sensors also face an inherent, fundamental challenge.

Researchers look at noisy quantum computer

Researchers from CSC—IT center for science, Aalto University and Åbo Akademi and their collaborators from Boston University in the U.S. have for the first time demonstrated how the noise impacts on quantum computing in a systematic way. The results are published in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters.

Scientists prevent critical collapse of higher-order solitons

Solitons are stable objects balanced by diffraction or dispersion and nonlinearity. A fundamental challenge in this field is the stabilization of solitons in multidimensional coordinates, since the 2-D and 3-D solitons in free space are always unstable and undergo respectively critical collapses arising from catastrophic self-focusing nonlinearity.

Machine-learning technology to track odd events among LHC data

Nowadays, artificial neural networks have an impact on many areas of our day-to-day lives. They are used for a wide variety of complex tasks, such as driving cars, performing speech recognition (for example, Siri, Cortana, Alexa), suggesting shopping items and trends, or improving visual effects in movies (e.g., animated characters such as Thanos from the movie Infinity War by Marvel).

An environmentally friendly alternative to toxic ship coatings

High-powered, ultra-fast lasers are increasingly used in industrial applications, thanks to their ability to remove material of almost any kind. With smooth, melt-free cuts, even on a micron scale, ultra-fast lasers are particularly utilized in areas like toolmaking, where hard materials must be processed with great precision. However, such processes can be time-consuming. The EU-funded MultiFlex project addresses this challenge by developing an ultrashort pulse laser dot matrix system for making materials processing up to a hundred times faster than with existing ultra-fast laser processing systems.

Astronomy & Space news

Astronomers identify nearly 3,000 candidate stars of a nearby star-forming galaxy

Using the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have conducted photometric observations of a nearby star-forming galaxy known as NGC 6822. They have identified nearly 3,000 candidate stars of this galaxy, which is reported in a paper published February 27 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Astronomers pinpoint rare binary brown dwarf

Astronomers working on 'first light' results from a newly commissioned telescope in Chile made a chance discovery that led to the identification of a rare eclipsing binary brown dwarf system.

New type of pulsating star discovered

A star that pulsates on just one side has been discovered in the Milky Way about 1500 light years from Earth. It is the first of its kind to be found and scientists expect to find many more similar systems as technology to listen inside the beating hearts of stars improves.

Discovery points to origin of mysterious ultraviolet radiation

Billions of lightyears away, gigantic clouds of hydrogen gas produce a special kind of radiation, a type of ultraviolet light known as Lyman-alpha emissions. The enormous clouds emitting the light are Lyman-alpha blobs (LABs). LABs are several times larger than our Milky Way galaxy, yet were only discovered 20 years ago. An extremely powerful energy source is necessary to produce this radiation—think the energy output equivalent of billions of our sun—but scientists debate what that energy source could be.

Astronomers report most distant blazar ever observed

Although it may have a difficult designation to remember, PSO J030947.49+271757.31, the most distant blazar observed to date, reveals important details about ancient black holes and places tight constraints on theories of the evolution of the universe. Its light originated when the universe was less than 1 billion years old, almost 13 billion years ago.

Safety zone saves giant moons from fatal plunge

Numerical simulations show that the temperature gradient in the gas disk around a young gas giant planet could play a critical role in the development of a satellite system dominated by a single large moon, similar to Titan in the Saturn system. Researchers found that dust in the circumplanetary disk can create a "safety zone" that keeps the moon from falling into the planet as the system evolves.

Turbulent convection at the heart of stellar activity

In their interiors, stars are structured in a layered, onion-like fashion. In those with solar-like temperatures, the core is followed by the radiation zone. There, the heat from within is led outwards by means of radiation. As the stellar plasma becomes cooler farther outside, heat transport is dominated by plasma flows: hot plasma from within rises to the surface, cools, and sinks down again. This process is called convection. At the same time, the star's rotation, which depends on stellar latitude, introduces shear movements. Together, both processes twist and twirl magnetic field lines and create a star's complex magnetic fields in a dynamo process that is not yet fully understood.

Image: Hubble spies galactic traffic jam

The barred spiral galaxy NGC 3887, seen here as viewed by the Wide Field Camera 3 aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, lies over 60 million light-years away from us in the southern constellation of Crater (the Cup). It was discovered on Dec. 31, 1785, by astronomer William Herschel.

SpaceX's 20th station shipment arrives with candy, science

A SpaceX cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station on Monday, delivering the company's 20th batch of gear and treats.

Technology news

PedestriANS: A bipedal robot that adapts its walking style in response to environmental changes

Humans are generally able to adapt their walking style based on the environment they are moving in, for instance, speeding up if the consistency of the ground below their feet allows it, slowing down when the floor is slippery, changing direction to avoid puddles or holes in the ground, and so on. To navigate a variety of environments, robots should be able to adapt their walking behavior in a similar way, adjusting their structure in response to environmental changes.

Insecure encryption configurations compromise security of Hyundai, Toyota, and Kia vehicles

Recent research indicates it's possible to infiltrate—and steal—vehicles manufactured by Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia due to flaws in the way their chip-enabled mechanical keys were encrypted.

Unfixable security flaw found in Intel chipset

The bad news: A security research firm has found that Intel chipsets used in computers over the past five years have a major flaw that allows hackers to bypass encryption codes and quietly install malware such as keyloggers.

Ultrathin organic solar cell is efficient and durable

Scientists from the RIKEN, in collaboration with international partners, have succeeded in creating an ultrathin organic solar cell that is both highly efficient and durable. Using a simple post-annealing process, they created a flexible organic cell that degrades by less than 5 percent over 3,000 hours in atmospheric conditions and that simultaneously has an energy conversion ratio—a key indicator of solar cell performance—of 13 percent.

Water splitting advance holds promise for affordable renewable energy

A breakthrough into splitting water into its parts could help make renewable energy pay off, even when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.

Robots that admit mistakes foster better conversation in humans

Three people and a robot form a team playing a game. The robot makes a mistake, costing the team a round. Like any good teammate, it acknowledges the error.

China exports plunge on coronavirus epidemic

China's exports plummeted in the first two months of this year on the back of a coronavirus epidemic that forced businesses to suspend operations, disrupting the world's supply chains.

Congress blasts Boeing missteps, FAA blunders on MAX, calls for reform

Boeing made missteps and withheld information about the 737 MAX while federal regulators failed to provide proper oversight, leading to a "fundamentally flawed" aircraft that demands tighter rules, a US congressional committee said Friday.

With painted faces, artists fight facial recognition tech

As night falls in London, Georgina Rowlands and Anna Hart start applying makeup. Instead of lipstick and eyeliner, they're covering their faces with geometric shapes.

Bill targeting online child abuse puts encryption in crosshairs

A bill aimed at curbing online child sex abuse is pitting the US government against the tech sector, in a battle about encryption and liability for illegal online content.

Report from Ethiopia expected this week in Boeing Max crash

When air safety investigators release an interim report on the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max sometime before Tuesday, they are likely to place the blame on the jet's automated flight control system as well as on the pilots and their training, but it's unclear yet which side will bear the brunt.

US regulators will force Boeing to rewire 737 MAX jets: report

US aviation regulators plan to require Boeing to rewire all 737 MAX aircraft before allowing the troubled planes fly again, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Fukushima hotspots make headlines before Olympics, but what's the risk?

Warnings of radiation hotspots in parts of Fukushima that will host the Olympic torch relay and several sporting events have made headlines, but what is the risk for athletes and spectators?

Nine years on, state of the clean-up at Fukushima's nuclear plant

Nine years after a devastating tsunami sparked disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, clean-up and decommissioning continues at the crippled facility.

Uber, delivery services to compensate drivers who catch virus

Multiple rideshare and food delivery companies are following in the footsteps of Uber, which announced it would compensate its drivers who catch the new coronavirus.

Data-collection platform improving healthcare globally

Frontline health workers represent the lifeblood of many healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries around the world. Often overworked and underpaid, these workers operate outside hospital settings to meet the community's poorest people where they live and work, ensuring healthcare initiatives impact the families that need them most.

Charge batteries through skin with permanent implantable device concept

Soft and flexible materials can ultrasonically charge bioelectronic implants, which could help to reduce the need for surgical treatment.

Enabling battery-powered silicon chips to work faster and longer

A team of researchers from NUS have invented a novel class of reconfiguration techniques that adaptively extends both the minimum power consumption and the maximum performance of digital circuits, well beyond common voltage scaling. Such extended adaptation allows digital silicon chips to operate at lower power during normal use, and at higher performance level when necessary.

User-customizable computing engine for artificial intelligence tasks

Scientists at Osaka University have built a new computing device from field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) that can be customized by the user for maximum efficiency in artificial intelligence applications. Compared with currently used rewireable hardware, the system increases circuit density by a factor of 12. Also, it is expected to reduce energy usage by 80%. This advance may lead to flexible artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that provide enhanced performance while consuming much less electricity.

Twitter strikes deal with investors, ending bid to oust Dorsey

Twitter unveiled a deal with key investors Monday to end an effort to oust chief executive Jack Dorsey, creating a new committee on the board of directors to keep tabs on company leadership.

Amazon offers cashierless tech to rival retailers

Amazon on Monday began offering its "just walk out" technology to other retailers in a move aimed at boosting the use of the cashierless store system.

Innovative method improves safety in lithium-sulfur batteries

Researchers from A*STAR's NanoBio Lab (NBL) have designed a semi-solid electrolyte for lithium-sulfur batteries that improves their safety without compromising their performance. This promising breakthrough paves the way for lithium-sulfur batteries to be used as efficient power solutions across diverse electronic and energy storage applications.

Researchers introduce new algorithm to reduce machine learning time

A research team led by Prof. LI Huiyun from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences introduced a simple deep reinforcement learning (DRL) algorithm with m-out-of-n bootstrap technique and aggregated multiple deep deterministic policy gradient (DDPG) algorithm structures.

Flipboard adding monthly subscription to watch ad-free video news clips from smartphones

Flipboard, the social media platform that's best known as a place for catching up on daily news on smartphones and tablets, is adding curated, ad-free video news clips, and hoping people will pay $2.99 monthly to watch.

DirecTV's days are numbered

Start saying goodbye to DirecTV.

Charting a path to powered exoskeletons

Exoskeletons are devices that are worn for protection or support—like a suit of armor or a helmet. Those and other passive devices have been around for millennia, but today's researchers are developing powered exoskeleton systems that, in the future, could take humans to new levels of strength and endurance.

Boeing pilot training on 737 MAX 'inadequate': Ethiopia crash report

Ethiopia's probe of last year's Ethiopian Airlines crash found that Boeing did not provide sufficient pilot training for the 737 MAX and that crucial flight software was flawed, according to an interim report published Monday.

China tech firm to sell gay dating app Grindr for $608 million

One of China's biggest mobile gaming companies is selling popular gay dating app Grindr for $608 million after pressure from US authorities concerned over the potential misuse of user data.

High-quality extended reality in easy-to-use and inexpensive devices

Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) technology open new possibilities across many fields. However, high-quality extended reality (XR) applications are computationally heavy in terms of computer graphics, which means that they do not run smoothly on inexpensive and easy-to-use XR devices such as VR/AR headsets and smartphones, because their GPU computing capacity is limited.

Minor convictions for ex-CIA coder in hacking tools case

A former CIA software engineer accused of stealing a massive trove of the agency's hacking tools and handing it over to WikiLeaks was convicted of only minor charges Monday, after a jury deadlocked on the more serious espionage counts against him.

Ryanair cuts more Italy flights amid virus fears

Ryanair announced Monday another big cut in the number of flights to and from northern Italy in response to the Italian government's lockdown of the coronavirus hit region.

Facebook, Twitter place warning labels on altered Biden video

Facebook and Twitter both added tags denoting false or manipulated content to a video reposted by US President Donald Trump of his Democrat rival Joe Biden.

Ethiopia report blames jet crash mostly on Boeing software

Ethiopian investigators are mostly blaming Boeing for last year's crash of a 737 Max jet shortly after takeoff, saying in an interim report Monday that there were design failures and inadequate training for pilots.

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