Science X Newsletter Friday, Mar 13

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 13, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A flower pollination algorithm for efficient robot path planning

Initialization of quantum simulators by sympathetic cooling

Searching for discrete time crystals in classical many-body systems

Researchers prepare COVID-19 diagnostic for human testing

Water-free way to make MXenes could mean new uses for the promising nanomaterials

What causes an ice age to end?

How associative fear memory is formed in the brain

Heat stress may affect more than 1.2 billion people annually by 2100

Puzzle about nitrogen solved thanks to cometary analogs

Metal-catalyzed reactions made enantioselective with use of chiral cation

How T cells make sure they have quiet time

Chemotherapy and photodynamic therapy combined in a single drug to fight resistant cancers

Potential treatment for Lyme disease kills bacteria that may cause lingering symptoms, study finds

Modified nickelate materials could improve understanding of high-temperature superconductivity

Polar bear den detection methods work less than half the time, finds bear expert

Physics news

Initialization of quantum simulators by sympathetic cooling

Simulating computationally complex many-body problems on a quantum simulator has great potential to deliver insights into physical, chemical and biological systems. Physicists had previously implemented Hamiltonian dynamics but the problem of initiating quantum simulators to a suitable quantum state remains unsolved. In a new report on Science Advances, Meghana Raghunandan and a research team at the institute for theoretical physics, QUEST institute and the Institute for quantum optics in Germany demonstrated a new approach. While the initialization protocol developed in the work was largely independent of the physical realization of the simulation device, the team provided an example of implementing a trapped ion quantum simulator.

Searching for discrete time crystals in classical many-body systems

Our current, well-established understanding of phases of matter primarily relates to systems that are at or near thermal equilibrium. However, there is a rich world of systems that are not in a state of equilibrium, which could host new and fascinating phases of matter.

Modified nickelate materials could improve understanding of high-temperature superconductivity

The hunt for high-temperature superconductors could be aided by calculations by RIKEN physicists that have revealed the behavior of electrons in a nickel oxide material.

Liquid helium-free SRF cavities could make industrial applications practical

The building blocks of superconducting accelerators are superconducting radiofrequency (SRF) cavities made primarily from niobium that are combined in a vessel and bathed in liquid helium to reach superconducting temperatures. While a large liquid helium cryogenics plant may be practical for a major research facility, it can be a barrier to new applications of this accelerator technology.

Rethinking a century of fluid flows

In 1922, English meteorologist Lewis Fry Richardson published Weather Prediction by Numerical Analysis. This influential work included a few pages devoted to a phenomenological model that described the way that multiple fluids (gases and liquids) flow through a porous-medium system and how the model could be used in weather prediction.

Nuclear diagnostics help pave way to ignition on NIF inertial confinement fusion

At its peak, a NIF inertial confinement fusion (ICF) implosion lasts about 100 trillionths of a second. The imploded fuel is a hundred millionths of a meter in diameter and as much as eight times denser than lead. The center of the imploded capsule is a few times hotter than the core of the sun.

Discovery of zero-energy bound states at both ends of a one-dimensional atomic line defect

In recent years, the development of quantum computers beyond the capability of classical computers has become a new frontier in science and technology and a key direction to realize quantum supremacy. However, conventional quantum computing has a serious challenge due to quantum decoherence effect and requires a significant amount of error correction in scaling quantum qubits. Therefore, the exploration of fault-tolerant quantum computation using quantum states topologically protected against local environmental perturbations is an important endeavor of both fundamental value and technological significance for realizing large-scale quantum computation.

Silicon-graphene hybrid plasmonic waveguide photodetectors beyond 1.55 μm

Silicon photonics are known as a key technology for modern optical communications at the near infrared wavelength-band, i.e., 1.31/1.55 μm. Currently silicon photonics researchers have attempted to extend the technology to the wavelength-band beyond 1.55 μm, e.g., 2 μm, for important applications in optical communications, nonlinear photonics, and on-chip sensing. However, the realization of high-performance silicon-based waveguide photodetectors beyond 1.55 μm still faces challenges since there are some fabrication issues as well as wavelength-band limitations. As an alternative, two-dimensional materials (e.g., graphene) provide a promising solution because of the ability for broad operation wavelength-bands and the advantage of avoiding structure mismatch in the design and fabrication.

Astronomy & Space news

Puzzle about nitrogen solved thanks to cometary analogs

One of the basic building blocks of life is nitrogen. An international consortium was able to detect ammonium salt containing nitrogen on the cometary surface of Chury thanks to a method using analogs for comet material. The method on which the study on the detection of ammonium salt is based was developed at the University of Bern.

Researchers find gravitational wave candidates from binary black hole mergers in public LIGO/Virgo data

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Hannover together with international colleagues have published their second Open Gravitational-wave Catalog (2-OGC). They used improved search methods to dig deeper into publicly available data from LIGO's and Virgo's first and second observation runs. Apart from confirming the ten known binary black hole mergers and one binary neutron star merger, they also identify four promising black hole merger candidates, which were missed by initial LIGO/Virgo analyses. These results demonstrate the value of searches in public LIGO/Virgo data by research groups independent of the LIGO/Virgo collaborations. The research team also makes available its complete catalogue in addition to detailed analysis of more than a dozen possible binary black hole mergers.

Astrophysicists wear 3-D glasses to watch quasars

A team of researchers from Russia and Greece reports a way to determine the origins and nature of quasar light by its polarization. The new approach is analogous to the way cinema glasses produce a 3-D image by feeding each eye with the light of a particular polarization, either horizontal or vertical. The authors of the recent study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society managed to distinguish between the light coming from different parts of quasars—their disks and jets—by discerning its distinct polarizations.

What can you do with spiral graph? Help understand how galaxies evolve

Spiral structure is seen in a variety of natural objects, ranging from plants and animals to tropical cyclones and galaxies. Now researchers at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences have developed a technique to accurately measure the winding arms of spiral galaxies that is so easy, virtually anyone can participate. This new and simple method is currently being applied in a citizen science project, called Spiral Graph, that takes advantage of a person's innate ability to recognize patterns, and ultimately could provide researchers with some insight into how galaxies evolve.

Mercury's 400 C heat may help it make its own ice

It is already hard to believe that there is ice on Mercury, where daytime temperatures reach 400 degrees Celsius, or 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Now an upcoming study says that the Vulcan heat on the planet closest to the sun likely helps make some of that ice.

HaloSat offers galactic X-ray measurements on shoestring budget

Space research is an expensive business. Once a space-based instrument is proposed, researchers want to get as much value as possible from it. The proposed satellite quickly grows in instruments and capabilities. Expensive, radiation-hardened components must be used. The expense places satellite instrument platforms out of reach of most research budgets.

European Gateway experiment will monitor radiation in deep space

The first science experiments that will be hosted on the Gateway, the international research outpost orbiting the moon, have been selected by ESA and NASA. Europe's contribution will monitor radiation to gain a complete understanding of cosmic and solar rays in unexplored areas as the orbital outpost is assembled around the moon.

Technology news

A flower pollination algorithm for efficient robot path planning

Over the past decade or so, researchers worldwide have developed increasingly advanced techniques to enable robot navigation in a variety of environments, including on land, in the air, underwater or on particularly rough terrains. To be effective, these techniques should allow robots to move around in their surroundings both safely and efficiently, saving as much energy as possible.

World fritters away half trillion dollars on coal support

Nations around the world risk wasting $640 billion by continuing to prop up the coal industry rather than investing in less expensive and environmentally friendlier wind and solar power initiatives.

Trump signs bill to help telecoms replace Huawei equipment

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed into law a bill that provides $1 billion to help small telecom providers replace equipment made by China's Huawei and ZTE.

Facebook takedowns reveal sophistication of Russian trolls

Facebook and Twitter revealed evidence Thursday suggesting that Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election are getting more sophisticated and harder to detect.

Pentagon seeks 'to reconsider' cloud contract to Microsoft (Update)

The US Department of Defense said Thursday it wants to reconsider its decision to award a multibillion-dollar military cloud computing contract to Microsoft in a bidding process Amazon claims was tainted by politics.

Last of Apple's 42 stores in China reopen

The last of Apple's 42 stores in China reopened Friday, as the country slowly goes back to work following weeks of quarantine that forced the closure of businesses.

3Q: Collaborating with users to develop accessible designs

Academic researchers and others have long struggled with making data visualizations accessible to people who are blind. One technological approach has been 3-D printing tactile representations of data, in the form of raised bar graphs and line charts. But, often, the intended users have little say in the actual design process, and the end result isn't as effective as planned.

Lab collaborates to prepare photovoltaic materials research for exascale

Photovoltaic solar cells are a promising alternative to fossil fuels, but they need to be a lot more efficient before they can go into widespread use. Scientists have pushed current supercomputing power to the limit looking for that improved efficiency, but the arrival of exascale computing within the next few years will allow them to take this quest to the next level.

Simulating the stars at exascale requires HIP solutions

As GPU architectures have become the standard for scientific computing, application teams have had to retrofit their scientific codes to run on new systems. Even teams with codes that have been re-engineered for GPUs must continually adapt them for new architectures.

Critics who say online gaming is 'just a game' completely miss the point

Now more than ever before, the stakes are getting higher in professional gaming. E-sports should be taken seriously as both an occupation and a form of leisure. Riot Games, the developers of desktop juggernaut League of Legends, is even taking the game into Monday Night Football territory with its own weekday broadcast of the game's major tournament.

Electrical transients quantify charge loss in solar cells

Solar cells are photovoltaic devices that convert light to electricity. During the photoelectric conversion process, a photovoltaic device internally undergoes multiple charge-carrier dynamics processes. These internal charge-carrier processes intrinsically dominate the performance of a photovoltaic device itself.

'Call of Duty' sets its sights on 'Fortnite,' domination of battle royale video games

Activision is not just dipping its toes into the popular battle royale video game category. The Call of Duty publisher is jumping in, fully committed to take on current favorites "Fortnite" and "Apex Legends."

2K reunites with NFL to make football video games

Video game publisher 2K is back to working with the NFL, although it comes with a significant catch.

Have to work from home? 5 quick things you can do to prepare your space

So you've just been told to work at home, and now you're wondering how to get it done.

Comcast, AT&T and others easing broadband for at-home workers

Broadband companies are making it easier and cheaper to work at home in the COVID-19 era.

Advanced series of more robust drones are teaching themselves how to fly

Drones, specifically quadcopters, are an adaptable lot. They've been used to assess damage after disasters, deliver ropes and life-jackets in areas too dangerous for ground-based rescuers, survey buildings on fire and deliver medical specimens.

Buffed-up avatars deter us from exercising hard

If you've ever played an immersive game using virtual reality (VR) technology, you'll be familiar with the concept of customising an avatar to represent you. Most people design an aspirational, buffed-up version of themselves, but new research from the University of Bath suggests you should temper your vanity when the game is for fitness, as your performance improves when they compete against an avatar that more closely matches your authentic self.

Employers navigate virus pandemic without firm guidelines

It started with extra hand sanitizer and wipes for keyboards and headphones. Then came the directive for employees to lug their laptops home every night just in case. Finally, the memo arrived urging all employees to work from home—just not in their pajamas.

Tax on internet ads gets traction in Maryland

A measure to make Maryland the first state in the nation to tax companies like Facebook and Google for money they make from digital ads on the internet is making steps forward in the state's legislature.

Disney closes US and Paris theme parks, delays 'Mulan' over virus

Disney will close its giant theme parks in Florida, California and Paris and pull the releases of major blockbusters including "Mulan" over the coronavirus, it announced Thursday.

'Opinion-mining' algorithm summarizes social media sentiments automatically

Documents that express an opinion abound, especially in the so-called web 2.0 era of social media and social networking. Jae-Young Chang of the Department of Computer Engineering at Hansung University, in Seoul, South Korea, suggests that there is a need to find ways to summarize their contents for a wide range of applications.

British Airways to cut jobs over coronavirus: CEO

British Airways will cut jobs after the coronavirus pandemic devastated demand for global air travel, its chief executive Alex Cruz said Friday.

US airlines ground more planes as travel crisis deepens

US airlines announced additional steps Friday to ground planes and curtail executive pay as they prepare for an unprecedentedly bad travel market in the near-term.

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