Science X Newsletter Monday, Mar 16

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 16, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A sustainable strategy to manufacture sensors for soft robots

The potential of lucid dreaming and virtual reality to treat combat-related PTSD

A stretchable, compressible sensor for wearable electronics and soft robots

Mechanically controllable nonlinear dielectrics

Binary evolution of the millisecond pulsar SAX J1808.4–3658 investigated by researchers

Scientists can now edit multiple genome fragments at a time

Shifts in deep geologic structure may have magnified great 2011 Japan tsunami

Scientists have discovered the origins of the building blocks of life

Fecal microbiota transplants successfully treat patients with C. difficile

Type 1 diabetes is not one but two distinct conditions, defined by diagnosis age

Ancient mantis-man petroglyph discovered in Iran

Study suggests LEGO bricks could survive in ocean for up to 1,300 years

Human activity affects interactions between plants and seed-dispersing birds

Lack of environmental light may prevent creation of long-term memories

Nanostructured rubber-like material with optimal properties could replace human tissue

Physics news

Mechanically controllable nonlinear dielectrics

Strain-sensitive barium strontium titanate (Bax-Sr1-x-TiO3) perovskite systems are widely used for their superior nonlinear dielectric behaviors. In a new report on Science Advances, D.L. Ko and a research team in materials science and engineering, physics, electronics and information engineering in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the U.S. has developed new heterostructures including paraelectric Ba0.5Sr0.5TiO3 (BSTO) and ferroelectric BaTiO3 (BTO) epitaxially on a flexible muscovite substrate. The application of mechanical force through simple bending regulated the dielectric constant (electric energy potential) for BSTO ranging from -77 to 36%, as well as the channel current of BTO-based ferroelectric field effect transistors, by two orders. Ko et al. studied the detailed mechanism by exploring phase transition and band structure determination to implement phase-field simulations and provide theoretical support. The field opens a new avenue for mechanically controllable components based on high-quality oxide heteroepitaxy.

New low-cost approach detects building deformations with extreme precision in real time

A new camera-based method for measuring building deformations can detect small displacements from 10 meters away. The method could be useful for continuously detecting fast deformations in high-rise buildings, bridges and other large structures with the aim of adapting these structures to external forces.

ORNL neutrons add advanced polarization capability for measuring magnetic materials

Understanding magnetism at its most fundamental level is vital to developing more powerful electronics, but materials with more complex magnetic structures require more complex tools for studying them—powerful tools simply referred to as "neutrons."

New experimental, theoretical evidence identifies jacutingaite as dual-topology insulator

Topological insulators (TIs) are bulk insulating materials that nonetheless exhibit metallic conductivity on their surfaces. This conductivity is guaranteed by the bulk band structure's topology—the surface features these states as long as the symmetry defining the topological index remains the same.

Research team presents novel transmitter for terahertz waves

Terahertz waves are becoming ever more important in science and technology. They enable us to unravel the properties of future materials, test the quality of automotive paint and screen envelopes. But generating these waves is still a challenge. A team at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), TU Dresden and the University of Konstanz has now made significant progress. The researchers have developed a germanium component that generates short terahertz pulses with an advantageous property: the pulses have an extreme broadband spectrum and thus deliver many different terahertz frequencies at the same time. As it has been possible to manufacture the component employing methods already used in the semiconductor industry, the development promises a broad range of applications in research and technology, as the team reports in the journal Light: Science & Applications.

Astronomy & Space news

Binary evolution of the millisecond pulsar SAX J1808.4–3658 investigated by researchers

Astronomers from Australia and Canada have performed a study of an accretion-powered millisecond pulsar known as SAX J1808.4–3658. The new research, provides essential information regarding binary evolution pathway of this system. The findings are detailed in a paper published March 6 on

A new theory of magnetar formation

Magnetars are neutron stars endowed with the strongest magnetic fields observed in the universe, but their origin remains controversial. In a study published in Science Advances, a team of scientists from CEA, Saclay, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA), and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris developed a new and unprecedentedly detailed computer model that can explain the genesis of these gigantic fields through the amplification of pre-existing weak fields when rapidly rotating neutron stars are born in collapsing massive stars. The work opens new avenues to understand the most powerful and most luminous explosions of such stars.

Scientists discover pulsating remains of a star in an eclipsing double star system

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have discovered a pulsating ancient star in a double star system, which will allow them to access important information on the history of how stars like our Sun evolve and eventually die.

Image: Hubble investigates hungry galaxy

The subject of this image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, a spiral galaxy named NGC 1589, was once the scene of a violent bout of cosmic hunger pangs. As astronomers looked on, a poor, hapless star was seemingly torn apart and devoured by the ravenous supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.

Image: Tests complete for Orion

The first Orion spacecraft that will fly around the moon as part of Artemis to return humans to the lunar surface has finished its space-environment tests at NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio, U.S.. The vehicle—that can transport up to four astronauts—consists of the European Service Module, the Crew Module and connecting adapter and all elements have now been given the stamp of approval for spaceflight after being subjected to the vacuum, extreme temperatures and electro-magnetic interference it will encounter during its trip to the moon.

The mission to build a reusable launcher for Europe

The race is on to develop a European reusable rocket that can ensure Europe's autonomous and cost-effective access to space while increasing the sustainability of launches.

Technology news

A sustainable strategy to manufacture sensors for soft robots

A growing number of companies and research groups worldwide are now developing compliant sensors based on composite materials, which can have a wide range of possible applications. Composite materials, those made of two or more substances, often have unique and advantageous properties that differ from those of their individual components.

A stretchable, compressible sensor for wearable electronics and soft robots

Recent technological advances have enabled the development of increasingly sophisticated electronics. Some of these new tools, particularly wearable devices and soft robots, require or can greatly benefit from flexible electronic components, including sensors, actuators and supercapacitators.

Novel inexpensive tactile sensor allows robots to feel

With the help of machine learning, ETH researchers have developed a novel yet low-cost tactile sensor. The sensor measures force distribution at high resolution and with great accuracy, enabling robot arms to grasp sensitive or fragile objects.

Machine-learning technique sharpens prediction of material's mechanical properties

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Brown University have developed new approaches that significantly improve the accuracy of an important material testing technique by harnessing the power of machine learning.

Shining a light on international energy inequality

A new study examines energy inequality for income classes across 86 countries, from highly industrialised to developing ones, revealing extreme disparity in energy footprints, both within nations and globally.

Researchers expose vulnerabilities of password managers

Some commercial password managers may be vulnerable to cyber-attack by fake apps, new research suggests.

Researchers sniff out AI breakthroughs in mammal brains

When you smell an orange, the scent is most likely combined with several others: car exhaust, garbage, flowers, soap. Those smells bind simultaneously to the hundreds of receptors in your brain's olfactory bulb, obscuring one another, yet you can still recognize the smell of an orange, even when it's blended with a totally different pattern of other scents.

Apple to patent snoop-proof screens

Secret digital intrusions into our computers and mobile devices have garnered increasing attention in recent times. But a decidedly lower-tech assault has also been troublesome: shoulder surfing. You know the types: friends, work colleagues and assorted passers-by who walk by you and can't resist quietly peeking over your shoulder at the content of your screen while you're blasting the boss, watching cartoons or recounting last night's passionate encounter with your lover.

Study shows widely used machine learning methods don't work as claimed

Models and algorithms for analyzing complex networks are widely used in research and affect society at large through their applications in online social networks, search engines, and recommender systems. According to a new study, however, one widely used algorithmic approach for modeling these networks is fundamentally flawed, failing to capture important properties of real-world complex networks.

Is Zoom ready for most of America to work online?

Coronavirus is putting remote work to the test.

US airlines slash flights over virus crisis

US airlines have announced drastic reductions in flights after President Donald Trump's administration banned foreign travelers arriving from Europe.

France fines Apple $1.2 billion for anti-competitive acts

French regulators fined Apple 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) on Monday for striking deals to keep prices high, in the biggest-ever such sanction by France's Competition Authority.

Personality plays key role in whether developers can contribute to open source projects

Your personality could significantly impact your ability to contribute to open source projects, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Waterloo.

US health agency suffers cyber-attack during COVID-19 response

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department suffered a cyberattack on its computer system Sunday night during the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to three people familiar with the matter.

US airlines seek billions in aid as outbreak cripples travel

U.S. airlines are asking the federal government for grants, loans and tax relief that could easily top $50 billion to help them recover from a sharp downturn in travel due to the new coronavirus.

Google sibling Verily launches COVID-19 screening website

Google sister company Verily has launched a website to screen people who think they might have COVID-19 and point them to testing sites. But you probably can't use it to get tested quite yet.

Amazon seeks to hire 100,000 to keep up with surge in orders

Amazon said Monday that it needs to hire 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with a crush of orders as the coronavirus spreads and keeps more people at home, shopping online.

Air France says to cut capacity between 70 and 90% over next two months

Air France said Monday it will slash flight capacity by 70-90 percent over the next two months due to the coronavirus outbreak, joining a host of other airlines taking similar action.

European automakers idle plants during virus crisis

European automakers began shutting down factories Monday as governments impose confinement and other measures to curtail the coronavirus outbreak, which is expected to take a heavy toll on national economies.

Lufthansa to slash long-haul capacity by up to 90% over virus

German airline group Lufthansa on Monday said it was slashing its long-haul capacity by 90 percent as the industry grapples with the devastating fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Austrian Airlines says to suspend all flights from Thursday over coronavirus

Austria Airlines, a subsidiary of the Lufthansa group, said Monday that it will suspend all of its regular flights from Thursday owing to a sharp drop in demand stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Global airlines slash almost all flights as virus spreads wings

Major world airlines on Monday axed almost all flights on a temporary basis as the worsening coronavirus crisis sparks travel bans, ravages demand and sends shares into freefall, triggering pleas to help carriers survive.

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