Science X Newsletter Friday, Mar 20

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 20, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A strategy to achieve ultrahigh power and energy density in lithium-ion batteries

How to get conductive gels to stick when wet

Device brings silicon computing power to brain research and prosthetics

Living under pressure: Lessons from the cradle of life

How oceans and atmospheres move heat around on Earth and other planetary bodies

The right dose of geoengineering could reduce climate change risks, study says

Impact of a second Dust Bowl would be felt worldwide

Hidden source of carbon found at the Arctic coast

NASA suspends work on Moon rocket due to virus

Reanalysis of global amphibian crisis study finds important flaws

Wearable biosensors may pave the way for personalized health and wellness

Autism rates declining among wealthy whites, escalating among poor

New study finds immune cells can defend against multiple viruses

Innovative new fabrication approach for reprogrammable photonic circuits

Geologists find lost fragment of ancient continent in Canada's North

Physics news

Innovative new fabrication approach for reprogrammable photonic circuits

Modern society relies on technologies with electronic integrated circuits (IC) at their heart, but these may prove to be less suitable in future applications such as quantum computing and environmental sensing. Photonic integrated circuits (PICs), the light-based equivalent of electronic ICs, are an emerging technology field that can offer lower energy consumption, faster operation, and enhanced performance. However, current PIC fabrication methods lead to large variability between fabricated devices, resulting in limited yield, long delays between the conceptual idea and the working device, and lack of configurability. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have devised a new process for the fabrication of PICs that addresses these critical issues, by creating novel reconfigurable PICs in the same way that the emergence of programmable logic devices transformed IC production in the 1980s.

The power of attraction: Magnets in particle accelerators

In 1820, Hans Christian Oersted gave a demonstration on electricity to a class of advanced students at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Using an early battery prototype, he looked to see what effect an electric current would have on a compass, and since he hadn't had time to test his experiment beforehand, the outcome was just as unknown to him as it was to his students. When he completed the circuit by attaching a single wire to both ends of the battery, the resulting current caused the needle of the compass to line up with the wire, showing that electricity and magnetism were two facets of the same phenomenon.

First ultra-low threshold continuous-wave lasing in GeSn

Transistors in computer chips work electrically, but data can be transmitted more quickly with light. Researchers have therefore been looking for a way to integrate a laser directly into silicon chips for a long time. A team of physicists at the Centre de Nanosciences et de Nanotechnologies (C2N), in collaboration with researchers at Germany's Forschungszentrum J├╝lich (FZJ) and STMicroelectronics, have implemented a new material engineering method to fabricate a laser microdisk in a strained germanium-tin (GeSn) alloy. They have demonstrated the laser device with a group IV compound, compatible with Silicon, operating with ultra-low threshold and under continuous-wave excitation.

Water-balloon physics is high-impact science

Water balloons may seem like a trivial matter. A toy for mischievous kids in summer. But for scientists, the behavior of balls of liquid wrapped in a thin elastic membrane is critical to everything from understanding blood cells to fighting fires.

Tiny double accelerator recycles energy

A team of DESY scientists has built a miniature double particle accelerator that can recycle some of the laser energy fed into the system to boost the energy of the accelerated electrons a second time. The device uses narrowband terahertz radiation which lies between infrared and radio frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum, and a single accelerating tube is just 1.5 centimetres long and 0.79 millimetres in diameter. Dongfang Zhang and his colleagues from the Center for Free-Electron laser Science (CFEL) at DESY present their experimental accelerator in the journal Physical Review X.

One-kilometer breakthrough made in quantum field

A team led by Prof. Guo Guangcan from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and collaborators first realized distribution of high-dimensional orbital angular momentum entanglement over a 1 km few-mode fiber. The result is published in Optica.

Heterostructure and Q-factor engineering for low-threshold and persistent nanowire lasing

Semiconductor nanowire lasers are a crucial component for on-chip integrated optoelectronics. However, silicon-integrated, room-temperature, continuously-operating and electrically-pumped nanowire lasers have not yet been demonstrated. In this work, a method to achieve low-threshold quasi-four-level lasing using indirect-to-direct band scattering is shown. This is enabled by the use of a high-Q cavity, and—using a time-gated interferometry technique—the end-facet reflectivity is directly measured for the first time.

Learning to synthesize: Robust phase retrieval at low photon counts

An artifact-free computational approach to extract the phase of light from noisy intensity signals improves imaging of transparent objects, such as biological cells, under low light conditions. The procedure separates intensity signals into high- and low-frequency spectral channels. Deep neural networks are trained to operate on these two frequency bands, before a final algorithm recombines them into a full-band phase image. This method avoids the tendency of automatic phase extraction programs to over-represent low frequencies.

New mechanism of optical gain in two-dimensional material requires only extremely low input power

Optical gain is a prerequisite for signal amplification in an optical amplifier or laser. It typically requires high levels of current injection in conventional semiconductors. By exploring an intricate balance and conversion of excitons and trions in atomically-thin two-dimensional materials, the authors found a new gain mechanism that requires input power several orders of magnitude lower than in conventional semiconductors. This new gain mechanism could potentially enable lasers to be made with extremely low input power.

Symmetry-enforced three-dimension Dirac phononic crystals

Dirac semimetals are critical states of topologically distinct phases. Such gapless topological states have been accomplished by a band-inversion mechanism, in which the Dirac points can be annihilated pairwise by perturbations without changing the symmetry of the system. Here, scientists in China report an experimental observation of Dirac points that are enforced completely by the crystal symmetry using a nonsymmorphic phononic crystal. Novel topological surface states are demonstrated in their experiments.

On-chip single-mode CdS nanowire laser

In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the integration of active nanowires with on-chip planar waveguides for on-chip light sources. Towards this goal, scientists in China demonstrated a highly compact on-chip single-mode cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanowire laser, by integrating a free-standing CdS nanowire onto a silicon nitride (SiN) photonic chip. The on-chip integration scheme will offer new opportunities for both nanowire photonic devices and on-chip light sources.

O-FIB: Far-field-induced near-field breakdown for direct nanowriting in an atmospheric environment

Lasers are becoming one of the dominant tools in current manufacturing industry. Much effort has been devoted to improving processing accuracy, and spatial resolutions as low as micrometers have been achieved in laser cutting, welding, marking and stereolithography in an atmospheric environment. The femtosecond laser (fs-laser) is a particularly promising approach from this point of view, in addition to its three-dimensional (3-D) processing capability and broad-spectrum material usability. Super-diffraction-limited feature sizes at a level of tens of nanometers based on multiphoton absorption thresholding, shrinkage and stimulation emission depletion effects have also been realized in fs-laser induced photocuring of polymers, which unfortunately are not applicable to solid materials. Optical near-field techniques provide an alternative super-resolution scheme by localizing light fields to nanometer scales with the physical shapes of sharp tips, tiny apertures, nanoparticles and small protrusions. Nevertheless, these approaches often rely on heavy movement and alignment systems to maintain precise probe-substrate spacing for practical fabrication/patterning throughput due to the evanescent nature of the near field.

Astronomy & Space news

NASA suspends work on Moon rocket due to virus

NASA said it has suspended work on building and testing the rocket and capsule for its Artemis manned mission to the Moon due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the community.

Initial findings of artificial impact on asteroid Ryugu

A large team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions across Japan has revealed the age of the asteroid Ryugu and other characteristics by firing a copper ball at its surface. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes what they have learned so far from their attempt to mimic the conditions in which craters form.

Solar energy tracker powers down after 17 years

After nearly two decades, the Sun has set for NASA's SOlar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE), a mission that continued and advanced the agency's 40-year record of measuring solar irradiance and studying its influence on Earth's climate.

Image: Hubble gazes at fluffy-looking galaxy

This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy NGC 4237. Located about 60 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair), NGC 4237 is classified as a flocculent spiral galaxy. This means that its spiral arms are not clearly distinguishable from each other, as in "grand design" spiral galaxies, but are instead patchy and discontinuous. This gives the galaxy a fluffy appearance, somewhat resembling fluffy cotton.

Going stir crazy? Then train like an astronaut, mimic space

Isolated at home? Then train like an astronaut.

Technology news

A strategy to achieve ultrahigh power and energy density in lithium-ion batteries

In recent years, lithium-based batteries have become widely used to power a wide range of electronic devices, including tablets, smart phones and portable computers. These batteries have different compartments, called cells, each of which contains a positive electrode and a negative electrode separated by a chemical known as an electrolyte.

Device brings silicon computing power to brain research and prosthetics

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a new device for connecting the brain directly to silicon-based technologies. While brain-machine interface devices already exist—and are used for prosthetics, disease treatment and brain research—this latest device can record more data while being less intrusive than existing options.

Wearable biosensors may pave the way for personalized health and wellness

Bulky, buzzing and beeping hospital rooms demonstrate that monitoring a patient's health status is an invasive and uncomfortable process, at best, and a dangerous process, at worst. Penn State researchers want to change that and make biosensors that could make health monitoring less bulky, more accurate—and much safer.

Fast Share, Android's answer to Apple's AirDrop, due soon

It appears Google is preparing to roll out a new file sharing feature when it unveils Android 11 later this spring.

Walmart to hire 150,000 workers as virus spreads in US

Walmart plans to hire 150,000 people to meet increased demand during the coronavirus crisis and will pay out $365 million in bonuses, the US retail giant said.

Netflix and YouTube reduce resolution as virus hits web

Netflix and YouTube will reduce the default image quality of streaming video in Europe to ease pressure on the internet, the firms said Friday, as demand soars with millions confined to their homes over coronavirus fears.

Volvo Cars halts Europe, US production

Chinese-owned Swedish auto maker Volvo Cars said Friday it would temporarily halt production at its European and US plants in order to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

One tough power source: Creating a lithium-ion battery that cannot catch fire

The popular myth that a spider is never more than a few feet away is arguably more true of lithium-ion batteries than of arachnids. Powering everything from smartphones and laptops to electronic cigarettes, lithium-ion batteries beat out alternative sources of power because of their top-notch energy density and long life cycle, meaning they can be recharged over and over again before breaking down. Yet for all these advantages, lithium-ion batteries come with a major concern: They can catastrophically ignite when they overheat.

Coronavirus: Telcos are taking steps to meet increased demand at reduced rates

Telecommunication providers are taking positive steps to meet consumers' demands in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the National Broadband Network (NBN Co) is being urged to reduce its wholesale broadband charges for these providers.

Government must address hurdles putting people off electric cars

Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045 respectively. But a variety of initiatives will be required on the part of government, industry and society to achieve this target.

Robopets: Using technology to monitor older adults raises privacy concerns

Social isolation and loneliness are concerns for many older adults, and can be triggered by the need to transition to a condo, rental accommodation, long-term care facility or retirement home.

Once the pandemic is over, we will return to a very different airline industry

The airline industry will wear the scars of the coronavirus pandemic for a very long time.

The battle against disinformation is global

Disinformation-spewing online bots and trolls from halfway around the world are continuing to shape local and national debates by spreading lies online on a massive scale. In 2019, Russia used Facebook to intervene in the internal politics of eight African nations.

Researchers use machine learning to discover coronavirus treatments

Two graduates of the Data Science Institute (DSI) at Columbia University are using computational design to quickly discover treatments for the coronavirus.

For performers in lockdown, online is becoming the new live

There's still a great deal of uncertainty as to what impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the UK's cultural life. More and more people are now choosing to self-isolate and theatres, cinemas, clubs and concert halls are closing down for the duration with talk that an enforced lockdown is ever more imminent.

Computational poetry: How machines create art

The World Poetry Day on 21 March celebrates the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind. While many consider art and math to be two disconnected concepts, the University of Luxembourg excels in interdisciplinarity and sometimes its researchers find unconventional ways of bringing ideas together.

YouTube to promote 'authoritative' virus content on homepage

YouTube has unveiled a fresh effort to stem the spread of coronavirus misinformation with a "news shelf" on its homepage promoting "authoritative content."

Delivery drivers on the frontlines as virus transforms shopping

Monica Ortega has been delivering groceries for three years, but with American life transformed by the coronavirus pandemic and many people staying indoors, her job has never felt more vital.

Welcome to the first social media pandemic. Here are 8 ways you can stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation.

The alarming messages ping our laptops and phones and parachute into our social media feeds, text messages and private chat groups.

Microsoft sees huge boost to Teams with 44 million, with COVID-19 sending workers home

Microsoft Teams has come up with a solution to the problem many of us working at home types are facing. Noise in the background.

Home internet jammed up? Try these steps before upgrading

With so much of the U.S. workforce—and their families—now cooped up at home to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, it's not a huge surprise that home internet is showing the strain.

Former Google engineer agrees to plead guilty to secrets theft

A former Google star engineer charged with stealing trade secrets from its self-driving car program has agreed to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors, according to court documents filed Thursday.

South African Airways grounds international flights till May over virus

South Africa's flag carrier on Friday suspended all international and regional flights until the end of May following a travel ban aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Berkeley lab cosmologists are top contenders in machine learning challenge

In searching for new particles, physicists can lean on theoretical predictions that suggest some good places to look and some good ways to find them: It's like being handed a rough sketch of a needle hidden in a haystack.

Laying the groundwork for autonomous transport networks

With the increased use of connected devices and endpoints where Internet of things devices, satellites and sensors produce constant streams of information, the amount of data collected presents significant challenges. In particular, the use of Big Data analytics in the context of smart cities highlights the need for creating a software system capable of collecting, processing and making use of vast amounts of geographically distributed data. The EU-funded ELASTIC project is addressing exactly this issue and creating a software architecture framework for the efficient distribution of intensive computation functionalities across the edge and cloud.

Air Canada to lay off more than 5,000 flight attendants: union

Air Canada plans to temporarily lay off more than 5,000 flight attendants, due to the new coronavirus pandemic, their union said Friday.

Netflix establishes $100 million virus relief fund

Netflix said Friday it is establishing a $100 million relief fund for workers in the worldwide creative community affected by the coronavirus-caused halt of most film and television production.

S&P warns 1 in 10 US firms may default on debt

A wave of company defaults is likely to sweep the United States and Europe as measures to contain the coronavirus spark a recession, S&P Global Ratings said Friday.

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Shut in, bored? TV, movies, games, and more for everyone

Whether you're cooped up with the family or alone and bored out of your mind, we've got the recommendations to help keep you distracted.
Lockdown Entertainment
March 20, 2020
If you're housebound or, worse, stuck at home with young children, you might currently be struggling to keep yourself entertained. That's why we're sending out this newsletter, packed full of streaming recommendations for these strange times. There's movies, TV shows you might have missed out on and -- perhaps most importantly -- video games you can play with younger children. Enjoy!
Mark Serrels Mark Serrels
Editorial Director, CNET
Cooped  up with the family? Movies to keep everyone happy
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