Science X Newsletter Monday, Mar 23

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 23, 2020:

Due to an increasing volume of information and news about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have split stories concerning the virus into a separate category in the MedicalXpress daily newsletter. As always, you may configure your email newsletter preferences in your ScienceX account.

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Realizing kagome spin ice in a frustrated intermetallic compound

Neuromorphic controllers to enhance control during landing in micro air vehicles

Evidence for broken time-reversal symmetry in a topological superconductor

V2455 Cyg is a high amplitude Delta Scuti star, new observations suggest

Study suggests daily meditation slows brain aging

Researchers demonstrate the missing link for a quantum internet

Concrete solutions that lower both emissions and air pollution

The growth of an organism rides on a pattern of waves

Even bacteria need their space: Squished cells may shut down photosynthesis

A key development in the drive for energy-efficient electronics

Skulls gone wild: How and why some frogs evolved extreme heads

Researchers investigate how squid communicate in the dark

Ancestor of all animals identified in Australian fossils

New research may help older adults stay physically capable for longer

Advanced 'super-planckian' material exhibits LED-like light when heated

Physics news

Realizing kagome spin ice in a frustrated intermetallic compound

Exotic phases of matter known as spin ices are defined by frustrated spins that obey local "ice rules"—similar to electric dipoles in water ice. Physicists can define ice rules in two-dimensions for in-plane Ising-like spins arranged on a kagome lattice. The ice rules can lead to diverse orders and excitations. In a new report on Science, Kan Zhao and a team in experimental physics, crystallography, and materials and engineering in Germany, the U.S. and the Czech Republic used experimental and theoretical approaches including magnetometry, thermodynamics, neutron scattering and Monte Carlo simulations to establish the HoAgGe crystal as a crystalline system to realize the exotic kagome spin ice state. The setup featured a variety of partially and fully ordered states as well as field-induced phases at low temperatures consistent with the kagome experimental requisites.

Evidence for broken time-reversal symmetry in a topological superconductor

Chiral superconductors are unconventional superconducting materials with distinctive topological properties, in which time-reversal symmetry is broken. Two of the first materials to be identified as chiral superconductors are UPt3 and Sr2RuO4. So far, experimental evidence for broken time-reversal symmetry in both these materials was based primarily on surface measurements collected at a magnetic field equal to zero.

Researchers demonstrate the missing link for a quantum internet

A quantum internet could be used to send unhackable messages, improve the accuracy of GPS, and enable cloud-based quantum computing. For more than twenty years, dreams of creating such a quantum network have remained out of reach in large part because of the difficulty to send quantum signals across large distances without loss.

The growth of an organism rides on a pattern of waves

When an egg cell of almost any sexually reproducing species is fertilized, it sets off a series of waves that ripple across the egg's surface. These waves are produced by billions of activated proteins that surge through the egg's membrane like streams of tiny burrowing sentinels, signaling the egg to start dividing, folding, and dividing again, to form the first cellular seeds of an organism.

A key development in the drive for energy-efficient electronics

Scientists have made a breakthrough in the development of a new generation of electronics that will require less power and generate less heat.

Advanced 'super-planckian' material exhibits LED-like light when heated

Could there be a new kind of light in the universe? Since the late 19th century, scientists have understood that, when heated, all materials emit light in a predictable spectrum of wavelengths. Research published today in Nature Scientific Reports presents a material that emits light when heated that appears to exceed the limits set by that natural law.

Researchers measure one-photon transitions in an unbound electron

The dynamics of electrons change ever so slightly on each interaction with a photon. Physicists at ETH Zurich have now measured such interplay in its arguably purest form—by recording the attosecond-scale time delays associated with one-photon transitions in an unbound electron.

Flat-panel technology could transform antennas, wireless and cell phone communications

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are reinventing the mirror, at least for microwaves, potentially replacing the familiar 3-D dishes and microwave horns we see on rooftops and cell towers with flat panels that are compact, versatile, and better adapted for modern communication technologies.

Researchers observe ultrafast processes of single molecules for the first time

Markus Koch, head of the research group Femtosecond Dynamics at the Institute of Experimental Physics at TU Graz, and his team develop new methods for time-resolved femtosecond laser spectroscopy to investigate ultrafast processes in molecular systems. In 2018 the group demonstrated for the first time that photo-induced processes can be observed inside a helium nanodroplet, a nanometer-sized droplet of superfluid helium that serves as a quantum solvent. For their investigations, the researchers placed a single indium atom inside the droplet and analysed the reaction of the system with the pump-probe principle. The atom was excited with an ultrashort laser pulse, triggering the rearrangement of the helium environment within femtoseconds (10-15 seconds). A time-delayed second laser pulse probed this development and provided information on the behavior of the system.

Ultrafast and broadband perovskite photodetectors for large-dynamic-range imaging

A solution-processed broadband photodetector based on organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite and organic bulk heterojunction has been demonstrated, achieving broadband response spectra up to 1000 nm with a high EQE in the NIR region, an ultrafast response speed of 5.6 ns and a wide linear dynamic range of 191 dB. Encouragingly, due to the high-dynamic-range imaging capacity, high-quality visible-NIR actual imaging is obtained, enabling the accelerated translation of solution-processed photodetector applications from the laboratory to the imaging market

Astronomy and Space news

V2455 Cyg is a high amplitude Delta Scuti star, new observations suggest

Using the Research Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics of Maragha (RIAAM) Observatory, Iranian astronomers have performed new photometric observations of the variable star V2455 Cyg. Results of the observational campaign suggest that the studied object is a high-amplitude Delta Scuti star. The finding is reported in a paper published March 17 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Comet ATLAS may put on quite a show

A comet called Atlas is currently heading toward the sun, and it just might put on a really good show in a couple of months. Discovered last December by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert system in Hawaii (thus the name ATLAS for the comet), the comet has been growing much brighter than experts had predicted. If it manages to hold its shape as it moves nearer to the sun, it could grow brighter than Venus.

Supermassive black holes shortly after the Big Bang: How to seed them

They are billions of times larger than our Sun: how is it possible that, as recently observed, supermassive black holes were already present when the Universe, now 14 billion years old, was "just" 800 million years old? For astrophysicists, the formation of these cosmic monsters in such a short time is a real scientific headache, which raises important questions on the current knowledge of the development of these celestial bodies.

Time symmetry and the laws of physics

If three or more objects move around each other, history cannot be reversed. That is the conclusion of an international team of researchers based on computer simulations of three black holes orbiting each other. The researchers, led by the Dutch astronomer Tjarda Boekholt, publish their findings in the April issue of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

NASA leadership assessing mission impacts of coronavirus

To protect the health and safety of the NASA workforce as the nation responds to coronavirus (COVID-19), agency leadership recently completed the first assessment of work underway across all missions, projects, and programs. The goal was to identify tasks that can be done remotely by employees at home, mission-essential work that must be performed on-site, and on-site work that will be paused.

Star formation project maps nearby interstellar clouds

Astronomers have captured new, detailed maps of three nearby interstellar gas clouds containing regions of ongoing high-mass star formation. The results of this survey, called the Star Formation Project, will help improve our understanding of the star formation process.

Technology news

Neuromorphic controllers to enhance control during landing in micro air vehicles

Flying insects are able to navigate their environments efficiently, processing visual stimuli to avoid obstacles and land safely on a variety of surfaces. Over the past decade or so, research teams worldwide have been trying to replicate these capabilities in autonomous micro air vehicles (MAVs) using mechanisms similar to those observed in insects.

Electric cars better for climate in 95% of the world

Fears that electric cars could actually increase carbon emissions are unfounded in almost all parts of the world, news research shows. Media reports have regularly questioned whether electric cars are really "greener" once emissions from production and generating their electricity are taken into account. But a new study by Radboud University with the universities of Exeter and Cambridge has concluded that electric cars lead to lower carbon emissions overall, even if electricity generation still involves substantial amounts of fossil fuel.

Small, precise and affordable gyroscope for navigating without GPS

A small, inexpensive and highly accurate gyroscope, developed at the University of Michigan, could help drones and autonomous cars stay on track without a GPS signal.

Car audio systems pose greater dangers than texting, pot

So you thought you could block out the 24/7 news coverage of coronavirus by jumping into your car, turning up your music player and enjoying a long, safe drive along a scenic roadway dotted with early spring cherry blossoms and magnolias.

SoftBank to sell up to $41 bn in assets to buy shares, lower debt

SoftBank Group said Monday it would sell up to $41 billion in assets to finance a stock buyback, reduce debts and increase its cash reserves after weeks of heavy losses in its shares.

Facebook aims its Messenger at coronavirus battle

Facebook on Monday began enlisting outside developers to create ways its Messenger service can help health organizations battling the novel coronavirus.

Researchers use 3-D printing, sensors to create models for hydropower testing

Hydropower developers must consider many factors when it comes time to license a new project or renew an existing one: How can environmental impacts be mitigated, including to fish populations? Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have landed a unique solution: using 3-D printing and sensors to create fake fish for turbine testing.

Wearable strain sensor using light transmittance helps measure physical signals better

KAIST researchers have developed a novel wearable strain sensor based on the modulation of optical transmittance of a carbon nanotube (CNT)-embedded elastomer. The sensor is capable of sensitive, stable, and continuous measurement of physical signals. This technology, featured in the March 4th issue of ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces as a front cover article, shows great potential for the detection of subtle human motions and the real-time monitoring of body postures for healthcare applications.

How do you power billions of sensors? By converting waste heat into electricity

Interconnected healthcare and many other future applications will require internet connectivity between billions of sensors. The devices that will enable these applications must be small, flexible, reliable, and environmentally sustainable. Researchers must develop new tools beyond batteries to power these devices, because continually replacing batteries is difficult and expensive.

Coronavirus confinement challenges intelligence services

The home confinement of hundreds of millions of people worldwide to halt coronavirus contagion has presented intelligence services with a challenge: monitoring an explosion in internet traffic, above board and not, even as their own capacity is reduced.

Boeing to suspend production at Washington state complex

Boeing announced Monday it will temporarily halt production at a factory complex in Washington state that manufactures long-distance planes due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Grocery delivery service Instacart to add 300,000 'shoppers'

Grocery delivery service Instacart on Monday announced plans to double the ranks of "shoppers" who fill orders in North America as people hunker down to reduce coronavirus risk.

Shell cuts costs, slashes spending on virus turmoil

Royal Dutch Shell said Monday it will slash costs and capital expenditure by billions of dollars due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic, which has sparked an oil price collapse.

Airbus cancels 2019 dividend, 2020 forecasts due to coronavirus

European aviation giant Airbus said Monday it would cancel the planned dividend payment for 2019 and also abandon its earnings forecasts for the current year because of the economic uncertainty sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

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