Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Apr 1

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 1, 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

Optical data processing benefits from new kind of mobillity

Research: Cancer gene inhibition shows step toward beating neuroblastomas

Traces of ancient rainforest in Antarctica point to a warmer prehistoric world

Scientists see energy gap modulations in a cuprate superconductor

Skull scans reveal evolutionary secrets of fossil brains

Physical force alone spurs gene expression, study reveals

Evolutionary adaptation helped cave bears hibernate, but may have caused extinction

Astronomers perform variability study of the blazar 3FGL J0449.4-4350

Google trains chips to design themselves

Cooperative male dolphins match the tempo of each other's calls

Study finds that Pilates significantly improves blood pressure in young, obese women

Where in the brain does creativity come from? Evidence from jazz musicians

2 meters enough for social distancing? MIT researcher says droplets carrying coronavirus can travel up to 8 meters

Specialized MRI sensor reveals the neurotransmitter's influence on neural activity throughout the brain

Inherited mutation can predispose children to a type of brain tumor

Physics news

Optical data processing benefits from new kind of mobillity

Mode control is essential for optical communications and data processing technologies. Whether it's connections and switches in data transmission lines or some sort of non-reciprocal device for optical circuits, the ability to control, for example, whether the output mode will be even or odd for a given input mode is key. Now, researchers in China and Canada have demonstrated how to achieve efficient optical mode transfer in more compact devices than previously possible by exploiting "exceptional points" with new mobile properties.

Scientists see energy gap modulations in a cuprate superconductor

For years physicists have been trying to decipher the electronic details of high-temperature superconductors. These materials could revolutionize energy transmission and electronics because of their ability to carry electric current with no energy loss when cooled below a certain temperature. Details of "high-Tc" superconductors' microscopic electronic structure could reveal how different phases (states of matter) compete or interact with superconductivity—a state in which like-charged electrons somehow overcome their repulsion to pair up and flow freely. The ultimate goal is to understand how to make these materials act as superconductors without the need for supercooling.

Researchers test the way we understand forces in the universe

A discovery by a team of researchers led by UMass Lowell nuclear physicists could change how atoms are understood by scientists and help explain extreme phenomena in outer space.

3-D laser damage positioned by deep-learning method

Traditional online damage detection schemes can directly detect and characterize damage by imaging optical components. However, due to optical resolution, noise, shadows and reflections, the small-size damage points cannot be inspected accurately.

Models explain changes in cooking meat

Meat is no ordinary solid. Made up of complex networks of moisture-saturated proteins, it displays some intriguing physical properties when it is cooked. Several studies in the past have attempted to recreate this behaviour in computer simulations, but because this demands so much computing power, they have only achieved simplified, one-dimensional recreations of the process, which aren't particularly accurate. In new research published in EPJ Plus, mathematicians led by Dr. Hala Nelson at James Madison University show that by modelling meat as a fluid-saturated matrix of elastic proteins, which are deformed as the fluid moves, cooking behaviours can be simulated more precisely.

BESSY II: Ultra-fast switching of helicity of circularly polarized light pulses

At the BESSY II storage ring, a joint team of accelerator physicists, undulator experts and experimenters has shown how the helicity of circularly polarized synchrotron radiation can be switched faster—up to a million times faster than before. They used an elliptical double-undulator developed at HZB and operated the storage ring in the so-called two-orbit mode. This is a special mode of operation that was only recently developed at BESSY II and provides the basis for fast switching. The ultra-fast change of light helicity is particularly interesting to observe processes in magnetic materials and has long been expected by a large user community.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers perform variability study of the blazar 3FGL J0449.4-4350

Chinese astronomers have conducted a gamma-ray and optical variability analysis of the blazar 3FGL J0449.4-4350. The new research, presented in a paper published March 25 on, reports the detection of possible quasi-periodic oscillation (QPO) from the source and provides more insights into the origin of such behavior.

Density fluctuations in the solar wind based on type III radio bursts

Type III bursts are among the strongest radio signals routinely observed by both space-borne and ground-based instruments. They are generated via the plasma emission mechanism, when beams of suprathermal electrons interact with the ambient plasma, triggering radio emissions at the plasma frequency (the fundamental emission) or at its second harmonic (the harmonic emission). As the electron beams propagate outward from the sun, radio emissions are generated at progressively lower frequencies corresponding to a decreasing ambient solar wind plasma density. Type III bursts can be simultaneously detected over a broad range of longitudes, and their radio sources lie at considerably larger radial distances than predicted by electron density models.

NASA call for astronauts draws 12,000 spaceflight hopefuls

Who wants to be an astronaut? More than 12,000 people do, resulting in NASA's second-largest group of astronaut hopefuls.

SpaceX almost ready to start testing third Starship prototype

For almost a year now, SpaceX has been building a series of Starship prototypes that will test how the system fares when launched to orbit. Coming on the heels of successful hop tests with the Starship Hopper, these tests will validate the spacecraft and its Raptor engines in space. Unfortunately, the company has encountered some hiccups with these prototypes, as the first two exploded during pressure testing.

Technology news

Google trains chips to design themselves

One of the key challenges of computer design is how to pack chips and wiring in the most ergonomic fashion, maintaining power, speed and energy efficiency.

Smartphone videos produce highly realistic 3-D face reconstructions

Normally, it takes pricey equipment and expertise to create an accurate 3-D reconstruction of someone's face that's realistic and doesn't look creepy. Now, Carnegie Mellon University researchers have pulled off the feat using video recorded on an ordinary smartphone.

Uncertain climate future could disrupt energy systems

Extreme weather events—such as severe drought, storms, and heat waves—have been forecast to become more commonplace and are already starting to occur. What has been less studied is the impact on energy systems and how communities can avoid costly disruptions, such as partial or total blackouts.

German plexiglass firm churns out virus shields

Touted as a simple but effective shield against coronavirus infections, transparent screens have sprung up at supermarket tills and pharmacies across Germany. For plexiglass manufacturer Claus Mueller, business has never been better—but no one is celebrating.

Xerox ends hostile bid to buy HP

Xerox on Tuesday dropped its unwelcomed bid to buy computer and printer maker HP for about $36 billion, blaming market turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

French auto sales plummet on virus shock

French new car sales in March plunged more than 72 percent and could be down 20 percent for the full year as the coronavirus outbreak sinks the market, industry figures showed Wednesday.

StarNEig: Solving dense nonsymmetric standard and generalized eigenvalue problems

What does the design of a building or bridge have in common with an electric circuit or a loudspeaker? Well, if you want it done properly, then you the need ability to solve eigenvalue problems.

Coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a wave of cyber attacks: How to protect yourself

While most of the world is trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems hackers are not on lockdown. Cyber criminals are trying to leverage the emergency by sending out "phishing" attacks that lure internet users to click on malicious links or files. This can allow the hackers to steal sensitive data or even take control of a user's device and use it to direct further attacks.

We analysed electricity demand and found coronavirus has turned weekdays into weekends

The measures to control the spread of COVID-19 are unparalleled, and this is already having an effect on Britain's energy system. There have been massive short-term changes in the past: for instance the temporary imposition of a three-day week in the 1970s may have had an even greater overall effect, but this was due to industrial action in the coal sector affecting the supply of energy. This time, the disruption is on the demand side—the energy is still available, but the demand for it has reduced.

Logistics during COVID-19: Researcher creates an operations model cheat sheet

Where to site COVID-19 testing facilities and how to stock them. How to triage patients and allocate hospital resources. The best ways to manage supply chains for food and other essentials.

Good news for parents: Spotify launches standalone app for kids in the U.S.

Looking for something to keep the kids busy?

Voting on a blockchain

The "blockchain" concept on which cryptocurrencies work might be extrapolated to many other areas of life, such as voting systems, where it's incontrovertible chain of decisions and evidence could ensure validity in a political or other election.

Sprint and T-Mobile merge, creating new wireless giant

Mobile carrier T-Mobile has completed the takeover of smaller rival Sprint, creating a new wireless giant that rivals AT&T and Verizon in size.

Blockchain could transform supply chains, aid in COVID-19 fight

Companies that specialize in moving goods from one place to another are starting to use the technology that powers cryptocurrency to streamline their work, and they say it could help hospitals stay stocked and staffed during pandemics like the one caused by COVID-19.

Out of stock? Students build website to track store inventories amid pandemic

It's an all too common sight these days: long lines, empty shelves, and days of waiting for toilet paper to come back in stock. But as fears around the coronavirus drive essentials off the shelves, two University of Texas students have an idea to help.

Cloud-based electronic system may help first responders better react to natural disasters

Every year natural disasters kill around 90,000 people and affect close to 160 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Such disasters also result in the destruction of the physical environment of the affected people.

WarnerMedia names former Hulu chief Jason Kilar CEO

Jason Kilar, the founding chief executive of Hulu and a former Amazon senior vice president, has been named CEO of WarnerMedia, the company announced Wednesday.

GM, Fiat Chrysler report lower US auto sales on virus hit

General Motors and Fiat Chrysler saw a sharp drop in auto sales in the first quarter, suffering a big hit as the coronavirus pandemic forced shutdowns nationwide, the carmakers reported Wednesday.

Sixty Australian newspapers to stop printing

Rupert Murdoch's Australian flagship media group News Corp announced Wednesday it will stop printing around 60 regional newspapers, as the troubled sector received a fresh blow from a COVID-19 advertising downturn.

Q&A with Jason Hong on scams and other vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact countless aspects of everyday life, CyLab researchers are monitoring its effects on people's cybersecurity and privacy.

Major new study charts course to net zero industrial emissions

A major new study by an interdisciplinary team of researchers finds that it is possible—and critical—to bring industrial greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2070. Published Sunday in Applied Energy, the study assesses the range of technologies and policies interventions available to enable global industry decarbonization. This paper was the result of a collaboration among almost two dozen leading technical experts, led by Jeffrey Rissman of Energy Innovation and coauthored by Dallas Burtraw of REsources for the Future (RFF).

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