Science X Newsletter Thursday, Apr 2

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 2, 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

A design strategy to produce stable and high-energy aqueous zinc-manganese dioxide batteries

Bioengineering biomimetic human small muscular pulmonary arteries

Technique reveals how crystals form on surfaces

Turning cells into computers with protein logic gates

Experiments lead to slip law for better forecasts of glacier speed, sea-level rise

A new way to fine-tune exotic materials: Thin, stretch and clamp

Study shows six decades of change in plankton communities

Scientists develop 'backpack' computers to track wild animals in hard-to-reach habitats

Understanding how protein tau moves between neurons yields insight into treatments for neurodegenerative diseases

Study offers new insight into the impact of ancient migrations on the European landscape

Study finds fish have diverse, distinct gut microbiomes

Discovery of life in solid rock deep beneath sea may inspire new search for life on Mars

Geneticists are bringing personal medicine closer for multiracial individuals

Study finds no media bias when it comes to story selection

Study: Niacin may help immune system battle a deadly brain tumor

Physics news

A new way to fine-tune exotic materials: Thin, stretch and clamp

One way to change the properties of a material is to stretch it just a wee bit, so its atoms are farther apart but the bonds between them don't break. This extra distance affects the behavior of electrons, which determine whether the material is an insulator or a conductor of electricity, for instance.

How tiny water droplets form can have a big impact on climate models

Droplets and bubbles are formed nearly everywhere, from boiling our morning coffee, to complex industrial processes and even volcanic eruptions. New research from SINTEF and NTNU in Norway, improves our understanding of how these bubbles and droplets form. This could improve our ability to model climate change.

Scientists tap into AI to put a new spin on neutron experiments

Scientists seek to use quantum materials—those that have correlated order at the subatomic level—for electronic devices, quantum computers, and superconductors. Quantum materials owe many of their properties to the physics that is occurring on the smallest scales, physics that is fully quantum mechanical.

Does relativity lie at the source of quantum exoticism?

Since its beginnings, quantum mechanics hasn't ceased to amaze us with its peculiarity, so difficult to understand. Why does one particle seem to pass through two slits simultaneously? Why, instead of specific predictions, can we only talk about evolution of probabilities? According to theorists from universities in Warsaw and Oxford, the most important features of the quantum world may result from the special theory of relativity, which until now seemed to have little to do with quantum mechanics.

Making the invisible visible: Entangled photons for imaging and measurement techniques

Entangled photons can be used to improve imaging and measurement techniques. A team of researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena has developed a quantum imaging solution that can facilitate highly detailed insights into tissue samples using extreme spectral ranges and less light.

Researchers unveil the universal properties of active turbulence

Turbulent flows are chaotic yet feature universal statistical properties.Over the recent years, seemingly turbulent flows have been discovered in active fluids such as bacterial suspensions, epithelial cell monolayers, and mixtures of biopolymers and molecular motors. In a new study published in Nature Physics, researchers from the University of Barcelona, Princeton University and Coll├Ęge de France have shown that the chaotic flows in active nematic fluids are described by distinct universal scaling laws.

Astronomy and Space news

Rodents and a rocket carried these researchers' dreams to space

The human body evolved within the constant force of Earth's gravity. To prevent bone and muscle atrophy during their stays in space, astronauts must exercise every day. For researchers studying bone or muscle loss that might be caused by diseases, aging or a sedentary lifestyle, the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station is a unique place to perform experiments that can help us understand how the body works.

The man who wanted to fly on Mars: The story of Mars Helicopter's chief engineer

The Mars Helicopter is riding to the Red Planet this summer with NASA's Perseverance rover. The helicopter's chief engineer, Bob Balaram, shares the saga of how it came into being.

Image: Hypersonic surfing simulation

Simulating the test flight of a hypersonic glider, being developed through the international HEXAFLY-INT collaboration, involving partners across Europe, Russia, Australia and Brazil and supported by the European Commission and ESA.

Technology news

A design strategy to produce stable and high-energy aqueous zinc-manganese dioxide batteries

The global demand for rechargeable batteries has grown exponentially over the past decade or so, as they are needed to power the increasing numbers of portable electronic devices such as smart phones, laptops, tablets, smart watches and fitness trackers. To work most efficiently, rechargeable batteries should have a high energy density, yet they should also be safe, stable and environmentally friendly.

Zoom has another security flaw

Researchers at a company called Bleeping Computer have exposed another security flaw with the conferencing application Zoom—one that allows hackers to steal user passwords. The vulnerability in the software application comes at a time when its popularity has skyrocketed as employees use it to work from home due to the ongoing global pandemic.

SoftBank Group drops $3 bn WeWork tender offer

Japanese global tech investor SoftBank Group said on Thursday it had terminated a tender offer worth up to $3 billion to acquire shares in US firm WeWork.

Can you fix ventilators? A fuel cell engineer figures it out

It was late when engineer Joe Tavi's boss called with an odd question: Could their company, which makes fuel cells, learn how to fix a ventilator?

Privacy-mad Germany turns to app to track virus spread

Personal data protection is a thorny subject in privacy-loving Germany, but the country is nevertheless considering using a smartphone app to help manage the spread of the new coronavirus.

A dashboard tray that appears and disappears at the wave of a hand

Storage trays in cars can be real dustbowls. But they also fulfill a useful function. Where else to store those sunglasses, paper handkerchiefs or a parking disc? A new type of storage tray, developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU, is concealed in the dashboard and only materializes when needed—a particularly useful feature for car-share vehicles.

The hydrogen factory of the future

Hydrogen is indispensable to successfully transitioning to renewables and meeting climate targets. It is the essential building block of sector coupling. While it provides an ecofriendly option to meet industry demand for electricity, heat and transportation, this versatile energy source is only ecofriendly when it is sourced from renewables. The Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF has a demand-driven, distributed, modular solution that produces and distributes green hydrogen.

Smooth collaboration between humans and robots

Robots are being deployed in more and more situations, many of which involve collaboration between humans and robots—for example relieving humans of onerous tasks in the workplace. The challenges are how to integrate the robot into the working environment and how to operate it. In a joint project with Volkswagen AG the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, HHI, will demonstrate the advantages that the use of human-robot collaboration (HRC) can bring to the inspection of welding seams in the automotive industry.

How to boost your internet speed when everyone is working from home

With #StayAtHome and social distancing now becoming a way of life, an increasing number of people are relying on the internet for work, education and entertainment. This has placed greater demand on our network infrastructure, reducing the bandwidth available for each user, and is leaving people frustrated at seemingly slow internet speeds.

Predicting in-flight air density for more accurate landing

In the final few minutes of a spacecraft landing it is moving at hypersonic speeds through many layers of atmosphere. Knowing the air density outside of the vehicle can have a substantial effect on its angle of descent and ability to hit a specific landing spot. But air density sensors that can withstand the harsh hypersonic conditions are uncommon. A student from The Netherlands, working with an aerospace engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed an algorithm that can run onboard a vehicle, providing important real-time data to aid in steering the craft, particularly during the crucial entry, descent, and landing stage.

Engineers 3-D print face shields for doctors and healthcare workers

Engineers from the University of Sheffield are responding to a national call for help in the fight against coronavirus by 3-D printing face shields for doctors and healthcare workers.

Tracking the spread of disease on social media

For many years, researchers have turned to the public logs of search engine terms to help them track the spread of disease. They can analyze the keywords and phrases that people use and when they become interested in a disease or have symptoms. Much value has been recognized in this kind of disease tracking and it has been used to research influenza outbreaks, the spread of MERS and the Zika virus, and other health problems. At the time of writing, it is approximately three months since we first recognized the emergence of a new coronavirus in China that would ultimately become known as the pathogen to cause the novel pandemic disease, Covid-19.

'Your roots are showing': Photo editing apps surge after salons shut down amid coronavirus

Faith Zellman used the photo editing app Facetune to spruce up her hair since all the salons in town are closed due to the coronavirus.

The impact of coronavirus on public and mass transportation

The fear surrounding coronavirus and the governor's executive order mandating people stay home as much as possible has decimated public transportation in the metro area. Over the past two weeks, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) has experienced drastic drops in ridership, and just last week, RTD voted to slash rail and bus service effective April 19.

Giant umbrellas shift from convenient canopy to sturdy storm shield

A storm nears the coast, stirring up wind and waves. Along the boardwalk that lines the beach, a row of oversize concrete umbrellas begins to tilt downward, transforming from a convenient canopy to a shield against the coming onslaught.

Toyota, China's BYD announced electric car venture

Toyota Motor Co. and Chinese electric automaker BYD Co. announced a partnership Thursday to develop battery-powered vehicles, adding to a flurry of industry tie-ups to share soaring development costs.

Google boosts support for checking coronavirus facts

Google on Thursday said it is pumping $6.5 million into fact-checkers and nonprofits as it ramps up its the battle against coronavirus misinformation.

COVID-19 contact tracing apps: Eight privacy questions governments should ask

As part of their efforts to slow the outbreak of coronavirus, governments, research institutions and industry are developing contact tracing apps to record interactions between people. The apps warn users if one of the people they have been recorded as being in contact with is later diagnosed with COVID-19 so they can take appropriate steps like self-isolation.

Mass manufacture of disposable face shields for Covid-19 response

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to healthcare professionals has become increasingly problematic as Covid-19 cases continue to surge. The sheer volume of PPE needed to keep both doctors and their patients safe in this current crisis is daunting—for example tens of millions of disposable face shields will be needed nationwide each month. This week, a team from MIT launched mass manufacturing of a new technique to meet the high demand for disposable face shields.

Internet can cope with US and Europe lockdown surge: Nokia

Fears that internet networks could buckle after millions of people went into coronavirus lockdown have proven unfounded, according to a report released Thursday which details huge surges in streaming and video conferencing in Europe and the US.

High-tech growing systems bring joy of gardening indoors

Traditionally, growing your own herbs and veggies was reserved for those with the luxury of outdoor space and abundant light.

SXSW partners with Amazon to put its film festival online

The popcorn will be bring your own and the barbecue won't be as good, but the Austin, Texas, SXSW Film Festival is moving online after having its 27th edition canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Automakers report lower Q1 US auto sales on virus hit

Automakers reported lower US sales on Wednesday, with purchases diving in March as the coronavirus pandemic prompted widespread economic closures in much of the country, carmakers reported Wednesday.

Lufthansa puts 87,000 workers on reduced hours

European airline giant Lufthansa said Thursday it has placed 87,000 workers—more than 60 percent of its workforce—on government-backed shorter hours schemes, as air travel idles amid the coronavirus crisis.

Refining acoustic sensors for detecting safe component tolerance

Manufacturers must be able to respond immediately to faults in machinery and equipment, so as to avoid downtime. An acoustic monitoring system by the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Oldenburg recognizes based on noises whether production parameters are within the set limit values. AI-based techniques help manufacturers draw conclusions about the machine condition and optimize production control.

Production systems with human-like senses

Tomorrow's industrial Internet will integrate technologies that imitate human cognitive skills such as the ability to plan, to learn, and to perceive our surroundings. The Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Internet Technologies CCIT is working to realize the vision of a Cognitive Internet of Things.

Global air passenger demand sees steepest decline since 9/11: IATA

The coronavirus pandemic sent global air passenger demand plunging 14 percent in February, marking the steepest decline in traffic since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the global aviation association said Thursday.

Boeing announces voluntary layoff plan

Boeing unveiled a voluntary worker layoff program Thursday, telling employees that it hoped to avoid "other workforce actions" as the aviation industry reels from the coronavirus crisis.

British Airways temporarily lays off 28,000 staff: union

Flagship airline British Airways will temporarily lay off 28,000 employees, or 60 percent of its workforce, due to the coronavirus crisis which is paralysing the sector, trade union Unite announced Thursday.

Arizona justices uphold Phoenix airport's Uber, Lyft fees

Arizona's high court on Thursday upheld a $4 pickup and drop-off fee that led Uber and Lyft to threaten to stop serving the Phoenix airport, one of the busiest in the nation.

Temperature checks, masks new norm for Amazon employees

Amazon on Thursday said it is temperature-checking more than 100,000 workers daily and handing out masks as part of ramped-up defenses against the coronavirus pandemic.

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Essential guide to working from home like a pro

No office space? No problem -- all the gear and tips you need to work remotely.
CNET Insider
April 2, 2020
With more people than ever turning their house into their office space, CNET has tips, tricks and buying advice on the gear that can make you more productive, improve your video calls and help you stay safe and healthy.
Jason Hiner Jason Hiner
Editorial Director, CNET
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