Science X Newsletter Thursday, Apr 9

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 9, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Bluetooth signals from your smartphone could automate Covid-19 contact tracing while preserving privacy

Most eccentric known M-dwarf binary system discovered

Astronomers measure wind speed on a brown dwarf

Ancient teeth from Peru hint now-extinct monkeys crossed Atlantic from Africa

Making sense of scents: 3-D videos reveal how the nose detects odor combinations

Researchers develop one-way street for electrons

Long-living tropical trees play outsized role in carbon storage

Sliding walls – a new paradigm for microfluidic devices

World's most complex microparticle: A synthetic that outdoes nature's intricacy

5,000-year-old egg hunt: Research reveals surprising complexity of ancient ostrich egg trade

Vexing Nemo: Motorboat noise makes clownfish stressed and aggressive

3-D-printed corals could improve bioenergy and help coral reefs

COVID-19: Genetic network analysis provides 'snapshot' of pandemic origins

Astronauts leave virus-plagued planet for space station

Black rhinos eavesdrop on the alarm calls of hitchhiking oxpeckers to avoid humans

Physics news

Researchers develop one-way street for electrons

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made a one-way street for electrons that may unlock the ability for devices to process ultra-high-speed wireless data and simultaneously harvest energy for power. The researchers did this by shaping silicon on a microscopic scale to create a funnel, or "ratchet," for electrons.

X-ray vision through the water window

Physicists at ETH Zurich have developed the first high-repetition-rate laser source that produces coherent soft X-rays spanning the entire "water window." That technological breakthrough could enable a broad range of studies in the biological, chemical and material sciences, as well as in physics.

New theory could change the design of future spintronic circuits

The flow of electric charge lies at the heart of electronic circuits. However, electrons also have spin, and flows of electron spin play a vital role in spintronic circuits. These could be essential for our future computing technologies. A current issue with traditional spintronic materials such as magnetic materials is that they are susceptible to electromagnetic fields, which could disrupt spin flows. Therefore, non-magnetic materials that are resistant to these fields are an attractive alternative. Rembert Duine of Eindhoven University of Technology and Utrecht University along with Andreas R├╝ckriegel from Utrecht University have developed a new theory to study spin transport in non-magnetic materials. This theory can help in the design and development of new materials for future spintronic applications.

Charting a course toward quantum simulations of nuclear physics

In nuclear physics, like much of science, detailed theories alone aren't always enough to unlock solid predictions. There are often too many pieces, interacting in complex ways, for researchers to follow the logic of a theory through to its end. It's one reason there are still so many mysteries in nature, including how the universe's basic building blocks coalesce and form stars and galaxies. The same is true in high-energy experiments, in which particles like protons smash together at incredible speeds to create extreme conditions similar to those just after the Big Bang.

Fine-tuning magnetic spin for faster, smaller memory devices

Unlike the magnetic materials used to make a typical memory device, antiferromagnets won't stick to your fridge. That's because the magnetic spins in antiferromagnets are oppositely aligned and cancel each other out.

Broad spectrum: Novel hybrid material proves an efficient photodetector

Digital cameras as well as many other electronic devices need light-sensitive sensors. In order to cater to the increasing demand for optoelectronic components of this kind, industry is searching for new semiconductor materials. They are not only supposed to cover a broad range of wavelengths but should also be inexpensive. A hybrid material, developed in Dresden, fulfills both these requirements. Himani Arora, a physics Ph.D. student at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), demonstrated that this metal-organic framework can be used as a broadband photodetector. As it does not contain any cost-intensive raw materials, it can be produced inexpensively in bulk. 

Scientists use the Tokyo Skytree to test Einstein's theory of general relativity

In another verification of the validity of Einstein's theory of general relativity, published in Nature Photonics, scientists from the RIKEN Center for Advanced Photonics and Cluster for Pioneering Research, with colleagues, have used two finely tuned optical lattice clocks, one at the base and one on the 450-meter observatory floor of Tokyo Skytree, to make new ultraprecise measurements of the time dilation effect predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Ordering of atoms in liquid gallium under pressure

Liquid metals and alloys have exceptional properties that make them suitable for electrical energy storage and generation applications.

Study suggests two novel methods of searching for dark matter by measuring tiny perturbations in fundamental constants

Dark matter, which cannot be physically observed with ordinary instruments, is thought to account for well over half the matter in the Universe, but its properties are still mysterious. One commonly held theory states that it exists as 'clumps' of extremely light particles. When the earth passes through such a clump, the fundamental properties of matter are altered in ways that can be detected if instruments are sensitive enough. Physicists Rees McNally and Tanya Zelevinsky from Columbia University, New York, USA, have now published a paper in EPJ D proposing two new methods of looking for such perturbations and, thus, dark matter. This paper is part of a special issue of the journal on quantum technologies for gravitational physics.

Astronomy and Space news

Most eccentric known M-dwarf binary system discovered

An international team of astronomers has discovered a new M-dwarf binary system as part of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS). The newly found system, designated NGTS J214358.5-380102, turns out to be the most eccentric M-dwarf binary known to date. The finding is detailed in a paper published March 31 on

Astronomers measure wind speed on a brown dwarf

Astronomers have used the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to make the first measurement of wind speed on a brown dwarf—an object intermediate in mass between a planet and a star.

Astronauts leave virus-plagued planet for space station

Three astronauts flew to the International Space Station on Thursday, departing the virus-plagued planet with little fanfare and no family members at the launch site to bid them farewell.

One express ticket to Jupiter, please

The team from the Desert Fireball Network at Curtin University has found that Earth acted as a slingshot to alter the orbit of a meteor and propel it back into deep outer space near Jupiter.

Technique offers path for biomanufacturing medicines during space flights

An instrument currently aboard the International Space Station could grow E.coli bacteria in space, opening a new path to bio-manufacturing drugs during long term space flights. Research published today in Nature Microgravity used an Earth-bound simulator of the space station instrument to grow E.coli, demonstrating that it can be nurtured with methods that promise to be more suitable for space travel than existing alternatives.

Innovative model of the dynamic magnetic field that surrounds Mercury

Mercury, the planet nearest the sun, shares with Earth the distinction of being one of the two mountainous planets in the solar system with a global magnetic field that shields it from cosmic rays and the solar wind. Now researchers, led by physicist Chuanfei Dong of the Princeton University Center for Heliophysics and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), have developed the first detailed model of the interaction between the magnetized wind and the magnetic field, or magnetosphere, that surrounds the planet—findings that could lead to improved understanding of the stronger field around Earth.

New images reveal fine threads of million-degree plasma woven throughout the Sun's atmosphere

Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) unveil highest-ever resolution images of the Sun from NASA's solar sounding rocket mission

'Houston, we've had a problem': Remembering Apollo 13 at 50

Apollo 13′s astronauts never gave a thought to their mission number as they blasted off for the moon 50 years ago. Even when their oxygen tank ruptured two days later—on April 13.

Image: Bepi before space

Launched in 2018, the BepiColombo spacecraft is due to make its flyby of Earth this Friday 10 April, helping it slow down to allow the Sun's gravity to pull it closer to Mercury. This picture comes from 2014, showing its main Mercury Planetary Orbiter module bathed in simulated sunlight during ground testing, to give an idea of how the spacecraft will be illuminated in space as it passes its homeworld.

Researchers find different evolutionary pathways for two subtypes of contact binaries

Secondary components of W UMa-type contact binaries exhibit an excess in radius and luminosity. Based on these two properties, Ph.D. student ZHANG Xudong, Prof. QIAN Shengbang, and Dr. LIAO Wenping from Yunnan Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences revealed the different evolutionary pathways for A- and W-subtype contact binaries. Overluminosity in the A subtype is because the secondary components evolved from initially more massive stars, while in the W-subtype it is due to energy transfer. The study was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Space station crew dock at ISS after virus-hit build up

A three-man crew docked successfully at the International Space Station Thursday, leaving behind a planet overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

No social distancing in space: New crew greeted with hugs

Three astronauts flew to the International Space Station on Thursday, departing the virus-plagued planet with little fanfare and no family members at the launch site to bid them farewell.

Apollo 13's most famous quotes originated in Hollywood

Apollo 13′s best known quotes originated not in space or Mission Control, but in Hollywood.

Technology news

Bluetooth signals from your smartphone could automate Covid-19 contact tracing while preserving privacy

Imagine you've been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive. Health officials begin contact tracing to contain infections, asking you to identify people with whom you've been in close contact. The obvious people come to mind—your family, your coworkers. But what about the woman ahead of you in line last week at the pharmacy, or the man bagging your groceries? Or any of the other strangers you may have come close to in the past 14 days?

Social media can accurately forecast economic impact of natural disasters—including COVID-19 pandemic

Social media should be used to chart the economic impact and recovery of businesses in countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research published in Nature Communications. University of Bristol scientists describe a 'real time' method accurately trialled across three global natural disasters which could be used to reliably forecast the financial impact of the current global health crisis.

Thanks to 'flexoskeletons,' these insect-inspired robots are faster and cheaper to make

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a new method that doesn't require any special equipment and works in just minutes to create soft, flexible, 3-D-printed robots.

SprayableTech: Large-scale interactive surfaces using airbrushed ink

For decades researchers have envisioned a world where digital user interfaces are seamlessly integrated with the physical environment, until the two are virtually indistinguishable from one another.

Scientists develop a better redox flow battery

USC scientists have developed a new battery that could solve the electricity storage problem constraining widespread use of renewable energy.

Future quantum computers may pose threat to today's most-secure communications

Quantum computers that are exponentially faster than any of our current classical computers and are capable of code-breaking applications could be available in 12 to 15 years, posing major risks to the security of current communications systems, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

Disney+ streaming service hits 50 million users

The Walt Disney Company on Wednesday said its television streaming service has already won 50 million paid subscribers just five months after its launch in the US.

Sheltering consumers shut out of Snapchat for hours

The Snapchat application popular with young smartphone users went offline Wednesday for undetermined reasons, the company said.

Robots may become heroes in war on coronavirus

Long maligned as job-stealers and aspiring overlords, robots are being increasingly relied on as fast, efficient, contagion-proof champions in the war against the deadly coronavirus.

How technology is tackling virus-induced isolation in Norway

Widower Per Leif Rolid lives alone on his farm, a two-hour drive from Oslo. His sense of isolation has mounted with the COVID-19 pandemic, but a simple screen is helping him stay in touch—without requiring any computer know-how.

French regulator orders Google pay copyright fees to media groups

France's competition regulator said Thursday that Google must start paying media groups for displaying their content, ordering it to begin negotiations after refusing for months to comply with Europe's new digital copyright law.

Americans used less energy in 2019

Turning those lights off when you leave has a benefit.

Particle physicists design simplified ventilator for COVID-19 patients

An international team of particle physicists have paused their search for dark matter to focus on the needs of victims of the global pandemic—in particular, their need to breathe.

Air France-KLM sees more than 90% of planes grounded

Air France-KLM passenger numbers plunged nearly 57 percent in March and it expects more than 90 percent of its planes to be grounded this month and in May due to the coronavirus crisis, the group said Thursday.

Q&A with Lorrie Cranor on how the pandemic is affecting individuals' privacy and security

As epidemiologists continue to work to track the spread of the novel coronavirus, millions of Americans are several weeks into a routine of working from home. CyLab researchers believe we're settling into a new paradigm for privacy and cybersecurity.

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