Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Apr 15

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Spotlight Stories Headlines

A quantum metasurface that can simultaneously control multiple properties of light

New research helps explain why the solar wind is hotter than expected

Scientists pinpoint origin of defects that sap potential of next gen solar tech

Closing in on matter-antimatter asymmetry: T2K results restrict possible values of neutrino CP phase

Hot qubits break one of the biggest constraints to practical quantum computers

Carbon nanotubes embedded in leaves detect chemical signals that are produced when a plant is damaged

Major outburst and X-ray pulsations detected from RX J0209.6−7427

Computational origami: A universal method to wrap 3-D curved surfaces with nonstretchable materials

Satellite galaxies of the Milky Way help test dark matter theory

Earth-size, habitable-zone planet found hidden in early NASA Kepler data

Haptics researchers find that the biomechanics of the skin can perform useful tactile computations

Breastfeeding may lead to fewer human viruses in infants

Fossil record analysis hints at evolutionary origins of insects' structural colours

Autism in males linked to defect in brain immune cells, microglia

Transposable elements play an important role in genetic expression and evolution

Physics news

A quantum metasurface that can simultaneously control multiple properties of light

Metasurfaces are artificial materials designed at the nanoscale, which can control the scattering of light with exceptionally high precision. Over the past decade or so, these materials have been used to create a variety of technological tools ranging from sensors to lenses and imaging techniques.

Closing in on matter-antimatter asymmetry: T2K results restrict possible values of neutrino CP phase

The T2K Collaboration has published new results showing the strongest constraint yet on the parameter that governs the breaking of the symmetry between matter and antimatter in neutrino oscillations. Using beams of muon neutrinos and muon antineutrinos, T2K has studied how these particles and antiparticles transition into electron neutrinos and electron antineutrinos, respectively. The parameter governing the matter/antimatter symmetry breaking in neutrino oscillation, called δcp phase, can take a value from -180º to 180º. For the first time, T2K has disfavored almost half of the possible values at the 99.7% (3σ) confidence level, and is starting to reveal a basic property of neutrinos that has not been measured until now. This is an important step on the way to knowing whether or not neutrinos and antineutrinos behave differently. These results, using data collected through 2018, have been published in the multidisciplinary scientific journal, Nature on April 16.

Hot qubits break one of the biggest constraints to practical quantum computers

Most quantum computers being developed around the world will only work at fractions of a degree above absolute zero. That requires multi-million-dollar refrigeration and as soon as you plug them into conventional electronic circuits they'll instantly overheat.

Satellite galaxies of the Milky Way help test dark matter theory

A research team led by physicists at the University of California, Riverside, reports tiny satellite galaxies of the Milky Way can be used to test fundamental properties of "dark matter"—nonluminous material thought to constitute 85% of matter in the universe.

Researchers solve puzzle of Compton scattering: New approach for testing theories in quantum mechanics

When the American physicist Arthur Compton discovered that light waves behave like particles in 1922, and could knock electrons out of atoms during an impact experiment, it was a milestone for quantum mechanics. Five years later, Compton received the Nobel Prize for this discovery. Compton used very shortwave light with high energy for his experiment, which enabled him to neglect the binding energy of the electron to the atomic nucleus. Compton simply assumed for his calculations that the electron rested freely in space.

Method to synthesize high-quality copper oxide crystals for quantum photonics

Copper oxidation generally means tarnished surfaces and corroded electronics. But the compound Cu2O, or cuprous oxide, is a promising material for quantum photonics, optoelectronics and renewable energy technologies. Now, a team of researchers has found a way to synthesize high-quality copper oxide microcrystals.

The Wolfram Physics Project hopes to find fundamental theory of physics

Physicist and entrepreneur Stephen Wolfram has unveiled "The Wolfram Physics Project," which he subtitles "A Project to Find the Fundamental Theory of Physics." The aim of the project is to enlist the assistance of people around the globe to find the fundamental theory of physics—the theory that ties together all of physics, from the general theory of relativity to quantum mechanics. Wolfram has also published several documents on his website that outline the history behind the development of the project. Early in his career, he was a distinguished physicist, but later, left to found a computer company. More recently, he has found a renewed interest in pursuing his ideas about fundamental physics that he believes will lead to the discovery of a fundamental theory.

First of its kind experiment uses diamond anvils to simulate the Earth's core

In an effort to investigate conditions found at the Earth's molten outer core, researchers successfully determined the density of liquid iron and the speed at which sound propagates through it at extremely high pressures. They achieved this with use of a highly specialized diamond anvil that compresses samples, and sophisticated X-ray measurements. Their findings confirm the molten outer core is less dense than liquid iron, and also put values on the discrepancy.

Speeding-up quantum computing using giant atomic ions

Trapped Rydberg ions may be the next step towards scaling up quantum computers to sizes where they can be practically usable, a new study in Nature shows.

Novel tin 'bubbles' spur advances in the development of integrated chips

The use of extreme ultraviolet light sources in making advanced integrated chips has been considered, but their development has been hindered owing to a paucity of efficient laser targets. Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) recently developed an extremely low-density tin 'bubble,' which makes the generation of extreme ultraviolet reliable and low cost. This novel technology paves the way for various applications in electronics and shows potential in biotechnology and cancer therapy.

Questionable stability of dissipative topological models for classical and quantum systems

Energy conservation lies at the core of every physical theory. Effective mathematical models however can feature energy gain and/or loss and thus break the energy conservation law by only capturing the physics of a subsystem. As a result, the Hamiltonian, the function that describes the system's energy, loses an important mathematical property: it is no longer Hermitian. Such non-Hermitian Hamiltonians have successfully described experimental setups for both classical problems—in e.g. some optical systems and electrical circuits—and quantum ones, in modelling the motion of electrons in crystalline solids. In a new paper in EPJ D, physicists Rebekka Koch from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Jan Carl Budich from Technische Universität Dresden, in Germany, describe how these functions provide new insights into behaviour at the edges of topological materials.

Why didn't the universe annihilate itself? Neutrinos may hold the answer

Alysia Marino and Eric Zimmerman, physicists at CU Boulder, have been on the hunt for neutrinos for the last two decades.

Astronomy and Space news

New research helps explain why the solar wind is hotter than expected

When a fire extinguisher is opened, the compressed carbon dioxide forms ice crystals around the nozzle, providing a visual example of the physics principle that gases and plasmas cool as they expand. When our sun expels plasma in the form of solar wind, the wind also cools as it expands through space—but not nearly as much as the laws of physics would predict.

Major outburst and X-ray pulsations detected from RX J0209.6−7427

An international team of astronomers has identified a major outburst and X-ray pulsation from an X-ray binary system known as RX J0209.6−7427. The detection, detailed in a paper published April 6 on the arXiv pre-print server, could shed more light on the nature of this source.

Earth-size, habitable-zone planet found hidden in early NASA Kepler data

A team of transatlantic scientists, using reanalyzed data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, has discovered an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting in its star's habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water.

100th lunar asteroid collision confirmed by second telescope

Since March 2017, ESA's NELIOTA project has been regularly looking out for 'lunar flashes' on the moon, to help us better understand the threat posed by small asteroid impacts. The project detects the flash of light produced when an asteroid collides energetically with the lunar surface, and recently recorded its 100th impact. But this time, it was not the only one watching.

NASA's Curiosity keeps rolling as team operates rover from home

For people who are able to work remotely during this time of social distancing, video conferences and emails have helped bridge the gap. The same holds true for the team behind NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. They're dealing with the same challenges of so many remote workers—quieting the dog, sharing space with partners and family, remembering to step away from the desk from time to time—but with a twist: They're operating on Mars.

Technology news

Scientists pinpoint origin of defects that sap potential of next gen solar tech

In the last decade, perovskites—a diverse range of materials with a specific crystal structure—have emerged as promising alternatives to silicon solar cells, as they are cheaper and greener to manufacture, while achieving a comparable level of efficiency.

Haptics researchers find that the biomechanics of the skin can perform useful tactile computations

As our body's largest and most prominent organ, the skin also provides one of our most fundamental connections to the world around us. From the moment we're born, it is intimately involved in every physical interaction we have.

Tandem solar cell world record: New branch in the NREL chart

A new world-record-setting solar cell developed by HZB combines the semiconductors perovskite and CIGS to a monolithic 'two-terminal' tandem cell. Due to the thin-film technologies used, such tandem cells survive much longer in space and can even be produced on flexible films. The new tandem cell achieves a certified efficiency of 24.16 percent.

Technique harvests waste heat from untapped sources

Thermoelectric materials convert heat to electricity or vice versa. However, their application to harvest waste heat is limited by challenges in fabrication and materials. Finding cost-effective ways to cover large and potentially complex surfaces has remained an issue but is crucial to take advantage of waste heat sources.

Without fanfare, Apple launches new iPhone for the budget-minded

Apple on Wednesday unveiled a new entry-level iPhone, aiming to appeal to consumers facing a suddenly bleak economic backdrop.

As more work from home, Dell unveils new BIOS shield

As millions of employees are suddenly working from home, computer security threats are on the rise. The sudden rush to set up home offices means many users working on insufficiently protected devices are exposing businesses to unprecedented new exposure to malicious hackers.

New iPhone may be coming as locked-down consumers seek bargains

Is now the time to launch a new iPhone?

Virus 'tracing' by smartphone: a key to reopening society?

Can an app contain the pandemic? Interest is growing in smartphone technology as a potential key to ending lockdowns and reopening economies around the world.

Predictability of temporal networks quantified by an entropy-rate-based framework

Networks or graphs are mathematical descriptions of the internal structure between components in a complex system, such as connections between neurons, interactions between proteins, contacts between individuals in a crowd, and interactions between users in online social platforms. The links in most real networks change over time, and such networks are often called temporal networks. The temporality of links encodes the ordering and causality of interactions between nodes and has a profound effect on neural network function, disease propagation, information aggregation and recommendation, emergence of cooperative behavior, and network controllability. Increasing research has focused on mining the patterns in a temporal network and predicting its future evolution using machine learning techniques, especially graph neural networks. However, how to quantify the predictability limit of a temporal network, i.e. the limit that no algorithm can go beyond, is still an open question.

Amazon threatens to halt key French centres after court ruling

Online retailer Amazon warned Wednesday it may be forced to halt activity at its distribution centres and reduce service in France following a court ruling on measures to slow the spread of the new coronavirus among its workers.

Apple data show dramatic impact of virus on movement

Apple has launched a new website that shows with striking graphs how the coronavirus pandemic has slammed the brakes on life around the world.

Open source or closed? For some tech, it really doesn't matter

The tech sector prides itself on taking innovative approaches to product development and problem-solving. Some in the tech sector have embraced the concept of open-source technology, which its supporters say encourages innovation. But does open source allow the tech to spread through the marketplace more quickly?

Algorithm tracker monitors Reddit rankings of COVID posts

On Reddit, which boasts 430 million monthly users, a trustworthy news article about California flattening its coronavirus curve was 77th in the day's recommended posts. Meanwhile, "Socially Distant Drinking Games" was a top-ranked thread.

Alternatives to traditional ventilators could be possible with a 3-D printer and a few simple tools

Like doctors across the country, Benjamin Nicholson, M.D., knows the surge is coming.

A self-healing and self-concealing silicon chip 'fingerprint' for stronger, hardware security

A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has developed a novel technique that allows Physically Unclonable Functions (PUFs) to produce more secure, unique 'fingerprint' outputs at a very low cost. This achievement enhances the level of hardware security even in low-end systems on chips.

CSAIL device lets doctors monitor COVID-19 patients from a distance

Even with the best protocols in place, treating COVID-19 patients is inherently dangerous for health professionals. But what if there was a way to monitor patients from a safe distance?

Small-business tool Square to roll out coronavirus stimulus loan applications

Square, the payment tool many small businesses use to process customers' credit cards, said it will begin rolling out stimulus loan applications to its customers, as part of the U.S. government's Paycheck Protection Program.

Samsung rival OnePlus debuts lower-priced Android phones for 5G video fans and gamers

Would you buy a state-of-the-art phone touting more features than the top-of-the-line iPhone 11 Pro from a company you probably haven't heard of?

EU looks to apps as way of easing virus lockdown

As the EU's economy reels from virus lockdowns, Brussels unveiled a proposed roadmap on Wednesday to ease restrictions on life and businesses, relying in large part on smartphone tracking apps.

World economy working from home gets a glimpse of the virtual future

The lockdown gripping much of the world economy has spurred a real-time stress test of the long-heralded digital future.

New model could improve natural gas demand predictions in New York, other states

Rolling blackouts. Erratic prices. Limited storage for excess energy generated by renewables.

Researchers create tools to help volunteers do the most good after a disaster

In the wake of a disaster, many people want to help. Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Alabama have developed tools to help emergency response and relief managers coordinate volunteer efforts in order to do the most good.

Tech companies step up fight against bad coronavirus info

Potentially dangerous coronavirus misinformation has spread from continent to continent like the pandemic itself, forcing the world's largest tech companies to take unprecedented action to protect public health.

Pentagon: $10B cloud contract that snubbed Amazon was legal

A government watchdog agency said Wednesday the Pentagon's process for awarding a highly lucrative cloud computing contract to Microsoft was in line with legal and government purchasing standards.

Amazon suspends all activity in France amid virus crisis

Amazon said Wednesday it will "temporarily" suspend all activity in France, one day after a French court ruled it wasn't doing enough to protect its workers in the country amid the pandemic.

US Treasury, airlines reach deal on financial aid

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and major US airlines on Tuesday reached an agreement on financial assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic, aiming to keep paying workers and avoid bankruptcies in an industry that employs 750,000 people.

Audi Hungary plant begins tooling up after three-week production halt

The Volkswagen Group's Audi brand restarted operations at its plant in Hungary on Tuesday after halting work last month due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Virus is snarlings supply chains across US, survey says

Almost all US companies surveyed in the last half of March said the coronavirus pandemic would or already had hit their supply chains, and industry association said Tuesday.

Why robots are being trained in self-awareness

Robots passing cognitive tests such as recognising themselves in a mirror and being programmed with a human sense of time are showing how machines are being shaped to become a bigger part of our everyday lives.

What does the Internet look like? A multilayer graph model of the internet topology

What does the Internet look like and how can data be navigated it around it most efficiently and effectively? That is the question that a paper detailing a multilayer graph model of the internet topology could answer. Details are reported in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations.

Future dynamics prediction from short-term time series by anticipated learning machine

Making an accurate prediction based on observed data, in particular from short-term time series, is of much concern in various disciplines— from molecular biology, neuroscience, geoscience, and economics to atmospheric sciences—due to either data availability or time-variant non-stationarity. However, most of existing methods require sufficiently long measurements of time series or a large number of samples, and there is no effective method available for prediction with short-term time-series because of lack of information.

Airlines face uncertain future and need aid fast: IATA

Airlines have been mauled by COVID-19 and the industry has cried out for help from governments to survive a crisis that could cripple a key sector of the economy.

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