Science X Newsletter Monday, Apr 20

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 20, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Investigating the role of ventral pallidum neurons in the basal ganglia

Highly efficient solution-processed upconversion photodetectors based on quantum dots

Researchers unveil electronics that mimic the human brain in efficient learning

ALMA reveals unusual composition of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov

Origins of human language pathway in the brain at least 25 million years old

Astronomers discover planet that never was

Actin 'avalanches' may make memories stick

Infant temperament predicts personality more than 20 years later

Detached double-lined eclipsing binary detected in the star forming region NGC 2264

Sony eyeing robot friend for game players

Mysterious tuft cells found to play role in pancreatitis

Team unlocks new way to understand evolving strains of SARS-CoV-2

Milky Way could be catapulting stars into its outer halo, astronomers say

People may know the best decision—and not make it: study

Rising carbon dioxide levels will change marine habitats and fish communities

Physics news

Quantum entanglement offers unprecedented precision for GPS and more

Your phone's GPS, the Wi-Fi in your house and communications on aircraft are all powered by radio-frequency, or RF, waves, which carry information from a transmitter at one point to a sensor at another. The sensors interpret this information in different ways. For example, a GPS sensor uses the angle at which it receives an RF wave to determine its own relative location. The more precisely it can measure the angle, the more accurately it can determine location.

Electrical manipulation of magnetic particle allows for large high-speed memory

Researchers have successfully demonstrated a method to switch a novel material between two different nonvolatile states at very high speeds and with great accuracy. The physical constituents of the device in question are significantly robust against external influences such as magnetic fields. These findings could lead to a high-speed and high-capacity memory device with high energy efficiency.

Self-aligning microscope smashes limits of super-resolution microscopy

An ultra-precise microscope that surpasses the limitations of Nobel Prize-winning super-resolution microscopy will let scientists directly measure distances between individual molecules.

Unprecedented 3-D images of live cells plus details of molecules inside

The insides of living cells can be seen in their natural state in greater detail than ever before using a new technique developed by researchers in Japan. This advance should help reveal the complex and fragile biological interactions of medical mysteries, like how stem cells develop or how to deliver drugs more effectively.

Scientists uncover principles of universal self-assembly

For years, researchers have searched for the working principles of self-assembly that can build a cell (a complex biological organism) as well as a crystal (a far simpler inorganic material) in the same way.

Physicists develop approach to increase performance of solar energy

Experimental condensed matter physicists in the Department of Physics at the University of Oklahoma have developed an approach to circumvent a major loss process that currently limits the efficiency of commercial solar cells.

Photonic microwave generation using on-chip optical frequency combs

In our information society, the synthesis, distribution, and processing of radio and microwave signals are ubiquitous in wireless networks, telecommunications, and radars. The current tendency is to use carriers in higher frequency bands, especially with looming bandwidth bottlenecks due to demands for, for example, 5G and the "Internet of Things." 'Microwave photonics,' a combination of microwave engineering and optoelectronics, might offer a solution.

New discovery helps close the gap towards optically-controlled quantum computation

Scientists at Ames Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the University of Alabama Birmingham have discovered a light-induced switching mechanism in a Dirac semimetal. The mechanism establishes a new way to control the topological material, driven by back-and-forth motion of atoms and electrons, which will enable topological transistor and quantum computation using light waves.

Optical coherence tomography shines with a new type of contrast

A diagnostic workhorse, optical coherence tomography (OCT), provides high-resolution 3-D imaging of subsurface tissue structures. Most likely, for your last eye exam, the ophthalmologist took cross-sectional pictures of your dilated eyes to measure the thickness of your retinal layers using OCT.

Cosmic understanding: Identifying distinctive signatures of heavy elements

At the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, in a side room off the ATLAS nuclear particle accelerator, Jason Clark sits on an upper platform to do his work. The cramped space requires head-ducking and watching-your-step to navigate. Particles stream though metal piping weaving in and out of the room. Perched atop that metal platform, a device with a tiny Canadian flag taped to it plucks a single particle from the stream, which Clark then studies to understand the origin of the elements.

Often and little—or rarely and to the maximum?

If we were talking about food, most experts would choose the former, but in the case of energy storage the opposite is true. It turns out that more energy can be stored by charging less often, but right up to 100%.

Astronomy and Space news

ALMA reveals unusual composition of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov

A galactic visitor entered our solar system last year—interstellar comet 2I/Borisov. When astronomers pointed the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) toward the comet on 15 and 16 December 2019, for the first time they directly observed the chemicals stored inside an object from a planetary system other than our own. This research is published online on 20 April 2020 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Astronomers discover planet that never was

What astronomers thought was a planet beyond our solar system has now seemingly vanished from sight, suggesting that what was heralded as one of the first exoplanets to ever be discovered with direct imaging likely never existed.

Detached double-lined eclipsing binary detected in the star forming region NGC 2264

Astronomers have performed a photometric and spectroscopic monitoring campaign of the star-forming region NGC 2264. As a result, they found that this region hosts a detached double-lined eclipsing binary, which comprises two pre-main sequence M dwarfs. The finding is reported in a paper published April 9 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Milky Way could be catapulting stars into its outer halo, astronomers say

Though mighty, the Milky Way and galaxies of similar mass are not without scars chronicling turbulent histories. University of California, Irvine astronomers and others have shown that clusters of supernovas can cause the birth of scattered, eccentrically orbiting suns in outer stellar halos, upending commonly held notions of how star systems have formed and evolved over billions of years.

Interstellar comet 2I/Borisov: Carbon monoxide abundance points to birth around cooler star

Interstellar comet 2I/Borisov is providing a glimpse of another star system's planetary building blocks, using new observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

LIGO and Virgo detectors catch first gravitational wave from binary black hole merger with unequal masses

The expectations of the gravitational-wave research community have been fulfilled: gravitational-wave discoveries are now part of their daily work as they have identified in the past observing run, O3, new gravitational-wave candidates about once a week. But now, the researchers have published a remarkable signal unlike any of those seen before: GW190412 is the first observation of a binary black hole merger where the two black holes have distinctly different masses of about 8 and 30 times that of our Sun. This not only has allowed more precise measurements of the system's astrophysical properties, but it has also enabled the LIGO/Virgo scientists to verify a so far untested prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Giant leap for corporations? The Trump administration wants to mine resources in space, but is it legal?

As the world tries to cope with the challenges of 2020, discussions around the use of mined resources from outer space continue to ratchet up.

Astronomers might have imaged a ringed planet around Proxima Centauri

In 2016, astronomers working for the European Southern Observatory (ESO) confirmed the existence of a terrestrial planet around Earth's closest stellar neighbor—Proxima Centauri. The discovery of this nearby extrasolar planet (Proxima b) caused no shortage of excitement because, in addition to being similar in size to Earth, it was found to orbit within the star's habitable zone (HZ).

A 'bucket full of photons' may yield clues about the Sun's magnetic fields

The first images from the National Science Foundation's 4-meter Inouye Solar Telescope, released in late January, revealed the Sun in jaw-dropping detail. The telescope's size—it is the largest solar telescope in the world—allowed researchers to zoom in on the solar surface at a higher resolution than ever before.

Image: Hubble probes colorful galaxy

This image displays a swirling spiral galaxy named NGC 2906.

Ending global plant tracking, Proba-V assigned new focus

ESA's cubic-metre-sized Proba-V minisatellite will soon end its nearly seven-year global mission to monitor the daily growth of all Earth's vegetation. As Copernicus Sentinel-3 takes on this task instead, Proba-V will be free to perform experimental monitoring over Europe and Africa—including co-observations with new companion missions.

Coronavirus quarantine could provide lessons for future space travel on how regular people weather isolation

I was supposed to travel to "Mars" this month. The plan was to stay two weeks at the Mars Desert Research Station – actually in the Utah desert—to simulate human operations on the red planet. Eight of us were to live in a two-story cylinder, 24 feet in diameter. We would conserve water and put on mock spacesuits every time we ventured outside.

Can high-power microwaves reduce the launch cost of space-bound rockets?

Governments throughout the world use rockets to launch satellites and people into orbit. This currently requires a lot of high-energy fuel, which is 95% of total rocket mass. Because the launch cost of a rocket can reach 10 billion yen, launching a 1-gram payload is said to be the same as buying 1 gram of gold. Minimizing the total cost of launching rockets would maximize the scientific payloads and increase the feasibility of space exploration.

Technology news

Highly efficient solution-processed upconversion photodetectors based on quantum dots

Researchers at ShanghaiTech University, the University of Toronto and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have recently developed new solution-processed upconversion photodetectors, which are a class of devices that can detect or respond to light. These devices, presented in a paper published in Nature Electronics, were fabricated using quantum dots (QDs), which are tiny semiconducting particles that follow the laws of quantum mechanics and thus have several unique properties.

Sony eyeing robot friend for game players

Computer games are often more fun when friends are there to share the experience. A Sony PlayStation team wants to make sure that at times when players don't have their buddies around in person, they can turn to a robot friend for companionship.

Research shows fractals could be pleasing in solar panels

Stress reduction and improved solar electricity could someday come together in an unexpected package, and a University of Oregon study suggests that a new design of eye-pleasing, fractal-patterned rooftop solar panels could deliver the goods.

Australia to make Google and Facebook pay for news content

Global digital platforms Google and Facebook will be forced to pay for news content in Australia, the government said Monday, as the coronavirus pandemic causes a collapse in advertising revenue.

On-the-fly filtering system improves weather sat image alignment

Satellite imagery is a crucial aspect of modern life. For instance, crop growth and yield estimates are partially derived from satellite imagery; likewise, air quality, deforestation, and, of course, the weather. Satellite imaging requires good hardware, like a big mirror on the telescope, a large sensor with lots of pixels, and a nice, stable platform, like the geostationary operational environmental satellites-R (GOES-R).

Need a hug during the coronavirus pandemic? Facebook has a new feel-good reaction for that

Need a reassuring hug during the COVID-19 pandemic? Facebook has a new feel-good reaction for that.

Google confirms it wants to release a debit card

Google is hoping you'd like have a branded debit card to go with your Google Pay account.

Virgin Atlantic may fold without state help: Branson

British tycoon Richard Branson has warned that his part-owned airline Virgin Atlantic will collapse unless it receives financial aid from the UK government to weather the coronavirus crisis.

Norwegian Air cuts 4,700 staff in subsidiary bankruptcy

Norwegian Air said Monday four of its subsidiaries in Denmark and Sweden have filed for bankruptcy, affecting some 4,700 pilots and crew, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Social distancing app uses space to save lives

A free app that helps people observe social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus is about to launch.

Uber expands delivery options for retail, personal items

Uber unveiled plans to expand delivery of groceries and other goods from retailers as part of its response to the global coronavirus lockdowns.

Mind over body: Improving brain-computer interfaces

When people suffer debilitating injuries or illnesses of the nervous system, they sometimes lose the ability to perform tasks normally taken for granted, such as walking, playing music or driving a car. They can imagine doing something, but the injury might block that action from occurring.

Facebook launches app for livestream gaming

Facebook on Monday launched a standalone gaming app, allowing users to create and watch livestreams of games in a challenge to the Amazon-owned Twitch platform.

ANA slashes profit forecast by 71% because of pandemic

Japanese airline ANA Holdings on Monday slashed its annual net profit forecast by 71 percent over massive falls in demand and major cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Australia to go into administration: source

Troubled airline Virgin Australia on Monday moved toward voluntary administration, an AFP source said, becoming the largest airline yet to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

Who's Zooming who? How the coronavirus crisis is finally putting the 'social' into social media

The platforming of our lives on social media apps —like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter —is usually met with criticism. Interactive technologies, like video games and social media, we're told, make us anti-social. Now, as a result of social distancing efforts in response to the coronavirus pandemic, online social networks and video conferencing platforms like Zoom are redefining what it means to be social through our technologies.

Power shortages will remain a big challenge in a post-COVID-19 South Africa

The decline in economic activity precipitated by the spread of COVID-19 and ensuing lockdown in South Africa is also affecting the country's electricity supply dynamics. The power outages that were disrupting the economy just a month earlier are suddenly contained. Electricity demand in the lockdown period has decreased by about 7,500MW, corresponding to almost a quarter of its normal peak capacity.

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