Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Apr 29

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Spotlight Stories Headlines

A highly performing and efficient e-skin for robotic applications

Quantum autoencoders to denoise quantum measurements

Molecular engineering metal coordination interactions for strong, tough, fast-recovery hydrogels

Marooned on Mesozoic Madagascar: Researchers discover 66-million-year-old 'crazy beast'

HD 38170 is a magnetic B-type star, observations suggest

Spitzer Telescope reveals the precise timing of a black hole dance

Researchers give robotic arms a steady hand for surgeries

Micro-CT scans give clues about how hero shrews' bizarre backbones evolved

Foot feathering in domesticated breeds of pigeons and chickens use same gene regulatory networks

New insights into how genes control courtship and aggression

MRI scanning assists with next generation battery design

Conservation goals may be stymied by a lack of land for biodiversity offsetting

Upcycling spongy plastic foams from shoes, mattresses and insulation

A milder hair dye based on synthetic melanin

New insight into bacterial structure to help fight against superbugs

Physics news

Quantum autoencoders to denoise quantum measurements

Many research groups worldwide are currently trying to develop instruments to collect high-precision measurements, such as atomic clocks or gravimeters. Some of these researchers have tried to achieve this using entangled quantum states, which have a higher sensitivity to quantities than classical or non-entangled states.

Catching nuclear smugglers: Fast algorithm could enable cost-effective detectors at borders

A new algorithm could enable faster, less expensive detection of weapons-grade nuclear materials at borders, quickly differentiating between benign and illicit radiation signatures in the same cargo.

A new machine learning method streamlines particle accelerator operations

Each year, researchers from around the world visit the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to conduct hundreds of experiments in chemistry, materials science, biology and energy research at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser. LCLS creates ultrabright X-rays from high-energy beams of electrons produced in a giant linear particle accelerator.

Frustrated bimeron shows rich and exotic dynamics

Topological spin textures in magnetic systems with exchange frustration, such as skyrmions and bimerons, may show non-trivial topology and exotic dynamics.

How growth of the scientific enterprise influenced a century of quantum physics

Austrian quantum theorist Erwin Schrödinger first used the term "entanglement," in 1935, to describe the mind-bending phenomenon in which the actions of two distant particles are bound up with each other. Entanglement was the kind of thing that could keep Schrödinger awake at night; like his friend Albert Einstein, he thought it cast doubt on quantum mechanics as a viable description of the world. How could it be real?

A quantum approach to imaging and sensor problems faced by biologists and clinicians

A host of diseases—like meningitis, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's disease, even some cancers—are ultimately caused by problems at the cellular level. Hence, understanding what is happening inside cells is essential. Observing cells under a microscope helps, but what medical researchers would really like to do is see processes inside cells in minute detail.

Astronomy and Space news

HD 38170 is a magnetic B-type star, observations suggest

An international team of astronomers has conducted spectropolarimetric observations of four stars identified by the MOBSTER (Magnetic OB[A] Stars with TESS: probing their Evolutionary and Rotational properties) project. The study found that one of the investigated objects is a magnetic B-type star. The finding is detailed in a paper published April 21 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Spitzer Telescope reveals the precise timing of a black hole dance

Black holes aren't stationary in space; in fact, they can be quite active in their movements. But because they are completely dark and can't be observed directly, they're not easy to study. Scientists have finally figured out the precise timing of a complicated dance between two enormous black holes, revealing hidden details about the physical characteristics of these mysterious cosmic objects.

4-billion-year-old nitrogen-containing organic molecules discovered in Martian meteorites

A research team including research scientist Atsuko Kobayashi from the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, and research scientist Mizuho Koike from the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, have found nitrogen-bearing organic material in carbonate minerals in a Martian meteorite. This organic material has most likely been preserved for 4 billion years since Mars' Noachian age. Because carbonate minerals typically precipitate from the groundwater, this finding suggests a wet and organic-rich early Mars, which could have been habitable and favorable for life to start.

Asteroid 1998 OR2 to safely fly past Earth this week

A large near-Earth asteroid will safely pass by our planet on Wednesday morning, providing astronomers with an exceptional opportunity to study the 1.5-mile-wide (2-kilometer-wide) object in great detail.

Newly discovered exoplanet dethrones former king of Kepler-88 planetary system

Our solar system has a king. The planet Jupiter, named for the most powerful god in the Greek pantheon, has bossed around the other planets through its gravitational influence. With twice the mass of Saturn, and 300 times that of Earth, Jupiter's slightest movement is felt by all the other planets. Jupiter is thought to be responsible for the small size of Mars, the presence of the asteroid belt, and a cascade of comets that delivered water to young Earth.

NASA scientists tapped to mature more rugged seismometer system to measure moonquakes

NASA hasn't measured moonquakes since Apollo astronauts deployed a handful of measuring stations at various locations on the lunar surface and discovered unexpectedly that Earth's only natural satellite was far from seismically inactive.

Researchers identify periods in asynchronous polars

A polar is a highly magnetic type of cataclysmic variables containing an accreting white dwarf and a low-mass donor star. Due to the magnetism, the white dwarf would synchronously spin, however, there are still several asynchronous polars well confirmed with their angular velocities of the white dwarfs more or less than their orbital ones.

Technology news

A highly performing and efficient e-skin for robotic applications

Researchers at Technische Universität München in Germany have recently developed an electronic skin that could help to reproduce the human sense of touch in robots. This e-skin, presented in a paper published in MDPI's Sensors journal, requires far less computational power than other existing e-skins and can thus be applied to larger portions of a robot's body.

Researchers give robotic arms a steady hand for surgeries

Steady hands and uninterrupted, sharp vision are critical when performing surgery on delicate structures like the brain or hair-thin blood vessels. While surgical cameras have improved what surgeons see during operative procedures, the "steady hand" remains to be enhanced—new surgical technologies, including sophisticated surgeon-guided robotic hands, cannot prevent accidental injuries when operating close to fragile tissue.

Automating the search for entirely new 'curiosity' algorithms

Driven by an innate curiosity, children pick up new skills as they explore the world and learn from their experience. Computers, by contrast, often get stuck when thrown into new environments.

New material processing steps significantly improve operational stability of hybrid perovskite solar cells

Silicon has long been the conventional material of choice for solar cells, which convert energy from the sun into electricity. However, because light absorption in silicon is inefficient, solar cells made of silicon are thick, heavy, and rigid. Moreover, their manufacturing is complex and expensive. To address these issues, scientists have been trying to find alternatives to silicon.

New privacy threat combines device identification with biometric information

A study by computer scientists at the University of Liverpool has revealed a new privacy threat from devices such as smartphones, smart doorbells and voice assistants that allows cyber attackers to access and combine device identification and biometric information.

Zero-day exploit hits Sophos Firewall XG

Sophos rushed patches to users of its popular XG Firewall network system following reports the company received last week that hackers were actively exploiting an SQL injection vulnerability.

Are salt deposits a solution for nuclear waste disposal?

Around the world, there are pools of water filled with nuclear waste waiting for their final resting place. This is waste that was created from decades of nuclear power generation, and the waste must be handled carefully.

California scales up 1st-in-US electric truck sale proposal

California regulators on Tuesday strengthened a proposed first-in-the-nation rule that would force auto makers to sell more electric delivery vans and work trucks in a state with the country's worst air quality.

Samsung Electronics profit slips on virus, more falls forecast

The world's biggest smartphone maker, Samsung Electronics, said Wednesday that net profits in the first quarter were only slightly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic but warned of further falls to come as demand is "significantly" hit by the disease.

Google parent Alphabet sees growth despite pandemic; shares jump

Google parent Alphabet on Tuesday outshined dim earnings expectations, showing higher revenue and profits despite a coronavirus-induced slowdown in its core digital advertising operations in March.

Singapore launches first drone delivery service

Singapore's first drone delivery service has begun by taking vitamins to a ship, with its operator saying Wednesday the devices are crucial in reducing human contact during the coronavirus pandemic.

Volvo Cars says to cut 1,300 jobs

Chinese-owned Swedish automaker Volvo Cars said Wednesday it was cutting up to 1,300 white-collar jobs in Sweden in a restructuring accelerated by the impact of the new coronavirus.

Google makes its video meeting service free to all

Google on Wednesday made its business videoconferencing service free to all users, ramping up competition for Zoom as people flock online to stay connected during the pandemic.

Making cryptocurrency payments fast and secure

Trading in digital currencies such as Bitcoin or Ether has become an established practice but using them as a payment means is still a slow process. ETH Professor Srdjan Capkun and his team have now developed a system that makes cryptocurrency payments secure, fast and practical.

Automated test bed helps battery stakeholders with residential systems

When National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers began one of the largest-to-date studies of residential battery systems, their first finding was made before any data arrived at the lab: Residential battery stakeholders could find major benefits in working closer together.

UPS to deliver medicine by drone to large Florida retirement community

UPS plans to use drones for deliveries of prescription medicines from a CVS pharmacy to The Villages retirement community in Florida.

Sony will launch 'The Last of Us Part II' in June after parts of video game leaked online

Sony announced it will release the highly-anticipated video game The Last of Us Part II in June after development studio Naughty Dog confirmed parts of the game were leaked online.

Car tech to guard against distracted driving

Distracted driving puts not only drivers on the road at risk but also passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. In 2018, it led to the deaths of 2,841 people, according to the most current data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Pandemic brings fortunes to Amazon—and headaches too

Amazon has spent years honing the business of packing, shipping and delivering millions of products to doorsteps around the world.

Back in black: Spotify profits as subscribers rise despite virus

Music streaming service Spotify said Wednesday it had bounced back into profit during the first quarter, posting growing subscriber numbers as much of the world is in lockdown over the new coronavirus.

Galileo positioning aiding COVID-19 reaction

As European governments plan their phased recoveries from the lockdown states triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the positioning delivered through satellite navigation is becoming more important than ever before. Location is a key requirement when attempting to monitor and map the spread of a disease and satnav is one of the main tools supporting this.

Lyft slashes workforce in face of major hit from pandemic

Lyft said Wednesday it plans to shed nearly a thousand workers to help the ride-sharing group survive the pandemic's hit to its business.

Ford burns up billions of dollars in 1Q, posts $2B net loss

The coronavirus crisis is forcing Ford Motor Co. to burn through cash at an alarming rate, but its chief financial officer says there's enough money to make it through the year —even if U.S. factories aren't restarted.

Daimler sees operating loss ahead in Q2 over virus

German carmaker Daimler warned Wednesday that it would likely make an operating loss in the `second quarter due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Volkswagen sees 'severe' virus impact but no annual loss ahead

German car giant Volkswagen said Wednesday it expects to defy the impact of the coronavirus pandemic with a small operating profit in 2020, although the figure will be "severely" impacted.

Many questions for Boeing as it reports earnings

As it reports first quarter earnings Wednesday, Boeing faces many questions over how it will navigate the coronavirus crisis and its devastating impact on global aviation.

Coronavirus pushes Airbus into Q1 loss

European aviation giant Airbus plunged into the red in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic sparked "the gravest crisis the aerospace industry has ever known", it said Wednesday.

Smarter, lighter exoskeletons to provide better mobility therapy

In health technology, wearable robots are programmable devices designed to mechanically interact with the body of the wearer. Sometimes referred to as exoskeletons, their purpose is to support motor function for people with severe mobility impairments. But market adoption of exoskeletons has been limited due to factors such as the weight of the equipment and the sometimes inaccurate predictions of wearer's movements when walking on uneven ground or approaching an obstacle. However, recent advances in robotics, materials science and artificial intelligence could make these mobility assistance and rehabilitation tools more compact, lightweight and effective for the wearer.

Brain Corp. raises another $36M for mobile robots that clean during pandemic

Brain Corp."s autonomous driving software doesn't power sexy machines. Its mobile operating system instead controls squat, floor scrubbing robots used in supermarkets, malls and airports.

Delta to manufacture mobile hospital care pods for military aircraft

Delta Air Lines plans to manufacture mobile hospital care pods for the U.S. military to fly home deployed members who have contracted the coronavirus.

Report: Uber mulls laying off 20% of its staff as CTO resigns

Executives at Uber are discussing plans to cut about 20% of the company's employees, according to a report by The Information.

Apple's new iPhone SE is just $399—What's to lose? Here's what you need to know.

If Apple's new iPhone is just $399, why not just buy that one, instead of forking over $699, $999 or $1,099 for the bigger iPhone versions?

Air traffic plunges 53% in March: IATA

World air traffic suffered a massive drop of more than half in March compared with the same period last year thanks to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the airline industry's trade body said Wednesday.

BIM & Lean Construction well-established in major firms but lacking within industry's SMEs

The construction industry can be transformed by adoption of the practices termed Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Lean Construction.

Boeing to cut 10% of work force as 1Q revenue, profit slide

Boeing is cutting about 10% of its work force and slowing production of planes to deal with a downturn in business that started with the grounding of its best-selling jet and has accelerated because of the coronavirus pandemic.

GE reports higher profits, sees deeper virus hit in 2Q

General Electric reported higher first-quarter profits Wednesday on a gain from a divestiture, but warned that the current quarter would see a bigger hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers develop world's top-class 400-Gbps optical engine

Researchers in South Korea have developed ultra-fast transmitting/receiving optical engine that can provide stable and improved data transfer speed for data centers.

The new smartband iFeel-You is able to read body temperature and enforce social distancing

A wearable smartband to support people in dealing with COVID19 pandemic at work or in everyday life: this is the prototype, called iFeel-You, that researchers at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia developed using their expertise in designing sensorized suits capable of monitoring human body parameters. The smartband is able to alert users when their body temperature is higher than 37.5 degrees and the distance to another person is too close to be safe.

US cites Amazon's foreign platforms over counterfeit goods

Amazon was placed on a US government "notorious markets" list Wednesday over complaints that it failed to crack down on sales of counterfeit merchandise in five of its global e-commerce platforms.

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