Science X Newsletter Monday, May 4

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 4, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Exciton resonance tuning of an atomically thin lens

Arctic 'shorefast' sea ice threatened by climate change, study finds

Malaria risk is highest in early evening, study finds

Scholes finds novel magnetic field effect in diamagnetic molecules

Microorganisms in parched regions extract needed water from colonized rocks

Research shows how park-like tsunami defenses can provide a sustainable alternative to towering seawalls

Research investigates extreme blazar 2WHSP J073326.7+515354

New call to examine old narratives: Infectious disease modeling study casts doubt on the Justinianic Plague's impact

Tree trunks take a licking as koalas source water

AI-supported test for very early signs of glaucoma progression

Software flaws often first reported on social media networks, researchers find

Last supper: Fish use sharp barbs and spines to fight off hungry seals

Scientists take a step closer to heat-tolerant wheat

Shrinking snowcaps fuel harmful algal blooms in Arabian sea

Exercise boosts motor skill learning via changes in brain's transmitters

Physics news

Exciton resonance tuning of an atomically thin lens

Since the development of diffractive optical elements in the 1970s, researchers have increasingly uncovered sophisticated fundamental principles of optics to replace the existing bulky optical elements with thin and lightweight counterparts. The attempts have recently resulted in nanophotonic metasurfaces that contain flat optics made of dense arrays of metal or semiconductor nanostructures. Such structures can effectively control the local light scattering phase and amplitude based on plasmonic or Mie resonances. Scientists have studied the two types of resonances to realize small-form-factor optics that deliver multifunctionality and control across the light field. While such metasurface functions have remained static, it is highly desirable to achieve dynamic control for emerging photonic applications such as light direction and ranging (LIDAR) for 3-dimensional (3-D) mapping. Plasmonic and Mie resonances only offer weak electrical tunability, but decades of research on optical modulation describe exciton manipulation to be stronger to control optical properties of a material.

Scientists use phononic crystals to make dynamic acoustic tweezers

Acoustic tweezers are a powerful tool for contactless manipulation of particles and cells using acoustic radiation forces (ARF) generated by the transfer of acoustic wave momentum. They play an important role in display technology, biomedical sensors, imaging devices, diagnostic and others.

Print your own laboratory-grade microscope for US$18

For the first time, labs around the world can 3-D print their own precision microscopes to analyse samples and detect diseases, thanks to an open-source design created at the University of Bath.

Blood flows could be more turbulent than previously expected

Blood flow in the human body is generally assumed to be smooth due to its low speed and high viscosity. Unsteadiness in blood flow is linked to various cardiovascular diseases and has been shown to promote dysfunction and inflammation in the inner layer of blood vessels, the endothelium. In turn, this can lead to the development of arteriosclerosis—a leading cause of death worldwide—where arterial pathways in the body narrow due to plaque buildup. However, the source of this unsteadiness is not well understood. Now, IST Austria professor Björn Hof, together with an international team of researchers, has shown that pulsating blood flows, such as those from our heart, react strongly to geometric irregularities in vessels (such as plaque buildup) and cause much higher levels of velocity fluctuations than previously expected. The research could have implications on how we study blood flow related diseases in the future.

To make an atom-sized machine, you need a quantum mechanic

Here's a new chapter in the story of the miniaturisation of machines: researchers in a laboratory in Singapore have shown that a single atom can function as either an engine or a fridge. Such a device could be engineered into future computers and fuel cells to control energy flows.

Astronomy and Space news

Research investigates extreme blazar 2WHSP J073326.7+515354

In a new study published April 23 on, Spanish astronomers have reported on an extreme blazar known as 2WHSP J073326.7+515354. Results of the research reveal the distance to this source and provide essential information about the stellar population of its host galaxy.

Astrobiologists put Mars Rover life-detecting equipment to the test

Scientists have used the same methods that will soon be used to search for evidence of life on Mars to look for evidence of the earliest forms of life on Earth at a location in South Australia.

Alternative Earths: Characterizing the Earth during different stages of its 4.5-billion-year existence

Three billion years ago, Earth was a very different place. The sun that shone on its oceans and continents was not as bright as it is today, and rather than the oxygen-rich atmosphere humans need to survive, methane played a much bigger role in the gas layer that encased our young planet. Despite their differences, this early Earth and our current one have something important in common: they could both support life.

Radio burst inside Milky Way may give clues about fast radio bursts

Radio observatories around the world have reported capturing a unique event—a strong, millisecond-long burst of radio waves coming from a type of neutron star inside the Milky Way. Because of its strength, space scientists are hoping that further study will show that it was a fast radio burst (FRB) emanating from within our own galaxy—if so, a great mystery might soon be solved—their source.

NASA's Perseverance rover will look at Mars through these eyes

When it launches this summer, NASA's Perseverance rover will have the most advanced pair of "eyes" ever sent to the Red Planet's surface: Its Mastcam-Z instrument packs a next-gen zoom capability that will help the mission make 3-D imagery more easily. Rover operators, who carefully plan out each driving route and each movement of a rover's robotic arm, view these stereo images through 3-D goggles to see the contours of the landscape.

NASA, SpaceX target historic spaceflight despite pandemic

NASA and SpaceX said Friday they were pressing ahead with plans to launch astronauts to space from US soil for the first time in nearly a decade later on this month, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Image: Hubble spots stretching spiral

This sparkling spiral galaxy looks almost stretched across the sky in this new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Known as NGC 4100, the galaxy boasts a neat spiral structure and swirling arms speckled with the bright blue hue of newly formed stars.

Technology news

Software flaws often first reported on social media networks, researchers find

Software vulnerabilities are more likely to be discussed on social media before they're revealed on a government reporting site, a practice that could pose a national security threat, according to computer scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

FitByte uses sensors on eyeglasses to automatically monitor diet

Food plays a big role in our health, and for that reason many people trying to improve their diet often track what they eat. A new wearable from researchers in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science helps wearers track their food habits with high fidelity.

Solar and wind energy sites mapped globally for the first time

Researchers at the University of Southampton have mapped the global locations of major renewable energy sites, providing a valuable resource to help assess their potential environmental impact.

Studies with single-crystal electrodes can speed up design of new battery systems

The diamonds and other crystals on view in science museum exhibits are a delight to the eye. What contributes to their sometimes dazzling geometric shapes and colors is their highly ordered arrangement of atoms. For the crystalline materials in battery electrodes, their ordered microstructure has practical benefits for ease of the ion transfer within the electrode during charge and discharge.

Robot vacuum cleaner conveys seven dwarf personalities by movement alone

Oregon State University College of Engineering researchers used a vacuum cleaner and the personalities of three of the Seven Dwarfs from Snow White to demonstrate that people can correctly infer a robot's personality solely by how it moves.

How many jobs do robots really replace?

In many parts of the U.S., robots have been replacing workers over the last few decades. But to what extent, really? Some technologists have forecast that automation will lead to a future without work, while other observers have been more skeptical about such scenarios.

Solar, wind energy struggle as coronavirus takes toll

The U.S. renewable energy industry is reeling from the new coronavirus pandemic, which has delayed construction, put thousands of skilled laborers out of work and sowed doubts about solar and wind projects on the drawing board.

Robots and cameras: China's sci-fi quarantine watch

Robots delivering meals, ghostly figures in hazmat suits and cameras pointed at front doors: China's methods to enforce coronavirus quarantines have looked like a sci-fi dystopia for legions of people.

A big comeback for a little switch

Carnegie Mellon University collaborators are developing reliable, mechanical switches the size of a DNA molecule.

Developing AI robots for healthcare

A robot that can measure the body temperature of people, for example in the waiting rooms of the hospital, is under development by researchers at Umeå University and the University Hospital of Umeå.

Contact tracing apps: What they should learn from fitness trackers

Contact tracing has long been used in response to disease outbreaks. It is simply the idea of asking an infected person who they have been in contact with and then notifying the people in question to try and control the spread of the disease. Some countries have been employing this during the current crisis. The World Health Organisation has consistently said that "tracing every contact must be the backbone of the response in every country."

AI enhancement for printed circuit boards

Without printed circuit boards (PCBs), there would never have been an electronics revolution. A PCB is the platform upon which minuscule electronic components interact with one another. Today, PCBs are found in an ever-greater number of increasingly complex applications. This has led to increasingly stringent requirements with regard to design and quality assurance. It is vital, for example, to avoid any electrical interference and ensure electromagnetic compatibility. The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT has developed a modular AI platform to optimize the design and testing of PCBs, thereby reducing the requisite outlay by as much as 20 percent.

Plastic camshaft module reduces carbon dioxide emissions

Plastic in cars reduces their weight. Currently, however, camshaft modules, which are a key component of powertrains, are still being made from aluminum. Now, a research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT, in collaboration with their partners, has succeeded in manufacturing a camshaft module from fiber-reinforced thermoset polymers. This lightweight design element helps lower engine weight and reduces assembly costs. It is currently available as a functional demonstrator.

Realistic lab tests for e-vehicle batteries

Thorough testing is paramount to the safety and reliability of the batteries that power electric vehicles. However, the lab tests conducted to date have been anything but realistic. Fraunhofer researchers have developed a new type of testing environment that combines physical components with mathematical simulations of vehicles. This setup is the first to enable lab trials under real-world conditions.

Biofuel for ships: Diesel and gasoline sourced from renewables

The combustion of conventional fossil fuels accounts for a large share of global CO2 emissions. A great deal of criticism is levelled against cruise and merchant ships for polluting the environment with sooty waste gas and toxic heavy fuels. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen have been looking into alternative climate-friendly fuels. They are now able to produce a renewable biofuel that can be converted into gasoline, diesel and even kerosene for aircraft. This synthetic fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent compared to fossil fuel. It also produces less soot emissions.

Using an app to identify components

AI methods have long been successfully used in image processing with great success. Neural networks recognize everyday objects with greater accuracy than humans. Research teams at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK employ these capabilities and adapt the algorithms for use in industrial applications. For instance, an app enables individual components with no barcode to be unambiguously identified within seconds. The potential of neural networks will benefit particularly logistics companies, which can use them to speed up their incoming goods processes.

Zoom security: Here's what you need to know

The video conferencing app Zoom gained about 2 million new users in the first two months of 2020—and that was before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. With so many people now relying on video conferencing for contact with their friends, family and colleagues, it's no wonder Zoom has seen a significant increase in its company stock price. But the firm has also attracted some negative press recently for issues related to its privacy and security.

Saving energy and lives: How a solar chimney can boost fire safety

A must-have in green building design, solar chimneys can slash energy costs up to 50%. Now research reveals they could also help save lives in a building fire.

How Marco Polo botched its app upgrade and ended up with 1 star reviews

Want a lesson in how not to launch a premium version of a free app?

European virus tracing apps highlight battle for privacy

Goodbye lockdown, hello smartphone.

Uber ends Eats delivery in seven markets in strategic pullback

Uber said Monday it would discontinue its Uber Eats restaurant delivery service in seven markets next month as part of a strategic shift for the ride-hailing service, which is struggling with a new economic landscape.

Intel buys Israeli urban mobility startup Moovit for $900M

Intel said Monday that it has purchased Israeli urban mobility startup Moovit for $900 million.

Game world star PewDiePie signs exclusive deal with YouTube

YouTube on Monday announced that streaming star PewDiePie will make the Google-owned video platform his exclusive online stage.

Lufthansa hopeful on deal for German state aid

Europe's biggest airline group Lufthansa said Sunday it was close to a deal with the German government on state aid to ease the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Virus impact puts thousands of jobs risk at Rolls-Royce

Thousands of jobs could be at risk at British aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, which on Sunday said it was in talks with unions about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on operations.

EU approves 7 bln euros in French state aid to Air France

The European Commission on Monday gave the green light to 7.0 billion euros ($7.7 billion) in French state aid to national carrier Air France to cushion the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Southwest Airlines CEO says it's safe to fly again

The CEO of Southwest Airlines, one of the largest US air companies, insisted Sunday that travelers could again fly in safety and added that air traffic, nearly paralyzed by the coronavirus pandemic, was gradually reviving.

Study eyes manufacturer agility during COVID-19

Some Ontario beer companies are pumping out pallets full of disinfectant. High-end clothing companies are stitching hospital gowns. An airbag factory has retooled to produce surgical scrubwear.

Air Canada's Q1 loss surpasses Can $1 bn

Air Canada on Monday announced a loss of more than Can $1 billion (US $710 million) in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic shut down air travel worldwide.

France refuses coronavirus funds to Amazon in labour dispute

France's labour ministry said Monday that it denied a request by Amazon for emergency funds to pay employees during the coronavirus crisis, after the US giant shut its warehouses over a court order to sell only essential items.

Air France makes masks compulsory for passengers

French flag-carrier Air France on Monday announced that masks would be compulsory on its flights from next week as France emerges from its lockdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

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Magic Keyboard comes to new 13-inch MacBook Pro

Plus, here's how lifting coronavirus quarantines will work and deepfake tech's biggest threat to the 2020 US election isn't what you'd think.
May 4, 2020
Apple announced an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro, which moves away from the troublesome butterfly keyboard to the new Magic Keyboard. It also gets a storage boost and adds the latest 10th-gen Intel processor.
Jason Hiner Jason Hiner
Editorial Director, CNET
New MacBook Pro gets Magic Keyboard and more storage
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