Science X Newsletter Monday, May 18

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 18, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A system for robust and efficient wireless power transfer

A system to produce context-aware captions for news images

Investigating neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in perception

Observing the path less traveled boosts quantum gain

Even biodiverse coral reefs still vulnerable to climate change and invasive species

New study records dual hand use in early human relative

Mystery of lava-like flows on Mars solved by scientists

Scientists find brain center that 'profoundly' shuts down pain

Long-term data show hurricanes are getting stronger

New study shows persistence of meltwater biodiversity despite glacier loss

Study traces brain-to-gut connections

Observations shed more light on the nature of symbiotic star EF Aquilae

Physicists offer a new 'spin' on memory

Engineers develop low-cost, high-accuracy GPS-like system for flexible medical robots

Probing materials at deep-Earth conditions to decipher Earth's evolutionary tale

Physics news

A system for robust and efficient wireless power transfer

Current methods for charging electronic devices via wireless technology only work if the overall system parameters are set up to match a specific transfer distance. As a result, these methods are limited to stationary power transfer applications, which means that a device that is receiving power needs to maintain a specific distance from the source supplying it in order for the power transfer to be successful.

Observing the path less traveled boosts quantum gain

When probing the subtle effects of quantum mechanics, all the parameters in the system and its measurements need to be finely tuned to observe the result you are hoping for. So what happens when you gear everything towards detecting what you least expect? Researchers at MIT and Purdue University in the U.S. took just this approach and found they could amplify quantum signals by a factor of 30 while conditionally changing the relative phase of a photon from π/80 to π/2. The results could provide the missing link that nudges a number of quantum network technologies closer to practical use.

Engineers develop first tunable, chip-based 'vortex microlaser' and detector

As computers get more powerful and connected, the amount of data that we send and receive is in a constant race with the technologies that we use to transmit it. Electrons are now proving insufficiently fast and are being replaced by photons as the demand for fiber optic internet cabling and data centers grow.

Quantum hall effect 'reincarnated' in 3-D topological materials

U.S. and German physicists have found surprising evidence that one of the most famous phenomena in modern physics—the quantum Hall effect—is "reincarnated" in topological superconductors that could be used to build fault-tolerant quantum computers.

'Tantalizing' clues about why a mysterious material switches from conductor to insulator

Tantalum disulfide is a mysterious material. According to textbook theory, it should be a conducting metal, but in the real world, it acts like an insulator. Using a scanning tunneling microscope, researchers from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science have taken a high-resolution look at the structure of the material, revealing why it demonstrates this unintuitive behavior.

Physicists develop world's best quantum bits

A team of researchers at UCLA has set a new record for preparing and measuring the quantum bits, or qubits, inside of a quantum computer without error. The techniques they have developed make it easier to build quantum computers that outperform classical computers for important tasks, including the design of new materials and pharmaceuticals. The research is published in the peer-reviewed, online open-access journal, npj Quantum Information, published by Nature and including the exceptional research on quantum information and quantum computing.

No evidence of an influence of dark matter on the force between nuclei

The universe mainly consists of a novel substance and an energy form that are not yet understood. This 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' are not directly visible to the naked eye or through telescopes. Astronomers can only provide proof of their existence indirectly, based on the shape of galaxies and the dynamics of the universe. Dark matter interacts with normal matter via the gravitational force, which also determines the cosmic structures of normal, visible matter.

Research takes electrons for a spin in moving toward more efficient, higher density data

Researchers at New York University and IBM Research have demonstrated a new mechanism involving electron motion in magnetic materials that points to new ways to potentially enhance data storage. The work, reported in the journal Physical Review Letters, unveils a process for setting the direction of the magnetic information, or spin, based on an electrical current.

Superconductors with 'zeitgeist' – when materials differentiate between the past and the future

Physicists at TU Dresden have discovered spontaneous static magnetic fields with broken time-reversal symmetry in a class of iron-based superconductors. This exceptional property calls for new theoretical models and may become important in quantum computing. The research results have recently been published in the scientific journal Nature Physics.

Interfaces the key in atomically-thin, 'high-temperature' superconductors

An international FLEET collaboration publishing a review of atomically-thin 'high temperature' superconductors finds that each has a common driving mechanism: interfaces.

Astronomy and Space news

Mystery of lava-like flows on Mars solved by scientists

The mystery of some lava-like flows on Mars has been solved by scientists who say they are caused not by lava but by mud.

Observations shed more light on the nature of symbiotic star EF Aquilae

An international team of astronomers has conducted high-resolution optical spectroscopy and X-ray observations of the symbiotic star EF Aquilae. Results of these observations have untangled the nature of this object. The new findings are reported in a paper published May 7 on

US successfully launches unmanned reusable drone for space experiments

The US Air Force on Sunday successfully launched its high-tech drone X-37B, placing the reusable vehicle into orbit for its sixth secretive mission in space.

'Groupie' galaxies orbiting Milky Way tell us about dark matter, how galaxy formed

We live in a big-city galaxy. The Milky Way is so big it has satellite galaxies that orbit it, just as the Moon orbits the Earth. These arrangements tell us a great deal about the secrets of the universe—from how galaxies form to the mysterious nature of dark matter.

Scientists puzzle over massive, never-before-seen star system in the Milky Way

Earlier this year, an international team of scientists announced the second detection of a gravitational-wave signal from the collision of two neutron stars. The event, called GW190425, is puzzling: The combined mass of the two neutron stars is greater than any other observed binary neutron star system. The combined mass is 3.4 times the mass of our sun.

Astronomers confirm existence of two giant newborn planets in PDS 70 system

New evidence shows the first-ever pictures capturing the birth of a pair of planets orbiting the star PDS 70 are in fact authentic.

Exoplanet climate 'decoder' aids search for life

After examining a dozen types of suns and a roster of planet surfaces, Cornell University astronomers have developed a practical model—an environmental color "decoder"—to tease out climate clues for potentially habitable exoplanets in galaxies far away.

US military's mystery space plane rockets back toward orbit

The U.S. military's mystery space plane rocketed toward orbit again Sunday, this time with an extra load of science experiments.

Take a peek inside a giant star right before it dies

The biggest stars in the universe are some of the most fascinatingly complex objects to inhabit the cosmos. Indeed, giant stars have defied full explanation for decades, especially when they're near the end of their lives.

First test of solar power satellite hardware in orbit

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory engineers launched PRAM, the Photovoltaic Radio-frequency Antenna Module, aboard an Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle on May 17 as part of a comprehensive investigation into prospective terrestrial use of solar energy captured in space.

Technology news

A system to produce context-aware captions for news images

Computer systems that can automatically generate image captions have been around for several years. While many of these techniques perform considerably well, the captions they produce are typically generic and somewhat uninteresting, containing simple descriptions such as "a dog is barking" or "a man is sitting on a bench."

Engineers develop low-cost, high-accuracy GPS-like system for flexible medical robots

Roboticists at the University of California San Diego have developed an affordable, easy to use system to track the location of flexible surgical robots inside the human body. The system performs as well as current state of the art methods, but is much less expensive. Many current methods also require exposure to radiation, while this system does not.

Double helix of masonry—Researchers discover the secret of Italian renaissance domes

In a collaborative study in this month's issue of Engineering Structures, researchers at Princeton University and the University of Bergamo revealed the engineering techniques behind self-supporting masonry domes inherent to the Italian renaissance. Researchers analyzed how cupolas like the famous duomo, part of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, were built as self-supporting, without the use of shoring or forms typically required.

Efficient, 'green' quantum-dot solar cells exploit defects

Novel quantum dot solar cells developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory match the efficiency of existing quantum-dot based devices, but without lead or other toxic elements that most solar cells of this type rely on.

Controlling spatter during laser powder bed fusion found to reduce defects in metal-based 3-D printing

A team of researchers with members from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Barnes Group Advisors found that controlling spatter during laser-powder bed fusion can reduce defects in metal-based 3-D printing. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes studying the additive manufacturing printing methodology and what they learned about it. Andrew Polonsky and Tresa Pollock with the University of California, Santa Barbara have published a Perspective piece on the work done by the team in the same journal issue.

Self-healing devices gain or regain function after being cut

A "smart" polymer cast that automatically seals itself around a broken arm, a membrane that can sense where it has been cut, and pneumatic actuators that can be cut and reconfigured into different shapes are some possible applications for a new self-healing material developed at Carnegie Mellon University.

Early Bird uses 10 times less energy to train deep neural networks

Rice University's Early Bird could care less about the worm; it's looking for megatons of greenhouse gas emissions.

First peek at Microsoft's Surface Duo smartphone

Details about Microsoft's long-awaited Surface Duo smartphone have been sparse since word of its existence was reported last fall. But the first specs have now been released.

Amazon hit from all sides as crisis highlights growing power

As Amazon becomes an increasingly important lifeline in the pandemic crisis, it is being hit with a wave of criticism from activists, politicians and others who question the tech giant's growing influence.

U.S. restriction on chipmakers deals critical blow to Huawei

The latest U.S. sanctions on Huawei threaten to devastate China's first global tech competitor, escalating a feud with Beijing that could disrupt technology industries worldwide.

Scientists text-mining social media for data on food-related topics

From tweeting photos of delicious meals to reviewing restaurants, social media give foodies numerous opportunities to indulge their passion for edibles. But these media and other digital communications—including recipe websites and food-delivery apps—also generate a rich trove of text data for food scientists and food industry researchers to study what people eat, how nutrition affects health and many other food-related topics.

The COVIDSafe app may not be able to overcome its shortcomings

The Australian government's contact-tracing app, COVIDSafe, has been touted as crucial for restarting the country's economy and curbing COVID-19's spread.

Emissions from road construction could be halved using today's technology

The construction sector accounts for a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions, in Sweden and globally. Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg studied the construction of an eight km stretch of road in detail and calculated how much emissions can be reduced now and until 2045, looking at everything from materials choice, production technology, supply chains and transport.

The trade-offs 'smart city' apps like COVIDSafe ask us to make go well beyond privacy

The Commonwealth government says if enough of us download its COVIDSafe app, restrictions on our movements and activities can be lifted more quickly and life can return to normal. As important as it is to contain the spread of coronavirus, no government decision about how to do that is beyond question. For those of us concerned about the social and political life of our increasingly "smart" cities, the thinking behind the COVIDSafe app and other "smart city" technology must be open to challenge.

When bias in applicant screening AI is necessary

Some biases in AI might be necessary to satisfy critical business requirements, but how do we know if an AI recommendation is biased strictly for business necessities and not other reasons?

Image fusion method for underground pipeline leakage detection

The water supply network is closely connected to all aspects of society. Acoustic methods could be applied to underground pipe network monitoring and leakage detection through measurements using acoustic/vibration sensors either installed along the pipeline or on the ground surface.

How many streaming services would you pay for? Three more services want your money

Quibi, a new video streaming service most people have probably have never heard of, launched with a bang on April 6, touting a unique concept.

E-bikes could slash transport emissions and get Britons back to work

New research shows that electrically-assisted bikes (e-bikes) have the capability to slash carbon dioxide emissions from transport and could offer a safe and sustainable route back to work.

Tesla picks Austin, Tulsa as finalists for new US factory

Tesla has picked Austin, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as finalists for its new U.S. assembly plant, a person briefed on the matter said Friday.

US, states gearing for antitrust case against Google: report

US federal and state antitrust enforcers are preparing a lawsuit against Google which could come this year, focusing on the tech giant's dominance of online advertising, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Florence's Duomo introduces self-distancing gadget

Florence's Duomo has introduced gadgets worn around the neck that will allow people to visit the celebrated cathedral, while still respecting safe distances.

Amazon contractors hit hardest by pandemic

She delivers for Amazon, but Adrienne Williams says the e-commerce and tech giant did not deliver for her.

Ryanair logs annual profit but warns on virus chaos

Irish no-frills airline Ryanair said Monday that net profits climbed to 1.0 billion euros ($1.07 billion) in its 2019/2020 financial year, which ended just after coronavirus grounded planes worldwide.

SoftBank Group reports record losses as Ma quits board

Struggling Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group on Monday reported record losses, as the coronavirus pandemic compounded woes caused by its investment in troubled office-sharing start-up WeWork.

France to subsidise clean car purchases to save automakers

France is preparing a package of measures to shore up automakers stung by the coronavirus crisis, including subsidies to encourage purchases of electric vehicles, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday.

Cities are becoming digital, thanks to the urban data platforms that enable it

A new study covering eighty European cities and their efforts to exploit data to monitor and improve city infrastructure shows an increasing use of data in cities. Improving city operations, enhancing environmental sustainability, informing decision-making and a wish to spur innovation and new services are mentioned by cities as main reasons for setting up urban data platforms.

Public concern about smartphone location tracking to combat COVID-19

Public concern over the use of smartphone location tracking (SLT) could jeopardize governments' efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 using surveillance technologies.

European airlines hope to resume flights but outlook is dim

European airlines are planning for a return to the skies this summer after being grounded almost completely for weeks over the coronavirus pandemic.

Huawei to fund new tech hub at Imperial College London: report

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is to fund a new £5 million ($6.1 million, 5.6-million-euro) technology hub at Imperial College London, British media reported.

Uber says slashing jobs and trimming investment

Uber on Monday announced it is cutting a quarter of its global workforce and trimming investment to survive the financial hit to its business from the coronavirus pandemic.

US auto plants get back to work after COVID-19 halts

Two months after effectively freezing American auto manufacturing, Detroit's "Big Three" on Monday began to get back to business with masks, temperature checks and social distancing protocols to try to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

Indonesia planning 10% tax on foreign digital services

Indonesia will slap a 10 percent value-added tax on the digital offerings of foreign companies from July 1, the finance ministry said, a levy that could apply to internet giants such as Spotify and Netflix.

Air France hopes to double destinations by July

Air France said Monday it hoped to double the number of cities it serves, including over 40 European destinations, by the end of June as nations begin to lift coronavirus travel restrictions.

Facebook chief wants EU not China to lead on tech rules

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Monday urged the European Union to take the lead in setting global standards for tech regulation or risk seeing countries follow China as a model.

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