Science X Newsletter Tuesday, May 26

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Spotlight Stories Headlines

A method to produce hydrogen in vivo photosynthetically

3-D printed egg whites outperform existing flexible electronics materials

Reviewing recent advances in the development of non-reciprocal electronics

The first 3-D map of the heart's neurons

Study unveils properties of 11 recently discovered pulsars

Study finds electrical fields can throw a curveball

Electron microscopy of nanoparticle superlattice formation at a solid-liquid interface in non-polar liquids

Dinosaur-dooming asteroid struck earth at 'deadliest possible' angle

Astronomers create cloud atlas for hot, Jupiter-like exoplanets

Astrophysicists capture new class of transient objects

Controlling artificial cilia with magnetic fields and light

Novel insight reveals topological tangle in unexpected corner of the universe

Defects in developing frog brain can be prevented or repaired with bioelectric drugs

Dementia gene raises risk of severe COVID-19

Birds, bees and butter: New study shows biodiversity critical for shea crop in Africa

Physics news

Novel insight reveals topological tangle in unexpected corner of the universe

Just as a literature buff might explore a novel for recurring themes, physicists and mathematicians search for repeating structures present throughout nature.

Critical transition theory shows flickering in heart before atrial fibrillation

Affecting up to 4% of patients older than 65 years, atrial fibrillation ranks among the most common heart conditions. Described by health professionals as an "irregularly irregular" heart rhythm, episodes of atrial fibrillation continue to prove difficult to predict.

Next-gen laser facilities look to usher in new era of relativistic plasmas research

The subject of the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics, chirped pulse amplification is a technique that increases the strength of laser pulses in many of today's highest-powered research lasers. As next-generation laser facilities look to push beam power up to 10 petawatts, physicists expect a new era for studying plasmas, whose behavior is affected by features typically seen in black holes and the winds from pulsars.

Controlling superconductors with light

A researcher at the Center for Theoretical Physics of Complex Systems within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS, South Korea), Professor Ivan Savenko, has reported a conceptually new method to study the properties of superconductors using optical tools. The theory was published in Physical Review Letters and co-authored by Doctor Vadim Kovalev, physicist at the A.V. Rzhanov Institute of Semiconductor Physics (Russia).

Physicist creates fifth state of matter from the living room

A physicist has created the fifth state of matter working from home using quantum technology.

A nice day for a quantum walk

Researchers at the Center for Quantum Information and Quantum Biology at Osaka University used trapped ions to demonstrate the spreading of vibrational quanta as part of a quantum random walk. This work relies on their exquisite control of individual ions using lasers, and can lead to new quantum simulations of biological systems.

Researchers build sensor consisting of only 11 atoms

Researchers at Delft University of Technology have developed a sensor that is only 11 atoms in size. The sensor is capable of capturing magnetic waves and consists of an antenna, a readout capability, a reset button and a memory unit. The researchers hope to use their atomic sensor to learn more about the behaviour of magnetic waves, so that hopefully such waves can one day be used in green ICT applications.

Scientists propose spin filter method for polarized electron acceleration in plasma wakefields

High-energy polarized electron beams are widely used in high-energy physics (linear colliders), nuclear physics and material science. However, such polarized electron beams are usually generated on conventional accelerators that are typically very large and expensive.

Researchers discover physical origin of electronic phase separation phenomena in complex oxides

A Chinese joint team has conducted a study and discovered the physical origin of electronic phase separation phenomena in complex oxides.

Efficient generation of relativistic near-single-cycle mid-infrared pulses in plasmas

The invention of the chirped pulse amplification technique by Strickland and Mourou in 1985 has boosted the peak power of ultrashort laser pulses to an unprecedented level, which have found broad applications in fundamental science, industry and medicine. However, such high power lasers are usually obtained at the near-infrared wavelength of about 0.8 micron. The extension to the mid-infrared band (2-20 microns) is of great interest to broader applications. At present, the generation of mid-infrared laser pulses based on conventional optical technologies is limited by the frequency bandwidth, energy gain, and damage threshold of the optical crystals, which make it challenging to achieve high-intensity low-cycle mid-infrared laser pulses.

Saturable plasmonic metasurfaces for laser mode locking

Plasmonic metasurfaces are artificial 2-D sheets of plasmonic unit cells repeated in a subwavelength array, which give rise to unexpected wave properties that do not exist in nature. In the linear regime, their applications in wavefront manipulation for lensing, holography or polarization control have been intensively studied. However, applications in the nonlinear regime have been rarely reported. Considering the growing demand for saturable absorbers—a special class of nonlinear devices in which transparency (or absorption) depends on light intensity—for ultrafast lasers and neuromorphic circuits, scientists from France, China and Brazil have developed plasmonic metasurfaces providing a remarkably efficient saturable absorption which can be tuned with the polarization of light.

Towards visible-wavelength passively mode-locked lasers in all-fibre format

Mode-locked fibre lasers generating ultrashort pulses with the advantages of robustness, compactness and excellent beam quality are of tremendous interest in applications such as laser material processing, medicine, precision measurement, biological photonics, ultrafast spectroscopy, optical communication and scientific research. In recent decades, mode-locked ultrafast fibre lasers operating in the near-infrared and mid-infrared spectral regions have been well developed, but ultrafast laser sources in the visible spectral region (380-760 nm) still heavily rely on Ti:sapphire mode-locked oscillator and optical parametric amplification systems (or frequency doubling of near-infrared ultrafast lasers), suffering from a large footprint and an extremely high cost. Researchers desire an alternative ultrafast visible laser solution that is compact, low cost, user friendly and maintenance free. Passive mode locking in all-fibre format could satisfy all these demands, and therefore, there is strong research motivation to develop passively mode-locked fibre lasers in the visible region.

Chirality-assisted lateral momentum transfer for bidirectional enantioselective separation

Light carrying photon momentum can push and pull microparticles through momentum exchange. This momentum exchange process generates optical forces, which either attracts (conventional optical tweezers), pushes (radiation force) or pulls (pulling force) microparticles. A new emerging research interest, optical lateral force which represents the optical force perpendicular to the propagating direction of a non-gradient beam, has attracted much attention. The lateral force can be generated using achiral particles through the conversion of spin and orbital momentum of a circularly polarized beam. It is also predicted that a chiral nanoparticle placed above a surface can generate the lateral force using a plane wave excitation. However, there are few demonstrations of the chirality dependent lateral force, and the particles used in the theoretical prediction are 100 nm which has limited applications. Besides, the theory of optical lateral force on bigger particles (size ~ wavelength) is lacking.

Performing optical logic operations by a diffractive neural network

Optical logical operations have sparked major interest in the past decade since they can enable many applications, particularly those involving high-throughput and on-the-fly data processing such as secured wireless communication and autonomous driving. However, the reported optical logic gates rely heavily on the precise control of input light/pump light, including the phase, polarization, and amplitude. Due to the complexity and difficulty in these precise controls, the two output states may suffer from an inherent instability and a low contrast ratio of intensity. Moreover, the miniaturization of optical logic gates becomes difficult if the extra bulky apparatus for these controls is considered. As such, it is desirable, albeit challenging, to get rid of these complicated controls and to achieve full logic functionality in a compact photonic system.

Astronomy and Space news

Study unveils properties of 11 recently discovered pulsars

An international team of astronomers has conducted a detailed study of 11 pulsars recently discovered by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST). The new research, presented in a paper published May 19 on, delivers essential information about the properties of these objects.

Astronomers create cloud atlas for hot, Jupiter-like exoplanets

Giant planets in our solar system and circling other stars have exotic clouds unlike anything on Earth, and the gas giants orbiting close to their stars—so-called hot Jupiters—boast the most extreme.

Astrophysicists capture new class of transient objects

Move aside, AT2018COW. There is a new astronomical transient in the universe, and it is faster, heavier and brighter at radio wavelengths than its mysterious predecessors.

Branson's Virgin Orbit fails on first rocket launch attempt

Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit failed Monday in its first test launch of a new rocket carried aloft by a Boeing 747 and released over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California.

The 'Cow' mystery strikes back: Two more rare, explosive events captured

The 'Cow' is not alone; with the help of W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii, astronomers have discovered two more like it—the 'Koala' and a similar mysterious bright object called CSS161010. This trio of fast blue optical transients (FBOTs) appear to be relatives, all belonging to a highly-luminous family that has a track record for surprising astronomers with their fast, powerful bursts of energy.

The detective aboard NASA's Perseverance rover

Mars is a long way from 221B Baker Street, but one of fiction's best-known detectives will be represented on the Red Planet after NASA's Perseverance rover touches down on Feb. 18, 2021. SHERLOC, an instrument on the end of the rover's robotic arm, will hunt for sand-grain-sized clues in Martian rocks while working in tandem with WATSON, a camera that will take close-up pictures of rock textures. Together, they will study rock surfaces, mapping out the presence of certain minerals and organic molecules, which are the carbon-based building blocks of life on Earth.

MAVEN maps electric currents around mars that are fundamental to atmospheric loss

Five years after NASA's MAVEN spacecraft entered into orbit around Mars, data from the mission has led to the creation of a map of electric current systems in the Martian atmosphere.

Stormy weather puts damper on SpaceX's 1st astronaut launch

Stormy weather is threatening to delay SpaceX's first astronaut launch.

Why astronomers now doubt there is an undiscovered 9th planet in our solar system

Planet Nine is a theoretical, undiscovered giant planet in the mysterious far reaches of our solar system.

Einstein's two mistakes

Scientific research is based on the relationship between the reality of nature, as it is observed, and a representation of this reality, formulated by a theory in mathematical language. If all the consequences of the theory are experimentally proven, it is considered as validated. This approach, which has been used for nearly four centuries, has built a consistent body of knowledge. But these advances have been made thanks to the intelligence of human beings who, despite all, can still hold onto their preexisting beliefs and biases. This can affect the progress of science, even for the greatest minds.

New infrared telescope to spot cosmic hidden treasures

A new infrared telescope, to be designed and built by astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU), will monitor the entire southern sky in search of new cosmic events as they take place.

First observation of a transitioning Type II solar radio burst using LOFAR

Type II solar radio bursts are believed to be excited by shock waves. They are often linked to shocks driven by solar eruptive events like coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar flares, and are characterized by a slow drift from high to low frequencies thought to reflect the speed with which the shock propagates away from the sun. Shock-excited emissions that show very little or no frequency drift are known as "stationary Type II bursts" (e.g. Aurass et al. 2002). Stationary Type II bursts are sometimes interpreted as termination shocks in solar flares (e.g., Chen et al. 2019).

Weather better for historic SpaceX launch of NASA astronauts

With the weather looking up, SpaceX and NASA officials vowed Tuesday to keep crew safety the top priority for the nation's first astronaut launch to orbit in nearly a decade.

Technology news

A method to produce hydrogen in vivo photosynthetically

Researchers have been trying to produce hydrogen photosynthetically for quite some time now, as this could pave the way toward a more sustainable energy infrastructure. Some of them have succeeded by fusing different hydrogenases (H2ase) to photosystem I (PSI) in vitro outside of living cells. Hydrogenases are enzymes that catalyze the reduction of protons to hydrogen, while photosystem I is an integral membrane protein complex, which typically captures the energy of sunlight in the process of photosynthesis.

Reviewing recent advances in the development of non-reciprocal electronics

The propagation of both light and sound waves is reciprocal in nature. In other words, light and acoustic waves travel forward and backward in the same way.

New jailbreak tool unlocks almost all iPhones

A new jailbreak tool that works on almost all iPhones in use today was released Saturday.

NIST formula may help 5G wireless networks efficiently share communications frequencies

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a mathematical formula that, computer simulations suggest, could help 5G and other wireless networks select and share communications frequencies about 5,000 times more efficiently than trial-and-error methods.

New 5G switches mean battery life improvements, higher bandwidth and speeds

The 5G revolution has begun, and the first lines of phones that can access the next generation of wireless speeds have already hit the shelves. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Lille in France have built a new component that will more efficiently allow access to the highest 5G frequencies in a way that increases devices' battery life and speeds up how quickly we can do things like stream high-definition media.

The coronavirus pandemic moved life online – a surge in website defacing followed

One consequence of the public's compliance with social distancing and quarantines during the COVID-19 pandemic is a sharp decline in most types of crime. It looks like people staying home made communities less conducive to crime.

High-security identification that cannot be counterfeited

Try whispering at one end of the Echo Wall in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. People at the far end of the curved wall will hear you from 65 meters away. This is the whispering-gallery effect. Now, researchers from Japan have used the underlying principles of the whispering-gallery effect to stop counterfeiters in their tracks.

Negapedia provides deep information about Wikipedia editorial layers

The rules surrounding information have changed with the ongoing development of the digital world. Information has become accessible to almost everyone around the world, any time of the day or night, at the touch of a mobile phone screen or the click of a mouse.

Evacuating virtual buildings: Researching pedestrian behavior using VR and AR

Virtual reality (VR) is not just about gaming or flight simulators. At TU Delft, Ph.D. Yan Feng is investigating how it may help explain the behavior of pedestrians. It took her just five months to teach herself how to create a complex virtual building. By then, she had built an exact replica of her faculty building and invited real people to explore and evacuate it. So how did they find their way around?

Qatar tracing app flaw exposed 1 mn users' data: Amnesty

A security flaw in Qatar's controversial mandatory coronavirus contact tracing app exposed sensitive information of more than one million users, rights group Amnesty International warned Tuesday.

Proposed health code app sparks anger in China

A Chinese local government's proposal for a post-coronavirus health app that ranks citizens based on their smoking, drinking, exercise and sleep habits has sparked fury online over privacy concerns.

Ryanair says will appeal Lufthansa rescue deal

Irish no-frills airline Ryanair said Tuesday it will appeal against Germany's temporary partial nationalisation of rival carrier Lufthansa, arguing the rescue deal constitutes "illegal state aid" that distorts competition.

Designing technologies that interpret your mood from your skin

Smart devices that measure electrical signals from your skin have the potential to tell you about your stress levels, help your sports performances and allow you to track your emotions.

Smart machine maintenance: New AI system also detects unknown faults

A new maintenance system is helping to make sensors smart. A research team led by Professor Andreas Sch├╝tze of Saarland University is combining artificial intelligence with sensors that gather status data on industrial machinery. The system is able to detect damage, wear and error states, and, uniquely, is also able to recognize when previously unknown machine states arise, learning from them and assigning them to their underlying root causes. This approach offers small and medium-sized companies a means of automating their machine maintenance and servicing operations, allowing them to plan more precisely and avoid unpleasant surprises.

New system for widespread availability of green hydrogen

Hydrogen researchers at Graz University of Technology, together with the Graz-based start-up Rouge H2 Engineering, have developed a cost-effective process for the decentralised production of high-purity hydrogen.

Facebook wallet for Libra digital coins renamed 'Novi'

Facebook's virtual wallet for yet-to-be-minted Libra digital coins was renamed "Novi" on Tuesday.

Researchers use drones, machine learning to detect dangerous 'butterfly' landmines

Using advanced machine learning, drones could be used to detect dangerous "butterfly" landmines in remote regions of post-conflict countries, according to research from Binghamton University, State University at New York.

Can interactive technology ease urban traffic jams?

Traffic congestion is a serious problem in the United States, but a new analysis shows that interactive technology—ranging from 511 traffic information systems and roadside cameras to traffic apps like Waze and Google Maps—is helping in cities that use it.

Engineers develop near-zero emissions engine technology

Southwest Research Institute engineers have developed the next generation of clean diesel engine technology to reduce hazardous nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide emissions while minimizing fuel consumption. Working with regulatory agencies, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, SwRI combined engine modifications with integrated aftertreatment technology and control strategies to reach near-zero emissions levels. SwRI developed the technology for the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a state organization charged with combatting air pollution.

Latin America's largest airline LATAM files for bankruptcy in US

Latin America's largest airline LATAM filed for bankruptcy in the US on Tuesday, the company said in a statement, following a drastic slump in business caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

French privacy watchdog okays coronavirus tracing app

France's privacy watchdog gave the green light Tuesday to a government-backed cellphone app that will alert users if they have been in contact with an infected person.

Big Brother is already watching you – so let him help fight COVID-19

'Big Brother' tracking technology is already a reality of modern life, so should be embraced to help combat the spread of COVID-19, a leading expert has argued.

Aston Martin CEO steps down as 007 carmarker hits skids

Aston Martin chief executive Andy Palmer has left James Bond's favourite carmaker as it seeks to recover from crashing demand and ballooning losses, the company said Tuesday.

Britain's McLaren scales back F1 racing due to lockdown losses

British Formula 1 team and supercar maker McLaren said Tuesday it will cut 1,200 jobs and signficantly scale down its racing division after the coronavirus crisis hit sales.

France unveils 8 bn-euro plan to revive auto sector through electric cars

President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday announced an 8-billion euro ($8.8 billion) plan to revive France's auto industry by making it the European leader in electric cars, in a boost for a sector brought to its knees by the coronavirus.

Crash landing: Global air transport hit hard by virus

The COVID-19 pandemic has battered the air transport sector by all but grounding planes, resulting in layoffs, bankruptcies and rescue plans.

EU agency seeks airline, airport input on new virus guidance

Europe's aviation safety agency called on airlines and airports Tuesday to participate in a program to help evaluate new coronavirus guidelines in real-life situations.

Airlines given $123 bn in state aid: industry

Governments have provided airlines $123 billion to help weather the coronavirus storm, the global aviation industry said Tuesday, warning though that the assistance was adding to surging debt in the industry.

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