Science X Newsletter Monday, Jun 1

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 1, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Research unveils patterns in brain activity associated with intergroup conflicts

A new theorem predicts that stationary black holes must have at least one light ring

ConvoKit: An open-source toolkit to aid the analysis of conversations

Researchers develop viable sodium battery

Hot stars are plagued by giant magnetic spots

Coatings for shoe bottoms could improve traction on slick surfaces

Study shows dry air drives overlooked changes in how plants drink and breathe

Carbon nanotube transistors make the leap from lab to factory floor

Sea snail, human insulin hybrid could lead to better diabetes treatments

Your brain needs to be ready to remember?

Loss of land-based vertebrates is accelerating, study finds

Geometry of intricately fabricated glass makes light trap itself

Study investigates the nature of binary system 7 Vulpeculae

Robot chef trained to make omelettes

Giving soft robots feeling

Physics news

Geometry of intricately fabricated glass makes light trap itself

Laser light traveling through ornately microfabricated glass has been shown to interact with itself to form self-sustaining wave patterns called solitons. The intricate design fabricated in the glass is a type of "photonic topological insulator," a device that could potentially be used to make photonic technologies like lasers and medical imaging more efficient.

Particles trapped in twisted materials and quantum fingerprints identified

A paper by the Quantum Photonics Lab at Heriot-Watt, published today in top-tier Nature Materials, identifies how to trap interlayer excitons (IXs) and their quantum fingerprints. The IXs are trapped by the interaction of two sheets of atoms made of different transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), which are stacked together with a small twist to form a moiré pattern.

'Black nitrogen': Researchers discover new high-pressure material and solve a puzzle of the periodic table

In the periodic table of elements there is one golden rule for carbon, oxygen and other light elements: Under high pressures, they have similar structures to heavier elements in the same group of elements. But nitrogen always seemed unwilling to toe the line. However, high-pressure chemistry researchers of the University of Bayreuth have disproved this special status. Out of nitrogen, they created a crystalline structure which, under normal conditions, occurs in black phosphorus and arsenic. The structure contains two-dimensional atomic layers, and is therefore of great interest for high-tech electronics. The scientists have presented this "black nitrogen" in Physical Review Letters.

New properties of cosmic rays, silicon, magnesium and neon found by Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer aboard ISS

A very large team of researchers from around the globe has found new properties of the cosmic rays silicon, magnesium and neon using data from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer aboard the International Space Station. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes their study of the three elements and what they found out about them.

Orbital ordering triggers nucleation-growth behavior of electrons in an inorganic solid

A new study by researchers from Waseda University and the University of Tokyo found that orbital ordering in a vanadate compound exhibits a clear nucleation-growth behavior.

Developing a digital holography-based multimodal imaging system to visualize living cells

A research group led by Kobe University's Professor MATOBA Osamu (Organization for Advanced and Integrated Research) has successfully created 3-D fluorescence and phase imaging of living cells based on digital holography. They used plant cells with fluorescent protein markers in their nuclei to demonstrate this imaging system.

Theoretical breakthrough shows quantum fluids rotate by corkscrew mechanism

If a drop of creamer falls from a spoon into a swirling cup of coffee, the whirlpool drags the drop into rotation. But what would happen if the coffee had no friction—no way to pull the drop into a synchronized spin?

Astronomy and Space news

A new theorem predicts that stationary black holes must have at least one light ring

Black holes, regions in space with such an intense gravitational field that no matter or radiation can escape from them, are among the most mysterious and fascinating cosmological phenomena. Over the past five years or so, astrophysicists collected the first observations of the strong gravitational forces around black holes.

Hot stars are plagued by giant magnetic spots

Astronomers using European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes have discovered giant spots on the surface of extremely hot stars hidden in stellar clusters. Not only are these stars plagued by magnetic spots, some also experience superflare events, explosions of energy several million times more energetic than similar eruptions on the Sun. The findings, published today in Nature Astronomy, help astronomers better understand these puzzling stars and open doors to resolving other elusive mysteries of stellar astronomy.

Study investigates the nature of binary system 7 Vulpeculae

An international team of astronomers has conducted spectroscopic and photometric observations of a binary star known as 7 Vulpeculae. The new study, described in a paper published May 22 on, discloses more information about the properties of 7 Vulpeculae, shedding more light on the nature of this system.

Class of stellar explosions found to be galactic producers of lithium

A team of researchers, led by astrophysicist Sumner Starrfield of Arizona State University, has combined theory with both observations and laboratory studies and determined that a class of stellar explosions, called classical novae, are responsible for most of the lithium in our galaxy and solar system.

Asteroids Ryugu and Bennu were formed by the destruction of a large asteroid

Scientists with NASA's first asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx, are gaining a new understanding of asteroid Bennu's carbon-rich material and signature "spinning-top" shape. The team, led by the University of Arizona, has discovered that the asteroid's shape and hydration levels provide clues to the origins and histories of this and other small bodies.

What you need to know about SpaceX's 'Demo-2' mission

SpaceX's "Demo-2" mission from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida this weekend will be the first flight with astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon capsule built by entrepreneur Elon Musk's commercial space company.

'Back in the game': SpaceX ship blasts off with 2 astronauts (Update)

A rocket ship built by Elon Musk's SpaceX company thundered away from Earth with two Americans on Saturday, ushering in a new era in commercial space travel and putting the United States back in the business of launching astronauts into orbit from home soil for the first time in nearly a decade.

SpaceX's historic encore: Astronauts arrive at space station

SpaceX delivered two astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Sunday, following up a historic liftoff with an equally smooth docking in yet another first for Elon Musk's company.

The Milky Way has one very hot halo, astronomers find

The halo that surrounds our own Milky Way galaxy is much hotter than scientists once believed—and it may not be unique among galaxies.

New sunspots potentially herald increased solar activity

On May 29, 2020, a family of sunspots—dark spots that freckle the face of the sun, representing areas of complex magnetic fields—sported the biggest solar flare since October 2017. Although the sunspots are not yet visible (they will soon rotate into view over the left limb of the sun), NASA spacecraft spotted the flares high above them.

Astronomers find cosmic golden needle buried for two decades

Determined to find a needle in a cosmic haystack, a pair of astronomers time traveled through archives of old data from W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauankea in Hawaii and old X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to unlock a mystery surrounding a bright, lensed, heavily obscured quasar.

Telescope instrument is poised to begin its search for answers about dark energy

Even as the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI, lies dormant within a telescope dome on a mountaintop in Arizona, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DESI project has moved forward in reaching the final formal approval milestone prior to startup.

New study provides maps, ice favorability index to companies looking to mine the moon

The 49ers who panned for gold during California's Gold Rush didn't really know where they might strike it rich. They had word of mouth and not much else to go on.

Study finds that patterns formed by spiral galaxies show that the universe may have a defined structure

An analysis of more than 200,000 spiral galaxies has revealed unexpected links between spin directions of galaxies, and the structure formed by these links might suggest that the early universe could have been spinning, according to a Kansas State University study.

Scientists shed light on growth of black holes

Scientists at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and the Black Hole Initiative (BHI), have shed light on how black holes grow over time by developing a new model to predict if growth by accretion or by mergers is dominant, according to the results of a study presented today at the virtual 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society and published simultaneously in The Astrophysical Journal.

'No decision' on next launch attempt for historic SpaceX-NASA mission

A final decision on a launch attempt for SpaceX's milestone mission to the International Space Station on Saturday afternoon will take place after assessing the weather that morning, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said Friday.

SpaceX begins final countdown for Saturday launch

SpaceX began fueling its Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday as it prepared to send two veteran NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in a historic first crewed mission by a commercial company.

Dragon-riding astronauts join exclusive inner circle at NASA

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken join NASA's exclusive inner circle by catching a ride on a SpaceX rocket and capsule.

For Russia, SpaceX success is 'wakeup call'

Russia has lost its long-held monopoly as the only country able to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station following the flawless manned launch by US company SpaceX.

Moscow bemused at US space 'hysteria' as Musk taunts Russia

Moscow space officials on Sunday said they were puzzled by "hysteria" around the successful SpaceX flight as Elon Musk taunted Russia and US President Donald Trump vowed to beat it to Mars.

SpaceX captures the flag, beating Boeing in cosmic contest

The first astronauts launched by SpaceX declared victory Monday in NASA's cosmic capture-the-flag game.

How to make the food and water Mars-bound astronauts will need for their mission

If we ever intend to send crewed missions to deep-space locations, then we need to come up with solutions for keeping the crews supplied. For astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who regularly receive resupply missions from Earth, this is not an issue. But for missions traveling to destinations like Mars and beyond, self-sufficiency is the name of the game.

Technology news

ConvoKit: An open-source toolkit to aid the analysis of conversations

In recent years, researchers have developed increasingly advanced natural language processing (NLP) techniques that can be trained to process, interpret and respond to sentences in human languages. In addition, some have developed toolkits that can guide researchers who are developing, training and evaluating NLP techniques.

Researchers develop viable sodium battery

Washington State University (WSU) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) researchers have created a sodium-ion battery that holds as much energy and works as well as some commercial lithium-ion battery chemistries, making for a potentially viable battery technology out of abundant and cheap materials.

Coatings for shoe bottoms could improve traction on slick surfaces

Inspired by the Japanese art of paper cutting, MIT engineers have designed a friction-boosting material that could be used to coat the bottom of your shoes, giving them a stronger grip on ice and other slippery surfaces.

Carbon nanotube transistors make the leap from lab to factory floor

Carbon nanotube transistors are a step closer to commercial reality, now that MIT researchers have demonstrated that the devices can be made swiftly in commercial facilities, with the same equipment used to manufacture the silicon-based transistors that are the backbone of today's computing industry.

Robot chef trained to make omelettes

A team of engineers have trained a robot to prepare an omelette, all the way from cracking the eggs to plating the finished dish, and refined the 'chef's' culinary skills to produce a reliable dish that actually tastes good.

Giving soft robots feeling

One of the hottest topics in robotics is the field of soft robots, which utilizes squishy and flexible materials rather than traditional rigid materials. But soft robots have been limited due to their lack of good sensing. A good robotic gripper needs to feel what it is touching (tactile sensing), and it needs to sense the positions of its fingers (proprioception). Such sensing has been missing from most soft robots.

Team studies calibrated AI and deep learning models to more reliably diagnose and treat disease

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly used for critical applications such as diagnosing and treating diseases, predictions and results regarding medical care that practitioners and patients can trust will require more reliable deep learning models.

Smart textiles made possible by flexible transmission lines

EPFL researchers have developed electronic fibers that, when embedded in textiles, can be used to collect data about our bodies by measuring fabric deformation. Their technology employs flexible transmission lines and offers a host of applications, including in the medical industry.

Study shows decrease in renewable energy costs may serve as an accelerator for clean energy expansion

The costs for solar photovoltaics, wind, and battery storage have dropped markedly since 2010. A new study led by Stony Brook University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzes the cost of renewable energy in China and reveals that costs are projected to decline further, thereby bringing new possibilities for the widespread penetration of renewable energy and extensive power-sector decarbonization. The findings, published in Nature Communications, may serve as a model for the United States and worldwide illustrating that decreases in renewable costs may help drive clean energy growth.

These flexible feet help robots walk faster

Roboticists at the University of California San Diego have developed flexible feet that can help robots walk up to 40 percent faster on uneven terrain such as pebbles and wood chips. The work has applications for search-and-rescue missions as well as space exploration.

Wallpaper image crashing Android phones

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but apparently one image is worth potentially thousands of headaches for Android users recently.

Germany, Brussels seal pact on Lufthansa rescue plan: sources

Germany and the European Commission have reached agreement on a giant Berlin-funded rescue plan for coronavirus-hit Lufthansa, a Commission spokeswoman and a source close to the negotiations said Friday.

In virus-hit South Korea, AI monitors lonely elders

In a cramped office in eastern Seoul, Hwang Seungwon points a remote control toward a huge NASA-like overhead screen stretching across one of the walls.

UK electricity plant nears full switch away from coal

As the coronavirus pandemic undermines the production of cleaner renewable fuels, the UK's biggest electricity plant is close to using only biomass following a bumpy transition away from coal.

65% of small Israeli start-ups could succumb to COVID-19: survey

Around 65 percent of small Israeli start-ups expect to cease operations in the next six months due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, a poll released Sunday said.

Long-haul carrier Emirates says it fires staff amid virus

Dubai's long-haul carrier Emirates said Sunday it fired an undisclosed number of employees as the coronavirus pandemic has halted global aviation, becoming the latest Mideast airline to shed staff over the outbreak.

Future of stadiums, arenas promises high tech, low capacity

The smell of barbecue wafts through the parking lots hours before kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium, and when the first salvo of fireworks explode overhead, thousands of Chiefs fans begin to march en masse toward the entrance gates.

Google rejects call for huge Australian media payout

Google has rejected demands it pay hundreds of millions of dollars per year in compensation to Australian news media under a government-imposed revenue sharing deal.

Want to blur a face in your video? These video and photo editing tools can help

To step onto city streets means taking your chances with cameras recording your every move.

You would think Twitter is the most visited website, but it's not even close

To read, watch or listen to the news this week, you might have thought that with all the talk about Twitter, it is the most visited website in the world.

Training agents to walk with purpose: Improving machine learning and relational data classification

A classification algorithm for relational data that is more accurate, as well as orders of magnitude more efficient than previous schemes, has been developed through a research collaboration between KAUST and Nortonlifelock Research Group in France.

A cool approach to defect-free solar cells

Chemists regularly use high temperatures to make things happen, but sometimes keeping cool can work better. Researchers at KAUST are discovering that a low-temperature approach can make better single crystals for use in solar cells.

Zynga to buy Toon Blast maker Peak for $1.8 bn

Social gaming giant Zynga said Monday it had struck a deal to acquire Turkish-based rival Peak, maker of the popular Toon Blast and Toy Blast games, for $1.8 billion.

Robo-umps are coming to Major League Baseball, and the game will never be the same

The Houston Astros' use of cameras to steal signs and conceivably cheat to win the World Series has driven many recent conversations about the place and meaning of technology in sports. The Major League Baseball season is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but this has only delayed the league addressing the controversy of using technology within the game.

New NiMH batteries perform better when made from recycled old NiMH batteries

A new method for recycling old batteries can provide better performing and cheaper rechargeable hydride batteries (NiMH) as shown in a new study by researchers at Stockholm University.

UN agency recommends health guidelines for airlines

Mask wearing, temperature controls, disinfection of aircraft: the International Civil Aviation Organization on Monday published a series of health recommendations for a pandemic-hit airline industry as it relaunches air travel.

Emergency digital library sued over 'brazen' copyright violations

Four major publishing houses Monday sued the Internet Archive alleging that its "national emergency library" allowing locked-down readers free access to digital books was "brazenly" violating copyright laws.

Latin America's stricken airlines facing long haul to recovery

Latin America's beleaguered airlines will take up to three years to recover losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in the meantime desperately need government help, according to experts surveying the damage to the industry.

French carmakers see signs of recovery despite sales plunge

New car sales in France plunged over 50 percent in May due to the impact of the coronavirus lockdown, industry figures showed Monday, but automakers noted the first signs of a recovery in the industry.

Sony to unveil PlayStation 5 launch video game titles, first look at games at June 4 event

Video game devotees eager for more information on the upcoming PlayStation 5—and the games coming for the next generation console—will soon have more details.

Germany's Lufthansa inches closer to state bailout

Coronavirus-hit Lufthansa inched closer to securing a nine-billion-euro bailout from the German government after the airline's supervisory board approved the rescue plan on Monday.

Emirates could take 4 years to return to normal: chief

It could take up to four years for Emirates airline's operations to return "to some degree of normality", its president said Monday, a day after the carrier announced job cuts over the coronavirus crisis.

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