Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jun 2

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 2, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

New electrocatalysts to produce ethanol more efficiently

Interfacing gene circuits with microelectronics through engineered population dynamics

Atmospheric scientists identify cleanest air on Earth in first-of-its-kind study

Research finds some AI advances are over-hyped

Researchers develop method to probe phase transitions in 2-D materials

Carnegie Mellon tool automatically turns math into pictures

Researchers identify key immune checkpoint protein that operates within T cells

Reducing inflammation boosts cognitive recovery after stroke, may extend treatment window

Researchers map SARS-CoV-2 infection in cells of nasal cavity, bronchia, lungs

Killing coronavirus with handheld ultraviolet light device may be feasible

Gene found that causes eyes to wither in cavefish

Bees grooming each other can boost colony immunity

Researchers identify the process behind the organ-specific elimination of chromosomes in plants

Extracellular vesicles play an important role in the pathology of malaria vivax

Promising new method for producing tiny liquid capsules

Physics news

Killing coronavirus with handheld ultraviolet light device may be feasible

A personal, handheld device emitting high-intensity ultraviolet light to disinfect areas by killing the novel coronavirus is now feasible, according to researchers at Penn State, the University of Minnesota and two Japanese universities.

Promising new method for producing tiny liquid capsules

Microcapsules for the storage and delivery of substances are tiny versions of the type of capsule used for fish oil or other liquid supplements, such as vitamin D. A new method for synthesizing microcapsules, reported in AIP Advances, creates microcapsules with a liquid core that are ideal for the storage and delivery of oil-based materials in skin care products. They also show promise in some applications as tiny bioreactors.

New technique takes 3-D imaging an octave higher

A collaboration between Colorado State University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign resulted in a new, 3-D imaging technique to visualize tissues and other biological samples on a microscopic scale, with potential to assist with cancer or other disease diagnoses.

The cascade to criticality

Combined theoretical and experimental work has resulted in a novel mechanism through which criticality emerges in quasiperiodic structures—a finding that provides unique insight into the physics on the middle ground between order and disorder.

Researchers discover a new type of matter inside neutron stars

A Finnish research group has found strong evidence for the presence of exotic quark matter inside the cores of the largest neutron stars in existence. They reached this conclusion by combining recent results from theoretical particle and nuclear physics to measurements of gravitational waves from neutron star collisions.

Terahertz radiation can disrupt proteins in living cells

Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Advanced Photonics and collaborators have discovered that terahertz radiation, contradicting conventional belief, can disrupt proteins in living cells without killing them.

Connecting the quantum internet

Researchers at the Kastler Brossel Laboratory in Paris have succeeded in implementing a novel "hybrid" entanglement swapping protocol, bringing within reach the connection of disparate platforms in a future, heterogeneously structured, quantum internet.

New optical technique provides more efficient probe of nanomagnet dynamics

The performance of magnetic storage and memory devices depends on the magnetization dynamics of nanometer-scale magnetic elements called nanomagnets. Researchers at UC Santa Cruz have developed a new optical technique that enables efficient analysis of single nanomagnets as small as 75 nanometers in diameter, enabling them to extract critical information for optimizing device performance.

Searching for new sources of matter–antimatter symmetry breaking in Higgs boson interaction with top quarks

When a particle is transformed into its antiparticle and its spatial coordinates inverted, the laws of physics are required to stay the same—or so we thought. This symmetry—known as CP symmetry (charge conjugation and parity symmetry) – was considered to be exact until 1964, when a study of the kaon particle system led to the discovery of CP violation.

Researchers develop a first-principles quantum Monte Carlo package called TurboRVB

First-principles quantum Monte Carlo is a framework used to tackle the solution of the many-body Schrödinger equation by means of a stochastic approach. This framework is expected to be the next generation of electronic structure calculations because it can overcome some of the drawbacks in density functional theory and wavefunction-based calculations. In particular, the quantum Monte Carlo framework does not rely on exchange-correlation functionals, the algorithm is well suited for massively parallel supercomputers, and it is easily applicable to both isolated and periodic systems.

Researchers discover symmetry-breaking phase transitions after isotopic doping

A joint team, while exploring phase diagrams in dense H2–HD–D2 mixtures, has reported a new discovery in which they found counterintuitive effects of isotopic doping on the phase diagram of H2–HD–D2 molecular alloy.

Photonic crystals: 'even thin is functional'

Photonic crystals are the nanostructures that can manipulate photons by means of an energy gap, similar to how the semiconductors in computer chips manipulate electronic current. It was always thought that photonic crystals should be thick and bulky to be functional. Scientists from the University of Tokyo, the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, the Kyoto Institute of Technology and the University of Twente discovered that even very thin 3-D photonic band gap crystals are powerful devices to strongly control the flow of light. The new insights lead to design rules for new optoelectronic devices for efficient telecommunication and computers, and thin solar cells. The resulting paper will appear in the journal Physical Review B, published by the American Physical Society.

New OIDA report says photonics engineering is needed to commercialize quantum technology

Quantum technologies are expected to have major impacts in markets ranging from telecom and medicine to finance but advances in product engineering are necessary to bring the technologies to market, according to the newly released OIDA Quantum Photonics Roadmap: Every Photon Counts produced in collaboration with Corning.

Novel method to directly measure stress fields in transparent solids

Laser doppler vibrometer (LDV) technology is used to measure the vibration of an object's surface.

Researchers propose new approach to enable high-spectral-efficiency noncoherent underwater acoustic communication

The seafloor wireless observation network (SON) plays an important role in real-time ocean observation. The nodes connect with each other via the acoustic link.

Extraordinary modulation of light polarization with dark plasmons in magnetoplasmonic nanocavities

Nanophotonics uses light polarization as an information carrier in optical communications, sensing, and imaging. Likewise, the state of polarization of light plays a key role in the photonic transfer of quantum information. In this framework, optical nanodevices enabling dynamic manipulation of light polarization at the nanoscale are key components for future nanophotonic applications.

Perfect optics through light scattering

Innovative technologies are the key to tackling some of society's key challenges—and many of these technologies have an optical system at their core. Examples include semiconductor lithography systems designed to create ever-smaller and more energy-efficient microchips, satellite-based high-resolution earth observation systems, and basic research in the field of gravitational-wave detection. In the realm of optics, however, even the tiniest imperfections can lead to scattered light, which causes a reduction in contrast and a lower light yield. Today's optical systems therefore rely on optimized design and comprehensive inspection of the complete surface of optical components. To achieve this, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF is developing light scattering measurement techniques that can detect unwanted scattered light.

Isotopes – Improved process for medicine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have discovered a better way to separate actinium-227, a rare isotope essential for an FDA-approved cancer treatment.

Discoveries of high-Chern-number and high-temperature Chern insulator states

The Quantum Hall effect (QHE) is one of the most important discoveries in physical sciences. Due to the one-dimensional (1-D) dissipationless edge states, QHE exhibits exotic transport properties with quantized Hall resistance of h/νe2 and vanishing longitudinal resistance. Here, h is Planck's constant, ν is Landau filling factor and e is electron charge. QHE usually originates from the formation of remarkable energy gap and the broken time-reversal-symmetry, which requires materials with high mobility, high magnetic field and ultralow temperature. These rigorous conditions greatly limit the deep exploration and wide applications of QHE. In 1988, Haldane theoretically proposed that QHE can be realized without applying external magnetic field, i.e. Chern insulator state or quantum anomalous Hall effect (QAHE).

Astronomy and Space news

Zooming in on the origins of fast radio bursts

Astronomers have peered into the home galaxies of fast radio bursts, ruling out supermassive black holes as a cause and bringing us a step closer to understanding the origins of these mysterious signals from outer space.

Astronomers capture a pulsar 'powering up'

A Monash-University-led collaboration has, for the first time, observed the full, 12-day process of material spiraling into a distant neutron star, triggering an X-ray outburst thousands of times brighter than our Sun.

Detection of Crab Nebula shows viability of innovative gamma-ray telescope

Scientists in the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) consortium have detected gamma rays from the Crab Nebula using a prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT), proving the viability of the novel telescope design for use in gamma-ray astrophysics. The results were announced June 1 at the 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

The unusual molecular and isotopic content of planetary nebulae

Observations of planetary nebulae have revealed unusual molecular content and surprising enrichments of rare isotopes, challenging both chemical models as well as our current understanding of stellar nucleosynthesis.

Galactic star formation and supermassive black hole masses

Astronomers studying how star formation evolved over cosmic time have discovered that quiescent galaxies (galaxies that are currently not making many new stars) frequently have active galactic nuclei. These AGN accrete material onto hot circumnuclear disks, and the resultant energy is released in bursts of radiation, or as jets of particles moving at close to the speed of light. The suspicion is that these outbursts drive gas outflows over thousands of light-years, disrupting and dispersing potential star forming material in a process called quenching. The quenching mechanism is in addition a self-limiting one since the dispersion ultimately suppresses the gas accretion onto the black hole itself. There are other proposed mechanisms for quenching however: supernovae produced during star formation could be responsible (or at least an important contributor) as could strong stellar winds. Verifying these various alternatives is hence a key goal of galactic research.

Large simulation finds new origin of supermassive black holes

Computer simulations conducted by astrophysicists at Tohoku University in Japan, have revealed a new theory for the origin of supermassive black holes. In this theory, the precursors of supermassive black holes grow by swallowing up not only interstellar gas, but also smaller stars as well. This helps to explain the large number of supermassive black holes observed today.

JPL mission breaks record for smallest satellite to detect an exoplanet

Long before it was deployed into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station in Nov. 2017, the tiny ASTERIA spacecraft had a big goal: to prove that a satellite roughly the size of a briefcase could perform some of the complex tasks much larger space observatories use to study exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. A new paper soon to be published in the Astronomical Journal describes how ASTERIA (short for Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics) didn't just demonstrate it could perform those tasks but went above and beyond, detecting the known exoplanet 55 Cancri e.

Intense flash from Milky Way's black hole illuminated gas far outside of our galaxy

About 3.5 million years ago, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy unleashed an enormous burst of energy. Our primitive ancestors, already afoot on the African plains, likely would have witnessed this flare as a ghostly glow high overhead in the constellation Sagittarius. It might have persisted for 1 million years.

Magnetic fields force new perspective on Milky Way's black hole

Observations from Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) indicate that the magnetic field near our galaxy's core is strong enough to control the material moving around the black hole, even in the presence of the black hole's enormous gravitational forces.

Citizen scientists spot closest young brown dwarf disk yet

Brown dwarfs are the middle child of astronomy, too big to be a planet yet not big enough to be a star. Like their stellar siblings, these objects form from the gravitational collapse of gas and dust. But rather than condensing into a star's fiery hot nuclear core, brown dwarfs find a more zen-like equilibrium, somehow reaching a stable, milder state compared to fusion-powered stars.

New tricks from old data: Astronomer uses 25-year-old Hubble data to confirm planet Proxima Centauri c

Fritz Benedict has used data he took over two decades ago with Hubble Space Telescope to confirm the existence of another planet around the Sun's nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, and to pin down the planet's orbit and mass. Benedict, an emeritus Senior Research Scientist with McDonald Observatory at The University of Texas at Austin, will present his findings today in a scientific session and then in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Could corporations control territory in space? Under new US rules, it might be possible

Last weekend, NASA launched US astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time in a decade, in a rocket designed by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Solar Ring mission: A new concept of space exploration for understanding Sun and the inner heliosphere

With the development of science and technology, human activity has expanded from land, sea and sky to space and other planets. In the near future, deep space and other terrestrial planets will become the next main territory of humanity. The Sun is the nearest star in the universe. It affects the (interplanetary) space of our planets in many time scales. Thus, observing and understanding solar activity and its evolution in interplanetary space and its influence on the space environment of planets is one of the necessary capabilities for us to enter deep space and expand our territory.

A new galactic center adventure in virtual reality

By combining data from telescopes with supercomputer simulations and virtual reality (VR), a new visualization allows you to experience 500 years of cosmic evolution around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

The extraordinary sample-gathering system of NASA's Perseverance Mars rover

The samples Apollo 11 brought back to Earth from the Moon were humanity's first from another celestial body. NASA's upcoming Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission will collect the first samples from another planet (the red one) for return to Earth by subsequent missions. In place of astronauts, the Perseverance rover will rely on the most complex, capable and cleanest mechanism ever to be sent into space, the Sample Caching System.

SpaceX's historic launch gives Australia's booming space industry more room to fly

At the weekend, Elon Musk's commercial giant SpaceX launched two NASA astronauts in a spacecraft named Crew Dragon which, from the inside, looked like a souped-up Tesla.

Astronauts ring opening bell for Nasdaq from space station

The astronauts launched into orbit by SpaceX joined in the ringing of the opening bell for the Nasdaq on Tuesday to mark "a pivotal moment" for the space economy.

Technology news

New electrocatalysts to produce ethanol more efficiently

In recent years, researchers worldwide have been exploring new methods of producing ethanol, a chemical compound that is extensively used in a variety of industrial settings. One way to produce this compound is via what is known as the carbon dioxide electroreduction reaction (CO2RR).

Research finds some AI advances are over-hyped

Is it possible some instances of artificial intelligence are not as intelligent as we thought?

Carnegie Mellon tool automatically turns math into pictures

Some people look at an equation and see a bunch of numbers and symbols; others see beauty. Thanks to a new tool created at Carnegie Mellon University, anyone can now translate the abstractions of mathematics into beautiful and instructive illustrations.

Finding balance between green energy storage, harvesting

Generating power through wind or solar energy is dependent on the abundance of the right weather conditions, making finding the optimal strategy for storage crucial to the future of sustainable energy usage.

Sony delays PlayStation 5 event amid unrest

Sony on Monday postponed a streamed event at which it was to showcase games tailored for new-generation PlayStation 5 consoles, stepping back amid growing unrest in US cities.

Global smartphone sales plunge 20% in pandemic-hit quarter

Global smartphone sales saw their worst-ever slump in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic hit consumer spending, a market tracker said Monday.

Device to device power saving

When devices communicate they are usually configured to save power by first choosing an appropriate channel, connecting to each other, and then carrying out power control according to the quality of service (QoS) requirements of each device. However, after they have connected the power requirements of each device have usually dropped or at the very least change and so they are essentially not optimized for efficiency. Research published in the International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing shows how channel and power reallocations can be performed over several iterations until transmission power drops below a threshold to reduce overall power consumption.

Uber Hourly: New $50 ride option lets you make as many stops as you need within 60 minutes

Uber is adding a pay-by-the-hour, personal-driver-like service during a period of slumping business because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Blockchain to the rescue of small publishers

As Australian book publishers grapple with global disruption, digital technologies, and economic uncertainty, QUT researchers are looking at how blockchain technology can help them survive and thrive.

Codecheck confirms reproducibility of COVID-19 model results

Imperial's COVID-19 Response Team has published the script to reproduce its high-profile 16 March coronavirus report, as it passes a codecheck.

Argonne's new menu of data storage software helps scientists realize findings earlier

Most scientists, no matter their discipline, rely on data storage systems to help them draw conclusions from their work.

French virus tracing app goes live amid debate over privacy

France is rolling out an official coronavirus contact-tracing app aimed at containing fresh outbreaks as lockdown restrictions gradually ease, becoming the first major European country to deploy the smartphone technology amid simmering debates over data privacy.

AI stock trading experiment beats market in simulation

Researchers in Italy have melded the emerging science of convolutional neural networks (CNNs) with deep learning—a discipline within artificial intelligence—to achieve a system of market forecasting with the potential for greater gains and fewer losses than previous attempts to use AI methods to manage stock portfolios. The team, led by Prof. Silvio Barra at the University of Cagliari, published their findings on IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.

More efficient biosolar cells modelled on nature

Potential sources of renewable energy include protein complexes that are responsible for photosynthesis. However, their efficiency in technical applications still leaves much to be desired. For example, they cannot convert green light into energy. A research team from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) and the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa has successfully closed this so-called green gap by combining a photosynthesis protein complex with a light-collecting protein from cyanobacteria. The team pre-published their report online in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A on 11 May 2020.

In anti-piracy work, blocking websites more effective when multiple sites are targeted

An important challenge facing media industries today is whether and how copyright policy should be adapted to the realities of the digital age. The invention and subsequent adoption of filesharing technologies has eroded the strength of copyright law across many countries, and research has shown that digital piracy reduces sales of music and motion picture content. A new study that examined the effectiveness of anti-piracy efforts in the United Kingdom found that blocking websites can be effective but only when multiple channels are blocked. The website blocking policies in the U.K. caused a decrease in overall piracy and a 7 to 12% increase in the use of legal subscription sites.

Two bidders in race for Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia's administrators announced Tuesday they had narrowed the pool of interested buyers to two US-based private equity firms, weeks after the carrier buckled under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook in turmoil over refusal to police Trump's posts

The clash between Twitter and Donald Trump has thrust rival Facebook into turmoil, with employees rebelling against CEO Mark Zuckerberg's refusal to sanction false or inflammatory posts by the US president.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash pause services in cities with curfews due to protests

Ride-sharing and food delivery service apps are suspending operations in some cities across the nation in order to comply with curfew orders.

Malaysian university moots robot graduation ceremonies to cut virus risk

A Malaysian university is considering using robots dressed in gowns and mortarboards to act as stand-ins at graduation ceremonies to prevent coronavirus infections—but students have blown a fuse at the idea.

France approves five billion euro emergency loan for Renault

The French government said Tuesday that it had signed off on a state-backed loan of five billion euros ($5.6 billion) for carmaker Renault, where the coronavirus crisis has compounded months of management turbulence and prompted the company to lay off nearly 15,000 people worldwide.

DC smart grids for production plants

Most production plants today are still powered by alternating current. In the long term, however, research teams from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA and Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB would like to see industrial manufacturing shift to operating with direct current. In the collaborative research project DC-INDUSTRIE 2, these teams have joined forces with more than 30 partners to develop new power supply systems for industry. The idea is to link all of a factory's electrical systems to an intelligent DC grid (Direct Current) so as to make electrical supply more energy-efficient, stable and flexible.

A smarter way of building with mobile robots

Researchers are working with a mobile robotic platform called Husky A200 that could be used for autonomous logistic tasks on construction sites. This mobile robot is one of many projects pursued by the Fraunhofer Italia Innovation Engineering Center to advance the cause of digitalization in construction and bridge the gap between robotics and the building industry. Researchers at this center based in Bolzano, Italy, are developing a software interface that will enable mobile robots to find their way around in construction sites.

France slams Ryanair 'blackmail' over job ultimatum

France on Tuesday denounced as "blackmail" an ultimatum from low-cost carrier Ryanair for its French employees to choose between a five-year pay cut or a number of redundancies in an escalating labour dispute.

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