Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jun 18

Dear ymilog,

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

The synchrony between neurons in different brain hemispheres could aid behavioral adaptation

Teaching humanoid robots different locomotion behaviors using human demonstrations

Use of forests to offset carbon emissions requires an understanding of the risks

Natural fluid injections triggered Cahuilla earthquake swarm

Scientists decode how the brain senses smell

What jumps out in a photo changes the longer we look

Soft and ion-conducting hydrogel artificial tongue for astringency perception

AI creates realistic faces from crude sketches

Plants are marvelous chemists, as the gardenia's DNA shows

Researchers uncover new insights into Alzheimer's disease

Physical activity prevents almost four million early deaths worldwide each year

Researchers study catastrophic disease events in marine mammals

Researchers take a bloody good look at the medicinal leech genome

Scientists solve a thorny problem

Studying the Neandertal DNA found in modern humans using stem cells and organoids

Physics news

Quantum rings in the grip of laser light

Ultracold atoms trapped in appropriately prepared optical traps can arrange themselves in surprisingly complex, hitherto unobserved structures, according to scientists from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow. In line with their most recent predictions, matter in optical lattices should form tensile and inhomogeneous quantum rings in a controlled manner.

Researchers perform quantum simulation of dynamical phase transitions

Quantum simulation uses a controllable quantum system to mimic complex systems or solve intractable problems, among which the non-equilibrium problems of quantum many-body systems have attracted wide research interest. Such systems are hard to simulate using classical computers. Instead, popular quantum simulators, such as superconducting circuits, can provide insights into these problems. As considerable advances have been made in scalability, coherence and controllability, superconducting circuits have become one of the most important quantum simulation platforms.

Exploring mass dependence in electron-hole clusters

In solid materials, when an electron changes position without another to fill its place, a positively charged 'hole' can appear which is attracted to the original electron. In more complex situations, the process can even result in stable clusters of multiple electrons and holes, whose behaviors all depend on each other. Strangely, the masses of each particle inside a cluster can be different to their masses when they are on their own. However, physicists aren't yet entirely clear how these mass variations can affect the overall properties of clusters in real solids. Through a study published in EPJ B, Alexei Frolov at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, reveals that the behavior of one type of three-particle cluster displays a distinct relationship with the ratio between the masses of its particles.

New connections between quantum computing and machine learning in computational chemistry 

Quantum computing promises to improve our ability to perform some critical computational tasks in the future. Machine learning is changing the way we use computers in our present everyday life and in science. It is natural to seek connections between these two emerging approaches to computing, in the hope of reaping multiple benefits. The search for connecting links has just started, but we are already seeing a lot of potential in this wild, unexplored territory. We present here two new research articles: "Precise measurement of quantum observables with neural-network estimators," published in Physical Review Research, and "Fermionic neural-network states for ab-initio electronic structure," published in Nature Communications.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers make composition drawing of elusive wandering black holes

When two galaxies collide, their central black holes merge, emitting gravitational waves. Astronomers theorize that a recoil effect sometimes kicks the merged black hole out of the galaxy while dragging nearby stars along for the ride. Researchers from SRON and Radboud University have now made a prediction of what these clusters will look like to identify them and prove their existence. Their findings are published in MNRAS.

HOPS 383: X-rays from a newborn star hint at our sun's earliest days

By detecting an X-ray flare from a very young star using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, researchers have reset the timeline for when stars like the sun start blasting high-energy radiation into space, as reported in our latest press release. This is significant because it may help answer some questions about our sun's earliest days as well as some about the solar system today.

Scientists reveal a lost eight billion light years of universe evolution

Last year, the Advanced LIGO-VIRGO gravitational-wave detector network recorded data from 35 merging black holes and neutron stars. A great result—but what did they miss? According to Dr. Rory Smith from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Gravitational Wave Discovery at Monash University in Australia—it's likely there are another 2 million gravitational wave events from merging black holes, "a pair of merging black holes every 200 seconds and a pair of merging neutron stars every 15 seconds" that scientists are not picking up.

Researchers shed new light on solar flares

Plasma astrophysicists at KU Leuven have created the first self-consistent simulation of the physical processes that occur during a solar flare. The researchers used Flemish supercomputers and a new combination of physical models.

Stunning new Hubble images reveal stars gone haywire

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope demonstrates its full range of imaging capabilities with two new images of planetary nebulae. The images depict two nearby young planetary nebulae, NGC 6302, dubbed the Butterfly Nebula, and NGC 7027. Both are among the dustiest planetary nebulae known and both contain unusually large masses of gas, which made them an interesting pair for study in parallel by a team of researchers.

NASA's next Mars rover honors medical teams fighting virus

NASA's next Mars rover is honoring all the medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus battle around the world.

Launch is approaching for NASA's next Mars rover, Perseverance

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover is just over a month from its July 20 targeted launch date. The rover's astrobiology mission will seek signs of past microscopic life on Mars, explore the geology of the Jezero Crater landing site, and demonstrate key technologies to help prepare for future robotic and human exploration. And the rover will do all that while collecting the first samples of Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) for return to Earth by a set of future missions.

Spacecrafts get a boost in 'aerogravity assisted' interactions

In a recent paper published in EPJ Special Topics, Jhonathan O. Murcia Piñeros, a post-doctoral researcher at Space Electronics Division, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, São José dos Campos, Brazil, and his co-authors, map the energy variations of the spacecraft orbits during 'aerogravity assisted' (AGA) maneuvers. A technique in which energy gains are granted to a spacecraft by a close encounter with a planet or other celestial body via that body's atmosphere and gravity.

Reducing the risk of space debris collision

As humanity expands its horizons beyond the Earth and begins to consider space missions with extended duration, sustainability necessitates the launch of more space vehicles, increasing the risk of collision with existing space debris. One method of clearing this debris involves a tug vehicle dragging it to a safe region. In a new paper published in EPJ Special Topics, authors Antônio Delson Conceição de Jesus and Gabriel Luiz F. Santos, both from the State University of Feira de Santana, Bahia, Brazil, model the complex rendezvous maneuvers a tug vehicle clearing space debris would have to undergo to mitigate the risk of a collision that could cause irreparable damage at the moment of coupling.

Protecting Earth from asteroid impact with a tethered diversion

Our planet exists within the vicinity of thousands of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), some of which—potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs)—carry the risk of impacting Earth and causing major damage to infrastructure and loss of life. Methods to mitigate such a collision are highly desirable. A new paper published in EPJ Special Topics, authored by Flaviane Venditti, Planetary Radar Department, Arecibo Observatory, University of Central Florida, suggests the use of a tether assisted system to prevent PHA impact.

High school students build lockers for trip to the International Space Station

Pulling that final zipper closed on a stuffed suitcase or getting the tailgate of a packed car shut is a true feeling of victory at the start of any road trip. Sending supplies to the International Space Station—including on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 test flight that launched the first astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule May 30 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida—requires a different packing method and special lockers to transport supplies.

Planets must be formed early, study finds

Scientists have found evidence that planets form in a blink of an eye on a cosmic scale. New results, obtained using the combined power of Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and Very Large Array (VLA), show that very young disks, with ages of between 0.1—0.5 million years, have more than enough pieces to assemble planetary systems.

Technology news

Teaching humanoid robots different locomotion behaviors using human demonstrations

In recent years, many research teams worldwide have been developing and evaluating techniques to enable different locomotion styles in legged robots. One way of training robots to walk like humans or animals is by having them analyze and emulate real-world demonstrations. This approach is known as imitation learning.

What jumps out in a photo changes the longer we look

What seizes your attention at first glance might change with a closer look. That elephant dressed in red wallpaper might initially grab your eye until your gaze moves to the woman on the living room couch and the surprising realization that the pair appear to be sharing a quiet moment together.

AI creates realistic faces from crude sketches

Back in the Sixties, one of the hottest toys in history swept America. It was called Etch-A-Sketch, and its popularity was based on a now-laughably simple feature. It was a handheld small-laptop-sized device that allowed users to create crude images by turning two control knobs that drew horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines composed of aluminum particles sealed in a plastic case. It allowed experienced artists to compose simple and sometimes recognizable portraits. And it allowed inexperienced wannabe artists who could barely draw stick-figure characters to feel like masters of the genre by generating what, frankly, still looked pretty much like mush. But Etch-A-Sketch was fun, and it went on to sell 100 million units to this day.

Deep learning-based surrogate models outperform simulators and could hasten scientific discoveries

Surrogate models supported by neural networks can perform as well, and in some ways better, than computationally expensive simulators and could lead to new insights in complicated physics problems such as inertial confinement fusion (ICF), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists reported.

Engineers develop new fuel cells with twice the operating voltage as hydrogen

Electrification of the transportation sector—one of the largest consumers of energy in the world—is critical to future energy and environmental resilience. Electrification of this sector will require high-power fuel cells (either stand alone or in conjunction with batteries) to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles, from cars and trucks to boats and airplanes.

A deep-learned e-skin decodes complex human motion

A deep-learning powered single-strained electronic skin sensor can capture human motion from a distance. The single strain sensor placed on the wrist decodes complex five-finger motions in real time with a virtual 3-D hand that mirrors the original motions. The deep neural network boosted by rapid situation learning (RSL) ensures stable operation regardless of its position on the surface of the skin.

Chinese e-commerce giant JD soars on Hong Kong debut

Chinese e-commerce giant soared nearly six percent on its Hong Kong debut Thursday, after raising almost $4 billion in an initial public offering that was the world's second-biggest this year.

Qatar Airways says no new planes in 2020 or 2021

Qatar Airways has said it will not take any new aircraft in 2020 or 2021, deferring orders with Boeing and Airbus as demand diminishes amid the coronavirus crisis.

Facial recognition: IT and police in delicate dance

Tech giants love to portray themselves as forces for good and as the United States was gripped by anti-racism protests a number of them publicly disavowed selling controversial facial recognition technology to police forces.

IEA floats 'green recovery' plan to boost economies, cut emissions

The International Energy Agency (IEA) on Thursday unveiled a three-year, post-pandemic master plan to simultaneously salvage the global economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Novel vision-based algorithm to track position of spacecraft in real time

Guidance, navigation, and control technologies on spacecraft require accurate tracking of the relative six-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) pose of the spacecraft at close range during space maneuvers such as debris removal, landing, rendezvous and docking.

Amazon can't make facial recognition go away

Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft have generated a lot of excitement by announcing that they will, at least for a while, stop selling facial recognition software to police departments. Municipalities have imposed moratoriums. Some activists are calling for an outright ban, on the grounds that the technology can disproportionately—and wrongly—identify people of color as criminals.

The electric car battery boom has screeched to a halt, for now

Three decades of advances took lithium-ion batteries from powering handheld Sony camcorders to propelling Tesla's popular electric vehicles. The rapid rise is facing a major test in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who shares the most fake news? New study sheds light

Facebook is a more fertile breeding ground for fake news than Twitter, and those on the far ends of the liberal-conservative spectrum are most likely to share it, according to new CU Boulder research.

AI technology takes football player performance analysis to a new dimension

Computer scientists at Loughborough University have developed novel artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that are set to transform the way football clubs analyse team and individual players' performances on the pitch.

'Low cost android' to study the brain

The two main pitfalls of robots which imitate the human body are their control and the difficulty encountered when manufacturing them in a cost-effective manner.

How robots could help injured workers recover

Training robots to guide injured workers through simulated tasks could make return-to-work evaluations and treatment programs more effective and accessible, according to researchers at the University of Alberta.

Virtual demolition

Researchers at Osaka University demonstrated a prototype for real-time augmented reality that can virtually remove both static structures as well as moving objects. This work can be used to visualize future landscapes after urban renovations without interference from passing cars or pedestrians.

Jeep SUVs recalled to fix problem that can cause power loss

Fiat Chrysler is recalling almost 95,000 Jeep Cherokees worldwide because a transmission problem can cause the small SUVs to lose power unexpectedly.

New research leads to Army drones changing shape mid-flight

Soon, the U.S. Army will be able to deploy autonomous air vehicles that can change shape during flight, according to new research presented at the AIAA Aviation Forum and Exposition's virtual event June 16.

Google's new light field video research showcases high-quality experience

Google is taking immersive media technology to the next level, showing a practical system for light field video. Wide field of view scenes can be recorded and played back with the ability to move around within the video after it has been captured, revealing new perspectives. Developed by a team of leading research scientists and engineers, the new research shows the ability to record, reconstruct, compress, and deliver high-quality immersive light field videos lightweight enough to be streamed over regular Wi-Fi, advancing the state of the art in the rapidly emerging field of immersive augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms.

Self-driving bus services tested out in Tallinn

Two types of self-driving bus are being tested out in Estonia this week as part of initiatives that could revolutionise public transport in Europe.

'Hey Siri,' shortcut put to use against police abuse

The widespread protests against police brutality have created a buzz around a software shortcut letting people cue iPhones to start video recording during a traffic stop in case of misconduct by officers.

Capturing moving subjects in still-life quality

Researchers at EPFL's Advanced Quantum Architecture Laboratory and the Wision Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a technique for building crystal-clear images of moving subjects. The team will present its paper at the prestigious SIGGRAPH 2020 conference in August.

DoorDash valued at nearly $16 bn in funding round

US delivery startup DoorDash said Thursday it raised $400 million from investors in a financing round valuing the company at nearly $16 billion.

Money-losing Mitsubishi says executives will take pay cuts

Mitsubishi Motors told its shareholders Thursday that its top executives are taking pay cuts to share responsibility for the Japanese automaker's financial losses.

Google boosts racial equity program pledge to $275 mn

Google on Wednesday announced a $175 million package to support black business owners, startup founders, job seekers and developers, along with an array of racial equity initiatives at the technology giant.

Qantas cuts international flights until October

Australian flag-carrier Qantas on Thursday said it had cut all international flights until late October, except those to New Zealand, as border restrictions look set to remain in force.

France slams 'provocation' as US halts digital tax talks

France and the US locked horns Thursday over taxing digital giants such as Google and Facebook, after Washington said it was breaking off talks aimed at establishing a global framework for making the companies pay larger levies where they operate.

US civil rights groups call for Facebook ad boycott over hate speech

US civil rights groups have called for advertisers to boycott Facebook in July, saying hate speech and incitement to violence are not being moderated on the platform.

Report: Apple's head of diversity and inclusion has left the company

Apple's head of diversity and inclusion Christie Smith has reportedly left the company as the tech giant commits to combating racism in the wake of renewed calls for equality in America.

Review: Here's a handy list of gifts and gadgets for Father's Day

Father's Day is June 21, so it's time to do some hard-core gift shopping.

Amazon signs big allies in pledge to be carbon neutral

Amazon has attracted new allies for The Climate Pledge that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced last September.

Apple WWDC: What to expect from the online-only event

The coronavirus crisis may be preventing Apple from holding its annual worldwide developers conference in its traditional setting in front of a huge crowd of adoring fans, programmers and content creators, but that doesn't mean Apple has given up on the tech-centric gathering.

Attention Apple Card users: You can finance more new Apple devices interest-free

Apple is offering interest-free financing on new iPad, Mac and AirPod purchases for those enrolled in its branded credit card program. And you'll get 3% cashback up-front.

AI based early stage design support for efficient buildings

The construction, exploitation, and demolition of buildings make up for about 40% to 60% of the total energy and resource expenditure in Europe. It goes without saying that improving the material and energy efficiency in the built environment will be very beneficial with respect to societal challenges like climate change, environmental pollution, and resource depletion. With the help of AI techniques and optimization technology, the Ph.D.-research of Sjonnie Boonstra can support designers to make influential decisions during the early stages of a building's design, aiming at improving material and energy efficiency.

Austrian low-cost airline Level Europe files for insolvency

The Austrian low-cost airline Level Europe announced Thursday it was filing for insolvency and would not resume flights which had already been suspended since March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Russia lifts ineffective ban on Telegram messaging app

Russia's communications watchdog said Thursday it would lift a ban on the popular messaging app Telegram after two years of unsuccessful attempts to block it.

Britain scraps virus tracing app for Google-Apple system

Britain scrapped plans to launch its own coronavirus contact tracing smartphone app because of technical problems and will now work on building one using technology supplied by Apple and Google, health authorities said Thursday.

Facebook says it's promoting accurate info on vote-by-mail

Facebook said Thursday that it is working to help Americans vote by mail, including by notifying users about how to request ballots and whether the date of their state's election has changed.

Batman and Kim Kardashian headed to Spotify podcasts

Spotify has penned a podcast deal with DC Comics—home to Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman—bringing scripted superhero episodes to the audio streaming platform.

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