Science X Newsletter Monday, Jun 22

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 22, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Microfossil spectroscopy dates Earth's first animals

Changing environment at home genetically primes invasive species to take over abroad

Evidence supports 'hot start' scenario and early ocean formation on Pluto

Research sheds new light on the role of sea ice in controlling atmospheric carbon levels

'Robotic soft matter' bends, rotates and crawls when hit with light

When planting trees threatens the forest

Planting new forests is part of but not the whole solution to climate change

A man who can't see numbers provides new insight into awareness

Eruption of Alaska's Okmok volcano linked to period of extreme cold in ancient Rome

Super-strong surgical tape detaches on demand

Astronomers detect teraelectronvolt emission from the gamma-ray burst GRB 190114C

New battery electrolyte may boost the performance of electric vehicles

Young giant planet offers clues to formation of exotic worlds

Scientists home in on pairs of atoms that boost a catalyst's activity

Team unveils catalyst that can break problematic C-F bonds

Physics news

Honeywell claims to have built the highest-performing quantum computer available

Multinational conglomerate Honeywell International Inc. is claiming to have built the highest-performing quantum computer available today. It made the announcement in a blogpost on its website. The company further claims that its H0 quantum computer has a quantum volume score of 64—making it twice as powerful as any other quantum computer available.

CERN Council endorses building larger supercollider

The CERN Council has unanimously endorsed the idea of building a newer, larger circular supercollider, dubbed the Future Circular Collider (FCC). The group made the announcement on June 19. The move is the first step toward building a 100 TeV 100-kilometer circumference collider around Geneva. As part of the vote, the group approved the launch of a technical and financial feasibility study for the new collider.

World's fastest Bose-Einstein condensate created

Researchers have created a Bose-Einstein condensate with record speed, creating the fascinating phase of matter in about 100 femtoseconds. To get an idea of how quick that is, hundred femtoseconds compared to one second is proportionally the same as a day compared to the age of the universe. The project was the result of a collaboration between Aalto University the and University of Eastern Finland.

A fresh twist in chiral topology

The concept of chirality is well-established in science: when an object cannot be superimposed on its mirror image, both the object and its mirror image are called chiral. In the drug industry, for instance, more than 50% of the pharmaceutically active molecules used nowadays are chiral molecules. While one of the 'enantiomers' is life-saving, its counterpart with opposite handedness may be poisonous. Another concept which has found widespread interest in contemporary materials science is topology, as many so-called topological materials feature exotic properties. For example, topological materials can have protected edge states where electrons flow freely without resistance, as if a superconducting path of electrons were created at the edge of a material. Such unconventional properties are a manifestation of the quantum nature of matter. The topological materials can be classified by a special quantum number, called the topological charge or the Chern number.

Strainoptronics: A new way to control photons

Researchers discovered a new way to engineer optoelectronic devices by stretching a two-dimensional material on top of a silicon photonic platform. Using this method, coined strainoptronics by a team led by George Washington University professor Volker Sorger, the researchers demonstrated for the first time that a 2-D material wrapped around a nanoscale silicon photonic waveguide creates a novel photodetector that can operate with high efficiency at the technology-critical wavelength of 1550 nanometers.

Experimentally identifying effective theories in many-body systems

One goal of science is to find physical descriptions of nature by studying how basic system components interact with one another. For complex many-body systems, effective theories are frequently used to this end. They allow describing the interactions without having to observe a system on the smallest of scales. Physicists at Heidelberg University have now developed a new method that makes it possible to identify such theories experimentally with the aid of so-called quantum simulators. The results of the research effort, led by Prof. Dr. Markus Oberthaler (experimental physics) and Prof. Dr. J├╝rgen Berges (theoretical physics), were published in the journal Nature Physics.

A Metal-like quantum gas: A pathbreaking platform for quantum simulation

Electronic properties of condensed matter are often determined by an intricate competition between kinetic energy that aims to overlap and delocalize electronic wave functions across the crystal lattice, and localizing electron-electron interactions. In contrast, the gaseous phase is characterized by valence electrons tightly localized around the ionic atom cores in discrete quantum states with well-defined energies. As an exotic hybrid of both situations, one may wonder which state of matter is created when a gas of isolated atoms is suddenly excited to a state where electronic wave functions spatially overlap, like in a solid?

New research deepens mystery of particle generation in proton collisions

A group of researchers including scientists from the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science, University of Tokyo, Nagoya University, and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) used the spin-polarized Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the United States to show that, in polarized proton-proton collisions, neutral pions emitted in the very forward area of collisions—where direct interactions involving quarks and gluons are not applicable—still have a large degree of left-right asymmetry. This finding suggests that the previous consensus regarding the generation of particle in such collisions need to be reevaluated.

New design for 'optical ruler' could revolutionize clocks, telescopes, telecommunications

Just as a meter stick with hundreds of tick marks can be used to measure distances with great precision, a device known as a laser frequency comb, with its hundreds of evenly spaced, sharply defined frequencies, can be used to measure the colors of light waves with great precision.

A method to 3-D print components for refined neutron scattering

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has licensed a novel method to 3-D print components used in neutron instruments for scientific research to the ExOne Company, a leading maker of binder jet 3-D printing technology.

Microbubbles controlled by acoustical tweezers for highly localized drug release

Microbubbles are used every day as contrast agents in medical sonography, and are the subject of intense research for the delivery of therapeutic agents. There are a number of options available to manipulate these microbubbles, including the use of light and sound, although the potential of the latter remains largely unexplored.

Astronomy and Space news

Evidence supports 'hot start' scenario and early ocean formation on Pluto

The accretion of new material during Pluto's formation may have generated enough heat to create a liquid ocean that has persisted beneath an icy crust to the present day, despite the dwarf planet's orbit far from the sun in the cold outer reaches of the solar system.

Astronomers detect teraelectronvolt emission from the gamma-ray burst GRB 190114C

An international team of astronomers has detected a teraelectronvolt (TeV) emission from a gamma-ray burst designated GRB 190114C. The discovery could improve the understanding of very high energy (VHE) sources in the universe. The finding is detailed in a paper published June 12 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

Young giant planet offers clues to formation of exotic worlds

For most of human history our understanding of how planets form and evolve was based on the eight (or nine) planets in our solar system. But over the last 25 years, the discovery of more than 4,000 exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system, changed all that.

'Ring of fire' solar eclipse thrills skywatchers on longest day

Skywatchers along a narrow band from west Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, India and the Far East witnessed a dramatic "ring of fire" solar eclipse Sunday.

Scientists provide new explanation for the strange asymmetry of the moon

The Earth‐moon system's history remains mysterious. Scientists believe the system formed when a Mars‐sized body collided with the proto‐Earth. Earth ended up being the larger daughter of this collision and retained enough heat to become tectonically active. The moon, being smaller, likely cooled down faster and geologically froze. The apparent early dynamism of the moon challenges this idea.

NASA thinks it's time to return to Neptune with its Trident mission

Is it time to head back to Neptune and its moon Triton? It might be. After all, we have some unfinished business there.

Future space travelers may follow cosmic lighthouses

For centuries, lighthouses helped sailors navigate safely into harbor. Their lights swept across the water, cutting through fog and darkness, guiding mariners around dangerous obstacles and keeping them on the right path. In the future, space explorers may receive similar guidance from the steady signals created by pulsars.

'Ring of fire' solar eclipse to dim Africa, Asia

Skywatchers along a narrow band from west Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, India and southern China will witness on Sunday a dramatic "ring of fire" solar eclipse.

Images: Solar eclipse wows stargazers in Africa, Asia, Middle East

Stargazers in Africa, Asia and parts of the Middle East looked to the skies Sunday to witness a partial solar eclipse.

ESA highlights protection for our planet ahead of Asteroid Day

The United Nations' International Asteroid Day on 30 June highlights ESA's expanding efforts to secure our future by understanding and addressing risks posed by near-Earth objects that could impact our planet.

CTA prototype LST-1 detects very high-energy emission from the Crab Nebula pulsar

Between January and February 2020, the prototype Large-Sized Telescope (LST), the LST-1, observed the Crab Pulsar, the neutron star at the centre of the Crab Nebula. The telescope, which is being commissioned on the CTA-North site on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, was conducting engineering runs to verify the telescope performance and adjust operating parameters.

TRACERS heliophysics mission enters Phase B

NASA has approved the Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites (TRACERS) mission to proceed to Phase B, which marks the transition from concept study to preliminary flight design. The satellites, led by the University of Iowa (UI) and managed by Southwest Research Institute, are set to launch in late 2023.

The Navy is testing beaming solar power in space

Solar power has become a focal point of the battle to mitigate climate change. The potential of solar power is massive—Earth receives as much solar energy in an hour as all of humanity uses in a year. Even with that much energy hitting the Earth, it is only a tiny fraction of the sun's overall output. Some of that other solar energy hits other planets, but most is just lost to the void of deep space.

Scientists collaborate on new study to search the universe for signs of technological civilizations

Scientists at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian and the University of Rochester are collaborating on a project to search the universe for signs of life via technosignatures, after receiving the first NASA non-radio technosignatures grant ever awarded, and the first SETI-specific NASA grant in over three decades.

Technology news

Super-strong surgical tape detaches on demand

Last year, MIT engineers developed a double-sided adhesive that could quickly and firmly stick to wet surfaces such as biological tissues. They showed that the tape could be used to seal up rips and tears in lungs and intestines within seconds, or to affix implants and other medical devices to the surfaces of organs such as the heart.

New battery electrolyte may boost the performance of electric vehicles

A new lithium-based electrolyte invented by Stanford University scientists could pave the way for the next generation of battery-powered electric vehicles.

New technique may enable all-optical data-center networks

A new technique that synchronizes the clocks of computers in under a billionth of a second can eliminate one of the hurdles for the deployment of all-optical networks, potentially leading to more efficient data centers, according to a new study led by UCL and Microsoft.

Researchers forecast COVID-19 pandemic could delay clean energy transition

Traveling restraints and shelter-in-place orders that grounded planes and emptied streets during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic brought greenhouse gas emissions down and air quality up. In a commentary published June 19 in the journal Joule, environmental economists argue COVID-19 may seem like a 'silver lining' for climate change in the short run, but in the long run it is more likely to harm the climate due to its potential to delay clean energy investments and innovation.

Need for speed: Japan supercomputer is world's fastest

Japan's Fugaku supercomputer, built with government backing and used in the fight against coronavirus, is now ranked as the world's fastest, its developers announced Monday.

Windows 10 update could solve Chrome RAM tie-ups

The latest update for Windows 10 brings good news for power browser users.

New chips to bring Mac computers into iPhone ecosystem

Apple said Monday it would build its own chips to power its Mac computers to create a "common architecture" that integrates them into the same ecosystem as the iPhone and iPad.

Missing 1.9 bn euros plunges Wirecard into Enron-style scandal

In what could be one of the biggest financial frauds of recent years, German payments provider Wirecard on Monday admitted 1.9 billion euros that auditors say are missing from its accounts likely "do not exist".

New Zealand seizes $90M from Russian bitcoin fraud suspect

New Zealand police said Monday they have seized $90 million from Alexander Vinnik, a Russian bitcoin fraud suspect who is in French custody but is also wanted in the United States.

Wind turbine sounds do not harm health: study

The low-frequency, inaudible sounds made by wind power stations are not damaging to human health despite widespread fears that they cause unpleasant symptoms, research published in Finland on Monday said.

Switch off your engine: How to cut your fuel bill, clear the air, and reduce emissions

The transport sector is Australia's second-largest polluter, pumping out almost 20% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. But everyday drivers can make a difference.

How to avoid cars clogging our cities during coronavirus recovery

As we re-open our economy and workers gradually return to workplaces, overall travel will increase. However, the need to maintain social distancing means public transport can't operate at usual capacity. And fears of crowded public transport will lead to commuters making a much higher proportion of trips in private vehicles—unless they are offered viable alternatives such as the ones we discuss here.

From HAL 9000 to Westworld's Dolores: The pop culture robots that influenced smart voice assistants

Last year, nearly one third of Australian adults owned a smart speaker device allowing them to call on "Alexa" or "Siri." Now, with more time spent indoors due to COVID-19, smart voice assistants may be playing even bigger roles in people's lives.

AI could help solve the privacy problems it has created

The stunning successes of artificial intelligence would not have happened without the availability of massive amounts of data, whether its smart speakers in the home or personalized book recommendations. And the spread of AI into new areas of the economy, such as AI-driven marketing and self driving vehicles, has been driving the collection of ever more data. These large databases are amassing a wide variety of information, some of it sensitive and personally identifiable. All that data in one place makes such databases tempting targets, ratcheting up the risk of privacy breaches.

Self-driving taxis could be a setback for those with different needs – unless companies embrace accessible design now

Autonomous vehicles (AVs), like self-driving taxis, continue to garner media attention as industry and political stakeholders claim that they will improve safety and access to transportation for everyone. But for people who have different mobility needs and rely on human drivers for work beyond the task of driving, the prospect of driverless taxis may not sound like progress. Unless accommodations are built in to autonomous vehicle designs, companies risk undermining transportation access for the very communities this technology is promising to include.

Advertisers join Facebook boycott over hate speech

Several US firms have joined a call by activists to halt ad spending on Facebook over concerns the leading social network has fallen short in efforts to crack down on hate speech and incitements to violence.

Product recommendation systems can help with search of antiviral drugs

Scientists from Skoltech and the Chumakov Federal Scientific Center for Research and Development of Immune-and-Biological Products of RAS evaluated the ability of artificial intelligence that suggest products to buy and recommend new antiviral compounds. The researchers found that advanced algorithms can effectively suggest both music, movies to buy, and compounds with antiviral activity.

Google ad revenues to dip as market becomes 'triopoly': tracker

Google is expected to see its first decline in US ad revenues this year as the coronavirus pandemic hits travel advertising, a market tracker said Monday.

Apple re-closes some stores, raising economic concerns

Apple's Friday decision to close stores in four states with surging coronavirus cases highlights a question that other businesses may soon face: Stay open or prepare for more shutdowns?

German government moves to rescue Lufthansa bailout

The German government leapt into action Monday to rescue a proposed nine-billion-euro ($10.1 billion) coronavirus bailout for Lufthansa that has run into resistance from a billionaire shareholder.

TikTok joins EU code of conduct on hate speech

The social media phenomenon TikTok joined the EU's code of conduct on Monday as tech giants seek to persuade Europe to back away from setting laws against hate speech and disinformation.

Online video game showcases a remedy for coronavirus-caused summertime blues without E3 trade show

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, video games remain a hobby that can be enjoyed at home.

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WWDC: iOS 14, Apple silicon and all the details

Plus, AirPods will get automatic switching between Apple devices, and Apple's new iOS privacy updates will show how apps are tracking you.
Apple went virtual today for its annual developer conference, but the WWDC announcements were very much real, from the upcoming iOS 14 and MacOS Big Sur to a silicon transplant for the Mac to Apple's homegrown chips.
Jason Hiner Jason Hiner
Editorial Director, CNET
WWDC 2020: Apple silicon has arrived
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