Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jun 23

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 23, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Silicon nanowire transistors with both learning and memory functions

Transferring orbital angular momentum of light to plasmonic excitations in metamaterials

CGCS 673 is a semi-regular variable carbon star, study finds

'Janus' nanorods convert light to heat that can destroy pollutants in water

Experiment confirms 50-year-old theory describing how an alien civilization could exploit a black hole

Quantum physics provides a way to hide ignorance

Critical communications component made on a flexible wooden film

Introducing a new isotope: Mendelevium-244

Alzheimer's: New gene may drive earliest brain changes

Researchers study myxobacteria's ability to distinguish self from non-self

China launches final satellite in GPS-like Beidou system

Immune system works differently between first and later pregnancies

Star-shaped brain cells may play a critical role in glaucoma

New drug candidate reawakens sleeping HIV in hopes of functional cure

Brexit's and research networks: Lower efficiency, reorganization of research communities

Physics news

Transferring orbital angular momentum of light to plasmonic excitations in metamaterials

The vortex beam with orbital angular momentum (OAM) is a new and ideal tool to selectively excite dipole forbidden states through linear optical absorption. The emergence of the vortex beam with OAM provides intriguing opportunities to induce optical transitions beyond the framework of electric dipole interactions. The unique feature arose from the transfer of OAM from light-to-material as demonstrated with electronic transitions in atomic systems .

Experiment confirms 50-year-old theory describing how an alien civilization could exploit a black hole

A 50-year-old theory that began as speculation about how an alien civilization could use a black hole to generate energy has been experimentally verified for the first time in a Glasgow research lab.

Quantum physics provides a way to hide ignorance

Students can hide their ignorance and answer questions correctly in an exam without their lack of knowledge being detected by teachers—but only in the quantum world.

Introducing a new isotope: Mendelevium-244

A team of scientists working at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has discovered a new form of the human-made element mendelevium. The newly created isotope, mendelevium-244, is the 17th and lightest form of mendelevium, which is element 101 on the periodic table.

Brexit's and research networks: Lower efficiency, reorganization of research communities

The United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, a move known as Brexit, took effect Jan. 31, 2020. The results of this change affected trade and security, but scientists wanted to know how it might affect the EU Framework Programmes for Research, known as Horizon 2020.

Scientists develop numerical capability of laser-driven X-ray imaging

A team of scientists led by University of Nevada, Reno's Hiroshi Sawada, an associate professor of the Physics Department, demonstrated that numerical modeling accurately reproduces X-ray images using laser-produced X-rays. The images were obtained using the University's chirped pulse amplification-based 50-Terawatt Leopard laser at their Zebra Pulsed Power Lab.

Fifty perfect photons for 'quantum supremacy'

Fifty is a critical number for quantum computers capable of solving problems that classic supercomputers cannot solve. Proving quantum supremacy requires at least 50 qubits. For quantum computers working with light, it is equally necessary to have at least 50 photons. And what's more, these photons have to be perfect, or else they will worsen their own quantum capabilities. It is this perfection that makes it hard to realize. Not impossible, however, which scientists of the University of Twente have demonstrated by proposing modifications of the crystal structure inside existing light sources. Their findings are published in Physical Review A.

Lack of damage after secondary impacts surprises researchers

When a material is subjected to an extreme load in the form of a shock or blast wave, damage often forms internally through a process called spall fracture.

A structural light switch for magnetism

Magnetic materials have been a mainstay in computing technology due to their ability to permanently store information in their magnetic state. Current technologies are based on ferromagnets, whose states can be flipped readily by magnetic fields. Faster, denser, and more robust next-generation devices would be made possible by using a different class of materials, known as antiferromagnets. Their magnetic state, however, is notoriously difficult to control.

ATLAS experiment finds evidence of spectacular four-top quark production

The ATLAS Collaboration at CERN has announced strong evidence of the production of four top quarks. This rare Standard Model process is expected to occur only once for every 70 thousand pairs of top quarks created at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and has proven extremely difficult to measure.

Helicopter or cartwheel? What happens when a molecule collides with a surface

What happens when a molecule collides with a surface? Researchers at Swansea University have shown that the orientation of the molecule as it moves—whether it is spinning like a helicopter blade or rolling like a cartwheel—is important in determining what happens in the collision.

A blue spark to shine on the origin of the universe

An interdisciplinary team of scientists led by researchers from DIPC, Ikerbasque and UPV/EHU, has demonstrated that it is possible to build an ultra-sensitive sensor based on a new fluorescent molecule able to detect the nuclear decay key to knowing whether or not a neutrino is its own antiparticle.

Laser allows solid-state refrigeration of a semiconductor material

To the general public, lasers heat objects. And generally, that would be correct.

New compressor delivers above-terawatt 1.5-cycle pulses at kilohertz repetition rate

Researchers at the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy (MBI) have reached a new milestone in few-cycle pulse generation, breaking a 10-year-old record and achieving 1.5-optical-cycle-long laser pulses with 1.2 terawatt peak power by a new high-energy hollow fiber compressor beamline. The intense pulses will be used to generate intense attosecond harmonic radiation for nonlinear XUV spectroscopy studies.

3-D-printed neutrino detectors

Plastic scintillators are one of the most used active materials in high-energy physics. Their properties make it possible to track and distinguish between particle topologies. Among other things, scintillators are used in the detectors of neutrino oscillation experiments, where they reconstruct the final state of the neutrino interaction. Measurements of oscillation phenomena are carried out through comparison of observations of neutrinos in near detectors (close to the target) and far detectors (up to several hundred kilometers away).

Innovative smartphone-camera adaptation images melanoma and non-melanoma

An article published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics (JBO), "Point-of-care, multispectral, smartphone-based dermascopes for dermal lesion screening and erythema monitoring," shows that standard smartphone technology can be adapted to image skin lesions, providing a low-cost, accessible medical diagnostic tool for skin cancer.

Astronomy and Space news

CGCS 673 is a semi-regular variable carbon star, study finds

Astronomers from Malta and Spain have conducted an observational campaign aimed at investigating the periodic behavior of a carbon star known as CGCS 673. The observations found that the studied object is a semi-regular variable star. The discovery is reported in a paper published June 15 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

China launches final satellite in GPS-like Beidou system

China on Tuesday launched the final satellite in its Beidou constellation that emulates and may seek to compete with the U.S. Global Positioning System, marking a further step in the country's advance as a major space power.

Breakthrough Listen releases catalog of "Exotica" – objects of interest as "technosignatures"

Breakthrough Listen, the initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, today released an innovative catalog of "Exotica"—a diverse list of objects of potential interest to astronomers searching for technosignatures (indicators of technology developed by extraterrestrial intelligence). The catalog is a collection of over 700 distinct targets intended to include "one of everything" in the observed universe—ranging from comets to galaxies, from mundane objects to the most rare and violent celestial phenomena.

NASA simulation shows kaleidoscope of sunsets on other worlds

Have you ever wondered what a sunset on Uranus might look like?

Either the heaviest-known neutron star or the lightest-known black hole: LIGO-Virgo finds mystery object in 'mass gap'

When the most massive stars die, they collapse under their own gravity and leave behind black holes; when stars that are a bit less massive die, they explode in a supernova and leave behind dense, dead remnants of stars called neutron stars. For decades, astronomers have been puzzled by a gap that lies between neutron stars and black holes: the heaviest known neutron star is no more than 2.5 times the mass of our sun, or 2.5 solar masses, and the lightest known black hole is about five solar masses. The question remained: does anything lie in this so-called mass gap?

Life in the galaxy: maybe this is as good as it gets?

Researchers have found that rocky exoplanets which formed early in the life of the galaxy seem to have had a greater chance of developing a magnetic field and plate tectonics than planets which formed later. As both these conditions are considered favorable to the development of life, this means that if life exists in the Galaxy, it may have developed earlier than later, and that planets formed more recently may have less chance of developing life.

NASA's first planetary defense mission target gets a new name

Nearly two decades ago, a near-Earth asteroid was discovered to have a moon and the binary system was given the name "Didymos"—Greek for "twin," a loose description of the larger main body and the smaller orbiting moon, which became unofficially known as Didymos B.

University students develop AI to detect fast radio bursts

West Virginia University's Duncan Lorimer might be the godfather of the fast radio burst, but a pair of international students has taken exploring these mysterious cosmic flashes to a new level.

Image: Space Station stitch

This panorama of the International Space Station is a wider view of what ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano was capturing on camera during the first of a series of historic spacewalks that took place in November 2019.

Technology news

Silicon nanowire transistors with both learning and memory functions

Neuromorphic computing entails building architectures inspired by elements of the human brain, such as neural organization and synapses. These architectures have proved to be highly promising and advantageous for a number of applications, as they can have both memory and learning functions.

Critical communications component made on a flexible wooden film

In the not-too-distant future, flexible electronics will open the door to new products like foldable phones, tablets that can be rolled, paper-thin displays and wearable sensors that monitor health data. Developing these new bendy products, however, means using materials like new plastics and thin films to replace the rigid circuit boards and bulky electronic components that currently occupy the interiors of cell phones and other gadgets.

Researchers harness 3-D printing to open new doors for microfluidics

Where two of the hottest fields in engineering intersect, Montana State University researchers have made a small breakthrough—literally—but one that could have a big impact across a wide range of applications.

Lowering atmospheric CO2 in large-scale renewable energy electrochemical process

What if carbon dioxide (CO2), a prevalent greenhouse gas, could be transformed into higher-value fuels and chemicals using low-cost, renewable electricity?

Apple previews new iPhone software, changes to Mac chips

Apple on Monday provided a glimpse at upcoming software changes designed to make the iPhone even easier to use and also announced a long-anticipated shift to a new type of chip to power its line of Mac computers.

Google adds fact-check to images

Google said Monday it was adding fact-check labels to images as part of its efforts to stem visually misleading information.

SoftBank to sell $21 billion in T-Mobile shares

Japanese tech investment behemoth SoftBank Group said Tuesday it will sell T-Mobile shares worth over $21 billion as it sheds assets to shore up its financial health.

Microsoft ends game streaming, teams up with Facebook

Microsoft said Monday it was throwing in the towel on its livestream gaming platform and teaming up with Facebook to better compete with rivals like Amazon-owned Twitch.

Your emotions are the new hot commodity—and there's an app for that

Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.

Research brings tech tutorials to people with visual impairments

A research project that aims to help people that are blind or that have other visual impairments learn computer circuit design was recognized recently by a global conference on human-computer interaction.

Uber, WeWork, Airbnb – how coronavirus is bursting the tech bubble

A handful of technology companies have benefited from coronavirus. Amazon has profited handsomely, as have streaming and video conferencing platforms like Netflix and Zoom. But the pandemic has laid bare the shaky foundations of a number of other platforms that bill themselves as technology companies and have enjoyed the high valuations that come with this label.

Towards a green future: Efficient laser technique can convert cellulose into biofuel

With the imminent threat of a climate crisis hanging over our heads, it has become crucial to develop efficient alternatives to fossil fuels. One option is to use clean sources of fuels called biofuels, which can be produced from natural sources such as biomass. The plant-based polymer cellulose is the most abundant form of biomass globally and can be converted into raw materials such as glucose and xylose for the production of bioethanol (a type of biofuel). But this process is challenging owing to the molecule's rigid and dense structure, which makes it insoluble in water. Chemists and biotechnologists globally have used conventional techniques like microwave radiation, hydrolysis, and ultrasonication to degrade this polymer, but these processes require extreme conditions and are thus unsustainable.

AI tool turns low-pixel faces into realistic images

A photo editing tool designed by a programming team at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, raises prospects for sharper, cleaner images in digital presentations and also promises hours of fun for older-video game fans who can now generate crystal clear faces for low-pixel characters who populated early products. But the tool also unexpectedly brought to the surface concerns about bias in the use of datasets in massive machine learning projects.

Despite green pledges, Amazon's carbon footprint grew 15%

Amazon said Tuesday that its carbon footprint rose 15% last year, even as it launched initiatives to reduce its harm on the environment.

Boeing contractor warns of dire finances amid 737 MAX grounding

Boeing contractor Spirit Aerosystems has warned regulators it could violate its agreements with creditors as it grapples with the grounding of the 737 MAX and the coronavirus pandemic.

Getting real with immersive sword fights

Sword fights are often the weak link in virtual reality (VR) fighting games, with digital avatars engaging in battle using imprecise, pre-recorded movements that barely reflect the player's actions or intentions. Now a team at the University of Bath, in collaboration with the game development studio Ninja Theory, has found a solution to the challenges of creating realistic VR sword fights: Touche—a data-driven computer model based on machine learning.

Research determines financial benefit from driving electric vehicles

Motorists can save as much as $14,500 on fuel costs over 15 years by driving an electric vehicle instead of a similar one fueled by gasoline, according to a new analysis conducted by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

Deep drone acrobatics

A navigation algorithm developed at the University of Zurich enables drones to learn challenging acrobatic maneuvers. Autonomous quadcopters can be trained using simulations to increase their speed, agility and efficiency, which benefits conventional search and rescue operations.

Microsoft chief says EU 'most influential' on tech rules

Microsoft president Brad Smith on Tuesday said Europe was the global leader on setting rules for big tech, two years after the EU implemented the GDPR, its landmark data privacy law.

German court orders Facebook to rein in data collection

A top German court on Tuesday ordered Facebook to stop merging data collected through its Whatsapp and Instagram subsidiaries or other websites unless users explicitly agree, in a legal victory for competition authorities.

Machine learning has a flaw; it's gullible

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are poised to supercharge productivity in the knowledge economy, transforming the future of work.

Researcher develops tool to protect children's online privacy

A University of Texas at Dallas study of 100 mobile apps for kids found that 72 violated a federal law aimed at protecting children's online privacy.

Mercedes, NVIDIA to develop new automated driving system

Four days after shelving an autonomous vehicle agreement with BMW, Mercedes has announced a deal to work with chip and software maker NVIDIA.

Europe 2020 auto sales to plunge record 25%: industry group

Auto sales in Europe this year will tumble a record 25 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic which has left manufacturers facing a "major economic crisis", a top industry group said Tuesday.

Ex-CEO of Wirecard arrested in case over missing billions

The former CEO of German payment service provider Wirecard has been arrested, accused of inflating the company's balance sheet in an accounting scandal that centers on a missing sum of 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion), prosecutors in Munich said Tuesday.

TikTok joins EU code of conduct on disinformation

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

Australia has failed miserably on energy efficiency – and government figures hide the truth

Amid the urgent need to slow climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency makes sense. But as Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel last week warned, we're not "anywhere close to having that nailed".

Video game 'Fortnite' appears to remove police cars

As players embark on the third season of "Fortnite" launching last week, some players have noticed the absence of police cars.

Google workers demand the company stop selling its tech to police

More than 1,600 Google workers are demanding the company "take real steps to help dismantle racism" and end its police contracts. In a letter that began circulating internally last week, workers wrote that they were "disappointed to know that Google is still selling to police forces, and advertises its connection with police forces as somehow progressive."

UK car sector warns one in six jobs in virus danger

Britain's car sector could lose one in six jobs or about 25,000 posts due to economic fallout from coronavirus, industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders warned Tuesday.

Amazon pledges $2 billion investment to fight climate change

Amazon on Tuesday pledged to invest $2 billion in projects aimed at combatting climate change, stepping up efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the tech giant and others.

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