Science X Newsletter Monday, Jun 29

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 29, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

FoolChecker: A platform to check how robust an image is against adversarial attacks

Multifunctional nanofiber protects against explosions

Team shows how to store data using 2-D materials instead of silicon chips

Producing a gaseous messenger molecule inside the body, on demand

Engineers use 'DNA origami' to identify vaccine design rules

Study finds out why some words may be more memorable than others

Wearable-tech glove translates sign language into speech in real time

Asteroid impact, not volcanoes, made the Earth uninhabitable for dinosaurs

Closer threats inspire a more primitive kind of fear

Astronomers investigate chemical composition of a nearby star-forming dwarf galaxy

Giant star spots likely cause of Betelgeuse dimming

Structural evidence for a dynamic metallocofactor during dinitrogen reduction by Mo-nitrogenase

New 3-D model shows how the paradise tree snake uses aerial undulation to fly

Credit card skimmers hide in web page image files

Cartwheeling light reveals new optical phenomenon

Physics news

New 3-D model shows how the paradise tree snake uses aerial undulation to fly

When the paradise tree snake flies from one tall branch to another, its body ripples with waves like green cursive on a blank pad of blue sky. That movement, aerial undulation, happens in each glide made by members of the Chrysopelea family, the only known limbless vertebrates capable of flight. Scientists have known this, but have yet to fully explain it.

Cartwheeling light reveals new optical phenomenon

A scientist might want to do cartwheels upon making a discovery, but this time the discovery itself relies on cartwheels.

Researchers control elusive spin fluctuations in 2-D magnets

Like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, critical spin fluctuations in a magnetic system haven't been captured on film. Unlike the fabled creatures, these fluctuations—which are highly correlated electron spin patterns—do actually exist, but they are too random and turbulent to be seen in real time.

Researchers employ antennas for angstrom displacement sensing

The Micro-nano Optics and Technology Research Group led by Prof. Lu Yonghua and Prof. Wang Pei from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) realized nanometric displacement measurement through the interaction between the illumination optical field and the optical antennas. This study was published on Physical Review Letters.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers investigate chemical composition of a nearby star-forming dwarf galaxy

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have probed the chemical composition of a nearby metal-poor star-forming dwarf galaxy known as JKB 18. Results of the new observations indicate that the galaxy is chemically inhomogeneous. The study was published June 18 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Giant star spots likely cause of Betelgeuse dimming

Betelgeuse, the bright star in the constellation of Orion, has been fascinating astronomers in the recent months because of its unusually strong decline in brightness. Scientists have been discussing a number of scenarios trying to explain its behavior. Now a team led by Thavisha Dharmawardena of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have shown that most likely unusually large star spots on the surface of Betelgeuse have caused the dimming. Their results rule out the previous conjecture that it was dust, recently ejected by Betelgeuse, which obscured the star.

First measurement of spin-orbit alignment on planet Beta Pictoris b

Astronomers have made the first measurement of spin-orbit alignment for a distant 'super-Jupiter' planet, demonstrating a technique that could enable breakthroughs in the quest to understand how exoplanetary systems form and evolved.

The beautiful mess in Abell 2255

An international team of astrophysicists led by Andrea Botteon from Leiden University, the Netherlands, has shed light on one of the most intricate objects of the radio sky: the galaxy cluster Abell 2255. Thanks to the incredible detailed images obtained with the European radio telescope LOFAR, the scientists have been able to observe details never seen before of the emission from the cluster. The halo in Abell 2255 is not smooth, but contains numerous filaments that have not been seen previously. The result has been presented today at the virtual annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society (EAS) and will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Scientists demonstrate speed, precision of in situ planetary dating device

Southwest Research Institute scientists have increased the speed and accuracy of a laboratory-scale instrument for determining the age of planetary specimens onsite. The team is progressively miniaturizing the Chemistry, Organics and Dating Experiment (CODEX) instrument to reach a size suitable for spaceflight and lander missions.

Array of radio telescopes reveals explosion on the surface of a hot dead star

An international group of researchers observed a source of variable gamma rays identified in 2010 by the NASA satellite Fermi. They used a technique called VLBI, that combines data from several radio telescopes on Earth, to produce the sharpest images to date. Surprisingly, the source of gamma rays was a symbiotic nova, a peculiar stellar system known to astronomers as V407 Cyg. The result, with first author Marcello Giroletti (National Institute of Astrophysics INAF, Italy), has been presented at the annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society (EAS), and published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Image: Hubble captures galaxy on edge

The galaxy known as NGC 5907 stretches wide across this image. Appearing as an elongated line of stars and dark dust, the galaxy is categorized as a spiral galaxy just like our own Milky Way. In this new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, we don't see the beautiful spiral arms because we are viewing it edge-on, like looking at the rim of a plate. It is for this reason that NGC 5907 is also known as the Knife Edge galaxy.

Habitat Mars: Learning to live sustainably on the red planet

There's quite a bit of buzz these days about how humanity could become a "multiplanetary" species. This is understandable, considering that space agencies and aerospace companies from around the world are planning on conducting missions to low earth orbit (LEO), the moon, and Mars in the coming years, not to mention establishing a permanent human presence there and beyond.

Japan to boost space cooperation with US in revised policy

Japan said Monday it will step up its defense capability in space and improve its ability to detect and track missiles, while cooperating with the United States in response to what it called a growing threat from North Korea and China.

Astronaut says losing mirror on spacewalk was 'real bummer'

The commander of the International Space Station said Monday that losing a mirror during last week's otherwise successful spacewalk was "a real bummer."

Technology news

FoolChecker: A platform to check how robust an image is against adversarial attacks

Deep neural networks (DNNs) have so far proved to be highly promising for a wide range of applications, including image and audio classification. Nonetheless, their performance heavily relies on the amount of data used to train them, and large datasets are not always readily available.

Wearable-tech glove translates sign language into speech in real time

UCLA bioengineers have designed a glove-like device that can translate American Sign Language into English speech in real time though a smartphone app. Their research is published in the journal Nature Electronics.

Credit card skimmers hide in web page image files

A particularly nasty form of consumer credit card theft centers on the use of skimming devices embedded in credit card machines at locations such as gas stations and convenience stores. As a customer swipes a card, the hidden device records the name, number and expiration date on the card.

New open-source software aims to reduce cybersickness in VR use

Cybersickness, or motion sickness during the use of virtual reality, can be a major roadblock to the development and adoption of augmented and virtual reality technology. Now researchers at UTSA have built GingerVR, the first open-source Unity software tool kit that allows developers to use proven techniques and innovative solutions against cybersickness in future extended reality environments.

New forecasting model improves solar panel performance

A new mathematical model for predicting variations in solar irradiance has been developed at Uppsala University. It may help to promote more efficient use of electricity from solar energy. In tests of various data models, the model proved capable of making highly reliable forecasts, and emerged as the best for this purpose in some respects. The results have now been published in two articles in the journal Solar Energy.

The electric future of autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles come at a cost: increased energy use. Some suggest that these increased power needs are significant enough to drastically reduce vehicle range, eliminating the possibility of electric autonomous vehicles. Instead, these analysts claim autonomous vehicles must be gas-electric hybrids. In a paper recently published in Nature Energy, Aniruddh Mohan, Shashank Sripad, Parth Vaishnav, and Venkat Viswanathan of Carnegie Mellon University determined that electric power can supply enough energy for an autonomous vehicle without a significant decrease in range.

Analysis of complex geometric models made simple

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed an efficient new way to quickly analyze complex geometric models by borrowing a computational approach that has made photorealistic animated films possible.

No keys to the kingdom: New single sign-on algorithm provides superior privacy

Over the last few decades, as the information era has matured, it has shaped the world of cryptography and made it a varied landscape. Amongst the myriad encoding methods and cryptosystems currently available for ensuring secure data transfers and user identification, some have become quite popular because of their safety or practicality. For example, if you have ever been given the option to log onto a website using your Facebook or Gmail ID and password, you have encountered a single sign-on (SSO) system at work. The same goes for most smartphones, where signing in with a single username and password combination allows access to many different services and applications.

Canada top court clears way for Uber drivers class action

The Supreme Court of Canada cleared the way for a Can$400 million (US$300 million) class action lawsuit to force Uber to recognize drivers as employees, while ruling Friday its arbitration scheme void.

Huawei controversy opens field for 5G challengers

With growing pressure to keep China's Huawei out of 5G network development, it could be time for firms like Japan's NEC and South Korea's Samsung to shine.

France pulls plug on country's oldest nuclear plant

France's oldest nuclear power plant will shut down on Tuesday after four decades in operation, to the delight of environmental activists who have long warned of contamination risks, but stoking worry for the local economy.

Researchers print, tune graphene sensors to monitor food freshness, safety

Researchers dipped their new, printed sensors into tuna broth and watched the readings.

Nissan officials face angry shareholders on red ink, scandal

Nissan Chief Executive Makoto Uchida told shareholders Monday he is giving up half his pay after the Japanese automaker sank into the red amid plunging sales and plant closures in Spain and Indonesia.

Boeing 737 MAX could take off Monday for commercial survival

Boeing's 737 MAX plane could begin key recertification flight tests as soon as Monday, a crucial step for the survival of a top-selling plane that has been grounded for more than a year following two fatal crashes.

New scanning method turns object inside out at high speed

What if you could watch a CT scan live, rather than analyzing the images afterward? Thanks to the work of Leiden mathematician Jan-Willem Buurlage, that will soon be reality. He is developing methods to make the algorithms behind 3-D scans faster. He defends his thesis on 1 July.

Hundreds of German Amazon workers strike for pay deal

Hundreds of workers walked out at Amazon sites across Germany Monday to press for a binding pay and conditions agreement and highlight coronavirus risks, but the company has so far brushed off their demands.

Ad blockers may benefit websites, users, and the market at large

Millions of websites, including some of the largest Internet companies (e.g., Google, Yahoo), depend on advertising as their main source of revenue, allowing them to offer their content for free. The use of software that blocks ads has surged in recent years, presenting a challenge to platforms that depend on ad revenue. A new study sought to determine the effect of ad blockers on websites' ability to generate revenue and on users' experiences. The study found that contrary to common assumptions, ad blockers may offer some benefits to companies, users, and the market at large. The findings have implications for how online platforms make decisions about advertising.

Boeing 737 MAX test flight takes off in Seattle

US regulators launched a test flight of the Boeing 737 MAX on Monday, a key step in recertifying the jet that has grounded for more than a year following two fatal crashes.

Dutch government begins auction of 5G frequencies

The Dutch government started an auction Monday of new 5G wireless frequencies, with telecom companies bidding so they can provide customers with the faster mobile communication networks.

Geneva auto show 2021 cancelled over virus crisis

Geneva's auto show was cancelled this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and organisers said Monday they were also scrapping the 2021 edition as the auto sector reels from the crisis.

Twitch, Reddit hate crackdown targets Trump, supporters

Reddit on Monday said it yanked a forum used by supporters of President Donald Trump as part of a crackdown on hateful posts at the popular online bulletin board while the game streaming platform Twitch briefly suspended the president.

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