Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jul 14

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for July 14, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A brain-inspired architecture for human gesture recognition

A transparent artificial muscle to enable camouflaging in soft robots

Could recently spotted dim point sources explain the galactic center excess (GCE)?

Green is more than skin-deep for hundreds of frog species

Burrowing crabs reshaping salt marshes, with climate change to blame

Scientists discover fault system in southeastern Nepal

Experimental game reveals that the freedom to choose preferred public goods greatly increases their value

Homo erectus hand ax found in East Africa

Multi-disciplinary study provides evidence of forced migration by pre-colonial Incas

Transparent, reflective objects now within grasp of robots

Breakthrough in deciphering birth of supermassive black holes

Study finds that special filters in glasses can help the color blind see colors better

Synthesizing an alternative fuel for muscle could lead to medical advances

Molecularly thin interface between polymers for efficient carbon dioxide capture membrane

Scientists investigate radiolabeling of calcium carbonate particles in vivo

Physics news

Scientists investigate radiolabeling of calcium carbonate particles in vivo

Сalcium carbonate particles are among the most promising bioactive compounds. However, before their use for drug delivery, their toxicity should be established, as well as their distribution inside laboratory animals. A team of investigators from ITMO University's Department of Physics and Engineering and Russian Scientific Center of Radiology and Surgical Technologies has developed novel approaches to load calcium carbonate particles with model radionuclides and studied the biodistribution of these particles on rats using positron emission tomography (PET). They found that the size of the particles influences the specific organ accumulation in vivo. The results of this study are published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Hammer-on technique for atomic vibrations in a crystal

Vibrations of atoms in a crystal of the semiconductor gallium arsenide (GaAs) are impulsively shifted to a higher frequency by an optically excited electric current. The related change in the spatial distribution of charge between gallium and arsenic atoms acts back on their motions via electric interactions.

Underused part of the electromagnetic spectrum gets optics boost from metamaterial

Terahertz radiation, or T-rays, has barely been exploited compared to most of the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum. Yet T-rays potentially have applications in next-generation wireless communications (6G/7G), security systems, biomedicine, and even art history. A new device for controlling T-rays using a specially designed 'metasurface' with properties not found in nature could begin to realize this potential.

Physicists introduce novel mechanism for electron optics in solid-​state systems

Electrons can interfere in the same manner as water, acoustical or light waves do. When exploited in solid-state materials, such effects promise novel functionality for electronic devices, in which elements such as interferometers, lenses or collimators could be integrated for controlling electrons at the scale of mirco- and nanometres. However, so far such effects have been demonstrated mainly in one-dimensional devices, for example in nanotubes, or under specific conditions in two-dimensional graphene devices. Writing in Physical Review X, a collaboration including the Department of Physics groups of Klaus Ensslin, Thomas Ihn and Werner Wegscheider in the Laboratory for Solid State Physics and Oded Zilberberg at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, now introduces a novel general scenario for realizing electron optics in two dimensions.

Fermilab achieves 14.5-tesla field for accelerator magnet, setting new world record

The Fermilab magnet team has done it again. After setting a world record for an accelerator magnet in 2019, they have broken it a year later.

Quantum body scanner? What happens when vector vortex beams meet scattering media

Propagate light through any kind of medium – be it free space or biological tissue – and light will scatter. Robustness to scattering is a common requirement for communications and for imaging systems. Structured light, with its use of projected patterns, is resistant to scattering, and has therefore emerged as a versatile tool. In particular, modes of structured light carrying orbital angular momentum (OAM) have attracted significant attention for applications in biomedical imaging.

Astronomy and Space news

Could recently spotted dim point sources explain the galactic center excess (GCE)?

Over the past decade or so, a number of astrophysics studies have detected an excess of gamma-ray radiation at the center of our galaxy. Despite the many attempts to understand this unexpected surplus of radiation, now known as the galactic center excess (GCE), its source and the reasons why it exists remain unknown.

Breakthrough in deciphering birth of supermassive black holes

A research team led by Cardiff University scientists say they are closer to understanding how a supermassive black hole (SMBH) is born thanks to a new technique that has enabled them to zoom in on one of these enigmatic cosmic objects in unprecedented detail.

Observatory's quick reflexes capture fleeting flash

Rapid follow-up of the optical afterglow from one of the most distant confirmed short gamma-ray bursts (SGRB), thought to be the merger of two neutron stars, is casting new light on these enigmatic objects. The observations, made by the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF's NOIRLab, confirmed the object's distance and placed it squarely in the epoch of cosmic high noon, when the Universe was in its "teenage years" and rapidly forming stars. The appearance of an SGRB so early in the history of the Universe could alter theories about their origin, in particular how long it takes two neutron stars to merge to produce these powerful events. Precisely-localized SGRBs are rare, typically only 7-8 are detected per year, and this is the most distant high-confidence SGRB with an optical afterglow detection.

Emirati 'Hope' probe heads for Mars

The first Arab space mission to Mars is scheduled to blast off from Japan Friday on a mission to unravel from above the weather dynamics in the Red Planet's atmosphere.

Humanity on Mars? Technically possible, but no voyage on horizon

Robotic landers and rovers have been touching down on Mars since the 1970s, but when will humanity finally set foot on the Red Planet?

NASA's Perseverance rover will scour Mars for signs of life

NASA's most advanced Mars rover, Perseverance, launches from Earth on July 30, on a mission to seek out signs of ancient microbial life on what was once a river delta three-and-a-half billion years ago.

Will we see a Starship test this week?

As we speak, engineers at SpaceX's Boca Chica test facility are busy getting the fifth Starship prototype (SN5) ready. Having recently passed the crucial cryogenic load test, and with the installation of its SN27 Raptor engine, the ground crews are now gearing up for a static fire test. Assuming the SN5 doesn't explode in a massive fireball (as the SN4 did), it will be ready to make the first hop test of a full-scale Starship prototype.

Designing better asteroid explorers

Recent NASA missions to asteroids have gathered important data about the early evolution of our Solar System, planet formation, and how life may have originated on Earth. These missions also provide crucial information to deflect asteroids that could hit Earth.

Technology news

A brain-inspired architecture for human gesture recognition

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University and University of Technology Sydney have recently developed a machine learning architecture that can recognize human gestures by analyzing images captured by stretchable strain sensors. The new architecture, presented in a paper published in Nature Electronics, is inspired by the functioning of the human brain.

A transparent artificial muscle to enable camouflaging in soft robots

The ability to become transparent is a considerable evolutionary advantage, as it allows animals to blend in with their environment, avoid predators and mask their movements. Robots with similar capabilities could be of great value for a number of applications, for instance, aiding surveillance and research that involves observing animals in their natural habitat.

Transparent, reflective objects now within grasp of robots

Kitchen robots are a popular vision of the future, but if a robot of today tries to grasp a kitchen staple such as a clear measuring cup or a shiny knife, it likely won't be able to. Transparent and reflective objects are the things of robot nightmares.

Robotic gripper with soft, sensitive fingers can handle cables with unprecedented dexterity

For humans, it can be challenging to manipulate thin flexible objects like ropes, wires, or cables. But if these problems are hard for humans, they are nearly impossible for robots. As a cable slides between the fingers, its shape is constantly changing, and the robot's fingers must be constantly sensing and adjusting the cable's position and motion.

Never fall again thanks to backpack-like wearable robot

Balance aids currently used in daily life and rehabilitation clinics are helpful but far from perfect. Canes, walkers, crutches, and handrails modify posture and prevent the hands from being used during activities like opening doors, carrying shopping, or answering the telephone. Also more sophisticated tools like mobile bodyweight support systems or robotic gait trainers are bulky or can only be used in specific environments. Andrew Berry, Daniel Lemus and Saher Jabeen, researchers BioMechanical Engineering at TU Delft, led by Professor Heike Vallery, developed a backpack-like wearable robot to provide balance support during rehabilitation; the GyBAR. Fully contained within the backpack is a gyroscopic actuator—a spinning disc repositionable with electric motors—to provide hands-free balance support in multiple activities and environments. The results of the first experiments with human subjects and potential end-users have been published in Scientific Reports.

Research points to strategies for recycling of solar panels

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have conducted the first global assessment into the most promising approaches to end-of-life management for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules.

Drones and artificial intelligence show promise for conservation of farmland bird nests

Farmland bird species are declining over most of Europe. Birds breeding on the ground are particularly vulnerable because they are exposed to mechanical operations, like plowing and sowing, which take place in spring and often accidentally destroy nests.

Inspired by a coral polyp, this plastic mini robot moves by magnetism and light

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology developed a tiny plastic robot, made of responsive polymers, which moves under the influence of light and magnetism. In the future this 'wireless aquatic polyp' should be able to attract and capture contaminant particles from the surrounding liquid or pick up and transport cells for analysis in diagnostic devices. The researchers published their results in the journal PNAS.

Facebook zeroes in on tourist photography habits

Facebook researchers scanned 57,804 photographs of popular tourist destination spot Cuzco, Peru, that were posted on Flickr over a 15-year period and made two key observations:

Amazon unveils shopping cart that knows what you're buying

Amazon has a new cure for long supermarket lines: a smart shopping cart.

Trade wars with China could cost US universities $1.15 billion

Uncertainties around the trade war between the U.S. and China have hurt businesses and weighed on the global economy. However, new research from the University of California San Diego also shows lesser known consequence: up to $1.15 billion in reduced tuition to U.S. universities.

Biases in algorithms hurt those looking for information on health

The Health Information National Trends Survey reports that 75% of Americans go to the internet first when looking for information about health or medical topics. YouTube is one of the most popular online platforms, with billions of views every day, and has emerged as a significant source of health information.

Particulate plutonium released from the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns

Small amounts of plutonium (Pu) were released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) reactors into the environment during the site's 2011 nuclear disaster. However, the physical, chemical, and isotopic form of the released Pu has remained unknown.

Are Norwegian game developers too keen on perfection?

The desire to create the perfect computer game can be an obstacle to growth in the Norwegian gaming industry, says researcher Hrafnhildur Jónasdóttir.

Automated stress management for farmers

Cereals for the production of foodstuff and animal feed are the main source of income in agriculture, along with meat and vegetables. The most important cereal in German farming is wheat, with a cultivation area of around 3.1 million hectares in 2019. Despite the use of ultra-modern machines, there are phases of harvesting with very high and with relatively low workloads. Researchers of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are developing an automated assistance system that—based on the driver's current level of stress and workload—can provide recommendations for action, thus providing a better balance and increasing overall well-being.

Robot jaws show medicated chewing gum could be the future

Medicated chewing gum has been recognized as a new advanced drug delivery method but currently there is no gold standard for testing drugs released from chewing gum in vitro. New research has shown a chewing robot with built-in humanoid jaws could provide opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to develop medicated chewing gum.

Perovskite solar cells demonstrate highest power conversion

A team of researchers at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has created a perovskite solar mini module that has recorded the highest power conversion efficiency of any perovskite-based device larger than 10 cm2.

Butterfly wings inspiring next-gen technological innovations

The catastrophic effects of global environmental degradation, health deterioration and diminishing energy resources are demanding remedy measures aimed at environmental conservation, health interventions and harnessing of the abundant and renewable energy resources. Consequently, sensors and renewable energy harnessing systems have emerged as worthwhile solutions to the existent challenges. However, conventional sensors and renewable energy harnessing systems have presented diminished efficiency and performance to be improved. Therefore, current research trends are focusing on improving the efficiency and performance of these systems.

Customizable smart window technology could improve energy efficiency of buildings

A customizable smart window harnesses and manipulates solar power to save energy and cut costs.

Army robots get driver education for difficult tasks

Ground robots will be trained to receive demonstration commands—instead of verbal commands—to interpret, follow, recall and apply in similar contexts as part of a new Army research project starting this month with the University of Texas at Austin.

'Knock codes' for smartphone security are easily predicted, researchers say

Smartphone owners who unlock their devices with knock codes aren't as safe as they think, according to researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology, the George Washington University and Ruhr University Bochum.

Testing N95, KN95 respirators and surgical masks in response to COVID-19

The Particle Science and Technology Laboratory at Southwest Research Institute has expanded its services to include mask testing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The testing will help health care and other organizations evaluate respirators, surgical face masks and filtration materials to ensure they meet particle filtration standards.

German court rules Tesla's 'Autopilot' is false advertising

A German court ruled Tuesday that specific terms used by Tesla for its electric cars' assistance features are false advertising, including the vehicles' "Autopilot" feature.

Ericsson, Nokia say ready to step in after UK 5G Huawei ban

Network equipment providers Ericsson and Nokia, Huawei's biggest competitors, said Tuesday they were ready to step in after the UK announced it was phasing out the Chinese telecoms giant from its budding 5G network.

Tech sector job interviews assess anxiety, not software skills

A new study from North Carolina State University and Microsoft finds that the technical interviews currently used in hiring for many software engineering positions test whether a job candidate has performance anxiety rather than whether the candidate is competent at coding. The interviews may also be used to exclude groups or favor specific job candidates.

Demand for robot cooks rises as kitchens combat COVID-19

Robots that can cook - from flipping burgers to baking bread - are in growing demand as virus-wary kitchens try to put some distance between workers and customers.

China's trade rises as economy recovers from virus slump

China's trade improved in June in a fresh sign the world's second-largest economy is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. But its exporters face threats including tension with Washington and a possible downturn in U.S. and European demand.

Huawei posts 13.1% revenue growth amid pandemic, sanctions

Huawei Technologies reported Tuesday that its revenue grew 13.1% in the first half of the year compared with a year earlier, despite sanctions from the U.S and challenges from the coronavirus pandemic.

Success of New York offshore wind industry depends on collaboration with scallop fishery

Offshore wind is considered one of the most promising forms of renewable energy to expand this decade. According to the nonprofit World Forum Offshore Wind, technological advancements, global government support, and cost reductions have allowed the industry to play a greater role in electricity generation. Offshore wind is currently most prevalent in Western Europe, but this source of energy production is rapidly growing in countries such as China and the United States.

US inflation spikes 0.6% in June on rising gas prices: report

Consumer inflation jumped in June as the US economy began to partially reopen, rising 0.6 percent on a rebound in gasoline prices, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

Ethiopia enters 3rd week of internet shutdown after unrest

Ethiopia is entering its third week without internet service for almost everyone after days of deadly unrest, as the government in Africa's diplomatic and aviation hub says it's trying to prevent speech that could further inflame ethnic tensions.

US banks set aside billions as buffer against bad loans

Three major US banks have set aside an additional $23 billion as a backstop against bad loans, highlighting the brittle state of the US economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, the companies said Tuesday.

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