Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jul 21

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for July 21, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display on human skin

A highly stretchable and self-healing strain sensor for motion detection

Hundreds of candidate galaxies identified in the protocluster D1UD01

Interaction dynamics between designer microrobots and the immune system

Gamma-ray telescopes measure diameters of distant stars

Unparalleled inventory of the human gut ecosystem

Bushfires could mean rise in threatened native species

A new directed evolution technique to unlock the potential of xeno-nucleic acids

Researchers accidentally breed sturddlefish

Study shows birds in Finland breeding earlier and having shorter breeding seasons due to global warming

Asteroid shower on the Earth-Moon system 800 million years ago revealed by lunar craters

Chronic inflammation alters the evolution of cells in the colon, study finds

Better wastewater treatment? It's a wrap

Label-free imaging helps predict reproductive outcomes

Insight into toddlers' awareness of their own uncertainty

Physics news

Physicists find ways to control gamma radiation

Researchers from Kazan Federal University, Texas A&M University and Institute of Applied Physics (Russian Academy of Sciences) found ways to direct high frequency gamma radiation by means of acoustics.

Temporal aiming with temporal metamaterials

Tailoring and manipulating electromagnetic wave propagation has been of great interest within the scientific community for many decades. In this context, wave propagation has been engineered by properly introducing spatial inhomogeneities along the path where the wave is traveling. Antennas and communications systems in general have greatly benefited from this wave-matter control. For instance, if one needs to re-direct the radiated field (information) from an antenna (transmitter) to a desired direction and reach a receiving antenna placed at a different location, one can simply place the former in a translation stage and mechanically steer the propagation of the emitted electromagnetic wave.

New detection method turns silicon cameras into mid-infrared detectors

The MIR range of the electromagnetic spectrum, which roughly covers light in the wavelength regime between 3 to 10 micrometers, coincides with the energies of fundamental molecular vibrations. Utilizing this light for the purpose of imaging can produce stills with chemical specificity, i.e. images with contrast derived from the chemical composition of the sample. Unfortunately, detecting MIR light is not as simple as detecting light in the visible regime. Current MIR cameras exhibit excellent sensitivity but are very sensitive to thermal noise. In addition, the fastest MIR cameras suitable for chemical mapping have sensors with low pixel numbers, thus limiting imaging at high definition.

Synthetic dimensions enable a new way to construct higher-order topological insulators

Topological insulators have been an exciting field of research with fundamental interest as well as practical applications such as robust transport of electrons and light, and topological quantum computing. The hallmark of such conventional topological insulators is the presence of conducting boundary modes which have one dimension lower than the insulating bulk system that hosts them—for example a one-dimensional edge mode at the boundary of a two-dimensional system, or a two-dimensional surface state at the boundary of a three-dimensional system. In 2017, scientists generalized this concept to predict a new phase of matter called higher-order topological insulators (HOTIs), which support 'corner modes'—e.g. a zero-dimensional mode in a two-dimensional system. Since then, there have been several experimental demonstrations of this new HOTI phase, most of which involve complicated geometries. Moreover, these previous systems are fixed—i.e. one cannot dynamically switch or tune their higher-order topological behavior once they are fabricated.

Topological photonics in fractal lattices

Topological insulators are a new phase of matter unique for their insulating bulk and perfectly conducting edges. They have been at the forefront of condensed matter physics for the past decade, and more recently inspired the emergence of topological phases in many classical-wave systems, such as photonics and acoustics. To date, all studies of topological insulators have explored systems in integer dimensions (physically, 2-D or 3-D) with a well-defined bulk and edges. However, physical dimensions do not always define the dimensions in which a system evolves: Some structures have a noninteger (fractal) dimension, despite being in a 2-D or 3-D realm.

A survey on optical memory and optical RAM technologies

Over the past decades, 'storing light' has appeared as a rather controversial concept, given that a photon's inherent nature hinders its spatial confinement. The first research efforts in demonstrating optical memory functionality started as a fascinating experimental exercise, and two decades later the remarkable achievements of integrated optical memories and optical random access memories (RAMs) introduced a new roadmap for light-based information storage that can offer fast access times, high bandwidth and seamless cooperation with optical interconnect lines.

Astronomy and Space news

Hundreds of candidate galaxies identified in the protocluster D1UD01

Astronomers have conducted a detailed multiwavelength study of a distant protocluster of galaxies known as D1UD01. As a result, over 350 candidate galaxies have been detected in this protocluster. The research is detailed in a paper published July 14 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Gamma-ray telescopes measure diameters of distant stars

By reviving a technique capable of combining specialized gamma-ray telescopes to one giant virtual instrument, scientists have measured the diameters of individual stars hundreds of light-years away. The team used the four VERITAS telescopes (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) in the US as one combined instrument to determine the size of Beta Canis Majoris—a blue giant star located 500 light-years from the sun—and Epsilon Orionis—a blue supergiant star located 2,000 light-years from the sun. The Stellar Intensity Interferometry technique, demonstrated for the first time nearly 50 years ago, could be a secondary use for other gamma-ray observatories as well, including the upcoming Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). The team led by astronomers from the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the University of Utah and including scientists from DESY report their findings in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Asteroid shower on the Earth-Moon system 800 million years ago revealed by lunar craters

A research team led by Osaka University investigated the formation ages of 59 lunar craters with a diameter of approximately 20 km using the Terrain Camera (TC) onboard the lunar orbiter spacecraft Kaguya.

'Lost' world's rediscovery is step toward finding habitable planets

The rediscovery of a lost planet could pave the way for the detection of a world within the habitable "Goldilocks zone" in a distant solar system.

Study reveals composition of 'gel-like' substance discovered by Chang'e-4 rover on Moon's far side

The unusual dark greenish and glistening 'gel-like' substance in a crater on the far side of the moon has attracted widespread interest following its discovery by the Chang'e-4 rover in July 2019.

New cosmic magnetic field structures discovered in galaxy NGC 4217

Spiral galaxies such as our Milky Way can have sprawling magnetic fields. There are various theories about their formation, but so far the process is not well understood. An international research team has now analyzed the magnetic field of the Milky Way-like galaxy NGC 4217 in detail on the basis of radio astronomical observations and has discovered as yet unknown magnetic field structures. The data suggest that star formation and star explosions, so-called supernovae, are responsible for the visible structures.

Astronauts squeeze in last spacewalk before SpaceX departure

Astronauts squeezed in one last spacewalk Tuesday before turning their attention to the all-important end to SpaceX's first crew flight.

South Korea's first military satellite launched

South Korea's first-ever military communications satellite has been successfully launched by private operator SpaceX, Seoul said Tuesday, as it looks to build up its defence capabilities.

Technology news

A highly stretchable and self-healing strain sensor for motion detection

Strain sensors are devices that can convert force, pressure, tension and weight into a change in electrical resistance (i.e., capacitance), which can then be measured. Over the past few years, these sensors have been used to create a variety of devices that can detect motion in their surroundings, including robots, health monitoring devices and smart human-machine interfaces.

Canadian team designs smartphone app to track mental health

Canadian researchers have developed an app that tracks users' smartphone behavior to monitor mental health.

Twitter data reveals global communication network

Twitter mentions show distinct community structure patterns resulting from communication preferences of individuals affected by physical distance between users and commonalities, such as shared language and history.

Photon-based processing units enable more complex machine learning

Machine learning performed by neural networks is a popular approach to developing artificial intelligence, as researchers aim to replicate brain functionalities for a variety of applications.

3-D hand-sensing wristband signals future of wearable tech

In a potential breakthrough in wearable sensing technology, researchers from Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have designed a wrist-mounted device that continuously tracks the entire human hand in 3-D.

Old phone to recycle? In France, just drop it in the mail

Figuring out what to do with an old mobile phone just got easier in France, where people can now send them free in the mail to have them recycled or refurbished for sale by a charity group.

Coronavirus: how the pandemic has exposed AI's limitations

It should have been artificial intelligence's moment in the sun. With billions of dollars of investment in recent years, AI has been touted as a solution to every conceivable problem. So when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, a multitude of AI models were immediately put to work.

The price of health care privacy violations

The health care leaders of tomorrow are willing to violate privacy laws—for a price, according to new research from the University at Buffalo School of Management.

How does ridesourcing substitute for public transit network?

Ridesourcing apps like Uber, Grab and DiDi have become ubiquitous in cities around the world but have also attracted much backlash from established taxi companies. Despite its adoption worldwide, regulation of ridesourcing services still varies greatly in different parts of the world—as policy makers struggle to assess its impact on the economy and society, with limited information and yet unidentified risks involved. One major consideration to improve mobility and sustainability in cities is whether ridesourcing apps serve as a substitute or complement for public transits. In an ideal situation, ridesourcing could complement transit service and help to reduce private car usage. However, as an alternative travel mode, it may also substitute for the transit.

Lithium ion battery waste used in biodiesel production from discarded vegetable oil

The production of biodiesel from vegetable oil has been around for more than 150 years, and the approach significantly reduces several pollutants associated with burning fossil fuels. Vegetable oils, however, can be notoriously difficult to use in an engine, providing low power output and release of unique toxic byproducts.

With fewer cars on US streets, now is the time to reinvent roadways and how we use them

Sticking closer to home because of COVID-19 has shown many people what cities can be like with less traffic, noise, congestion and pollution. Roads and parking lots devoted to cars take up a lot of land. For example, in Phoenix, Los Angeles and New York City these spaces account for over one-third of each city's total area.

Scientists identified energy storage mechanism of sodium-ion battery anode

Scientists from Skoltech and Moscow State University (MSU) identified the type of electrochemical reaction associated with charge storage in the anode material for sodium-ion batteries (SIB), a new promising class of electrochemical power sources. Their findings along with the anode manufacturing method developed by the same team will help bring closer the SIB commercialization in Russia and beyond. The research was published in the journal Electrochimica Acta.

Yahoo Mail will let people shop from Walmart via their email inbox

On Monday, Verizon Media added a feature to Yahoo Mail that lets you shop from a not-so-sexy place: Your inbox.

Next-generation office entry sees surge in interest during COVID-19 pandemic

James Segil and Alex Kazerani thought they were onto something when they introduced technology to make it easier for workers to enter office buildings by using their smartphones instead of badges.

Norway's Adevinta buys eBay's ad business for $9.2 bn

Norwegian online ad specialist Adevinta said Tuesday it had reached a $9.2-billion (8-billion-euro) cash and shares deal to buy the classified ad business of eBay.

Cars rule as coronavirus shakes up travel trends in our cities

As with other parts of the global economy, COVID-19 has led to rapid changes in transport trends. The chart below shows overall trends for driving, walking and public transport for Australia as of July 17.

Social networks aim to erase hate but miss the target on guns

As Facebook faces down a costly boycott campaign demanding the social network do more to combat hate speech, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced plans to ban a "wider category of hateful content in ads." Twitter, YouTube and Reddit have also taken additional steps to curtail online hate, removing several inflammatory accounts.

New corporate initiatives aim for carbon neutrality

Nine global corporations unveiled an initiative Tuesday to step up efforts to move to a "net zero" carbon emissions society, while Apple announced its own plan to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Boeing 737 MAX inches towards flying again

The grounded Boeing 737 MAX moved another step closer towards flying again Tuesday as US regulators said they would soon accept public comments on a roadmap to recertify the jet.

Chinese cybercriminals targeted COVID research, hacked hundreds of companies: US

Two Chinese nationals have been indicted for seeking to steal COVID-19 vaccine research and hacking hundreds of companies in the United States and abroad, including defense contractors, the US Justice Department said Tuesday.

Despite coronavirus pandemic, consumers still turned on by big-screen TVs

Even the coronavirus pandemic cannot sate Americans' appetite for big TVs.

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