Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jul 23

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

COVID-19 lockdown caused 50% global reduction in human-linked Earth vibrations

Scientists discover a topological magnet that exhibits exotic quantum effects

A new MXene material shows extraordinary electromagnetic interference shielding ability

A world drowning in plastic pollution

New technique to capture carbon dioxide could greatly reduce power plant greenhouse gases

'Self-eating' process of stem cells may be the key to new regenerative therapies

Self-powered user-interactive electronic skin for programmable touch operation

Battle royale: How bacteria fight antibiotics and up the ante in chemical warfare

Using light instead of electricity in cochlear implants

Measuring how long quantum tunneling takes

Humans may have reached the Americas 15,000 years earlier than previously thought

Ionic spiderwebs that imitate dual functions in real spiderwebs

Quantum physicists crack mystery of 'strange metals,' a new state of matter

Near-field light research advances particle manipulation, high resolution microscopy, and more

Spectacular UV flash may explain how white dwarfs explode

Physics news

Scientists discover a topological magnet that exhibits exotic quantum effects

An international team led by researchers at Princeton University has uncovered a new class of magnet that exhibits novel quantum effects that extend to room temperature.

Measuring how long quantum tunneling takes

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto has found a way to measure how long quantum tunneling takes to happen. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes experiments they conducted and the result they found when attempting to measure how long quantum tunneling takes under certain circumstances.

Quantum physicists crack mystery of 'strange metals,' a new state of matter

Even by the standards of quantum physicists, strange metals are just plain odd. The materials are related to high-temperature superconductors and have surprising connections to the properties of black holes. Electrons in strange metals dissipate energy as fast as they're allowed to under the laws of quantum mechanics, and the electrical resistivity of a strange metal, unlike that of ordinary metals, is proportional to the temperature.

Near-field light research advances particle manipulation, high resolution microscopy, and more

There are many types of light—some visible and some invisible to the human eye. For example, our eyes and brain don't have the tools to process ultraviolet light when it hits our eyes, making it invisible. But there is another type of light that is invisible simply because it never reaches our eyes. When light hits certain surfaces, part of it sticks and remains behind rather than being transmitted or scattered away. This type of light is called near-field light.

Physicists develop technology to transform information from microwaves to optical light

Physicists at the University of Alberta have developed technology that can translate data from microwaves to optical light—an advance that has promising applications in the next generation of super-fast quantum computers and secure fiber-optic telecommunications.

A new method to significantly increase the range and stability of optical tweezers

Optical tweezers are a device which uses a laser beam to move micron-sized objects such as living cells, proteins, and molecules. In 2018, the American physicist Arthur Eshkin received the Nobel Prize for this technology. Before this, it was impossible to move such objects since any attempt to grab them led to destruction. Optical tweezers do not disturb the internal structure of the object.

Seeing the light: Researchers combine technologies for better light control

A new technology that can allow for better light control without requiring large, difficult-to-integrate materials and structures has been developed by Penn State researchers. The new photonic integrated chip could allow for many advances in the optical field and industry, ranging from improvements in virtual-reality glasses to optical remote sensing, according to the researchers.

Silicon core fishbone waveguide extends frequency comb

Frequency combs are becoming one of the great enabling technologies of the 21st century. High-precision atomic clocks, and high-precision spectroscopy are just two technologies that have benefited from the development of highly precise frequency combs. However, the original frequency comb sources required a room full of equipment. And it turns out that if you suggest that a room full of delicate equipment is perfect for a commercial application, the development engineer makes a beeline for the nearest exit.

Advanced Photon Source upgrade will transform the world of scientific research

From chemistry to materials science to COVID-19 research, the APS is one of the most productive X-ray light sources in the world. An upgrade will make it a global leader among the next generation of light sources, opening new frontiers in science.

Argonne breaks ground on new state-of-the-art beamlines for the Advanced Photon Source

The two new beamlines will be constructed as part of a comprehensive upgrade of the APS, enhancing its capabilities and maintaining its status as a world-leading facility for X-ray science.

Astronomy and Space news

Spectacular UV flash may explain how white dwarfs explode

For only the second time ever, astrophysicists have spotted a spectacular flash of ultraviolet (UV) light accompanying a white dwarf explosion.

China launches Mars probe in space race with US

China launched a rover to Mars on Thursday, a journey coinciding with a similar US mission as the powers take their rivalry into deep space.

Image: Mars rover revival

As Mars exploration prepares for a rebirth, a European rover tunes up its gear for the challenges ahead.

Perseverance microphones fulfill long Planetary Society campaign to hear sounds from Mars

If you could stand on the surface of Mars, what would you hear? While eight missions have returned stunning views from the surface of the Red Planet, none have returned any sound.

Video: Matthias Maurer: training for a spacewalk

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer has been training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, U.S. In this video, he walks us through training for a spacewalk with NASA colleagues in the 12 m deep Neutral Buoyancy Facility (NBL).

Russian cargo ship launched to International Space Station

An uncrewed Russian cargo ship lifted off Thursday to deliver a load of supplies to the International Space Station.

Hubble Space Telescope captures summertime on Saturn

Saturn is truly the lord of the rings in this latest snapshot from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, taken on July 4, 2020, when the opulent giant world was 839 million miles from Earth. This new Saturn image was taken during summer in the planet's northern hemisphere.

Dark energy: map gives clue about what it is – but deepens dispute about the cosmic expansion rate

Dark energy is one of the greatest mysteries in science today. We know very little about it, other than it is invisible, it fills the whole universe, and it pushes galaxies away from each other. This is making our cosmos expand at an accelerated rate. But what is it? One of the simplest explanations is that it is a "cosmological constant"—a result of the energy of empty space itself—an idea introduced by Albert Einstein.

Technology news

Self-powered user-interactive electronic skin for programmable touch operation

User-interactive electronic skin can map the sense of touch through electronic readouts to provide visual output as a readable response. However, the high power consumption, complex structure and high cost of electronic skin is challenging for frugal practical applications. In a new report on Science Advances, Xuan Zhao, Zheng Zhang and colleagues in advanced metals, materials and engineering in China, reported a self-powered, user-interactive electronic skin named SUE-skin as a simple and cost-effective structure based on a triboelectric-optical model. The material converted touch stimuli into electrical signals to provide an instantaneously visible light at a trigger-pressure threshold as low as 20 kPa without an external power supply. The team linked the electronic skin with a microcontroller to build a programmable touch operation platform that recognized more than 156 interaction logics to seamlessly control consumer electronics. The cost-effective technology is relevant for gesture control, augmented reality, and intelligent prosthesis applications.

AI-based 'no-touch touchscreen' could reduce risk of pathogen spread from surfaces

A "no-touch touchscreen" developed for use in cars could also have widespread applications in a post-COVID-19 world, by reducing the risk of transmission of pathogens on surfaces.

Apple to issue hackable iPhones

Apple announced this week that it will begin shipping out specially configured Security Research Device iPhones to researchers so that they can probe for vulnerabilities without interference from standard iPhone security walls.

Twitter says direct messages accessed in 36 of 130 hack victims

Twitter Inc. completed its review of the 130 accounts that were hacked on its social network last week and discovered that the attackers accessed direct messages for as many as 36 of them, including one elected official in the Netherlands.

Amazon introduces boxes that can be recycled into cat condos, forts and other creations

It's no secret that kids—and cats—like to play with cardboard boxes, sometimes more than with what's inside.

Supervised speech enhancement approach improves quality of voice communication

For voice communication, it is important to suppress background noise without introducing unnatural distortion. Deep learning-based speech enhancement approaches can effectively suppress background noise components.

Laughter as a unique biometric signature

The popular view of biometric security often invokes fingerprint readers, iris or retinal scans, and voice-activated systems. However, any unique human characteristic whether the shape of one's ears, the whole face, the pattern of blood vessels in the back of the hand, walking pattern, heart rhythm or even how one types at a keyboard, might be used to provide a secure signature of login. Some traits are easier to analyze than others and some, such as fingerprints, can be spoofed.

Working conditions putting taxi driver livelihoods at risk

A new report has examined working conditions for private hire and Hackney taxi drivers, finding that the precarious nature of the work and an oversupply of drivers is putting livelihoods at risk.

Researchers question Google Play component of COVID tracker apps

Prof. Doug Leith and Dr. Stephen Farrell at the School of Computer Science and Statistics have issued a new report concluding that user privacy is not protected adequately in COVID-19 tracking apps, including the Irish COVID Tracker app.

Methods for the generation of autonomous driving simulation scenarios and internal error regulation

The future has already arrived. (Partially) autonomous cars are already on our roads today with automated systems such as braking or lane departure warning systems. As a central vehicle component, the software of these systems must continuously and reliably meet high-quality criteria. Franz Wotawa from the Institute of Software Technology at TU Graz and his team in close collaboration with the cyber-physical system testing team of AVL are dedicated to the great challenges of this future technology: the guarantee of safety through the automatic generation of extensive test scenarios for simulations and system-internal error compensation by means of an adaptive control method.

Twitter gains users, but revenue hit by US unrest

Twitter on Thursday reported soaring user growth in the past quarter even as ad revenues took a hit amid civil unrest in the United States.

Post-quantum cryptography program enters 'selection round'

The race to protect sensitive electronic information against the threat of quantum computers has entered the home stretch.

New technology makes homes more energy independent, helps divert power during blackouts

In a new study, researchers from Texas A&M University and industry have designed a smart technology that can help utility companies better serve communities affected by blackouts. The researchers said their single device works by improving energy delivery between home solar-power systems and the electrical grid.

NY lawmakers vote to pause facial recognition in schools

The New York Legislature has passed a two-year moratorium on the use of facial recognition in schools.

Twitter cryptocurrency scam echoes previous schemes on YouTube

The Bitcoin scam that hackers deployed while breaking into the Twitter Inc. accounts of political leaders and business titans last week closely resembles similar schemes used previously on YouTube.

On yer bike: cycling industry out-pedalled by demand

Bikes are booming across the globe as people seek to avoid crowded buses and trains for their daily commutes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic—or get back into shape after long months of lockdown.

Highflying Tesla reports surprise profit despite COVID-19 upheaval

Tesla reported a surprise second-quarter profit Wednesday as it confirmed ambitious targets for 2020 car deliveries despite the coronavirus pandemic and announced plans for a new auto factory in Texas.

Tesla picks Texas site for second US vehicle assembly plant

Electric car maker Tesla Inc. has picked the Austin, Texas, area as the site for its largest auto assembly plant employing at least 5,000 workers.

Microsoft weathers pandemic, beats Wall Street expectations

Microsoft said the coronavirus pandemic has increased demand for its flagship products, reporting quarterly earnings Wednesday that beat Wall Street expectations.

Why some governments fear even teens on TikTok

In Egypt, teenager Menna Abdel Aziz used social media to ask for protection after a sexual assault. She was arrested on a variety of charges, including misusing social media and corrupting family values.

TikTok launches $200 mn 'creator fund'

TikTok unveiled plans for a $200 million "creator fund" to add content from emerging social media personalities to the fast-growing video-sharing app.

Spain to plough 15 bn euros into digital transformation

Spain is to plough 15 billion euros of the funds it will receive from the historic European coronavirus rescue plan passed this week to drive through the country's digital transformation.

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