Science X Newsletter Friday, Jul 24

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for July 24, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Designing a freestanding, supercharged polypeptide proton-conducting membrane

An origin story for a family of oddball meteorites

Historic carbon dioxide decline could hold clues for future climate

Paper describing hummingbird-sized dinosaur retracted

Tracing the transmission rates and origins of SARS-CoV-2 strains circulating in Brazil

Manipulating non-magnetic atoms in a chromium halide enables tuning of magnetic properties

Young dolphins pick their friends wisely

L-type calcium channel blockers may contribute to heart failure, study finds

Tandem catalytic system efficiently converts carbon dioxide to methanol

Novel drug delivery particles use neurotransmitters as a 'passport' into the brain

New model by CHOP researchers identifies noncoding mutations across five pediatric cancers

Coronavirus makes changes that cause cells not to recognize it

Ancient African skull sheds light on American crocodile origins

Genetic mutations help super bug become highly resistant to antibiotics

If relaxed too soon, physical distancing measures might have been all for naught

Physics news

Manipulating non-magnetic atoms in a chromium halide enables tuning of magnetic properties

The magnetic properties of a chromium halide can be tuned by manipulating the non-magnetic atoms in the material, a team, led by Boston College researchers, reports in the most recent edition of Science Advances.

Project creates more powerful, versatile ultrafast laser pulse

University of Rochester researchers are setting a new standard when it comes to producing ultrafast laser pulses over a broader range of wavelengths than traditional laser sources.

Quantum loop: US unveils blueprint for 'virtually unhackable' internet

US officials and scientists have begun laying the groundwork for a more secure "virtually unhackable" internet based on quantum computing technology.

Astronomy and Space news

An origin story for a family of oddball meteorites

Most meteorites that have landed on Earth are fragments of planetesimals, the very earliest protoplanetary bodies in the solar system. Scientists have thought that these primordial bodies either completely melted early in their history or remained as piles of unmelted rubble.

Russia rejects space weapon claim as 'propaganda'

Russia on Friday dismissed accusations from the United States and Britain that it had tested an anti-satellite weapon in space as "propaganda".

NASA mission will study the cosmos with a stratospheric balloon

Work has begun on an ambitious new mission that will carry a cutting-edge 8.4-foot (2.5-meter) telescope high into the stratosphere on a balloon. Tentatively planned to launch in December 2023 from Antarctica, ASTHROS (short for Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths) will spend about three weeks drifting on air currents above the icy southern continent and achieve several firsts along the way.

NASA Juno takes first images of jovian moon Ganymede's north pole

On its way inbound for a Dec. 26, 2019, flyby of Jupiter, NASA's Juno spacecraft flew in the proximity of the north pole of the ninth-largest object in the solar system, the moon Ganymede. The infrared imagery collected by the spacecraft's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument provides the first infrared mapping of the massive moon's northern frontier.

Image: Hubble snaps ghostly galaxy

A notable feature of most spiral galaxies is the multitude of arching spiral arms that seemingly spin out from the galaxy's center. In this image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the stunning silvery-blue spiral arms of the galaxy NGC 4848 are observed in immense detail. Not only do we see the inner section of the spiral arms containing hundreds of thousands of young, bright, blue stars, but Hubble has also captured the extremely faint, wispy tails of the outer spiral arms. Myriad more distant and delightfully diverse galaxies appear in the background.

As if space wasn't dangerous enough, bacteria become more deadly in microgravity

China has launched its Tianwen-1 mission to Mars. A rocket holding an orbiter, lander and rover took flight from the country's Hainan province yesterday, with hopes to deploy the rover on Mars's surface by early next year.

To photograph comet Neowise, it takes patience and placement

The newly discovered comet Neowise is only visible from Earth once every 6,800 years, and photographers who want to document it seek places with high elevation and little smog or light pollution. A place like North Carolina's famed Grandfather Mountain.

Technology news

How AI systems use Mad Libs to teach themselves grammar

Imagine you're training a computer with a solid vocabulary and a basic knowledge about parts of speech. How would it understand this sentence: "The chef who ran to the store was out of food."

Facebook bots to combat bad behavior

As the world's largest social network, Facebook provides endless hours of discussion, entertainment, news, videos and just good times for the more than 2.6 billion of its users.

Wearable haptics simulate sense of touch in virtual reality

Adding to the richness of virtual reality, EPFL researchers have created soft actuators that can simulate the feeling of touching a virtual object with your fingers.

Can wearables like Fitbit devices be used to help detect COVID-19?

The researchers, funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), created the Mass Science app that allows COVID-Collab study participants to connect wearables, such as Fitbit devices, and share data including heart rate, activity and sleep. Participants can also use the app to provide information on geographic location, mood, and mental health in addition to COVID-19 symptoms and a diagnosis if they have tested positive for the disease.

Do bicycles slow down cars on low speed, low traffic roads? Latest research says 'no'

The new article Evidence from Urban Roads without Bicycle Lanes on the Impact of Bicycle Traffic on Passenger Car Travel Speeds published in Transportation Research Record, the Journal of the Transportation Research Board, demonstrates that bicycles do not significantly reduce passenger car travel speeds on low speed, low volume urban roads without bicycle lanes. Authored by Jaclyn Schaefer, Miguel Figliozzi, and Avinash Unnikrishnan of Portland State University, the research shows that differences in vehicle speeds with and without cyclists were generally on the order of 1 mph or less—negligible from a practical perspective.

Deep-belief networks detect glioblastoma tumors from MRI scans

Scientists from South Ural State University, in collaboration with foreign colleagues, have proposed a new model for the classification of MRI images based on a deep-belief network that will help to detect malignant brain tumors faster and more accurately. The research study was published in the Journal of Big Data, indexed in the scientometric Scopus database.

Targeting the perfect metal-organic framework cooling combination

Scientists have known for two decades about a more environmentally friendly way to cool large buildings that is less expensive than conventional cooling systems. The challenge has been making those systems efficient for everyday use.

Student-developed device predicts avocado ripeness

Each year, about 40 percent of all food in the U.S. goes uneaten. That means Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food that could been used to make more than 58 trillion meals, according to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC).

Twitter mirrors attitudes and feelings about COVID-19

Themes of anxiety, depression, and fear of shortages emerge as Rochester researchers continue to mine social media as a reflection of the United States "in the moment."

Scientists build machine learning model for detecting early signs of depression in text

A new machine learning model can detect early signs of depression in written text like Twitter posts, according to a study by University of Alberta computing scientists.

Innovative tools offer reproducibility for Deep Learning

Machine learning and AI are exciting topics in science, promising faster and more accurate data analyses and new insights.

China's energy infrastructure mapped

Rice's Baker Institute for Public Policy has released its latest China Energy Map, an open-source, interactive chart of the country's energy infrastructure.

Corning says its new Gorilla Glass unlikely to break as easily

You know those smartphone screens you've been cracking the last few years? The folks who make the glass for the screens, Corning, say its next edition of Gorilla Glass is less likely to break.

AT&T takes its 5G wireless network nationwide as evolution to super-fast connections continue

AT&T says its 5G network now is officially nationwide.

Proposed framework for integrating chatbots into health care

While the technology for developing artificial intelligence-powered chatbots has existed for some time, a new viewpoint piece in JAMA lays out the clinical, ethical, and legal aspects that must be considered before applying them in healthcare. And while the emergence of COVID-19 and the social distancing that accompanies it has prompted more health systems to explore and apply automated chatbots, the authors still urge caution and thoughtfulness before proceeding.

Research creates more realistic images for the technology of today and tomorrow

Researchers at Dartmouth, in collaboration with industry partners, have developed software techniques that make lighting in computer-generated images look more realistic. The research will be presented at the upcoming ACM SIGGRAPH conference, the premier venue for research in computer graphics.

Garmin fitness tracking service goes down, frustrating users

GPS device-maker Garmin's online fitness tracking service has gone down, leaving runners and cyclists struggling to upload data from their latest workouts.

'Smart ant' algorithms cut vehicle fleet emissions in half

Fleets of commercial vehicles that operate in large towns and cities could halve their emissions and better meet clean air targets using a new technology developed by Aston University researchers, which imitates how ants share knowledge, scaling them up to real world problems—such as optimizing routes around busy cities.

Disinformation campaigns are murky blends of truth, lies and sincere beliefs – lessons from the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned an infodemic, a vast and complicated mix of information, misinformation and disinformation.

US orders inspections of 2,000 Boeing planes grounded by pandemic

US air safety regulators on Friday ordered plane operators to inspect some 2,000 Boeing jets that have not been flying due to weak travel demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facebook bumps up offer to $650 million to settle facial recognition class action

Facebook has agreed to pay $650 million—$100 million more than before—to settle a long-running class-action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology.

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▼ Microsoft’s Xbox event was really a Game Pass event

The Xbox Series X event went well, the aftermath didn't‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

Yesterday, Microsoft gave us the big pile of games that are coming to the Xbox Series X. And some of them should be coming to earlier generations of the Xbox — but not, apparently, all of them. A fairly positive online event devolved into confusion and mixed messaging by day's end.

In other words: it was an Xbox unveil.

Microsoft's rah-rah launch of exciting game trailers bounced between nostalgia (Halo! Psychonauts 2! Fable is back!) and new IP (sign me up for The Gunk). Although Halo Infinite looked kind of bad, overall the event still delivered the particular jolt of anticipation and excitement that only a game trailer can.

Microsoft didn't blow the doors out, but that wasn't the intention. As Tom Warren points out, the event also served as a showcase for Microsoft's larger strategy: becoming the true "Netflix for games" by putting so many of them into Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass works across both consoles and PCs and will also eventually integrate Microsoft's xCloud (actual name still tbd) game streaming service.

Here's a bad analogy that nevertheless will point you in the right direction: Sony's PlayStation 5 is like HBO, giving you access to the best stuff. Microsoft's Game Pass is like Netflix, giving you access to a huge library, some of which is really good. (The analogy breaks down for the usual reasons, not least of which is that AT&T bought HBO and now even HBO isn't HBO anymore).

Tom's way of putting it is better: Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft's true next-gen Xbox.

Anyway, successful online event, right? Right. Until, well, people started noticing that a bunch of the games didn't list compatibility with earlier generations of Xbox consoles. That seemed weird because Microsoft has been promising precisely that for its own games quite a lot and quite recently — just last week, in fact.

Sean Hollister has the story on how one week later, it looks like Microsoft is already breaking a big promise with Xbox Series X. What's truly wild about this is that Microsoft could have just not promised that upcoming Microsoft Studios games would be available for the Xbox One. I find it difficult to believe that the company thought they would and then suddenly realized they wouldn't. It's baffling. I'm baffled.

The good news is that there is one thing that's consistent between the Xbox Series X and the Xbox One. Both of their launches were confusing because Microsoft can't seem to get out of its own way when it tries to tell a story about the future of gaming.

┏ Xbox Games Showcase: all the news from Microsoft's July 2020 event.

┏ Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Ori, Sea of Thieves, and Gears Tactics are getting Xbox Series X upgrades.

┏ Watch the 18 biggest trailers from the Xbox Series X Games Showcase.

A programming note: I'll be on vacation next week! Please don't let any interesting gadget news happen without me.


Smartphone news

┏ Corning's new Gorilla Glass Victus could let your phone survive a six-foot drop, plus scratch resistance. Some years Gorilla Glass focuses on scratch resistance. Other years it focuses on not breaking from a fall. Apparently this is the rare year where Corning says it has done both at once.

┏ Even Android 11 is cake. Even though Google said it was stopping desert code names, it kept them internally. So now the game is to figure out what the desert it even though it's not the official game. Look, this is a bad choice. There are so many good Red bean-based deserts.

┏ Samsung announces Galaxy Z Flip 5G for $1,449.99. So this costs $70 more than the 4G version. For that money you get a slightly better processor and Sub-6 5G support. I've long said that I am annoyed that so many people have to pay for 5G they can't actually use, but now I suppose we have some kind of indication of how much they've been paying.

┏ The Motorola Edge will be available on July 31st for a 'limited time' $500 price. Chaim Gartenberg:

The Motorola Edge is a slightly watered-down version of the flagship $999 Edge Plus, with a similar 6.7-inch "edge" display design, but with a Snapdragon 765 processor, 6GB of RAM, a 4,500mAh battery, and no wireless charging

┏ Latest iOS 14 beta offers more evidence of a 5.4-inch iPhone. I'll be honest: I figured Apple would never make a phone this small again.

┏ Lenovo's Legion gaming phone has a pop-up selfie cam on its side. There is so clearly a market for these phones — companies keep making them. But who? And why? And... what?

Lenovo doesn't have plans to release this phone in the US. It's coming first to China in July, then to select markets in Asia, Latin America, and the EMEA regions (Europe, Middle East, Africa). That is a little disappointing to hear because, frankly, I think we all deserve a phone that has the words "Stylish Outside" and "Savage Inside" lasered onto its back.

┏ Asus' new ROG Phone 3 seems like a 5G-ready gaming powerhouse. I am STILL WAITING for an actual professional gamer who uses an Android phone as their primary gaming platform and wants a "gaming phone" to contact me. I want to interview you.

┏ AT&T tells customers to buy new phones or their old ones will stop working. The issue is that AT&T will turn off its 3G network 2022. So wait, you're telling me that the company that put "5Ge" in our status bars might not be telling its customers the whole story about its network upgrades?

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More from The Verge

┏ Jibo, the social robot that was supposed to die, is getting a second life. Ashley Carman with a great story:

The news devastated owners and sent them spiraling into preemptive mourning. They started making end of life plans for their Jibos. But now, they're finding out that Jibo's life has been prolonged. The robot they welcomed into their homes, loved, and cared for, is being given a second life by a new company that's purchased all its rights and patents. In its next iteration, Jibo is a caregiver and educator, and it will be placed in businesses that require emotional connections, like children's hospitals. It's also no longer confined to its body, either — Jibo is going virtual.

┏ Intel's next-gen 7nm chips are delayed until at least 2022. I'm sure there were plenty of knowing smirks at Apple today. Chaim Gartenberg:

Intel actually says that the issues with its current 7nm production means that production is trending a year behind its internal roadmap. For some reason, though, the company says that being a year behind schedule will still only result in that aforementioned six-month delay to market. For comparison, AMD has already been outputting its own Ryzen 4000 chips based on its 7nm architecture for months, which have been handily outperforming Intel's offerings.

┏ Tesla will build Cybertruck factory in Austin, Texas. Sean O'Kane:

The new factory in Texas will be open to the public, Musk said. "It's going to basically be an ecological paradise." In addition to the Cybertruck, Tesla will also build Model Ys and Model 3s destined for the East Coast, as well as the Tesla Semi, Musk said. It will be the company's fourth factory in the US, following the vehicle factory in California, battery factory in Nevada, and solar factory in New York. Tesla also has a new vehicle factory outside Shanghai, China, and is building another factory outside Berlin, Germany

┏ 'COVID parties' are a pandemic urban legend that won't go away. Adi Robertson with a much-needed debunking:

For now, every story about people holding parties to purposefully spread the coronavirus is either unverified or debunked. Here's a running list of "COVID party" cases, alongside what we actually know about them.

You are reading Processor, a newsletter about computers by Dieter Bohn. Dieter writes about consumer tech, software, and the most important news of the day from The Verge. This newsletter delivers about four times a week, at least a couple of which include longer essays.

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