Science X Newsletter Monday, Jul 27

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for July 27, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Soft robot actuators heal themselves

Rising temps put desert shrubs in high-efficiency mode

Seismic waves help scientists 'see' chemical changes beneath a watershed

Controlling streams of liquid metal at room temperature

Pristine environments offer a window to our cloudy past

Two new high-redshift red quasars discovered

Designer nanozymes for reactive-oxygen species scavenging anti-inflammatory therapy

Psychologists show that embedding primes in a person's speech can influence people's decision making

Researchers create 'decoy' coatings that trick infrared cameras

Researchers offer unprecedented look into 'central engine' powering a solar flare

Passion for purple revives ancient dye in Tunisia

Researchers build first AI tool capable of identifying individual birds

'Selfish and loveless' society in Uganda really is not

Life in the pits: Scientists identify the key enzyme behind body odor

Novel label-free imaging technique brings out the inner light within T cells

Physics news

How microscopic scallops wander

All microscopic objects, from enzymes to paint particles, are jittering constantly, bombarded by solvent particles: this is called Brownian motion. How does this motion change when the object is flexible instead of rigid? Ruben Verweij, Pepijn Moerman, and colleagues published the first measurements in Physical Review Research.

Experimental optimal verification of entangled states using local measurements

Quantum information is a field where the information is encoded into quantum states. Taking advantage of the "quantumness" of these states, scientists can perform more efficient computations and more secure cryptography compared to their classical counterparts.

In vivo imaging of the human cornea at high speed and high resolution

If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, then thanks to the translucent corneas, we can look deep into that soul. And thanks to the work of scientists from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences, we can look into the depths of the cornea itself. And that without touching it. All thanks to the introduction of an innovative method of holographic optical tomography.

A photonic amorphous topological insulator

The current understanding of topological insulators and their classical wave analogs, such as photonic topological insulators, is mainly based on topological band theory. Contrary to this, Scientists in China and Singapore experimentally showed photonic topological insulators based on glass-like amorphous phases, for which the bandstructure is ill-defined. The persistence of topological protection is also found to be closely related to the glass-to-liquid transition. This interplay between topology and amorphousness paves the way for new classes of non-crystalline topological photonic bandgap materials.

Astronomy and Space news

Two new high-redshift red quasars discovered

Using the Subaru Telescope, astronomers have identified two new dust-reddened (red) quasars at high redshifts. The finding, detailed in a paper published July 16 on the arXiv pre-print server, could improve the understanding of these rare but interesting objects.

Researchers offer unprecedented look into 'central engine' powering a solar flare

In a study published in Nature Astronomy, an international team of researchers has presented a new, detailed look inside the "central engine" of a large solar flare accompanied by a powerful eruption first captured on Sept. 10, 2017 by the Owens Valley Solar Array (EOVSA)—a solar radio telescope facility operated by New Jersey Institute of Technology's (NJIT) Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research (CSTR).

Testing Chernobyl fungi as a radiation shield for astronauts

A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Stanford University has tested the viability of using a type of fungus found growing in some of the destroyed nuclear reactors at the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant site to shield astronauts from radiation. They have written a paper describing their work and have uploaded it to the bioRxiv preprint site.

ExoMars finds new gas signatures in the martian atmosphere

ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted new gas signatures at Mars. These unlock new secrets about the martian atmosphere, and will enable a more accurate determination of whether there is methane, a gas associated with biological or geological activity, at the planet.

New approach refines the Hubble's constant and age of universe

Using known distances of 50 galaxies from Earth to refine calculations in Hubble's constant, a research team led by a University of Oregon astronomer estimates the age of the universe at 12.6 billion years.

NASA's next Mars rover is brawniest and brainiest one yet

With eight successful Mars landings, NASA is upping the ante with its newest rover.

Mars Perseverance rover 'go for launch,' says NASA

NASA on Monday gave its latest Mars rover Perseverance the all clear to launch later this week on a mission to seek out signs of ancient microbial life.

Ground system for NASA's Roman Space Telescope completes major review

When it launches in the mid-2020s, NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will create enormous panoramic pictures of space in unprecedented detail. The mission's wide field of view will enable scientists to conduct sweeping cosmic surveys, yielding a wealth of new information about the universe.

The moons of Uranus are fascinating enough on their own that we should send a flagship mission out there

What's the most interesting fact you know about Uranus? The fact that its rotational axis is completely out of line with every other planet in the solar system? Or that Uranus' magnetosphere is asymmetrical, notably tilted relative to its rotational axis, and significantly offset from the center of the planet? Or that its moons are all named after characters from Shakespeare or Alexander Pope?

Launch of the world's first soft X-ray satellite with 'Lobster-Eye' imaging technology

The 'Lobster-Eye X-ray Satellite' was successfully launched on July 25 into orbit from the Taiyuan Launch Center, with the first signal received, riding the Long March 4B lift rocket. The Lobster-Eye X-ray Satellite project is co-led by Nanjing University (NJU), the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR) of The University of Hong Kong (HKU), the 508 Institute of the Fifth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), and Shanghai ASES Spaceflight Technology Co.Ltd. also under the 805 Institute of the Eighth Academy of CASC. It was successfully developed through five years of joint effort by the above outstanding teams. The satellite is equipped with an internally developed 'Lobster-Eye' focused X-ray detector and a small high-precision payload platform. During the satellite's long-term orbit operations, it will verify the ultra-large X-ray field-of-view within the X-ray energy regime and complete several important space X-ray detection experiments. This includes carrying out dark matter signal detection research within the X-ray energy regime in an earth orbit environment.

Mars 2020 mission to be guided by USGS astrogeology maps

When NASA's Perseverance rover lands on Mars next year, it will be equipped with some of the most precise maps of Mars ever created, courtesy of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center. Not only are the new maps essential for a safe landing on Mars, but they also serve as the foundation upon which the science activities planned for the Mars mission will be built.

Technology news

Offshore wind power now so cheap it could pay money back to consumers

The latest round of offshore wind farms to be built in the UK could reduce household energy bills by producing electricity very cheaply.

Origami metamaterials show reversible auxeticity combined with deformation recoverability

The simplicity and elegance of origami, an ancient Japanese art form, has motivated researchers to explore its application in the world of materials.

Laser inversion enables multi-materials 3-D printing

Additive manufacturing—or 3-D printing—uses digital manufacturing processes to fabricate components that are light, strong, and require no special tooling to produce. Over the past decade, the field has experienced staggering growth, at a rate of more than 20% per year, printing pieces that range from aircraft components and car parts to medical and dental implants out of metals and engineering polymers. One of the most widely used manufacturing processes, selective laser sintering (SLS), prints parts out of micron-scale material powders using a laser: the laser heats the particles to the point where they fuse together to form a solid mass.

Software giant SAP to spin off Qualtrics and take it public

SAP says it plans to spin off Qualtrics and take it public less than two years after acquiring the survey-software provider.

Australian watchdog accuses Google of privacy breaches

Australia's consumer watchdog launched court action against Google on Monday alleging the technology giant misled account holders about its use of their personal data.

The road to electric vehicles with lower sticker prices than gas cars – battery costs explained

Electric vehicle sales have grown exponentially in recent years, accompanied by dropping prices. However, adoption of EVs remains limited by their higher sticker price relative to comparable gas vehicles, even though overall cost of ownership for EVs is lower.

The UK plans to build huge batteries to store renewable energy – but there's a much cheaper solution

The UK electricity system is undergoing significant and rapid change. It has the world's largest installed capacity of offshore wind, has effectively stopped generating electricity from coal, and has recorded a 20% drop in demand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blueprint may power up Saudi Arabia's wind energy future

A five-year study of wind energy potential in Saudi Arabia has culminated in a comprehensive blueprint for progressing the Kingdom's national wind energy strategy. Exhaustive high-resolution modeling was combined with a unique set of wind and weather observations and analysis of land-use restrictions, cost and technologies to guide the optimal buildout of wind turbines.

Big Tech and antitrust: where things stand

The four major tech firms whose chief executives are testifying at a congressional antitrust hearing face a variety of complaints about their dominance in the US and elsewhere.

A breakthrough in solar cell efficiency

A research group led by Prof. Chen Tao and Prof. Zhu Changfei, and their collaborator Prof. Hao Xiaojing at UNSW, developed a hydrothermal deposition method for the synthesis of antimony selenosulfide for solar cell applications. With this absorber material, the solar cell breaks the 10% benchmark efficiency barrier. This result has been published in Nature Energy entitled "Hydrothermal deposition of antimony selenosulfide thin films enables solar cells with 10% efficiency."

Study identifies top reasons for sewer line failure

Concrete sewer pipes around the world are most likely to fail either because their concrete is not strong enough or because they can't handle the weight of trucks that drive over them, a new study indicates.

Garmin acknowledges cyberattack, doesn't mention ransomware

The GPS device maker Garmin Ltd. acknowledged Monday being victimized by a cyberattack last week that encrypted some of its systems, knocking its fitness tracking and pilot navigation services offline. It said systems would be fully restored in the next few days.

Ryanair nosedives into first-quarter loss on coronavirus

Irish no-frills airline Ryanair nosedived into the red in its first quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic decimated air travel demand and grounded fleets worldwide, the group said Monday.

Apple Maps alert reminds people to self-isolate after traveling internationally

Apple Maps is sending alerts to international travelers, reminding them to self-quarantine.

India bans 47 more Chinese mobile apps

India has banned 47 more Chinese apps just weeks after blocking the highly popular video-sharing platform TikTok and 58 others over national security and privacy concerns, an information ministry official and media reports said Monday.

For the public, data collection during COVID-19 offers benefits and poses hazards

As American workplaces and schools shifted operations online to comply with social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, a new area of concern arose: online privacy and user data collection.

BMW vows to tie executive pay to climate goals

German giant BMW on Monday said executive pay would in future be tied to meeting strict targets aimed at lowering the luxury carmaker's carbon emissions.

Google to keep most of its employees at home until July 2021

Google has decided that most of its 200,000 employees and contractors should work from home through next June, a sobering assessment of the pandemic's potential staying power from the company providing the answers for the world's most trusted internet search engine.

A video camera in a public place can tell the density of people or vehicles more accurately

Deep learning applied for image/video processing opened the door for the practical deployment for object detection and identification with acceptable accuracy. Crowd counting is another application of image/video processing. The scientists at Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) designed a new DNN with backward connection, which achieved more accurate estimation of the density of objects. It can be applied for estimating human density in the public or vehicle density on a road in order to improve public safety/security and traffic efficiency.

Army research enables conversational AI between soldiers, robot

Dialogue is one of the most basic ways humans use language, and is a desirable capability for autonomous systems. Army researchers developed a novel dialogue capability to transform Soldier-robot interaction and perform joint tasks at operational speeds.

Paris air traffic recovery could take 7 years: airport chief

Air traffic volume to and from Paris could take up to seven years to recover from the coronavirus impact, the CEO of the French capital's airports said Monday.

Antitrust fever rises as Big Tech CEOs set to testify

Antitrust fever hits a peak in Washington this week with lawmakers set to grill top executives of four of the biggest US technology firms in what promises to be a rare political spectacle for the digital era.

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