Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Aug 19

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for August 19, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Bi2SeO5: A new native oxide high-k gate dielectric for fabricating 2-D electronics

An on-skin durable nanomesh sensor to monitor natural skin motion

A method to perform canonical phase measurements using quantum feedback

A touch of gold sends crystals electric with excitement

Biomorphic batteries could provide 72x more energy for robots

New cataclysmic variable star discovered

Controlling heat opens door for next-generation lighting and displays in perovskite LEDs

Study finds clues to aging in 'junk' DNA

Mystery gas discovered near center of Milky Way

Toward an ultrahigh energy density capacitor

Migration and dispersal of butterflies have contrasting effect on flight morphology

Zebra stripes and their role in dazzling flies

Out of sync: Ecologists report climate change affecting bee, plant life cycles

Songbirds, like people, sing better after warming up

OCT-based technique captures subtle details of photoreceptor function

Physics news

A method to perform canonical phase measurements using quantum feedback

Light is known to have a number of fundamental properties, including color, brightness, and direction, most of which are immediately apparent and can be observed with the naked eye. There are now several instruments to detect and measure these properties, such as photon counters, detectors often used in research that measure brightness by counting individual light quanta. Crucially, some existing devices can also measure these properties at the so-called quantum limit, which is a fundamental barrier for the precision of a measurement.

Toward an ultrahigh energy density capacitor

Capacitors that rapidly store and release electric energy are key components in modern electronics and power systems. However, the most commonly used ones have low energy densities compared to other storage systems like batteries or fuel cells, which in turn cannot discharge and recharge rapidly without sustaining damage.

OCT-based technique captures subtle details of photoreceptor function

Researchers have developed a new instrument that has, for the first time, measured tiny light-evoked deformations in individual rods and cones in a living human eye. The new approach could one day improve detection of retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in people over 55 worldwide.

Searching for supernova neutrinos with Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment

When a massive star reaches the end of its life, it can explode in a process known as a supernova. The massive star—much more massive than our sun—runs out of fuel in its core. Gravity forces the core to collapse on itself, causing a shockwave to form and spew stellar material into space. Metals, along with heavy elements such as carbon, are expelled into the universe.

World record: Plasma accelerator operates right around the clock

A team of researchers at DESY has reached an important milestone on the road to the particle accelerator of the future. For the first time, a so-called laser plasma accelerator has run for more than a day while continuously producing electron beams. The LUX beamline, jointly developed and operated by DESY and the University of Hamburg, achieved a run time of 30 hours. "This brings us a big step closer to the steady operation of this innovative particle accelerator technology," says DESY's Andreas R. Maier, the leader of the group. The scientists are reporting on their record in the journal Physical Review X. "The time is ripe to move laser plasma acceleration from the laboratory to practical applications," adds the director of DESY's Accelerator Division, Wim Leemans.

Quest for quantum Internet gets a boost with new technique for making entanglement

Traditional ways of producing entanglements, necessary for the development of any 'quantum internet' linking quantum computers, are not very well suited for fiber optic telecoms networks used by today's non-quantum internet. However, researchers have come up with a new way to produce such particles that is much more compatible.

New approach takes quantum key distribution further

In an important step toward practical implementation of secure quantum-based communication, researchers have demonstrated secure measurement-device-independent quantum key distribution (MDI-QKD) transmission over a record-breaking 170 kilometers.

Researchers work to ensure accurate decoding in fragile quantum states

When computers share information with one another, the information gets encoded into bits, then decoded back into its original form. In the process, pieces of the information sometimes get scrambled, or lost. As a simplified example, an improperly decoded email that says "I am now sending you the money" could arrive at its destination saying "I am not sending you the money."

Controlling the electron spin: Flip it quickly but carefully

Over the past two decades, a new area at the interface of semiconductor physics, electronics and quantum mechanics has been gaining popularity among theoretical physicists and experimenters. This new field is called spintronics, and one of its main tasks is to learn how to control the spin of charge carriers in well known semiconductor structures. Many theoretical efforts are always required before some idea finds its embodiment in an actual device, and so far theoretical work on spintronics has been outweighing experimental research.

Astronomy and Space news

New cataclysmic variable star discovered

Using NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers have detected a new bright transient event. After further analysis, the newly found transient source turned out to be a cataclysmic variable (CV) star. The finding is detailed in a paper published August 10 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Mystery gas discovered near center of Milky Way

An international team of researchers have discovered a dense, cold gas that's been shot out from the center of the Milky Way "like bullets".

Robotic telescope finds closest known asteroid to fly by Earth

On August 16, the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), a robotic survey camera located at Palomar Observatory near San Diego, spotted an asteroid that had, just hours earlier, traveled only 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometers) above Earth's surface. Designated 2020 QG, it is the closest known asteroid to fly by Earth without impacting the planet. The previous known record-holder is asteroid 2011 CQ1, discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in 2011, which passed above Earth about 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) higher than 2020 QG.

Microbes living on air a global phenomenon

UNSW researchers have found their previous discovery of bacteria living on air in Antarctica is likely a process that occurs globally, further supporting the potential existence of microbial life on alien planets.

The most sensitive instrument in the search for life in space

Researchers at the University of Bern have developed the highly sensitive ORIGIN instrument, which can provide proof of the smallest amounts of traces of life, for future space missions. Space agencies such as NASA have already expressed interest in testing ORIGIN for future missions. The instrument may be used on missions to the ice moons of Europa (Jupiter) and Enceladus (Saturn), for example.

Deep learning will help future Mars rovers go farther, faster, and do more science

NASA's Mars rovers have been one of the great scientific and space successes of the past two decades.

Kepler's supernova remnant: Debris from stellar explosion not slowed after 400 years

Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to record material blasting away from the site of an exploded star at speeds faster than 20 million miles per hour. This is about 25,000 times faster than the speed of sound on Earth.

Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule approved to land in Australia

On August 10, 2020, JAXA was informed that the Authorization of Return of Overseas-Launched Space Object (AROLSO) for the re-entry capsule from Hayabusa2 was issued by the Australian Government. The date of the issuance is August 6, 2020.

Image: Sloshing in space

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during his 2018 stay on the International Space Station, with two floating SPHERES robots tethered to a container of liquid, serving to simulate the experience of pulling a derelict satellite out of orbit.

Space telescope to study quasars and their host galaxies in three dimensions

Supermassive black holes, which likely reside at the centers of virtually all galaxies, are unimaginably dense, compact regions of space from which nothing—not even light—can escape. As such a black hole, weighing in at millions or billions of times the mass of the Sun, devours material, it is surrounded by a swirling disk of gas. When gas from this disk falls towards the black hole, it releases a tremendous amount of energy. This energy creates a brilliant and powerful galactic core called a quasar, whose light can greatly outshine its host galaxy.

Technology news

Bi2SeO5: A new native oxide high-k gate dielectric for fabricating 2-D electronics

So far, silicon has been the primary material for the fabrication of integrated circuits (ICs) and other electronic components. Recently, however, researchers have been trying to identify new high-mobility semiconductors that could replace silicon in electronics applications, as it appears to be approaching its limit in terms of the computational efficiency and speeds it can produce.

Biomorphic batteries could provide 72x more energy for robots

Like biological fat reserves store energy in animals, a new rechargeable zinc battery integrates into the structure of a robot to provide much more energy, a team led by the University of Michigan has shown.

Rewriting the rules of machine-generated art

Horses don't normally wear hats, and deep generative models, or GANs, don't normally follow rules laid out by human programmers. But a new tool developed at MIT lets anyone go into a GAN and tell the model, like a coder, to put hats on the heads of the horses it draws.

AI automatic tuning delivers step forward in quantum computing

Researchers at Oxford University, in collaboration with DeepMind, University of Basel and Lancaster University, have created a machine learning algorithm that interfaces with a quantum device and 'tunes' it faster than human experts, without any human input. They are dubbing it "Minecraft explorer for quantum devices."

Beyond batteries: Scientists build methanol-powered beetle bot

Scientists have long envisioned building tiny robots capable of navigating environments that are inaccessible or too dangerous for humans—but finding ways to keep them powered and moving has been impossible to achieve.

Uber-Lyft to stop California services absent reprieve

Uber and Lyft are hoping a courtroom reprieve will spare them from shutting down their rival smartphone-summoned ride services in California on Friday.

Simple 'nudges' can encourage people to use a safer payment method

Mobile payment apps (e.g. Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay) are more secure than using credit cards at point-of-sale terminals, security experts say. Still, the adoption of mobile payments in the United States lags other countries for a variety of reasons, ranging from trusting credit card companies to cover potential losses to lack of awareness of the security protections offered by mobile payments.

Instagram is the home of pretty pictures. Why are people flocking to it for news?

We know Instagram is the most influential app when it comes to lifestyle and beauty trends.

Researchers ask AI to explain itself

It's a question that many of us encounter in childhood: "Why did you do that?" As artificial intelligence (AI) begins making more consequential decisions that affect our lives, we also want these machines to be capable of answering that simple yet profound question. After all, why else would we trust AI's decisions?

Aristotle and the chatbot: How ancient rules of logic could make artificial intelligence more human

Many attempts to develop artificial intelligence are powered by powerful systems of mathematical logic. They tend to produce results that make logical sense to a computer program—but the result is not very human.

UAE connects first Arab nuclear plant to power grid

The oil-rich United Arab Emirates announced Wednesday that it has connected its Barakah nuclear power plant to the national grid in a new first for the Arab world.

Electric car sales are on the rise – is coronavirus a turning point for the market?

Lockdowns across Europe to curb the coronavirus pandemic drastically changed how we move around the world. Work-from-home restrictions, furlough schemes and job losses left millions of cars gathering dust in driveways.

A little-known technology change will make video streaming cheaper and pave the way for higher quality

A new format for compressing video, called Versatile Video Coding (H.266/VVC), at first glance might not seem to be the most exciting or profound change to influence humanity. But in a world where 4.57 billion people identify as active internet users, 3.5 billion regularly use a smartphone, 80% of global internet traffic is compressed video data and 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, data is more than binary numbers. Data—and video specifically—is now part of humanity's collective nervous system.

Apple reaches $2 trillion market value as tech fortunes soar

Apple has become the first U.S. company to boast a market value of $2 trillion as technology continues to reshape a world where smartphones are like appendages and digital services are like instruments orchestrating people's lives.

'Our low-carbon future needs to be circular'

The renewable energy industry needs to adopt the ideas of a circular economy, where equipment is designed to be reused or remanufactured when it reaches the end of its operational life.

Classic BlackBerry mobile phone keyboard to live on

The BlackBerry keyboard dethroned by touchscreens will live on in a new 5G smartphone planned for release next year, according to a deal announced on Tuesday.

Zoom coming to Alexa, Google and Facebook on Echo Show, Portal and Nest Hub Max

After frustrating stay-at-home workers and parents looking for an easy way to connect their kids to Zoom because it wasn't available, the world's most popular video meeting application is finally coming to Amazon, Google and Facebook video display units.

Oracle's improbable TikTok talks have a simple explanation: Data

Oracle Corp.'s preliminary interest in making a bid for TikTok, on first glance, looks like an awkward fit—the 43-year-old software giant best known for legacy corporate databases and the music-video sharing app beloved by teens seem as different as two companies can be.

A US WeChat ban could hurt many in America, not just China

For millions of people in the U.S. who use the Chinese app WeChat, it's a lifeline to friends, family, customers and business contacts in China.

Eyeing Amazon, Reliance buys Indian online pharmacy stake

Indian conglomerate Reliance has bought a majority stake in online pharmacy Netmeds for $83 million, opening a new front in its battle with Amazon which launched a similar healthcare service last week.

Keep taking the tablets

New research published in the International Journal of Technology Management, shows how people make the technology transition from one type of device to another following a period of using both classes of device in parallel. For example, many users have a personal computer as well as a tablet computer, but at some point a lot of those people will abandon the PC in favor of the more portable and agile tablet, foregoing some of the benefits of a PC that may well have become legacy features once they are fully embedded in the tablet realm.

Model-free parameters to describe reflection characteristics of sea bottom

Acoustical properties of the sea bottom can be described with a geoacoustic (GA) model comprising several layers characterized by parameters such as sound speed, density, sound absorption and thickness.

Sketchy darknet websites are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic – buyer beware

Underground markets that sell illegal commodities like drugs, counterfeit currency and fake documentation tend to flourish in times of crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. The online underground economy has responded to the current crisis by exploiting demand for COVID-19-related commodities.

Poll: Pandemic shifts how consumers use gig companies

When ride-hailing heavyweights Uber and Lyft and delivery giants Grubhub and Instacart began making shared rides and meals available with a few taps on a smartphone, they transformed the way people work, travel and get food delivered to their homes.

Lufthansa hints at cockpit redundancies in 2021

Lufthansa on Wednesday raised the possibility of redundancies for some of its pilots in 2021, as the slump in world travel due to the coronavirus looks set to last.

Trust is key to effectiveness in virtual communities, researchers find

With the global COVID-19 pandemic shifting more and more of our work and school online, virtual communities are more important than ever—but how do we know, without bias, that our online groups are actually successful in helping us with our goals? A team of researchers based in Italy think has proposed the first objective metric to assess the effectiveness of virtual groups. They published their results on IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.

Facebook adds new tool to help users find local Black-owned businesses

Facebook is enabling users to discover Black-owned businesses through a new feature on the platform.

Tech review: Samsung Galaxy Note20 5G Ultra

I've always admired Samsung. It gives its customers choices.

Forget credit cards—now you can pay with your face

A new way to pay has arrived in Los Angeles: your face.

Machine learning, meet human emotions: How to help a computer monitor your mental state

Researchers from Skoltech, INRIA and the RIKEN Advanced Intelligence Project have considered several state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms for the challenging tasks of determining the mental workload and affective states of a human brain. Their software can help design smarter brain-computer interfaces for applications in medicine and beyond. The paper was published in the IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Magazine.

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