Science X Newsletter Thursday, Aug 20

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for August 20, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Reviewing recent advancements in the development of neuro-inspired computing chips

Scientists invent new sensing eye mask

Animal mummies unwrapped with hi-res 3-D X-rays

Study of ancient Mayan facial expressions suggests some are universal

Dynamic kirigami shoe grip designed to reduce risks of slips and falls

Romantic relationship dynamics may be in our genes

Ancient gene family protects algae from salt and cold in an Antarctic lake

Researchers show children are silent spreaders of SARS-CoV-2

Small enzyme-mimicking polymers may have helped start life

Quick fixes won't stop sexual harassment in academia, experts say

Genetic background may affect adaptions to aging

Sustained planetwide storms may have filled lakes, rivers on ancient Mars

Genetic background influences disease risk from single-gene variants

3-D printing 'greener' buildings using local soil

Studying viral outbreaks in single cells could reveal new ways to defeat them

Physics news

Self-excited dancing droplets

Controlling the movement of liquid droplets is important in many applications that generate heat, from power plant condensers to personal computers. Techniques to control droplets on surfaces today include using good old-fashioned gravity, hydrophobic chemical coatings, and temperature gradients.

A quantum thermometer to measure the coldest temperatures in the universe

Physicists from Trinity College Dublin have proposed a thermometer based on quantum entanglement that can accurately measure temperatures a billion times colder than those in outer space.

Trapping and controlling light at the interface of atomically thin nanomaterials

Light can partake in peculiar phenomena at the nanoscale. Exploring these phenomena can unlock sophisticated applications and provide useful insights into the interactions between light waves and other materials.

Astronomy and Space news

Sustained planetwide storms may have filled lakes, rivers on ancient Mars

A new study from The University of Texas at Austin is helping scientists piece together the ancient climate of Mars by revealing how much rainfall and snowmelt filled its lake beds and river valleys 3.5 billion to 4 billion years ago.

Microscopic deformation of a neutron star inferred from a distance of 4500 light-years

Imagine that the size of a bacterium is measured from a distance of about 4500 light-years. This would be an incredible measurement, considering that a bacterium is so small that a microscope is required to see it, and what an enormous distance light can travel in 4500 years, given that it can round the Earth more than seven times in just one second.

Upcoming space mission to test drag sail pulling rocket back to Earth

A rocket is going up into space with a drag sail. The goal? For the drag sail to bring the rocket back to Earth, preventing it from becoming like the thousands of pieces of space junk in Earth's lower orbit.

Technology news

Reviewing recent advancements in the development of neuro-inspired computing chips

In recent years, many research teams worldwide have been developing computational techniques inspired by the human brain, such as deep learning algorithms. While some of these techniques are considered highly promising for a wide range of applications, conventional hardware does not always support their computational load and thus can limit their performance.

Dynamic kirigami shoe grip designed to reduce risks of slips and falls

Losing your balance and falling does not just happen during icy Boston winters. The slip resistance of your shoes can determine how well you walk on different surfaces without losing balance. Shoe grips increase friction by engaging with the walking surface, helping to increase stability. In a recently published study, investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) presented a bioinspired assistive shoe grip based on kirigami, the Japanese art of paper cutting.

Airbnb files preliminary paperwork for public stock offering

Airbnb filed preliminary paperwork to sell company stock on Wall Street, undaunted by a global pandemic that has taken some wind out of its home-sharing business.

Q&A: California's new electricity-blackout challenge

As if the pandemic and economic recession weren't bad enough, millions of Californians now face recurring threats of abrupt blackouts during a heat wave in the nation's most populous state.

Zero G: Some German mobile users still waiting for a signal

From his home on a former East German army base, Jens Raeder can power up a carefully restored Soviet shortwave transmitter and communicate with military radio enthusiasts around the world.

Google services down for users around the world

Popular Google services including Gmail and Drive were down for many users around the world on Thursday, with the US technology giant telling affected people they were "aware of a service disruption."

A new approach to database management in solid-state drives

The ever-increasing workload of data centers calls for new ways to store and access data. Researchers from the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology, Korea, have developed a new approach to manage databases in solid state drives, providing marked performance improvements in read/write delays and offloading database computation tasks from CPUs to increase efficiency and reduce power consumption.

Researchers explore charging flexibility of shared automated electric vehicles

The transportation industry is on the cusp of transformation, namely through vehicle electrification, automation, and sharing. At the intersection of these trends are shared automated electric vehicles (SAEVs).

A-level results: Why algorithms get things so wrong, and what we can do to fix them

The scale of public anger over the automated downgrading of thousands of students' A-level results highlights how much social and political power algorithmic decision-making now has. As well as students' grades, algorithms are now deciding all sorts of things that hugely impact ordinary people's lives, from loan applications to job interviews to which neighborhoods are targeted by police.

Why people get sick in virtual reality

"Cybersickness" might sound right out of a sci-fi novel, but it's an illness impacting people across industries today. UNSW Sydney researchers are trying to understand what causes this sickness—and how to prevent it.

Chinese electric car brand NIO looks at expansion abroad

Chinese electric car brand NIO plans to start expanding to Western markets next year and might export a battery-swapping service that could help it compete with rival Tesla, the company's chairman said Thursday.

Alibaba revenue up 34 percent as coronavirus fuels online spending

Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba on Thursday reported solid 34 percent growth in revenue for the April-June quarter in the latest sign that the coronavirus, rather than hurting the company, had actually helped.

Google services restored for users around the world

Popular Google services including Gmail, Docs and Drive were down for many users around the world on Thursday, but were restored after a few hours, the US technology giant said.

Researchers develop smart gaming glove that puts control in your hands

Simply flex your index finger to fire your weapon and rotate your wrist clockwise to move forward. Immersive controls have always been a pipedream in the world of gaming but now they are steadily becoming reality. A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), led by Professor Lim Chwee Teck, has developed a smart glove—called 'InfinityGlove'—that allows users to mimic a variety of in-game controls using simple hand gestures.

EU regulators wrangle over Twitter data privacy penalty

European Union privacy regulators are wrangling over the penalty Ireland's data privacy watchdog was set to issue Twitter for a data breach, pushing back the case's long awaited conclusion under the bloc's tough new data privacy rules.

Study examines robotic exoskeletons and bodily fit

A shoddily tailored suit or a shrunken T-shirt may not be the most stylish, but wearing them is unlikely to hurt more than your reputation. An ill-fitting robotic exoskeleton on the battlefield or factory floor, however, could be a much bigger problem than a fashion faux pas.

Uber rival Lyft to suspend California service

Uber rival Lyft said Thursday it will suspend its rideshare service in California rather than classify drivers as employees entitled to benefits under a new law.

Uber-Lyft get reprieve in driver classification case

Rideshare service rivals Uber and Lyft were given a temporary reprieve Thursday from having to reclassify drivers as employees in their home state of California by Friday.

Huawei, long resilient, suffers under tougher US pressure

For nearly a decade, Huawei kept worldwide sales growing as Washington told U.S. phone companies not to buy its network equipment and lobbied allies to reject China's first global tech brand as a security threat.

Emirates to serve all 'network destinations' by summer 2021

Dubai-based airline Emirates expects to resume flights to all "network destinations" by summer 2021, its chief operating officer said Thursday, after the coronavirus pandemic halted most global air travel.

Australia's Qantas posts US$1.9 bn loss, confirms job cuts

Australian flag carrier Qantas on Thursday posted an almost US$2-billion annual loss after a "near-total collapse" in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

American Airlines will drop flights to 15 cities in October

American Airlines will drop flights to 15 smaller U.S. cities in October when a federal requirement to serve those communities ends.

Practical tool for helicopter pilots takes off after three-year study

A new system designed to recognize the non-technical skills required by the helicopter pilots flying search and rescue missions and those who fly workers to offshore installations, has been developed by the University of Aberdeen.

Airbnb bans parties at rental properties amid pandemic

Citing public health concerns amid the coronavirus, home-sharing company Airbnb on Thursday imposed a worldwide party ban at its rental properties and capped occupancy at larger homes to 16.

Young children pose a dilemma for airlines with mask rules

Two recent incidents involving young children who refused to wear face masks show how airlines are struggling to balance safety with compassionate treatment of all their customers during a pandemic.

Using estimation of camera movement to achieve multi-target tracking

Estimating the motion of a moving camera is a ubiquitous problem in the field of computer vision. With technology such as self-driving cars and autonomous drones becoming more popular, fast and efficient algorithms enabling on-board video processing are needed to return timely and accurate information at a low computational cost. This estimation of camera movement, or 'pose estimation,' is also a crucial component of target tracking aboard moving vehicles or platforms.

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