Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Sep 15

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for September 15, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A deep learning model achieves super-human performance at Gran Turismo Sport

Predicting delayed instabilities in viscoelastic solids

Radio relic discovered in a nearby galaxy cluster

Tortoise hatchlings found to orient toward objects resembling faces

Can a new algorithm make self-driving cars safer?

Did our early ancestors boil their food in hot springs?

Scientists predict that COVID-19 will become a seasonal virus—but not yet

Predicting the slow death of lithium-ion batteries

Study reveals impact of centuries of human activity in American tropics

Ocean algae get 'coup de grace' from viruses

New study finds two amino acids are the Marie Kondo of molecular liquid phase separation

Model maps out 'arms race' between cancer and immune system, predicts effectiveness of immunotherapy

Citizens help scientists demonstrate value of protected areas in biodiversity hotspots

Molecular basis underlying colorectal cancer revealed

Reward and punishment take similar paths in the mouse brain

Physics news

Predicting delayed instabilities in viscoelastic solids

It is presently challenging to determine the stability of viscoelastic structures since seemingly stable conformations may gradually creep (plastic deformation of a material under stress as a function of time) until their stability is lost. Although a discernable creeping effect does not necessarily lend to instability of viscoelastic solids, researchers are currently limited with numerical simulations to predict the future stability relative to theoretical predictive tools. In a new report on Science Advances, Erez Y. Urbach and Efi Efrati in physics and complex systems at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, described viscoelastic solids through an evolving instantaneous reference metric to measure elastic strains. The transparent and intuitive methods derived in this work for incompressible viscoelastic solids reduced the question of future stability to static calculations alone. The team showed the predictive power of the approach by understanding the subtle mechanisms of delayed instability in thin elastomeric shells in order to demonstrate quantitative agreement with experiments.

Fish, seaweed inspire slippery surfaces for ships

Long-distance cargo ships lose a significant amount of energy due to fluid friction. Looking to the drag reduction mechanisms employed by aquatic life can provide inspiration on how to improve efficiency.

Shining a light on disordered and fractal systems

A University of Tsukuba research team uses terahertz-frequency light to probe the unusual behavior of disordered systems to discover that the anonymously large vibrations in lysozyme can be explained by its glassy and fractal nature

Reviewing the quantum anomalous Hall effect

A collaboration across three FLEET nodes has reviewed the fundamental theories underpinning the quantum anomalous Hall effect (QAHE).

Ultra-fast magnetic switching with potential to transform fiber optical communications

Researchers at CRANN and Trinity's School of Physics have discovered that a new material can act as a super-fast magnetic switch.

Human white blood cells use molecular paddles to swim

Human white blood cells, known as leukocytes, swim using a newly described mechanism called molecular paddling, researchers report in the September 15th issue of Biophysical Journal. This microswimming mechanism could explain how both immune cells and cancer cells migrate in various fluid-filled niches in the body, for good or for harm.

Theoretically, two layers are better than one for solar-cell efficiency

Solar cells have come a long way, but inexpensive, thin film solar cells are still far behind more expensive, crystalline solar cells in efficiency. Now, a team of researchers suggests that using two thin films of different materials may be the way to go to create affordable, thin film cells with about 34% efficiency.

New neutron source in Canada would spur innovation, medical treatments

Technological progress owes much to our scientific understanding of the materials we use to build the world around us, from longer-lasting cell-phone batteries to new medicines.

Upgraded X-ray laser shows its soft side

The second phase of a major upgrade project is now online at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the pioneering X-ray free-electron laser at Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. On September 12, scientists ushered an electron beam through a new undulator to produce "soft" X-rays. This follows the upgraded facility's first light in July, produced with another undulator that generates "hard" X-rays.

Single photons from a silicon chip

Quantum technology holds great promise: Just a few years from now, quantum computers are expected to revolutionize database searches, AI systems, and computational simulations. Today already, quantum cryptography can guarantee absolutely secure data transfer, albeit with limitations. The greatest possible compatibility with our current silicon-based electronics will be a key advantage. And that is precisely where physicists from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and TU Dresden have made remarkable progress: The team has designed a silicon-based light source to generate single photons that propagate well in glass fibers.

Scientists develop a technique to dynamically curve a photon jet

Scientists at Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with international colleagues have found a simple technique to dynamically curve a photonic jet, turning it into a photonic hook. The method was published in Optics Letters. According to the authors, the discovered effect will expand the potential of photonic jets and hooks. For instance, it can be used to manipulate individual particles in biomedical research or in optical lithography to create microcircuits.

Astronomy and Space news

Radio relic discovered in a nearby galaxy cluster

Using the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa, an international team of astronomers has detected a radio relic in a nearby, low-mass, merging galaxy cluster designated A2384. The finding is reported in a research paper published September 6 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

From star to solar system: How protoplanetary rings form in primordial gas clouds

Four-hundred fifty light-years from Earth, a young star is glowing at the center of a system of concentric rings made from gas and dust, and it is producing planets, one for each gap in the ring.

Scientists propose possible mechanisms to explain coronal mini-jets in activated tornado-like prominence

Solar jets are a common phenomenon in the solar atmosphere. They mainly appear as transient collimated plasma ejections. Some studies have shown that jets may play an important role in heating the corona and initiating solar winds.  

Elements of surprise: Neutron stars contribute little, but something's making gold, research finds

Neutron star collisions do not create the quantity of chemical elements previously assumed, a new analysis of galaxy evolution finds. The research also reveals that current models can't explain the amount of gold in the cosmos—creating an astronomical mystery. The work has produced a new-look Periodic Table showing the stellar origins of naturally occurring elements from carbon to uranium.

Study shows difficulty in finding evidence of life on Mars

In a little more than a decade, samples of rover-scooped Martian soil will rocket to Earth.

Solar cycle 25 is here. NASA, NOAA scientists explain what that means

Solar Cycle 25 has begun. During a media event on Tuesday, experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed their analysis and predictions about the new solar cycle—and how the coming upswing in space weather will impact our lives and technology on Earth, as well as astronauts in space.

Venus: Could it really harbour life? New study springs a surprise

Earth's sister planet, Venus, has not been regarded as a high priority in the search for life. Its surface temperature of around 450°C is thought to be hostile to even the hardiest of micro-organisms, and its thick, sulfurous and acidic atmosphere has kept the surface almost completely free from visiting spacecraft.

Proposal for observatory to detect gravitational waves

Researchers could detect more mergers of black holes and neutron stars with plans for a new flagship gravitational wave observatory in Europe moving a step closer.

Technology news

A deep learning model achieves super-human performance at Gran Turismo Sport

Over the past few decades, research teams worldwide have developed machine learning and deep learning techniques that can achieve human-comparable performance on a variety of tasks. Some of these models were also trained to play renowned board or videogames, such as the Ancient Chinese game Go or Atari arcade games, in order to further assess their capabilities and performance.

Can a new algorithm make self-driving cars safer?

A driverless car isn't driven by a person but is controlled by a system of sensors and processors. In many countries, tests of autonomous driving have been happening for years. Germany wants to permit driverless cars across the country by 2022. As the technology develops, researchers are continuing to explore ways to make the algorithms used to make driving decisions better, and roadways safer.

Predicting the slow death of lithium-ion batteries

Batteries fade as they age, slowly losing power and storage capacity.

Zerologon: Microsoft addressing severe network exploit

A Dutch security firm reported last week that it uncovered a severe Windows vulnerability last month that allowed hackers to take over network administrator privileges with a single click.

Apple debuts discount watch, but no new iPhones ... yet

Apple introduced a cheaper version of its smartwatch, its latest attempt to broaden the appeal of its trend-setting products while many consumers are forced to scrimp during the coronavirus pandemic.

Is zero-emission truck maker Nikola the new Tesla, or just hot air?

With its electric and hydrogen-fueled trucks, the firm Nikola aims to revolutionize the future of the transportation sector. But with one investor claiming the group is running on empty, it has been having a rollercoaster ride on the stock exchange for the past week.

Oracle and TikTok struck a deal. What it is, none will say

The short-video app TikTok has chosen Oracle as its corporate savior to avoid a U.S. ban ordered by President Donald Trump. The U.S. government will review the prospective deal.

Welcome to the jungle: plants overrun Chinese apartment blocks

An experimental green housing project in a Chinese megacity promised prospective residents life in a "vertical forest", with manicured gardens on every balcony.

Facebook lets friends watch shows together while apart

Coronavirus lockdowns have led to a sharp increase in virtual watch parties as a way to get together with friends, and Facebook is getting in on the action.

YouTube tests TikTok rival in India

YouTube on Monday began testing a TikTok rival in India, saying it would refine its short video format and roll it out in more countries in coming months.

Namaste Alexa: Amazon signs up Bollywood superstar Bachchan

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan will be the first Indian celebrity to lend his voice to Amazon's Alexa digital assistant starting next year, as the Silicon Valley giant expands its presence in the massive market.

AI Robots serve restaurant customers in South Korea

A burger shop in the South Korean capital is a bit different from typical fast food restaurants: Its key staff are robots.

Top EU court enshrines net neutrality in Europe

The EU's top court ruled for the first time on the bloc's net neutrality rules Tuesday and confirmed that companies could not punish customers with a two-speed internet.

Enabling remote whole-body control with 5G edge computing

There are many real-world—and, someday, off-world—applications for light-weight, energy-efficient, fully autonomous robots. Yet the more autonomous a robot is, the greater its computational requirements. Onboarding the components to handle this computational function adds weight, cost and reduces potential for applications in hostile environments.

A computer can guess more than 100,000,000,000 passwords per second. Still think yours is secure?

Passwords have been used for thousands of years, as a means of identifying ourselves to others and in more recent times, to computers. It's a simple concept—a shared piece of information, kept secret between individuals and used to "prove" identity.

Everything AI?

Artificial intelligence is having a growing impact on our daily lives and is also revolutionizing research. ETH Zurich recognizes its responsibility in this area and is striving to promote innovation and trust in this fast-evolving technology.

Giving computers a voice

From Alexa and Siri to translation programs and computer-generated news, anything seems possible these days.The Media Technology Center is searching for applications that could lend a hand with day-to-day editorial work.

Popular messenger services are extremely insecure

Researchers from the Technical University of Darmstadt and the University of W├╝rzburg show that popular mobile messengers expose personal data via discovery services that allow users to find contacts based on phone numbers from their address book.

Camera monitoring significantly improves driver safety

A new study has shown HGV drivers drive much more safely when there are cameras in their cabs monitoring their behavior.

Amazon makes new upscale move with 'Luxury Stores'

Amazon unveiled plans Tuesday for a new online luxury "shopping experience" that will seek to connect well-heeled consumers and high-end brands.

400 years later, a new Mayflower will sail without humans

The Mayflower is taking to the water in Plymouth harbor.

Waze knows some new ways to make your drive better, down to which lane you should pick

Noam Bardin, the CEO of popular traffic app Waze, admits that traffic hasn't gotten any better in the 12 years the app has promised to ease the highways.

Apple iOS14: 5 features I really like—and one I'm not so crazy about

When Facebook warns that a change to Apple's upcoming mobile operating system will negatively affect how closely it will be able to track you on mobile phones, you know you're going to like iOS14.

LG just upped its dual-screen smartphone offering with swiveling LG Wing

We've seen more than a few dual-screen smartphones that fold and flip to expand. Now, there's one that swivels.

Social distancing COVID-19 tech: New Safe Spacer beeps if people get closer than 6 feet

Instead of contract tracing, there's another new kind of device that looks to honor social distancing by beeping when people get closer than 6 feet.

Apple bundles TV, music, news and more in services push

Apple on Tuesday said it is putting TV, music, news and more in a subscription bundle as it increases its push into services tied to its iPhone "ecosystem."

American Airlines holding off decision to cut some flights

American Airlines confirmed Monday it is holding off on its decision to cut flights to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Roswell, New Mexico, but warned that slumping demand in some markets is forcing the company to consider "difficult decisions to right-size our airline."

Fiat Chrysler and PSA tweak merger terms due to pandemic

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Peugeot Citroen (PSA) announced on Monday they'd modified the terms of their mega-merger in light of business disruptions caused by Covid-19.

Scientists create application for finding parking spaces

Computer vision and image recognition could solve the problem of a shortage of parking spaces in Chelyabinsk. As part of the work on the Smart City program, scientists from South Ural State University proposed using the already installed CCTV cameras to identify vacant parking spaces with a specially developed program that will collect data and notify drivers about parking spaces in the nearest parking lot. This invention has already been patented.

Facebook failing to stop political manipulation: fired employee

Facebook has fallen woefully short in stopping political manipulation of the platform by governments around the world, according to a data scientist fired this month by the social network.

European airlines demand end to quarantine 'chaos'

European airlines on Tuesday urged national capitals to coordinate measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying the current patchwork of restrictions is hobbling a return to regular travel around the EU.

Election Day: Uber will offer discounted rides to polling locations

Uber offered a status update on how the company will help usher Americans to polls as the November election draws closer.

U.S. should launch a national energy innovation mission to reach climate goals, says report

Research released today recommends that the U.S. federal government triple its annual investment in energy innovation over the next five years to speed clean energy transitions around the world and build advanced energy industries at home. The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia SIPA released Energizing America: A Roadmap to Launch a National Energy Innovation Mission, a detailed guide for federal policymakers to raise energy innovation as a core national priority. Co-authored with scholars from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), Energizing America is the first in a series of volumes to kickstart a U.S. federal clean energy innovation policy agenda.

Oracle 'very close' to deal on TikTok: Trump

Silicon Valley tech giant Oracle is "very close" to sealing a deal to become the US partner to Chinese-owned video app TikTok to avert a ban in the United States, President Donald Trump said Tuesday.

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