Science X Newsletter Thursday, Sep 17

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for September 17, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Reviewing recent efforts to improve the reversibility of zinc anodes in rechargeable batteries

Researchers discover effective pathway to convert carbon dioxide into ethylene

A scientific first: How psychedelics bind to key brain cell receptor

E-beam atomic-scale 3-D 'sculpting' could enable new quantum nanodevices

Supercooled water is a stable liquid, scientists show for the first time

Ecologists sound alarm on plastic pollution

Space communication: developing a one photon-per-bit receiver using near-noiseless phase-sensitive amplification

Making tuberculosis more susceptible to antibiotics

Astronomers capture stellar winds in unprecedented detail

GM Ultium Drives to power new generation of e-vehicles

New calculation refines comparison of matter with antimatter

Venus' ancient layered, folded rocks point to volcanic origin

The brain's memory abilities inspire AI experts in making neural networks less 'forgetful'

Human footprints dating back 120,000 years found in Saudi Arabia

Improving the efficacy of cellular therapies

Physics news

Supercooled water is a stable liquid, scientists show for the first time

Supercooled water is really two liquids in one. That's the conclusion reached by a research team at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory after making the first-ever measurements of liquid water at temperatures much colder than its typical freezing point.

Space communication: developing a one photon-per-bit receiver using near-noiseless phase-sensitive amplification

During space-communication researchers require high-space intersatellite data transfer connectivity for deep-space missions while monitoring Earth. The technology is fundamentally influenced by available transmission power and the aperture size of receiver sensitivity. The transition from radio-frequency links to optical links is now under consideration due to its ability to significantly reduce the channel loss caused by diffraction during communication. In a widely used approach, researchers can develop power-efficient formats along with nanowire-based photon-counting receivers cooled to a few Kelvins to function at speeds below 1-Gigabytes per second (Gb/s). In order to achieve data transfer at data rates of multi-GB/s (as expected for future space applications) the systems will have to rely on pre-amplified receivers together with advanced signal generation and processing techniques, including fibre communications.

New calculation refines comparison of matter with antimatter

An international collaboration of theoretical physicists—including scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and the RIKEN-BNL Research Center (RBRC)—has published a new calculation relevant to the search for an explanation of the predominance of matter over antimatter in our universe. The collaboration, known as RBC-UKQCD, also includes scientists from CERN (the European particle physics laboratory), Columbia University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Edinburgh, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Regensburg, and the University of Southampton. They describe their result in a paper to be published in the journal Physical Review D and has been highlighted as an "editor's suggestion."

Researchers develop the world's smallest ultrasound detector

Researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed the world's smallest ultrasound detector. It is based on miniaturized photonic circuits on top of a silicon chip. With a size 100 times smaller than an average human hair, the new detector can visualize features that are much smaller than previously possible, leading to what is known as super-resolution imaging.

Scientists reveal the power behind the curtain—with neutrons

In a potential step forward for imaging technology, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Sandia National Laboratories have developed a way to use neutrons to detect electric fields in spaces that are unreachable by conventional probes.

Scientists obtain broad-band single-mode lasers in colloidal quantum dots

In the past two decades, great efforts have been made to achieve lasers based on colloidal quantum dots (CQDs), especially CQD-based single-mode lasers, which is important in on-chip optical processing and data storage due to low noise and good monochromaticity.

Self-imaging of a molecule by its own electrons

One of the long-standing goals of research on the light-induced dynamics of molecules is to observe time-dependent changes in the structure of molecules, which result from the absorption of light, as directly and unambiguously as possible. To this end, researchers have developed and applied a plethora of approaches. Of particular promise among these approaches are several methods developed in the last years that rely on diffraction (of light or electrons) as means of encoding the internuclear spacings between the atoms that together form the molecule.

All-optical method sets record for ultrafast high-spatial-resolution imaging

High-speed cameras can take pictures in quick succession. This makes them useful for visualizing ultrafast dynamic phenomena, such as femtosecond laser ablation for precise machining and manufacturing processes, fast ignition for nuclear fusion energy systems, shock-wave interactions in living cells, and certain chemical reactions.

Shedding light on the development of efficient blue-emitting semiconductors

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have discovered a new alkali copper halide, Cs5Cu3Cl6I2, that emits pure blue light. The combination of the two halide ions, chloride and iodide, gives the material a crystalline structure made of zigzag chains and peculiar properties that result in highly efficient photoluminescence. This novel compound could be readily used to produce relatively inexpensive and eco-friendly white LEDs and reduce the energy used in the generation of everyday artificial light.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers capture stellar winds in unprecedented detail

Astronomers have presented an explanation for the shapes of planetary nebulae. The discovery is based on a set of observations of stellar winds around aging stars. Contrary to common consensus, the team found that stellar winds are not spherical, but have a shape similar to that of planetary nebulae. The team concludes that interaction with an accompanying star or exoplanet shapes both the stellar winds and planetary nebulae. The findings were published in Science.

Venus' ancient layered, folded rocks point to volcanic origin

An international team of researchers has found that some of the oldest terrain on Venus, known as tesserae, have layering that seems consistent with volcanic activity. The finding could provide insights into the enigmatic planet's geological history.

Climate change impacts astronomical observations

Climate changes associated with global warming can affect astronomical observations. That is the result of a study involving scientists from the University of Cologne. The international research team investigated a range of climate parameters at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal in the Atacama Desert in Chile, where the European Southern Observatory (ESO) operates its telescopes. Among other things, the team evaluated the data for temperature, wind speed and wind direction, and the water vapor content in the atmosphere over a period of several decades. This revealed an increase in temperatures above the world average and also increasing image blur due to air turbulence—so-called seeing.

Hubble captures crisp new portrait of Jupiter's storms

This latest image of Jupiter, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 25, 2020, was captured when the planet was 406 million miles from Earth. Hubble's sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet's turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the famous Great Red Spot region gearing up to change color—again.

Technology news

Reviewing recent efforts to improve the reversibility of zinc anodes in rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable zinc metal batteries (RZMBs) could be a viable alternative to lithium ion batteries, which are currently used to power many types of electronic devices, as well as electric vehicles. Recent studies suggest that using optimized electrolytes could lead to RZMBs with highly reversible zinc plating/stripping, achieving Coulombic efficiencies (CEs) close to 100%.

GM Ultium Drives to power new generation of e-vehicles

General Motors on Wednesday announced plans for the production of a family of electric motors and drive units for its next generation of electric cars and trucks.

The brain's memory abilities inspire AI experts in making neural networks less 'forgetful'

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Baylor College of Medicine report that they have successfully addressed what they call a "major, long-standing obstacle to increasing AI capabilities" by drawing inspiration from a human brain memory mechanism known as "replay."

New mathematical tool can select the best sensors for the job

In the 2019 Boeing 737 Max crash, the recovered black box from the aftermath hinted that a failed pressure sensor may have caused the ill-fated aircraft to nose dive. This incident and others have fueled a larger debate on sensor selection, number and placement to prevent the reoccurrence of such tragedies.

Sony's new $500 PlayStation 5 will launch Nov. 12

Sony's upcoming PlayStation 5 video game console will cost $500 and launch Nov. 12, the company said Wednesday, setting up a holiday battle with Microsoft's Xbox Series X over whose new console will turn up under more trees this year.

Australia to amend law making Facebook, Google pay for news

The author of proposed Australian laws to make Facebook and Google pay for journalism said Thursday his draft legislation will be altered to allay some of the digital giants' concerns, but remain fundamentally unchanged.

Putting the 'eye' in AI: What can computers teach us about human vision?

Studying how AI process visual information could help humans understand our own visual system.

'I choose to be a cyborg': Why I implanted computer chips in my hands

I have computer chips in my hands.

What the wildfires tell us about the shortcomings of California's electric grid

In addition to the vast destruction they have caused, the wildfires that have engulfed California in recent weeks have laid bare serious concerns about the state's electric grid.

Cause of the detrimental charge voltage rise in lithium-air batteries identified

NIMS has found for the first time that a voltage increase that occurs in lithium-air batteries when they are being charged—a major issue preventing their practical use—is strongly and positively correlated with the degree of crystallinity of lithium peroxide (Li2O2), a compound produced during a discharge cycle. This discovery is expected to provide significant insight into resolving this issue.

Transition to renewables will change when security of supply risk occurs

The risk of blackouts is usually highest on very cold and sunny winter days when power demand for heating soars. However, this will change as the share of renewables in the electricity system increases, a new study by the S2S4E project shows.

New tool helps IT staff see why users click on fraudulent emails

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new tool called the Phish Scale that could help organizations better train their employees to avoid a particularly dangerous form of cyberattack known as phishing.

Cities press EU for tougher laws governing Airbnb rentals

An alliance of 22 European cities urged the EU on Thursday to enact tougher rules on Airbnb and other short-term holiday rental platforms, accusing them of driving up property prices and squeezing out locals.

Algorithm boosts efficiency, nutrition for food bank ops

Cornell University systems engineers examined data from a busy New York state food bank and, using a new algorithm, found ways to better distribute and allocate food, and elevate nutrition among its patrons in the process.

Price, launch dates, games... PlayStation 5 duels Xbox

Calling the "next generation"—get ready to choose your console. Targeting system supremacy, gaming behemoths Sony and Microsoft are about to go head to head with their latest offerings—PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

How the cheaper Series 3 and SE Apple Watch compare to the new Series 6

Consumers thinking about buying a new Apple Watch might be wondering what's the difference between the older (but still on sale) $199 model and the new $399 Series 6?

Facebook launches Oculus Quest 2: A lighter, cheaper, better-performing VR headset

Facebooked announced plans to release a next-level version of its Oculus Quest virtual reality headset.

Trump says no TikTok deal yet amid security concerns

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he wasn't ready to approve a deal for an American company to partner with Chinese-owned video app TikTok, which would allow it to continue operating in the United States.

Norwegian Air to cut emissions by 45% by 2030

Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle said Thursday it planned to slash CO2 emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and reduce its use of plastics as part of a new environmental strategy.

Ford to build electric truck plant in Michigan, add 300 jobs

Ford says it will add 300 jobs at a new factory that's being built to assemble batteries and manufacture an electric version of the F-150 pickup truck.

A fingerprint for the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of billions of sensors and other devices connected to each other via internet, all of which need to be protected against hackers with malicious purposes. A low-cost and energy efficient solution for the security of IoT devices uses the unique characteristics of the built-in memory chips. Ph.D. candidate Lieneke Kusters investigated how to make optimal use of the chip's digital fingerprint to generate a security key.

Card finally trumps cash in Germany as virus prompts change

Card payments will surpass cash transactions for the first time in Germany in 2020 as the pandemic changes shoppers' behaviour, a study said Thursday.

Comparing virtual and actual pants

The designing, pattern-making and prototype-making process of the apparel industry is a necessary step to confirm the appearance of the desired 3-D shape of a garment before manufacturing. However, it is a time-consuming and costly process involving designers, pattern makers and sewers, and the industry hopes to make improvements in this area. 3-D garment simulation technology using patterns can visually show the design of the garment without making a prototype, slimming down the laborious and often times waste-producing design and production process.

Facebook to curb private groups spreading hate, misinformation

Facebook on Thursday said it is cracking down on private groups where hate or misinformation is shared among members.

As U.S. TikTok ban nears, here's what we know about a deal

With just days to go until President Donald Trump's ban on TikTok in the U.S. comes into effect, the race is on for owner ByteDance to win approval for its plan to avoid a shutdown.

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The PS5 is priced, the Oculus Quest 2 launched, and the GoPro Hero 9 reviewed

It is a remarkably good time to be into video games. It's not just that we've got new console launches from Microsoft and Sony. It's also that Nvidia is invigorating PC gaming with new possibilities as it brings 4K performance into a more achievable price range. And it's that Oculus has released a new, less expensive VR headset.

On top of all that, we see game companies beginning to experiment with new pricing models and methods of distribution. Microsoft has bundled its hardware into a subsidy plan with its game streaming service. Apple seems to want to avoid doing that with its own bundle, but it is still making a go of Apple Arcade. Nvidia and Google are providing competition in cloud streaming for games. Sony is putting more top tier games (or at least games that were more recently top tier than usual) into its PlayStation Plus bundle.

Oh, and AAA console titles are probably going to start costing $70 now, there's another experiment for ya.

All of which (even that last one) opens up more competition and more possibilities for video games. And as I've discussed before, this round of new consoles, new PC hardware, and new delivery mechanisms is just groundwork. We don't yet fully know what these tech changes will ultimately mean for game design.

So yes, late 2020 is a very good time to be into video games. But if the technologies being released this year live up to their promise, it will just be a start.

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PlayStation news

┏ The 10 biggest announcements and trailers from Sony's PS5 showcase.

┏ The PS5 will launch on November 12 for $499.99.

┏ PS5 Digital Edition launches November 12th for $399.99.

┏ PS5 pre-orders began a day early, and so far they're a mess. Everybody just kind of went live early and nobody was prepared for the deluge of traffic. At 7:30PT last night, all of these retailers sites were broken in some way:

Soon, GameStop issued a press release advertising availability of the PS5 online, even though at the time, it didn't actually have a product page where you could buy one. Now, you can find product pages at Target (PS5, PS5 Digital) and Best Buy (PS5, PS5 Digital) too.

┏ PS5 will be '99 percent' backward compatible with PS4 games.

┏ PlayStation 5 games will cost up to $69.99.

┏ Sony confirms PS5's first-party launch lineup and free game upgrade plans for PS4 titles. Well well well, look at that, $70 games really are becoming a new normal!

Here's the full list, including pricing and confirmation for the first time that Sony intends to raise the price on some exclusive titles by $10 to a max of $69.99:
  • Astro's Playroom (Japan Studio) – pre-installed on PS5
  • Demon's Souls (Bluepoint Games / Japan Studio) – $69.99
  • Destruction All Stars (Lucid Games / XDEV) – $69.99
  • Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales – $49.99
  • Marvel's Spider-Man: Mile Morales Ultimate Edition – $69.99
  • Sackboy A Big Adventure (Sumo Digital / XDEV) – $59.99

┏ Final Fantasy XVI is coming to PS5, watch the first trailer.

┏ Hogwarts Legacy is an open world Harry Potter game coming to PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC. This was one of the most popular posts on the site yesterday, just saying.

Hogwarts Legacy is a new Harry Potter open world game coming to the PlayStation 5 platform, Sony announced on Wednesday during its PS5 price reveal live stream event. The game, developed by Just Cause studio Avalanche, is set in the 1800s at the iconic Hogwarts from the book series, but given its time period it will not involve playing as the series' titular character.

┏ Sony's PlayStation Plus Collection will let you play a bunch of PS4 classics on PS5 at launch. A lot of good stuff in this bundle. Hope Sony keeps updating it.

┏ Sony reveals PS5 accessory pricing, including $70 DualSense controller.

┏ Confirmed: The PS5 is the biggest game console in modern history. It really is really really big. Really. Plus, those weird popped-collar fins on the side? Yeah...

Oh, and there's one little tidbit I forgot to mention, which makes this even better: Sony isn't including the PS5's "largest projection" or optional base in those measurements, according to its press release.

Oculus news

As you may know by now, I need to disclose that my wife works for Oculus. Beyond dropping the links below, I won't editorialize or report on Oculus, VR, or Facebook.

┏ Connect 7: All the news from Facebook and Oculus' big VR / AR event.

┏ Oculus Quest 2 review: better, cheaper VR. Adi Robertson has the review:

The Quest 2 is everything I liked about the original Quest at launch but with the benefit of a stronger ecosystem that's developed over the past year. Even with current-generation VR's inherent awkwardness, it feels like a final product rather than an early-adopter experiment. Oculus — a company owned by social giant Facebook — has done some of its best work so far. It's also provoked some of the biggest questions yet about VR's future.

┏ Oculus' new Quest 2 VR headset starts at $299 and ships October 13th.

┏ Oculus Quest vs. Oculus Quest 2: what's the difference?.

┏ The original Myst is coming to VR.

┏ Facebook's first 'smart glasses' will be Ray-Bans, coming next year.

┏ Facebook is discontinuing the Oculus Rift S.

┏ VR Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell games are coming.

┏ Mark Zuckerberg on why he doesn't want to "put an Apple Watch on your face". My colleague Casey Newton interviewed Mark Zuckerberg.


┏ Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 review: 4K PC gaming finally makes sense. Tom Warren has an incredibly comprehensive and detailed review. And he's impressed:

The RTX 3080 ushers in the next generation of 4K gaming, thanks to some raw horsepower and a lot of the promises that Nvidia made with the RTX 2080 finally starting to materialize. DLSS and ray tracing were merely promises of where the future of PC games would move two years ago. But with games like Minecraft, Control, Fortnite, and Call of Duty supporting Nvidia's latest technology, it's a reality that's here with the RTX 3080. The next generation of consoles will also start to support ray tracing, meaning we're bound to see even more games throughout 2021 and beyond that can add ray tracing and soften its blow with DLSS.

┏ GoPro Hero 9 review: 5K for under $500. GoPro had a few companies nipping at its heels, but the reality is there's not much of a comparison. This thing looks great. Becca Farsace has the review:

Building upon years of action camera knowledge, GoPro has finally mastered a hardware experience that never frustrated me, while sticking to software that, although takes a bit of getting used to, holds endless resolution and frame rate capabilities.

Apple news

┏ Apple Watch's blood oxygen monitor is for 'wellness,' not medicine. Important context from Nicole Wetsman:

The Apple Watch's blood oxygen sensor isn't a medical device and won't be able to diagnose or monitor any medical conditions. The company says the feature is simply there to help users understand their fitness and wellness. But Apple did connect the feature back to the COVID-19 pandemic during the product announcement: "Blood oxygen and pulse oximetry are terms that we've heard a lot about during the COVID pandemic," said Sumbul Ahmad Desai, Apple's VP of health.

┏ Apple developers are scrambling over accelerated iOS 14 release. It really was a lot for developers, and a bummer. Jon Porter collected a bunch of their stories:

Today's release will be the first chance for most people to try iOS 14's new bells and whistles, which include new home screen widgets, a picture-in-picture mode, and a new Translation app, to name just a few. But it wasn't great news for iOS developers, who were left with a tight deadline to compile, test, and submit their apps in time for iOS 14's launch day

┏ iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 are starting to roll out.

┏ Apple accuses Epic of 'starting a fire and pouring gasoline on it' in new Fortnite filing.

More from The Verge

┏ Cheaper air quality sensors arrived just in time for the climate catastrophe. Really great story from Justine Calma. This is the sort of thing The Verge is for: being informed about consumer tech and using that knowledge to smart stories about how those things change culture, policy, and lived experience.

Low-cost sensors available commercially are likely not accurate enough yet to be relied on alone to make policy or regulatory decisions, according to Wexler and Castell. They can miss very small particles or confuse water droplets as particles when there's high humidity. But many are good enough to raise awareness on air pollution and get the ball rolling to take action. When air quality is really bad — like it's been across the West Coast of the US over the past couple weeks as a result of wildfires — readings don't need to be perfect to let people know they should take shelter.

┏ Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a wonderful history lesson. Andrew Webster reviews the package that has the most unsung Mario, Super Mario Sunshine:

It's rare that 3D games remain fun and interesting so long after release, but it's a testament to Nintendo's designers that this feels like a crucial Switch release, something to get excited about rather than complain about yet another Mario 64 port. I've been jumping back and forth between all three games, and while I'm having fun moment to moment, the most enjoyable part has been seeing the way the series evolved over time
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