Science X Newsletter Friday, Sep 18

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for September 18, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

The observation of Bloch ferromagnetism in composite fermions

Poop knives, arachnophobic entomologists win 2020 Ig Nobels

Primary role of sleep changes from learning support to brain maintenance in early childhood: study

New design principles for spin-based quantum materials

Solar storm forecasts for Earth improved with help from the public

Immune system may have another job—combatting depression

Removal of a gene could render lethal poxviruses harmless

Bolsonaro's Indigenous land mining policy a billion-dollar backfire

Mapping the 1.6 billion people who live near forests

Biologists create new genetic systems to neutralize gene drives

Researchers discover a mechanism allowing immune cells to regulate obesity

How fear persists in the mouse brain

Newly-described fossils reveal an ancient origin for New Zealand penguins

Most homemade masks are doing a great job, even when we sneeze, study finds

When it comes to battery dendrite formation, a negative number yields positive results

Physics news

The observation of Bloch ferromagnetism in composite fermions

Composite fermions are exotic quasi-particles found in interacting 2-D fermion systems at relatively large perpendicular magnetic fields. These quasi-particles, which are composed of an electron and two magnetic flux quanta, have often been used to describe a physical phenomenon known as the fractional quantum Hall effect.

New design principles for spin-based quantum materials

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology—whether supporting communication while working remotely or streaming our favorite show—so too does our reliance on the data these devices create. Data centers supporting these technology ecosystems produce a significant carbon footprint—and consume 200 terawatt hours of energy each year, greater than the annual energy consumption of Iran. To balance ecological concerns yet meet growing demand, advances in microelectronic processors—the backbone of many Internet of Things (IoT) devices and data hubs—must be efficient and environmentally friendly.

Lighting the way to infrared detection

EPFL physicists propose a new path to detect infrared radiation with outstanding sensitivity, allowing detection of signals as low as that of a single quantum of light.

Resonant tunneling diode oscillators for terahertz-wave detection

A semiconductor device that is promising for both generating and detecting terahertz radiation has been demonstrated by physicists at RIKEN. This may aid the development of high-performance integrated solutions for terahertz imaging and sensing applications as well as for high-speed, next-generation wireless communications systems.

Engineers produce a fisheye lens that's completely flat

To capture panoramic views in a single shot, photographers typically use fisheye lenses—ultra-wide-angle lenses made from multiple pieces of curved glass, which distort incoming light to produce wide, bubble-like images. Their spherical, multipiece design makes fisheye lenses inherently bulky and often costly to produce.

Hot Stuff: Unusual thermal diode rectifies heat in both directions

You can feel it on your laptop and mobile phone. It's behind your refrigerator and office copy machine. While heat is desirable for appliances like a coffee maker, it can jeopardize the reliability and safety of electronic systems in other devices, causing premature failure at best and explosions at worst.

Anti-resonant hollow-core optical fiber reduces 'noise'

A new hollow optical fiber greatly reduces the "noise" interfering with the signals it transmits compared to the single-mode fibers now widely used, researchers at the University of Rochester report.

Astronomy and Space news

Solar storm forecasts for Earth improved with help from the public

Solar storm analysis carried out by an army of citizen scientists has helped researchers devise a new and more accurate way of forecasting when Earth will be hit by harmful space weather.Scientists at the University of Reading added analysis carried out by members of the public to computer models designed to predict when coronal mass ejections (CMEs)—huge solar eruptions that are harmful to satellites and astronauts—will arrive at Earth.

The four most promising worlds for alien life in the solar system

The Earth's biosphere contains all the known ingredients necessary for life as we know it. Broadly speaking these are: liquid water, at least one source of energy, and an inventory of biologically useful elements and molecules.

How planetary nebulae get their shapes

About 7.5 billion years from now, our sun will have converted most of its hydrogen fuel into helium through fusion, and then burned most of that helium into carbon and oxygen. It will have swollen to a size large enough to fill the solar system nearly to the current orbit of Mars, and lost almost half of its mass in winds. At this stage the very hot remnant star will ionize the ejected material, lighting it up and causing it to glow as a planetary nebula (so-called not because it is a planet but because it surrounds its star). All low-to-intermediate mass stars (stars with between about 0.8 to 8 solar masses) will eventually mature into stars hosting planetary nebulae. This simple description suggests that planetary nebulae should all be spherically symmetric shells, but in fact they come in a wide range of shapes from butterfly or bipolar to eye-like or spiral- shapes. Astronomers think that the stellar wind is somehow responsible for these asymmetries, or perhaps the rapid spinning of the host star plays a role, but so far most of the proposed processes are not efficient enough.

VLBA makes first direct distance measurement to magnetar

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) have made the first direct geometric measurement of the distance to a magnetar within our Milky Way Galaxy—a measurement that could help determine if magnetars are the sources of the long-mysterious Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).

Image: Mesh reflector for shaped radio beams

This prototype 2.6-m diameter metal-mesh antenna reflector represents a big step forward for the European space sector: versions can be manufactured to reproduce any surface pattern that antenna designers wish, something that was previously possible only with traditional solid antennas.

The detection of phosphine in Venus' clouds is a big deal, and here's how we can find out if it really is life

On Sept. 14, 2020, a new planet was added to the list of potentially habitable worlds in the Solar System: Venus.

Technology news

When it comes to battery dendrite formation, a negative number yields positive results

Consumer demand has driven engineers to design batteries that are more compact while at the same time maintaining, or even improving, their capacity.

Artificial intelligence expert originates new theory for decision-making

How should people make decisions when the outcomes of their choices are uncertain, and the uncertainty is described by probability theory?

Helping robots avoid collisions

George Konidaris still remembers his disheartening introduction to robotics.

Oceanbird cargo ship relies on wind to transport autos

The latest trend in cargo shipping has roots in a concept that's been around a while. Say, 7,000 years or so.

APT41, the China-based hacking operation spanning the world

A global hacking collective known as APT41 has been accused by US authorities of targeting company servers for ransom, compromising government networks and spying on Hong Kong activists.

Can robots write? Machine learning produces dazzling results, but some assembly is still required

You might have seen a recent article from The Guardian written by "a robot." Here's a sample:

Artificial intelligence called GPT-3 can write like a human but don't mistake that for thinking

Since it was unveiled earlier this year, the new AI-based language generating software GPT-3 has attracted much attention for its ability to produce passages of writing that are convincingly human-like. Some have even suggested that the program, created by Elon Musk's OpenAI, may be considered or appears to exhibit, something like artificial general intelligence (AGI), the ability to understand or perform any task a human can. This breathless coverage reveals a natural yet aberrant collusion in people's minds between the appearance of language and the capacity to think.

Don't write off government algorithms: Responsible AI can produce real benefits

Algorithms have taken a lot of flak recently, particularly those being used by the government and other public bodies in the UK. The controversial algorithm used to award student grades caused a huge public outcry, but national and local governments and several police forces have been withdrawing other algorithms and artificial intelligence tools from use throughout the year in response to legal challenges and design failures.

US to ban TikTok downloads, block WeChat use

The United States on Friday ordered a ban on downloads of popular video app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the Chinese super-app WeChat on US national security grounds, escalating a fight with Beijing over digital technology.

Could PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X be swan song for consoles?

The upcoming release of a ninth generation of games consoles by Sony and Microsoft is set to be a sales slam dunk with consumers seeking entertainment during pandemic confinement, but could it also be their swan song as the habits of gamers change?

German hospital hacked, patient taken to another city dies

German authorities said Thursday that an apparently misdirected ransomware attack caused the failure of IT systems at a major hospital in Duesseldorf, and a woman who needed urgent admission died after she had to be taken to another city for treatment.

Apple to open its first India online store

Apple will launch its first online store in India next week, the Silicon Valley giant said Friday, hoping to cash in on the country's festive season and grow its tiny share of the booming market.

Australia pays $3.7 M to help news agency though pandemic

The Australian government on Friday announced a 5 million Australian dollars ($3.7 million) grant to the national news agency as part of pandemic-related assistance to regional journalism.

As deadline looms, scramble on TikTok deal structure

Amid a looming deadline set by President Donald Trump, negotiators scrambled to find a new ownership structure for the popular video app TikTok that would pass muster in both the United States and China.

Ryanair slashes more flights on virus restrictions

Ryanair on Friday said it was cutting more flights than planned in October, blaming the move on virus-related flight restrictions imposed by governments.

Man 'asleep' in speeding self-driving car charged in Canada

A driver who allegedly set his car to autopilot and then took a nap as it broke the speed limit on a rural Canadian highway has been charged with dangerous driving, police said.

TikTok slams US action, says will challenge 'unjust' order

TikTok on Friday slammed a decision by US officials to ban new downloads of the popular smartphone app and vowed to fight the Trump administration's ongoing crackdown on the company.

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