Science X Newsletter Friday, Oct 9

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for October 9, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Study reveals that methods to infer the connectivity of neural circuits are affected by systematic errors

AIR-Act2Act: A dataset for training social robots to interact with the elderly

The first demonstration of braiding in photonic topological zero modes

Scientists find upper limit for the speed of sound

'Universal law of touch' will enable new advances in virtual reality

Geologists solve puzzle that could predict valuable rare earth element deposits

The Colorado river's water supply is predictable owing to long-term ocean memory

Researchers use artificial intelligence language tools to decode molecular movements

Researchers discover immune evasion strategy used by Malaria-causing parasite

Proglacial lakes are accelerating glacier ice loss

Do cloth masks work? Only if you machine wash them after use

Droughts are threatening global wetlands

Bacteria-fighting cells in the airways boosts infection risk from viruses

Engineers create helical topological exciton-polaritons, a new type of quasiparticle

Astronomers produce largest 3-D catalog of galaxies

Physics news

The first demonstration of braiding in photonic topological zero modes

Physics theory suggests that exotic excitations can exist in the form of bound states confined in the proximity of topological defects, for instance, in the case of Majorana zero modes that are trapped in vortices within topological superconducting materials. Better understanding these states could aid the development of new computational tools, including quantum technologies.

Scientists find upper limit for the speed of sound

A research collaboration between Queen Mary University of London, the University of Cambridge and the Institute for High Pressure Physics in Troitsk has discovered the fastest possible speed of sound.

Engineers create helical topological exciton-polaritons, a new type of quasiparticle

The understanding of quantum physics has involved the creation of a wide range of quasiparticles. These notional constructs describe emergent phenomena that appear to have the properties of multiple other particles mixed together.

Support film makes cryo-electron microscopy sharper

A trio of researchers at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology has developed a support film for creating sharper images in cryo-electron microscopy. In their paper published in the journal Science, Katerina Naydenova, Peipei Jia and Christopher Russo describe the factors that lead to blurring due to sample movement. They also describe the support film they developed to correct the problem. Micah Rapp and Bridget Carragher with Columbia University have published a Perspective piece in the same journal issue describing the work by the team and how the new support film is likely to impact future research efforts.

Evidence of top quarks in collisions between heavy nuclei

The result of recent research by the CMS collaboration opens the path to study in a new and unique way an extreme state of matter that is thought to have existed shortly after the Big Bang. The collaboration has seen evidence of top quarks in collisions between heavy nuclei at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

New NIST project to build nano-thermometers could revolutionize temperature imaging

Cheaper refrigerators? Stronger hip implants? A better understanding of human disease? All of these could be possible and more, someday, thanks to an ambitious new project underway at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Polarimetric parity-time-symmetric photonic system

Parity-time-symmetric photonic and optoelectronic systems are being intensively explored recently, which has been bringing about significant fundamental physics and technological outcomes. One of the main characteristics of a PT symmetric system is its effectiveness in mode selection in single-mode lasing, in which two cross-coupled and spatially separated resonators with identical geometries are usually employed. A PT-symmetric laser system has a strongly enhanced gain difference between the dominant mode and the side modes, thus making single-mode oscillation possible. However, strict requirements not only lead to increased structural complexity, high cost, and strong susceptibility to environmental perturbations, but also limit the compactness when on-chip devices are required.

Turning a hot spot into a cold spot: Fano-shaped local-field responses probed by a quantum dot

Optical nanoantennas can convert propagating light to local fields. The local-field responses can be engineered to exhibit nontrivial features in spatial, spectral and temporal domains. Local-field interferences play a key role in the engineering of local-field responses. By controlling local-field interferences, researchers have demonstrated local-field responses with various spatial distributions, spectral dispersions and temporal dynamics. Different degrees of freedom of the excitation light have been used to control local-field interferences, such as polarization, beam shape and beam position, and incidence direction. Despite remarkable progress, achieving fully controllable local-field interferences remains a major challenge. A fully controllable local-field interference should be controllable between a constructive interference and a complete destructive interference. This would bring unprecedented benefit for the engineering of local-field responses.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers produce largest 3-D catalog of galaxies

A team of astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) has produced the world's largest three-dimensional astronomical imaging catalog of stars, galaxies and quasars. The team used data from UH's Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System or Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) on Haleakalā. The PS1 3π survey is the world's largest deep multi-color optical survey, spanning three-quarters of the sky. IfA astronomers applied novel computational tools to the catalog, to decipher which of the 3 billion objects are stars, galaxies or quasars. For the galaxies, the software also derived estimates of their distances.

Hubble sees swirls of forming stars

At around 60 million light-years from Earth, the Great Barred Spiral Galaxy, NGC 1365, is captured beautifully in this image by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Located in the constellation of Fornax (the Furnace), the blue and fiery orange swirls show us where stars have just formed and the dusty sites of future stellar nurseries.

The legacy of of the Spitzer Space Telescope

To understand the significance of the Spitzer Space Telescope on the understanding of our solar system, think of what the steam engine meant for the industrial revolution.

A new look at sunspots

NASA's extensive fleet of spacecraft allows scientists to study the Sun extremely close-up—one of the agency's spacecraft is even on its way to fly through the Sun's outer atmosphere. But sometimes taking a step back can provide new insight.

Technology news

AIR-Act2Act: A dataset for training social robots to interact with the elderly

To interact with humans and assist them in their day-to-day life, robots should have both verbal and non-verbal communication capabilities. In other words, they should be able to understand both what a user is saying and what their behavior indicates, adapting their speech, behavior and actions accordingly.

Engineers print wearable sensors directly on skin without heat

Wearable sensors are evolving from watches and electrodes to bendable devices that provide far more precise biometric measurements and comfort for users. Now, an international team of researchers has taken the evolution one step further by printing sensors directly on human skin without the use of heat.

Global Privacy Control initiative seeks to give users control over their Internet privacy wishes

An ensemble of activist groups, tech companies and publishers has banded together to start a new initiative aimed at giving internet users more control over the way their data is used. The group has named the new initiative Global Privacy Control (GPC), and has announced its launch on their web page.

Researchers 3-D print unique micro-scale fluid channels used for medical testing

In a groundbreaking new study, researchers at the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, have 3-D printed unique fluid channels at the micron scale that could automate production of diagnostics, sensors, and assays used for a variety of medical tests and other applications.

Airbnb requires hosts to commit to enhanced cleaning

Airbnb said Thursday it will require hosts to comply with enhanced cleaning procedures as part of its effort to reassure guests and local officials during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mobile games thrive, even as pandemic keeps players home

Mobile games are thriving as players turn to them for fun and friendship during the pandemic, with increasing numbers of women joining the trend.

You can do more with your voice: Say, 'Hey Google' on Android to command third-party apps

Say, "Hey Google" to your Android phone, and you'll be able to do more with your apps.

Data show big gains for offshore wind

Global installed offshore wind capacity reached 27,064 MW in 2019—a 19% increase from the previous year. This and other trends can be found in the "2019 Offshore Wind Technology Data Update," released by NREL on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Energy Technologies Office.

Study shows abundant opportunities for hydrogen in a future integrated energy system

New research from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) identifies key opportunities for hydrogen to provide synergies for the U.S. energy system and quantifies their potential impacts on hydrogen markets.

Social media exploitation erodes trust

Social media platforms in Australia are vulnerable to exploitation by foreign actors for commercial, political, and strategic reasons, according to new analysis.

In a battle of AI versus AI, researchers are preparing for the coming wave of deepfake propaganda

An investigative journalist receives a video from an anonymous whistleblower. It shows a candidate for president admitting to illegal activity. But is this video real? If so, it would be huge news—the scoop of a lifetime—and could completely turn around the upcoming elections. But the journalist runs the video through a specialized tool, which tells her that the video isn't what it seems. In fact, it's a "deepfake," a video made using artificial intelligence with deep learning.

Microsoft to let employees work from home permanently

Software giant Microsoft will let employees work from home permanently if they choose to, US media reported on Friday, becoming the latest employer to expand work-from-home provisions prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Watchdog urges more action to protect planes from hackers

Federal regulators have not taken adequate steps to protect computer systems on airliners from hackers, a government watchdog agency reported on Friday.

Facebook approached FBI about Michigan militia six months ago

Facebook Inc. first approached the FBI six months ago about activity on its platform that led to 13 men being charged in Michigan with planning to storm the state capitol and kidnap the governor.

Stuck in your 'smart' chastity device? Use a screwdriver, manufacturer says

The maker of a 'smart' male chastity device has recommended using a screwdriver to break them open after warnings they can be locked remotely by hackers.

'Polish Amazon' eyes expansion ahead of record IPO

Gazing out over the skyscrapers on the skyline, the head of Poland's top e-commerce company is unfazed by Amazon's imminent arrival as his business prepares for a record IPO.

2 remote Japan towns seek to host nuclear waste storage site

Two remote towns in northern Japan struggling with rapidly graying and shrinking populations signed up Friday to possibly host a high-level radioactive waste storage site as a means of economic survival.

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