Science X Newsletter Thursday, Oct 15

Dear ymilog,

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Pilot: A virtual agent that can negotiate with humans

Miniscope3D—A single-shot miniature three-dimensional fluorescence microscope

Fraction of money earmarked for COVID-19 recovery could boost climate efforts

When feeling the pinch, nuclei instigate cells to escape crowded spaces

Study examines spontaneous symmetry breaking in twisted double bilayer graphene

Using a reducing agent to improve efficiency of all-perovskite solar cells

Phosphate polymer forms a cornerstone of metabolic control

Engineered developmental signals could illuminate regenerative medicine

Astronomers discover metal-poor globular cluster by chance

Dramatic escalation in opioid use over a decade revealed

Research finds that blue-light glasses improve sleep and workday productivity

Protein that keeps immune system from freaking out could form basis for new therapeutics

Researchers unravel the healing mechanisms of extracellular vesicles

Research finds biodegradable alternatives are no better for the environment

How leaves reflect light reveals evolutionary history of seed plants

Physics news

Miniscope3D—A single-shot miniature three-dimensional fluorescence microscope

A miniature fluorescence microscope that weighs less while offering high resolution compared to existing devices will have a range of applications in systems biology. Existing miniature fluorescence microscopes are a standard technique in life sciences, but they only offer two-dimensional (2-D) information. In a new report now on Nature Light: Science & Applications, Kyrollos Yanny, Nick Antipa and a team of scientists in the Joint Graduate Program in Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley and the Universite libre de Bruxelles Belgium, developed a single-shot 3-D fluorescence microscope. They engineered the new device known as the Miniscope3D by replacing the tube lens of a conventional 2-D miniscope with an optimized multifocal phase mask at the objective's aperture stop. Using the device, Yanny and Antipa et al. optically recorded neural activity in free-moving animals and in long-term in situ imaging applications in incubators and within lab-on-a-chip devices.

Single laser produces high-power dual comb femtosecond pulses

Researchers have developed a new approach that uses a single laser cavity to create two high-power optical frequency combs emitting high-power femtosecond pulses. The new development paves the way for portable dual-comb light sources for applications such as spectroscopy and precision distance measurement.

Now you see it, now you don't: Hidden colours discovered by coincidence

Scientists in Australia have stumbled across an unusual way to observe color that had previously gone unnoticed.

Could Schrödinger's cat exist in real life? Our research may soon provide the answer

Have you ever been in more than one place at the same time? If you're much bigger than an atom, the answer will be no.

ATLAS Experiment releases new search for long-lived particles

Despite its decades of predictive success, there are important phenomena left unexplained by the Standard Model of particle physics. Additional theories must exist that can fully describe the universe, even though definitive signatures of particles beyond the Standard Model have yet to turn up.

When Fock meets Landau: Topology in atom-photon interactions

Since the discovery of the quantum Hall effect, topological phases of electrons have become a major research area in condensed matter physics. Many topological phases are predicted in lattices with specific engineering of electronic hopping between lattice sites. Unfortunately, the distance between neighboring sites in natural lattices (crystals) is on the order of a billionth of a meter, which makes such engineering extremely difficult. On the other hand, the photonic crystals have a much larger scale. The unit cells of photonic crystals for visible light are several thousand times larger than those of electrons. Therefore, it is not surprising that people resort to photonic analog of topological phases by digging out the similarity between the Maxwell and Schrodinger equations, and a research area named topological photonics has flourished.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers discover metal-poor globular cluster by chance

An international team of astronomers led by Soren Larsen (Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands) has accidentally discovered a globular cluster that contains extremely few metals, those elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. The astronomers had some spare observation time and decided to include the globular cluster in the Andromeda galaxy as a bonus. They will publish their findings in the journal Science on Friday.

The recipe for powerful quasar jets

Some supermassive black holes launch powerful beams of material, or jets, while others do not. Astronomers may now have identified why.

Astrophysics team lights the way for more accurate model of the universe

Light from distant galaxies reveals important information about the nature of the universe and allows scientists to develop high-precision models of the history, evolution and structure of the cosmos.

The spin of the supermassive black hole in the Milky Way

Once a black hole forms, its intense gravitational field produces a surface beyond which even light cannot escape, and it appears black to outsiders. All the details of the complex mix of matter and energy in its past are lost, leaving it so simple that it can be completely described by just three parameters: mass, spin, and electric charge. Astronomers can measure the masses of black holes in a relatively straightforward way by watching how matter moves in their vicinity (including other black holes) under the influence of their gravitational fields.

Upgraded GMRT measures the mass of hydrogen in distant galaxies

A team of astronomers from the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA-TIFR) in Pune, and the Raman Research Institute (RRI), in Bengaluru, has used the upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) to measure the atomic hydrogen content of galaxies seen as they were 8 billion years ago, when the universe was young. This is the earliest epoch in the universe for which there is a measurement of the atomic gas content of galaxies. This research has been published in the 14 October 2020 issue of the journal Nature.

Star clusters are only the tip of the iceberg

"Clusters form big families of stars that can stay together for large parts of their lifetime. Today, we know of roughly a few thousand star clusters in the Milky Way, but we only recognize them because of their prominent appearance as rich and tight groups of stars. Given enough time, stars tend to leave their cradle and find themselves surrounded by countless strangers, thereby becoming indistinguishable from their neighbors and hard to identify," says Stefan Meingast, lead author of the paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. "Our Sun is thought to have formed in a star cluster but has left its siblings behind a long time ago," he adds.

New M92 stellar stream discovered

A team of astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope discovered a new stellar stream emanating from the M92 globular cluster. This new stream suggests that M92 is actively being disrupted by tidal forces caused by our Milky Way Galaxy. This discovery utilized high quality data obtained as part of the Canada-France-Imaging-Survey (CFIS) using MegaCam at CFHT and from the Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) survey on Haleakalā, Maui. The discovery of a stellar stream around M92 raises the question of the cluster's origin and could be used in the future to probe the innermost region of our Galaxy. The team estimates that stellar stream has a mass equivalent to ~10% of the mass of the entire M92 cluster.

If Betelgeuse goes boom: How DUNE would respond to a nearby supernova

In late 2019, Betelgeuse, the star that forms the left shoulder of the constellation Orion, began to noticeably dim, prompting speculation of an imminent supernova. If it exploded, this cosmic neighbor a mere 700 light-years from Earth would be visible in the daytime for weeks. Yet 99% of the energy of the explosion would be carried not by light, but by neutrinos, ghost-like particles that rarely interact with other matter.

Starman just made his closest approach to Mars

On February 6th, 2018, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful launch vehicle in their rocket family, and in service today. Not only was this a major milestone for SpaceX, it was also the biggest public relations coup ever orchestrated by Musk. For this launch, Musk decided that the payload would be his cherry Tesla Roadster with a SpaceX spacesuit (affectionately named "Starman") at the wheel.

Oxygen supply fails on Russian segment of ISS, crew not in danger

The oxygen supply system has failed in a module on the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) but the crew is in no danger, Russian space agency Roscosmos said Thursday.

Life on earth: Why we may have the moon's now defunct magnetic field to thank for it

The habitability of a planet depends on many factors. One is the existence of a strong and long-lived magnetic field. These fields are generated thousands of kilometers below the planet's surface in its liquid core and extend far into space—shielding the atmosphere from harmful solar radiation.

Technology news

Pilot: A virtual agent that can negotiate with humans

Negotiations are a central part of many human interactions, ranging from business discussions and legal proceedings to conversations with vendors at local markets. Researchers specialized in economics, psychology, and more recently, computer science have conducted several studies aimed at better understanding how humans negotiate with one another in the hope of shedding light on some of the dynamics of human decision-making and enabling the development of machines that can replicate these dynamics.

Using a reducing agent to improve efficiency of all-perovskite solar cells

A team of researchers from China, Canada and Australia has found a way to improve the efficiency of all-perovskite solar cells through use of a reducing agent. In their paper published in the journal Nature Energy, the group describes their technique and how the resulting solar cells performed.

Researchers first to develop an organic battery

Researchers at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, Linköping University, have for the first time demonstrated an organic battery. It is of a type known as a 'redox flow battery," with a large capacity that can be used to store energy from wind turbines and solar cells, and as a power bank for cars.

Scientists develop 'mini-brains' to help robots recognize pain and to self-repair

Using a brain-inspired approach, scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a way for robots to have the artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize pain and to self-repair when damaged.

A new approach boosts lithium-ion battery efficiency and puts out fires, too

In an entirely new approach to making lithium-ion batteries lighter, safer and more efficient, scientists at Stanford University and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have reengineered one of the heaviest battery components—sheets of copper or aluminum foil known as current collectors—so they weigh 80% less and immediately quench any fires that flare up.

Machine learning uncovers potential new TB drugs

Machine learning is a computational tool used by many biologists to analyze huge amounts of data, helping them to identify potential new drugs. MIT researchers have now incorporated a new feature into these types of machine-learning algorithms, improving their prediction-making ability.

Creating software that will unlock the power of exascale

Leading research organizations and computer manufacturers in the U.S. are collaborating on the construction of some of the world's fastest supercomputers—exascale systems capable of performing more than a billion billion operations per second. A billion billion (also known as a quintillion or 1018) is about the number of neurons in ten million human brains.

We're more likely to ride bikes if we can carry more on them

Under COVID-19 lockdowns, bike sales have been booming. Quiet streets and more time at home have opened a new opportunity for bicycles in our otherwise car-dominated culture.

Is the end coming for sulfur hexafluoride, the most powerful greenhouse gas?

Electrical-transmission towers and the cables are part of the landscape of industrialized countries. Less visible but just as important are switchgear devices that protect electrical equipment. But did you know that many of these devices—widely used in electric-utility transmission and distribution systems as well as commercial and industrial facilities—integrate the most powerful greenhouse gas, sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)? Luckily, leakage rates are low and accidents extremely rare.

French, Dutch push EU to limit US tech giants

France and the Netherlands jointly urged EU regulators on Thursday to limit the power of Silicon Valley giants like Google and Facebook, and break them up if necessary.

The threat of 'killer robots' is real and closer than you might think

From self-driving cars, to digital assistants, artificial intelligence (AI) is fast becoming an integral technology in our lives today. But this same technology that can help to make our day-to-day life easier is also being incorporated into weapons for use in combat situations.

Pa. college plans to power two farms from cafeteria waste, cow manure, and brewery scraps

The Dickinson College dining hall serves up a varied menu ranging from Monte Cristo casserole and cranberry chicken to, of course, pizza.

All-terrain microrobot flips through a live colon

A rectangular robot as tiny as a few human hairs can travel throughout a colon by doing back flips, Purdue University engineers have demonstrated in live animal models.

Looking to buy a new iPhone 12? Here are 6 questions to ask before you pre-order one

With pre-orders opening Friday at 5 a.m. PT for the new crop of iPhones, you're probably wondering should I upgrade?

YouTube will remove videos making harmful claims rooted in conspiracy theories

YouTube is cracking down on videos displaying "harmful conspiracy theories" as social platforms continue to grapple with the spread of misinformation and hate.

Researchers develop framework to identify health impacts of self-driving vehicles

Autonomous vehicles (AV) are the wave of the future in the automobile industry, and there's extensive discussion about the impacts on transportation, society, the economy and the environment.

Facebook users spread Russian propaganda less often when they know source

Russian propaganda is hitting its mark on social media—generating strong partisan reactions that may help intensify political divisions—but Facebook users are less apt to press the "like" button on content when they learn that it is part of a foreign propaganda campaign, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

US book stores launch 'Boxed Out' campaign against Amazon

The American Booksellers Association has launched an advertising campaign against Amazon to alert the public to what it calls the growing danger that book stores are under from the online goliath during the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran acknowledges cyberattacks on government departments

Iran's cybersecurity authority acknowledged cyberattacks on two governmental departments this week, state media reported Thursday.

Amazon's 'Christmas creep' poses stress test for FedEx, UPS

FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. are girding for their biggest test yet in the e-commerce era, with "Christmas Creep" pushing the holiday shopping season ever earlier and stretching the limits of shipping networks already strained by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cybercrime money-launders busted by European police, FBI

European and American officials said Thursday that they have arrested 20 people in several countries for allegedly belonging to an international ring that laundered millions of euros stolen by cybercriminals through malware schemes.

YouTube toughens rules for QAnon conspiracy content

YouTube said Thursday it was tightening rules for propagation of conspiracy theories, notably targeting the QAnon movement already limited on Twitter and Facebook.

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