Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Oct 28

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for October 28, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A machine leaning model that incorporates immunological knowledge

Giant lizards learnt to fly over millions of years

Ultra-luminous X-ray pulsar Swift J0243.6+6124 investigated with AstroSat

First-ever evidence of exotic particles in cobalt monosilicide

Researchers break magnetic memory speed record

Researchers link poor memory to attention lapses and media multitasking

Researchers examine the decline in average body temperature among healthy adults over the past two decades

High vitamin A, E, and D intake linked to fewer respiratory complaints in adults

Reimagining the laser: New ideas from quantum theory could herald a revolution

The rhythm of change: What a drum-beat experiment reveals about cultural evolution

Judges' decisions in sport focus more on vigour than skill

Mountain gorillas are good neighbours—up to a point

Reforestation plans in Africa could go awry

Soil-powered fuel cell promises cheap, sustainable water purification

Understanding long-term trends of stressors on koala populations

Physics news

First-ever evidence of exotic particles in cobalt monosilicide

Anew study provides the first evidence of exotic particles, known as fourfold topological quasiparticles, in the metallic alloy cobalt monosilicide. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this comprehensive analysis, one that combines experimental data with theoretical models, provides a detailed understanding of this material. These insights could be used to engineer this and other similar materials with unique and controllable properties. The discovery was the result of a collaboration between researchers at Penn, University of Fribourg, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids, and University of Maryland.

Reimagining the laser: New ideas from quantum theory could herald a revolution

Lasers were created 60 years ago this year, when three different laser devices were unveiled by independent laboratories in the United States. A few years later, one of these inventors called the unusual light sources "a solution seeking a problem". Today, the laser has been applied to countless problems in science, medicine and everyday technologies, with a market of more than US$11 billion per year.

Infrared light antenna powers molecular motor

Light-controlled molecular motors can be used to create functional materials to provide autonomous motion, or in systems that can respond on command. For biological applications, this requires the motors to be driven by low-energy, low-intensity light that penetrates tissue. Chemists at the University of Groningen designed a rotary motor that is efficiently powered by near-infrared light, through adding an antenna to the motor molecule. The design and functionality were presented in the journal Science Advances on 28 October.

Topology gets magnetic: The new wave of topological magnetic materials

The electronic structure of nonmagnetic crystals can be classified by complete theories of band topology, reminiscent of a "topological periodic table." However, such a classification for magnetic materials has so far been elusive, and hence very few magnetic topological materials have been discovered to date. In a new study published in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers has performed the first high-throughput search for magnetic topological materials, finding over 100 new magnetic topological insulators and semimetals.

Knotting semimetals in topological electrical circuits

Invented more than 15,000 years ago, knots represent one of the earliest technological breakthroughs at the dawn of human history that kick-started the subsequent rise of human civilisation. Even today, we are still relying on knots in our daily life. Shoelace knots, for instance, have played a critical role in keeping shoes firmly on our feet for generations. Although knots are ancient inventions, the scientific and mathematical significance of knots was only discovered about 200 years ago.

Physicists circumvent centuries-old theory to cancel magnetic fields

A team of scientists including two physicists at the University of Sussex has found a way to circumvent a 178-year old theory which means they can effectively cancel magnetic fields at a distance. They are the first to be able to do so in a way which has practical benefits.

Weak equivalence principle violated in gravitational waves

The Weak equivalence principle (WEP) is a key aspect of classical physics. It states that when particles are in freefall, the trajectories they follow are entirely independent of their masses. However, it is not yet clear whether this property also applies within the more complex field of quantum mechanics. In new research published in EPJ C, James Quach at the University of Adelaide, Australia, proves theoretically that the WEP can be violated by quantum particles in gravitational waves—the ripples in spacetime caused by colossal events such as merging black holes.

Direct observation of a single electron's butterfly-shaped distribution in titanium oxide

The functions and physical properties of solid materials, such as magnetic order and unconventional superconductivity, are greatly influenced by the orbital state of the outermost electrons (valence electrons) of the constituent atoms. In other words, it could be said that the minimal unit that determines a solid material's physical properties consists of the orbitals occupied by the valence electrons. Moreover, an orbital can also be considered a minimal unit of 'shape,' so the orbital state in a solid can be deduced from observing the spatially anisotropic distribution of electrons (in other words, from how the electron distribution deviates from spherical symmetry).

Astronomy and Space news

Ultra-luminous X-ray pulsar Swift J0243.6+6124 investigated with AstroSat

Using India's AstroSat spacecraft, astronomers have performed broadband timing and spectral observations of an ultra-luminous X-ray (ULX) pulsar known as Swift J0243.6+6124. Results of this observational campaign, presented in a paper published October 16 on, reveal more details about the properties of this pulsar.

Studying craters on asteroid Bennu shows how long it has been orbiting near Earth

A team of researchers affiliated with a host of institutions in the U.S., Canada and Italy has found that studying the craters on asteroid Bennu allowed them to calculate how long it has been orbiting near Earth. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their study of craters formed on boulders on the asteroid.

Astronomers discover activity on distant planetary object

Centaurs are minor planets believed to have originated in the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system. They sometimes have comet-like features such as tails and comae—clouds of dust particles and gas—even though they orbit in a region between Jupiter and Neptune where it is too cold for water to readily sublimate, or transition, directly from a solid to a gas.

Solved: the mystery of how dark matter in galaxies is distributed

The gravitational force in the Universe under which it has evolved from a state almost uniform at the Big Bang until now, when matter is concentrated in galaxies, stars and planets, is provided by what is termed 'dark matter." But in spite of the essential role that this extra material plays, we know almost nothing about its nature, behavior and composition, which is one of the basic problems of modern physics. In a recent article in Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters, scientists at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC)/University of La Laguna (ULL) and of the National University of the North-West of the Province of Buenos Aires (Junín, Argentina) have shown that the dark matter in galaxies follows a 'maximum entropy' distribution, which sheds light on its nature.

Europe to send modules, astronauts to NASA moon station

The European Space Agency says it has agreed to provide several modules for NASA's planned outpost around the moon, in return for a chance to send European astronauts to the lunar orbiter.

ESA seeking dust-proof materials for lunar return

When humans return to the moon, they'll have formidable challenge lying in wait: lunar dust. The talcum-like lunar regolith is considered the biggest operational problem facing moon colonists. Within a few days of dust exposure, Apollo spacesuits suffered obscured visors, clogged mechanisms and eroded suit layers. So an ESA team is looking into novel material options to serve as the basis of future spacesuits or protect rovers or fixed infrastructure.

SpaceX starts rolling out Starlink internet, hoping it'll fund Mars flights

SpaceX, having established a formidable reputation in rocket launches, is starting to roll out what it hopes will be an even more muscular arm of its business: broadband internet service.

Tupperware shoots for the stars with a device meant to grow vegetables in space

Tupperware Brands is looking beyond the kitchen by going to space.

Cool discovery: New studies confirm moon has ice on the sunlit surface

Water is more abundant on the moon than we might have suspected, according to two papers published today in Nature Astronomy that confirm the presence of ice on and near the lunar surface.

Technology news

A machine leaning model that incorporates immunological knowledge

The complex network of interconnected cellular signals produced in response to changes in the human body offers a vast amount of interesting and valuable insight that could inform the development of more effective medical treatments. In peripheral immune cells, these signals can be observed and quantified using a number of tools, including cell profiling techniques.

Researchers break magnetic memory speed record

Spintronic devices are attractive alternatives to conventional computer chips, providing digital information storage that is highly energy efficient and also relatively easy to manufacture on a large scale. However, these devices, which rely on magnetic memory, are still hindered by their relatively slow speeds, compared to conventional electronic chips.

Soil-powered fuel cell promises cheap, sustainable water purification

Engineers at the University of Bath have shown that it's possible to capture and use energy created by the natural reactions occurring in microorganisms within soil.

Multi-drone system autonomously surveys penguin colonies

Stanford University researcher Mac Schwager entered the world of penguin counting through a chance meeting at his sister-in-law's wedding in June 2016. There, he learned that Annie Schmidt, a biologist at Point Blue Conservation Science, was seeking a better way to image a large penguin colony in Antarctica. Schwager, who is an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, saw an opportunity to collaborate, given his work on controlling swarms of autonomous flying robots.

Cellular networks vulnerable to wildfires across U.S.

About one in four people in the United States lives in an area served by cellular phone towers at risk of an outage caused by wildfires, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Raptor-inspired drone with morphing wing and tail

The northern goshawk is a fast, powerful raptor that flies effortlessly through forests. This bird was the design inspiration for the next-generation drone developed by scientists of the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems of EPFL, led by Dario Floreano. They carefully studied the shape of the bird's wings and tail and its flight behavior, and used that information to develop a drone with similar characteristics.

SoundWatch: New smartwatch app alerts d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing users to birdsong, sirens and other desired sounds

Smartwatches offer people a private method for getting notifications about their surroundings—such as a phone call, health alerts or an upcoming package delivery.

Sony first-half net profit doubles, forecast revised up

Sony on Wednesday said net profit doubled in the April-September period and revised up its full-year forecast, citing growth in key sectors including gaming, which has been boosted by coronavirus lockdowns worldwide.

Battered by pandemic, Boeing cutting 30,000 jobs in two years

Pressured by a prolonged commercial travel downturn and the hit from 737 MAX crisis, Boeing on Wednesday announced an additional 7,000 job cuts that will lower headcount by 30,000 positions over two years.

Italian regulator investigates Google over digital ads

Italian regulators opened an investigation Wednesday into Google over alleged abuse of its dominant role in the country's online ad market, adding to the global scrutiny that the Silicon Valley company is facing.

Japan PM says plan to release Fukushima water coming soon

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that his government is working on the final details of a plan to release massive amounts of radioactive water being stored at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, a decision that has been delayed by protests.

Artificial intelligence dives into thousands of WWII photographs

In a new international cross disciplinary study, researchers have used artificial intelligence to analyze large amounts of historical photos from World War II. Among other things, the study shows that artificial intelligence can recognize the identity of photographers based on the content of photos taken by them.

Tech companies push for new software to break China's 5G lead

America's top tech companies are pushing for a software-based approach to building 5G telecom networks that could help the United States and its allies get past the hardware-based leadership position that China's Huawei currently holds.

Fintech experts divided on form for US central digital currency

Financial technology experts agree that some form of digital payment system by the U.S. central bank is inevitable, although opinions diverge on the form it should take.

Technology could contribute to high-performing wearable and eco-disposable AI electronics

The University of Surrey has unveiled a device with unique functionality that could signal the dawn of a new design philosophy for electronics, including next-generation wearables and eco-disposable sensors.

Behind the fight over the rule that made the modern internet

Twenty-six words tucked into a 1996 law overhauling telecommunications have allowed companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google to grow into the giants they are today.

Apple developing search engine to compete with Google: report

Apple has accelerated work to develop its own search engine that would allow the iPhone maker to offer an alternative to Google, a Financial Times report said Wednesday.

Here's why Ant Group is about to shatter IPO records

Stella Su, who lives and works in Shanghai, has used an ATM only once in the past year. Instead of cash, in recent years she has done almost all her business using the digital wallet Alipay –- shopping in a mall, buying stuff online or transferring money to friends.

US senators to quiz Big Tech CEOs on legal protections

Tech platform CEOs on Tuesday defended a US law making them immune from liability for third-party content ahead of a hearing where senators are expected to rebuke the Silicon Valley firms over their handling of social media.

Spooktacular car tech

Whether it's a ghostly image that makes objects seemingly disappear or a spectral presence turning the steering wheel, modern cars are loaded with more tricks than a haunted house. But these features don't represent automakers getting in the Halloween spirit—they are actually the latest driving aids designed to make piloting a car easier. Here are a few of Edmunds experts' favorite tech features guaranteed to make your hair stand on end.

Fiat Chrysler returns to profit

Italian-American auto giant Fiat Chrysler said Wednesday it returned to profit in the third quarter, doing better than expected as the market recovered from a massive downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

GE reports smaller loss, shares rise

General Electric reported a smaller quarterly loss Wednesday on lower revenues and a continued slump in aviation, but said it would be cashflow positive in 2021 following cost-cutting moves.

Intelligent maintenance: Improved maintenance management for train tracks

Train journeys should be safe and comfortable, and track systems are crucial to this. So-called 'tamping' (positioning, compacting and stabilizing) of the ballast in the track bed is one of the most important maintenance tasks in the railway industry. Special tamping machines lift the tracks, align them precisely and tamp the ballast below the sleepers so that the tracks are back in the desired position.

Microsoft says Iranian hackers targeted conference attendees

Microsoft says Iranian hackers have posed as conference organizers in Germany and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to break into the email accounts of "high-profile" people with spoofed invitations.

Amazon launches Swedish site in 1st leg of Nordic expansion

Amazon has launched a website in Sweden as the first leg of a long-anticipated expansion into the tech-savvy Nordic region that is expected to have a major long-term impact on brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce.

US senators spar with Big Tech over legal immunity, politics (Update)

Capitol Hill clashed with Silicon Valley Wednesday over legal protections and censorship on social media during a fiery hearing a week before Election Day in which Twitter's Jack Dorsey acknowledged that platforms need to do more to "earn trust."

Research lowers errors for using brain signals to control a robot arm

Brain-computer interfaces have seen a large influx of research in an effort to allow precise and accurate control of physical systems. By measuring brain signals and implementing a clever feedback scheme, researchers from India and the UK have reduced the positional error in brain-controlled robot arms by a factor of 10, paving the way to greatly enhancing the quality of life for people suffering from strokes and neuro-muscular disorders.

Facebook blocks Trump ads encouraging people to 'Vote Today'

Facebook Inc. will block a handful of political ads from President Donald Trump's campaign for violating the company's rules around voting misinformation by suggesting it's time to go to the polls.

Report released by Sen. Maria Cantwell slams Google and Facebook for decimating local news outlets

"Unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices" by tech giants Google and Facebook have suffocated local news outlets, contributing to a critical deficit of trustworthy local journalism, according to a new minority report from the Senate Commerce Committee released by ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Electronic skin patches could restore lost sensation and detect disease

Picture this: You've experienced no physical sensation beyond your wrists for years, then a doctor drapes a thin, flexible membrane over your hand and, like magic, you can feel the trickle of water through your fingers again.

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