Science X Newsletter Friday, Oct 30

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for October 30, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A system to improve a robot's indoor navigation

Explaining dark matter without hypothetical undiscovered particles and without changing physical laws

New drone technology improves ability to forecast volcanic eruptions

To survive asteroid impact, algae learned to hunt

A technique to study the behavior elicited by neuroactive and psychoactive drugs

Mechanistic basis of oxygen sensitivity in titanium

Proton membranes assembled from 2-D layered phosphorus nanosheets

Harnessing a forgotten plague: Mathematical models suggest vaccine control of TB in hard hit countries

A new spin on atoms gives scientists a closer look at quantum weirdness

Decaying jellyfish blooms can cause temporary changes to water column food webs

Archaeologists reveal human resilience in the face of climate change in ancient Turkey

Researchers develop a new way to create a spectrum of natural-looking hair colors

New study reveals United States a top source of plastic pollution in coastal environments

Mothers pass on allergies to offspring, preclinical study shows

Lighting a path to Planet Nine

Physics news

Explaining dark matter without hypothetical undiscovered particles and without changing physical laws

The mysterious dark matter! The universe has five times more dark matter than normal matter. Dark matter is just as mysterious as the origin of the big bang.

A new spin on atoms gives scientists a closer look at quantum weirdness

When atoms get extremely close, they develop intriguing interactions that could be harnessed to create new generations of computing and other technologies. These interactions in the realm of quantum physics have proven difficult to study experimentally due the basic limitations of optical microscopes.

Scientists repurpose MRI magnet for new discoveries

A limiting factor in modern physics experiments is the precision at which scientists can measure important values, such as the magnetic field within a detector. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and their collaborators have developed a unique facility to calibrate field measurement devices and test their limits inside powerful magnetic fields.

Ultrapure copper for an ultrasensitive dark matter detector

In February and March, three batches of copper plates arrived at Fermilab and were rushed into storage 100 meters underground. The copper had been mined in Finland, rolled into plates in Germany and shipped across land and sea to the lab—all within 120 days. In the quest to detect dark matter, the mysterious substance making up 85% of the matter in the universe, every day that the copper spent above ground mattered.

Using game-theory to look for extraterrestrial intelligence

Astronomer Eamonn Kerins with the University of Manchester has developed an approach to looking for intelligent extraterrestrial beings on other planets that involves using game theory. He has written a paper describing his ideas and has uploaded it to the arXiv preprint server.

New model that describes the organization of organisms could lead to a better understanding of biological processes

At first glance, a pack of wolves has little to do with a vinaigrette. However, a team led by Ramin Golestanian, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, has developed a model that establishes a link between the movement of predators and prey and the segregation of vinegar and oil. They expanded a theoretical framework that until now was only valid for inanimate matter. In addition to predators and prey, other living systems such as enzymes or self-organizing cells can now be described.

A world record in detecting extremely low levels of gas impurities

Photoacoustic spectroscopy applied to background-free analyses was used to measure unprecedentedly small trace gas concentrations. Teemu Tomberg from the University of Helsinki developed detection methods that make it possible to measure extremely small traces of various gasses.

Dynamic photonic barcodes record energy transfer at the biointerface

Optical barcodes enable detection and tracking via unique spectral fingerprints. They've been widely applied in areas ranging from multiplexed bioassays and cell tagging to anticounterfeiting and security. Yu-Cheng Chen of the Bio+Intelligent Photonics Laboratory at Nanyang Technological University notes that the concept of optical barcodes typically refers to a fixed spectral pattern corresponding to a single target.

Astronomy and Space news

Lighting a path to Planet Nine

The search for Planet Nine—a hypothesized ninth planet in our solar system—may come down to pinpointing the faintest orbital trails in an incredibly dark corner of space.

Most isolated massive stars are kicked out of their clusters

A pair of University of Michigan studies reveals how some massive stars—stars eight or more times the mass of our sun—become isolated in the universe: most often, their star clusters kick them out.

Assessing the habitability of planets around old red dwarfs

A new study using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope gives new insight into an important question: how habitable are planets that orbit the most common type of stars in the Galaxy? The target of the new study, as reported in our press release, is Barnard's Star, which is one of the closest stars to Earth at a distance of just 6 light years. Barnard's Star is a red dwarf, a small star that slowly burns through its fuel supply and can last much longer than medium-sized stars like our Sun. It is about 10 billion years old, making it twice the age of the Sun.

A Subterranean ecosystem in the Chicxulub crater

A new study reveals that the Chicxulub impact crater and its hydrothermal system hosted a subterranean ecosystem that could provide a glimpse of Earth's primordial life.

An ancient crater triplet on Mars

Mars is covered in intriguing scars—some of the most prominent being impact craters. A particularly unusual example is shown in this new image from ESA's Mars Express: an ancient triplet comprising not one but three overlapping craters.

Deep-learning algorithms helping to clear space junk from our skies

How do you measure the pose—that is the 3-D rotation and 3-D translation—of a piece of space junk so that a grasping satellite can capture it in real time in order to successfully remove it from Earth's orbit? What role will deep learning algorithms play? And, what is real time in space? These are some of the questions being tackled in a ground-breaking project, led by EPFL spin-off, ClearSpace, to develop technologies to capture and deorbit space debris.

Solar cycle 25: The sun wakes up

The sun has entered its 25th solar cycle and is about to wake up. For the last few years our star has been pretty sleepy, with few sunspots, bright flares or massive ejections of magnetized plasma emanating from its surface. This quiet period is known as the solar minimum, but things are starting to heat up again.

Stars and skulls: New ESO image reveals eerie nebula

This ethereal remnant of a long dead star, nestled in the belly of The Whale, bears an uneasy resemblance to a skull floating through space. Captured in astounding detail by ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), the eerie Skull Nebula is showcased in this new image in beautiful bloodshot colors. This planetary nebula is the first known to be associated with a pair of closely bound stars orbited by a third outer star.

The scariest things in the universe are black holes—and here are three reasons

Halloween is a time to be haunted by ghosts, goblins and ghouls, but nothing in the universe is scarier than a black hole.

Asteroid's scars tell stories of its past

By studying impact marks on the surface of asteroid Bennu—the target of NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission—a team of researchers led by the University of Arizona has uncovered the asteroid's past and revealed that despite forming hundreds of millions of years ago, Bennu wandered into Earth's neighborhood only very recently.

OSIRIS-REx successfully stows sample of asteroid Bennu

NASA's University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission has successfully stowed the spacecraft's Sample Return Capsule and its abundant sample of asteroid Bennu. On Oct. 28, the mission team sent commands to the spacecraft, instructing it to close the capsule—marking the end of one of the most challenging phases of the mission.

Technology news

A system to improve a robot's indoor navigation

Over the past decade or so, roboticists developed increasingly sophisticated robotic systems that could help humans to complete a variety of tasks, both at home and in other environments. In order to assist users, however, these systems should be able to efficiently navigate and explore their surroundings, without colliding with other objects in their vicinity.

Four years since the Mirai-Dyn attack… is the Internet safer?

On October 21st 2016, millions of household IoT devices were infected with the malware Mirai and instructed to send data requests to Dyn, a widely used Domain Name Server (DNS) that acts like a switchboard for the Internet. This tidal wave of requests crashed over 175,000 domains—including Twitter, PayPal, and other web giants—for several hours, affecting tens of millions of users.

FBI warns ransomware assault threatens US health care system

Federal agencies warned that cybercriminals could hobbled all 250 U.S. facilities of the hospital chain Universal Health Services, forcing doctors and nurses to rely on paper and pencil for record-keeping and slowing lab work. Employees described chaotic conditions impeding patient care, including mounting emergency room waits and the failure of wireless vital-signs monitoring equipment.

Facebook quarterly profit jumps despite ad boycott

Facebook's profit jumped in the recently-ended quarter as the leading social network benefitted from a rebounding online ad market despite a boycott, the company reported Thursday.

Twitter shares sink as user growth slows

Twitter shares tumbled Thursday after the messaging platform's quarterly update showed a slowdown in user growth.

Apple iPhone sales tumble, trimming profit

Apple shares were sent reeling Thursday on word of a steep drop in sales of iPhones, which are at the heart of the tech titan's money-making engine.

Sensing emotions in a crisis

From Twitter to Facebook to Reddit, billions of people around the world use social media daily to connect with friends and family, as well as to share their stories, feelings and opinions about the state of the world around them. As such, social media has become a prime playground for social sensing—methods that use humans as "sensors" to gather information.

Basic cybersecurity precautions against ransomware are key to minimizing the damage

Government computer systems in Hall County, Georgia, including a voter signature database, were hit by a ransomware attack earlier this fall in the first known ransomware attack on election infrastructure during the 2020 presidential election. Thankfully, county officials reported that the voting process for its citizens was not disrupted.

A software application to ease the reuse of construction materials

New software developed at EPFL can help architects to design building structures that incorporate both new and reused components, thereby lowering their environmental impact.

AI teachers must be effective and communicate well to be accepted, new study finds

The increase in online education has allowed a new type of teacher to emerge—an artificial one. But just how accepting students are of an artificial instructor remains to be seen.

The pandemic boosted Apple: Company sold more Macs this summer than ever before

Apple just sold more Macs than ever before, a beneficiary of the work and learning from home shift fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.

JetBlue is the latest airline to retreat from blocking seats

The days of airlines blocking seats to make passengers feel safer about flying during the pandemic are coming closer to an end.

Big Tech delivers strong profits amid pandemic, political scrutiny

Big Tech powerhouses Thursday delivered robust quarterly earnings reports, leveraging the needs of pandemic-hit consumers amid heightened scrutiny of their economic power.

British Airways parent IAG logs vast loss on virus

IAG, the owner of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, dived into a net loss of 1.76 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in the third quarter on coronavirus fallout, it said Friday.

Japan Airlines forecasts over $2.3 bn annual net loss

Japan Airlines said Friday it had forecast an annual net loss of more than $2.3 billion after the coronavirus pandemic grounded air travel around the world.

Foxconn objects to Wisconsin's denial of tax credits

Foxconn Technology Group notified the state of Wisconsin on Friday that it objects to the state's denial of job-creation tax credits.

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