Science X Newsletter Monday, Nov 9

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Study sets the first germanium-based constraints on dark matter

Newly discovered fossil shows small-scale evolutionary changes in an extinct human species

Slow-living animal species could be disease 'reservoirs'

Wound-healing biomaterials activate immune system for stronger skin

Findings on short-range nuclear interactions will help scientists investigate neutron stars and heavy radioactive nuclei

Tiny device enables new record in super-fast quantum light detection

Nuclear war could take a big bite out of the world's seafood

A better understanding of coral skeleton growth suggests ways to restore reefs

Exoplanet survey spacecraft discovers two new warm exoplanets

Europa glows: Radiation does a bright number on Jupiter's moon

Indian fossils support new hypothesis for origin of hoofed mammals

Study projects more rainfall in Florida during flooding season

Migration and molt affect how birds change their colors

Physical distancing polices not enough to protect lower-income people

Mystery of glacial lake floods solved

Physics news

Study sets the first germanium-based constraints on dark matter

Cosmological observations and measurements collected in the past suggest that ordinary matter, which includes stars, galaxies, the human body and countless other objects/living organisms, only makes up 20% of the total mass of the universe. The remaining mass has been theorized to consist of so-called dark matter, a type of matter that does not absorb, reflect or emit light and can thus only be indirectly observed through gravitational effects on its surrounding environment.

Findings on short-range nuclear interactions will help scientists investigate neutron stars and heavy radioactive nuclei

Atoms in a gas can seem like partiers at a nanoscopic rave, with particles zipping around, pairing up, and flying off again in seemingly random fashion. And yet physicists have come up with formulas that predict this behavior, even when the atoms are extremely close together and can tug and pull on each other in complicated ways.

Tiny device enables new record in super-fast quantum light detection

Bristol researchers have developed a tiny device that paves the way for higher performance quantum computers and quantum communications, making them significantly faster than the current state-of-the-art.

Traceable microwave sensing reaches unprecedented sensitivities

Microwave sensors detect electromagnetic waves at frequencies starting from ~300 MHz up to the terahertz range. They allow us to survey remote terra incognita and detect faint radiations from distant galaxies in the universe. There has been a lot of progress in microwave sensing technology, but it is still challenging to achieve high sensitivity in SI-traceable measurements. We have now presented a new technique using Rydberg atoms, which gives access to a traceable microwave detection with unprecedented sensitivity. The work was published in Nature Physics.

Antiferromagnets are suitable for dissipationless nanoelectronics, contrary to current theories

Sometimes combinations of different things produce effects that no one expects, such as when completely new properties appear that the two combined parts do not have on their own. Dr. Libor Ċ mejkal from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) found such an unexpected property: He combined antiferromagnetic substances with non-magnetic atoms and found that, contrary to the current doctrine, a Hall current occurs—which is not the case with either antiferromagnetic or non-magnetic substances individually.

Researchers decode thermal conductivity with light

Groundbreaking science is often the result of true collaboration, with researchers in a variety of fields, viewpoints and experiences coming together in a unique way. One such effort by Clemson University researchers has led to a discovery that could change the way the science of thermoelectrics moves forward.

Researchers propose source mask optimization technique in computational lithography

Recently, researchers from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (SIOM) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have proposed a source mask optimization (SMO) technique using the covariance matrix adaptation evolution strategy (CMA-ES) and a novel source representation method.

Experiments at French particle accelerator probe the properties of supernovae

The action of neutrinos in supernovae is poorly understood. When the core of a massive star at the end of its life collapses on itself under the effect of gravity, the electrons in the atoms combine with the protons in their nuclei, producing protons along with neutrinos. The neutrinos produced in abundance then escape from the neutron star being formed at a speed even faster than light. So much so that 99% of the energy emitted by a supernova is in the form of neutrinos! The explosion characteristic of supernovae that follows this episode is "driven" by neutrinos.

NOvA turns its eyes to the skies

The NOvA experiment, best known for its measurements of neutrino oscillations using particle beams from Fermilab accelerators, has been turning its eyes to the skies, examining phenomena ranging from supernovae to magnetic monopoles. Thanks in large part to modern computing capabilities, researchers can collect and analyze data for these topics simultaneously, as well as for the primary neutrino program at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermilab, where it is based.

Electrified magnets: Researchers uncover a new way to handle data

The properties of synthesized magnets can be changed and controlled by charge currents as suggested by a study and simulations conducted by physicists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and Central South University in China. In the journal Nature Communications, the team reports on how magnets and magnetic signals can be coupled more effectively and steered by electric fields. This could result in new, environmentally friendly concepts for efficient communication and data processing.

Researchers find a way to turn glass into smart surfaces

ITMO researchers have created a surface that can turn normal glass into a smart surface. This technology can be used in the production of AR screens that equip users with additional information about what is happening around. The surface will also be able to convert solar energy into electricity. The research has been published in Laser & Photonics Reviews.

Astronomy and Space news

Exoplanet survey spacecraft discovers two new warm exoplanets

Using NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), astronomers have detected two new warm alien worlds orbiting inactive M dwarfs. The newfound exoplanets, designated TOI 122b and TOI 237b, are about 2.7 and 1.4 times larger than the Earth, respectively, and warmer than our home planet. The finding is reported in a paper published October 29 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Europa glows: Radiation does a bright number on Jupiter's moon

As the icy, ocean-filled moon Europa orbits Jupiter, it withstands a relentless pummeling of radiation. Jupiter zaps Europa's surface night and day with electrons and other particles, bathing it in high-energy radiation. But as these particles pound the moon's surface, they may also be doing something otherworldly: making Europa glow in the dark.

Astronauts arrive at launch site for 2nd SpaceX crew flight (Update)

Four astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday for SpaceX's second crew launch, coming up next weekend.

Study finds stellar flares can lead to the diminishment of a planet's habitability

In a new study, a team led by research scientist Dimitra Atri of the Center for Space Science at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) identified which stars are most likely to host habitable exoplanets based on the calculated erosion rates of the planetary atmospheres.

Faint super-planet discovered by radio telescope

For the first time, astronomers have used observations from a radio telescope and a pair of observatories on Maunakea to discover and characterize a cold brown dwarf, also known as a "super planet" or "failed star." The discovery, designated BDR J1750+3809, is the first substellar object detected through radio observations—until now, brown dwarfs have largely been found from infrared sky surveys.

Exoplanets are still out there—a new model tells astronomers where to look for more using 4 simple variables

Only 12 light years from Earth, Tau Ceti is the closest single star similar to the Sun and an all-time favorite in sci-fi stories. Habitable worlds orbiting Tau Ceti were destinations of fictional starships like "The Expanse"'s Nauvoo and "Barbarella"'s vessel. "Star Trek"'s Captain Picard also frequented an exotic bar in the system. Now, thanks to a new approach to analyzing nearby planetary systems, we have a deeper understanding of the actual worlds that orbit Tau Ceti and many other nearby stars.

Vera Rubin Observatory should be able to detect a couple of interstellar objects a month.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory, formerly the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), will commence operations sometime next year. Not wanting to let a perfectly good acronym go to waste, its first campaign will be known as the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). This 10-year survey will study everything from dark matter and dark energy to the formation of the Milky Way and small objects in the solar system.

Rogue planets: hunting the galaxy's most mysterious worlds

Most known planets orbit a star. These planets, including Earth, benefit from the star's warmth and light. And it is the light emitted from these stars which makes it possible for us to see them. But there are also "invisible" planets, hidden from our gaze, which float, abandoned, through the cosmos. These dark, lonely worlds have no star to orbit, no light in which to bask, no warmth to be radiated by. They are the "rogue" planets—and astronomers have just found a new one, roughly the same size as Earth.

A second cable fails at NSF's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico

A main cable that supports the Arecibo Observatory broke Friday at 7:39 p.m. Puerto Rico time.

Technology news

Virgin's Hyperloop carries passengers for the first time

The Virgin Hyperloop made its first journey carrying passengers Sunday, in a test the company claimed represented a major step forward for the "groundbreaking" technology capable of transporting people at 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) an hour.

How to accelerate solar adoption for the underserved

As rooftop solar prices have fallen, many households at all income levels can now save money by going solar. Nonetheless, low- and moderate-income households remain less likely to adopt solar than high-income households. So, researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) set out to examine if certain policy and business models could improve adoption equity in terms of household income.

India's clean fuel transition slowed by belief that firewood is better for well-being

India's transition to clean cooking fuels may be hampered by users' belief that using firewood is better for their families' wellbeing than switching to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), a new study reveals.

Grasping empathy: How new technology helps simulate children's experiences

As an adult, it's hard to imagine how children experience a world built for grownups. What is it really like for someone lower to the ground, with shorter limbs and smaller hands, to navigate a home, a school, or a park? Everyone from toy designers and teachers to doctors and parents could benefit from a realistic few minutes in a child's shoes.

New 'robotic snake' device grips, picks up objects

An invention similar to an elephant's trunk has potential benefits for many industries where handling delicate objects is essential, say the UNSW researchers who developed it.

Terminator salvation? New machine learning program to accelerate clean energy generation

From 'The Terminator' and 'Blade Runner' to 'The Matrix,' Hollywood has taught us to be wary of artificial intelligence. But rather than sealing our doom on the big screen, algorithms could be the solution to at least one issue presented by the climate crisis.

New tool detects unsafe security practices in Android apps

Computer scientists at Columbia Engineering have shown for the first time that it is possible to analyze how thousands of Android apps use cryptography without needing to have the apps' actual codes. The team's new tool, CRYLOGGER, can tell when an Android app uses cryptography incorrectly—it detects the so-called 'cryptographic misuses' in Android apps. When given a list of rules that should be followed for secure cryptography—guidelines developed by expert cryptographers and organizations such as NIST and IETF that define security standards to protect sensitive data—CRYLOGGER detects violations of these rules.

Apps win, labor frets after Uber-led 'gig worker' measure passes

A victory for the "gig economy" in California is likely to echo across the US, in a boon for app-based services while igniting fear that big business is rewriting labor laws.

Virtual gold? Bitcoin's rise sparks new debate amid pandemic

Bitcoin's rally above $15,000 has reignited debate over whether the cryptocurrency is so-called digital gold or a perilously risky bet as investors grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

Drivetrain reliability collaborative seeks gearbox failure causes, solutions

On the outside, wind turbines appear as sleek, minimalist structures that punctuate rolling hillsides. But inside many wind turbines, a gearbox is hard at work converting the relatively slow rotations of the turbine's blades into the high speeds needed to generate electricity in a cost-effective manner.

Mapping the indoors with lidar for public safety use cases

Scenario: you're driving to your new job at a university campus and using your Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled smartphone to tell you—and your car—how to get there. Once you arrive, you begin using building signs to identify your structure of interest. You've parked, made it inside, and are greeted with a building map on a bulletin board that directs you to the particular office you're looking for. Following the map's diagram, you weave through unlabeled corridors, dark stairwells, and a windowless basement hallway to reach your final destination. It's a good thing you arrived early since you got lost a couple of times between the building's entrance and your new office. If only the GPS-enabled device you used to get around outside could tell you where to go (and where you are) inside.

System provides clearer picture of avian activity around wind turbines

A technology designed to track bird and bat behavior around remote offshore wind turbines has been evaluated for accuracy.

Salamanders provide a model for spinal-cord regeneration

Salamanders have a unique superpower—they can regenerate their spinal cords and regain full functionality. Scientists are working under a cross-disciplinary research project to uncover the mechanisms behind this restorative capability.

Using gazes for effective tutoring with social robots

Ph.D. candidate Eunice Njeri Mwangi of the department of Industrial Design has investigated how intuitive gaze-based interactions between robots and humans can help improve the effectiveness of robot tutors. The researcher successfully defended her PHD-thesis on Wednesday 28th of October 2020.

Plant inspired: Printing self-folding paper structures for future mechatronics

When natural motion comes to mind, plants are most likely at the bottom of most people's list. The truth is that plants can perform complex movements, but they only do so very slowly. The main mechanism behind plant movement is water absorption and release; the cellulose present in plant tissues draws water in and expands, and the underlying arrangement of cellulose fibers guides the motions as needed. Now, what if we drew ideas from this natural phenomenon and used them for future engineering applications?

Honour among thieves: The study of a cybercrime marketplace in action

Researchers at the Cambridge Cybercrime Centre have revealed what they've learned from analyzing hundreds of thousands of illicit trades that took place in an underground cybercrime forum over the last two years.

FTC says Zoom misled users on its security for meetings

Federal regulators are requiring Zoom to strengthen its security in a proposed settlement of allegations that the video conferencing service misled users about its level of security for meetings.

Engineers hack electric vehicle charging to demonstrate cybersecurity vulnerabilities

Engineers at Southwest Research Institute were able to interfere with the charging process of an electric vehicle (EV) by simulating a malicious attack as part of an automotive cybersecurity research initiative.

A continuous data supply ensures data-intensive simulations can run at maximum speed

A pre-emptive memory management system developed by KAUST researchers can speed up data-intensive simulations by 2.5 times by eliminating delays due to slow data delivery. The development elegantly and transparently addresses one of the most stubborn bottlenecks in modern supercomputing—delivering data from memory fast enough to keep up with computations.

GM to add 3,000 tech jobs to develop vehicles and software

General Motors says it will hire 3,000 more technical workers by early next year to help with virtual product testing and to develop software as a service.

Apple set to debut faster MacBooks powered by iPhone chips during Tuesday online event

For years, people have referred to smartphones as a "computer in your pocket." Now, Apple is taking that literally.

iPhone contractor in China admits student labor law contraventions

A Taiwan company crucial for the production of iPhones for tech giant Apple admitted Monday that working conditions for some students employed at a factory in China contravened agreed labor terms.

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