Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Nov 17

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 17, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

An obstacle avoidance system for flying robots inspired by owls

Quantum tunneling pushes the limits of self-powered sensors

A new way to tackle the neutron lifetime enigma: A superfluid helium-4 scintillation detector

Study shows geographic shift in U.S. social mobility

Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species

Astronauts board ISS from SpaceX's 'Resilience'

New protein imaging method paves way for next generation biomaterials and tissue analysis

New study could help predict which individuals are more susceptible to cancer-causing agents

Potential cholera vaccine target discovered

Time to rethink predicting pandemic infection rates?

Quantifying quantumness: A mathematical project 'of immense beauty'

Seeking the most effective polymers for personal protective equipment

Metabolic signaling plays a crucial role in regulating specialized T cells

Research reveals details of how salivary glands collectively produce constellation of proteins found in saliva

In a pandemic, migration away from dense cities more effective than closing borders

Physics news

Quantum tunneling pushes the limits of self-powered sensors

Shantanu Chakrabartty's laboratory has been working to create sensors that can run on the least amount of energy. His lab has been so successful at building smaller and more efficient sensors, that they've run into a roadblock in the form of a fundamental law of physics.

A new way to tackle the neutron lifetime enigma: A superfluid helium-4 scintillation detector

A free neutron outside a nucleus is not stable. It undergoes beta decay at a probability. Over time, the number of free neutrons decreases exponentially at a time constant, which is called the neutron lifetime.

Time to rethink predicting pandemic infection rates?

During the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joseph Lee McCauley, a physics professor at the University of Houston, was watching the daily data for six countries and wondered if infections were really growing exponentially. By extracting the doubling times from the data, he became convinced they were.

Quantifying quantumness: A mathematical project 'of immense beauty'

Large objects, such as baseballs, vehicles, and planets, behave in accordance with the classical laws of mechanics formulated by Sir Isaac Newton. Small ones, such as atoms and subatomic particles, are governed by quantum mechanics, where an object can behave as both a wave and a particle.

In a pandemic, migration away from dense cities more effective than closing borders

Pandemics are fueled, in part, by dense populations in large cities where networks of buildings, crowded sidewalks, and public transportation force people into tighter conditions. This contrasts with conditions in rural areas, where there is more space available per person.

Removing random doping allows for reproducible manufacture of quantum devices

A UNSW-led collaboration has found that removing random doping in quantum electronic devices dramatically improves their reproducibility—a key requirement for future applications such as quantum-information processing and spintronics.

Researcher sets record for quantum chemistry calculation

A researcher from The Australian National University (ANU) has used one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world to predict the quantum mechanical properties of large molecular systems with an accuracy that surpasses all previous experiments.

Driver behavior influences traffic patterns as much as roadway design, study reports

Urban planners may soon have a new way to measure traffic congestion. By capturing the different routes by which vehicles can travel between locations, researchers have developed a new computer algorithm that helps quantify regions of congestion in urban areas and suggests ways around them.

Sensor experts invent supercool mini thermometer

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have invented a miniature thermometer with big potential applications such as monitoring the temperature of processor chips in superconductor-based quantum computers, which must stay cold to work properly.

New phase of modeling the viscous coupling effects of multiphase fluid flow

Many applications, including carbon dioxide storage and oil recovery, involve the simultaneous flow of two or more phases of matter (solid, liquid, gas, etc.) through porous materials. Pore-scale modeling of such multiphase flow has struggled to capture important phenomena referred to as viscous coupling effects. But now, a research team has developed a method that overcomes this limitation with potential applications to improve fuel technologies and carbon capture systems.

Semi-random scattering of light

What is the exact path of light inside a highly scattering material like white paint? This is a question that is impossible to answer, as the particles inside the paint are distributed randomly. This, at the same time, is a very attractive property for applying photonics in non-hackable security applications. Still, you would like to have a look inside to see what is happening. For this reason, researchers of the University of Twente (MESA+ Institute), built a light-scattering microcube that is both random and controlled. Contradictory as it seems, this is a way to know exactly what is happening inside. The research results are in Advanced Optical Materials.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronauts board ISS from SpaceX's 'Resilience'

Four astronauts carried into orbit by a SpaceX Crew Dragon boarded the International Space Station on Tuesday, the first of what NASA hopes will be many routine missions ending US reliance on Russian rockets.

Gravitational lenses measure universe expansion

It's one of the big cosmology debates: The universe is expanding, but how fast exactly? Two available measurements yield different results. Leiden physicist David Harvey adapted an independent third measurement method using the light warping properties of galaxies predicted by Einstein. He published his findings in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Ancient zircon minerals from Mars reveal the elusive internal structure of the red planet

Analysis of an ancient meteorite from Mars suggests that the mineral zircon may be abundant on the surface of the red planet.

Gravitational lenses could hold the key to better estimates of the expansion of the universe

The universe is expanding but astrophysicists aren't sure exactly how fast that expansion is happening—not because there aren't answers, but rather because the answers they could give don't agree.

China positions rocket ahead of ambitious lunar mission

China on Tuesday moved a massive rocket into place in preparation for launching a mission to bring back materials from the moon for the first time in four decades.

European space rocket launch fails minutes after takeoff

A European space rocket failed minutes after taking off with the loss of both satellites it was carrying, its operator said Tuesday.

Books outline what it takes to put astronauts in space

A new set of books edited by a Rice University psychologist provides an overview of the research necessary to put astronauts in space, what is needed to keep them safe on future missions and practical applications for space exploration teams.

ESA engineers assess Moon Village habitat

Renowned architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, originator of many of the world's tallest skyscrapers, has been working on an even more challenging design: a habitat for a future Moon Village. Their proposal has undergone rigorous examination by ESA experts at the Agency's mission-evaluating Concurrent Design Facility.

Bad cabling blamed for failed launch of European satellites

Arianespace said Tuesday that wrong cabling was likely to blame for the failed launch of a rocket that was meant to lift two European satellites into orbit.

The small satellite that's paying big dividends

Think of the International Space Station, and most likely you imagine an orbiting laboratory, where scientists observe how plants, materials, and humans react to microgravity conditions. But during the past decade, the station has also served a very different role—that of being a business incubator. And this is one of its star products—the CubeSat.

Video: Connecting Earth with the moon

Lunar exploration relies on the extensive expertise that is on hand across ESA. As a new lunar economy emerges, it will create new opportunities involving robots, habitats and transportation. Missions to the moon share similar communication and navigation needs that could be satisfied using a constellation of lunar satellites.

Wilkes-Barre campus observatory used to report asteroid data to NASA

Penn State Wilkes-Barre's observatory recently observed an stellar event and shared data with NASA for use on a future mission to an unexplored region of the solar system.

Technology news

An obstacle avoidance system for flying robots inspired by owls

When developing robotic systems and computational tools, computer scientists often draw inspiration from animals or other biological systems. Depending on a system's unique characteristics and purpose, in fact, nature typically offers specific examples of how it could achieve its goals rapidly and effectively.

Disaster apps share personal data in violation of their privacy policies

Those in the path of a hurricane or wildfire may use an app to get alerts, communicate with first responders or let loved ones know they are safe. But once the emergency has passed, those apps may still be tracking their location or making personal information available to third parties.

NVIDIA's latest Ampere 80GB graphics processing unit boasts 2TB memory bandwidth

NVIDA has surpassed the 2 terabyte-per-second memory bandwidth mark with its new GPU, the Santa Clara graphics giant announced Monday.

Machine learning guarantees robots' performance in unknown territory

A small drone takes a test flight through a space filled with randomly placed cardboard cylinders acting as stand-ins for trees, people or structures. The algorithm controlling the drone has been trained on a thousand simulated obstacle-laden courses, but it's never seen one like this. Still, nine times out of 10, the pint-sized plane dodges all the obstacles in its path.

Airbnb details years of losses ahead of planned IPO

Airbnb was losing money even before the pandemic struck and cut its revenue by almost a third, the home-sharing company revealed in documents filed Monday ahead of a planned initial public offering of its stock.

Huawei selling Honor phone brand in face of US sanctions

Chinese tech giant Huawei is selling its budget-price Honor smartphone brand in an effort to rescue the struggling business from damaging U.S. sanctions imposed on its parent company.

Amazon opens online pharmacy, shaking up another industry

Now at insulin and inhalers.

Twitter's new 'fleets' will disappear after 24 hours

Twitter said Tuesday it was rolling out tweets which disappear after 24 hours, joining rival social platforms in offering ephemeral messages.

Digital privacy and COVID-19: between a paradox and a hard place

The situation in which the world is currently living is extraordinary in every sense of the word: since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been over 53 million confirmed cases and more than 1.3 million people have died. After a round of lockdowns in the spring and deconfinements in the summer, the much-feared "second wave" has emerged in many countries, plunging us again into the unknown.

Why untraceable cryptocurrencies are here to stay

According to a new study from Copenhagen Business School, on the role of privacy and decentralization in the cryptocurrency community, developers are creating cryptocurrencies in such a way that regulatory oversight will not be possible, neither will any wait and see attempt to override them in the future. The research is published in the Journal of Information Technology.

Samsung intensifies chip wars with bet it can catch TSMC by 2022

Samsung Electronics Co. is pouring $116 billion into its next-generation chip business that includes fabricating silicon for external clients, betting it can finally close the gap on industry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. as soon as two years from now.

Disney's Hulu with Live TV hikes monthly rates for ad-free streaming to $70

Walt Disney Co.-owned Hulu let subscribers know Monday they'd be paying more for the service beginning in December.

AI tool may predict movies' future ratings

Movie ratings can determine a movie's appeal to consumers and the size of its potential audience. Thus, they have an impact on a film's bottom line. Typically, humans do the tedious task of manually rating a movie based on viewing the movie and making decisions on the presence of violence, drug abuse and sexual content.

Tesla will be added to the benchmark S&P 500 index Dec. 21

Tesla will be added to the S&P 500 index on Dec. 21. Based on its market value Monday, the electric car maker would be one of the top 10 companies in the benchmark index upon entry.

UK airline EasyJet dives into historic loss on virus

EasyJet on Tuesday posted the first annual pre-tax loss in its 25-year history, prompting it to seek more government help as the coronavirus pandemic hammers air travel.

Twitter CEO says no bias on platform against conservatives

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey said in remarks prepared for a Senate hearing Tuesday that the social network's filtering during the US election campaign was not a sign of bias, despite claims to the contrary by conservatives.

FIFA seeks better tech for offside, cheaper video review

FIFA is working with technology firms to develop better visuals of offside lines and improve decision making by referees, the soccer body said Tuesday.

ICE seeks large new cloud contract involving Microsoft, Amazon

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is planning new large-scale expenditures on cloud computing with Microsoft Corp. and Inc.'s Amazon Web Services unit. The deal, slated for early 2021, could could reignite tensions within the companies, where groups of employees have objected to working with agencies that have presided over family separations and raids targeting undocumented immigrants.

BA, American Airlines plan voluntary COVID-19 testing plan

British Airways said Tuesday that it will start testing passengers flying from the U.S. to London's Heathrow Airport for COVID-19 in an effort to persuade the British government it should scrap rules requiring most international travelers to quarantine for 14 days.

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