Science X Newsletter Monday, Nov 23

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 23, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Previewed Reality: A system that allows users to predict future changes in their environment

Minimal-interface structures constrained in polycrystalline copper with extremely fine grains

Imaging method reveals a 'symphony of cellular activities'

Social bacteria build shelters using the physics of fingerprints

Measuring risk-taking—by watching people move computer mice

Moths strike out in evolutionary arms race with sophisticated wing design

X-ray and radio bursts detected from magnetar 1E 1547.0–5408

Did early life need long, complex molecules to make cell-like compartments?

New clues shed light on importance of Earth's ice sheets

Bodies of man and his slave unearthed from ashes at Pompeii

U.S. should look at how other high-income countries regulate health care costs: study

US approves Regeneron antibody treatment given to Trump

US-European ocean monitoring satellite launches into orbit

Breaking the ice on melting and freezing

Understanding ion channel inhibition to open doors in drug discovery

Physics news

Minimal-interface structures constrained in polycrystalline copper with extremely fine grains

Metals with nanoscale crystal grains are super-strong although they do not retain their structure at higher temperatures. As a result, it is challenging to explore their high strength during materials applications. In a new report now published on Science, X. Y. Li and a team of scientists in materials science and engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai Jiaotong University in China, found a minimum-interface structure in copper (Cu) with 10-nanometer-sized grains, which they combined with a nanograin crystallographic twinning network to retain high strength at temperatures just below the melting point. The discovery provided a different path to obtain stabilized nanograined metals for metallurgy and materials engineering applications.

Social bacteria build shelters using the physics of fingerprints

Forest-dwelling bacteria known for forming slimy swarms that prey on other microbes can also cooperate to construct mushroom-like survival shelters known as fruiting bodies when food is scarce. Now a team at Princeton University has discovered the physics behind how these rod-shaped bacteria, which align in patterns like those on fingerprint whorls and liquid crystal displays, build the layers of these fruiting bodies. The study was published in Nature Physics.

Breaking the ice on melting and freezing

At the 73rd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics, researchers shared new insights into melting icebergs and lake ice formation.

How moving slower allows groups of bacteria to spread across surfaces

Scientists have found that bacterial groups spread more rapidly over surfaces when the individuals inside them move slowly, a discovery that may shed light on how bacteria spread within the body during infections.

Biological pattern-forming systems characterized better through geometry than simulations

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich physicists have introduced a new method that allows biological pattern-forming systems to be systematically characterized with the aid of mathematical analysis. The trick lies in the use of geometry to characterize the dynamics.

Scientists make sound-waves from a quantum vacuum at the Black Hole laboratory

Researchers have developed a new theory for observing a quantum vacuum that could lead to new insights into the behavior of black holes.

Quantum X-ray microscope in development

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have begun building a quantum-enhanced X-ray microscope at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II). This groundbreaking microscope, supported by the Biological and Environmental Research progam at DOE's Office of Science, will enable researchers to image biomolecules like never before.

Researcher zeroes in on critical point for improving superconductors

The search for a superconductor that can work under less extreme conditions than hundreds of degrees below zero or at pressures like those near the center of the Earth is a quest for a revolutionary new power—one that's needed for magnetically levitating cars and ultra-efficient power grids of the future.

Researchers use infrared light to detect molecules

Ordinary solid-state lasers, as used in laser pointers, generate light in the visible range. For many applications, however, such as the detection of molecules, radiation in the mid-infrared range is needed. Such infrared lasers are much more difficult to manufacture, especially if the laser radiation is required in the form of extremely short, intense pulses.

A new beat in quantum matter

Oscillatory behaviors are ubiquitous in nature, ranging from the orbits of planets to the periodic motion of a swing. In pure crystalline systems, presenting a perfect spatially-periodic structure, the fundamental laws of quantum physics predict a remarkable and counter-intuitive oscillatory behavior: when subjected to a weak electric force, the electrons in the material do not undergo a net drift, but rather oscillate in space, a phenomenon known as Bloch oscillations. Ultracold atoms immersed in a light crystal, also known as optical lattices, are one of the many systems where Bloch oscillations have been observed.

Accelerator makes cross-country trek to enable laser upgrade

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has shipped the final new section of accelerator that it has built for an upgrade of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). The section of accelerator, called a cryomodule, has begun a cross-country road trip to DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, where it will be installed in LCLS-II, the world's brightest X-ray laser.

Airflow studies reveal strategies to reduce indoor transmission of COVID-19

Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart. Avoid large gatherings. As the world awaits a safe and effective vaccine, controlling the COVID-19 pandemic hinges on widespread compliance with these public health guidelines. But as colder weather forces people to spend more time indoors, blocking disease transmission will become more challenging than ever.

Researchers minimize quantum backaction in thermodynamic systems via entangled measurement

Led by academician Prof. Guo Guangcan from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Prof. Li Chuanfeng's group and Prof. Xiang Guoyong's group from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), CAS, in cooperation with theoretical physicists from Germany, Italy and Switzerland, conducted the first experiment using entangled collective measurement for minimizing quantum measurement backaction based on photonic system.

Vibrational encounters—phonon polaritons meet molecules

Researchers from CIC nanoGUNE BRTA (San Sebastian, Spain), in collaboration with the Donostia International Physics Center (San Sebasti├ín, Spain) and the University of Oviedo (Spain) employed a spectroscopic nanoimaging technique to study how infrared nanolight—in the form of phonon polaritons—and molecular vibrations interact with each other.

Flow physics could help forecasters predict extreme events

About 1,000 tornadoes strike the United States each year, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing about 60 people on average. Tracking data show that they're becoming increasingly common in the southeast, and less frequent in "Tornado Alley," which stretches across the Great Plains. Scientists lack a clear understanding of how tornadoes form, but a more urgent challenge is to develop more accurate prediction and warning systems. It requires a fine balance: Without warnings, people can't shelter, but if they experience too many false alarms, they'll become inured.

Studies explore fluids in pancakes, beer, and the kitchen sink

Mechanical engineer Roberto Zenit spent the summer of 2019 trying to solve a problem that now plagues science departments around the world: How can hands-on fluid dynamics experiments, usually carried out in well-stocked lab rooms, be moved off campus? Since the pandemic hit, leading researchers like Zenit have found creative ways for students to explore flow at home.

Remote control of heat nanosources motion and thermal-induced fluid flows by using light forces

Today, optofluidics is one of the most representative applications of photonics for biological/chemical analysis. The ability of plasmonic structures (e.g., colloidal gold and silver nanoparticles, NPs) under illumination to release heat and induce fluid convection at the micro-scale has attracted much interest over the past two decades. Their size- and shape-dependent as well as wavelength-tunable optical and thermal properties have paved the way for relevant applications such as photothermal therapy/imaging, material processing, biosensing and thermal optofluidics to name a few. In-situ formation and motion control of plasmon-enhanced heat sources could pave the way for further harnessing of their functionalities, especially in optofluidics. However, this is a challenging multidisciplinary problem combining optics, thermodynamics and hydrodynamics.

Astronomy and Space news

X-ray and radio bursts detected from magnetar 1E 1547.0–5408

An international team of astronomers has conducted simultaneous radio and X-ray observations of the magnetar 1E 1547.0–5408 during its period of enhanced activity. In result, new X-ray and radio bursts were detected from this source. The finding is reported in a paper published November 12 on

US-European ocean monitoring satellite launches into orbit

A U.S.-European satellite designed to extend a decades-long measurement of global sea surface heights was launched into Earth orbit from California on Saturday.

Growing interest in Moon resources could cause tension, scientists find

An international team of scientists led by the Center for Astrophysics / Harvard & Smithsonian, has identified a problem with the growing interest in extractable resources on the moon: there aren't enough of them to go around. With no international policies or agreements to decide "who gets what from where," scientists believe tensions, overcrowding, and quick exhaustion of resources to be one possible future for moon mining projects. The paper published today in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.

A planet-forming disk still fed by the mother cloud

Stellar systems like our own form inside interstellar clouds of gas and dust that collapse producing young stars surrounded by protoplanetary disks. Planets form within these protoplanetary disks, leaving clear gaps, which have been recently observed in evolved systems, at the time when the mother cloud has been cleared out. ALMA has now revealed an evolved protoplanetary disk with a large gap still being fed by the surrounding cloud via large accretion filaments. This shows that accretion of material onto the protoplanetary disk is continuing for times longer than previously thought, affecting the evolution of the future planetary system.

Scientists characterize second known minimoon

Astronomers using data collected with the Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT) have helped to characterize only the second known minimoon of Earth, a newly discovered asteroid with the designation 2020 CD3, or CD3 for short. The LDT observations helped to clarify both the rotation rate and the orbit of this diminutive body, the latter of which helped prove that CD3 is a natural body and not some relic piece of human-made space junk.

Researchers debut superfast exoplanet camera

In the years since astronomers discovered the first exoplanet—a planet that orbits a star outside the solar system—more than 4,000 have been observed. Usually, their presence is given away by the slight effects they have on their parent stars, which vastly outshine them. For a decade and half, scientists have been trying to image exoplanets directly, but the Earth's atmosphere presents a major impediment when they attempt to leverage large ground-based telescopes.

Galaxy encounter violently disturbed Milky Way, study finds

The spiral-shaped disk of stars and planets is being pulled, twisted and deformed with extreme violence by the gravitational force of a smaller galaxy—the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).

China launches mission to bring back material from moon

China launched an ambitious mission on Tuesday to bring back rocks and debris from the moon's surface for the first time in more than 40 years—an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally.

China prepping for mission to bring back material from moon

Chinese technicians were making final preparations Monday for a mission to bring back material from the moon's surface for the first time in more than four decades—an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally.

Scientists have re-analyzed their data and still see a signal of phosphine at Venus—just less of it

In September, an international team announced that they had discovered phosphine gas (PH3) in the atmosphere of Venus based on data obtained by the Atacama Millimeter-submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii. The news was met with its fair share of skepticism and controversy since phosphine is considered a possible indication of life (AKA a biosignature).

Technology news

Previewed Reality: A system that allows users to predict future changes in their environment

When robots and humans interact in a shared environment, it is important for them to move in ways that prevent collisions or accidents. To reduce the risk of collisions, roboticists have developed numerous of techniques that monitor an environment, predict the future actions of humans moving in it, identify safe trajectories for a robot and control its movements accordingly.

Convolutional neural networks can be tricked by the same visual illusions as people

A convolutional neural network is a type of artificial neural network in which the neurons are organized into receptive fields in a very similar way to neurons in the visual cortex of a biological brain. Today, convolutional neural networks (CNNs) are found in a variety of autonomous systems (for example, face detection and recognition, autonomous vehicles, etc.). This type of network is highly effective in many artificial vision tasks, such as in image segmentation and classification, along with many other applications.

Misinformation or artifact: A new way to think about machine learning

Deep neural networks, multilayered systems built to process images and other data through the use of mathematical modeling, are a cornerstone of artificial intelligence.

World's smallest atom-memory unit created

Faster, smaller, smarter and more energy-efficient chips for everything from consumer electronics to big data to brain-inspired computing could soon be on the way after engineers at The University of Texas at Austin created the smallest memory device yet. And in the process, they figured out the physics dynamic that unlocks dense memory storage capabilities for these tiny devices.

Dartmouth center to look at computation, government, people

Dartmouth College has created an academic center to focus on the role of computation and its relationship to individuals and government.

Snapchat challenges TikTok with curated video feed

Snapchat on Monday unveiled a new curated short-form video feed in a stepped up challenge to social media rivals like TikTok.

The motivation for sustainable aviation fuels

Global air travel consumes more than 100 billion gallons of jet fuel annually. That's expected to more than double by 2025 to 230 billion gallons. Despite the current pandemic, these projections reflect future anticipated passenger demand. Airlines want to meet market demands while simultaneously reducing their carbon emissions.

Google faces UK scrutiny over new advertising data revamp

Google faces fresh regulatory scrutiny in Britain over plans to revamp its ad data system, after a group of competitors complained to regulators that the changes would cement the U.S. tech giant's online dominance.

Deep learning in the emergency department

Harnessing the power of deep learning leads to better predictions of patient admissions and flow in emergency departments.

Prosecuting within complex criminal networks is hard. Data analysis could save the courts precious time and money

It's no secret the trail of data we leave online can reveal intimate details about our lives. And there are myriad people whose job it is to collect and sift through this, often with a goal to engage in targeted advertising.

Researchers develop more efficient method to recover heavy oil

The current global supply of crude oil is expected to meet demand through 2050, but there may be a few more drops to squeeze out. By making use of a previously undesired side effect in oil recovery, researchers have developed a method that yields up to 20% more heavy oil than traditional methods.

Perfect imperfection: Electrode defects boost resistive memory efficiency

Resistive switching memory devices offer several advantages over the currently used computer memory technology. Researchers from the MIPT Atomic Layer Deposition Lab have joined forces with colleagues from Korea to study the impact of electrode surface morphology on the properties of a resistive switching memory cell. It turned out that thicker electrodes have greater surface roughness and are associated with markedly better memory cell characteristics. The research findings were published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Flight tests to show B61-12 will work on Air Force's newest fighter jet

A mock B61-12's strike in the dusty Nevada desert successfully completed the first in a series of flight tests with the U.S. Air Force's newest fighter jet, demonstrating the bomb's first release from an internal bomb bay at greater than the speed of sound.

US directs GM to recall 5.9 mn autos with Takata airbags

US auto safety authorities ordered General Motors to recall nearly six million pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles to replace defective Takata airbags, officials said Monday.

Google Pay: What opting into personalized offers can really mean for your privacy and finances

When Google says some of its controversial tracking features are "opt-in" only, do you realize you've actually agreed to let them snoop on you? Take, for instance, Google's new Pay app.

Apple to extend fee waiver for paid events due to pandemic

Apple said Monday it would extend through June 30 a waiver on app fees for paid events such as tutoring and fitness classes, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

Optimizing complex modeling processes through machine learning technologies

Engineering a spaceship is as difficult as it sounds. Modeling plays a large role in the time and effort it takes to create spaceships and other complex engineering systems. It requires extensive physics calculations, sifting through a multitude of different models and tribal knowledge to determine singular parts of a system's design.

Manchester United announces cyber attack, systems shut down

Cyber criminals have attacked Manchester United's systems, the English Premier League club said on Friday.

Do China tech giants pose a risk for European banks?

China's Ant group may have been dealt a setback with the shelving of its IPO but European banks remain wary that Chinese tech giants may soon be their main competitors.

Tesla factory workers exempt from California's new virus curfew

Tesla factory workers in California will be exempt from new coronavirus restrictions taking effect Saturday in the state because they are considered essential, after CEO Elon Musk feuded with authorities over an earlier shutdown.

GM quits Trump lawsuit against California auto emissions rules

General Motors withdrew Monday from a challenge to California's fuel economy rules that had been backed by Donald Trump's administration and endorsed President-Elect Joe Biden's policy for boosting the use of electric autos.

Facebook labeled 167 million user posts for COVID-19 misinformation

Facebook Inc. said it labeled 167 million user posts this year for including information about COVID-19 that was "debunked" by the social network's fact-checkers.

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