Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Nov 24

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for November 24, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Cocoa flavanols boost brain oxygenation, cognition in healthy adults

Observations unveil jet-like structures from the pulsar PSR J1135–6055

Regulating the reactivity of back phosphorous through protective chemistry

Research shows how hallucinogens shaped prehistoric cave art

Dolphins conserve oxygen and prevent dive-related problems by consciously decreasing their heart rates before diving

Historical bias overlooks genes related to COVID-19

Antimicrobial soap additive worsens fatty liver disease in mice

Direct visualization of quantum dots reveals shape of quantum wave function

Supersized wind turbines generate clean energy—and surprising physics

Tracing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid

Understanding dangerous droplet dynamics

Ancient people relied on coastal environments to survive the Last Glacial Maximum

Researchers identify genetics behind deadly oat blight

Making sense of a universe of corn genetics

Big cats and small dogs: Solving the mystery of canine distemper in wild tigers

Physics news

Supersized wind turbines generate clean energy—and surprising physics

Twenty years ago, wind energy was mostly a niche industry that contributed less than 1% to the total electricity demand in the United States. Wind has since emerged as a serious contender in the race to develop clean, renewable energy sources that can sustain the grid and meet the ever-rising global energy demand. Last year, wind energy supplied 7% of domestic electricity demand, and across the country—both on and offshore—energy companies have been installing giant turbines that reach higher and wider than ever before.

Tracing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid

Swelling is one of the most dangerous and immediate consequences of a brain injury or stroke. Doctors have long known about the dangers of swelling, which has traditionally been blamed on ruptured blood vessels. New research suggests the brain's other plumbing system, the one that circulates cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), may play an underappreciated role in both good health and response to injury.

Understanding dangerous droplet dynamics

Researchers who study the physics of fluids are learning why certain situations increase the risk that droplets will transmit diseases like COVID-19.

Understanding the utility of plasmas for medical applications

Plasma medicine is an emerging field, as plasmas show promise for use in a wide range of therapies from wound healing to cancer treatment. Plasma jets are the main plasma sources typically used in plasma-surface applications. Before applications can progress, however, a better understanding of how plasma jets modify the surfaces of biological tissue is required.

Face masks slow spread of COVID-19; types of masks, length of use matter

The use of face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19 has been widely recommended by health professionals. This has triggered studies exploring the physics of face mask use and disease transmission, as well as investigations into materials, design, and other issues affecting the way face masks work.

COVID-19 virus survives on surfaces within thin film

How does the COVID-19 virus manage to survive on surfaces? To find out, researchers in India are exploring the drying times of thin liquid films that persist on surfaces after most respiratory droplets evaporate.

Scientists blast iron with powerful X-rays, then watch its electrons rearrange

X-ray free-electron lasers, such as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, produce intense X-ray pulses that allow researchers to image biological objects, such as proteins and other molecular machines, at high resolution. But these powerful beams can destroy delicate samples, triggering changes that can affect the outcome of an experiment and invalidate the results.

Shining a light on nanoscale dynamics

Physicists from the University of Konstanz, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich) and the University of Regensburg have successfully demonstrated that ultrashort electron pulses experience a quantum mechanical phase shift through their interaction with light waves in nanophotonic materials, which can uncover the nanomaterials' functionality. The corresponding experiments and results are reported in the latest issue of Science Advances.

Researchers model urban airflows to help improve the design of drones, skyscrapers, and natural ventilation systems

Global population and urbanization have boomed over the last few decades. With them came scores of new tall buildings, drones, more energy-efficient ventilation systems, and planned air taxis by Uber and other companies. But these technological advancements must contend with a natural physical phenomenon: wind.

Quantum magic squares

The magic of mathematics is particularly reflected in magic squares. Recently, quantum physicist Gemma De las Cuevas and mathematicians Tim Netzer and Tom Drescher introduced the notion of the quantum magic square, and for the first time studied in detail the properties of this quantum version of magic squares.

Tracking and fighting fires on earth and beyond

Mechanical engineer Michael Gollner and his graduate student, Sriram Bharath Hariharan, from the University of California, Berkeley, recently traveled to NASA's John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. There, they dropped burning objects in a deep shaft and study how fire whirls form in microgravity. The Glenn Center hosts a Zero Gravity Research Facility, which includes an experimental drop tower that simulates the experience of being in space.

Astronomy and Space news

Observations unveil jet-like structures from the pulsar PSR J1135–6055

Using NASA's Chandra spacecraft, astronomers from the University of Barcelona, Spain, have investigated a pulsar wind nebulae (PWN) around the pulsar PSR J1135–6055. The observations detected jet-like structures from this source. The finding is reported in a paper published November 17 on arXiv pre-print server.

Amateur astronomer Alberto Caballero finds possible source of Wow! signal

Amateur astronomer and YouTuber Alberto Caballero, one of the founders of The Exoplanets Channel, has found a small amount of evidence for a source of the notorious Wow! signal. In his paper uploaded to the arXiv preprint server, Caballero describes searching the Gaia database for possible sun-like stars that might host an exoplanet capable of supporting intelligent life.

National Solar Observatory predicts a large sunspot for Thanksgiving

On November 18 scientists from the US National Science Foundation's National Solar Observatory predicted the arrival of a large sunspot just in time for Thanksgiving. Using a special technique called helioseismology, the team has been 'listening' to changing sound waves from the Sun's interior which beckon the arrival of a large sunspot. Recent changes in these sound waves pointed to the imminent appearance of new sunspots which we can now see from Earth near the eastern solar limb.

Gemini North observations enable breakthrough in centuries-old effort to unravel astronomical mystery

An international team of astronomers using Gemini North's GNIRS instrument have discovered that CK Vulpeculae, first seen as a bright new star in 1670, is approximately five times farther away than previously thought. This makes the 1670 explosion of CK Vulpeculae much more energetic than previously estimated and puts it into a mysterious class of objects that are too bright to be members of the well-understood type of explosions known as novae, but too faint to be supernovae.

Lunar mission is latest milestone in China's space ambitions

China's latest trip to the moon is another milestone in the Asian powerhouse's slow but steady ascent to the stars.

China's 'space dream': A Long March to the Moon

China's launch this week of an unmanned spacecraft aimed at bringing back lunar rocks—the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the Moon in four decades—underlines just how far the country has come in achieving its "space dream".

Image: Home away from home planet

As a month of celebrating 20 years of continuous human habitation of the International Space Station draws to a close, we look back on the first mission of the next ESA astronaut to travel to the Space Station, Thomas Pesquet.

Hearts, airlocks, and asteroids: New research flies on 21st SpaceX cargo mission

The 21st SpaceX cargo resupply mission that launches from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida carries a variety of critical research and technology demonstrations to the International Space Station.

Technology news

Binarized neural networks show promise for fast, accurate machine learning

As anyone with a green thumb knows, pruning can promote thriving vegetation. A snip here, a snip there, and growth can be controlled and directed for a more vigorous plant.

Study measures Switzerland's potential geothermal heating capacity

An EPFL Ph.D. student has calculated the maximum amount of geothermal energy that could theoretically be extracted using ground-source heat pumps in the Cantons of Vaud and Geneva. In a study combining data on the area available for such systems with computer modeling techniques, she found stark differences between geothermal energy's potential in urban versus rural areas.

Miniscule robots of metal and plastic may revolutionize the field of medicine

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for manufacturing micrometer-long machines by interlocking multiple materials in a complex way. Such microrobots will one day revolutionize the field of medicine.

AI tool summarizes lengthy papers in a sentence

Scholars have a nifty way of alerting colleagues to lengthy treatises that they find simply not worth their time to read.

UK telecom companies face big fines under new security law

Telecom companies in Britain face hefty fines if they don't comply with strict new security rules under a new law proposed in Parliament on Tuesday that is aimed at blocking high-risk equipment suppliers like China's Huawei.

Photovoltatronics: Smart solar cells that talk to each other

Imagine you're walking through the city on a sunny summer day. You look at the skyscrapers, the shop buildings, lampposts and electric taxis driving tirelessly to and fro. What you can't see is that every single piece of their surface is generating and storing its own electricity. The solar cells on these surfaces are interconnected and use some of the power they generate to communicate with objects around them. According to TU Delft researcher Hesan Ziar, this is not some futuristic vision, but a reality that will be happening soon. "That's because," explains Ziar, "we are going to bundle all of the knowledge in this area into a new research field: Photovoltatronics. Only by connecting energy and information with each other can we really make an impact."

Drones to the rescue: Berlin lab seeks quicker virus tests

A German lab is hoping to cut the time it takes to send coronavirus tests across Berlin by using drones, thereby avoiding the capital's clogged roads.

More skin-like: An electronic skin that can feel

What if we didn't have skin? We would have no sense of touch, no detection of coldness or pain, leaving us unable to respond to most situations. The skin is not just a protective shell for organs, but rather a signaling system for survival that provides information on the external stimuli or temperature, or a meteorological observatory that reports the weather. Tactile receptors, tightly packed throughout the skin, feel the temperature or mechanical stimuli—such as touching or pinching—and convert them into electrical signals to the brain.

Amazon offers up to $3,000 signing bonus for new holiday hires

E-commerce giant Amazon is offering signing bonuses of up to $3,000 at certain facilities in the United States as it ramps up hiring for the busy holiday season.

1 in 3 who are aware of deepfakes say they have inadvertently shared them on social media

A Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) study has found that some Singaporeans have reported that, despite being aware of the existence of 'deepfakes' in general, they believe they have circulated deepfake content on social media which they later found out was a hoax.

Five things to know about the EU tech rule revolution

The European Union will unveil major proposals to regulate Big Tech next month, in what could force a revolution in the way Google or Facebook do business.

Tesla to build 'world's largest' battery plant near Berlin

Tesla boss Elon Musk said Tuesday that he plans to build the world's largest battery-cell factory at the group's electric car plant near Berlin.

New graph-based statistical method detects threats to vehicular communications networks

Researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) have worked to create methods for improving the safety of technologically complex vehicles. Now that the majority of new cars operate using sophisticated computing technology, they are vulnerable to malicious attacks on their networks that could lead to disastrous safety issues. Riadul Islam, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, has worked with collaborators at UMBC and the University of Michigan-Dearborn to create a simple, easily adapted method for detecting the breaches in security. The research is published in the Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) publication Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Qantas to require COVID vaccine on international flights

International travellers will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to fly with Australia's Qantas, the company has said, the first major airline to suggest that such rules could become common across the industry.

Airline sector takes historic hit

The aviation industry has taken a historic hit from the coronavirus and pending an effective vaccine, can only bounce back with systematic testing, sector association IATA said Tuesday.

Kids as young as 3 years old think YouTube is better for learning than other types of video

Young kids believe that YouTube videos are better for learning than TV shows or videos created on a researcher's smartphone. They also view people in YouTube videos to be more real than those on TV but less real than those featured in a researcher-created smartphone video. These are the major findings from a pre-COVID-19 study conducted in U.S. children's museums in 2019.

Strengthening homes against earthquakes

Ph.D. candidate Ömer Türkmen, at the TU/e Department of the Built Environment, did extensive testing on a new way of strengthening masonry walls that is cost effective, minimally invasive, easy to install and a great improvement to the seismic resistance of existing buildings. With the resulting insights and practical experience, Türkmen and associates hope to make a significant contribution to the building strengthening efforts in Groningen, The Netherlands. Türkmen successfully defended his thesis on 17 November 2020.

Main Danish news agency offline following hacking attack

Denmark's biggest news agency that delivers text and photos to Danish media was knocked offline following a hacking attack Tuesday.

Elon Musk now world's second wealthiest person

Elon Musk, the charismatic chief of electric automaker Tesla, has overtaken Bill Gates to become the world's second richest person, according to the Bloomberg list of billionaires.

Left for dead, twice, RadioShack gets another shot online

RadioShack, a fixture at the mall for decades, has been pulled from brink of death, again.

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