Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Dec 1

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 1, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Engineers combine light and sound to see underwater

Thermonuclear type-I X-ray bursts detected from MAXI J1807+132

Shrinking massive neural networks used to model language

New device offers faster way to detect antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Flashy lizards are more attractive to mates and to predators

Researchers offer new theory on 'Venus' figurines

Warning signs over effectiveness of HIV 'wonder drug' in sub-Saharan Africa

AI predicts which drug combinations kill cancer cells

Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope, already damaged, collapses

Teaching computers the meaning of sensor names in smart homes

How the shrew brain adapts to winter

Sensor can detect scarred or fatty liver tissue

Discovery shines light on how cancer cells could protect themselves

Peeking into the pods of black soybeans

Computing empowers immune cells to kill cancer

Physics news

Next step in simulating the universe

Computer simulations have struggled to capture the impact of elusive particles called neutrinos on the formation and growth of the large-scale structure of the universe. But now, a research team from Japan has developed a method that overcomes this hurdle.

Scientists solve big limitation of stratospheric balloon payloads

Nearly all photons emitted after the Big Bang are now visible only at far-infrared wavelengths. This includes light from the cold universe of gas and dust from which stars and planets form, as well as faint signals from distant galaxies tracing the universe's evolution to today.

A possible way to measure ancient rate of cosmic ray strikes using 'paleo-detectors'

An international team of researchers has proposed a way to indirectly measure the rate of cosmic rays striking the Earth over millions of years. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, they suggest using the imprints made by atmospheric neutrinos in so-called "paleo-detectors"—natural minerals expressing damage tracks resulting from nuclear recoils.

A new lesson about phase transitions and criticality

NUS physicists have discovered a theoretical behavior known as the "critical skin effect" influencing how changes between different phases of matter occur.

Pumping a nanoparticle to lase at low power

Lasers are used in a range of everyday devices, harnessing the power of light molecules, photons, - lined up to form highly concentrated beams of light—to perform now common tasks such as scanning barcodes and removing tattoos.

Nonlinear beam cleaning in spatiotemporally mode-locked lasers

In the last few decades, only temporal modes have been considered for mode-locked fiber lasers using single-mode fibers. Mode-locked single-mode fiber lasers offer advantages due to their high-gain doping, intrinsically single-spatial mode, and compact setups. However, in terms of power levels, mode-locked fiber lasers suffer from high nonlinearity, which is introduced by the small core size of the single-mode fibers. Researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL) recently developed a new approach for generating high-energy, ultrashort pulses with single-mode beam quality: nonlinear beam cleaning in a multimode laser cavity.

Researchers peer deep inside tissue with new high-resolution techniques

One of the challenges in optical imaging is to visualize the inside of tissue in high resolution. Traditional methods allow researchers to look to a depth of approximately 1 millimeter. Researchers at Delft University of Technology have now developed a new method that can penetrate up to four times as deep, up to around 4 millimeters. The healthcare sector in particular may benefit from the new technique in the future.

Curtin collision models impact the future of energy

A new Curtin University-created database of electron-molecule reactions is a major step forward in making nuclear fusion power a reality, by allowing researchers to accurately model plasmas containing molecular hydrogen.

Danish researchers develop budget optical ammonia sensor

In collaboration with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the Department of Engineering at Aarhus University has developed photonic sensor technology that can pave the way for a portable, reliable and, above all, inexpensive device for detecting ammonia and other gases in agriculture.

Astronomy and Space news

Thermonuclear type-I X-ray bursts detected from MAXI J1807+132

An international team of astronomers has investigated an X-ray binary system known as MAXI J1807+132, using the NICER instrument aboard the International Space Station (ISS). They now report the detection of three thermonuclear type-I X-ray bursts from this source. The finding is reported in a paper published November 20 on

Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope, already damaged, collapses

A huge, already damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century completely collapsed on Tuesday.

Australian telescope creates a new atlas of the universe

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), developed and operated by Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, mapped approximately three million galaxies in just 300 hours.

Chinese probe lands on Moon to gather lunar samples

China landed a probe on the Moon on Tuesday, said Beijing's space agency, which aims to bring back to Earth the first lunar samples in four decades.

3-D print your own Mars rover with ExoMy

Europe's Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover has a younger 'sibling' – ExoMy. The blueprints and software for this mini-version of the full-size Mars explorer are available for free so that anyone can 3-D print, assemble and program their own ExoMy.

ESAIL's first map of global shipping

The ESAIL microsatellite for tracking ships at sea has captured 57 000 messages in its first 24 hours of operation, using advanced on-board processing algorithms.

Image: Rad dishes in space

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins poses next to a thriving radish crop growing inside the Advanced Plant Habitat in the International Space Station.

We've mapped a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Take the virtual tour here.

Astronomers have mapped about a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way, in the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.

Mapping stellar nurseries in the Milky Way

An international team of Astronomers from the Cosmostatistics Initiative (COIN) identified nearly 120,000 new young stellar objects (YSOs) based on data from the Infrared Array Camera of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The final catalog, named SPICY (Spitzer/IRAC Candidate YSO Catalog), is publicly available to anyone who wishes to study the first stages of stellar development.

Technology news

Engineers combine light and sound to see underwater

Stanford University engineers have developed an airborne method for imaging underwater objects by combining light and sound to break through the seemingly impassable barrier at the interface of air and water.

Shrinking massive neural networks used to model language

You don't need a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Teaching computers the meaning of sensor names in smart homes

The UPV/EHU's IXA group has use natural language processing techniques to overcome one of the major difficulties associated with smart homes, namely that the systems developed to infer activities in one environment do not work when they are applied to a different one, because both the sensors and the activities are different. The group has come up with the innovative idea of using words to represent the activation of both sensors and human activity.

Selecting best microalgae for biodiesel production

Microalgae are a promising source of energy to replace fossil fuels, as they have several advantages over conventional crops used for commercial biodiesel. Microalgae have a shorter lifecycle and they can be developed in environments unfit for agriculture, so they are not competing with food crops for resources.

Emerging wearable technology uses tiny fibers that can track your blood pressure, heart rate, and more

A shirt that monitors your blood pressure or a pair of socks that can keep track of your cholesterol levels might be just a few years away from becoming reality.

Tesla to be added to benchmark S&P 500 index in one stage

Tesla will be added to the benchmark S&P 500 index on a single day next month, rather than over two days as previously contemplated.

Zoom reports big 3Q gains, but slowing growth sinks stock

Zoom's videoconferencing service remains a fixture in pandemic life, but its breakneck growth is showing signs of tapering off as investors debate whether the company will be able to build upon its recent success after a vaccine enables people to intermingle again.

Desktop 3-D printing in metal or ceramics

These spur gears—seen here with a euro cent coin for scale—have been produced in stainless steel to a space standard of quality using nothing more than an off-the-shelf desktop 3-D printer.

Synthetic data sets set new standard in energy systems research

,A decent maxim for systems engineering would be "there is no substitute for the real thing"—there is nothing like testing a new device or idea on a real system, at absolute fidelity. But for obvious reasons, this is not usually possible on energy systems: No utility is going to play with the power it serves to thousands, if not millions of customers.

Who's to blame when a self-driving car has an accident?

With self-driving cars gaining traction in today's automobile landscape, the issue of legal liability in the case of an accident has become more relevant.

Australia's states have been forced to go it alone on renewable energy, but it's a risky strategy

Several Australian states are going it alone on the the energy transition. The policies adopted by New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and others represent major departures from the existing national approach, and run counter to the neoliberal principles underpinning the current system.

Ventilation made easy with highly effective, low-cost DIY solution

In future, it will be far easier to remove infectious aerosols from the air in classrooms and other spaces. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have built a ventilation system that can be replicated using materials from a DIY store. A comprehensive school in Mainz has already tested the system. The Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Education is currently testing use of the system in other schools.

A new electronic module safeguards self-driving vehicles against the total failure of onboard electrical systems

Autonomous electric vehicles draw power from two sources: a high-voltage battery and, additionally, a conventional 12-volt battery that supplies the vehicle when idling or in high-load situations while driving. Safety-critical systems such as brakes and steering can therefore be connected to two sources of power. But what happens when one of these has a fault—a short circuit, for example? In order to safeguard against total failure and thereby a potentially dangerous situation, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM have joined with partners on the HiBord project to develop an electronic disconnect device that is able to isolate any such faults in vehicle electrical systems. This module has already been successfully tested in a BMW i3.

Airbnb seeks valuation up to $35 bn in IPO filing

Airbnb is seeking to raise some $2.6 billion in its upcoming share offering, which could give the home-sharing giant a valuation as high as $35 billion, an updated regulatory filing showed Tuesday.

Facebook 'supreme court' begins daunting task on content disputes

Facebook's "supreme court" tasked with deciding on allowing or removing sensitive and harmful content has begun operations, with a backlog of some 20,000 cases already piling up for the expert panel.

The (un)social network: The emergence of digital thought clones and what to do about them

In "The Social Dilemma," the Netflix documentary that has been in the news recently for its radical revelations, former executives at major technology companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among others, share how their ex-employers have developed sophisticated algorithms that not only predict users' actions but also know which content will keep them hooked on their platforms. The knowledge that technology companies are preying on their users' digital activities without their consent and awareness is well-known. But Associate Professor Jon Truby and Clinical Assistant Professor Rafael Brown at the Centre for Law and Development at Qatar University have pulled the curtain on another element that technology companies are pursuing to the detriment of people's lives, and investigated what we can do about it. "We had been working on the digital thought clone paper a year before the Netflix documentary aired. So, we were not surprised to see the story revealed by the documentary, which affirm what our research has found," says Prof Brown, one of the co-authors.

Hydrogen-powered heavy duty vehicles could contribute significantly to achieving climate goals

A partial transition of German road transport to hydrogen energy is among the possibilities being discussed to help meet national climate targets. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has examined the hypothetical transition to a hydrogen-powered transport sector through several scenarios. Their conclusion: A shift towards hydrogen-powered mobility could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and greatly improve air quality—in particular, heavy duty vehicles represent a low-hanging fruit for decarbonization of German road transport.

AI reduces computational time required to study fate of molecules exposed to light

Light-induced processes are critical in transformative technologies such as solar energy harvesting, as well as in photomedicine and photoresponsive materials. Theoretical studies of the dynamics of photoinduced processes require numerous electronic structure calculations, which are computationally expensive. Scientists from the University of Groningen developed machine learning-based algorithms, which reduce these computations significantly. The Open Source software package that they developed, PySurf, was presented in a paper in the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation on 24 November.

AI untangles one of biology's great challenges

For decades scientists have been trying to figure out how to swiftly predict the twisting, tangled shape of proteins—and from there unravel a greater understanding of the machinery of life itself.

BlackBerry, Amazon team up on smart car software platform

BlackBerry and Amazon on Tuesday announced an alliance to create a cloud computing platform that cars could link to for services and insights based on data from vehicles and users..

New generation of solar cells contributes to the Green Revolution

The European Union is determined to undertake a major reform known as the European Green Deal with an aim of making Europe the first climate neutral continent in 2050. The biggest changes will take place in the energy production sector, which stands on the brink of a complete transition to renewable energy sources, including solar energy. To boost the power output of solar cells to a terawatt-scale, technologies that leave a smaller ecological footprint, are more efficient and offer a wider range of applications need to be developed alongside with the first-generation silicon-based solar cells currently dominating in the solar cell market.

Researchers study influence of cultural factors on gesture design

Imagine changing the TV channel with a wave of your hand or turning on the car radio with a twist of your wrist.

How automated vehicles can impede driver performance, and what to do about it

As cars keep getting smarter, automation is taking many tricky tasks —from parallel parking to backing up —out of drivers' hands.

Experimental, simulation results reveal how coaxial, co-rotating helicopter rotors may lead to a quieter hover

Imagine a silent helicopter stealthily moving troops and supplies around a future battlefield. U.S. Army researchers look to helicopter noise reduction technology as a top priority in aircraft design.

Creative coding in design

In the recently completed project Residence X, the researchers involved wanted to investigate opportunities in clothing and fashion design to use creative coding.

Opening the 'black box' of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is growing ever more powerful and entering people's daily lives, yet often we don't know what goes on inside these systems. Their non-transparency could fuel practical problems, or even racism, which is why researchers increasingly want to open this 'black box' and make AI explainable.

Staying home during COVID-19 means higher electricity bills

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States in March, disruptions to daily patterns of life have become the norm. For the average American, the amount of time spent at home—whether working or avoiding community activities—is among the starkest changes.

Amazon says 2020 shopping season has been their biggest ever with big Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales

Online sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday were expected to break records this holiday, and it appears Amazon was one of shoppers' key destinations.

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