Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Dec 9

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Space weather discovery puts 'habitable planets' at risk

A simple rule drives the evolution of useless complexity

Paleontologists find pterosaur precursors that fill a gap in early evolutionary history

New tools 'turn on' quantum gases of ultracold molecules

Warm oceans helped first human migration from Asia to North America

Big data kinase ohmics takes over drug discovery

Open cluster NGC 188 explored with AstroSat

Aquatic robot inspired by sea creatures walks, rolls, transports cargo

A technique to sift out the universe's first gravitational waves

Error-prone quantum bits could correct themselves, physicists show

Science of building sandcastles finally understood

Accessing the arches of chaos in the solar system for fast transport

Solid-state automotive battery could transform EV industry

Dogs may never learn that every sound of a word matters

Hidden symmetry could be key to more robust quantum systems, researchers find

Physics news

New tools 'turn on' quantum gases of ultracold molecules

JILA researchers have developed tools to "turn on" quantum gases of ultracold molecules, gaining control of long-distance molecular interactions for potential applications such as encoding data for quantum computing and simulations.

A technique to sift out the universe's first gravitational waves

In the moments immediately following the Big Bang, the very first gravitational waves rang out. The product of quantum fluctuations in the new soup of primordial matter, these earliest ripples through the fabric of space-time were quickly amplified by inflationary processes that drove the universe to explosively expand.

Error-prone quantum bits could correct themselves, physicists show

One of the chief obstacles facing quantum computer designers—correcting the errors that creep into a processor's calculations—could be overcome with a new approach by physicists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the University of Maryland and the California Institute of Technology, who may have found a way to design quantum memory switches that would self-correct.

Science of building sandcastles finally understood

Water vapor from ambient air will spontaneously condense inside porous materials or between touching surfaces. But with the liquid layer being only a few molecules thick, this phenomenon has lacked understanding, until now.

Accessing the arches of chaos in the solar system for fast transport

Space manifolds form the boundaries of dynamic channels to provide fast transport to the innermost and outermost reaches of the solar system. Such features are an important element in spacecraft navigation and mission design, providing a window to the apparently erratic nature of comets and their trajectories. In a new report now published on Science Advances, Nataša Todorović and a team of researchers in Serbia and the U.S. revealed a notable and unexpected ornamental structure of manifolds in the solar system. This architecture was connected in a series of arches spreading from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond. The strongest manifolds were found linked to Jupiter with profound control on small bodies across a wide and previously unknown range of three-body energies. The orbits of these manifolds encountered Jupiter on rapid time-scales to transform into collisional or escaping trajectories to reach Neptune's distance merely within a decade. In this way, much like a celestial highway, all planets generate similar manifolds across the solar system for fast transport throughout.

Hidden symmetry could be key to more robust quantum systems, researchers find

Researchers have found a way to protect highly fragile quantum systems from noise, which could aid in the design and development of new quantum devices, such as ultra-powerful quantum computers.

Microjets are faster than a speeding bullet

When a shock wave travels through material and reaches a free surface, chunks of material can break away and fly off at high speeds. If there are any defects on the surface, the shock forms microjets that travel faster than a speeding bullet.

Researchers achieve quantum advantage

University of Copenhagen researchers have advanced their quantum technology to such a degree that classical computing technology can no longer keep up. They have developed a chip that, with financial backing, could be scaled up and used to build the quantum simulator of the future. Their results are now published in Science Advances.

Ultrafast dynamics of chiral spin structures observed after optical excitation

A joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the University of Siegen, Forschungszentrum Jülich, and the Elettra Synchrotron Trieste has achieved a new milestone for the ultra-fast control of magnetism. The international team has been working on magnetization configurations that exhibit chiral twisting. Chirality is a symmetry breaking, which occurs, for example, in nature in molecules that are essential for life. Chirality is also referred to as handedness, since hands are an everyday example of two items that—arranged in a mirror-inverted manner—cannot be superimposed onto each other. Magnetization configurations with a fixed chirality are currently investigated intensively due to their fascinating properties such as enhanced stability and efficient manipulation by current. These magnetic textures thus promise applications in the field of ultrafast chiral spintronics, for example in ultrafast writing and controlling of chiral topological magnetic objects such as magnetic skyrmions, i.e., specially twisted magnetization configurations with exciting properties.

'Game changer' perovskite can detect gamma rays

Perovskites are materials made up of organic compounds bound to a metal. Propelled into the forefront of materials' research because of their structure and properties, perovskites are earmarked for a wide range of applications, including in solar cells, LED lights, lasers, and photodetectors.

High-precision measurements of the strong interaction between stable and unstable particles

The positively charged protons in atomic nuclei should actually repel each other, and yet even heavy nuclei with many protons and neutrons stick together. The so-called strong interaction is responsible for this. Prof. Laura Fabbietti and her research group at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now developed a method to precisely measure the strong interaction utilizing particle collisions in the ALICE experiment at CERN in Geneva.

Scientists model photoluminescence kinetics in semiconductor nanoplatelets for better optoelectronics

Researchers from Skoltech and their colleagues have built two models that accurately explain the light-emitting behavior of semiconductor nanoplatelets, minuscule structures that can become the building blocks for optoelectronics of the future. The paper was published in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

Astronomy and Space news

Space weather discovery puts 'habitable planets' at risk

A discovery that links stellar flares with radio-burst signatures will make it easier for astronomers to detect space weather around nearby stars outside the Solar System. Unfortunately, the first weather reports from our nearest neighbour, Proxima Centauri, are not promising for finding life as we know it.

Open cluster NGC 188 explored with AstroSat

Indian researchers have carried out ultraviolet photometric observations of an old open cluster known as NGC 188. Results of the study, conducted with the AstroSat spacecraft, provide important information about stellar populations of this cluster. The findings are presented in a paper published December 1 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

Test flight of SpaceX's Starship aborted at last second

The first high-altitude test flight of SpaceX's futuristic Starship was aborted at the last second in Texas on Tuesday.

5 hidden gems are riding aboard NASA's Perseverance rover

More than halfway to the Red Planet, NASA's Perseverance Mars rover isn't just shuttling sophisticated science instruments and tubes to be filled with Earth-bound rock samples. It's carrying symbols, mottos, and objects that range from practical to playful—everything from meteorite fragments to chips carrying the names of 10.9 million people.

Image: Study explores how astronauts' nervous systems adjust to microgravity

If the orientation of this image is a little disorienting, then you know how astronauts feel in their first few hours in space. in weightlessness, the human body loses its cues for up and down and requires adjustments in over to move and manipulate objects.

Surer signs of life: A better class of tools for detecting signs of life on other planets and moons

When they reached Mars' surface in 1976, NASA's two Viking landers touched down with a gentle thud. At 7 feet tall, 10 feet long, and weighing around 1,300 pounds, these spacecraft—the first U.S. mission to successfully land on the Martian surface—looked like overgrown pill bugs.

A year after crash, Israel unveils new plan for moon landing

Israel is again aiming for the moon.

Neighbourhood watch: What the mission to map the Milky Way is revealing about satellite galaxies

Our Milky Way is not alone in the universe. Surrounding us are numerous satellite galaxies, taking part in a continuous grand dance. But how do these neighbouring galaxies behave, how do they interact with our galaxy, and what does the future hold for them?

Technology news

Aquatic robot inspired by sea creatures walks, rolls, transports cargo

Northwestern University researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind life-like material that acts as a soft robot. It can walk at human speed, pick up and transport cargo to a new location, climb up hills and even break-dance to release a particle.

Solid-state automotive battery could transform EV industry

More powerful, longer lasting, faster charging.

New study tests machine learning on detection of borrowed words in world languages

Researchers from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have investigated the ability of machine learning algorithms to identify lexical borrowings using word lists from a single language. Results published in the journal PLOS ONE show that current machine-learning methods alone are insufficient for borrowing detection, confirming that additional data and expert knowledge are needed to tackle one of historical linguistics' most pressing challenges.

Discovery suggests new promise for nonsilicon computer transistors

For decades, one material has so dominated the production of computer chips and transistors that the tech capital of the world—Silicon Valley—bears its name. But silicon's reign may not last forever.

Cloudflare teams up with Apple to give users a new privacy-friendly internet protocol

Cloudflare, a web-infrastructure and website-security company, has teamed up with Apple to give internet users a more privacy-friendly internet protocol. Called Oblivious DNS over HTTPS (ODoH) the new protocol is meant to protect users against server operators using or selling user data that allows for tracking user internet histories.

Tri-lab initiative leads innovation in novel hybrid energy systems

Future novel hybrid energy systems could lead to paradigm shifts in clean energy production, according to a paper published last week in Joule.

DeepLabCut-Live! Real-time marker-less motion capture for animals

Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings," Thanos in the "Avengers," Snoke in "Star Wars," the Na'vi in "Avatar"—we have all experienced the wonders of motion-capture, a cinema technique that tracks an actor's movements and translates them into computer animation to create a moving, emoting—and maybe one day Oscar-winning—digital character.

Algorithms and automation: Making new technology faster and cheaper

Additive manufacturing (AM) machinery has advanced over time, however, the necessary software for new machines often lags behind. To help mitigate this issue, Penn State researchers designed an automated process planning software to save money, time and design resources.

Cybersecurity firm FireEye says was hacked by nation state

Prominent U.S. cybersecurity firm FireEye said Tuesday that foreign government hackers with "world-class capabilities" broke into its network and stole offensive tools it uses to probe the defenses of its thousands of customers, who include federal, state and local governments and major global corporations.

Google and FB risk big fines under draft Australian news law

Google and Facebook would risk multimillion-dollar fines if they failed to comply with proposed legislation introduced into the Australian Parliament on Wednesday that would make the tech giants pay for journalism they display.

Fossil fuels still reign, but renewables make inroads

Five years after the signing of the Paris Climate Accord fossil fuels still dominate the energy landscape but it is renewables that are enjoying the strongest growth which even the COVID-19 crisis has not dented.

Green hydrogen: A fuel bursting with climate-saving potential

In the battle against climate change, green hydrogen is being hailed as a potential miracle fuel that could help the world's worst-polluting industries slash carbon emissions.

Airbnb launches nonprofit for crisis lodging

Airbnb has created a nonprofit aimed at helping emergency response workers find lodging in times of crisis, like now with the pandemic.

New blended solar cells yield high power conversion efficiencies

Researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan have blended together various polymer and molecular semiconductors as photo-absorbers to create a solar cell with increased power efficiencies and electricity generation. These types of solar cells, known as organic photovoltaics (OPV), are devices that generate electricity when light is incident upon their photo-absorbers. The efficiency of a solar cell is determined by comparing how much electricity is generated to how much light is incident upon the cell. This is referred to as "photon harvest," or how many particles of light are converted into electrical current. The more efficient the solar cell, the more cost effective and pragmatic the cell is for commercial use.

A colossal step for electronics: New method creates major increase in electrical resistance

Researchers at Osaka University demonstrated a new technique for modifying the hydrogen concentration of resistors by applying an electrical voltage. The generated electric field drove the diffusion of hydrogen ions deeper into the perovskite rare-earth nickelate lattice, which led to a tunable "colossal" increase in electrical resistance. This research can lead to new gas sensors and electrically switchable smart materials.

New findings on how to save energy in Europe's historic buildings

Through rigorous experimentation, simulation and testing, a 5 million Euro EU research project has developed guidelines on how to handle internal thermal insulation in historic buildings. The resulting guidelines are now available to the public on

New research project on environmental and safety aspects of stationary energy storage

The SABATLE project coordinated by TU Graz focuses on the sustainability and safety of redox flow technologies, which are of immanent importance for the stabilization of the power grid.

Facebook braces for high-stakes antitrust lawsuits from government over Instagram, WhatsApp

Facebook is bracing for one of the most significant legal battles in its 16-year history: Antitrust lawsuits from state and federal authorities that take direct aim at two prized acquisitions that have broadened its global footprint.

Focus on human factors in designing systems

A new study has found one of the challenges in designing systems that involve people interacting with technology is to tackle the human trait of overconfidence.

Boeing 737 MAX returns to sky with Brazil commercial flight

More than 20 months after it was grounded following two deadly crashes, Boeing's 737 MAX returned to the skies Wednesday with an incident-free commercial flight in Brazil, said AFP journalists on board.

Two centuries of US energy usage, one interactive graphic

From wood-burning stoves to coal-fired factories to the gas and oil of the Automobile Age, the history of energy in the United States is marked by many shifts. Visually portraying these transitions over hundreds of years can offer new insights about the historic road to today's energy landscape and the possible paths toward a cleaner energy system in the future.

GM's Cruise to deploy fully driverless cars in San Francisco

General Motors' self-driving car company is sending vehicles without anybody behind the wheel in San Francisco as it navigates its way toward launching a robotic taxi service that would compete against Uber and Lyft in the hometown of the leading ride-hailing services.

Facebook antitrust suits seek to divest Instagram, WhatsApp

US federal and state antitrust enforcers filed suit against Facebook on Wednesday claiming the social media giant abused its dominant position with its acquisitions of messaging services Instagram and WhatsApp.

New technologies for managing emergencies

Waterborne pathogens can be particularly fatal for first responders in emergency situations. In order to better protect them and to better cope with emergency situations, Fraunhofer IAO is part of a consortium to develop technologies and processes that will enable better control and help minimize risks The PathoCERT project is funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 program.

Surprising ways that games challenge how people think about themselves and the world

The Beginner's Guide is a narrative video game with no goals or objectives. Instead, it tells the story of a person whose psyche is slowing unraveling. Along the way, it touches on issues of depression, loneliness and self-doubt.

Should you get a heat pump? Here's how they compare to a gas boiler

Home energy use accounts for 14% of all the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, and much of that comes from gas boilers. Each time you turn up the thermostat, the burning natural gas generates heat through the radiators—and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

China orders removal of 105 apps, including TripAdvisor

Companies including the Chinese arm of TripAdvisor Inc. have been ordered by regulators to overhaul their mobile phone apps in what the Chinese government said is a crackdown on pornography and other improper content.

Global security giant G4S backs £3.8bn takeover

British security giant G4S, which guards sites including prisons, offices and COVID test-centres, has accepted a £3.8-billion takeover from US rival Allied Universal, while rejecting Wednesday a slightly smaller offer from Canada's GardaWorld.

Police arrest more than 20,000 worldwide in online fraud sweep

Authorities "on every continent" have arrested a total of over 20,000 people in the past year in an Interpol-coordinated blow against online and telephone fraudsters, the international organisation said Wednesday.

EU agency assessing COVID-19 vaccines hit by cyberattack

Two pharmaceutical companies in line for first conditional approval for their COVID-19 vaccine by the EU's medicine regulator said Wednesday their documents were "unlawfully accessed" during a cyberattack on a European Medicines Agency server.

DoorDash shares soar 78% in stock market debut

DoorDash shares soared in its initial public offering Wednesday, capping a year of explosive growth for the food delivery company.

Election, coronavirus, Kobe Bryant among Google's top US trending searches in 2020

Google's trending searches in the U.S. this year were dominated by two topics: the presidential election and the coronavirus.

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