Science X Newsletter Friday, Dec 11

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 11, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

New 2-D Ruddlesden-Popper (RP) layered perovskite-based solar cells

What should a successful SARS-CoV-2 vaccine do?

Near-atomic-scale analysis of frozen water

Researchers find a better way to design metal alloys

COVID lockdown causes record drop in CO2 emissions for 2020

US panel endorses widespread use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Mass extinctions of land-dwelling animals occur in 27-million-year cycle

Scientists publish open resource to help design 'greener' energy systems

NBA 'bubble' reveals the ultimate home court advantage, study finds

Scientists build whole functioning thymus from human cells

Artificial intelligence improves control of powerful plasma accelerators

Scientists identify genetic risks of rare inflammatory disease

New tool for watching and controlling neural activity

Effective planning ahead protects fish and fisheries

Polarization increases with economic decline, becoming cripplingly contagious

Physics news

Near-atomic-scale analysis of frozen water

Advances in transmission electron microscopy (TEM) can allow cryo-imaging of biological and biochemical systems in liquid form, however, such approaches do not possess advanced analytical capabilities. In a new report now published on Science Advances, A. A. El-Zoka and an international team of researchers in Germany, Canada, France, and the U.K., used atom probe tomography to analyze frozen liquids in three-dimensions (3-D) with sub-nanometer scale resolution. In this work, the team first introduced a specimen preparation strategy using nano-porous gold and used ice formed from high-purity deuterated water (hard water) alongside a solution of sodium chloride (50 mM) dissolved in high-purity deuterated water. They then analyzed the gold-ice interface to reveal increased solute concentrations across the interface. The scientists explored a range of experimental conditions to understand atom probe analyses of bulk aqueous specimens. Then they discussed the physical processes associated with the observed phenomena. The study showed the practicality of using frozen water as a carrier for near-atomic-scale analyses of objects in solution via atom probe tomography.

Artificial intelligence improves control of powerful plasma accelerators

Researchers have used AI to control beams for the next generation of smaller, cheaper accelerators for research, medical and industrial applications.

Scientists demonstrate laser direct mapping of attosecond electron dynamics

Recently, a research group from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has observed periodic electron bunch fringes induced by the femtosecond laser field.

A common type of oscillating motion surprisingly mimics the wave behavior of light

An unexpected mathematical connection between a special kind of mechanical motion and the behavior of light has been uncovered by three RIKEN physicists1. This strange link could help physicists to design future particle accelerators as well as investigate hot ionized gases known as plasmas.

Physicists observe the emergence of collective behaviour

Phase transitions describe dramatic changes in properties of a macroscopic system—like the transition from a liquid to a gas. Starting from individual ultracold atoms, Heidelberg University physicists were able to observe the emergence of such a transition with an increasing number of particles. The research work was carried out in the field of quantum physics under the direction of Prof. Dr. Selim Jochim from the Institute for Physics.

New computational method validates images without 'ground truth'

A realtor sends a prospective homebuyer a blurry photograph of a house taken from across the street. The homebuyer can compare it to the real thing—look at the picture, then look at the real house—and see that the bay window is actually two windows close together, the flowers out front are plastic and what looked like a door is actually a hole in the wall.

Search for invisible axion dark matter with a multiple-cell cavity

Despite its vanishingly tiny mass, the existence of the axion, once proven, may point to new physics beyond the Standard Model. Theorized to explain a fundamental symmetry problem in the strong nuclear force associated with the matter-antimatter imbalance in our universe, this hypothetical particle also makes an attractive dark matter candidate. Though axions would exist in vast enough numbers to be able to account for the "missing" mass from the universe, the search for this dark matter has been quite challenging so far.

Potential extreme condition history detector—recoverable PL achieved in pyrochlore

Photoluminescence (PL) is light emission from a substance after the absorption of photons stimulated by temperature, electricity, pressure, or chemistry doping. An international team of scientists led by Dr. Wenge Yang from Center for High Pressure Science &Technology Advanced Research (HPSTAR) presents a strong tricolor PL achieved in non-PL pyrochlore Ho2Sn2O7 through high pressure treatment. Interestingly the PL can be much enhanced after pressure release and recovered to ambient conditions. Their study is published in the recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

Record resolution in X-ray microscopy

Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and other institutions in Paris, Hamburg and Basel, have succeeded in setting a new record in X-ray microscopy. With improved diffractive lenses and more precise sample positioning, they were able to achieve spatial resolution in the single-digit nanometre scale. This new dimension in direct imaging could provide significant impulses for research into nanostructures and further advance the development of solar cells and new types of magnetic data storage. The findings have now been published in the renowned journal Optica with the title "Soft X-ray microscopy with 7 nm resolution."

Scientists say farewell to Daya Bay site, proceed with final data analysis

The Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment collaboration—which made a precise measurement of an important neutrino property eight years ago, setting the stage for a new round of experiments and discoveries about these hard-to-study particles—has finished taking data. Though the experiment is formally shutting down, the collaboration will continue to analyze its complete dataset to improve upon the precision of findings based on earlier measurements.

Visualization of mechanical waves in a liquid medium

The effect of ultrasound on the liquid phase has been visualized using dynamic electron microscopy. The use of the effect of standing mechanical waves arising in the liquid phase under the action of an external ultrasound source makes it possible to control the structure of liquid reaction media at the micro-level and influence the result of chemical transformations.

Astronomy and Space news

Solar Orbiter: Turning pictures into physics

Solar Orbiter's latest results show that the mission is making the first direct connections between events at the solar surface and what's happening in interplanetary space around the spacecraft. It is also giving us new insights into solar 'campfires," space weather and disintegrating comets.

Festive treat for stargazers as Geminid meteors peak

Stargazers across the northern hemisphere could see as many as 70 meteors an hour this coming Sunday, as the Geminids meteor shower reaches its peak. Prospects for what should be this year's best display of meteors are particularly good, as there will be no Moon in the sky to interfere with the view.

Window opens for Virgin Galactic test flight from spaceport

The window opened Friday for Virgin Galactic's first rocket-powered test flight from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico as the company prepares for commercial flights next year, but the exact timing of the launch will depend on the weather.

Black holes gain new powers when they spin fast enough

General relativity is a profoundly complex mathematical theory, but its description of black holes is amazingly simple. A stable black hole can be described by just three properties: its mass, its electric charge and its rotation or spin. Since black holes aren't likely to have much charge, it really takes just two properties. If you know a black hole's mass and spin, you know all there is to know about the black hole.

Technology news

New 2-D Ruddlesden-Popper (RP) layered perovskite-based solar cells

In recent years, researchers worldwide have been trying to develop solar cells and other technologies that can produce electrical energy from renewable sources, as these could reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and thus help to preserve life on our planet. Solar cells can be built using a variety of materials, including silicon, copper or other semiconductors.

Scientists publish open resource to help design 'greener' energy systems

Researchers have created a database of measurements from existing global power grid systems that will help develop new power systems capable of meeting changing demands, such as the move towards renewable energy sources.

Artificial visual system of record-low energy consumption for the next generation of AI

A joint study led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has built an ultralow-power consumption artificial visual system to mimic the human brain, which successfully performed data-intensive cognitive tasks. Their experiment results could provide a promising device system for the next generation of artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

Automating material-matching for movies and video games

Very few of us who play video games or watch computer-generated image-filled movies ever take the time to sit back and appreciate all the handiwork that make their graphics so thrilling and immersive.

Robots encourage risk-taking behaviour in humans

New research has shown robots can encourage humans to take greater risks in a simulated gambling scenario than they would if there was nothing to influence their behaviours. Increasing our understanding of whether robots can affect risk-taking could have clear ethical, practical and policy implications, which this study set out to explore.

Google, Harvard unveil Android medical research app

Google has partnered with Harvard Medical School to launch an app that allows anyone with an Android phone to participate in medical studies.

Disney unveils plans to stream a galaxy of new series, films

The Walt Disney Co.'s streaming plans shifted into hyper speed Thursday, as the studio unveiled a galaxy's worth of new streaming offerings including plans for 10 "Star Wars" series spinoffs and 10 Marvel series that will debut on Disney+.

SoftBank sells controlling stake in Boston Dynamics to Hyundai

Japan's SoftBank Group will sell an 80 percent stake in robotics firm Boston Dynamics to Hyundai, the trio said Friday, in a deal that values the US company at $1.1 billion.

China's auto sales rise in November, but down for the year

China's sales of SUVs, minivans and sedans rose by double digits in November as the country recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, but were below pre-virus levels for the year, an industry group reported Friday.

Predicting British railway delays using artificial intelligence

Over the past 20 years, the number of passengers traveling on British train networks has almost doubled to 1.7 billion annually. With numbers like that it's clear how much people rely on rail service in Great Britain, and how many disgruntled patrons there would be when delays occur. A recent study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign used real British Railway data and an artificial intelligence model to improve the ability to predict delays in railway networks.

Up to 90% of electricity from solar and wind the cheapest option by 2030

With the cost of energy generated from wind and solar now less than coal, the share of Australia's electricity coming from renewables has reached 23%. The federal government projects the share will reach 50% by 2030.

The future of autonomous aircraft

Imagine a world of aerial delivery drones bringing goods right to your door, small air taxis with fewer than six passengers flying about cities, supersonic airliners crossing continents and oceans, and sixth-generation fighter aircraft patrolling battle zones—and all without the intervention or even supervision of a human pilot. That may sound like the far-off future, but it's already arriving thanks to autonomous flight systems that may one day make pilots an optional extra. We recently caught up with Professor Ella Atkins, the director of U-M's Autonomous Aerospace Systems (A2SYS) Lab, and asked her about this remarkable technology and its implications.

New fabrication method for perovskite solar cells promises to break the efficiency limit

The direct solar-to-electricity conversion enabled by solar cells can play pivotal role in our future energy supply. Increasing the cost-effectiveness of solar cells is essential to accelerate the upcoming terawatt-scale solar industry. However, this is complicated as conventional crystalline silicon is already approaching its efficiency limit of 33 percent. One viable strategy is to fabricate solar cells that combine various light-absorbing materials that can capture a larger portion of sunlight, which could ultimately raise the efficiency to 68 percent. Ph.D. candidate Junke Wang has developed a new strategy to fabricate solar cells based on novel perovskite semiconductors that promise efficiencies above 35 percent. Wang successfully defended his thesis on December 10th.

Facebook employees won't be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Facebook will not require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the office.

'The Last of Us Part II' rules, collecting seven wins at The Game Awards

On a big night for video games, "The Last of Us Part II" was the biggest winner. The harrowing action-adventure game, a Sony PlayStation 4 exclusive released in June, won seven awards including the biggie: Game of the Year.

Machine learning and big data are unlocking Europe's archives

From wars to weddings, Europe's history is stored in billions of archival pages across the continent. While many archives try to make their documents public, finding information in them remains a low-tech affair. Simple page scans do not offer the metadata such as dates, names, locations that often interest researchers. Copying this information for later use is also time-consuming.

Virtual reality battlefield technology designed to train military leaders

A new and modern approach to understanding battlefield history may soon help prepare future military leaders in the U.S.

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