Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Dec 16

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 16, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Best of Last Year: The top MedicalXpress articles of 2020

A memory-augmented, artificial neural network-based architecture

Researchers discover surprising connection between prehistoric dinosaurs and mammals in their teeth

Quantum insulators create multilane highways for electrons

New type of atomic clock could help scientists detect dark matter and study gravity's effect on time

Ultracold atoms reveal a new type of quantum magnetic behavior

Team's bigger and better 'tweezer clock' is super stable

Driving force behind cellular 'protein factories' identified

Secret of Australia's volcanoes revealed in new study

New study redefines understanding of where icebergs put meltwater into the Southern Ocean

Giant pulses detected in the pulsar PSR J1047−6709

The 16 facial expressions most common to emotional situations worldwide

Simulated system could help develop better artificial intelligence, treatments for brain disorders

Unique prediction of 'modified gravity' challenges dark matter theory

The phantom chorus: birdsong boosts human well-being in protected areas

Physics news

Quantum insulators create multilane highways for electrons

New energy-efficient electronic devices may be possible thanks to research that demonstrates the quantum anomalous Hall (QAH) effect—where an electrical current does not lose energy as it flows along the edges of the material—over a broader range of conditions. A team of researchers from Penn State has experimentally realized the QAH effect in a multilayered insulator, essentially producing a multilane highway for the transport of electrons that could increase the speed and efficiency of information transfer without energy loss.

New type of atomic clock could help scientists detect dark matter and study gravity's effect on time

Atomic clocks are the most precise timekeepers in the world. These exquisite instruments use lasers to measure the vibrations of atoms, which oscillate at a constant frequency, like many microscopic pendulums swinging in sync. The best atomic clocks in the world keep time with such precision that, if they had been running since the beginning of the universe, they would only be off by about half a second today.

Ultracold atoms reveal a new type of quantum magnetic behavior

A new study illuminates surprising choreography among spinning atoms. In a paper appearing in the journal Nature, researchers from MIT and Harvard University reveal how magnetic forces at the quantum, atomic scale affect how atoms orient their spins.

Team's bigger and better 'tweezer clock' is super stable

JILA physicists have boosted the signal power of their atomic "tweezer clock" and measured its performance in part for the first time, demonstrating high stability close to the best of the latest generation of atomic clocks.

Information transport in antiferromagnets via pseudospin-magnons

A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich, the Walther-Meissner-Institute of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim has discovered an exciting method for controlling spin carried by quantized spin wave excitations in antiferromagnetic insulators.

Simultaneously measuring absolute and relative delay of laser pulses

Recently, researchers from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (SIOM) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have made new progress in the timing measurement and control of ultrashort laser pulses.

Characterising cold fusion in 2-D models

Progress towards 'cold fusion,' where nuclear fusion can occur at close to room temperatures, has now been at a standstill for decades. However, an increasing number of studies are now proposing that the reaction could be triggered more easily through a mechanism involving muons—elementary particles with the same charge as electrons, but with around 200 times their mass. Through a study published in EPJ D, researchers led by Francisco Caruso at the Brazilian Centre for Physical Research have shown theoretically how this process would unfold within 2-D systems, without any need for approximations.

Scientists precisely predict intricate evolutions of multiple-period patterns in bilayers

Surface instability of compliant film/substrate bilayers has raised considerable interests due to its broad applications such as wrinkle-driven surface renewal and antifouling, shape-morphing for camouflaging skins, and micro/nano-scale surface patterning control. However, it is still a challenge to precisely predict and continuously trace secondary bifurcation transitions in the nonlinear post-buckling region. Fundamental understanding and quantitative prediction of morphological evolution and pattern selection are, in fact, crucial for the effective use of wrinkling as a tool for morphological design.

Astronomy and Space news

Giant pulses detected in the pulsar PSR J1047−6709

Using the Parkes radio telescope, Chinese astronomers have investigated an isolated pulsar known as PSR J1047−6709 and detected dozens of giant pulses during the bright state of this source. The finding is reported in a paper published December 10 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

Unique prediction of 'modified gravity' challenges dark matter theory

An international group of scientists, including Case Western Reserve University Astronomy Chair Stacy McGaugh, has published research contending that a rival idea to the popular dark matter hypothesis more accurately predicts a galactic phenomenon that appears to defy the classic rules of gravity.

China prepares for return of spacecraft with moon samples

Chinese ground crews are standing by for the landing of the first new samples of rocks and soil from the moon in more than 40 years.

Dark storm on neptune reverses direction, possibly shedding a fragment

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope watched a mysterious dark vortex on Neptune abruptly steer away from a likely death on the giant blue planet.

Graduate student's BADASS code has astronomical benefits

An astro-statistics course University of California, Riverside, graduate student Remington O. Sexton took three years ago taught him techniques that led him to develop free, open-source code benefiting astronomers everywhere.

A pair of lonely planet-like objects born like stars

An international research team led by the University of Bern has discovered an exotic binary system composed of two young planet-like objects, orbiting around each other from a very large distance. Although these objects look like giant exoplanets, they formed in the same way as stars, proving that the mechanisms driving star formation can produce rogue worlds in unusual systems deprived of a Sun.

Astronomers detect possible radio emission from exoplanet

By monitoring the cosmos with a radio telescope array, a Cornell University-led international team of scientists has detected radio bursts emanating from the constellation Bo├Âtes. The signal could be the first radio emission collected from a planet beyond our solar system.

Chinese craft carrying Moon rocks returns to Earth

An unmanned Chinese spacecraft carrying rocks and soil from the Moon returned safely to Earth early Thursday in the first mission in four decades to collect lunar samples, the Xinhua news agency said.

Data models point to a potentially diverse metabolic menu at Enceladus

Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, scientists at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) modeled chemical processes in the subsurface ocean of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The studies indicate the possibility that a varied metabolic menu could support a potentially diverse microbial community in the liquid water ocean beneath the moon's icy facade.

Study of dune dynamics will help scientists understand the topography of Mars

Barchans are crescent-shaped sand dunes whose two horns face in the direction of the fluid flow. They appear in different environments, such as inside water pipes or on river beds, where they take the form of ten-centimeter ripples, and deserts, where they can exceed 100 meters, and the surface of Mars, where they can be a kilometer in length or more. If their size varies greatly, so does the time they take to form and interact. The orders of magnitude range from a minute for small barchans in water to a year for large desert formations and a millennium for the giants on Mars.

Canadian will join Moon mission for first time in 2023

A Canadian astronaut will take part in a lunar mission for the first time in 2023, as part of the NASA-led Artemis project, the minister for innovation, science and industry announced Wednesday.

World's space achievements a bright spot in stressful 2020

Astronauts blasted into orbit from the U.S. for the first time in nearly a decade, three countries sent spacecraft hurtling toward Mars, and robotic explorers grabbed rocks from the moon and gravel from an asteroid for return to Earth.

Technology news

A memory-augmented, artificial neural network-based architecture

Over the past decade or so, researchers have developed a variety of computational models based on artificial neural networks (ANNs). While many of these models have been found to perform well on specific tasks, they are not always able to identify iterative, sequential or algorithmic strategies that can be applied to new problems.

Simulated system could help develop better artificial intelligence, treatments for brain disorders

Getting computers to "think" like humans is the holy grail of artificial intelligence, but human brains turn out to be tough acts to follow. The human brain is a master of applying previously learned knowledge to new situations and constantly refining what's been learned. This ability to be adaptive has been hard to replicate in machines.

Semiconductor material analysis made possible with artificial intelligence

Studies on spintronics, which deal with the intrinsic spin of electrons and the field of electronic engineering, are actively conducted to address the limitations of the integration level of silicon semiconductors currently in use and to develop ultra-low-power and high-performance next-generation semiconductors. Magnetic materials are one of the most commonly used materials to develop spintronics devices such as magneto-resistive random-access memory (MRAM). Therefore, it is essential to accurately identify properties of the magnetic materials, such as thermal stability, dynamic behaviors and the ground state configuration, through the analysis of the magnetic Hamiltonian and its parameters.

Google adds cinematic touch, automated collages and favorite people to Memories

Google has announced on their website, just in time for the holidays, new additions to their Memories app. The new additions include features that allow for the creation of cinematically enhanced photos, automated collages and collections of favorite people and places.

Creating the next generation of Li ion batteries

A breakthrough in the design of lithium ion batteries could lead to the next generation of safer more reliable solid-state power cells.

Honda recalls 1.4M US vehicles for software, other problems

Honda is recalling over 1.4 million vehicles in the U.S. to repair drive shafts that can break, window switches that can overheat and a software flaw.

Hack may have exposed deep US secrets; damage yet unknown

Some of America's most deeply held secrets may have been stolen in a disciplined, monthslong operation being blamed on elite Russian government hackers. The possibilities of what might have been purloined are mind-boggling.

Little-known SolarWinds gets scrutiny over hack, stock sales

Before this week, few people were aware of SolarWinds, a Texas-based software company providing vital computer network monitoring services to corporations and government agencies around the world.

Australia watchdog sues Facebook over 'misleading' VPN app

Australia's consumer watchdog launched legal action against Facebook on Wednesday, alleging the social media giant "misled" thousands of Australians by collecting user data from a free VPN service advertised as private.

Bolstered by pandemic, tech titans face growing scrutiny

Accelerating the transition to an ever more digital life, the coronavirus pandemic has tightened tech giants' grip on billions of customers' lives.

EU unveils revamp of cybersecurity rules days after hack

The European Union unveiled Wednesday plans to revamp the 27-nation bloc's dated cybersecurity rules, just days after data on a new coronavirus vaccine was unlawfully accessed in a hack attack on the European Medicines Agency.

Invention may get Army quadcopters to move faster

Researchers believe a new hinge is the key to get load-bearing, large, Army quadrotors to climb a few dozen feet in seconds.

Shorter building construction timelines could be possible with new sensor technology

How long it takes to construct a building depends in large part on when the concrete of each floor is strong enough to take on loads.

Facebook goes to war with Apple over targeted ads

Social networking giant Facebook on Wednesday opened fire on Apple, saying the iPhone maker's new measures on data collection and targeted ads will hurt small businesses.

Butler on wheels, robot cutting salad: How COVID-19 sped automation

For decades, the attitude of unions and their advocates to increased automation could be summed up in one word: no. They feared that every time a machine was slipped into the workflow, a laborer lost a job.

Facebook building tool to let fans pay celebrities for face time

Facebook Inc. is building a new video product that will let people pay content creators or celebrities for the chance to interact with them during a live broadcast.

Texas leads US states suing Google for anti-competitive practices

Several US states led by Texas filed suit against Google Wednesday over alleged anti-competitive practices, branding it an "internet Goliath" that had eliminated competition in online advertising and was harming consumers.

Google hires new personnel head amid rising worker tensions

Google has hired a top executive from pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to oversee its personnel policies amid ongoing tensions with many employees who are upset with the company's policies.

Gig economy workers say they can no longer survive

Whether in Paris, Kuala Lumpur or California, gig economy workers fear they can no longer survive on meagre earnings from jobs that leave them increasingly vulnerable.

'How Pac-Man Eats' explores how games work and how they can create meaning

Since the early days of pioneering games like Pong and Pac-Man, computer games have grown dramatically more complex and sophisticated, not only in the fundamental mechanics of how they work, but also in their ability express ideas and address important topics.

German government backs bill requiring 5G security pledge

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet approved a bill Wednesday that would require companies involved in setting up critical infrastructure such as high-speed 5G networks to guarantee that their equipment can't be used for sabotage, espionage or terrorism.

United Airlines unveils voluntary contact tracing program

United Airlines announced Wednesday a program to collect customer contact data on all flights to assist health officials in contact tracing in the effort to contain COVID-19.

Trump Twitter account hacked, no charges: Dutch prosecutors

Dutch prosecutors Wednesday said a man had cracked US President Donald Trump's Twitter account in October despite denials from Washington and the company, but added that the so-called "ethical hacker" would not face charges.

Facebook to implement UK accounts switch after Brexit

Facebook said Wednesday it will switch legal responsibility for British users from its EU base in Ireland to its US headquarters next year in a change sparked by Brexit.

Bitcoin's rollercoaster ride

Virtual currency bitcoin—which broke the $20,000 barrier in trading for the first time Wednesday—morphed from an academic paper to one of the world's most closely-watched crypto currencies.

Shopping app Wish falls in its stock market debut

The parent company of Wish, a shopping app that sells cheap clothing, toys and electronics, sputtered in its stock market debut.

Twitter to start removing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

Twitter said Wednesday that it will begin removing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations from its site.

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