Science X Newsletter Thursday, Dec 17

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 17, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Scientists set a path for field trials of gene drive organisms

Can white dwarfs help solve the cosmological lithium problem?

Multi-messenger astronomy offers new estimates of neutron star size and universe expansion

Researchers dive into the biogeochemistry of ocean anoxic zones

Popular European football games linked to traffic accidents in Asia

Shark fishing bans partially effective: study

Organic molecules on a metal surface... a machinist's best friend

Chinese capsule returns to Earth carrying moon rocks

Reliable COVID-19 test could reduce virus spread

Greenland 'knickpoints' could stall spread of glacial thinning

Study tracks elephant tusks from 16th century shipwreck

Territorial red squirrels live longer when they're friendly with their neighbors

Seeking to avoid 'full lockdown,' cells monitor ribosome collisions

Ultra-thin designer materials unlock quantum phenomena

Restoring wetlands near farms would dramatically reduce water pollution

Physics news

Ultra-thin designer materials unlock quantum phenomena

A team of theoretical and experimental physicists have designed a new ultra-thin material that they have used to create elusive quantum states. Called one-dimensional Majorana zero energy modes, these quantum states could have a huge impact for quantum computing.

Longest known exposure photograph ever captured using a beer can

A photograph thought to be the longest exposure image ever taken has been discovered inside a beer can at the University of Hertfordshire's Bayfordbury Observatory.

Tiny quantum computer solves real optimization problem

Quantum computers have already managed to surpass ordinary computers in solving certain tasks—unfortunately, totally useless ones. The next milestone is to get them to do useful things. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have now shown that they can solve a small part of a real logistics problem with their small, but well-functioning quantum computer.

Enhanced interactions through strong light-matter coupling

Why do two-dimensional exciton-polaritons interact? The exciton-polariton quasiparticle is part light (photon), and part matter (exciton). Their excitonic (matter) part confers them the ability to interact with other particles, a property lacking to bare photons.

Physicists invent a machine that translates quantum systems in time

Popcorn and chocolate bars aside, there is a big difference between watching a movie in the cinema and viewing it at home. In the cinema, the movie runs from beginning to end, irrespective of the audience's will. At home, the remote control gives us the power to manipulate the movie's progress. We can make the movie return to a past scene or jump several scenes ahead. We can stop the movie in its tracks and even play it slowly till the end.

Big Data will analyse the mystery of Beethoven's metronome

Data science and physics research at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and UNED has analyzed a centuries-old controversy over Beethoven's annotations about the tempo (the playing speed) of his works, which is considered to be too fast based on these marks. In this study, published in the PLOS ONE journal, it is noted that this deviation could be explained by the composer reading the metronome incorrectly when using it to measure the beat of his symphonies.

First measurement of single-proton interactions with the MicroBooNE detector

Neutrinos are as mysterious as they are ubiquitous. One of the most abundant particles in the universe, they pass through most matter unnoticed. Their masses are so tiny that so far no experiment has succeeded in measuring them, while they travel at nearly the speed of light.

Physicists quantum simulate a system in which fermions with multiple flavors behave like bosons

In the text book of quantum mechanics, it's stated that bosons and fermions, two types of elementary particles that build the universe, behave in a drastically different way. For example, bosons can share the same quantum state while fermions of the same kind cannot but fill available quantum states one by one.

Researchers create entangled photons 100 times more efficiently than previously possible

Super-fast quantum computers and communication devices could revolutionize countless aspects of our lives—but first, researchers need a fast, efficient source of the entangled pairs of photons such systems use to transmit and manipulate information. Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have done just that, not only creating a chip-based photon source 100 times more efficient that previously possible, but bringing massive quantum device integration within reach.

Learning about quantum vacuum by studying atoms

The Unruh-effect connects quantum theory and relativity. Until now, it could not be measured. A new idea could change this.

Molecular probes require highly precise calculations

Catalysts are indispensable for many technologies. To further improve heterogeneous catalysts, it is required to analyze the complex processes on their surfaces, where the active sites are located. Scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), together with colleagues from Spain and Argentina, have now reached decisive progress: As reported in Physical Review Letters, they use calculation methods with so-called hybrid functionals for the reliable interpretation of experimental data.

Astronomy and Space news

Can white dwarfs help solve the cosmological lithium problem?

For the first time, hard-to-find lithium has been identified and measured in the atmosphere of burned out stars called white dwarfs, according to a study led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published online in the journal Science.

Multi-messenger astronomy offers new estimates of neutron star size and universe expansion

A combination of astrophysical measurements has allowed researchers to put new constraints on the radius of a typical neutron star and provide a novel calculation of the Hubble constant that indicates the rate at which the universe is expanding.

Chinese capsule returns to Earth carrying moon rocks

A Chinese lunar capsule returned to Earth on Thursday with the first fresh rock samples from the moon in more than 40 years, offering the possibility of new insights into the history of the solar system and marking a new landmark for China's rapidly advancing space program.

Detailing the formation of distant solar systems with NASA's Webb Telescope

We live in a mature solar system—eight planets and several dwarf planets (like Pluto) have formed, the latter within the rock- and debris-filled region known as the Kuiper Belt. If we could turn back time, what would we see as our solar system formed? While we can't answer this question directly, researchers can study other systems that are actively forming—along with the mix of gas and dust that encircles their still-forming stars—to learn about this process.

Longest intergalactic gas filament discovered

More than half of the matter in our universe has so far remained hidden from us. However, astrophysicists had a hunch where it might be: In so-called filaments, unfathomably large thread-like structures of hot gas that surround and connect galaxies and galaxy clusters. A team led by the University of Bonn has now for the first time observed a gas filament with a length of 50 million light years. Its structure is strikingly similar to the predictions of computer simulations. The observation therefore also confirms our ideas about the origin and evolution of our universe. The results are published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Artificial intelligence classifies supernova explosions with unprecedented accuracy

Artificial intelligence is classifying real supernova explosions without the traditional use of spectra, thanks to a team of astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. The complete data sets and resulting classifications are publicly available for open use.

On the hunt for a missing giant black hole

The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of a supermassive black hole has deepened.

Scientists use NASA data to predict appearance of December 14, 2020 eclipse

On Dec. 14, 2020, the Moon's shadow raced across Chile and Argentina, casting a thin ribbon of land into brief, mid-day darkness.

Moon rocks in hand, China prepares for future moon missions

Following the successful return of moon rocks by its Chang'e 5 robotic probe, China is preparing for future missions that could set the stage for an eventual lunar base to host human explorers, a top space program official said Thursday.

European Space Agency appoints Austrian scientist new chief

Austrian scientist Josef Aschbacher has been appointed to head the European Space Agency as the organization grapples with the fallout from Brexit and the rise of commercial rivals outside of Europe.

Technology news

Electromagnetic-circuit co-design approach leads to dynamically programmable holographic terahertz metasurfaces

With the help of integrated CMOS technology and electromagnetic design, Princeton researchers have demonstrated a key device that could potentially enable high-speed wireless links at terahertz frequencies.

Method finds hidden warning signals in measurements collected over time

When you're responsible for a multimillion-dollar satellite hurtling through space at thousands of miles per hour, you want to be sure it's running smoothly. And time series can help.

Fujifilm, IBM unveil 580-terabyte magnetic tape

When it comes to magnetic tape storage capacity, smaller is larger. That is, as the magnetic particles that store data become smaller, more data can be stockpiled in the same amount of space.

Google releases Blob Opera just in time for the holidays

Google has released a new app called blob Opera—a machine learning application that allows songwriters of all skill levels to compose songs—operas or otherwise—performed onscreen by four singing "blobs." In announcing the new app on its website, Google suggests such compositions might just be the perfect holiday present. The app was created by artist David Li.

Electron-producing microbes power sustainable wastewater treatment

WSU researchers have developed a sustainable wastewater treatment system that relies on electron-producing microbial communities to clean the water.

Public cameras provide valuable insights on pandemic, consumers

Technology similar to massive search engines used to scour the web may soon be used to provide new insights into consumer behavior and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies across the world. The technology also may be a useful tool for reducing misinformation in news media.

New lab director expects more work on next wave of reactors

The new director of Idaho National Laboratory said its efforts to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by creating a new generation of nuclear reactors appears to align with the goals of the incoming Biden administration and will likely receive ongoing bipartisan support.

Volkswagen loses top EU court case in diesel scandal

The European Union's top court ruled on Thursday that Volkswagen breached the law by installing on its cars a so-called defeat device to cheat on emission tests and cannot argue it was merely protecting car engines.

Salient object detection makes computer vision smarter

Salient object detection aims at simulating the visual characteristics of human beings and extracts the most important regions from images or videos. The contents in these saliency areas are called salient objects.

Researchers developing cellular service standards for space missions to the moon and Mars

Think getting good cellular service on Earth is difficult? Try doing it on the moon or Mars. A team of Simon Fraser University researchers is working hard to make LTE/4G and Wi-Fi communications systems on the moon a reality by 2022.

PlayStation 5 scalpers use bots to hunt down scarce consoles

Sony Corp. has created one of the hottest gadgets of the year in the PlayStation 5, but its launch has been marred by scalpers who are buying up scarce supplies and threatening the long-term health of the company's most important product.

Capping food delivery app fees could save restaurants this COVID-19 winter

The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely difficult on restaurants, and it's not over yet.

Staying one step ahead of cyberattacks

Ahmed Sadiq thought he understood the extent of data breaches at big companies like Facebook. Then he started researching.

Making industrial robots smarter and more versatile

EPFL spin-off Aica has developed AI-based software that makes industrial robots easier to program and more capable of adapting. The software is designed in a modular format so that operators can build a customized application based on their needs. Aica's advancement expands the range of tasks that robots can perform while cutting implementation costs.

Report outlines solutions for curbing U.S. carbon emissions

Researchers at CU Boulder's Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) on Thursday released a report outlining key steps the U.S. can take to drive carbon dioxide emissions to zero.

How to power up battery manufacturing in India

India is one of only a few countries whose national emissions reduction target is in line with the Paris Agreement's goal of reducing global warming before Earth's temperature reaches a dangerous threshold. But to successfully switch from coal to renewable energy, the country will require advanced battery technologies that can operate even when solar and wind are not available.

EU clears Google's $2.1B takeover of Fitbit, with conditions

The European Union on Thursday approved Google's plan to buy fitness gadget maker Fitbit for $2.1 billion after it promised to restrict user data and ensure Android phones work with other wearable devices for at least 10 years.

Army strengthens future tech with muscle-bound robots

Robotic systems packed with muscle tissue can produce never-seen-before agility and versatility, Army researchers said.

Novel data storage system ready to offer relief for frustrated users, companies

Most smartphone owners know the frustrations of trying to look through digital photos on a social media app to find the one they want. The pictures can be slow to load and sometimes not load at all.

Google hit with third antitrust lawsuit, by new state coalition

Dozens of US states on Thursday hit Google with its third antitrust suit in as many months, accusing the internet giant of abusing its internet search dominance to eliminate competition.

Data crunching consequences of SolarWinds cyberattack

Thousands of companies and institutions across the globe have to check if they have been hacked via security software from Texan firm SolarWinds at the heart of a cyberattack on several US government agencies.

Robinhood accused of 'gamification' by Massachusetts regulator

Robinhood Markets drew millions of users to financial markets with a colorful app that makes trading seem empowering instead of intimidating.

Finding new players in an old market: The energy potential of a Swedish case study

Sweden has provided an example of how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic growth. A big part of this achievement is due to an extensive network of local district heating systems that work with non-fossil fuels and excess heat from energy-intensive industries. They hold a market share of about 60% and can now be found in every major town and city in the country, making it one of the best scenarios to test the EMB3Rs platform and its ability to identify new surplus heat sources among medium-sized non-traditional providers.

Cooper Hewitt acquires two emoji that symbolize inclusion

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has acquired two emoji that have helped broaden diversity for users of the tiny pictures, becoming the third museum to add emoji to their digital collections.

Serving up renewable energy

As decisions about nuclear power installations, wind farms, solar plants, and other energy sources are being discussed, new research published in the International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, reviews how the contribution of renewables to the utility energy mix might be maximized.

Huawei to open first network equipment factory outside China

Huawei said Thursday it would open a manufacturing facility for mobile phone network equipment in France, the first of its kind outside of China.

Swiss say Uber Eats must register as postal service provider

Swiss authorities say food delivery service Uber Eats counts as a postal service provider—and needs to be regulated as such.

Amazon girds for challenge in warehouse union drive

Amazon workers at an Alabama warehouse have been given a green light by a federal agency on a unionization vote which could deliver a first for organized labor with the e-commerce and technology giant in the United States.

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