Science X Newsletter Thursday, Dec 24

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for December 24, 2020:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Future material demand for automotive lithium-based batteries

Could COVID-19 have wiped out the Neandertals?

DeepMind's MuZero conquers and learns the rules as it does

Studies find having COVID-19 may protect against reinfection

Fruity energy, spidery lenses: Nature-inspired solutions in 2020

Atomic-scale nanowires can now be produced at scale

Researchers reconstruct the precise bite of an early mammal

A-68A iceberg thinning at 2.5 cm per day

Researchers reveal the first cryo-EM structures of NSD2 and NSD3 in complex with nucleosome

Researchers aim to advance understanding of Alzheimer's disease progression

Study finds evidence of lasting immunity after mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 infection

Protein tells developing cells to stick together

Eavesdropping on the pH levels inside the brain

Molecular crystal structures pack it in

New chemistry for controlling the volume of liquid in volumetric additive manufacturing

Physics news

Korean artificial sun sets the new world record of 20-sec-long operation at 100 million degrees

The Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research(KSTAR), a superconducting fusion device also known as the Korean artificial sun, set the new world record as it succeeded in maintaining the high temperature plasma for 20 seconds with an ion temperature over 100 million degrees.

Astronomy and Space news

Japanese spacecraft's gifts: Asteroid chips like charcoal

They resemble small fragments of charcoal, but the soil samples collected from an asteroid and returned to Earth by a Japanese spacecraft were hardly disappointing.

If a planet has a lot of methane in its atmosphere, life is the most likely cause

The ultra-powerful James Webb Space Telescope will launch soon. Once it's deployed and in position at the Earth-Sun Lagrange Point 2, it'll begin work. One of its jobs is to examine the atmospheres of exoplanets and look for biosignatures. It should be simple, right? Just scan the atmosphere until you find oxygen, then close your laptop and head to the pub: Fanfare, confetti, Nobel prize.

Technology news

Future material demand for automotive lithium-based batteries

As the world shifts to electric vehicles to reduce climate change, it is important to quantify future demands for key battery materials. In a new report, Chengjian Xu, Bernhard Steubing and a research team at the Leiden University, Netherlands and the Argonne National Laboratory in the U.S. showed how the demands of a lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese oxide dominated battery will increase by many factors between 2020 to 2050. As a result, supply chains for lithium, cobalt and nickel will require significant expansion and likely additional resource discovery. Nevertheless, uncertainties are large relative to the development of electrical vehicle fleets and battery capacities per vehicle. While closed-loop recycling plays a minor but increasingly important role to reduce the primary material demand until 2050, researchers must implement advanced recycling strategies to economically recover battery-grade materials from end-of-life batteries. This work is now published on Nature Communications Materials.

DeepMind's MuZero conquers and learns the rules as it does

Albert Einstein once said, "You have to learn the rules of the game, and then you have to play better than anyone else." That could well be the motto at DeepMind, as a new report reveals it has developed a program that can master complex games without even knowing the rules.

China begins anti-monopoly probe into tech giant Alibaba

China has launched an anti-monopoly investigation into Alibaba, regulators said Thursday, sending the share price of the e-commerce giant tumbling and intensifying the troubles of its billionaire founder Jack Ma.

Melted fuel removal at Fukushima delayed by pandemic

Japan's government and the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said Thursday that the removal of melted reactor fuel planned to start in 2021 will have to be postponed by about one year due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Sustainable biodiesel from neem tree trans-esterification

The neem tree, Azadirachta indica, also known as the Indian Lilac, is well known for its oil extracted from its seed and fruit. It has been used in traditional medicine but has also been investigated for the pest control potential of natural products. Work published in the International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology reports on the production, characterisation and use of neem biodiesel as a green fuel for vehicle engines.

Technical roadmap guides research direction for grid-forming inverters

Power electronics—including the inverters that interface solar, wind, battery energy storage, and electric vehicles—are on track to gradually, or even entirely, displace traditional generation. In doing so, inverters will inherit new responsibilities and introduce a new set of challenges. Recognizing a knowledge gap, a team of experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and several collaborating institutions have published the Research Roadmap on Grid-Forming Inverters, a comprehensive guide to understanding inverter-dominated power systems.

Square in talks to buy Jay-Z's Tidal: report

Digital payments company Square has held talks to acquire Jay-Z's Tidal music streaming service, Bloomberg News reported late Wednesday.

Jack Ma: tycoon who soared on China's tech dreams grounded by regulators

Jack Ma, the ebullient and unconventional billionaire founder of tech giant Alibaba and the totem of China's entrepreneurial brilliance, now finds himself up against a Communist leadership seemingly intent on hacking back his empire and issuing a lesson that no one is bigger than the party.

Last-minute shopping: Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, other stores offering Christmas Eve same-day delivery

Getting last-minute gifts to loved ones without setting foot in stores is easier than in past years.

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