Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Mar 23

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 23, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

New result from the LHCb experiment challenges leading theory in physics

B2 1420+32 is a changing-look blazar, study finds

Natural variations help resolve a climate puzzle

Algorithms inspired by social networks reveal lifecycle of substorms, a key element of space weather

Researchers find supplement prevents strokes in patients with rare genetic disorder

Parkinson's gene may impair how new neurons are made throughout our lifetime

Enhanced ceramics could play pivotal role in advancing 5G technology

Microchip models of human lungs enable better understanding of disease, immune response

Cost-effective, easily manufactured ventilators for COVID-19 patients

North American deserts are a biodiversity hotspot for butterflies

A strong coffee half an hour before exercising increases fat-burning

Novel thermometer can accelerate quantum computer development

Keeping track of spacecraft as Earth's water alters its spin

Common cold virus could offer some level of protection against COVID-19 infection, new study suggests

Penguin hemoglobin evolved to meet oxygen demands of diving

Physics news

New result from the LHCb experiment challenges leading theory in physics

The LHCb Collaboration at CERN has found particles not behaving in the way they should according to the guiding theory of particle physics—the Standard Model.

Enhanced ceramics could play pivotal role in advancing 5G technology

5G, or the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, is touted as having finally arrived for ultrafast download speeds, an end to dropped calls and buffering, and greater connectivity to advance autonomous vehicle development, remote surgery, and the Internet of Things.

Cost-effective, easily manufactured ventilators for COVID-19 patients

Scientists have been working for the past year to find ways to curb the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it is outside their typical realm of study, physicists have been playing an important role in many aspects of research about the pandemic and its impact on people.

Novel thermometer can accelerate quantum computer development

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, have developed a novel type of thermometer that can simply and quickly measure temperatures during quantum calculations with extremely high accuracy. The breakthrough provides a benchmarking tool for quantum computing of great value—and opens up for experiments in the exciting field of quantum thermodynamics.

Evidence of new physics at CERN? Why we're cautiously optimistic about our new findings

When CERN's gargantuan accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), fired up ten years ago, hopes abounded that new particles would soon be discovered that could help us unravel physics' deepest mysteries. Dark matter, microscopic black holes and hidden dimensions were just some of the possibilities. But aside from the spectacular discovery of the Higgs boson, the project has failed to yield any clues as to what might lie beyond the standard model of particle physics, our current best theory of the micro-cosmos.

An exotic metal-insulator transition in a surface-doped transition metal dichalcogenide

Metal-insulator transition (MIT) driven by many-body interactions is an important phenomenon in condensed matter physics. Exotic phases always emerge around the metal-insulator transition points where quantum fluctuations arise from a competition among spin, charge, orbital, and lattice degrees of freedom. Two-dimensional (2D) materials are a large class of materials. Their simple structure, low dimensionality, and highly tunable carrier density make them an ideal platform for exploring exotic phases. However, the many-body interactions are normally weak in most 2D materials, hence, the correlation-related phenomena attract little attention in the studies of 2D materials for a long period. Recently, people found that the many-body interactions can be enhanced in 2D hetrostructures or artificially-creased 2D structures. Correlation-related phenomena were found in many interesting systems, such as LaAlO3/SrTiO3, twisted bilayer graphene, etc.

Time-expanded phase-sensitive optical time-domain reflectometry

Distributed optical fiber sensing (DOFS) is currently a mature technology that allows 'transforming' a conventional fiber optic into a continuous array of individual sensors, which are distributed along its length. Between the panoply of techniques developed in the field of DOFS, those based on phase-sensitive optical time-domain reflectometry (ΦOTDR) have gained a great deal of attention, mainly due to their ability to measure strain and temperature perturbations in real time. These unique features, along with other advantages of distributed sensors (reduced weight, electromagnetic immunity and small size) make ΦOTDR sensors an excellent solution for monitoring large infrastructures (like bridges and pipelines), especially when considering that their cost scales inversely to the number of sensing points, and its resolution can achieve a few meters.

A simple laser for quantum-like classical light

Tailoring light is much like tailoring cloth, cutting and snipping to turn a bland fabric into one with a desired pattern. In the case of light, the tailoring is usually done in the spatial degrees of freedom, such as its amplitude and phase (the 'pattern' of light), and its polarization, while the cutting and snipping might be controlled with spatial light modulators and the like. This burgeoning field is known as structured light, and is pushing the limits in what we can do with light, enabling us to see smaller, focus tighter, image with wider fields of view, probe with fewer photons, and to pack information into light for new high-bandwidth communications. Structured light has also been used to test the classical-quantum boundary, pushing the limits with what classical light can do for quantum processes, and vice versa. This has opened the intriguing possibility of creating classical light that has quantum-like properties—as if it is 'classically entangled.' But how to create and control such states of light, and how far can one push the limits?

Metasurfaces for manipulating terahertz waves

THz waves have a plethora of applications ranging from biomedical and medical examinations, imaging, environmental monitoring, to wireless communications, because of abundant spectral information, low photon energy, strong penetrability, and shorter wavelength. THz waves with technological advances not only determined by high-efficiency sources and detectors but also decided by a variety of high-quality THz components/functional devices. However, traditional THz devices should be thick enough to realize the desired wave-manipulating functions, hindering the development of THz integrated systems and applications. Although metamaterials have shown groundbreaking discoveries due to tunable electric permittivity and magnetic permeability of a meta-atom, they are limited by technical challenges of fabrication and high loss of the metal-based unit cell.

Taking microelectronics to a new dimension

Metallic microstructures are the key components in almost every current or emerging technology. For example, with the next wireless communication standard (6G) being established, the need for advanced components and especially antennas is unmet. The drive to yet higher frequencies and deeper integration goes hand in hand with miniaturization and fabrication technologies with on-chip capability. Via direct laser writing—an additive manufacturing technology that offers sub-micron precision and feature sizes—highly sophisticated and integrated components come into reach.

Astronomy and Space news

B2 1420+32 is a changing-look blazar, study finds

An international team of astronomers has performed multi-wavelength photometric and spectroscopic observations of a blazar known as B2 1420+32. The observational campaign found that the object exhibits a large scale spectral variability and is the so-called "changing-look" blazar. The findings are reported in a paper published March 15 on

Algorithms inspired by social networks reveal lifecycle of substorms, a key element of space weather

Space weather often manifests as substorms, where a beautiful auroral display such as the Northern Lights is accompanied by an electrical current in space which has effects at earth that can interfere with and damage power distribution and electrical systems. Now, the lifecycle of these auroral substorms has been revealed using social media-inspired mathematical tools to analyse space weather observations across the Earth's surface.

Keeping track of spacecraft as Earth's water alters its spin

Mass is constantly being redistributed around our planet, as Earth's atmosphere, oceans and other bodies of water on and under the surface melt, shift and stir. This mass redistribution alters Earth's center of gravity, which in turn speeds up and slows down the planet's spin—and so the length of the day—as well as changing the orientation of its spin axis. These changes to Earth's spin and orientation occur over relatively short timescales of days and weeks, and threaten communication between ground stations and missions in orbit and across the solar system.

New binocular Nova Cas 2021 flares in Cassiopeia

It began, as all modern astronomical alerts seem to, with one tweet, then two. Early on the morning of Friday, March 19, we started seeing word that a nova was spotted in the constellation of Cassiopeia the Queen, near its border with Cepheus. At the time, the nova was at magnitude +10 "with a bullet," and still brightening. A formal notice came that same night from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) with Alert Notice 735 on the discovery of the first nova in Cassiopeia for 2021, Nova Cassiopeiae 2021, or N Cas 2021.

Image: Mont Mercou on Mars

Here are a few stunning views of the Curiosity Rover's current location, Mont Mercou in Gale Crater on Mars. This towering outcrop provides a great look at layered sedimentary rock structures. On Earth, it's common to find layered rock like the ones within this cliff face, especially where there were once lakes. The pancake-like layers of sediment are compressed and cemented to form a rock record of the planet's history.

Technology news

Control system helps several drones team up to deliver heavy packages

Many parcel delivery drones of the future are expected to handle packages weighing five pounds or less, a restriction that would allow small, standardized UAVs to handle a large percentage of the deliveries now done by ground vehicles. But will that relegate heavier packages to slower delivery by conventional trucks and vans?

Study reveals plunge in lithium-ion battery costs

The cost of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used for phones, laptops, and cars has fallen dramatically over the last three decades, and has been a major driver of the rapid growth of those technologies. But attempting to quantify that cost decline has produced ambiguous and conflicting results that have hampered attempts to project the technology's future or devise useful policies and research priorities.

3D fluorescence microscopy gets a boost using recurrent neural networks

Rapid 3D microscopic imaging of fluorescent samples has numerous applications in physical and biomedical sciences. Given the limited axial range that a single 2D image can provide, 3D fluorescence imaging often requires time-consuming mechanical scanning of samples using a dense sampling grid. In addition to being slow and tedious, this approach also introduces additional light exposure on the sample, which might be toxic and cause unwanted damage, such as photo-bleaching.

Identifying banknote fingerprints can stop counterfeits on streets

Since the introduction of plastic (polymer) banknotes in 2016, the number of counterfeit notes on the streets has increased, however, researchers from Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick have developed a novel technique called Polymer Substrate Fingerprinting, which identifies every banknote's fingerprint which is unique and unclonable.

Mussel sensors pave the way for new environmental monitoring tools

Researchers at North Carolina State University have designed and demonstrated a new system that allows them to remotely monitor the behavior of freshwater mussels. The system could be used to alert researchers to the presence of toxic substances in aquatic ecosystems.

DARPA announces progress in Air Combat Evolution program

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has revealed strides in its Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. Midway through Phase 1, the program has accomplished several goals on the path toward live subscale aircraft dogfights in Phase 2 further into 2021.

Nintendo teams up with Pokemon Go creator for smartphone games

Japanese games giant Nintendo is teaming up with the US firm behind runaway hit Pokemon Go to develop augmented reality smartphone games, the two companies said Tuesday.

China's Baidu debuts in Hong Kong after $3.1 bn IPO

Chinese search engine Baidu debuted on Hong Kong's stock exchange Tuesday after raising $3.1 billion in its initial public offering, the latest mainland tech giant to flock to the financial hub.

Artificial intelligence revolution offers benefits and challenges

Australia could once again have a globally competitive manufacturing sector by using automation driven by artificial intelligence (AI). That's the view of University of Adelaide researchers who are aiming to play a major role in the development of AI which is poised to reshape the global economy, bringing challenges and opportunities.

During emergencies, social media is a critical channel for warnings

A plume of smoke hung over the Houston area for days in March 2019 after storage tanks containing hazardous chemicals ignited at a Deer Park facility.

Sweden's fastest supercomputer for AI is now online

Berzelius is now Sweden's fastest supercomputer for AI and machine learning, and has been installed in the National Supercomputer Centre at Linköping University. A donation of EUR 29.5 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has made the construction of the new supercomputer possible.

Nintendo's colorful 'Pikmin' video game will be inspiration for 'Pokémon Go' maker's next augmented reality release

Niantic Labs, the maker of "Pokémon Go," is teaming with Nintendo for a new augmented reality video game based on the spritelike "Pikmin."

Pandemic exacerbates challenges for international energy transition

The COVID-19 Crisis is deepening the divide between energy transition frontrunners and laggards. In a new publication, researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam present an overview of the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the energy sector. Their findings show that low- and middle-income countries need more support in their efforts to ditch fossil fuels.

Underwater swimming robot responds with feedback from soft 'lateral line'

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Germany, from Seoul National University in Korea and from the Harvard University in the US, successfully developed a predictive model and closed-loop controller of a soft robotic fish, designed to actively adjust its undulation amplitude to changing flow conditions and other external disturbances. Their work "Modeling and Control of a Soft Robotic Fish with Integrated Soft Sensing" was published in Wiley's Advanced Intelligent Systems journal, in a special issue on "Energy Storage and Delivery in Robotic Systems."

Are video games 'essential culture'? French lockdown stirs debate

Confusion over France's new partial lockdown has accidentally reignited an old debate: are video games works of art or just another computer product?

Streaming drives 7.4% global music growth in 2020

The global recorded music business grew by 7.4 percent last year, an industry body said Tuesday, as streaming continued to drive a fast-paced recovery from the doldrums of the piracy era.

Telegram app raises $1 bn by selling bonds: founder

The encrypted messaging app Telegram has raised over $1 billion by selling bonds to foreign investors, its Russia-born founder Pavel Durov said Tuesday.

Facebook annual developers event adapts to 'changed world'

Facebook on Tuesday said its once grand annual gathering of software developers will be a one-day, online event this June, potentially lacking an appearance by top executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook hit by French lawsuit over hate speech

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders announced Tuesday that it has filed a lawsuit against Facebook in France, saying the website breaks its own terms by failing to protect users against hate speech.

Chat platform Discord reported to be mulling sale

The US-based Discord chat platform popular with video game players is exploring offering itself for sale for more than $10 billion, reports said Tuesday.

Struggling with COVID fatigue? Citigroup will roll out 'Zoom Free Fridays' to give workers a break

Citigroup employees will get a weekly break from Zoom, and a day off in May in a bid to battle the fatigue plaguing many workers who've been glued to screens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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