Science X Newsletter Thursday, Apr 1

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 1, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

African elephants only occupy a fraction of their potential range

How the Chicxulub impactor gave rise to modern rainforests

Whisker simulation gives insight into mammals' sense of touch

Climate change cut global agricultural productivity 21% since 1960s

Direct 2D-to-3D transformation of pen drawings

Lakes on Greenland Ice Sheet can drain huge amounts of water, even in winter

Man's Ebola relapse spawned dozens of new cases in Africa

Ancient coins may solve mystery of murderous 1600s pirate

Melting ice sheets caused sea levels to rise up to 18 meters

Possible trigger for Crohn's disease identified

Genome sequencing shows coronavirus variation drives pandemic surges

Where we live can affect male reproductive health, finds new study

Skin deep: Aquatic skin adaptations of whales and hippos evolved independently

How brain cells repair their DNA reveals 'hot spots' of aging and disease

Improving equity in the physics of medical devices

Physics news

Direct 2D-to-3D transformation of pen drawings

Pen drawings can allow simple, inexpensive and intuitive two-dimensional (2D) fabrication. Materials scientists aim to integrate such pen drawings to develop 3D objects. In a new report now published on Science Advances, See Woo Song et al. developed a new 3D fabrication method to directly transform pen-drawn 2D precursors into 3D geometries. The team facilitated the 2D-to-3D transformation of pen drawings using surface tension driven capillary peeling and floating of the dried ink film after dipping the drawing into an aqueous monomer solution. By selectively controlling and anchoring the parts of a 2D precursor, Song et al. transformed a 2D drawing into the designed 3D structure. They then fixed the transformed 3D geometry using structural reinforcement using surface-initiated polymerization. The scientists transformed simple pen-drawn 2D structures into complex 3D architectures to accomplish freestyle rapid prototyping with pen drawings including the mass production of 3D objects through roll-to-roll processing.

Plasma jets stabilize water to splash less

A study by KAIST researchers revealed that an ionized gas jet blowing onto water, also known as a 'plasma jet," produces a more stable interaction with the water's surface compared to a neutral gas jet. This finding reported in the April 1 issue of Nature will help improve the scientific understanding of plasma-liquid interactions and their practical applications in a wide range of industrial fields in which fluid control technology is used, including biomedical engineering, chemical production, and agriculture and food engineering.

Physicists observe new phase in Bose-Einstein condensate of light particles

About 10 years ago, researchers at the University of Bonn produced an extreme aggregate photon state, a single "super-photon" made up of many thousands of individual light particles, and presented a completely new light source. The state is called an optical Bose-Einstein condensate and has captivated many physicists ever since, because this exotic world of light particles is home to its very own physical phenomena. Researchers led by Prof. Dr. Martin Weitz, who discovered the super photon, and theoretical physicist Prof. Dr. Johann Kroha now report a new observation: a so-called overdamped phase, a previously unknown phase transition within the optical Bose-Einstein condensate. The study has been published in the journal Science.

Search for skyrmion phenomenon finds even stranger magnetic beaded necklace

Physicists on the hunt for a rarely seen magnetic spin texture have discovered another object that bears its hallmarks, hidden in the structure of ultra-thin magnetic films, that they have called an incommensurate spin crystal.

New Los Alamos technology detects thermal neutrons in aircraft

A new technology developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Honeywell is providing needed atmospheric environment information to the aerospace industry. The device, called TinMan, has quantified the number of thermal neutrons, particles created by natural solar radiation—giving the aerospace industry a standard by which it can evaluate its semiconductor parts.

Go ahead for dark matter experiment

Neutrinos are the shyest elementary particles known to exist. At this moment billions of them are shooting through each square centimeter of your body.

Spin-to-charge conversion achieves 95% overall qubit readout fidelity

A team led by Professor Du Jiangfeng and Professor Wang Ya from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Key Laboratory of Microscale Magnetic Resonance of the University of Science and Technology of China put forward an innovative spin-to-charge conversion method to achieve high-fidelity readout of qubits, stepping closer towards fault-tolerant quantum computing.

2D materials for conducting hole currents from grain boundaries in perovskite solar cells

Grain boundaries (GBs) in PSCs have been found to be detrimental to the photovoltaic performance of the devices. Numerous papers reported that the defects in perovskite GBs should be passivated by suitable materials, such as quaternary ammonium halide, fullerene derivatives and CH3NH3I, to alleviate carrier recombination and consequently improve the device performance.

Astronomy and Space news

NASA's Roman mission predicted to find 100,000 transiting planets

NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will create enormous cosmic panoramas, helping us answer questions about the evolution of our universe. Astronomers also expect the mission to find thousands of planets using two different techniques as it surveys a wide range of stars in the Milky Way.

Distant, spiralling stars give clues to the forces that bind sub-atomic particles

Space scientists at the University of Bath in the UK have found a new way to probe the internal structure of neutron stars, giving nuclear physicists a novel tool for studying the structures that make up matter at an atomic level.

NASA's InSight detects two sizable quakes on Mars

NASA's InSight lander has detected two strong, clear quakes originating in a location of Mars called Cerberus Fossae—the same place where two strong quakes were seen earlier in the mission. The new quakes have magnitudes of 3.3 and 3.1; the previous quakes were magnitude 3.6 and 3.5. InSight has recorded over 500 quakes to date, but because of their clear signals, these are four of the best quake records for probing the interior of the planet.

NASA OSIRIS-REx's final asteroid observation run

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission is on the brink of discovering the extent of the mess it made on asteroid Bennu's surface during last fall's sample collection event. On Apr. 7, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will get one last close encounter with Bennu as it performs a final flyover to capture images of the asteroid's surface. While performing the flyover, the spacecraft will observe Bennu from a distance of about 2.3 miles (3.7 km)—the closest it's been since the Touch-and-Go Sample Collection event on Oct. 20, 2020.

NASA's Europa Clipper builds hardware, moves toward assembly

Europa Clipper, NASA's upcoming flagship mission to the outer solar system, has passed a significant milestone, completing its Critical Design Review. During the review, experts examined the detailed design of the spacecraft to ensure that it is ready to complete construction. The mission is now able to complete hardware fabrication and testing, and move toward the assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its payload of sophisticated science instruments.

Technology news

Doubling the charging-recharging cycle of lithium batteries

The promotion of electric cars has dramatically increased the demand for lithium-ion batteries. However, cobalt and nickel, the main cathode materials for the batteries, are not abundant. If the consumption continues, it will inevitably elevate the costs in the long run, so scientists have been actively developing alternative materials. A joint research team co-led by a scientist from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has developed a much more stable, manganese-based cathode material. The new material has higher capacity and is more durable than the existing cobalt and nickel cathode materials—90% of capacity is retained even when the number of charging-recharging cycles doubled. Their findings shed lights on developing low cost and high efficiency manganese-based cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers develop 'explainable' artificial intelligence algorithm

Researchers from the University of Toronto and LG AI Research have developed an "explainable" artificial intelligence (XAI) algorithm that can help identify and eliminate defects in display screens.

ThermoBots: Microrobots on the water

This research project was originated from the collaboration between two institutions with their respective expertise: The TIPs laboratory of the ULB, in Belgium, which is a group dedicated to the study of transport phenomena and fluid interfaces, and the AS2M department of the FEMTO-ST institute, in France, specialized in microrobotics. And thus, ThermoBot was born, a new kind of manipulation platform working on the air-water interface. ThermoBot uses an original actuation mechanism, an infrared laser that locally heats the air-water interface, triggering so-called thermocapillary flows. Combining our specialties in interfacial phenomena and robotics, we were able to use this flow to displace floating components in a controlled manner.

Cohesive circuit protection for wearable electronics

Most electronic devices aren't waterproof, much to your irritation if a sprinkler suddenly sprays you while you're talking outside on your cellphone. Some electronics can be made at least water-resistant by, for example, using special glues to fuse outer components together. Flexible electronics are another story. Their sealant materials must be able to bend, yet with current technology it's inevitable that eventually such a sealant will crack or separate from the device—and there goes your water-resistant coating.

New water vapor condenser takes cues from darkling beetle

Access to clean water is a huge issue across the globe. Even in areas with water resources, a lack of infrastructure or reliable energy means purifying that water is sometimes extremely difficult.

A robot that senses hidden objects

In recent years, robots have gained artificial vision, touch, and even smell. "Researchers have been giving robots human-like perception," says MIT Associate Professor Fadel Adib. In a new paper, Adib's team is pushing the technology a step further. "We're trying to give robots superhuman perception," he says.

'Neutrobots' smuggle drugs to the brain without alerting the immune system

A team of researchers from the Harbin Institute of Technology along with partners at the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, both in China, has developed a tiny robot that can ferry cancer drugs through the blood-brain barrier (BBB) without setting off an immune reaction. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the group describes their robot and tests with mice. Junsun Hwang and Hongsoo Choi, with the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology in Korea, have published a Focus piece in the same journal issue on the work done by the team in China.

A Chrome OS bug might reveal user location history

The Committee on Liberatory Information Technology has announced a long-standing Chromebook bug that could reveal user location history. Evidently already on the radar of Google, the platform has a feature allowing anyone with physical access to your device to connect as a guest and view your Wi-Fi logs.

Statistical solution to processing very large datasets efficiently with memory limit

Any high-performance computing should be able to handle a vast amount of data in a short amount of time—an important aspect on which entire fields (data science, Big Data) are based. Usually, the first step to managing a large amount of data is either to classify it based on well-defined attributes or—as is typical in machine learning—"cluster" them into groups such that data points in the same group are more similar to one another than to those in another group. However, for an extremely large dataset, which can have trillions of sample points, it is tedious to even group data points into a single cluster without huge memory requirements.

Tailor-made power grids for areas with low electrification dramatically improve quality of life

The fact that electricity not only provides the luminous displays of our numerous gadgets, but also enables healthy, clean living spaces or even access to education in large parts of the world is easily forgotten in our highly digitalized world. Many developing countries are stuck in a vicious circle of poverty with their low electrification rates. Without lighting at home, there is a lack of opportunities for value-adding work besides agriculture. Children can no longer do their homework or learn to read in the evening. Moreover, there are health problems, often caused by smoking fireplaces in the house or sooty kerosene lamps. Access to clean energy is generally considered a springboard to generate a higher income and thus escape poverty. This is why it has been identified as one of the 17 UN goals for sustainable development.

Global survey analyzes Gen Z and Millennial's use of media to understand COVID-19 pandemic

New research reveals while mainstream media remains the main go-to news source for Gen Z and Millennials, young people worldwide are relying on multiple platforms, such as social media, for information on the coronavirus (COVD-19) pandemic.

Economical wireless communication with more efficient intelligent sensors

In today's world, more and more devices are being wirelessly connected to one another with the aid of intelligent sensors. As this Internet of Things keeps growing, however, it is consuming more and more power. To address this issue, Fraunhofer's ZEPOWEL lighthouse project has prompted the development of hardware that not only makes the sensors energy-efficient, but even enables them to save energy. As a starting point, the project is focusing on two sensor nodes—one to control machines and one to measure the air quality in the city.

Artificial intelligence for reducing food waste

In Germany, around 12 million tons of food end up in the trash every year. Over 30 percent of that is already destroyed in the production process. In the Resource-efficient Intelligent Foodchain ("REIF") project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV is working with partners to combat this food waste. In this undertaking, artificial intelligence can be a valuable asset. Cheese, bread, meat, and other food products can be efficiently produced using data-based algorithms. Machine learning methods can optimize sales and production planning as well as process and plant control systems.

Better protection for pedestrians: A radar sensor system gives early warning

At busy transport hubs where cars mix with cyclists, buses, and streetcars, it can be impossible for drivers to keep track of everything around them. A radar sensor system could solve this problem by issuing an early warning for drivers and self-driving vehicles when a pedestrian runs toward the road or the car. The system, developed by Fraunhofer researchers, will even be able to interpret and understand entire situations on a road with the aid of artificial intelligence.

Green hydrogen: Transportation in the natural gas grid

Researchers at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have developed a technology for the energy-efficient and economic separation of hydrogen from natural gas. This membrane technology makes it possible for the two substances to be routed through the national natural gas grid together and then isolated from one another at their final destination. A major step forward in the transportation and distribution of hydrogen as an energy source.

Taiwan's TSMC plans $100 billion investment to meet demand

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company said Thursday it was planning to invest $100 billion over the next three years to meet soaring demand as a global shortage of chips hits the auto and other industries.

Smart glass has a bright future

Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of primary energy consumption and 36 percent of total CO2 emissions. And, as we know, CO2 emissions trigger global warming, sea level rise, and profound changes in ocean ecosystems. Substituting the inefficient glazing areas of buildings with energy efficient smart glazing windows has great potential to decrease energy consumption for lighting and temperature control.

EXPLAINER: Starving for more chips in a tech-hungry world

As the U.S. economy rebounds from its pandemic slump, a vital cog is in short supply: the computer chips that power a wide range of products that connect, transport and entertain us in a world increasingly dependent on technology.

Large Florida school district hit by ransomware attack

The computer system of one of the nation's largest school districts was hacked by a criminal gang that encrypted district data and demanded $40 million in ransom or it would erase the files and post students' and employees' personal information online.

Automakers report higher US sales, but chip shortage clouds outlook

Carmakers reported higher first-quarter US sales on Thursday amid rising consumer confidence, but a semiconductor shortage that has crimped production raises questions about supply in coming months.

Amazon to bring workers back to offices by fall

Amazon plans to have its employees return to the office by fall as the tech giant transitions away from the remote work it implemented for many workers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As US newspapers slide toward abyss, a bidding war breaks out

Even as US newspapers sink toward an abyss, an unusual bidding war has broken out for a major chain, pitting hedge fund operators against civic-minded billionaires seeking to promote a nonprofit model for the struggling industry.

New machine learning approach speeds up search for molecular conformers

Conformer search continues to be a topic of great interest in computational chemistry, drug design and material science. It is a challenging endeavor due to the high dimensionality of the search space and the computational cost of accurate quantum chemical methods needed to determine the molecular structure and energy. Previously, searching for molecular conformers meant that thousands of structures needed to be relaxed first. Therefore, this process took up considerable time and computational resources even when applied to small molecules.

Quick, easy access to machine data

Data is the currency of the future. But how can companies access the immense quantities of data generated by their machinery and use it to modernize production? Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA have developed a software called StationConnector that reads out the data and makes it available to any application. These Fraunhofer IPA computer scientists have started an independent company to launch the software on the market: a spin-off called Data Coffee.

Google US workers can return to offices in April in a limited capacity

Google said some of its U.S. employees could return to offices voluntarily as soon as next month.

Russian 'anti-Apple' law requiring local apps takes effect

Smartphones, tablets and computers sold in Russia must now come with pre-installed domestic software and apps from Thursday in a new law seen by critics as another attempt to curb online freedom.

After hack, officials draw attention to supply chain threats

The U.S. government is working to draw attention to supply chain vulnerabilities, an issue that received particular attention late last year after suspected Russian hackers gained access to federal agencies and private corporations by sneaking malicious code into widely used software.

GMs Q1 sales rise in US, but chip shortage hits inventories

General Motors reported higher first-quarter US auto sales Thursday amid rising consumer confidence, but car inventories fell sharply due to the global semiconductor shortage.

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