Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Apr 21

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 21, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

DLL: A map-based localization framework for aerial robots

In calculating the social cost of methane, equity matters

New process makes 'biodegradable' plastics truly compostable

Inspired by origami: Next-generation inflatable buildings maintain their shape without constant input of pressure

Lifelong burden of high stress hormones in female baboons shortens life expectancy

Using floodwaters to weather droughts

Unusual binary system detected with LAMOST

Bubble with titanium triggers titanic explosions

Astronomers release new all-sky map of the Milky Way's outer reaches

Humungous flare from sun's nearest neighbor breaks records

Study provides detailed look at intriguing property of chiral materials

Simple treatment during pregnancy can protect baby from memory problems in later life

Handwashing responsible for bacteria in sinks, largest non-hospital study shows

Simple oral hygiene could help reduce COVID-19 severity, says study

Walk the dinosaur: New biomechanical model shows Tyrannosaurus rex in a swinging gait

Physics news

Study provides detailed look at intriguing property of chiral materials

In nature, many molecules possess a property called chirality, which means that they cannot be superimposed on their mirror images (like a left and right hand).

Bringing neutron stars down to Earth

Imagine taking all of the water in Lake Michigan—more than a quadrillion gallons—and squeezing it into a 4-gallon bucket, the kind you'd find at a hardware store.

Scientists capture first ever image of an electron's orbit within an exciton

In a world first, researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have captured an image showing the internal orbits, or spatial distribution, of particles in an exciton—a goal that had eluded scientists for almost a century. Their findings are published in Science Advances.

Lighting it up: Fast material manipulation through a laser

Researchers from the Physical Chemistry Department of the Fritz Haber Institute and the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg have found out that ultrafast switches in material properties can be prompted by laser pulses—and why. This knowledge may enable new transistor concepts.

Vibrational microscopy goes super resolution

True super-resolution imaging beyond the diffraction limit remains a major challenge for far-field Raman microscopy especially in biological applications. Harnessing Stimulated Raman Excited Fluorescence (SREF) as an ultrasensitive vibrational contrast, a team at Columbia University has recently invented a novel super-resolution vibrational microscopy. Their new method opens up super-resolution, nanometer-spectral-resolution multicolor vibrational imaging of biological systems.

Astronomy and Space news

Unusual binary system detected with LAMOST

Using the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), astronomers have discovered an unusual binary system. The newly found binary, designated LAMOST J0140355+392651 (or J0140 for short), consists of a bloated, low-mass proto-white dwarf and a massive white dwarf companion. The finding is reported in a paper published April 14 on arXiv.org.

Bubble with titanium triggers titanic explosions

Scientists have found fragments of titanium blasting out of a famous supernova. This discovery, made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, could be a major step in pinpointing exactly how some giant stars explode.

Astronomers release new all-sky map of the Milky Way's outer reaches

Astronomers using data from NASA and the ESA (European Space Agency) telescopes have released a new all-sky map of the outermost region of our galaxy. Known as the galactic halo, this area lies outside the swirling spiral arms that form the Milky Way's recognizable central disk and is sparsely populated with stars. Though the halo may appear mostly empty, it is also predicted to contain a massive reservoir of dark matter, a mysterious and invisible substance thought to make up the bulk of all the mass in the universe.

Humungous flare from sun's nearest neighbor breaks records

Scientists have spotted the largest flare ever recorded from the sun's nearest neighbor, the star Proxima Centauri.

Science without gravity at the International Space Station

In two decades orbiting the Earth the International Space Station has become a cutting-edge cosmic laboratory, with astronauts researching everything from black holes to disease and even gardening in microgravity.

Hide and seek: How NASA's Lucy mission team discovered Eurybates' satellite

On Jan. 9, 2020, NASA's Lucy mission officially announced that it would be visiting not seven, but eight asteroids. As it turns out, Eurybates, one of the asteroids along Lucy's path, has a small satellite.

NASA's NICER probes the squeezability of neutron stars

Matter in the hearts of neutron stars—dense remnants of exploded massive stars—takes the most extreme form we can measure. Now, thanks to data from NASA's Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), an X-ray telescope on the International Space Station, scientists have discovered that this mysterious matter is less squeezable than some physicists predicted.

Outback radio telescope discovers dense, spinning, dead star

Astronomers have discovered a pulsar—a dense and rapidly spinning neutron star sending radio waves into the cosmos—using a low-frequency radio telescope in outback Australia.

Scientists find carbon-rich liquid water in ancient meteorite

Water is abundant in the solar system. Even beyond Earth, scientists have detected ice on the moon, in Saturn's rings and in comets, liquid water on Mars and under the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus, and traces of water vapor in the scorching atmosphere of Venus. Studies have shown that water played an important role in the early evolution and formation of the solar system. To learn more about this role, planetary scientists have searched for evidence of liquid water in extraterrestrial materials such as meteorites, most of which originate from asteroids that formed in the early history of the solar system.

Black hole is closest to Earth, among the smallest ever discovered

Scientists have discovered one of the smallest black holes on record—and the closest one to Earth found to date.

ISS sets its research scope on longer space missions

Detect harmful radiation, pilot a rover module, learn better sleep and body maintenance: astronauts aboard the International Space Station are preparing for future missions even further afield—from the Moon to, one day, Mars.

SpaceX flight to ISS postponed by one day due to weather

A crewed SpaceX mission to the International Space Station has been postponed by a day due to weather concerns downrange of the launch site, NASA said Wednesday.

Technology news

DLL: A map-based localization framework for aerial robots

To enable the efficient operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in instances where a global localization system (GPS) or an external positioning device (e.g., a laser reflector) is unavailable, researchers must develop techniques that automatically estimate a robot's pose. If the environment in which a drone operates does not change very often and one is able to build a 3D map of this environment, map-based robot localization techniques can be fairly effective.

Inspired by origami: Next-generation inflatable buildings maintain their shape without constant input of pressure

In 2016, an inflatable arch wreaked havoc at the Tour de France bicycle race when it deflated and collapsed on a cyclist, throwing him from his bike and delaying the race while officials scrambled to clear the debris from the road. Officials blamed a passing spectator's wayward belt buckle for the arch's collapse, but the real culprit was physics.

Researchers' VR walking simulator feels surprisingly close to the real thing

Despite virtual reality (VR) technology being more affordable than ever, developers have yet to achieve a sense of full immersion in a digital world. Among the greatest challenges is making the user feel as if they are walking.

Pepper the robot talks to itself to improve its interactions with people

Ever wondered why your virtual home assistant doesn't understand your questions? Or why your navigation app took you on the side street instead of the highway? In a study published April 21st in the journal iScience, Italian researchers designed a robot that "thinks out loud" so that users can hear its thought process and better understand the robot's motivations and decisions.

Both-sides-contacted solar cell sets new world record of 26 percent efficiency

A team of researchers led by Dr. Armin Richter of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE achieved a record conversion efficiency of 26.0 percent for both-sides contacted silicon solar cells. In the recently published Nature Energy article "Design Rules for High-Efficiency Both-Sides-Contacted Silicon Solar Cell with Balanced Charge Carrier Transport and Recombination Losses," Richter explains the structure of the record-breaking cell and presents fundamental design-related aspects leading to even higher efficiencies. The design of the back-side cell surface as a full-area charge-carrier collecting passivating contact was key to the success.

Do deep networks 'see' as well as humans?

A new study from the Centre for Neuroscience (CNS) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) explores how well deep neural networks compare to the human brain when it comes to visual perception.

Perovskite solar cells exceed 25% power-conversion efficiency

Perovskites are hybrid compounds that can be made from metal halides and organic constituents. Their attractive structural and electronic properties have placed them at the forefront of materials' research, with enormous potential for transforming a wide range of applications, including in solar cells, LED lights, lasers, and photodetectors.

Mechanical engineers develop new high-performance artificial muscle technology

In the field of robotics, researchers are continually looking for the fastest, strongest, most efficient and lowest-cost ways to actuate, or enable, robots to make the movements needed to carry out their intended functions.

A new pathway to stable, low-cost, flexible electronics

Imagine a foldable smartphone or a rollable tablet device that is powerful, reliable and, perhaps most importantly, affordable.

Study: 'Fingerprint' for 3D printer accurate 92% of time

3D printing is transforming everything from fashion and health care to transportation and toys. But this rapidly evolving technology, also known as additive manufacturing, can threaten national security and intellectual property rights.

A growing problem of 'deepfake geography': How AI falsifies satellite images

A fire in Central Park seems to appear as a smoke plume and a line of flames in a satellite image. Colorful lights on Diwali night in India, seen from space, seem to show widespread fireworks activity.

Tag Barnakle threat actor compromises over 120 more adservers

Around one year ago, the security research company Confiant revealed a threat actor group called Tag Barnakle that targeted Revive Adserver instances on a mass scale. Now, however, Confiant has discovered that their publicization of Tag Barnakle's activity hardly detracted from the group's confidence.

Apple unveils new products, schedules privacy crackdown

Apple spruced up its product line at an event Tuesday while slipping in quiet notice of a software update, now due next week, designed to enhance the privacy of iPhone users at the expense of digital advertisers such as Facebook.

Netflix's subscriber growth, stock zapped as pandemic eases

Netflix's pandemic-fueled subscriber growth is slowing far faster than anticipated as people who have been cooped at home are able to get out and do other things again.

Instagram lets users filter insults in private message requests

Instagram started offering users on Wednesday the option to filter incoming direct message requests for hurtful language, a step aimed at showing the Facebook-owned social network is serious about reducing online harassment.

EU unveils AI rules to temper Big Brother fears

The EU unveils a plan Wednesday to regulate the sprawling field of artificial intelligence, aimed at making Europe a leader in the new tech revolution while reassuring the public against "Big Brother"-like abuses.

Taiwan's worst drought in decades deepens chip shortage jitters

In the foothills of Taiwan's mountainous spine, reservoirs are running dry as the island experiences its worst drought in decades—a crisis that risks deepening an already acute global semiconductor shortage.

Max Schrems, reluctant Austrian David to internet Goliaths

Austrian online privacy activist Max Schrems has taken on a new battle: taking Google to task for the "illegal" tracking code on its Android mobile phones.

Why the semiconductor chip shortage could be a good thing

A shortage of the semiconductor chips that serve as the brainpower in millions of electronic devices has stalled the production of everything from cars to cell phones and sent companies racing to buy up as many of the chips as possible before supply runs out.

Robots benefit special education students

Researchers at the University of Twente have discovered that primary school children in both regular and special needs schools make strides when they learn together with a robot. On 30 April, both Daniel Davison and Bob Schadenberg will obtain their Ph.D.s from UT, with comparable research but working in different contexts.

Electric cars could make the roads safer – here's how

Electric cars have the potential to help in our fight against climate disaster. For example, if all cars in the UK were electric, the country's emissions would drop by 12%.

More energy-efficient powertrains for hybrid and electric trucks

In order to combat the rise in the average temperature on earth, the emission of greenhouse gases will have to be reduced. In the transport sector, one way to do this is to increase the energy efficiency of the driveline of long-haul trucks. In recent years, several solutions have been introduced to improve the energy efficiency of these vehicles. Ph.D. student Frans Verbruggen used optimization studies to explore the potential of two of these promising technologies, bringing future, sustainable powertrains for trucks a step closer.

Research team training artificial intelligence to better detect small objects

Artificial intelligence (AI) is good at recognizing a single bird in an image. Where it falls short is when it tries to identify hundreds of tiny birds in an aerial photo. Yi Shang, a professor in the University of Missouri College of Engineering, and his research team have been working for three years to see where AI can improve its vision when it comes to small objects.

Energy transition is dominated by myths arising from beliefs in continuous economic growth

The Finnish energy transition is dominated by mental models drawing from competition, hierarchy and continuous economic growth shows Petra Berg's dissertation in the field of marketing at the University of Vaasa.

Statistical model predicts odds of death, tying behavior, other variables to car accidents

A predictability model built by an SMU research team can calculate the odds that certain variables—such as drunk driving or speeding 20 miles above the limit—will result in a severe car accident.

Fast mitigation of power grid instability risks

Skoltech scientists in collaboration with researchers from the University of Arizona and the Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed an approach that allows power grids to return to stability fast after demand response perturbation. Their research at the crossroads of demand response, smart grids, and power grid control was published in the journal Applied Energy.

Solar panels are contagious—but in a good way

The number of solar panels within shortest distance from a house is the most important factor in determining the likelihood of that house having a solar panel, when compared with a host of socio-economic and demographic variables. This is shown in a new study by scientists using satellite and census data of the city of Fresno in the US, and employing machine learning. Although it is known that peer effects are relevant for sustainable energy choices, very high-resolution data combined with artificial intelligence techniques were necessary to single out the paramount importance of proximity. The finding is relevant for policies that aim at a broad deployment of solar panels in order to replace unsustainable fossil fueled energy generation.

EU outlines ambitious AI regulations focused on risky uses

Risky uses of artificial intelligence that threaten people's safety or rights such as live facial scanning should be banned or tightly controlled, European Union officials said Wednesday as they outlined an ambitious package of proposed regulations to rein in the rapidly expanding technology.

Amazon begins rollout of pay-by-palm at Whole Foods near HQ

Amazon is rolling out pay-by-palm technology at some Whole Foods grocery stores near its headquarters to make paying quicker and more convenient.

US takes new aim at ransomware after most costly year

The Justice Department is taking new aim at ransomware after a year that officials say was the most costly on record for the crippling cyberattacks.

Amazon taxation becomes sticking point in talks on global levies

A U.S.-driven effort to reach a global accord on taxing big tech companies' overseas profits is getting bogged down over ensnaring one firm in particular: Amazon.com Inc.

Remember Polaroid? They just released Polaroid Go, claiming it's world's smallest analog camera

Camera maker Polaroid is back with a new device they claim is the world's smallest analog camera.

Chevron, Toyota announce alliance on hydrogen technology

Chevron and Toyota announced Wednesday a first step towards a strategic alliance to commercialize hydrogen, which is seen as an environmentally-friendly transportation fuel option.

Foxconn deal with Wisconsin lowers tax breaks to $80 million

Foxconn Technology Group will be eligible for just $80 million in taxpayer subsidies under a new contract signed Tuesday, down from nearly $3 billion it could have received under the original deal that envisioned a much larger project in southeastern Wisconsin.

Meituan raises $10 bln for self-driving cars, drone delivery

Chinese food delivery giant Meituan raised nearly $10 billion in a sale of convertible bonds and additional shares and plans to invest those funds in developing and expanding delivery technologies.

Veni, vidi, bici: Is Rome ready for a cycling 'revolution'?

With its historic seven hills, crazy traffic, cobbles and notoriously crumbling roads, Rome has never been the ideal city for cyclists—but with the coronavirus pandemic, things are changing.

Graveyard of the bikes: China's failed share-cycle scheme from above

Handlebars tight in snaking rows of colour, thousands of abandoned bicycles line an open field outside the city of Shenyang, relics of a shared bike mania that has overwhelmed China's cities.

Jaguar's electric car target should be applauded, but the challenges are many and varied

Jaguar has pledged to become a fully electric car manufacturer by 2025, phasing out diesel and internal combustion engines as part of its new push to become a luxury brand.

TikTok faces UK lawsuit over alleged kids' data breach

TikTok was hit with a legal claim in Britain on Wednesday accusing the video-sharing app of illegally collecting personal data from millions of children in Europe.

Chauvin guilty verdict: 'If Facebook can be safer for Black people, why isn't that the default setting?'

Facebook said it would take emergency steps to limit hate speech and calls for violence that "could lead to civil unrest or violence" when the verdict came down in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Airlines face another bleak year as outlook worsens

Airlines face another bleak year with steeper losses than previously forecast, as some regions struggle to speed up COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and control virus variants, an industry group said Wednesday.


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