Science X Newsletter Monday, May 31

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 31, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Duetting songbirds 'mute' the musical mind of their partner to stay in sync

New 'Swiss Army knife' cleans up water pollution

Phonon catalysis could lead to a new field

Isolating an elusive missing link

Pfizer jab less effective, still protects against Indian strain: study

Chinese cargo spacecraft docks with orbital station

Beer byproduct mixed with manure proves an excellent pesticide

Best of Last Week: Solar storms coming, mercury in glacial meltwater, and a food supplement reduces anxiety

Tidal debris detected in a nearby galaxy group

Global warming already responsible for one in three heat-related deaths

Ethnic diversity helps identify more genomic regions linked to diabetes-related traits

Medical AI models rely on 'shortcuts' that could lead to misdiagnosis of COVID-19

Scientists discover a new genetic form of ALS in children

Overconfidence in news judgement

Emotional regulation technique may be effective in disrupting compulsive cocaine addiction

Physics news

Phonon catalysis could lead to a new field

Batteries and fuel cells often rely on a process known as ion diffusion to function. In ion diffusion, ionized atoms move through solid materials, similar to the process of water being absorbed by rice when cooked. Just like cooking rice, ion diffusion is incredibly temperature-dependent and requires high temperatures to happen fast.

Researchers discover that a mechanical cue is at the origin of cell death decision

In many species including humans, the cells responsible for reproduction, the germ cells, are often highly interconnected and share their cytoplasm. In the hermaphrodite nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, up to 500 germ cells are connected to each other in the gonad, the tissue that produces eggs and sperm. These cells are arranged around a central cytoplasmic "corridor" and exchange cytoplasmic material fostering cell growth, and ultimately produce oocytes ready to be fertilized.

New take on machine learning helps us 'scale up' phase transitions

Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have enhanced "super-resolution" machine learning techniques to study phase transitions. They identified key features of how large arrays of interacting particles behave at different temperatures by simulating tiny arrays before using a convolutional neural network to generate a good estimate of what a larger array would look like using correlation configurations. The massive saving in computational cost may realize unique ways of understanding how materials behave.

Astronomy and Space news

Chinese cargo spacecraft docks with orbital station

An automated spacecraft docked with China's new space station Sunday carrying fuel and supplies for its future crew, the Chinese space agency announced.

Tidal debris detected in a nearby galaxy group

Using the MeerKAT telescope, an international team of astronomers has identified wide-spread tidal debris in a nearby galaxy group known as NGC 7232. The newly found structure is composed of cold neutral atomic hydrogen and extends over 450,000 light years. The finding is reported in a paper published May 21 on

Japanese space agency to put Transformable Lunar Robot on the moon

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced on its website that the agency has plans to put a Transformable Lunar Robot on the moon. In their announcement, they note that the goal of the robot deployment is to learn more about the surface of the moon as part of preparation for the deployment of a future crewed rover.

China launches cargo rocket with supplies for space station

A rocket carrying supplies for China's new space station blasted off Saturday from an island in the South China Sea.

China to send 3 male astronauts to its space station in June

A three-man crew of astronauts will blast off in June for a three-month mission on China's new space station, according to a space official who was the country's first astronaut in orbit.

Destination Moon: Is it time for us to send astronauts back?

The series For All Mankind (2019) is a fictional alternate history that imagines a world where the Soviet Union was the first power to send an astronaut to the moon. From that starting point, the two rival superpowers compete to establish their own lunar station.

HIRAX: Looking deep into the universe for answers about dark matter

How is matter distributed within our universe? And what is the mysterious substance known as dark energy made of? HIRAX, a new large telescope array comprising hundreds of small radio telescopes, should provide some answers. Among those instrumental in developing the system are physicists from ETH Zurich.

Technology news

Medical AI models rely on 'shortcuts' that could lead to misdiagnosis of COVID-19

Artificial intelligence promises to be a powerful tool for improving the speed and accuracy of medical decision-making to improve patient outcomes. From diagnosing disease, to personalizing treatment, to predicting complications from surgery, AI could become as integral to patient care in the future as imaging and laboratory tests are today.

Sony launches motion-sensing music effects controller, Motion Sonic

A long time in the making, Sony has just announced the upcoming release of Motion Sonic, a new technology that allows music lovers to track their own movements as they play music. Whether you are strumming a guitar or waving your hands to a beat, Motion Sonic ensures your movements remain in sync with the melody at hand.

Dangerously trending: driverless Tesla videos on social media

It was a boozy joyride captured for TikTok with a soundtrack provided by Justin Bieber and with a Tesla serving as the "Designated Driver" for the night.

Ultrasonic welding makes parts for NASA missions, commercial industry

A manufacturing innovation that has applications for NASA spacecraft is being transferred to the private sector to support a variety of industries here on Earth.

It's crystal clear: Crushed glass could save our sand

Crushed wine bottles and other recycled glass could replace sand in vital tunneling supports, cutting construction costs and improving the sustainability of sand mining.

Unique technology gives humans a leg up on walking

An exoskeleton designed by Queen's Engineering researchers that improves walking efficiency is the subject of a new study featured in the leading academic journal Science.

Hybrid redox-flow battery with a long cycle life

Redox‑flow batteries store electrical energy in chemical compounds that are dissolved in an electrolyte. They are a particularly promising alternative to lithium‑ion batteries as stationary energy storage. A team headed by Prof. Dr. Ingo Krossing from the Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry at the University of Freiburg has succeeded in developing a non-aqueous All‑Manganese Flow battery (All-MFB) that uses sustainable manganese as its active material and has a long cycle life. The researchers present the results of their work in the latest edition of Advanced Energy Materials.

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Science X Newsletter Week 21

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for week 21:

Solar storms are back, threatening life as we know it on Earth

A few days ago, millions of tons of super-heated gas shot off from the surface of the sun and hurtled 90 million miles toward Earth.

An almost complete extinct dwarf emu egg found on King Island

A pair of researchers, one with the UK's Natural History Museum, the other a King Island historian, has found an almost complete extinct dwarf emu egg on King Island. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, Julian Hume and Christian Robertson describe the egg and compare it to other dwarf emu eggs and also with the eggs from the mainland emu.

Cosmic 2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse combines with supermoon

The first total lunar eclipse in more than two years coincides with a supermoon this week for quite a cosmic show.

Mapping the local cosmic web: Dark matter map reveals hidden bridges between galaxies

A new map of dark matter in the local universe reveals several previously undiscovered filamentary structures connecting galaxies. The map, developed using machine learning by an international team including a Penn State astrophysicist, could enable studies about the nature of dark matter as well as about the history and future of our local universe.

Scientists overhear two atoms chatting

How materials behave depends on the interactions between countless atoms. You could see this as a giant group chat in which atoms are continuously exchanging quantum information. Researchers from Delft University of Technology in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University and the Research Center Jülich have now been able to intercept a chat between two atoms. They present their findings in Science on 28 May.

Biologists construct a 'periodic table' for cell nuclei

One hundred fifty years ago, Dmitri Mendeleev created the periodic table, a system for classifying atoms based on the properties of their nuclei. This week, a team of biologists studying the tree of life has unveiled a new classification system for cell nuclei and discovered a method for transmuting one type of cell nucleus into another.

Milky Way not unusual, astronomers find

The first detailed cross-section of a galaxy broadly similar to the Milky Way, published today, reveals that our galaxy evolved gradually, instead of being the result of a violent mash-up. The finding throws the origin story of our home into doubt.

Curiosity rover captures shining clouds on Mars

Cloudy days are rare in the thin, dry atmosphere of Mars. Clouds are typically found at the planet's equator in the coldest time of year, when Mars is the farthest from the Sun in its oval-shaped orbit. But one full Martian year ago—two Earth years—scientists noticed clouds forming over NASA's Curiosity rover earlier than expected.

Researchers find Greenland glacial meltwaters rich in mercury

New research shows that concentrations of the toxic element mercury in rivers and fjords connected to the Greenland Ice Sheet are comparable to rivers in industrial China, an unexpected finding that is raising questions about the effects of glacial melting in an area that is a major exporter of seafood.

Prebiotic ethanolamine found in a molecular cloud near the center of the Milky Way

An international team of researchers has found evidence of prebiotic ethanolamine (NH2CH2CH2OH) in a molecular cloud near the center of the Milky Way galaxy. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study of the amino alcohol and why they believe it could have contributed to the development of life on earth.

Does the Milky Way move like a spinning top?

An investigation carried out by the astrophysicists of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) Žofia Chrobáková, a doctoral student at the IAC and the University of La Laguna (ULL), and Martín López Corredoira, questions one of the most interesting findings about the dynamics of the Milky Way in recent years: the precession, or the wobble in the axis of rotation of the disc warp is incorrect. The results have just been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Astronomer reveals never-before-seen detail of the center of our galaxy

New research by University of Massachusetts Amherst astronomer Daniel Wang reveals, with unprecedented clarity, details of violent phenomena in the center of our galaxy. The images, published recently in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, document an X-ray thread, G0.17-0.41, which hints at a previously unknown interstellar mechanism that may govern the energy flow and potentially the evolution of the Milky Way.

Resetting the biological clock by flipping a switch

The biological clock is present in almost all cells of an organism. As more and more evidence emerges that clocks in certain organs could be out of sync, there is a need to investigate and reset these clocks locally. Scientists from the Netherlands and Japan introduced a light-controlled on/off switch to a kinase inhibitor, which affects clock function. This gives them control of the biological clock in cultured cells and explanted tissue. They published their results on 26 May in Nature Communications.

People of color more exposed to heat islands, study finds

In nearly every major city in the U.S., people of color are exposed to more extreme urban heat than white people, a new study found.

Why the sun's atmosphere is hundreds of times hotter than its surface

The visible surface of the sun, or the photosphere, is around 6,000°C. But a few thousand kilometers above it—a small distance when we consider the size of the sun—the solar atmosphere, also called the corona, is hundreds of times hotter, reaching a million degrees celsius or higher.

Endangered Iberian lynx population jumps 10-fold

Once on the verge of extinction, the Iberian lynx population in Spain and Portugal has risen more than 10-fold over the past 18 years, the Spanish government said Friday.

Good news: Mild COVID-19 induces lasting antibody protection

Months after recovering from mild cases of COVID-19, people still have immune cells in their body pumping out antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Such cells could persist for a lifetime, churning out antibodies all the while.

A new 'gold standard' compound for generating electricity from heat

Thermoelectric power generators that make electrical power from waste heat would be a useful tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it weren't for a most vexing problem: The need to make electrical contacts to their hot side, which is often just too hot for materials that can generate a current.

Surge in nitrogen has turned sargassum into the world's largest harmful algal bloom

For centuries, pelagic Sargassum, floating brown seaweed, have grown in low nutrient waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, supported by natural nutrient sources like excretions from fishes and invertebrates, upwelling and nitrogen fixation. Using a unique historical baseline from the 1980s and comparing it to samples collected since 2010, researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and collaborators have discovered dramatic changes in the chemistry and composition of Sargassum, transforming this vibrant living organism into a toxic "dead zone."

World may breach 1.5C warming within 5 years: WMO

The world may temporarily breach the 1.5-Celsius warming mark within the next five years, according to an updated assessment of global climate trends released Thursday.

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Science X Newsletter Friday, May 28

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 28, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Declining biodiversity in wild Amazon fisheries threatens human diet

The hypothalamus predates the origin of vertebrates

Next-gen electric vehicle batteries: These are the questions we still need to answer

Driving in the snow is a team effort for AI sensors

Versatile coronavirus antibody may be starting point for broader-acting vaccines

Navigation error sends NASA's Mars helicopter on wild ride

CyLab's IoT security and privacy label effectively conveys risk, study finds

Legal mining increasingly ravages forests in megadiversity hotspot

Lessening the cost of strategies to reach the Paris Agreement

How the production of antibodies is regulated, one cell at a time

Potential new sunscreen is coral-safe and provides more UVB/UVA protection

How retroviruses become infectious

Blood test detects childhood tumors based on their epigenetic profiles

Researchers show how air pollution may contribute to loss of smell

Measuring the effects of radiotherapy on cancer may open treatment avenues

Physics news

Simulations examine performance of materials in NIF experiments

Scientists have examined the performance of pure boron, boron carbide, high-density carbon and boron nitride ablators—the material that surrounds a fusion fuel and couples with the laser or hohlraum radiation in an experiment—in the polar direct drive exploding pusher (PDXP) platform, which is used at the National Ignition Facility (NIF). The platform uses the polar direct drive configuration to drive high ion temperatures in a room-temperature capsule and has potential applications for plasma physics studies and as a neutron source.

Electrons waiting for their turn: New model explains 3D quantum material

Scientists from the Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat—Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter have developed a new understanding of how electrons behave in strong magnetic fields. Their results explain measurements of electric currents in three-dimensional materials that signal a quantum Hall effect—a phenomenon thus far only associated with two-dimensional metals. This new 3D effect can be the foundation for topological quantum phenomena, which are believed to be particularly robust and therefore promising candidates for extremely powerful quantum technologies. These results have just been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Using the environment to control quantum devices

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) researchers have uncovered how the environment can impact highly sensitive quantum behaviors like localisation. Their findings, published in Chaos, could lead to future innovations in the design of superconducting materials and quantum devices, including super precise sensors.

A new light-sheet microscopy unit enables an extended field of view and reduced photodamage

A research group led by Takashi Saito, of the Ehime University Graduate School of Medicine, developed a 2-photon excitation light-sheet fluorescence microscope which (1) lowers phototoxicity, (2) extends the field of view, and (3) heightens spatial resolution. This microscope, when used for the observation of medaka fish, made it possible to observe the whole body of the embryo (an extended field of view) at a cellular level resolution (high spatial resolution) without affecting the growth of the fish (low phototoxicity) over a three-day span of embryonic development. This result was published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Astronomy and Space news

Navigation error sends NASA's Mars helicopter on wild ride

A navigation timing error sent NASA's little Mars helicopter on a wild, lurching ride, its first major problem since it took to the Martian skies last month.

Dark energy survey releases most precise look at the universe's evolution

In 29 new scientific papers, the Dark Energy Survey examines the largest-ever maps of galaxy distribution and shapes, extending more than 7 billion light-years across the universe. The extraordinarily precise analysis, which includes data from the survey's first three years, contributes to the most powerful test of the current best model of the universe, the standard cosmological model. However, hints remain from earlier DES data and other experiments that matter in the universe today is a few percent less clumpy than predicted.

Researchers develop better ways to culture living heart cells on the International Space Station

As part of preparing for an experiment aboard the International Space Station, researchers explored new ways to culture living heart cells for microgravity research. They found that cryopreservation, a process of storing cells at -80°C, makes it easier to transport these cells to the orbiting lab, providing more flexibility in launch and operations schedules. The process could benefit other biological research in space and on Earth.

Curiosity rover captures shining clouds on Mars

Cloudy days are rare in the thin, dry atmosphere of Mars. Clouds are typically found at the planet's equator in the coldest time of year, when Mars is the farthest from the Sun in its oval-shaped orbit. But one full Martian year ago—two Earth years—scientists noticed clouds forming over NASA's Curiosity rover earlier than expected.

SpaceX CRS-22 mission to space station launches water bears, squid, solar panels

The 22nd SpaceX cargo resupply mission carrying scientific research and technology demonstrations launches to the International Space Station from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than June 3. Experiments aboard include studying how water bears tolerate space, whether microgravity affects symbiotic relationships, analyzing the formation of kidney stones, and more.

Researchers prepare to send fungi for a ride around the moon

Microbiologists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are preparing experimental samples of fungi to send for a ride around the moon tentatively scheduled for later in 2021 or early 2022.

Image: Hubble captures a captivating spiral

This image shows the spiral galaxy NGC 5037, in the constellation of Virgo. First documented by William Herschel in 1785, the galaxy lies about 150 million light-years away from Earth. Despite this distance, we can see the delicate structures of gas and dust within the galaxy in extraordinary detail. This detail is possible using Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), whose combined exposures created this image.

Russian rocket launches UK telecom satellites after delay

A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying 36 UK telecommunication and internet satellites blasted off from the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia's Far East on Friday, the space agency said.

Technology news

Next-gen electric vehicle batteries: These are the questions we still need to answer

The next generation of electric vehicle batteries, with greater range and improved safety, could be emerging in the form of lithium metal, solid-state technology.

Driving in the snow is a team effort for AI sensors

Nobody likes driving in a blizzard, including autonomous vehicles. To make self-driving cars safer on snowy roads, engineers look at the problem from the car's point of view.

CyLab's IoT security and privacy label effectively conveys risk, study finds

Shoppers can check food packaging to learn how much fat is in their favorite ice cream, but can they check with whom their smart speaker shares their data, and why? Not yet, but it's in the works.

Artificial intelligence system could help counter the spread of disinformation

Disinformation campaigns are not new—think of wartime propaganda used to sway public opinion against an enemy. What is new, however, is the use of the internet and social media to spread these campaigns. The spread of disinformation via social media has the power to change elections, strengthen conspiracy theories, and sow discord.

A helping hand for working robots

Until now, competing types of robotic hand designs offered a trade-off between strength and durability. One commonly used design, employing a rigid pin joint that mimics the mechanism in human finger joints, can lift heavy payloads, but is easily damaged in collisions, particularly if hit from the side. Meanwhile, fully compliant hands, typically made of molded silicone, are more flexible, harder to break, and better at grasping objects of various shapes, but they fall short on lifting power.

Scientists develop transparent electrode that boosts solar cell efficiency

Developing new ultrathin metal electrodes has allowed researchers to create semitransparent perovskite solar cells that are highly efficient and can be coupled with traditional silicon cells to greatly boost the performance of both devices, said an international team of scientists. The research represents a step toward developing completely transparent solar cells.

Despite fix, Apple has yet to address WebKit security bug affecting iPhone and MacOS

While a fix emerged three weeks ago for the WebKit security bug affecting Apple products such as iPhone and Mac, Apple has yet to implement the fix. Researchers at the security firm Theori have found that WebKit mainly causes Safari to crash. However, following a re-check after the supplied fix, they discovered that the bug still remains on both iOS and MacOS.

Safety ratings yanked after Tesla pulls radar from 2 models

Two key groups that offer automobile safety ratings are yanking their top endorsements from some Tesla vehicles because the company has stopped using radar on its safety systems.

'Green growth' is out: Finding new ways of using and wasting less energy

As countries explore ways of decarbonising their economies, the mantra of "green growth" risks trapping us in a spiral of failures. Green growth is an oxymoron.

New AI-powered deep learning model to support medical diagnostics

A new deep-learning model can learn to identify diseases from medical scans faster and more accurately, according to new research by a team of University of Alberta computing scientists and the U of A spinoff company MEDO. The breakthrough model is the work of a team of researchers in the Faculty of Science—including the contributions of Pouneh Gorji, a graduate student lost in Flight PS752.

Rolls-Royce drives up car luxury with 'Boat Tail'

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, which along with the wider luxury goods sector is recovering strongly from pandemic fallout, has launched a "Boat Tail" automobile—tailor-made for just three ultra-wealthy clients.

Reuters postpones website paywall over dispute with data provider

Reuters News said it was delaying the start of its website paywall following a dispute with financial data provider Refinitiv, postponing what it had characterized as its most significant transformation in a decade.

Untapped solar and wind potential in Swiss mountains

Scientists at EPFL and the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF have issued recommendations for what type of renewable energy should be produced in Switzerland's various regions, to help achieve the country's goals of carbon neutrality and energy self-sufficiency.

It's time to make cyber security compulsory

On May 7, a pipeline system carrying almost half the fuel used on the east coast of the United States was crippled by a major cyber attack. The five-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline resulted in widespread fuel shortages and panic-buying as Virginia, North Carolina and Florida declared a state of emergency.

Boeing working with FAA as it halts 787 deliveries again

Boeing said Friday it was working to address questions about its 787 Dreamliner from US air safety regulators after again suspending new deliveries of the jet.

Virtual body language may give untrustworthy avatars away

People who have something to hide while using full-body avatars in a collaborative virtual reality (VR) environment are less trusted than when they do not use a full-body avatar, because their body language could be interpreted as suspicious.

China tech CEOs slip off backstage to avoid Beijing's glare

Bytedance founder Zhang Yiming, the brains behind TikTok, said he preferred "daydreaming" as he stepped down as head of his own firm last week. But his departure comes as several of China's once-lauded tech entrepreneurs step aside under increasing scrutiny from a government concerned about their growing power and influence.

Paycom Software's Richison, AMD's Su among highest paid CEOs

Here are the highest paid male and female CEOs in the S&P 500 index for 2020, as calculated by The Associated Press and Equilar, an executive data firm.

EU gives TikTok a month to respond to consumer complaints

The European Commission said on Friday it has given the Chinese-owned video app TikTok one month to answer complaints from a European consumer group over its commercial practices.

Russian hackers of SolarWinds back on the attack

The state-backed Russian group behind a massive hacking campaign revealed last year has re-emerged with a series of attacks on government agencies, think tanks, consultants and other organizations, according to officials and researchers.

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