Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jun 16

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 16, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Study estimates the prevalence of CCTV cameras in large cities worldwide

New material could remove respiratory droplets from air

Correlated errors in quantum computers emphasize need for design changes

Ten years of ancient genome analysis has taught scientists 'what it means to be human'

Over half of the world's rivers cease to flow for at least one day a year on average

Genetically engineered nanoparticle delivers dexamethasone directly to inflamed lungs

Mystery of Betelgeuse's dip in brightness solved

Study investigates the behavior of magnetar SGR J1745–2900

New super-resolution microscopy method approaches the atomic scale

Graphene 'camera' captures real-time electrical activity of beating heart

Researchers uncover unique properties of a promising new superconductor

Study points to a seed black hole produced by a dark matter halo collapse

Subterranean investigations: Researchers explore the shallow underground world with a burrowing soft robot

Drone footage reveals social secrets of killer whales

Study shows Head Start teachers' depressive symptoms related to children's math skills

Physics news

Correlated errors in quantum computers emphasize need for design changes

Quantum computers could outperform classical computers at many tasks, but only if the errors that are an inevitable part of computational tasks are isolated rather than widespread events. Now, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found evidence that errors are correlated across an entire superconducting quantum computing chip—highlighting a problem that must be acknowledged and addressed in the quest for fault-tolerant quantum computers.

New super-resolution microscopy method approaches the atomic scale

Scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine have developed a computational technique that greatly increases the resolution of atomic force microscopy, a specialized type of microscope that "feels" the atoms at a surface. The method reveals atomic-level details on proteins and other biological structures under normal physiological conditions, opening a new window on cell biology, virology and other microscopic processes.

Researchers uncover unique properties of a promising new superconductor

An international team of physicists led by the University of Minnesota has discovered that a unique superconducting metal is more resilient when used as a very thin layer. The research is the first step toward a larger goal of understanding unconventional superconducting states in materials, which could possibly be used in quantum computing in the future.

Nematic transition and nanoscale suppression of superconductivity in an iron chalcogenide

In unconventional superconductors, electrons often exhibit a tendency towards spatial ordering within their atomic structure.

When testing Einstein's theory of general relativity, small modeling errors add up fast

Small modeling errors may accumulate faster than previously expected when physicists combine multiple gravitational wave events (such as colliding black holes) to test Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, suggest researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. The findings, published June 16 in the journal iScience, suggest that catalogs with as few as 10 to 30 events with a signal-to-background noise ratio of 20 (which is typical for events used in this type of test) could provide misleading deviations from general relativity, erroneously pointing to new physics where none exists. Because this is close to the size of current catalogs used to assess Einstein's theory, the authors conclude that physicists should proceed with caution when performing such experiments.

Seeing the invisible: Tiny crystal films could make night vision an everyday reality

It's a familiar vision to anyone who has watched a lot of action movies or played Call of Duty: a ghostly green image that makes invisible objects visible. Since the development of the first night-vision devices in the mid-1960s, the technology has captured the popular imagination.

Quantum-nonlocality at all speeds

The phenomenon of quantum nonlocality defies our everyday intuition. It shows the strong correlations between several quantum particles some of which change their state instantaneously when the others are measured, regardless of the distance between them. While this phenomenon has been confirmed for slow moving particles, it has been debated whether nonlocality is preserved when particles move very fast at velocities close to the speed of light, and even more so when those velocities are quantum mechanically indefinite. Now, researchers from the University of Vienna, the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Perimeter Institute report in the latest issue of Physical Review Letters that nonlocality is a universal property of the world, regardless of how and at what speed quantum particles move.

Particles with 'eyes' allow a closer look at rotational dynamics

Colloids—mixtures of particles made from one substance, dispersed in another substance—crop up in numerous areas of everyday life, including cosmetics, food and dyes, and form important systems within our bodies. Understanding the behavior of colloids therefore has wide-ranging implications, yet investigating the rotation of spherical particles has been challenging. Now, an international team including researchers from The University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science has created particles with an off-center core or "eye" that can be tracked using microscopy. Their findings are published in Physical Review X.

Using microorganisms to quickly monitor water quality

Researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) have demonstrated a technology that rapidly detects pollutants in water by measuring their impacts on swimming microorganisms.

Scientists identify properties that allow proteins to strengthen under pressure

A new rubber band stretches, but then snaps back into its original shape and size. Stretched again, it does the same. But what if the rubber band was made of a material that remembered how it had been stretched? Just as our bones strengthen in response to impact, medical implants or prosthetics composed of such a material could adjust to environmental pressures such as those encountered in strenuous exercise.

The amazing world of flame balls, doughnuts and horseshoes

Flame balls are gentle and fragile spherical flames that up till recently could only exist in conditions of near-zero gravity. Researchers at TU/e have managed to observe flameballs at normal earth-bound conditions, and thus, discovered new insights in the working of lean fuel mixtures. Lean hydrogen mixtures are believed to be the fuel of the future as they emit no CO2 and only low concentrations of nitrogen oxides. Join our researchers in their exciting journey to understand the enigmatic flame ball.

Astronomy and Space news

Mystery of Betelgeuse's dip in brightness solved

When Betelgeuse, a bright orange star in the constellation of Orion, became visibly darker in late 2019 and early 2020, the astronomy community was puzzled. A team of astronomers have now published new images of the star's surface, taken using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO's VLT), that clearly show how its brightness changed. The new research reveals that the star was partially concealed by a cloud of dust, a discovery that solves the mystery of the Great Dimming of Betelgeuse.

Study investigates the behavior of magnetar SGR J1745–2900

Using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), Russian astronomers have investigated the behavior of a magnetar known as SGR J1745–2900 after its outburst in April 2013. Results of the study, published June 9 on arXiv.org, could be essential to better understand the nature of this magnetar.

Study points to a seed black hole produced by a dark matter halo collapse

Supermassive black holes, or SMBHs, are black holes with masses that are several million to billion times the mass of our sun. The Milky Way hosts an SMBH with mass a few million times the solar mass. Surprisingly, astrophysical observations show that SMBHs already existed when the universe was very young. For example, a billion solar mass black holes are found when the universe was just 6% of its current age, 13.7 billion years. How do these SMBHs in the early universe originate?

Space scientists solve a decades-long gamma-ray burst puzzle

An international team of scientists, led by astrophysicists from the University of Bath in the UK, has measured the magnetic field in a far-off Gamma-Ray Burst, confirming for the first time a decades-long theoretical prediction—that the magnetic field in these blast waves becomes scrambled after the ejected material crashes into, and shocks, the surrounding medium.

Total solar eclipses shine a light on the solar wind with help from NASA's ACE mission

From traversing sand dunes in the Sahara Desert to keeping watch for polar bears in the Arctic, a group of solar scientists known as the "Solar Wind Sherpas" led by Shadia Habbal, have traveled to the ends of the Earth to scientifically observe total solar eclipses—the fleeting moments when the Moon completely blocks the Sun, temporarily turning day into night. With the images, they've uncovered a surprising finding about the Sun's wind and its wispy outer atmosphere—the corona—which is only visible in its entirety during an eclipse.

Spacesuit problems prevent astronauts from completing job (Update)

Spacesuit problems prevented astronauts from completing the installation Wednesday of powerful, new solar panels outside the International Space Station.

Computer trouble hits Hubble Space Telescope, science halted

The Hubble Space Telescope has been hit with computer trouble, with all astronomical viewing halted, NASA said Wednesday.

The give and take of mega-flares from stars

The long relationships between stars and the planets around them—including the Sun and the Earth—may be even more complex than previously thought. This is one conclusion of a new study involving thousands of stars using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

China to launch first crew to new space station on Thursday

Astronauts blasting off on Thursday for China's first crewed mission to its new space station will have a choice of 120 different types of food and "space treadmills" for exercise, China's space agency said.

Why is everyone so obsessed with going to Mars? Here are some other worlds ripe for exploration

Last month, China successfully landed and deployed the Zhurong rover on Mars, becoming the second country ever to set wheels on the surface of the red planet.

Space embrace: Astronauts and robots work together to service the ISS

A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, according to one of the three laws of robotics imagined by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. On board humanity's only outpost in space, this obedience has turned into cooperation. Astronauts and robots are working together.

Rare triple galaxy merger with at least two supermassive black holes

One of the best things about that universe is that there is so much to it. If you look hard enough, you can most likely find any combination of astronomical events happening. Not long ago, we reported on research that found seven separate instances of three galaxies colliding with one another. Now, a team led by Jonathan Williams of the University of Maryland has found another triple galaxy merging cluster, but this one might potentially have two active supermassive black holes, allowing astronomers to peer into the system dynamics of two of the universe's most extreme objects running into one another.

Technology news

Study estimates the prevalence of CCTV cameras in large cities worldwide

Over the past few decades, surveillance cameras, also known as closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, have become widely used by governments, law enforcement officers and private citizens to monitor public spaces, prevent crime and identify criminals. While the millions of surveillance cameras installed worldwide can play a crucial role in the prevention of crime and aid police investigations, they can also considerably restrict the privacy of citizens.

Subterranean investigations: Researchers explore the shallow underground world with a burrowing soft robot

We've seen robots take to the air, dive beneath the waves and perform all sorts of maneuvers on land. Now, researchers at UC Santa Barbara and Georgia Institute of Technology are exploring a new frontier: The ground beneath our feet. Taking their cues from plants and animals that have evolved to navigate subterranean spaces, they've developed a fast, controllable soft robot that can burrow through sand. The technology not only enables new applications for fast, precise and minimally invasive movement underground, but also lays mechanical foundations for new types of robots.

Invention uses machine-learned human emotions to 'drive' autonomous vehicles

Americans have one of the highest levels of fear in the world when it comes to technology related to robotic systems and self-driving cars. Addressing these concerns is paramount if the technology hopes to move forward.

A backdoor in mobile phone encryption from the '90s still exists

The encryption algorithm GEA-1 was implemented in mobile phones in the 1990s to encrypt data connections. Since then, it has been kept secret. Now, a research team from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), together with colleagues from France and Norway, has analyzed the algorithm and has come to the following conclusion: GEA-1 is so easy to break that it must be a deliberately weak encryption that was built in as a backdoor. Although the vulnerability is still present in many modern mobile phones, it no longer poses any significant threat to users, according to the researchers.

Electrohydraulic arachno-bot offers light weight robotic articulation

A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany and at the University of Boulder in Colorado in the US has found a new way to exploit the principles of spiders' joints to drive articulated robots without any bulky components and connectors, which weigh down the robot and reduce portability and speed. Their slender and lightweight simple structures impress by enabling a robot to jump 10 times its height. At the end of May, the team's work titled "Spider-inspired electrohydraulic actuators for fast, soft-actuated joints" was published in Advanced Science.

Facebook AI can now use just one word to mimic text style from images

Facebook has announced their new AI project TextStyleBrush, a software capable of copying the style of handwritten or printed text in an image using only one word. Users can utilize this model to alter and replace text in photos.

China blames minor fuel rod damage for nuclear plant issues

A handful of damaged fuel rods is behind a build-up of radioactive gases at a nuclear power station in southern China, authorities said Wednesday, describing the problem as "common" with no need for concern.

Cyberpunk 2077 returning to PlayStation store, Sony says

Troubled game Cyberpunk 2077 will return to PlayStation stores from next week, Sony confirmed Wednesday, six months after it was pulled over bugs and compatibility issues.

Spain hopes to jumpstart electric car industry with EU funds

Daniel Sánchez is one of the luckier electric car owners in Spain. With a free recharging station less than a kilometer from his home just north of Barcelona, he can keep his Tesla ready to roll.

The increase in ransomware attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a new internet

Make no mistake: We are also in the midst of a digital pandemic of ransomware attacks. The recent ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and JBS U.S. Holdings Inc.—the world's largest meat processors—underscore the growing brazen nature of organized, deliberate attacks on increasingly significant targets, and our chronic inability to defend against them.

ProtoTree: Addressing the black-box nature of deep learning models

One of the biggest obstacles in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence is that it cannot explain what a prediction is based on. These machine-learning systems are so-called black boxes when the reasoning for a decision is not self-evident to a user. Meike Nauta, Ph.D. candidate at the Data Science group within the EEMCS faculty of the University of Twente, created a model to address the black-box nature of deep learning models.

Semiconductor technology mitigates fire risk in electric vehicle batteries

Despite rapid development of electric vehicles (EVs), lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are a fire and explosion risk. Among the approaches to tackle this issue, Korean researchers have used semiconductor technology to improve their safety. A research team from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) led by Dr. Joong Kee Lee of the Center for Energy Storage Research has succeeded in inhibiting the growth of dendrites, crystals with multiple branches that cause EV battery fires by forming protective semiconducting passivation layers on the surface of Li electrodes.

GaN low-voltage designs enable compact three-phase motor inverter IC

In battery-powered applications, in the automotive sector and in IT infrastructures 48V technology is on the rise. In this voltage class, gallium nitride (GaN) power transistors offer the best compromise between safety, compactness and efficiency. Now, scientists at Fraunhofer IAF have presented pioneering integration concepts with GaN-based integrated circuits (ICs) for low-voltage applications.

General Motors hits the gas on electric, autonomous push

General Motors is hitting the accelerator on its drive towards electric autos, significantly boosting its near-term investments as it unveils new models and builds production capacity.

GM, Ford outdo each other with electric vehicle investments

General Motors will raise spending on electric and autonomous vehicles and add two U.S. battery factories as it gambles that consumers will eagerly switch from gasoline to the new technology.

Facebook beefs up tools for keeping group chats civil

Facebook on Wednesday beefed up automated tools to assist group moderators striving to keep exchanges civil in a time of clashing viewpoints.

Microsoft's next operating system, Windows 11, reportedly leaked online

A preview of Microsoft's new Windows 11 operating system may have been leaked online.

Self-driving car pioneer Waymo gets $2.5B to fuel ambitions

Waymo, the self-driving car pioneer spun off from Google, isn't allowing a recent wave of executive departures to detour its plans to expand its robotic taxi service.

Apple warns EU law 'risks destroying iPhone security'

The EU's proposed new rules to rein in tech giants risk undermining the security of the iPhone, Apple chief Tim Cook warned Wednesday.

Southwest Airlines suffers computer troubles for second day

US carrier Southwest Airlines was ramping operations back up Tuesday after canceling some 500 flights following a second major outage in 24 hours due to computer issues.

India says Twitter knowingly not complying with local laws

The standoff between the Indian government and Twitter escalated Wednesday when the country's technology minister accused the social media giant of deliberately not complying with local laws.

First electrical demonstration of integrated forksheet devices to extend nanosheets beyond 2 nm technology

This week, at the 2021 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits (VLSI 2021), imec, a world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, demonstrated for the first time fully functional integrated forksheet field-effect transistors (FETs) with short-channel control (SSSAT=66-68mV/dec) comparable to gate-all-around (GAA) nanosheet devices down to 22-nm gate length. Dual work function metal gates are integrated at 17-nm spacing between n- and pFETs, highlighting the key benefit of forksheet devices for advanced CMOS area scaling.

Secure data communication IoT and wireless sensor network for COVID-19

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been much flaunted as the future of sensors and controllers allowing remote access to environmental and other information and facilitating feedback systems that would otherwise require human intervention. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote sensing and remote control of equipment has become increasingly important.

Ukraine police seize cash in raids on major ransomware gang

Ukrainian police have carried out nearly two dozen raids targeting alleged associates of a Russian-speaking ransomware gang it blamed for a half billion dollars in cyberattacks and extortion that hit the United States and South Korea especially hard.

Google to open first retail store steps away from Apple in NYC

Google will open its first retail store in New York City, highlighting the internet giant's effort to promote its consumer hardware devices.

Socially distanced robots serve Mecca holy water ahead of Hajj

Robots began handing out bottles of sacred water in Mecca this week in preparation for a socially distanced Hajj pilgrimage in Islam's holiest city, due to the coronavirus pandemic.


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