Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Sep 8

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for September 8, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A strategy to fabricate metal-organic framework membranes for the separation of hydrocarbons

Scientists create artificial cells that mimic living cells' ability to capture, process, and expel material

Water in bedrock is sustaining trees across country

Double-lined white dwarf binary detected by astronomers

Museum collections predict species abundance in the wild

Massive new animal species discovered in half-billion-year-old Burgess Shale

High-energy shape memory polymer could someday help robots flex their muscles

Stretching the capacity of flexible energy storage

After 10,000 years of inbreeding, endangered flightless parrots from New Zealand are in surprisingly good genetic health

Researchers unlock the key that could lead to the development of non-opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain

Common medications accumulate in gut bacteria, which may reduce drug effectiveness and alter the gut microbiome

Novel tool counts T cells quickly helping predict patient response to cancer therapy

Platelets key to blood vessel damage in COVID-19 patients

Ancient marsupial 'junk DNA' might be useful after all

Mining waste could be used as an ingredient for cheaper hydrogen fuel production

Physics news

New superconducting magnet breaks magnetic field strength records, paving the way for fusion energy

It was a moment three years in the making, based on intensive research and design work: On Sept. 5, for the first time, a large high-temperature superconducting electromagnet was ramped up to a field strength of 20 tesla, the most powerful magnetic field of its kind ever created on Earth. That successful demonstration helps resolve the greatest uncertainty in the quest to build the world's first fusion power plant that can produce more power than it consumes, according to the project's leaders at MIT and startup company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS).

New laser-based microphone calibration system

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have conducted the first demonstration of a faster and more accurate way to calibrate certain kinds of microphones.

Graphene valleytronics: Paving the way to small-sized room-temperature quantum computers

Valleytronics is an emerging field in which valleys—local minima in the energy band structure of solids—are used to encode, process, and store quantum information. Though graphene was thought to be unsuitable for valleytronics due to its symmetrical structure, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India, have recently shown that this is not the case. Their findings may pave the way to small-sized quantum computers that can operate at room temperature.

Inspired by metamorphosis, researchers create materials for shape-shifting architecture

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed materials that can be used to create structures capable of transforming into multiple different architectures. The researchers envision applications ranging from construction to robotics.

Artificial brain networks simulated with new quantum materials

Isaac Newton's groundbreaking scientific productivity while isolated from the spread of bubonic plague is legendary. University of California San Diego physicists can now claim a stake in the annals of pandemic-driven science.

Biomechanics of the kick-start motion in competitive swimming

Researchers from the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of Tsukuba have analyzed the "kick-start" technique used by swimmers when beginning a race. On the basis of force and velocity measurements, the team showed that both the vertical and horizontal forces exerted by the athletes' hands on the front of the starting platform helped the swimmers achieve proper form. This work may help swimmers increase their overall performance in races.

Novel AR film developed to maximize the transmission of infrared light

High refractive index of the substrate material often leads to serious reflection on the surface of infrared optical elements, which will greatly reduce the transmittance of infrared light. To maximize the transmission of infrared light, antireflection (AR) film needs to be plated on the surface of infrared substrate. Sol-gel technology is an effective method for preparing high temperature resistant film. At present, there have been many reports on the preparation of AR film in visible light, however, it is still a challenge to prepare AR film working in infrared band by sol-gel method.

Scientists see evidence of first-order phase change in nuclear matter

New evidence suggests that protons and neutrons go through a "first-order" phase transition—a kind of stop-and-go change in temperature—when they "melt." This is similar to how ice melts: Energy first increases the temperature, and then, during the transition, the temperature stays steady while the energy transforms a solid to a liquid. Only when all the molecules are liquid can the temperature increase again. With protons and neutrons, the melted state is a soup of quarks and gluons. Scientists studying this quark-gluon plasma (QGP) at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) see signs of this stop-and-go transition. The latest data, from low-energy collisions, adds new support for this pattern.

Astronomy and Space news

Double-lined white dwarf binary detected by astronomers

An international team of astronomers has detected a new peculiar binary as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The newly found object, designated SDSS J133725.26+395237.7, is a nearby double-lined system consisting of two white dwarfs. The finding is reported in a paper published August 26 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Langmuir wave motion observed in the most intense radio sources in the sky

The sun routinely produces energetic electrons in its outer atmosphere that subsequently travel through interplanetary space. These electron beams generate Langmuir waves in the background plasma, producing type III radio bursts that are the brightest radio sources in the sky (Suzuki and Dulk, 1985). These solar radio bursts also provide a unique opportunity to understand particle acceleration and transport, which is important for our prediction of extreme space weather events near the Earth. However, the formation and motion of type III fine frequency structures (see Figure 1) is a puzzle, but is commonly believed to be related to plasma turbulence in the solar corona and solar wind.

Understanding aurora formation with ESA's cluster mission

Earth's aurorae form when charged particles from the magnetosphere strike molecules in the atmosphere, energizing or even ionizing them. As the molecules relax to the ground state, they emit a photon of visible light in a characteristic color. These colliding particles—largely electrons—are accelerated by localized electric fields parallel to the local magnetic field occurring in a region spanning several Earth radii.

Gases in Milky Way are not homogeneously mixed, contrary to previous models

In order to better understand the history and evolution of the Milky Way, astronomers are studying the composition of the gases and metals that make up an important part of our galaxy. Three main elements stand out: the initial gas coming from outside our galaxy, the gas between the stars inside our galaxy—enriched with chemical elements –, and the dust created by the condensation of the metals present in this gas.

NASA's next space telescope to launch in December

The James Webb Space Telescope, which astronomers hope will herald a new era of discovery, will launch on December 18, NASA said Wednesday.

Chandra resumes science operations

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has successfully resumed observations after recovery from a problem involving one of its science instruments, the Low Energy Transmission Grating (LETG). The LETG is used to measure the intensity of X-rays at different energies.

ALMA: New receivers achieve first light, set record for observational capabilities

A new set of receivers installed on antennas at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have achieved first light. With it, they set a new record for the longest wavelengths visible with the radio array. The achievement has opened a window on the universe previously inaccessible at the telescope, thanks to an international team of engineers, including engineers from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

Rocket flight to sharpen NASA's study of the sun

It's best not to look directly at the sun unless you're one of NASA's sun-observing instruments. And even then, doing so will cause some damage. Exposure to the sun degrades light sensors of all kinds, from the retinas in the human eye to instruments aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, or SDO. Fortunately, with periodic calibrations, the latter can continue transmitting high-quality data to researchers on Earth.

NASA readies James Webb space telescope for December launch

NASA plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit Dec. 18, 2021, to serve as the premier deep space observatory for the next decade.

Space junk traffic dangers to be tackled by first-of-its-kind research center

New ways of tackling the threat that space junk in our skies poses are being explored by University of Warwick scientists, as they pioneer new research that could help the UK fulfill its ambition to become a responsible spacefaring nation.

Technology news

A strategy to fabricate metal-organic framework membranes for the separation of hydrocarbons

The separation of light hydrocarbon mixtures is among the most important petrochemical and industrial processes. This process is currently regarded as highly energy intensive, as it has so far been carried out using conventional techniques, such as cryogenic distillation.

Modified headphones translate sign language via Doppler

A University at Buffalo-led research team has modified noise-canceling headphones, enabling the common electronic device to "see" and translate American Sign Language (ASL) when paired with a smartphone.

A "Real Folding Window" for better foldable displays

A team at LG Chem has announced on LG's News Room webpage that the company has developed a new kind of foldable screen display technology for use in mobile devices. As part of the announcement, officials at LG claim that the new material is as hard as glass but is as foldable as plastic.

Report: Solar could power 40% of US electricity by 2035

Solar energy has the potential to supply up to 40% of the nation's electricity within 15 years—a 10-fold increase over current solar output, but one that would require massive changes in U.S. policy and billions of dollars in federal investment to modernize the nation's electric grid, a new federal report says.

New way to pull lithium from water could increase supply, efficiency

Anyone using a cellphone, laptop or electric vehicle depends on lithium. The element is in tremendous demand. And although the supply of lithium around the world is plentiful, getting access to it and extracting it remains a challenging and inefficient process.

Modern, robotic 'white cane' brings navigation assistance to the 21st century

Equipped with a color 3D camera, an inertial measurement sensor, and its own on-board computer, a newly improved robotic cane could offer blind and visually impaired users a new way to navigate indoors. When paired with a building's architectural drawing, the device can accurately guide a user to a desired location with sensory and auditory cues, while simultaneously helping the user avoid obstacles like boxes, furniture, and overhangs. Development of the device was co-funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Details of the updated design were published in the journal IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.

A more efficient way to find a more efficient battery

The pace of progress in the renewable energy sector is limited not only by the technology to capture energy from the sun, the wind, the oceans or the Earth's radiant heat, but also by the ability to effectively store and deploy that energy after it has been harnessed.

Ford hires exec formerly in charge of Apple's car project

Ford Motor Co. has hired a former executive from Apple and Tesla to be the company's head of advanced technology and new embedded systems, a critical post as the auto industry moves to adopt vehicles powered by electricity and guided by computers.

Silicon Valley finds remote work is easier to begin than end

Technology companies that led the charge into remote work as the pandemic unfurled are confronting a new challenge: how, when and even whether they should bring long-isolated employees back to offices that have been designed for teamwork.

Amazon to open 2 cashier-less Whole Foods stores next year

There will be something missing at two Whole Foods stores opening next year: the rows of cashiers.

Flexible origami-based tubular polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell

The miniaturization of electronics has resulted in an ever-increasing global market for portable devices. Correspondingly, it has become necessary to develop smaller and more lightweight power sources to operate these devices. In particular, there has been a growing interest in implementing flexibility into the power sources themselves, which would be useful for potential applications in wearable and roll-up devices.

New modelling methodology for large-scale dynamic networks

Engineering systems, such as power grids and transportation systems, are becoming increasingly complex and encompass numerous sub-systems that are spatially interconnected. Modeling of these 'dynamic networks' is an important task for designing, analyzing, and controlling these systems. By exploiting graph theory, Shengling Shi developed novel modeling methods that consider the interconnection structure of dynamic networks and thus allow for more flexible locations of actuators and sensors in the network for data collection and data-driven modeling.

Oscillator Ising machines take quantum computation for a classical spin

Twenty years into the 21st century the demand for computational power is outpacing supply at an ever-increasing rate. From global pandemics that require rapid-response drug designs, to smart grids, self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence and machine learning, scientists are scrambling to boost current computational capabilities until quantum computing becomes a practical reality.

Google see the future of work as 'hybrid'

Google on Wednesday ramped up cloud collaboration tools for businesses, expecting "hybrid" work routines to remain even after the pandemic has ended.

Singapore is testing robots to patrol the streets for 'undesirable' behavior like smoking

Singapore is in the midst of a three-week trial for a pair of autonomous robots that patrol the public for "undesirable social behaviors" that include smoking in prohibited areas and violating COVID-19 gathering regulations.

COVID, vaccine misinformation spread by hundreds of websites, analysis finds

More than 500 websites have promoted misinformation about the coronavirus—including debunked claims about vaccines, according to a firm that rates the credibility of websites.

Tech company promised not to pilfer competitor's customers. It did just that. Twice

When CenturyLink bought a competitor's business-broadband and internet-backbone service in 2017, it agreed to sell some of the competitor's Boise-area backbone to a third company to resolve antitrust concerns. And it promised not to poach customers from that company.

Detecting forged video evidence

Video evidence is commonly used to prove what happened during an event. However, with the emergence and rapid development of CGI (computer-generated images), deep fakes, and video manipulation, there is a pressing need for tools to detect forgeries that would otherwise undermine the value of video evidence.

Facebook slams UK antitrust watchdog over call to sell Giphy

Facebook has criticized the U.K. competition watchdog's provisional decision ordering that it sell off Giphy because it said the acquisition of the company stifles competition for animated images.

Enhancing ordinary items in order to address health outcomes

As a child, Chi Hwan Lee always had Lego sets on his birthday list. Lee, who loves math and physics, would spend hours building the sets—following the instructions as well as his imagination.

Separating fact from fiction about green cars

With all the developments in the auto industry you may think your next car will be electric, including a new federal target that would mean half of all new vehicles sold within a decade will have zero emissions. This will be a dramatic shift for car shoppers, and perhaps an unsettling one. With the future landscape in mind, the experts at Edmunds have cut through the misinformation and examined some of the most prevalent EV myths.

Boeing's board face lawsuit from shareholders over two crashes

Boeing's board of directors must face a lawsuit from shareholders over two fatal crashes that killed hundreds of people, a US judge has ruled.

Apple car chief's departure puts its next big thing in doubt

The abrupt departure of Apple Inc.'s top automotive executive imperils its efforts to develop a self-driving car, a project that's been seen as one of the tech giant's biggest bets.

Chinese regulators urge gaming companies to protect children

Chinese regulators on Wednesday summoned gaming companies including Tencent Holdings and NetEase Inc. and urged them to protect the physical and mental health of children, state media reported.

Theranos founder's fraud trial opens in Silicon Valley

Fallen biotech star Elizabeth Holmes's closely watched fraud trial opened Wednesday in California, with prosecutors arguing she spouted grandiose, false claims about her once-billion-dollar blood testing company to cheat investors.


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