Science X Newsletter Monday, Jan 4

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 4, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers isolate single artificial atoms in silicon

Opening a new door into kinder, gentler therapies for chronic inflammation

Stopping SARS-CoV-2 in its tracks by blocking its main protease

BISTRO explores complex magnetic field structure of Cat's Paw Nebula

Aerosols from pollution, desert storms, and forest fires may intensify thunderstorms

Reawakened geyser does not foretell Yellowstone volcanic eruptions, study shows

First glimpse of polarons forming in a promising next-gen energy material

Vaping combined with smoking is likely as harmful as smoking cigarettes alone

For moms, oxygen during childbirth often unnecessary

New research may explain severe virus attacks on the lungs

Brain cancer linked to tissue healing

Soil moisture exerts a negative feedback on surface water availability in drylands: study

Subscriptions to satellite alerts linked to decreased deforestation in Africa

Using artificial intelligence to find new uses for existing medications

Study explains why patients with cancer spread to the liver have worse outcomes

Physics news

First glimpse of polarons forming in a promising next-gen energy material

Polarons are fleeting distortions in a material's atomic lattice that form around a moving electron in a few trillionths of a second, then quickly disappear. As ephemeral as they are, they affect a material's behavior, and may even be the reason that solar cells made with lead hybrid perovskites achieve extraordinarily high efficiencies in the lab.

New microscopy technique images live cells with 7 times greater sensitivity

Experts in optical physics have developed a new way to see inside living cells in greater detail using existing microscopy technology and without needing to add stains or fluorescent dyes.

Comb of a lifetime: A new method for fluorescence microscopy

Fluorescence microscopy is widely used in biochemistry and life sciences because it allows scientists to directly observe cells and certain compounds in and around them. Fluorescent molecules absorb light within a specific wavelength range and then re-emit it at the longer wavelength range. However, the major limitation of conventional fluorescence microscopy techniques is that the results are very difficult to evaluate quantitatively; fluorescence intensity is significantly affected by both experimental conditions and the concentration of the fluorescent substance. Now, a new study by scientists from Japan is set to revolutionize the field of fluorescence lifetime microscopy.

Novel approach shows promise for overcoming the bottleneck of blue emission in displays using OLEDs

Using a new combination of emitter molecules, researchers in Japan have demonstrated the promise of a novel approach to overcome a major challenge facing displays using organic light-emitting diodes: a blue light source matching the excellent performance of red and green ones.

Scrambled supersolids: Researchers discover a soft form of a solid

Supersolids are materials that are fluid and solid at the same time. Physicists from Innsbruck and Geneva have for the first time investigated what happens when such a state is brought out of balance. They discovered a soft form of a solid of great interest for science. As the researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino and Thierry Giamarchi report in Nature Physics, they were also able to reverse the process and restore supersolidity.

Trapping light without back reflections

Researchers demonstrate a new technique for suppressing back reflections of light—better signal quality for sensing and information technology.

Convex to concave: More metasurface moiré results in wide-range lens

The odd, wavy pattern that results from viewing certain phone or computer screens through polarized glasses has led researchers to take a step toward thinner, lighter-weight lenses. Called moiré, the pattern is made by laying one material with opaque and translucent parts at an angle over another material of similar contrast.

Scientists discover how mother-of-pearl self-assembles into a perfect structure

In a new study published in Nature Physics, researchers from the B CUBE—Center for Molecular Bioengineering at TU Dresden and European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble describe, for the first time, that structural defects in self-assembling nacre attract and cancel each other out, eventually leading to a perfect periodic structure.

Experiment to precisely measure electrons moves forward

A new probe of the humble electron may provide insight into the forces at work inside the heart of matter. Now, the MOLLER experiment at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility is one step closer to carrying out an experiment to gain that new insight. The experiment has just received a designation of Critical Decision 1, or CD-1, from the DOE, which is a greenlight to move forward in design and prototyping of equipment.

Astronomy and Space news

BISTRO explores complex magnetic field structure of Cat's Paw Nebula

An international team of astronomers has investigated a nearby emission nebula and star-forming region dubbed the Cat's Paw Nebula as part of the B-field In STar-forming Region Observations (BISTRO) survey. Results of this study, presented in a paper published December 24 on, provide essential information about the structure of the object's complex magnetic field.

3-D simulation helps revealing accretion process in progenitor of tycho's supernova

Dr. JIAO Chengliang from Yunnan Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, collaborating with Prof. XUE Li's group from Xiamen University, performed three-dimensional (3-D) simulations of the accretion flow in the progenitor of Tycho's supernova, which helps identifying the physical properties of the accretion process.

Researchers reveal effects of magnetic activity on mass transfer of binary

Algol-type binary systems consist of a B-A-F type main-sequence primary component and an F-G-K type giant or subgiant secondary component. According to the explanation of the Algol paradox, the initially more massive component evolves to fill the Roche lobes first and transfer material to another component, which results in the inversion of mass ratio and the formation of the Algol-type systems. Hence, mass transfer plays an important role in the evolution of this kind of binary system.

The uncertainties in measuring cosmic expansion

Ninety years after Edwin Hubble discovered the systematic motions of galaxies and George Lemaitre explained them as cosmic expansion from a point using Einstein's equations of relativity, observational cosmology today is facing a challenge. Values deduced from the two primary methodologies—the properties of galaxies and the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR)—disagree with each other at roughly the ten percent level, yet each one is precise at the level of a few percent. Uncorrected observational errors are possible, but estimates suggest they are too small to account for the differences. As a result, no consistent and precise value of the expansion—Hubble's constant—has been found. The problem is not so much the value itself—the age of the universe will not change by much either way—rather, it is that something unexplained is clearly going on connected with the fact that the CMBR data arise from a vastly different epoch of cosmic time than do the galaxy data. Perhaps new physics is needed.

Astronomers agree: Universe is nearly 14 billion years old

From an observatory high above Chile's Atacama Desert, astronomers have taken a new look at the oldest light in the universe.

Layers upon layers of rock in Candor Chasma on Mars

In many ways, Mars is the planet that is most similar to the Earth. The red world has polar ice caps, a nearly 24-hour rotation period (about 24 hours and 37 minutes), mountains, plains, dust storms, volcanoes, a population of robots, many of which are old and no longer work, and even a Grand Canyon of sorts. The "Grand Canyon" on Mars is actually far grander than any Arizonan gorge. Valles Marineris dwarfs the Grand Canyon of the southwestern U.S., spanning 4,000 km in length (the distance between L.A. and New York City), and dives 7 kilometers into the Martian crust (compared to a measly 2 km of depth seen in the Grand Canyon). Newly released photos from the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) reveal a stunning look at eroding cliff faces in Candor Chasma, a gigantic canyon that comprises a portion of the Valles Marineris system.

Six space missions to look forward to in 2021

Space exploration achieved several notable firsts in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, including commercial human spaceflight and returning samples of an asteroid to Earth.

Technology news

Researchers isolate single artificial atoms in silicon

Silicon has proved to be a highly valuable and reliable material for fabricating a variety of technologies, including quantum devices. In recent years, researchers have also been investigating the possible advantages of using individual artificial atoms to enhance the performance of silicon-based integrated quantum circuits. So far, however, single qubits with an optical interface have proved difficult to isolate in silicon.

Using artificial intelligence to find new uses for existing medications

Scientists have developed a machine-learning method that crunches massive amounts of data to help determine which existing medications could improve outcomes in diseases for which they are not prescribed.

A way to make zinc batteries rechargeable

A team of researchers from China, Germany and the U.S. has developed a way to make zinc batteries rechargeable. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes how, by using a non-alkaline electrolyte, they created a battery that could operate using a two-electron zinc-oxygen-zinc peroxide process that is far more reversible than conventional designs.

Tesla appears to have plenty of momentum after meteoric 2020

After shares rocketed higher in 2020 on surging auto deliveries, Tesla enters 2021 with plenty of momentum even as its vision of taking electric cars mainstream remains a ways off.

PSA and Fiat Chrysler close in on mega-merger

Shareholders of carmakers PSA and Fiat Chrysler gave their blessing Monday to a merger that catapults the new company, "Stellantis," into fourth place globally as the auto industry races to make the transition to cleaner cars.

DUAL takes AI to the next level

Scientists at DGIST in Korea, and UC Irvine and UC San Diego in the US, have developed a computer architecture that processes unsupervised machine learning algorithms faster, while consuming significantly less energy than state-of-the-art graphics processing units. The key is processing data where it is stored in computer memory and in an all-digital format. The researchers presented the new architecture, called DUAL, at the 2020 53rd Annual IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Microarchitecture.

Microscanner mirrors replace human vision

In autonomous vehicles, advanced technology takes the wheel, allowing passengers to sit back and enjoy the ride. Yet such systems have to meet stringent safety standards. For example, an autonomous vehicle must be able to recognize obstacles and other hazards—and apply the brakes in an emergency. Such a vehicle could be equipped with a new microscanner mirror from the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS. This performs a 3-D scan of the vehicle surroundings to a range of over 200 meters. When integrated within a LiDAR system, it can obviate the need for human vision and thereby make a key contribution to the safety of autonomous driving.

Visualization adds transparency to digital product development

Product development is becoming increasingly demanding. Quality requirements are rising; additionally, designers need to consider criteria such as sustainability and energy efficiency. Visualization software offers the potential to reveal the complex interaction between all the different parameters and features of the planned product. For this purpose, Fraunhofer researchers have developed an interactive tool that provides a reliable basis for making informed decisions about the design alternatives of a product.

Are you willing to pay for email? How about podcasts? Here are our tech predictions for 2021

It's that time of year where we make predictions about what to see from technology in 2021.

Charging ahead for electric vehicles

Roads installed with wireless charging technology could become an integral feature of our cities in an electric vehicle future.

Union at Google parent Alphabet seeks bigger role for workers

Employees at Google and other units of parent firm Alphabet announced the creation Monday of a union, aiming for a bigger role in company decisions in a move which steps up the activism brewing in Silicon Valley giants.

A polarization-driven guide to making high-performance, versatile solar cells

Improving solar cell design is integral for improving energy consumption. Scientists have lately focused on making solar cells more efficient, flexible, and portable to enable their integration into everyday applications. Consequently, novel lightweight and flexible thin film solar cells have been developed. It is, however, not easy to combine efficiency with flexibility. For a material (usually a semiconductor) to be efficient, it must have a small 'band gap'—the energy required to excite charge carriers for electrical conduction—and should absorb and convert a large portion of sunlight into electricity. Till date, no such efficient absorber suitable for thin film solar cells has been developed.

SolarWinds breach could reshape cybersecurity practices

As investigations continued into the massive data breach linked to Austin-based software company SolarWinds, experts say the attack could lead to long-term changes in cybersecurity policies and procedures for government entities and private companies alike.

Slack kicks off 2021 with a global outage

Slack, the messaging service used by millions of people for work and school, suffered a global outage on Monday, the first day back for most people returning from the New Year's holiday.

Samsung expected to unveil new Galaxy S21 smartphone on Jan. 14

Ready to kick off 2021 with new Samsung smartphones?

China telecom firms slide after New York delisting as oil giants fret

Shares in China's big three state-owned telecom companies slid in Hong Kong Monday during the first day of trading since the New York Stock Exchange announced it was delisting the firms.

UK watchdog investigates Ryanair's 'jab & go' ad

Britain's advertising watchdog has launched an investigation into budget carrier Ryanair, after receiving 1,600 complaints about an ad that suggested consumers should "jab & go.''

Amazon's Bezos tops list of richest charitable gifts in 2020

The world's richest person made the single-largest charitable contribution in 2020, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list of top donations, a $10 billion gift that is intended to help fight climate change.

Amazon surpasses Boeing as Washington state's biggest employer

Move over, Boeing. Washington state is now Amazonia.

Discovery+ streaming service goes live with new '90 Day' series, and shows from Chip and Joanna Gaines

Along with the coming of a new year, there's another streaming service for your consideration: Discovery+.

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