Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jan 12

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 12, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A framework to assess the importance of variables for different predictive models

The realization of a single-quantum-dot heat valve

Discovery of quantum behavior in insulators suggests possible new particle

Most distant quasar discovered sheds light on how black holes grow

Neptune-sized exoplanet discovered by NGTS survey

Physicists get closer to examining the symmetries underlying our universe

Higher coffee intake may be linked to lower prostate cancer risk

Tweaking AI software to function like a human brain improves computer's learning ability

Why COVID-19 pneumonia lasts longer, causes more damage than typical pneumonia

Machine learning accelerates discovery of materials for use in industrial processes

The odd structure of ORF8: Mapping the coronavirus protein linked to disease severity

GridTape: An automated electron microscopy platform

Roman Space Telescope could image 100 Hubble ultra deep fields at once

Study: Wildfires produced up to half of pollution in US West

New humanized mouse model provides insight into immunotherapy resistance

Physics news

The realization of a single-quantum-dot heat valve

While many research teams worldwide are trying to develop highly performing quantum computers, some are working on tools to control the flow of heat inside of them. Just like conventional computers, in fact, quantum computers can heat up significantly as they are operating, which can ultimately damage both the devices and their surroundings.

Discovery of quantum behavior in insulators suggests possible new particle

In a surprising discovery, Princeton physicists have observed an unexpected quantum behavior in an insulator made from a material called tungsten ditelluride. This phenomenon, known as quantum oscillation, is typically observed in metals rather than insulators, and its discovery offers new insights into our understanding of the quantum world. The findings also hint at the existence of an entirely new type of quantum particle.

Physicists get closer to examining the symmetries underlying our universe

Every field has its underlying principles. For economics it's the rational actor; biology has the theory of evolution; modern geology rests on the bedrock of plate tectonics.

Scientists measure local vibrational modes at individual crystalline faults

Often admired for their flawless appearance to the naked eye, crystals can have defects at the nanometer scale, and these imperfections may affect the thermal and heat transport properties of crystalline materials used in a variety of high-technology devices.

Synergistic collaboration leads to new strategy for biomedical 3-D imaging

When it comes to getting a three-dimensional look at cells in the human body, it is not much different than figuring out precisely where a firefly is in a field at night. We can tell which direction it is in, but it is challenging to know how far away it is.

Researchers develop laser-based process to 3-D print detailed glass objects

Researchers have developed a new laser-based process for 3-D printing intricate parts made of glass. With further development, the new method could be useful for making complex optics for vision, imaging, illumination or laser-based applications.

Toward exawatt-class lasers

Ultra-intense lasers with ultra-short pulses and ultra-high energies are powerful tools for exploring unknowns in physics, cosmology, material science, etc. With the help of chirped pulse amplification (CPA) (2018 Nobel Prize in Physics), the current record has reached 10 petawatts (or 1016 Watts). In a study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers from Osaka University proposed a concept for next-generation ultra-intense lasers with a simulated peak power up to the exawatt class (1 exawatt equals 1000 petawatts).

No disassembly required: Non-destructive method to measure carrier lifetime in SiC

Silicon carbide (SiC), a versatile and resistant material that exists in multiple crystalline forms, has attracted much attention thanks to its unique electronic properties. From its use in the first LED devices, to its applications in high-voltage devices with low power losses, SiC displays exceptional semiconductor behavior. So far, the operating voltages for unipolar SiC devices are below 3.3 kV. Though useful for the electronic systems of cars, trains, and home appliances, unipolar SiC-based devices cannot be used in power generation and distribution systems, which operate at voltages above 10 kV.

Long-range energy transport in perovskite nanocrystal films

Producing clean energy and reducing the power consumption of illumination and personal devices are key challenges to reduce the impact of modern civilization on the environment. As a result, the surging demand for solar cells and light-emitting devices is driving scientists to explore new semiconductor materials and improve their performances, while lowering the production costs.

Astronomy and Space news

Most distant quasar discovered sheds light on how black holes grow

A team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona has observed a luminous quasar 13.03 billion light-years from Earth—the most distant quasar discovered to date. Dating back to 670 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only 5% its current age, the quasar hosts a supermassive black hole equivalent to the combined mass of 1.6 billion suns.

Neptune-sized exoplanet discovered by NGTS survey

An international team of astronomers reports the discovery of a new exoplanet as part of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS). The newly found alien world, designated NGTS-14Ab, is about 30% larger than Neptune. The finding was detailed in a paper published January 5 on

Roman Space Telescope could image 100 Hubble ultra deep fields at once

One of the Hubble Space Telescope's most iconic images is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which unveiled myriad galaxies across the universe, stretching back to within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang. Hubble peered at a single patch of seemingly empty sky for hundreds of hours beginning in September 2003, and astronomers first unveiled this galaxy tapestry in 2004, with more observations in subsequent years.

Astronomers finally measure polarized light from exoplanet

An international team led by Dutch astronomers has, after years of searching and defying the boundaries of a telescope, for the first time directly captured polarized light from an exoplanet. They can deduct from the light that a disk of dust and gas is orbiting around the exoplanet in which moons are possibly forming. The researchers will soon publish their findings in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

'Super Earth' discovered near one of our galaxy's oldest stars

A hot, rocky "super Earth," near one of the oldest stars in the galaxy has taken a team of planet-hunting scientists by surprise.

Astronomers measure enormous planet lurking far from its star

Scientists aren't usually able to measure the size of gigantic planets, like Jupiter or Saturn, which are far from the stars they orbit. But a UC Riverside-led team has done it.

Energy from solar wind favors the north

Using information from ESA's Swarm satellite constellation, scientists have made a discovery about how energy generated by electrically-charged particles in the solar wind flows into Earth's atmosphere—surprisingly, more of it heads towards the magnetic north pole than towards the magnetic south pole.

Reconstructing the solar system's original architecture

As the solar system was developing, the giant planets (Jupiter and Saturn) formed very early, and as they grew, they migrated both closer to and further away from the sun to stay in gravitationally stable orbits.

A planet called KOI-5Ab orbits in a triple-star system with a skewed configuration

Shortly after NASA's Kepler mission began operations back in 2009, it identified what was thought to be a planet about the size of Neptune. Called KOI-5Ab, the planet, which was the second new planet candidate to be found by the mission, was ultimately forgotten as Kepler racked up more and more planet discoveries. By the end of its mission in 2018, Kepler had discovered a whopping 2,394 exoplanets, or planets orbiting stars beyond our sun, and an additional 2,366 exoplanet candidates, including KOI-5Ab.

Cheers! French wine, vines headed home after year in space

The International Space Station bid adieu Tuesday to 12 bottles of French Bordeaux wine and hundreds of snippets of grapevines that spent a year orbiting the world in the name of science.

NASA missions help investigate an 'Old Faithful' active galaxy

During a typical year, over a million people visit Yellowstone National Park, where the Old Faithful geyser regularly blasts a jet of boiling water high in the air. Now, an international team of astronomers has discovered a cosmic equivalent, a distant galaxy that erupts roughly every 114 days.

Curiosity rover reaches its 3,000th day on Mars

As the rover has continued to ascend Mount Sharp, it's found distinctive benchlike rock formations.

New Horizons spacecraft answers the question: How dark is space?

How dark is the sky, and what does that tell us about the number of galaxies in the visible universe? Astronomers can estimate the total number of galaxies by counting everything visible in a Hubble deep field and then multiplying them by the total area of the sky. But other galaxies are too faint and distant to directly detect. Yet while we can't count them, their light suffuses space with a feeble glow.

The obliquity of Mars: Periodic bedding in Tithonium Chasma

Earth's seasons are caused by the tilt of our planet's rotational axis to the orbital plane or obliquity. Mars' obliquity is currently about 25 degrees, which is not much different from Earth's 23 degrees. However, numerical calculations by scientists at the Paris Observatory and Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest that this near-agreement is a coincidence.

Image: Frosty scenes in Martian summer

The CaSSIS camera onboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter captured remnant frost deposits in a region near Sisyphi Tholus, in the high southern latitudes of Mars (74ºS/246ºE).

SpaceX's next idea: Catch Super Heavy boosters with the launch tower

SpaceX is getting closer and closer to realizing the design for its Starship and Super Heavy launch system. Once complete, it will be the world's first fully reusable launch system and will facilitate trips to low Earth orbit (LEO), the moon and Mars. Construction began on the system's booster element (Super Heavy) this past summer and, according to a recent tweet by Musk, will be "caught" by its launch tower.

Technology news

A framework to assess the importance of variables for different predictive models

Two researchers at Duke University have recently devised a useful approach to examine how essential certain variables are for increasing the reliability/accuracy of predictive models. Their paper, published in Nature Machine Intelligence, could ultimately aid the development of more reliable and better performing machine-learning algorithms for a variety of applications.

Tweaking AI software to function like a human brain improves computer's learning ability

Computer-based artificial intelligence can function more like human intelligence when programmed to use a much faster technique for learning new objects, say two neuroscientists who designed such a model that was designed to mirror human visual learning.

Machine learning accelerates discovery of materials for use in industrial processes

New research led by researchers at the University of Toronto (U of T) and Northwestern University employs machine learning to craft the best building blocks in the assembly of framework materials for use in a targeted application.

Can sodium-ion batteries replace trusty lithium-ion ones?

Sodium-ion batteries are a potential replacement for lithium batteries, but the anodes—positively charged electrodes—that work well for lithium-ion batteries don't provide the same level of performance for sodium-ion batteries.

Two-sided solar cells can collect scattered light to gather more energy

To increase the performance of solar panels, an international collaboration—including researchers from King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) and U of T Engineering—has created a bifacial, or two-sided, tandem solar cell, built by bringing together the best of the perovskite and silicon technologies.

Africa's electricity unlikely to go green this decade

New research today from the University of Oxford predicts that total electricity generation across the African continent will double by 2030, with fossil fuels continuing to dominate the energy mix—posing potential risk to global climate change commitments.

Highly conductive antiperovskites with soft anion lattices

A new structural arrangement of atoms shows promise for developing safer batteries made with solid materials. Scientists at Kyoto University's Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS) designed a new type of 'antiperovskite' that could help efforts to replace the flammable organic electrolytes currently used in lithium ion batteries. Their findings were described in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers use advanced light to reveal how different biofuels behave

Vehicles have evolved to become more efficient and sophisticated, but their fuel hasn't necessarily evolved along with them. The Department of Energy is determined to identify cleaner burning and renewable alternatives to gasoline, and through the work of two UCF researchers, the DOE is one step closer to that goal.

Pandemic's robot 'heroes' highlight their value at tech show

Robots that helped people survive and stay safe over the past year are touting their value at the tech industry's annual extravaganza amid a pandemic which has given fresh momentum to the robotics sector.

Massive tech show kicks off as pandemic boosts spending

A digital version of the Consumer Electronics Show kicked off Monday, showcasing new innovations as organizers projected sharp growth in technology spending amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Imec introduces 2-D materials in the logic device scaling roadmap

The continual scaling of Si-based transistors is challenged by short channel effects that limit further gate length scaling. Field-effect transistors (FETs) with semiconducting transition metal dichalcogenides (MX2, such as WS2 or MoS2) as the semiconductor channel promise however to be relatively immune to these short channel effects. FETs with 2-D semiconductor channel owe this promise to the ability to make atomically thin channels combined with the theoretical ability to maintain higher carrier mobility—independent of channel thickness. These two properties give the gate voltage a better electrostatic control over the channel. Iuliana Radu, program director at imec, says, "2-D-FETs are considered prime candidates to further extend the logic device scaling roadmap. Our team at imec has set the scene for adopting these 2-D semiconductors into a 300mm integration flow—a key requirement for industrial adoption. We also obtained significant steps forward in improving device performance and in building fundamental understanding."

Advanced tools reveal critical infrastructure connections to mitigate disasters

A cross-platform Argonne collaboration is optimizing a tool developed after Hurricane Maria to find essential connections between critical infrastructure that will help owners and operators plan for and mitigate a variety of potential hazards.

How to build a likable chatbot

A few years ago, Business Insider predicted that 80% of enterprise applications would use chatbots by 2020. Today, the internet is flooded with millions of conversational artificial intelligence agents. Yet only a handful of them are actually used by people—most are discarded.

A novel approach for improving gate-stack reliability

Bias temperature instability (BTI) is a well-known aging mechanism in metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs), which can severely affect the device performance and reliability. It typically manifests itself as an undesirable progressive increase of the device threshold voltage and a decrease of the drain current. BTI is ascribed to the presence of defects in the gate dielectrics and at the interface with the Si channel, which can trap charge carriers from the device conduction channel.

CES 2021: The robots are still coming. These are some of the best ones on the way

Even though the event is virtual, CES delivers no shortage of big screens or nifty gadgets. But let's be real: both of those are lame compared to the robots.

Sony Airpeak drone: A small unmanned aerial vehicle that shoots 4K movie videos from above

Drones have always been a high-flying success at the annual CES show.

How does Wi-Fi work? An electrical engineer explains

Though you can't see them, radio waves are all around you all the time, carrying information. For most people, some of those radio waves are Wi-Fi signals. Wi-Fi is the catchy name an industry alliance came up with to market devices that transmit large amounts of data over short distances using radio waves. The letters don't stand for anything.

German police take down 'world's largest darknet marketplace'

A German-led police sting has taken down the "world's largest" darknet marketplace, whose Australian alleged operator used it to facilitate the sale of drugs, stolen credit card data and malware, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Volkswagen triples electric car sales ahead of climate rules

Europe's push into electric cars is gathering speed—despite the pandemic.

GM charges up new unit to sell electric delivery vans, gear

The market for battery-powered delivery vehicles and equipment has so much potential that General Motors is forming a new business unit to serve it, a move that lifted the automaker's stock to a multiyear high.

A new model of influence maximization

If you were an owner of a newly set-up company, you would most likely be focused on building brand awareness to reach out to as many people as possible. But how can you do so with budget constraints?

Boeing reports steep drop in 2020 deliveries, backlog

Boeing on Tuesday reported a plunge in annual plane deliveries and a diminished order backlog as it contended with dual crises caused by the 737 MAX grounding and the travel industry downturn brought about by COVID-19.

Renault bets on electric after 2020 sales slump

French auto giant Renault on Tuesday reported a sharp drop in 2020 sales amid the coronavirus pandemic, while unveiling its plans for the transition to electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Yelp's new feature lets users display whether a business implements safety practices or not

Yelp launched a new feature that lets users give feedback on the safety practices a business may or may not be implementing related to the coronavirus pandemic.

GM takes to skies with flying car concept unveiled at CES

General Motors on Tuesday joined the race for flying cars, unveiling its concept for an autonomous air taxi at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show.

System that adapts the temperature and lighting in a building according to the climate

A research team from the University of Almeria has designed an automatic software program that predicts the right temperature for the users of a building and adapts it to their activity in a specific room. The prototype works with a mathematical model that adjusts the heat according to variables such as the outside climate -to obtain an energy saving of 11%- and the thermal and lighting comfort of the user. In addition, the system uses renewable energy installations in an autonomous way to achieve more efficient consumption, reduce CO2 emissions and save costs.

Twitter suspends 70,000 QAnon accounts in massive purge following deadly Capitol siege, Trump ban

Twitter says it suspended more than 70,000 accounts sharing QAnon content since Friday following the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol.

Microsoft, Facebook pause political donations after riot at U.S. Capitol

Facebook Inc., Google and Microsoft Corp. said they will pause political contributions after a deadly pro-Trump riot in the U.S. Capitol last week that aimed to disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden.

Facebook appoints civil rights vice president amid pressure over racial hatred, violence on Facebook, Instagram

Civil rights attorney Roy L. Austin, Jr., who focused on policing in the Obama administration, first at the Justice Department and then at the White House, is Facebook's new vice president of civil rights charged with helping the social media giant curb the racial hatred and violence on its platforms that over the summer led to a month-long boycott by civil rights groups and major advertisers.

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