Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Jan 19

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 19, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

WSR: A new Wi-Fi-based system for collaborative robotics

A strategy to improve the efficiency and long-term stability of perovskite solar cells

A realistic model of the ITER tokamak magnetic fusion device

Multidimensional coherent spectroscopy reveals triplet state coherences in cesium lead-halide perovskite nanocrystals

Could NRF2 be your magic molecule for eternal youth?

Astronomers detect an outbursting young stellar object

Going with the grains to explain a fundamental tectonic force

Money matters to happiness—perhaps more than previously thought

Light-controlled Higgs modes found in superconductors; potential sensor, computing uses

NASA explores solar wind with new view of small sun structures

Stop global roll out of 5G networks until safety is confirmed, urges expert

'Babysitters' provide boost to offspring of elderly birds

New approach emerges to better classify, treat brain tumors

New drug combination shows promise as powerful treatment for AML

Inflamed environment is Clostridioides difficile paradise

Physics news

A realistic model of the ITER tokamak magnetic fusion device

Tokamaks, devices that use magnetic fields to confine plasma into torus-shaped chamber, could play a crucial role in the development of highly performing nuclear fusion reactors. The ITER tokamak, which is set to be the largest nuclear tokamak in the world, is particularly likely to shape the way in which nuclear reactors will be fabricated in the future.

Light-controlled Higgs modes found in superconductors; potential sensor, computing uses

Even if you weren't a physics major, you've probably heard something about the Higgs boson.

Eggs reveal what may happen to brain on impact

What causes brain concussions? Is it direct translational or rotational impact? This is one of the research areas currently being explored by Qianhong Wu's lab at Villanova University.

Scientists streamline process for controlling spin dynamics

Marking a major achievement in the field of spintronics, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Yale University have demonstrated the ability to control spin dynamics in magnetic materials by altering their thickness. The study, published today in Nature Materials, could lead to smaller, more energy-efficient electronic devices.

Light-induced twisting of Weyl nodes switches on giant electron current

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and collaborators at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have discovered a new light-induced switch that twists the crystal lattice of the material, switching on a giant electron current that appears to be nearly dissipationless. The discovery was made in a category of topological materials that holds great promise for spintronics, topological effect transistors, and quantum computing.

Clocking electron movements inside an atom

Hard X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) have delivered intense, ultrashort X-ray pulses for over a decade. One of the most promising applications of XFELs is in biology, where researchers can capture images down to the atomic scale even before the radiation damage destroys the sample. In physics and chemistry, these X-rays can also shed light on the fastest processes occurring in nature with a shutter speed lasting only one femtosecond—equivalent to a millionth of a billionth of a second.

Fastener with microscopic mushroom design holds promise

A Velcro-like fastener with a microscopic design that looks like tiny mushrooms could mean advances for everyday consumers and scientific fields like robotics.

Experimental evidence of an intermediate state of matter between a crystal and a liquid

Scientists from the Joint Institute for High Temperatures Russian Academy of Sciences (JIHT RAS) and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) have experimentally confirmed the presence of an intermediate phase between the crystalline and liquid states in a monolayer dusty plasma system. The theoretical prediction of the intermediate—hexatic—phase was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2016: the prize was awarded to Michael Kosterlitz, David Thouless and Duncan Haldane with the formulation "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter."

Direct quantification of topological protection in photonic edge states at telecom wavelengths

Topologically tailored photonic crystals (PhC) have opened up the possibility for attaining robust unidirectional transport of classical and quantum systems. The demand for unprecedented guiding capabilities that support unhindered transport around imperfections and sharp corners at telecom wavelengths, without the need for any optimization, is fundamental for efficient distribution of information through dense on-chip photonic networks. However, transport properties of experimental realizations of such topologically non-trivial states have been inferred by transmission measurements and even though robustness has been attested in the linear and nonlinear regimes, its exact quantification remains challenging.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers detect an outbursting young stellar object

By analyzing datasets from the Palomar Gattini InfraRed survey (PGIR) and NASA's NEOWISE spacecraft, astronomers have identified an outbursting young stellar object (YSO) in the star-forming region NGC 281-W. The study, which reports the finding and sheds more light on the nature of the newfound YSO, was published Jan. 11 on

NASA explores solar wind with new view of small sun structures

Scientists have combined NASA data and cutting-edge image processing to gain new insight into the solar structures that create the Sun's flow of high-speed solar wind, detailed in new research published today in The Astrophysical Journal. This first look at relatively small features, dubbed "plumelets," could help scientists understand how and why disturbances form in the solar wind.

The Milky Way does the wave

In results announced this week at the 237th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, scientists from the Sloan Digital Sky survey present the most detailed look yet at the warp of our own galaxy.

Mystery of Martian glaciers revealed

In a new paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academies of ScienceS (PNAS), planetary geologist Joe Levy, assistant professor of geology at Colgate University, reveals a groundbreaking new analysis of the mysterious glaciers of Mars.

Halted rocket test could stall NASA moon shot, redo possible

NASA is considering a second firing of its moon rocket engines after a critical test came up short over the weekend, a move that could bump the first flight in the Artemis lunar-landing program into next year.

Testing the waters: Analyzing different solid states of water on other planets and moons

Just like on Earth, water on other planets, satellites, and even comets comes in a variety of forms depending on multiple factors such as pressure and temperature. Aside from the gaseous, liquid, and solid states we are accustomed to, water can form a different type of crystalline solid called clathrate hydrate. Although they look similar to ice, clathrate hydrates have actually small water-based cages in which smaller molecules are trapped. These trapped "guest" molecules are essential for preserving the crystalline structure of clathrate hydrates, which would otherwise "collapse" into regular ice or water.

Astronomers dissect the anatomy of planetary nebulae using Hubble Space Telescope images

Images of two iconic planetary nebulae taken by the Hubble Space Telescope are revealing new information about how they develop their dramatic features. Researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology and Green Bank Observatory presented new findings about the Butterfly Nebula (NGC 6302) and the Jewel Bug Nebula (NGC 7027) at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society on Friday, Jan. 15.

The magnetic fields swirling within the Whirlpool galaxy

Messier objects are some of the most imaged objects in the universe. In part that's because many of them are so visibly appealing. A good example of that is the Whirlpool galaxy, M51, which recently received an even more dramatic visual representation with a new photo released by NASA. In it, the magnetic fields that are holding the galaxy together and tearing it apart at the same time are clearly visible. And it is even more stunning to look at.

The first CubeSat with a Hall-effect thruster has gone to space

Student-led teams aren't the only ones testing out novel electric propulsion techniques recently. Back in November, a company called Exotrail successfully tested a completely new kind of electric propulsion system in space—a small Hall-effect thruster.

Researchers discover the earliest supermassive black hole and quasar in the universe

Nearly every galaxy hosts a monster at its center—a supermassive black hole millions to billions times the size of the Sun. While there's still much to learn about these objects, many scientists believe they are crucial to the formation and structure of galaxies. What's more, some of these black holes are particularly active, whipping up stars, dust and gas into glowing accretion disks emitting powerful radiation into the cosmos as they consume matter around them. These quasars are some of the most distant objects that astronomers can see, and there is now a new record for the farthest one ever observed.

Technology news

WSR: A new Wi-Fi-based system for collaborative robotics

Researchers at Harvard University have recently devised a system based on Wi-Fi sensing that could enhance the collaboration between robots operating in unmapped environments. This system, presented in a paper pre-published on arXiv, can essentially emulate antenna arrays in the air as a robot moves freely in a 2-D or 3-D environment.

A strategy to improve the efficiency and long-term stability of perovskite solar cells

Over the past few years, researchers have been trying to develop new designs for perovskite solar cells that could improve their performance, efficiency and stability over time. One possible way of achieving this is to combine 2-D and 3-D halide perovskites in order to leverage the advantageous properties of these two different types of perovskites.

How short circuits in lithium metal batteries can be prevented

There are high hopes for the next generation of high energy-density lithium metal batteries, but before they can be used in our vehicles, there are crucial problems to solve. An international research team led by Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, has now developed concrete guidelines for how the batteries should be charged and operated, maximizing efficiency while minimizing the risk of short circuits.

Cyber-evolution: How computer science is harnessing the power of Darwinian transformation

From a pair of simple principles of evolution—chance mutation and natural selection—nature has constructed an almost unfathomable richness of life around us. Despite our scientific sophistication, human design and engineering have struggled to emulate nature's techniques and her inexhaustible inventiveness. But that may be changing.

Bio-inspired: How lobsters can help make stronger 3-D printed concrete

New research shows that patterns inspired by lobster shells can make 3-D printed concrete stronger, to support more complex and creative architectural structures.

Appreciating a flower's texture, color, and shape leads to better drone landings

If you ever saw a honeybee hopping elegantly from flower to flower or avoiding you as you passed by, you may have wondered how such a tiny insect has such perfect navigation skills. These flying insects' skills are partially explained by the concept of optical flow: they perceive the speed with which objects move through their field of view. Robotics researchers have tried to mimic these strategies on flying robots, but with limited success.

EU regulator to clear Boeing 737 MAX flights next week

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) plans to clear the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again next week, 22 months after the plane was grounded following two fatal crashes.

Fake news: Bold visual warnings needed to stop people clicking – new research

A senior doctor in charge of the NHS anti-disinformation campaign has said that language and cultural barriers could be causing people from ethnic minorities to reject the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Harpreet Sood told the BBC it was "a big concern" and officials were working hard to reach different groups "to correct so much fake news."

Study: Automakers delay recalls to minimize stock penalties and avoid being first safety issue in news cycle

Whether consciously or unconsciously, automotive firms time their product recalls to minimize stock price penalties, resulting in unnecessary delays and clusters of subsequent recalls by other companies, according to new research from the University of Notre Dame.

Autonomous driving on intelligent road at Europe's edge

An ESA-supported effort put an intelligent road up in Finnish Lapland through its paces, assessing its suitability for testing autonomous vehicles in some of Europe's most challenging driving conditions.

DuckDuckGo search engine increased its traffic by 62% in 2020 as users seek privacy

DuckDuckGo, a search engine focused on privacy, increased its average number of daily searches by 62% in 2020 as users seek alternatives to impede data tracking.

Cheaper solar power means low-income families can also benefit – with the right kind of help

Until recently, rooftop solar panels were a clean energy technology that only wealthy Americans could afford. But prices have dropped, thanks mostly to falling costs for hardware, as well as price declines for installation and other "soft" costs.

GM teams up with Microsoft on driverless cars

General Motors is teaming up with Microsoft to accelerate its rollout of electric, self-driving cars.

Robot learns fast but safe navigation strategy

A research group from the Active Intelligent System Laboratory (AISL) at Toyohashi University of Technology (TUT) has proposed a new framework for training mobile robots to quickly navigate while maintaining low collision rates. The framework combines deep reinforcement learning (DRL) and curriculum learning in the training process for robots to learn a fast but safe navigation policy.

Could 'Power Walking' fuel the energy revolution? India is ready to step up

India has an energy problem. It currently relies heavily on coal, and consumer demand is expected to double by 2040, making its green energy targets look out of reach. Part of the solution could come from harvesting energy from footsteps, say Hari Anand and Binod Kumar Singh from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun, India. Their new study, published in the De Gruyter journal Energy Harvesting and Systems, shows that Indian attitudes towards power generated through piezoelectric tiles are overwhelmingly positive.

Healing ceramic electrolyte degraded by lithium dendrite

A research team in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Information Engineering at Toyohashi University of Technology and the Department of Chemistry at University of Calgary has investigated the effect of post-annealing for healing Li garnet solid electrolyte degraded by the growth of Li dendrites. The ionic conductivity of the annealed solid electrolyte was slightly lower than that of the electrolyte before annealing but was retained above 10-4 S cm-1 at room temperature. The electrochemical results obtained indicate the possibility of reusing the solid electrolyte degraded by the growth of Li dendrites in another all-solid-state Li battery.

India urges WhatsApp to withdraw new data-sharing policy

India's government Tuesday called on WhatsApp to withdraw planned changes to its data-sharing policy, citing concerns about users' privacy and security.

CMOS-compatible 3-D ferroelectric memory with ultralow power and high speed

As we enter the era of superintelligence and hyper-connected Fourth Industrial Revolution, the importance of high-density and high-performance memory is greater than ever. Currently, the most widely used NAND flash memory has issues of high power consumption, slow operation speed, and vulnerability to repetitive use since it relies on the charge trap effect to store information. To this, a POSTECH research team has recently demonstrated a ferroelectric memory that exceedingly surpasses the performance of the conventional flash memory in terms of operation speed, power consumption, and device reliability.

Machine learning helps retrace evolution of classical music

Researchers in EPFL's Digital and Cognitive Musicology Lab in the College of Humanities used an unsupervised machine learning model to 'listen to' and categorize more than 13,000 pieces of Western classical music, revealing how modes—such as major and minor—have changed throughout history.

Ransomware took heavy toll on US in 2020: researchers

Ransomware attacks took a heavy toll on the United States last year with more than 2,000 victims in government, education and health care, security researchers say in a new report.

Electric vehicle maker Rivian valued at $27.6 bn in funding round

Electric vehicle maker Rivian on Tuesday said it raised $2.65 billion in a new funding round valuing the Amazon-backed US company at $26.7 billion.

Stellantis sets sights on electric vehicles in future

Stellantis, the world's newest major automobile group, laid out Tuesday a roadmap for its development, notably in electric vehicles.

Europe 2020 auto sales post record fall as virus hits

New car sales in Europe last year suffered a record fall of nearly 24 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said Tuesday.

US urges Australia to abandon news payment plan for tech giants

The United States has urged Australia to abandon its plan to force Google and Facebook to pay media outlets for their news content, saying there could be "long-lasting negative consequences" for consumers and companies.

Turkey slaps advertising ban on Twitter, Pinterest

Turkey on Tuesday slapped advertising bans on Twitter, Periscope and Pinterest over their non-compliance with a controversial new law that requires social media platforms to appoint legal representatives in the country.

Emirates, Etihad to pilot virus 'travel pass'

Emirates and Etihad, two of the Middle East's biggest airlines, said Tuesday they would be among the first companies to test an application that allows pre-travel verification of coronavirus tests and vaccinations.

TikTok owner ByteDance launches e-payment service

TikTok owner ByteDance has begun rolling out an electronic payment service connected to Douyin, the Chinese version of the popular short video app, the tech giant said Tuesday.

Blockchain technology to optimize P2P energy trading

A Tokyo Tech research team led by Specially Appointed Professor Takuya Oda of the Institute of Innovative Research and Professor Keisuke Tanaka of the School of Computing, in collaboration with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, has developed a new technology an original blockchain technology that can optimize peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading.

Buildings, tunnels and bridges could soon repair themselves

Stone and concrete structures with the ability to heal themselves in a similar way to living organisms when damaged could help to make buildings safer and last longer.

Streaming service Paramount+, featuring content from CBS, Viacom, to launch March 4

Got room in your life for another streaming service?

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