Science X Newsletter Monday, Jan 25

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 25, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Long-distance and secure quantum key distribution (QKD) over a free-space channel

Study explores the effects of maternal inflammation on fetal brain development

Tiny bio-inspired swarm robots for targeted medical interventions

Puzzling six-exoplanet system with rhythmic movement challenges theories of how planets form

Researchers advance new route to chemically recyclable plastics

Competition among human females likely contributed to concealed ovulation

Tumor cells reveal a core syncytial drive to evade host defenses

Suzaku observations find X-ray intraday variability of the blazar PKS 2155−304

Terbium (III)-doped fluorescent glass for biomedical research

Microsoft patent would let us chat with the departed

Wet and wild: There's lots of water in the world's most explosive volcano

Study proves potential for reducing pre-term birth by treating fetus as patient

Nearly pain-free microneedle patch can test for antibodies and more in the fluid between cells

New technique builds super-hard metals from nanoparticles

Approved drug could make radiation therapy more effective for head, neck cancer: study

Physics news

Long-distance and secure quantum key distribution (QKD) over a free-space channel

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a technique that enables secure communications between devices using a cryptographic protocol that is partly based on quantum mechanics. This communication method ultimately allows two parties to encrypt and decrypt messages they send to each other using a unique key that is unknown to other parties.

Physicists succeed in filming phase transition with extremely high spatial and temporal resolution

Laser beams can be used to change the properties of materials in an extremely precise way. This principle is already widely used in technologies such as rewritable DVDs. However, the underlying processes generally take place at such unimaginably fast speeds and at such a small scale that they have so far eluded direct observation. Researchers at the University of Göttingen and the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen have now managed to film, for the first time, the laser transformation of a crystal structure with nanometre resolution and in slow motion in an electron microscope. The results have been published in the journal Science.

Researchers guide a single ion through a Bose-Einstein condensate

Transport processes are ubiquitous in nature, but still raise many questions. The research team around Florian Meinert from the Fifth Institute of Physics at the University of Stuttgart has now developed a new method to observe a single charged particle on its path through a dense cloud of ultracold atoms. The results were published in Physical Review Letters and are further reported in a Viewpoint column in the journal Physics.

Researchers achieve extreme-ultraviolet spectral compression by four-wave mixing

Researchers from the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy (MBI) have developed a new method to modify the spectral width of extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) light. By employing a novel phase-matching scheme in four-wave mixing, they could compress the spectral width of the initial broadband light by more than hundred times. The detailed experimental and theoretical results have been published in Nature Photonics.

Optimal information about the invisible

Laser beams can be used to precisely measure an object's position or velocity. Normally, however, a clear, unobstructed view of this object is required—and this prerequisite is not always satisfied. In biomedicine, for example, structures are examined, which are embedded in an irregular, complicated environment. There, the laser beam is deflected, scattered and refracted, often making it impossible to obtain useful data from the measurement.

Adding or subtracting single quanta of sound

Researchers perform experiments that can add or subtract a single quantum of sound—with surprising results when applied to noisy sound fields.

A new class of superconductors

A new theory that could explain how unconventional superconductivity arises in a diverse set of compounds might never have happened if physicists Qimiao Si and Emilian Nica had chosen a different name for their 2017 model of orbital-selective superconductivity.

Better bundled: New principle for generating X-rays

X-rays are usually difficult to direct and guide. X-ray physicists at the University of Göttingen have developed a new method with which the X-rays can be emitted more precisely in one direction. To do this, the scientists use a structure of thin layers of materials with different densities of electrons to simultaneously deflect and focus the generated beams. The results of the study were published in the journal Science Advances.

How complex oscillations in a quantum system simplify with time

Quantum physics allows to make statements about the behavior of a wide variety of many-particle systems at the atomic level, from salt crystals to neutron stars. In quantum systems, many parameters do not have concrete values, but are distributed over various values with certain probabilities. Often this distribution takes the form of a simple Gaussian bell curve that is encountered also in classical systems for example the distribution of balls in the Galton box experiment. However, not all quantum systems follow this simple behavior and some might deviate from the Gaussian distribution due to interactions.

Autofocusing of microscopy images using deep learning

Optical microscopes are frequently used in biomedical sciences to reveal fine features of a specimen, such as human tissue samples and cells, forming the backbone of pathological imaging for disease diagnosis. One of the most critical steps in microscopic imaging is autofocusing so that different parts of a sample can be rapidly imaged all in focus, featuring various details at a resolution that is smaller than one millionth of a meter. Manual focusing of these microscope images by an expert is impractical, especially for rapid imaging of a large number of specimens, such as in a pathology laboratory that processes hundreds of patient samples every day.

Exchange bias set in a spin-glass phase could arise in a disordered antiferromagnet

A team of researchers from the University of California, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Nuclear Research Center—Negev and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has developed a way to isolate antiferromagnet (AFM) heterostructures in the absence of a ferromagnet (FM) to study the coupling that occurs between AFM order parameters and spin-glass parameters. In their paper published in the journal Nature Physics, the group describes an exchange bias set in a spin-glass phase that could arise in a disordered antiferromagnet. Minhyea Lee, with the University of Colorado has published a News & Views piece in the same journal outlining the work done by the team.

Spreading focus for better imaging

Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) light in microscopy offers the advantage of obtaining a high-resolution image combined with spectral information about the object under study. However, because EUV microscopy uses diffraction instead of lenses, imaging with more than one wavelength is challenging. Researchers at ARCNL and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have found a work-around by designing a new class of diffractive optical elements for EUV light. Their results offer possibilities to improve both the light sources and the optical elements in EUV microscopy, paving the way for widespread use of the technique in nanoscience. On January 25th they published their results in the journal Optica.

Physicists build unique antennas that improve MRI quality and safety

Scanners applied in research use not just one antenna that emits and receives the signal, but several of them, which can cause severe burns to inner tissues and organs. Thus, researchers are forced to power scanners with less voltage, which negatively affects the quality of their studies. Now, ITMO physicists, together with their colleagues from the M-Cube consortium, have created the first ever leaky-wave antennas for MRI scanners. The device can conduct body organ diagnostics without risks for patient health while also raising the quality of images acquired in research scanners.

Astronomy and Space news

Puzzling six-exoplanet system with rhythmic movement challenges theories of how planets form

Using a combination of telescopes, including the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO's VLT), astronomers have revealed a system consisting of six exoplanets, five of which are locked in a rare rhythm around their central star. The researchers believe the system could provide important clues about how planets, including those in the Solar System, form and evolve.

Suzaku observations find X-ray intraday variability of the blazar PKS 2155−304

Using the Suzaku satellite, astronomers have examined a very high energy (VHE) blazar known as PKS 2155−304. They found that the source exhibits an X-ray intraday variability, which could improve the understanding of its nature. The finding is reported in a paper published January 15 on

When galaxies collide: Models suggest galactic collisions can starve massive black holes

It was previously thought that collisions between galaxies would necessarily add to the activity of the massive black holes at their centers. However, researchers have performed the most accurate simulations of a range of collision scenarios and have found that some collisions can reduce the activity of their central black holes. The reason is that certain head-on collisions may in fact clear the galactic nuclei of the matter which would otherwise fuel the black holes contained within.

New galaxy sheds light on how stars form

A lot is known about galaxies. We know, for instance, that the stars within them are shaped from a blend of old star dust and molecules suspended in gas. What remains a mystery, however, is the process that leads to these simple elements being pulled together to form a new star.

NASA's Roman mission will probe galaxy's core for hot Jupiters, brown dwarfs

When it launches in the mid-2020s, NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will explore an expansive range of infrared astrophysics topics. One eagerly anticipated survey will use a gravitational effect called microlensing to reveal thousands of worlds that are similar to the planets in our solar system. Now, a new study shows that the same survey will also unveil more extreme planets and planet-like bodies in the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, thanks to their gravitational tug on the stars they orbit.

U of Louisiana-Lafayette mini-satellite zipping around Earth

A cubical satellite small enough to sit on the palm of your hand is zipping around the world and sending data about radiation to the Louisiana students who designed and built it.

SpaceX rocket deploys record-setting cargo

SpaceX on Sunday launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a record number of satellites on board, the private space company said.

NASA's deep space network welcomes a new dish to the family

A powerful new antenna has been added to the NASA Space Communications and Navigation's Deep Space Network (DSN), which connects us to the space robots exploring our solar system. Called Deep Space Station 56, or DSS-56, the dish is now online and ready to communicate with a variety of missions, including NASA's Perseverance rover when it lands on the Red Planet next month.

Image: Hubble takes portrait of the 'Lost Galaxy'

Located in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin), around 50 million light-years from Earth, the galaxy NGC 4535 is truly a stunning sight to behold. Despite the incredible quality of this image, taken from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, NGC 4535 has a hazy, somewhat ghostly, appearance when viewed from a smaller telescope. This led amateur astronomer Leland S. Copeland to nickname NGC 4535 the "Lost Galaxy" in the 1950s.

GECAM team reports first detection of gamma-ray transients

In the early morning of Jan. 20 (Beijing Time), the Gravitational Wave High-Energy Electromagnetic Counterpart All-sky Monitor (GECAM or Huairou-1) team reported their first detection of a gamma-ray transient (GRB 210119A) in the Gamma-ray Coordinates Network (GCN). With this achievement, GECAM is now part of the global efforts to observe gamma-ray transients in the multi-wavelength multi-messenger astronomy era.

Technology news

Tiny bio-inspired swarm robots for targeted medical interventions

Micro-sized robots could bring a new wave of innovation in the medical field by allowing doctors to access specific regions inside the human body without the need for highly invasive procedures. Among other things, these tiny robots could be used to carry drugs, genes or other substances to specific sites inside the body, opening up new possibilities for treating different medical conditions.

Microsoft patent would let us chat with the departed

A chilling episode of the Twilight Zone that first aired 60 years ago focused on a young boy (played by Bill Mumy) who frustrated his parents by insisting he speaks to his grandmother daily on the toy phone she had given him just before she died. When his grieving and exasperated mother finally grabbed the phone to toss it away, she was startled to hear her mother's voice on the line.

A switch to battery electric vehicles is the best option for cleaner road transport, study finds

The widespread adoption of battery electric vehicles offers the greatest energy efficiency and potential for CO2 reduction, new analysis by Cambridge engineers has shown.

With new design, stretchable electronics perform better under strain

Our bodies send out hosts of signals—chemicals, electrical pulses, mechanical shifts—that can provide a wealth of information about our health.

'Baba Yaga' introduces with a virtual reality movie premiere

Last week Daisy Ridley and Jennifer Hudson went to a movie premiere together. They posed for photos and made remarks from a stage while an audience watched quietly.

Chipmaker Intel Corp. blames internal error on data leak

The computer chipmaker Intel Corp. on Friday blamed an internal error for a data leak that prompted it to release a quarterly earnings report early. It said its corporate network was not compromised.

Warning light halts Boeing 737 MAX flight in Canada

Canadian airline Westjet on Friday cancelled a flight just prior to take-off after a warning light went off in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Tesla sues former employee for allegedly stealing 26,000 confidential files

Tesla has sued a former employee for allegedly stealing about 26,000 confidential files in his first week of working at the company, according to a court filing seen by AFP.

Switzerland's timeless art mechanics embraces 3-D future

In his snow-bound workshop, Swiss master Francois Junod's moving mechanical artworks whir into action: birds whistle, historical luminaries write poetry—traditional craftsmanship newly recognised as being among the world's cultural heritage.

Miami's successful pitch to tech firms: How can we help?

The city of Miami, with a growing reputation as a financial services center enhanced by its balmy climate and low taxes, is now making a concerted and increasingly successful push to attract hi-tech firms from Silicon Valley and New York.

Pandemic boosts variety of video games

You're stuck in lockdown but that doesn't mean you can't visit a tropical island, a space station or have games night with your friends—certain video games have filled the need of the world's confined for a bit of distraction, adventure and socialising and achieved unexpected success during the pandemic.

US leading race in artificial intelligence, China rising: survey

The United States is leading rivals in development and use of artificial intelligence while China is rising quickly and the European Union is lagging, a research report showed Monday.

A software platform for 'smart' video tracking

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have developed a novel software platform from which apps and algorithms can intelligently track and analyze video feeds from cameras spread across cities. Such analysis is not only useful for tracking missing persons or objects, but also for "smart city" initiatives such as automated traffic control.

Zeroing in on the potential of solar energy to meet industrial process heat demand

Today, natural gas and coal combustion supply most demand for industrial process heat (IPH), or the transfer of heat to a material within a production process. With the emergence of low-cost solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, interest has grown in solar as an IPH option and decarbonization pathway for the industrial sector.

Achieving cost-efficient superalloy powder manufacturing using machine learning

High-performance, high-quality Ni-Co-based superalloy powders are promising aircraft engine raw materials. Using machine learning, a NIMS team has succeeded in speedily determining the optimum parameters for manufacturing these types of powders at high yields. The team then demonstrated that these parameters actually led to the low-cost manufacturing of powders suitable for high-pressure turbine disk production. The use of this technique may significantly reduce the cost of practical, large-scale manufacturing of superalloy powders.

Lasers and virtual reality to revolutionize watch-crystal engraving

EPFL engineers teamed up with luxury watchmaker Vacheron Constantin to develop an innovative system that uses lasers to create 3-D sculptures within sapphire watch crystals.

Google says Chrome cookie replacement plan making progress

Google says it's making progress on plans to revamp Chrome user tracking technology aimed at improving privacy even as it faces challenges from regulators and officials.

Microsoft backtracks on a price hike for Xbox Live Gold

That price hike for online service Xbox Live Gold won't happen after all.

Logged out of Facebook? You're not alone and Facebook blames configuration change for logouts

"Why am I logged out of Facebook?" The question ricocheted around the internet as an untold number of people across the nation found themselves logged out of their apps Friday night.

Apple warns to keep iPhone 12, MagSafe accessories "safe distance" from medical devices

Apple is warning owners of the iPhone 12 and any MagSafe charging accessories to keep the gadgets at a "safe distance" from medical devices.

Spotify tests audiobooks of classics including 'Persuasion,' 'Frankenstein'

Streaming giant Spotify is extending its foray into audiobooks, dropping nine new public-domain classics narrated by celebrities including Hilary Swank and Forest Whitaker.

Twitter unveils 'community-driven' effort to fight misinformation

Twitter announced a new initiative Monday to enlist users to flag misinformation on its platform through a project known as Birdwatch.

Russian hack of US agencies exposed supply chain weaknesses

The elite Russian hackers who gained access to computer systems of federal agencies last year didn't bother trying to break one by one into the networks of each department.

Scientists identify the most effective scenario for nuclear energy in Russia through 2100

Currently, there is a rapid, fundamental transformation of energy systems with new technologies developing at an accelerated pace. It is clear that nuclear energy will be part of the global energy mix for decades to come, but its share and growth rate will depend on a number of factors, such as the speed of innovation in nuclear technology, energy policies and funding mechanisms. Many scenarios based on specific targets predict the growth of the nuclear power sector, as it can solve the problem of energy supply over a long period.

Far-right groups move to messaging apps as tech companies crack down on extremist social media

Right-wing extremists called for open revolt against the U.S. government for months on social media following the election in November. Behind the scenes on private messaging services, many of them recruited new followers, organized and planned actions, including the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Google offers facilities for US vaccination sites

Google said Monday it would make its facilities available for Covid-19 vaccination sites as part of a new initiative to help speed the rollout of inoculations in the United States.

Charged up: Revolutionizing rechargeable sodium-ion batteries with 'doped' carbon anodes

As the world becomes aware of the imminent environmental crisis, scientists have begun a search for sustainable energy sources. Rechargeable batteries like lithium-ion batteries are seeing a popularity surge, concurrent with production of 'greener' technologies such as electric propulsion ships (which are being developed to meet the environmental regulations by the International Maritime Organization) and other electric vehicles. But, lithium is rare and difficult to distribute, putting its sustainability in doubt while also risking sharp increases in cost.

Delta plans to return 400 pilots to active flying by summer

Delta Air Lines plans to return 400 pilots to regular flying duties by this summer in a sign that it expects travel to increase over the peak vacation season from current, low pandemic levels.

Biden and Section 230: New administration, same problems for Facebook, Google and Twitter as under Trump

Delivering his first remarks on the steps of the Capitol overrun by an angry mob two weeks ago, President Joe Biden called for an end to America's "uncivil" war.

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