Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jan 27

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for January 27, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

How chromosomes evolve to create new forms of life

Astronomers discover new candidate redback millisecond pulsar

Geological phenomenon widening the Atlantic Ocean

Revised Holocene temperature record affirms role of greenhouse gases in recent millennia

Cell death shines a light on the origins of complex life

Pioneering research unravels hidden origins of Eastern Asia's 'land of milk and honey'

On nights before a full moon, people go to bed later and sleep less, study shows

Electronic transfer tattoo with a crease amplification effect

Purported phosphine on Venus more likely to be ordinary sulfur dioxide, new study shows

A little soap simplifies making 2-D nanoflakes

Researchers develop a millimeter-size flat lens for VR and AR platforms

Commuting patterns could explain higher incidence of COVID-19 in Black Americans

Solar material can 'self-heal' imperfections, new research shows

Partners in crime: Genetic collaborator may influence severity of the rare disease, NGLY1

Pace of prehistoric human innovation could be revealed by 'linguistic thermometer'

Physics news

Researchers develop a millimeter-size flat lens for VR and AR platforms

Despite all the advances in consumer technology over the past decades, one component has remained frustratingly stagnant: the optical lens. Unlike electronic devices, which have gotten smaller and more efficient over the years, the design and underlying physics of today's optical lenses haven't changed much in about 3,000 years.

Mathematical model verifies a correct understanding of epidemic's severity

A research team led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has built a mathematical model to explore and analyze the relationship between disease transmission, people's awareness about the disease and their resulting behaviors, as well as information spread by the mass media and opinion leaders. The research may shed some insights on responding to COVID-19 and other similar infectious diseases.

BASE opens up new possibilities in the search for cold dark matter

The Baryon Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment (BASE) at CERN's Antimatter Factory has set new limits on the existence of axion-like particles, and how easily those in a narrow mass range around 2.97 neV could turn into photons, the particles of light. BASE's new result, published by Physical Review Letters, describes this pioneering method and opens up new experimental possibilities in the search for cold dark matter.

A new way to measure record-setting electron beams

Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are figuring out new ways to accelerate electrons to record-high energies over record-short distances with a technique that uses laser pulses and exotic matter known as a plasma. But measuring the properties of the high-energy electron beams produced in laser-plasma acceleration experiments has proven challenging, as the high-intensity laser must be diverted without disrupting the electron beam.

How heavy is dark matter? Scientists radically narrow the potential mass range for the first time

Scientists have calculated the mass range for Dark Matter—and it's tighter than the science world thought.

Size of helium nucleus measured more precisely than ever before

In experiments at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, an international research collaboration has measured the radius of the atomic nucleus of helium five times more precisely than ever before. With the aid of the new value, fundamental physical theories can be tested and natural constants can be determined even more precisely. For their measurements, the researchers needed muons—these particles are similar to electrons but are around 200 times heavier. PSI is the only research site in the world where enough so-called low-energy muons are produced for such experiments. The researchers are publishing their results today in the journal Nature.

Expert in fluid dynamics explains how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 airborne transmission inside a car

Varghese Mathai is a physicist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies the flow of fluids and gases. He conducted a study using computational fluid dynamics simulations to understand how air flows inside a car and its implications for COVID-19 airborne transmission. In this interview, he explains the optimal ways to ensure maximum airflow inside a car.

Optical scanner design for adaptive driving beam systems can lead to safer night driving

Car accidents are responsible for approximately a million deaths each year globally. Among the many causes, driving at night, when vision is most limited, leads to accidents with higher mortality rates than accidents during the day. Therefore, improving visibility during night driving is critical for reducing the number of fatal car accidents.

Microscopy systems using customized chips could expand on-site identification of pathogens

The development of cost-efficient, portable microscopy units would greatly expand their use in remote field locations and in places with fewer resources, potentially leading to easier on-site analysis of contaminants such as E. coli in water sources as well as other practical applications.

A vacuum-ultraviolet laser with submicrometer spot for spatially resolved photoemission spectroscopy

If vacuum ultraviolet lasers can be focused into a small beam spot, it will allow investigation of mesoscopic materials and structures and enable the manufacture of nano-objects with excellent precision. Towards this goal, Scientist in China invented a 177 nm VUV laser system that can achieve a sub-micron focal spot at a long focal length. This system can be re-equipped for usage in low-cost angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) and might benefit condensed matter physics.

Astronomy and Space news

Astronomers discover new candidate redback millisecond pulsar

Astronomers report the finding of a new candidate redback millisecond pulsar (MSP) binary associated with a gamma-ray source known as 4FGL J0940.3–7610. The newly found object is a short-period compact binary exhibiting X-ray emission that consists of a low-mass neutron star and a companion star with a mass most likely over 0.4 solar masses. The discovery is detailed in a paper published January 21 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Purported phosphine on Venus more likely to be ordinary sulfur dioxide, new study shows

In September, a team led by astronomers in the United Kingdom announced that they had detected the chemical phosphine in the thick clouds of Venus. The team's reported detection, based on observations by two Earth-based radio telescopes, surprised many Venus experts. Earth's atmosphere contains small amounts of phosphine, which may be produced by life. Phosphine on Venus generated buzz that the planet, often succinctly touted as a "hellscape," could somehow harbor life within its acidic clouds.

OSIRIS-REx mission plans for May asteroid departure

Since its launch in September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has traveled billions of miles, mapped the surface of an asteroid in unprecedented detail, and made new scientific discoveries about near-Earth asteroids. Now, it's preparing to bring a piece of asteroid Bennu home.

Spacewalking astronauts improve station's European lab

Spacewalking astronauts installed a high-speed data link outside the International Space Station's European lab on Wednesday and tackled other improvements.

Mira's last journey: Exploring the dark universe

A team of physicists and computer scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory performed one of the five largest cosmological simulations ever. Data from the simulation will inform sky maps to aid leading large-scale cosmological experiments.

Precision measurements of intracluster light suggest possible link to dark matter

A combination of observational data and sophisticated computer simulations have yielded advances in a field of astrophysics that has languished for half a century. The Dark Energy Survey, which is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, has published a burst of new results on what's called intracluster light, or ICL, a faint type of light found inside galaxy clusters.

The naming of Tooley crater

Like Einstein, Galileo, and Copernicus, former NASA program manager Craig Tooley now has a place on the Moon named in his honor. Tooley crater is a 7 km crater in a permanently shadowed region of Shoemaker crater near the lunar south pole. The new crater designation is official and can be used in journal articles and other publications.

A CubeSat will test out water as a propulsion system

Novel propulsion systems for CubeSats have been on an innovative tear of late. UT has reported on propulsion systems that use everything from solid iodine to the Earth's own magnetic field as a way of moving a small spacecraft. Now, there is a potential solution using a much more mundane material for a propellant—water.

Video: EDRS: the space data highway

The European Data Relay System, or EDRS, uses cutting-edge laser technology to greatly reduce the time it takes for information to be sent from low-Earth orbiting spacecraft—such as the Earth observing Sentinel satellites—to Earth.

Unique solar system views from NASA sun-studying missions

Though they focus on the star at the center of our solar system, three of NASA's Sun-watching spacecraft have captured unique views of the planets throughout the last several months. Using instruments that look not at the Sun itself, but at the constant outflow of solar material from the Sun, the missions—ESA and NASA's Solar Orbiter, NASA's Parker Solar Probe, and NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory—have sent home images from their distinct vantage points across the inner solar system.

Technology news

Electronic transfer tattoo with a crease amplification effect

Electronic tattoos can have applications during health and movement sensing on human skin. Nevertheless, the existing versions are nonconformal, sticky and multi-layered. In a new report, Lixue Tang and a research team in biomedical engineering and nanoscience in China achieved the multilayer integration of an 800 percent stretchable, conformal and sticky electronic tattoo. The construct allowed the crease amplification effect, which amplified the output signal of the integrated sensors by three times. The team showed the possibility of transferring the tattoo to a different surface to formed a firm attachment without solvent or heat. The researchers used a straightforward method to fabricate the tattoo based on a layer-by-layer strategy with two materials used to fabricate the circuit mode within the tattoo. The three-layered tattoo integrated one heater and 15 strain sensors for temperature adjustment to monitor movement and to remotely control robots.

Getting to net zero—and even net negative—is surprisingly feasible, and affordable

Reaching zero net emissions of carbon dioxide from energy and industry by 2050 can be accomplished by rebuilding U.S. energy infrastructure to run primarily on renewable energy, at a net cost of about $1 per person per day, according to new research published by the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the University of San Francisco (USF), and the consulting firm Evolved Energy Research.

Scientists develop novel high-energy-density lithium metal battery

Prof. Liu Zhaoping's team at the Ningbo Institute of Materials Technology and Engineering (NIMTE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has developed an electrolyte engineering strategy for lithium (Li) metal batteries and thus realized pouch cells with a high energy density of 430 Wh/kg and extended lifespan. The study was published in ACS Energy Letters.  

Scientists develop perovskite solar modules with greater size, power and stability

Researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have created perovskite solar modules with improved stability and efficiency by using a new fabrication technique that reduced defects. Their findings were published on the 25th January in Advanced Energy Materials.

Researchers realizing the limitless possibilities of wearable electronics

BenoƮt Lessard and his team are developing carbon-based technologies which could lead to improved flexible phone displays, make robotic skin more sensitive and allow for wearable electronics that could monitor the physical health of athletes in real-time.

Children can bypass age verification procedures in popular social media apps

Children of all ages can completely bypass age verification measures to sign-up to the world's most popular social media apps including Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Skype and Discord by simply lying about their age, researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software have discovered.

Newly found Fukushima plant contamination may delay cleanup

A draft investigation report into the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown, adopted by Japanese nuclear regulators Wednesday, says it has detected dangerously high levels of radioactive contamination at two of the three reactors, adding to concerns about decommissioning challenges.

Walmart to build more robot-filled warehouses at stores

Walmart is enlisting the help of robots to keep up with a surge in online orders.

Google says North Korea-backed hackers sought cyber research

Google says it believes hackers backed by the North Korean government have been posing as computer security bloggers and using fake accounts on social media while attempting to steal information from researchers in the field.

Volta Trucks set to launch urban electric lorry

Anglo-Swedish startup Volta Trucks will launch its urban electric lorry this year, the group said Wednesday, tapping into keen demand for electrified transport—and increasing bans against high-polluting vehicles.

YouTube Shorts eyes TikTok competition with 3.5 bn daily views in India

YouTube Shorts—the video-sharing website's quick clips meant to compete with TikTok—are racking up 3.5 billion views a day during beta testing in India, the platform's head said Tuesday.

Sustainable electric aircraft

Research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Aviation, looks at the opportunities and challenges facing the aviation industry in its aspirations to employ electric aircraft rather than adopt biofuels.

How super-fast-charging batteries can help sell the transition to electric vehicles

Israeli company StoreDot recently announced it can now mass produce electric vehicle batteries that can be fully charged in just five minutes. "The bottleneck to extra-fast charging is no longer the battery," claimed the firm's chief executive. But is this fast-charging battery really a gamechanger? And if so: exactly how?

Edmunds: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E vs. 2020 Tesla Model Y

The 2020 Tesla Model Y is an intriguing pick for an electric SUV. It has a relatively small footprint but provides cavernous passenger and cargo space. And with a current entry price of $43,190 including destination and handling fees, it's also one the most affordable electric SUVs around.

GM, Navistar team up to build hydrogen powered heavy trucks

In about three years, Navistar plans to start selling low-emission hydrogen-powered heavy trucks under a partnership with General Motors and a small distribution company called OneH2.

Debate heats up over how countries tax Big Tech companies

An international debate over how countries tax big U.S. technology companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook is heating up, presenting a challenge for President Joe Biden's new administration.

Cybercops derail malware botnet, FBI makes ransomware arrest

European and North American cyber cops have joined forces to disrupt what may be the world's largest network for seeding malware infections, striking a major blow against criminal gangs that have been using it for years to install ransomware in extortion schemes, steal data and engage in financial theft.

Boeing reports $11.9 bn annual loss after hit on 777X delay

Boeing closed the books on a bruising 2020 by announcing another unpleasant surprise on Wednesday: a $6.5 billion hit from delays to its new 777X plane that exacerbated the aerospace giant's annual loss.

'Bleep-bloop-bleep! Say "cheese," human'

Good portrait photography is as much art as it is science. There are technical details like composition and lighting, but there's also a matter of connecting emotionally with the photo's subjects. Can you teach that to a robot?

Apple urges security upgrade to iPhones, iPads

Apple is urging iPhone and iPad users to update their devices to fix security flaws that might have been "actively exploited" by hackers.

The world is dangerously dependent on Taiwan for semiconductors

As China pushes the world to avoid official dealings with Taiwan, leaders across the globe are realizing just how dependent they've become on the island democracy.

How to boost your WiFi performance when everyone's at home

Mom is Zooming for a work meeting. Dad's on Netflix. And Junior is gunning down bad guys on one screen while streaming his biology class on another. As the COVID era drags on, can there possibly be enough bandwidth for all?

New supercomputer in Wyoming to rank among world's fastest

A new supercomputer in Wyoming will rank among the world's fastest and help study phenomena including climate change, severe weather, wildfires and solar flares.

Apple posts big quarter on fast sales start for iPhone 12

Apple's delayed launch of its latest iPhones unleashed a holiday buying frenzy that propelled sales of the trendsetting company's most popular product to its fastest start in years.

Facebook Q4 results soar in prelude to an uncertain 2021

Facebook capped a tumultuous 2020 with soaring earnings in the final quarter, its user base boosted by people staying home and its revenue buoyed by a shift to digital advertising amid the pandemic.

Tesla reports $721 mn in 2020 earnings, 1st profitable year

Tesla Motors reported its first annual profit Wednesday, but shares fell after Elon Musk's electric car company scored lower-than-expected fourth quarter earnings.

The end of offices? New York's business districts face uncertain future

Boarded-up stores, shuttered restaurants and empty office towers: COVID-19 has turned New York's famous business districts into ghost towns, with companies scrambling to come up with ways to entice workers to return post-pandemic.

Review: 'Hitman 3' is everything you want in a stealth game, despite lack of multiplayer

There's something special to be said for mastery in a video game. And it's something that all to often, we don't get to enjoy. You reach mastery in a game near the end, when you know every single button-press like the back of your hand, and you know exactly how every single bad guy will react to everything. You fully understand a game's mechanics and how to wield them, and nothing can catch you off-guard.

A responder's critical path

We've all come to rely on the navigation apps on our mobile devices to steer our daily itineraries. Within seconds of typing our destination into a blinking search bar, we have an expertly planned route and estimated time of arrival. These apps are incredibly accurate, usually predicting your travel time within a few minutes of accuracy. For our nation's first responders, however, those few minutes could mean the difference between resuscitating someone from a heart attack and getting there too late. In the public safety world, minutes, even seconds, can mean all the difference. NIST Public Safety Communications Research Division's funded project from Southern Methodist University aims to create a tailored-to-public safety navigational platform to support the efficient and safe dispatch of personnel for emergency response. This project intends to surpass capabilities of typical navigation apps by seeking to predict impediments to emergency response like weather, floods, traffic patterns, and response resource availability.

Pushed by pandemic, Germany seeks to boost technology use

The German government on Wednesday agreed on a strategy to boost the use of data for commercial purposes and signed a deal with state education authorities to fund laptops for teachers who have to work from home because of the virus lockdown.

Ukraine uncovers ring that hacked banks in US, Europe

Ukrainian authorities said Wednesday they have uncovered a group of hackers who stole data from banks in the United States and several European countries causing an estimated $2.5 billion in damage.

Fintechs use rule-making pause to fight cryptocurrency proposal

Financial technology firms are fighting a Treasury Department anti-crime proposal that would require them to gather much more information about their customers' use of cryptocurrencies.

Startup Airspace corrals $38M for tech that helps deliver critical, time-sensitive cargo

Carlsbad startup Airspace, which has developed an artificial intelligence platform to manage shipping of time-sensitive cargo including human organs for transplants, said Tuesday that it has raised $38 million in a third round of venture capital funding.

Twitter troll charged over 2016 US election scam

A right-wing social media influencer was charged on Wednesday with spreading disinformation online that may have prevented thousands of Hillary Clinton supporters from voting in the 2016 presidential election.

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