Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Feb 2

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 2, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A new bio-inspired joint model to design robotic exoskeletons

Study identifies brain areas that support social semantic accumulation

Research investigates variability of the blazar Mrk 421

An origami-inspired medical patch for sealing internal injuries

A new way to make wood transparent, stronger and lighter than glass

Traffic noise makes mating crickets less picky

Mathematical method developed to predict cancer and drug-specific immunotherapy efficacy

Say goodbye to the dots and dashes to enhance optical storage media

As climate warms, summer monsoons to produce less streamflow

Imaging identifies breast cancer patients unlikely to benefit from hormone therapy

Neutrons probe molecular behavior of proposed COVID-19 drug candidates

Double delight: New synthetic transmembrane ion channel can be activated in two ways

Researchers develop injection to treat skin cancer

First images of muon beams

Hormones are key in brain health differences between men and women

Physics news

Say goodbye to the dots and dashes to enhance optical storage media

Purdue University innovators have created technology aimed at replacing Morse code with colored "digital characters" to modernize optical storage. They are confident the advancement will help with the explosion of remote data storage during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

First images of muon beams

A new technique has taken the first images of muon particle beams. Nagoya University scientists designed the imaging technique with colleagues in Osaka University and KEK, Japan and describe it in the journal Scientific Reports. They plan to use it to assess the quality of these beams, which are being used more and more in advanced imaging applications.

Biosensors require robust antifouling protection

Some promising biosensors and medical devices work well within pristine laboratory environments. However, they tend to stop working to deliver medical therapeutics or monitor chronic health issues once exposed to the real-world conditions of complex biological fluids.

Why food sticks to nonstick frying pans

Despite the use of nonstick frying pans, foods will sometimes get stuck to a heated surface, even if oil is used. The results can be very messy and unappetizing.

How do electrons close to Earth reach almost the speed of light?

A new study found that electrons can reach ultra-relativistic energies for very special conditions in the magnetosphere when space is devoid of plasma.

Temperature, humidity, wind predict second wave of pandemic

The 'second wave' of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in much blame placed on a lack of appropriate safety measures. However, due to the impacts of weather, research suggests two outbreaks per year during a pandemic are inevitable.

Venus flytraps found to produce magnetic fields

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a carnivorous plant that encloses its prey using modified leaves as a trap. During this process, electrical signals known as action potentials trigger the closure of the leaf lobes. An interdisciplinary team of scientists has now shown that these electrical signals generate measurable magnetic fields. Using atomic magnetometers, it proved possible to record this biomagnetism. "You could say the investigation is a little like performing an MRI scan in humans," said physicist Anne Fabricant. "The problem is that the magnetic signals in plants are very weak, which explains why it was extremely difficult to measure them with the help of older technologies."

A new hands-off probe uses light to explore electron behavior in a topological insulator

Topological insulators are one of the most puzzling quantum materials—a class of materials whose electrons cooperate in surprising ways to produce unexpected properties. The edges of a TI are electron superhighways where electrons flow with no loss, ignoring any impurities or other obstacles in their path, while the bulk of the material blocks electron flow.

Researchers design next-generation photodetector

Northwestern University researchers have developed a new approach to quantum device design that has produced the first gain-based long-wavelength infrared (LWIR) photodetector using band structure engineering based on a type-II superlattice material.

Not too big, not too small: Goldilocks analogy found in maze navigation

New research from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) has found a surprising randomness for how fluids choose their path around obstacles that depends on their spacing. This has important implications for a range of scenarios—from oil recovery and groundwater remediation, to understanding the movement of fluids through biological systems. The research was published in Physical Review Letters.

Beyond qubits: Team takes next big step to scale up quantum computing

Scientists and engineers at the University of Sydney and Microsoft Corporation have opened the next chapter in quantum technology with the invention of a single chip that can generate control signals for thousands of qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers.

Researchers create novel photonic chip

Researchers at the George Washington University and University of California, Los Angeles, have developed and demonstrated for the first time a photonic digital to analog converter without leaving the optical domain. Such novel converters can advance next-generation data processing hardware with high relevance for data centers, 6G networks, artificial intelligence and more.

Modeling the brain during pain processing

The many different sensations our bodies experience are accompanied by deeply complex exchanges of information within the brain, and the feeling of pain is no exception. So far, research has shown how pain intensity can be directly related to specific patterns of oscillation in brain activity, which are altered by the activation and deactivation of the 'interneurons' connecting different regions of the brain. However, it remains unclear how the process is affected by 'inhibitory' interneurons, which prevent chemical messages from passing between these regions. Through new research published in EPJ B, researchers led by Fernando Montani at Instituto de Física La Plata, Argentina, show that inhibitory interneurons make up 20% of the circuitry in the brain required for pain processing.

Tracking cells with omnidirectional visible laser particles

Microlaser particles have emerged as unique optical probes for single-cell tracking. However, due to inherent directionality of laser emissions, cell tracking with laser particles suffers from frequent loss of cell traces. Recently, scientists at Harvard Medical School and Peking University placed omnidirectional visible laser particles into live cells, and demonstrated continuous spatial tracking of single cells. The technique will open new avenues for large-scale single-cell analysis in the study of cellular heterogeneity.

Air-guiding in solid-core optical waveguides: A solution for on-chip trace gas spectroscopy

Optical waveguides suspended in air are capable of beating free-space laser beams in light-analyte interaction even without complex dispersion engineering. This phenomenon was predicted more than 20 years ago, yet never observed in experiment.

Astronomy and Space news

Research investigates variability of the blazar Mrk 421

Astronomers from Switzerland and Germany have performed multiwavelength observations of a high-synchrotron-peaked blazar known as Mrk 421. Results of this observational campaign provide more insights into the variability of gamma-ray emission from this source. The study was published January 26 on

Could the surface of Phobos reveal secrets of the Martian past?

The martian moon Phobos orbits through a stream of charged atoms and molecules that flow off the Red Planet's atmosphere, new research shows.

The secrets of 3000 galaxies laid bare

The complex mechanics determining how galaxies spin, grow, cluster and die have been revealed following the release of all the data gathered during a massive seven-year Australian-led astronomy research project.

SpaceX Starship prototype rocket crashes in fireball ... again

A prototype of a SpaceX rocket the company hopes will one day journey to Mars crashed in a fiery explosion as it tried to land upright after a test flight Tuesday.

SpaceX aims to launch 'all-civilian' trip into orbit

SpaceX announced Monday it's aiming to launch this year the first all-civilian mission into Earth's orbit, led by a tech billionaire who plans to raffle off one of the spots aboard the craft.

White dwarf atmospheres might contain the pulverized crusts of their dead planets

Astronomers have developed a new technique to search for exoplanets—by looking for their crushed up bones in the atmospheres of white dwarfs. And it's working.

NASA's Psyche mission moves forward, passing key milestone

Now just a year and a half from launch, the mission to explore a metal-rich asteroid will soon begin assembling and testing the spacecraft.

Technology news

A new bio-inspired joint model to design robotic exoskeletons

Recent advances in the field of robotics have enabled the fabrication of increasingly sophisticated robotic limbs and exoskeletons. Robotic exoskeletons are essentially wearable 'shells' made of different robotic parts. Exoskeletons can improve the strength, capabilities and stability of users, helping them to tackle heavy physical tasks with less effort or aiding their rehabilitation after accidents.

Tesla's advantage: EVs cannot succeed without developing parallel supercharging networks

In the United States only about 1.3 percent of all vehicles sold last year were battery powered. And about 90 percent of those sales were by one company—Tesla. What has Tesla done right and where have other electric vehicle makers gone wrong?

Researchers unleash potential of desktop PCs to run simulations of mammals' brains

University of Sussex academics have established a method of turbocharging desktop PCs to give them the same capability as supercomputers worth tens of millions of pounds.

Musk's Neuralink creates 'happy monkeys' who play Pong with their minds

When talking about Elon Musk, we must be prepared to talk about big numbers. The world's richest man—he's currently worth about $209 billion, give or take a billion—has designed electric powered cars that can drive (with stops for charging) the 2,8000-mile width of the United States.

Pioneering framework could reduce energy demand in buildings

Heating and cooling buildings is a large part of global energy demand and a significant source of CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, and in the coming decades the energy demand for heating and cooling—also known as thermal energy—is expected to grow considerably. Scientists and engineers have made many advances in lowering building energy demand by improving energy efficiency in building technologies and reducing energy loss through the building walls and windows.

Google shutters internal Stadia game studio

Google is closing the internal studio tasked with developing games for its Stadia cloud-gaming service, a move that raises questions about the future of the Stadia service itself.

Google deals with trio of US lawsuits over ad prowess

Executives at Google parent company Alphabet will report quarterly earnings on Tuesday, seeking to highlight the internet titan's money-making success while mindful of regulators concerned about the firm's clout.

Scientists develop method to detect fake news

Social media is increasingly used to spread fake news. The same problem can be found on the capital market—criminals spread fake news about companies in order to manipulate share prices. Researchers at the Universities of Göttingen and Frankfurt and the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana have developed an approach that can recognize such fake news, even when the news content is repeatedly adapted. The results of the study were published in the Journal of the Association for Information Systems.

Nokia and Vodafone showcase record-breaking 100 gigabit fiber broadband

Nokia and Vodafone have announced the successful trial of a new passive optical network (PON) technology capable of delivering speeds up to 100 gigabits per second (Gb/s) on a single wavelength 10 times faster than the most advanced networks available today. This marks the latest industry-first in fiber access for Nokia, following breakthroughs in 10G PON, TWDM-PON, universal PON and 25G PON.

Sub-surface imaging technology can expose counterfeit travel documents

New research by the School of Physical Sciences has found that optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging technology can be utilized to distinguish between legitimate and counterfeit travel documents.

We're teaching robots to evolve autonomously so they can adapt to life alone on distant planets 

It's been suggested that an advance party of robots will be needed if humans are ever to settle on other planets. Sent ahead to create conditions favorable for humankind, these robots will need to be tough, adaptable and recyclable if they're to survive within the inhospitable cosmic climates that await them.

Innovative mechanical system makes it easy to turn bedridden patients

It takes around five or six people and a considerable amount of effort to turn an intubated patient in a hospital bed. For patients in an artificial coma, this procedure is performed at least twice a day in order to improve patients' breathing and prevent bedsores. And now that intensive care units are filling up as a result of the pandemic, the problem is getting worse. A team comprising scientific assistants and a student, headed by Prof. Charles Baur at EPFL's Instant-Lab in Neuchâtel, have developed a simple system that allows just three people to turn a patient with little effort. It was tested by doctors and nurses at the La Source Clinic simulated hospital in Lausanne and the Geneva University Hospital (HUG) intensive care unit, and everyone involved was enthusiastic about the new device. It has been patented and is now ready for large-scale production.

Facebook posts could identify substance use risk in homeless youth

What a person posts on Facebook could predict their risk for substance use, according to new research led by the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology.

Testing tires before they're built

Simulating how a tire's tread, rubber and size respond to a road's corners, angles and hills, Sandia National Laboratories and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. have developed a virtual means of showing a tire's performance before the first prototypes are ever built.

Tesla to fix touch screens, ending spat with US regulators

After initially refusing a request from U.S. safety regulators, Tesla has now agreed to recall about 135,000 vehicles because the large touch screens on the console can go dark.

Uber to buy alcohol delivery startup Drizly

Uber said Tuesday it was acquiring the startup Drizly, specializing in delivery of beer, wine and spirits, for some $1.1 billion and would integrate it with its Uber Eats service.

Wikipedia unveils 'code of conduct' to stem misinformation

Wikipedia on Tuesday unveiled a "universal code of conduct" aimed at stemming abuse, misinformation and manipulation on the global online encyclopedia.

FTC says Amazon took $62 million in tips from drivers

Amazon is paying nearly $62 million to settle charges that it took tips from its delivery drivers.

China's Alibaba boosts sales and profits despite crackdown

Alibaba saw sales and profits jump over the last three months of 2020 despite the Chinese e-commerce giant being in the crosshairs of the authorities.

Amazon unveils 'nature-infused' design for new headquarters

Amazon on Tuesday unveiled what it called a "nature-infused" design for the second phase of its second headquarters, being developed just outside Washington.

Taking the fear out of driver education

New drivers between the ages of 15 and 25 account for nearly half of the more than one million road deaths that occur worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Educational programs often use fear-based messaging and films of crash scenes to reduce risky driving behavior among young people. But does this "scary" approach work?

Do Facebook, Twitter and YouTube censor conservatives? Claims 'not supported by the facts,' new research says

Despite repeated charges of anti-conservative bias from former President Trump and other GOP critics, Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube are not slanted against right-leaning users, a new report out of New York University found.

Facebook to roll out privacy prompt to app users ahead of changes on Apple's iOS 14

Facebook will start to issue a prompt to users of its app on iPhones and iPads to request whether they will allow the social network to track their activity.

Bezos to step down as CEO of Amazon this year

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Tuesday he would give up his role as chief executive of the tech and e-commerce giant this year as the company reported a surge in profit and revenue in the holiday quarter.

Google antes up $2.6M to settle pay, job discrimination case

Google will pay $2.6 million to more than 5,500 employees and past job applicants to resolve allegations that the internet giant discriminated against female engineers and Asians in California and Washington state.

Siemens Energy to shed 7,800 jobs in cost-cutting drive

Energy technology company Siemens Energy said Tuesday that it plans to shed 7,800 jobs worldwide by 2025 as part of a drive to cut costs.

Ferrari vows to roar back in 2021

Italian luxury car maker Ferrari said on Tuesday it expected sales and margins to bounce back in 2021, following a year marked by a production hiatus due to coronavirus.

Tech billionaire Elon Musk says he's off Twitter 'for a while'

Tech billionaire Elon Musk said Tuesday he was taking a break from Twitter "for a while", after his posts on the platform helped fuel a stock market frenzy that sent the share prices of several companies soaring.

Reddit group founded on 'high risk' returns hits Wall Street with GameStop effort

The first thing you spot on the home page of subreddit r/WallStreetBets is a banner featuring a cartoon character in a suit riding on a yacht, with a street sign reading "Wall St" sitting on top.

Washington state eyes 'billionaire tax' on the ultra rich

Washington state's richest residents—including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates—would pay a wealth tax on some financial assets under a bill proposed by a lawmaker who says she is seeking a fair tax code at a time when so many people are struggling due to the pandemic.

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