Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Feb 3

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 3, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers demonstrate the potential of a new quantum material for creating two spintronic technologies

Epigenomic map reveals circuitry of 30,000 human disease regions

Discoveries at the edge of the periodic table: First ever measurements of einsteinium

Martian landslides caused by underground salts and melting ice?

Researchers investigate the brightest cluster galaxy in MACS 1931.8-2635

Neural activity controls mitochondrial transfer of RNA modifiers to the nucleus

Evidence for substance at liquid-gas boundary on exoplanet WASP-31b

Scientists uncover potential antiviral treatment for COVID-19

Warmer climate may make new mutations more harmful

'Zoombombing' research shows legitimate meeting attendees cause most attacks

Study suggests environmental factors had a role in the evolution of human tolerance

Teaching pupils empathy measurably improves their creative abilities

Experiences of post-traumatic stress disorder linked to nutritional health

Personalized screening to identify teens with high suicide risk

Scientists develop new, minimally invasive way to uncover more about what sharks eat

Physics news

Researchers demonstrate the potential of a new quantum material for creating two spintronic technologies

Over the past decade or so, physicists and engineers have been trying to identify new materials that could enable the development of electronic devices that are faster, smaller and more robust. This has become increasingly crucial, as existing technologies are made of materials that are gradually approaching their physical limits.

Discoveries at the edge of the periodic table: First ever measurements of einsteinium

Since element 99—einsteinium—was discovered in 1952 at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) from the debris of the first hydrogen bomb, scientists have performed very few experiments with it because it is so hard to create and is exceptionally radioactive. A team of Berkeley Lab chemists has overcome these obstacles to report the first study characterizing some of its properties, opening the door to a better understanding of the remaining transuranic elements of the actinide series.

'Ghost particle' ML model permits full quantum description of the solvated electron

The behavior of the solvated electron e-aq has fundamental implications for electrochemistry, photochemistry, high-energy chemistry, as well as for biology—its nonequilibrium precursor is responsible for radiation damage to DNA—and it has understandably been the topic of experimental and theoretical investigation for more than 50 years.

Quantum tunneling in graphene advances the age of terahertz wireless communications

Scientists from MIPT, Moscow Pedagogical State University and the University of Manchester have created a highly sensitive terahertz detector based on the effect of quantum-mechanical tunneling in graphene. The sensitivity of the device is already superior to commercially available analogs based on semiconductors and superconductors, which opens up prospects for applications of the graphene detector in wireless communications, security systems, radio astronomy, and medical diagnostics. The research results are published in Nature Communications.

New ink jet approach offers simple way to print microdisk lasers for biosensing

Researchers have developed a unique inkjet printing method for fabricating tiny biocompatible polymer microdisk lasers for biosensing applications. The approach enables production of both the laser and sensor in a room temperature, open-air environment, potentially enabling new uses of biosensing technologies for health monitoring and disease diagnostics.

New piezoelectric material remains effective to high temperatures

Piezoelectric materials hold great promise as sensors and as energy harvesters but are normally much less effective at high temperatures, limiting their use in environments such as engines or space exploration. However, a new piezoelectric device developed by a team of researchers from Penn State and QorTek remains highly effective at elevated temperatures.

What does 'luminosity' mean in particle physics?

Even on the hottest and driest days, rays from the sun are too weak to ignite a fire. But with a magnifying glass (or, in some unfortunate cases, a glass garden ornament), you can focus sunlight into a beam bright enough to set tinder ablaze.

Astronomy and Space news

Martian landslides caused by underground salts and melting ice?

A team of researchers led by SETI Institute Senior Research Scientist Janice Bishop, a member of the SETI Institute NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) team, has come up with a theory about what is causing landslides on the surface of Mars.

Researchers investigate the brightest cluster galaxy in MACS 1931.8-2635

Using Very Large Telescope (VLT) and Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), researchers from the University of Vienna, Austria, and elsewhere have investigated the brightest cluster galaxy (BCG) in a massive galaxy cluster known as MACS 1931.8-2635. Results of the study, published January 28 on, deliver important information about the nature of this BCG.

Evidence for substance at liquid-gas boundary on exoplanet WASP-31b

One of the properties that make a planet suitable for life is the presence of a weather system. Exoplanets are too far away to directly observe this, but astronomers can search for substances in the atmosphere that make a weather system possible. Researchers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the University of Groningen have now found evidence on exoplanet WASP-31b for chromium hydride, which at the corresponding temperature and pressure is on the boundary between liquid and gas. The study is published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

At cosmic noon, puffy galaxies make stars for longer

Massive galaxies with extra-large extended "puffy" disks produced stars for longer than their more compact cousins, new modeling reveals.

NASA's Perseverance pays off back home

Even as the Perseverance rover approaches Mars, technology on board is paying off on Earth.

Einstein@Home reveals true identity of mysterious gamma-ray source

An international research team including members from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Hannover has shown that a rapidly rotating neutron star is at the core of a celestial object now known as PSR J2039−5617. They used novel data analysis methods and the enormous computing power of the citizen science project Einstein@Home to track down the neutron star's faint gamma-ray pulsations in data from NASA's Fermi Space Telescope. Their results show that the pulsar is in orbit with a stellar companion about a sixth of the mass of our Sun. The pulsar is slowly but surely evaporating this star. The team also found that the companion's orbit varies slightly and unpredictably over time. Using their search method, they expect to find more such systems with Einstein@Home in the future.

For billionaire Jared Isaacman, the space tourism era begins

Jared Isaacman is not a professional astronaut, but by the end of the year the young billionaire will have shot around the Earth multiple times at the helm of a space mission made up entirely of tourists.

MESSENGER saw a meteoroid strike Mercury

Telescopes have captured meteoroids hitting the Moon and several spacecraft imaged Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 smacking into Jupiter in 1994. But impacts as they happen on another rocky world have never been observed.

AI finds more than 1,200 gravitational lensing candidates

A research team with participation by Berkeley Lab physicists has used artificial intelligence to identify more than 1,200 possible gravitational lenses—objects that can be powerful markers for the distribution of dark matter. The count, if all of the candidates turn out to be lenses, would more than double the number of known gravitational lenses.

NASA creates new senior climate advisor role

NASA announced Wednesday it was creating a new position of senior climate advisor as part of the administration of President Joe Biden's climate science objectives for the agency.

The UPV/EHU prepares to analyse material from Mars using non-destructive analytical methods

The UPV/EHU's IBeA research group, which includes experts in Raman spectroscopy, is currently analyzing meteorites with the aim of developing non-destructive analytical strategies for upcoming explorations of Mars materials by the Perseverance rover, shortly due to arrive at the red planet. The strategies will also be used to examine materials collected by the Rosalind Franklin rover and returned to Earth following the Mars Sample Return mission, scheduled to commence in 2026.

Technology news

'Zoombombing' research shows legitimate meeting attendees cause most attacks

Most zoombombing incidents are "inside jobs" according to a new study featuring researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Load-reducing backpack powers electronics by harvesting energy from walking

Hikers, soldiers and school children all know the burden of a heavy backpack. But now, researchers have developed a prototype that not only makes loads feel about 20% lighter, but also harvests energy from human movements to power small electronics. The new backpack, reported in ACS Nano, could be especially useful for athletes, explorers and disaster rescuers who work in remote areas without electricity, the researchers say.

Scientists propose new way to detect emotions using wireless signals

A novel artificial intelligence (AI) approach based on wireless signals could help to reveal our inner emotions, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London.

A better intelligence test for autonomous driving systems

In 2015, Elon Musk guessed that the industry should expect fully autonomous vehicles by 2018—but that never happened. In 2014, Nissan promised multiple, commercially viable driverless vehicles on the market by 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic did not help the situation, this is another unmet promise. Why do auto manufacturers have to keep moving the goalposts on driverless vehicles? According to a research paper recently published in Nature Communications by the Center for Connected and Automated Transportation (CCAT), one of the obstacles that has hindered the development of autonomous vehicles comes down to a severe inefficiency in the way autonomous vehicle testing and evaluation is performed.

A glowing new prospect for self-reporting batteries

Monitoring the health of flow batteries in real time is a challenge. Argonne researchers have designed a fluorescent molecule for the purpose.

Artificial skin brings robots closer to 'touching' human lives

Modern-day robots are often required to interact with humans intelligently and efficiently, which can be enabled by providing them the ability to perceive touch. However, previous attempts at mimicking human skin have involved bulky and complex electronics, wiring, and a risk of damage. In a recent study, researchers from Japan sidestep these difficulties by constructing a 3-D vision-guided artificial skin that enables tactile sensing with high performance, opening doors to innumerable applications in medicine, healthcare, and industry.

Supercomputers advance longer-lasting, faster-charging batteries

In an effort to curb the rise in overall carbon vehicle emissions, the state of California recently announced a plan to ban new sales of gasoline-powered vehicles in less than 15 years—if the current governor's order holds strong.

Thermomagnetic generators convert waste heat into electrical power even at small temperature differences

Use of waste heat contributes largely to sustainable energy supply. Scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Tōhoku University in Japan have now come much closer to their goal of converting waste heat into electrical power at small temperature differences. As reported in Joule, electrical power per footprint of thermomagnetic generators based on Heusler alloy films has been increased by a factor of 3.4.

Boston Dynamics introduces self-charging robotic dog Spot

Boston Dynamics has given Spot, its robotic canine, a leg up over the competition. Or more precisely, an arm.

New global 'wind atlas' propels sustainable energy

Wind energy scientists at Cornell University have released a new global wind atlas—a digital compendium filled with documented extreme wind speeds for all parts of the world—to help engineers select the turbines in any given region and accelerate the development of sustainable energy.

People blame a vehicle's automated system more than its driver when accidents happen

Experts predict that autonomous vehicles (AVs) will eventually make our roads safer since the majority of accidents are caused by human error. However, it may be some time before people are ready to put their trust in a self-driving car.

Microsoft backs Australian plan to make Google pay for news

Microsoft said on Wednesday it supports Australia's plans to make the biggest digital platforms pay for news and would help small businesses transfer their advertising to Bing if Google quits the country.

Google's rebounding ad revenue spells big 4Q for Alphabet

Google's digital advertising empire is regaining the momentum it lost during the pandemic's early stages as its YouTube video service matures into a major marketing magnet and other companies pour more into promotions aimed at cooped-up consumers with money to spend.

Sony booming on hit 'Demon Slayer,' headed to record profit

Sony Corp.'s its fiscal third quarter profit jumped 62%, positioning the Japanese entertainment and electronics giant for a record annual profit as its bottom line got a healthy boost from its mega-hit animation film "Demon Slayer."

Pandemic lifestyle delivers earnings boon for Amazon, Google

Pandemic-driven lifestyle changes that have put the internet at the center of seemingly everything proved a financial boon for Amazon and Google in the final three months of last year.

Reducing embodied carbon in steel-framed buildings

Over the last ten years, global demand for concrete has grown three-fold and for steel two-fold. Both are responsible for approximately 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), 75% of which is associated with buildings and infrastructure.

How modern robots are developed

Today, neuroscience and robotics are developing hand in hand. Mikhail Lebedev, Academic Supervisor at HSE University's Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces, spoke about how studying the brain inspires the development of robots.

Daimler to spin off trucks, change name to Mercedes-Benz

German automaker Daimler will split itself into two independent companies by spinning off its truck and bus division, a move the company said would give both the freedom to operate more nimbly in a fast-changing environment focussed on zero-emission vehicles and software.

Amazon seeks to build on soaring growth as Bezos hands over

Amazon is changing at the top but stressing continuity after founder Jeff Bezos announced he was handing over the role of chief executive to trusted lieutenant Andy Jassy, capping a spectacular expansion for the 27-year-old technology colossus.

Twitter, Facebook had even more deceptive news in 2020, study says

Content from discredited websites that masquerade as journalism proliferated on Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. in 2020 despite the companies' efforts to stem disinformation, according to research from the German Marshall Fund.

Comcast doubles the speed to 50Mbps for Internet Essentials plan without added fees

Comcast is doubling the internet speed to to 50Mbps for its Internet Essentials plan without additional fees, according to a statement by the company.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos may step down without stepping away

Even after stepping aside as CEO, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will likely keep identifying new frontiers for the world's dominant e-commerce company. His successor, meanwhile, gets to deal with escalating efforts to curtail Amazon's power.

Consumers boosted electronics spending in pandemic year: survey

Consumers around the world boosted spending on electronics last year as the pandemic sparked higher sales of computers, tablets and games consoles, a research report showed Wednesday.

Inside the battery in 3-D: Powerful X-rays watch solid state batteries charging and discharging

Despite worldwide use of lithium batteries, the exact dynamics of their operation has remained elusive. X-rays have proven to be a powerful tool for peering inside of these batteries to see the changes that occur in real time.

Florida lawmakers challenge Silicon Valley over 'censorship'

Florida lawmakers, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, intensified their battle with Facebook, Twitter and Silicon Valley when they announced new proposals Tuesday aimed at reigning in platforms they accuse of squelching the free speech of conservatives.

Google co-founder Brin opens family office in Singapore

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has opened a family office in Singapore to help manage his fortune, making him the latest tycoon to establish a private investment company in the financial hub.

Game over for GameStop's wild Wall Street ride?

What a difference a week has made for video game retailer GameStop, which soared on Wall Street in January only to plummet some 70 percent since Monday.

Unprecedented 66% drop in air passengers last year: IATA

Global air passenger traffic plunged by an unprecedented 66 percent in 2020 owing to travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, an industry group said Wednesday.

Biggest UK companies have no black top executives: study

Britain's biggest businesses have very few ethnic minorities in the boardroom—and no black top executives, according to research published Wednesday.

After years of restructuring, Siemens has a new CEO

German industrial giant Siemens turned a page Wednesday as a new chief executive followed a restructuring drive after a year marked by falling sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bezos is stepping down. But Hollywood isn't expecting big studio changes yet founder Jeff Bezos, who is stepping down as chief executive, has established himself as a Hollywood mogul, launching a studio, showing up at the Oscars and buying an estate previously owned by David Geffen.

Amazon's Bezos, latest tycoon to pursue his 'passion'

Bill Gates set out to heal the world. His Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen bought sports teams. Ted Turner raced yachts. And Donald Trump went into politics.

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