Science X Newsletter Thursday, Feb 11

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 11, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers gather numerical evidence of quantum chaos in the Sachdev-Ye-Kitaev model

HuggieBot 2.0: A soft and human-size robot that hugs users on request

Capturing free-space optical light for high-speed Wi-Fi

Portrait of young galaxy throws theory of galaxy formation on its head

Iridium-catalyzed Z-retentive asymmetric allylic substitution reactions

Ceramic chips inside meteorites hint at wild days of the early solar system

Nanowire could provide a stable, easy-to-make superconducting transistor

To find an extraterrestrial civilization, pollution could be the solution, NASA study suggests

Vaporised crusts of Earth-like planets found in dying stars

Pigs show potential for 'remarkable' level of behavioral, mental flexibility in new study

COVID-related depression linked to reduced physical activity

Tiny population of neurons may have big role in depression

Researchers release analysis of largest, most diverse genetic data set

Family ties explain mysterious social life of coral gobies

Nanoparticle gel unites oil and water in manufacturing-friendly approach

Physics news

Researchers gather numerical evidence of quantum chaos in the Sachdev-Ye-Kitaev model

Over the past few years, many physicists worldwide have conducted research investigating chaos in quantum systems composed of strongly interacting particles, also known as many-body chaos. The study of many-body chaos has broadened the current understanding of quantum thermalization (i.e., the process through which quantum particles reach thermal equilibrium by interacting with one another) and revealed surprising connections between microscopic physics and the dynamics of black holes.

Capturing free-space optical light for high-speed Wi-Fi

Visible and infrared light can carry more data than radio waves, but has always been confined to a hard-wired, fiber-optic cable. Working with Facebook's Connectivity Lab, a Duke research team has now made a major advance toward the dream of ditching the fiber in fiber optics.

AEgIS on track to test freefall of antimatter

It's a fundamental law of physics that even the most ardent science-phobe can define: matter falls down under gravity. But what about antimatter, which has the same mass but opposite electrical charge and spin? According to Einstein's general theory of relativity, gravity should treat matter and antimatter identically. Finding even the slightest difference in their free-fall rate would therefore lead to a revolution in our understanding. While the free fall of matter has been measured with an accuracy of around one part in 100 trillion, no direct measurement for antimatter has yet been performed due to the difficulty in producing and containing large quantities of it.

'Swirlonic' super particles baffle physicists

In recent years, active, self-propelled particles have received growing interest amongst the scientific community. Examples of active particles and their systems are numerous and very diverse, ranging from bacterium films to flocks of birds or human crowds. These systems can demonstrate unusual behavior, which is challenging to understand or model.

A new quantum switch for electronics

A Russian physicist and his international colleagues studied a quantum point contact (QCP) between two conductors with external oscillating fields applied to the contact. They found that, for some types of contacts, an increase in the oscillation frequency above a critical value reduced the current to zero—a promising mechanism that can help create nanoelectronics components. This research supported by the Russian Science Foundation (RSF) was published in the Physical Review B journal.

Astronomy and Space news

Portrait of young galaxy throws theory of galaxy formation on its head

Scientists have challenged our current understanding of how galaxies form by unveiling pictures of a young galaxy in the early life of the Universe which appears surprisingly mature.

Ceramic chips inside meteorites hint at wild days of the early solar system

Anew analysis of ceramic chips embedded in meteorites suggests the formation of our solar system was not as quiet and orderly as we once thought.

To find an extraterrestrial civilization, pollution could be the solution, NASA study suggests

If there's an advanced extraterrestrial civilization inhabiting a nearby star system, we might be able to detect it using its own atmospheric pollution, according to new NASA research. The study looked at the presence of nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2), which on Earth is produced by burning fossil fuels but can also come from non-industrial sources such as biology, lightning, and volcanoes.

Vaporised crusts of Earth-like planets found in dying stars

Remnants of planets with Earth-like crusts have been discovered in the atmospheres of four nearby white dwarf stars by University of Warwick astronomers, offering a glimpse of the planets that may have once orbited them up to billions of years ago.

A new way of forming planets

In the last 25 years, scientists have discovered over 4000 planets beyond the borders of our solar system. From relatively small rock and water worlds to blisteringly hot gas giants, the planets display a remarkable variety. This variety is not unexpected. The sophisticated computer models, with which scientists study the formation of planets, also spawn very different planets. What the models have more difficulty to explain is the observed mass distribution of the planets discovered around other stars. The majority have fallen into the intermediate mass category—planets with masses of several Earth masses to around that of Neptune. Even in the context of the solar system, the formation of Uranus and Neptune remains a mystery. Scientists of the Universities of Zurich and Cambridge, associated with the Swiss NCCR PlanetS, have now proposed an alternative explanation backed up by comprehensive simulations. Their results were published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

Hubble uncovers concentration of small black holes

Globular clusters are extremely dense stellar systems, in which stars are packed closely together. They are also typically very old—the globular cluster that is the focus of this study, NGC 6397, is almost as old as the Universe itself. It resides 7800 light-years away, making it one of the closest globular clusters to Earth. Because of its very dense nucleus, it is known as a core-collapsed cluster.

Scientist proposes a new timeline for Mars terrains

A Southwest Research Institute scientist has updated Mars chronology models to find that terrains shaped by ancient water activity on the planet's surface may be hundreds of millions of years older than previously thought. This new chronology for Mars, based on the latest dynamical models for the formation and evolution of the solar system, is particularly significant as the days count down until NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lands on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021.

Teaching an old spacecraft new tricks to continue exploring the moon

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has far exceeded its planned mission duration, revealing that the Moon holds surprises: ice deposits that could be used to support future lunar exploration, the coldest places in the solar system in permanently shadowed regions at the lunar poles, and that it is an active world that is shrinking, generating moonquakes and changing in front of our eyes. LRO has mapped the surface in exquisite detail, returning millions of images of a starkly beautiful lunar landscape and paving the way for future human missions under NASA's Artemis program.

Mars mission inspires growing fan base back in China

Cui Tingting dyed her hair Mars red for the arrival of China's spacecraft at the planet known in Chinese as the Fire Star.

Here's the best place for explorers to harvest ice on Mars

Water ice, especially any located in the sub-surface, has long been a focal point of Mars exploration efforts. Reasons abound as to why—from the need to grow plants to the need to create more rocket fuel to blast off the planet for a round trip. Most of that effort has focused on the poles of the planet, where most of the water ice has been found.

A brief history: What we know so far about fast radio bursts across the universe

Fast radio bursts are one of the great mysteries of the universe. Since their discovery, we have learned a great deal about these intense millisecond-duration pulses.

Discovering new gases on Mars

The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is investigating the martian atmosphere. Discovering new gases related to active process and looking for their sources is a key goal of the mission. ExoMars has discovered hydrogen chloride for the first time. It appeared during a global dust storm in 2018 and disappeared again afterwards.

Researcher uses machine learning to classify stellar objects from TESS data

A game of chess has 20 possible opening moves. Imagine being asked to start a game with tens of millions of openings instead. That was the task assigned to Adam Friedman, a 2020 summer intern at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. A chess champion in high school, Friedman analyzed his opponent—a deluge of data on the brightness changes of over 70 million stars.

ExoMars discovers new gas and traces water loss on Mars

Sea salt embedded in the dusty surface of Mars and lofted into the planet's atmosphere has led to the discovery of hydrogen chloride—the first time the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has detected a new gas. The spacecraft is also providing new information about how Mars is losing its water.

Video: Rotating galaxy disks in the early universe

Our Milky Way galaxy is a spiral galaxy. It evolved into its flat disk shape over billions of years. But astronomers have discovered a distant and young galaxy that has a remarkably similar shape.

Take me to your leader: Space diplomacy 101

Space has long been seen as the domain of scientists and engineers, but space also needs diplomacy.

Landing on the origin of life

Imagine you're way out in the middle of the Pilbara. There's no one around you, but you may be surprised to learn you're close to the origin of life.

Technology news

HuggieBot 2.0: A soft and human-size robot that hugs users on request

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) and ETH Z├╝rich have recently created HuggieBot 2.0, a robot that can hug users at their request. This robot, set to be presented at the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) in March, builds on a previous robotic system created by Alexis E. Block, one of the authors, during her Master's degree.

AI can now learn to manipulate human behavior

Artificial intelligence (AI) is learning more about how to work with (and on) humans. A recent study has shown how AI can learn to identify vulnerabilities in human habits and behaviors and use them to influence human decision-making.

Researcher hacks into 35 major technology firms

A Romanian threat researcher detailed in a published report Wednesday how he broke into IT systems belonging to some of the largest corporations in the world. His assaults successfully targeted Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, PayPal, Netflix and more than 30 other corporations.

Clubhouse: the wildly popular audio chat app

Clubhouse, the invitation-only audio chat app, exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic when people could not get together in person—but now the once niche platform has far higher goals.

Uber posts big loss as pandemic clobbers ridesharing, despite delivery offset

Uber on Wednesday reported another hefty loss in the final three months of 2020, though the company's food delivery operations partly offset the hit taken from the decline in ridesharing during the pandemic.

Documenting a decade of cost declines for photovoltaic systems

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System and Energy Storage Cost Benchmark: Q1 2020 is now available, documenting a decade of cost reductions in solar and battery storage installations across utility, commercial, and residential sectors. NREL's cost benchmarking applies a bottom-up methodology that captures variation in system design and regional costs, helping to identify future research and development directions that could further reduce costs.

Scientists weigh benefits of increased hydrogen production

Hydrogen technology has the potential to transform aspects of the energy landscape, according to a new report from Argonne scientists.

How the emerging use of technology can achieve sustainable development (if done responsibly)

Every new year offers an opportunity for reflection. It is a time to set new goals and revisit old ones. The start of 2021, then, represents a chance to look at successes and failures in meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Since the United Nations General Assembly set these goals six years ago, the SDGs have served as a guide for what the world needs to achieve a "better and more sustainable future for all".

Community solar could provide an economic a path forward

A new report released by the UNM Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) gives a positive outlook for proponents of community solar initiatives.

Solar panels in Sahara could boost renewable energy but damage the global climate

The world's most forbidding deserts could be the best places on Earth for harvesting solar power—the most abundant and clean source of energy we have. Deserts are spacious, relatively flat, rich in silicon – the raw material for the semiconductors from which solar cells are made—and never short of sunlight. In fact, the ten largest solar plants around the world are all located in deserts or dry regions.

Shell unveils green strategy after oil output peak

Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell declared Thursday that its oil output is locked in decline after peaking in 2019 as it outlined green plans to switch away from fossil fuels.

Origami-inspired antenna technology for use in small satellites

Modern telecommunication systems rely on satellites to relay signals across the globe quickly and reliably, enabling users to send messages across the world in an instant, watch live television, or—more recently—hold conference calls with global partners right from the kitchen table!

Artificial emotional intelligence: A safer, smarter future with 5G and emotion recognition

With the advent of 5G communication technology and its integration with AI, we are looking at the dawn of a new era in which people, machines, objects, and devices are connected like never before. This smart era will be characterized by smart facilities and services such as self-driving cars, smart UAVs, and intelligent healthcare. This will be the aftermath of a technological revolution.

Autoworkers face uncertain future in an era of electric cars

When General Motors boldly announced its goal last month to make only battery-powered vehicles by 2035, it didn't just mark a break with more than a century of making internal combustion engines. It also clouded the future for 50,000 GM workers whose skills—and jobs—could become obsolete far sooner than they knew.

Biden plans executive order after semiconductor crunch

The Biden administration is assessing immediate steps to address the semiconductor shortage and plans an executive order to shore up critical supply chain items, a White House spokeswoman said Thursday.

New 3-D-printed antenna designs reduce cost, weight and size

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory experts created and tested 3-D-printed antennas and arrays to advance radar technology and enable new applications for the U.S. Navy.

India chides Twitter for not complying with blocking orders

India has chided Twitter for not complying with its orders to remove certain accounts and content, warning the social media platform that it "must respect" Indian laws "irrespective of Twitter's own rules and guidelines."

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