Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Feb 16

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 16, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

ASASSN-18aan is an unusual cataclysmic variable, study finds

Large-scale study finds genetic testing technology falsely detects very rare variants

Biotech fit for the Red Planet: New method for growing cyanobacteria under Mars-like conditions

Perseverance rover lands on Mars this week

Groundwater recharge rates mapped for Africa

Answer quickly to be believed

ViralLink identifies key proteins in SARS-CoV-2-infected cells: workflow open to all

Aging: What underlies the mitochondrial stress response

Collagen structures get the royal reveal

Engineers develop polymer cores that redirect light from any source to solar cells

Graphene 'nano-origami' creates tiniest microchips yet

Astrophysicists re-imagine world map, designing a less distorted, 'radically different' way to see the world

Integrating maths and plant science to explain how plant roots generate a hormone gradient

Experimental demonstration of measurement-dependent realities possible, researcher says

NREL heats up thermal energy storage with new solution meant to ease grid stress, ultimately improving energy efficiency

Physics news

Experimental demonstration of measurement-dependent realities possible, researcher says

Shoe shops sell a variety of shoe sizes to accommodate a variety of foot sizes—but what if both the shoe and foot size depended on how it was measured? Recent developments in quantum theory suggest that the available values of a physical quantity, such as a foot size, can depend on the type of measurement used to determine them. If feet were governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, foot size would depend on the markings on a foot measure to find the best fit—at the time of measurement—and even if the markings were changed, the measurement could still be precise.

How icebergs really melt—and what this could mean for climate change

Icebergs are melting faster than current models describe, according to a new study by mathematicians at the University of Sydney. The researchers have proposed a new model to more accurately represent the melt speed of icebergs into oceans.

International study reveals exceptional property of next generation optical fibres

Researchers from the University of Southampton and Université Laval, Canada, have successfully measured for the first time back reflection in cutting-edge hollow-core fibres that is around 10,000 times lower than conventional optical fibres.

Sloshing quantum fluids of light and matter to probe superfluidity

The 'sloshing' of a quantum fluid comprised of light and matter reveals superfluid properties.

Dual character of excitons in the ultrafast regime: Atomic-like or solid-like?

Excitons are quasiparticles which can transport energy through solid substances. This makes them important for the development of future materials and devices—but more research is needed to understand their fundamental behavior and how to manipulate it. Researchers at Politecnico di Milano in collaboration with the Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnologies IFN-CNR and a theory group from the Tsukuba University (Japan) and the Max Plank Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of matter (Hamburg, Germany), have discovered that an exciton can simultaneously adopt two radically different characters when it is stimulated by light. Their work, now published in Nature Communications, yields crucial new insights for current and future excitonics research.

Cells use concentration gradients as a compass

Biophysicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munch have developed a new theory, which accounts for the observation that cells can perceive their own shapes, and use this information to direct the distribution of proteins inside the cell.

A sharper look at the interior of semiconductors

Images provide information—what we can observe with our own eyes enables us to understand. Constantly expanding the field of perception into dimensions that are initially hidden from the naked eye, drives science forward. Today, increasingly powerful microscopes let us see into the cells and tissues of living organisms, into the world of microorganisms as well as into inanimate nature.

A tiny crystal device could boost gravitational wave detectors to reveal the birth cries of black holes

In 2017, astronomers witnessed the birth of a black hole for the first time. Gravitational wave detectors picked up the ripples in spacetime caused by two neutron stars colliding to form the black hole, and other telescopes then observed the resulting explosion.

Astronomy and Space news

ASASSN-18aan is an unusual cataclysmic variable, study finds

An international team of astronomers has performed photometric and spectroscopic observations of a binary star system known as ASASSN-18aan and have found that the object is an unusual cataclysmic variable with a relatively long orbital period. The findings were presented February 9 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Biotech fit for the Red Planet: New method for growing cyanobacteria under Mars-like conditions

NASA, in collaboration with other leading space agencies, aims to send its first human missions to Mars in the early 2030s, while companies like SpaceX may do so even earlier. Astronauts on Mars will need oxygen, water, food, and other consumables. These will need to be sourced from Mars, because importing them from Earth would be impractical in the long term. In Frontiers in Microbiology, scientists show for the first time that Anabaena cyanobacteria can be grown with only local gases, water, and other nutrients and at low pressure. This makes it much easier to develop sustainable biological life support systems.

Perseverance rover lands on Mars this week

After a seven-month journey, NASA's Perseverance rover prepares to touch down on Mars on Thursday after first negotiating a risky landing procedure that will mark the start of its multi-year search for signs of ancient microbial life.

Planetary scientists discover evidence for a reduced atmosphere on ancient Mars

Both Earth and Mars currently have oxidising atmospheres, which is why iron-rich materials in daily life develop rust (a common name for iron oxide) during the oxidation reaction of iron and oxygen. The Earth has had an oxidising atmosphere for approximately 2.5 billion years, but before that, the atmosphere of this planet was reducing—there was no rust.

Moon's largest crater holds clues about early lunar mantle

Despite our long history with Earth's closest celestial neighbor, much remains unknown about the moon, including about asymmetries between its near side and far side, for example, in crustal thickness and evidence of volcanic activity.

The smallest galaxies in our universe bring more about dark matter to light

Our universe is dominated by a mysterious matter known as dark matter. Its name comes from the fact that dark matter does not absorb, reflect or emit electromagnetic radiation, making it difficult to detect.

Supercomputer turns back cosmic clock

Astronomers have tested a method for reconstructing the state of the early universe by applying it to 4000 simulated universes using the ATERUI II supercomputer at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). They found that together with new observations, the method can set better constraints on inflation, one of the most enigmatic events in the history of the universe. The method can shorten the observation time required to distinguish between various inflation theories.

A backward-spinning star with two coplanar orbiting planets in a multi-stellar system

In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a group of researchers led by Maria Hjorth and Simon Albrecht from the Stellar Astrophysics Centre, Aarhus University, have published the discovery of a special exoplanetary system in which two exoplanets are orbiting backward around their star. This surprising orbital architecture was caused by the protoplanetary disk in which the two planets formed being tilted by the second star in this system.

NASA wants to fly a helicopter on Mars for the first time

More than a century after the first powered flight on Earth, NASA intends to prove it's possible to replicate the feat on another world.

Astronauts test virus-fighting surface coating

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are conducting experiments with an antimicrobial surface coating designed to fight the spread of bacteria and viruses.

How to spot Mars: See the red planet in the sky the day NASA's Perseverance rover lands

Last year was the year of Mars launches, and this one will be the year of Mars landings. The Hope Mars mission, launched by the United Arab Emirates, entered its orbit around Mars on February 9, while China's Tianwen-1 rover, now orbiting the planet, will land in May. Meanwhile, Nasa's Perseverance rover will land on the red planet come February 18.

A combined map of almost 15,000 dust storms on Mars

Data in the world of astronomy is spread out in so many different places. There are archives for instruments on individual spacecraft and telescopes. Sometimes all that is needed to get new insight out of old data is to collect it all together and analyze a whole set rather than isolated instances. That is exactly what happened recently when a team from the Harvard Center for Astrophysics collected and analyzed data about almost 15,000 dust storms that have taken place on Mars over the last eight Martian years.

European Space Agency seeks diversity in new astronaut drive

The European Space Agency is holding its first astronaut recruitment drive in 11 years and says greater diversity is one of the goals.

In search of super-Earths: Spectrograph CRIRES+ at ESO's Very Large Telescope

The astronomy research instrument CRIRES+ is designed to study planets outside our solar system. It is now in operation at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The Institute of Astrophysics at the University of Göttingen is part of the international research consortium that built the high-resolution infrared spectrograph at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

Technology news

Engineers develop polymer cores that redirect light from any source to solar cells

Rice University engineers have suggested a colorful solution to next-generation energy collection: Luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) in your windows.

NREL heats up thermal energy storage with new solution meant to ease grid stress, ultimately improving energy efficiency

Scientists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a simple way to better evaluate the potential of novel materials to store or release heat on demand in your home, office, or other building in a way that more efficiently manages the building's energy use.

A new lead-based anode for next-generation lithium-ion batteries

The lithium-ion battery powers everything from mobile phones to laptops to electric vehicles. Scientists worldwide are always on the hunt for new and improved components to build better batteries for these and other applications.

Reserve prices under scarcity conditions improve with a dynamic ORDC, new research finds

Historically, most electric transmission system operators have used heuristics (rules based on experience) to hold sufficient reserves to guard against unforeseen large outages and maintain system reliability. However, the expansion of competitive wholesale electricity markets has led to efforts to translate reserve heuristics into competitively procured services. A common approach constructs an administrative demand curve for valuing and procuring least cost reserve supply offers. The technical term for this is the operating reserve demand curve (ORDC). A new paper quantifies how better accounting for the temperature-dependent probability of large generator contingencies with time-varying dynamic ORDC construction improves reserve procurement.

Japanese joint venture to deploy all-electric shoreline tanker

Corvus Energy has announced on its website that it has been selected by the Japanese e5 project to supply the battery power for a propulsion system to be designed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries for a soon-to-be deployed shoreline tanker—the first of its kind. The ship itself will be built and run by Asahi Tanker Co., Ltd. of Tokyo, Japan and will be called, at least initially, the e5 tanker. It has a launch date of sometime next year and will represent the first all-electric tanker to be used for commercial purposes. The same group plans to launch a follow-up ship two years later.

A performance leap for graphene modulators in next generation datacom and telecom

Over the past years, global data traffic has experienced a boom, with over 12.5 billion connected devices all over the world. The current world-wide deployment of the 5G telecommunications standard is triggering the need for smaller devices with enhanced performances, such as higher speed, lower power consumption and reduced cost as well as easier manufacturability.

Novel flexible terahertz camera can inspect objects with diverse shapes

In today's digital age, the use of "Internet-of-things" (devices embedded with softwares and sensors) has become widespread. These devices include wireless equipment, autonomous machinery, wearable sensors, and security systems. With their intricate structures and properties stems the need to scrutinize them closely to assess their safety and utility and rule out any potential defects. But, at the same time, damage to the device during inspection must be avoided.

Australia to amend laws to make Google and Facebook pay

Australia's government said on Tuesday it will amend draft laws that would make Google and Facebook pay for news to clarify that publishers would be paid in lump sums rather than per click on news article links.

As NZ gets serious about climate change, can electricity replace fossil fuels in time?

As fossil fuels are phased out over the coming decades, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) suggests electricity will take up much of the slack, powering our vehicle fleet and replacing coal and gas in industrial processes.

Bitcoin surges past $50,000 for first time

Bitcoin soared above $50,000 for the first time Tuesday as corporate heavyweights increasingly back the world's most popular virtual currency.

5G phones may interfere with aircraft: French regulator

The latest generation of smartphones, 5G, can interfere with aircraft altitude instruments, the French Civil Aviation Authority warned Tuesday as it recommended they should be turned off during flight.

Ageing offshore wind turbines could stunt the growth of renewable energy sector

The University of Kent has led a study highlighting the urgent need for the UK's Government and renewable energy industries to give vital attention to decommissioning offshore wind turbines approaching their end of life expectancy by 2025. The research reveals that the UK must decommission approximately 300 and 1600 early-model offshore wind turbines by 2025 and 2030, respectively.

More privacy when using WhatsApp, Signal and others

When installing a messaging service on a smartphone, users are usually prompted to give the app access to their own phone address book. This will automatically connect them with those contacts from their address book who already use the messaging service. For this purpose, the service provider matches the telephone address books with its own contact database. This process currently uploads the complete address books to the service provider's servers.

Switching to firm contracts may prevent natural gas fuel shortages at US power plants

Between January 2012 and March 2018, there were an average of 1,000 failures each year at large North American gas power plants due to unscheduled fuel shortages and fuel conservation interruptions. This is a problem as the power grid depends on reliable natural gas delivery from these power plants in order to function. More than a third of all U.S. electricity is generated from natural gas. New research now indicates that these fuel shortages are not due to failures of pipelines and that in certain areas of the country a change in how gas is purchased can significantly reduce generator outages.

Researchers expand study of ethics, artificial intelligence

The Army of the future will involve humans and autonomous machines working together to accomplish the mission. According to Army researchers, this vision will only succeed if artificial intelligence is perceived to be ethical.

Amazon quietly acquires e-commerce rival Selz

Amazon has quietly purchased the Australian-based e-commerce platform Selz, which enables businesses to build their own online stores.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu are streaming favorites as Americans subscribe to more services amid COVID

We used to complain there were too many streaming services battling for our money. Now we can't binge enough.

Amazon to make devices in India for the first time

Amazon will begin making Fire TV sticks in India, the US tech giant said Tuesday, its first device manufacturing line in the country as it fights for a share of its booming e-commerce market.

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