Science X Newsletter Thursday, Feb 18

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 18, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A system that automatically generates comic books from movies and other videos

Study finds real-time dialogue with a dreaming person is possible

Metabolic mutations help bacteria resist drug treatment

First black hole ever detected is more massive than we thought

Ancient relic points to a turning point in Earth's history 42,000 years ago

Engineers place molecule-scale devices in precise orientation

NASA rover lands on Mars to look for signs of ancient life

AI may mistake chess discussions as racist talk

Team reveals never-before-seen antibody binding, informing liver cancer, antibody design

NASA rover streaks toward a landing on Mars

Irregular sleep schedules connected to bad moods and depression, study shows

Gulf War illness not caused by depleted uranium from munitions, study shows

Scientists identify over 140,000 virus species in the human gut

The original antigenic sin: How childhood infections could shape pandemics

Store fat or burn it? Targeting a single protein flips the switch

Physics news

Engineers place molecule-scale devices in precise orientation

Engineers have developed a technique that allows them to precisely place microscopic devices formed from folded DNA molecules in not only a specific location but also in a specific orientation.

X-ray double flashes control atomic nuclei

A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg has coherently controlled nuclear excitations using suitably shaped X-ray light for the first time. In the experiment performed at the European Synchrotron ESRF, they achieved a temporal control stability of a few zeptoseconds. This forms the basis for new experimental approaches exploiting the control of nuclear dynamics which could lead to more precise future time standards and open new possibilities on the way to nuclear batteries.

SLAC's new X-ray laser data system will process a million images a second

When upgrades to the X-ray laser at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are complete, the powerful new machine will capture up to 1 terabyte of data per second; that's a data rate equivalent to streaming about one thousand full-length movies in just a single second, and analyzing every frame of each movie as they zoom past in this super-fast-forward mode.

New metamaterials for studying the oldest light in the universe

The cosmic microwave background, or CMB, is the electromagnetic echo of the Big Bang, radiation that has been traveling through space and time since the very first atoms were born 380,000 years after our universe began. Mapping minuscule variations in the CMB tells scientists about how our universe came to be and what it's made of.

New advances using exotic matter may lead to ultrafast computing

In the 1960s, an exotic phase of matter known as an excitonic insulator was proposed. Decades later, evidence for this phase was found in real materials. Recently, particular attention has centered on Ta2NiSe5 because an excitonic insulator phase may exist in this material at room temperatures. The substance is made up of the elements tantalum, nickel, and selenium, and has the potential to lead to breakthroughs in more power-efficient, faster computers.

The search for electron-hole liquids gets warmer

An electron-hole liquid is a unique collective quantum state formation in semiconductors where free charges can condense into a droplet. These droplets have interesting uses for laser-controlled circuits based on light beams instead of wires. Unfortunately, electron-hole liquids normally only exist in extremely cold environments, and aren't practical for real devices. But what if these droplets could instead form as the material heats up?

D-Wave demonstrates performance advantage in quantum simulation of exotic magnetism

D-Wave Systems Inc. today published a milestone study in collaboration with scientists at Google, demonstrating a computational performance advantage, increasing with both simulation size and problem hardness, to over 3 million times that of corresponding classical methods. Notably, this work was achieved on a practical application with real-world implications, simulating the topological phenomena behind the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics. This performance advantage, exhibited in a complex quantum simulation of materials, is a meaningful step in the journey toward applications advantage in quantum computing.

Blueprint for fault-tolerant qubits

Building a universal quantum computer is a challenging task because of the fragility of quantum bits, or qubits for short. To deal with this problem, various types of error correction have been developed. Conventional methods do this by active correction techniques. In contrast, researchers led by Prof. David DiVincenzo from Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University, together with partners from the University of Basel and QuTech Delft, have now proposed a design for a circuit with passive error correction. Such a circuit would already be inherently fault protected and could significantly accelerate the construction of a quantum computer with a large number of qubits.

Quantum computing: When ignorance is wanted

Quantum computers promise not only to outperform classical machines in certain important tasks, but also to maintain the privacy of data processing. The secure delegation of computations has been an increasingly important issue since the possibility of utilizing cloud computing and cloud networks. Of particular interest is the ability to exploit quantum technology that allows for unconditional security, meaning that no assumptions about the computational power of a potential adversary need to be made.

Physics of tumours: Cancer cells become fluidised and squeeze through tissue

Working with colleagues from Germany and the US, researchers at Leipzig University have achieved a breakthrough in research into how cancer cells spread. In experiments, the team of biophysicists led by Professor Josef Alfons Käs, Steffen Grosser and Jürgen Lippoldt demonstrated for the first time how cells deform in order to move in dense tumor tissues and squeeze past neighboring cells. The researchers found that motile cells work together to fluidise tumor tissue.

Ultrafast electron dynamics in space and time

Often depicted as colorful balloons or clouds, electron orbitals provide information on the whereabouts of electrons in molecules, a bit like fuzzy snapshots. In order to understand the exchange of electrons in chemical reactions, it is not only important to know their spatial distribution but also their motion in time. Scientists from Julich, Marburg, and Graz have now made huge progress in this direction: They successfully recorded orbital images with an extremely high temporal resolution.

Investigating the wave properties of matter with vibrating molecules

The working group led by Prof. Stephan Schiller, Ph.D. from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) has used a novel, high-precision laser spectroscopic experiment to measure the internal vibration of the simplest molecule. This allowed the researchers to investigate the wave character of the motion of atomic nuclei with unprecedented accuracy. They present their findings in the current edition of Nature Physics.

Electrons living on the edge

Scientists at the University of Tsukuba demonstrated the possibility of electrons moving as if they were massless when certain materials called "topological insulators" are irradiated with laser beams. This work may lead to a new class of highly efficient electronic devices and photonic crystals.

Quantum leap: how we discovered a new way to create a hologram

Once, holograms were just a scientific curiosity. But thanks to the rapid development of lasers, they have gradually moved center stage, appearing on the security imagery for credit cards and bank notes, in science fiction movies—most memorably Star Wars—and even "live" on stage when long-dead rapper Tupac reincarnated for fans at the Coachella music festival in 2012.

Using plasma technology to feed the world

Using state-of-the-art plasma technology to make cheap fertilizer for small farmers may sound like magic, but it has now become reality. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have built a small plasma-powered plant that produces nitrogen-based liquid fertilizer only using sun, water and air. "The plant is easy to set up, sustainable and very efficient," says TU/e researcher Fausto Gallucci, who together with partners in Africa, Germany and Portugal has done successful tests of the device in Uganda. "We now want to bring the mini-plant to the market, so that it becomes available to farmers around the world."

LHC/ATLAS: A unique observation of particle pair creation in photon-photon collisions

Creation of matter in an interaction of two photons belongs to a class of very rare phenomena. From the data of the ATLAS experiment at the LHC, collected with the new AFP proton detectors at the highest energies available to-date, a more accurate—and more interesting—picture of the phenomena occurring during photon collisions is emerging.

Astronomy and Space news

First black hole ever detected is more massive than we thought

New observations of the first black hole ever detected have led astronomers to question what they know about the Universe's most mysterious objects.

NASA rover lands on Mars to look for signs of ancient life

A NASA rover streaked through the orange Martian sky and landed on the planet Thursday, accomplishing the riskiest step yet in an epic quest to bring back rocks that could answer whether life ever existed on Mars.

NASA rover streaks toward a landing on Mars

A NASA rover streaked toward a landing on Mars on Thursday in the riskiest step yet in an epic quest to bring back rocks that could answer whether life ever existed on the red planet.

Signals in optical band can be used as probe to detect atmosphere escape of hot Jupiters

YAN Dongdong, GUO Jianheng and Xing Lei from Yunnan Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, collaborating with Huang Chenliang from University of Arizona, deduced that there is an expanding and escaping thermal neutral hydrogen atmosphere around hot Jupiter WASP-121b by simulating the optical transmission spectrum (Hα) of this exoplanet. The study was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Was there ever life on Mars? NASA's Perseverance rover wants to find out

Seven months traveling through space, a mission that was decades in the making and cost billions of dollars, all to answer the question: was there ever life on Mars?

'7 minutes of terror': Perseverance rover's nail-biting landing phase

Seven months after blast-off, NASA's Mars 2020 mission will have to negotiate its shortest and most intense phase on Thursday: the "seven minutes of terror" it takes to slam on the brakes and land the Perseverance rover on a narrow target on the planet's surface.

Searching for life in NASA's Perseverance Mars samples

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will be the agency's ninth mission to land on the Red Planet. Along with characterizing the planet's geology and climate, and paving the way for human exploration beyond the Moon, the rover is focused on astrobiology, or the study of life throughout the universe. Perseverance is tasked with searching for telltale signs that microbial life may have lived on Mars billions of years ago. It will collect rock core samples in metal tubes, and future missions would return these samples to Earth for deeper study.

Juno just saw a spacerock crash into Jupiter

Timing is extraordinarily important in many aspects of astronomy. If an astronomer or their instrument is looking the wrong way at the wrong time, they could miss something spectacular. Alternatively, there are moments when our instruments capture something unexpected in regions of space that we were searching for something else. That is exactly what happened recently when a team of scientists, led by Rohini Giles at the Southwest Research Institute, saw an image of what is likely a meteor impacting Jupiter's atmosphere.

The search for life beyond Earth

Mars may now be considered a barren, icy desert but did Earth's nearest neighbour once harbour life?

Technology news

A system that automatically generates comic books from movies and other videos

Over the past few years, computer scientists have created numerous computational techniques that can automatically generate texts, images and other types of data. These models are highly advantageous, particularly for creating data or creative works that are demanding and time-consuming for humans to produce manually.

AI may mistake chess discussions as racist talk

"The Queen's Gambit," the recent TV mini-series about a chess master, may have stirred increased interest in chess, but a word to the wise: social media talk about game-piece colors could lead to misunderstandings, at least for hate-speech detection software.

Research helps solar technology become more affordable

Scientists at The University of Manchester have found a way to accelerate the uptake of solar technology, by increasing the environmental safety of perovskite solar cells.

Less-wasteful laser-cutting

Laser-cutting is an essential part of many industries, from car manufacturing to construction. However, the process isn't always easy or efficient: Cutting huge sheets of metal requires time and expertise, and even the most careful users can still produce huge amounts of leftover material that go to waste. The underlying technologies that use lasers to cut edges aren't actually all that cutting-edge: their users are often in the dark about how much of each material they've used, or if a design they have in mind can even be fabricated.

Malware targeting Apple's M1-based computers found

Security researcher Patrick Wardle is claiming on his Objective-See website that he has found an instance of malware that targets Apple computers running the M1 chipset. Apple began Mac Mini, Macbook Pro and the Macbook Air models running the new chipset late last year.

Samsung announces high bandwidth memory, processing-in-memory architecture

Samsung Electronics has announced on its Newsroom webpage the development of a new kind of memory chip architecture called high-bandwidth memory, processing-in-memory—HBM-PIM. The architecture adds artificial intelligence processing to high-bandwidth memory chips. The new chips will be marketed as a way to speed up data centers, boost speed in high performance computers and to further enable AI applications.

How lithium-rich cathode materials for high energy EV batteries store charge at high voltages

High energy storage batteries for EVs need high capacity battery cathodes. New lithium-excess magnesium-rich cathodes are expected to replace existing nickel-rich cathodes but understanding how the magnesium and oxygen accommodate charge storage at high voltages is critical for their successful adaption. Research led by WMG, University of Warwick in collaboration with U.S. researchers employed a range of X-ray studies to determine that the oxygen ions are facilitating the charge storage rather than the magnesium ions.

Tuning electrode surfaces to optimize solar fuel production

Scientists have demonstrated that modifying the topmost layer of atoms on the surface of electrodes can have a remarkable impact on the activity of solar water splitting. As they reported in Nature Energy on Feb. 18, bismuth vanadate electrodes with more bismuth on the surface (relative to vanadium) generate higher amounts of electrical current when they absorb energy from sunlight. This photocurrent drives the chemical reactions that split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can be stored for later use as a clean fuel. Producing only water when it recombines with oxygen to generate electricity in fuel cells, hydrogen could help us achieve a clean and sustainable energy future.

Facebook blocks Australians from accessing news on platform

Facebook announced Thursday it has blocked Australians from viewing and sharing news on the platform because of proposed laws in the country to make digital giants pay for journalism.

In surprise move, Facebook blocks news access in Australia

In a surprise retaliatory move Thursday, Facebook blocked Australians from sharing news stories, escalating a fight with the government over whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organizations for content.

EXPLAINER: What's up between Google, Facebook and Australia?

For two decades, global news outlets have complained internet companies are getting rich at their expense, selling advertising linked to their reports without sharing revenue.

Why the world is watching Australia's tussle with Big Tech

Facebook's decision to pull news from its platform in Australia comes in response to legislation that would force tech giants to pay for sharing news content.

'Perfect storm': phones, consoles could get pricier as chip crisis bites

Prices of popular gadgets such as PlayStations and iPhones could rise because of microchip shortages caused by a "perfect storm" of coronavirus-driven demand, supply chain disruptions and trade war stockpiling, experts warn.

Waymo brings robo-taxis to San Francisco in new test

Waymo, the autonomous driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, said Wednesday it would begin testing its driverless ride-hailing service on the streets of San Francisco.

Misinformation fears after Facebook blacks out news in Australia

Facebook's news blackout in Australia has raised fears misinformation could come to dominate the platform in the country, with fake news and conspiracy theories left untouched while credible sources have been cut off.

New model increases the certainty in AI

Scientists from TU/e OPAC group and Radboud University, together with scientists from the University of Austin and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new method to let artificial intelligence (AI) deal better with uncertainty.

It's time for a social media spring cleaning

In denying news content to its Australian users, Facebook is arguably overplaying its hand, behaving as a big company that thinks it can intimidate governments.

Uber, Lyft rerouted for post-pandemic profitability

Uber and Lyft are taking different routes around the roadblock the virus pandemic dropped on their paths to profitability.

Should Spotify payments go to artists you actually listen to?

Streaming companies such as Spotify and Deezer are credited with rescuing the music industry from piracy, but while label executives rejoice in billion-dollar revenues, even top-level artists are struggling to survive.

New NIST framework strives for cleaner, more secure power grid

Whether it's a new set of solar panels glistening on a neighbor's roof or a freshly installed smart thermostat at home, burgeoning renewable and smart technologies represent steps toward a sustainable future. But much of their potential will remain untapped unless the power grid is managed in a much more flexible way.

Shockwaves worldwide as Facebook turns off the news for Australia

Facebook's stunning decision to turn off the news for Australia highlights a long-troubled role for the US tech giant which stumbled into the news business and has grown into one of its most powerful forces.

Cost controls, luxury sales help Daimler weather pandemic

Car and truck maker Daimler increased its profits by 48% to 4.0 billion euros ($4.8 billion) in 2020 thanks to extensive cost-cutting and a sales recovery in the second half for its highly profitable Mercedes-Benz luxury cars and sport-utility vehicles.

Pandemic pushes Air France-KLM deep into red in 2020

Air France-KLM said Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic "severely impacted" its earnings in 2020, pushing it deep into a net loss of 7.1 billion euros ($8.6 billion).

Pandemic savages airline sector

Dizzying losses, the looming threat of bankruptcies and tens of thousands of people thrown out of work: the aviation industry has been devastated by COVID-19 and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. The sector may be unrecognisable when it finally emerges.

At the foot of the Pyrenees planes put out to pasture

Under the snow-capped Pyrenees, dozens of planes are lined up like toys on a shelf, at one of several airports in southern Europe where parking planes has become big business thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Behind the power crisis in petroleum center Texas

Some 2.7 million households in Texas were still without power as of Wednesday morning in the wake of extremely cold weather buffeting the region.

As Facebook ups the ante on news, regional and elderly Australians will be hardest hit

Facebook's decision to remove Australian news from its platform is the latest gambit in a running stoush with the federal government over its proposed news media bargaining law.

In Australia, Facebook News is no more. Here's where to turn for trusted information

Information is everywhere, right? Well, here in Australia, we now have one less source of news information at our fingertips.

Testing a long-range Aera drone to raise the alarm on summer wildfires

Dutch drone company Avy—an alumnus of ESA's Business Incubation Center Noordwijk, next to the Agency's ESTEC technical center in the Netherlands—looked into using its long-range Aera drone to raise the alarm on summer wildfires on a real-time basis.

Dodgeball gets futuristic twist in new video game 'Knockout City' available in May

The next video game from publisher Electronic Arts started with a simple activity: playing catch.

First look: 'Splatoon 3' and 'Star Wars: Hunters' among new video games headed to Nintendo Switch

There's a new wave of multiplayer paint splattering in the works for the Nintendo Switch.

France to boost cyberdefense after hospital malware attacks

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday unveiled a plan to better arm public facilities and private companies against cybercriminals following ransomware attacks at two hospitals this month and an upsurge of similar cyber assaults in France.

Facebook to debunk climate change myths in expanded hub

Facebook said Thursday it would expand its climate information hub and direct its users to experts to debunk myths and hoaxes in the field in a ramped up effort to fight misinformation.

Apple updates its syringe emoji as COVID-19 vaccines roll out

As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out across the U.S., Apple's syringe emoji is getting an update.

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