Science X Newsletter Monday, Feb 22

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for February 22, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers examine how multilingual BERT models encode grammatical features

Ultramassive black hole in NGC 1600 investigated in detail

Untangling cancer's complexity with Mission Bio's true multi-omics Tapestri Platform

New 'metalens' shifts focus without tilting or moving

Ghost particle from shredded star reveals cosmic particle accelerator

Binary stars are all around us, new map of solar neighborhood shows

Electrophotocatalytic diamination of vicinal C–H bonds

New insight to Campylobacter sensor structures could lead to targeted antibiotic development

NASA releases first audio from Mars, video of landing

Lack of symmetry in qubits can't fix errors in quantum computing, might explain matter/antimatter

Russia detects first case of H5N8 avian flu in humans

America has sent five rovers to Mars—when will humans follow?

Space station launch honors 'Hidden Figures' mathematician

NASA's Mars helicopter reports in

Pioneering research reveals gardens are secret powerhouse for pollinators

Physics news

New 'metalens' shifts focus without tilting or moving

Polished glass has been at the center of imaging systems for centuries. Their precise curvature enables lenses to focus light and produce sharp images, whether the object in view is a single cell, the page of a book, or a far-off galaxy.

Lack of symmetry in qubits can't fix errors in quantum computing, might explain matter/antimatter

A team of quantum theorists seeking to cure a basic problem with quantum annealing computers—they have to run at a relatively slow pace to operate properly—found something intriguing instead. While probing how quantum annealers perform when operated faster than desired, the team unexpectedly discovered a new effect that may account for the imbalanced distribution of matter and antimatter in the universe and a novel approach to separating isotopes.

Optical frequency combs with a new dimension

Periodic pulses of light forming a comb in the frequency domain are widely used for sensing and ranging. The key to the miniaturization of this technology toward chip-integrated solutions is the generation of dissipative solitons in ring-shaped microresonators. Dissipative solitons are stable pulses circulating around the circumference of a nonlinear resonator.

Investigating dense plasmas with positron waves

Astrophysical and lab-created plasmas under the influence of magnetic fields are the source of intense study. New research seeks to understand the dynamics of position waves traveling through these clouds of highly ionized gas.

Heat loss control method in fusion reactors

The core of a fusion reactor is incredibly hot. Hydrogen that inevitably escapes from it must be cooled on its way to the wall, as otherwise, the reactor wall would be damaged. Researchers from the Dutch institute DIFFER and EPFL's Swiss Plasma Center have developed a strict measurement and control method for the cooling of very hot particles escaping from fusion plasmas.

Magnetic effect without a magnet

Electric current is deflected by a magnetic field—in conducting materials, this leads to the so-called Hall effect. This effect is often used to measure magnetic fields. A surprising discovery has now been made at TU Wien, in collaboration with scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute (Switzerland), McMater University (Canada), and Rice University (U.S.): an exotic metal made of cerium, bismuth and palladium was examined and a giant Hall effect was found to be produced by the material, in the total absence of any magnetic field. The reason for this unexpected result lies in the unusual properties of the electrons: They behave as if magnetic monopoles were present in the material. These discoveries have now been published in the scientific magazine PNAS.

A new study reveals that quantum physics can cause mutations in our DNA

Quantum biology is an emerging field of science, established in the 1920s, which looks at whether the subatomic world of quantum mechanics plays a role in living cells. Quantum mechanics is an interdisciplinary field by nature, bringing together nuclear physicists, biochemists and molecular biologists.

New storage medium uses physical properties of antiferromagnetic material

Using nanoscale quantum sensors, an international research team has succeeded in exploring certain previously uncharted physical properties of an antiferromagnetic material. Based on their results, the researchers developed a concept for a new storage medium published in the journal Nature Physics. The project was coordinated by researchers from the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel.

Researchers create 'beautiful marriage' of quantum enemies

Cornell University scientists have identified a new contender when it comes to quantum materials for computing and low-temperature electronics.

'Forward' jet-tracking components installed at RHIC's STAR detector

Just prior to the start of this year's run at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC)—a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science user facility for nuclear physics research at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory—a team of scientists, engineers, technicians, and students completed the installation of important new components of the collider's STAR detector. This house-sized particle tracker (the Solenoidal Tracker at RHIC) captures the subatomic debris created when atomic nuclei collide so scientists can learn about the building blocks of matter. The new components will expand STAR's ability to track jets of particles emerging in an extreme "forward" direction, meaning close to the beamline through which the particles travel as they collide.

The quest for the magic angle

Stack two layers of graphene, twisted at slightly different angles to each other, and the material spontaneously becomes a superconductor. Science still can't explain how something so magical can happen, but physicists use special equipment to reveal what is taking place under the surface.

Astronomy and Space news

Ultramassive black hole in NGC 1600 investigated in detail

Using NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory, astronomers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville have investigated the central region of the galaxy NGC 1600, focusing on its ultramassive black hole (UMBH). Results of the study, presented in a paper published February 11 on the arXiv pre-print server, shed more light on the properties of this UMBH.

Ghost particle from shredded star reveals cosmic particle accelerator

Tracing back a ghostly particle to a shredded star, scientists have uncovered a gigantic cosmic particle accelerator. The subatomic particle, called a neutrino, was hurled towards Earth after the doomed star came too close to the supermassive black hole at the center of its home galaxy and was ripped apart by the black hole's colossal gravity. It is the first particle that can be traced back to such a 'tidal disruption event' (TDE) and provides evidence that these little understood cosmic catastrophes can be powerful natural particle accelerators, as the team led by DESY scientist Robert Stein reports in the journal Nature Astronomy. The observations also demonstrate the power of exploring the cosmos via a combination of different 'messengers' such as photons (the particles of light) and neutrinos, also known as multi-messenger astronomy.

Binary stars are all around us, new map of solar neighborhood shows

The latest star data from the Gaia space observatory has for the first time allowed astronomers to generate a massive 3-D atlas of widely separated binary stars within about 3,000 light years of Earth—1.3 million of them.

NASA releases first audio from Mars, video of landing

The US space agency NASA on Monday released the first audio from Mars, a faint crackling recording of wind captured by the Perseverance rover.

America has sent five rovers to Mars—when will humans follow?

With its impeccable landing on Thursday, NASA's Perseverance became the fifth rover to reach Mars—so when can we finally expect the long-held goal of a crewed expedition to materialize?

Space station launch honors 'Hidden Figures' mathematician

A space station supply ship named after the Black NASA mathematician featured in the movie "Hidden Figures" rocketed into orbit Saturday, the 59th anniversary of John Glenn's historic launch.

NASA's Mars helicopter reports in

Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California have received the first status report from the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which landed Feb. 18, 2021, at Jezero Crater attached to the belly of the agency's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. The downlink, which arrived at 3:30 p.m. PST (6:30 p.m. EST) via a connection through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, indicates that both the helicopter, which will remain attached to the rover for 30 to 60 days, and its base station (an electrical box on the rover that stores and routes communications between the rotorcraft and Earth) are operating as expected.

Life from Earth could temporarily survive on Mars

Some microbes on Earth could temporarily survive on the surface of Mars, finds a new study by NASA and German Aerospace Center scientists. The researchers tested the endurance of microorganisms to Martian conditions by launching them into the Earth's stratosphere, as it closely represents key conditions on the Red Planet. Published in Frontiers in Microbiology, this work paves the way for understanding not only the threat of microbes to space missions, but also the opportunities for resource independence from Earth.

A unique prototype of microbial life designed on actual Martian material

Experimental microbially assisted chemolithotrophy provides an opportunity to trace the putative bioalteration processes of the Martian crust. A study on the Noachian Martian breccia Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, composed of ancient (ca. 4.5 Gyr old) crustal materials from Mars has delivered a unique prototype of microbial life experimentally designed on actual Martian material. As the researchers show in the current issue of Nature Communications Earth and Environment, this life form of a pure Martian design is a rich source of Martian-relevant biosignatures. The study was led by Tetyana Milojevic, the head of the Space Biochemistry group at the University of Vienna.

Researchers detect galactic source of gamma rays that could produce very high-energy cosmic rays

IFIC researcher Francisco Salesa Greus, along with other members of the HAWC collaboration, have detected very high-energy photons from a galactic source that could produce cosmic rays. The detection of neutrinos through telescopes such as KM3NeT or IceCube would confirm the study. This finding has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Image: Hubble views a baby star's tantrums

Herbig-Haro objects are some of the rarer sights in the night sky, taking the form of thin spindly jets of matter floating among the surrounding gas and stars. The two Herbig-Haro objects cataloged as HH46 and HH47, seen in this image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, were spotted in the constellation of Vela (the Sails), at a distance of over 1,400 light-years from Earth. Prior to their discovery in 1977 by the American astronomer R. D. Schwartz, the exact mechanism by which these multi-colored objects formed was unknown.

Research reveals stellar kinematics of the galactic disc

By using a sample of 118945 red giant branch (RGB) stars from the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) and Gaia, Dr. Wu Yaqian from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) investigated the stellar kinematics of the galactic disc in 7

Astronomers see star with dust disc that is being fed by surrounding material

An international team of astronomers including Leiden scientists publishes the image of a young star with a surrounding dust disk that is still being fed from its surroundings. The phenomenon around the star SU Aur may explain why so many exoplanets are not neatly aligned with their star. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has declared the image "Photo of the Week." The accompanying research appears in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Big data to model the evolution of the cosmic web

The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has led an international team which has developed an algorithm called COSMIC BIRTH to analyze large scale cosmic structures. This new computation method will permit the analysis of the evolution of the structure of dark matter from the early universe until the formation of present day galaxies. This work was recently published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).

The Milky Way may be swarming with planets with oceans and continents like here on Earth

Astronomers have long been looking into the vast universe in hopes of discovering alien civilisations. But for a planet to have life, liquid water must be present. The likelihood of that scenario has seemed impossible to calculate because it has been the assumption that planets like Earth got their water by chance when a large ice asteroid hit the planet.

NASA's Swift helps tie neutrino to star-shredding black hole

For only the second time, astronomers have linked an elusive particle called a high-energy neutrino to an object outside our galaxy. Using ground- and space-based facilities, including NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, they traced the neutrino to a black hole tearing apart a star, a rare cataclysmic occurrence called a tidal disruption event.

Scientists image a bright meteoroid explosion in Jupiter's atmosphere

From aboard the Juno spacecraft, a Southwest Research Institute-led instrument observing auroras serendipitously spotted a bright flash above Jupiter's clouds last spring. The Ultraviolet Spectrograph (UVS) team studied the data and determined that they had captured a bolide, an extremely bright meteoroid explosion in the gas giant's upper atmosphere.

Big galaxies steal star-forming gas from their smaller neighbours

Large galaxies are known to strip the gas that occupies the space between the stars of smaller satellite galaxies.

Bone cancer survivor to join billionaire on SpaceX flight

After beating bone cancer, Hayley Arceneaux figures rocketing into orbit on SpaceX's first private flight should be a piece of cosmic cake.

Big ideas in small packages: The seeds and worms making their way to the ISS

On Feb. 20, 2021, Northrop Grumman will launch its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard an Antares rocket to deliver several tons of cargo and supplies to the International Space Station for its 15th resupply mission (CRS-15). Included in these bulky supplies will be a handful of items that weigh no more than a few grams—a sampling of seeds, some microscopic proteins, and a few small worms. Yet it is these tiny organisms that may yield the biggest impact to this mission, affecting the future of space travel while delivering life altering benefits to those of us still on Earth.

Scientists claim that all high-energy cosmic neutrinos are born by quasars

Scientists of the P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (LPI RAS), the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and the Institute for Nuclear Research of RAS (INR RAS) have studied the arrival directions of astrophysical neutrinos with energies more than a trillion electronvolts (TeV) and came to an unexpected conclusion: all of them are born near black holes in the centers of distant active galaxies powerful radio sources. Previously, only neutrinos with the highest energies were assumed to be obtained in sources of this class.

Technology news

Researchers examine how multilingual BERT models encode grammatical features

Over the past few decades, researchers have developed deep neural network-based models that can complete a broad range of tasks. Some of these techniques are specifically designed to process and generate coherent texts in multiple languages, translate texts, answer questions about a text and create summaries of news articles or other online content.

Attachable skin monitors that wick the sweat away

A new preparation technique fabricates thin, silicone-based patches that rapidly wick water away from the skin. The technique could reduce the redness and itching caused by wearable biosensors that trap sweat beneath them. The technique was developed by bioengineer and professor Young-Ho Cho and his colleagues at KAIST and reported in the journal Scientific Reports last month.

Researchers develop speedier network analysis for a range of computer hardware

Graphs—data structures that show the relationship among objects—are highly versatile. It's easy to imagine a graph depicting a social media network's web of connections. But graphs are also used in programs as diverse as content recommendation (what to watch next on Netflix?) and navigation (what's the quickest route to the beach?). As Ajay Brahmakshatriya summarizes, "Graphs are basically everywhere."

Red Canary researchers find evidence of malware on 30,000 infected Apple computers

A team of researchers at security firm Red Canary has found evidence of a new kind of malware infecting Apple brand computers. They claim on their website that they have found evidence of the malware, which they have named Silver Sparrow, infecting up to 30,000 Mac computers.

The perfect recipe for efficient perovskite solar cells

They have improved a process for vertically depositing a solution made from an inexpensive perovskite solute onto a moving substrate below. Not only have they discovered the crucial role played by one of the solvents used, but they have also taken a closer look at the aging and storage properties of the solution.

Should Uber and Lyft be electrifying more vehicles?

Professor Jeremy Michalek and his Ph.D student Matthew Bruchon have published a study investigating what vehicle electrification would look like in a world where ridesourcing companies like Uber and Lyft were held responsible for the air pollution and carbon emissions created by their business.

Google fires another lead AI ethics researcher

Google said Friday it fired a lead artificial intelligence ethics researcher, following controversy last year over the tech giant's dismissal of a Black colleague who was an outspoken diversity advocate.

Kroger: Some pharmacy customer data impacted in vendor hack

Kroger Co. says personal data, including Social Security numbers of some of its pharmacy and clinic customers, may have been stolen in the hack of a third-party vendor's file-transfer service.

Privacy faces risks in tech-infused post-COVID workplace

People returning to work following the long pandemic will find an array of tech-infused gadgetry to improve workplace safety but which could pose risks for long-term personal and medical privacy.

Study of auto recalls shows carmakers delay announcements until they 'hide in the herd'

Automotive recalls are occurring at record levels, but seem to be announced after inexplicable delays. A research study of 48 years of auto recalls announced in the United States finds carmakers frequently wait to make their announcements until after a competitor issues a recall—even if it is unrelated to similar defects.

Australia health chiefs freeze Facebook ads

Australia's health department will no longer advertise on Facebook, it has announced, the latest escalation of the government's feud with the social media giant, which continues to block news content from its platform in the country.

Boeing grounds 777s after engine fire in Colorado

Dozens of Boeing 777 planes were grounded worldwide Monday following a weekend scare on a United Airlines' plane that suffered engine failure and scattered airplane debris over suburban Denver.

Mogul vs Mogul: Australia's tech law pits Murdoch against Zuckerberg

Australia's push to regulate tech giants has become a power struggle between two of the world's most powerful men, with Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg locked in a generational battle for media dominance.

Coffea speeds up particle physics data analysis

Analyzing the mountains of data generated by the Large Hadron Collider at the European laboratory CERN takes so much time that even the computers need coffee. Or rather, Coffea—Columnar Object Framework for Effective Analysis.

Algorithm identifies who can best promote healthy behaviors in a social network

The coronavirus pandemic has shown that one of the most important weapons in the fight against any disease is accurate information—and trusted individuals within a community to disseminate it.

iPhone 12 sales propel Apple to top of smartphone market: survey

Strong sales of iPhone 12 models lifted Apple to the top of the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter, a survey showed Monday.

Tunnels to become carbon-neutral energy suppliers

After completion in about ten years, the Brenner base tunnel is expected to provide relief for transit traffic between Italy and Austria. The Brenner Base Tunnel Company (BBT SE) and Innsbrucker Kommunalbetriebe (Innsbruck municipal works) now want to generate an additional benefit together with the Institute of Rock Mechanics and Tunneling at Graz University of Technology and determine the geothermal potential of the tunnel, as Institute head Thomas Marcher explains: "We are investigating whether and how drainage water from the Brenner base tunnel can be used for climate-friendly heating and cooling of houses or even entire neighborhoods in Innsbruck."

The appearance of robots affects our perception of the morality of their decisions

'Moralities of Intelligent Machines' is a project that investigates people's attitudes towards moral choices made by artificial intelligence. In the latest study completed under the project, study participants read short narratives where either a robot, a somewhat humanoid robot known as iRobot, a robot with a strong humanoid appearance called iClooney or a human being encounters a moral problem along the lines of the trolley dilemma, making a specific decision. The participants were also shown images of these agents, after which they assessed the morality of their decisions. The study was funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation and the Academy of Finland.

Fukushima nuclear plant operator: Seismometers were broken

The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant said Monday that two seismometers at one of its three melted reactors have been out of order since last year and did not collect data when a powerful earthquake struck the area earlier this month.

Huawei unveils flagship foldable smartphone

Struggling under U.S. sanctions, Huawei unveiled a folding smartphone with an 8-inch (20-centimeter) -wide screen Monday to show off its tech prowess but said it will be sold only in China.

Microsoft will release Office 2021 for Windows and Macs later this year

Microsoft confirmed it will launch Office 2021, the latest version of its productivity suite of apps like Word, Excel and others, later this year for personal and small business use.

The Clubhouse app: What is the allure of the invite-only social media network?

Julie Wenah was seeking solace to share her thoughts when a friend invited her to join Clubhouse, a voice-only app where users chat and debate on topics ranging from politics, business, tech, professional networking, sports, music and religion.

Can democracy work on the internet? Reddit tells a mixed story

Throughout history, people have established new governments for all sorts of reasons: to solidify alliances, or expand empires, or secure individual liberties.

Why the Boeing 777 problem isn't as dire as the MAX crisis

Boeing is back in the headlines following a scary incident on a weekend flight in Colorado.

Airlines plan to ask passengers for contact-tracing details

The U.S. airline industry is pledging to expand the practice of asking passengers on flights to the United States for information that public health officials could use for contact tracing during the pandemic.

Global tech firms in Australia launch anti-disinformation code

Global tech firms in Australia unveiled a new code of practice Monday to curb the spread of disinformation online, following pressure from the government.

Air New Zealand to trial digital COVID 'vaccination passport'

Air New Zealand will trial a digital travel pass to give airlines and border authorities access to passenger health information, including their COVID-19 vaccination status, the carrier said Monday.

Google to resume political ads, easing ban imposed last month

Google said Monday it would lift its ban on political ads on its platform imposed last month following the turmoil surrounding the violent uprising at the US Capitol.

Facebook's Australia face-off could backfire across the globe

Facebook Inc.'s dramatic move to block Australian news sharing escalated a broader battle against global regulation. That gambit looks likely to backfire.

After Texas crisis, Biden's climate plan hangs on fragile power grid

The millions of people who struggled to keep warm in Texas, with blackouts crippling life inside a dominant energy hub, have laid bare the desperate state of U.S. electricity grids. To fix nationwide vulnerabilities, President Joe Biden will have to completely reimagine the American way of producing and transmitting electricity.

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