Science X Newsletter Monday, Mar 1

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 1, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A design to improve the resilience and electrical performance thin metal film based electrodes

Neandertals had the capacity to perceive and produce human speech

Plants set a 'bedtime' alarm to ensure their survival, new study shows

Scientists use lipid nanoparticles to precisely target gene editing to the liver

Nanoshape imprint lithography using molecular dynamics of polymer crosslinking

Gamma-ray and optical flares detected from the blazar S5 1803+784

Researchers improve efficiency of next-generation solar cell material

Mutant gene-targeted immunotherapy approach developed

FDA-approved antidiarrhea drug can reverse resistance to chemotherapy in a mouse model of leukemia

Archeologists find intact ceremonial chariot near Pompeii

US advisers endorse single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from J&J

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings

Argentine titanosaur may be oldest yet: study

The right '5-a-day' mix is 2 fruit and 3 vegetable servings for longer life

Microplastic sizes in Hudson-Raritan Estuary and coastal ocean revealed

Physics news

When foams collapse (and when they don't)

Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have revealed how liquid foams collapse by observing individual collapse events with high-speed video microscopy. They found that cracks in films led to a receding liquid front that sweeps up the original film border, inverts its shape, and releases a droplet, which hits and breaks other films. Their observations and physical model provide key insights into how to make foams more or less resistant to collapse.

Interesting pattern in cross-sections observed in F + HD → HF + D reaction

A team of researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Southern University of Science and Technology, has discovered a thought-provoking pattern in cross-sections observed in an F + HD → HF + D reaction. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their double-pronged approach to learning more about the role of relativistic spin-orbit interactions in chemical reactions. T. Peter Rakitzis, with the University of Crete, and IESL-FORTH, has published a Perspectives piece in the same journal issue outlining the difficulty of studying chemical reactions at the quantum level and the work done by the team in China.

Bottling the world's coldest plasma

Rice University physicists have discovered a way to trap the world's coldest plasma in a magnetic bottle, a technological achievement that could advance research into clean energy, space weather and astrophysics.

Through the looking glass: Artificial molecules open door to ultrafast polaritonic devices

Researchers from Skoltech and the University of Cambridge have shown that polaritons, the quirky particles that may end up running the quantum supercomputers of the future, can form structures behaving like molecules—and these "artificial molecules" can potentially be engineered on demand. The paper outlining these results was published in the journal Physical Review B.

Second order optical merons, or light pretending to be a ferromagnet

One of the key concepts in physics, and science overall, is the notion of a 'field' which can describe the spatial distribution of a physical quantity. For instance, a weather map shows the distributions of temperature and pressure (these are known as scalar fields), as well as the wind speed and direction (known as a vector field). Almost everyone wears a vector field on their head—every hair has an origin and an end, just like a vector. Over 100 years ago L.E.J. Brouwer proved the hairy ball theorem which states that you can't comb a hairy ball flat without creating whorls, whirls (vortices) or cowlicks.

Astronomy and Space news

Gamma-ray and optical flares detected from the blazar S5 1803+784

Using NASA's Fermi spacecraft, astronomers have conducted a long-term monitoring campaign of a blazar known as S5 1803+784 and have identified several gamma-ray and optical flares from this source. The finding is detailed in a paper published February 19 on

Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings

Spacewalking astronauts ventured out Sunday to install support frames for new, high-efficiency solar panels arriving at the International Space Station later this year.

Chemical signatures of iron predict red supergiant temperature

Red supergiants are a class of star that end their lives in supernova explosions. Their lifecycles are not fully understood, partly due to difficulties in measuring their temperatures. For the first time, astronomers have developed an accurate method to determine the surface temperatures of red supergiants.

The distance to the North Polar Spur

One of the largest structures in the Milky Way galaxy, the North Polar Spur, was discovered at radio and X-ray wavelengths. The Spur is a giant ridge of bright emission that rises roughly perpendicularly out of the plane of the galaxy starting roughly in the constellation of Sagittarius and then curves upward, stretching across the sky for over thirty degrees (the size of sixty full-moons) where it appears to join other bright filamentary features. The emitted radiation is highly polarized, indicative of its being produced by ionized gas in the presence of strong magnetic fields. Depending on how far away the Spur is from us, its length estimates range from hundreds to thousands of light-years.

International Space Station archives fuel new scientific discoveries

When scientists complete an experiment aboard the International Space Station, the ramifications of that work have just begun. NASA carries on a legacy of decades of biological research data, fueling new discoveries long after studies wrap up in space.

ESA is working on a mission to explore caves on the moon

Infrastructure is going to be one of the biggest components of any permanent human settlement on the moon. NASA Artemis missions are focused directly on building up the facilities and processes necessary to support a moon base. ESA is also contributing both material and knowledge. Most recently, they made another step in their path to explore lava tubes and caves in the subterranean lunar world.

New brine processor increases water recycling on International Space Station

NASA's newest technology demonstration, which launched on Northrop Grumman's 15th commercial resupply services mission, is designed to improve water recycling on the International Space Station and boost the efficiency of water recycling for the Artemis generation.

This is what rolling blackouts look like from space

Extreme winter weather hit Texas hard this February. An air mass from the arctic extended deep into the United States from Canada, with disastrous results for the ordinarily warm state. Along with snow and unusually low temperatures, the state's capacity for power generation was significantly reduced by weather-related equipment failures. Images hosted by NASA's Earth Observatory show the effect of controlled, rolling blackouts across the Greater Houston Area.

Technology news

A design to improve the resilience and electrical performance thin metal film based electrodes

Flexible electrodes, electronic components that conduct electricity, are of key importance for the development of numerous wearable technologies, including smartwatches, fitness trackers and health monitoring devices. Ideally, electrodes inside wearable devices should retain their electrical conductance when they are stretched or deformed.

Researchers improve efficiency of next-generation solar cell material

Perovskites are a leading candidate for eventually replacing silicon as the material of choice for solar panels. They offer the potential for low-cost, low-temperature manufacturing of ultrathin, lightweight flexible cells, but so far their efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity has lagged behind that of silicon and some other alternatives.

Novel soft tactile sensor with skin-comparable characteristics for robots

A joint research team co-led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has developed a new soft tactile sensor with skin-comparable characteristics. A robotic gripper with the sensor mounted at the fingertip could accomplish challenging tasks such as stably grasping fragile objects and threading a needle. Their research provided new insight into tactile sensor design and could contribute to various applications in the robotics field, such as smart prosthetics and human-robot interaction.

Pumping perovskites into a semiconductor platform

Fluid injection of perovskite semiconductors creates microwires to build different optoelectronic devices on a single silicon chip.

Machine learning revolutionizes methods to quantify the terrestrial biosphere

Researchers from the University establish a new methodology to improve, from space and through machine learning, the observation and analysis of the terrestrial biosphere. This statistical approach will represent a significant advance in monitoring crops and carbon sinks, as well as in predicting floods and droughts. The work has been published in the journal Science Advances.

Cybersecurity researchers build a better 'canary trap'

During World War II, British intelligence agents planted false documents on a corpse to fool Nazi Germany into preparing for an assault on Greece. "Operation Mincemeat" was a success, and covered the actual Allied invasion of Sicily.

Furthering mechanistic understanding of oxygen-redox processes in lithium-rich battery cathodes

Scientists based at the University of Oxford as part of the Faraday Institution CATMAT project researching next-generation cathode materials have made a significant advance in understanding oxygen-redox processes involved in lithium-rich cathode materials. The paper, published in Nature Energy, proposes strategies that offer potential routes to increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.

The current pandemic highlights how remote healthcare robots could be beneficial in the future

Robots that could take on basic healthcare tasks to support the work of doctors and nurses may be the way of the future. Who knows, maybe a medical robot can prescribe your medicine someday? That's the idea behind 3-D structural-sensing robots being developed and tested at Simon Fraser University by Woo Soo Kim, associate professor in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering.

Trading app Robinhood says facing US regulator inquiries

Stock trading app Robinhood on Friday confirmed it is cooperating with inquiries from US regulators into its decision to temporarily throttle purchases of shares in companies such as GameStop during frenzied trading in January.

Digital authentication opens new doors for art, sports collectors

Fans have been flocking by the thousands to the Top Shot online platform to buy short videos of dramatic sequences from professional basketball games, as a new virtual market enjoys astonishing success among collectors, sports fans and art lovers.

Facebook to pay $650mn settlement over US privacy dispute

A US federal judge has given final approval to Facebook's $650 million payment to settle a privacy dispute between the social media giant and 1.6 million users in the state of Illinois.

Europeans get 'right to repair' for some electrical goods

Companies that sell refrigerators, washers, hairdryers or TVs in the European Union will need to ensure those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years, to help reduce the vast mountain of electrical waste that piles up each year on the continent.

China not ready to allow the Boeing 737 Max back in the air

Beijing isn't ready to follow the United States in allowing Boeing's 737 Max back into the air after a pair of fatal crashes two years ago.

Renewables need land, and lots of it: Tricky questions for regional Australia

Renewable energy capacity in Australia is expected to double, or even triple, over the next 20 years. There is one oft-overlooked question in this transition: where will it all be built?

For the record: Digitizing archives can increase access to information but compromise privacy

Stay-at-home orders mean no eating at restaurants, attending shows or visiting friends and family. It also means that Canadian archives institutions and facilities, following public health orders, have restricted access for genealogists, academic researchers and anyone else digging through the past.

What's really driving coal power's demise?

People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.

Technologies to rapidly restore the electrical grid after cyberattack come online

Some 330 million Americans rely on the nation's critical infrastructure to keep the country humming. Disruptions to electrical grids, communications systems, and supply chains can be catastrophic, yet all of these are vulnerable to cyberattack. According to the government's 2019 World Wide Threats Hearing, certain adversaries are capable of launching cyberattacks that can disrupt the nation's critical infrastructure—including electrical distribution networks.

The world's first high-temperature ammonia-powered fuel cell for shipping

Every year, hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 are emitted through maritime transport, causing serious harm to the climate. As scientists around the world test new propulsion methods capable of replacing fuel oil in ships, Fraunhofer researchers are working as part of an international consortium to develop ammonia-based fuel cells. When used as fuel for ships with electric engines, ammonia is as eco-friendly as hydrogen, but easier and safer to handle.

An autonomous underwater robot saves people from drowning

Many swimming pools in Germany do not have enough trained lifeguards and in many places, this skilled labor shortage is even leading to closures. The solution could be a floating underwater rescue robot, which is intended to support rescue staff in emergencies in the future. A research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Ilmenau developed the underwater vehicle with the help of Halle's water rescue service, Wasserrettungsdienstes Halle e.V.

An autonomous high-speed transporter for tomorrow's logistics

The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML is developing a new generation of automated guided vehicles. "LoadRunners" use artificial intelligence and communicate via 5G to organize themselves as a swarm and execute jobs independently. Able to sort large quantities of packages, this high-speed transporter can serve booming online and mail-order businesses well.

New Lego-like beams could revolutionize construction

Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) have come up with and patented a new system for manufacturing beams that aims to revolutionize the architecture, construction and civil engineering sectors. They are manufactured with 3-D-printed plastic pieces that can be assembled as if they were pieces of Lego adding a high-performance layer of concrete in the most compressed area.

Refined audience targeting for perimeter advertisements during live TV events

Researchers at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have developed an AI-driven technology that allows the perimeter advertisements shown during live broadcasts of soccer games or other events to be changed without viewers noticing. This means every TV station can show its own content on the boards. The Swiss company ViboTec AG is bringing this technology to the market.

Scoot over! Study reveals E-scooter use in Washington D.C.

Electric scooters or 'e-scooters' are taking over cities worldwide and have broad appeal with tourists. Although e-scooter use declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, its popularity could rebound rapidly, especially if travelers start to substitute scooters for transit on some shorter trips. Shared e-scooters in particular, are a rapidly emerging mode of transportation, but present a host of regulatory challenges from equitable distribution to parking infrastructure to pedestrian safety, among others.

Online review platform Trustpilot chooses London for IPO

Online review platform Trustpilot said Monday it plans to sell shares in London, in a stock offering that helps shore up the city's status as a financial hub and destination for tech companies after Brexit.

United orders 25 more Boeing 737 MAX planes in sign of confidence

United Airlines reached an agreement to purchase 25 more Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for delivery in 2023, the carrier said Monday, in a sign of an expected post-coronavirus travel industry recovery.

Antitrust reform is coming for tech giants, lawmakers say

House lawmakers kicked off an effort to tackle dominant technology companies, vowing a revamp of competition laws to curb their power.

Instagram Live Rooms adds group streaming of up to four users

Instagram on Monday began allowing up to four people to live stream together in virtual "rooms," following in the footsteps of group-broadcast rising stars like Clubhouse.

AI panel urges US to boost tech skills amid China's rise

An artificial intelligence commission led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is urging the U.S. to boost its AI skills to counter China, including by pursuing "AI-enabled" weapons – something that Google itself has shied away from on ethical grounds.

SoftBank reaches deal with WeWork

Internet investor SoftBank Group said Saturday it reached a settlement with WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann and other investors in the office sharing giant, amid reports that the deal would give the ex-CEO an extra $50 million.

Biden backs Amazon workers' right to unionize

US President Joe Biden on Sunday backed the right of Amazon workers to unionize, but stopped short of explicitly encouraging them to form a union.

Nanotube-infused anode enables more efficient potassium-ion batteries

A group of Skoltech scientists has been granted a patent for anodes with improved electrochemical characteristics based on non-graphitized, or hard carbon for potassium-ion batteries. This invention will help bring potassium-ion batteries closer to market as potential replacements for lithium-ion batteries, reducing the need for this costly and rare metal.

Why are people spending hours on Clubhouse? It's not (usually) the money

Like most Clubhouse users, Rahaf Harfoush doesn't make money on the app. But she does help others avoid losing it.

Democratic senators propose clean energy tax credits

Two U.S. senators from states with declining manufacturing sectors are pushing to invest $8 billion through tax credits to create clean energy jobs.

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