Science X Newsletter Monday, Mar 8

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 8, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Study finds that mPOA neurons mediate stress-induced anxiety and parental behavior in mice

SN4KE: A lightweight and scalable framework for binary mutation testing

SPARC: Protein responsible for tendon strength and resilience isolated in new study

Economic benefits of protecting nature now outweigh those of exploiting it, global data reveal

Insatiable demand for cannabis has created a giant carbon footprint

In a leap for battery research, machine learning gets scientific smarts

Legume trees key to supporting tropical forest growth

Time needed to sequence key molecules could be reduced from years to minutes

Large supernova remnant detected by eROSITA

Sea otters maintain remnants of healthy kelp forest amid sea urchin barrens

'Pompeii of prehistoric plants' unlocks evolutionary secret: study

Do photosynthetic complexes use quantum coherence to increase their efficiency?

Research shows we're surprisingly similar to Earth's first animals

A giant, sizzling planet may be orbiting the star Vega

Algorithm helps artificial intelligence systems dodge 'adversarial' inputs

Physics news

Do photosynthetic complexes use quantum coherence to increase their efficiency?

In a new report now published on Science Advances, Elinor Zerah Harush and Yonatan Dubi in the departments of chemistry and nanoscale science and technology, at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, discussed a direct evaluation of the effects of quantum coherence on the efficiency of three natural photosynthetic complexes. The open quantum systems approach allowed the researchers to simultaneously identify the quantum-nature and efficiency under natural physiological conditions. These systems resided in a mixed quantum-classical regime, which they characterized using dephasing-assisted transport. The efficiency was minimal at best therefore the presence of quantum coherence did not play a substantial role in the process. The efficiency was also independent of any structural parameters, suggesting the role of evolution during structural design for other uses.

New method could democratize deep learning-enhanced microscopy

Deep learning is a potential tool for scientists to glean more detail from low-resolution images in microscopy, but it's often difficult to gather enough baseline data to train computers in the process. Now, a new method developed by scientists at the Salk Institute could make the technology more accessible—by taking high-resolution images, and artificially degrading them.

'Magic sand' might help us understand the physics of granular matter

Sand is a fascinating material. It can flow and be poured like a liquid, but retains many of the properties of solids, clogging pipes or forming sand dunes. The behavior of collections of small particles like sand is known as granular physics, and is an immensely important field for the handling and transport of the wide range of granular materials out there like grains, rice, powders and the vast amounts of sand used in the construction industry.

Why slow-pouring coffee makes a tower of liquid in your cup

When a droplet of coffee hits the liquid surface in the cup, a characteristic tower of coffee forms for a very short time, sometimes even with a new droplet on top. In a paper that appeared in Physical Review Fluids today, a team of researchers from Amsterdam, Delft and Paris shed new light on this intricate effect.

Successor of the COMPASS experiment will measure fundamental properties of the proton and its relatives

Protons are one of the main building blocks of the visible universe. Together with neutrons, they make up the nuclei of every atom. Yet, several questions loom about some of the proton's most fundamental properties, such as its size, internal structure and intrinsic spin. In December 2020, the CERN Research Board approved the first phase ("phase-1") of a new experiment that will help settle some of these questions. AMBER, or Apparatus for Meson and Baryon Experimental Research, will be the next-generation successor of the Laboratory's COMPASS experiment.

New mechanism found for generating giant vortices in quantum fluids of light

Anyone who has drained a bathtub or stirred cream into coffee has seen a vortex, a ubiquitous formation that appears when fluid circulates. But unlike water, fluids governed by the strange rules of quantum mechanics have a special restriction: as was first predicted in 1945 by future Nobel winner Lars Onsager, a vortex in a quantum fluid can only twist by whole-number units.

Xanadu announces programmable photonic quantum chip able to execute multiple algorithms

A team of researchers and engineers at Canadian company Xanadu Quantum Technologies Inc., working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S., has developed a programmable, scalable photonic quantum chip that can execute multiple algorithms. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes how they made their chip, its characteristics and how it can be used. Ulrik Andersen with the Technical University of Denmark has published a News & Views piece in the same journal issue outlining current research on quantum computers and the work by the team in Canada.

How the growth of ice depends on the fluid dynamics underneath

Researchers of the Toschi group of Eindhoven University of Technology think the water phase change problem with considering the water density anomaly is of great importance relating to common natural phenomena. Their research plan is firstly to understand the physics fundamentals, that is, the coupled problem of the stably and unstably stratified layers with considering the density anomaly.

Establishing the origin of solar-mass black holes and the connection to dark matter

What is the origin of black holes and how is that question connected with another mystery, the nature of dark matter? Dark matter comprises the majority of matter in the Universe, but its nature remains unknown.

Squids' ability to tune color and brightness of their iridescence comes down to subtle mechanism

Squids have long been a source of fascination for humans, providing the stuff of legend, superstition and myth. And it's no wonder—their odd appearances and strange intelligence, their mastery of the open ocean can inspire awe in those who see them.

A better way to measure acceleration

You're going at the speed limit down a two-lane road when a car barrels out of a driveway on your right. You slam on the brakes, and within a fraction of a second of the impact an airbag inflates, saving you from serious injury or even death.

Key step reached to­ward long-​sought goal of a silicon-​based laser

When it comes to microelectronics, there is one chemical element like no other: silicon, the workhorse of the transistor technology that drives our information society. The countless electronic devices we use in everyday life are a testament to how today very high volumes of silicon-based components can be produced at very low cost. It seems natural, then, to use silicon also in other areas where the properties of semiconductors—as silicon is one—are exploited technologically, and to explore ways to integrate different functionalities. Of particular interest in this context are diode lasers, such as those employed in barcode scanners or laser pointers, which are typically based on gallium arsenide (GaAs). Unfortunately though, the physical processes that create light in GaAs do not work so well in silicon. It therefore remains an outstanding, and long-standing, goal to find an alternative route to realizing a 'laser on silicon.'

Innovative flat optics will usher the next technological revolution

In a new paper published in Light: Science & Applications, a group led by Professor Andrea Fratalocchi from Primalight Laboratory of the Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering (CEMSE) Division, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, introduced a new patented, scalable flat-optics technology manufactured with inexpensive semiconductors.

Astronomy and Space news

Large supernova remnant detected by eROSITA

Using the extended Röntgen Survey Imaging Telescope Array (eROSITA) instrument onboard the Spektr-RG spacecraft, astronomers have detected in X-rays a new large supernova remnant (SNR). The newfound object, dubbed "Hoinga," turns out to be one of the largest SNR discovered at wavelengths other than radio. The finding is reported in a paper published February 26 on the arXiv pre-print server.

A giant, sizzling planet may be orbiting the star Vega

Astronomers have discovered new hints of a giant, scorching-hot planet orbiting Vega, one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

NASA's new Mars rover hits dusty red road, 1st trip 21 feet

NASA's newest Mars rover hit the dusty red road this week, putting 21 feet on the odometer in its first test drive.

Most distant quasar with powerful radio jets discovered

With the help of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO's VLT), astronomers have discovered and studied in detail the most distant source of radio emission known to date. The source is a "radio-loud" quasar—a bright object with powerful jets emitting at radio wavelengths—that is so far away its light has taken 13 billion years to reach us. The discovery could provide important clues to help astronomers understand the early Universe.

How fast is the universe expanding? Galaxies provide one answer.

Determining how rapidly the universe is expanding is key to understanding our cosmic fate, but with more precise data has come a conundrum: Estimates based on measurements within our local universe don't agree with extrapolations from the era shortly after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

How would rain be different on an alien world?

On Titan, Saturn's largest moon, it rains on a regular basis. As with Earth, these rains are the result of liquid evaporating on the surface, condensing in the skies, and falling back to the surface as precipitation. On Earth, this is known as the hydrological (or water) cycle, which is an indispensable part of our climate. In Titan's case, the same steps are all there, but it is methane that is being exchanged and not water.

Technology news

SN4KE: A lightweight and scalable framework for binary mutation testing

When developers deliver software to their clients, they often also provide what is known as a 'test suite.' A test suite is a tool that allows users to test software, unveil any bugs it might have and give developers a chance to fix these bugs or other potential issues.

In a leap for battery research, machine learning gets scientific smarts

Scientists have taken a major step forward in harnessing machine learning to accelerate the design for better batteries: Instead of using it just to speed up scientific analysis by looking for patterns in data, as researchers generally do, they combined it with knowledge gained from experiments and equations guided by physics to discover and explain a process that shortens the lifetimes of fast-charging lithium-ion batteries.

Algorithm helps artificial intelligence systems dodge 'adversarial' inputs

In a perfect world, what you see is what you get. If this were the case, the job of artificial intelligence systems would be refreshingly straightforward.

Building networks not enough to expand rural broadband

Public grants to build rural broadband networks may not be sufficient to close the digital divide, new Cornell University research finds.

Facebook enhances AI computer vision with SEER

At a time when many versions of AI rely on pre-established data sets for image recognition, Facebook has developed SEER (Self-supERvised) – a deep learning solution able to register images on the Internet independent of curated and labeled data sets.

Israeli 5-minute battery charge aims to fire up electric cars

From flat battery to full charge in just five minutes—an Israeli start-up has developed technology it says could eliminate the "range anxiety" associated with electric cars.

Reduced heat leakage improves wearable health device

North Carolina State University engineers continue to improve the efficiency of a flexible device worn on the wrist that harvests heat energy from the human body to monitor health.

Modeling shows the true cost of heat on PV system performance

Lowering the operating temperature of solar panels by just a few degrees can dramatically increase the electricity they generate over their lifetime, KAUST researchers have shown. The hotter a panel gets, the lower its solar power conversion efficiency (PCE) and the faster it will degrade and fail. Finding ways to keep solar panels cool could significantly improve the return on investment of solar-power systems.

Assessing regulatory fairness through machine learning

The perils of machine learning—using computers to identify and analyze data patterns, such as in facial recognition software—have made headlines lately. Yet the technology also holds promise to help enforce federal regulations, including those related to the environment, in a fair, transparent way, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Finding key to low-cost, fast production of solid-state batteries for EVs

A new fabrication technique could allow solid-state automotive lithium-ion batteries to adopt nonflammable ceramic electrolytes using the same production processes as in batteries made with conventional liquid electrolytes.

Unsecured cloud configurations expose data across thousands of mobile apps

In mobile application development, server-side storage of the application's data remains top priority. In particular, many developers have begun using backend APIs that enable their apps to query a server for information in real time rather than reply upon static data stored in files. However, as many cloud storage services have been found to use unsecured configurations, data on thousands of mobile applications could be at risk.

US safety agency cites 'metal fatigue' in Boeing 777 incident

A key US safety regulator said Friday initial investigations confirm metal fatigue was a factor in last month's scare when a Boeing 777 engine caught fire and rained debris on houses below.

Airline IT provider hacked, frequent flyer data breached

The hack of a company that manages ticket-processing and frequent-flier data for major global airlines—including Star Alliance and OneWorld members—has compromised the personal data of an unspecified number of travelers.

Drones vs hungry moths: Dutch use hi-tech to protect crops

Dutch cress grower Rob Baan has enlisted high-tech helpers to tackle a pest in his greenhouses: palm-sized drones seek and destroy moths that produce caterpillars that can chew up his crops.

Space-starved Singapore builds floating solar farms in climate fight

Thousands of panels glinting in the sun stretch into the sea off Singapore, part of the land-scarce city-state's push to build floating solar farms to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

At Dubai airport, travelers' eyes become their passports

Dubai's airport, the world's busiest for international travel, can already feel surreal, with its cavernous duty-free stores, artificial palm trees, gleaming terminals, water cascades and near-Arctic levels of air conditioning.

Casting a wide intrusion net: Dozens burned with single hack

The SolarWinds hacking campaign blamed on Russian spies and the "grave threat" it poses to U.S. national security are widely known. A very different—and no less alarming—coordinated series of intrusions also detected in December has gotten considerably less public attention.

Aston Martin to make its electric cars in UK: FT

Luxury British carmaker Aston Martin will make its fully-electric vehicles in Britain from 2025, its chairman told the Financial Times, in a boost to the country's beleaguered auto sector.

Making artificial intelligence understandable: Constructing explanation processes

Sifting through job applications, analyzing X-ray images, suggesting a new track list—interaction between humans and machines has become an integral part of modern life. The basis for these artificial intelligence (AI) processes is algorithmic decision-making. However, as these are generally difficult to understand, they often prove less useful than anticipated. Researchers at Paderborn and Bielefeld University are hoping to change this, and are discussing how the explainability of artificial intelligence can be improved and adapted to the needs of human users. Their work has recently been published in the respected journal IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems. The researchers describe explanation as a social practice, in which both parties co-construct the process of understanding.

Amazon's telehealth arm quietly expands to 21 more states

An Amazon telehealth outfit that started as a pilot service for Seattle-area employees and their families has quietly filed paperwork to operate in 21 more states, a signal of Amazon's expanding ambitions for the $3.8 trillion medical sector.

Can the digital advertising market achieve privacy without regulation?

It's a common assumption among marketers that if you can customize any form of marketing, particularly mobile advertising, you'll get better results. With this in mind, mobile marketing relies significantly on user tracking data as a cornerstone advertising strategy.

Talking Tech: If you are TV shopping, you need to know the facts about these buying myths

Having a new television to play video games on or stream Netflix, Disney+ and the new Paramount+ service on is great. But buying a new TV, that can be a hassle.

Singapore Airlines to pilot digital COVID travel pass

Singapore Airlines will begin trialling a coronavirus digital travel pass developed by aviation's industry body next week, the carrier said Monday, the first airline to pilot the scheme as the pandemic-hit sector seeks to recover.

Deliveroo cuts annual loss before London float

Takeaway meals app Deliveroo slashed losses last year on booming demand from locked-down customers during the pandemic, it reported Monday ahead of a London stock market float planned for April.

Meme fav GameStop jumps again as retailer eyes digital shift

GameStop took a step toward a more digital future Monday, naming an activist investor to lead company efforts to push more of its business online.

San Francisco home to Dropbox sold for $1.08 bn

The San Francisco building that file hosting service Dropbox leases as its headquarters is being sold for a whopping $1.08 billion, its owners said on Monday.

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