Science X Newsletter Monday, Mar 15

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 15, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Patterns in the use of emojis could predict the dropout of remote workers

The realization of a new type of information demon that profits from gambling strategies

European summer droughts since 2015 unprecedented in past two millennia

Twisting, flexible crystals key to solar energy production

Could we recycle plastic bags into fabrics of the future?

When 'eradicated' species bounce back with a vengeance

Scientists stunned to discover plants beneath mile-deep Greenland ice

Study predicts the oceans will start emitting ozone-depleting CFCs

The most distant radio-loud quasar discovered

Faster drug discovery through machine learning

Kirigami inspired device to monitor joint motion for sedentary workers

Google allows users to update the Maps app with photos

Oil in the ocean photooxidizes within hours to days, new study finds

Study finds cancer cells may evade chemotherapy by going dormant

Spacewalkers take extra safety precautions for toxic ammonia

Physics news

The realization of a new type of information demon that profits from gambling strategies

Researchers at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Italy and the PICO group at Aalto University in Finland have introduced the idea of an information demon that follows a customary gambling strategy to stop non-equilibrium processes at stochastic times. The new demons they realized, which differ from the renowned Maxwell's demon, were presented in a paper published in Physical Review Letters.

When memory qubits and photons get entangled

Encrypting data in a way that ensures secure communication is an ever-growing challenge because crucial components of today's encryption systems cannot withstand future quantum computers. Researchers around the world are therefore working on technologies for novel encryption methods that are also based on quantum effects. The phenomenon of so-called quantum entanglement plays a particularly important role here. This means that in a quantum network, the stationary qubits of the network are entangled with the communication channel, which usually consists of photons (light particles). For the first time, physicists at the University of Bonn have now been able to demonstrate quantum entanglement between a stationary qubit, i.e. a two-state quantum system, and a photon with direct coupling to an optical fiber. The study has been published in the journal npj Quantum Information.

Whispers from the dark side: What can gravitational waves reveal about dark matter?

The NANOGrav Collaboration recently captured the first signs of very low-frequency gravitational waves. Prof. Pedro Schwaller and Wolfram Ratzinger analyzed the data and, in particular, considered the possibility of whether this may point towards new physics beyond the Standard Model. In an article published in the journal SciPost Physics, they report that the signal is consistent with both a phase transition in the early universe and the presence of a field of extremely light axion-like particles (ALPs). The latter are considered as promising candidates for dark matter.

Muon spin-rotation experiments prove spontaneous electrical currents in superconductors

Superconductivity is current flow without electrical resistance. Theoretical and experimental physicists are working to discover and explain the underlying fundamental mechanisms of superconductivity. Intensive research on superconductivity is driven by the possibility of new applications in energy and motor technology.

Broad spectral range few-cycle laser pulses characterization by using a FASI device

Researchers from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (SIOM) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have developed a simple device called frequency-resolved optical gating and self-referenced spectral interferometry (FASI), which combines the frequency-resolved optical gating (FROG) and self-referenced spectral interferometry (SRSI) in a single device based on the same third-order nonlinear effect of the transient grating (TG). The result was published in Optics & Laser Technology.

Rare open-access quantum computer now operational

A new Department of Energy open-access quantum computing testbed is ready for the public. Scientists from Indiana University recently became the first team to begin using Sandia National Laboratories' Quantum Scientific Computing Open User Testbed, or QSCOUT.

Millimeter wave photonics with terahertz semiconductor lasers

The volume of wireless telecommunication traffic is expected to surge in the near future with a continual increase in data traffic and corresponding necessary increases in bandwidth. It has therefore become imperative to increase the photon frequency into the upper reaches of the millimeter (mmWave) region, which corresponds to frequencies between 30 GHz to 300 GHz.

Astronomy and Space news

The most distant radio-loud quasar discovered

In a recent study, an international team of astronomers presents the discovery of PSO J172.3556+18.7734—a highly accreting radio-loud quasar at a redshift of approximately 6.82. This is the most distant radio-loud quasar known to date. The finding is detailed in a paper published March 4 on

Spacewalkers take extra safety precautions for toxic ammonia

Spacewalking astronauts had to take extra safety precautions Saturday after possibly getting toxic ammonia on their suits from the International Space Station's external cooling system.

Russia deploys giant space telescope in Lake Baikal

Russian scientists on Saturday launched one of the world's biggest underwater space telescopes to peer deep into the universe from the pristine waters of Lake Baikal.

There might be many planets with water-rich atmospheres

An atmosphere is what makes life on Earth's surface possible, regulating our climate and sheltering us from damaging cosmic rays. But although telescopes have counted a growing number of rocky planets, scientists had thought most of their atmospheres long lost.

With SpaceX partnership, ISS enters its 'Golden Age'—but what comes next?

After 20 years of continuous habitation, the International Space Station has entered its "Golden Age" and is abuzz with activity—thanks in large part to the return of US rocket launches via commercial partner SpaceX.

US astronaut launching next month may spend year in space

NASA may soon chalk up another one-year space mission thanks to an out-of-this-world Russian movie-making deal.

Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 restored

The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) instrument on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was brought back online on Saturday, March 13th at approximately 7:00 p.m. EST. The instrument was shut down as part of the normal observatory safe mode activities that occurred on Sunday, March 7, in response to a software error on the main flight computer. After starting its recovery on Thursday, March 11, WFC3 suspended the process due to a slightly lower-than-normal voltage reading for a power supply, which triggered an internal instrument safeguard.

Image: Hubble views a galaxy with faint threads

This unusual lenticular galaxy, which is between a spiral and elliptical shape, has lost almost all the gas and dust from its signature spiral arms, which used to orbit around its center. Known as NGC 1947, this galaxy was discovered almost 200 years ago by James Dunlop, a Scottish-born astronomer who later studied the sky from Australia. NGC 1947 can only be seen from the southern hemisphere, in the constellation Dorado (the Dolphinfish).

About 7 interstellar objects pass through the inner solar system every year, study estimates

In October 19th, 2017, the first interstellar object ever detected flew past Earth on its way out of the solar system. Less than two years later, a second object was detected, an easily identified interstellar comet designated as 2I/Borisov. The appearance of these two objects verified earlier theoretical work that concluded that interstellar objects (ISOs) regularly enter our solar system.

Measuring the temperatures of red giants is actually pretty tricky

Red giant stars are, well, red and giant. But astronomers have always had difficulty estimating their temperatures due to their complex and turbulent atmospheres. Without an accurate gauge of their temperatures, it's difficult to tell when they will end their lives in gigantic supernova explosions. Now, a team of astronomers has developed a more effective technique for taking the temperature of red giants based on the amount of iron in the stars.

Space station crew to relocate Soyuz to make room for new crewmates

Three residents of the International Space Station will take a spin around their orbital neighborhood in the Soyuz MS-17 on Friday, March 19, relocating the spacecraft to prepare for the arrival of the next set of crew members. Live coverage on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website will begin at 12:15 p.m. EDT.

Researchers identify optimal human landing system architectures to land on the Moon

Researchers from Skoltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have analyzed several dozen options to pick the best one in terms of performance and costs for the 'last mile' of a future mission to the Moon—actually delivering astronauts to the lunar surface and back up to the safety of the orbiting lunar station. The paper was published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

Image: Lomonosov crater on Mars

At first glance this captivating scene peering through wispy clouds and down onto a dune field is reminiscent of a satellite view of one of Earth's deserts, but this is in fact a beautiful landscape on Mars.

Could there be life on Jupiter's moons?

The search for life outside of Earth has taken many forms. Mars, our neighbouring world, looks like it was once habitable. Perhaps too Venus, despite its current hellish conditions. But in recent years, scientists' gazes have been drawn elsewhere. What about the moons of Jupiter?

Technology news

Patterns in the use of emojis could predict the dropout of remote workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in professionals working remotely as a result of lockdown regulations or merely as a preventive measure. When professionals work remotely, however, it is far harder for employers to get a sense of their job satisfaction, wellbeing and mental health.

Google allows users to update the Maps app with photos

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes, including business closures and updated hours for restaurants and stores.

Google upgrades Wear OS with custom Tiles library

Since 2014, Google has taken its user base by storm with increasingly advanced features for its Wear OS. Over the past years, Wear OS devices have enabled users to tell time, track fitness and make calls all from a wearable accessory smaller than a mobile phone.

Machine learning models for diagnosing COVID-19 are not yet suitable for clinical use: study

Researchers have found that out of the more than 300 COVID-19 machine learning models described in scientific papers in 2020, none of them is suitable for detecting or diagnosing COVID-19 from standard medical imaging, due to biases, methodological flaws, lack of reproducibility, and 'Frankenstein datasets.'

Researchers explore possibilities for an ultra-secure gun registry

Proposals to create a national gun registry have long been met with fierce opposition from gun rights advocates. While proponents say a registry would help in tracking guns used in crimes, opponents worry that it would compromise privacy and could be used by the federal government to confiscate firearms. Now, a team of Brown University computer scientists has devised a way of implementing a registry that may allay some of those concerns.

Google slams Microsoft over stance in media payments

Google on Friday took aim at Microsoft, accusing its technology rival of "distraction" for siding with governments seeking to force tech platforms to pay media organizations for news content.

NFTs setting off revolution in the world of collectibles

The technology is behind a piece of digital art auctioned for $69.3 million on Thursday and the sale of Jack Dorsey's first tweet—so-called NFTs have set off a revolution in collectables.

Bitcoin passes $60,000 for first time

Bitcoin passed the $60,000 mark for the first time on Saturday, with analysts saying the giant US stimulus package helped boost the world's most popular virtual currency on its record-breaking run.

Carmaker Volkswagen announces more job cuts

Carmaker Volkswagen will shed up to 5,000 jobs between now and the end of 2023 as part of cost-cutting to finance its transition to electric vehicles, the company said in a statement Sunday.

China's Xiaomi soars as US judge lifts it from backlist

Shares in Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi surged more than 10 percent in Hong Kong on Monday after a US judge removed it from a blacklist that barred American companies from investing in it.

Apple to discontinue original HomePod and says it will focus efforts on HomePod mini

Apple will discontinue its original HomePod four years after first releasing the smart speaker.

Swiss police raid over hack on U.S. security-camera company

Swiss authorities on Monday confirmed a police raid at the home of a Swiss software engineer who took credit for helping to break into a U.S. security-camera company's online networks, part of what the activist hacker cited as an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of mass surveillance.

Strange Twitter bug bans users for mentioning 'Memphis'

Twitter users who used the word "Memphis" found themselves temporarily locked out of their accounts at the weekend because of a bizarre bug.

Standard digital camera and AI to monitor soil moisture for affordable smart irrigation

Researchers at UniSA have developed a cost-effective new technique to monitor soil moisture using a standard digital camera and machine learning technology.

In the wake of the great winter storm, how can Texas create a more resilient power grid?

As temperatures plummeted below freezing for 10 straight days and snow and ice blanketed Texas, all eyes turned to the state's power grid to understand how 4.5 million Texan customers could lose electricity at once.

Simulation of self-driving fleets brings their deployment in cities closer

Imperial researchers have simulated self-driving fleet impacts using real-world data, providing suggestions for their optimal deployment in cities.

How artificial intelligence can help curb traffic accidents in cities

Despite pandemic-driven restrictions on movement, there were over 12,000 accidents in Madrid in 2020, leading to 31 fatalities. In Barcelona, there were more than 5,700 collisions, causing 14 deaths. Pedestrian and vehicle safety is a priority, which is why a research project at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) is harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to make decisions that will make cities safer. The researchers have looked into the correlation between the complexity of certain urban areas and the likelihood of an accident occurring there.

Researchers present spontaneous sparse learning for PCM-based memristor neural networks

An international team of researchers, affiliated with UNIST has unveiled a novel technology that could improve the learning ability of artificial neural networks (ANNs).

VW to set up battery plants, expand charging points in e-car shift

Germany car giant Volkswagen said Monday it would set up six battery factories and significantly expand charging points in Europe, in a major ramp up of its drive into electric vehicles.

Music world taps 'NFT' digital goldrush

"NFT" is quickly becoming the acronym of 2021, offering a new way to sell digital art online, and music stars including Kings of Leon and Grimes have been quick to jump on the bandwagon.

Automakers embrace electric vehicles. But what about buyers?

The world's major automakers have made something abundantly clear: They believe electric vehicles will dominate their industry in the years ahead.

Hackers rushed in as Microsoft raced to avert mass cyber-attack

It was late February, and Microsoft Corp. engineers had been working for weeks on a handful of alarming weaknesses in the company's popular Exchange email service. They were rushing to send out a fix, targeting the second Tuesday of March—part of a monthly ritual known in cybersecurity circles as "patch Tuesday."

In the 15 years since its launch, Amazon Web Services transformed how companies do business

It enables glitch-free Netflix streaming. It hosts digital drug-design tools of the kind that led to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. The Seahawks use its computing power to analyze game data. It stores a digital repository of King County's archives. And even The Seattle Times relies on it to make sure the website doesn't crash during surges of reader traffic.

Trying to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment? Facebook is launching a vaccine finder tool

As many Americans struggle to make appointments for COVID-19 vaccines, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a plan to help more people get vaccinated.

Huawei listed anew as threat to US national security

US regulators on Friday listed Huawei among Chinese telecom gear firms deemed a threat to national security, signalling that a hoped for softening of relations is not in the cards.

Covid outbreak closes Amazon Canada warehouse

Canadian authorities on Friday ordered an Amazon warehouse to close and for its 5,000 employees to self-isolate after a COVID-19 outbreak.

Baltimore Sun deal sets up major test for nonprofit news model

After years of staff cuts, shrinking budgets and declining readership, the Baltimore Sun finally has some good news to report about itself: a deal for a new nonprofit group to take over, and potentially revive the struggling newspaper.

US air travel hits highest level since March 2020

Airports in the United States saw their largest number of passengers in a year on Friday, data showed, following a shuddering halt in travel brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deliveroo says London share sale will raise £1 billion

Takeaway meals app Deliveroo said Monday that its upcoming London stock market listing would raise £1.0 billion ($1.4 billion, 1.2 billion euros).

Facebook to label vaccine posts to combat COVID-19 misinfo

Facebook is adding informational labels to posts about vaccines as it expands efforts to counter COVID-19-related misinformation flourishing on its platforms.

Musk crowned 'Technoking' at Tesla

Electric carmaker Tesla has crowned its brash billionaire founder and CEO Elon Musk with a new title: Technoking.

US air travel rises to highest levels yet since pandemic hit

Across the United States, air travel is recovering more quickly from the depths of the pandemic, and it is showing up in longer airport security lines and busier traffic on airline websites.

Virus-hit airline Virgin Atlantic lands extra finance

Virgin Atlantic, one of many airlines hit hard by coronavirus fallout, has won a further financial boost from shareholders as it prepares to resume passenger flights.

Stripe continues cash haul, now valued at $95 billion

The online payment company Stripe continues to attract investors, raising $600 million in funding to reach a whopping company valuation of $95 billion.

China asks Alibaba to divest media assets: report

Beijing has asked Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba to divest its assets in the media sector out of concern over the company's growing public influence, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

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