Science X Newsletter Friday, Mar 19

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 19, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Reviewing recent advancements in the development of solid-state batteries

Research finds surprising electron interaction in 'magic-angle' graphene

Building tough 3D nanomaterials with DNA

Chemists gain new insights into the behavior of water in an influenza virus channel

On the hunt for a dengue antiviral: Scientists comb through scores of compounds to find a drug for 'breakbone fever'

A single-molecule electrical approach for amino acid detection and chirality recognition

Researchers tailor the interaction of electrons in an atomically thin solid

SARS-CoV-2 circulated undetected months before first COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, China: study

Researchers identify DNA elements that affect MECP2 expression

NASA completes engine test firing of moon rocket on 2nd try

Hong Kong's fragile coral reefs boosted by 3D printing

Australia fires spewed as much smoke into stratosphere as volcano: study

New plutonium research helps distinguish nuclear power pollution from global fall out

New findings about immune system reaction to malaria and sickle cell disease

Bioengineers learn the secrets to precisely turning on and off genes

Physics news

Demonstrating the world's fastest spintronics p-bit

Tohoku University researchers have, for the first time, developed the technology for the nanosecond operation of the spintronics-based probabilistic bit (p-bit)—dubbed "the poor man's quantum bit" (q-bit).

Researchers find evidence of elusive Odderon particle

For 50 years, the research community has been hunting unsuccessfully for the so-called Odderon particle. Now, a Swedish-Hungarian research group has discovered the mythical particle with the help of extensive analysis of experimental data from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland.

Method for determining electron beam properties could help future ultraviolet, X-ray synchrotron light sources

The detected intensity from two coherent point-like light sources depends on their relative positions. It is a well-known phenomenon called optical interference. In general, the intensity can range from zero (destructive interference) to some maximum value (constructive interference).

Improving measurements of surface viscosity of filaments and membranes

Researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) have published a scientific paper that lays the foundation for developing a more precise method of measuring surface viscosity in liquid filaments and biological membranes with viscous surfaces. This development could be applied in the food, pharmaceutical or biomedical industries.

Solving 'barren plateaus' is the key to quantum machine learning

Many machine learning algorithms on quantum computers suffer from the dreaded "barren plateau" of unsolvability, where they run into dead ends on optimization problems. This challenge had been relatively unstudied—until now. Rigorous theoretical work has established theorems that guarantee whether a given machine learning algorithm will work as it scales up on larger computers.

Researchers reveal missing optical localized gap modes

Electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) is a typical quantum destructive interference effect, which possesses many striking properties such as elimination of optical absorption, reduction of group velocity and remarkable enhancement of Kerr nonlinearity. Due to its rich physical properties and important practical applications, the study of EIT is extremely important. Many works have demonstrated the ways for manipulating light pulses via dynamically controlled EIT-induced photonic band gap in coherently prepared atomic gases.

Chromatic light particle effect revealed for the development of photonic quantum networks

It's another step on the road to developing quantum information processing applications: A key experiment succeeded in going beyond the previously defined limits for photon applications. Anahita Khodadad Kashi and Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Institute of Photonics and the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover (Germany) have demonstrated a novel interference effect. The scientists have thus shown that new color-coded photonic networks can be tapped, and the number of photons involved can be scaled. "This discovery could enable new benchmarks in quantum communication, computational operations of quantum computers as well as quantum measurement techniques and is feasible with existing optical telecommunication infrastructure," says Kues.

Looking at optical Fano resonances under a new light

In 1961, physicist Ugo Fano provided the first theoretical explanation to an anomalous asymmetry observed in the spectral profiles of noble gases. He put forth an impactful interpretation of this phenomenon, now called 'Fano resonance,' stating that if a discrete excited state of a system falls within the energy range of a continuum of other possible states, these two can interfere with each other and give rise to abnormal peaks and dips in the system's frequency response.

High-efficiency pulse compression established on solitons in nonlinear Kerr resonators

Generating intense ultrashort pulses with high spatial quality has opened up possibilities for ultrafast and strong-field science. It is so important that the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 was given to Dr. Strickland and Dr. Mourou for inventing a technique called chirped pulse amplification, which drives numerous ultrafast lasers worldwide. With the great advancement in the last decade, Yb-based ultrafast lasers have become highly popular, because they exhibit exceptional thermal efficiency, are low in cost and are highly flexible in adjusting pulse energies and repetition rates.

Robust and ultralow-energy-threshold ignition of lean fuels by an ultrashort-pulsed laser

Laser ignition (LI) is a promising electrode-less alternative to electronic spark ignition of lean fuel/air mixtures, offering high thermal efficiency with low harmful emissions. One of the most widely adopted LI methods is nanosecond laser-induced spark ignition (ns-LISI), in which combustible mixtures undergo multiphoton ionization followed by avalanche breakdown, resulting in high-temperature and high-pressure plasma along with shockwaves. However, inevitable shot-to-shot energy fluctuations resulting from ns light sources lead to the stochastic nature of the breakdown, influencing reaction routes and producing potential misfiring.

Astronomy and Space news

NASA completes engine test firing of moon rocket on 2nd try

NASA completed an engine test firing of its moon rocket Thursday, after the first attempt in January ended prematurely.

Researchers confirm accuracy of cosmological data analysis technique using mock data

Astronomers have played a game of guess-the-numbers with cosmological implications. Working from a mock catalog of galaxies prepared by a Japanese team, two American teams correctly guessed the cosmological parameters used to generate the catalog to within 1% accuracy. This gives us confidence that their methods will be able to determine the correct parameters of the real universe when applied to observational data.

Data from Insight reveals size of Mars's core

An international team of researchers studying seismic data collected by NASA's Insight spacecraft has used the data to calculate the size of Mars' core. The group plans to discuss their findings at this year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, which will be held virtually due to the pandemic. As a prelude to the conference, team member Simon Stähler has made available a prerecorded presentation for those interested. The team intends to submit their results to a peer-reviewed journal in the near future.

Researchers tackle Mars topographic systems

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have been shedding light on the enigmatic "spiders from Mars," providing the first physical evidence that these unique features on the planet's surface can be formed by the sublimation of CO2 ice.

Galileo will help Lunar Pathfinder navigate around moon

ESA's Lunar Pathfinder mission to the moon will carry an advanced satellite navigation receiver, in order to perform the first ever satnav positioning fix in lunar orbit. This experimental payload marks a preliminary step in an ambitious ESA plan to expand reliable satnav coverage—as well as communication links—to explorers around and ultimately on the moon during this decade.

If skies are clear, don't miss a chance to catch sight of these distant orbital sentinels over the coming weeks

You can spot "GEOSat' satellites in far-flung orbits… if you know exactly where and when to look.

Biden picks former senator who flew in space to lead NASA

President Joe Biden has chosen a former senator from Florida who flew on the space shuttle right before the Challenger accident to lead NASA.

Technology news

Reviewing recent advancements in the development of solid-state batteries

Solid state batteries (SSBs) are an emerging battery technology with high energy densities that could compete with lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), which power a wide range of electronic devices on the market today. In contrast with classic LIBs, SSBs have a solid 'ceramic'-based electrolyte that separates the anode and cathode inside the battery. In some batteries, this design enables the use of lithium as an anode.

Google Chrome's new Live Caption feature will transcribe speech in videos

First introduced in 2019, Google Chrome's Live Caption accessibility feature offers real-time captions for audio playing on both Pixel and non-Pixel phones, including the Galaxy S20 series, OnePlus 8 series, OnePlus Nord and beyond.

Novel deep learning framework for symbolic regression

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) computer scientists have developed a new framework and an accompanying visualization tool that leverages deep reinforcement learning for symbolic regression problems, outperforming baseline methods on benchmark problems.

New inexpensive solar cell dye is simple to manufacture and works well in low light conditions

EPFL scientists have developed a new dye for solar cells that enables high power-conversion efficiency while being simple and cheap to make. The dye also works exceptionally well under low-light conditions, which is key for self- and low-powered devices.

Facebook customizes augmented reality to the flick of a wrist

Fresh off its recent augmented reality (AR) kick, Facebook Labs has revealed plans to curate this AI software for wearable devices. Projected as a shorter-term goal than the previously announced AR glasses, this wrist-based input also uses AI to predict user needs, such as what you want to do and when you want to do it.

Payment startups big winners of e-commerce boom

They were little known before the pandemic, but startups in the flourishing digital payment industry are now worth a fortune as COVID-19 has forced people to increasingly embrace e-commerce.

The golden ear-a of audio

Audio stimulates our brains more powerfully than video, and slots neatly into our new patterns of voracious cultural consumption—making this a revolutionary time for aural entertainment.

Chip shortage forces Ford to build trucks without computers

A global semiconductor shortage and a February winter storm have combined to force Ford to build F-150 pickup trucks without some computers.

Clubhouse a sandbox for talking 'influencers'

An internet spin on talk radio, the new social network Clubhouse has become a sandbox for people tinkering with ways to win fans and make money with audio.

Instagram for kids? Facebook explores creating a platform for users under 13

Facebook is looking into creating an Instagram for kids.

Researchers find novel way to handle small infrared target detection

As the development of optic engineering, the infrared searching and tracking (IRST) system has been widely used. The operation distance of the IRST system is highly related to the detection performance of small targets, which are typically in complex backgrounds and with low signal-to-clutter ratio (SCR) and small size.

Lip-reading software helps users of all abilities to send secure messages

A computer science lab focused on making human-computer interaction easier for people of all abilities has developed a digital lip-reader complete with its own repair system so the software can continue learning from its user.

First collaborative robot to work with vehicles in motion

The Ph.D. thesis by Daniel Teso-Fernández de Betoño of the UPV/EHU Faculty of Engineering in Vitoria-Gasteiz has resulted in a mobile, collaborative platform capable of performing tasks in motion at the Mercedes-Benz plant in the capital of Alava. The research opens up a new field for improving the ergonomics of these workstations and for the robot and human to collaborate by performing tasks together.

Commentary: California's net neutrality law just cost AT&T wireless customers a free streaming perk. That's a good thing

Having survived an initial court challenge, California's net neutrality law is having its first tangible effects on consumers and their internet service providers. But those consumers may not be so pleased with the results.

Wi-Fi on planes boosted by satellite constellation

Flight passengers will soon be able to connect to their families and colleagues on Earth via low-orbit telecommunications satellites.

Is it worth investing in solar PV with batteries at home?

Solar energy is a clean, renewable source of electricity that could potentially play a significant part in fulfilling the world's energy requirements, but there are still some challenges to fully capitalizing on this potential. Researchers looked into some of the issues that hamper the uptake of solar energy and proposed different policies to encourage the use of this technology.

Reactive boride infusion stabilizes nickel-rich cathodes for lithium-ion batteries

A new coating for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), developed by scientists at UNIST promises extended driving for future electric vehicles (EVs). The coating, described in a paper published in the journal Nature Energy, when applied to LIBs is shown to have improved cycling stability even after being charged and discharged more than 500 times. As a result, the development of EV batteries that can drive longer distances with a single battery charge has gained considerable momentum.

Can artificial intelligence combat wildfires? California county tests new technology

Sonoma County, California, is adding artificial intelligence to its wildfire-fighting arsenal.

A guide to NFTs: What are they, and why did someone spend $69 million for one?

Last week, the auction house Christie's announced the artist Beeple sold a piece of artwork for more than $69 million, the third highest price for a living artist.

Facebook vs. Apple: Mark Zuckerberg says company will be in 'good position' after iOS changes

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the social network will be in a "good position" following a significant update to the operating system that powers Apple's iPhones.

Sales of video games hit UK record in 2020

The video games market in Britain saw record sales of £7 billion ($9.7 billion, 8.3 billion euros) in 2020, as months of lockdown prompted people to invest in new games and consoles.

WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger suffer brief outages

Social media platforms WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger all went down in a brief outage at around 1730 GMT on Friday, according to the tech monitoring website Downdetector.

Amazon gets Thursday night games, NFL nearly doubles TV deal

Much like they did with cable in the 1980s and satellite television in the 1990s, the NFL on Thursday made another significant transition in the way its games are viewed.

Facebook grows in Oregon with data center, fiber-optic cable

Facebook is growing its footprint in Oregon, announcing Thursday that it will expand its data center in Prineville—already the social media giant's largest in the United States.

US charges Swiss 'hacktivist' for data theft and leaks

The Justice Department has charged a Swiss hacker with computer intrusion and identity theft, just over a week after the hacker took credit for helping to break into the online systems of a U.S. security-camera startup.

Social networks tuning into talk

In a break from the stylized photos or videos served up as eye candy on TikTok, Instagram and other social networks, Clubhouse has revived an appetite for unsweetened conversation.

Twitter asks users to weigh in on rules for world leaders

Twitter on Friday began a survey of global users about platform rules for world leaders while consulting human rights and academic specialists on its next policy steps.

'Among Us' is adding a new Airship map on March 31—and it's free

Fans of "Among Us" will soon find a new location to root out impostors.

UK newspaper group backs working from home post-pandemic

The publisher of one of Britain's most popular tabloids and numerous other national and regional newspapers says a majority of its staff will continue to work from home on a permanent basis even after all of the U.K.'s coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

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Fwd: Math and Computer Science Pioneers Win the Abel Prize


Math and Science News from Quanta Magazine
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Pioneers Linking Math and Computer Science Win the Abel Prize


Avi Wigderson and László Lovász won for their work developing complexity theory and graph theory, respectively, and for connecting the two fields.

Read the article



A New Twist Reveals Superconductivity's Secrets


An unexpected superconductor was beginning to look like a fluke, but a new theory and a second discovery have revealed that emergent quasiparticles may be behind the effect.

Read the article

Room-Temperature Superconductivity
Achieved for the First Time

by Charlie Wood (2020)



The Mysterious Math of Perfection


2,000 years after Euclid created a formula for finding perfect numbers, Leonhard Euler proved that the Euclidean method is the only way to get even perfect numbers. The question of whether odd perfect numbers exist and what they might be like remains open.

Read the column

Mathematicians Open a New Front
on an Ancient Number Problem

by Steve Nadis (2020)



Why Extraterrestrial Life May Not Seem Entirely Alien


Science hasn't yet found any aliens to study, but Arik Kershenbaum, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge, says that there are still certain things we can say with reasonable certainty about them.

Read the interview | Watch the video

Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life
by Natalie Wolchover (2016)



Frank Wilczek on the Strong Force, Quarks and Dark Matter

Podcast hosted by STEVEN STROGATZ; Produced by DANA BIALEK

The theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek explained what holds atomic nuclei together, and he is still pushing at the limits of what the standard model can tell us. 

Listen to the podcast

Read the transcript




The Mystery of Mistletoe's Missing Genes

Podcast produced by SUSAN VALOT; Story by CHRISTIE WILCOX

Scientists are still trying to understand mistletoe's unorthodox survival strategy.

Listen to the podcast

Read the article

Around the Web

Mesmerizing Murmurations
The Danish photographer Søren Solkær captures the dramatic patterns formed by hundreds of thousands of starlings in flight and under attack, Lauryn Hill writes for WIRED. Giant flocks of birds and swarms of midges can move almost like smoothly flowing substances. Physicists have imagined such hordes as thick fluids, Jordana Cepelewicz reported for Quanta in 2019.

Measured Solar Magnetism
With a rocket-mounted instrument and a minutes-long peek at the sun, heliophysicists have measured one elusive strip of the sun's magnetic field for the first time, Chris Wright reports for WIRED. Because the sun's mysterious magnetic field is the key to many of our star's enigmas, researchers are also trying to mimic the ball of plasma in the lab, Erika Carlson reported for Quanta in 2019.

Life from Lightning
New scrutiny of fossil remnants left by lightning strikes eons ago suggests that the bolts could have littered the surface of the young Earth with phosphorus, an element essential for life, Riley Black reports for Smithsonian Magazine. Meteorological and geological processes on our planet seem to have supported life in a variety of ways. The jostling of continental plates may have mixed around essential elements, helped keep the temperature steady, and even contributed to today's high oxygen levels, Rebecca Boyle reported for Quanta in 2018. 
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