Science X Newsletter Friday, Mar 26

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for March 26, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

PET and CT scans provide keen views of lungs with active TB, and are better assessment tools than sputum tests

A bio-inspired mechano-photonic artificial synapse

Controlling bubble formation on electrodes

Uranium compound achieves record anomalous Nernst conductivity

AI used in battle against asbestos-linked cancer

Study exposes global ripple effects of regional water scarcity

How teeth sense the cold

Eat me: The cell signal of death

Chemists achieve breakthrough in the production of three-dimensional molecular structures

Ancient genomes trace the origin and decline of the Scythians

How tiny machines become capable of learning

Scientists develop new platelet-based formulation for combination anticancer therapy

Functional consequences of global biodiversity loss guide future nature conservation

School students discover four new species of wasp

Direct observations confirm that humans are throwing Earth's energy budget off balance

Physics news

A bio-inspired mechano-photonic artificial synapse

Multifunctional and diverse artificial neural systems can incorporate multimodal plasticity, memory and supervised learning functions to assist neuromorphic computation. In a new report, Jinran Yu and a research team in nanoenergy, nanoscience and materials science in China and the US., presented a bioinspired mechano-photonic artificial synapse with synergistic mechanical and optical plasticity. The team used an optoelectronic transistor made of graphene/molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) heterostructure and an integrated triboelectric nanogenerator to compose the artificial synapse. They controlled the charge transfer/exchange in the heterostructure with triboelectric potential and modulated the optoelectronic synapse behaviors readily, including postsynaptic photocurrents, photosensitivity and photoconductivity. The mechano-photonic artificial synapse is a promising implementation to mimic the complex biological nervous system and promote the development of interactive artificial intelligence. The work is now published on Science Advances.

Uranium compound achieves record anomalous Nernst conductivity

New research has demonstrated that a magnetic uranium compound can have strong thermoelectric properties, generating four times the transverse voltage from heat than the previous record in a cobalt-manganese-gallium compound. The result unlocks a new potential for the actinide elements at the bottom of the periodic table and point to a fresh direction in research on topological quantum materials.

Scientists put additive manufactured foams to the test

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists recently published the results of a three-week experimental campaign at the Lab's Jupiter Laser Facility to test the performance of laser-heated additive manufactured foams.

Asdex Upgrade experimental facility generates its first plasma

For 30 years, the Asdex Upgrade has been paving the way for a fusion power plant that generates climate-neutral energy. The tokamak fusion plant was repeatedly expanded and improved during this time. Not least for this reason, it provides numerous insights that are incorporated into the design and operation of other fusion plants. For example, the Asdex Upgrade team has developed scenarios for the operation of the Jet test plant in the UK and the Iter test plant in France as well as forecasts for a planned demonstration power plant. A conversion planned for mid-2022 is intended to prepare the plant for the future.

Scientists propose highly reliable thermal power generator

Chinese scientists have proposed a highly reliable thermal power generator by combining thermoacoustic effect and triboelectric effect.

LiDAR acquires ranging signals with micron accuracy

Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) has been well known as it offers high ranging accuracy, and shows promising prospects in autonomous vehicles and various field. Traditional frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) LiDAR ranging is based on heterodyne detection, calculating unknown distance by extracting the frequency of the interference signal. However, such technique suffers from frequency modulation (FM) nonlinearity, which leads to inaccurate ranging results.

Automated alignment of optical fibers reduces errors and cost in photonic chip production

Photonic chips can play be a crucial role in applications such as autonomous driving or medical imaging due to their capacity for extremely fast and energy-efficient data transmission. However, their adoption is currently held back by the considerable cost involved in the production of these devices. Ph.D. candidate Matthijs van Gastel has developed new ways of assembling photonic devices using glue, which is accurate at the sub-micrometer scale. The researcher at the Control Systems Technology group in the department of Mechanical Engineering defended his thesis on 25 March.

Astronomy and Space news

Supernova simulations reveal how stellar explosions shape debris clouds

Astronomers are now in a better position to interpret observations of supernova remnants thanks to computer simulations of these cataclysmic events by RIKEN astrophysicists.

New theory suggests large blobs of material in Earth's mantle are remnants of protoplanet Theia

A team of scientists at Arizona State University has proposed that the large blobs of material in Earth's mantle (the large low-shear velocity provinces, LLSVPs) may be left over pieces of Theia, a protoplanet theorized to have struck Earth, resulting in the creation of the moon. The group argued their case at this year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and are awaiting publication in Geophysical Research Letters.

NASA analysis: Earth is safe from asteroid Apophis for 100-plus years

The near-Earth object was thought to pose a slight risk of impacting Earth in 2068, but now radar observations have ruled that out.

We've imaged a black hole's magnetic field for the first time—here's what it reveals

There was a lot of excitement when the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration showed the world the first ever image of a black hole back in April 2019. Weighing in at 6.5 billion times the mass of our Sun, this supermassive black hole is located in the galaxy Messier 87, or M87, some 55 million light years away from Earth.

Light show over US sky likely SpaceX debris re-entering atmosphere

A spectacular display of lights that streamed across the night sky over the US Pacific Northwest was probably debris from a SpaceX mission re-entering the atmosphere, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

A powerful solar storm hit Earth back in 1582

"A great fire appeared in the sky to the North, and lasted three nights," wrote a Portuguese scribe in early March, 1582. Across the globe in feudal Japan, observers in Kyoto noted the same fiery red display in their skies, too. Similar accounts of strange nighttime lights were recorded in Leipzig, Germany; Yecheon, South Korea; and a dozen other cities across Europe and East Asia.

Technology news

How tiny machines become capable of learning

Living organisms, from bacteria to animals and humans, can perceive their environment and process, store and retrieve this information. They learn how to react to later situations using appropriate actions. A team of physicists at Leipzig University led by Professor Frank Cichos, in collaboration with colleagues at Charles University Prague, have developed a method for giving tiny artificial microswimmers a certain ability to learn using machine learning algorithms. They recently published a paper on this topic in the journal Science Robotics.

Artist's intent: AI recognizes emotions in visual art

Experts in artificial intelligence have gotten quite good at creating computers that can "see" the world around them—recognizing objects, animals, and activities within their purview. These have become the foundational technologies for autonomous cars, planes, and security systems of the future.

AI-equipped backpack allows the blind to walk in public without dogs or cane

A team of researchers at the University of Georgia has created a backpack equipped with AI gear aimed at replacing guide dogs and canes for the blind. Intel has published a News Byte describing the new technology on their Newsroom page.

A general approach to high-efficiency perovskite solar cells

Researchers from the Institute for Applied Physics (IAP) and the Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden (cfaed) at TU Dresden developed a general methodology for the reproducible fabrication of high efficiency perovskite solar cells. Their study has been published in the renowned journal Nature Communications.

Qualcomm introduces Snapdragon 780G 5G Mobile Platform

The latest in its communications developments, Qualcomm has revealed the Snapdragon 780G 5G Mobile Platform. This platform runs on many 7-series firsts, such as a tripe ISP, the 6th generation Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engine as well as hyper rapid Wi-Fi 6. These features enable users to create new communication experiences, improve existing functionality and share data without limit.

Google Assistant Memory will revolutionize saving and reminders on Android

Whereas the first version of Google's Android Assistant centered on voice commands until Google added visual elements inspired by Smart Display such as on-screen controls, Google aims to enhance the Assistant. In 2020, a Snapshot feed featuring personalized recommendations and upcoming events became available.

How two friends made art history buying a $70M digital work

It took a few minutes for Vignesh Sundaresan and Anand Venkateswaran to realize that they'd parted with $69.3 million for a digital artwork stored in a JPEG file, coincidentally securing their place in art history.

What is an NFT? Non-fungible tokens explained

Have you seen the word "NFT" spinning around the internet lately, and found yourself completely confused as to what everyone's talking about?

New tech a curtain raiser for cheap clean solar energy

Technology that stores clean energy by heating particles with captured sunlight is cost-effective and reliable, modeling from The Australian National University (ANU) shows.

How shipping ports can become more sustainable

Marine shipping drives 90 percent of global trade, moving over 11 billion tons of containers, solid and liquid bulk cargo across the world's seas annually. Almost all consumer products we buy—or the raw materials required to make them—arrive at Canadian ports via ship.

Need to settle old scores shows up in questionable social media content during pandemic, election

If you are among the Facebook and Twitter users who thought posts you read during the heart of the pandemic and election were conspiracy laden, politically one-sided and just flat-out antagonistic, you might have been onto something.

Exosuit concept peeks at the future of wearable tech

Karl E. Zelik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and recent Ph.D. graduate Erik P. Lamers revealed a new exosuit designed to bring back relief to workers who have been under high strain throughout the pandemic, including last-mile delivery drivers and essential workers. The suit can redirect forces on the body and extend capabilities and applications of existing occupational exoskeletons, which are generally ill-suited for workers like delivery drivers climbing in and out of vehicles. Zelik and his team previously introduced a low-profile, lightweight exosuit produced by his spinoff company HeroWear.

WeWork to go public with $9 bn valuation

WeWork announced on Friday it plans to enter public markets through a merger transaction that raises $1.3 billion, valuing the office-sharing firm at a fraction of the sum discussed in its unsuccessful pre-pandemic effort to go public.

Video gamers skills enhanced by training 10 minutes a day

Researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Center for Software and University of Limerick (UL), have found video gamers can significantly improve their esport skills by training for just 10 minutes a day.

EU, US make new attempt for data privacy deal

Europe and the United States will use a thaw in ties to strike a pact that would allow for the exchange of private data across the Atlantic, replacing previous agreements struck down by an EU court.

Facebook sets reopening for Silicon Valley campuses

Facebook on Friday said its Silicon Valley offices will begin reopening to workers in May after a yearlong pandemic shutdown, but without perks such as free food and commuter shuttles.

Q&A: Artist Beeple on selling NFT collage for a record $70M

When digital artist Beeple put an NFT digital artwork up for auction this month, he became instantly famous when it sold for almost $70 million. The record sale also sparked huge interest in digital certificates of authenticity based on cryptocurrency technology that are called "non-fungible tokens."

Amazon delivery drivers scoff at company's claim that its workers don't pee in bottles

Amazon sparked a firestorm of derision when it pushed back on social media against claims that workers urinate in bottles because they are pressured to skip restroom breaks to keep up with the company's productivity goals.

VW seeks damages from ex-CEOs over dieselgate scandal

German auto giant Volkswagen said Friday it would seek unspecified damages from two former CEOs over the "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal that has cost it tens of billions of euros.

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Around the Web

Wake and Break
Ducks, kayaks and ships leave behind wakes of various sizes, but all share the same general V-shaped form decorated with complex ripples. In a recent video, MinutePhysics explains how this pattern results from one simple feature of waves: their speed. The fast overtaking the slow is one of two ways that waves can fuse to form ship-toppling "rogue waves," but as Charlie Wood reported for Quanta last year, mathematicians have developed a single theory that can handle both of them.

New Black Hole Picture
This week the Event Horizon Telescope followed up its 2019 blockbuster black hole image with a sequel showing the orientation of light — and therefore the magnetic field — around the supermassive object. As astronomers grow skilled at inferring the cosmos's invisible magnetic curls, they're finding fingerprints of the force everywhere they look, Natalie Wolchover reported for Quanta last year.

'Cautious Excitement' at CERN
When short-lived B mesons break down, nature may unexpectedly favor making electrons over muons — a result that could indicate quantum physics needs an update, Ian Sample reports for The Guardian. Physicists have been detecting faint signs of odd behavior from B mesons for some time, Charlie Wood reported for Quanta last year. A handful of international collaborations seek to strengthen or weaken the reports of anomalies with more data.

Surprising Respiration
Researchers have discovered an odd microbe deep in a Swiss lake. Millions of years ago, it swallowed bacteria that survived and now furnish it with chemical energy, Doug Johnson reports for Ars Technica. Studies of similar examples of "endosymbiosis," such as microbe pairings recently discovered in insects, could explain how our cells acquired their energy-producing organelles billions of years ago, Viviane Callier reported for Quanta in 2019.
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