Science X Newsletter Monday, Apr 19

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Using different teams of robots to model environmental processes

Earth's biggest mass extinction took ten times longer on land than in the water

People have shaped Earth's ecology for at least 12,000 years, mostly sustainably

Researchers use AI to empower environmental regulators

Shedding light on the long and the short of plant growth

Ingenuity helicopter successfully flew on Mars (Update)

Researchers find snake venom complexity is driven by prey diet

3D deep neural network precisely reconstructs freely-behaving animal's movements

Research investigates radio galaxy 3C 84

DNA robots designed in minutes instead of days

Materials advances are key to development of quantum hardware

Study reveals the workings of nature's own earthquake blocker

Volcanic pollution return linked to jump in respiratory disease cases

Giant planet at large distance from sun-like star puzzles astronomers

Two Russian cosmonauts, NASA astronaut return from ISS

Physics news

Materials advances are key to development of quantum hardware

A new study outlines the need for materials advances in the hardware that goes into making quantum computers if these futuristic devices are to surpass the abilities of the computers we use today.

Scientists crack 'the Brazil-nut' puzzle, how do the largest nuts rise to the top?

Scientists have for the first time captured the complex dynamics of particle movement in granular materials, helping to explain why mixed nuts often see the larger Brazil nuts gather at the top. The findings could have vital impact on industries struggling with the phenomenon, such as pharmaceuticals and mining.

Self-propelling self-navigating vehicles a step closer

Vehicles that can propel themselves along the water and self-navigate around any object in their path could soon be a reality thanks to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).

Modeling collisions between argon nuclei and neutrinos from a supernova

Massive stars end their lives in explosions called core-collapse supernovae. These explosions produce very large numbers of weakly interacting particles called neutrinos. Scientists working on the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, hosted by Fermilab, are seeking to perform a detailed measurement of supernova neutrinos. This effort could lead to groundbreaking discoveries in particle physics and astrophysics, including the first observation of the transition of a supernova into a neutron star or black hole.

Researchers use laser paintbrush to create miniature masterpieces

Researchers are blurring the lines between science and art by showing how a laser can be used to create artistic masterpieces in a way that mirrors classical paints and brushes. The new technique not only creates paint-like strokes of color on metal but also offers a way to change or erase colors.

Astronomy and Space news

Ingenuity helicopter successfully flew on Mars (Update)

NASA's experimental helicopter Ingenuity rose into the thin air above the dusty red surface of Mars on Monday, achieving the first powered flight by an aircraft on another planet.

Research investigates radio galaxy 3C 84

An international team of astronomers has conducted a detailed kinematic study of a radio galaxy known as 3C 84. The research sheds more light on the properties of this source and its connection to gamma-ray emission. The study was detailed in a paper published April 7 on the arXiv pre-print repository.

Giant planet at large distance from sun-like star puzzles astronomers

A team of astronomers led by Dutch scientists has directly imaged a giant planet orbiting at a large distance around a sun-like star. Why this planet is so massive and how it got to be there is a mystery. The researchers will publish their findings in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Two Russian cosmonauts, NASA astronaut return from ISS

Two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut touched down Saturday on the steppe of Kazakhstan following a half-year mission on the International Space Station, footage broadcast by the Russian space agency showed.

Parker Solar Probe sees Venus orbital dust ring in first complete view

NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission has given scientists the first complete look at Venus' orbital dust ring, a collection of microscopic dust particles that circulates around the Sun along Venus' orbit. Though earlier missions have made some observations of Venus' orbital dust ring, Parker Solar Probe's images are the first to show the planet's dust ring for nearly its entire 360-degree span around the Sun.

Hubble watches cosmic light bend

This extraordinary image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope of the galaxy cluster Abell 2813 (also known as ACO 2813) has an almost delicate beauty, which also illustrates the remarkable physics at work within it. The image spectacularly demonstrates the concept of gravitational lensing.

NASA aims for historic helicopter flight on Mars

NASA is hoping to make history early Monday when the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attempts the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

NASA's New Horizons reaches a rare space milestone

In the weeks following its launch in early 2006, when NASA's New Horizons was still close to home, it took just minutes to transmit a command to the spacecraft, and hear back that the onboard computer received and was ready to carry out the instructions.

NASA's Mars copter flight could happen as soon as Monday

NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter could make its first flight over the Red Planet as soon as Monday, the US space agency reported, following a delay of more than a week due to a possible technical issue.

Roman Space Telescope will also find rogue black holes

In the past, we've reported about how the Roman Space Telescope is potentially going to be able to detect hundreds of thousands of exoplanets using a technique known as microlensing. Exoplanets won't be the only things it can find with this technique, though—it should be possible to find solitary black holes, as well.

When stars get too close to each other, they cast out interstellar comets and asteroids

In October 2017, humanity caught its first-ever glimpse of an interstellar object—a visitor from beyond our solar system—passing nearby the sun. We named it "Oumuamua, and its unusual properties fascinated and confounded astronomers. Less than two years later, amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov found a second interstellar object: a comet-like body that began to disintegrate as it passed within 2 AU of the sun (1 AU equals the distance from Earth to the sun). Where do these interstellar objects come from? How common are they? With a sample size of just two, it's difficult to make any generalizations just yet. On the other hand, given what we know about star formation, we can begin to make some inferences about the likely origins of these objects, and what we are likely to see of them in the future.

Can a new type of glacier on Mars aid future astronauts?

On April 21, 1908, near Earth's North Pole, the Arctic explorer Frederick Albert Cook scrawled in his diary a memorable phrase: "We were the only pulsating creatures in a dead world of ice." These words may soon take on new significance for humankind in another dead world of hidden ice, submerged beneath the red sand of its frigid deserts. This dead world is Mars, and the desert is the planet's mid-latitude region known as Arcadia Planitia.

Why flying a helicopter on Mars is a big deal

NASA conducted its first flight on another planet early Monday morning, a short hop for a small chopper named Ingenuity which demonstrated technology that could prove critical to the future of space exploration.

Key things to know about NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

NASA has made history by successfully flying the mini helicopter Ingenuity on Mars, the first powered flight on another planet.

SpaceX has given up trying to catch rocket fairings—fishing them out of the ocean is fine

If there is one driving force in the commercial space industry it is economics. The whole concept of reusable booster rocket emphasizes the importance of getting launch costs down. SpaceX, the company leading the charge in trying to bring launch costs down, doesn't just recover booster rockets however. It also recovers the rocket fairings that hold the payload during launch. SpaceX's original plan was to capture the fairings as they fell back to Earth using specially equipped ships with nets to catch them before they landed in the ocean. Now, however, the company has transitioned to simply fishing fairings out of the ocean after they splash down, and that seems to be working just fine.

How scientists are 'looking' inside asteroids

Asteroids can pose a threat to life on Earth but are also a valuable source of resources to make fuel or water to aid deep space exploration. Devoid of geological and atmospheric processes, these space rocks provide a window onto the evolution of the solar system. But to really understand their secrets, scientists must know what's inside them.

Technology news

Using different teams of robots to model environmental processes

Teams of multiple robots could help to tackle a number of complex real-world problems, for instance, assisting human agents during search and rescue missions, monitoring the environment or assessing the damage caused by natural disasters. Over the past few years, multi-robot systems have proved to be particularly useful for solving problems that involve a distribution over space or time (i.e., allowing agents to cover large distances or monitor processes over time).

Researchers use AI to empower environmental regulators

Like superheroes capable of seeing through obstacles, environmental regulators may soon wield the power of all-seeing eyes that can identify violators anywhere at any time, according to a new Stanford University-led study. The paper, published the week of April 19 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), demonstrates how artificial intelligence combined with satellite imagery can provide a low-cost, scalable method for locating and monitoring otherwise hard-to-regulate industries.

3D deep neural network precisely reconstructs freely-behaving animal's movements

Animals are constantly moving and behaving in response to instructions from the brain. But while there are advanced techniques for measuring these instructions in terms of neural activity, there is a paucity of techniques for quantifying the behavior itself in freely moving animals. This inability to measure the key output of the brain limits our understanding of the nervous system and how it changes in disease.

Tailing new ideas: Cheetah-inspired design enables better robot movement

From lizards to kangaroos, many animals with tails possess an agility that allows them to turn or self-right after a foot slip. Cheetahs demonstrate tremendous precision and maneuverability at high speeds due, in part, to their tails. Translating this performance to robots would allow them to move more easily through natural terrain. However, adding a tail to a robot carries disadvantages like increased mass, high inertia, and a higher energy cost.

A tool for navigating complex computer instructions

We've come a long way since Intel introduced the first microprocessor in 1971. Their 4004 held 2,300 transistors, with today's best chips exceeding billions, harnessing more and more power since their birth.

Mapping performance variations to see how lithium-metal batteries fail

Scientists have identified the primary cause of failure in a state-of-the-art lithium-metal battery, of interest for long-range electric vehicles. Using high-energy X-rays, they followed the cycling-induced changes at thousands of different points across the battery and mapped the variations in performance. At each point, they used the X-ray data to calculate the amount of cathode material and its local state of charge. These findings, combined with complementary electrochemical measurements, enabled them to determine the dominant mechanism driving the loss of battery capacity after many charge-discharge cycles. As they recently reported in Chemistry of Materials, depletion of the liquid electrolyte was the primary cause of failure. The electrolyte transports lithium ions between the rechargeable battery's two electrodes (anode and cathode) during each charge and discharge cycle.

Cryptocurrency derivatives markets are booming: study

Markets for cryptocurrency derivatives—contractual side-bets on the future price of cryptocurrencies—have exploded in recent years. On a busy day, over $100 billion in these derivatives are traded, rivaling the daily volume traded in the New York Stock Exchange. What's more, there is evidence that the activity inside these markets may affect the value of cryptocurrencies themselves.

Digital human platform brings to life Einstein's voice for a conversational chatbot

Audio content production company Aflorithmic and digital human creators UneeQ have collaborated to synthesize the voice of renowned historical scientist, Albert Einstein.

New AI tool tracks evolution of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media

A new machine-learning program accurately identifies COVID-19-related conspiracy theories on social media and models how they evolved over time—a tool that could someday help public health officials combat misinformation online.

Renesas resumes production at fire-hit chip plant: reports

Japanese chip manufacturer Renesas on Saturday restarted production about a month after a factory fire that threatens to worsen a global chip shortage, local media said.

Potential Boeing 737 MAX issue affects more of plane: report

The potential electrical problem that prompted airlines to remove some 737 MAX planes from service has been found in more areas of the plane than initially known, a report said Friday.

Founder of Adobe and developer of PDFs dies at age 81

Charles "Chuck" Geschke—the co-founder of the major software company Adobe Inc. who helped develop Portable Document Format technology, or PDFs—died at age 81.

Paradise found: 'Hades' maker takes on gaming goliaths

No work email after 5:00 pm on Fridays, mandatory vacations: the outfit behind role-playing video game sensation "Hades" doesn't believe you have to go through hell to reach the top.

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla Berlin plant

In the green forest outside Berlin, a David and Goliath-style battle is playing out between electric carmaker Tesla and environmental campaigners who want to stop its planned "gigafactory".

India's electric vehicles face practical, technical hurdles

H.S. Panno, an independent contractor living in a spacious two-story penthouse in New Delhi, had his doubts when he bought his first electric car in September.

VW, Ford unveil SUVs at China auto show under virus controls

Volkswagen, Ford and Chinese brands unveiled new SUVs for China on Monday at the Shanghai auto show, the industry's biggest marketing event in a year overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fire-hit chipmaker Renesas plans full capacity by May

Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics said Monday it was on track to restore full capacity by May after a plant fire, as manufacturers around the world battle to secure semiconductor supplies.

Breakthrough in travel behavior research with artificial neural networks

Researchers at the Future Urban Mobility Interdisciplinary Research Group at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, MIT's research enterprise in Singapore, have created a synthetic framework known as a theory-based residual neural network (TB-ResNet), which combines discrete choice models (DCMs) and deep neural networks (DNNs), also known as deep learning, to improve individual decision-making analysis for travel behavior research.

Researchers studying how to make online arguments productive

The internet seems like the place to go to get into fights. Whether they're with a family member or a complete stranger, these arguments have the potential to destroy important relationships and consume a lot of emotional energy.

New SUV models star at China auto show under virus controls

Volkswagen, Ford and Chinese brands unveiled new SUVs for China on Monday at the Shanghai auto show, the industry's biggest marketing event in a year overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Army researchers create pioneering approach to real-time conversational AI

Spoken dialogue is the most natural way for people to interact with complex autonomous agents such as robots. Future Army operational environments will require technology that allows artificial intelligent agents to understand and carry out commands and interact with them as teammates.

Facebook unveils big audio push, adds podcasts

Facebook on Monday said it is adding podcasts and "live audio rooms" in a push to get people talking and take on the fast-growing audio-based app Clubhouse.

Hybrid leader Toyota turns on electrics

Toyota, which pioneered hybrid cars, unveiled Monday plans for its first global line-up of battery electric vehicles as other carmakers have pulled ahead in electrification.

Apple to let tweaked Parler back in App Store

A version of social network Parler updated to curb incitements to violence has been cleared to return to Apple's App Store, a US congressman said Monday.

Not a joke anymore: Dogecoin surges above 30 cents

Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency created as a spoof, is turning out to be increasingly valuable.

From Moscow to New York, fast delivery takes off amid pandemic

Like millions of people around the world, Yuri Nekrasov stopped going to the grocery store every day last year when authorities in Moscow enforced a coronavirus lockdown.

Auction brings Hall of Famer Ted Williams to NFT market

Teddy Ballgame is about to become Teddy Blockchain.

Union petitions for new vote at Amazon Alabama warehouse

The organizers of a failed unionization drive at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama said Monday it petitioned for a new vote, claiming the tech and e-commerce giant improperly interfered with the election.

Leadership shakeup continues at GameStop, CEO to depart

The overhaul in the top ranks of GameStop continues with the announced departure of CEO George Sherman at the end of July.

Foxconn, Wisconsin reach new deal on scaled back facility

Foxconn Technology Group, the world's largest electronics maker, has reached a new deal with reduced tax breaks for its scaled back manufacturing facility in southeast Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers and the the company announced on Monday.

2 US agencies send teams to probe Tesla crash with no driver

Two federal agencies are sending teams to investigate the fatal crash of a Tesla near Houston in which local authorities say no one was behind the wheel.

Russia probes YouTube for 'abusing' dominant position

Russia has launched a probe against YouTube for "abusing" its dominant position in the market by making "biased" decisions about comment moderation, a government regulator said on Monday.

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