Science X Newsletter Tuesday, Apr 27

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 27, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers develop a robotic guide dog to assist blind individuals

Physicists net neutron star gold from measurement of lead

Chinese astronomers investigate black hole X-ray binary MAXI J1820+070

'Colloidal gels,' ubiquitous in everyday products, divulge their secrets

Probing deep space with Interstellar

Innovative rapid COVID-19 test platform pairs mass spectrometry with machine learning

Skin and bones repaired by bioprinting during surgery

Extinct 'horned' crocodile gets new spot in the tree of life

Ship traffic dropped during first months of COVID pandemic

Flood risk to new homes in England and Wales will increase in disadvantaged areas

Benefits of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine outweigh its risks, modeling study suggests

Polymer-based coatings on metallic implants improve bone-implant integration

Nontoxic, flexible energy converters could power wearable devices

Solar-powered desalination unit shows great promise

Energy-saving gas turbines from the 3D printer

Physics news

Physicists net neutron star gold from measurement of lead

Nuclear physicists have made a new, highly accurate measurement of the thickness of the neutron "skin" that encompasses the lead nucleus in experiments conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and just published in Physical Review Letters. The result, which revealed a neutron skin thickness of .28 millionths of a nanometer, has important implications for the structure and size of neutron stars.

Stretching a substrate provides a faster way to control anisotropic wetting

A team of researchers at ETH Zurich and the University of Twente has found that stretching a substrate provides a new and easier way to control anisotropic wetting. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes testing they conducted with drops sliding across a stretched surface.

Plasma acceleration: It's all in the mix

The LUX team at DESY is celebrating not just one but two milestones in the development of innovative plasma accelerators. The scientists from the University of Hamburg and DESY used their accelerator to test a technique that allows the energy distribution of the electron beams produced to be kept particularly narrow. They also used artificial intelligence to allow the accelerator to optimize its own operation. The scientists are reporting their experiments in two papers published shortly after one another in the journal Physical Review Letters. "It's fantastic to see the speed with which the new technology of plasma acceleration is reaching a level of maturity where it can be used in a wide range of applications," congratulates Wim Leemans, Director of the Accelerator Division at DESY.

Exploiting non-line-of-sight paths for terahertz signals in wireless communications

If a base station in a local area network tries to use a directional beam to transmit a signal to a user trying to connect to the network—instead of using a wide area network broadcast, as base stations commonly do—how does it know which direction to send the beam?

New 2D superconductor forms at higher temperatures than ever before

New interfacial superconductor has novel properties that raise new fundamental questions and might be useful for quantum information processing or quantum sensing.

Study suggests that silicon could be a photonics game-changer

New research from the University of Surrey has shown that silicon could be one of the most powerful materials for photonic informational manipulation—opening up new possibilities for the production of lasers and displays.

Explaining electric fields in sandstorms

A complex weather phenomenon that has puzzled researchers since the nineteenthcentury can now be accurately modeled using a computer simulation framework developed at KAUST.

Astronomy and Space news

Chinese astronomers investigate black hole X-ray binary MAXI J1820+070

Astronomers from China have performed a comprehensive multiwavelength monitoring of a low-mass black hole X-ray binary system known as MAXI J1820+070. Results of this study, published April 21 on the arXiv pre-print repository, shed more light on the properties of this source.

Probing deep space with Interstellar

When the four-decades-old Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft entered interstellar space in 2012 and 2018, respectively, scientists celebrated. These plucky spacecraft had already traveled 120 times the distance from the Earth to the sun to reach the boundary of the heliosphere, the bubble encompassing our solar system that's affected by the solar wind. The Voyagers discovered the edge of the bubble but left scientists with many questions about how our Sun interacts with the local interstellar medium. The twin Voyagers' instruments provide limited data, leaving critical gaps in our understanding of this region.

Astronomers detect new chemical signature in an exoplanet's atmosphere using Subaru Telescope

An international collaboration of astronomers led by a researcher from the Astrobiology Center and Queen's University Belfast has detected a new chemical signature in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet—i.e., a planet that orbits a star other than our sun. The hydroxyl radical (OH) was found on the dayside of the exoplanet WASP-33b. This planet is a so-called 'ultra-hot Jupiter," a gas-giant planet orbiting its host star much closer than Mercury orbits the sun (Figure 1) and therefore reaching atmospheric temperatures of more than 2500 degrees C (hot enough to melt most metals). The lead researcher based at the Astrobiology Center and Queen's University Belfast, Dr. Stevanus Nugroho, says, "This is the first direct evidence of OH in the atmosphere of a planet beyond the solar system. It shows not only that astronomers can detect this molecule in exoplanet atmospheres, but also that they can begin to understand the detailed chemistry of this planetary population."

'Campfires' offer clue to solar heating mystery

Computer simulations show that the miniature solar flares nicknamed 'campfires," discovered last year by ESA's Solar Orbiter, are likely driven by a process that may contribute significantly to the heating of the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona. If confirmed by further observations this adds a key piece to the puzzle of what heats the solar corona—one of the biggest mysteries in solar physics.

Blue Origin protests NASA choice of SpaceX to land astronauts on Moon

Blue Origin, the US space company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, on Monday filed a protest against NASA's choice of rival SpaceX to build the module that will land the next US astronauts on the Moon.

NASA's scientific balloons return to flight with Spring 2021 campaign

NASA's Scientific Balloon Program is kicking off an ambitious schedule of 18 flights in 2021 with their spring campaign from Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the program's first major flight campaign since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

African spaceports cut rocket fuel costs

Space is big business once again, Mars rovers and putative moon landings aside, there is an enormous need for geostationary satellites. With increasing traffic there is also a need for new sites for spaceports that might offer reduced energy costs and simpler launching of new satellites. Writing in the International Journal of Aerospace System Science and Engineering, a team from the Obasanjo Space Center in Abuja, Nigeria, suggest that African spaceports offer a scientifically and economically viable option.

New ESA telescope in South America to search for dangerous asteroids

ESA's second Test-Bed Telescope, hosted at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile, has seen 'first light' – when a new telescope is first used to look up.

Technology news

Researchers develop a robotic guide dog to assist blind individuals

Guide dogs, dogs that are trained to help humans move through their environments, have played a critical role in society for many decades. These highly trained animals, in fact, have proved to be valuable assistants for visually impaired individuals, allowing them to safely navigate indoor and outdoor environments.

Solar-powered desalination unit shows great promise

Despite the vast amount of water on Earth, most of it is nonpotable seawater. Freshwater accounts for only about 2.5% of the total, so much of the world experiences serious water shortages.

Energy-saving gas turbines from the 3D printer

3D printing has opened up a completely new range of possibilities. One example is the production of novel turbine buckets. However, the 3D printing process often induces internal stress in the components, which can, in the worst case, lead to cracks. Now a research team has succeeded in using neutrons from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) research neutron source for non-destructive detection of this internal stress—a key achievement for the improvement of the production processes.

Future drones likely to resemble 300-million-year-old flying machine

University of South Australia researchers have drawn inspiration from a 300-million-year-old superior flying machine—the dragonfly—to show why future flapping wing drones will probably resemble the insect in shape, wings and gearing.

Origami based tires can change shape while a vehicle is moving

A team of researchers affiliated with Seoul National University, Harvard University and Hankook Tire and Technology Co. Ltd., has developed a tire based on an origami design that allows for changing the shape of a tire while a vehicle is moving. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the group describes their new tire design and how well it worked when tested.

Hackers use a bug to evade macOS defenses

Lauded for years as the system able to best prevent malware infection, macOS recently fell victim to an operating system vulnerability that hackers used to circumvent all of Apple's system defenses.

Vertical turbines could be the future for wind farms

The now-familiar sight of traditional propeller wind turbines could be replaced in the future with wind farms containing more compact and efficient vertical turbines. New research from Oxford Brookes University has found that the vertical turbine design is far more efficient than traditional turbines in large scale wind farms, and when set in pairs the vertical turbines increase each other's performance by up to 15%.

New York startup aims to leave a mark with ephemeral tattoos

Neither a permanent mark nor a paper transfer: a New York start-up has created the first tattoos that fully disappear after a while, aiming to open the body inking market to new clientele.

Biden plan for cleaner power system faces daunting obstacles

If the nation is to meet President Joe Biden's goal of cutting America's greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade, it will have to undertake a vast transformation toward renewable energy.

Tesla posts $438M 1Q profit on strong electric vehicle sales

Charged up by strong sales of its electric cars and SUVs, Tesla on Monday posted its seventh-straight profitable quarter.

DC police department hit by apparent extortion attack

The Washington, D.C., police department said Monday that its computer network was breached, and a Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate claimed to have stolen sensitive data, including on informants, that it threatened to share with local criminal gangs unless police paid an unspecified ransom.

Toyota acquires Lyft's self-driving unit for $550 million

Toyota Motor Corp. has acquired the self-driving division of American ride-hailing company Lyft for $550 million, in a move that highlights the Japanese automaker's ambitions in that technology.

Cuban engineers' dreams take flight with home-grown drones

Disguised as a sparrowhawk, and convincingly mimicking its predatory cry, a drone made of wood, scrap metal and plastic disperses birds at a Cuban airfield.

Sandblaster helps detect fingerprints more effectively

"Dusting for fingerprints" is a term we may know well from crime shows, but if Bethany Krebs has her way, forensic teams would instead be "sandblasting for fingerprints."

Are cryptocurrencies fool's gold? Experts weigh in

Up, up, and up they go.

All your transport options in one place: Why mobility as a service needs a proper platform

Uber, Ola, Car Next Door, GoGet, Urbi and Shareabike have transformed the mobility experience for millions of people, but are just the tip of the looming iceberg of changes in transport. Globally, 93 million travelers use the Uber app on a monthly basis. More Australians use Uber (22.9%) than taxis (21.8%).

Researchers propose a new data-driven tool to better understand startups

Skoltech researchers used Google Trends' Big Data ensuing from human interactions with the Internet to develop a new methodology—a tool and a data source—for analyzing and researching the growth of startups. A paper reporting these important findings was published in the technology management journal Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

New clues on how networks such as Twitter are organized to respond to viral news

Examples of complex systems exist everywhere. Neuron connections and protein–protein interactions are two systems of this type found in organisms, but complex systems also exist in cities, economic models, and even in social networks. The common denominator is that they are made up of many interrelated elements which can be represented and studied as a network.

Vision test for autonomous cars

The five meter-long Lexus RX-450h leads a rather contemplative life at Empa. It never takes long trips. Instead, the SUV dutifully makes its rounds on a special track just 180 meters long in a secluded backyard of the Empa campus. The scenery is not particularly spectacular: The Mobileye camera behind the windshield sees freshly painted lane markings on aging concrete; the Velodyne lidar scans the window front of always the same lab building at every turn, and the Delphi radar behind the Lexus' radiator grille routinely measures the distance to five tin trash cans set up to either side of the course.

Auto group backs guidelines for partially automated vehicles

The trade association representing most major automakers is offering guidelines for manufacturers to advertise partially automated driving systems and to make sure drivers are paying attention while using them.

EU case against Apple over Spotify 'imminent'

EU competition authorities will "imminently" file formal accusations against Apple for unfairly squeezing out music streaming rivals, two sources close to the case said Tuesday.

Technique enhances robot battlefield operations

Army researchers developed a technique that allows robots to remain resilient when faced with intermittent communication losses on the battlefield.

Ford plans to develop and produce electric vehicle batteries

Saying that it wants to control the key technology for electric vehicles, Ford plans to open a battery development center near Detroit by the end of next year.

Spotify counters Apple with podcast subscriptions

Spotify unveiled plans Tuesday for podcast subscriptions, countering a similar initiative from Apple but offering a better deal than its US rival by allowing creators to keep all revenue for a limited time.

Shoe scanner technology on the horizon

Take your shoes off and place them in the bin! That's been part of the flying experience since 2006. It's the outcome of a number of threats to the aviation sector that emerged after the fateful events of September 11, 2001, including a failed attempt by an air-borne terrorist to light a fuse hidden in his shoe.

Change Siri's voice, Apple Maps upgrades: What's new in iOS 14.5 update

If you follow Apple, you're aware its latest update delivers significant privacy changes. But what else can you do in iOS 14.5?

Microsoft beats Wall Street expectations for early 2021

Microsoft's business beat Wall Street expectations for the first three months of 2021, thanks to ongoing demand for its software and cloud computing services during the pandemic.

Google's 1Q ad sales surge 32% as economic recovery builds

Google's digital advertising network has shifted back into high gear after an unprecedented reversal during the early stages of the pandemic.

Tesla says it appears driver was at the wheel in crash

Tesla said Monday scrutiny of wreckage from a fatal crash in Texas indicates that someone was at the wheel, contrary to an early report that the driver's seat was empty.

DoorDash offers lower-priced delivery plans amid criticism

DoorDash is launching lower-priced delivery options for U.S. restaurants, responding to criticism that the commissions it charges are too high for the beleaguered industry.

Russia fines Apple $12 mn for 'abusing' dominant position

Russia has imposed a $12.1 million fine on Apple for "abusing" its dominant position in the market by giving preference to its own applications, a government regulator said on Tuesday.

GE reports loss on continued pressure in aviation

General Electric reported a first-quarter loss Tuesday on lower revenues in key divisions, including power and aviation, which remains under pressure amid Covid-19.

Amazon starts push to vaccinate thousands of its warehouse workers in Washington state for COVID

There was more than a little partying in the air at Amazon's first COVID-19 vaccination clinic for its warehouse and delivery workers in Washington state Monday.

Is Microsoft Teams down? Company confirms service is back after outage

Microsoft confirmed Tuesday its productivity software Teams is back online following a brief outage.


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