Science X Newsletter Thursday, Apr 29

Dear ymilog,

Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for April 29, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A tactile sensing foot to increase the stability of legged robots

Understanding the charge pumping and relaxation of the chiral anomaly in a Dirac semimetal

The Arctic's greening, but it won't save us

Mapping the 'superhighways' travelled by the first Australians

New law of physics helps humans and robots grasp the friction of touch

Machine learning algorithm helps unravel the physics underlying quantum systems

Eastern and Western house mice took parallel evolutionary paths after colonizing US

Exploit plants' ability to tell the time to make food production more sustainable: study

'Self-healing' continental roots have implications for precious mineral exploration

Lightning and subvisible discharges produce molecules that clean the atmosphere

Hubble watches how a giant planet grows

How long is a day on Venus? Scientists crack mysteries of our closest neighbor

Discarded ostrich shells provide timeline for our early African ancestors

Social media and science show how ship's plastic cargo dispersed from Florida to Norway

Hidden air pollutants on the rise in cities in India and the UK: study

Physics news

Understanding the charge pumping and relaxation of the chiral anomaly in a Dirac semimetal

The 3D Dirac and Weyl semimetals can be characterized by a charge chirality with the parallel or antiparallel locking of electron spin in its momentum. Such materials can exhibit a chiral magnetic effect associated with the near conservation of chiral charge. In this work, Bing Cheng and a research team in physics and astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University and materials science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, used magneto-terahertz spectroscopy to study epitaxial cadmium arsenide (Cd3As2) films—a widely explored material in solid-state physics to extract their conductivities as a function of chiral magnetic effect . When the team applied the field, they noted a markedly sharp Drude response – a highly acclaimed model of electronic transport suggested by physicist Paul Drude more than 100 years ago. The Drude response rose out of the broader background of this system as a definitive signature of a new transport channel consistent with the chiral response. The field independence of the chiral relaxation established that it was set by the approximate conservation of the isospin in the setup.

Machine learning algorithm helps unravel the physics underlying quantum systems

Scientists from the University of Bristol's Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QETLabs) have developed an algorithm that provides valuable insights into the physics underlying quantum systems—paving the way for significant advances in quantum computation and sensing, and potentially turning a new page in scientific investigation.

Silicon multiplexer chip will drive next generation communications

Researchers from Osaka University, Japan and the University of Adelaide, Australia have worked together to produce the new multiplexer made from pure silicon for terahertz-range communications in the 300-GHz band.

Blueprint for a robust quantum future

Claiming that something has a defect normally suggests an undesirable feature. That's not the case in solid-state systems, such as the semiconductors at the heart of modern classical electronic devices. They work because of defects introduced into the rigidly ordered arrangement of atoms in crystalline materials like silicon. Surprisingly, in the quantum world, defects also play an important role.

Creation without contact in the collisions of lead and gold nuclei

When heavy ions, accelerated to the speed of light, collide with each other in the depths of European or American accelerators, quark-gluon plasma is formed for fractions of a second, or even its 'cocktail' seasoned with other particles. According to scientists from the IFJ PAN, experimental data show that there are underestimated actors on the scene: photons. Their collisions lead to the emission of seemingly excess particles, the presence of which could not be explained.

Helping robots analyze their surroundings

Physicists from the University of Luxembourg have recently presented a new material which can become a key component of a new infrastructure designed to help robots understand their surroundings. The team shows that the material can be used to introduce tailor-made graphical information in the environment, which is invisible to humans but easily readable by robots. The new material and the innovative procedure by which it is made possible have been recently published in Advanced Functional Materials, one of the world's top journals in the field of materials science.

Astronomy and Space news

Hubble watches how a giant planet grows

Ever made a complete mess in your kitchen while baking? At moments it may look like flour is floating in the air, but once you've added plenty of water and formed your dough, the bread becomes more like a ball. A similar process is at work in a far-flung solar system known as PDS 70, except the flour and water are swapped for gas and dust. In the case of planet PDS 70b, gas and dust are slowly being drawn in as this distant world builds mass over millions of years.

How long is a day on Venus? Scientists crack mysteries of our closest neighbor

Venus is an enigma. It's the planet next door and yet reveals little about itself. An opaque blanket of clouds smothers a harsh landscape pelted by acid rain and baked at temperatures that can liquify lead.

China launches main part of its 1st permanent space station

China on Thursday launched the main module of its first permanent space station that will host astronauts long term, the latest success for a program that has realized a number of its growing ambitions in recent years.

Fermi satellite data puts new constraints on the possibility of antimatter stars

What if some of the antimatter that was thought to have disappeared was hiding in the form of anti-stars? Researchers from the Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP—CNRS/CNES/UT3 Paul Sabatier) are using the Fermi gamma-ray space telescope to put the most constraining limits ever on this hypothesis. The results of their work were published on April 20, 2021 in Physical Review D.

With goals met, NASA to push envelope with Ingenuity Mars helicopter

The red planet rotorcraft will extend its range, speed, and flight duration on Flight Four.

eROSITA witnesses the awakening of massive black holes

Using the SRG/eROSITA all-sky survey data, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics have found two previously quiescent galaxies that now show quasi-periodic eruptions. The nuclei of these galaxies light up in X-rays every few hours, reaching peak luminosities comparable to that of an entire galaxy. The origin of this pulsating behavior is unclear. A possible cause is a stellar object orbiting the central black hole. As these galaxies are relatively close and small, this discovery could help scientists to better understand how black holes are activated in low-mass galaxies.

Meteorite amino acids derived from substrates more widely available in the early solar system

Scientists have recreated the reaction by which carbon isotopes made their way into different organic compounds, challenging the notion that organic compounds, such as amino acids, were formed by isotopically enriched substrates. Their discovery suggests that the building blocks of life in meteorites were derived from widely available substrates in the early solar system.

Meteorites reveal magnetic record of protoplanet churn

If you stumble upon an unusual rock that could be a meteorite, do not place a magnet on it to see if it's magnetic—you'd end up erasing 4.5 billion years of magnetic history. Meteorites are remnants of our solar system's first protoplanets and, in some cases, retain a record of the magnetic fields they've experienced in the distant past.

Small galaxies likely played important role in evolution of the Universe

A new study led by University of Minnesota astrophysicists shows that high-energy light from small galaxies may have played a key role in the early evolution of the Universe. The research gives insight into how the Universe became reionized, a problem that astronomers have been trying to solve for years.

Fourth flight postponed for Mars Ingenuity helicopter

NASA's Mars Ingenuity helicopter missed its fourth scheduled flight on Thursday, with the space agency blaming a software glitch and vowing to try again the next day.

China's 'space dream': A Long March to the Moon and beyond

The launch of the first module of China's new space station—"Heavenly Palace"—on Thursday underlined how far the country has come in achieving its space dream.

Europe's Vega rocket successfully launches

Europe's Vega rocket took off overnight Wednesday from French Guiana with Earth observation satellites on board, six months after losing two satellites.

Star-studded image of the Sextans B dwarf galaxy showcases astronomical curiosities near and far

This star-studded image shows the irregular dwarf galaxy Sextans B, which lies around 4.5 million light-years from Earth at the outermost edges of the Local Group. With a total mass of around 200 million times the mass of the Sun, Sextans B hosts an intriguing variety of astronomical objects. Some of the most conspicuous are the ruby-red clouds of atomic hydrogen visible near the center of this image. These vast, glowing clouds are giving birth to brilliant new stars. Supernovae and the stellar winds from these young stars will eventually sweep aside the cool clouds of hydrogen, leaving behind clusters of stars with similar ages and properties.

Lofted by NASA balloons, new experiments will study sun-Earth system

A suite of scientific balloons is about to lift off from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility's field site in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, carrying instruments that will help scientists understand the connection between the Sun and Earth.

We could detect alien civilizations through their interstellar quantum communication

Since the mid-20th century, scientists have been looking for evidence of intelligent life beyond our solar system. For much of that time, scientists who are engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) have relied on radio astronomy surveys to search for signs of technological activity (aka "technosignatures"). With 4,375 exoplanets confirmed (and counting!) even greater efforts are expected to happen in the near future.

The Chinese Mars lander: How Zhurong will attempt to touch down on the red planet

For the first few months of 2021, the Martian atmosphere was buzzing with new visitors from Earth. First, it was the UAE Space Agency's Hope probe, followed by the Chinese Tianwen-1 entering orbit.

Spacecraft magnetic valve used to fill drinks

A precision magnetic valve originally designed to help steer a lander down to a comet has found a surprise terrestrial use through ESA's Technology Transfer and Patent Office: adding flavors to beverages within a few thousandths of a second per each can or bottle.

'The line is getting fuzzier': Asteroids and comets may be more similar than we think

As anyone who has ever tried to clean a home knows, ridding yourself of dust is a Sisyphean effort. No surface stays free of it for long. It turns out that space is somewhat similar. Space is filled with interplanetary dust, which the Earth constantly collects as it plods around the sun—in orbit, in the atmosphere, and if it's large enough, on the ground as micrometeorites.

Technology news

A tactile sensing foot to increase the stability of legged robots

In order to effectively navigate real-world environments, legged robots should be able to move swiftly and freely while maintaining their balance. This is particularly true for humanoid robots, robots with two legs and a human-like body structure.

Small generator captures heat given off by skin to power wearable devices

Scientists in China have developed a small, flexible device that can convert heat emitted from human skin to electrical power. In their research, presented April 29 in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science, the team showed that the device could power an LED light in real time when worn on a wristband. The findings suggest that body temperature could someday power wearable electronics such as fitness trackers.

A modular building platform for the most ingenious of robots

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) have developed a system with which they can fabricate miniature robots building block by building block, which function exactly as required.

The curtailment paradox in a high solar future

Rising penetrations of variable renewable energy (VRE) in power systems are expected to increase curtailment—the reduction of renewable energy delivered due to oversupply or lack of system flexibility. But while curtailment may be the new normal in the evolving grid, and can even be managed in a way that makes the grid more flexible, it is important to find an optimal level of it to capture the most value out of VRE resources.

Lowering the costs of using solar-powered electricity when it's not sunny

Solar power accounts for about 2% of U.S. electricity, but it could become more widespread if it were cheaper to generate this electricity and make it readily available on cloudy days and at nighttime.

Exploring extremes: When is it too hot to handle?

Exploring extreme environments can put significant operational challenges on the engineering systems we depend upon to safely explore and at times operate within.

Breakthrough technology is a game changer for deepfake detection

Army researchers developed a Deepfake detection method that will allow for the creation of state-of-the-art Soldier technology to support mission-essential tasks such as adversarial threat detection and recognition.

AI is improving Google Assistant conversations

In order for Google Assistant to really help users with daily tasks, the tool should be able to understand the human user. This means not only understanding the words you speak but also recognizing the meaning behind them. For this reason, the Assistant should adapt to your speech style without you needing to voice commands using specific words in the correct order.

Mechanical engineer offers perspective on the maturation of the field of soft robotics

The field of soft robotics has exploded in the past decade, as ever more researchers seek to make real the potential of these pliant, flexible automata in a variety of realms, including search and rescue, exploration and medicine.

Gigantic Stratolaunch aircraft makes 2nd test flight

The gigantic Stratolaunch aircraft flew Thursday for its second time, taking to the skies over the Southern California desert.

Ford posts profit, says chip shortage may cut production 50%

Ford Motor Co. posted a surprising $3.26 billion first-quarter net profit on Wednesday, but the company said a worsening global computer chip shortage could cut its production in half during the current quarter.

Apple profit soars in latest quarter on higher iPhone sales

Demand for the iPhone and other Apple products drove profits to more than double in the January-March period as the tech giant continued to capitalize on smartphone addiction.

Samsung reports profit jump on smartphone, TV sales

Samsung Electronics said Thursday its operating profit for the last quarter jumped 46% from a year earlier driven by increased sales of smartphones and televisions as its business continues to flourish amid the pandemic.

US pushes ahead with nuclear plans despite watchdog concerns

The Biden administration appears to be picking up where former President Donald Trump left off as the federal agency that oversees U.S. nuclear research and bomb-making has approved the first design phase for a multibillion-dollar project to manufacture key components for the nation's nuclear arsenal.

Latency-aware optical networking for automated deployment of 5G services

Extremely low transmission latency is one of the key features promised by 5G communication networks. Additionally, smart networking requires technologies that monitor and anticipate failures to facilitate rapid network repair.

Siri, meet grandma: Building a voice assistant for older adults

Computer scientists at the University of California San Diego received an Amazon Research Award to develop a voice assistant to better communicate with older adults. Their initial goal is to create a system capable of understanding and answering the medical questions of adults over age 65.

We spent six years scouring billions of links, and found the web is both expanding and shrinking

The online world is continuously expanding—always aggregating more services, more users and more activity. Last year, the number of websites registered on the ".com" domain surpassed 150,000,000.

Pokémon Snap for Nintendo Switch is almost here: The game designed to 'catch them all' is charming and laid back

Yes, you've still "gotta catch them all," only this time you're doing it with a camera.

Daimler Truck, Volvo to make fuel cells in Europe from 2025

Germany's Daimler Truck AG and Sweden's Volvo Group say they plan to jointly manufacture hydrogen fuel cells for trucks in Europe starting in 2025 and called on European Union policymakers to boost incentives for climate-neutral technologies.

GM: Software, new battery parts will solve Bolt fire issues

Engineers at General Motors have figured out how to fix a battery problem with the Chevrolet Bolt electric hatchback that caused five of them to catch fire.

Battery parts can be recycled without crushing or melting

The proliferation of electric cars, smartphones, and portable devices is leading to an estimated 25 percent increase globally in the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries each year. Many raw materials used in the batteries, such as cobalt, may soon be in short supply. The European Commission is preparing a new battery decree, which would require the recycling of 95 percent of the cobalt in batteries. Yet existing battery recycling methods are far from perfect.

Gaming industry worth $300 bn after pandemic surge: study

The value of the gaming industry has topped $300 billion following a pandemic-fueled surge, with some 2.7 billion players worldwide, a research report said Thursday.

Don't look down: Portugal opens world's longest suspension footbridge

The local mayor is hoping to pull in the tourists, but crossing the longest suspended pedestrian bridge in the world will test anyone's head for heights when it opens officially in northern Portugal on Sunday.

New York police dump controversial robotic dog

New York police will stop using a robotic dog similar to ones that inspired an episode of dystopian Netflix series "Black Mirror" after a backlash over its deployment, the force said Thursday.

Browsing recommended books on Amazon can lead to extremist rabbit hole

Amazon's book recommendation algorithms that help customers discover new titles may have a dark side.

Amazon's profit more than triples as pandemic boom continues

Amazon's pandemic boom isn't showing signs of slowing down.

Amazon to raise pay for 500,000 workers after failed unionization drive

Amazon will increase pay between 50 cents to $3 an hour for more than half a million workers on its fulfillment, delivery and sorting teams, the US tech giant announced Wednesday.

Lufthansa flies into another quarterly loss on virus woes

Lufthansa on Thursday lowered its expectations for a travel rebound in 2021 despite optimism about vaccines, as the coronavirus pandemic pushed the German airline giant into another quarterly loss.

Amazon to cap blockbuster Big Tech earnings reports

A week of blockbuster earnings reports from Big Tech culminates Thursday with Amazon revealing profits from pandemic-revved online shopping and growing reliance on internet-hosted services.

Total's profits surge past pre-pandemic levels

French energy giant Total posted a sharp increase in quarterly profits on Thursday, outstripping pre-pandemic levels as oil prices rebounded from the doldrums of the coronavirus crisis.

China summons internet firms to warn over unfair competition

Financial regulators in China summoned 13 internet companies on Thursday to call for changes to their fintech operations, the central bank said in a notice, as Beijing ramps up scrutiny on monopolistic practices in the country's tech industry.

Nokia back in black in first quarter thanks to 5G

Finnish telecoms giant Nokia said Thursday that it returned to profit in the first quarter, boosted by stronger-than-expected demand for 5G products, but it kept its cautious outlook for 2021.

EXPLAINER: No ransomware silver bullet, crooks out of reach

Political hand-wringing in Washington over Russia's hacking of federal agencies and interference in U.S. politics has mostly overshadowed a worsening digital scourge with a far broader wallop: crippling and dispiriting extortionary ransomware attacks by cybercriminal mafias that mostly operate in foreign safe havens out of the reach of Western law enforcement.

Dutch city fined for Wi-Fi tracking says it will appeal

The Dutch privacy watchdog said Thursday it has fined the eastern city of Enschede for tracking people using mobile phone Wi-Fi signals in a system used to measure crowds. The city's municipality said it is appealing the ruling and 600,000-euro ($730,000) fine.

Canada provides Transat airline with loans up to Can$700 million

The Canadian government has provided Transat with up to Can$700 million (US$570 million) in loans to keep the nation's third-largest carrier flying after a precipitous drop in air travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

Twitter shares crushed after disappointing quarterly update

Twitter shares took a pounding Thursday after the short messaging service reported weaker-than-expected earnings and disappointing user growth.

US fines German software company SAP $8M over Iran sanctions

U.S. prosecutors said Thursday that German software giant SAP will pay more than $8 million in penalties in acknowledging that it illegally exported its products to Iran.

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