Science X Newsletter Friday, May 7

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 7, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A stretchable and suturable fiber sensor to monitor biomechanical tissue strain

Perseverance Mars rover captures video, audio of fourth Ingenuity flight

Supporting mums' mental health strengthens their 'protective' playmate role with children

Head to toe: Study reveals brain activity behind missed penalty kicks

Why do some neurons degenerate and die in Alzheimer's disease, but not others?

Transforming atmospheric carbon into industrially useful materials

PCB contamination in Icelandic orcas: A matter of diet

Rare genetic disease caused by mutations in protein that controls RNA metabolism

Computational model demonstrates similarity in how humans and insects learn about their surroundings

Discovery of a new genetic cause of hearing loss illuminates how inner ear works

Carbon emissions from energy dropped 10% in the EU last year

Artificial intelligence makes great microscopes better than ever

Scrap for cash: Bronze Age witnessed revolution in small change across Europe

Capturing a single photon of light: Harnessing quantum's 'noise problem'

IBM unveils world's first 2 nanometer chip technology, opening a new frontier for semiconductors

Physics news

Capturing a single photon of light: Harnessing quantum's 'noise problem'

Scientists at Raytheon BBN Technologies have developed a new way to detect a single photon, or particle of light—a development with big applications for sensors, communications and exponentially more powerful quantum computer processors.

Research: The new English Premier League soccer ball more stable, drags more

Scientists from the Faculty of Health and Sports Sciences at the University of Tsukuba used aerodynamics experiments to empirically test the flight properties of a new four-panel soccer ball adopted by the English Premier League this year. Based on projectile and wind-tunnel data, they computed the drag and side forces and found that the new ball was marginally more stable than previous versions but may not fly as far. This work may help improve the design of future sports equipment.

Hologram experts can now create real-life images that move in the air

They may be tiny weapons, but Brigham Young University's holography research group has figured out how to create lightsabers—green for Yoda and red for Darth Vader, naturally—with actual luminous beams rising from them.

Chiral Faraday effect breakthrough, thanks to helices made of nickel

Physicists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have for the first time been able to prove a long-predicted but as yet unconfirmed fundamental effect. In Faraday chiral anisotropy, the propagation characteristics of light waves are changed simultaneously by the natural and magnetic-field induced material properties of the medium through which the light travels. The researchers obtained proof that this is the case by conducting experiments using nickel helices at the nanometer scale. Their findings have now been published in the academic journal Physical Review Letters.

Understanding the thermodynamic cost of timekeeping

Clocks are essential building blocks of modern technology, from computers to GPS receivers. They are also essentially engines, irreversibly consuming resources in order to generate accurate ticks. But what resources have to be expended to achieve a desired accuracy? In our latest study, published in Physical Review X, we answer this question by measuring, for the first time, the entropy generated by a minimal clock.

Astronomy and Space news

Perseverance Mars rover captures video, audio of fourth Ingenuity flight

For the first time, a spacecraft on another planet has recorded the sounds of a separate spacecraft. NASA's Perseverance Mars rover used one of its two microphones to listen as the Ingenuity helicopter flew for the fourth time on April 30, 2021. A new video combines footage of the solar-powered helicopter taken by Perseverance's Mastcam-Z imager with audio from a microphone belonging to the rover's SuperCam laser instrument.

Star formation is triggered by cloud-cloud collisions, study finds

Stars form by the gravitational contraction of clouds of gas in space and can have various masses. Massive stars, together with many other stars, may form a huge star cluster (a group of more than 10,000 stars). The formation of such a star cluster requires the rapid packing of enormous amounts of gas and other materials into a small space, but the mechanism by which this occurs has yet to be clarified.

Supernovae twins open up new possibilities for precision cosmology

Cosmologists have found a way to double the accuracy of measuring distances to supernova explosions—one of their tried-and-true tools for studying the mysterious dark energy that is making the universe expand faster and faster. The results from the Nearby Supernova Factory (SNfactory) collaboration, led by Greg Aldering of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), will enable scientists to study dark energy with greatly improved precision and accuracy, and provide a powerful crosscheck of the technique across vast distances and time. The findings will also be central to major upcoming cosmology experiments that will use new ground and space telescopes to test alternative explanations of dark energy.

Planet formation may start earlier than previously thought

On their long journey to form planets, dust grains may coalesce with each other much earlier than previously thought, simulations by RIKEN astrophysicists suggest1. This may mean revisiting conventional theories of planet formation.

A barred galaxy's massive molecular inflow

Large amounts of gas are sometimes funneled to a galaxy's nuclear regions, with profound consequences. The gas triggers starburst activity and can also feed the supermassive black hole, converting it into an active galactic nucleus (AGN); indeed the supermassive black holes in AGN are thought to gain most of their mass in these accretion events. Eventually, outward pressure from supernovae, shocks, and/or AGN activity terminate the inflow. Galaxy mergers are thought to be one mechanism capable of triggering these massive inflows by disrupting the medium. A less dramatic cause may result from gas flows induced by a combination of galactic rotation and the gravitational instabilities generated by galactic bars, the elongated central structures (composed of stars) found in numerous spiral galaxies including the Milky Way.

"I felt really heavy:" astronauts describe returning to Earth on SpaceX capsule

Four astronauts just returned from the International Space Station described on Thursday their reentry into Earth's atmosphere and ocean splashdown after more than 160 days in space.

US not planning to shoot down errant Chinese rocket: defense chief

The US military has no plans to shoot down an out -of-control Chinese rocket now hurtling towards Earth, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday.

China says 'extremely low' risk of damage from rocket debris

China said Friday the risk of damage from a rocket falling back to Earth was "extremely low", after the United States warned it could crash down on to an inhabited area.

Coldplay beam new song into space in chat with French astronaut

Coldplay gave new meaning to the idea of a single launch, playing new song "Higher Power" for the first time during a video link-up with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Image: First Ariane 6 fairing at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana

Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana is carrying out combined tests to prepare for the arrival of Ariane 6, Europe's next generation heavy-lift launch vehicle.

NASA's new chief big on climate, hedges on 2024 moon landing

NASA's new administrator is big on tackling climate and diversifying the agency's workforce, but hedging on whether the U.S. can put astronauts on the moon by 2024.

China's rocket out of control but risk of damage low, say experts

China's rogue rocket is in an uncontrolled free-fall towards Earth and no one knows where or exactly when it will burn through Earth's atmosphere, but the risk of debris hitting an inhabited area remains very small, experts told AFP Friday.

NASA Wallops May 8 rocket launch may be visible in eastern United States

A mission to explore energy transport in space using a NASA suborbital sounding rocket launching May 8, 2021, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia may provide a brief light show for residents of the eastern United States and Bermuda.

Technology news

A stretchable and suturable fiber sensor to monitor biomechanical tissue strain

Implantable electronics are among the most promising healthcare technologies, as they can help to remotely monitor specific biological processes associated with a patient's health. While researchers have developed a variety of implantable devices over the past decade or so, existing technologies have several limitations that can prevent their widespread use in clinical settings.

IBM unveils world's first 2 nanometer chip technology, opening a new frontier for semiconductors

IBM has unveiled a breakthrough in semiconductor design and process with the development of the world's first chip with 2 nanometer (nm) nanosheet technology. Semiconductors play critical roles in everything from computing, to appliances, to communication devices, transportation systems, and critical infrastructure.

Complex passwords aren't always best

Research from James Cook University shows increasingly complex website password restrictions often leave users frustrated and lead to poor password security.

3D detectors measure social distancing to help fight COVID-19

A team of EPFL researchers has repurposed an algorithm they initially developed for self-driving cars to help people comply with social distancing requirements. Their program, which works with a camera, can detect whether individuals are maintaining the right distance to prevent infection—without collecting any personal data. It could be useful for public transport systems, in shops and restaurants, and even in factories.

Researchers develop artificial intelligence that can detect sarcasm in social media

Computer science researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a sarcasm detector.

Overcoming tab overload: Researchers develop tool to better manage browser tabs

If you are reading this, chances are you have several other tabs open in your browser that you mean to get to eventually.

Can energy-efficient federated learning save the world?

Training the artificial intelligence models that underpin web search engines, power smart assistants and enable driverless cars consumes megawatts of energy and generates worrying carbon dioxide emissions. But new ways of training these models are proven to be greener.

Check Point Research detects privacy flaw on Qualcomm's mobile station modems

Check Point Research (CPR) has identified a security flaw in the Qualcomm chip of the mobile station modems (MSM) used in cellular communication for over 40 percent of phones worldwide. If exploited, a hacker could use the vulnerability to infect Android OS with unseen, malicious code, thereby providing them access to user audio conversations as well as SMS threads and call history.

Improvements to free-space optical networks enable wireless transmission in urban settings

Free-space optical (FSO) communications has the potential for wide use in the license-free, interference-free transmission of data in unenclosed areas. By using laser beams to propagate through an open-air medium, FSO transmission eliminates the need for wire links.

Study identifies risk factors for standard motorist injuries, deaths

When a person involved in a motor vehicle crash is brought to an emergency department, the details surrounding their injuries are documented from the perspective of treatment. Details of how the injury occurred usually are not.

Improving grid reliability in the face of extreme events

The nation's power grid remains vulnerable to disruption from extreme events including wildfires, severe storms, and cyberattacks. Variable generation resources and load volatility also present operational challenges to grid stability. To mitigate disruptions before they snowball, grid planners and operators must be able to see these events coming and understand their potential impacts on grid reliability.

Where should our digital data go after we die? Study explores possibilities

People want control over what personal digital data is passed along after they die, along with tools to make it easier to do so, according to a new case study by computer science researchers at the University of British Columbia.

Spatial sciences student maps NYC's successful move to outdoor dining

When New York City announced it would be greatly expanding outdoor dining in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, questions abounded. How was a city clogged with cars and buses, where the sidewalks are too narrow for people to carry unfurled umbrellas, going to suddenly accommodate thousands of tables and chairs in its preciously limited outdoor space?

Perovskite solar modules: High efficiency on a large surface area

From cell to module without loss of efficiency: This is one of the main challenges of perovskite photovoltaics. Researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have now managed to produce perovskite solar modules with minimum scaling loss. For this purpose, they combined laser-based series interconnections with vacuum processing of all layers of the solar cell. They achieved an 18 percent efficiency on an area of four square centimeters—a world record for vacuum-processed perovskite solar modules.

WhatsApp delays enforcing new privacy terms

Facebook-owned messaging colossus WhatsApp on Friday retreated again from its plan to force users to accept new terms which critics said could expand data collection from its two billion users around the world.

Twitter lets people leave tips for some tweeters

Twitter on Thursday began letting some users add virtual tip jars to accounts so people can support their tweets by tossing in money.

Facebook panel punt on Trump puts onus back on Zuckerberg

Facebook's top executives set up an independent oversight board to avoid having to make tough decisions about explosive content—but the panel's first major ruling on Donald Trump sent the ball right back into Mark Zuckerberg's court.

Japan Airlines logs $2.6 billion loss over pandemic

Japan Airlines posted an annual net loss of $2.6 billion Friday but did not release a forecast for the current financial year, citing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.

Video: More certainty for deep learning

Deep learning, machine learning and artificial intelligence offer significant opportunities to solve the challenges of different disciplines and make our lives easier in many ways.

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Around the Web

Dark Matter? Getting Warmer...
Massive exoplanets could be trapping dark matter in their cores, and glowing with excess heat as a result, Max Levy reports for Wired. Measuring exoplanets' heat is just one of the search strategies that physicists are turning to after repeated experimental failures to detect the prime dark matter candidate, Charlie Wood reported for Quanta last year.

Viral Remix
Dozens of viruses use an alternative genetic alphabet, swapping the A for a "Z," perhaps as camouflage against bacterial enemies, John Timmer reports for Ars Technica. Nature seems to prefer a four-letter alphabet, but it's not the only way. Biologists are expanding genetic systems to pack in more information, Jordana Cepelewicz reported for Quanta in 2018.
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