Science X Newsletter Thursday, May 20

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for May 20, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Neutrons piece together 40-year puzzle behind iron-iodide's mysterious magnetism

Solving a natural riddle of water filtration

Ultra-sensitive light detector gives self-driving tech a jolt

Self-propelled particles can condense by turning and moving toward crowded areas

Radar tracking uncovers mystery of where honeybee drones have sex

New 96 million-year-old fossil represents oldest side-necked turtle in north america

Global pollen samples reveal vegetation rate of change

Brain stimulation evoking sense of touch improves control of robotic arm

New material could harvest water all day long

Robotics group announces an ostrich-like, multi-purpose bot called Cassie

An updated understanding of how to synthesize value-added chemicals

Moon mission delays could increase risks from solar storms

Technique uses fluctuations in video pixels to measure energy use of developing embryos

Invasive species costing Africa $3.66 tn a year: study

World's largest iceberg breaks off Antarctica: European Space Agency

Physics news

Neutrons piece together 40-year puzzle behind iron-iodide's mysterious magnetism

Advanced materials with more novel properties are almost always developed by adding more elements to the list of ingredients. But quantum research suggests some simpler materials might already have advanced properties that scientists just couldn't see, until now.

Ultra-sensitive light detector gives self-driving tech a jolt

Realizing the potential of self-driving cars hinges on technology that can quickly sense and react to obstacles and other vehicles in real time. Engineers from The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Virginia created a new first-of-its-kind light detecting device that can more accurately amplify weak signals bouncing off of faraway objects than current technology allows, giving autonomous vehicles a fuller picture of what's happening on the road.

Self-propelled particles can condense by turning and moving toward crowded areas

We observe water vapor condensing into liquid droplets on a daily basis, be it as dew drops on leaves or as droplets on the lid of a cooking pot. Since the work of Dutch physicist J.D. van der Waals in the 19th century, condensation has been understood to result from attractive forces between the molecules of a fluid.

The data-driven future of extreme physics

By applying modern machine learning and data science methods to "extreme" plasma physics, researchers can gain insight into our universe and find clues about creating a limitless amount of energy.

Clocks that tell time more accurately use more energy, new research reveals

Clocks pervade our lives, from the cellular clocks inside our bodies to the atomic clocks that underlie satellite navigation.

An inconstant Hubble constant? Research suggests fix to cosmological cornerstone

More than 90 years ago, astronomer Edwin Hubble observed the first hint of the rate at which the universe expands, called the Hubble constant.

Research team presents a new type of particle accelerator

Since they are far more compact than today's accelerators, which can be kilometers long, plasma accelerators are considered as a promising technology for the future. An international research group has now made significant progress in the further development of this approach: With two complementary experiments at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit├Ąt Munich (LMU), the team was able to combine two different plasma technologies for the first time and build a novel hybrid accelerator. The concept could advance accelerator development and, in the long term, become the basis of highly brilliant X-ray sources for research and medicine, as the experts describe in the journal Nature Communications.

We know the cost of free choice and locality—in physics and elsewhere

Do we have free choice or are our decisions predetermined? Is physical reality local, or does what we do here and now have an immediate influence on events elsewhere? The answers to these questions are sought by physicists in the Bell inequalities. It turns out that free choice and local realism can be skilfully measured and compared. The results obtained reveal surprising relationships of a fundamental and universal nature, going far beyond quantum mechanics itself.

Research team develops new method for studying atomic structures in material surfaces

Chemical reactions, such as those that occur when charging and discharging a battery, take place primarily on surfaces and at interfaces. While it is very easy to study the macroscopic products of a reaction, it has so far been difficult to gain a more accurate picture of the course of chemical reactions at the atomic level. This requires measurement methods that allow observations to be made on the extremely short time scales on which chemical reactions take place.

Researchers flip the motion of electrons on ultrafast time scales without slowing them down

To change the direction of motion of a massive object, such as a car, it has to be slowed down and brought to a complete standstill first. Even the tiniest charge carriers in the universe, the electrons, follow this rule. For future ultrafast electronic components, however, it would be helpful to circumvent the electron's inertia. Photons, the quanta of light, show how this could work. Photons do not carry mass and can thus move at the highest possible velocity, the speed of light. For a change of direction, they do not need to slow down; when they are reflected from a mirror, for instance, they abruptly change their direction without a stopover. Such behavior is highly desirable for future electronics because the direction of currents could be switched infinitely swiftly and the clock rate of processors could be massively increased. Yet, photons do not carry electric charge, which is a prerequisite for electronic devices.

Thin is now in to turn terahertz polarization

It's always good when your hard work reflects well on you.

Bell's theorem refuted

Einstein said that the wave function does not describe the physical state of a single object, but the possible states of an ensemble. He also said that quantum mechanics is not complete; there must be hidden variables. Not many believed him, but this was the starting point for me when I came in touch with Bell's theorem.

Obtaining metal surfaces with ultralow reflectivity

To fabricate micro/nano structures on metal surfaces, various technologies have been proposed, including chemical etching, mechanical grooving, reactive ion etching, and long-pulse laser processing.

Opening up possibilities with open-top optofluidic device

Microfluidic technologies have seen great advances over the past few decades in addressing applications such as biochemical analysis, pharmaceutical development, and point-of-care diagnostics. Miniaturization of biochemical operations performed on lab-on-a-chip microfluidic platforms benefit from reduced sample, reagent, and waste volumes, as well as increased parallelization and automation. This allows for more cost-effective operations along with higher throughput and sensitivity for faster and more efficient sample analysis and detection.

Astronomy and Space news

Moon mission delays could increase risks from solar storms

Planned missions to return humans to the Moon need to hurry up to avoid hitting one of the busiest periods for extreme space weather, according to scientists conducting the most in-depth ever look at solar storm timing.

NASA AI technology could speed up fault diagnosis process in spacecraft

New artificial intelligence technology could speed up physical fault diagnosis in spacecraft and spaceflight systems, improving mission efficiency by reducing down-time.

New FAST discoveries shed light on pulsars

Using the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), a research team led by Prof. Han Jinlin from National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) has discovered 201 pulsars, including many very faint pulsars, 40 millisecond pulsars (MSPs), and 16 pulsars in binaries.

Origins of life researchers develop a new ecological biosignature

When scientists hunt for life, they often look for biosignatures, chemicals or phenomena that indicate the existence of present or past life. Yet it isn't necessarily the case that the signs of life on Earth are signs of life in other planetary environments. How do we find life in systems that do not resemble ours?

Chandra discoveries in 3D available on new platform

A collection of the 3D objects from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is now available on a new platform from the Smithsonian Institution. This will allow greater access to these unique 3D models and prints for institutions like libraries and museums as well as the scientific community and individuals in the public.

Not all theories can explain the black hole M87*

As first pointed out by the German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild, black holes bend space-time to an extreme degree due to their extraordinary concentration of mass, and heat up the matter in their vicinity so that it begins to glow. New Zealand physicist Roy Kerr showed rotation can change the black hole's size and the geometry of its surroundings. The 'edge' of a black hole is known as the event horizon, the boundary around the concentration of mass beyond which light and matter cannot escape and which makes the black hole black. Black holes, theory predicts, can be described by a handful of properties: mass, spin, and a variety of possible charges.

ALMA discovers the most ancient galaxy with spiral morphology

Analyzing data obtained with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), researchers found a galaxy with a spiral morphology by only 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang. This is the most ancient galaxy of its kind ever observed. The discovery of a galaxy with a spiral structure at such an early stage is an important clue to solving the classic questions of astronomy: "How and when did spiral galaxies form?"

Rare 4000-year comets can cause meteor showers on Earth

Comets that circle the Sun in very elongated orbits spread their debris so thin along their orbit or eject it out of the solar system altogether so that their meteor showers are hard to detect. From a new meteor shower survey published in the journal Icarus, researchers now report that they can detect showers from the debris in the path of comets that pass close to Earth orbit and are known to return as infrequently as once every 4,000 years.

Hubble tracks down fast radio bursts to galaxies' spiral arms

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have traced the locations of five brief, powerful radio blasts to the spiral arms of five distant galaxies.

China delays mission while NASA congratulates on Mars images

China postponed a supply mission to its new space station on Thursday for unspecified technical reasons, while photos sent back from Mars by its newly arrived rover earned plaudits from NASA despite only sporadic contacts between the Chinese and American space programs.

Video: Bringing connectivity to the moon

As international teams across the world forge plans to revisit the moon, ESA is elaborating how best to facilitate this exploration.

Talking to the moon: Europe pitches lunar satellites plan

The European Space Agency presented a vision Thursday to put satellites in orbit around the moon that would facilitate future missions to Earth's closest neighbor.

Technology news

Robotics group announces an ostrich-like, multi-purpose bot called Cassie

Agility Robotics, a branch of Oregon State University, has just revealed a new bipedal robot called Cassie. Unlike the many four-legged and four-wheeled robots currently in existence, Cassie will walk much more like a human. This kind of movement allows for far easier travel across diverse types of terrain while delivering packages or even contributing to disaster relief efforts.

Achieving a national-scale, 100% renewable electric grid

With recently announced federal emissions-reduction targets, a push for national power-sector decarbonization, and plummeting wind and solar costs, the United States is poised to deploy major amounts of renewables, and fast.

Helping robots learn what they can and can't do in new situations

The models that robots use to do tasks work well in the structured environment of the laboratory. Outside the lab, however, even the most sophisticated models may prove inadequate in new situations or in difficult to model tasks, such as working with soft materials like rope and cloth.

The double-down is real: Correcting online falsehoods might make matters worse

So you thought the problem of false information on social media could not be any worse? Allow us to respectfully offer evidence to the contrary.

Improving the way videos are organized

At any given moment, many thousands of new videos are being posted to sites like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. An increasing number of those videos are being recorded and streamed live. But tech and media companies still struggle to understand what's going in all that content.

Using a virtual linkage representation algorithm to improve functionally of a robot hand

A team of researchers at Yale University has developed a new kind of algorithm to improve the functionally of a robot hand. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the group describes their algorithm and then demonstrate, via videos, how it can be used.

Solid-state batteries line up for better performance

Solid-state batteries pack a lot of energy into a small space, but their electrodes are not good at keeping in touch with their electrolytes. Liquid electrolytes reach every nook and cranny of an electrode to spark energy, but liquids take up space without storing energy and fail over time. Researchers are now putting solid electrolytes in touch with electrodes made of strategically arranged materials—at the atomic level—and the results are helping drive better solid-state battery technologies.

Compound commonly found in candles lights the way to grid-scale energy storage

A compound used widely in candles offers promise for a much more modern energy challenge—storing massive amounts of energy to be fed into the electric grid as the need arises.

Europe bids to join NFT art auction craze

Europe has joined the craze for NFTs, virtual art pieces inspired by cryptocurrencies that turn the impermanence of the internet into a prized collector's item to be bought and sold like a Rembrandt.

Researchers explore e-scooter sharing to serve short-distance transit trips

A new study by scientists from Future Urban Mobility (FM), an Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT's research enterprise in Singapore, has found that e-scooters, while considered by some to be a hazard to pedestrians and others, provide an important alternative mode of transit, particularly in urban areas. This study sheds important light on the growing utility of e-scooters as a micro-mobility service in Singapore, and will also inform operators, planners, and policymakers on how best to harness and regulate this growing mode of mobility.

Ethiopia's blockchain deal is a watershed moment for the technology, and for Africa

At the launch of bitcoin in 2009 the size of the potential of the underlying technology, the blockchain, was not fully appreciated.

Smartwatches are a bigger distraction to drivers than mobile phones

An estimated 73.4 million people will be using wearable technologies in the United States by 2022. Wearables are smart electronics that can be worn on different parts of the body. The most popular smart device is the smartwatch.

Proposed method for evaluating user trust in artificial intelligence systems

Every time you speak to a virtual assistant on your smartphone, you are talking to an artificial intelligence—an AI that can, for example, learn your taste in music and make song recommendations that improve based on your interactions. However, AI also assists us with more risk-fraught activities, such as helping doctors diagnose cancer. These are two very different scenarios, but the same issue permeates both: How do we humans decide whether or not to trust a machine's recommendations?

Launch of world's most powerful tidal turbine

The world's most powerful tidal turbine has taken the next step towards deployment in the Orkney Islands, an archipelago off the north-eastern coast of Scotland and home to some of the strongest tidal currents across the globe. Constructed by Scottish engineering company Orbital Marine Power, the so-calledNO2 will ultimately be connected to the local electricity grid to help provide clean and sustainable energy to the communities of Orkney.

New research investigates how soil changes the danger of a buried IED

What happens when a bomb explodes? A lot of testing has been done over the years to answer that question about huge bombs, but there is much less understanding when it comes to small bombs—especially when they are buried.

Daimler Truck says batteries, hydrogen are the future

The world's largest truck and bus maker is charting an ambitious zero-emission future and says it's not that far off - despite higher costs and the current lack of support infrastructure.

Twitter revamps rules for verification 'badge'

Twitter said Thursday it was revamping its rules for verified accounts, potentially opening up the coveted blue badge to more users, but with clearer guidelines.

Google's first physical store set to open in New York

Google announced plans Thursday for its first-ever physical retail store, set to open in New York this year, as the tech giant moves increasingly into gadgetry in competition with Apple.

Cool tech, crazy turns: A reporter's take on driverless cars

The annoyed shopper paced around and knocked on the windows of a minivan blocking him from leaving his Costco parking spot. He didn't seem to notice, or care, that there was no one inside.

Snapchat claims 500 mn users amid pandemic-fueled surge

Snapchat, the social network popular with young smartphone users, said Thursday it has 500 million monthly active users amid surging growth in many parts of the world.

Ford, SK Innovation announce US electric battery venture

US auto giant Ford and South Korea's SK Innovation plan to team up to produce battery cells and array modules for electric autos, the companies announced Thursday.

New sensation: pioneering mind-controlled arm restores sense of touch

Imagine being able to control a robotic arm from a distance, using only your mind. Now imagine being able to feel when its fingers grasp an object, as though it were your own hand.

Innovating power generation where 'a river runs through it'

Hydroelectric power provides an alternative to fossil fuels, but not all generation methods are equally clean or economically viable.

EasyJet's first-half net loss widens as virus bites

British airline EasyJet revealed Thursday that first-half net losses deepened as the pandemic ravaged demand, but expressed optimism over the reopening of travel in Europe.

Tycoon boss of TikTok parent to leave post to 'read and daydream'

The boss of the Chinese company behind viral video platform TikTok said Thursday he will leave the role because he lacks managerial skills and preferred "reading and daydreaming" to running the tech giant.

How energy-generating wastewater treatment can handle China's urban population boom

From 2016 to 2020 around 100 million people have moved from the countryside to China's cities. This massive migration to cities means wastewater treatment plant numbers have multiplied to meet demand. At the beginning of the millennium China had around 500 municipal wastewater treatment plants; it now numbers above 4,000.

Global mobile congress to return with over 30,000 people

The Mobile World Congress, the telecom industry's biggest annual gathering, will draw over 30,000 people at a smaller edition in Barcelona next month after the pandemic derailed last year's event, organisers said Thursday.

Zhang Yiming: The billionaire tech visionary behind TikTok

Armed with pioneering AI and a sharp nose for youth trends, Zhang Yiming revolutionized internet video with popular app TikTok and minted himself a fortune.

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