Science X Newsletter Monday, Jun 14

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 14, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Study explores the potential of using a humanoid robot to entertain the elderly

Early migrations of Siberians to America tracked using bacterial population structures

Toxin-adapted fish pass down epigenetic mutations to freshwater offspring

Rocky mountain forests now burning more than any point in past 2,000 years

Trions exhibit novel characteristics in moiré superlattices

Radio sources in the galaxy cluster ClG 0217+70 inspected by astronomers

Boundary of heliosphere mapped for the first time

Dark matter is slowing the spin of the Milky Way's galactic bar

Microbes in ocean play important role in moderating Earth's temperature

'Space pups': Mouse sperm stored on ISS produces healthy young

Trip to space with Jeff Bezos sells for $28 mn

Barks in the night lead to the discovery of new species

Pacific islanders likely found Antarctica first: study

Study presents new species of bizarre, extinct lizard previously misidentified as a bird

Stents inspired by paper-cutting art can deliver drugs to the GI tract

Physics news

Toward a daily-use deep UV light source for sterilization and disinfection

Researchers from the Graduate School of Engineering and the Center for Quantum Information and Quantum Biology at Osaka University unveiled a new solid state second-harmonic generation (SHG) device that converts infrared radiation into blue light. This work may lead to a practical daily-use deep ultraviolet light source for sterilization and disinfection.

Modeling the friction between pages in a book

It all started with a shaky washing machine. Pedro Reis, head of the Flexible Structures Laboratory at EPFL's School of Engineering, rolled up a piece of fabric and placed it under the machine to stop it from moving. After he saw how well the rolled-up fabric worked as a vibration damper, he got to thinking. He spoke with Samuel Poincloux, a postdoc at his lab, about his idea and they soon realized that the physics behind a piece of rolled-up material undergoing deformation is actually quite non-trivial. They set out to model the process, but given all the different variables involved, they decided to first simplify the problem. Instead of using rolled-up fabric, they started with a layered object possessing a similar geometry: a book. "For our experiments, we used flexible plastic sheets that we stacked up like the pages in a book, so that we could adjust and measure their collective properties," says Poincloux.

Researchers discover key cause of energy loss in spintronic materials

A study led by University of Minnesota Twin Cities researchers uncovered a property of magnetic materials that will allow engineers to develop more efficient spintronic devices in the future. Spintronics focuses on using the magnetic "spin" property of electrons instead of their charge, which improves the speed and efficiency of devices used for computing and data storage.

Insulators turn up the heat on quantum bits

Physicists have long suspected that dielectric materials may significantly disrupt ion-trap quantum computers. Now, researchers led by Tracy Northup have developed a new method to quantify this source of error for the first time. For the future operation of quantum computers with very many quantum bits, such noise sources need to be eliminated already during the design process if possible.

New combination of materials provides progress toward quantum computing

The future of quantum computing may depend on the further development and understanding of semiconductor materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs). These atomically thin materials develop unique and useful electrical, mechanical, and optical properties when they are manipulated by pressure, light, or temperature.

Researchers create switchable mirrors from liquid metal

Researchers have developed a way to dynamically switch the surface of liquidmetal between reflective and scattering states. This technology could one day be used to create electrically controllable mirrors or illumination devices.

How do electrons behave in quantum critical ferromagnets?

In a classical second-order phase transition, condensed matter systems acquire long-range order upon cooling below the transition temperature, and the properties near the transition are driven by thermal fluctuations. These behaviors have been long explained by the Landau theory of phase transitions, which leads to the notion of universality, whereby systems with very different microscopic constituents exhibit certain universal macroscopic behaviors close to a phase transition.

Scientists expose the cold heart of landfalling hurricanes

Hurricanes are powerful weather events born in the open sea. Fueled by moisture from the warm ocean, hurricanes can intensify in strength, move vast distances across the water, and ultimately unleash their destruction upon land. But what happens to hurricanes after they've made landfall remains an open question.

Near-field routing of hyperbolic metamaterials

Near-field light is invisible light at the subwavelength scale. Harnessed for a variety of practical applications, such as wireless power transfer, near-field light has an increasingly significant role in the development of miniature on-chip photonic devices. Controlling the direction of near-field light propagation has been an ongoing challenge that is of fundamental interest in photonics physics and can significantly advance a variety of applications.

PCF-based 'parallel reactors' unveil collective matter-light analogies of soliton molecules

Optical solitons are nonlinear optical wave-packets that can maintain their profile during propagation, even in the presence of moderate perturbations. They offer useful applications in optical communications, all-optical information processing and ultrafast laser techniques.

Opto-mechanical non-reciprocity in fiber

The internet era that we live in depends completely on the transfer of vast amounts of information over optical fibers. Optical fibers are literally everywhere. In fact, the overall length of optical fibers installed on our planet is sufficient to reach planet Uranus and back. However, the transfer of information from point A to point B is not enough. The information that we send and receive must also be processed. Light waves take up an increasing role in addressing that task.

Anomalous weak values via a single photon detection

In the field of quantum measurement, weak values, introduced in 1988 by Aharonov, Albert and Vaidman (AAV), represent a most intriguing and puzzling paradigm, with many properties in sharp contrast to traditional (projective) quantum measurements.

Astronomy and Space news

Radio sources in the galaxy cluster ClG 0217+70 inspected by astronomers

Using the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR) and the Very Large Array (VLA), astronomers have conducted radio observations of a galaxy cluster known as ClG 0217+70 and obtained important information regarding giant radio sources in this cluster; one of them appears to be the most extended radio relic so far identified. The finding is reported in a paper published June 1 on

Boundary of heliosphere mapped for the first time

For the first time, the boundary of the heliosphere has been mapped, giving scientists a better understanding of how solar and interstellar winds interact.

Dark matter is slowing the spin of the Milky Way's galactic bar

The spin of the Milky Way's galactic bar, which is made up of billions of clustered stars, has slowed by about a quarter since its formation, according to a new study by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of Oxford.

Trip to space with Jeff Bezos sells for $28 mn

A mystery bidder paid $28 million at auction Saturday for a seat alongside Jeff Bezos on board the first crewed spaceflight of the billionaire's company Blue Origin next month.

The sun's clock: New calculations support and expand planetary hypothesis

Solar physicists around the world have long been searching for satisfactory explanations for the sun's many cyclical, overlapping activity fluctuations. In addition to the most famous, approximately 11-year "Schwabe cycle", the sun also exhibits longer fluctuations, ranging from hundreds to thousands of years. It follows, for example, the "Gleissberg cycle" (about 85 years), the "Suess-de Vries cycle" (about 200 years) and the quasi-cycle of "Bond events" (about 1500 years), each named after their discoverers. It is undisputed that the solar magnetic field controls these activity fluctuations.

First-of-its-kind study finds lightning impacts edge of space in ways not previously observed

Solar flares jetting out from the sun and thunderstorms generated on Earth impact the planet's ionosphere in different ways, which have implications for the ability to conduct long range communications.

Image: Hubble sees a spiral in good company

This image, taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, features the spiral galaxy NGC 4680. Two other galaxies, at the far right and bottom center of the image, flank NGC 4680. NGC 4680 enjoyed a wave of attention in 1997, as it played host to a supernova explosion known as SN 1997bp. Australian amateur astronomer Robert Evans identified the supernova and has identified an extraordinary 42 supernova explosions.

What mission could detect oceans at Uranus' moons?

Exploration of ocean worlds has become a hot topic of late, primarily due to their role as a potential harbor for alien life. Moons that have confirmed subsurface oceans garner much of the attention, such as Enceladus and Europa. But they may not be the only ones. Uranus' larger moons—Miranda, Ariel and Umbriel could potentially also have subsurface oceans even farther out into the solar system. We just haven't sent any instruments close enough to be able to check. Now, a team led by Dr. Corey Cochrane at NASA's Jet Propulsion laboratory has done some preliminary work to show that a relatively simple flyby of the Uranian system with an averagely sensitive magnetometer could provide the data needed to determine if those larger moons harbor subsurface oceans. This work is another step down the path of expanding what we think of as habitable environments in the solar system.

NASA approves development of asteroid-hunting Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope

NASA has approved the Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope (NEO Surveyor) to move to the next phase of mission development after a successful mission review, authorizing the mission to move forward into Preliminary Design (known as Key Decision Point-B). The infrared space telescope is designed to help advance NASA's planetary defense efforts by expediting our ability to discover and characterize most of the potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth's orbit, collectively known as near-earth objects, or NEOs.

Black holes help with star birth

Research combining systematic observations with cosmological simulations has found that, surprisingly, black holes can help certain galaxies form new stars. On scales of galaxies, the role of supermassive black holes for star formation had previously been seen as destructive—active black holes can strip galaxies of the gas that galaxies need to form new stars. The new results, published in the journal Nature, showcase situations where active black holes can, instead, "clear the way" for galaxies that orbit inside galaxy groups or clusters, keeping those galaxies from having their star formation disrupted as they fly through the surrounding intergalactic gas.

Technology news

Study explores the potential of using a humanoid robot to entertain the elderly

Humanoid robots have the potential of assisting humans in a variety of settings, ranging from home environments to malls, schools and healthcare facilities. Some roboticists have been specifically investigating the potential of social robots as tools to offer care and companionship to the elderly population.

Smartphone camera can illuminate bacteria causing acne, dental plaques

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that uses smartphone-derived images to identify potentially harmful bacteria on skin and in oral cavities. Their approach, outlined in a paper published in the May issue of Optics and Lasers in Engineering, can visually identify microbes on skin contributing to acne and slow wound healing, as well as bacteria in the oral cavity that can cause gingivitis and dental plaques.

A novel approach to wirelessly power wearable devices

Advancements in wearable technology are reshaping the way we live, work and play, and also how healthcare is delivered and received. Wearables that have weaved their way into everyday life include smart watches and wireless earphones, while in the healthcare setting, common devices include wearable injectors, electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring patches, listening aids, and more.

New research shines light on perovskite solar cell performance

The potential of a class of materials called perovskites, to enable solar cells to better absorb sunlight for energy production, is widely known. However, this potential has yet to be fully realized, particularly under real-world operating conditions.

Amazon develops new technologies to enhance employee safety

Teams at the Amazon Robotics and Advanced Technology labs in both Seattle, Washington, and northern Italy have begun diligently testing out new technology they hope will improve safety for employees by carrying out tasks such as transportation of carts, packages and totes through Amazon facilities.

Scientists discover how oxygen loss saps a lithium-ion battery's voltage

When lithium ions flow in and out of a battery electrode during charging and discharging, a tiny bit of oxygen seeps out and the battery's voltage—a measure of how much energy it delivers—fades an equally tiny bit. The losses mount over time, and can eventually sap the battery's energy storage capacity by 10-15%.

GM to recall some 2021 cars for faulty air bag warning light

The U.S. government's highway safety agency approved a request by General Motors to recall four 2021 vehicle makes due to a malfunctioning air bag warning light.

McDonald's latest company to be hit by a data breach

McDonald's has become the latest company to be hit by a data breach after unauthorized activity on its network exposed the personal data of some customers in South Korea and Taiwan.

US to seek automated braking requirement for heavy trucks

In a reversal from Trump administration policies, U.S. auto safety regulators say they will move to require or set standards for automatic emergency braking systems on new heavy trucks.

Bills that could force Big Tech breakups unveiled in House

A group of House lawmakers put forward a sweeping legislative package Friday that could curb the market power of Big Tech companies and force Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple to sever their dominant platforms from their other lines of business.

Surf and bitcoin, El Salvador beach town rides crypto wave

The beach town of El Zonte on El Salvador's Pacific coast is a laid back surfer's haven with white beaches, palm trees, and a small population of 3,000 people.

Late-night car crashes drop as partygoers Uber home: US study

The light bulb moment for neurosurgeons came as they conducted patient rounds one morning in 2017.

Gorilla tactics: Berlin delivery riders take on $1B startup

Dozens of workers gathered outside of one of Berlin's most-celebrated startups, the grocery delivery company Gorillas, to protest the firing hours earlier of a colleague.

Microsoft bolsters video game line-up as Xbox turns 20

Microsoft unveiled Sunday a batch of new titles for Xbox at the world's premier video game trade show, including award-winning sensation "Hades" and long-time hit "Halo".

Toshiba apologises to shareholders after vote probe

Toshiba apologised to shareholders Monday and said it would remove two directors after a probe found the Japanese conglomerate had sought government help to try and influence a boardroom vote.

French nuclear firm seeks to fix 'performance issue' at China plant

A French nuclear firm said Monday it was working to resolve a "performance issue" at a plant it part-owns in China's southern Guangdong province following a US media report of a potential leak there.

Kirigami-inspired stent offers new drug delivery method for tubular organs

Diseases that affect tubular structures in the body, such as the gastrointestinal (GI) system, vasculature and airway, present a unique challenge for delivering local treatments. Vertically oriented organs, such as the esophagus, and labyrinthine structures, such as the intestine, are difficult to coat with therapeutics, and in many cases, patients are instead prescribed systemic drugs that can have immunosuppressive effects. To improve drug delivery for diseases that affect tubular organs, like eosinophilic esophagitis and inflammatory bowel disease, a multidisciplinary team from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) designed a stretchable stent based on the principles of kirigami that is capable of supporting rapid deposition of drug depots. The research is described in Nature Materials.

Biomimetic resonant acoustic sensor detecting far-distant voices accurately to hit the market

A KAIST research team led by Professor Keon Jae Lee from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering has developed a bioinspired flexible piezoelectric acoustic sensor with multi-resonant ultrathin piezoelectric membrane mimicking the basilar membrane of the human cochlea. The flexible acoustic sensor has been miniaturized for embedding into smartphones and the first commercial prototype is ready for accurate and far-distant voice detection.

Lordstown Motors' rough road continues; CEO and CFO are out

The top two executives at Lordstown Motors have resigned as problems at the Ohio electric truck startup mount.

China nuclear plant works to fix issue, ops 'within safety parameters' (Update)

Operators of a nuclear power plant in southern China are fixing a "performance issue" at the facility, but the gas emissions carried out to do that are within acceptable limits, its French part-owner said Monday following a US media report of a potential leak.

Qualcomm unveils 7 new Internet of Things chips to power smart grocery carts, remote work tech

Qualcomm has been working for years to get its mobile technology into other products besides smartphones—think drones, laptops and smart security cameras.

Airline industry sees long-term rebound for sector

After flying into the financial turbulence of the Covid pandemic, the airline sector expects passenger traffic to take off despite concerns about the industry's impact on climate change.

Rare earth metals at the heart of China's rivalry with US, Europe

What if China were to cut off the United States and Europe from access to rare minerals that are essential to electric vehicles, wind turbines and drones?

Making sure ships, other marine craft find their way

Nearly everything in our daily lives—from the electronic gizmos we all use, to the coffee we drink and the bananas we eat—relies on shipping. Ships worldwide transport roughly 11 billion tons of goods annually, which works out to about 1.5 tons for every person on the planet.

Is this the beginning of the end for retail websites? A professional perspective

For many years, the death knell for high street shopping has been sounded by the pioneers of online. The high street brands responded with some success by counterbalancing their "bricks and mortar" realm with a virtual world of e-commerce. New work published in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, suggests that the end may well be in sight for retail websites.

Germany seeks to fine operators of Telegram messenger app

German authorities have launched proceedings against Telegram that could see the messenger app's operators fined for failing to abide by laws requiring social media sites to police their users' actions.

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