Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jun 17

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 17, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Features of virtual agents affect how humans mimic their facial expressions

The demonstration of hydrodynamic cloaking and shielding at the microscale

Physicists bring human-scale object to near standstill, reaching a quantum state

Ultra-sensitive radiation detectors provide deeper dive into groundwater

'Nanodecoy' therapy binds and neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 virus

Seabird eggs contaminated with cocktail of plastic additives

New drug target found for future and current coronaviruses

A biological blueprint for tough color

Underwater robot offers new insight into mid-ocean 'twilight zone'

New models predict fewer lightning-caused ignitions but bigger wildfires by mid century

Rocket blasts off carrying first Chinese crew to new space station

Facebook AI software able to dig up origins of deepfake images

Disadvantaged neighborhoods see more COVID-19 infections and deaths

Study identifies trigger for 'head-to-tail' axis development in human embryo

Coelacanths may live nearly a century, five times longer than researchers expected

Physics news

The demonstration of hydrodynamic cloaking and shielding at the microscale

Researchers at Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Technische Universit√§t Darmstadt, and IBM Research Europe have recently proposed a new strategy to simultaneously achieve microscale hydrodynamic cloaking and shielding. While the idea of cloaking or shielding objects has been around for some time now, in contrast with other previously developed methods the technique they proposed allows physicists to dynamically switch between these two states.

Physicists bring human-scale object to near standstill, reaching a quantum state

To the human eye, most stationary objects appear to be just that—still, and completely at rest. Yet if we were handed a quantum lens, allowing us to see objects at the scale of individual atoms, what was an apple sitting idly on our desk would appear as a teeming collection of vibrating particles, very much in motion.

Research highlights techniques for studying materials under extreme conditions

The properties of materials under extreme conditions are of key interest to a number of fields, including planetary geophysics, materials science and inertial confinement fusion (ICF). In geophysics, the equation of state of planetary materials such as hydrogen and iron under ultrahigh pressure and density will provide a better understanding of their formation and interior structure.

The absorption of an individual electrons captured on video

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have observed the absorption of a single electron by a levitated droplet with such a magnification that it is visible with the naked eye and can even be measured with a normal millimeter scaled ruler.

Defining the Hund physics landscape of two-orbital systems

Electrons are ubiquitous among atoms, subatomic tokens of energy that can independently change how a system behaves—but they also can change each other. An international research collaboration found that collectively measuring electrons revealed unique and unanticipated findings. The researchers published their results on May 17 in Physical Review Letters.

Giant quantum tornados in a hybrid light-matter system give insight into complex physical phenomena

Researchers from Skoltech and their colleagues from the UK have managed to create a stable giant vortex in interacting polariton condensates, addressing a known challenge in quantized fluid dynamics. The findings open possibilities in creating uniquely structured coherent light sources and exploring many-body physics under unique extreme conditions. The paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.

New invention keeps qubits of light stable at room temperature

Researchers from University of Copenhagen have developed a new technique that keeps quantum bits of light stable at room temperature instead of only working at -270 degrees. Their discovery saves power and money and is a breakthrough in quantum research.

Scientists achieve ultra-fast optical orbiting of nanoparticles at subdiffraction scale

Is it possible to drive nanoparticles to orbit below the light diffraction limit using a Gaussian beam? A recent joint research project reported in Nature Communications says yes.

Novel chirped pulses defy 'conventional wisdom'

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by researchers who pioneered a technique to create ultrashort, yet extremely high-energy laser pulses at the University of Rochester.

Probing the dynamics of photoemission

Almost a century ago, Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Published in 1905, Einstein's theory incorporated the idea that light is made up of particles called photons. When light impinges on matter, the electrons in the sample respond to the input of energy, and the interaction gives rise to what is known as the photoelectric effect. Light quanta (photons) are absorbed by the material and excite the bound electrons. Depending on the wavelength of the light source, this can result in the ejection of electrons. The electronic band structure of the material involved has a significant effect on the timescales of photoemission. Physicists based at Ludwig-Maximilian University (LMU) in Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (MPQ) have now taken a closer look at the phenomenon of photoemission. They measured the influence of the band structure of tungsten on the dynamics of photoelectron emission, and provide theoretical interpretations of their observations.

Vortex, the key to information processing capability: Virtual physical reservoir computing

In recent years, physical reservoir computing, one of the new information processing technologies, has attracted much attention. This is a physical implementation version of reservoir computing, which is a learning method derived from recurrent neural network (RNN) theory. It implements computation by regarding the physical system as a huge RNN, outsourcing the main operations to the dynamics of the physical system that forms the physical reservoir. It has the advantage of obtaining optimization instantaneously with limited computational resources by adjusting linear and static readout weightings between the output and a physical reservoir without requiring optimization of the weightings by back propagation.

Astronomy and Space news

Rocket blasts off carrying first Chinese crew to new space station

The first astronauts for China's new space station blasted off Thursday for the country's longest crewed mission to date, a landmark step in establishing Beijing as a major space power.

Juno detects Jupiter's highest-energy ions

Jupiter's planetary radiation environment is the most intense in the solar system. NASA's Juno spacecraft has been orbiting the planet closer than any previous mission since 2016, investigating its innermost radiation belts from a unique polar orbit. The spacecraft's orbit has enabled the first complete latitudinal and longitudinal study of Jupiter's radiation belts. Becker et al. leverage this capability to report the discovery of a new population of heavy, high-energy ions trapped at Jupiter's midlatitudes.

Study of young, chaotic star system reveals planet formation secrets

A team of scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to study the young star Elias 2-27 have confirmed that gravitational instabilities play a key role in planet formation, and have for the first time directly measured the mass of protoplanetary disks using gas velocity data, potentially unlocking one of the mysteries of planet formation. The results of the research are published today in two papers in The Astrophysical Journal.

Hubble data confirms galaxies lacking dark matter

The most accurate distance measurement yet of ultra-diffuse galaxy (UDG) NGC1052-DF2 (DF2) confirms beyond any shadow of a doubt that it is lacking in dark matter. The newly measured distance of 22.1 +/-1.2 megaparsecs was obtained by an international team of researchers led by Zili Shen and Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University and Shany Danieli, a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Researchers discover orbital patterns of trans-Neptunian objects

Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), small objects that orbit the sun beyond Neptune, are fossils from the early days of the solar system which can tell us a lot about its formation and evolution.

Chinese crew enters new space station on 3-month mission

Three Chinese astronauts arrived Thursday at China's new space station at the start of a three-month mission, marking another milestone in the country's ambitious space program.

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

The liftoff of three astronauts for China's new space station on Thursday marks a landmark step in its space ambitions, its longest crewed mission to date.

EXPLAINER: The significance of China's new space station

Adding a crew to China's new orbiting space station is another major advance for the burgeoning space power.

After 9 years and $10M, Georgia spaceport nears FAA approval

After nine years of planning and $10 million invested by local taxpayers, county officials in Georgia's coastal southeast corner came a big step closer Thursday to winning federal approval of a project engineered to literally inject the local economy with rocket fuel.

Astronauts install new rollout solar panels on International Space Station

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of France and Shane Kimbrough of the United States spacewalked outside the International Space Station on Wednesday as they began the painstaking process of installing new solar panels to boost the orbital outpost's deteriorating power systems.

Technology news

Features of virtual agents affect how humans mimic their facial expressions

In recent years, computer scientists have developed a broad variety of virtual agents, artificial agents designed to interact with humans or assist them with various tasks. Some past findings suggest that the extent to which human users trust these agents often depends on how much they perceive them to be likable and pleasant.

Underwater robot offers new insight into mid-ocean 'twilight zone'

An innovative underwater robot known as Mesobot is providing researchers with deeper insight into the vast mid-ocean region known as the "twilight zone." Capable of tracking and recording high-resolution images of slow-moving and fragile zooplankton, gelatinous animals, and particles, Mesobot greatly expands scientists' ability to observe creatures in their mesopelagic habitat with minimal disturbance. This advance in engineering will enable greater understanding of the role these creatures play in transporting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the deep sea, as well as how commercial exploitation of twilight zone fisheries might affect the marine ecosystem.

Facebook AI software able to dig up origins of deepfake images

Facebook scientists on Wednesday said they developed artificial intelligence software to not only identify "deepfake" images but to figure out where they came from.

New manufacturing technique for flexible electronics

Ultrathin, flexible computer circuits have been an engineering goal for years, but technical hurdles have prevented the degree of miniaturization necessary to achieve high performance. Now, researchers at Stanford University have invented a manufacturing technique that yields flexible, atomically thin transistors less than 100 nanometers in length—several times smaller than previously possible. The technique is detailed in a paper published June 17 in Nature Electronics.

A simple tool to enable remote neurological examinations

In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinics and patients alike began canceling all non-urgent appointments and procedures in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A boom in telemedicine was borne out of necessity as healthcare workers, administrators, and scientists creatively advanced technologies to fill a void in care.

Computers help researchers find materials to turn solar power into hydrogen

Using solar energy to inexpensively harvest hydrogen from water could help replace carbon-based fuel sources and shrink the world's carbon footprint. However, finding materials that could boost hydrogen production so that it could compete economically with carbon-based fuels has been, as yet, an insurmountable challenge.

Bring the outdoors in: The energy-efficient method for using 100% outdoor air in buildings

By now, it's well known that circulating outdoor air in buildings is safer than recirculating indoor air. That point was driven home by the pandemic. Problem is, it's just not cost-effective.

The rise of intelligent matter: Taking cues from nature to develop smarter tech

Imagine if the pullover you're wearing automatically adapted itself to the temperature, warming you if you were shivering, or cooling you down if you were sweating. This means that the pullover would have to learn to recognize your discomfort and alter its properties so as to counter this discomfort. Other potential functionalities could include rapid drying or cushioning a fall. But how can such a pullover be created? What energy would it need? And where would it get it from? Complex calculations and a suitable energy source are necessary to fulfill all these functions.

Unitized regenerative fuel cells for improved hydrogen production and power generation

Green hydrogen, a source of clean energy that can be generated without using fossil fuels, has recently gained immense attention, as it can be potentially used to promote carbon neutrality. Korean researchers have succeeded in improving the efficiency of unitized regenerative fuel cells that can be used to efficiently produce green hydrogen and generate power.

Microsoft to release new apps view for hybrid work

As the COVID-19 pandemic draws to a close, Microsoft intends to follow through on its plan for an easier layout to connect remote users to participants in office attending the same meetings. This new layout, called Front Row, places the meeting video galley at the bottom of the screen, so in-office attendees can view their colleagues face-to-face in a horizontal fashion, just as if they were all in the same room together.

Researchers propose methods for additive manufacturing quality control

Additive manufacturing offers an unprecedented level of design flexibility and expanded functionality, but the quality and process can drastically differ across production machines, according to Hui Yang, a professor of industrial engineering at Penn State. With applications in aerospace, health care and automotive industries with potential for mass customization, additive manufacturing needs quality management.

Concrete wall seismic test data wins NHERI DesignSafe Dataset Award 2021

An earthquake ripped through the South Island of New Zealand on September 2, 2010, its epicenter narrowly missing the city of Christchurch by about 40 kilometers, or 25 miles. Disaster struck nearly six months later, when an aftershock centered on the city, killing 185 people and injuring many more. The sequence also caused an estimated 40 billion dollars in damage.

Microsoft gives more power to chief Satya Nadella with board election

Microsoft on Wednesday named chief executive Satya Nadella as chair of its board, strengthening his grip on a pioneering US technology company he rejuvenated for a new age.

Spotify launches Greenroom, a Clubhouse competitor

Spotify on Wednesday launched a live audio app called Greenroom, the Swedish online music streaming giant's answer to the popular platform Clubhouse.

Why we still don't have self-driving cars on the roads in 2021

Do you remember the time when self-driving cars were upon us? It was almost a decade ago when the Autonomous Vehicle division at Google (now Waymo) promised a world where people would be chauffeured around by self-driving robot cars.

Scientists develop lightweight tactile sensors that could pave the way for robot 'skins' and medical devices

NTU Singapore scientists develop lightweight ultra-sensitive tactile sensors that could pave the way for robot 'skins' and medical devices

The first mobile phone call was 75 years ago: A look back

I have a cellphone built into my watch. People now take this type of technology for granted, but not so long ago it was firmly in the realm of science fiction. The transition from fantasy to reality was far from the flip of a switch. The amount of time, money, talent and effort required to put a telephone on my wrist spanned far beyond any one product development cycle.

Why people use mixed-reality sports platforms

New technologies allow users to do things like race their real bikes against other real people in a virtual world, and a new study outlines what motivates people to use these online platforms. The findings offer insights for future iterations of these technologies—and how to market them.

Setting the airways for urban air mobility

Flying drones are doing great things today, from powerline inspection to security surveillance to precision agriculture (fertilizer and pesticide application).

AI system-on-chip runs on solar power

AI is used in an array of useful applications, such as predicting a machine's lifetime through its vibrations, monitoring the cardiac activity of patients and incorporating facial recognition capabilities into video surveillance systems. The downside is that AI-based technology generally requires a lot of power and, in most cases, must be permanently connected to the cloud, raising issues related to data protection, IT security and energy use.

Researchers reveal defect properties in photovoltaic material

As a new member of photovoltaic family, antimony trisulfide (Sb2S3) has the satisfactory bandgap of 1.7eV, benefiting the fabrication of the top absorber layer of tandem solar cells. Due to a special quasi-one-dimensional structure, it shows advantages of less dangling bonds. Based on these advantages, the vacancy defects upon the surface causing the recombination of carriers could be reduced sharply, which helps to solve the photovoltaic problems in solar cells.

Hybrid membrane doubles the lifetime of rechargeable batteries

The energy density of traditional lithium-ion batteries is approaching a saturation point that cannot meet the demands of the future—for example in electric vehicles. Lithium metal batteries can provide double the energy per unit weight when compared to lithium-ion batteries. The biggest challenge, hindering its application, is the formation of lithium dendrites, small, needle-like structures, similar to stalagmites in a dripstone cave, over the lithium metal anode. These dendrites often continue to grow until they pierce the separator membrane, causing the battery to short-circuit and ultimately destroying it.

Major banks, airlines hit in new global online outage

Major banks and airlines were among businesses hit by a fresh global online outage Thursday, with the problem traced to US-based tech provider Akamai.

Study explores how the elderly use smart speaker technology

Researchers from Bentley University, in partnership with Waltham Council on Aging in Massachusetts, and as part of a study funded by the National Science Foundation, have been exploring how the elderly use smart speakers at home. Waltham, a satellite city about eight miles west of Cambridge has a population of about 60,000, with about one in six being an elderly citizen. The purpose of the study was to understand how the elderly use the smart speaker technology at home. A smart speaker is a hardware device that is always-on. When a wake-word triggers the software contained in the device, the smart speaker listens to the command to provide a response or carry out the command (accessing resources on the internet as needed). News stories about smart speakers have often contemplated issues such as privacy but often lack actual usage data.

End of road for controversial Snapchat 'speed filter'

Snapchat said Thursday it is putting the brakes on a controversial feature that let users of the social network share how fast they were moving.

Southwest still struggling with flight delays, cancellations

Passengers on Southwest Airlines had to deal with canceled flights and delays for a third day on Wednesday, as the airline tried to recover from technology problems that started earlier this week.

Ryanair, UK airports sue govt COVID over –°travel rules

Irish no-frills airline Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group (MAG) are to launch Thursday a legal challenge against the UK government over its COVID traffic-light travel restrictions.

Australia's path to net zero emissions needs greater human focus

Australia's transition to a net-zero energy system is a massive and complex task; requiring interdisciplinary solutions addressing Australia's specific needs, to achieve this goal. This is why today, the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) is releasing its Australian Energy Transition Research Plan, calling on researchers, research funders and government to shift the dial on Australian energy transition research.

NZ's clean car discount is a turn in the right direction, but how much will it drive consumer demand?

New Zealand faces two enormous challenges if it is to meet its international climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement: biogenic methane emissions from agriculture, and carbon emissions from industry and transport.

Lordstown Motors reverses, says it has no firm truck orders

Struggling electric truck maker Lordstown Motors said Thursday it doesn't have any firm orders for its vehicles, just days after its president said the company had enough to maintain production through 2022.

UK, US strike deal over Airbus-Boeing dispute

Britain and the US have suspended retaliatory tariffs levied during a 17-year dispute over state aid for European planemaker Airbus and US rival Boeing, the countries announced Thursday.

Auto show back in Detroit next year with focus on outdoors

The head of Detroit's big international auto show says it will return to the Motor City next year, but with smaller indoor displays, and more emphasis on experiencing vehicles and technology outside.

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