Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jun 23

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 23, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

The first observation of the superscattering effect of metamaterials

Bird migration takes plants in wrong direction to cope with climate change

Life in these star-systems could have spotted Earth

Low-cost imaging technique shows how smartphone batteries could charge in minutes

Pandemic air quality due to weather, not just lockdowns

New algorithm helps autonomous vehicles find themselves, summer or winter

Astronomers discover three new faint dwarf galaxies

Self-healing liquid-metal elastomers

Mind the gap: Scientists use stellar mass to link exoplanets to planet-forming disks

Sound-induced electric fields control the tiniest particles

Songbirds and humans share some common speech patterns

Cities 'must become car-free to survive'

Asymmetry in carbon dioxide emissions and removals could skew climate targets: research

Researchers design new techniques to bolster memory safety

Natural hazards threaten 57% of US structures

Physics news

The first observation of the superscattering effect of metamaterials

Entering an invisible doorway to catch a train at King's Cross station in London is a renowned fictional scene from the Harry Potter series. In recent decades, physicists have been trying to produce a similar effect by focusing their research efforts on illusion devices.

Sound-induced electric fields control the tiniest particles

Engineers at Duke University have devised a system for manipulating particles approaching the miniscule 2.5 nanometer diameter of DNA using sound-induced electric fields. Dubbed "acoustoelectronic nanotweezers," the approach provides a label-free, dynamically controllable method of moving and trapping nanoparticles over a large area. The technology holds promise for applications in the fields ranging from condensed matter physics to biomedicine.

ATLAS experiment measures top quark polarization

Unique among its peers is the top quark—a fascinating particle that the scientific community has been studying in detail since the 90s. Its large mass makes it the only quark to decay before forming bound states (a process known as hadronisation) and gives it the strongest coupling to the Higgs boson. Theorists predict it may also interact strongly with new particles—if it does, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the ideal place to find out as it is a "top-quark factory."

Viruses as communication molecules: Modeling viral aerosol transmission

How long do virus-laden particles persist in an elevator after a person infected with COVID-19 leaves? And is there a way to detect those particles? A group of electrical engineers and computer scientists at KAUST set out to answer these questions using mathematical fluid dynamics equations.

Concepts from physics explain importance of quarantine to control spread of COVID-19

Mathematical models that describe the physical behavior of magnetic materials can also be used to describe the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Astronomy and Space news

Life in these star-systems could have spotted Earth

Scientists at Cornell University and the American Museum of Natural History have identified 2,034 nearby star-systems—within the small cosmic distance of 326 light-years—that could find Earth merely by watching our pale blue dot cross our sun.

Astronomers discover three new faint dwarf galaxies

By analyzing the data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES), an international team of astronomers has conducted a search for nearby faint dwarf galaxies. In result, they detected three such objects around the Sculptor Galaxy. The finding is reported in a paper published June 16 on

Mind the gap: Scientists use stellar mass to link exoplanets to planet-forming disks

Using data for more than 500 young stars observed with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), scientists have uncovered a direct link between protoplanetary disk structures—the planet-forming disks that surround stars—and planet demographics. The survey proves that higher mass stars are more likely to be surrounded by disks with "gaps" in them and that these gaps directly correlate to the high occurrence of observed giant exoplanets around such stars. These results provide scientists with a window back through time, allowing them to predict what exoplanetary systems looked like through each stage of their formation.

Nightside radio could help reveal exoplanet details

We can't detect them yet, but radio signals from distant solar systems could provide valuable information about the characteristics of their planets.

First clear view of a boiling cauldron where stars are born

University of Maryland researchers created the first high-resolution image of an expanding bubble of hot plasma and ionized gas where stars are born. Previous low-resolution images did not clearly show the bubble or reveal how it expanded into the surrounding gas.

Less metal, more X-rays: New research unlocks key to high luminosity of black holes

A recent article published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, led by Dr. Kostas Kouroumpatzakis, of the Institute of Astrophysics at the Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas (IA-FORTH), and the University of Crete, provides new insights into the connection between the X-ray luminosity of accreting black holes and neutron stars and the composition of the stellar populations they are associated with. This research was conducted at the Institute of Astrophysics of FORTH and the University of Crete.

Earth-like biospheres on other planets may be rare

A new analysis of known exoplanets has revealed that Earth-like conditions on potentially habitable planets may be much rarer than previously thought. The work focuses on the conditions required for oxygen-based photosynthesis to develop on a planet, which would enable complex biospheres of the type found on Earth. The study is published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

NASA's Webb Telescope will use quasars to unlock the secrets of the early universe

Quasars are very bright, distant and active supermassive black holes that are millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun. Typically located at the centers of galaxies, they feed on infalling matter and unleash fantastic torrents of radiation. Among the brightest objects in the universe, a quasar's light outshines that of all the stars in its host galaxy combined, and its jets and winds shape the galaxy in which it resides.

To find out how galaxies grow, we're zooming in on the night sky and capturing cosmic explosions

Across Australia, astronomers are using cutting-edge technologies to capture the night sky, hoping to eventually tackle some of our biggest questions about the universe.

Space telescopes could provide next-level images of black hole event horizons

Back in 2019, the world was treated to the first-ever image of a black hole, which was originally captured in 2017. The feat was widely heralded as a leap forward for astrophysics, supporting Einstein's theory of relativity. Now, a team led by the Radboud University proposes sending instruments into space to estimate black hole parameters more accurately by an order of magnitude. The newest paper, led by Dr. Volodymyr Kudriashov, translates science goals into technical requirements and focuses on the instrumentation needed for the Event Horizon Imager, as the mission is called.

Image: Jezero Crater's 'Delta scarp'

A Perseverance rover scientist's favorite shot from the young Mars mission provides a new angle on an old and intriguing surface feature.

Video: Simulating atmospheric reentry in a plasma wind tunnel

Simulating the burn-up during atmospheric reentry of one of the bulkiest items aboard a typical satellite using a plasma wind tunnel.

Europe seeks disabled astronauts, more women in space

The European Space Agency says it was "blown away" by the record number of applicants—more than 22,000—hoping to become the continent's next generation of space travelers, including more women than ever and some 200 people with disabilities.

CIBER-2 experiment successfully completes first flight

By sending a Black Brant IX rocket on a 15-minute flight to space and back, researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology, Caltech, Kwansei Gakuin University, and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute glimpsed traces of light from the earliest stages of the universe. The Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment-2 (CIBER-2) completed a successful first launch on June 7 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the first of four planned over the next several years.

Xi lauds 'new horizon' for humanity in space chat with astronauts

President Xi Jinping on Wednesday lauded the work of three astronauts building China's first space station as opening "new horizons" in humanity's bid to explore the cosmos.

Technology news

Low-cost imaging technique shows how smartphone batteries could charge in minutes

Researchers have developed a simple lab-based technique that allows them to look inside lithium-ion batteries and follow lithium ions moving in real time as the batteries charge and discharge, something which has not been possible until now.

New algorithm helps autonomous vehicles find themselves, summer or winter

Without GPS, autonomous systems get lost easily. Now a new algorithm developed at Caltech allows autonomous systems to recognize where they are simply by looking at the terrain around them—and for the first time, the technology works regardless of seasonal changes to that terrain.

Researchers design new techniques to bolster memory safety

Because corporations and governments rely on computers and the internet to run everything from the electric grid, healthcare, and water systems, computer security is extremely important to all of us. It is increasingly being breached: Numerous security hacks just this past month include the Colonial Pipeline security breach and the JBS Foods ransomware attacks where hackers took over the organization's computer systems and demanded payment to unlock and release it back to the owners. The White House is strongly urging companies to take ransomware threats seriously and update their systems to protect themselves. Yet these attacks continue to threaten all of us on an almost daily basis.

Antiferromagnetic-based memory device could bolster computing applications and answers fundamental questions

A research team from Northwestern Engineering and the University of Messina in Italy have developed a new magnetic memory device that could lead to faster, more robust Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems. Composed of antiferromagnetic materials, the memory technology is immune to external magnetic fields and could one day improve a variety of computing systems, including AI hardware, cryptocurrency mining, and space exploration programs.

Zoox releases updated in-depth safety report for its robo-taxi

The team at Amazon-owned Zoox has released an in-depth safety report detailing the safety features engineers have built into the company's autonomous vehicle, a robo-taxi, and have published it online.

Harvesting drinking water from humidity around the clock

Fresh water is scarce in many parts of the world and must be obtained at great expense. Communities near the ocean can desalinate sea water for this purpose, but doing so requires a large amount of energy. Further away from the coast, practically often the only remaining option is to condense atmospheric humidity through cooling, either through processes that similarly require high energy input or by using "passive" technologies that exploit the temperature swing between day and night. However, with current passive technologies, such as dew-collecting foils, water can be extracted only at night. This is because the sun heats the foils during the day, which makes condensation impossible.

Mouse movements reveal your behavior

In two recently published research papers, computer scientists from the University of Luxembourg and international partners show how mouse movements can be used to gain additional knowledge about the user behavior. While this has many interesting applications, mouse movements can also reveal sensitive information about the users such as their age or gender. Scientists want to raise awareness about these potential privacy issues and have proposed measures to mitigate them.

How to make lithium-ion batteries invincible

In our future electrified world, the demand for battery storage is projected to be enormous, reaching to upwards of 2 to 10 terawatt-hours (TWh) of annual battery production by 2030, from less than 0.5 TWh today. However, concerns are growing as to whether key raw materials will be adequate to meet this future demand. The lithium-ion battery—the dominant technology for the foreseeable future—has a component made of cobalt and nickel, and those two metals face severe supply constraints on the global market.

Advancing research on environmentally friendly, hydrogen-enriched fuel

As you drive down the highway, you may notice an increasing number of hybrid and electric vehicles. Alternative energy automobiles are on the rise contributing to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions. As we move together down this road, researchers are looking to determine new solutions to this ongoing problem.

Google gives workers tool for remote work planning

Google on Tuesday unveiled a platform that lets its workers calculate pay and benefits for remote work, and how this would change if they move to a cheaper—or more expensive—city.

US lawmakers open contentious debate on Big Tech regulation

US lawmakers Wednesday launched a contentious debate on legislation aimed at curbing the power of Big Tech firms with a sweeping reform of antitrust laws.

Smart street furniture in Australia: Public service or surveillance and advertising tool?

Smart street furniture—powered and digitally networked furniture that collects and generates data—is arriving in Australia. It comes in a variety of forms, including benches, kiosks, light poles and bus stops. Early examples in Australia include ChillOUT Hubs installed by Georges River Council in the Sydney suburbs of Kogarah, Hurstville and Mortdale, and information kiosks and smart light poles in the City of Newcastle as part of its Smart City Strategy.

Fabrication of printed high-performance thin-film transistors operable at one volt

NIMS has developed low-temperature-catalyzed, solution-processed SiO2 (LCSS), which subsequently enabled printing of high-performance thin-film transistors (TFTs) and three-dimensional circuits connecting various elements. These TFTs with an LCSS insulating layer, produced through printing alone, exhibited the highest field-effect mobilities among fully-printed TFTs ever recorded (70 cm2 V-1 s-1) at an operating voltage of 1 V or less. These results may facilitate the development of various printed devices, such as printed displays and highly sensitive sensors.

Robot farmers—with responsible development—could improve jobs, fight climate change

Farming robots that can move autonomously in an open field or greenhouse promise a cleaner, safer agricultural future. But there are also potential downsides, from the loss of much-needed jobs to the safety of those working alongside the robots.

Machines learn pandemic prediction

Might machine learning and big data allow us to predict how an emerging disease might spread and so be more prepared than we were for the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic? A new survey from India of the various techniques published in the International Journal of Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation suggests so.

Producing methane for energy in underground repositories using solar energy

During the winter months, renewable energy is in short supply throughout Europe. An international project is now considering an unconventional solution: Renewable hydrogen and carbon dioxide are pumped into the ground together, where naturally occurring microorganisms convert the two substances into methane, the main component of natural gas.

No more targeted online ads? EU not so sure

Highly personalised targeting of web users for advertising is a central part of the internet today, but some in the EU want to ban it, potentially upending a business model that made Google and Facebook giants.

Bitcoin fund launches on Dubai bourse in Mideast first

The Middle East's first bitcoin fund launched on the Dubai bourse on Wednesday, with Canadian digital asset manager 3iQ Corp seeking to raise around $200 million in the offering.

UK to regulate streaming giants in media shake-up

The British government on Wednesday announced plans to subject online streaming platforms to tighter regulation as part of a wider shake-up of the country's media landscape.

Peloton reportedly working on digital heart rate wearable device

Peloton is reportedly venturing into the digital wearables market.

A novel energy storage solution featuring pipes and anchors

What do pipes and anchors have to do with storing energy? More than you might think. A new IIASA-led study explored the potential of a lesser known, but promising sustainable energy storage system called Buoyancy Energy Storage.

Aging Japanese nuclear reactor restarted after a decade

A more than 40-year-old nuclear reactor in central Japan which suffered a deadly accident has resumed operation after being taken offline for a decade after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, as Japan pushes to meet its carbon emissions reduction goal.

New study suggests ways to mitigate fuel shortages

In New England, constraints in the supply of natural gas have led to nearly a quarter of all unscheduled power plant outages. In a new study, researchers used data from power plant failures in the 2010s to develop a supply curve of the costs required for generators to mitigate fuel shortages in the region. The study found that storing both oil and gas on-site could reduce dependence by power plants on gas grids in geographic areas with few pipelines.

Amazon 'Prime Day' spend soars amid reopening

Amazon's annual "Prime Day" online shopping bonanza racked up more than $11 billion in sales at the e-commerce platform, market tracker Adobe reported on Wednesday.

Lifting off? Sudden travel surge tests US airlines

US airlines are scrambling to ramp back up to meet soaring travel demand that has transformed America's airports from cavernous to crowded almost overnight.

Seamless cross-border 5G connectivity achieved in autonomous cars

Swedish luxury automobile manufacturer Volvo Cars and leading ICT provider Ericsson have taken an important step towards achieving seamless cross-border 5G connectivity in vehicles. Partners in the EU-backed 5GCroCo project, the two companies successfully tested the handover of connected cars between two national mobile 5G networks.

McAfee founder found dead by suicide in Spanish jail: prison official (Update)

Antivirus software pioneer John McAfee was found dead in his jail cell in Spain on Wednesday, a prison official said, shortly after a court approved his extradition to the United States where he was wanted for tax evasion.

Teamsters aims to step up efforts to unionize Amazon workers

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union that represents 1.4 million delivery workers, is setting its sights on Amazon.

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