Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Jun 30

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for June 30, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Researchers create unipolar barrier photodetectors based on 2D layered materials

'There may not be a conflict after all' in expanding universe debate

A fast-expanding Type Ia supernova exploded in NGC 474, study finds

Researchers document quantum melting of Wigner Crystals

Sweat-proof 'smart skin' takes reliable vitals, even during workouts and spicy meals

A white dwarf living on the edge

Jackdaws don't console traumatized mates

Novel heat-management material keeps computers running cool

Gene therapy breakthrough offers hope to children with rare and fatal brain disease

Securing decent living standards for all while reducing global energy use

Scientists intensify electrolysis, utilize carbon dioxide more efficiently with magnets

A promising new pathway to treating type 2 diabetes

Wildfire changes songbird plumage and testosterone

Breakthrough for tracking RNA with fluorescence

First you see it, then you don't: scientists closer to explaining Mars methane mystery

Physics news

Researchers document quantum melting of Wigner Crystals

In 1934, physicist Eugene Wigner made a theoretical prediction based on quantum mechanics that for 87 years went unseen.

The secret of planets' perihelion between Newton and Einstein

In the early 1600s, based on astronomical observations, Kepler established that the orbit described by a planet in the solar system is an ellipse, with the sun occupying one of its foci. Assuming that a planet is subject only to the gravitational attraction of the sun, Kepler's result is easily obtained mathematically in Newton's theory. But the other planets also have a gravitational attraction on the planet in question. What is the effect of their presence?

Search for heavy bosons sets new limits

Since discovering the Higgs boson in 2012, the ATLAS Collaboration at CERN has been working to understand its properties. One question in particular stands out: why does the Higgs boson have the mass that it does? Experiments have measured its mass to be around 125 GeV—yet the Standard Model implies it has much larger mass and requires a very large correction to the mathematics in order to align theory with observation, leading to the "naturalness problem."

Thermal waves observed in semiconductor materials

A study published in Science Advances reports on the unexpected observation of thermal waves in germanium, a semiconductor material, for the first time. This phenomenon may allow a significant improvement in the performance of our electronic devices in a near future. The study is led by researchers from the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB, CSIC) in collaboration with researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, and the University of Cagliari.

Laser 'comb' systems measure all primary greenhouse gases in the air

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have upgraded their laser frequency-comb instrument to simultaneously measure three airborne greenhouse gasses—nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and water vapor—plus the major air pollutants ozone and carbon monoxide.

Solving a murder case with physics

In 2009, famed music producer Phil Spector was found guilty of the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, who was found dead from a single gunshot to her mouth at close range in Spector's California mansion.

A detailed simulation of air flow after sneezing

By the beginning of April 2021, the number of people infected during the COVID-19 pandemic had risen to more than 130 million people of whom more than 2.8 million died. The SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 is transmitted particularly by droplets or aerosols emitted when an infected person speaks, sneezes or coughs. This is how the viruses and other pathogens spread through the environment and transmit infectious diseases when they are inhaled by someone else.

Researchers develop wearable sensor to monitor oxygen levels through skin

Researchers have combined a new oxygen-sensing film with machine learning to create a wearable sensor capable of measuring tissue oxygenation through skin. The device could be used to monitor a person's oxygen levels on a continuous basis for applications in medicine and sports.

Astronomy and Space news

'There may not be a conflict after all' in expanding universe debate

Our universe is expanding, but our two main ways to measure how fast this expansion is happening have resulted in different answers. For the past decade, astrophysicists have been gradually dividing into two camps: one that believes that the difference is significant, and another that thinks it could be due to errors in measurement.

A fast-expanding Type Ia supernova exploded in NGC 474, study finds

Using ground-based facilities, astronomers from China and elsewhere have conducted extensive optical photometric and spectroscopic observations of the supernova SN 2017fgc, which exploded in the galaxy NGC 474. Results of the study, published June 23 on, indicate that this explosion is a fast-expanding Type Ia supernova.

A white dwarf living on the edge

Astronomers have discovered the smallest and most massive white dwarf ever seen. The smoldering cinder, which formed when two less massive white dwarfs merged, is heavy, "packing a mass greater than that of our Sun into a body about the size of our Moon," says Ilaria Caiazzo, the Sherman Fairchild Postdoctoral Scholar Research Associate in Theoretical Astrophysics at Caltech and lead author of the new study appearing in the July 1 issue of the journal Nature. "It may seem counterintuitive, but smaller white dwarfs happen to be more massive. This is due to the fact that white dwarfs lack the nuclear burning that keep up normal stars against their own self gravity, and their size is instead regulated by quantum mechanics."

First you see it, then you don't: scientists closer to explaining Mars methane mystery

Why do some science instruments detect the gas on the Red Planet while others don't?

Abnormally high alcohol and mystery heat source detected on comet wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen was releasing an unusual amount of alcohol as it made its historic flyby of Earth two and a half years ago. That's one of the findings from the latest published study comet detectives conducted after observing 46P/Wirtanen with W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaiʻi.

Unique use of ESA spacecraft 'housekeeping' data reveals cosmic ray behaviour

Using data originally gathered for spacecraft 'housekeeping' aboard ESA's Rosetta and Mars Express missions, scientists have revealed how intense bursts of high-energy radiation, known as cosmic rays, behave at Mars and throughout the inner solar system.

Russia launches cargo ship to space station

Russia on Wednesday successfully launched an unmanned space freighter carrying supplies to the International Space Station from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Reprogrammable satellite shipped to launch site

Developed under an ESA Partnership Project, Quantum will be able to respond to changing demands on Earth during its 15-year lifetime, providing data, communications and entertainment exactly where and when it is wanted.

Russian cargo ship lifts off for International Space Station

An uncrewed Russian cargo ship blasted off Wednesday on a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

Branson's Virgin Orbit launches 7 satellites from 747 plane

Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit delivered satellites from three countries into space Wednesday, its second successful rocket launch from a plane.

Branson mum on when he'll launch to space on Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson won't say when he'll ride his rocket ship to space or whether he's looking to become the first billionaire to launch aboard his own rocket.

Technology news

Researchers create unipolar barrier photodetectors based on 2D layered materials

High dark current can significantly impair the performance of infrared photodetectors, devices that can detect photons in the form of infrared radiation. For many years, most solutions for blocking dark current used the electric field inside the detectors.

Sweat-proof 'smart skin' takes reliable vitals, even during workouts and spicy meals

MIT engineers and researchers in South Korea have developed a sweat-proof "electronic skin"—a conformable, sensor-embedded sticky patch that monitors a person's health without malfunctioning or peeling away, even when a wearer is perspiring.

Novel heat-management material keeps computers running cool

UCLA engineers have demonstrated successful integration of a novel semiconductor material into high-power computer chips to reduce heat on processors and improve their performance. The advance greatly increases energy efficiency in computers and enables heat removal beyond the best thermal-management devices currently available.

Scientists intensify electrolysis, utilize carbon dioxide more efficiently with magnets

For decades, researchers have been working toward mitigating excess atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. One promising approach captures atmospheric CO2 and then, through CO2 electrolysis, converts it into value-added chemicals and intermediates—like ethanol, ethylene, and other useful chemicals. While significant research has been devoted to improving the rate and selectivity of CO2 electrolysis, reducing the energy consumption of this high-power process has been underexplored.

Mixing it up: A low-cost way to make efficient, stable perovskite solar cells at commercial scale

A key component of next-generation solar panels can be created without expensive, high-temperature fabrication methods, demonstrating a pathway to large scale, low-cost manufacturing for commercial applications.

Mass deletion of data from WD My Book Live devices may have involved more than one vulnerability

Security experts at Ars Technica and Censys have found a second vulnerability in Western Digital's My Book Live devices, suggesting the recent mass deletion of data from the devices may have involved more than one vulnerability. Western Digital has posted an update on the situation on its support page.

Need help building IKEA furniture? This robot can lend a hand

As robots increasingly join forces to work with humans—from nursing care homes to warehouses to factories—they must be able to proactively offer support. But first, robots have to learn something we know instinctively: how to anticipate people's needs.

A better method to predict offshore wind power

Rutgers researchers have developed a machine learning model using a physics-based simulator and real-world meteorological data to better predict offshore wind power.

Researchers discuss common errors in internet energy analysis to develop best practices

When it comes to understanding and predicting trends in energy use, the internet is a tough nut to crack. So say energy researchers Eric Masanet, of UC Santa Barbara, and Jonathan Koomey, of Koomey Analytics. The two just published a peer-reviewed commentary in the journal Joule discussing the pitfalls that plague estimates of the internet's energy and carbon impacts.

Autonomous excavators ready for around the clock real-world deployment

Researchers from Baidu Research Robotics and Auto-Driving Lab (RAL) and the University of Maryland, College Park, have introduced an autonomous excavator system (AES) that can perform material loading tasks for a long duration without any human intervention while offering performance closely equivalent to that of an experienced human operator.

Japan's SoftBank says Pepper robot remains 'alive' and well

Japanese technology company SoftBank denies it's pulling the plug on its friendly, talking, bubble-headed Pepper robot.

Editing out fake news

Fake news and misinformation have become commonplace in the political, economic, climatic, and social arenas in recent years and are amplified significantly by social media with important repercussions for political outcomes and our quality of life. As we continue to face the global COVID-19 pandemic, fake news and misinformation in this realm becomes a matter of life and death. Researchers from the U.S. and China writing in the International Journal of Data Science discuss a new approach to detected false headlines.

With cyberattacks growing more frequent and disruptive, a unified approach is essential

Cyberwarfare consists of co-ordinated attacks of mass disruption (AMD). In the June summit between U.S. and Russian presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, cyberwarfare was a topic of discussion. While the Biden-Putin summit appears to be "quite constructive," cyberwarfare remains perplexing to politicians.

An expert on search and rescue robots explains the technologies used in disasters like the Florida condo collapse

Texas A&M's Robin Murphy has deployed robots at 29 disasters, including three building collapses, two mine disasters and an earthquake as director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue. She has also served as a technical search specialist with the Hillsboro County (Florida) Fire and Rescue Department. The Conversation talked to Murphy to provide readers an understanding of the types of technologies that search and rescue crews at the Champlain Towers South disaster site in Surfside, Florida, have at their disposal, as well as some they don't. The interview has been edited for length.

Demystifying advanced driver aids in new vehicles

There's some hesitancy from the public regarding the future of self-driving cars; a survey by Autolist says that most shoppers are split about whether having self-driving capability on a vehicle makes it safer. Thankfully, real automated driving vehicles are still years away. But considering that nearly every new car on sale today comes standard or is available with some level of driver-assistance technology, it's best to stay informed on what these features actually do and whether you would want to pay extra for them.

California tests off-the-grid solutions to power outages

When a wildfire tore through Briceburg nearly two years ago, the tiny community on the edge of Yosemite National Park lost the only power line connecting it to the electrical grid.

Facebook AI guru says regulate its use, not the tech

Artificial intelligence itself should not be targeted by regulators, but how it is used, Facebook's top executive developing the technology told AFP.

Professors study ideal responses to ransomware attacks

A pair of College of Business professors and their doctoral student at The University of Texas at Arlington are exploring how ransomware attacks sometimes pit organizations against the law enforcement agencies trying to protect them.

AI and marshmallows: Developing human-AI collaboration

Despite unprecedented advancements in technology and countless depictions of complex human-AI interactions in sci-fi movies, we have yet to fully achieve AI bots that can engage in conversation as naturally as humans can. Kushal Chawla, researcher at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and a doctoral student in computer science, and collaborators at both the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI) and ICT are taking us one step closer to this reality by teaching AI how to negotiate with humans.

Drone delivery firm Zipline raises $250 mn for expansion

US-based drone operator Zipline, which has seen pandemic-fueled growth of delivery of vaccines and medical supplies in Africa and the United States, said Wednesday it raised $250 million as it moves to expand globally.

Colombia catches hacker wanted in the U.S. for 'Gozi' virus

Colombian officials say they have arrested a Romanian hacker who is wanted in the U.S. for distributing a virus that infected more than a million computers from 2007 to 2012.

US newspaper woes deepened in pandemic year: survey

The troubled US newspaper sector cut thousands more jobs as circulation losses extended in a pandemic year, but saw some positive signs with growth in digital readers, a Pew Research Center report showed Tuesday.

United Airlines unveils record jet order in bet on travel recovery

United Airlines announced the largest order in its history on Tuesday, unveiling major purchases from Boeing and Airbus in a significant bet on the travel industry's recovery from COVID-19.

Neural network to study crowd physics for training urban robots

The chaotically moving objects dense clusters digital twin is being developed by students from NUST MISIS, ITMO and MIPT to navigate robots. It is going to be a web service using graph neural networks, which will allow studying the physics of crowds, the laws of swarm behavior in animals and the principles of "active matter" motion. This data is often required for educating courier robots, drones and other autonomous devices operating in crowded spaces. The first results were published in the Journal of Physics: Conference Series.

Saving railways from sand

In desert regions and sandy coastal areas, windblown sand can bury infrastructure such as railways, and cause problems such as train derailment, grinding down rails or wheels and wearing down coatings on the nose of high-speed locomotives. But knowing how best to protect tracks and trains from sand is tricky because there has been no reliable way of predicting how sand will behave—until now.

TikTok removes 7 million underage users

TikTok removed more than seven million accounts of users suspected of being under age 13 in the first three months of 2021, the popular social media operator said Wednesday in a transparency report.

Robinhood to pay record fine in US over lapses: regulatory body

Robinhood will pay a record $70 million in penalties to settle charges it harmed thousands of consumers through "false and misleading" communications and other lapses, a US regulatory organization announced Wednesday.

China's Didi ride-hailing service jumps in Wall Street debut

Didi Global Inc., a Chinese ride-hailing service, jumped 16% Wednesday shortly after making its U.S. stock market debut.

Amazon asks for FTC head to step aside from antitrust probes

Amazon is asking that the new head of the Federal Trade Commission step aside from antitrust investigations into the e-commerce giant, contending that her past public criticism of the company's market power makes it impossible for her to be impartial.

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