Science X Newsletter Thursday, Jul 15

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for July 15, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

Human cells harness power of detergents to wipe out bacteria

Scientists create rechargeable swimming microrobots using oil and water

Scientists take first snapshots of ultrafast switching in a quantum electronic device

New artificial intelligence software can compute protein structures in 10 minutes

Researchers discover a new inorganic material with lowest thermal conductivity ever reported

Study finds women can predict a man's attitude toward casual sexual relationships based on his face

Earth's climate life story, 3 billion years in the making

Optical levitation of glass nanosphere enables quantum control

High-ranking hyena mothers pass their social networks to their cubs

'Neuroprosthesis' restores words to man with paralysis

Thinking without a brain: Studies in brainless slime molds reveal that they use physical cues to decide where to grow

ED-administered high-dose buprenorphine may enhance opioid use disorder treatment outcomes

Newly discovered role for CTP in ensuring faithful cell division in bacteria

New study measures how nitrogen is managed in agriculture around the world

Red blood cell 'traffic' contributes to changes in brain oxygenation

Physics news

Scientists create rechargeable swimming microrobots using oil and water

A new study, published today in Nature Physics, has shown that it is possible to create tiny, self-powered swimming robots from three simple ingredients.

Scientists take first snapshots of ultrafast switching in a quantum electronic device

Electronic circuits that compute and store information contain millions of tiny switches that control the flow of electric current. A deeper understanding of how these tiny switches work could help researchers push the frontiers of modern computing.

Adding logical qubits to Sycamore quantum computer reduces error rate

The Google Quantum AI team has found that adding logical qubits to the company's quantum computer reduced the logical qubit error rate exponentially. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their work with logical qubits as an error correction technique and outline what they have learned so far.

Lighting the way to cleaner water

Shining a beam of light into potentially contaminated water samples may hold the key to real-time detection of hydrocarbons and pesticides in water.

Thruster research to help propel spacecraft

Faster space maneuvers and safer, more sustainable, propellants may soon be possible thanks to a new three-year partnership between The Australian National University and French propulsion company ThrustMe.

Tiny, injectable sensors could monitor brain activity without surgery or implants

Researchers have developed nanoscale sensors that could be injected into the body to noninvasively track brain activity using light. The approach could one day offer a new way to study the brain or assess patients' brain functioning without the need for surgery or implanted devices.

Improving low-loss dielectric measurement technique

Scientists from NPL have developed improvements to a technique for measuring dielectric permittivity and loss of materials at MHz frequencies. The method used is named after two NPL scientists who developed in the 1930, Hartshorn and Ward. The findings are presented in the team's paper, "Low loss dielectric measurements in the frequency range 1—70MHz by using a Vector Network Analyser," recently published in Measurement Science and Technology. This method allows the permittivity and loss of a sheet of dielectric material placed between the plates of a capacitor to be determined by resonating it with a coil inductor. The value of the technique is that very low losses can be determined from measurement of small changes in Q-factor.

Repairs using light signals

Repairing complex electrical appliances is time consuming and rarely cost-effective. The working group led by Prof. Dr. Karl Mandel, Professorship of Inorganic Chemistry at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), has now developed a smart microparticle that enables defective components in these appliances to be identified more quickly and easily by using light signals. In the long-term, this could make repairs easier and extend the operating life of devices. The results have been published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Astronomy and Space news

18-year-old joining Blue Origin's 1st passenger spaceflight

An 18-year-old is about to become the youngest person in space, rocketing away with an aviation pioneer who will become the oldest at age 82.

Abell 1775: Chandra catches slingshot during collision

When the titans of space—galaxy clusters—collide, extraordinary things can happen. A new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory examines the repercussions after two galaxy clusters clashed.

Operations underway to restore payload computer on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

NASA has identified the possible cause of the payload computer problem that suspended Hubble Space Telescope science operations on June 13. The telescope itself and science instruments remain healthy and in a safe configuration.

Video: 30 years go, the ERS-1 sent its first image back to Earth

ESA's first Earth observation mission dedicated to understanding our planet, the European Remote Sensing satellite (ERS-1), was launched into orbit on 17 July 1991. At the time, it was the most sophisticated Earth observation spacecraft developed and launched by Europe.

Technology news

Chemists develop novel electrolyser for hydrogen production

In a recent Nature Communications paper, a group of researchers led by Dr. Ning Yan of the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences at the University of Amsterdam showcases a practical membrane-free approach to water electrolysis using earth-abundant catalysts. Their new electrolyser concept, developed together with researchers from Wuhan University and Wuhan University of Technology, offers significant advantages over electrolysers that are currently being developed for large-scale hydrogen production.

Snake skin inspires development of wearable sensors with wide-ranging strain sensitivity

Many bodily functions in humans are manifested by mechanical deformations to the skin—from the stretching, bending and movement of muscles and joints to the flutter of a pulse at the wrist. These mechanical changes can be detected and monitored by measuring different levels of strain at various points throughout the body.

Spyware campaign targeted journalists, activists: researchers

A spyware campaign using tools from a secretive Israeli firm was used to attack and impersonate dozens of human rights activists, journalists, dissidents, politicians and others, researchers said Thursday.

Toyota revs up its digital mapping subsidiary Woven Planet

Toyota plans to hire more people and invest heavily in its subsidiary Woven Planet to work on mobility technology so the Japanese automaker stays competitive amid the global shift to using artificial intelligence and robotics in everyday driving.

India internet law adds to fears over online speech, privacy

It began in February with a tweet by pop star Rihanna that sparked widespread condemnation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of massive farmer protests near the capital, souring an already troubled relationship between the government and Twitter.

Device taps brain waves to help paralyzed man communicate

In a medical first, researchers harnessed the brain waves of a paralyzed man unable to speak—and turned what he intended to say into sentences on a computer screen.

Hong Kong customs arrest four in first crypto laundering bust

Hong Kong customs officials said Thursday they had dismantled a money laundering syndicate that used cryptocurrency to process some HK$1.2 billion ($155 million) in illegal funds, in what they said was the first successful operation of its kind.

World's first 3D-printed steel footbridge unveiled by robot

The bridge, which is over four years in the making and is led by Dutch company MX3D, will be a "living laboratory" in Amsterdam's city center. Using its vast network of installed sensors, Imperial College London researchers will measure, monitor and analyze the performance of the novel 12-meter-long structure as it handles pedestrian traffic.

Traveling through deep time to find copper for a clean energy future

More than 100 countries, including the United States and members of the European Union, have committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The world is going to need a lot of metal, particularly copper.

Users must now choose between male and female voice options for Siri

As of March 31, 2021, when Apple released the iOS 14.5 beta update to its operating system, Siri no longer defaults to a female voice when using American English. Users must now choose between two male and two female voices when enabling the voice assistant. This move could be interpreted as a response to the backlash against the gender bias embodied by Siri

Research identified tweets from Pakistan supportive of India during crisis

India and Pakistan have fought four wars in the past few decades, but when India faced an oxygen shortage in its hospitals during its recent COVID-19 surge, Pakistan offered to help.

$10 million rewards bolster White House anti-ransomware bid

The State Department will offer rewards up to $10 million for information leading to the identification of anyone engaged in foreign state-sanctioned malicious cyber activity, including ransomware attacks, against critical U.S. infrastructure. A task force set up by the White House will coordinate efforts to stem the ransomware scourge.

Removing the lead hazard from perovskite solar cells

Although they offer a very promising solution for capturing solar energy, perovskite solar cells contain lead, which is toxic to the environment and a serious health hazard. EPFL scientists have now found a very elegant and efficient solution to this, by adding a transparent phosphate salt that doesn't interfere with light-conversion efficiency while preventing lead from seeping into the soil in cases of solar panel failure.

Cookie banner design can affect users' privacy choices

Data privacy is an important topic in the digitalised economy. Recent policy changes have aimed to strengthen users' control over their own data. Yet new research from Copenhagen Business School finds designers of cookie banners can affect users' privacy choices by manipulating the choice architecture and with simple changes can increase absolute consent by 17%.

Taiwan chipmaker TSMC says profit up 11.2% as demand rises

TSMC, the biggest contract manufacturer of processor chips for Apple Inc. and other global brands, said Thursday its latest quarterly profit rose 11.2% over a year earlier to $4.8 billion as demand for smartphones and consumer electronics increased.

Avoiding probate with a smart contract

A recent graduate of SMU's Dedman School of Law has written computer language for a smart contract that, if adopted by courts, could make it much easier and less expensive for someone to sort out the estate of a loved one who dies without a will.

Facebook says Iran-based spies targeted defense workers

Facebook on Thursday said it disrupted an Iran-based espionage operation targeting defense and aerospace workers in Europe and the United States.

Learning aids: New method helps train computer vision algorithms on limited data

Researchers from Skoltech have found a way to help computer vision algorithms process satellite images of the Earth more accurately, even with very limited data for training. This will make various remote sensing tasks easier for machines and ultimately the people who use their data. The paper outlining the new results was published in the journal Remote Sensing.

Video games coming to Netflix? Latest hiring offers a clue

Netflix has hired veteran video game executive Mike Verdu, signaling the video streaming service is poised to expand into another fertile field of entertainment.

A big step forward for ship remote inspection technologies

Different types of RITs were recently tested on a double-skin supramax bulk cargo carrier owned by Greek shipper Oceanbulk Maritime. The testing was carried out by Belgian certification company Bureau Veritas that established proof of concept and confirmed the operational purpose of the remote tools.

Digital assistants created for e-commerce adapt themselves to each shop's needs

The pandemic has taught us that almost all companies have to sell on the internet. Bots are a technology that facilitates e-commerce. They are digital assistants that can answer customer queries about products that are sold or help to locate them, as well as supporting customers in the purchasing process. "In whatever language; and moreover, chatbots never get tired: They're available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," said Jordi Cabot, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) researcher who created Xatkit, a company specialized in their development. This technology has existed for some time in big companies and is now also helping improve the digital competitiveness of SMEs. Indeed, the introduction of bots is expanding: this type of artificial intelligence already generates over 40% of the traffic on the internet.

Pilot files intellectual property lawsuit against Delta

A pilot has filed suit against Delta Air Lines, alleging the company stole his idea for a text messaging platform used by crews.

New Italian airline to take off on October 15

Tough talks between Italy and the European Commission on a plan to replace struggling Alitalia have laid the groundwork for a new, streamlined flag carrier, the economy ministry said Thursday.

Investors to be offered 'shares' in Picasso painting

A Picasso painting is to be sold in tokenised form, allowing investors to buy "shares" in the work, Swiss digital asset bank Sygnum announced Thursday.

LG is finally releasing its TV with rollable screen in the US—with $100,000 price tag

Remember LG's TV with a rollable screen? It's finally arriving in the U.S., but at a steep price.

Startup investment poised to break records in 2021, report says

Venture capital is continuing its surge in the Pacific Northwest, as startup investment across the United States is on track to shatter records, according to a new report released this week.

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