Science X Newsletter Monday, Jul 19

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for July 19, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

The realization of curved relativistic mirrors to reflect high-power laser pulses

Cannabis first domesticated 12,000 years ago: study

EHT pinpoints dark heart of the nearest radio galaxy

Chinese astronomers investigate X-ray bursts of SGR J1935+2154

Why is the eastern monarch butterfly disappearing?

Researchers use high-speed cameras to reveal bubbles popping like blooming flowers

Using archeology to better understand climate change

Global satellite data shows clouds will amplify global heating

Epicentre of major Amazon droughts and fires saw 2.5 billion trees and vines killed

DNA duplication linked to the origin and evolution of pine trees and their relatives

Making clean hydrogen is hard, but researchers just solved a major hurdle

50,000 phone numbers worldwide on list linked to Israeli spyware: reports

Environmental concerns grow as space tourism lifts off

Three key habitat-building corals face worrying future due to climate crisis

A bug's life: Millimeter-tall mountains on neutron stars

Physics news

The realization of curved relativistic mirrors to reflect high-power laser pulses

One of the topics investigated in recent physics studies is strong-field quantum electrodynamics (SF-QED). So far, this area has rarely been explored before, mainly because the experimental observation of SF-QED processes would require extremely high light intensities (>1025W/cm2), over three orders of magnitude higher than those attained using the most intense PetaWatt (PW)-class lasers available today.

New method found for moving tiny artificial swimmers

Princeton researchers have debuted a novel way of generating and potentially controlling locomotion in tiny objects called artificial swimmers. These swimmers have sparked considerable interest for their potential applications in medicine, industry and other sectors.

Bonding's next top model: Projecting bond properties with machine learning

Designing materials that have the necessary properties to fulfill specific functions is a challenge faced by researchers working in areas from catalysis to solar cells. To speed up development processes, modeling approaches can be used to predict information to guide refinements. Researchers from The University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science have developed a machine learning model to determine characteristics of bonded and adsorbed materials based on parameters of the individual components. Their findings are published in Applied Physics Express.

Understanding the physics in new metals

Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), working in an international team, have developed a new method for complex X-ray studies that will aid in better understanding so-called correlated metals. These materials could prove useful for practical applications in areas such as superconductivity, data processing, and quantum computers. Today the researchers present their work in the journal Physical Review X.

A new non-invasive technique for parchment diagnosis

The conservation state of parchments is typically assessed using invasive and sometimes destructive investigation techniques. Scientists from Université Paris-Saclay, the CNRS, École Polytechnique, and the French Ministry of Culture have developed a non-destructive and non-invasive advanced optical imaging technique to quantitatively assess the degradation state of parchments. The approach was validated using artificially-aged samples and then applied to 13th century parchment manuscripts from the renowned collection at the Chartres Library. Their work was published in the journal Science Advances on July 16, 2021.

Test of Lord Kelvin's isotropic helicoid ideas fail to prove theory correct

A small team of researchers from Wesleyan University, Aix Marseille University and Gothenburg University has attempted to test Lord Kelvin's isotropic helicoid theory by building several test objects and dropping them in a tub of water. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the group describes how they constructed their objects, how they tested them and what they observed.

The era of single-spin color centers in silicon carbide is approaching

Prof. Li Chuanfeng, Prof. Xu Jinshi and their colleagues from Prof. Guo Guangcan's group at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), realized the high-contrast readout and coherent manipulation of a single silicon carbide divacancy color center electron spin at room temperature for the first time. They were working in cooperation with Prof. Adam Gali, from the Wigner Research Centre for Physics in Hungary. This work was published in National Science Review on July 5, 2021.

Astronomy and Space news

EHT pinpoints dark heart of the nearest radio galaxy

An international team anchored by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration, which is known for capturing the first image of a black hole in the galaxy Messier 87, has now imaged the heart of the nearest radio galaxy Centaurus A in unprecedented detail. The astronomers pinpoint the location of the central supermassive black hole and reveal how a gigantic jet is being born. Most remarkably, only the outer edges of the jets seem to emit radiation, which challenges our theoretical models of jets. This work, led by Michael Janssen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn and Radboud University Nijmegen is published in Nature Astronomy on 19 July.

Chinese astronomers investigate X-ray bursts of SGR J1935+2154

By analyzing the data from NASA's Fermi spacecraft, astronomers from the Hebei Normal University and Nanjing University in China, have investigated X-ray bursting activity of a soft gamma-ray repeater (SGR) known as SGR J1935+2154. Results of the study, published July 9 on, deliver more hints about the properties of X-ray bursts from this source.

A bug's life: Millimeter-tall mountains on neutron stars

New models of neutron stars show that their tallest mountains may be only fractions of millimeters high, due to the huge gravity on the ultra-dense objects. The research is presented today at the National Astronomy Meeting 2021.

Cosmic rays help supernovae explosions pack a bigger punch

The final stage of cataclysmic explosions of dying massive stars, called supernovae, could pack an up to six times bigger punch on the surrounding interstellar gas with the help of cosmic rays, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Oxford. The work will be presented by Ph.D. student Francisco Rodríguez Montero today (19 July) at the virtual National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2021).

Tail without a comet: The dusty remains of Comet ATLAS

A serendipitous flythrough of the tail of a disintegrated comet has offered scientists a unique opportunity to study these remarkable structures, in new research presented today at the National Astronomy Meeting 2021.

EXPLAINER: How Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos will soar into space

When Blue Origin launches people into space for the first time, founder Jeff Bezos will be on board. No test pilots or flight engineers for Tuesday's debut flight from West Texas, just Bezos, his brother, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer and a teenage tourist.

Centennial of ex-astronaut, US Senator John Glenn marked

John Glenn has been honored over the weekend with a three-day festival in Ohio marking what would have been the history-making astronaut and U.S. senator's 100th birthday.

Who's who on Blue Origin's first crewed flight

Blue Origin's maiden crewed flight on Tuesday involves four people who will cross the Karman line, which separates Earth's atmosphere from space, for the very first time.

How can you become a space tourist?

Thrill-seekers might soon be able to get their adrenaline kicks—and envy-inducing Instagram snaps—from the final frontier, as space tourism finally lifts off.

Earth's richest man Bezos to blast off into space

Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, is set to join the astronaut club Tuesday on the first crewed launch by Blue Origin, another key moment in a big month for the fledgling space tourism industry.

Hubble reveals a 'rediscovered' star cluster

This image shows the globular cluster NGC 6380, which lies around 35,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Scorpio (the Scorpion). Globular clusters are spherical groups of stars held together by gravity; they often contain some of the oldest stars in their galaxies. The very bright star at the top of the image is HD 159073, which is only around 4,000 light-years from Earth, making it a much nearer neighbor than NGC 6380. This image was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, which, as its name suggests, has a wide field of view, meaning that it can image relatively large areas of the sky in enormous detail.

New sunspot catalogue to improve space weather predictions

Scientists from the University of Graz, Kanzelhöhe Observatory, Skoltech, and the World Data Center SILSO at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, have presented the Catalog of Hemispheric sunspot Numbers. It will enable more accurate predictions of the solar cycle and space weather, which can affect human-made infrastructure both on Earth and in orbit. The study came out in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal, and the catalog is available from SILSO—the World Data Center for the production, preservation, and dissemination of the international sunspot number.

Rescuing the Integral spacecraft: No thrust? No problem

A year ago tomorrow, a failure on the Integral spacecraft meant it fired its thrusters for likely the last time. In the days since, the spacecraft in Earth orbit has continued to shed light on the violent gamma ray universe, and it should soon be working even more efficiently than before, as mission control teams implement an ingenious new way to control the 18-year-old spacecraft.

Ancient meteorite could reveal the origins of life on Earth

A 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite found in the laying in the imprint of a horseshoe is likely a remnant of cosmic debris left over from the birth of the solar system and could answer questions about how life began on Earth.

Freeze drying, oral health experiments make speedy return from space station aboard SpaceX Dragon

A suite of International Space Station scientific experiments soon journey back to Earth aboard the 22nd SpaceX commercial resupply services mission for NASA. Scientists on the ground look forward to having their experiments back within hours, an advantage that could provide better results. Dragon undocks from the space station July 7.

Technology news

Researchers use high-speed cameras to reveal bubbles popping like blooming flowers

The oil industry, pharmaceutical companies and bioreactor manufacturers all face one common enemy: bubbles. Bubbles can form during the manufacturing or transport of various liquids, and their formation and rupture can cause significant issues in product quality.

50,000 phone numbers worldwide on list linked to Israeli spyware: reports

An Israeli firm accused of supplying spyware to governments has been linked to a list of tens of thousands of smartphone numbers, including those of activists, journalists, business executives and politicians around the world, according to reports.

Cheap, sustainable, readily available plasma tech could replace rare iridium

A team led by a researcher from the University of Sydney has developed a low-cost, sustainable, and readily available technology that can dim the screens of electronic devices, anti-reflection automobile mirrors, and smart architectural windows at a fraction of the cost of current technology.

Novel techniques extract more accurate data from images degraded by environmental factors

Computer vision technology is increasingly used in areas such as automatic surveillance systems, self-driving cars, facial recognition, healthcare and social distancing tools. Users require accurate and reliable visual information to fully harness the benefits of video analytics applications but the quality of the video data is often affected by environmental factors such as rain, night-time conditions or crowds (where there are multiple images of people overlapping with each other in a scene). Using computer vision and deep learning, a team of researchers led by Yale-NUS College Associate Professor of Science (Computer Science) Robby Tan, who is also from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Engineering, has developed novel approaches that resolve the problem of low-level vision in videos caused by rain and night-time conditions, as well as improve the accuracy of 3D human pose estimation in videos.

Renewable energy OK, but not too close to home

When it comes to transitioning from carbon-based to renewable source energy systems, Americans are on board. They're less keen, however, having these new energy infrastructures—wind turbines or solar farms—built close to their homes, which creates hurdles for policymakers. That's according to a study from University of Georgia researcher Thomas Lawrence.

EXPLAINER: Could balloons power uncensored internet in Cuba?

Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, called this week on the administration of President Joe Biden to greenlight a plan to transmit the internet to people in Cuba via high-altitude balloons when their government has blocked access.

After conquering Earth, Bezos eyes new frontier in space

Jeff Bezos sets his sights on a new frontier in space in the coming days after building a gargantuan business empire which has in many ways conquered the Earth.

Electric car lithium demand powers mining revival in UK

As the global auto sector accelerates production of electric cars, one British company is hoping to cash in from mining lithium needed to make rechargeable batteries that power the vehicles.

Don't try to replace pets with robots; design robots to be more like service animals

Robopets are artificially intelligent machines created to look like an animal (usually a cat or dog, but they can be any animal). There are numerous robopets on the market right now, being sold to consumers as "pets" or companions. There is an especially fervent effort being made to set caregivers' minds at ease by buying these robopets for older adults to replace their deceased or surrendered companion animals.

Music streaming consumption fell during COVID-19 lockdowns

The COVID-19 pandemic was expected to change how people consume media. A new study analyzed online music streaming data for top songs for two years in 60 countries, as well as COVID-19 case and lockdown statistics and daily mobility data, to determine the nature of those changes. The study found that the pandemic significantly reduced the consumption of audio music streaming in many countries.

Zoom buying Five9 in $14.7B all-stock transaction

Zoom, the videoconferencing company whose growth was supercharged by the pandemic over the past year, will buy the cloud call center company Five9 in an all-stock deal valued at about $14.7 billion.

Microsoft Exchange hack caused by China, US and allies say

The Biden administration and Western allies formally blamed China on Monday for a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software and asserted that criminal hackers associated with the Chinese government have carried out ransomware and other illicit cyber operations.

Robinhood aims for $35 bn valuation when it goes public

The fast-growing online investment platform Robinhood aims for a valuation of as much as $35 billion when it goes public, the company said Monday in a securities filing.

Pegasus spyware: how does it work?

Governments around the world are facing bombshell allegations that they used Israeli-made malware to spy on the phones of activists, journalists, corporate executives and politicians.

The perverse cycle of a warming climate and the rise of air conditioners

"Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun," Noel Coward famously sang in 1931, mocking British colonials who ventured out into the scorching midday sun at the hottest time of day. "The Dutch also still think the sun is their friend," says researcher Lenneke Kuijer. During the August 2020 heat wave she investigated how Dutch households deal with hot weather. "It's time for change while it's still possible," she believes. "Less air conditioning, more outdoor shading and a different way of dealing with heat."

The extensive search for cation substitution in lithium-ion batteries

Powering everything from smartphones to electric cars, lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have evolved markedly with advances in technology and revolutionized our world. The next step in the progress of technology is developing even better batteries to power electronic devices for longer durations. One promising technique for increasing battery performance involves the atomic substitution of positively charged ions, or 'cations', in the cathode material. However, doing so systematically for different substituent cations to determine the ideal ones experimentally is complex and expensive, leaving us with simulations as the only viable option for narrowing down the choices.

An automated flight control system for drone swarms

Creating new procedures that improve mass drone traffic is the purpose of LABYRINTH, a European research project coordinated by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) with the participation of 13 international organizations within the R&D&I, transport, emergency, and auxiliary services fields. Researchers hope to use these drone swarm applications to improve civil road, train, sea, and air transport, making it safer, more efficient, and more sustainable.

Scientists adopt deep learning for multi-object tracking

Computer vision has progressed much over the past decade and made its way into all sorts of relevant applications, both in academia and in our daily lives. There are, however, some tasks in this field that are still extremely difficult for computers to perform with acceptable accuracy and speed. One example is object tracking, which involves recognizing persistent objects in video footage and tracking their movements. While computers can simultaneously track more objects than humans, they usually fail to discriminate the appearance of different objects. This, in turn, can lead to the algorithm to mix up objects in a scene and ultimately produce incorrect tracking results.

A new metric for designing safer streets

A new study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention shows how biometric data can be used to find potentially challenging and dangerous areas of urban infrastructure before a crash occurs. Lead author Megan Ryerson led a team of researchers in the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the School of Engineering and Applied Science in collecting and analyzing eye-tracking data from cyclists navigating Philadelphia's streets. The team found that individual-based metrics can provide a more proactive approach for designing safer roadways for bicyclists and pedestrians.

New material could mean lightweight armor, protective coatings

Army-funded research identified a new material that may lead to lightweight armor, protective coatings, blast shields and other impact-resistant structures.

UN urges better regulation of surveillance technology

The UN voiced alarm Monday at reports that several governments used Israeli phone malware to spy on activists, journalists and others, stressing the urgent need for better regulation of surveillance technology.

CNN to ramp up streaming as viewers quit cable

CNN unveiled plans Monday to launch a subscription streaming service next year in a stepped up effort to connect with viewers without cable or satellite television.

Duolingo valuation could top $4 bn in upcoming Nasdaq debut

Duolingo, a language learning smartphone app that has grown during the coronavirus pandemic, plans to go public with an overall valuation of potentially more than $4 billion.

Biden says social media misinformation on COVID 'killing people'

President Joe Biden said Friday that social media misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccinations is "killing people" and the White House said Facebook needs to clean up its act.

Pegasus spyware affair 'completely unacceptable' if true: EU chief

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Monday the spyware scandal involving an Israeli software firm and up to 50,000 smartphone numbers was "completely unacceptable" if true.

Journalists, activists ensnared in Israeli spyware scandal

European politicians and media groups voiced outrage Monday over reports that an Israeli firm supplied phone malware used by governments to spy on activists, journalists, lawyers and politicians in several countries.

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