Science X Newsletter Friday, Jul 23

Dear ymilog,

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

Spotlight Stories Headlines

The electrical control of domain wall devices based on perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions

A curvy and shape-adaptive imager based on printed optoelectronic pixels

Buzz about thermoelectrics heats up with promising new magnesium-based materials

Making the case for intranasal COVID-19 vaccines

Martian global dust storm ended winter early in the south

Meet the Martian meteorite hunters

'Feel good' brain messenger can be willfully controlled, new study reveals

Meeting global climate targets will lead to 8 million more energy jobs worldwide by 2050

New understanding of cell stability with potential to improve immune cell therapies

New measure of tropical forest vulnerability to help avoid 'tipping point'

Researchers develop novel therapy that could be effective in many cancers

Americans with higher net worth at midlife tend to live longer

Researchers use AI to predict risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Dalian Coherent Light Source reveals strong isotope effects in photodissociation of water isotopologue

Beetroot dye helps biologists 'track and trace' symbiotic fungi for sustainable farming

Physics news

A curvy and shape-adaptive imager based on printed optoelectronic pixels

Curved imagers that can adjust their shape could have many valuable applications, for instance, aiding the development of more advanced medical imaging tools and cameras. Most existing flexible curvy imagers, however, are either not compatible with tunable focal surfaces or can only capture images with low resolutions and pixel fill factors.

Buzz about thermoelectrics heats up with promising new magnesium-based materials

The landing of NASA's Perseverance rover was another leap forward not only for space exploration but also for the technology that's powering the craft on its years-long mission on Mars—a thermoelectric generator that turns heat into electricity.

Dalian Coherent Light Source reveals strong isotope effects in photodissociation of water isotopologue

Recently, a research group led by Prof. Yuan Kaijun and Prof. Yang Xueming from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences revealed strong isotope effects in photodissociation of the water isotopologue (HOD) using the Dalian Coherent Light Source.

A new theory to explain the transparency of metallic oxides

The electrons of some metal oxides, due to their large effective mass when coupled with the ionic lattice of the material, cannot follow the electric field of light and allow it to pass through the material. Transparent and conductive materials are used in smartphone touch screens and solar panels for photovoltaic energy.

Electromagnetism is a property of the spacetime itself, study finds

Imagine if we could use strong electromagnetic fields to manipulate the local properties of spacetime—this could have important ramifications in terms of science and engineering.

Exploring topology in biology

When can we say that a certain property of a system is robust? Intuitively, robustness implies that, even under the effect of external perturbations on the system, no matter how strong or random, said property remains unchanged. In mathematics, properties of an object that are robust against deformations are called topological. For example, the letters s, S, and L can be transformed into each other by stretching or bending their shape. The same holds true for letters o, O, and D. However, it is impossible to turn an S into an O without a discontinuous operation, such as cutting the O apart or sticking the two ends of the S together. Therefore, we say that the letters s, S and L have the same topology—as do the letters o, O and D—whereas the two groups of letters have different topologies. But how does topology relate to biology?

A device that cracks milk protein

After gaining world attention by 'unboiling' egg protein, Flinders University scientists have now used an Australian-made novel thin film microfluidic device to manipulate Beta-lactoglobulin (β-lactoglobulin), the major whey protein in cow, sheep and other mammal milks.

The science of underwater swimming: How staying submerged gives Olympians the winning edge

To win swimming gold in Tokyo, swimmers not only have to generate incredible power with their arms and legs to propel themselves through the water; they also have to overcome the relentless pull of the water's drag while doing so.

Cascaded metasurfaces for dynamic control of THz wavefronts

Electromagnetic (EM) waves in the terahertz (THz) regime contribute to important applications in communications, security imaging, and bio- and chemical sensing. Such wide applicability has resulted in significant technological progress. However, due to weak interactions between natural materials and THz waves, conventional THz devices are typically bulky and inefficient. Although ultracompact active THz devices do exist, current electronic and photonic approaches to dynamic control have lacked efficiency.

Generation and application of the high-Q resonance in all-dielectric metasurfaces

In a new publication from Opto-Electronic Advances, researchers led by Professor Liu Yan from Xidian University, China and Professor Gan Xuetao from Northwestern Polytechnical University, China, consider generation and application of the high-Q resonance in all-dielectric metasurfaces.

Astronomy and Space news

Martian global dust storm ended winter early in the south

A dust storm that engulfed Mars in 2018 destroyed a vortex of cold air around the planet's south pole and brought an early spring to the hemisphere. By contrast, the storm caused only minor distortions to the polar vortex in the northern hemisphere and no dramatic seasonal changes. Dr. Paul Streeter of The Open University's Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics will present the work today (23 July) at the virtual National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2021).

Meet the Martian meteorite hunters

A team at the Natural History Museum (NHM), London is paving the way for future rovers to search for meteorites on Mars. The scientists are using the NHM's extensive meteorite collection to test the spectral instruments destined for the ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin, and develop tools to identify meteorites on the surface of the red planet. The project is being presented today (23 July) at the virtual National Astronomy Meeting 2021.

Scientists seek better understanding of Earth's atmospheric chemistry by studying Mars

Long-term studies of ozone and water vapor in the atmosphere of Mars could lead to better understanding of atmospheric chemistry for the Earth. A new analysis of data from ESA's Mars Express mission has revealed that our knowledge of the way these atmospheric gases interact with each other is incomplete.

Planetary nebulae in distant galaxies

Using data from the MUSE instrument, researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) succeeded in detecting extremely faint planetary nebulae in distant galaxies. The method used, a filter algorithm in image data processing, opens up new possibilities for cosmic distance measurement—and thus also for determining the Hubble constant.

Mini radar could scan the moon for water and habitable tunnels

A miniature device that scans deep below ground is being developed to identify ice deposits and hollow lava tubes on the moon for possible human settlement.

Keen to sign up for space tourism? Here are 6 things to consider (besides the price tag)

It's been a momentous month for space-faring billionaires. On July 11, British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson's Unity "rocket-plane" flew him and five fellow passengers about 85 kilometers above Earth. And this week, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' New Shepard capsule reached an altitude of 106km, carrying Bezos, his brother, and the oldest and youngest people ever to reach such a height. Passengers on both flights experienced several minutes of weightlessness and took in breathtaking views of our beautiful and fragile Earth.

Laser research to boost deep space missions

Canberra is one step closer to being Australia's home to deep space laser communication, thanks to a government funding for researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Mars InSight: mission unveils surprising secrets of red planet's interior – new research

We may have walked on the moon and sent probes across the solar system, but we know very little about what's going on inside other planets. Now, for the first time, we have been able to view the interior of one, thanks to Nasa's Mars InSight probe. The probe, which landed in 2018, is equipped with a solar-powered lander bristling with equipment, including a seismometer (a very sensitive vibration detector).

Technology news

The electrical control of domain wall devices based on perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions

Domain walls (DWs) are boundaries between two neighboring magnetic domains. The electrical manipulation of these boundaries in nanostructures could ultimately lead to the development of new computing systems to store and process information.

Meeting global climate targets will lead to 8 million more energy jobs worldwide by 2050

Researchers created a global dataset of job footprints in 50 countries and used a model to investigate how trying to meet the Paris Agreement global climate target of staying well below 2°C would affect energy sector jobs. They found that action to reach said target would increase net jobs by about 8 million by 2050, primarily due to gains in the solar and wind industries. The analysis appears July 23 in the journal One Earth.

Swarms of tiny dumb robots found to carry out sophisticated actions

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Europe has found that swarms of tiny dumb vibrating robots are capable of carrying out sophisticated actions such as transporting objects or squeezing through tunnels. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the group describes experiments they conducted with tiny dumb robots they called "bugs."

Mineral alchemy taps into key ingredients for green energy revolution: Salt and potassium

Sodium, the main constituent in salt, and potassium alteration are associated with some of the world's most valuable ore deposits.

Better behaving bots: Researcher helps robots problem solve and care

ANU researcher Hanna Kurniawati is helping robots problem solve and care. Her work has not just shaped how AI works every day; it's been recognized with a major global prize.

Google parent launches new 'moonshot' for robotics software

Google's parent Alphabet unveiled a new "moonshot" project to develop software for robotics which could be used in a wide range of industries.

Priest outed via Grindr app highlights rampant data tracking

When a religious publication used smartphone app data to deduce the sexual orientation of a high-ranking Roman Catholic official, it exposed a problem that goes far beyond a debate over church doctrine and priestly celibacy.

Sales of electric cars charge ahead in Europe

Electric cars—key to reducing emissions and meeting climate change goals—have boosted their market share in Europe, data showed Friday, as the region prepares to abandon petrol and diesel.

Can Facebook's $1 bn gamble help it regain lost cool?

Like internet personalities the world over, Kenyan TikTok comedian Mark Mwas was intrigued when Facebook announced a $1 billion plan to pay content creators like him.

Twitter wants everybody on the platform to potentially make more money with, and for, them

Twitter is outright blatant when it says it wants to make money for you—and for them—through its slew of new features including Super Follows and Tip Jar. That's a big boast and subsequent bet as the social media platform stock surged after posting a strong second-quarter beating analyst expectations.

Spyware: Why the booming surveillance tech industry is vulnerable to corruption and abuse

The world's most sophisticated commercially available spyware may be being abused, according to an investigation by 17 media organizations in ten countries. Intelligence leaks and forensic phone analysis suggests the surveillance software, called Pegasus, has been used to target and spy on the phones of human rights activists, investigative journalists, politicians, researchers and academics.

A 10-year look at the battery supply chain in America

Electric vehicles (EVs) can help put America on the path toward a clean energy economy. Yet the supply chain behind them is not fully understood.

How Android unlocking patterns could be made more secure

Users of Android devices can unlock the display by entering a pattern. This function is convenient and thus popular—however, less secure than locking with a PIN. An international research team thus recommends implementing a blocklist on Android devices that prohibits the 100 most popular patterns, which are thus the easiest to guess. Precisely how this needs to be created has been investigated by Philipp Markert from the Horst Görtz Institute for IT Security at Ruhr-Universität Bochum together with colleagues from The George Washington University and the United States Navy.

New malware detection for Android at the source code level

There are numerous malware detection and antivirus apps for mobile devices running the Android operating system. However, a team in China introduces a new approach that can detect malicious activity at the source code level. They provide details in the International Journal of Information and Computer Security.

GM issues 2nd Bolt recall; faulty batteries can cause fires

General Motors is recalling some older Chevrolet Bolts for a second time to fix persistent battery problems that can set the electric cars ablaze.

Plans for largest US solar field north of Vegas scrapped

The push to transition from carbon-emitting fuel sources to renewable energy is hitting a roadblock in Nevada, where solar power developers are abandoning plans to build what would have been the United States' largest array of solar panels in the desert north of Las Vegas.

GM using expanded Super Cruise on 6 vehicles next year

General Motors said Friday that it will include its expanded, hands-free driver-assisted technology on six vehicles next year.

China's Didi facing record fine, weeks after US listing: report

Chinese regulators could hit ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing with a more severe punishment than Alibaba's record fine, just weeks after its contentious New York initial public offering, a report said.

Frenzied appetite for India food delivery giant Zomato's IPO

Shares of Indian food delivery giant Zomato soared on its market debut Friday, following a 93.75 billion rupee ($1.3 billion) IPO, the country's biggest this year.

Crypto crackdown: Malaysian police steamroll bitcoin machines

Malaysian police hit on a novel way to dispose of more than 1,000 bitcoin-mining machines seized in raids—they crushed the devices using a steamroller.

Americans are spending again and American Express is booming

Spending at restaurants, shops and entertainment venues has come back in force as vaccines become more common and it fueled a revenue surge at American Express during the second quarter.

Tokyo Olympic flame is the first powered by hydrogen

Inspired by the sun, the Tokyo Olympic cauldron is designed to be better for the planet.

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lemme lick that cable

Or the excitement I gained from a support page on Apple's website being updated.
TNW View in browser →
Plugged In

This week, Plugged In has been going through the house and worming its slippery tongue into as many power sockets as possible.

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you've stared into the mirror, both hands on that cool glass, and asked yourself "how did I end up like this?"

Here's the story: Apple updated its support page for the MagSafe laptop charger for the first time since 2016.

That's it.

That's what got my metaphorical nipples perky enough to skewer olives with.

Screenshot 2021-07-23 at 14.01.53If you're all like "Callum, what the fuck is a MagSafe charger?" here's your answer.

Of course, I'm being slightly glib: there's more to this than just an updated page.

Screenshot 2021-07-23 at 14.03.35BUT JUST LOOK AT THE DAMN DATE ANYWAY


MagSafe adaptors were a genius piece of engineering and design by Apple. I remember them appearing on MacBooks in 2006 and being breathlessly impressed by the tech.

The idea that I could trip over my computer wire and, rather than sending my laptop flying like a discus in the hands of a German, the little magnet would safely pop out instead, leaving my machine safe and sound.

Yet as a poet (probably) said: all good things must end.

In 2016, Apple began phasing MagSafe out. Instead, it moved to a more standard USB-C cable.

usb c

This had benefits, one being you could now charge your MacBook far easier. But there were a raft of downsides too.

Specifically, wrapping the laptop cable around your foot and witnessing a Fast & Furious scene in real life.

source-Jul-23-2021-12-17-57-42-PM"MACBOOK, NOOOOOO."

Here's where my excitement piqued.

Reports have been dribbling out that the new MacBooks dropping at the end of the year will bring MagSafe adaptors back.

This, of course, hasn't been confirmed by Apple, but when I saw the support page got updated I… believed. A full Mulder-scale belief, the sort of thing I'd ruin my career over.

And here's where we circle back to the original point: will this excitement about a laptop charger and updated support page thrill a crowd at a party? 

Fuck yeah it will.

Next event I'm invited to, I'm gonna sprint around the house, pointing at charging cables, and demanding to know if they're magnetic.

"When was the support page for that last updated?" I'll howl, pointing at a Dell laptop, as I'm dragged kicking and screaming out of the house.

(P.S. we're keen to improve Plugged In and hear what you think about it, so head to the bottom of this email to give us your thoughts!)

News you need


After Bezos went to space, it only made sense to rank the new iOS 14.7 features by how useful they'd be up there in the cosmos. 


Samsung's launching a whole lot of New Shit on August 11. Here's all the hot goss


The Apple Watch is missing a key feature: a warmup mode. WHERE THE HELL IS MY WARMUP MODE, TIM?


Google! Yeah, you. Listen, we've got some ideas about how to make a Pro version of the Pixel Buds.


Windows 11. Updates. Yearly. Fuck yeah.

A review you're required to read

As long-term acolytes of the church of Plugged In know, this newsletter (and its writer, me) have a thing for books.

That's why it's an absolute pleasure to suggest you read this glorious article all about Floyd Toole's Sound Reproduction.


We described this as "the most important book for audiophiles," as it addresses some of the biggest questions sound enjoyers have about, well, sound.

Basically, I'd suggest you just go and read the article. It could be the first step on a glorious journey.

Sponsored by TNW

Hold on one hot minute... is that Tom Cruise?

Oh lord I'm getting all sweaty in excitement about TNW2021 — and you really should be feeling the same.

Why? Because of speakers like Chris Ume. He's the co-founder of, and is widely recognized as the world expert in the emerging field of hyper-real videos.

Yoy may remember him as the creator of the deepfake Tom Cruise on TikTok.

Anyway, you can find out more about the body-tingling TNW2021 right here. Come and hang in Amsterdam.

Here's a cool thing (also, cya)


Last weekend, I watched Tampopo again for the first time in... a decade? Oh god I'm getting old.

For those unfamiliar, it's a Japanese movie "about" a woman (the eponymous Tampopo) trying to improve her noodle store — but, in reality, that's only a miniscule part of the film.

This comedy is dubbed as a "ramen western" and — in-between a cast of characters trying to help Tampopo level up her shop — are a series of odd vignettes.

Many of which you'll never forget. (I'll just say "sucking on egg yolk" and leave it there).

Tampopo is a truly idiosyncratic work. In fact, it may be the finest film about food ever made. If you watch it hungry, you're gonna have a bad time. That I guarantee.

Directed by Juzo Itami, Tampopo is a movie like no other. It manages to be both lighthearted and profound, exploring the central role that eating plays in our lives.

Damn, just writing this has got my stomach rumbling.


Tell your enemies all about Plugged In. I'll see the rest of you jabronis later.


Peas & Louvre,


(Find me on Twitter here, yo)

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