Science X Newsletter Thursday, Aug 5

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Here is your customized Science X Newsletter for August 5, 2021:

Spotlight Stories Headlines

A theoretical approach for designing a self-organizing human-swarm system

Sticky toes unlock life in the trees

New method opens the door to efficient genome writing in bacteria

Food or sex? Fruit flies give insight into decision-making

Scientists mail freeze-dried mouse sperm on a postcard

Crop farmers face new disease pressures as climate changes

Scientists ID enzyme for making key industrial chemical in plants

Corn's genetic diversity on display in new genome study

Leaping squirrels! Parkour is one of their many feats of agility

This quantum crystal could be a new dark matter sensor

New approach to information transfer reaches quantum speed limit

Lunar samples solve mystery of the moon's supposed magnetic shield

Astronomers detect new large sub-Neptune alien world

Solving solar puzzle could help save Earth from planet-wide blackouts

Using two CRISPR enzymes, a COVID diagnostic in only 20 minutes

Physics news

This quantum crystal could be a new dark matter sensor

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have linked together, or "entangled," the mechanical motion and electronic properties of a tiny blue crystal, giving it a quantum edge in measuring electric fields with record sensitivity that may enhance understanding of the universe.

New approach to information transfer reaches quantum speed limit

Even though quantum computers are a young technology and aren't yet ready for routine practical use, researchers have already been investigating the theoretical constraints that will bound quantum technologies. One of the things researchers have discovered is that there are limits to how quickly quantum information can race across any quantum device.

Decades of research bring quantum dots to brink of widespread use

A new article in Science magazine gives an overview of almost three decades of research into colloidal quantum dots, assesses the technological progress for these nanometer-sized specs of semiconductor matter, and weighs the remaining challenges on the path to widespread commercialization for this promising technology with applications in everything from TVs to highly efficient sunlight collectors.

Joining topological insulators with magnetic materials for energy-efficient electronics

A new Monash review throws the spotlight on recent research in heterostructures of topological insulators and magnetic materials.

A major challenge to harvesting fusion energy on Earth

A key challenge for scientists striving to produce on Earth the fusion energy that powers the sun and stars is preventing what are called runaway electrons, particles unleashed in disrupted fusion experiments that can bore holes in tokamaks, the doughnut-shaped machines that house the experiments. Scientists led by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have used a novel diagnostic with wide-ranging capabilities to detect the birth, and the linear and exponential growth phases of high-energy runaway electrons, which may allow researchers to determine how to prevent the electrons' damage.

Astronomy and Space news

Lunar samples solve mystery of the moon's supposed magnetic shield

In 2024, a new age of space exploration will begin when NASA sends astronauts to the moon as part of their Artemis mission, a follow-up to the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

Astronomers detect new large sub-Neptune alien world

Using NASA's Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS), an international team of astronomers has detected a new sub-Neptune exoplanet orbiting an M dwarf star. The newly found extrasolar world, designated TOI-2406 b, is nearly three times larger than the Earth. The discovery is reported in a paper published July 29 on

Solving solar puzzle could help save Earth from planet-wide blackouts

Could solar storms knock out the global internet? Yes, but we don't know when or how it could happen. Mathematician Dr. Geoffrey Vasil has proposed a new understanding of the Sun's convection zone to help.

New observations show rocky exoplanet has just half the mass of Venus

A team of astronomers have used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO's VLT) in Chile to shed new light on planets around a nearby star, L 98-59, that resemble those in the inner Solar System. Amongst the findings are a planet with half the mass of Venus—the lightest exoplanet ever to be measured using the radial velocity technique—an ocean world, and a possible planet in the habitable zone.

New study sheds light on the mysterious dimming of Betelgeuse

Betelgeuse (α Orionis) is the bright reddish star located in the shoulder of the Orion constellation and can be seen by the naked eye in the night sky.

Unparalleled bounty of oscillating red giant stars detected

An unprecedented collection of pulsating giant red stars has been identified by astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA). Using observations from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the researchers detected the stars, whose rhythms arise from internal sound waves and provide the opening chords of a symphonic exploration of our galactic neighborhood.

Detailed look at earliest moments of supernova explosion

In a world-first, astronomers at The Australian National University (ANU), working with NASA and an international team of researchers, have captured the first moments of a supernova—the explosive death of stars—in detail never-before-seen.

What lies beneath the far side of the moon?

A new technique for processing lunar radar data has allowed scientists to see what lies beneath the surface of the moon in the clearest ever detail.

V404 Cygni: Huge rings around a black hole

This image features a spectacular set of rings around a black hole, captured using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. The X-ray images of the giant rings reveal information about dust located in our galaxy, using a similar principle to the X-rays performed in doctor's offices and airports.

Superflares are less harmful to exoplanets than previously thought

Superflares, extreme radiation bursts from stars, have been suspected of causing lasting damage to the atmospheres and thus habitability of exoplanets. A newly published study found evidence that they only pose a limited danger to planetary systems, since the radiation bursts do not explode in the direction of the exoplanets.

Technology news

A theoretical approach for designing a self-organizing human-swarm system

Swarm robotics is a relatively new and highly promising research field, which entails the development of multi-robot teams that can move and complete tasks together. Robot swarms could have numerous valuable applications. For instance, they could support humans during search and rescue missions or allow them to monitor geographical areas that are difficult to access.

Touch-sensing glove detects and maps tactile stimuli

When you pick up a balloon, the pressure to keep hold of it is different from what you would exert to grasp a jar. And now engineers at MIT and elsewhere have a way to precisely measure and map such subtleties of tactile dexterity.

New evidence-based system predicts element combination forming high-entropy alloy

High-entropy alloys (HEAs) have desirable physical and chemical properties such as a high tensile strength, and corrosion and oxidation resistance, which make them suitable for a wide range of applications. HEAs are a recent development and their synthesis methods are an area of active research. But before these alloys can be synthesized, it is necessary to predict the various element combinations that would result in an HEA, in order to expedite and reduce the cost of materials research. One of the methods of doing this is by the inductive approach.

Can you microwave an ambulance? New technique could revolutionise how surfaces are disinfected

Microwave engineers, infectious disease specialists and polymer scientists from the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University and the University of Strathclyde have teamed up to create a novel microwave sterilization method that could revolutionize the way ambulances and hospitals are being disinfected.

Achieving equitable access to energy in a changing climate

Access to modern, reliable, and affordable energy services is a must for development and ensuring a decent quality of life. IIASA researchers used a novel bottom-up approach to analyze how access to energy services may evolve over time under different scenarios of socioeconomic growth and policy scenarios that meet climate mitigation goals.

A stretchable sensor material to power wearable electronic that works in extreme cold

A new material designed by researchers at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering combines the flexibility of human skin with improved conductivity and tolerance of temperatures as low as -93 C.

Team develops technique for printing circuits on irregular surfaces with pulses of light

Printable electronics could cause a proliferation of smart, connected devices, from household appliances that can communicate with each other to medical diagnostic sensors that can be placed on the body to forgo invasive procedures. But the variety of printing surfaces poses a challenge, since a method used to print on a flat object may not be safe for use on human skin or applicable for complicated textures and shapes.

Uber's recovery accelerates, but worries about losses linger

Uber's ride-hailing service is regaining the momentum that it lost during the pandemic, but it's coming at a cost that's raising more doubts about the company's ability to make money.

Nintendo sees dwindling impact from pandemic megahit game

Nintendo's April-June profit declined 13% from the same period the previous year, when the hit game "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" dramatically boosted sales.

Biden to set target of half of US car sales to be zero-emission by 2030

President Joe Biden will set a target on Thursday that half of all cars sold in the United States by 2030 will be zero-emission vehicles, the White House announced.

When faces are partially covered, neither people nor algorithms are good at reading emotions

Artificial systems such as homecare robots or driver-assistance technology are becoming more common, and it's timely to investigate whether people or algorithms are better at reading emotions, particularly given the added challenge brought on by face coverings.

How AI can help choose your next career and stay ahead of automation

The typical Australian will change careers five to seven times during their professional lifetime, by some estimates. And this is likely to increase as new technologies automate labor, production is moved abroad, and economic crises unfold.

Biden expected to reverse Trump and announce tougher car pollution standards

President Joe Biden is expected to unveil plans Thursday to strengthen car pollution standards through 2026, putting the United States on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—though not as quickly as many environmentalists say is needed.

Robot uses tactile sign language to help deaf-blind people communicate independently

Jaimi Lard gets into position. She cups her left hand over the device, spreading her fingers across the top of it, and raises her right hand. When Lard is ready, Samantha Johnson presses a few keys on a laptop wired to the robot and then, with a mechanical buzzing sound filling the air, the device begins to move.

Hydrogen-powered aviation will be tested on turboprops at new venture

The dream—and the hype—of hydrogen-powered, zero-emissions aviation will prepare for takeoff from Moses Lake in Central Washington.

Robot dog simplifies infrastructure maintenance

Able to climb stairs, navigate rough terrain, and respond to commands, Spot, the mobile robotic dog, offers researchers an autonomous technology for innovations in infrastructure maintenance and repair Jie Gong thinks robots hold the key to mitigating dangers that can occur during industrial inspections and can serve as innovative tools to maintain the transportation network and aging infrastructure throughout the country.

'Proof of vaccination requirement': Yelp adding businesses' COVID-19 guidelines to listings

Yelp is adding details to listings, so users can see what COVID-19 guidelines businesses have implemented.

All in your head: Exploring human-body communications with binaural hearing aids

Modern portable devices are the result of great progress in miniaturization and wireless communications. Now that these devices can be made even smaller and lighter without loss of functionality, it's likely that a great part of next-generation electronics will revolve around wearable technology. However, for wearables to truly transcend portables, we will need to rethink the way in which devices communicate with each other as "wireless body area networks" (or WBANs). The usual approach of using an antenna to radiate signals into the surrounding area while hoping to reach a receiver won't cut it for wearables. This method of transmission not only demands a lot of energy but can also be unsafe from a cybersecurity standpoint. Moreover, the human body itself also constitutes a large obstacle because it absorbs electromagnetic radiation and blocks signals.

New research identifies an action agenda for Africa's electricity sector

To meet the development needs of a growing population, Africa's electricity sector requires a major transformation.

Tech titans join US cyber team to fight ransomware

US cybersecurity officials on Thursday said Amazon, Google and Microsoft have enlisted to help them fight ransomware and defend cloud computing systems from hackers.

University's biological and agricultural seniors design robotic arm for crawfish harvesting

Crawfish harvesting is a way of life that goes back to the late 1800s in South Louisiana. It's a skill handed down from generation to generation that not only keeps the tradition alive but also puts smiles on the faces of Louisianans who enjoy the fruits of the harvesters' labor. Realizing the importance of this tradition, yet wanting to innovate it, a team of senior LSU Biological and Agricultural Engineering students recently designed a robotic arm that can help with the harvest.

In Tokyo, social platforms help the Pandemic Olympics shine

A condom fixed Jessica Fox's canoe, and skateboarder Jagger Eaton celebrated his bronze medal by broadcasting live on Instagram. Margielyn Didal "let" Tony Hawk take a picture with her to post on Facebook.

End tax breaks for gaming firms, says Chinese state media

China should end tax breaks for gaming companies as they have grown into global firms, a state-backed newspaper said Thursday, in the latest threat to the multi-billion sector to drift out through state-controlled media.

Pent-up travel demand helps Lufthansa halve losses

German airline Lufthansa said Thursday it halved its losses in the second quarter compared to a year ago, as travel restrictions eased over the coronavirus pandemic and passengers returned.

Qatar Airways 'ordered' to ground 13 Airbus planes: airline

Qatar Airways said on Thursday that it had been ordered by regulators in the Gulf state to ground 13 of its Airbus A350 aircraft over the rapid degradation of fuselage surfaces.

Amazon pushes back return to office to January due to COVID

Amazon has pushed back its return-to-office date for tech and corporate workers until January as COVID-19 cases surge nationally due to the more contagious delta variant.

Bidding war? Qualcomm seeks to buy advanced driver assistance firm Veoneer for $4.55 billion

Qualcomm has sparked a potential bidding war for a Swedish maker automotive safety technologies by making an unsolicited offer to acquire Veoneer Inc. for $4.55 billion.

Electric car leader Tesla left out of White House event

Tesla, the global leader in electric cars, was excluded from the White House event Thursday where US President Joe Biden unveiled a big push for zero-emissions vehicles.

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