Hexbyte Glen Cove Tapping into magnets to clamp down on noise in quantum information thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Tapping into magnets to clamp down on noise in quantum information

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Researchers at Argonne have demonstrated an on-chip quantum circuit and realized strong coupling between a superconducting resonator and a magnetic device. This earlier research introduced a new platform for investigating quantum information processing. Credit: Ellen Weiss/Argonne National Laboratory.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recently funded both DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (UIUC) in a new project related to quantum information science. The Argonne team will bring to the project its expertise in coupling superconducting and magnetic systems. The UIUC team will contribute its world-class capabilities for developing new magnetic materials for quantum systems.

“Quantum information science promises new and different ways in which scientists can process and manipulate information for sensing, data transfer and computing,” said Valentine Novosad, a senior scientist in Argonne’s Materials Science division. “UIUC is a perfect partner for us to realize breakthrough discoveries in this area.”

In the emerging field of , microwaves may play a fundamental role because their physical properties enable them to provide desired quantum functionality at temperatures near to absolute zero (minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit)—a necessity because heat creates errors in quantum operations. However, microwaves are susceptible to noise, which is unwanted energy that disturbs signal and data transmission.

The research team will be exploring whether magnons could partner with photons to ensure that microwaves can only travel in one direction, thereby essentially eliminating noise. Magnons are the fundamental excitations of magnets. By contrast, microwave photons result from electronic excitations producing waves like those in a microwave oven.

The Argonne scientists will build upon their earlier efforts to create a superconducting circuit integrated with magnetic elements. The magnons and photons talk to each other through this superconducting device. Superconductivity—the complete absence of electrical resistance—allows coupling of magnons and microwave photons at near to absolute zero.

“This capability presents unique opportunities for manipulating quantum information,” explained Yi Li, a postdoctoral appointee in Argonne’s Materials Science division.

In the past, Argonne has played major roles in the development of superconducting detectors and sensors for understanding the workings of the universe at the most fundamental level. “We will benefit from the valuable knowledge gained in these highly successful projects in cosmology and particle physics,” Novosad said.

The UIUC researchers will be searching for magnets that work at ultracold temperatures. They will be testing known and new material systems to find candidates that can handle an ultracold environment and operate in a real quantum device.

“Many magnets work well with microwaves at room temperature” said Axel Hoffmann, Founder Professor in Engineering at UIUC and the leader of this . “We need materials that work also well at much lower temperatures, which may completely change their properties.”

“If we are successful within these three years, we will have magnetic structures directly integrated with quantum circuitry,” Hoffmann said. “This work could also apply to non-quantum devices for sensing and communication, such as in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technologies.”

This new project is another example of how Argonne and UIUC are leading the way toward a quantum future. Argonne not only conducts cross-disciplinary research within its large portfolio of QIS projects but also leads Q-NEXT, one of five QIS research centers DOE established in August 2020. Similarly, UIUC supports a wide range of quantum information projects, such as Q-NEXT, through the Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology (IQUIST) Center.

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Cavalier King Charles spaniels carry more harmful genetic variants than other breeds thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Cavalier King Charles spaniels carry more harmful genetic variants than other breeds

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Comparisons of dachshunds with and without signs of heart disease were used to help identify mutations that potentially predispose cavalier King Charles spaniels to develop MMVD. Credit: Måns Engelbrektsson, Swedish Kennel Club, CC-BY 4.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Recent dog breeding practices have loaded up cavalier King Charles spaniels with disease-causing mutations, including variants linked to the common heart condition, myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMVD). Erik Axelsson of Uppsala University and colleagues published these new findings September 2nd in the journal PLOS Genetics.

The past 300 years of dog breeding have created an incredible diversity of breeds with various sizes, shapes, and abilities. Unfortunately, this process has also caused many breeds to become more inbred and more likely to inherit . The study’s researchers wanted to know whether recent breeding practices had increased the number of disease-causing variants in . They sequenced entire genomes from 20 dogs from eight common breeds, such as beagles, German shepherds, and golden retrievers. They found that the cavalier King Charles spaniel, which experienced the most intense breeding, carried more harmful genetic variants than the other breeds they examined.

The researchers also looked for genetic variants in the cavalier King Charles spaniel genomes linked to MMVD. In this condition, the mitral valve in the degenerates, allowing blood to leak from the back into the left atrium. They identified two genetic variants linked to the disease, which appear to regulate a gene that codes for a common protein in heart muscle. The findings offer a potential explanation for why the cavalier King Charles spaniel is predisposed to develop the disease.

The especially large number of potentially harmful genes in the genomes of cavalier King Charles spaniels, compared to other dogs, likely resulted from its breeding history. Records suggest that small spaniel-type dogs have existed for at least 1,000 years and were popular at royal courts for several hundred years throughout Asia and Europe, including at the court of King Charles II (1630-1685). These spaniels experienced several “bottlenecks” where only a small percentage of the population passed on their genes to the next generation. The bottlenecks may have made the harmful genes more common in the cavalier King Charles spaniel genome before the dog achieved recognition as a breed in 1945.

Axelsson adds, “We find that recent breeding may have led to an accelerated accumulation of harmful mutations in certain dog breeds. In the Cavalier King Charles spaniel specifically, one or several of these mutations affect heart muscle protein NEBL and may predispose this to devastating heart disease.”

More information:
Axelsson E, Ljungvall I, Bhoumik P, Conn LB, Muren E, Ohlsson Å, et al. (2021) The genetic consequences of dog breed formation—Accumulation of deleterious genetic variation and fixation of mutations associated with myxomatous mitral valve disease in cavalier King Charles spaniels. PLoS Genet 17(9): e1009726. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1009726

Cavalier King Charles spaniels carry more harmful genetic variants than other breeds (2021, September 2)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Study reveals extreme winter weather is related to Arctic change thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Study reveals extreme winter weather is related to Arctic change

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new study shows that the frequency of polar vortex disruptions that is most favorable for extreme winter weather in the United States is increasing, and that Arctic change is likely contributing to the increasing trend. Led by Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER), University Massachusetts Lowell and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the study is published in the September 3 issue of Science.

The analysis demonstrates that a relatively obscure weak or disrupted state of the stratospheric polar , where it takes on a stretched appearance rather than the more typical circular appearance, has been increasing over the satellite era (post 1979). Extreme weather in the US is more common when the polar vortex is stretched. Both observational analysis and numerical modeling experiments demonstrate that changes in the Arctic, including accelerated warming, melting sea ice and increasing Siberian snowfall, are favorable for stretching the polar vortex followed by extreme winter weather in North America east of the Rockies. Such a chain of events occurred in February 2021, when a stretched polar vortex preceded the destructive and deadly Texas cold wave.

During the past three decades, the Arctic has experienced the greatest climate change of anywhere on Earth, including rapidly rising temperatures, melting sea ice, diminishing spring snow cover, and increasing autumn snow cover. Rapid Arctic warming relative to the rest of the globe is referred to as Arctic amplification. The extent to which these rapid changes in the Arctic are influencing midlatitude weather has become a topic of vigorous debate by climate scientists and popular in the press.

“The publication of the paper is especially timely given the extreme winter of 2020/21: record warm Arctic, low Arctic sea ice, deep Siberian snows, a protracted and complex polar vortex disruption, record-breaking cold in the US, Europe and Asia, disruptive snowfalls in Europe and the US and most notably the record breaking and possibly unprecedented combination of cold and snow in Texas,” said Dr. Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at AER and lead author of the study.

Cohen adds that “last winter the severe cold wave across Texas heated up the debate as to whether climate change can contribute to more severe winter weather with those arguing for and against. However, studies supporting or refuting the physical connection between climate change and the Texas cold wave and other recent US severe winter weather events don’t exist, until now. The study also provides cautionary evidence that a warming planet will not necessarily protect us from the devastating impacts of severe winter weather.”

The paper presents a physical mechanism of how climate change in general and Arctic change in particular are contributing to more severe winter weather despite an overall warming climate that has not been previously considered. Most theories on the connection between Arctic amplification and mid-latitude winter weather argue that the pathway is either through a wavier Jet Stream or sudden stratospheric warmings, which are the largest and most often studied disruptions to the polar vortex. This study provides compelling evidence that the strongest connection between the Arctic and mid-latitude weather, at least in the US, may be through this lesser known and weaker “stretched” disruption of the polar vortex.

These extreme winter weather events begin when a wave of high pressure between Northern Europe and the Urals and low pressure over East Asia undergoes amplification. Such an amplification can be forced by observed Arctic change during the fall season, and specifically by melting sea ice in the Barents-Kara Seas and heavier snowfall across Siberia. The from the Eurasian wave bounces or reflects off the polar vortex and is absorbed in a similar North American wave with high pressure over Alaska and the North Pacific and low pressure over eastern North America, causing rapid wave amplification. When atmospheric waves amplify, extreme is more likely.

UMass Lowell Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Prof. Mathew Barlow, a co-author on the study, added that “the synthesis of both observational analysis and computer model experiments is a particular strength of this study and greatly increases our confidence in the results. The dynamical pathway explored here—from surface climate change in the Arctic up to the polar stratosphere and then back down to the surface in the US—highlights one example of the wide range of impacts that change can have.”

Israeli collaborator Prof. Chaim Garfinkel, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, concludes “There has been a long-standing contradiction between an apparent increase in cold extremes in winter in midlatitudes even as temperatures globally are warming. This study helps resolve this contradiction and highlights that an apparent increase in such midlatitude cold extremes in winter should not be used as an excuse to delay taking urgently needed action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

More information:
Judah Cohen et al, Linking Arctic variability and change with extreme winter weather in the United States, Science (2021). DOI: 10.1126/science.abi9167

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Hexbyte Glen Cove A surprise result for solid state physicists hints at an unusual electron behavior thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove A surprise result for solid state physicists hints at an unusual electron behavior

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An image captured by laser-PEEM showing the arrangement of electrons in a sample of IBSC material. In this technique, images are made from laser light illuminating the sample in two different directions. Linear dichroism (LD) refers to the difference between the images made from these two illumination directions; it allows you to see details you could not see otherwise, such as in this case the distribution of electrons. Credit: Shin et al.

While studying the behavior of electrons in iron-based superconducting materials, researchers at the University of Tokyo observed a strange signal relating to the way electrons are arranged. The signal implies a new arrangement of electrons the researchers call a nematicity wave, and they hope to collaborate with theoretical physicists to better understand it. The nematicity wave could help researchers understand the way electrons interact with each other in superconductors.

A long-standing dream of solid state physicists is to fully understand the phenomenon of superconductivity—essentially electronic conduction without the resistance that creates heat and drains power. It would usher in a whole new world of incredibly efficient or powerful devices and is already being used on Japan’s experimental magnetic levitation bullet train. But there is much to explore in this complex topic, and it often surprises researchers with unexpected results and observations.

Professor Shik Shin from the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo and his team study the way electrons behave in iron-based superconducting materials, or IBSCs. These materials show a lot of promise as they could work at higher temperatures than some other which is an important concern. They also use less exotic material components so can be easier and cheaper to work with. To activate a sample’s superconducting ability, the material needs to be cooled down to several hundreds of degrees below zero. And interesting things happen during this cooling process.

A diagram of the experimental setup pioneered by the team. Credit: Shin et al.

“As IBSCs cool down to a certain level, they express a state we call electronic nematicity,” said Shin. “This is where the crystal lattice of the material and the electrons within it appear to be arranged differently depending on the angle you look at them, otherwise known as anisotropy. We expect the way electrons are arranged to be tightly coupled to the way the surrounding crystal lattice is arranged. But our recent observation shows something very different and actually quite surprising.”

Shin and his team used a special technique developed by their group called laser-PEEM (photoemission electron microscopy) to visualize their IBSC sample on the microscopic scale. They expected to see a familiar pattern that repeats every few nanometers (billionths of a meter). And sure enough the crystal lattice did show this pattern. But to their surprise, the team found that the pattern of electrons was repeating every few hundred nanometers instead.

This disparity between the electron nematicity wave and the crystalline structure of the IBSC was unexpected, so its implications are still under investigation. But the result could open the door to theoretical and experimental explorations into something fundamental to the phenomenon of superconductivity, and that is the way that electrons form pairs at low temperatures. Knowledge of this process could be crucial to the development of high-temperature superconductivity. So if nematicity waves are related, it is important to know how.

“Next, I hope we can work with to further our understanding of waves,” said Shin. “We also wish to use laser-PEEM to study other related materials such as metal oxides like copper oxide. It may not always be obvious where the applications lie, but working on problems of fundamental physics really fascinates me.”

The study is published in the journal Science.

More information:
T. Shimojima et al, Discovery of mesoscopic nematicity wave in iron-based superconductors, Science (2021). DOI: 10.1126/science.abd6701

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Team takes steps toward historic United Nations Resolution to stamp out witchcraft atrocities thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Team takes steps toward historic United Nations Resolution to stamp out witchcraft atrocities

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A team, including Lancaster University academics, have taken the first crucial steps to stamp out the worldwide atrocities of witchcraft, including ritual killings, with the successful acceptance of a United Nations Resolution.

Passed without a vote, the Resolution, which has been several years in the making, was tabled this month at the UN Human Rights Council by Kenya, with the support of the Africa group, composed of 54 Member States from the African continent.

Witchcraft-related beliefs and practices have resulted in serious violations of human rights including beatings, banishment, cutting of body parts, and amputation of limbs, torture and murder.

Women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities including people with albinism, a genetic disorder that impairs the ability to create pigment in the body, are particularly vulnerable.

Professor Charlotte Baker, of Lancaster University, who has published widely on albinism in Africa together with UN Independent Expert on Albinism Ikponwosa Ero, international human rights barrister Kirsty Brimelow and Lancaster University honorary graduate and human rights advocate Gary Foxcroft have worked tirelessly, as part of a wider team, to ensure the extent of the shocking issue was heard at UN level.

The Resolution, in calling for the elimination of these harmful practices, affirms that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security and upholds the fundamental principles of equality, non-discrimination and human dignity that underpin human rights.

There are thousands of cases of people accused of witchcraft each year globally, often with fatal consequences, and others are mutilated and killed for witchcraft-related rituals.

In the last decade, more than 700 attacks on people with albinism have been reported in 28 countries.

Trade in body parts of people with albinism is big business in certain African countries with a “going rate” of $75,000 for a full set of body parts.

Professor Baker and the team first brought their work to the attention of the UN in September 2017 when they organized a Witchcraft and Human Rights Expert Meeting at UN headquarters in Geneva.

The workshop, which was cited specifically in the recent successful Resolution address, examined for the first time the large-scale human rights issue that had, by and large, slipped under the radar of governments, NGOs and academics.

The following year the team organized a powerfully moving and shocking photographic exhibition, funded by Lancaster University, at the Palais des Nations at UN headquarters in Geneva to coincide with the UN Human Rights Council meeting.

The exhibition, which subsequently traveled internationally, featured poignant images captured by four internationally-renowned human rights photographers.

In January 2019 the team organized an international conference on Witchcraft and Human Rights at Lancaster University to further highlight the grave human rights abuses taking place around the world due to beliefs in witchcraft.

The conference looked at witchcraft and human rights past, present and future, and in particular discussed the thorny question of terminology.

In numerous countries, witchcraft-related beliefs, which can lead to some of the most challenging human rights issues of the 21st century, have resulted in serious violations of human rights including, beatings, banishment, the cutting of body parts, amputation of limbs, being set on fire, torture and murder.

Women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, including people with albinism, are particularly vulnerable.

Despite the seriousness of these human rights abuses, there is often no robust state-led response and, often, judicial systems do not act to prevent, investigate or prosecute human rights abuses linked to beliefs in witchcraft.

The ground-breaking move to bring this Resolution to the UN brings together, for the first time, witchcraft and human rights in a systematic and in-depth manner at the UN and international level.

The Resolution marks an important step in the continued collaboration of UN Experts, members of civil society and academics to tackle the violence associated with such beliefs and practices for groups that are particularly vulnerable.

Professor Baker said, “The extent of the threat to people vulnerable to harmful practices related to the manifestation of certain witchcraft-related beliefs means that we must act now to tackle this issue. Our collaborative approach means that we can work across sectors and at different levels to achieve positive, integrated and lasting change. The UN Resolution is a fundamental milestone in this process.”

Ikponwosa Ero added, “The carefully balances protecting the human rights of those accused of witchcraft and victims of ritual attacks, while also protecting traditional healers, along with the religious, indigenous and cultural beliefs and practices that do not amount to harmful practices as defined by UN bodies.

“Resolutions are not magic bullets, but this one is a key turning point for all of us working to ensure human rights protection in this complex sphere of spiritual beliefs and practices. The resolution will also spur the work to combat the horrendous violence which characterize these types of harmful practices and which, for too long, have destroyed and taken too many lives.”

Gary Foxcroft said, “The UN Special Resolution is an important step in helping to stop the often horrific abuses that take place due to beliefs in witchcraft around the world. We needed as many governments as possible to support this Resolution and believe that our work inspired the action needed to do so. Much more remains to be done following this Resolution. However, we are moving forward in the right direction and there is hope that more abuses can be prevented.”

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Coastal grape growers can use less water during drought thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Coastal grape growers can use less water during drought

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A new study from UC Davis researchers sheds new light on how vineyards can mitigate drought effects at a time when California is experiencing a severe water shortage. Credit: Greg Urquiaga / UC Davis

California grape growers in coastal areas can use less water during times of drought and cut irrigation levels without affecting crop yields or quality, according to a new study out of the University of California, Davis.

The findings, published today (Sept. 1) in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, show that vineyards can use 50% of the normally used by crops without compromising flavor, color and sugar content.

It sheds new light on how vineyards can mitigate drought effects at a time when California is experiencing a severe water shortage and facing more brought on by , according to lead author Kaan Kurtural, professor of viticulture and enology and an extension specialist at UC Davis.

“It is a significant finding,” Kurtural said. “We don’t necessarily have to increase the amount of water supplied to grape vines.”

Growers will also be able to use this information to plan for the next growing season. “Everybody’s worried about what’s going to happen next year,” he said.

Kurtural and others from his lab studied irrigation and cabernet sauvignon grape quality at a research vineyard in Napa Valley over two growing seasons, a rainy one in 2019 and a hyper-arid one in 2020.

They focused on crop evapotranspiration, which was the amount of water lost to the atmosphere from the vineyard system based on canopy size. The weekly tests used irrigation to replace 25%, 50% and 100% of what had been lost by the crop to evapotranspiration.

Researchers found that replacing 50% of the water was the most beneficial in maintaining the grape’s flavor profile and yield. The level of symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which help grapevines overcome stresses such as water deficits, was also not compromised. And the water used to dilute nitrogen application was also reduced, making the process more environmentally friendly. 

The water footprint for growing grapes also decreased. For both the 25% and 50% replacement levels, water use efficiency increased between 18.6% and 29.2% in the 2019 growing season and by 29.2% and 42.9% in the following dry year. 

While focused on cabernet sauvignon, most red grapes will respond similarly, he said.  

“In the end, drought is not coming for wine,” Kurtural said. “There doesn’t need to be a tremendous amount of for grapes. If you over irrigate in times like these, you’re just going to ruin quality for little gain.”

More information:
The Bipolar Reset Experiment (BIRX) was conducted at Site 300., Frontiers in Plant Science (2021). DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.712622

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Study shows a whale of a difference between songs of birds and humpbacks thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Study shows a whale of a difference between songs of birds and humpbacks

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Decades of research have been dedicated to understanding humpback whale songs. Why do they sing? What and where is the intended audience of these songs? To help uncover the answers, many scientists have framed whale songs as something similar to bird songs: vocalizations designed for attracting potential mates, or warnings to competitors.

But for the past several years, a University at Buffalo researcher has been proposing a radically different story about whale songs. His latest study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, presents additional evidence to strengthen his argument for a departure from treating whale songs as the underwater analog to bird songs.

The findings reveal the changing nature of the units within whale songs, and the way those units further morph through the years. These changes present a vocal flexibility that demonstrates the inadequacy of using human labels, likes cries, chirps and moans, for a species with the capacity for much more sophisticated sound production.

“The analyses in this paper suggest that we shouldn’t be thinking about whale songs as language or musical notes,” says Eduardo Mercado, Ph.D., a professor of psychology in UB’s College of Arts and Sciences. “What the singers are doing seems to be much more dynamic, both within songs and across years.

“Maybe it’s a matter of switching from thinking about whale songs as to something more freeform, like dancing.”

Current hypotheses assume whales combine sounds (units) into patterns (phrases) to construct the displays (songs) that reveal their fitness to possible mates. From this perspective, Mercado says, single units are like individual quills in a peacock’s tail, each functionally equal, and useful only as a collective.

But the units are not functionally equal, according to Mercado’s paper, co-written with Christina E. Perazio, an assistant professor at the University of New England. The unit morphing produces some units that are much less detectable than others, a finding that challenges previous conclusions regarding fitness in favor of the songs instead revealing locations and movements, with each change making relevant units easier to hear across long distances.

To help make his point, Mercado alludes to the revision made to the barnyard moral code in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” in the title of his paper, suggesting that some humpback units “are more equal than others.”

“There are clear differences in the units when listening to whale songs from different years,” says Mercado. “They’re so different that it’s like switching from one musical genre to another. In any given year, the whales are using an altogether different set of sounds.”

So, what’s going on? Is it all random?

Not likely, according to Mercado.

Mercado relied on a method that collected detailed measures of variations in units produced by singers and then compared those measures to characteristics produced in different years. This approach emphasized variability in vocal behavior rather than summaries of “unit types.”

“These changes are what got me interested in ,” says Mercado. “I was trying to understand how they get away with this. If they’re changing sounds, how are other whales making sense of those changes? Imagine people with no preparation just shifting languages several times over a 10-year span and everyone continuing to understand everyone else despite that variation.”

The changes appear evolutionary in nature, not random. The modifications adhere to a clear set of rules, like maintaining pitch ranges even when the sounds appear subjectively to be varying quite a bit. The morphing of these units might contribute to the overall function of the songs, possibly by increasing the number of positions from which listening can reliably detect, localize and track them.

That flexibility further reveals the shortcomings inherent in subjective or computational methods for sorting units into discrete categories that don’t capture nuances of vocalizations.

“These labels are a bad idea,” says Mercado. “Shifts in pitch and duration might force an incorrect re-categorization of units. We might think we’re hearing something different, but the whale might be saying nothing has changed.”

Mercado adds, “Humans are not the gold standard for distinguishing sounds, and we have to acknowledge and respect that when conducting research.”

More information:
Eduardo Mercado et al, All units are equal in humpback whale songs, but some are more equal than others, Animal Cognition (2021). DOI: 10.1007/s10071-021-01539-8

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Census: Childless older women better off than older men thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Census: Childless older women better off than older men

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In this Thursday, April 16, 2015, file photo, a couple watches the sunset over Biscayne Bay from a beach in Key Biscayne, Fla. Older adults who are childless in the U.S. are more like to be college educated, in the workforce at a greater rate and are more readily non-Hispanic white than those with children, and their numbers are growing, according to a new Census Bureau report released Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

Older adults who are childless in the U.S. are more likely to be college educated, working and white than those with children, and their numbers are growing.

About 1 in 6 adults age 55 and older are childless, and childless older women appear to be better positioned than men when it comes to health and wealth, according to a first-of-its-kind report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The study was executed by the statistical agency to get a better understanding of childless adults because their numbers are growing due to declining marriage rates and an aging population. Although having children outside of marriage has become more common for young adults, marriage traditionally was considered a precursor to parenthood for the older generation, the Census Bureau said.

More than 19% of people between ages 55 and 64 were childless, while that figure was 15.9% for those between ages 65 and 74 and 10.9% for those age 75 and older.

“This suggests that childless adults will make up a greater share of the older adult population in the future and underscores the importance of research such as this study,” said the report based on a 2018 survey.

A greater share of childless older adults were non-Hispanic white compared with biological parents, 79% versus 72.8%, and they were overwhelmingly born in the U.S.—90%, compared with 84.7% for parents—according to the report.

When it came to physical health, about three-quarters of men and women with children, as well as childless women, said they had excellent, very good or good health. But that figure was lower for childless men, more than 71%.

Those older adults with children were more likely to be living with a spouse compared with childless older adults, while the childless were more likely to be living alone than parents, suggesting childless older adults have fewer sources of potential support in their homes, according to the report.

“As spouses and children are the primary sources of informal care in the United States … these discrepancies are concerning,” the report said.

Net worth varied by sex among older adults. Childless women had the highest net worth, at $173,800, followed by biological fathers at $161,200, while the median net worth for everyone over age 55 was $133,500, the report said.

The higher net worth of childless older women may put them at a greater advantage to hire paid care, the report said.

“Childless older women appear to be in a more advantageous position than their male counterparts in later life,” the report said. “They have better self-rated health scores and higher personal net worth than childless men.”

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Census: Childless older women better off than older men (2021, August 31)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Model of SARS-CoV-2 dynamics reveals opportunity to prevent COVID-19 transmission thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Model of SARS-CoV-2 dynamics reveals opportunity to prevent COVID-19 transmission

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Scientists have simulated the transition of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein structure from when it recognizes the host cell to when it gains entry, according to a study published today in eLife.

The research shows that a structure enabled by on the spike protein could be essential for cell entry and that disrupting this structure could be a strategy to halt virus transmission.

An essential aspect of SARS-CoV-2’s lifecycle is its ability to attach to host cells and transfer its genetic material. It achieves this through its spike protein, which is made up of three separate components—a transmembrane bundle that anchors the spike to the virus, and two S subunits (S1 and S2) on the exterior of the virus. To infect a , the S1 subunit binds to a molecule on the surface of human cells called ACE2, and the S2 subunit detaches and fuses the viral and human cell membranes. Although this process is known, the exact order in which it occurs is as yet undiscovered. Yet, understanding the microsecond-scale and atomic-level movements of these protein structures could reveal potential targets for COVID-19 treatment.

“Most of the current SARS-CoV-2 treatments and vaccines have focused on the ACE2 recognition step of virus invasion, but an alternative strategy is to target the structural change that allows the virus to fuse with the human host cell,” explains study co-author José N. Onuchic, Harry C & Olga K Wiess Professor of Physics at Rice University, Houston, US, and Co-Director of the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics. “But probing these intermediate, transient structures experimentally is extremely difficult, and so we used a computer simulation sufficiently simplified to investigate this large system but that maintains sufficient physical details to capture the dynamics of the S2 subunit as it transitions between pre-fusion and post-fusion shapes.”

The team was particularly interested in the role of sugar molecules on the spike protein, which are called glycans. To see whether the number, type and position of glycans play a role in the membrane fusion stage of viral cell entry by mediating these intermediate spike formations, they performed thousands of simulations using an all-atom structure-based model. Such models allow prediction of the trajectory of atoms over time, taking into account steric forces—that is, how neighboring atoms affect the movement of others.

The simulations revealed that glycans form a “cage” that traps the “head” of the S2 subunit, causing it to pause in an intermediate form between when it detaches from the S1 subunit and when the viral and cell membranes are fused. When the glycans were not there, the S2 subunit spent much less time in this conformation.

The simulations also suggest that holding the S2 head in a particular position helps the S2 subunit recruit human host and fuse with their membranes, by allowing the extension of short proteins called fusion peptides from the virus. Indeed, glycosylation of S2 significantly increased the likelihood that a fusion peptide would extend to the host cell membrane, whereas when glycans were absent, there was only a marginal possibility that this would occur.

“Our simulations indicate that glycans can induce a pause during the transition. This provides a critical opportunity for the fusion peptides to capture the ,” concludes co-author Paul C. Whitford, Associate Professor at the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics and Department of Physics, Northeastern University, Boston, US. “In the absence of glycans, the viral particle would likely fail to enter the host. Our study reveals how sugars can control infectivity, and it provides a foundation for experimentally investigating factors that influence the dynamics of this pervasive and deadly pathogen.”

More information:
Esteban Dodero-Rojas et al, Sterically confined rearrangements of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein control cell invasion, eLife (2021). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.70362

Journal information:

Model of SARS-CoV-2 dynamics reveals opportunity to prevent COVID-19 transmission (2021, August 31)
retrieved 31 August 2021
from https://phys.org/ne

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Hexbyte Glen Cove New family of ferroelectric materials raises possibilities for improved information and energy storage thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove New family of ferroelectric materials raises possibilities for improved information and energy storage

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Part of the process of creating ferroelectric magnesium-substituted zinc oxide thin films includes: (left) Image showing thin film being sputter-deposited from metal sources; (center) ferroelectric hysteresis loops of thin-film capacitors showing two remanent polarization states at zero field; (right) atomic force microscope image showing a smooth surface at the nanometer scale and a very fine-grained and fiber-textured microstructure. Credit: Materials Research Institute, Penn State

A new family of materials that could result in improved digital information storage and uses less energy may be possible thanks to a team of Penn State researchers who demonstrated ferroelectricity in magnesium-substituted zinc oxide.

Ferroelectric materials are spontaneous electricly polarized bcause negative and positive charges in the material tend toward opposite sides and with the application of an external electric field reorient. They can be affected by physical force, which is why they are useful for push-button ignitors such as those found in gas grills. They can also be used for data storage and memory, because they remain in one polarized state without additional power and so are low-energy digital storage solutions.

“We’ve identified a new family of materials from which we can make tiny capacitors and we can set their polarization orientation so that their surface charge is either plus or minus,” said Jon-Paul Maria, Penn State professor of materials science and engineering, and co-author of the paper published in the Journal of Applied Physics. “That setting is nonvolatile, meaning we can set the capacitor to plus, and it stays plus, we can set it to minus, it stays minus. And then we can come back and identify how we set that capacitor, at say, an hour ago.”

This ability could enable a form of digital storage that does not use as much electricity as other forms.

“This type of storage requires no additional energy,” Maria said. “And that’s important because many of the computer memories that we use today require additional electricity to sustain the information, and we use a substantial amount of the American energy budget on information.”

The new materials are made with magnesium-substituted thin films. The film was grown via sputter deposition, a process where argon ions are accelerated towards the target materials, impacting it with a high enough energy to break atoms free from the target that contains magnesium and zinc. The freed magnesium and zinc atoms travel in a vapor phase until they react with oxygen and collect on a platinum-coated aluminum oxide substrate and form the thin films.

Researchers have studied magnesium-substituted zinc oxide as a method of increasing zinc oxide’s band gap, a key material characteristic that is important for creating semiconductors. However, the material was never explored for ferroelectricity. Nonetheless, the researchers believed that the material could be made ferroelectric, based on an idea of “ferroelectrics everywhere” posited by Maria and Susan Trolier-McKinstry, Evan Pugh University Professor, Steward S. Flaschen Professor of Ceramic Science and Engineering, and co-author on the paper.

“Generally speaking, ferroelectricity often occurs in minerals that are complicated from a structure and chemistry point of view,” Maria said. “And our team proposed the idea about two years ago, that there are other simpler crystals in which this useful phenomenon could be identified, as there were some clues that made us propose this possibility. To say ‘ferroelectrics everywhere’ is a bit of a play on words, but it captures the idea that there were materials around us that were giving us hints, and we were ignoring those hints for a long time.”

Trolier-McKinstry’s research career has focused on ferroelectrics, including the search for better with different properties. She noted that the University of Kiel in Germany had found the very first of this surprising type of ferroelectric materials in 2019 in nitrides, but that she and Maria have demonstrated comparable behavior in an oxide.

Part of the process Trolier-McKinstry and Maria’s group followed is developing a figure of merit, a quantity used in sciences such as analytical chemistry and materials research that characterizes the performance of a device, material or method relative to alternatives.

“As we look at any application for material, we often devise a figure of merit that says what combination of materials properties we would need for any given application to make it as effective as possible,” said Trolier-McKinstry. “And this new family of ferroelectrics, it gives us whole new possibilities for those figures of merit. It’s very appealing for applications that historically we haven’t had great materials sets for, so this kind of new materials development tends to spark new applications.”

An added benefit of the magnesium-substituted zinc oxide thin films is how they can be deposited at much than other ferroelectric materials.

“The overwhelming majority of electronic materials are prepared with the assistance of high temperatures, and high temperatures means anywhere from 300 to 1000 degrees Celsius (572 to 1835 degrees Fahrenheit),” said Maria. “Whenever you make materials at elevated temperatures, it comes with a lot of difficulties. They tend to be engineering difficulties, but nonetheless they make everything more challenging. Consider that every capacitor needs two electrical contacts—if I prepare my ferroelectric layer at high temperatures on at least one of these contacts, at some point an unwanted chemical reaction will occur. So, when you can make things at low temperatures, you can integrate them much more easily.”

The next step for the new materials is making them into capacitators that are approximately 10 nanometers thick and 20 to 30 nanometers in lateral dimensions, which is a difficult engineering challenge. The researchers need to create a way to control the growth of the materials so there are no issues such as imperfections in the materials. Trolier-McKinstry said that solving these issues will be key to whether these materials are usable in new technologies—cell phones with chips that use much less energy, allowing sustained operation for a week or more.

“When developing , you have to find out how they fail, and then understand how to mitigate those failure mechanisms,” Trolier-McKinstry said. “And for every single application, you need to decide what are the essential properties, and how will they evolve over time. And until you’ve made some measurements on that, you don’t know what the big challenges are going to be, and the reliability and manufacturability are huge in terms of whether this material ends up in your cell phone in five years.”

More information:
Kevin Ferri et al, Ferroelectrics everywhere: Ferroelectricity in magnesium substituted zinc oxide thin films, Journal of Applied Physics (2021). DOI: 10.1063/5.0053755

New family of ferroelectric materials raises possibilities for im

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