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posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @04:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the customer-loses,-again dept.

Several sites are reporting on the decision in the case of Uber versus Spencer Meyer that the terms of service attached to a mobile application are legally binding, even when the terms are only available via a hyperlink, and you don't actually see them or need to read them to register the application.

In this case Uber argued that Spencer Meyer, who filed an antitrust lawsuit against Uber, had agreed to a mandatory arbitration process as part of the terms of service when registering with the Uber application, and could not enter litigation as a result.

From The Register:

On Thursday, the US Second Court of Appeals decided [PDF] that when customers installed Uber's ride-hailing app and agreed to the terms and conditions – even though virtually none of them actually read the details – they were obliged to go through arbitration if they had a dispute with the company.

The Independent has a similar summary on the judgement:

The argument underpinning the decision revolved around a scenario familiar to anyone with a smartphone: what happens when a customer assents to the often-dense terms of service attached to using a new app.

In directing the case to arbitration, the United States District Court of Appeals for the Second District, vindicated Uber and other tech firms who argued customers should be expected to be bound by what they agreed to - even if that would mean wading into a thicket of text.

"While it may be the case that many users will not bother reading the additional terms, that is the choice the user makes," the Second Circuit's decision says.

Further coverage at Business Insider and Courtroom News.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @02:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the I-always-wanted-to-be-a-VJ dept.

Reddit will allow video uploads on certain subreddits:

Social news site Reddit today [August 17] announced the official launch of its video hosting feature, meaning users of certain pre-approved communities can now upload video directly to the site. The feature is already in place as part of a beta testing phase the company began conducting in late June with around 200 existing subreddits. Reddit says it's now ready to expand the feature to other communities, and that those interested can work directly with site moderators and the company's video team to enable the feature.

"We wanted to make sure we controlled the video experience, so we built this from the ground up with our in-house team," says Emon Motamedi, Reddit's product manager for video. "One of the big motivations of doing this was bringing more cohesion around the content and conversations."

Motamedi points to how most videos on Reddit are just YouTube links, or videos chopped up into GIFs hosted by third-party tools like Gfycat. This is usually a cumbersome process, and it's unfriendly to less media savvy internet users. A bigger problem is that it fractures discussion between where the content is hosted and where a user wants to discuss. Usually, Motamedi says, "you go to YouTube to watch the video and you come back to Reddit to comment." That's not ideal. "Because our platform has the best comments on the internet and because it's such a big use case for our users, we wanted to build that in-house," he adds.

The "anti-evil" team will have their work cut out for them.

Also at Reddit's blog and Ars Technica.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @11:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the Politics dept.

The lawmakers in Wisconsin voted in favor of an incentives package worth up to $3B for Foxconn. The total value of the package depends on the number of jobs that Foxconn creates in the state, so, effectively, the state is paying about $500,000 for each new job.

Most of the incentive is in the form of cash payments from the state to Foxconn, not just tax waivers. The cost to the residents of the state is about $1,200 per household.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @09:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the chew-on-this dept.

Scientists have solved the puzzle of the so-called "Frankenstein dinosaur", which seems to consist of body parts from unrelated species. A new study suggests that it is in fact the missing link between plant-eating dinosaurs, such as Stegosaurus, and carnivorous dinosaurs, like T. rex. The finding provides fresh insight on the evolution of the group of dinos known as the ornithischians. The study is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters [open, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0220] [DX].

[...] The Frankenstein dinosaur, more properly called Chilesaurus, puzzled experts when it was first discovered two years ago. It had the legs of an animal like a Brontosaurus, the hips of a Stegosaurus, and the arms and body of an animal like Tyrannosaurus rex. Scientists simply did not know where it fitted in the dino family tree. In the currently accepted family tree, the ornithischian group was always thought to be completely unrelated to all of the other dinosaurs. Palaeontologists regarded these creatures as an odd-ball group. But a reassessment by Mr Baron published in March in the journal Nature [DOI: 10.1038/nature21700] [DX] indicated that ornithischians were more closely related to the meat-eaters, such as T.rex, than previously thought.

Also at Science Magazine.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @07:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the and-the-difference-is? dept.

Nestle is being sued over the origins of Poland Spring Water:

Nestle's marketing and sales of Poland Spring water has been "a colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers," 11 people claim in a federal class action. Filing their suit Tuesday in Connecticut, where Nestle is based, the lead plaintiffs are from the Nutmeg State as well as New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. They say they would not have paid a premium for the water had they known it did not actually come from eight purported natural springs in Maine.

Rather than being "100% Natural Spring Water," the "products all contain ordinary groundwater that defendant collects from wells it drilled in saturated plains or valleys where the water table is within a few feet of the earth's surface," lead plaintiff Mark J. Patane says in the complaint. "The vast bulk of that groundwater is collected from Maine's most populous counties in southwestern Maine, only a short distance from the New Hampshire border," the complaint continues.

As required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, all bottled spring water must be collected either at the source of a naturally occurring spring or from a well that draws from a natural spring. "In hydro-geological parlance, all such well water must be 'hydraulically connected' to a genuine spring," the complaint states. But the class says that's not the case for defendant Nestle Waters North America's eight sites in Maine.

Nestle rebuttal.

People will pay for water in a bottle?!

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @06:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the slurp-slurp-slurp dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Oxford researchers [...] (Vincent Taylor, Alastair Beresford and Ivan Martinovic) [...] [looked] at how the same library in two different apps could expose information from a higher-privilege app to one with lower privilege.

They write that this “intra-library collusion” (ILC) happens “when individual libraries obtain greater combined privileges on a device by virtue of being embedded within multiple apps, with each app having a distinct set of permissions granted”.

As the paper explains, shared libraries can borrow permissions an app doesn't have [...] That's a threat, because library re-use across different apps isn't a bug, it's a feature: it makes app development more efficient and keeps apps small by letting them use code pre-loaded to a device.

While noting that attackers are standardising their own libraries, the researchers focussed their effort on advertising libraries [...] handling location, app usage, device information, communication data like call logs and messages, access to storage (including, for example, a user's files which can indicate their interests), and the microphone.

Of more than 15,000 apps with more than a million downloads, the researchers went to work decompiling apps to identify the libraries they linked to. Those they successfully decompiled, they analysed for their intra-library collusion potential.

The 18 most popular libraries include familiar names:

Library% of apps

“The main catalyst that allows ILC to happen is the failure of the Android permission system to separate the privileges of libraries and their host apps”, they write, and this at least offers opportunities for an underhanded ad network to improve their data collection without seeking extra permissions from users.

[...] Digging deeper into how advertiser libraries behaved, they found on average those libraries “leak sensitive data from a device up to 2.4 times a day and that the average user has their personal data sent to 1.7 different ad servers per day”.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @04:13PM   Printer-friendly

A basic right in the U.S.A. has been the Freedom of Speech, yet of late it has been under heavy threat. United States Foreign Service Officer (ret.) and author of Hooper's War Peter Van Buren at We Meant Well blogs about Five Bad Arguments to Restrict Speech.

"Open discussion, debate, and argument are the core of democracy. Bad ideas are defeated by good ideas. Fascism seeks to close off all ideas except its own."

The blog entry itself is rather long and contains numerous links to supporting material. Here is the list; below the fold includes an elaboration on the statement and a summary. Read the blog itself for more details and exposition.

  1. The First Amendment Only Applies to Government?
  2. What's Said May Provoke Violence in the Room (A Clear and Present Danger)
  3. What's Said May Provoke Violence Outside (Public Safety)
  4. Speech Can or Should Be Restricted Based on Content (Hate Speech)
  5. Free Speech Should Not Be Subject to the Heckler's Veto

[...] 1. The First Amendment Only Applies to Government?

The first fallacious argument used to shut down free speech is that the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution only applies to government, and so universities or other entities are entitled to censor, restrict or shut down altogether speech willy-nilly.

Short Answer: Not really. Public funding invokes the First Amendment for schools, and free speech runs deeper than the Bill of Rights. It's as much a philosophical argument as a legal one, not a bad thing for a nation founded on a set of ideas (and ideals.)

[...] 2. What's Said May Provoke Violence in the Room (A Clear and Present Danger)

Some claim that certain conservative speakers, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, who purposefully use anti-LGBTQ slurs to provoke their audiences, should be banned or shut down. Their speech is the equivalent of yelling Fire! in a crowded movie theatre when there is no actual danger, provoking a deadly stampede for the exits.

Short Answer: The standards for shutting down speech are very restrictive, and well-codified. Milo comes nowhere close.

[...] 3. What's Said May Provoke Violence Outside (Public Safety)

The idea that a university or other venue cannot assure a speaker's safety, or that the speaker's presence may provoke violent protests, or that the institution just doesn't want to go to the trouble or expense of protecting a controversial speaker has become the go-to justification for canceling or restricting speech. Berkley cited this in canceling and then de-platforming (rescheduling her when most students would not be on campus) Ann Coulter, whose campus sponsors are now suing, and New York University cited the same justification for canceling an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos.

Short Answer: Canceling a speaker to protect them or public safety is the absolute last resort, and some risk to safety is part of the cost to a free society for unfettered speech.

[...] 4. Speech Can or Should Be Restricted Based on Content (Hate Speech)

There are no laws against "hate speech." A speaker can call people names, and insult them by their race, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. What many people think and say is hateful. It is carefully thought out to inspire hate, to promote hate, to appeal to crude and base instincts. Indeed, that is their point. But there is no law or other prohibition against hate speech. Even restrictions on "hate speech" meant to prevent violence, often cited as the justification to restrict such speech, are by design extremely narrow.

Short Answer: You cannot restrict hate speech. Free speech means just that, with any limited restrictions content-neutral.

[...] 5. Free Speech Should Not Be Subject to the Heckler's Veto

Another argument used by some progressives is that the so-called Heckler's Veto is in itself protected speech. Someone may have a right to speak, but someone else has the same right to shout them down and prevent them from being heard.

Short answer: Free speech is not intended to mean whomever can literally "speak" the loudest gets to control what is said. The natural end of such thinking is mob rule, where Speaker A gets a bigger gang together to shout down the gang Speaker B controls.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @02:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the "It's-dead,-Jim" dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which will look for signs of past life on Mars, will use smart methods originally developed to find the oldest life on Earth, according the mission's Deputy Project Scientist, Dr Ken Williford. The 2020 mission builds on the successes of prior rovers, to make coordinated measurements that could detect signs of ancient life - or biosignatures - in their original spatial context. These techniques, known as "spatially resolved biosignature analysis" derive from geochemical analysis of early life on Earth.

Speaking at the Goldschmidt conference in Paris where he is presenting the methods to be adopted, Dr Ken Williford (who is also Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Astrobiogeochemistry Laboratory) said:

[...] New scientific methods for searching for the most ancient evidence for life on Earth have led to a leap forward in capabilities for biosignature detection. Rather than using "bulk" geochemistry techniques that measure the average composition of a rock, Mars 2020 is developing new capabilities including X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy to map the elemental, mineral, and organic composition of rocks at high spatial resolution, with analytical spot sizes about the width of a human hair. Understanding the spatial distribution of chemical features preserved in ancient rocks is key to determining whether or not they were formed by life.

[...] In addition, the Mars 2020 mission will use the knowledge gained from its scientific exploration to select and collect key samples that could one day be examined in laboratories back on Earth. Thirty to forty rock and sediment core samples, each about 15 grams, will be hermetically sealed in titanium tubes and deposited in a safe location on the surface of Mars for possible retrieval by a future mission.

"Mars 2020 represents a crucial first step towards a possible Mars sample return. Our objective is to collect a diverse set of samples from our landing site with the best potential to preserve records of the evolution of Mars - including the presence of life if it was there. We'll use our onboard instruments to provide the critical field context that future scientists would need to understand the measurements made back on Earth."

Dr Williford also discussed the three remaining candidate landing sites for the Mars 2020 mission. One site at Columbia Hills in Gusev crater, was visited previously by the Spirit rover and features silica deposits interpreted by some as analogous to hydrothermal springs known to be inhabited on Earth. The two other sites are located close together on the edge of Isidis Planitia, one of the largest (and oldest) impact craters in the Solar System. Northeast Syrtis features some of the oldest exposed Martian crust with evidence for alteration in the presence of liquid water that leads researchers to believe that this site could have hosted subsurface life. Jezero crater features an ancient river delta and a lake that could have been a prime location for life on early Mars.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @12:31PM   Printer-friendly
from the lost-me-at-'injected-into-the-testes' dept.

A common genetic cause of male infertility has been overcome in mice using a technique that creates healthy sperm in the laboratory, scientists have shown. The research raises the future prospect of hope for men who cannot father children because they have three instead of two sex chromosomes. But such a treatment, even if shown to be safe, would not be allowed in the UK without a change in the law that bans the use of artificially produced sperm to make babies. An estimated one in 500 boys are born with an extra X or Y sex chromosome that can disrupt the formation of mature sperm, leading to infertility.

Scientists at London's Francis Crick Institute, working with Japanese colleagues, used a stem cell technique to produce sperm from small pieces of connective tissue taken from the ears of infertile male mice. The mice either had an extra female X or male Y chromosome in addition to the usual XX or XY pairing. During the process of transforming the fibroblast connective tissue cells into multi-purpose stem cells, some of the unwanted extra chromosomes were lost. The researchers selected those stem cells lacking the extra chromosome and used chemical signals to coax their development into immature sperm cells.

Once injected into the testes of a host mouse, the cells matured to become healthy and properly functioning sperm. These were then used to fertilise eggs and produce healthy, fertile offspring. Lead scientist Dr Takayuki Hirota, of the Francis Crick Institute, said: "Our approach allowed us to create offspring from sterile XXY and XYY mice. "It would be interesting to see whether the same approach could one day be used as a fertility treatment for men with three sex chromosomes."

Fertile offspring from sterile sex chromosome trisomic mice (DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9046) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @10:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the check-if-Daley-is-on-the-list dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

A voting machine supplier for dozens of US states left records on 1.8 million Americans in public view for anyone to download – after misconfiguring its AWS-hosted storage.

ES&S says it was notified by UpGuard researcher Chris Vickery of the vulnerable database that contained personal information it collected from recent elections in Chicago, Illinois. The records included voters' names, addresses, dates of birth, and partial social security numbers. Some of the records also included drivers' licenses and state ID numbers.

"The backup files on the AWS server did not include any ballot information or vote totals and were not in any way connected to Chicago's voting or tabulation systems," ES&S said in a statement on Thursday.

[...] A spokesperson for UpGuard confirmed to The Register that the vulnerable service was an AWS S3 silo accidentally set up to be open to the public. Strangely, only Chicago's data was exposed by a misconfiguration.

[...] Chicago's election board, meanwhile, says it is "deeply troubled" to hear of the exposure, but applauded ES&S for taking quick action.

"We have been in steady contact with ES&S to order and review the steps that must be taken, including the investigation of ES&S’s AWS server," said Chicago Election Board chairwoman Marisel Hernandez in a statement.

"We will continue reviewing our contract, policies and practices with ES&S. We are taking steps to make certain this can never happen again.”

This isn't the first time UpGuard found voter data sitting out in the open on AWS. Earlier this year the security firm caught a Republican analytics company who failed to put any access restrictions on an S3 instance that contained the personal details of nearly 200 million US voters within a 1.1TB database collected prior to the 2016 presidential election. ®

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @08:49AM   Printer-friendly
from the can-you-here-me-now? dept.

TDRS-M is headed for geosynchronous orbit, about 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometers) above Earth. It will join nine other operational spacecraft in NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) constellation, which together allow the nearly continuous transmission of data from Hubble, the ISS and other near-Earth research and exploration craft to mission controllers on the ground.

The TDRS satellites and their associated ground terminals make up NASA's Space Network (not to be confused with the agency's Deep Space Network[1], a different system that handles data from far-flung spacecraft such as the Cassini Saturn orbiter and the New Horizons probe).

"TDRS-M is going to be critical to our future operation and the future of the Space Network," Badri Younes, NASA's deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation, said during a pre-launch news conference yesterday (Aug. 17).

Indeed, the newly launched satellite should allow the Space Network to continue supporting communications through at least the mid-2020s, NASA officials said.

Also at Spaceflight Now.

[1 The Deep Space Network's activity is available online at --Ed.]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @06:58AM   Printer-friendly
from the scrubbing-bubbles dept.

Tiny robots powered by bubbles have successfully treated an infection in mice.

The achievement is another step forward in a field that has long shown promise, and is only now beginning to deliver. The therapeutic robots in this case were tiny spheres of magnesium and titanium coated with an antibacterial agent and about the width of a human hair. They were released into the stomach, where they swam around and delivered a drug to the target before dissolving.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego targeted their treatment, which they refer to as "micromotors" to Helicobacter pylori, a species of bacteria that causes ulcers. To treat such infections, drugs must first neutralize the acidity of the stomach, something normally done with a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors that stop acid production. This can have unpleasant side effects, however, so it's less than ideal.

The micromotors accomplish the same task by exploiting the reaction between magnesium and gastric acid, temporarily raising pH levels and creating bubbles of hydrogen that serve as propulsion for the tiny beads. A sticky coating on their surface allows them to stick to the walls of the stomach once they reach it, and when the pH level reaches a certain point, after about 20 minutes, the antibacterial agent is released into the stomach. After delivering their payload, the micromotors dissolve and the stomach returns to its normal acidity within a day.

Also at UC San Diego.

Micromotor-enabled active drug delivery for in vivo treatment of stomach infection (open, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00309-w) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @05:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the PBNJ++ dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Australian researchers hail breakthrough after ‘life-changing’ tolerance persists for up to four years

[...] A small clinical trial conducted at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has led to two-thirds of children treated with an experimental immunotherapy treatment being cured of their allergy. Importantly, this desensitisation to peanuts persisted for up to four years after treatment.

“These children had been eating peanut freely in their diet without having to follow any particular program of peanut intake in the years after treatment was completed,” said the lead researcher, Prof Mimi Tang.

Peanut allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, and one of the most common causes of death from food allergy.

To combat this Tang, an immunologist and allergist, pioneered a new form of treatment that combines a probiotic with peanut oral immunotherapy, known as PPOIT. Instead of avoiding the allergen, the treatment is designed to reprogram the immune system’s response to peanuts and eventually develop a tolerance.

[...] Forty-eight children were enrolled in the PPOIT trial and were randomly given either a combination of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus with peanut protein in increasing amounts, or a placebo, once daily for 18 months.

At the end of the original trial in 2013, 82% of children who received the immunotherapy treatment were deemed tolerant to peanuts compared with just 4% in the placebo group.

Four years later, the majority of the children who gained initial tolerance were still eating peanuts as part of their normal diet and 70% passed a further challenge test to confirm long-term tolerance.

Tang said the results were exciting and had been life-changing for participants. “The way I see it is that we had children who came into the study allergic to peanuts, having to avoid peanuts in their diet, being very vigilant around that, carrying a lot of anxiety with that and, at the end of treatment and even four years later, many of these children who had benefited from our probiotic peanut therapy could now live like a child who didn’t have peanut allergy.”

[...] If confirmed by larger clinical studies, the broader hope is that this treatment can have an impact on the high rates of food allergy among children.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @03:16AM   Printer-friendly
from the dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Scientists at the University of Oxford have developed a new method to 3D-print laboratory- grown cells to form living structures.

The approach could revolutionise regenerative medicine, enabling the production of complex tissues and cartilage that would potentially support, repair or augment diseased and damaged areas of the body.

[...] In research published in the journal Scientific Reports, an interdisciplinary team from the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at Oxford and the Centre for Molecular Medicine at Bristol, demonstrated how a range of human and animal cells can be printed into high-resolution tissue constructs.

Interest in 3D printing living tissues has grown in recent years, but, developing an effective way to use the technology has been difficult, particularly since accurately controlling the position of cells in 3D is hard to do. They often move within printed structures and the soft scaffolding printed to support the cells can collapse on itself. As a result, it remains a challenge to print high-resolution living tissues.

[...] The cells were contained within protective nanolitre droplets wrapped in a lipid coating that could be assembled, layer-by-layer, into living structures. Producing printed tissues in this way improves the survival rate of the individual cells, and allowed the team to improve on current techniques by building each tissue one drop at a time to a more favourable resolution.

To be useful, artificial tissues need to be able to mimic the behaviours and functions of the human body. The method enables the fabrication of patterned cellular constructs, which, once fully grown, mimic or potentially enhance natural tissues.

Dr Alexander Graham, lead author and 3D Bioprinting Scientist at OxSyBio (Oxford Synthetic Biology), said: 'We were aiming to fabricate three-dimensional living tissues that could display the basic behaviours and physiology found in natural organisms. To date, there are limited examples of printed tissues, which have the complex cellular architecture of native tissues. Hence, we focused on designing a high-resolution cell printing platform, from relatively inexpensive components, that could be used to reproducibly produce artificial tissues with appropriate complexity from a range of cells including stem cells'.

The researchers hope that, with further development, the materials could have a wide impact on healthcare worldwide. Potential applications include shaping reproducible human tissue models that could take away the need for clinical animal testing.

[...] Dr Adam Perriman from the University of Bristol's School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, added: 'The bioprinting approach developed with Oxford University is very exciting, as the cellular constructs can be printed efficiently at extremely high resolution with very little waste. The ability to 3D print with adult stem cells and still have them differentiate was remarkable, and really shows the potential of this new methodology to impact regenerative medicine globally.'

The full citation for the paper is "High-resolution patterned cellular constructs by droplet-based 3D printing" A.D. Graham et. al. Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 7004 (2017)

Full journal article is available at doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06358-x

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @01:25AM   Printer-friendly
from the matter-over-mind dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Common phenomenon could be key to understanding mechanism of unconventional superconductivity

A potential new state of matter is being reported in the journal Nature, with research showing that among superconducting materials in high magnetic fields, the phenomenon of electronic symmetry breaking is common. The ability to find similarities and differences among classes of materials with phenomena such as this helps researchers establish the essential ingredients that cause novel functionalities such as superconductivity.

[...] The high-magnetic-field state of the heavy fermion superconductor CeRhIn5 revealed a so-called electronic nematic state, in which the material's electrons aligned in a way to reduce the symmetry of the original crystal, something that now appears to be universal among unconventional superconductors. Unconventional superconductivity develops near a phase boundary separating magnetically ordered and magnetically disordered phases of a material.

"The appearance of the electronic alignment, called nematic behavior, in a prototypical heavy-fermion superconductor highlights the interrelation of nematicity and unconventional superconductivity, suggesting nematicity to be common among correlated superconducting materials," said Filip Ronning of Los Alamos National Laboratory, lead author on the paper. Heavy fermions are intermetallic compounds, containing rare earth or actinide elements.

"These heavy fermion materials have a different hierarchy of energy scales than is found in transition metal and organic materials, but they often have similar complex and intertwined physics coupling spin, charge and lattice degrees of freedom," he said.

The work was reported in Nature by staff from the Los Alamos Condensed Matter and Magnet Science group and collaborators.

Using transport measurements near the field-tuned quantum critical point of CeRhIn5 at 50 Tesla, the researchers observed a fluctuating nematic-like state. A nematic state is most well known in liquid crystals, wherein the molecules of the liquid are parallel but not arranged in a periodic array. Nematic-like states have been observed in transition metal systems near magnetic and superconducting phase transitions. The occurrence of this property points to nematicity's correlation with unconventional superconductivity. The difference, however, of the new nematic state found in CeRhIn5 relative to other systems is that it can be easily rotated by the magnetic field direction.

The use of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory's pulsed field magnet facility at Los Alamos was essential, Ronning noted, due to the large magnetic fields required to access this state. In addition, another essential contribution was the fabrication of micron-sized devices using focused ion-beam milling performed in Germany, which enabled the transport measurements in large magnetic fields.

Superconductivity is extensively used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and in particle accelerators, magnetic fusion devices, and RF and microwave filters, among other uses.

Reference: "Electronic in-plane symmetry breaking at field-tuned quantum criticality in CeRhIn5," Nature 23315 (2017). DOI 10.1038/nature23315.

An abstract and the full article (pdf) are available on arXiv.

-- submitted from IRC by exec

Original Submission