ACM TechNews


Welcome to the November 20, 2017 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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China lion statues China Bags Second Gordon Bell Prize
Asian Scientist
November 17, 2017


ACM has named a Chinese research team the recipient of the 2017 ACM Gordon Bell Prize for an earthquake simulation project involving software that is capable of efficiently processing 18.9 petaflops of data and generating three-dimensional (3D) models of a 1976 quake that occurred in Tangshan, China. The team notes its on-the-fly data compression technique could be applied to other exascale computing challenges. "The...scheme...at the cost of an acceptable level of accuracy lost, scales our simulation performance and capabilities even beyond the machine's physical constraints," the researchers say. The winning model was executed on China's Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, currently the world's most powerful supercomputer, and it represents the second time China has won the Gordon Bell Prize following its victory in 2016. The prize was presented to the winning team last week at the ACM International Conference for High-Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis (SC17) in Denver, CO.

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UNSW Team Develops Cybersecurity Education App
UNSW Newsroom
Susanna Smith
November 17, 2017


Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have developed Artificial Learning Intelligence for Centralized Education (ALICE), an app that uses 1980s-style arcade games to help users navigate a range of cybersecurity scenarios with the goal of recovering stolen identities. ALICE users navigate "the network," trying to outsmart viruses, beating attack malware, and warding off phishing attacks on their social media accounts. In addition, players can get assistance from an artificial intelligence system built for centralized education. The app was developed to raise awareness of the most common security threats to UNSW students. "As we spend more and more time online, our digital footprint and online presence relate directly to our personal identity," says UNSW's Kamer Nizamdeen. "If it's not carefully protected we can be left vulnerable and open to theft." The program is based on gamification theory, which brings game design elements and principles to learning situations.

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robots Edinburgh University Signs Deal to Develop 5G for Robotics
The National (Scotland)
Martin Hannan
November 16, 2017


Researchers at Edinburgh University in the U.K. and China-based Huawei are collaborating on the development of robots supported by fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks. 5G wireless technology is being developed to support data-driven innovation in areas such as the Internet of Things, in which artificially intelligent (AI) objects can autonomously interact with each other. The Edinburgh team says it will focus on how AI systems can use wireless 5G networks to provide support for connected robotics and autonomous systems. The research partnership is intended to explore how these systems will use AI to collaborate using next-generation mobile broadband networks. "Such an approach could enhance the performance of both networks and applications, supporting greater interaction between people and computing systems," say the Edinburgh researchers. Edinburgh professor Charlie Jeffery envisions the research agreement creating opportunities to apply 5G networking expertise to address real-world problems, "helping to transform industries including healthcare and emergency services."

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Multiplayer Video Games: Researchers Discover Link Between Skill and Intelligence
University of York
Caron Lett
November 15, 2017


Researchers at the University of York in the U.K. have found a connection between young people's ability to perform well at two popular video games and high levels of intelligence. The team concentrated on Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) that usually involve two opposing teams of five individuals, and multiplayer First Person Shooter (FPS) games. They found for large groups comprised of thousands of players, performance in MOBAs and intelligence quotient (IQ) behave similarly as players age. By contrast, this effect was not observed in FPSs, where performance declined after adolescence. York professor Alex Wade notes their work extends the correlation between good strategy-game skills and high IQ scores "to games that millions of people across the planet play every day." Researchers suggest such games could be used as "proxy" IQ tests to assess global populations in disciplines such as cognitive epidemiology, as well as to monitor cognitive health across populations.

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New Motion Sensors a Major Step Toward Low-Cost, High-Performance Wearable Technology
Florida State University News
Zachary Boehm
November 16, 2017


Researchers at Florida State University (FSU), Florida A&M University, and the National Institute of Applied Sciences in France have developed a class of motion sensors they say could lead to ubiquitous, fully integrated, and affordable wearable technology. The researchers say the new sensors are made using buckypaper, which are razor-thin, flexible sheets of pure, exceptionally durable carbon nanotubes. The buckypaper sensors represent a significant improvement over current industry standards, as most conventional sensors are either too crude or too inflexible to reliably monitor complex structures such as the human body. In addition, the researchers note the scalable sensors represent another step toward a future Internet of Things, in which virtually all of an individual's computers, devices, garments, furniture, and appliances are digitally connected to exchange information in the cloud. "This material could be used in structural health monitoring, wearable technology, and everything in between," says FSU doctoral student Joshua DeGraff.

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New Software Can Pinpoint Hate Groups' Radicalization Sites
UConn Today
Claire Hall
November 15, 2017


Researchers at the University of Connecticut (UConn) have developed software that searches mainstream websites and the dark Web to help identify sites that contain radical, terrorist ideologies that encourage people to cause harm. Although terrorist groups increasingly are using the Internet as a platform for the dissemination of radical, violent ideologies, many lone-wolf terrorists lack formal affiliation with a terror group, complicating traditional identification. However, many such terrorists tend to write about their plans online, and UConn professor Ugochukwu Etudo, in conjunction with colleagues at Virginia Commonwealth University, developed a program that can quickly analyze these lone-wolf manuscripts. Etudo says the software can cull examples and distinguish word sequences, negative tones, and implications of a worsening situation. "A goal of this system is to make sense of radical, terrorist propaganda at scale," Etudo notes. "It can 'consume' massive amounts of information requiring far too much human effort."

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A man sitting in front of a computer counting money. WPI Research Detects When Online Reviews and News Are a Paid-for Pack of Lies
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Sharon Gaudin
November 15, 2017


Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have developed algorithms designed to combat crowdturfing, a phenomenon in which masses of online workers are paid to post phony reviews, circulate malicious tweets, and spread fake news. The researchers, led by WPI professor Kyumin Lee, say the algorithms are highly accurate in detecting fake "likes" and followers across various platforms. Lee focuses on crowdsourcing sites such as Amazon's Mechanical Turk, and although he says most of its tasks are legitimate, the site is sometimes used to recruit people to work on crowdturfing campaigns. The researchers used machine learning and predictive modeling to create algorithms that sift through the posted tasks seeking patterns associated with illegitimate tasks. The algorithm can identify the organizations posting the tasks, the sites the crowdturfers are told to target, and the individual workers who are signing up to complete the tasks. The algorithms can detect fake likes with 90-percent accuracy and fake followers with 99-percent accuracy.

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A Purdue University team displays hardware related to research to improve cybersecurity for large-scale systems. Game Theory Harnessed for Cybersecurity of Large-Scale Nets
Purdue University News
Emil Venere
November 15, 2017


Researchers at Purdue University are leading the development of a platform for improving the cybersecurity of large-scale networks by tapping game theory and new intelligent algorithms. Purdue professor Shreyas Sundaram says the team has harnessed Nash equilibrium as well as prospect theory, defining how people make decisions amid uncertainty and risk. Sundaram thinks the work "will lead to a more complete understanding of the vulnerabilities that arise in large-scale interconnected systems and guide us to the design of more secure systems." The team has demonstrated the formulation of an "optimization problem" to efficiently calculate how much a given stakeholder will decide to invest, and they plan to use the "moving-target defense," in which the system can reconfigure itself to lower a repeated cyberattack's success rate. "The project will provide new insights into the types of decisions that humans make when faced with security threats, via a comprehensive approach spanning theory and experiments," says Purdue professor Timothy Cason.

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Cyber imagery showing different different designs that can possibly be created by computers. Can Computers Be Creative?
Penn State News
Pamela Krewson Wertz
November 13, 2017


The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Generative Adversarial Networks for Design Exploration and Refinement (GANDER) project has awarded a grant to Pennsylvania State University (PSU) researchers to train computers to produce original design ideas and then see if they are technically feasible. The approach is unique in that it is a transition from only teaching computers how to classify the difference between things in an environment toward teaching them to be creative. The PSU team is using generative adversarial networks, which PSU professor Conrad Tucker says involve an idea generator network competing with a discriminator network. They propose creating the latter using simulation environments to embed knowledge about physics and physical properties so generated designs are grounded in solid physical laws. Tucker says making it possible to substantially reduce the time it takes for an artificial intelligence agent to learn about the physical properties of its surroundings will have enormous potential for autonomous systems overall.

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Different images showing ways a robotic hand that can sense touch can be useful. First-of-Its-Kind Bioengineered Robotic Hand to Sense Touch
FAU News Desk
Gisele Galoustian
November 14, 2017


Researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and the University of Utah are developing a bioengineered robotic hand that will grow and adapt to its environment, with its own peripheral nervous system directly linking to sensors and actuators. In addition, the hand has numerous sensory receptors that respond to changes in the environment. "We are going to directly connect these living nerves in vitro and then electrically stimulate them on a daily basis with sensors from the robotic hand to see how the nerves grow and regenerate while the hand is operated by limb-absent people," says FAU professor Erik Engeberg. During the study, the neurons will not be kept in conventional Petri dishes, but in biocompatible microfluidic chambers providing a nurturing environment that mimics the basic function of living cells. "This research also has broad applications for people who suffer from other forms of neurotrauma such as stroke and spinal cord injuries," notes FAU professor Stella Batalama.

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A photo of the BitScope Pi Cluster modules system. Scalable Clusters Make HPC R&D Easy as Raspberry Pi
Los Alamos National Laboratory News
Nancy Ambrosiano
November 13, 2017


Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed the Pi Cluster Modules, a new solution they say provides the systems software community with an inexpensive testbed of similar scale to the largest supercomputers in the world. The team notes the system enables developers to build, scale, and test software before launching it on traditional supercomputers. The system consists of five rack-mounted Pi Cluster Modules each with 150 four-core nodes of Raspberry Pi ARM processor boards, which are integrated with a network-switching infrastructure. The system will give other researchers exclusive time on an inexpensive but highly parallelized platform for testing and validation of scalable systems software technologies. In addition, the researchers say the Pi Cluster Modules include better simulation of large-scale sensor networks, with flexible input/output to connect the actual sensor devices, as well as high-performance computing network topology research to improve production performance.

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Martonosi Sketches a Path for a New Type of Computing
Princeton University
John Sullivan
November 14, 2017


In an interview, Princeton University professor Margaret Martonosi says both quantum and classical computers need an efficient chain of software to operate, and she notes quantum computing has reached an inflection point. "The number of [quantum bits] that can be built will foreseeably soon be large enough that one actually needs to think practically about how to build systems to compute with them," says Martonosi, who shared the 2017 ACM SenSysTest of Time award with Steve Lyon, Pei Zhang, and Chris Sadler. She has been co-developing quantum tool flows, or software that optimizes applications, as a way of performing evaluations for determining which algorithms benefit from which technological or organizational choices, as researchers build quantum computer hardware. Another facet of the inflection point Martonosi cites is growing industry interest and funding for quantum computer development, which is adding credibility and accelerating research. She also believes the integration of classical and quantum computing is inevitable, envisioning quantum systems with "a classical control sequencer that steps in through a set of physical manipulations."

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