Welcome to the July 16, 2010 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Some Experts Question Efforts to Identify Cyberattackers
IDG News Service (07/15/10) Gross, Grant
Cybersecurity experts testifying at a recent U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing disagreed about whether the federal government should explore new ways to attribute the sources of cyberattacks. Some experts have called for new attribution efforts, such as trusted identification systems, while others warn that oppressive governments would use new identification technologies to track political enemies. Labeling Internet Protocol packets with unique identifiers "would be far more useful for authoritarian regimes to monitor and control Internet use by their citizens than it would be in combating cyberwarfare, crime, and nuisance behavior," says Council on Foreign Relations fellow Robert Knake. He says the U.S. government should focus more on preventing damage and protecting its systems than on attributing the source of attacks. Ponte Technologies president Ed Giorgio called for new protocols that would identify users on sensitive networks. He says attack attribution could eventually be an essential part of the government's emergency response capabilities.
OSIRIS Project to Guide ICT Research Infrastructures
CORDIS News (Belgium) (07/14/10)
The OSIRIS (towards an open and sustainable ICT research infrastructure strategy) project is developing an international strategy for open and sustainable ICT research infrastructures. OSIRIS aims to create a platform to develop cross-border public-private partnerships, and will establish a model for future large-scale investments. The project, led by Ghent University's Institute for Broadband Technology, will focus on infrastructures supporting high-performance computing, grids, networks, microelectronics, nanoelectronics, and future versions of the Internet. OSIRIS also has established a platform to provide ongoing feedback and analysis of European ICT research infrastructures.
DARPA Issues Call for Computer Science Devotees
Network World (07/14/10)
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has formed the 2011 Computer Science Study Group (CSSG) and is looking for computer science researchers interested in investigating new ways to advance science, devices, and systems. Up to 12 participants will be selected for the 2011 CSSG, which will meet at different times throughout the year to "rapidly identify ideas in the field of computer science that will provide revolutionary advances, rather than incremental benefit, to the Department of Defense (DoD)." DARPA adds that "participants in this 2011 CSSG will be encouraged to consider their research interests in light of DoD challenges in the field of computer science, and then to further explore the synergies in their research programs to develop novel ideas and applications that will lead to fundamental advances in the field rather than incremental change." Funding for the 12-month base period will not exceed $100,000. Participation also could include an extra option period of 12 to 24 months, and a second option period lasting up to 12 months.
Jargon-Busting Software Bridges the Knowledge Gap
Researchers in Japan have developed a tool that has the potential to close the so-called "semantic gap" when experts such as teachers, doctors, and help desk staff communicate with students, patients, and consumers in the digital realm. The tool works in parallel with instant messaging (IM) protocols that carry text chat back and forth between connected IM programs on the Internet. Fumio Hattori and colleagues at Ritsumeikan University have extended the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) so that it carries additional information during the chat, driven by an extra software agent. The tool presents glossary information as particular terms are typed, assigns users a level of experience, and provides extra information that will help them get the most out of the IM session. The team used the tool in an English composition class, mapping an ontology of the teacher's knowledge to a glossary with simplified terminology for the students. The tool helped the students understand particular terms without having to ask the teacher for an explanation each time.
Picture Puzzles Separate Human From Machine
New Scientist (07/14/10) Campbell, MacGregor
Researchers at Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) have developed a security tool that involves spotting simplified images within other images to improve online authentication. The tool, developed by NCKU's Hung-Kuo Chu, simplifies an animal image, creating a pattern of lighter and darker regions. The image is then overlaid on the base picture so that the background texture shows through. "Our model can generate camouflage images at different difficulty levels," Chu says. The method works best with natural backgrounds that have a lot of detail, such as cliff faces, forests, and cloudy skies. Chu says the advantage of this technique is that it is almost impossible for computers to pick out the images. The system also could be used for generating CAPTCHA images.
Mixed Reality Cookbook
ICT Results (07/14/10)
European researchers have developed IPCity, a mixed reality project in which dozens of technologies were examined to find those that significantly enhance a user's experience of a given task in an effort to increase citizens' participation in civic life. The project created applications for town planning, gaming, environmental awareness, and storytelling. The IPCity project was designed to enhance the social, cultural and historical fabric of a city through location awareness and mapping. The project created real-world applications from perceptual and mixed reality research and developed a set of cookbook-like guidelines for creating mixed reality experiences. In the Urban Renewal application, for example, researchers used a range of media and interfaces to engage citizens in an exercise to redesign an urban space. Social elements were built into all of IPCity's applications, says Rod McCall, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute and coordinator of the IPCity project. "We figured out pretty early on that a shared experience is much richer," McCall says.
Safety in Numbers
Science News (07/17/10) Vol. 178, No. 2, P. 18; Sanders, Laura
Mathematicians and computer scientists are working on equations and algorithms that exhibit potential as terrorism countermeasures. Among such advances are powerful new algorithms that mine vast volumes of data and extract hidden rules that govern terrorism behavior. By simulating the internal tensions between secrecy and the need to communicate, researchers can anticipate terror cells' organizational patterns. A network arrangement known as fuzzy group clustering locates people who belong to two distinct groups at the same time, and models suggest that such "interstitial" members probably are key coordinators of a terrorist operation. University of Maryland professor V.S. Subrahmanian and colleagues are testing an algorithm that identifies and extracts terrorist-associated keywords from news databases, with the goal of having the program ultimately extract more than 700 factors accurately and automatically. Meanwhile, Tilburg University's Roy Lindelauf and colleagues have devised a description of a resilient cell using cooperative game theory. The researchers discovered that the ideal organizational structure shifts as the threat of being discovered rises, allowing them to "predict structures that resemble organization structures that we observe in reality," according to Lindelauf.
Brighter Color for Reflective E-Reading Displays
Technology Review (07/15/10) Bourzac, Katherine
Hewlett-Packard (HP) researchers are developing new materials that use ambient light to create more vibrant colors for video-capable, low-power screens. The researchers developed a composite material that converts blue and green light into red, and another material that converts blue light into green. A fast-switching liquid-crystal shutter sits above each pixel and lets light in and out. Creating brighter blue light remains a challenge because there is not enough higher-wavelength light in sunlight to convert to blue. HP's prototypes either use a conventional, larger blue subpixel or rely on blue light in a white subpixel to achieve sufficient brightness. In theory, the HP materials should be brighter than a perfect color reflector, says HP researcher Gary Gibson. The researchers created materials that are stable over time and work in optical systems similar to those that could be used in a display. Eventually, HP could combine reflective displays with flexible, rugged plastic electronics.
ROILA, a New Spoken Language Designed for Robots
Popular Science (07/14/10) Boyle, Rebecca
Eindhoven University of Technology researchers are developing a spoken language for robots that is meant to be easy for people to learn and easy for robots to understand. The Robot Interaction Language (ROILA) features simple, regular grammar and includes nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and pronouns. ROILA uses an algorithm-generated vocabulary of about 850 words, which look like a combination of African languages, Dutch, and English. It has no irregularities, so word markers are used to indicate past and present tense. The researchers say ROILA combines parts of the most successful natural and artificial languages. ROILA words are composed of phonemes that are shared among most human languages, and the word-creation algorithm makes the words sound as different from each other as possible.
Researchers Find Privacy Flaws in Chatroulette
Computerworld (07/13/10) McMillan, Robert
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB) and McGill University recently described three types of cyberattacks that could be launched against Chatroulette users. The researchers demonstrated how the service could be misused by hackers, such as through the use of a video phishing attack, in which the hackers would play a short video of an attractive woman who appears to be chatting with the victim, with the audio disabled. The researchers were able to trick users into thinking they were actually chatting with a pretty woman, which would make it easier to con them into friending scammers on Facebook or visiting malicious Web sites. "If you can present an attractive persona there, people start to trust the person on the other side and they lower their guard and they start to reveal information about themselves," says UCB professor Richard Han. The researchers also found a way to make Chatroulette's anonymous chats much less than anonymous by using IP-mapping services to get a general idea of user's location. The researchers also warn that a computer program could be created that acts as a middleman between Chatroulette conversations, connecting two users and recording what they say.
Fibers That Can Hear and Sing
MIT News (07/12/10) Hardesty, Larry
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are developing fibers with highly sophisticated properties that could enable fabrics to interact with their environment. MIT professor Yoel Fink has led the development of fibers that can detect and produce sound, with applications that could include clothes that function as sensitive microphones, for capturing speech or monitoring bodily functions, and tiny filaments that could measure blood flow in capillaries or pressure in the brain. The key to the new acoustic fibers is a plastic commonly used in microphones. In addition to wearable microphones and biological sensors, the fibers could be used to make loose nets that monitor the flow of water in the ocean and large-area sonar imaging systems. Eventually, the researchers hope to combine the properties of the experimental fibers in a single fiber. The fibers also could take advantage of piezoelectric properties to generate their own power. "Imagine a thread that can generate electric when stretched," says MIT research scientist Zheng Wang.
Forum Tries to Spark Standards for 3-D Chips
EE Times (07/13/10) Merritt, Rick
Engineers at the recent Semicon West 2010 workshop in San Francisco met to begin outlining standards for three-dimensional (3D) silicon chips. "We think there is a strong need for some form of standardization to accelerate the adoption of the technology and lead to cost reduction," says Xilinx's Arifur Rahman. Designers also need interoperable electronic design automation tools that account for stacks using chips made in different process technologies, Rahman says. The 3D chips need standards in silicon wafers, chip materials, and fab processes. New testing standards would rely on new monitoring and inspection methods that are built into the chips. New standards also could address when 3D chips are tested and how the chips are handled and shipped, Rahman says. "We are beginning to see deployment of the technology in [complementary metal-oxide semiconductor] sensors, so we are entering early adoption stage, but to jump to broader acceptance we need to make this compelling for more apps," he says.
The Creativity Crisis
Newsweek (07/10/10) Bronson, Po; Merryman, Ashley
U.S. creativity has been in decline since 1990, as measured by tests formulated by professor E. Paul Torrance. College of William & Mary professor Kyung Hee Kim, who determined the decline through an analysis of nearly 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults, says the drop is "most serious" for younger U.S. children in kindergarten through sixth grade. One factor behind the decrease is the absence of creativity cultivation in U.S. schools, while other countries are making creativity development a national goal. Scholars contend that creativity can be injected into current curriculum standards without endangering their fulfillment, if they are taught in a different manner than current practices. Successful creativity teaching programs alternate maximum divergent thinking with sessions of intense convergent thinking, and brain function has been shown to improve when these principles are applied to the everyday process of school or work. Research shows that free play and fantasy world creation are associated with high creativity in young children, but by the fourth grade researching and studying become an integral part of devising useful solutions. Both fact finding and deep research are key parts of the creative process, and are tools that can be integrated into existing curriculum standards to help cultivate creativity.
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