Welcome to the February 2, 2011 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Computer-Assisted Diagnosis Tools to Aid Pathologists
Ohio Supercomputer Center (01/31/11) Kathryn Kelley; Jamie Abel
Ohio State University researchers are using the Ohio Supercomputing Center to develop computer-based diagnosis tools that help doctors studying Follicular Lymphoma to arrive at diagnoses faster, more consistently, and with greater accuracy. "The large multi-gigapixel images produced by these scanners contain a wealth of information potentially useful for computer-assisted disease diagnosis, grading, and prognosis," says Ohio State professor Metin N. Gurcan. Analyzing pathological samples is tedious work that is error-prone because of human fatigue, reader variation, and bias. The researchers "developed a new automated method for detecting lymph follicles using stained tissue by analyzing the morphological and textural features of the images, mimicking the process that a human expert might use to identify follicle regions," says Ohio State researcher Siddharth Samsi. The system works by counting the number of large malignant cells within images of tissue samples taken from different locations. "By identifying all the follicles in a digitized image, we can use the entire tissue section for grading of the disease, thus providing experts with another tool that can help improve the accuracy and speed of the diagnosis," Gurcan says.
Internet Addresses: An Uneven Shortage but an Inevitable One
USC Viterbi School of Engineering (02/01/11)
University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering researchers recently conducted an Internet census to monitor Web address usage. The researchers found that despite upcoming announcements from the Number Resource Organization and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority stating that there are no more available Web addresses in the current IPv4 protocol, that is actually not the case. The researchers found that although some allocated address blocks, which can hold has many as 16 million addresses, are heavily used, others are barely used at all. USC professor John Heidemann says that "probably only 14 percent of addresses are visible on the public Internet." However, the researchers note that "as full allocation happens, there will be pressure to improve utilization and eventually trade underutilized areas." There were 2.8 billion available Internet addresses when researchers at USC's Information Sciences Institute (ISI) conducted their first census in 2007. The latest census, conducted by Heidemann and ISI's Aniruddh Rao and Xue Cui, found that 3.5 billion addresses are currently allocated out of a possible 4.3 billion. The researchers measured addresses in use by sending a message ping to each possible Internet address.
The Science of Bike-Sharing
American Friends of Tel Aviv University (01/31/11)
Tel Aviv University researchers are developing a mathematical model to help new urban bike-sharing systems operate more efficiently. Bike-sharing systems have gained popularity in European cities and are being studied for potential future use in U.S. cities, but they can generate user frustration when certain stations run out of bikes. "There is no system for more scientifically managing the availability of bikes, creating dissatisfaction among users in popular parts of the city," says Tel Aviv University's Tal Raviv, who is designing the model with professor Michal Tzur. The model predicts which bike stations need to be refilled or emptied, and when that action needs to take place. "Our research involves devising methods and algorithms to solve the routing and scheduling problems of the trucks that move fleets, as well as other operational and design challenges within this system," says Raviv, who is part of a group of researchers to try to solve bike-sharing management problems using mathematical models and algorithmic solutions.
White House Launches Startup America
Washington Business Journal (01/31/11) Kent Hoover
The Obama administration recently launched the Startup America initiative, which will involve government agencies and private-sector programs to train, mentor, and fund entrepreneurs, with the goal of improving high-growth entrepreneurship in the United States. The private-sector efforts will be led by the new Startup America Partnership, chaired by AOL cofounder Steve Case. U.S. companies, including Intel and IBM, have pledged $400 million to the Startup America program. The initiative will mimic community-based programs that help entrepreneurial companies grow, increase entrepreneurship education programs, and facilitate commercialization of university research. The Obama administration also announced other efforts aimed at improving entrepreneurship, including eliminating capital gains taxes on long-term investments in small businesses. The Commerce Department is planning a $12 million i6 Green program that will reward communities with unique strategies to promote the development of clean energy technologies. In addition, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office will establish a fast-track method for entrepreneurs to get patents approved.
How Watson Works: A Conversation With Eric Brown, IBM Research Manager
KurzweilAI.net (01/31/11) Amara D. Angelica
IBM's deep Question Answering (DeepQA) system, codenamed Watson, will compete against human champions in Jeopardy! tournaments in February. IBM research manager Eric Brown says that "we're basically using Jeopardy! as a benchmark or a challenge problem to drive the development of [DeepQA] technology, and as a way to measure the progress of the technology." Brown says Watson can comprehend a broad diversity of questions using open-ended natural language and provide highly accurate answers, at least within the confines of the game. Developing a dialogue system that facilitates more natural interaction is an area that researchers want to investigate, especially as DeepQA is applied to other domains, Brown says. The direction that researchers are taking DeepQA technology in involves automatic generation of hypotheses and the compilation of evidence to support or disprove the hypotheses, and then evaluation of the evidence through an open, pluggable architecture of analytics, followed by the combination and weighing of the results to assess the hypotheses and make recommendations. Brown says IBM's initial focus for DeepQA is the medical or health care domains. Other applications currently under consideration include help desk, tech support, and business intelligence.
New Hardware Boosts Communication Speed on Multi-Core Chips
NCSU News (01/31/11) Matt Shipman
Computer engineers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have developed a more efficient way to facilitate communication among cores on a computer chip. Instead of having one core send data to memory and another retrieve it using software algorithms, the team has developed hardware that provides a single instruction to send data to another core. NCSU professor James Tuck says the technology is six times faster than the best state-of-the-art software they could find. The technology, called HAQu, is "not hardware designed to communicate data on its own, but is hardware that expedites data-sharing using existing data paths on a computer chip," Tuck says. The researchers compare HAQu to software communications tools because it uses existing data paths. "It actually consumes more power when operating but, because it runs so much more quickly, the overall energy consumption of the chip actually decreases," Tuck notes. The researchers plan to incorporate the hardware into a prototype system to demonstrate its utility in a complex software environment.
I, Algorithm: A New Dawn for Artificial Intelligence
New Scientist (01/31/11) Anil Ananthaswamy
The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is undergoing a revival, spurred by probabilistic programming that merges classic AI's logical principles with the power of statistics and probability. The key to probabilistic reasoning is a Bayesian network, a model comprised of various random factors, each with a probability distribution that is dependent on every other factor. Given the value of one or more factors, the network enables the inference of all the other factors' likely values. The development of algorithms for Bayesian networks that could use and learn from existing data began in the mid 1990s, and these new algorithms were capable of learning models of greater complexity and accuracy from much less data, unlike artificial neural networks. Still, Bayesian networks are insufficient for modern AI challenges on their own because they are incapable of building arbitrarily complex constructions out of simple components, which is where the incorporation of logic comes in. At the vanguard of probabilistic programming are computer languages that use both Bayesian networks and logic programming. In addition to the development of fast and flexible inference algorithms, researchers face the challenge of improving AI systems' learning ability, whether from existing data or from the real world using sensors.
App Turns iPhone Into a Smarter Camera
Technology Review (01/31/11) Kate Greene
Stanford University professor Marc Levoy has developed SynthCam, software that enables the iPhone 4 to take pictures that appear as if they were taken with a much larger, more expensive camera. SynthCam counters the iPhone's small aperture by capturing several scenes and combining them to make one image. Levoy's research focuses on computational photography, which involves software that enables digital cameras to take new types of photographs. "This combination of camera and computational platforms opens up so many things that you can do," says Nokia Fellow Kari Pulli. A SynthCam user selects a subject for the photo and taps its location on the phone's screen. Then the user moves the phone in a circle around the object. The program tracks the subject from all angles and produces a final image in sharp focus with the background out of focus.
A Material to Revolutionize Electronics
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (01/30/11) Sarah Perrin
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures researchers have found that molybdenite (MoS2) is a very effective semiconductor and has distinct advantages over silicon and graphene in electronics manufacturing. MoS2, which is commonly found in nature, is often used in steel alloys and as an additive in lubricants, but until now it has not been studied as a semiconductor in electronics. "It has real potential in the fabrication of very small transistors, light-emitting diodes, and solar cells," says EPFL professor Andras Kis. MoS2 is less voluminous than silicon, giving new material a key advantage in electronics manufacturing. "It's not currently possible to fabricate a sheet of silicon as thin as a monolayer sheet of MoS2," Kis says. Additionally, MoS2 is 100,000 times more energy-efficient in standby mode than traditional silicon transistors, because it has a 1.8 electron-volt gap that is the ideal size for use in transistors. The researchers note that graphene has no gap at all, and it is very hard to artificially create one in the material.
National Competition Puts High Schoolers to the Cyber Warrior Test
Government Computer News (01/31/11) William Jackson
The Cyber Foundations competition is a cybersecurity competition for high school students launched by the U.S. Cyber Challenge and the SANS Institute. The contest will help identify young students who have the skills to pursue advanced education and job opportunities in the cybersecurity field. Students have until Feb. 18 to register for the online competition, which is designed to test aptitude in networking, operating systems, and systems administration. The U.S. Cyber Challenge will provide students with tutorials and training materials to review in these subject areas, and will hold three timed quizzes throughout March and April. The top-scoring students in each state will earn recognition, prizes, and awards. The U.S. Cyber Challenge will announce the award recipients on April 30. "It's a wonderful opportunity for America's high school students to see whether they have what it takes to reach for rewarding and valuable careers in cybersecurity," says SANS research director Alan Paller.
New Phone System Improves Disaster Communications
Flinders University (01/27/11)
Mobile phones will be able to relay calls to one another when mobile phone towers in the immediate vicinity are unavailable using new software developed by researchers at Flinders University. The Serval Project's mobile system enables calls to be relayed as long as one mobile phone running the software can see an operating cell tower. The software can run on off-the-shelf mobile telephones. The researchers say the mobile phone system could help improve communications in disaster areas, and also could improve mobile telephone coverage in rural and remote locations. "Our technology allows the signal from the working towers to be relayed into areas lacking a signal, allowing calls in and out of affected areas," says Flinders fellow Paul Gardner-Stephen. "What is amazing is that we have programmed fairly ordinary mobile telephones to perform this function, without using any specialized hardware." The technology will be made freely available to telephone carriers and handset manufacturers to incorporate into their products.
Intel, Taiwan School to Research "Internet of Things"
IDG News Service (01/26/11) Ralph Jennings
Intel recently announced a partnership with National Taiwan University (NTU) to study how the Internet can be used to interact with real objects. Intel says the research team will use the Intel-NTU Connected Context Computing Center to study smart sensing, green sensing, context analysis, and object-locator technology. Intel Labs' Vida Ilderem says the center's results will be made available to other researchers. Object-locator technology developments could help in securing large buildings and allow users to remotely turn on home electronics. The research also will help Taiwan gain recognition in the international technology community. "Taiwan's technology has developed to a certain level, and it's quite mature, but from an international aspect its level of recognition doesn't match its academic performance," says Taiwan National Science Council's Chang Ching-ray.
U of M Computer Science Researchers Provide Insight Into the Future of How We Understand Social Networking
University of Minnesota News (01/28/11) Pamela Vold; Rhonda Zurn; Preston Smith
University of Minnesota researchers have found that analyzing social networks can lead to breakthroughs in different aspects of social interactions, including the emergence or decline of leadership, changes in trust over time, and mobility within certain online communities. It might be easier to understand why, when, and how users are friends with each other, if new factors such as changes across time and space can be considered, say Minnesota professor Shashi Shekhar and research assistant Dev Oliver in their paper, "Computational Modeling of Spatio-temporal Social Networks: A Time-Aggregated Graph Approach." They say their research could be useful to business and software developers using career networking sites such as LinkedIn. Human resource professionals could use the data to cross-reference an individual's contacts to determine if a certain contact was established during a specific time frame. These new developments highlight the need for "a central role for computation and computational models, not only to scale up to the large and growing data volumes, but also to address new spatio-temporal social questions related to change, trends, duration, mobility, and travel," according to Shekhar and Oliver.
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