Welcome to the March 18, 2013 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Hacker Case Leads to Calls for Better Law
New York Times (03/18/13) Amy Chozick; Charles Savage
Reuters' Matthew Keys is now the focus of advocates of Internet freedom as well as the Justice Department. A federal indictment of Keys accuses him of providing a user name and password to hackers linked to Anonymous. Three charges leveled against Keys could each result in fines of as much as $250,000, with potential prison sentences ranging from five to 10 years. The indictment notes that the Tribune Company spent more than $5,000 to update its systems in response to the attack. Many say the degree of the potential punishment in comparison to the harm caused—the defacement of a Web site—is comparable to indictment of Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer and Internet freedom advocate. But George Washington University's Orin S. Kerr points out that the portion of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act related to damage to a computer is more clear-cut than the portion dealing with authorized access.
Facebook's Sandberg Stirs Debate Among Women in IT
Computerworld (03/15/13) Patrick Thibodeau
As a method for combating years of declining numbers for women in computer fields, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg argues that women need to be more assertive in pursuing technology careers. In 2012, women held just 26 percent of the jobs in computer-related occupations, a decrease from 30 percent in 2000, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. "Women must find a way to ask for what they want without being perceived in a negative way," says Black Duck Software vice president Tammi Pirri. There are many theories about why women and girls are not considering technology-related training, with some experts arguing that culture plays a major role. However, the cultural message might be shifting, according to SAP vice president Karie Willyard. For example, she notes Lego's efforts to expose girls to engineering. "Perhaps men are choosing to be more focused on linear career paths, while women are sometimes choosing to be more curious, and more patient, seeking rewards and recognition in different ways--perhaps seeking to influence the future of an organization more broadly than a man might," says Johns Hopkins Health System senior vice president Stephanie Reel.
New Research Discovers the Emergence of Twitter 'Tribes'
Royal Holloway, University of London (03/14/13)
Users of social network sites such as Twitter are forming tribe-like communities, according to a new project led by scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Princeton University. Their research reveals that the communities have a common character, occupation, or interest, and develop their own distinctive languages. The communities often use unusual words and misspell words in different ways. Based on the language people use, the researchers were able to predict which community they belong to with up to 80 percent accuracy, says Royal Holloway's John Bryden. The researchers produced a map of the communities showing how they have vocations, politics, ethnicities, and hobbies in common. They also used algorithms to group Twitter users into communities. The algorithms functioned by seeking individuals that tend to send messages to other members of the same community. Bryden then suggested analyzing the language use of the uncovered communities. "When we started to apply John’s ideas, surprising groups started to emerge that we weren’t expecting," notes Princeton's Sebastian Funk. "One 'anipals' group was interested in hosting parties to raise funds for animal welfare, while another was a fascinating growing community interested in the concept of gratitude.”
The Network of the Future, Beyond Theory
CORDIS News (03/14/13)
The European Union-funded "Anticipating the network of the future--from theory to design" (EURO-NF) project pools the skills of 35 partners from across Europe and Israel to develop new projects and research directions with corresponding results and publications that benefit the European research and development environment, including well-trained and networked students. The EURO-NF framework also supports joint research projects aimed at improving knowledge in innovation-rich but under-represented areas. The projects must be "sharply focused, preferably on disruptive ideas on the networks of the future, and designed to gain new knowledge and explore the need for more research effort, anticipating scientific and technological needs," according to the researchers. For example, the Cave-Net project investigates how taxi companies and public transport services can leverage context-aware information to improve service and performance. EURO-NF's Web portal outlines many of the other projects, events, integrating and dissemination activities, including a list of publications from its research partners. "This 'vision' is in fact the result of a long-term, continuous brainstorming that we've been carrying out since our former project EURO-NGI," says University of Vienna professor Kurt Kutschku.
The Age of the Sentient Machine Is Upon Us
InfoWorld (03/14/13) Paul Krill
Man-made intelligent devices will eventually become sentient, according to IBM fellow Grady Booch. A pioneer in software engineering and collaborative development environments, Booch defines sentience as having human characteristics such as self-awareness, the ability to set goals, and a sense of creativity. "If we don't achieve that degree of sentience, I believe we're very close to achieving the illusion of sentience whereby we are in a place where we'll, on a large-scale basis, have to interact with these things," Booch says. He notes that systems such as Apple's Siri and IBM's Watson supercomputer already can respond to voice recognition and synthesize speech. Booch cautions that pre-sentient machines can harm us, such as the intelligent drones used in warfare, and they are displacing humans from jobs. "We are slowly surrendering our intelligence, our choice, our responsibility, to devices such as this," he warns. Still, Booch believes humans will co-evolve with sentient machines.
Study: Dynamic New Software Improves Care of Aging Brain
IU News Room (03/14/13) Cindy Fox Aisen
Geriatricians and informaticians from the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research have developed medical records software that will deliver more personalized healthcare for older adult patients. The enhanced Electronic Medical Record Aging Brain Care program is an automated decision-support system that enables care coordinators to monitor the health of the aging brain and help fulfill the biopsychosocial requirements of patients and their informal caregivers. The software captures and tracks the cognitive, functional, behavioral, and psychological symptoms of older dementia or depression patients, and also compiles information on the caregivers' burden. The program analyzes this data to provide decision support to care coordinators, who develop a personalized care plan in collaboration with physicians, social workers, and other healthcare team members. The software's embedded engine tracks patient visits and can be used to produce population reports for specified indicators such as cognitive decline or caregiver burnout. "The software we have developed will help care coordinators measure the many needs of patients and their loved ones and monitor the effectiveness of individualized care plans," says Indiana professor Malaz Boustani.
Study Shows Just How Fast Censorship Can Occur in Social Media
Rice University (03/13/13) Jane Boyd
Researchers at Rice University and the University of New Mexico have found that Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like Chinese social media service, uses a combination of keyword-matching software and human censors to monitor and delete potentially controversial posts on the site. By closely monitoring individuals who frequently post controversial messages, Sina Weibo is able to delete many objectionable posts in less than five minutes, according to the researchers. The researchers started by following 25 “sensitive” users, and then added more than 3,000 users who had reposted one of the 25 sensitive users more than five times. Any user with more than five deleted posts was added to the pool of sensitive users. About 4,500 posts by the sensitive users were deleted each day, including about 1,500 that were deleted at the network level by Sina Weibo, according to the researchers. "We have enough of these posts to be able to run topical analysis algorithms that let us extract the main subjects that Weibo’s censors seemed concerned with on any given day," says Rice professor Dan Wallach.
The Sensitive Robot: How Haptic Technology Is Closing the Mechanical Gap
Slate (03/13/13) Erik Sofge
As haptic technology advances with new sensors and feedback systems, robots might soon gain a sense of touch, further closing the gap between humans and machines. Haptic technology involves machines communicating through touch, with the most well-known example being a vibrating cellphone, and the principles are being extended to robotics. Vibration, however, is not an effective solution for tools such as Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci system, which allows surgeon's to robotically manipulate a patient's tissue, because human nerves lose track of which vibrations are strongest. Cambridge Research & Development has created a prototype of a linear actuator called Neo, which is a headband-mounted mechanism that uses up and down motion instead of the circular motion used by most motors. When da Vinci instruments contact a patient, the Neo’s small tactor applies pressure to the surgeon's head, with highly nuanced tactile feedback ranging from a light touch to indicate that a manipulator is touching tissue to a noticeable tap when sutures are removed. Another haptic tool, the RIO surgical robot, is used by orthopedic surgeons for hip and knee procedures and applies pressure when a surgeon's hand goes off target, based on RIO's knowledge of patient CT scans.
'Cool' Factor Key to Inspiring Future Tech and Engineering Stars
V3.co.uk (03/13/13) Rosalie Marshall
Stanford University president John Hennessy discussed the problems of technology and engineering education while speaking at the Global Grand Challenges Summit in London. Hennessy says technology and engineering turns off many people, and the problem is students do not know what engineers actually do. He suggests the field will need to develop a coolness factor if technology and engineering education is to attract the best and brightest young people. Hennessy points out the field often does not resonate with students, and cites an old IBM advertisement for engineering that showed a team of all white males in ties. "They need to see people who look like them," Hennessy says. He also believes the study of engineering should become more people-oriented. "It needs to be creative and collaborative and global in outlook to reflect how the world works, and it needs to be inspiring," Hennessy says. He notes a number of recent innovations that should be showcased to students, such as the invention of mobile phones, the self-driving car, and the creation of the Channel Tunnel. Hennessy stresses that pupils need to be challenged to solve global problems, such as the need to make solar cells easier and cheaper to install in homes.
Signal Processing: Look-Up Tables to Shoulder the Processing Load
A*STAR Research (03/13/13)
New hardware-oriented algorithms and architecture could make the compression and transmission of file types used in portable electronics faster and more energy efficient. The A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research's Pramod Kumar Meher and researchers at Central South University have developed a way to implement a key step in signal processing called the discrete cosine transform (DCT). This process involves expressing a series of data points as a sum of their product with cosine functions. The researchers focused on computing the DCT of different lengths of practical interest using specialized digital circuits that occupy less area on a silicon chip and use less power, but run at adequate speed. The team developed a more efficient algorithm for DCT as well as a new architecture, based on the distributed arithmetic approach, for implementing the algorithm in integrated circuit chips. The researchers say the approach could lead to devices that are smaller in size, provide higher throughput of information, and consume less power.
IBM Eyes ‘Big Data’ Help for Brain Injury
Financial Times (03/13/13) April Dembosky
Aiming to leverage big data technology for the benefit of healthcare, IBM is working with Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center physicians to develop data-analysis technology that will improve traumatic brain injury treatment. By mining and analyzing enormous volumes of patient data, researchers can forecast the type of brain swelling that results in cognitive damage or death. Hospitals currently use brain sensors that alert doctors to relieve swelling when skull pressure reaches a critical point. IBM's technology could uncover patterns in real-time heart rate and respiration data that foreshadow a crisis event. The technology is akin to scanning for keywords in a book as it is being written rather than after the fact, says IBM's Nagui Halim. He says that in the future doctors will be able to examine a patient’s medical history to make predictions as one can study an author's character development and plots in previous books to predict the outcome of a book before it’s written. The ability to intervene earlier in brain trauma is critical because brain swelling increases during the first 90 hours after an event.
Superhero Science: UIC Students Build ‘SpiderSense’ Suit
Medill Reports (03/13/13) Conner Forrest
University of Illinois at Chicago computer science, communication, and bioengineering students say they have created a suit equipped with sensory receptors that enable a wearer to "feel" their environment, in a manner similar to Spider-Man’s “SpiderSense.” Assigned to develop something that could “see the invisible," the students made a set of sensory modules worn on the body that can be arranged in various configurations. Using sonar technology, the suit hears pulse reflections with a microphone, determines the distance of the object from the user, and applies pressure to the wearer's body as the object approaches. The suit is an example of human augmentics technology, which aims to improve a person's quality of life by sensing or monitoring environmental characteristics that lie beyond human perception. The students intend to improve module reaction time to heighten recognition of rapidly moving objects and to enable users to move faster. The team hopes the technology can provide supplemental senses for visually impaired people.
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