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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Supercomputers: Battle of the Speed Machines
Financial Times (07/09/13) Chris Nuttall
China is surging ahead of the United States in the race to build the world's fastest computers and reap the scientific and economic advantages that go with them. Last month, China's 55-petaflop Milky Way 2 supercomputer became the world's fastest supercomputer. China is now expected to be the first to reach the exascale threshold, the target of an international race that includes the United States, the European Union, India, Japan, and Russia. China's advances come as budget issues in Washington have resulted in no substantive plan for the United States to reach exascale computing by 2020. An exascale computer could probably be built today, but it would use about 100MW of power, equivalent to that used by 80,000 U.S. homes. The U.S. plan to achieve exascale requires lower-power chips, denser circuitry, and more efficient cooling systems. "There are fundamental problems in science that do need an exaflop and new sciences will be enabled as well, so it can be transformative," says NVIDIA's Steve Scott. A recent House energy subcommittee hearing acknowledged that the United States has fallen behind China and Japan in the supercomputing race, despite still leading in intellectual property. Washington needs to provide an extra $400 million a year for an exascale computer in the United States to be feasibly deployed by 2020, says the Department of Energy's Rick Stevens.
India to Overtake U.S. on Number of Developers by 2017
Computerworld (07/10/13) Patrick Thibodeau
India will exceed the United States in the number of software developers by 2017, according to a new Evans Data Corp. study. The United States currently leads the world in software developers with about 3.6 million, while India has about 2.75 million. However, by 2018, India will have 5.2 million developers, a nearly 90-percent increase, compared to the U.S.'s 4.5 million, a 25-percent increase during that period, according to the study. India's software development growth rate can be attributed to its population size and relative youth, as about half of its 1.2 billion citizens are under 25 years of age. In addition, India was not hit as hard by the recession as the United States, accelerating India's takeover in computer development. "These are projections and represent the best data we can find, but they are still mathematical projections into the future, and the future is never certain," says Evans Data CEO Janel Garvin. Over the next couple of decades, India will add about 110 million workers to its labor force, more than the United States, China, Russia and Japan combined, according to Goldman Sachs.
Five-Year-Olds to Learn Programming and Algorithms in Major Computing Curriculum Shake-Up
V3.co.uk (07/08/13) Michael Passingham
The United Kingdom's Department for Education (DfE) recently overhauled the country's computing curriculum, removing the teaching of software basics such as Microsoft Word and adding programming and algorithm teaching for children as young as five years old. The new curriculum will be mandatory starting in September 2014, and spans the breadth of all four key stages, beginning when a child first enters school at age five through age 16. Students will be taught to understand what algorithms are, how they are implemented as programs on digital devices, and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions. "We are introducing a tougher, more rigorous national curriculum," says Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove. "For the first time children will be learning to program computers. It will raise standards across the board--and allow our children to compete in the global race." The British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering wrote the original draft of the new curriculum and DfE revised it. Students will be expected to create and debug simple programs by the end of key stage one, and they will be taught how to understand computer networks by key stage two.
Getting More Women on the Command Line With Hackathons
EdTech Magazine (07/08/13) Jacquelyn Bengfort
The first International Women’s Hackathon took place in February, with 395 women from six countries competing to develop technical solutions to help prevent human trafficking. The three-day event was sponsored by ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Women in Engineering, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, Microsoft, and Skype. The event served to demonstrate the applications of computer science to real-world problems, and to boost participants' confidence in their skills in a hackathon setting, says Microsoft's Rane Johnson-Stempson. A separate women-only hackathon called LadyHacks took place in March, and organizers say they were driven in part by the lack of hackathon participation among women. Hackathons are increasingly part of a broad effort to recruit and support women in computing fields. Colleges and universities are launching outreach groups to mentor and support women who are studying or are interested in the computer sciences. For women already working in non-computing fields, private companies offer programs, such as San Francisco's Hackbright Academy, to help with a transition into programming careers.
Build Your Own Internet With Mobile Mesh Networking
Technology Review (07/09/13) Tom Simonite
Flinders University researchers have developed Serval, an app that creates a mesh network, enabling nearby phones to link up using their Wi-Fi connections, as long as they have been modified to disable the usual security restrictions. Serval enables voice calls, text messages, file transfers, and more to take place between devices, even if they are not in range of one another to communicate normally. "We're trying to dramatically increase the usability and take this out of the geekosphere," says Commotion Wireless project leader Sascha Meinrath. The project is developing several software packages that enable people to create mesh networks using low-cost Internet and networking hardware. The networks offer free Internet access by extending the reach of free connections offered by community centers, as well as Web services and apps that function only within the local mesh. The Commotion Wireless project also is developing mesh software for people that cannot use conventional connectivity because it is not safe, such as political dissidents. The researchers are adapting an encrypted chat program called Cryptocat so it can be used to communicate securely across a local mesh network.
Tech Hiring Accounts for 10% of U.S. Employment Gains
Computerworld (07/08/13) Patrick Thibodeau
New information technology hires accounted for about 10 percent of all the job growth in the United States in June. In addition, total tech employment reached 4.47 million in June, adding 22,600 jobs, or a .51-percent increase from May, according to TechServe Alliance. Foote Partners reported a gain of 18,200 new tech jobs in June. "While the pace of job creation in the national labor force appears stuck at 7.6 percent unemployment and new jobs are heavily in part-time positions and low-wage full-time segments, IT jobs have been on a sustained growth upswing and wages are holding steady, if not growing slightly," says Foote Partners chief analyst David Foote. Foote Partners also reports that this year an average of 13,500 new IT jobs are being added each month. However, despite the increase in hiring, IT salaries have remained stagnant, according to Janco Associates. "Based on our interviews with over 96 CIOs in the last 30 days, we concluded that CIOs are not in a great hurry to hire new staff except to meet short-term needs, until they see a clear trend as to what is happening with the economy," says Janco CEO Victor Janulaitis.
Researchers Build an All-Optical Transistor
MIT News (07/04/13) Larry Hardesty
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, and the Vienna University of Technology have created an optical switch that’s controlled by a single photon. Since quantum physics effects are more readily visible in individual particles than in particle groups, the ability to control the switch with a single photon could make the discovery especially meaningful in quantum computing. The switch uses two highly reflective mirrors that allow an optical signal to pass through when the switch is on. When the switch is off, approximately 20 percent of the light in the optical signal passes through the mirrors. "If you had just one mirror, all the light would come back,” says MIT professor Vladan Vuletic. "When you have two mirrors, something very strange happens." The researchers filled the space between the mirrors with a gas of supercooled cesium atoms, and found that if a single gate photon is added at a different angle and changes one electron of one atom to a higher energy state, the physics of the cavity alters enough to stop light from passing through. Stanford University professor Jelena Vuckovic believes the results can be replicated in physical systems that are easier to integrate into computer chips.
U.S. Jumps Five Spots in Innovation Rankings
TechNewsDaily (07/08/13) Marshall Honorof
The United States claimed the fifth spot worldwide in the Global Innovation Index (GII), up from the 10th position in last year's ranking. The GII is an academic and corporate collaboration that ranks every country on its ability to innovate relative to economic strength. As one of 45 countries in the GII's high-income economy category, the United States lagged Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, listed in order of rank. Rounding out the top 10 are Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Denmark, and Ireland. Broad GII categories include institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication, business sophistication, knowledge and technology outputs, and creative outputs. Some categories include more than 15 subcategories that offer insight into a country's particular strengths and weaknesses. The United States is strong in coordinating research between universities and private industry, but falters at placing graduate students in science and engineering programs.
New Language Helps Quantum Coders Build Killer Apps
New Scientist (07/05/13) Sophie Hebden
Dalhousie University researchers have created Quipper, a high-level quantum programming language they say could help shape the design of future quantum computers and facilitate programming. Funded by the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, Quipper is a customized version of the classical programming language Haskell, designed to handle the qubits in quantum computing. The language expresses instructions in terms of larger concepts to connect multiple algorithms in a modular manner. In addition, the researchers created a Quipper code library, which they hope other researchers will build upon to develop a resource that will enable quantum programmers to build software by combining existing modules, as currently takes place with Java. "Having a well-designed programming language helps structure your thinking and informs the way you think about a problem," says Peter Selinger, who led the work. "It may become a useful tool in the design of new quantum algorithms." Software for quantum computers is tested by simulating a quantum computer on a conventional system.
MIT Researchers Immerse You in Your Gmail Data
Network World (07/03/13) Bob Brown
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Media Lab are offering Gmail users a people-centric view of their email metadata. The researchers say that by accessing a visual data program called Immersion, Gmail users can gain a better understanding of who they interact with online and how much. People lose track of how they use the Google messaging system over the years, according to MIT researchers Daniel Smilkov, Deepak Jagdish, and Cesar Hidalgo. When Gmail users provide their Gmail address and password, they will get a color-coded word cloud where they can see at a glance who they have interacted with, as well as other data via different sized circles. Immersion shows how the email life of a Gmail user has evolved. For example, the tool will show data that already has been shared with others. For Gmail users who want to be more strategic with their professional interactions, Immersion offers a map to more effectively plan their connections.
Tweet Timing Tells Bots, People and Companies Apart
EurekAlert (07/03/13) Jyoti Madhusoodanan
Tweet timing can differentiate individual, corporate, and bot-controlled Twitter accounts independent of language or content of a tweet, according to Imperial College London researchers. The researchers examined more than 160,000 tweets from personal accounts held by individuals, managed accounts belonging to large corporations, and bot-controlled accounts chosen from online lists of Twitter bots. The researchers focused on periods of high or low Twitter activity and the time between successive tweets to distinguish between the three kinds of accounts with about 83-percent accuracy. The researchers also developed a method to predict when a new tweet would be posted based on the time of the last tweet. For individual tweeters, predictions of a next tweet were equally precise whether the method accounted for working hours or nighttime in different time zones and when it did not account for different time zones. "The identification and classification of specific types of users on Twitter can be useful for a variety of purposes, from the computational social sciences, focusing advertisement and political campaigns, to filtering spam, identity theft and malicious accounts," says Imperial College London researcher Aldo Faisal.
Understanding Human Nature When Mother Nature Wreaks Havoc
National Science Foundation (07/01/13) Miles O'Brien
Researchers at the University of Miami and elsewhere have developed StormView, software that gauges how residents of hurricane-prone regions might react in the event of an imminent storm. The program is designed to be as realistic as possible so as to accurately assess how people would prepare for storms and respond to warnings. The program includes TV meteorologist broadcasts, newspaper stories, Web stories, bulletins from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and interactions with neighbors. "One natural point of skepticism is the worry that the way people behave in the lab may not be how they react during real storms, so we started conducting real-time surveys of people as hurricanes were approaching the coast, and found that behavior in StormView really does mirror real-world behavior, meaning heavy reliance on TV, [and] surprisingly limited use of friends as a source of storm advice," says University of Pennsylvania professor Bob Meyer, who collaborated on the development of the program. "The StormView simulation provides a way for social scientists to collaborate with meteorologists to tailor more effective messages," says the U.S. National Science Foundation's Robert O'Connor.
Making New York’s Lake George the World's 'Smartest Lake'
Government Technology (07/01/13)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM, and the FUND for Lake George recently launched a three-year collaboration called the Jefferson Project at Lake George. The project includes an environmental lab with a monitoring and prediction system that will give researchers a real-time image of the lake's health. The facility is expected to create a new model for predictive preservation and remediation of critical natural systems around the world. It will use a combination of advanced data techniques, new scientific and experimental methods, three-dimensional computer modeling and simulation, and historical data. The monitoring system is designed to give researchers a view of circulation models in Lake George, which could then be used to understand how currents distribute nutrients and contaminants across the lake. In addition, a new Smarter Water lab and visualization studio will help researchers see a real-time picture of the current and future computer-modeled conditions of the lake. "By expanding Rensselaer's Darrin Fresh Water Institute with this remarkable new cyberphysical platform of data from sensors and other sources, and with advanced analytics, high-performance computing, and Web science, we are taking an important step to protect the timeless beauty of Lake George, and we are creating a global model for environmental research and protection of water resources," says Rensselaer president Shirley Ann Jackson.
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