Welcome to the March 5, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Largest Supercomputer Simulation of Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake Largest Supercomputer Simulation of Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake
Scientific Computing
Linda Barney
March 2, 2018

Researchers at Ludwig Maximilian University Munich (LMU) and the Technical University of Munich in Germany used high-performance computing (HPC) systems to produce the largest-ever simulation of the December 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake. "Only by exploiting HPC, can these simulation models: 1) resolve dynamic stress drop at the rupture tip concurrently with seafloor displacement over thousands of kilometers; 2) be coupled with geodynamic thermo-mechanical models to provide constraints on fault rheology and the state of stress; and 3) be directly coupled to simulations of tsunamis," says LMU professor Alice-Agnes Gabriel. The quake simulation is the first to consider detailed geometry of the megathrust-splay fault system, three-dimensional layered media, and high-resolution topography. Essential to the project was the open source SeisSol software, which accounts for the simulation of various facets of earthquake scenarios and enables scientists to answer geophysical questions for complex situations marked by a dearth of sufficiently dense data from historic earthquakes.

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HKUST Researchers Develop First Innovative Fusion-Based Location Sensing Technology
OpenGov Asia
Nicky Lung
March 2, 2018

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) researchers have developed a new fusion-based technology to support smart city projects. HKUST professor Gary Chan's team has invented a software suite integrating Wi-Fi with other signals on mobile platforms, yielding significantly greater accuracy to position people indoors, facilitating unique smart location-based applications such as indoor navigation, location-based personalized recommendations, crowd analysis, and people flow control. The fingerprinting-based technology first performs a survey to collect signals at different locations of a given site, and machine learning is then applied to analyze and model the signal's characteristics at these locations. Upon detecting signals from a user, their location can then be calculated accurately and efficiently. "Our technology is to fuse the signals to combine their strengths while overcoming their limitations," Chan notes. "The higher location accuracy makes possible novel location-based services and facilitates Hong Kong's development as a smart city."

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Virtual Reality Prepares Business Students for Digital Leadership Virtual Reality Prepares Business Students for Digital Leadership
Financial Times
Ian Wylie
March 4, 2018

The ESMT Berlin business school is using virtual reality to teach leadership in a digital world to executives from some of Germany’s biggest companies. "[Digitization] is a topic or theme in every class we teach, because these executives all know that their businesses are being, or will be, disrupted by digital technology," says Benjamin Quaiser, program director at ESMT Berlin. "But it's quite hard to talk about it without using technology. By immersing them in a virtual environment where they have to lead, collaborate, and solve problems with each other, they experience how challenging it is to lead in a digital, VUCA [volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous] world." ESMT Berlin is working with a game developer on virtual, augmented, and mixed-reality games that will enable students to explore topics such as cybersecurity, compliance, and design. BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo found that virtual assistant technology can help increase student engagement in the real world. Anne Berit Swanberg, director at the school's learning lab, says class participation is five times higher after students use Differ, the chatbot it employs to encourage them to engage with course materials.

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Computer Scientists May Have Solved the Mystery Behind the ‘Sonic Attacks’ in Cuba Computer Scientists May Have Solved the Mystery Behind the ‘Sonic Attacks’ in Cuba
Miami Herald
Nora Gámez Torres
March 2, 2018

A team of computer scientists from the University of Michigan may have solved the mystery behind strange sounds heard by U.S. diplomats in Havana, who later suffered a variety of medical disorders. Professor Kevin Fu and members of the Security and Privacy Research Group at the University of Michigan say they have an explanation for what could have happened: two sources of ultrasound placed too close together could generate interference and provoke the intense sounds described by the victims. This may not have been done intentionally to harm diplomats, the scientists concluded in their study. Fu and his team used recordings of the sound obtained by the Associated Press and reverse-engineered them to replicate what was heard by diplomats. By combining various ultrasound signals, they discovered the resulting distortion produced an audible sound similar to what was heard in the original recording.

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China Luring Young International IT Talent Away From Silicon Valley
Global Times (China)
Katrin Buchenbacher
March 2, 2018

A growing number of international students are being drawn to the Chinese technology field because of its many opportunities to gain experience in advanced disciplines, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, while costing much less than Western institutions. "American universities are expensive compared to Chinese universities, while the teaching level does not differ substantially," notes French student Clement Jean, who studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing. International students in China can apply for the Chinese government scholarship for master's students, which provides full coverage of tuition fees and living costs, as well as local government scholarships, and scholarships from universities and departments. In addition, more international students who graduate from Chinese universities are electing to remain in China. "China is at a good stage for [information technology]," says Tsinghua's Ma Yuchun. "The students feel that they can have an impact here, not just earn a good salary."

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Morocco, India Receive Prize on Use of ICT in Education
Asharq Alawsat
March 3, 2018

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) this week will award the King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize on the innovative use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in education to projects from Morocco and India. Morocco's winning GENIE policy is designed to incorporate ICT to improve access to and quality of education in primary and secondary schools. Its key components include infrastructure, educator training, development of digital resources, and transformation of teaching and learning practices. Meanwhile, India's CLIX program uses ICT to give students from underserved communities more opportunities to access secondary and higher education. The initiative provides high-quality, platform-based, blended learning experiences in three languages, and thus far has extended into 478 high schools, 1,767 teachers, and 46,420 students in four states.

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Jumping Spiders and Flying Bees: The Rise of Bio-Inspired Microrobots Jumping Spiders and Flying Bees: The Rise of Bio-Inspired Microrobots
University of Manchester
March 1, 2018

Researchers at the University of Manchester in the U.K. developing jumping robot spiders and swarms of robotic bees have trained a species of jumping spider to jump different distances and heights, recording every movement in extreme detail using high-resolution cameras. If robots can be developed that can perfectly mimic the way biological spiders jump, they can be used for applications in complex engineering and manufacturing, and can be deployed in unknown or dangerous environments, says Manchester researcher professor Mostafa Nabawy. Nabawy also is developing flying robot bees, with the ultimate goal of creating a machine that can fly independently. Nabawy notes these technologies can "be used for many different applications, including improving the current aerodynamic performances of aircraft."

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Machine Learning Could Improve How Doctors Diagnose Heart Attacks Machine Learning Could Improve How Doctors Diagnose Heart Attacks
Wilson Good; Brian Zenger
February 27, 2018

Researchers at the University of Utah's Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute say they have used machine learning to "teach" computers to read cardiac electrical signals and interpret electrocardiograms with greater accuracy. The team employed machine learning to spot changes in the cardiac signal that indicate the first symptoms of a heart attack by isolating the electrical signals from the heart and analyzing changes before, during, and after simulated attacks. The computer then interprets these signals and categorizes the data. The two categories isolated by the computer are "having a heart attack" and "not having a heart attack." In comparison with human observers, the computer can ascertain the onset of a heart attack 10 percent faster, and also is 32 percent more accurate at identifying the early signs of a heart attack.

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Finding the Needle in a Digital Haystack
Bethel University
Monique Kleinhuizen
February 26, 2018

Researchers at Bethel University are studying how to get computers to learn to define "normal" data and then detect anomalies. The team used mathematical models and real-world data to determine ways to detect needle-in-the-haystack anomalies and report them in real time, using far less computational power than conventional systems. Their algorithm is based on recognizing a sudden increase of distance between vectors in a high-dimensional vector space. The researchers tested the algorithm by installing a webcam in an office window to pick up a feed of outdoor foot traffic. Each quadrant in the field has its own anomaly detector attached to it, and if something enters into that box previously unseen by the system, an alert is sent, says Bethel's Brian Turnquist. He thinks streamlining data will enable Internet of Things technology to advance, which could be used to increase life expectancy and crime-fighting capabilities.

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Computers Learn to Imagine the Future Computers Learn to Imagine the Future
Garrett Kenyon
February 28, 2018

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are using the new Trinity supercomputer to explore a fundamentally unique approach to large-scale cortical simulations in order to facilitate an unprecedented leap in neural process modeling capability. The team has developed a "sparse prediction machine" to execute a neural network on Trinity by exposing it to thousands of video clips depicting a specific object, so it could learn about the visual world without using any of the associated human-provided labels. Each neuron of the sparse prediction machine eventually learned to represent a particular visual pattern, with Trinity's scale enabling the network to train on 400 video clips simultaneously. The sparse prediction machine then employed the representations learned by the individual neurons, while concurrently developing the ability to predict future video frames. In this way, it was able to generate a new frame that would naturally follow from the previous, real-world frames.

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Tech Industry's Diversity Efforts Haven't Lived Up to Promises. A New Report Explains Why Tech Industry's Diversity Efforts Haven't Lived Up to Promises. A New Report Explains Why
USA Today
Jessica Guynn
February 28, 2018

The technology industry is taking a flawed approach to diversity, according to a new Kapor Center study. Level Playing Field Institute founder Freada Kapor Klein is promoting a comprehensive strategy for boosting diversity, using insights from the study. Kapor Klein says the current diversity debate ignores root causes such as disproportionate access to high-quality schools and educators and computer science courses, wealth disparities, gender and race stereotypes, and limited access to social networks dominated by white men. The report proposes corrective measures that include broadening computer science education in all schools with financial investments, policy changes, and education reform, as well as establishing better pathways to technology careers. Other recommendations include creating public-private alliances to improve math skills, boosting availability of computer science education, making college more accessible and affordable, building city-wide ecosystems of entrepreneurs, and investing in social ventures designed to shrink gaps in equity and opportunity.

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Developing Reliable Quantum Computers
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
February 22, 2018

Researchers at the University of Freiburg in Germany have developed a statistical approach that an international team is using to create a test to determine whether a quantum computer is working reliably. As an example of a difficult certification problem, the researchers used sorting a defined number of photons after they have gone through a defined arrangement of several optical elements. This problem is difficult for quantum computers because it is hard to tell the distributions and differing optical arrangements apart, as there is no way of making exact calculations. The new approach makes it possible to identify characteristic statistical signatures across unmeasurable probability distributions. Instead of a complete "fingerprint," the team distilled the information from datasets that were reduced to make them usable. Using that information, the researchers were able to discriminate various particle types and distinctive features of optical arrangements. This distillation process can be improved using established machine-learning techniques.

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