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Welcome to the May 31, 2023, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Executives of leading A.I. companies, including Sam Altman (center), chief executive of OpenAI, have signed an open letter warning of the risks of artificial intelligence. AI Poses 'Risk of Extinction,' Industry Leaders Warn
The New York Times
Kevin Roose
May 30, 2023

Industry leaders warned in an open letter from the nonprofit Center for AI Safety that artificial intelligence (AI) technology might threaten humanity's existence. Signatories included more than 350 executives, scientists, and engineers working on AI, with the CEOs of OpenAI, Google DeepMind, and Anthropic among them. ACM Turing Award recipients and AI pioneers Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio also signed the letter, which comes amid growing concern about the potential hazards of AI partly fueled by innovations in large language models. Such advancements have provoked fears of AI facilitating mass job takeovers and the spread of misinformation, while earlier this month OpenAI's Sam Altman said the risks were sufficiently dire to warrant government intervention and regulation.

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Safe Aid: Protecting Privacy in Humanitarian Operations
EPFL (Switzerland)
May 26, 2023

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) researchers have developed a digital privacy-preserving system for humanitarian aid distribution with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). EPFL's Boya Wang said ICRC collaborators contributed their knowledge of the aid distribution program, including accountability requirements for maintaining transparency. The system had to avoid reliance on last-generation hardware or Internet connectivity due to the lack of such resources in crisis-rife environments. It also had to permit aid distribution to households with multiple members while allowing only one aid request per distribution round for each household. EPFL's Carmela Troncoso said the team formulated versions facilitated by smartphones and smartcards; although these systems offer individual security and scalability, a feasibility study still awaits, according to ICRC's Justinas Sukaitis.

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Several members of the W&M Society of Women in Computing, who have been mentoring the girls’ robotics club at Berkeley Middle School in Williamsburg, VA. W&M Society of Women in Computing Wins ACM Award for Outstanding Community Service
William & Mary News
Antonella Di Marzio
May 26, 2023

The William & Mary (W&M) Society of Women in Computing (SWC) has received an ACM Student Chapter Excellence Award for Outstanding Community Service for its mentorship of middle school girls. The SWC has mentored the girls' robotics club at Berkeley Middle School in Williamsburg, VA, since 2018, and it plans to expand to other middle schools in the Williamsburg/James City County area with the help of a sponsorship from Cisco and Northrop Grumman. The SWC is gearing classes to girls' specific interests, with popular topics including three-dimensional printing, button-making, and laser-cutting, electrical engineering with breadboard circuitry, and cybersecurity. W&M's Evgenia Smirni said computer science education at William & Mary, which has received three ACM awards in five years, “may be small but it is for sure mighty."

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Helping Robots Handle Fluids
MIT News
Rachel Gordon
May 24, 2023

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, and Columbia University created the FluidLab simulation environment to help robots learn to handle complex fluids. The virtual tool provides various fluid handling challenges involving solids, liquids, and multiple fluids concurrently. FluidLab's core component is the FluidEngine physics simulator, which can calculate and model materials and their interactions while accelerating processing using graphics processing units. The differential engine can embed physics knowledge into a more realistic physical simulation to boost learning and planning for robotic manipulation tasks. The researchers used the tool to test robot learning algorithms and surmount obstacles, and transferred knowledge from simulations to real-world situations through optimization.

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Super Low-Cost Smartphone Attachment Brings Blood Pressure Monitoring to Your Fingertips
UC San Diego Today
Liezel Labios
May 29, 2023

An inexpensive plastic fingertip clip and custom smartphone app developed by University of California, San Diego researchers works with a smartphone's camera and flash to measure the user's blood pressure. The goal is to make blood pressure monitoring more affordable and accessible. The clip, which is placed over the smartphone's camera and flash, does not have to be calibrated to a cuff. The smartphone app can measure the amount of pressure applied by the fingertip and the volume of blood moving in and out of the fingertip; it then converts this data into systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings using an algorithm.

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Software Listens for Signals from the Stars
Cornell University College of Arts & Sciences
May 30, 2023

Researchers at Cornell University, the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, and the Breakthrough Listen research program developed software that listens for signals originating from the center of our galaxy. The researchers based the software on a Fast Folding Algorithm (FFA) that enables augmented sensitivity to periodic sequences of narrow pulses for use in the Breakthrough Listen Investigation for Periodic Spectral Signals project. Cornell's Akshay Suresh said, "Our open source software utilizes an FFA to crunch over 1.5 million time series for periodic signals in roughly 30 minutes." The algorithm detected periodic emissions from known pulsars as expected, then searched for repeating signals in a narrower frequency band within a larger dataset of scans of the Galactic Center.

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Researchers have developed a method to monitor the noise around a quantum system and adjust the qubits, in real-time, to minimize error. 'Noise-Cancelling' Qubits to Minimize Errors in Quantum Computers
University of Chicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering
Sarah C.P. Williams
May 25, 2023

A new methodology developed by scientists at the University of Chicago can minimize errors in quantum computers by adjusting quantum bits (qubits) in real time. The researchers described the technique as relying on spectator qubits that measure outside noise, collecting data that can be used to neutralize noise in data-processing qubits. The spectator qubits function like the microphone in noise-cancelling headphones by tracking qubit-altering environmental changes. The team applied this method to cancel magnetic field noise in a neutral atom quantum processor, using rubidium atoms as data qubits and cesium atoms as spectator qubits. The system adjusted the cesium atoms with microwave oscillations in response to data from the rubidium atoms, achieving real-time noise cancellation.

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AI-Threatened Jobs Are Mostly Held by Women, Study Shows
Diana Li
May 26, 2023

Research by human resources analytics firm Revelio Labs found that artificial intelligence (AI) disproportionately threatens jobs usually held by women. Revelio researchers analyzed data from the National Bureau of Economic Research and found women generally hold many jobs facing automation, like bill and account collectors and payroll clerks. Revelio's Hakki Ozdenoren said, "The distribution of genders across occupations reflects the biases deeply rooted in our society, with women often being confined to roles such as administrative assistants and secretaries. Consequently, the impact of AI becomes skewed along gender lines." AI is more likely to assume repetitive jobs like sorting through resumes in recruitment, according to Ozdenoren. Revelio also found generative AI may affect high-wage jobs more than non-traditional manufacturing occupations.

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An audience member at a March 7 City Council meeting voices opposition to the proposed donation of a dog-like robot to the Los Angeles Police Department. City Council Votes to Accept Controversial LAPD Robot Dog
Los Angeles Times
Brittny Mejia; Libor Jany; David Zahniser
May 23, 2023

The Los Angeles City Council voted to accept the donation of almost $280,000 from the Los Angeles Police Foundation to fund the purchase of a robot dog for use by the Los Angeles Police Department. The department will be required to issue quarterly reports detailing where and why the device was deployed, the outcome of each deployment, and whether any issues occurred. The 70-pound robot dog, called Spot, can climb stairs, open doors, and navigate difficult terrain. Spot is controlled via a tablet-like device, features 360-degree cameras to record its surroundings, and transmits real-time data to officers. The department said the robot would be used only in situations involving the SWAT team and to keep officers out of harm's way.

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Behind-the-Scenes Tool for Better Biomedical Data Discovery
Scripps Research Institute
May 23, 2023

The Data Discovery Engine (DDE) Schema Playground interface developed by Scripps Research Institute scientists is designed to accelerate biomedical discoveries online. The browser-based resource enables researchers to make their data more discoverable on the DDE website. They can organize information about their datasets to extend interoperability, while portal members can make their datasets more discoverable and reusable by registering them. The developers built the interface to improve what they call the "FAIRness" (findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability) of biomedical resources. The DDE uses the metadata vocabulary standards of the major search engine companies' initiative to provide more tailored search, filtering, and displays in biomedical search results.

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Researchers Achieve 1.7 Pbps Over Fiber
Stephen Withers
May 31, 2023

A team of Japanese, Australian, Dutch, and Italian researchers realized a record transmission speed of 1.7 petabits per second over a 67-kilometer (41.6-mile)-long optical fiber. Researchers at Australia's Macquarie University contributed a three-dimensionally laser-printed glass chip with an etched waveguide pattern that enables low loss access to the fiber's 19 light streams, ensuring it interoperates with existing transmission equipment. Macquarie's Simon Gross said current-generation optical fibers can only transmit 22 terabits per second in each of 16 fiber pairs. Macquarie's Michael Withford envisions many applications for the optical chip, "including finding planets orbiting distant stars, disease detection, even identifying damage in sewage pipes."

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Scientists have developed an advanced technique for 3D printing that uses near-infrared light to create complex structures containing multiple materials and colors. 3D Printing Technique Ready to Advance Manufacturing
Heriot-Watt University (U.K.)
May 30, 2023

Researchers at the U.K.'s Heriot-Watt University (HWU) and China's Harbin Institute of Technology have developed a three-dimensional (3D) printing method that generates complex structures containing multiple materials and colors using near-infrared (NIR) light. The researchers tweaked the stereolithography process "to use the NIR invisibility windows of materials to print at a depth of over 5 cm, whereas the conventional technology has a depth limit of around 0.1 mm," according to HWU's Jose Marques-Hueso. "This means that you can print with one material and later add a second material, solidifying it at any position of the 3D space, and not only on top of the outer surfaces." The researchers said the development of engineered resins containing nanoparticles that exhibit optical upconversion properties was key to the process.

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