ACM TechNews

Welcome to the December 7, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Top Programming Languages List: An Unexpected Change at the Top
Liam Tung
December 6, 2022

C++ has overtaken Java on Dutch software quality testing firm Tiobe Software's monthly programming language index for the first time, dethroning it as the third-most-popular language. Tiobe Software's Paul Jansen said this also marks the first time since 2001 that Java, now in fourth place, has been excluded from the top three spots of the ranking. Jansen also said the Kotlin and Julia languages are approaching Tiobe's top 20 rankings. Google backs Java-compatible Kotlin for Android application development, while Julia is proving popular for data science apps. Languages that advanced in the latest index's top 20 include Rust, which rose from 27th to 20th place; Objective-C (29th to 19th); MATLAB (20th to 14th), and Google's Go (19th to 12th).

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Meta laid off Annalice Ni, 22, from her job as a software engineer last month; she is using the opportunity to expand her career horizons. CS Students Face a Shrinking Big Tech Job Market
The New York Times
Natasha Singer; Kalley Huang; Karen Weise
December 6, 2022

The Computing Research Association, which tracks computing degrees at about 200 universities, reports that the number of undergraduate computer science majors more than tripled from 2011 to 2021 to almost 136,000. However, the companies that fueled the computing education boom by promoting software jobs to students and offered six-figure starting salaries and other perks are now laying off workers, instituting hiring freezes, and scaling back recruitment and internships. Smaller tech firms also are pulling back on hiring and internships. Nevertheless, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 25% growth in employment for software developers and testers between 2021 and 2031.

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AI Enables Largest Brain Tumor Study to Date
Penn Medicine News
December 5, 2022

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine) and Intel led the largest-yet machine learning (ML) research project to compile data from brain scans of 6,314 glioblastoma patients worldwide. The researchers applied federated learning, which brings the ML algorithm to data, rather than centralizing data to algorithms. They pre-trained a public initial model on publicly available data from the International Brain Tumor Segmentation challenge, then added data to create a more accurate preliminary consensus model. This model and additional data were fed into the final consensus model to optimize and evaluate generalizability to unseen data. "The more data we can feed into machine learning models, the more accurate they become, which in turn can improve our ability to understand, treat, and remove glioblastoma in patients with more precision," explained Penn Medicine's Spyridon Bakas.

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D-Orbit's ION satellite runs a machine-learning experiment analyzing Earth-observation data. Amazon Tests ML Software to Analyze Satellite Images from Space
Tereza Pultarova
December 6, 2022

Amazon, Italian space startup D-Orbit, and Swedish computing technology developer Unibap have spent 10 months testing in space Amazon Web Services (AWS) machine learning (ML) software that can analyze satellite images and transmit the best ones to Earth. The software ran on D-Orbit's ION satellite; AWS said the Unibap-built ML payload analyzed "large quantities of space data directly onboard" the satellite. AWS said the software also reduced the size of images sent to Earth by up to 42%. Said Unibap's Fredrik Bruhn, "Providing users real-time access to AWS edge services and capabilities on orbit will allow them to gain more timely insights and optimize how they use their satellite and ground resources."

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Locomotion Modeling Evolves with Brain-Inspired Neural Networks
EPFL (Switzerland)
December 6, 2022

A neural network system developed by researchers at Switzerland's EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) incorporates fundamental principles of biological sensorimotor control to better understand the ability of animals and humans to adapt their movements to environmental and biological changes. The DMAP (Distributed Morphological Attention Policy) network architecture was able to learn to "walk" with a body subject to "morphological perturbations," such as changes in limb length and thickness. The researchers said DMAP "combines independent proprioceptive processing, a distributed policy with individual controllers for each joint, and an attention mechanism, to dynamically gate sensory information from different body parts to different controllers."

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A small quantum computer connected to Europe's fastest supercomputer could help researchers work out how to best pair quantum computers with powerful supercomputers to solve complex problems faster. Europe's Fastest Supercomputer Now Connected to Quantum Computer
New Scientist
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan
December 6, 2022

Scientists at the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland have connected the Finnish superconducting quantum computer Helmi to the Large Unified Modern Infrastructure (LUMI), Europe's fastest supercomputer and the third-fastest in the world. Since November, researchers have been able to access Helmi by submitting a program to LUMI, instructing the quantum computer through the supercomputer, then using or reporting its output. VTT's Ville Kotovirta said the 5-quantum-bit Helmi could help researchers find optimized applications for conventional and quantum computers concurrently. Kotovirta said there are many unanswered questions about how a computation should be split between a quantum and a traditional computer, in order to use both with maximum efficiency.

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Squeegee: A Contamination Detection Tool for Low Microbial Biomass Microbiomes
Baylor College of Medicine
Homa Shalchi
December 6, 2022

The Squeegee contamination detection algorithm developed by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and Rice University can instill reproducibility in microbial identification and analysis. "The premise of Squeegee is that we can use a computer analysis pipeline to help us detect 'breadcrumbs' of contaminants that would be anticipated to be common between the microbiome found in all human [or other mammalian] hosts and the sampling or lab environment," explained BCM's Kjersti Aagaard. The researchers tested Squeegee on datasets from a large number of persons that are especially low biomass and have many negative controls. BCM's Michael D. Jochum said, "We were able to show that Squeegee was capable of having a high-weighted recall and a very low false-positive rate in these ground truth datasets."

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Energy-Efficient Computing with Tiny Magnetic Vortices
Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (Germany)
December 6, 2022

Researchers at Germany's Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Netherlands' Radboud University Nijmegen have developed what they’re calling the first functional prototype combining Browning computing and skyrmion-based reservoir computing. Browning computing reduces electrical consumption by utilizing ambient thermal energy, while reservoir computing can be customized to perform different tasks without adjusting the solid-state system. The Browning reservoir computing prototype features a solid-state system comprised of skyrmions, magnetic vortices whose behavior is affected by the applied current as well as their own Browning motion. The skyrmions' Browning motion allows for substantial energy savings by automatically resetting the system after each operation in preparation for the next computation. The prototype can perform Boolean logic operations, which can be used as standard tests to validate reservoir computing.

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The TBIRD communications payload is demonstrating unprecedented data rates for space-to-ground laser communications. Communications System Achieves Fastest Laser Link from Space Yet
MIT News
Ariana Tantillo
November 30, 2022

The TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) system developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Goddard Space Flight Center achieved 100-gigabits-per-second satellite-to-Earth data transmissions via an optical communication link. In May, TBIRD was placed in low Earth orbit on a CubeSat satellite as part of NASA's Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator program. The Lincoln Lab team developed a special Automatic Repeat Request protocol to cope with atmospheric data loss by having the ground terminal signal the satellite to re-transmit any lost or damaged data. As a result, said Lincoln Lab's Jade Wang, "We've demonstrated a higher data rate than ever before in a smaller package than ever before."

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Liquid metal particles sheathed in polymers connect microLEDs to make an ultra-stretchable display. Liquid-Metal Stretchy Circuits, Built with Sound
IEEE Spectrum
Prachi Patel
November 30, 2022

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed a technique to create durable, flexible, highly conductive circuits through the use of sound waves to link tiny droplets of liquid metals in a polymer casing. After embedding the liquid-metal droplets in a polymer, the researchers connected them using an acoustic field. The microdroplets, measuring an average of 2 to 3 micrometers wide, absorbed the vibrations at a frequency of 20 kilohertz to create nanometer-size droplets, which keep the microdroplets connected as they elongate when the polymer is stretched. KAIST's Jiheong Kang said, "With our new material, we demonstrated the first elastic printed circuit boards without any structure engineering."

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Canada Pushes Canadian Content, Irking Big Tech
The Wall Street Journal
Paul Vieira; Vipal Monga
December 2, 2022

Proposed legislation in Canada that would require digital platforms to promote Canadian content over foreign-made content and make annual payments for the nation's artistic community is facing pushback from Alphabet Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., and Bytedance Ltd., the parent companies of Google, Facebook, and TikTok, respectively. Said Pablo Rodriguez, Canada's heritage minister, "This is simply about the digital platforms paying their fair share toward our culture." Rodriguez said the payments would boost the amount of French-language and indigenous-made programming in Canada. However, the companies argue the revamped algorithms could limit viewership outside of Canada, resulting in the loss of ad revenue for smaller Canadian artists, and would prioritize the government's interests over those of Canadian users and creators.

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Researchers to Showcase 25-nm iPMA Hexa-MTJ Technology for Scalable eFlash Type STT-MRAM
Tohoku University (Japan)
December 5, 2022

A team of researchers at Japan's Tohoku University has announced iPMA-type Hexa-Magnetic Tunnel Junctions (MTJ) technology to address scaling challenges with eFlash-type Spin Transfer Torque Magnetoresistive RAM (STT-MRAM). The iPMA-type MTJ can continuously support high thermal stability without significantly altering the material and the MTJ patterning process; it also facilitates seamless scaling and solder reflow capability via back-end-of-line process (BEOL) compatibility. The diameter of MTJ furnished by the BEOL process is fabricated at 25 nanometers (nm) to fulfill the design parameters of the X-nm complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) node. The technology incorporates more than 20 years of data retention properties and a minimum endurance threshold of 1 x 107 cycles.

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Quantum computing helped to develop a transparent window coating capable of blocking solar heat (a sample is shown in the photo). Scientists Use Quantum Computing to Create Glass That Reduces the Need for AC
Popular Science
Andrew Paul
November 30, 2022

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame and South Korea's Kyung Hee University used quantum computing to fabricate an energy-saving layer of glass. The researchers combined machine learning and quantum computing to find the best-in-class material by sifting through virtually every possible mixture and material combination. They then deposited a 1.5-micron-thick layer of silica, alumina, and titanium oxide onto a glass base coated with contact lens polymer. The resulting transparent radiative cooler layer only permits the transmission of external visible light that does not raise indoor temperatures, slashing buildings' cooling costs by up to a third. Said Notre Dame's Tengfei Luo, "I think the quantum computing strategy is as important as the material itself."

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