ACM TechNews

Welcome to the March 24, 2023, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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William A. Wulf at the National Academy of Engineering in Washington, where he was its president. William A. Wulf, Pioneering Computer Scientist, Dies at 83
The New York Times
Cornelia Dean
March 22, 2023

Researcher, entrepreneur, and computer science policymaker William A. Wulf died March 10 at age 83. Wulf was one of the first Ph.D. recipients in the field of computer science. He worked on computer architecture and programming languages at Carnegie Mellon University, leaving the school in 1981 to establish Tartan Laboratories, which specialized in compilers, with his wife, Anita K. Jones. Tartan, which they left in 1988, was credited with Pittsburgh's transformation into a high-tech powerhouse. At the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation, Wulf worked with then-Senator Al Gore on legislation to make the Arpanet military computer network accessible to civilian researchers. ACM said Wulf was "among a very small, distinguished group of people that made significant, core contributions to the creation of the modern Internet."

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The second stage of Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket comes to life after stage separation during a test launch on March 22. Relativity Space Launches First 3D-Printed Rocket, Fails to Reach Orbit
Mike Wall
March 23, 2023

A three-dimensionally (3D)-printed rocket from aerospace manufacturing company Relativity Space reached some milestones, despite failing to achieve orbit on its maiden flight. The Terran 1 lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on March 23, surviving the point where structural stress was highest and the separation of its first and second stages. However, a malfunction about three minutes into the test flight prevented its upper stage from reaching orbit. Relativity Space's Arwa Tizani Kelly said, "No one's ever attempted to launch a 3D-printed rocket into orbit, and, while we didn't make it all the way today, we gathered enough data to show that flying 3D-printed rockets is viable."

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Biologists Say Deep Learning is Revolutionizing Pace of Innovation
The Wall Street Journal
Steven Rosenbush
March 22, 2023

David Baker at the University of Washington sees deep learning driving a technological revolution in biology. Baker estimates the pace of innovation in this field has accelerated 10-fold in the past 18 months as a result of researchers using deep learning and laboratory approaches to confirm the behaviors of newly designed proteins. Jennifer Lum at growth equity firm Biospring Partners said startups across the life sciences sector are working with DeepMind Technologies' AlphaFold2 protein-structure prediction system and other deep learning tools. Some scientists say such milestones will expedite drug discovery and other life sciences advances. Said Baker, "In 10 years it is possible this will be the future of medicine."

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Chunxiu Yu, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Technological University, and graduate assistant Hannah Loughlin, are developing strategies to improve deep brain stimulation. Researchers Develop 'Smart' Deep Brain Stimulation Systems for Parkinson's Patients
Michigan Tech News
Kimberly Geiger
March 22, 2023

Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) researchers developed an improved deep brain simulation system (DBS) to help treat Parkinson's disease through the use of neuromorphic computing, which employs microchips and algorithms to mimic the nervous system. The resulting closed-loop DBS system can adjust the stimulation based on the patient's brain signals, optimizing energy efficiency. The system relies on spiking neural networks (SNN), which produce electric stimulus pulses when they detect Parkinson's symptoms. The SNNs use Intel Loihi neuromorphic chips and a memristor in place of their traditional electronic memory. Michigan Tech's Hongyu An said the research "will open a new door to greater and faster development of smart medical devices for brain rehabilitation."

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Quantum Computers May Finally Have Practical Use
New Scientist
Alex Wilkins
March 18, 2023

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) researchers have developed a method for certifying that quantum computers generate truly random numbers without having to inspect the process. This involves asking a quantum computer to complete a test in which a series of pseudorandom operations are run on its qubits and the outputs, which act as the truly random numbers, are measured. If the resulting outputs cannot be simulated on a classical computer, they are confirmed to be the result of quantum processes, truly random, and suitable for cybersecurity applications. Said UT Austin's Scott Aaronson, "The huge advantage with this proposal is that you can actually do it with devices that currently exist."

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Johns Hopkins University Ph.D. student Benjamin D. Killeen took a series of X-ray and CT scans and used them to generate realistic synthetic data. Synthetic Data for AI Outperform Real Data in Robot-Assisted Surgery
Johns Hopkins University Hub
Catherine Graham
March 20, 2023

SyntheX, a software system developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University's (JHU) Whiting School of Engineering, generates synthetic data for use in developing artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms for robot-assisted surgery. The system aims to overcome the challenges posed by a lack of existing clinical data. The researchers took X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans of cadavers using surgical C-arm X-ray systems, while SyntheX generated synthetic X-ray images that recreated the real-world experiment. They used both datasets to develop and train AI algorithms that can perform hip imaging analysis, robotic surgical instrument detection, and COVID diagnosis on X-ray images. Said JHU's Mathias Unberath, "We demonstrated that models trained using only simulated X-rays could be applied to real X-rays from the clinics, without any loss of performance."

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Tackling Counterfeit Seeds with 'Unclonable' Labels
MIT News
David L. Chandler
March 22, 2023

A biodegradable tag developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists can provide seeds with an "unclonable" code of authenticity. The label incorporates tiny dots of silk-derived material, each bearing a unique blend of different chemical signatures. The tags "leverage randomness and uncertainty in the process of application, to generate unique signature features that can be read, and that cannot be replicated," according to MIT's Benedetto Marelli. The researchers used drop-casting to produce tags less than 1/10th of an inch in diameter; Marelli said they added color to make the microparticles cohere into random patterns that can be read by spectrograph, portable microscope, or cellphone cameras with a macro lens. The image can be processed locally to produce the physically unclonable functions code, then transmitted to the cloud for comparison with a secure database to guarantee product authenticity.

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JPMorgan to Test Face, Palm Recognition for Payments
Jennifer Surane
March 23, 2023

Financial services company JPMorgan Chase intends to allow consumers to make transactions via palm or face recognition at certain U.S. retailers as part of a test. Customers would need to register their palms or faces in-store, then scan their biometrics to complete the transaction and obtain a receipt at checkout. Consumers will be able to connect many different types of payment to JPMorgan's new system. A Formula 1 race in Miami may participate in the test, while the bank said it may extend the service to its wider U.S. merchant base if the test pans out. JPMorgan cited U.K.-based business and technology consultancy Goode Intelligence's forecast that biometric technology should account for about $5.8 trillion in transactions and 3 billion users by 2026.

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Isosurface plot of the hole polaron density for bulk h-BN for a 24 × 24 × 8 supercell. Simulation Reveals Secrets of Exotic Form of Electrons
Texas Advanced Computing Center
Jorge Salazar
March 22, 2023

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) researchers have for the first time mapped polarons, quasiparticles consisting of an electron and its surrounding distortions of atoms in a crystal lattice. through supercomputer simulations. The map identifies the two-dimensional (2D) materials and conditions in which polarons are found and their characteristics. The researchers developed a generalized model of polarons in 2D materials using atomically thin crystal monolayers of hexagonal boron nitride on graphene as a case study. They also developed EPW, an open-source Fortran and message passing interface code that calculates properties related to electron-phonon interaction using Density-Functional Perturbation Theory and Maximally Localized Wannier Functions.

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The biocompatible robotic system in an experimental hive. Robotic System Offers Window into Collective Bee Behavior
EPFL (Switzerland)
March 23, 2023

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) and Austria's University of Graz (KFU) exposed a hidden side of honeybee behavior with a hive-integrative robotic system. Thermal sensors and actuators seamlessly installed into the hive frame can quantify and modify bee behavior by adjusting temperature internally. Said EPFL's Rafael Barmak, "The thermal sensors create a snapshot of the bees' collective behavior, while the actuators allow us to influence their movement by modulating thermal fields." KFU's Martin Stefanec said this mimics the thermal behavior of core bees to observe the temperature regulation of the colony's winter cluster.

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Computer Engineering Research Prompts Bug Fixes, Updates to Major GPU Frameworks
UC Santa Cruz Newscenter
Emily Cerf
March 21, 2023

Tests developed by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Google exposed bugs in a major graphical processing unit (GPU) that led to revisions in a key GPU framework for programming Web browsers. The researchers find bugs using mathematical models of programming languages to steer their tests toward areas of interest in the GPU known for hiding flaws. They assessed GPUs on desktops from various companies, uncovering a bug in an AMD compiler that prompted the firm to confirm and patch it on its devices. This also spurred fixes to the WebGPU framework used by coders to guarantee browsers' Web-page acceleration with new GPU technologies.

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The Purdue Connected Vehicles Research Group. Connected Vehicles Provide Real-Time Insight into Highway Traffic Congestion
Purdue University News
March 22, 2023

Purdue University researchers have developed methods to measure and graphically visualize traffic congestion by analyzing data from connected vehicles. Purdue's Howell Li said the integration of data, cloud platforms, and graphic visualization "enables decision-makers to quickly understand how traffic is moving." Purdue's Jairaj Desai, Jijo Mathew, and Rahul Sakhar formulated analytical techniques for real-time data processing to generate graphical maps displaying week-at-a-glance charts that list time, location, and severity of congestion. The researchers applied such techniques last August to characterize how construction work zones impacted mobility, and in December reviewed more than 503 billion records to monitor the effect of a large winter storm nationwide.

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Researchers Reveal Inaudible Remote Cyber-Attacks on Voice Assistant Devices
University of Texas at San Antonio
Ari Castañeda
March 20, 2023

Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) developed the Near-Ultrasound Inaudible Trojan (NUIT) to show how hackers can exploit the vulnerabilities of smart device microphones and voice assistants remotely and silently online. The researchers showed that once hackers have gained unauthorized access to a device via malicious apps, websites, audio, or video, they can transmit inaudible action commands to lower the device’s volume so users cannot hear the voice assistant's response and commence additional attacks on other devices. UTSA's Guenevere Chen said, "The vulnerability is the nonlinearity of the microphone design, which the manufacturer would need to address."

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