ACM TechNews


Welcome to the October 15, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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mobile phone ETH Researchers Uncover Security Gaps in the 5G Mobile Communication Standard
ETH Zurich
Markus Gross
October 10, 2018


Researchers in the Information Security Group of ETH Zurich in Switzerland have found that while some security gaps persist, data protection for the upcoming 5G mobile communication standard is better than that of the previous 3G and 4G standards. Key factors that must be considered to improve security in 5G include device and network ability to authenticate each other, and ensuring the confidentiality of the data exchange and the privacy of the user concerning identity and location. Improved 5G security has been deployed via the Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA) protocol. The ETH Zurich researchers used Tamarin, a security protocol verification tool, to systematically examine the 5G AKA protocol, focusing on the specified security goals. Said ETH Zurich's Ralf Sasse, Tamarin "showed that the standard is insufficient to achieve all the critical security aims of the 5G AKA protocol."

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Uber-Funded Research Project Pushes New Ways to Measure Safety of Driverless Cars
The Washington Post
Michael Laris
October 11, 2018


With funding from Uber, the Rand Corporation has characterized the composition and deployment of speculative independent tests for measuring driverless vehicle safety in a new study. Rand researchers said defining and quantifying "roadmanship" is an important element of a testing protocol. Rand's Marjory Blumenthal said the study aims to "motivate conversation within industry and within government, and between industry and government, to see if people will move toward a higher level." The researchers suggested companies more frequently share information about safety throughout the development cycle, enabling comparison of one company's simulations or driving scenarios with those from other firms, possibly under the supervision of "a third party or department of motor vehicles." Another recommendation is for new, formal descriptions of the operational design domain, establishing a clear "taxonomy" for defining "where, when, and under what circumstances" a driverless car can operate safely.

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Mozilla logo Mozilla's Ambitious Plan to Teach Coders Not to Be Evil
Fast Company
Katharine Schwab
October 10, 2018


The Mozilla Foundation, Omidyar Network, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies last week jointly launched an academic contest to incorporate ethics into undergraduate computer science education. The Responsible Computer Science Challenge will award up to $3.5 million over the next two years to proposals that aim to make ethics relevant to young technologists. Said Mozilla's Mitchell Baker, "We are looking to encourage ways of teaching ethics that make sense in a computer science program, that make sense today, and that make sense in understanding questions of data." The initial stage of the competition will grant proposals a maximum of $150,000 to pilot their concepts firsthand, while the second stage will allocate another $200,000 to the best pilots so they can scale their programs to other universities. Baker said the concepts should be underpinned by theories and ideas rather than philosophy, with the goal of developing a more humanistic way of considering technology.

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Data Mining Reveals Previously Unknown Russian Twitter Troll Campaigns
Technology Review
October 11, 2018


Pennsylvania State University's Christopher Griffin and Brady Bickel identified a unique signature in tweets posted by Russian trolls attempting to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, using it to spot other disinformation campaigns. They created a database of 200,000 troll tweets compiled by Twitter and obtained by NBC News, and analyzed tweets by users who posted more than 500 times during the election period, examining how they tweeted over time and how they differed from other Twitter users. Griffin and Bickel also sought communities within the database and created word clouds of their tweets showing the most commonly used words. Analysis identified seven communities that each use different word clouds; four communities were focused on topics such as the U.S. Tea Party movement and African-Americans, but two word clouds were wholly composed of Russian and German words. Analysis showed the timing of the tweets narrowed in the run-up to German and French elections.

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Erisa Hines of JPL and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin wearing HoloLens mixed-reality headsets Mars Virtual Reality Software Wins NASA Award
NASA Science
Arielle Samuelson
October 10, 2018


Mixed-reality software that enables scientists and engineers to virtually explore Mars received the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 2018 Software of the Year Award. The OnSight software employs imagery from NASA's Curiosity rover to create an immersive three-dimensional terrain simulation so users can roam the real-life landscape explored by the robot. Microsoft and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Ops Lab co-developed OnSight to bring researchers closer to the experience of fieldwork on Mars. OnSight also allows scientists at any location to "meet" on Mars with avatars that can walk, point, and engage with each another. Says NASA's Abigail Fraeman, "Being able to visualize Curiosity's drives and virtually walk them before we actually do it with the rover is really helpful to give me a sense of how safe or challenging the terrain will be."

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Janette Lawler in No.78 Toyota Camry at Dover International Speedway New Technology Allows Spinal Cord Patients to Drive a NASCAR Race Car
The Philadelphia Inquirer
John Smallwood
October 9, 2018


Falci Adaptive Motorsports founder Scott Falci worked with Ball Aerospace & Technologies and Arrow Electronics to develop an adaptive Corvette that can be driven by quadriplegics. Falci also worked with car builders in Colorado to develop a similar car for paraplegics, and with Furniture Row Racing to develop a NASCAR version that relies on the same technology. All of the adaptive race cars require the user to wear a specialized helmet with an accelerometer that detects head movement relative to the car. The cars have cameras that follow the movement of the helmet, which fine-tunes the steering by the accelerometers. The helmet also has a straw to control speed and braking; when puffed into, the straw engages the accelerometer and moves the car forward. Decreasing the puff decelerates, and a sipping action engages the brakes. The data from the accelerometers, cameras, and straw are fed into a computer that actuates the braking and steering into a smooth ride.

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AI Tool Automatically Reveals How to Write Apps That Drain Less Battery
R&D Magazine
October 9, 2018


Purdue University researchers have developed a tool that uses artificial intelligence to automatically determine if a specific application feature should be improved to drain less battery power from a mobile device, and how to make that improvement. The manner in which code runs can dramatically differ between apps, even if the developers are implementing the same task. The DiffProf solution catches these differences in the "call trees" of similar tasks, and then shows how to rewrite the app to drain less battery power. Said Purdue's Abhilash Jindal, "Ultimately, in order for this technique to make a big difference for an entire smartphone, all developers would need to make their apps more energy-efficient."

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A 3D neurological model of rat’s brain. From Rat Brains to Cancer Cells, UT Professor Improves Imaging Techniques
Daily Texan
Rahi Dakwala
October 8, 2018


The University of Texas' Chandrajit Bajaj is pursuing research into advanced imaging methods, including the generation of more dynamic images from neurons using software. The VolRover software can convert two-dimensional microscopic images of rat neuron cross-sections into three-dimensional neurological models and synapses. Bajaj says VolRover "is able to model neuron communication. The connectome can be put in simulators to model the electrical circuits that neurons communicate with." Another project of Bajaj's concerns analyzing cancer cells with hyperspectral imaging to enhance image quality without staining the cells. Says Bajaj, "Through software and technology, we solve the computational problems regarding speed, image resolution, etc., and help improve accuracy. The technology then allows the scientific community to produce better results."

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Different examples of word clouds Paper Describes Baidu Neural Net Approach to Match Job Openings With Candidates
Tech Xplore
Nancy Owano
October 6, 2018


A team at the Chinese technology firm Baidu has presented a proposed neural network trained to analyze resumes to determine the best job candidates according to descriptions of job postings. They said in a paper published in ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems that the Person-Job Fit Neural Network (PJFNN) "can effectively learn the joint representation of Person-Job fitness from historical job applications." The system can then flag relevant job seekers. The team ran experiments on job application records from a high-tech Chinese company featuring more than 2 million resumes and 15,039 job postings, of which there were only 31,928 successful applications. The researchers said, "although PJFNN cannot learn good representations for all of the requirements, the latent vectors of most resumes and job postings learned by PJFNN are meaningful generally and can help to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Person-Job Fit."

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Segmented global map showing climate datasets. Researchers Break Exaop Barrier With Deep Learning Application
HPCwire
October 8, 2018


Researchers have demonstrated an exascale-class deep learning application that has broken the exaop barrier. Using a climate dataset from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) on Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Summit supercomputer, the team trained the DeepLabv3+ neural network to identify extreme weather patterns from high-resolution climate simulations. The researchers utilized specialized NVIDIA tensor cores built into Summit, which was recently named the fastest computer in the world, to achieve a peak performance of 1.13 exaops (billion billion calculations per second) and a sustained performance of 0.999, the fastest deep learning algorithm ever reported. In addition to providing the climate dataset, Berkeley Lab developed pattern-recognition algorithms for training the neural network to extract pixel-level classifications of extreme weather patterns. Other innovations included high-speed parallel data staging, an optimized data ingestion pipeline, and multi-channel segmentation. The achievement has earned the team a spot on this year's list of finalists for the ACM Gordon Bell Prize, which will be awarded at the SC18 supercomputing conference in November.

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Just 36 Teachers Across U.S. Graduated in 2016 Ready to Teach CS
THE Journal
Dian Schaffhauser
October 8, 2018


U.S. universities graduated only 36 new teachers prepared to teach computer science in 2016, and only 35% of U.S. high schools teach the subject, according to a joint Code.org Advocacy Coalition/Computer Science Teachers Association report. The study analyzed core policies to make CS education basic to K-12 curriculums. The analysts found only six states have established a plan for K-12 CS, while 33 states and the District of Columbia have deployed "clear" certification pathways for CS teachers. Moreover, 19 states currently have dedicated funding for professional development and course support, and 22 states have K-12 CS standards in place. Analysis also determined state funding committed to providing existing educators with CS professional development to be a key success driver. States that have such funding were found to have a 1.7-times greater chance of success than states lacking it.

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Robotic arms wait to make drinks at a bar in Las Vegas The Robots Are Coming to Las Vegas
NPR
Lulu Garcia-Navarro; Sophia Boyd
October 7, 2018


Las Vegas hotels are experimenting with robots and other machines to meet customers' needs. Examples include dog-like delivery robots at the Vdara Hotel and Spa, whose repertoire includes delivering food from the cafe to guestrooms, remotely calling for an elevator, and alerting guests when they arrive at their room via an automated phone message. Other deployments include robot bartenders at the Tipsy Robot bar in the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas, which general manager Victor Reza Valanejad says has not led to the elimination of jobs for humans, but to hiring more employees as robot operators. MGM Resorts International's Cliff Atkinson says machines will very likely become "lobby ambassadors" as the front desk is eliminated and guests demand more customized service experiences. There are concerns that automation will cause job attrition in the hospitality industry, especially among women and minorities, but advocates promise opportunities to retrain employees to work with automation.

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Scientists Just Created Quantum Artificial Life for the First Time Ever
ScienceAlert
David Nield
October 6, 2018


Researchers from the University of the Basque Country in Spain used an IBM supercomputer to generate a proof-of-concept prototype of quantum artificial life. The team employed the IBM QX4 quantum computer to code units of quantum life comprised of two quantum bits, with one representing a genotype and the other representing a phenotype. They then programmed these units to reproduce, mutate, evolve, and die, partly via entanglement. The researchers determined the quantum calculations correlated with theoretical models they brainstormed in 2015. Said the team, "What we prove here is that microscopic quantum systems can efficiently encode quantum features and biological behaviors usually associated with living systems and natural selection."

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Declarative Logic Programming: Theory, Systems, and Applications
 
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