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Welcome to the October 15, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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University of Queensland professor David Abramson. University of Queensland Professor Receives HPC Award
HPCwire
October 13, 2021


ACM and the IEEE Computer Society named David Abramson at Australia's University of Queensland this year's ACM-IEEE CS Ken Kennedy Award recipient for his contributions to advancing parallel and distributed computing tools. The professor's research achievements include pioneering design, implementation, and application of software for parallel and distributed systems; foundational research in distributed and parallel middleware; coder productivity and software correctness innovations, and mentoring many researchers. Abramson also designed the Guard performance tuning and debugging tool, and the Nimrod family of distributed parameter sweep-, search-, and workflow-facilitating software systems. Guard's hybrid debugging framework can test new versions of a program against reference versions, and help programmers identify and correct errors.

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Students in a classroom. Low-Performing CS Students Face Wide Array of Struggles
UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering
October 12, 2021


A study of nearly 1,700 students in four introductory computer science courses at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) revealed that lower-performing students reported higher stress levels on cognitive, socioeconomic, personal, and other factors than higher-performing students. UC San Diego's Adrian Salguero said, "Many students, especially those who are lower-performing, appear to be struggling with more issues apart from just not understanding the material. They're also reporting things like work obligations, feeling like they don't belong, or don't have the confidence to feel comfortable in the class." Among other things, the researchers found students who lacked prior computing experience struggled more than those who had been exposed to computing previously.

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Workers with the lung-delivery drone on a hospital rooftop. Toronto Hospitals, Quebec Firm Deliver Lungs by Drone
Global News (Canada)
Tara Deschamps
October 12, 2021


In September, a set of lungs were flown by an unmanned drone for a six-minute trip from Canada's Toronto Western Hospital to Toronto General Hospital. The lungs traveled in a lightweight, carbon-fiber container suspended from a Unither Bioélectronique drone. Unither Bioélectronique's team prepared for the flight over 18 months, performing practice flights with dummy packages and drop tests. The company also needed clearance to fly in a busy area. The technology aims to improve outcomes for Canadians with organ diseases, as 4,129 were on waiting lists for transplants last year, of which 2,622 received transplants but 276 died before an organ was available.

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White House Proposes Tech 'Bill of Rights' to Limit AI Harms
Associated Press
Matt O'Brien
October 8, 2021


Scientists in the Biden administration have proposed a technology "bill of rights" to protect against the potential harms of artificial intelligence (AI). The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) initiated a fact-finding mission to examine facial recognition and other biometric technologies for identifying people or evaluating their emotional or mental states and character. President Biden's chief science adviser, Eric Lander, and OSTP deputy director for science and society Alondra Nelson wrote in Wired about the need to shield against AI that can discriminate against people or breach privacy. They suggested the federal government should not purchase technology products that do not respect these rights, mandate federal contractors to use technologies that comply with the new “bill of rights,” and embrace new laws and rules to fill gaps.

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A virtual reality view of the universe. Explore the Universe with VR
EPFL News (Switzerland)
Hillary Sanctuary
October 12, 2021


Researchers at Switzerland's École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) used the latest astrophysical and cosmological data to create a virtual reality (VR) experience of outer space. The VIRUP (Virtual Reality Universe Project) open-source software allows users to navigate through a detailed map of the universe. It can visualize data from more than eight databases, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, comprised of more than 50 million galaxies and 300 million objects. Users need VR glasses, a computer to run the VIRUP engine, and sufficient storage space to take advantage of the fully immersive, three-dimensional experience. EPFL's Yves Revaz said, "VIRUP is precisely a way of making all of our astrophysical data accessible to everyone."

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A 3D-printed copy of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ at a lab in Florence, Italy. World's Fair Offers New View of 3D-Printed Michelangelo's 'David': Just His Head
The Wall Street Journal
Rory Jones; Giovanni Legorano
October 14, 2021


The world's fair that opened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Oct. 1 showcases a three-dimensionally (3D) printed replica of Michelangelo's statue, "David," in the Italian pavilion. The organizers said designers spent 40 hours digitally scanning the original sculpture in Florence, then produced a 3D digital model and printed it from filaments of recycled plastic using one of the world's largest 3D printers. The replica is arranged so visitors see the head first, while the lower body stands on the conference floor below. Italian pavilion official Davide Rampello said visitors are meant to view the statue eye to eye, to highlight how society is losing its memory by recording experiences digitally.

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A Ring doorbell. Neighbor Wins Privacy Row Over Smart Doorbell, Cameras
BBC News
Jane Wakefield
October 14, 2021


Judge Melissa Clarke in the U.K. has ruled that security cameras and a smart doorbell installed on the house of Oxfordshire resident Jon Woodard "unjustifiably invaded" neighbor Mary Fairhurst's privacy. Clarke determined Amazon's Ring doorbell captured images of Fairhurst's house and garden, while a camera on Woodard's shed was aimed to capture almost all of her garden and parking space. Clarke also ruled that audio data collected by cameras on the shed, in a driveway, and on the doorbell was processed unlawfully, and could record conversations "even more problematic and detrimental than video data," in violation of U.K. data laws and the U.K. General Data Protection Regulation.

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High-resolution crash risk maps for Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Deep Learning Helps Predict Traffic Crashes Before They Happen
MIT News
Rachel Gordon
October 12, 2021


A deep learning model trained on historical traffic crash data, road maps, satellite imagery, and global positioning system trajectory patterns can generate high-resolution crash risk maps. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) developed the model, which yields risk maps that can define the expected number of crashes over a future period, identifying high-risk areas and forecasting future collisions. The maps are composed of 5x5-meter grid cells, a resolution that shows highway roads, for example, have a greater risk for traffic accidents than nearby residential roads, while highway ramps have higher risk than other roads. QCRI's Amin Sadeghi said, "Our model can generalize from one city to another by combining multiple clues from seemingly unrelated data sources."

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People walking through a corridor. Cybersecurity Experts Sound Alarm on Apple, EU Phone Scanning Plans
The New York Times
Kellen Browning
October 14, 2021


Over a dozen cybersecurity experts criticized proposals by Apple and the European Union (EU) to scan phones for illegal content, warning they would encourage government surveillance. Apple said its client-side scanning tool would process images on iPhones uploaded to the iCloud storage service, and compare image fingerprints against a database of child sexual abuse material to find matches. Privacy advocates balked, suggesting the technology could undermine digital privacy and be used by authoritarian regimes to suppress dissent. The cybersecurity experts said EU documents suggest the bloc's government desires a similar program to police encrypted devices for evidence of child sexual abuse, organized crime, and terrorist activity. They also called Apple's technology ineffective, noting people had posted workarounds shortly after the company announced its plans.

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A scientist analyzes earthquake graph data on a monitor. Researchers Create Earthquake System Model with Better Detection Capabilities
University of Wyoming News
October 12, 2021


The University of Wyoming's Pejman Tahmasebi and Tao Bai have invented a machine learning (ML) model that boosts the accuracy of earthquake detection significantly over current models. Tahmasebi said the model processes signal data recorded by seismometers, and can automatically distinguish seismic events from seismic noise. The model combines existing long short-term memory and fully convolutional network ML models; the former captures data signal changes over time, and the latter filters out hidden features of seismic events. Tahmasebi said the model boasts 89.1% classification accuracy, a 14.5% improvement over the state-of-the-art ConvNetQuake model.

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An assortment of COVID-19-related prevention paraphernalia. Program Can Help COVID Alert App Improve Vaccination Campaigns
University of Waterloo News (Canada)
October 14, 2021


A program developed by researchers at Canada's University of Waterloo could enhance a smartphone-based COVID alert application to improve vaccination campaigns. The app is built around the Google-Apple exposure notification application programming interface, while Canada's government manages the system for uploading positive cases. It monitors an individual's contacts by virtually pinging the smartphones of those around them. The Waterloo researchers' add-on enables the app to target vaccinations, using a strategy based on individual contacts; a research study demonstrated that this approach would nearly halve the number of vaccines needed to contain the pandemic. The program safeguards privacy by only retaining a record of the number of contacts, but not location or other personal data.

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Simulated doglike robots. Virtual Obstacle Courses Help Real Robots Learn to Walk
Wired
Will Knight
October 8, 2021


Researchers at Switzerland's ETH Zurich and chipmaker Nvidia developed an army of more than 4,000 simulated doglike robots and used them to train an algorithm to control a real-world robot's legs. These "ANYmals" can navigate slopes, steps, steep drops, and other challenges in a virtual environment. The algorithm was transferred to a real-world, four-legged robot, which could navigate stairs and blocks but encountered difficulties at higher speeds due to what the researchers said were inaccuracies in how the robot's sensors perceive the real world versus the simulation. The researchers said running the simulations on Nvidia's chips instead of general-purpose chips allowed them to train the robots in less than a hundredth of the time it typically takes.

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A look at the molecular structure of DNA. ML Offers High-Definition Glimpse of How Genomes Organize in Single Cells
Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
Niki Kapsambelis
October 11, 2021


Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have developed an algorithm to visualize genome organization in single human cells in high definition. The Higashi algorithm is founded on the machine learning (ML) process of hypergraph representation learning, using neural networks on hypergraphs to produce a high-definition analysis of genome organization. Higashi works with single-cell Hi-C technology, which captures snapshots of chromatin interactions occurring concurrently within one cell, and provides more detailed analysis of chromatin's organization in the cells of complex tissues and biological processes, as well as varying cell-to-cell interactions. The algorithm also enables researchers to analyze other genomic signals jointly defined with single-cell Hi-C simultaneously.

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