Welcome to the June 14, 2010 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Computer Experts Face Backlash
Wall Street Journal (06/14/10) P. B6; Worthen, Ben
A group of computer experts known as Goatse Security recently disclosed a flaw in AT&T's Web site that made iPad owners' email addresses public. The incident revived an industry debate over how researchers should disclose security problems. The Goatse researchers waited until after AT&T had fixed the flaw before going public with their findings and did not reveal any of the email addresses they found. Nevertheless, F-Secure security advisor Sean Sullivan says the way Goatse handled the incident was irresponsible. He says that as soon as they discovered the security hole, the group should have alerted AT&T and done nothing more. However, other security experts, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jennifer Granick, did not have a problem with the way Goatse handled the situation because no one was put at risk as a result of their actions. "There's a lot of gray area," says Black Hat security conference founder Jeff Moss. He notes that experts have been debating the issue for 15 years and have yet to agree on what constitutes responsible disclosure.
IMEC Ramps Resistive RAM Research
EE Times (06/14/10) Clarke, Peter
Increasingly diverse application cases that influence specifications and device requirements will prevent resistive RAMs (RRAMs) from leading to a single "universal" memory, predict's IMEC's Laith Altimime. IMEC is conducting research on materials for use in RRAMs. The IMEC research team is investigating metal oxides for feasibility and rewritability as a replacement for NAND flash, and metal-chalcogenides mixtures of a metal with germanium, antimony, and tellurium as a replacement for DRAM. Altimime cites nickel-oxide as the leading material among metal oxides, and says switching copper is a possible ion source for chalcogenide. IMEC is working on a series of fundamental cross-bar studies at 50 nm to gain a better understanding of RRAM materials. One-transistor, one-resistor memory cell studies, which would help lead the way to memory arrays made using the incoming extreme ultraviolet lithography, should be ready by the second half of the year. In early 2011, IMEC should begin making arrays at 10 nm minimum dimensions.
Studying Engineering Before They Can Spell It
New York Times (06/13/10) Hu, Winnie
Children in kindergarten are being introduced to engineering as school districts across the United States embark on an aggressive pursuit of the discipline amid growing worries that U.S. students are lacking the technical skills to compete in an international economy. Advocates say that engineering reinforces science and math skills, encourages critical thinking and creativity, and teaches students to welcome the opportunity to take intellectual risks. The Obama administration's Race to the Top competition, which will issue several billion dollars in education stimulus funding, favors science, technology, engineering, and math programs. Simultaneously, Congress is mulling legislation to promote engineering education in grades K through 12. University of Pennsylvania professor Janine Remillard says that good teaching is the key to any curriculum's effectiveness. The American Society for Engineering Education's William E. Kelly says that engineering lessons for youngsters should be kept in perspective, and he stresses that students are really learning about engineering rather than engineering basics.
GPS Not Just for Driving But Can Be Tool for Crowd Management and Medical Follow-Up
Hebrew University of Jerusalem (06/14/10)
Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ) researchers have demonstrated that global positioning systems (GPS) can be used to help manage crowds and evaluate patient recovery following surgery. HUJ's Michal Isaacson has developed a system that uses GPS technology to record the location of people for a designated period of time. The tracking data is analyzed to derive maps that show the volumes of activity throughout the location and charts that indicate how different types of populations spent their time in that location. The data also can be analyzed in real time, creating a virtual "radar" of the activity of visitors throughout a location. In addition, the technology has medical applications. In collaboration with Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Isaacson developed a method for detecting the mobility of patients after surgery as an objective measure for their follow-up recovery. The patients carry a GPS unit with them after the operation, which tracks and analyzes their movement.
Nanowires Could Lead to Foldable Tablets, Say Researchers
Computerworld (06/11/10) Gaudin, Sharon
Duke University scientists have developed a method to make large quantities of copper nanowires, which could be used to create bendable, foldable tablet computers. Copper nanowires could replace indium tin oxide, which is currently used to connect electronic pixels that produce images in flat-panel TVs, computers, thin-film solar cells, and flexible displays. Copper is cheaper, more efficient, and much more abundant than indium. Copper also could produce nanowires that are much stronger than indium tin oxide, making them capable of building flexible screens and devices, according to the researchers. "If we are going to have these ubiquitous electronics and solar cells, we need to use materials that are abundant in the earth's crust and don't take much energy to extract," says Duke professor Benjamin Wiley. Copper nanowires could potentially lead to supercomputers small enough to fit into the palm of your hand as early as 2017, says University of Edinburgh professor Michael Zaiser.
A Software System to Predict the Evolution of the Ash Cloud From the Icelandic Volcano
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain) (06/14/10) Martinez, Eduardo
Researchers at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid's Environmental Software and Modeling Group, led by professor Roberto San Jose, have developed a system that forecasts the evolution of the ash cloud from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano. The system collects data on the volcano's emissions twice daily using satellite observations and combines that with environmental information such as wind speed and air humidity, which influence the evolution of the volcanic ash cloud. The system is based on a European-wide air quality forecasting system. The daily calculations are made using the satellite data, and the results are visualized at three levels using Dobson units, which is a way of expressing the quantity of ozone present in the Earth's atmosphere and is used to determine the density of the ash cloud.
Merely Human? That's So Yesterday
New York Times (06/11/10) Vance, Ashlee
The founders of Singularity University envision a time where the Singularity occurs, thrusting a superior intelligence into a dominant position and transforming life into an incarnation that can neither be understood nor anticipated at our current level of being. At such a point, humans and machines will become so seamlessly integrated that old age, poor health, and even death will be rendered obsolete, according to the Singularity paradigm. Singularity proponents perceive most problems as having technological solutions, and among the technologies adherents are promoting are nanotechnology, computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotech, and energy. The Singularity's most vocal advocate is inventor Raymond Kurzweil, who projects that technological progress in this century will exceed that of the last 100 years by 1,000-fold. He envisions such breakthroughs as people being able to repair cells and link their brains to super-intelligent computers through nanomachines. Kurzweil predicts that by the third decade of the 21st century, most people will be able to achieve a form of immortality by backing up their minds electronically.
New Musical Resonance, Via Your Cell Phone
Philadelphia Inquirer (06/11/10) Avril, Tom
Drexel University researchers have developed software that listens to a live orchestral performance and then displays real-time information describing the relevant music theory and context on an iPhone. The program works by taking snapshots of the music every third of a second. Each segment of the audio signal is analyzed to determine how much of each of the 12 pitch classes is present. The system must learn a piece of music first by listening to a reference recording, and then, during any subsequent performance of the same music, the software matches the new performance to the reference version using a process called dynamic time-warping. "It's the process of trying to stretch or shrink one audio source into another," says Drexel professor Youngmoo Kim. The program also includes a map to indicate where the orchestra is in the performance, similar to a map displayed on the screens during a long airplane flight.
3-D Without the Glasses
Technology Review (06/11/10) Greene, Kate
Microsoft's Applied Sciences Group (APG) has designed a lens that could help make it possible to watch three-dimensional (3D) movies without glasses. The lens is thinner at the bottom than at the top, a design that steers light to a viewer's eyes by switching light-emitting diodes along its bottom edge on and off. When combined with a backlight, the switching diodes make it possible to show different images to different viewers, or to create a 3D effect by presenting different images to a viewer's left and right eye. "What's so special about this lens is that it allows us to control where the light goes," says APG's Steven Bathiche. Microsoft's display can deliver 3D video to two viewers at the same time no matter where they are positioned. The 3D display uses a camera to track viewers so it knows where to steer the light. The lens design, which includes a rounded, thicker end, dictates how the light bounces around and when and where it can escape, Bathiche says. He says the lens could replace the traditional backlight in a liquid-crystal display to create a glasses-free 3D display.
Model to Help Patients See How to Sound Out Words
UT Dallas News (06/10/10) Brown, Debra
University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) researchers working on the Visual Speech Project are creating a realistic computer animation of a patient's tongue and lip movements during speech production that will enable them to use their sense of sight to visualize the movements of their mouth during speech. The animation enables patients to compare their movements to those of an animated model, which will help them see the changes they must make in order to produce a sound correctly. "Speech movements of the tongue are hidden by the cheeks and lips and therefore difficult for a patient to truly visualize," says UTD's Jennell Vick. The researchers are collecting base-line data on adult talkers with and without cerebral palsy by placing small sensors on the participant's tongues. "We also need to identify and test the different tongue and lip movements that are common with a variety of disorders," Vick says. An expected benefit of using animation is being able to exaggerate the speech movements in order to make the differences more obvious to the patient.
Python Language Upgrade Slithers Toward Final Release
InfoWorld (06/11/10) Krill, Paul
Developers of Python 2.7 offered a release candidate for the last upgrade in the legacy 2.x dynamic language line earlier in June, and plan to make a finished version available July 3, says Python Software Foundation chairman Steve Holden. "We anticipate a long period of end-of-life support--most likely at least five years but certainly beyond the normal two years," he says. Many Python programmers have already moved to the 3.x line because developers wanted to make some dramatic changes to the language while still maintaining its essence. "A number of 3.1 features have been back-ported [to Python 2.7], including set literals, dictionary, and set comprehensions--an easy way of programmatically generating data--and the new 'io' module," Holden says. The 3.x line is not compatible with the 2.x line, but its features will help ease the migration when the time comes to move to the upgrade. Developers are working on Python 3.2, which will include a rewrite of the Global Interpreter Lock to ensure thread consistency, with a final release expected in December.
Valencian Researchers Create an Intelligent System of Traffic Management
Universitat Jaume I (06/10/10)
Researchers at Universitat Jaume I, the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, the University of Valencia, and INDRA have developed Meteosafety, an intelligent traffic management system designed to reduce the number of accidents in adverse weather conditions. Meteosafety will be able to reduce 5 percent to 10 percent of the traffic accidents caused or aggravated by meteorological conditions, says research coordinator Juan Jose Martinez. Although the system is in a prototype stage, "its incorporation will be very fast and will be able to start to work by the end of 2011, due to the fact it is based on already working technology," Martinez says. Meteosafety analyzes data received from weather stations and detectors installed on roads and sends it in real time to the traffic management centers of local road administrators, where a system processes the information and make recommendations.
Science Plugs Into Prediction Markets
Miller-McCune (06/09/10) Badger, Emily
The Woodrow Wilson Center's Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) has embarked on a project to construct a prediction market for various science and technology issues. Such issues run the gamut from the next Millennium Prize math problem to be solved to whether the first breakthrough with real artificially intelligent machines will come from the academic community, government, the auto industry, the entertainment sector, airlines, toy manufacturers, or a random private inventor. The Woodrow Wilson Center is refining the prediction method with a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation. STIP director David Rejeski is more concerned with making the prediction market work than with the forecasts themselves. "The biggest issue for us, and it's a cutting-edge issue, is can we get people to play in a science and technology market?" he notes. "If we can't get them in there, the rest of this stuff becomes kind of irrelevant." The effort is building up to a market focused on synthetic biology, which will debut later this summer.
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