Welcome to the May 25, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Please note: In observance of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, TechNews will not be published on Monday, May 28. Publication will resume Wednesday, May 30.

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Siphephile Ncube, a PhD student at the Wits School of Physics and the lead author of the study Making Massive Leaps in Electronics at Nano-Scale
University of the Witwatersrand
May 23, 2018

A breakthrough at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa (Wits) has led to a way to boost the electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes by binding gadolinium nanoparticles to the tubes. This increase is based on the incorporation of the spin properties of the gadolinium, which stems from its magnetic nature. "When the overall magnetic poles of the gadolinium are oppositely aligned, it causes higher resistance in the nanotubes and slows down the flows of electrons," says Wits' Siphephile Ncube. "When the magnetic poles are misaligned, it has a low resistance, and assists the electron transport." Wits' Somnath Bhattacharyya sees significant potential is this development. "For the first time we have demonstrated spin-mediated electron transport in a network of nanotubes without incorporation of magnetic leads," he says.

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Illustration of brain made of multicolored dots New Alliance Aims to Decentralize AI With Blockchain
Associations Now
Ernie Smith
May 23, 2018

A just-announced partnership seeks to cultivate artificial intelligence (AI) using blockchain for distribution, with the goal of boosting interoperability and transparency and avoiding monopolization. SingularityNET and ACM's Global AI Decentralized initiative are the main partners in the Decentralized AI Alliance (DAIA), and they intend to share knowledge to discover new machine learning, collaborative filtering, and reputation management strategies. SingularityNET's Ben Goertzel says his firm wants to build an ecosystem around AI technology that has no reliance on massive organizational entities. "This responsibility is about knowing that the AI we create today, and that will impact the world for the next 1,000 years and beyond, may be oppressive, or it may be liberating," says AI Decentralized co-founder Toufi Saliba. "This is why we are creating mechanisms that will financially incentivize people to create AI that will be liberating and act for the greater good."

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Two young men doing somersaults on grass Stickman Explores the Physics of Flying Through the Air
IEEE Spectrum
Morgan Pope
May 22, 2018

Disney Research is creating robots capable of performing acrobatic stunts while aloft, which could lead to a deeper understanding of actuator, sensors, and control strategies. "Stickman" is a three-link, pneumatically actuated device that performs simple acrobatic behaviors in a predictable, controllable fashion. The aluminum frame, seven feet long and about 40 pounds, is capable of folding up or extending into a nearly straight line using two pneumatic actuators. To perform intelligently, the robot relies on sensors, including an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and an array of three laser rangefinders. Using gyroscopes and accelerometers, the IMU estimates Stickman's orientation relative to the ground and measures the robot's angular velocity. Range measurements are taken when the IMU judges that the rangefinders are pointed at the ground. Stickman is currently able to hit a target orientation within a few tens of degrees, and the researchers aim to improve on that in the future.

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Using Data Science to Tell Which of These People Is Lying
University of Rochester NewsCenter
May 22, 2018

University of Rochester researchers are applying data science and an online crowdsourcing framework to read facial and verbal cues for signs of deception. The Automated Dyadic Data Recorder framework was used to generate the largest publicly available deception dataset currently in existence. Participants sign up on Amazon Mechanical Turk to be assigned the roles of describer or interrogator. The former is displayed as an image they must memorize thoroughly, and the computer instructs them to either lie or truthfully relate the image details. The interrogator then asks the describer a set of irrelevant baseline queries to record individual behavioral differences that are fed to a "personalized model." The researchers have culled 1.3 million frames of facial expressions from 151 pairs of individuals conducting this experiment, analyzing the information with data science. Among their findings is the detection of five types of smile-related expressions people make in response to questions, including one most frequently associated with lying.

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3D illustration of an atom Nuclear Physicists Leap Into Quantum Computing With First Simulations of Atomic Nucleus
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Rachel Harken
May 23, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers say they have successfully simulated an atomic nucleus with a quantum computer for the first time. Last year the team began creating codes to conduct simulations on the IBM QX5 and the Rigetti 19Q quantum computers via the U.S. Department of Energy's Quantum Testbed Pathfinder project. They then executed more than 700,000 quantum computing measurements of the energy of a deuteron to yield its binding energy, or the least amount of energy needed to disassemble it into a proton and neutron. "We can map these properties to qubits [quantum bits] and then use them to simulate specific phenomena--in this case, binding energy," says ORNL's Pavel Lougovski. The team then ran single measurements 8,000 times each to guarantee the results' statistical accuracy. Their results on two and three qubits were within 2% and 3%, respectively, of the right classically-computed answer.

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Social Media Posts May Signal Whether a Protest Will Become Violent
USC News
Emily Gersema
May 23, 2018

In determining whether a protest will lead to violence, a University of Southern California (USC) study says moral rhetoric on Twitter is a key indicator. The research shows people are more likely to endorse violence when they moralize the issue and when they believe that others in their social network do the same. The scientists analyzed 18 million tweets posted during the 2015 Baltimore protests over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Using a deep neural network, the team searched for moralized language on Twitter. They found a strong connection between the number of moralized tweets in the hours before a protest and arrest rates (used as a proxy for violence). On days in which violence occurred between protesters and police, tweets with moral rhetoric nearly doubled. Online "echo chambers" of like-minded individuals intensify moralization and political polarization by distancing people from others with opposing thoughts and ideas, the researchers say.

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Samsung AI Center to Be Based at Cambridge
BBC News
Rory Cellan-Jones
May 22, 2018

The University of Cambridge in the U.K. will host Samsung's newest artificial intelligence (AI) research laboratory, according to a company announcement. Led by Cambridge's Andrew Blake, the Samsung AI center will pursue applications in health and communication, and could eventually employ as many as 150 researchers. However, finding AI talent in the U.K. could be a struggle, with a recent Odgers Berndtson study estimating that only 225 students in England were conducting post-graduate technology research in specialist areas such as AI. "In the U.S., Ph.D.-qualified experts can command packages of $300,000," says Odgers Berndtson's Mike Drew. "And in the U.K., whilst not yet at that level, salaries are spiraling." A key factor is the private sector's rampant poaching of top talent from academia.

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Data-Driven Instruction: Top Trend in K-12 Use of Ed-Tech, Teachers Say
EdWeek Market Brief
Michele Molnar
May 23, 2018

Data is playing an increasing role in educators' decisions about instruction and intervention, according to the recent Kahoot! EdTrends Report for Educators, based on a survey of 1,516 teachers. Three out of four teachers this year say data-driven instruction is the top trend in how education technology is impacting their schools. By comparison, only 28% named data usage as a trend last year. Other trends include using education technology to promote creativity in learning and to enable personalized learning, according to the study. The percentage of teachers saying gamification is used in the class or district jumped from 18% in 2017 to 25% in 2018. Asked about other significant education technology trends, 32% of respondents cited computational thinking, coding, and robotics, and 12% cited virtual and augmented reality. In the future, more emphasis is expected on students' ability to share ideas with teachers using technology, an important aspect for developing 21st-century skills.

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Illustration of a car on a road sensing the proximity of vehicles in other lanes Making Driverless Cars Change Lanes More Like Human Drivers Do
MIT News
Larry Hardesty
May 22, 2018

A new algorithm developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) could improve the way driverless vehicles change lanes. Compared to existing models, the new algorithm allows for more aggressive lane changes while avoiding a detailed statistical model that cannot be analyzed on the fly. If default buffer zones are leading to performance that is significantly worse than a human driver's, the system will compute new buffer zones on the fly, with proof of collision avoidance. The researchers used a Gaussian distribution to represent the current position of the car. Based on estimates of the car's direction and velocity, the system generates a logistic function that, when multiplied by the Gaussian distribution, skews the distribution in the direction of the car's movement. This skewed distribution defines the vehicle's new buffer zone, using only a few equation variables so that the system can evaluate it on the fly. In a simulation with up to 16 autonomous cars driving among several hundred other vehicles, the autonomous vehicles ran the algorithm in parallel without conflict or collisions.

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Soft Machines
The Current
Sonia Fernandez
May 21, 2018

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers have combined the electromagnetic drives used in most conventional robotic systems with soft materials, a breakthrough that achieves both speed and softness. The researchers built an actuator that could realize speeds greater than what have typically been possible with soft robotic actuators, which often rely on slow processes such as air flow or thermal effects. The researchers used unique liquid-metal alloy conductors encased in hollow polymer fibers and magnetized polymer composites to create patterned, three-dimensional components to form the basis of soft analogs of standard electrical motors. "We realized components that are each soft and stretchable, and combined them to create these motor-like structures that can move things," says UCSB's Yon Visell. The researchers employed their discovery to create a tiny, millimeters-wide gripper that can close in milliseconds, and a soft tactile stimulator that can operate at frequencies of hundreds of cycles each second.

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Govt. Promises Shot in the Arm for Quantum Tech Research in India
The Wire
K.S. Jayaraman
May 20, 2018

An international conference at the Raman Research Institute (RRI) in India focused on the country's vision for quantum technology research. "This...conference...is unique in its mandate as we have tried to provide equal emphasis to both theoretical research and experimental quantum technologies," said conference organizer Urbasi Sinha. India's government has promised to bolster laboratory research into quantum mechanics and technology with funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Defense Research and Development Organization, and the Prime Minister's Office. The DST has pledged to support research "for the development and demonstration" of quantum computers, quantum communication, and cryptography, along with a "demonstration of quantum teleportation" under its Quantum Science and Technology scheme. ISRO and RRI are jointly developing the Quantum Experiments Using Satellite Technology project, with ISRO's M. Sankaran detailing a plan to put an experimental payload into orbit.

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Annotation Tool Provides Step Toward Understanding Links Between Disease, Mutant RNA
Oregon State University News
Steve Lundeberg
May 18, 2018

Oregon State University researchers have written a computer program called bpRNA that annotates big data to improve the understanding of how mutant genetic material relates to disease. The software parses secondary structures in ribonucleic acids (RNA) to yield a description of "all loops, stems, and pseudoknots," says researcher David Hendrix. Automating RNA structure analysis is necessary to statistically analyze why certain mutations are linked to disease, says Hendrix. The new software offers the largest and most detailed database to date of secondary RNA structures. "To be fair it's a meta-database, but our special sauce is the tool to annotate everything," says Hendrix. The software provides a color-coded map of where structures are located, enabling the discovery of statistical trends that may offer insight on RNA structure formation. The work could also form the foundation for machine learning algorithms that predict secondary RNA structure in novel ways. The tool has worked successfully on more than 100,000 structures.

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New Algorithm More Accurately Predicts Life Expectancy After Heart Failure
UCLA Newsroom (CA)
Matthew Chin; Amy Akmal
May 17, 2018

University of California, Los Angeles researchers, led by Mihaela van der Schaar, have written the Trees of Predictors algorithm, which uses machine learning to predict a person's chances of surviving heart failure, with or without a heart transplant. This offers a personalized approach to help doctors tailor their assessments of people who are waiting for heart transplants. Using 53 data points, such as age, gender, and body mass index, the algorithm evaluates the differences among people waiting for heart transplants and the compatibility between potential recipients and donors. The researchers tested their algorithm using 30 years of data on people registered with the United Network for Organ Sharing and found their algorithm provided significantly better predictions for how long a person would live than the current health care methods. Trees of Predictors outperformed the prediction models that most doctors currently use by 14 percent. Beyond its medical application, the algorithm can also recognize handwriting and predict credit card fraud and the popularity of specific news items.

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Trust Extension as a Mechanism for Secure Code Execution on Commodity Computers
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