Welcome to the September 17, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Engineer working on network cables U.S. Takes First Step Toward a Quantum Computing Workforce
MIT Technology Review
Will Knight
September 13, 2018

In an effort to make the quantum computing industry more viable, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation that would establish a federal program to advance research and training in quantum computing. Drafted with help from University of Maryland quantum physicist Christopher Monroe, the bill will release $1.275 billion in funding for centers of excellence that will train quantum engineers. To develop quantum computers that can handle real-world problems, Monroe says the U.S. needs engineers who understand quantum physics and the principles of computer engineering. Monroe says it is challenging for companies to find engineers to develop scalable systems, pointing to IonQ, the quantum computing startup that he co-founded. In the next five years, quantum computers will run calculations that could never have worked with conventional hardware, according to Monroe. However, these early systems will only be capable of certain types of computation, and determining how to use quantum systems will fall to quantum software engineers. Monroe says, "When we build them, they will be useful for something."

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Melinda Gates' New Research Reveals Alarming Diversity Numbers
Jessi Hempel
September 12, 2018

While tech company executives say gender diversity matters and lament the fact that there are not enough women in the industry, they spend very little of their philanthropic funds attempting to close the gender and race gaps, according to new research released by Melinda Gates in partnership with McKinsey & Company. The report found that in 2017, only 5% of companies' philanthropic giving went to programs focused explicitly on women and girls in tech, while less than 0.1% of their grants went to programming for women of color. The companies studied in the report found that last figure so alarming that 12 of the 32 participants united to form the Reboot Recognition Tech Coalition, a joint effort to close the gender gap in tech for women of color. The coalition aims to double the number of women of color graduating with computer science degrees by 2025, and they are collectively pledging $12 million toward this goal over three years.

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machine-learning detects dementia, illustration New Computer Avatar-Based Technique to Detect Dementia
Business Standard
September 14, 2018

Researchers from Osaka University and the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan have created a machine-learning technique that is 90% accurate in detecting dementia in conversations between humans and avatars. The system learns the characteristics of elderly people answering easy questions asked by avatars, and picks up on indicators of dementia, such as response delay and certain intonations, articulation rates, and percentages of nouns and verbs. Osaka University's Takashi Kudo said, "If this technology is further developed, it will become possible to know whether or not an elderly individual is in the early stages of dementia through conversation with computer avatars at home on a daily basis. It will encourage them to seek medical help, leading to early diagnosis." The model distinguished individuals with dementia from healthy controls based on six questions, taking two to three minutes per question.

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unmanned drone carrying wireless sensor system Enabling 'Internet of Photonic Things' With Miniature Sensors
Washington University in St. Louis
Tony Fitzpatrick
September 12, 2018

Washington University in St. Louis researchers have for the first time recorded environmental data using a wireless photonic sensor resonator with a whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) architecture. The photonic sensors recorded data under two scenarios, including a real-time measurement of air temperature over 12 hours, and an aerial mapping of temperature distribution using a sensor on a drone. Both measurements also included a commercial thermometer with a Bluetooth connection for comparison purposes. The sensors belong to a category called WGM resonators because they function like the whispering gallery in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where a person on one side of the dome can hear a message spoken to the wall by someone on the other side. In addition, the sensor resonates at a light frequency and also at vibrational or mechanical frequencies. Washington University in St. Louis researcher Lan Yang says, "The successful demonstrations show the potential applications of our wireless WGM sensor in the IoT," which include magnetic, acoustic, environmental, and medical sensing, she says.

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Robot creating string art of Ada Lovelace String Art From the Hand of a Robot
Technische Universitat Wien
September 10, 2018

Researchers at Technische Universitat Wien (TU Wien) in Austria have built a computer system that creates string art, an artistic technique in which hooks distributed on a frame are connected by strings back and forth until they form a perceptible image. The system calculates the optimal thread path for an arbitrary given image and an industrial robot arranges the thread. This is a difficult problem for computer scientists because the thread method cannot be used to mirror individual pixels, but only to draw continuous lines; a successful system must be able to find the best possible approximation of the digital image. The task belongs to the class of so-called NP-hard problems, problems that cannot be solved accurately by computers in a reasonable amount of time. TU Wien researcher Przemyslaw Musialski says, "Ultimately, we want to show how particularly difficult technical problems can be solved. In the String Art project, we work with methods that will play an important role in digital fabrication in the future."

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Video on tablet buffering Post Net Neutrality, Internet Providers Are Slowing Down Your Streaming
Northeastern University News
Aria Bracci
September 10, 2018

In 2015, a team of Northeastern University researchers led by Dave Choffnes, developed Wehe, an app that tracked violations of net neutrality. Net neutrality rules were struck down two years later, and Choffnes and his colleagues have now shown that nearly every U.S. cell provider is "throttling" (slowing down transmissions of) data. Working with researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Choffnes conducted more than 500,000 data traffic tests across 161 countries, to find that Internet service providers (ISPs) are "giving a fixed amount of bandwidth—typically something in the range of one and a half megabits per second to four megabits per second—to video traffic, but they don't impose these limits on other network traffic." Due to differences in their users' mobile data plans, ISPs might throttle one user's Internet traffic but not another's. The researchers observed that this behavior does not seem to have a clear rationale, as the ISPs are throttling video traffic even when the network does not need to do so.

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'Cloud Computing' Takes on New Meaning for Scientists
University of California, Irvine
Brian Bell
September 11, 2018

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, Columbia University, and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) in Germany have developed The Cloud Brain, a deep machine learning system that can provide an efficient, objective, and data-driven way to improve accuracy of climate prediction models. The researchers also created a way to rapidly implement that data into mainstream climate predictions. The team trained The Cloud Brain to predict the results of thousands of small, two-dimensional, cloud-resolving models as they interacted with planetary-scale weather patterns in a fictitious ocean world. The system functioned freely in the climate model, leading to stable and accurate multiyear simulations that included realistic precipitation extremes and tropical waves. LMU researcher Stephan Rasp says, "The neural network learned to approximately represent the fundamental physical constraints on the way clouds move heat and vapor around without being explicitly told to do so, and the work was done with a fraction of the processing power and time needed by the original cloud-modeling approach."

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Nano-Sandwiching Improves Heat Transfer, Prevents Overheating in Nanoelectronics
University of Illinois at Chicago
Sharon Parmet
September 12, 2018

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have created a method to significantly reduce the risk of component failure due to overheating in nanoelectronics. The new method involves sandwiching two-dimensional (2D) materials used in nanoelectronic devices between their three-dimensional silicon bases and an ultrathin layer of aluminum oxide. Traditional nanoelectronic components with 2D materials are prone to overheating because of poor heat conductance from the 2D materials to the silicon base. In the new system, the researchers added another "encapsulating" layer on top of the 2D material, which doubled the energy transfer between the 2D material and the silicon base, says UIC's Amin Salehi-Khojin. The researchers developed an experimental transistor using silicon oxide for the base, carbide for the 2D material, and aluminum oxide for the encapsulating material. At room temperature, heat conductance from the carbide to the silicon base was twice as high with the aluminum oxide layer as it was without it.

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UT Researchers Develop Interesting Building Blocks for Quantum Computers
University of Twente (Netherlands)
Joost Bruysters
September 13, 2018

Researchers at the University of Twente, Delft University of Technology, and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed nanowires made of germanium and silicon that allow individual electrons to be captured by a quantum dot, on which superconductivity can take place. The combination of a quantum dot and superconductivity makes it possible to create "Majorana fermions," special particles that are their own antiparticle and which are considered an important component in future quantum computers. This breakthrough marks the first time that such nanowires have been created with a germanium core and a silicon shell. The researchers first produced a wire with a diameter of about 20 nanometers, and fitted it with tiny aluminum electrodes. At a temperature of 0.02 degrees Celsius above absolute zero, the team successfully passed electricity through the wire with no resistance; using an external electric field, they also created a quantum dot with exactly one "electron hole."

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California Board of Education Expands Access to Computer Science Education
Valley News (CA)
September 14, 2018

The California Board of Education approved a comprehensive set of K-12 computer science standards, providing clarity to teachers and administrators about how they should think about computer science education, and giving guidance to districts and schools about which subjects should be offered. There are currently more than 74,000 open computing jobs in California, but less than half of the state's schools offer fundamental computer science instruction. The California Computer Science Standards focus on problem-solving skills, such as recognizing and defining computational problems, collaborating around computers and critical thinking, developing and using abstractions and creativity, creating computational artifacts, and communicating about computing. The board accepted the California Computer Science Strategic Implementation Advisory Panel's recommendations, which will be incorporated into a Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan created by the California Department of Education. The plan will go to the state Board of Education in March for adoption, moving to the Legislature by July.

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Stack of documents bound with with binder clips Preventing Exfiltration of Sensitive Docs by Flooding Systems With Hard-to-Detect Fakes
Help Net Security
Zeljka Zorz
September 14, 2018

Researchers from Queen's University in Canada have proposed a way to protect important documents by generating so many believable fakes that attackers must either exfiltrate them all or attempt to find the real one, with either option increasing the risk of detection. The team proved that creating and maintaining many fakes can be relatively inexpensive, and that the authentic document can be tracked using secret sharing. To test their idea, the team built a system for creating and managing fake versions, as well as a secret sharing system to identify the real document. They also created a system to attempt to detect the real document among the fakes. The researchers said, "There is conceptually an arms race between fake-building and fake-detecting algorithms, but our primary purpose is to show that it is possible to build fakes that are reasonably difficult to detect."

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Physicists Develop New Techniques to Enhance Data Analysis for Large Hadron Collider
New York University
James Devitt
September 12, 2018

New York University (NYU) researchers have developed machine learning techniques that can significantly improve data analysis for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's most powerful particle accelerator. The researchers had previously developed statistical tools and methodology to perform measurements of the Higgs boson. The new methods offer the possibility for additional, breakthrough discoveries. NYU researcher Kyle Cranmer says simulations often provide the best descriptions of a complicated phenomenon, but they are difficult to use in the context of data analysis. For example, he says it is easy to simulate the break in a game of billiards, but it is much more difficult to look at the final position of the balls to infer how hard and at what angle the cue ball was initially struck. Said Cranmer, "The techniques we've developed build a bridge allowing us to exploit these very accurate simulations in the context of data analysis."

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Professional dancers rehearsing in a studio 'Everybody Dance Now': UC Berkeley Researchers Develop Technology to Alter Dance Videos
Daily Californian
Sri Medicherla
September 5, 2018

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) have developed technology that can alter dance videos to make amateur dance moves seem more advanced. The technology can transfer video of one person's movements onto video of another person's movements, a process known as "do as I do" motion transfer. The framework can create a variety of videos, enabling untrained amateurs to spin and twirl like ballerinas, perform martial arts kicks, or dance like pop stars, according to the researchers. Currently, the technology is only available to a few individuals and is difficult to operate unless the user knows how to navigate the complex code. The researchers are working to make the framework accessible to the public.

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