Welcome to the February 8, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A group of girls gathered to look at something Educating Abuja Girls to STEM the Cost of Hi-Tech Research
Mail & Guardian Online
Alan Jackson
February 7, 2019

The Visiola Foundation is an Abuja, Nigeria-based organization that aims to mentor and educate academically bright but disadvantaged African girls and young women in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Since its founding in 2014, the foundation has grown significantly both in its geographical reach—it has since added a second campus in Accra, Ghana—and in the diversity of programs it runs. The foundation has institutional partnerships with Ashesi University College in Ghana, Lead City University in Nigeria, and Bayero University, also in Nigeria; these institutions provide scholarships for girls from marginalized backgrounds to pursue STEM degrees. In addition, the foundation has set up coding boot camps for young women, hoping to help them learn to leverage technology to solve challenges.

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Python 3, Data Science Top Python Developer Survey
Serdar Yegulalp
February 7, 2019

Python usage is growing overall, with data analysis emerging as the main use case, while web development, testing, and automation are also popular applications, according to the results of JetBrains' recent Python Developers Survey for 2018, which examined the tools, preferences, and sentiments of more than 20,000 enterprise and independent Python developers worldwide. Most (84%) survey respondents said Python was their chief development language, with 50% citing JavaScript as their second choice. Forty-seven percent of respondents reported HTML/CSS as their preferred development language. In addition, 84% of survey respondents said they use Python 3, while just 16% still use Python 2. Also, Flask (47%) and Django (45%) were found to be the most widely used Python Web frameworks.

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A fishing boat on top of rippled ice water How Analytics are Making Peace Between Fishermen, Turtles
The Washington Post
Andrew Van Dam
February 4, 2019

New predictive analytics technologies used for dynamic ocean management are helping researchers protect turtles, albatrosses, whales, and other endangered species from fishermen. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Elliott Hazen, innovations in ocean data availability and processing power allow scientists to "run...models on our computer in minutes to maybe an hour that would have taken us months 10 years ago." Hazen and colleagues devised tools like EcoCast, which compares observed locations of marine species to satellite measurements of ocean conditions to create daily maps that localize where fishermen are most likely to find swordfish, and least likely to encounter protected species. Hawaii Pacific University's Eric Gilman said EcoCast "holds tremendous promise of mitigating bycatch of species of conservation concern while maintaining economic viability."

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Software That Can Automatically Detect Fake News
Silke Wiesemann
February 1, 2019

Researchers at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft research organization in Germany have developed a system that automatically analyzes social media posts and filters out fake news and disinformation. The tool uses machine learning to analyze content and metadata, and draws on user interaction to optimize the results in real time. The researchers built libraries comprised of serious news pieces as well as texts that users identified as fake news; this forms the dataset used to train the system. Metadata helps differentiate between authentic sources of information and fake news, allowing the researchers to build heat maps and graphs of send data, send frequency, and follower networks. Said Fraunhofer’s Ulrich Schade, “Our software can be personalized and trained to suit the needs of any customer. For public bodies, it can be a useful early warning system.”

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Robotic welders Mind-Controlled Robot Lets You Weld Metal Without Using Your Hands
New Scientist
Donna Lu
February 2, 2019

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a mind-controlled robot that can weld metal together after receiving mental instructions from its operator. The user controlling the robot wears an electroencephalography (EEG) cap, which measures the brain's electrical activity; the operator then looks at a screen with several pre-selected metal seams for the robot to weld. Each option on the screen flickers in turn and when the user stares at a specific one, the selected option flickers, generating an electrical response in the brain that is detectable by the cap. The robot matches the electrical responses to the timing of the options displayed, identifying where the user was looking and which welding seam has been selected. If the robot correctly confirms the selection, the user pushes a button to start the robot welding.

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A woman’s face reflected on the iPhone X Got an iPhone X? Try on Warby Parker Glasses at Home
PC Magazine
Angela Moscaritolo
February 4, 2019

U.S.-based online retailer Warby Parker has added a new augmented reality (AR)-powered Virtual Try-On feature to its iOS application that lets users see how different eyeglass frames will appear on their face, without having to physically try them on. The system relies on Apple's ARKit and TrueDepth technology to beam the frames onto an image of the user's face, similar to a Snapchat lens. A Warby Parker spokesperson said, "Unlike other [virtual reality] applications, our Virtual Try-On tool uses an in-house placement algorithm that mimics unique [three-dimensional] facial curvatures, resulting in a lifelike fitting room experience that reflects realistic frame color, texture, size, and fit." Said Warby Parker's Dave Gilboa, "Virtual Try-On really changes the way you can shop for glasses—especially for customers who don't live close to a store—and it's inherently enjoyable to use."

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A DNA Search Engine for Microbes
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Oana Stroe
February 4, 2019

Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Cambridgeshire, U.K., have developed a DNA search engine for microbial data. The Bitsliced Genomic Signature Index (BIGSI) could enable scientists and public health agencies to use genome sequencing data to monitor the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. Other Internet search engines use natural language processing to search through billions of websites, but BIGSI employs a search engine that can cope with the diversity of microbial DNA. In addition, BIGSI's searches will continue to work as the amount of data keeps growing. Said EMBL-EBI's Zamin Iqbal, "Making genomics data searchable at this point is essential and it will allow us to learn a huge amount about biology, evolution, the spread of disease, and much more."

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NIST Narrows Field of Post-Quantum Crypto Contenders
Federal Computer Week
Susan Miller
February 4, 2019

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) intends to supplement or supplant three public-key cryptosystem standards that are most prone to attacks by large-scale quantum computers now in development: FIPS 186-4, specifying the suite of algorithms for producing digital signatures; and NIST SP 800-56A and NIST SP 800-56B, which relate to establishing keys employed in public-key cryptography. Since 2016, NIST has been conducting a public contest to choose one or more quantum-resistant public-key cryptographic algorithms. In January, it narrowed the field of candidate algorithms from 69 to 26, in preparation for performance assessments across diverse systems. NIST's Dustin Moody said, "We want to look at how these algorithms work not only in big computers and smartphones, but also in devices that have limited processor power." NIST hopes the cryptographic community will help evaluate the algorithms and offer feedback to support or refute the submitters' security claims.

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Argonne Researchers Develop Method to Reduce Quantum Noise
Argonne National Laboratory
Joe Harmon; Diana Anderson
February 4, 2019

Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) researchers have developed a technique for reducing the effects of "noise" in quantum information systems. The method retrieves data "lost" to noise via repetition of the quantum process with slightly variable noise characteristics, then analyzes the results. After collecting results by running the process many times in sequence or parallel, the researchers built a hypersurface, where one axis represents the result of a measurement, and the other two or more axes stand for different noise parameters. The hypersurface returned an estimate of the noise-free observable, as well as information about the impact of each noise rate. The Bebop high-performance computing cluster at ANL's Laboratory Computing Resource Center was used to execute simulations that helped refine and demonstrate the technique in scenarios that are currently unavailable with quantum hardware.

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A student presenting her research IST Researchers Develop Framework That Could Deeply Impact Software Development
Penn State News
Jessica Hallman
February 5, 2019

Pennsylvania State University College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) researchers have developed a tool that allows software engineers to perform formal verification on regular expressions using natural language, rather than the more complex languages traditionally used in computer programming. For example, if a developer wanted to enforce a regular expression to match digital only, they would simply type "this regular expression only matches digits;" the framework would then automatically translate the natural language requirement into formal specifications and check this property on a target regular expression. It is important to verify the correctness of regular expressions in software development, because it enforces consistency between the current development phase of a piece of software and its initial requirements. The IST tool makes this step less complicated and more efficient than existing verification methods.

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An animated robot typing on the typewriter The Rise of the Robot Reporter
The New York Times
Jaclyn Peiser
February 5, 2019

News outlets are using artificial intelligence (AI), claiming the technology will not replace human journalists but rather supplement their jobs so they can devote more time to substantive stories. About 33% of Bloomberg News' published content uses some type of automated technology, and the company's Cyborg AI can help reporters in generating articles on corporate earnings reports each quarter. Meanwhile, AI journalists are producing sports articles for the Associated Press (AP) and The Washington Post, as well as stories on earthquakes for the Los Angeles Times. The Post uses an in-house robot reporter called Heliograf, which ably covered the Summer Olympics and the elections in 2016. The Post's Jeremy Gilbert said the publication also uses AI to geo-target articles to local readerships, while The Post, AP, and Bloomberg have installed internal alerts to flag anomalous data, so journalists can follow up with bigger stories.

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London is Still Top for Software Developers, but European Rivals are Catching Up Fast
Steve Ranger
February 7, 2019

London remains the top European city for international tech workers, with 357,900 software developers, but other cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, and Cologne are seeing rapid expansion, according to London & Partners, a promotional agency that compiled data from the Stack Overflow site for programmers. According to information the researchers received from LinkedIn, London was the top destination for more migrating European and non-EU technology professionals than any other major European city in 2018. Many technology companies had warned that the impending U.K. exit from the EU would slow tech expansion, but the data suggests that this has not been the case in London's tech staffing. A separate survey suggests that 40% of U.K. technology companies were considering moving some operations abroad as a result of Brexit.

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