Welcome to the June 17, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Knuth, Godel Prizes to be Awarded at 2019 ACM SIGACT Conference
June 13, 2019

ACM's Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT) will present the Donald E. Knuth Prize to the Institute for Advanced Study's Avi Wigderson, and the Godel Prize to Irit Dinur of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, at the 51st Annual Symposium on the Theory of Computing (STOC 2019) in Phoenix, AZ, later this month. The Knuth Prize recognizes Wigderson for contributions to computer science fundamentals in the fields of randomized computation, cryptography, circuit complexity, proof complexity, parallel computation, and fundamental graph properties. The Godel Prize recognizes Dinur for supplying an alternative, simpler proof of the PCP Theorem, making it feasible to present in complexity courses.

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U.K. flag U.K. Investing $194M to Commercialize Quantum Computing
Frederic Lardinois
June 13, 2019

The U.K. government plans to invest £153 million (about $194 million) into commercializing quantum computing, bringing the country's total investment in the National Quantum Technologies Program to more than £1 billion ($1.27 billion). Said U.K. Research and Innovation's Roger McKinlay, "We are investing across a broad range of technologies—computing, sensing, imaging, and communications—and...we expect to see transformative commercial products and services move from laboratory aspiration to commercial reality." In addition to collaborative R&D, McKinlay said, "We will also fund feasibility studies and run an investment accelerator to ensure we have a pipeline of new technologies and innovative ideas." Among a general quantum computer's expected benefits is the ability to easily crack modern encryption schemes.

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Preparing Scientific Applications for Exascale Computing
Brookhaven National Laboratory
June 11, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE)'s Brookhaven National Laboratory hosted an OpenMP hackathon focused on applications for eventual exascale computing. Said Brookhaven's Martin Kong, "The main motivation of this hackathon is application engagement—to interact more deeply with different users, especially those from DoE labs, and make them aware of the changes they should expect in OpenMP and how these changes can benefit their scientific applications." Hackathon participants ported their scientific apps from central processing units to graphics processing units, and optimized them with the newest OpenMP iteration. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) team developed an elasticity simulation code to boost single-instruction, multiple-data parallelism, and optimize data read/storage speed. NASA's David Wagner said the app is designed to model physical forces' effects on aircraft and spacecraft materials.

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Philip Muwanga using gaming engines that power Fortnite to fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ulcerative colitis Engine Behind 'Fortnite' Powers Business Technology
The Wall Street Journal
Agam Shah
June 13, 2019

Businesses are tapping the gaming-engine software of "Fortnite" and other videogames for applications ranging from car design to drug discovery. Gaming engines exploit complex calculations performed by hardware like graphics processing units to create photorealistic three-dimensional visualization and simulation, in addition to physics models. In conjunction with virtual reality (VR) technology, gaming engines let designers and engineers invent products, visualize sophisticated designs, and structure worker-training programs. Designers at McLaren Automotive are using Epic Games' Unreal Engine to create, assess, and refine digital car models, expediting a process that formerly relied on drawings and modeling clay. Meanwhile, the U.K.'s C4X Discovery Holdings uses gaming engines to discover new disease-fighting molecules, with chemists employing VR headsets and in-house software to configure virtual molecules for more precise targeting.

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Researchers Use Rowhammer Bit Flips to Steal 2,048-Bit Crypto Key
Ars Technica
Dan Goodin
June 11, 2019

An international team of researchers has unveiled a new cyberattack that uses the Rowhammer exploit to steal cryptographic keys or other sensitive data from dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) modules. The RAMBleed hack leverages ever-smaller DRAM chips, via rapid accessing of physical rows inside susceptible chips to cause bits in neighboring rows to flip, or have their 1s switch to 0s and vice versa. RAMBleed does not employ bit flips to alter sensitive data, but exploits the Rowhammer flaw to extract data stored in memory regions attackers cannot access. The attack only needs to access memory sites the exploit code already has permission to access, and it can operate even when DRAM with error-correcting code spots and reverses a malicious bit flip. The team used RAMBleed to successfully extract an RSA 2,048-bit signing key from an OpenSSH server using user-level permission.

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Videos of Trump side by side AI Researchers Race to Detect 'Deepfake' Videos
The Washington Post
Drew Harwell
June 12, 2019

U.S. artificial intelligence (AI) researchers warn their efforts to develop techniques to identify AI-doctored "deepfake" videos before they can be weaponized to spread disinformation are having trouble keeping up with the technology. The University of California, Berkeley's Hany Farid said, "The number of people working on the video-synthesis side, as opposed to the detector side, is 100 to one." Scientists at Russia's Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow introduced a "few-shot" AI system to generate a forgery of someone using a few still facial photos. Potential deepfake detection solutions include an AI system trained on video of high-level leaders to search for data points of their facial movements, tics, and expressions.

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The newest model of a self-driving vehicle Uber Tests Drone Food Delivery, Launches Autonomous SUV
Associated Press
June 12, 2019

The Uber ride-hailing company is conducting a pilot of restaurant food deliveries via drone in San Diego. Once airborne, the drone is monitored and guided by a new aerospace management system, then passes its food order to a driver at a drop-off site, who hand-delivers the meal to the customer. Uber also hopes to land drones on top of parked vehicles near delivery locations, and secure them to the vehicle for the last delivery mile. Uber also announced a project with Volvo Cars to build an autonomous sport-utility vehicle (SUV) equipped with Uber's self-driving system. The SUV's steering and braking systems will be controlled by computer, with backups programmed to halt the car if primary systems malfunction.

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Algorithm Tells Robots Where Nearby Humans are Headed
MIT News
Jennifer Chu
June 10, 2019

Last year, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and car manufacturer BMW programmed a robot to momentarily stop if a person passed by, but the robot was overly cautious and would freeze in place. Members of the same MIT team have developed a new algorithm that accurately aligns partial trajectories in real time, allowing motion predictors to accurately anticipate the timing of a person's motion. The researchers applied the new algorithm to the same robotic system, and found that rather than freezing in place, the robot simply moved out of the way when a person walked by. Said MIT researcher Julie Shah, "This technique is one of the many way we’re working on robots better understanding people.”

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A view of Hurricane Sandy along the East Coast of the United States Software Upgrade (After 40 Years) Aims to Improve U.S. Weather Forecasts
The New York Times
Henry Fountain
June 12, 2019

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has introduced a significant upgrade to the software that guides its weather prediction capability for the first time in four decades. The Global Forecast System (GFS) software requires huge amounts of computing power to model the physics of global weather. The system uses data from satellites and sensors to predict conditions in coming hours and days. The upgraded system will help improve predictions of severe weather, including winter storms, hurricanes, and other tropical storms. The GFS upgrade has been tested for a year, running models based on data from past warm and cold seasons and comparing the results with what actually happened. Said Brian Gross, director of NOAA's Environmental Modeling Center, "We are confident the upgrade will provide an overall improvement," and more accurate forecasts of temperature, rainfall, and snowfall.

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Research Moves Closer to Brain-Machine Interface Autonomy
University of Houston News
Laurie Fickman
June 11, 2019

A brain-computer interface (BCI) developed by researchers at the University of Houston can sense when its user is expecting a reward by examining interactions between single-neuron activities and the local field potential (information flowing to the neurons). This development supports the creation of an autonomously updating BCI that improves on its own, learning about its subject without having to be programmed. The technology could have applications in robotic prosthetics, as it could sense what a user wants to do, and then do it. Said University of Houston’s Joe Francis, "This examination of reward motivation in the primary motor cortex could be useful in developing an autonomously updating brain-machine interface."

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UTSA Develops Cyber Agility Framework to Measure Network Protection Over Time
UTSA Today
June 7, 2019

University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) researchers have developed what they’re calling the first quantifiable cyber agility framework for scoring hackers and cybersecurity defenders over time, using funding from the U.S. Army Research Office. The researchers employed a honeypot—a computer system designed to entice attackers—to draw and measure malicious traffic, based on time and efficacy; as hackers and defenders invented new techniques, the scientists could better comprehend how a series of interactions evolved into an adaptive, responsive, and agile pattern, or an evolution generation. UTSA's Shouhuai Xu said, "The cyber agility framework...allows cyber defenders to test out numerous and varied responses to an attack." Said Jose Mireles, now with the U.S. Department of Defense, "Using our framework, security professionals will recognize if they're getting beaten or doing a good job against an attacker."

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