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Welcome to the September 4, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Image of the hurricane Hurricane Forecasters Turn to New Tools to Predict When Storms Will Rapidly Intensify
The Washington Post
Tristram Korten
August 31, 2019

Scientists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working to gain a better understanding of what happens within a hurricane during periods of rapid intensification. The latest experiments involve specialized drones that fly around a hurricane's eye, and plane-mounted radars for measuring wind motion. NOAA's Frank Marks and colleagues are always honing dynamical and statistical computer models for hurricane forecasts; the former analyzes current atmosphere conditions and calculates their behavior in the immediate future, and the latter analyzes past storm patterns to assess how a hurricane might behave. The addition of drones is expected to supplement data collected by dropsondes deployed by hurricane hunter aircraft, while Doppler radar and Doppler LiDAR, which can quantify wind motion and potentially record wind-speed data near the eye, could help predict intensification.

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People sitting in groups Companies Use Cyber Ranges to Practice Security Skills
The Wall Street Journal
Adam Janofsky
September 3, 2019

U.S. companies and universities are developing cybersecurity training facilities that model real-world networks and scenarios to educate staff and evaluate theories about cyberdefense and response strategies. MasterCard's Ron Green said these cyber ranges allow companies to observe and assess staff reactions to such real-world situations as malware infections and data breaches. In addition to a cyber range in St. Louis, MasterCard built a mobile range—basically a server rack within an armored box—to conduct tests and exercises nationwide. University-based cyber ranges offer small companies training and testing capabilities that are otherwise unaffordable to them, with most ranges running in the cloud in conjunction with remote tools. Green said MasterCard's range aims to support both defensive and offensive drills, including assault by antitank rounds, without potentially harming systems at a host range.

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Spreading Light Over Quantum Computers
Linkoping University
Monica Westman Svenselius
September 2, 2019

Researchers at Linkoping University in Sweden have demonstrated actual quantum-computing functioning, and simulated quantum computer properties in a classical system. Linkoping's Jan-Ake Larsson and Niklas Johansson showed that, unlike classical computers, quantum computers have two degrees of freedom for each bit. The researchers' Quantum Simulation Logic tool incorporated these two degrees of freedom, which involve computation bits and phase bits that respectively convey data on function result and function structure. Several quantum algorithms that were studied operated as rapidly in the simulation as they would in a quantum computer. Larsson said, "The higher speed in quantum computers comes from their ability to store, process, and retrieve information in one additional information-carrying degree of freedom. This enables us to better understand how quantum computers work."

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Dr. Etzioni and Peter Clark at the Allen Institute AI System Passed an Eighth-Grade Science Test
The New York Times
Cade Metz
September 4, 2019

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence introduced an artificial intelligence (AI) system that successfully passed an eighth-grade multiple-choice science test, correctly answering over 90% of the questions, as well as scoring more than 80% on a 12th-grade test. The Aristo system's milestone suggests understanding the language and logic that high school students are expected to possess is no longer outside AI's capabilities. Aristo took standard exams written for students in New York schools, with questions including pictures and diagrams removed; some questions required simple information retrieval, while others required logical thinking. Aristo was built atop Google's Bert, a language-model system that learned via guessing missing words in sentences. By feeding Bert a broad spectrum of question and answers, the researchers enabled it to answer similar questions by itself.

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MRI Computing Technique Can Spot Scarred Heart Muscles Without Damaging Kidneys
University of Warwick
Alice Scott
August 28, 2019

Researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. have developed a new three-dimensional (3D) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) computing technique to calculate strain in heart muscles and reveal muscular dysfunction without damaging the patient's kidneys. The Hierarchical Template Matching (HTM) methodology consists of a numerically stable technique for left ventricular myocardial tracking, a 3D extension of local weighted mean function to convert MRI pixels, and a 3D extension of the HTM model for myocardial tracking problems. This makes use of the contrast agent gadolinium unnecessary, lowering the risk of kidney damage. Warwick's Mark Williams said the technique allows doctors to "see in more depth what is happening to the heart, more precisely to each heart muscle, and diagnose any issues such as remodeling of heart that causes heart failure."

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Developing Embedded Systems Faster
September 2, 2019

Researchers in a consortium of eight partners from six EU countries, including the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB (Fraunhofer IOSB) in Germany, have created the TULIPP platform, which makes it possible develop energy-efficient embedded image processing systems more quickly and less expensively, with a much shorter time to market. The platform consists of design guidelines, a configurable hardware platform, and a real-time-capable operating system that supports multicore processors, as well as a programming tool chain. Said Fraunhofer IOSB researcher Igor Tchouchenkov, "The toolchain makes it possible to individually display and optimize energy consumption for each code function."

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French Researcher Hacks into Moscow's New E-Voting System
Agence France-Presse
August 28, 2019

A French cryptographer has exposed a security flaw in an electronic voting system to be used in this month's municipal elections in Moscow. The flaw could give hackers access to voters' choices. Pierrick Gaudry used a standard computer and free software to access the source code being published daily as part of a public test that started in late July. Gaudry needed just 20 minutes to break the encryption code that is meant to protect voters' identities and choices. The online voting system requires passport information, home addresses, and other sensitive data, and uses a text message verification. "In the worst-case scenario, the votes of all the voters using this system would be revealed to anyone as soon as they cast their vote," Gaudry wrote. Moscow authorities have said since Gaudry’s discovery was made public, the encryption code has been made more complex, and will be divided into seven parts kept separate until voting ends.

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Right-Wing WhatsApp Users in Brazil are Louder, More Active, More Effective
Northwestern University Newscenter
Amanda Morris
August 28, 2019

Researchers at Northwestern University (NU) have confirmed that WhatsApp use played a key role in Brazil's 2018 presidential election. The researchers performed the first large-scale analysis of partisan WhatsApp groups in the context of Brazil's 2018 election, and found that right-wing users were more effective in using the platform to spread news, disinformation, and opinions. They also found there were more right-wing groups in Brazil than left-wing, and the right-wing groups shared significantly more multimedia content than did left-wing groups. Said NU's Larry Birnbaum, "Our ultimate goal is to understand how information and misinformation spreads, so we can find technological interventions. We want to find ways to help people better evaluate the information they receive.”

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Research engineer wearing a VR headset and using handheld controls Construction Robots Learn to Excavate by Mimicking Humans
IEEE Spectrum
Lynne Peskoe-Yang
September 3, 2019

Companies are developing excavator robots that emulate humans, with the startup SE4's software enabling a machine to stack blocks under the guidance of an operator who uses a virtual reality headset and handheld controls to demonstrate the task to the robot. Remote construction requires developers to communicate instructions to robots on-site, in real time, while managing constant environmental feedback. SE4 envisions construction robots on Mars unbound from distance-related communication lags, by teaching them to group micro-movements into logical units and make simple relational judgments so they can receive a full set of instruction modules at once, and execute them in sequence.

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3D reconstruction of craniums 3.8-Million-Year-Old Fossil Cranium Unveils More About Human Ancestry
Penn State News
A'ndrea Elyse Messer
August 28, 2019

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), Case Western Reserve University, and Italy's University of Bologna have gained new insights into human evolution via digital reconstruction of 3.8-million-year-old fossilized cranium fragments of a hominid from Ethiopia. Penn State's Timothy M. Ryan said the team scanned the fossils with micro-computed tomography (CT), then processed the data to build three-dimensional models. The Bologna scientists computer-modeled the fossil based on CT scan data to predict the hominid's likely appearance. By identifying and dating the fossil, the team was able to compare its facial features with those of a partial cranium discovered decades earlier, and determined the latter belonged to a close relative. Case Western's Yohannes Haile-Selassie said, "This is a game changer in our understanding of human evolution during the Pliocene [5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago]."

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Researchers Use AI to Plot Green Route to Nylon
NYU Tandon School of Engineering
August 26, 2019

New York University Tandon School of Engineering researchers used artificial intelligence (AI) to greatly improve the efficiency of organic electrosynthesis. The researchers slightly changed how electrical current is delivered to catalytic electrodes and then applied AI to further optimize the reaction; this resulted in a 30% improvement in the production of adiponitrile (ADN)—the main precursor to nylon 6,6. Rather than use the standard electrosynthetic process for ADN, in which a direct electrical current is constantly delivered to the electrocatalytic site, the researchers opted for a process in which electricity is delivered to the site in pulses. The researchers supplied an artificial neural network with data from 16 different experimental cases of pulse times. Said NYU researcher Miguel Modestino, "This innovative, integrated approach led to an unprecedented 30% improvement in ADN production and a 325% increase in the ratio of ADN to PN (propionitrile), mostly due a large decrease in production of the latter.”

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Entanglement Sent Over 50 km of Optical Fiber
University of Innsbruck
August 29, 2019

Researchers at Austria’s University at Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences have transmitted a photon entangled with matter over 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) of fiber-optic cable, a step toward practical application of quantum networks and a quantum Internet. The team corralled a calcium atom in an ion trap, then uses lasers to write a quantum state onto the ion and concurrently induce emission of a photon to store quantum information. Because the emitted photon had an 854-nanometer wavelength that is rapidly absorbed by the optical fiber, the researchers initially transmitted the particle through a nonlinear crystal illuminated by a laser—converting the wavelength to the 1,550-nanometer value for long-distance travel. Measurements during transmission showed entanglement was maintained after the particle reached its destination. The next step in the team’s research will be to use their technique to support entanglement between ions separated by more than 100 kilometers.

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Harvard Data Science Review
2019 Stanford University Frontier of AI-Assisted Care Scientific Symposium

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