MS in Data Science
Welcome to the March 4, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Cal Receives Largest Donation Ever—$252M—for Datacenter
San Francisco Chronicle
Michael Cabanatuan
March 2, 2020

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) received an anonymous $252-million donation, which will be used to break ground on the Data Hub, a facility for students and faculty studying computing and data science. This gift is the largest donation ever given to the school, while the datacenter's completion will require another $300 million. The Data Hub will contain the university’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society. UC Berkeley's Jennifer Chayes said the facility "will be a magnet, bringing together scholars from disciplines across campus to forge new collaborations and take on some of the most critical questions facing society today, from biomedicine, to climate change and sustainability, to making data-informed public policy on issues of societal significance."

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A patrol robot checking temperature and disinfecting people The Rush to Deploy Robots in China Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Rebecca Fannin
March 2, 2020

Chinese companies are scrambling to deploy robots and automation to take over for absent workers as the coronavirus spreads. An American Chamber of Commerce survey of 109 companies in Shanghai found that about 50% face staff shortages over the next few weeks, while 66% cited insufficient personnel to run full production lines. The Reshoring Institute's Rosemary Coates said the COVID-19 outbreak is a reckoning for both Chinese and U.S. supply chain and risk managers, and finding ways to maintain production for restarting factories could include more automation and robots as substitutes for humans. Emil Hauch Jensen at Mobile Industrial Robots in Shanghai said the coronavirus epidemic has put a "renewed urgency behind the trend towards increased automation and use of robotics in China."

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How the Cloud Has Opened Doors for Hackers
The Washington Post
Craig S. Smith
March 2, 2020

Corporate transfers of operations to the cloud have elevated the threat of hacking, as the cloud can be accessed remotely with ease. Manav Mital, co-founder of cloud security startup Cryal, said cloud companies manage the upkeep and security of physical servers, but client requirements for ease of access have spawned new apps and databases, and increasingly complex services that are difficult to manage and monitor. Although companies still shield private data behind firewalls and other security measures, more people and programs require access to data in the cloud, making it easier for bad actors to find potential vulnerabilities. The Ponemon Institute estimated that cloud breaches cost each individual company $3.92 million on average.

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Machine Learning Picks Out Hidden Vibrations From Earthquake Data
MIT News
Jennifer Chu
February 28, 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers trained a convolutional neural network (CNN) with machine learning to identify low-frequency seismic vibrations in earthquake data. The researchers trained the network using the Marmousi model, a two-dimensional geophysical simulation of geological seismic-wave propagation. When presented with high-frequency seismic waves produced from a new simulated earthquake, the CNN could mimic the physics of wave propagation and accurately calculate the quake's hidden low-frequency waves. MIT's Laurent Demanet said the goal is to be able to use those low-frequency waves to map the Earth’s internal structures "and be able to say, for instance, 'this is exactly what it looks like underneath Iceland, so now you know where to explore for geothermal sources.'"

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Scientists Succeed in Measuring Electron Spin Qubit Without Demolishing It
March 3, 2020

Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science in Japan have successfully measured electron spin in a silicon quantum dot (QD) without altering its spin. Such measurements have been difficult, as spin typically is impacted by the process of reading out single electron spins in silicon, which is to convert the spins into charges for fast detection. The researchers used the Ising model to transfer spin data of an electron in a QD to an electron in a neighboring QD; they then were able to measure the neighbor's spin while leaving the original electron untouched. Using this method, said RIKEN's Seigo Tarucha, yielded a non-demolition fidelity rate of 99%, a readout accuracy of 95%, and a theoretical accuracy upgrade to 99.6%.

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Picture of locust U.K.-Funded Supercomputer Models Locust Flows, as Outbreak Continues
Computer Business Review
Conor Reynolds
March 2, 2020

A U.K.-funded supercomputer in Kenya is being used to simulate locust swarm migrations ravaging East Africa. The supercomputer is taking advantage of satellite data to track the swarms, which can move as much as 100 miles in a single day; its results inform both early warning systems and pesticide spraying. The system also generates regional forecasts of high winds, humidity, and rainfall, which help to project the locusts' migration patterns as the swarms tend to enter areas of rapid vegetation growth following droughts or other extreme weather events. The supercomputer was provided under the auspices of the U.K. Department for International Development's £35-million (nearly $45-million) Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa program.

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People walking on the streets New Jersey Lawmakers Push Data-Privacy Bill
The Wall Street Journal
Joseph De Avila
March 2, 2020

Lawmakers in New Jersey have proposed legislation to improve data protections and impose tougher restrictions on the technology industry, potentially mirroring privacy laws passed in California and Europe. The proposed bill would require companies to obtain permission from New Jersey consumers before collecting and selling their personal data to third parties, and to tell consumers how they will use the data in plain language. In addition, consumers would be able to ask companies to provide them with their own personal data it sells to third parties, and would be able to request that personal information be deleted. Said Amol Sinha of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, “We need strong restrictions to limit the unchecked mass-scavenging of our personal information and we in the states will be the ones leading these conversations.”

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A Houston resident wading through a flooded road Texas A&M Researchers Develop Flooding Prediction Tool
Texas A&M Today
Vandana Suresh
March 2, 2020

Texas A&M University researchers have developed a flooding prediction algorithm that could potentially aid disaster management. The researchers said conventional flooding models do not perform well at predicting floods during incidents of torrential rainfall, such as during hurricanes and other extreme weather events. Texas A&M's Ali Mostafavi and colleagues built a probability-based model that was fed water-level readings on flood gauges for different times during two major flooding events in Texas. The researchers assessed the resulting algorithm by checking if it could predict the flood patterns observed during Houston's Tax Day flood in 2016; it was 85% accurate in predicting flood propagation through the drainage system for that incident. Mostafavi said, "Traditional models and our data-driven models can be used to complement each other to give a more precise picture of where floodwater will go next."

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KITE Code Could Power Quantum Developments
University of York
February 28, 2020

A collaborative effort by researchers at the University of York in the U.K. has yielded open source software to assist in the computational modeling of new quantum materials. The Quantum KITE initiative is a joint U.K.-Brazilian-European project to develop a suite of algorithms for modeling realistic materials, which is well suited to creating and optimizing quantum materials that have diverse energy and computing applications. The KITE high-performance quantum transport software can simulate realistic materials with different types of inhomogeneities and imperfections. Tatiana Rappoport of Brazil's Federal University of Rio de Janeiro said, "This open-source software is our commitment to help removing barriers to realistic quantum simulations and to promote an open science culture."

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Conspiracy theories Can YouTube Quiet Its Conspiracy Theorists?
The New York Times
Jack Nicas
March 2, 2020

University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) researchers found that while YouTube has reduced how often its algorithm recommends conspiracy theory-related videos, its progress in dealing with conspiracy theories has been uneven, and the service still promotes certain types of fictional stories. The study examined 8 million recommendations by the video-sharing platform over a 15-month period and found that while YouTube has almost completely removed some conspiracy theories from its recommendations, other falsehoods continue to flourish. Said UC Berkeley’s Hany Farid, “It is a technological problem, but it is really at the end of the day also a policy problem. ... If you have the ability to essentially drive some of the particularly problematic content close to zero, well then you can do more on lots of things."

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Cloud Services Tool Lets You Pay for Data You Use—Not Data You Store
IEEE Spectrum
Charles Q. Choi
March 3, 2020

Computer scientists at George Mason University have developed a new caching technique that can support pay-per-use cloud storage service. The team tested the service, InifiniCache, on Amazon Web Services' (AWS) Lambda computing service, and found that the technique achieved at least a 100-fold improvement in latency compared to the Amazon S3 service in about 60% of requests for objects larger than 10 megabytes. InfiniCache performed comparably with the AWS ElastiCache cloud caching service, but when it worked with large objects, InfiniCache cost users about one-thirtieth to one-ninetieth as much as ElastiCache. InfiniCache utilizes a data backup mechanism in which cached objects synchronize with clones of themselves to minimize the chances that reclaiming memory causes data loss.

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The Tentacle Bot
Harvard University John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Leah Burrows
February 27, 2020

Researchers at Harvard University's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Beihang University in China have engineered an octopus-inspired soft robotic arm that grasps, moves, and manipulates objects of all shapes, sizes, and textures. Explained Beihang’s Zhexin Xie, “We mimicked the general structure and distribution of these suckers for our soft actuators. Although our design is much simpler than its biological counterpart, these vacuum-based biomimetic suckers can attach to almost any object.” Harvard’s August Domel added, “Our research is the first to quantify the tapering angles of the arms and the combined functions of bending and suction, which allows for a single small gripper to be used for a wide range of objects that would otherwise require the use of multiple grippers.”

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