Seton Hall M.S. in Data Science
Welcome to the February 22, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Covid-19 & EUTOPIA: Future Targets for Treatments Rapidly Identified with Computer
University of Warwick (U.K.)
February 19, 2021

Physicists and life scientists at the U.K.'s University of Warwick and the EUTOPIA community of European universities have simulated the movements of 287 structures of the Covid-19 virus spike protein. The models enabled the researchers to identify a hinge mechanism that lets the spike latch onto a cell, and opens a tunnel in the virus to likely pass the infection to the cell. The scientists applied protein flexibility modeling to recreate the protein structure via computer, then simulate its movements. Warwick's Rudolf Roemer said, "Knowing how this mechanism works is one way in which you can stop the virus, and in our study we are the first to see the detailed movement of opening. Now that you know what the range of this movement is, you can figure out what can block it." The authors have publicly released data on all the protein structures in order to help identify potential drug targets.

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Australia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Australian Media Law Raises Questions About 'Pay for Clicks'
Associated Press
Rod McGuirk; Kelvin Chan
February 18, 2021

A proposed Australian law that would require digital giants like Google and Facebook to pay for journalism could set a precedent that renders the Internet unworkable, according to British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee. At a recent Australian Senate committee hearing, Berners-Lee, an ACM A.M. Turing Award recipient, said, "Specifically, I am concerned that that code risks breaching a fundamental principle of the Web by requiring payment for linking between certain content online." Responding to concerns the proposed legislation could result in the end of free access, the draft legislation was amended to clarify that the platforms would not pay per news snippet or link. Said Australia’s federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, "It was always the intention ... to have a lump sum payment and that's what we have made explicit in the code."

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AI Can Help Reduce the Risk of HIV in High-Risk Communities
The Harvard Gazette
Leah Burrows
February 19, 2021

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the University of Southern California, and Pennsylvania State University have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system for lowering the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission in high-risk communities. The team partnered with social workers at three drop-in centers for homeless youth, where they enlisted more than 700 participants for the study. The scientists mapped participants' social networks, and used their algorithm to identify leaders with diverse links across different network clusters; these leaders were trained on HIV prevention and promotion of preventive strategies by communicating with their social ties at the drop-in centers. Youth enrolled in the AI-assisted CompreHensive Adaptive Network samplinG for social influencE (CHANGE) strategy were less likely to practice unprotected sex than enrollees in an observation-only cohort.

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Twist-n-Sync: Skoltech Scientists Use Smartphone Gyroscopes to Sync Time Across Devices
Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Russia)
February 19, 2021

A software-based algorithm developed by scientists at Russia's Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) and Saint Petersburg State University can synchronize time across smartphones for practical tasks requiring simultaneous measurements. Their clock synchronization method is based on micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) gyroscopes, standard equipment in smartphones. The algorithm was employed in two smartphones capturing simultaneous photos, which outperformed existing synchronization software to realize an accuracy of several microseconds. The technique involves grabbing the smartphones in one hand, twisting them slightly, and allowing the software to process and compute for clock synchronization. The team is adapting the method to systems that include not just smartphones but other sensors, like LiDAR and depth cameras.

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The Alibaba Digital Agriculture Concentrated Transportation Processing Center. Alibaba, Pinduoduo Fight China's Looming Food Crisis
Coco Liu
February 21, 2021

Internet retailer Alibaba and Chinese agriculture technology platform Pinduoduo are working on government initiatives to stave off a looming food crisis in China driven by farmers' inability to keep up with demand. Alibaba has supplied chicken farmers in Fujian province with Apple Watch-style bracelets to monitor their birds' health; the devices digitally track how many steps the chickens take each day, with low numbers indicating possible illness. Meanwhile, researchers in Yunnan province are using artificial intelligence from Pinduoduo to automate strawberry planting. Rice growers in northern China under the guidance of e-commerce company have deployed smart sensors that provide real-time data for irrigation. Peach farmers in Shandong province increased their revenues 50% last year through the use of JD's blockchain technology to encrypt every stage of the planting process.

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Apple's M1 chip. Malware Now Targeting Apple's M1 Processor
Lily Hay Newman
February 17, 2021

Security researchers have identified malware customized to run on Apple's new M1 processors in the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini computers. Mac security researcher Patrick Wardle reported a Safari adware extension originally authored to run on Intel x86 chips has been redeveloped to target M1s. The GoSearch22 sample Wardle found masquerades as a legitimate Safari browser extension, then collects user data and posts illicit ads, including some linking to other malicious sites. Researchers with security firm Red Canary said they also are probing a strain of native M1 malware distinct from Wardle's discovery, adding that there is often a lag in detection rates as antivirus and other monitoring tools gather digital signatures for new types of malware.

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To Infinity and Beyond: Linux, Open Source Go to Mars
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
February 19, 2021

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Perseverance rover will explore Mars with the self-flying Ingenuity helicopter drone, using Linux and NASA-built software based on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)'s open source F' framework. F' facilitates rapid development and implementation of spaceflight and other embedded software applications. It features an architecture that decomposes flight software into discrete elements with well-defined interfaces; a C++ framework that enables capabilities like message queues and threads; and modeling tools for specifying components and links, and automatically generating code. JPL's Timothy Canham said the F'-based software used in Ingenuity is "kind of an open source victory because we're flying an open source operating system and an open source flight software framework and flying commercial parts that you can buy off the shelf if you wanted to do this yourself someday."

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Researchers Develop Speedier Network Analysis for Range of Computer Hardware
MIT News
Daniel Ackerman
February 22, 2021

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed software that runs graph applications more efficiently by extending the GraphIt graph programming language's operation to graphics processing units (GPUs). MIT's Ajay Brahmakshatriya said the first version of GraphIt was limited because it runs on central processing units (CPUs), while with the GPU-enabled iteration, "the user can keep the same algorithms that they had before written before [for CPUs], and just change the scheduling input to get the GPU code." The MIT team verified the extension's efficacy in 90 experiments comparing GraphIt's runtime to other cutting-edge compilers on GPUs; GraphIt operated fastest in 65 cases and closely trailed the leading algorithm in the remaining experiments. Cornell University's Adrian Sampson said, "The GraphIt extension is the key to letting ordinary people write high-level, abstract algorithms and nonetheless getting expert-level performance out of GPUs."

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Connecting an electric car to a charging station. Sharing Your Route in Advance Could Cut Electric Car Charging Queue
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
February 18, 2021

Researchers at Germany's Paderborn University and the Berlin Institute of Technology have developed a computer model that could reduce wait times for charging electric cars by using information about each vehicle’s planned journey. A simulation of 5,000 electric vehicles traveling 500 kilometers in one day on Germany's roads showed that drivers would have to wait more than six hours on average to charge their vehicles. The researchers created a central database to which drivers could upload their planned routes and charging stops, and an algorithm that takes into account the most efficient routes between charging stations, and processes the information from all drivers to calculate optimal routes. When using the central database and algorithm in the same simulation, average wait time to charge a vehicle dropped to 11 minutes.

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Applying Quantum Computing to a Particle Process
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
February 12, 2021

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab simulated an aspect of particle collisions often neglected in high-energy physics experiments using a quantum computer and an algorithm that accounts for the complexity of parton showers. Said Berkeley Lab's Christian Bauer, "We've essentially shown that you can put a parton shower on a quantum computer with efficient resources, and we've shown there are certain quantum effects that are difficult to describe on a classical computer that you could describe on a quantum computer." The algorithm takes into account particle state, particle emissions history, whether emissions have occurred, and the number of particles generated. Bauer said the quantum computer "computed these histories at the same time, and summed up all of the possible histories at each intermediate stage."

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A researcher from Brazil's state-run Fiocruz Institute takes an oral swab from a bat captured in the Atlantic Forest. ML Predicts Where New Coronaviruses Might Develop Next
Voice of America News
February 17, 2021

A machine learning study by researchers at the U.K.'s University of Liverpool identified mammals that could be future coronavirus carriers, which Liverpool's Mary Wardeh said "could offer insights into where viral recombination might occur." The machine learning system analyzed 411 different coronavirus versions and 876 possible mammal species, in order to identify mammals most likely to be co-infected and carry new strains of the virus. The outcomes implied there were about 11 times as many connections between mammal species and coronavirus versions than had been identified previously, and 40 times more mammal species that can be infected "with four or more different [kinds] of coronaviruses than have been observed to date."

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Computer History Museum Honors Tech Legend Raj Reddy
Carnegie Mellon University
Heidi Opdyke
February 18, 2021

Raj Reddy, University Professor of Computer Science and Robotics and Moza Bint Nasser Chair in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), as well as an ACM A.M. Turing Award recipient, is one of the Computer History Museum's 2021 Fellow Award honorees. Reddy, a visionary in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, was recognized for his lifetime of achievement in computing and technology. As founding director of CMU's Robotics Institute, Reddy developed the first system capable of recognizing continuous speech, and ideas formulated by his research team have been adopted in a variety of applied AI systems. Among other things, Reddy created The University Digital Library, a free online digital library with over 1.5 million volumes and book digitization centers in China, India, Egypt, and the U.S., and helped to establish the Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies for low-income, gifted youth from rural southeastern India.

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