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Welcome to the May 26, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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ACM Recognizes Far-Reaching Technical Achievements with Special Awards
May 26, 2021

ACM has named the recipients of four awards, chosen by peers for technical achievements that advance research and industry, and which create a basis for transformative technologies. The University of Washington's Shyamnath Gollakota will receive the 2020 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award for developing novel wireless-signal applications, including wireless video streaming via sensors and controllers affixed to insects. Meanwhile, a team of American and Israeli scientists will receive the ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award for their discovery and analysis of the Balanced Allocations framework, or the power of two choices paradigm, which yielded numerous computing applications. The creators of Berkeley DB, the first production-quality commercial key/value store, were named to receive the ACM Software System Award. Finally, Hector Levesque at Canada's University of Toronto and Rice University's Moshe Vardi will receive the ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award for their contributions to knowledge theory, software and hardware verification, and logic-inspired artificial intelligence.

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Jan V. Vandenberg, Computer Scientist and Key Collaborator with Galaxy Zoo, Dies
The Baltimore Sun
Frederick N. Rasmussen
May 21, 2021

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) computer scientist Jan V. Vandenberg has died of colon cancer at 48. At JHU's Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science, Vandenberg served as chief systems architect, designing and building pioneering computer systems for data-intensive science. Vandenberg also was a key collaborator on the joint U.S.-U.K. online Galaxy Zoo project, which offered access to astronomy images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to volunteer citizen scientists worldwide. As a member of the team, Vandenberg shared this year's ACM Special Interest Group on Management of Data (SIGMOD) Award with his SDSS colleagues.

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A person uploading content to the cloud. Going to the Moon via the Cloud
The New York Times
Craig S. Smith
May 25, 2021

The wide availability of high-performance computing accessed through the cloud is fostering creativity worldwide, allowing the Firefly Aerospace startup, for example, to build a rocket for lunar flights using high-performance computing simulations. Although the latest supercomputers can run 1 quadrillion calculations per second, they are prohibitively expensive and have huge space and power needs; less powerful but more nimble networked computer clusters can nearly equal supercomputers' capabilities. Moreover, most cloud computing firms supply access to high-performance computing hardware with more versatility than supercomputers. High-performance cloud computing company Rescale estimates roughly 12% of such computing is currently cloud-based, but that number—approximately $5.3 billion—is expanding 25% annually. Cloud services are growing increasingly popular among research and development groups and applied science fields, amid spiking demand for computing resources.

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A warehouse worker for Superior Uniform Group scans a shipment label on a collaborative mobile robot from 6 River Systems at a facility in Coppell, Texas Warehouses Look to Robots to Fill Labor Gaps, Speed Deliveries
The Wall Street Journal
Jennifer Smith
May 24, 2021

Warehouses are deploying robots to offset staff shortages and deliver orders rapidly as online demand for products surges due to the pandemic. For example, third-party logistics provider Kenco Logistics Service is launching a fleet of self-driving robots from Locus Robotics to help employees fill online orders at the company's biggest e-commerce outlet in Indiana; Kenco also is testing autonomous tractors that tow pallet-loaded carts. Meanwhile, Kenco and French logistics provider Geodis are testing remote-operated forklifts featuring technology from startup Phantom Auto that drivers can operate remotely via real-time video and audio. Technology research firm Gartner predicts a quadrupling of demand for robotic delivery systems through 2023. Users say logistics technology, including mobile robots, can improve output and efficiency so businesses can accommodate spikes in demand without expensive investments in fixed infrastructure.

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The Army's Latest Night-Vision Tech Looks Like Something Out of a Video Game
The Washington Post
Dalvin Brown
May 24, 2021

The U.S. Army is training on a new night-vision system that generates a videogame-like view of a scene. The helmet-mounted Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular device features thermal imaging and augmented reality (AR) capabilities, incorporating smartphone and gaming-systems technology into traditional night-vision hardware. The goggles have a mode that outlines objects with glowing white light, and an AR overlay that can display maps and navigation data. The system, which also features an intensity tool that allows it to be used in daylight, is a result of years of work to modernize the tools used by the military.

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Accurate Evaluation of CRISPR Genome Editing: Tool Quantifies Potential Genetic Errors
May 24, 2021

Scientists at Israel's Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya and Bar-Ilan University have designed a new software tool to detect, assess, and measure genome-sequence editing errors. The CRISPECTOR tool reviews next-generation sequencing data acquired from CRISPR-Cas9 experiments, and can ascertain and quantify editing activity via statistical modeling. CRISPECTOR also can spot adverse translocation events transpiring in editing experiments through statistical modeling and careful analysis of the data. IDC Herzliya's Zohar Yakhini said, "CRISPECTOR is a tool that can sift through the background noise to identify and quantify true off-target signal." Yakhini said the tool "will support the safer clinical use of genome editing therapeutic approaches."

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A wildfire. Drones, Sensors Could Spot Fires Before They Go Wild
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
May 24, 2021

A research team led by the UAE's Technology Innovation Institute demonstrated that a network of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can detect wildfires faster than satellite systems. The team's novel approach involves placing IoT sensors across regions of concern, and when a fire ignites in their area, the sensors report their measurements to a patrolling UAV. The UAV notifies firefighting departments when multiple positive detections by are reported by the sensors. In simulations, the system detected fires covering an area of 2.5 square kilometers with more than 99% accuracy, and fires covering 0.5 square kilometers with 69% accuracy.

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Dutch Researchers Build Security Software to Mimic Human Immune System
Computer Weekly (U.K.)
Kim Loohuis
May 24, 2021

Researchers at Dutch research institute TNO, working with Dutch banks and insurers, have developed self-healing security software modeled after the human immune system. TNO's Bart Gijsen said the work yielded decentralized disposability for information technology; “TNO did this by building a system that is decentralized, repairs itself, and also recognizes the moment to do so.” At the core of this regenerative technique is existing container software, which Gijsen said “already contains the option of restarting and renewing, but we have added functionality to our software that allows containers to renew themselves at pre-set intervals.” That, said Gijsen, "ensures that a faster response is possible in the event of an attack. Moreover, it offers cybersecurity specialists the opportunity to focus on the cause instead of constantly putting out fires."

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Simple Diagnostic Tool Predicts Individual Risk of Alzheimer's
Lund University (Sweden)
May 24, 2021

Researchers at Sweden's Lund University have developed an algorithm that can predict an individual's risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). The researchers combined data from a simple blood test that measures a phosphylated tau protein variant and a risk gene for Alzheimer's with data from three cognitive tests. The algorithm forecast with more than 90% confidence which patients would develop AD within four years. Lund's Oskar Hansson said the algorithm made more accurate predictions than dementia experts who examined the same patients but lacked access to spinal fluid testing or positron-emission tomography scans. Said Hansson, "The algorithm will enable us to recruit people with Alzheimer's at an early stage, which is when new drugs have a better chance of slowing the course of the disease."

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Examples of species separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Stanford Bioengineers Develop Algorithm to Compare Cells Across Species
Stanford News
Allison Gasparini
May 25, 2021

An algorithm designed by Stanford University bioengineers can compare cell types in different species. Stanford's Alexander Tarashansky said, "I think the main innovation here is that we account for features that have changed over the course of hundreds of millions of years of evolution for long-range comparisons." The researchers employed seven species to compare 21 different cell pairings; their technique unearthed an array of conserved genes and cell-type families across species. The researchers said that as the algorithm is used to collect and compare more datasets from more species, biologists will be able to trace the trajectory of cell types in different organisms, and will be better able to recognize novel cell types.

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New Attacks Break PDF Certification
Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany)
Julia Weiler
May 25, 2021

Researchers at Germany's Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) discovered a bug in PDF document certification signatures that can be exploited to bypass document integrity. The certification signature allows certain revisions to the document after signing; the second contractual party also can amend the contract text unnoticed when adding their digital signature, without invalidating the certification. The RUB researchers used two attacks to display fake content in the document, without invalidating its certification or triggering an alert from the PDF applications. The team was able to break certification with at least one of these attacks in 24 of 26 PDF apps, and incorrectly implemented specifications for certifications in 11 apps. The researchers also exposed a vulnerability specific to Adobe products, exploiting certain Adobe documents' ability to execute JavaScript code to plant malware into the documents.

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More Efficient LiDAR Sensing for Self-Driving Cars
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Adam Conner-Simons
May 24, 2021

A new machine learning system for driverless cars uses an end-to-end mapless driving framework that taps raw Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data for autonomous navigation. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineered new deep learning elements which harnessed modern global positioning system hardware more efficiently to enable real-time vehicle control. MIT's Zhijian Liu said, "We've optimized our solution from both algorithm and system perspectives, achieving a cumulative speedup of roughly 9x compared to existing [three-dimensional] LiDAR approaches." Tests demonstrated that the system reduced how frequently a human driver had to assume vehicle control, and was resilient against severe sensor malfunctions.

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Using a phone while driving can be dangerous. Researchers Study Phone Use Behavior, Geometrics on Urban, Rural Roads
Texas A&M Engineering News
Alyson Chapman
May 19, 2021

A study by Texas A&M University researchers found a relationship between drivers' phone use and road geometrics, the physical shapes of roads themselves. The researchers used an dataset from a private data service provider on phone use while driving, integrating all ‘phone use while driving’ events with the Texas road inventory and the distracted crash count on each road segment in the road inventory from the state crash database. The researchers found that some road geometrics give drivers a sense of security, and could encourage more distracted driving cases on both rural and urban roadways. Drivers also might feel safer or become less cautious on interstate highways, where drivers enter and exit without traffic lights. Texas A&M's Xiaoqiang Kong said the study identified “patterns for where the locations are where phone use while driving behavior most occurs."

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