Welcome to the November 29, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Three-dimensional printed structures created with ‘living ink.’ 3D-Printed 'Living Ink' Full of Microbes Can Release Drugs
New Scientist
Carissa Wong
November 23, 2021

A “living ink” made entirely from bacterial cells can be used in a three-dimensional (3D) printer to create structures that discharge drugs or absorb toxins. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology genetically engineered the printable gel from proteins known as curli nanofibers, which are generated by E.coli cells; the nanofibers possess one of two oppositely charged modules attached to them, which crosslink. Filtering the bacteria through a nylon membrane concentrates the crosslinked fibers, making the gel printable. "The beauty of the work lies in the ability to genetically program the functional response of the printed living material," says André Studart at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zürich).

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Thousands of Ford F-150s lacking vital chips are in storage at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY. Carmakers Get Inventive as Global Chip Crisis Bites
Christina Amann
November 26, 2021

The global semiconductor shortage has forced automakers to rethink their production processes. Markus Schäfer at German automaker Daimler said the company is using new control-unit designs that do not rely on one specific chip, against the possibility of delivery problems for any individual chipmaker. Annette Danielski at Volkswagen trucking unit Traton said the carmaker is trying to free up space on its control systems' motherboards. "If we change the software, we can use fewer semiconductors and achieve the same functionality," she said. Meanwhile, General Motors said it will partner with chipmakers like Qualcomm, STM, and Infineon to develop microcontrollers that merge functions previously governed by separate chips.

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All Versions of Windows Vulnerable to Zero-Day Exploit
PC Magazine
Matthew Humphries
November 24, 2021

Jason Schultz at Talos Security Intelligence & Research Group warns of a new Windows zero-day exploit that impacts all versions of Windows. The bug derives from a previous Windows Installer bug that Microsoft assumed it had patched, which enables users with a limited account to escalate privileges and delete targeted system files. Security researcher Abdelhamid Nacer determined the bug was incorrectly fixed, and warns the new variant is even more powerful as it fully circumvents the group policy in Windows' administrative install feature. As a result, Nacer said, hackers can replace any executable file on the system with an MSI file, and can run code as an administrator. Since no remedy for this bug currently exists, Nacer said users can only wait for another patch, as "any attempt to patch the binary directly will break Windows installer."

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Avoid Privacy Nightmare with 'Lean Privacy Review'
Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Security and Privacy Institute
Daniel Tkacik
November 19, 2021

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)'s CyLab Security and Privacy Institute have proposed a Lean Privacy Review (LPR) process to spot privacy problems early in system development. CMU's Haojian Jin said, "Lean Privacy Review can help reveal privacy concerns actual people can have at a tiny fraction of the cost and wait-time for a formal review." The process requires practitioners to create a privacy storyboard to articulate any of four actions performed on a certain type of data: collection, sharing, processing, and usage. The site then produces a user survey, with all user-cited privacy issues aggregated graphically by a Web interface. "Through these visualizations, practitioners can have both a quantitative and qualitative view of potential privacy concerns, namely, how severely the concerns are and what the concerns are," Jin said.

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The autonomous, electric ship Yara Birkeland during its maiden voyage. Autonomous Electric Container Ship Completes First Trip
Interesting Engineering
Ameya Paleja
November 22, 2021

The world's first all-electric and emission-free container ship completed its 8.7-mile maiden voyage from Porsgrunn, Norway, to the Norwegian port of Brevik. Next year, the Yara Birkeland will replace up to 40,000 annual truck trips for Norwegian fertilizer producer Yara, reducing the firm’s carbon emissions by as much as 1,000 tons per year. The Birkeland is powered by a 7-megawatt/hour battery and can travel at speeds of up to 15 knots (about 17 mph/28kph). Reuters reported the ship will eventually be able to load and offload cargo, charge its battery, and navigate autonomously.

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Quantum Algorithm Performs Full Configuration Interaction Calculations Without Controlled Time Evolutions
Osaka City University (Japan)
November 26, 2021

Researchers at Japan's Osaka City University conducted full configuration interaction (full-CI) atomic and molecular calculations using a Bayesian phase difference estimation quantum algorithm they developed. The technique avoids modeling the time evolution of the wave function conditional on an ancillary quantum bit, improving on conventional methods in terms of parallel execution of quantum gates during quantum computing. This quality clears a pathway toward more practical full-CI calculations, and the new algorithm should be much easier to deploy to quantum computers.

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My Day with Henry Evans—a Quadriplegic Who's Gaining Movement Through Robotics
The Washington Post
Peter Adams
November 23, 2021

Henry Evans, left mute and with severe quadriplegia in 2002 after a massive stroke, has beta-tested robots as part of a 20-year collaboration with healthcare roboticist Charlie Kemp. The most recent of these, the 51-pound Stretch RE1, is a robotic arm that moves up and down a four-foot shaft and can stretch 20 inches outward to pick up and move objects. With the help of Pacific University's Vy Nguyen, Evans was able to use the robot to unplug the percussion machine that keeps his airways clear, scratch an itch, brush his hair, feed himself, and even hand his wife a rose. Evans and his wife founded the organization Robots for Humanity, where they share their research and experience in advocating for the disabled.

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Reidentifying Faces From Genomic Data More Difficult Than Previously Thought
The Source (Washington University in St. Louis)
November 22, 2021

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) and Vanderbilt University tested the risk of reidentifying people from legally available genomic datasets. WashU's Yevgeniy Vorobeychik and colleagues developed a technique to calculate such risk by linking a dataset from the OpenSNP genome-sharing platform to publicly posted facial images. The researchers used neural network models to forecast visible physical traits and gender, then used this information plus known genotype-trait correlations to score possible genome-face matches. The results suggest the occasional possibility of connecting public facial images to public genomic data, but the success rates are below what prior research implies under ideal conditions.

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'Image Analysis Pipeline' Provides Insight into How Disease Changes the Body
News-Medical Life Sciences
November 24, 2021

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia have developed an "image analysis pipeline" that combines microscopy and topology with artificial intelligence to determine how diseases or injuries alter the body and where in an individual cell those changes occur. The researchers say the approach used in TDAExplore likely could be applied to imaging techniques like X-rays and PET scans. TDAExplore indicated where and how much the perturbed cell image differed from the training (or normal) image. Said Medical College of Georgia's Eric Vitriol, "We think this is exciting progress into using computers to give us new information about how image sets are different from each other."

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Princeton University researchers have developed a method to foil eavesdroppers by building security into wireless transmissions. Chip Hides Wireless Messages in Plain Sight
Princeton University Electrical and Computer Engineering News
November 23, 2021

Princeton University researchers have developed a millimeter-wave wireless microchip that can thwart interception of wireless transmissions without affecting 5G network latency, efficiency, and speed. The technique used by the chip prevents eavesdropping by chopping a message into randomly sized segments, and assigning different segments to subsets of antennas in an array. The researchers coordinated the transmission so only a receiver in the desired direction could reconstruct the signal in the right order; to other receivers, it would resemble noise. Princeton's Kaushik Sengupta said of the technique, "You can still encrypt on top of it, but you can reduce the burden on encryption with an additional layer of security. It is a complementary approach."

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Undergraduates Develop Napnea System to Monitor Infant Breathing
University of Rhode Island News
November 24, 2021

University of Rhode Island (URI) undergraduates have created a neonatal apnea (Napnea) detection system that uses electronic textiles to monitor infant breathing. The system combines an electronic textile chest belt with a force sensor and a computer to monitor an infant’s respiration, periodic breathing, and apnea. URI's Afnan Altekreeti said, "The system addresses real-world, time-sensitive health data for our population's most vulnerable infants." Altekreeti added that one technical challenge in the Napnea system's development was "the results of the respiration simulator not being 100% accurate at first."

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Inspired by spider webs and guided by machine learning, Richard Norte (left) and Miguel Bessa demonstrate a new type of sensor in the lab. One of the World's Most Precise Microchip Sensors Created Thanks to a Spiderweb
TU Delft (Netherlands)
November 24, 2021

Spiderwebs inspired researchers at the Netherlands' Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) to design one of the world's most precise microchip sensors, which can operate at room temperature. Said TU Delft's Richard Norte, "I realized spiderwebs are really good vibration detectors, in that they want to measure vibrations inside the web to find their prey, but not outside of it, like wind through a tree. So why not hitchhike on millions of years of evolution and use a spiderweb as an initial model for an ultra-sensitive device?" TU Delft's Miguel Bessa said a Bayesian optimization algorithm was able to find a good design after just a few attempts.

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