Master's Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Welcome to the April 18, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Driverless Cars Can Be Tricked into Seeing Red Traffic Lights as Green
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
April 16, 2022

Researchers at China's Zhejiang University found driverless cars could be fooled into seeing red traffic lights as green. The scientists directed a laser at the sensors of five camera models used by self-driving vehicles, with two open-source software packages reading the captured images. Lasers of a 650-nanometer and a 520-nanometer wavelength rendered the entire image red or green, respectively, while flickering the laser at high frequencies only induced this coloration in certain image segments. Adding a horizontal bar of green or red caused both software packages to incorrectly sense the traffic lights as green 30% of the time and red 86% of the time, on average, across the cameras.

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Cornell University researchers Maureen Hanson (left) and Myat Lin working in their lab in the Biotechnology Building. Scientists Resurrect Ancient Enzymes to Improve Photosynthesis
Cornell Chronicle
Krishna Ramanujan
April 15, 2022

Cornell University researchers have revived ancient plant enzymes via a computational method for predicting favorable gene sequences. The technique taps evolutionary history to forecast genes for the Rubisco enzyme, enabling the researchers to identify promising candidate enzymes that could be engineered into modern crops, boost photosynthetic efficiency, and increase crop yields. They described predictions of 98 Rubisco enzymes at key points in the evolutionary past of plants in the Solanaceae family, using tobacco as the experimental model for their analysis. "We were able to identify predicted ancestral enzymes that do have superior qualities compared to current-day enzymes," explained Cornell's Maureen Hanson.

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The first quantum computer to start operations in Japan was developed by IBM. Quantum Computing Ambition: Japan Aims for 10 Million Users by 2030
Nikkei Asia
Akira Oikawa; Mao Kawano
April 13, 2022

Japan has unveiled plans to bring its first domestic quantum computer online by next March, and to have 30 million users by 2030. The government-backed Riken Institute is leading the computer's development as the first step in the country's ambition to keep up with the global competition for technological dominance. Japan's government aims to encourage private companies to leverage quantum cryptographic communications for new services and products. The government also will commit 10 research sites to quantum computing, with two dedicated to training personnel and supporting research and development, and to promoting joint research by global scientists, respectively.

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The GelSight Fin Ray gripper grasps a glass Mason jar with its tactile sensing. A Flexible Way to Grab Items with Feeling
MIT News
Rachel Gordon
April 15, 2022

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Edward Adelson and Sandra Liu have developed a robotic gripper with flexible fingers that can manipulate objects using touch sensors that can equal or surpass the sensitivity of human skin. The gripper employs two fin ray fingers, and the researchers hollowed out the inside to fit a camera that faces a layer of sensory pads made of silicone gel affixed to an acrylic sheet. The sheet is attached to the plastic finger piece at the opposite end of the inner recess, and the finger will seamlessly enfold an object. By measuring the silicone and acrylic sheets' exact deformation, the camera and accompanying algorithms can compute the object's shape, surface roughness, and spatial orientation, plus the force being applied by, and imparted to, each finger.

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Improving Security of Two-Factor Authentication Systems
Texas A&M Engineering News
Stephanie Jones
April 14, 2022

An international team of researchers led by Texas A&M University's Nitesh Saxena created new techniques to enhance the security of push notification-based two-factor authentication systems. Saxena said the REPLICATE method better defends against concurrent login attacks. "If a user receives two notifications, the notification that corresponds to the browser's session of the attacker will differ," said Saxena, so "the user should be able to detect that something is amiss and not accept the wrong notification." REPLICATE requires users to approve login attempts by replicating a randomized interaction presenting on the browser session over on the login notification. This will block a concurrency attack, because the validating interaction will diverge from the interaction the attacker must perform.

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Tool Could Predict How at Risk Your Job is From Automation
Silicon Republic
Blathnaid O'Dea
April 13, 2022

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland have designed an algorithm to predict how at risk specific occupations are from automation. The automation risk index (ARI) reviews how many requirements in a job description can be performed by a robot compared to a human, ranks the importance of these skills, and evaluates robots' currently abilities to perform them. In the ARI's ranking of 967 jobs listed in the Occupation Information Network database, physicists were determined to be the profession safest from automation, while meatpackers and slaughterhouse workers were found to be at greatest risk. The researchers also established a publicly available resilience index that users can search to find automation risks associated with job titles, as well as jobs with lower risks.

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Spin-glass systems comprise a disordered system of nanomagnets arising from random interactions and competition between two types of magnetic order in the material. Printing Circuits on Nanomagnets Yields New Breed of AI
IEEE Spectrum
Dexter Johnson
April 5, 2022

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) researchers have developed an artificial spin glass made of nanomagnets that is configured to mimic a neural network, paving the way for artificial intelligence algorithms to be printed as physical hardware. The artificial spin glass is comprised of thin layers of iron-nickel alloy, and the positions and orientations of the microscopic bar magnets align with the interaction structure of an artificial neural network. LANL's Michael Saccone said their artificial spin glass, a proof-of-principle Hopfield neural network, is akin to a slide rule in which "the rules of the geometry encode simple arithmetic." The architecture of a Hopfield network and nanomagnetic system involves information flowing constantly between all nanomagnets in all directions. Saccone explained, "This takes a while for a sequential algorithm to simulate, but in a physical system there is no cost to the inherent parallelization. The universe just does its thing."

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Platform Optimizes Selection of Combination Cancer Therapies
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
April 12, 2022

Multi-institutional researchers led by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have created a new platform that forecasts optimal cancer therapy combinations for a given group of patients. The REcurrent Features LEveraged for Combination Therapy (REFLECT) tool merges machine learning and cancer informatics algorithms to analyze biological tumor features, and to recognize frequent co-occurring alterations that could be targeted by multiple medicines. The researchers used REFLECT to review pan-cancer datasets covering 10,000-plus patients and 33 cancer types; this yielded 201 patient cohorts, each classified by a single therapeutically actionable biomarker. The team produced in each cohort REFLECT signatures of additional alterations that may be actionable therapeutic targets, identifying 2,166 combinations matched to co-occurring alterations. Retrospective validation studies showed REFLECT selected combinations that improved patient outcomes across pre-clinical and clinical studies.

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Leon Lerman (left) and Daniel Brody are the founders of cybersecurity start-up Cynerio, which discovered five vulnerabilities that affect robots found in hundreds of hospitals worldwide. Hospital Robot Vulnerabilities Promptly Caught, Killed
The Jerusalem Post (Israel)
Zachy Hennessey
April 13, 2022

Researchers at New York-based cybersecurity startup Cynerio have identified five zero-day vulnerabilities, known as JekyllBot:5, affecting Aethon TUG smart autonomous robots used in hospitals across the globe. The vulnerabilities could enable remote surveillance of patients and doctors through the robot, and disrupt medication or supply deliveries. Cynerio's Asher Brass said, "These zero-day vulnerabilities required a very low skill set for exploitation, no special privileges, and no user interaction to be successfully leveraged in an attack. If attackers were able to exploit JekyllBot:5, they could have completely taken over system control, gained access to real-time camera feeds and device data, and wreaked havoc and destruction at hospitals using the robots." Aethon has released patches to fix the flaws.

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Two hair follicle dermal condensates self-organizing in “slow motion” by the genetic re-patterning of two morphogen gradient signals in mouse embryonic skin. One Step Closer to Creating Hair Follicles
Yale School of Medicine
Jess Collins
April 13, 2022

New therapies to regrow hair could arise from a study led by Yale University researchers into the molecular triggers for hair follicle formation and regeneration. The researchers investigated dermal condensates (DCs) that transmit signals to direct hair follicle production, engineering a computational approach for aligning single-cell profile "snapshots" to map the DC development cycle. Combining computational findings with in vivo genetic experiments enabled the team to specify molecular DC genesis signals. Yale's Peggy Myung said two signals in particular cooperate in the formation process, which the researchers could modulate to decelerate DC genesis. Myung cited the research for demonstrating "how computational methods can be used to understand signals and cell behaviors that were previously impossible to capture."

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Ancient Art Meets AI for Better Materials Design
Argonne National Laboratory
John Spizzirri
April 7, 2022

University of Southern California (USC) researchers combined kirigami, the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting, with autonomous reinforcement learning to help improve materials design. In an effort to create a two-dimensional molybdenum disulfide structure embedded with electronics that can stretch while remaining stable, the researchers determined that a series of precise cuts could enable the thin material to stretch up to 40%. To determine the correct combination of cuts, the researchers performed simulations on the Theta supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. The model was trained on 98,500 simulations of kirigami design strategies involving one to six cuts; even without additional training data, it determined in a matter of seconds that 10 cuts would provide more than 40% stretchability. USC's Pankaj Rajak said, "It learned something the way a human learns, and used its knowledge to do something different."

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DIY Digital Archaeology: Methods for Visualizing Small Objects, Artifacts
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
April 13, 2022

Researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (SHH), the U.K.'s University of Exeter, and Japanese videogame developer Cygames collaborated on new techniques for visualizing small artifacts. The Small Object and Artifact Photography (SOAP) protocol guides users through the process of photographing small objects and artifacts. The High Resolution Photogrammetry (HRP) protocol is a manual for developing high-resolution three-dimensional models by combining methods applied in academic and computer graphic fields. The researchers developed the techniques using Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop, RawDigger, DxO Photolab, and RealityCapture, leveraging native functions and tools that simplify and accelerate image capture and processing. "By clearly explaining every step of the process, including theoretical and practical considerations, these methods will allow users to produce high-quality, publishable two- and three-dimensional visualizations of their archaeological artifacts independently," said SHH's Jacopo Niccolò Cerasoni.

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Event Mining for Explanatory Modeling
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