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Welcome to the May 9, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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New research reveals a deep divide among college students. Pandemic Exposed Mental Health Divide Among College Students, Study Finds
The Washington Post
Lauren Lumpkin
May 6, 2022

In a multiyear study of college students' mental health before and during the pandemic, Dartmouth College researchers found that smartphone technology and artificial intelligence could be employed as an "early detection system" for mental health issues. The researchers tracked depression, anxiety, and stress in 180 students one year before the pandemic through the first year of the pandemic using a smartphone app and digital questionnaires. Among other things, they found a strong link between heightened concern about COVID-19 and higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, and that while students were less active and slept more, their social media and overall smartphone usage increased during the study period.

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Biden Touts Plan for Manufacturers to Rely on Small American Firms for 3D Printing
CBS News
May 6, 2022

On May 6, President Biden announced that U.S. manufacturers GE Aviation, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Siemens Energy had committed to increasing their reliance on small and midsize American companies for three-dimensional (3D) printing. GE Aviation and Raytheon established a goal of relying on small and medium firms for 50% of their requests for quotes on products requiring 3D printing or related technologies. Siemens pledged to target 20% to 40% of externally sourced 3D-printed parts, and to work with 10 to 20 small or medium-sized firms to enhance their capabilities. Lockheed Martin said it will work with smaller suppliers on research to substitute 3D printing for castings and forgings, while Honeywell is offering technical assistance to its small and medium-sized suppliers including part design, data generation, machine operation, and post-processing.

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A woman wears a virtual reality headset. Virtual 'Answering Machine' Records the Real World While You're in VR
New Scientist
Alex Wilkins
May 6, 2022

A virtual reality (VR) "answering machine" could be used by workers to record what happens in their surroundings while they are engaged in VR tasks, and play back a three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of those events later. Andreas Fender and Christian Holz at ETH Zürich in Switzerland designed the AsyncReality system, which uses four depth-perceiving cameras that can determine an object’s distance from each camera and reconstruct the environment in 3D. AsyncReality records environmental changes and detects causally related events while the employee is in "focus mode," for later sequential playback. "The whole [office] arrangement in the future might be completely different because it's intertwined with the virtual world which we interact with at the same time," said Fender.

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Apple, Google, Microsoft Want to Kill the Password with 'Passkey' Standard
Ars Technica
Ron Amadeo
May 5, 2022

Members of the FIDO (Fast Identity Online) Alliance announced in a blog post on “World Password Day” (the first Thursday in May) that Apple, Google, and Microsoft are launching a "joint effort" to "expand support for a common password-less sign-in standard created by the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium." The multi-device FIDO credential or passkey would have applications or websites validate the user's login by pushing authentication requests to their phone; the user would unlock the phone, and authenticate with a personal identification number or biometric. The new scheme operates over Bluetooth, which the FIDO Alliance said is needed "to verify physical proximity." The Alliance said it expects these capabilities to be available across Apple, Google, and Microsoft platforms “over the course of the coming year."

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Researchers Use AI to Detect Weak Heart Pump via Patients' Apple Watch ECGs
Mayo Clinic
Terri Malloy
May 2, 2022

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic developed an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that can identify patients with weak heart pumps based on single-lead ECG tracings from an Apple Watch. The researchers modified an established 12-lead algorithm for low ventricular ejection fraction (a weak heart pump) to interpret ECG signals generated from the single lead of an Apple Watch; they also developed a smartphone app that enabled study participants to submit single-lead ECGs from their Apple Watches. Said the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Paul Friedman, "It is absolutely remarkable that AI transforms a consumer watch ECG signal into a detector of this condition, which would normally require an expensive, sophisticated imaging test, such as an echocardiogram, CT scan, or MRI."

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Scientists pushing the limits of the world’s most advanced neutron scattering instruments know that a small amount of distortion in their measurements is inevitable. 'No Cost' Way to Improve Neutron Scattering Resolution 500%
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Paul Boisvert
May 5, 2022

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) improved the SEQUOIA neutron scattering spectrometer's resolution 500% via a virtually "no cost" computational technique. The solution, which requires no additional hardware, employs ORNL's MCViNE open-source software. ORNL's Matt Stone said the MCViNE software performed two-dimensional (2D) measurements along two axes simultaneously, for both the distorted experimental image and a high-resolution idealized model. Repeating the 2D measurements along other axes and interpolating the results to approximate a 4D model quantified disparities between the actual image and the model. Said ORNL’s Jiao Lin, “This technique can be used in a wide range of experimental applications.”

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Algorithm Predicts Which Students Will Drop Math Courses
Universitat Tubingen (Germany)
May 4, 2022

Scientists at Germany's University of Tübingen developed a statistical algorithm to predict the likelihood that students will drop out of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. The forward-filtering-backward-sampling (FFBS) algorithm can consider differences between individual students and segregate them from the time-dependent affective states of individual learners. Tübingen's Augustin Kelava said the researchers polled 122 first-semester math students on their math knowledge, background, interests, and other factors to assess their "stable characteristics," followed by tri-weekly surveys on their feelings. They used the FFBS algorithm to predict students' dropout intentions an average eight weeks in advance. Kelava said the program could help enable interventions for students who are qualified for the subject, but are leaning toward terminating their studies.

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Researchers suggest the way users responded to a Facebook outage offers a glimpse into social media dependency Outage Outrage: Facebook Outage May Reveal Depth of Social Media Dependency
Penn State News
Matt Swayne
May 4, 2022

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) studied user reactions during a six-hour Facebook outage on Oct. 4, 2021, and found that users depend on social media for more than just socialization. They analyzed 223,815 tweets with the hashtag #facebookdown and identified 10 topics that emerged from those tweets, including complaints, mockery, business impact, and social media alternatives. The researchers found that 8.8% of the tweets, or more than 29,000, were by users seeking alternative social media sites, and that topic was the only one to increase steadily during the outage. Said Penn State's S. Shyam Sundar, "What we see is that social media has become so important that it's almost a utility."

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The Neural-Fly autonomous flying vehicle. Rapid Adaptation of Deep Learning Teaches Drones to Survive Any Weather
California Institute of Technology
May 4, 2022

The deep learning Neural-Fly method developed by California Institute of Technology (Caltech) engineers can help aerial drones deal with new and unknown wind conditions in real time. Caltech's Soon-Jo Chung said Neural-Fly uses "a combined approach of deep learning and adaptive control that allows the aircraft to learn from previous experiences and adapt to new conditions on the fly with stability and robustness guarantees." The researchers said Neural-Fly employs a separation strategy that requires only the updating of a few neural network parameters; Caltech's Guanya Shi said a meta-learning algorithm pre-trains the network to perform these updates. Neural-Fly-outfitted autonomous quadrotor drones trained on just 12 minutes of flight data improved their response to strong winds.

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Audio recorders developed at Imperial College London were used in a large trial in Norwegian forests to identify birds by their songs. Automatic Audio Loggers Map the Sound of Norway
Imperial College London (U.K.)
Hayley Dunning
May 3, 2022

Audio recorders created by researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) in the U.K. have reliably identified birds in Norwegian forests by their songs. The Bugg system's audio recorders capture and upload sound to a cloud service through mobile subscriber identity module cards; artificial intelligence analyzes the recordings to sift out individual bird songs and identify species, while also analyzing the overall soundscape. The researchers deployed 41 Bugg audio loggers across Norway, which were able to identify 22 bird species with 100% accuracy, and 10 more with over 70% accuracy. Said ICL's Sarab Sethi, "With continued data gathering, we can start to answer larger questions—such as how climate change is affecting these ecosystems."

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Digital Twins Aid Giving Individual Patients the Right Treatment at the Right Time
Linkoping University (Sweden)
Karin Söderlund Leifler
May 6, 2022

An international team of researchers has modeled digital twins of diseases, in order to improve diagnosis and treatment, and individualize medication regimens so each patient would receive the right drug at the right time. The researchers assembled digital twins of patients with hay fever, using single-cell RNA sequencing to ascertain all gene activity in thousands of individual white blood cells. They measured gene activity at different times before and after stimulating the cells with pollen, and built the twins through network analysis. The team identified the hay fever digital twin's preeminent protein, and demonstrated that inhibiting it was more effective than using a known antihistamine against another protein.

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Decade-Old Bugs Discovered in Avast, AVG Antivirus Software
Charlie Osborne
May 5, 2022

Researchers at cybersecurity software company SentinelOne reported two high-severity bugs in Avast and AVG antivirus products that have gone undetected for a decade. The researchers said the flaws have existed since 2012, and could have affected "dozens of millions of users worldwide." They found the bugs in the Avast Anti Rootkit driver, and the first vulnerability resided in a socket connection handler used by the kernel driver aswArPot.sys; hackers could hijack a variable during routine operations to escalate privileges, potentially disable security solutions, or meddle with target operating systems. The researchers described the second bug as "very similar" to the first, and rooted in the aswArPot+0xc4a3 function. Sentinel Labs on Dec. 20 informed Avast of the vulnerabilities, and the company had patched them by Feb. 11, with no active exploitation in the wild indicated.

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