Association for Computing Machinery
Welcome to the May 3, 2010 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


EU Security Agency Backs Cloud Computing Research (04/29/10) Muncaster, Phil

A report from European Union security agency Enisa says that cloud computing, wireless networks, and supply chain integrity should be the focus of information technology security research during the next three to five years. Europe must focus on policy and law enforcement challenges, in addition to technical issues, according to the report. "Cloud computing models can benefit greatly from the international harmonization of data protection, retention, and privacy regulations," the report says. "Research is also needed to better understand the best practices and policies that will facilitate effective incident handling." The study also calls for guidelines and standards for evaluating and certifying cloud-based services. Real-time detection and diagnosis systems, future wireless networks, and sensor networks are other areas in need of greater attention from researchers. With regard to wireless network security, Europe must address the requirements for resilience, as well as network mechanisms, intrusion detection, and recovery mechanisms.

Computing, Sudoku-Style
MIT News (04/28/10) Hardesty, Larry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) Alexey Radul is developing a conceptual framework for computing that could impact artificial intelligence research, parallel computing, and the design of computer hardware. In Radul's system, multiple logic circuits and memory cells are arranged in a large network. Any logic circuit can exchange data with different memory cells, and any memory cell can exchange data with different logic circuits. However, contradictory data could confuse memory cells, leading to the overwriting of both sets of data. Radul solved this problem by developing memory cells that gradually accumulate information about data instead of just storing it. A programmer using Radul's system can decide what kinds of information about data the memory cells will store. The cells can track where data comes from, a capability that could be useful in many applications, according to Radul. The system could determine the source of an error in the data, backtrack to that source, and correct all the resulting errors. A more developed version of Radul's system would enable programmers to specify computational problems in a way that automatically takes advantage of parallelism.

Algorithms Provide a Model of Railway Efficiency
ICT Results (05/01/10)

The European Union-funded ARRIVAL project, a collaboration of researchers from seven European countries, has developed algorithms that can optimize planning and scheduling in complex rail networks. ARRIVAL researchers say their algorithms will enable railways to have more trains, passengers, and goods travel on the same infrastructure, while improving punctuality, passenger satisfaction, and operator profit. "The new timetable, drawn up using the ARRIVAL algorithms, has meant that trains can be scheduled more efficiently and disruptions handled more effectively, while maintaining the usual security measures," says University of Patras professor Christos Zaroliagis. Two optimized planning approaches led to the efficiency gains. Robust planning involves deploying algorithms to ensure that all parts of the railway network are organized as efficiently as possible. Online planning takes a reactive approach, dealing with disruptions as they happen in real time. Zaroliagis says the technology also has applications in other sectors. "Our algorithms could benefit industrial work-flow systems, e-commerce, P2P, and grid computing networks and even healthcare," he says.

Nanodots Breakthrough May Lead to 'A Library on One Chip'
NCSU News (04/28/10) Shipman, Matt

North Carolina State University's Jay Narayan led a research effort to create a computer chip that has enough memory to store all the information in a library. The chip uses nanodots, or nanoscale magnets, which are made of single, defect-free crystals and can be as small as six diameters. The nanodots are integrated directly into a silicon chip. Their precise orientation enables programmers to reliably read and write data to the chips. "We have created magnetic nanodots that store one bit of information on each nanodot, allowing us to store over one billion pages of information in a chip that is one square inch," Narayan says. He says the chip can be manufactured at an affordable cost. Narayan wants to develop magnetic packaging that would enable lasers or other technologies to interact with the nanodots.

UCSB Scientists Look Beyond Diamond, Develop Road Map for Research on Other Materials With Defects Useful for Quantum Computing
University of California, Santa Barbara (04/30/10) Gallessich, Gail; Foulsham, George

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers used computational techniques to produce a roadmap for studying defects in alternative semiconductor materials. They say the findings might lead to new applications for semiconductors, and could help identify alternative materials to use for building a potential quantum computer. "Our results are likely to have an impact on experimental and theoretical research in diverse areas of science and technology, including semiconductor physics, materials science, magnetism, and quantum device engineering," says UCSB professor David Awschalom. The researchers developed a set of screening criteria to find specific atomic defects in solids that could act as quantum qubits in a quantum computer. Experimental testing of all the potential materials could take decades of research, Awschalom says. However, the UCSB team used computational methods to examine the characteristics of potential defect centers in many different materials, providing guidelines for future experiments. "We tap into the expertise that we have accumulated over the years while examining ‘bad' defects, and channel it productively into designing ‘good' defects," says UCSB professor Chris G. Van de Walle.

Innovations in STEM Education: A Conversation With PCAST's Jim Gates
Science Insider (04/29/10) Mervis, Jeffrey

An upcoming President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report will address the issue of improving pre-college math and science education in the United States. Its recommendations could include grants, a new federal agency, and increasing funding to programs that let students do science themselves, says University of Maryland's James Gates. Gates is co-chair of a PCAST working group on science, math, engineering, and technology education. Gates says the National Science Foundation, the National Defense Education Act, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have helped foster technology innovation. However, he says there is "nothing like DARPA in the education system" and something like that needs to be directed at education. Another step the federal government could take is to find ways to jumpstart market-based solutions, according to Gates. He notes that there is a change taking place in the education system, as 46 governors have agreed to sign a common core of standards in what could be a unitary thesis that will control what happens in the schools.

Why Twitter Is the Future of News
Technology Review (04/30/10) Mims, Christopher

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) researchers recently performed a multi-part analysis of Twitter and concluded that it is a surprisingly interconnected network and an effective way to filter information. On the MSN messenger network, the median degree of separation is six. However, on Twitter, the average path length is 4.12. Because 94 percent of Twitter users are fewer than five degrees of separation from one another, it is likely that the distance between any random user and a celebrity is even shorter on Twitter than in real life. "No matter how many followers a user has, the tweet is likely to reach [an audience of a certain size] once the user's tweet starts spreading via retweets," write the KAIST researchers. Earlier Twitter studies suggested that the best way to get noticed was to tweet at certain times of day. "Half of retweeting occurs within an hour, and 75 percent under a day," according to the researchers. "What is interesting is from the second hop and on is that the retweets two hops or more away from the source are much more responsive and basically occur back to back up to five hops away."

NIST: Federal R&D Boosts Industry
InformationWeek (04/29/10) Montalbano, Elizabeth

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST's) annual report details innovations developed by federal labs and private-sector organizations. Eleven federal agencies have laboratory operations that engage in research and development work with organizations in industry, academia, the nonprofit sector, and state and local governments on improvement projects. Collaboration between federal laboratories and other organizations was on the rise and resulted in technology that benefited various business sectors, according to the report. NIST developed software called Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES), which includes environmental and economical performance data for more than 230 construction projects and is designed to reduce complex technical content about building materials. Another project involved researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Agriculture Research Service, which designed the BeadChip, a chip that examines cattle's genetic makeup to create higher quality beef and dairy products.

R&D Plus Wizardry
USC News (04/28/10) Marziali, Carl

University of Southern California (USC) graduate students recently demonstrated new communication and digital media tools at the annual Annenberg Graduate Fellows Symposium. USC's Logan Olson and Joseph Osborn displayed an application that enables musicians to layer sound tracks by intersecting hand-drawn lines on Microsoft's Surface display and control the volume by drawing an arc across any combination of tracks. Another application allows the user to design and rearrange flow charts and other diagrams to use during brainstorming meetings and presentations. USC's Bryan Jaycox developed SolidSpace, a glove that lets wearers feel distant objects through pressure on their fingers. Transmitters on the glove emit radio waves and measure the distance of objects by the time it takes for the waves to bounce back. The glove is part of a group of projects called Redesigning Perception, which includes augmented reality goggles that map additional information onto objects in a room and an audio device that lets users hear sounds outside the range of human perception.

Underground Lab Could Help Address Modern Science Queries
Government Computer News (04/28/10) Jackson, William

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) demonstrated the possibilities of high-performance research and education networks at the recent spring Internet2 meeting using a videoconference that connected attendees to the former Homestake Gold Mine near Lead, S.D. The mine is a possible site for the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Lab (DUSEL), where physicists, biologists, and geologists could conduct research regarding matter, energy, and the Earth. DUSEL experiments would generate large volumes of data that could be distributed to researchers around the world, says South Dakota Board of Regents' Claude Garelik. He noted that live videoconference links are not new to the education community. "High definition is new technology to the industry, but we have been doing videoconferencing for a long time." DUSEL would be an interdisciplinary science lab created to study basic questions of modern science, such as the nature of dark matter and energy. NSF is evaluating design options for large-scale DUSEL facilities and construction could begin by 2014, says University of California, Berkeley's Kevin Lesko.

NIST Develops 'Dimmer Switch' for Superconducting Quantum Computing
NIST Tech Beat (04/27/10) Ost, Laura

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers have developed a "dimmer switch" for a superconducting circuit that links a quantum bit and a quantum resonant cavity, known as a bus, which could be used to store and transport information in quantum computers. The researchers say the device can tune interactions between these components and could help accelerate the development of a practical quantum computer. The advance could allow researchers to control the interactions between many circuit elements. The NIST switch is the first to produce predictable quantum behavior over time with the controllable exchange of an individual microwave photon between a qubit and a bus. "We have three different elements all working together, coherently, and without losing a lot of energy," says Colorado University-Boulder's Michael Allman, who performed the experiments with NIST physicist Ray Simmonds.

UK Competition Aims to Find Future Cyber-Security Experts
Tech Watch (UK) (04/29/10) Allan, Darren

A group of businesses, police, and government organizations in Great Britain have launched the Cyber Security Challenge UK as part of an effort to improve cybersecurity in the country. Challenge participants will take tests on how to defend networks and identify security vulnerabilities in Web site code, among other things, to determine whether they have the skills needed for a career in cybersecurity. Those who pass the tests will then undergo head-to-head challenges. Participants who do well on the challenges may then be eligible to receive training and scholarships so that they can further develop their cybersecurity skills. The launch of the Cyber Security Challenge UK comes in the wake of the release of a report from the House of Lords that found that future wars will increasingly involve cyberattacks. The report also criticized other European nations for not doing enough to boost cybersecurity.

5 (More) Google Labs Projects That Should Be on Your Radar
CIO (04/27/10) Burnham, Kristin

Google Labs has recently developed or acquired several new application and tool prototypes. For example, Aardvark is a social search tool that can find answers to users' questions by asking people in their networks. Users can access Aardvark via the Web, instant messenger programs, Twitter, and iPhone applications. Google's Public Data Explorer aims to make datasets easy to communicate and explore. The tool enables users to preview how the information in datasets has changed over time. Gesture search is a tool specifically for Android phones designed to help users quickly find a contact or application from all the items stored in the phone by drawing a letter of the alphabet on the touchscreen, which eliminates the need to rely on the keyboard for search purposes. Google Reader Play is a way to browse articles, blogs, and other items on the Web. The program identifies the most interesting pages on the Internet using the recommended items feed in Reader. Follow Finder is the first Twitter tool that Google has released. The tool analyzes public social graph information on Twitter to find people a user might want to follow.

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