Welcome to the June 21, 2017 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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The Russian flag Russian Students Dominate at the Computer Programming Olympics
Samuel Blackstone
June 18, 2017

Russian and Chinese student teams won most of the top spots in the 41st annual ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) World Finals in May, and their lower-ranked U.S. counterparts attribute this disparity mainly to the fact the winners start learning computer programming much earlier. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology professor Larry Pyeatt says one factor in foreign programmers' ascendancy has been cuts to U.S. computer science programs due to funding issues. Pyeatt also says on a trip to Russia earlier this year, he observed stark differences between U.S. and Russian education in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. "[Educators] start about four years earlier preparing [students] for STEM fields," Pyeatt notes. The first-place prize went to a team from the St. Petersburg National Research University for Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, which solved 10 problems in the shortest time period.

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World Record in Information Retrieval From Satellite Data
Technical University of Munich (Germany)
June 20, 2017

Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany used new algorithms to set a world record in information retrieval from satellite data. TUM professor Xiaoxiang Zhu and colleagues were able to reconstruct four-dimensional (4D) point clouds with a density of 3 million points for every square kilometer. The researchers employed the TerraSAR-X satellite's 250-meter orbital variations in radar tomography to localize every point in three-dimensional (3D) space, and Zhu notes the application of additional compressive sensing can improve image resolution by a factor of 15. Her team has used this method to produce highly accurate 3D models of Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Paris, and Berlin. The researchers plan to use the technique to chart precise 4D models of all cities worldwide. "The method is suitable for the detection of danger points," Zhu says. "Satellite technology can thus make an important contribution to making our urban infrastructure safer."

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3D illustration of a molecule Unlock Molecular Secrets With Mobile Game BioBlox2D
Imperial College London
Hayley Dunning
June 20, 2017

BioBlox2D, developed by researchers at Imperial College London and Goldsmiths, University of London in the U.K., is a new free mobile computer game inspired by addressing how molecules fit together, which is one of the hardest problems in biological science. The researchers say BioBlox2D turns the science of how proteins fit together into a Tetris-style puzzle game and quiz. Players manipulate and dock molecules into proteins to score points and earn bonus powers in a race against time. They designed the game to be fun but also a valuable education tool for sharing the importance of protein research. The researchers are also releasing a three-dimensional version at the same time as the two-dimensional version. BioBlox3D aims to crowdsource the protein docking problem through citizen science challenges. The researchers say the game could provide the framework for people to create citizen science challenges to crowdsource the search for new drug molecules.

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Man holding smart doll Smart Doll Fitted With AI Chip Can Read Your Child's Emotions
New Scientist
Timothy Revell
June 20, 2017

Researchers at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain have developed a doll equipped with a new computer chip that can run artificially intelligent (AI) algorithms, and have programmed it to recognize emotions in facial images captured by a small camera. The doll can recognize eight emotions, including surprise and happiness, all while running on a small battery without doing any processing in the cloud. "In the near future, we will see a myriad of eyes everywhere that will not just be watching us, but trying to help us," says University of Castilla-La Mancha professor and project leader Oscar Deniz. He says one advantage of the new chip not needing the Internet to function is privacy. In addition, Deniz says operating computer-vision algorithms locally is important for other potential applications, such as in self-driving cars. Boston University's Massimiliano Versace notes moving away from dependence on the cloud is a vital step for AI.

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X-Ray Eyes in the Sky
The UC Santa Barbara Current
Sonia Fernandez
June 19, 2017

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) have demonstrated three-dimensional (3D) imaging of objects through walls using Wi-Fi signals. The technique involves two drones working in tandem, and could be used in emergency search-and-rescue missions, archaeological discovery, and structural monitoring. The approach utilizes only Wi-Fi RSSI measurements, requires no prior measurement in the area of interest, and does not need objects to move to be imaged, notes UCSB professor Yasamin Mostofi. In the experiment, two autonomous octocopters take off and fly outside a house whose interior is unknown to the drones. One drone continuously transmits a Wi-Fi signal, the received power of which is measured by the other drone. The drones employ the imaging methodology to reveal the area behind the walls and generate high-resolution 3D images of the objects inside. "Our proposed approach has enabled unmanned aerial vehicles to image details through walls in 3D with only Wi-Fi signals," Mostofi says.

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World's Most Powerful Particle Collider Taps AI to Expose Hack Attacks
Scientific American
Jesse Emspak
June 19, 2017

Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research's (CERN) Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are using machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) to stay ahead of hackers attempting to compromise the LHC's worldwide computing grid. Andres Gomez's cybersecurity unit is educating its machine-learning algorithms to distinguish between normal and abnormal behavior on the grid, and to notify staff of abnormal network traffic via email, phone text, or computer message. Innate challenges in the grid's defense include supporting a policy of non-interference with the sharing of processing power and data storage, while another concern is whether there may be malware on the computers of researchers linking into the grid. The initial test will focus on the grid segment used by A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE). F-Secure researcher Jarno Niemela says a major risk Gomez and his team face is whether they can develop AIs that can tell the difference between normal and damaging activity on the network without triggering too many false alarms.

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A Navy ship New Operating System Will Improve Navy Computing Power
Office of Naval Research
Warren Duffie Jr.
June 20, 2017

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University professor Binoy Ravindran has developed Popcorn Linux, a prototype operating system for compiling different coding languages into one, with support from the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR). Popcorn Linux can be used with any computer or device, and it can translate generic coding languages into multiple specialized languages, and then automatically determine what segments of programming code are needed to perform specific tasks; the system then transfers these instruction "kernels" to the appropriate function. Ravindran says Popcorn Linux exhibits good performance speed and power use in testing, while later this year his team will collaborate with industry partners to meet Navy and Marine Corps standards. "By applying Popcorn Linux to longtime, legacy Navy and Marine Corps computer systems, we can improve software without requiring thousands of man-hours to rewrite millions of lines of code," says ONR's Wen Masters.

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Thousands of Fort Mac Fire Tweets Show Evacuees Struggled for Online Answers
UToday (Canada)
Michael Platt
June 19, 2017

Researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada analyzed nearly 70,000 tweets sent out by evacuees escaping the Fort McMurray wildfire last May, and they learned the concerns of citizens are not being answered by current smartphone emergency apps. The researchers found the most pressing needs and questions failed to match up with features being provided via smartphone software. Calgary's Maleknaz Nayebi says there are 26 apps for wildfires in North America and Australia, but they do not have the features people really want. The researchers want to provide software developers with a better sense of what people really need in a crisis. To accomplish this, they developed MAPFEAT (Mining APp FEAtures from Tweets), which analyzed tweets sent out during the emergency and then matched the most commonly repeated queries with existing mobile application software. The study was published online last month through the ACM/IEEE 39th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2017) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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New Technique Makes Brain Scans Better
MIT News
Anne Trafton
June 20, 2017

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have collaborated with physicians in several hospitals to improve magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan quality for use in large studies of stroke victims' genetic underpinnings and their responses to treatment. The team devised a method to extract information from a vast dataset of patient MRIs to reconstruct anatomical features absent from other scans. "The key idea is to generate an image that is anatomically plausible, and to an algorithm looks like one of those research scans, and is completely consistent with clinical images that were acquired," says MIT professor Polina Golland. She says scientists can then run a series of analytical algorithms to examine anatomical features. "In a sense, this is a scaffold that allows us to bring the image into the collection as if it were a high-resolution image, and then make measurements only on the pixels where we have the information," Golland says.

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What's New in Google's Go 1.9 Language
Paul Krill
June 16, 2017

The 1.9 iteration of Google's Go language, scheduled for release in August, is expected to enhance performance, compilation, and scaling to large code bases. Go 1.9's developers say programs should run faster thanks to upgrades in the garbage collector, better-generated code, and core library optimizations. In addition, the Go 1.9 compiler supports default parallel compilation of functions, exploiting multiple processor cores while also retaining the go command's support for parallel compilation of separate packages. The addition of transparent monotonic time support makes computing durations between two Time values a safe process in the presence of wall-clock adjustments. Meanwhile, scalability is improved via Go 1.9's support for type-alias declaration for gradual code repair while transferring a type between packages. The deployment of type aliases delivers a transition period in which the application programming interface is available from both new and old packages, making references to old and new versions compatible.

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An sign about manners Government Researchers Hope to Teach New Robots Some of the Old Tricks of Etiquette
Live Science
Kacey Deamer
June 15, 2017

Researchers at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are working on a project to enable robots to learn human etiquette. The researchers studied how humans recognize and react to social norms, and developed a machine-learning algorithm that enables a robot to learn these "manners" by drawing on human data. Thanks to this research, the team thinks an artificially intelligent system could eventually intuit how to behave in certain situations, just as people do. "If we're going to get along as closely with future robots, driverless cars, and virtual digital assistants in our phones and homes as we envision doing so today, then those assistants are going to have to obey the same norms we do," says DARPA program manager Reza Ghanadan. He says the project has developed a framework for this type of machine learning, but there is still more work to be done.

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The Python Programming Language Grows in Popularity
SD Times
Christina Cardoza
June 15, 2017

Python is becoming increasingly popular as an enterprise production programming language, with ThoughtWorks consultant Zhamak Dehghani noting a "perfect storm of a few technologies coming together and giving rise to Python again, and trying to get it in more enterprise environments." Dehghani says the maturation of Python 3, microservices and other new architectural strategies, and artificial intelligence are converging so enterprises can use Python across the development lifecycle. Python 3, for example, sought to address performance and concurrency issues while also easing learning and usage. ThoughtWorks' Neal Ford cites Python's utilitarianism and use in "solving bigger kinds of problems" as its primary advantages. The Python Software Foundation's board of directors points to the language's versatility, and its use in various domains, including system operations, Web development, deployment, and scientific modeling. The board also notes Python should expand its mobile platform presence, and C-Python could perform better on multiple cores for parallel processes.

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New MareNostrum Supercomputer Reflects Processor Choices Confronting HPC Users
Michael Feldman
June 21, 2017

In an interview, Sergi Girona, director of operations at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center (BSC) in Spain discusses how the fourth-generation MareNostrum supercomputer uses heterogeneous processors, unlike its single-processor-based predecessors. Girona says the MareNostrum 4 will be capable of performing 13,400 billion operations a second, of which 11.15 petaflops will expand BSC's daily tasks and in-house research. The bulk of the computing capacity also will be accessible to Spanish and European scientists via the Spanish Supercomputing Network and PRACE. Girona says the supercomputer sub-clusters for emerging technologies will be used to determine the best option for future MareNostrum updates so the maximum possible performance can be realized at the appropriate time. "There is no doubt that this wide range of latest-generation technologies is very attractive for researchers undertaking pioneering research in the field of computer architecture and computer science in general," Girona says.

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MIT Advances in Imaging

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