Welcome to the January 29, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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synapse disordered ordered composite, illustration NIST's Superconducting Synapse May Be Missing Piece for 'Artificial Brains'
Laura Ost
January 26, 2018

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) say they have constructed a superconducting "synapse" switch that "learns" in the manner of a biological system and which could link processors and store memories in future computers that operate like the human brain. The team views the synapse as a key ingredient for neuromorphic computers, and it consists of a compact metallic cylinder 10 micrometers in diameter. The device processes incoming electrical spikes to tailor spiking output signals, with processing based on a flexible internal design that is experientially or environmentally tunable. The NIST synapse also fires 1 billion times a second--much more than a human synapse--while using only about one-10,000th as much energy. The researchers note the synapse would be employed in neuromorphic systems built from superconducting components, which can transmit electricity without resistance, with data transmitted, processed, and stored in units of magnetic flux.

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012918_RIANovosti. Alina Polyaninia_russianexper.jpg Russian Experts Submit 'Impenetrable' Smartphone Protection System
National Research Nuclear University
January 25, 2018

Researchers at the National Research Nuclear University in Russia have developed a system of continuous authentication of mobile device users based on behavioral biometrics. They say their method is more effective than passwords or fingerprints because it relies on continuous protection from outside interference without any additional user action. Behavioral biometric methods monitor a user's habitual parameters while handling a device, thereby determining who is using it. Every person has a unique style of handling a device, and the system is based on identifying those unique characteristics. In addition, the team says behavioral biometric features cannot be lost, copied, stolen, or faked, ensuring a high degree of protection. "The scientific novelty of our project is that for the first time we applied the technology for data analysis, machine learning, and artificial neural networks to provide continuous authentication of mobile device users according to their behavioral biometric characteristics," says National Research Nuclear University's Konstantin Kogos.

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simulation of colliding black holes Deep Learning Pioneered for Real-Time Gravitational Wave Discovery
Space Daily
January 29, 2018

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) have developed a method for using graphics processing unit-accelerated deep learning for detecting and characterizing gravitational waves. The researchers used deep learning algorithms, numerical relativity simulations of black hole mergers, and data from the LIGO Open Science Center to produce Deep Filtering, an end-to-end time-series signal processing method. Deep Filtering achieves similar sensitivities and lower error rates when compared to conventional gravitational wave detection algorithms, and is more computationally efficient and resilient to noise anomalies. The method enables faster-than-real-time processing of gravitational waves in LIGO's raw data, thanks to NCSA's Blue Waters supercomputer. In addition, the researchers created a demonstration to visualize the architecture of Deep Filtering, and gained insights into its neuronal activity during the detection and characterization of real gravitational wave events. Their research won first place in the ACM Student Research Competition at the SuperComputing 2017 (SC17) conference in Denver, CO last November.

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Dealing with HPC Correctness, illustration Dealing With HPC Correctness: Challenges and Opportunities
Ignacio Laguna; Ganesh Gopalakrishnan
January 25, 2018

Producing reliable high-performance computing (HPC) code is problematic due to the inherent difficulties of serial software, along with the challenges of growing heterogeneity, massive scales of computation, the use of combined parallel programming models that can cause non-intuitive behaviors, and the use of different compilers and optimizations. Addressing these challenges was the focus of the U.S. Department of Energy-funded HPC Correctness Summit and a SuperComputing 2017 (SC17) workshop. Among the summit report's findings was the need for rigorous specifications, debugging automation, and activities that address many aspects of HPC correctness, including reliable compilation, detecting data races, root-causing the sources of floating-point result variability, the combined use of static and dynamic analysis, a focus on libraries, and smart integrated development environments. The SC17 workshop emphasized the potential for applying formal methods to confirm small HPC program properties. Expert recommendations include the HPC community's acknowledgement that debugging enables performance optimizations and should be widely encouraged and funded.

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Security Is the Focus of New WPA Updates in 2018
All About Circuits
Chantelle Dubois
January 24, 2018

The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced improvements to the Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocol and the pending rollout of a new WPA3 protocol that should enhance network-connected devices' security and suitability to the changing networking environment. The alliance's proposed WPA2 revisions focus on ensuring better security and supporting WPA2's continued long-term use with the addition of Protected Management Frames (PMFs) on top of existing security protocols. PMFs will shield unicast frames from surveillance and forging, as well as shielding multicast frames from forging. Meanwhile, the WPA3 strategy should ease user network configuration, whether the networks are home- or enterprise-based. The Wi-Fi Alliance also plans to make these settings accessible even without display interfaces, and will include features to uphold protection even with passwords that do not meet minimum complexity requirements, delivering individual data encryption for devices connected to the network, and a 192-bit security suite to make WPA3 suitable for highly sensitive information in government, industrial, or security settings.

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glasses of wine Winemakers Turn to MIT to Save Pinot Noir in Warming Temperatures
Elin McCoy
January 23, 2018

Jean-Francois Hamel's research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology into whether vintners can use wild yeasts to cultivate better wines as temperatures rise has successfully yielded its first single-vineyard Oregon pinot. Hamel began in 2015 with a yeast census in several vineyard sites, sampling grapes that were subjected to mini-fermentation in plastic bioreactors, and tracking the groups of yeast and how they interacted. Hamel says climate change is driving the goal of changing the fermentation environment and increasing the longevity of non-Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts in order to reduce alcohol and add flavor diversity. Hamel next plans to focus on determining precisely how much oxygen is optimal during fermentation, and how to make adding it more finely-grained to get more control over the wine's ultimate alcohol level. In addition, Hamel says understanding a wine's microbiome will involve closer monitoring of the bacteria and other microbes in the vineyards' soil.

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Transient chip Technique Triggers Electronic Circuits to Self-Destruct
The Engineer (United Kingdom)
January 26, 2018

Researchers at Cornell University and Honeywell Aerospace say they have invented a method for triggering the discreet self-destruction of electronic circuits by using a silicon-dioxide microchip affixed to a polycarbonate shell containing microscopic cavities filled with rubidium and sodium biflouride, which can thermally react and decompose the microchip. Cornell's Ved Gund notes the reaction can be triggered remotely using radio waves to open graphene-on-nitride valves that keep the chemicals sealed in the cavities. "The encapsulated rubidium then oxidizes vigorously, releasing heat to vaporize the polycarbonate shell and decompose the sodium bifluoride," Gund says. "The latter controllably releases hydrofluoric acid to etch away the electronics." Cornell professor Amit Lal notes the stackable architecture enables the fabrication of "small, vaporizable, LEGO-like blocks to make arbitrarily large vanishing electronics." Because no harmful byproducts are released upon disintegration, the developers foresee biomedical and environmental applications for the method in addition to data protection.

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Eight Governors Join Coalition to Expand Computer Science Education
Emily Tate
January 23, 2018

The Governors' Partnership for K-12 Computer Science, a coalition committed to advancing computer science education, has added eight new members, bringing the total number of participants to 16 U.S. governors. In joining the partnership, the new members vow to prioritize policy, standards, and funding around computer science education. They say the overall goal is to set computer science standards and introduce the subject in schools in order to invest in the future workforce. For example, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb supports legislation that will require every K-12 school in his state to offer a computer science class by 2021. "Technology is changing the way every industry does business, and Indiana must ensure its young people are gaining the experience and skills they'll need to thrive after graduation," Holcomb says. Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has reinforced his state's commitment to computer science education, continuing efforts by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

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A line drawing mosaic of talking heads Scientists Work to Automate Quick Translation of Obscure Languages
USC News
Caitlin Dawson
January 23, 2018

Researchers at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI) have received a U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity grant to develop an automated tool for translating obscure languages under the Summarization and domain-Adaptive Retrieval (SARAL) project. "The overall objective is to provide a Google-like capability, except the queries are in English, but the retrieved documents are in a low-resource foreign language," says ISI team leader Scott Miller. "The aim is to retrieve relevant foreign-language documents and to provide English summaries explaining how each document is relevant to the English query." SARAL will begin by compiling documents in test languages, including speech, online documents, and video clips, which have been translated into English. The team will then develop algorithms to analyze language patterns and morphology, and the tool will be designed to respond to domain-specific queries, generating a summarized response of about 100 words describing the result's relevance to the search.

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Feedback Enhances Brainwave Control of a Novel Hand-Exoskeleton
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
Hillary Sanctuary
January 22, 2018

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, are developing a portable hand exoskeleton controlled by brainwaves to enhance brain-machine interfaces and possibly restore functional grasps for the physically impaired. The team says metal cables act as soft tendons along the backside of each finger of the hand exoskeleton, leaving the palm free to maximize sensations felt by the hand. A chest-pack contains motors that can push and pull on the different cables, flexing or extending the fingers. The researchers note the exoskeleton is adaptable by design, so the control interface can be customized to each patient's physical ability. There are several control interface options, including eye-movement monitoring, smartphone-based voice interfaces, and a headset that reads brainwave activity. During testing, the researchers found that exoskeleton-induced hand motions combined with a user-driven brain-machine interface led to strange brain patterns that could actually facilitate control of the device.

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Inverse-Design Approach Leads to Metadevices
Northwestern University Newscenter
Stephan Benzkofer
January 22, 2018

Researchers at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering say they have used inverse-design principles and a three-dimensional (3D) printer to produce highly efficient, non-resonant, broadband metadevices at millimeter-wave frequencies. "What we've achieved here is a new way of creating electromagnetic devices that achieve certain functions that conventionally seemed impossible to do," says Northwestern professor Prem Kumar. The team notes inverse design begins with a function, and queries the structure that is needed to achieve the desired outcome. The team used computer modeling, optimization software, and algorithms to generate metadevices that bend or focus millimeter waves while eliminating low efficiency, narrow bandwidth, and bulkiness. Kumar says the process is akin to machine learning and can lead to unexpected results, such as functionality over a wide bandwidth. Northwestern professor Koray Aydin notes the method is scalable from the microwave to the visible frequency range due to the flexibility of 3D printing.

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Connecting Computing Research With National Priorities
CCC Blog
Helen Wright
January 23, 2018

The last panel at the recent Computing Community Consortium Symposium sought to obtain multiple perspectives from people who have served or are currently serving in government. Panelist Patti Brennan from the U.S. National Institutes of Health discussed how computational services and fine-grained access control could more quickly address a mental health crisis and other healthcare issues. Meanwhile, Orange Silicon Valley's Will Barkis urged more investment in basic research and development to benefit society and support industry innovation, with an emphasis on the need for collaboration between academia, the public sector, and the private sector. The U.S. National Science Foundation's Jim Kurose talked about smart and connected communities and their benefits to their constituents, while citing the value of interdisciplinary research. Finally, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Bill Regli detailed the Heilmeier Catechism, a former DARPA director's questions to help agency officials consider and evaluate proposed research programs.

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Edmund Berkeley and the Social Responsibility of Computer Professionals
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