Welcome to the March 12, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Researchers Demonstrate New Chip Technology Which Can Help Manufacture Quantum Computing Components Researchers Demonstrate New Chip Technology Which Can Help Manufacture Quantum Computing Components
March 11, 2018

Researchers at Peking University in China and the University of Bristol in the U.K. have demonstrated a large-scale integrated quantum photonic circuit, which may clear a path for manufacturing massive components for an optical quantum computer. "Our quantum chip allows us to reach unprecedented levels of precision and control of multidimensional entanglement, a key factor in many quantum information tasks of computing and communication," said Bristol's Jianwei Wang. The team was able to integrate 550 optical components in a single chip, allowing it to entangle photons to extremely high levels of precision. The chip was built via a scalable silicon photonics technology, and a study by the researchers said the device sets a new standard for complexity and precision of quantum photonics. "The development of powerful large-scale integrated photonic quantum chips will provide an efficient route to the future applications in the fields of quantum communication, quantum computing, and many others," noted Peking University's Qihuang Gong.

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New Algorithm Allows for Potential 'Brain-Reading'
Digital Journal
Tim Sandle
March 11, 2018

Researchers at the D'Or Institute for Research and Education in Brazil have developed a machine learning algorithm capable of identifying pieces of music from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of the listener. The team first mapped brain responses triggered by listening to the music, and then used the collected information to identify novel musical pieces based on fMRI imaging data alone. FMRI visualizes cerebral blood flow and neuronal activation, because when an area of the brain is in use, blood flow to that region increases. The implication of the research is that by interpreting the right mapping of musical features to the brain, scientists can predict and decode any unique musical piece. The researchers say the model was based on analyzing six participants who listened to 40 distinct pieces of music. Through this method, the algorithm encoded the listeners' fMRI responses for individual pieces of music, evaluating specific features such as tonality, dynamics, rhythm, and timbre.

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For Blind Gamers, Equal Access to Racing Video Games For Blind Gamers, Equal Access to Racing Video Games
Columbia University
March 6, 2018

Brian Smith, a computer science student in Columbia Engineering, the engineering and applied science school of Columbia University, has created a new system to help the visually impaired play racing video games. The audio-based interface, called racing auditory display (RAD), uses novel sonification techniques to help players with turning and understanding a car's speed. Together, these approaches enable players to understand enough aspects about the race to form a plan of action. Smith worked with 15 participants recruited through Helen Keller Services for the Blind and volunteers at Columbia to integrate the RAD into a prototype for a racing game he built in Unity, a popular game engine. He will present his paper at the ACM CHI 2018 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 21–26 in Montreal, Canada.

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Graphene Opens Up New Applications for Microscale Resonators
Chemical & Engineering News
Dexter Johnson
March 9, 2018

Case Western Reserve University researchers have built resonators from a single layer of graphene that tolerate high temperatures and operate across a wide spectrum of frequencies. The team concentrated on graphene's negative thermal expansion coefficient, which means the material shrinks when heated, instead of expanding as silicon does. The researchers carved circular cavities from a layer of silicon oxide on silicon chips, and then positioned flakes of graphene across the cavities to produce graphene drumheads. The resulting device can contract and increase its tension in different temperature environments, thus changing its frequencies and operating at temperatures topping 900 degrees Celsius. "The broad tuning range made available by graphene's shrinking at higher temperatures means one device can cover a much wider range than before," notes Case Western professor Philip Feng. Argonne National Laboratory's Anirudha Sumant says this work is important, given that most microscale resonators are developed at low or room temperature.

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Research Team Explores the Melding of Concepts From Different Fields Research Team Explores the Melding of Concepts From Different Fields
March 12, 2018

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan explored how seemingly dissimilar concepts in scientific disciplines combine to become universal approaches. The team compared the concepts of agent-based modeling (often used in the computer sciences) and individual-based modeling (mainly used in ecology). Kyoto's Christian E. Vincenot determined both concepts are founded on the same principle, and are used to study complex systems by modeling a single individual and then scaling up to a larger group. He theorizes that three elements are necessary for fusion to happen: researchers must be aware of issues in different fields; common language, terminology, and software must be developed; and more unified theories have to be cultivated. "We need more transcendental theories, which serve as frameworks for sciences, to develop in a self-sustaining manner," Vincenot contended. "Basically, we must interpret current results and use them as building blocks to recursively create new theories."

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Glimmers of Hope for Women in the Male-Dominated Tech Industry
Sarah McBride
March 8, 2018

The population of female students studying technology at certain U.S. colleges offers some indication of progress in diversifying a traditionally male-dominated sector, with female enrollment at other elite technical schools even more encouraging. "All of the most important challenges facing the world will require computer scientists to help solve them, and diverse teams find better solutions," says Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe. "The only way to meet the growing demand for people with [computer science (CS)] knowledge and skills is to attract people who are not well-represented now, e.g., women and people of color." However, only 18 percent of undergraduate CS degrees are currently earned by women, versus 34 percent in the early 1980s. "The leading programs have been earlier to recognize [women's CS interest] as something that deserves attention and also may have had the resources to do something about it," notes University of Washington's Ed Lazowska (recipient of the ACM Distinguished Service Award for 2009).

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Crosstalk in Social Dilemmas Could Hinder Cooperation
March 8, 2018

Researchers at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST) and their collaborators at several U.S. universities believe a new mathematical framework that accounts for crosstalk and embeds the effects of players' interactions in simulations of repeated social dilemmas can improve analysis of population cooperation dynamics. "A player's decision is subject to 'crosstalk' when an interaction that a player has in one repeated game influences how the very same player behaves in another repeated game," they note. To measure crosstalk's impact, the team represented the population's structure by configuring players on a graph, and their findings demonstrated that in the presence of crosstalk, even one defective player can trigger total cooperative breakdown. "Nevertheless, cooperation can prevail if the population is structured and if subjects are sufficiently forgiving," the researchers say. In addition, they note "crosstalk also necessitates strategies with the 'correct' level of forgiveness: too harsh, and you end up with a society where no one cooperates, too generous, and defection can also spread as players learn to take advantage of other players."

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Computer Model Describes the 'Architecture of Life' Computer Model Describes the 'Architecture of Life'
Technology Networks
Lindsay Brownell
March 9, 2018

Researchers at Harvard University's Wyss Institute say they have used a new holistic multiscale modeling technique to demonstrate the application of tensegrity ("tensional integrity") principles across various levels of size and structural complexity within living cells. Tensegrity principles are used in nature to stabilize the shapes of living cells and determine their response to mechanical forces. The modeling method considers each model as a series of mathematical operations that can dynamically change in response to different inputs, enabling data from different size scales and formats to be combined within a single multiscale model built from the bottom-up and top-down concurrently. "This is the first study, to our knowledge, that demonstrates the mechanical continuity, strain transfer, and conformational changes that result from chemical energy release from the atomic scale up through the whole-cell level, as well as how tensegrity guides those changes to drive cellular movement," says Harvard professor Donald Ingber.

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Big Data Shows Women Engineers Downplay Coding Skills Big Data Shows Women Engineers Downplay Coding Skills
IEEE Spectrum
Jeremy Hsu
March 8, 2018

A study by Stanford University's Raviv Murciano-Goroff estimates that female engineers contributing to open source software websites are about 10 percent less likely than males to self-report their coding skills in job candidate profiles. The research suggests recruiters give women's profiles about 12.37 percent less attention than men's profiles, even for seasoned coders who both self-report programming skills and have those skills independently verified by the recruiting platform's algorithms. Murciano-Goroff identified the disparity in self-reporting among women and men engineers with apparently similar experience in coding languages such as JavaScript, Ruby, C#, PHP, and Python. A possible factor underlying this trend is a confidence gap among young women compared with men when evaluating their own skills. However, the possibility also exists of women engineers intentionally omitting certain languages from their self-reported list if they are less interested in jobs requiring them to use those specific languages.

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With Laser Light, Scientists Create First X-Ray Holographic Images of Viruses
March 7, 2018

An international team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory has developed a new holographic method called in-flight holography. The new method enabled the team to exhibit X-ray holograms of nano-sized viruses not attached to any surface. The researchers used a nano-sized sphere as reference X-ray scatterers to obtain depth information and details about the shape of the nanovirus. "Instead of thousands of steps and algorithms that potentially don't match up, you have a two-step procedure where you clearly get the structure out of your image," said lead study author Tais Gorkhover of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and a researcher at Stanford University's PULSE Institute. Project researchers concluded in-flight holography will offer additional approaches to investigate air pollution, combustion, and catalytic processes.

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Deep-Learning System Generates Specific Genre-Based Music Deep-Learning System Generates Specific Genre-Based Music
University of the Basque Country (Spain)
March 5, 2018

Researchers at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) in Spain have developed a method for automatically generating new music based on a collection of tunes used in bertso (a type of extemporaneous sung Basque verse-making). The research focuses on voice signal comprehension, computer vision, browsing, and the generation of new musical melodies. Although many methods based on grammars or statistical models have been developed for music generation, UPV/EHU researcher Izaro Goienetxea says melodic coherence must be accounted for to generate melodies that are easy to understand, and the system must ensure "that certain segments are repeated within the new melodies, not only on the note level but also on other more abstract melodic levels." The UPV/EHU team has developed two new methods--one that classifies music according to genre, based on a new way of representing music and works by grouping together similar bertso tunes, and another that generates new melodies in the "style" of melodies in the clusters of bertso tunes.

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AI Cheats at Old Atari Games by Finding Unknown Bugs in the Code AI Cheats at Old Atari Games by Finding Unknown Bugs in the Code
New Scientist
Jacob Aron
February 27, 2018

Researchers at the University of Freiburg in Germany have developed an algorithm that plays eight Atari games and advances within them using two methods. In one method, the algorithm dispenses with trying to win and instead baits an enemy into killing itself before committing self-destruction as well, scoring just enough points to advance. The other strategy exploits bugs that enable the algorithm to cheat. Google DeepMind's algorithms were taught to learn gameplay by observing the pixels on screen, while the Freiburg team applied "evolution strategy." The process begins with an initial approach for playing the game, then at each point in time randomly alters or mutates the strategy to produce new ones. The algorithm assesses which of these "offspring" strategies realizes the highest score, then further mutates the best-performing ones at the next time-step. Over time, evolution guarantees the best strategies, or at least the most successful ones, are dominant.

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