Welcome to the August 31, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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New Texas Supercomputer to Push the Frontiers of Science
UT News
Aaron Dubrow
August 29, 2018

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a $60-million grant to the University of Texas at Austin's (UT Austin) Texas Advanced Computing Center for the acquisition and deployment of a supercomputer billed as the fastest at any U.S. university. The Frontera system will enable academic researchers to make important discoveries in all scientific disciplines when it goes online next summer. Frontera's initial projects are expected to include analyses of particle collisions from the Large Hadron Collider, global climate simulation, improved hurricane forecasting, and multi-messenger astronomy. The supercomputer will be in operation for five years, and will be used to test and demonstrate the feasibility of a future leadership-class system with 10 times the computing speed as a potential Phase 2 implementation. UT Austin's Gregory L. Fenves says the NSF grant "solidifies the University of Texas' reputation as the nation's leader in academic supercomputing."

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MIT-created Programming Language Julia 1.0 Debuts
MIT News
Sandi Miller
August 27, 2018

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have publicly introduced Julia 1.0, a free and open source programming language, six years after its release to developers. Julia is the only high-level dynamic programming language in the "petaflop club," realizing a speed of 1.5 petaflops/second using 1.3 million threads, 650,000 cores, and 9,300 Knights Landing nodes to catalog 188 million astronomical objects in 14.6 minutes on a supercomputer. Julia also powers applications as diverse as autonomous cars, additive printers, precision medicine, augmented reality, genomics, machine learning, and risk management. It has more than 700 active open source contributors, 1,900 registered packages, 41,000 GitHub stars, 2 million downloads, and a 101% annual rate of download growth. MIT's Alan Edelman says, "The release of Julia 1.0 signals that Julia is now ready to change the technical world by combining the high-level productivity and ease of use of Python and R with the lightning-fast speed of C++."

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A woman coding For Women Student Coders, DTech Provides Strength in Numbers
Duke Today
Miranda Volborth
August 27, 2018

The Duke Technology Scholars (DTech) program, a collaboration between Duke University's Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and the Pratt School of Engineering, aims to close the gender gap in the technology industry. DTech serves women in computer science and engineering by connecting them to opportunities for paid internships, shared housing, year-round training, professional development opportunities, and access to a network of mentors who are deeply invested in their professional success. This year, DTech expanded into North Carolina's Research Triangle, an area with three major research universities and one of the largest research and development parks in the world. To date, every graduate of the DTech program has continued on the path to a technology-related career. DTech faculty director Shaundra Daily said, "We believe this reinforces that our strategies of mentorship, community, and skills-based training support young women in gaining the confidence and experience necessary to be successful after they graduate."

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Great white shark swimming toward camera Squishy Transistors for Shark-Like Electrical Sensors
IEEE Spectrum
Dexter Johnson
August 27, 2018

University of Utah researchers used hydrogels to create flexible, stretchable switches for transistors, demonstrating their use as a structural and functional material for embedding nanoparticles in electronic devices. The team had to determine the appropriate blend of hydrogel structural compliance and gold nanoparticle density to enable large changes in the switch's resistance when it was activated and deactivated. The University of Utah's Massood Tabib-Azar said the most valuable uses for the hydrogel switches will probably be within biomimetic sensors in which electronic devices mimic living organisms, in this case a shark. Tabib-Azar said while hydrogels do not mirror the characteristics of silicon-based switches, the field is still in its infancy. “What this does is open up a window for exploring different nanoparticles as switch materials.”

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Code on dark background in code editor In Tight Labor Market, Inmates Learn to Code
The Wall Street Journal
Kris Maher
August 28, 2018

A program called The Last Mile is teaching prison inmates in Indiana and at six correctional facilities in California to code, to help fill tech jobs and prevent recidivism. At the Indiana Women's Prison, classes are held five days a week, with inmates learning to build Websites and write code. Participants complete about 800 hours of programming during the year-long course, organizers say. Of the 50 people who completed the program in California and were released, all are employed, according to The Last Mile. The organization’s co-founder (and former inmate) Kenyatta Leal said, "Many of the tech companies see the value of what we're bringing to the community." Leal says The Last Mile is in discussions to bring the coding program to prisons in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

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Digital Platform by NYU Tandon, Frick Collection Brings Art History Research Into the Digital Age
NYU Tandon School of Engineering
August 27, 2018

A collaboration between researchers in the New York University (NYU) Tandon School of Engineering's Visualization Imaging and Data Analytics research center and art historians at New York City’s Frick Art Reference Library has yielded an open source digital software platform for art curation and sharing among museums and others. The ARIES platform, available for free on ARtImageExplorationSpace.com, streamlines the exploration, analysis, and organization of digital collections by enabling experts to manipulate images. The researchers say the tool can be used by anyone whose work involves manipulating and comparing images. ARIES also has a toolkit that allows users to zoom features, filter images, add annotations, change lenses, select and tag images, and share collections. NYU Tandon's Claudio Silva said, "Because ARIES is also Web-based, it is portable and free of the complexities of installing a system. This is especially important for our target users, who have little or no expertise in computing."

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If Military Robot Falls, It Can Get Itself Up
Army Research Laboratory
August 24, 2018

U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) researchers have developed software to ensure that if a military robot falls to the ground, it can right itself. The team applied software to the Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS), a new line of Explosive Ordnance Disposal robots with a modular open systems framework. JHU/APL researcher Galen Mullins said the software relies on an adaptive sampling algorithm that seeks transitions. "We were looking for states where the robot could transition from a stable configuration to an unstable one, thus causing the robot to tip over,” said Mullins. “My techniques were able to effectively predict where those transitions might be so that we could search the space efficiently." The team found the software permitted AEODRS robots to right themselves on level ground, irrespective of their initial state.

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Stalk of yellow corn in corn field Researchers Use Crowdsourcing to Speed Data Analysis in Corn Plants
Iowa State University News Service
Fred Love
August 24, 2018

Iowa State University researchers used crowdsourcing to train a computer model to identify the tassels of corn plants from a vast number of photographic images. The crowdsourcing effort produced similar results to those of trained plant scientists and yielded an algorithm that the researchers say will greatly reduce the time it takes to derive useful metrics from massive datasets. The researchers used Amazon Mechanical Turk to find participants for the study, who received instructions to identify tassels in dozens of images of corn by drawing a square around them, and then used those labeled images to train a computer to identify tassels in similar corn images. The researchers said this approach could generate similar results for other types of plants.

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AI, Electronic Health Records Could Help Suicide Prevention Efforts
Swansea University
Kathy Thomas
August 24, 2018

Researchers at Swansea University in the U.K. used artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze health information to identify patients most vulnerable to suicide. Explained Swansea's Marcos del Pozo Banos, "We wanted to see if we could develop an algorithm that analyzes routinely collected health data to flag people, so that when patients present with seemingly unrelated conditions, practitioners can ask them appropriate questions about their thoughts and feelings if required." The researchers used Swansea's SAIL Databank to obtain information about more than 2,000 suicides in Wales since 2001. Del Pozo Banos said AI can process millions of records with thousands of variables to build a risk model very quickly, and then process the health history of patients and highlight those who may be at risk. The preliminary results of using the algorithm were almost 75% accurate, which del Pozo Banos said was encouraging.

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Smoke coming from a wildfire in the hills of Ventura County, California BYU Researchers Develop a New Wildfire Smoke Emissions Model
BYU News (UT)
Todd Hollingshead
August 23, 2018

Brigham Young University (BYU) and Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have developed an advanced model that can help predict pollution caused by wildfire smoke. They say the research provides a physical model that can more reliably predict soot and smoke emissions from wildfires over a range of conditions. The new model uses detailed physics-based formulas to predict the initial formation of soot particles emitted during wildfires, providing foundational elements to validate more efficient models that can be applied on supercomputers at a reasonable computational cost. The research is aimed at helping wildfire management groups better know the impact of prescribed burns (one method of attenuating wildfires) on surrounding urban environments.

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How Cells Make Connections Could Impact Circadian Rhythm
Washington University in St. Louis
Beth Miller
August 27, 2018

Washington University in St. Louis researchers have developed a unified, data-driven computational approach to infer and reveal connections between human cells in biological and chemical oscillatory networks based on their time-series data. After the researchers establish this topology, they will be better able to infer how the cells in the network work together in synchrony, an important state for the brain. The new algorithm, called ICON (infer connections of networks), demonstrates the strength of these connections over time. Washington University's Erik Herzog said the researchers aim to use ICON to improve understanding of the principles behind how such cellular networks efficiently synchronize.

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Lithuania to Introduce Computer Science Lessons for Primary Schoolchildren
Mu Xuequan
August 28, 2018

About 100 Lithuanian schools will begin teaching informatics to elementary school students this September, according to Grazvydas Kazakevicius, Lithuania's deputy minister of education and science. Some primary schools in Lithuania already teach information technologies, but the subject will now be taught on a broader scale. Kazakevicius says education officials plan to introduce computer basics in all Lithuanian elementary schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The Employment Barometer 2018 of Lithuania's Labor Exchange authority ranks IT and computer specialists as being among the professions with the greatest employment opportunities in Lithuania.

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