MS in Data Science
Welcome to the February 12, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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White House Earmarks New Money for AI, Quantum Computing
The New York Times
Cade Metz
February 10, 2020

White House officials have proposed boosting federal funding for developing artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing, which defense officials believe will be critical to future national security. The plan would raise funding for AI research at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from $50 million to $249 million, and at the National Science Foundation (NSF) from about $500 million to $850 million. The Trump administration also pledged to double funding for non-Defense Department AI and quantum computing research by 2022. The NSF plans to use $50 million of the new funding to train AI experts, while the Department of Energy hopes to use $25 million to build a national "quantum Internet" connecting its 17 research laboratories.

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A bug entering the system. Tool Spots Slowdown from Software Updates
Texas A&M Today
Vandana Suresh; Stephanie Jones
February 11, 2020

Texas A&M University researchers and Intel Labs computer scientists have developed an automated tool to track down the source of computer errors induced by software updates. Their deep learning algorithm diagnoses performance regressions resulting from such updates in a manner compatible with many software and programming languages. The algorithm simultaneously monitors data from numerous performance counters by reducing the size of the data, and seeks abnormal patterns indicative of errors. The researchers think the tool could be applied to the development of autonomous vehicle technology. Texas A&M's Abdullah Muzahid said, "Self-driving cars must be able to detect whether a car or a human is in front of it and then act accordingly. So, it's again a form of anomaly detection and ... that is what our algorithm is already designed to do."

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Students working on questions on the board Google, LinkedIn, Others Send Employees Into New York Classrooms
The Wall Street Journal
Kate King
February 9, 2020

Tech companies with offices in New York City—including Google, LinkedIn, and Spotify—are sending their employees to teach 22 computer science courses at the City University of New York (CUNY) this semester. The instructors were recruited through a city program called Tech-in-Residence Corps, which aims to help the university meet the increasing demand for technology classes such as data analytics, data science, and cybersecurity. To date, more than 1,500 students have taken 73 classes across nine CUNY campuses through the Tech-in-Residence Corps, which started in spring 2018. The goal is for CUNY students to learn technology skills needed in the market, and that technology companies will give greater consideration to hiring graduates of CUNY.

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Engineers Built a Stable Quantum Silicon Chip From Artificial Atoms
ScienceAlert (Australia)
Michelle Starr
February 11, 2020

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have found a way to make artificial atoms on a silicon chip more stable by drawing in additional electrons to the atoms' outer shell, which in turn could produce more consistent quantum bits (qubits). Building on previous work that led to the very first qubits on a silicon chip, the researchers found a way to minimize the error rate caused by imperfections in the silicon. "Up until now, imperfections in silicon devices at the atomic level have disrupted the way qubits behave, leading to unreliable operation and errors," said UNSW's Ross Leon. Added UNSW's Andrew Dzurak, "Artificial atoms with a higher number of electrons turn out to be much more robust qubits than previously thought possible, meaning they can be reliably used for calculations in quantum computers."

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Deep Learning Accurately Forecasts Heat Waves, Cold Spells
Rice University
Jade Boyd
February 4, 2020

Rice University engineers have developed a computer system that used deep learning to teach itself to accurately predict extreme weather events like heat waves and cold spells, based on a minimal amount of weather data. Rice's capsule neural network studied hundreds of pairs of maps during training, with each map displaying surface temperatures and air pressures at five-kilometer elevations, several days apart. After training, the network could examine previously unseen maps and produce five-day extreme weather projections with 85% accuracy. The researchers think the network eventually could function as an early warning system for weather forecasters, as well as a tool for learning more about the atmospheric precursors of extreme weather.

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The aluminium cab of all-new 2015 F-150 pick-up truck moves down the robot assembly line at the Ford Rouge Center U.S. Companies Cut Back on Robots in 2019
Timothy Aeppel
February 11, 2020

U.S. companies installed fewer robots last year compared to 2018, according to a report from the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). Robot shipments declined more than 16% year-over-year to 23,758, in the wake of a manufacturing downturn driven by trade wars and softer demand. A3 vice president Alexander Shikany said he doubts the slowdown will last much longer, as orders for new robots in North America rose last year by 1.6% to 29,988 units. Automakers fueled most of that growth, increasing orders for robots by more than 50%. Shikany said car manufacturers have made robots part of their investment strategy to enable the next wave of automotive technology.

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Software Engineering Salaries Jump, Demand for AR/VR Expertise Skyrockets
IEEE Spectrum
Tekla S. Perry
February 11, 2020

The Hired job site's annual report on the employment landscape for software engineers found that demand for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) engineers rose 1,400% last year over the year before, with salaries for those roles increasing to between $135,000 and $150,000 in major U.S. technology hubs. Both gaming engineers and computer-vision engineers saw a 146% surge in demand last year, while demand for blockchain developers fell from 517% growth in 2018 to just 9% in 2019. The biggest salary jump for software engineers was in London with 13% year-over-year growth, followed by Toronto and New York at 7%, and the San Francisco Bay Area at 6%.

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Software Can Detect Cyberattacks on Smart Home Devices
The Daily Mail (U.K.)
Ian Randall
February 10, 2020

Researchers at Cardiff University in the U.K. have created software that can detect cyberattacks on smart home devices. The software uses normal behavior on a home network as a baseline for identifying malicious activity. It can detect attacks to products like an Amazon Echo Dot and an Apple TV set-top box. The researchers set up a simulated smart device network and subjected it to common cyberattack strategies, including man-in-the-middle and denial-of-service attacks; the software identified the attacks with at least 90% accuracy. Cardiff's Pete Burnap said, "The overarching goal ... is to pave the way for proactive and cost-saving cyber defenses, maximizing the potential for [artificial intelligence] in cybersecurity in line with the objectives of the U.K.'s industrial strategy."

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Occupational Gender Bias Prevalent in Online Images, Rutgers Study Finds
Rutgers Today
Megan Schumann
February 6, 2020

A study by Rutgers University researchers found that digital and social media platforms are rife with gender bias and stereotypes corresponding to certain occupations. The researchers analyzed search results for images of people in four occupations on Twitter,, Wikipedia, and Shutterstock, then compared those results to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' gender representation data for each occupation. They found endemic overrepresentation of women as librarians and nurses, and underrepresentation as computer coders and civil engineers, especially when an algorithm collects and curates content. The researchers said search results on platforms where individuals more directly generate and curate content are more likely to defy stereotypes. Rutgers' Mary Chayko said, "Understanding the prevalence and patterns of bias and stereotypes in online images is essential, and can help us challenge, and hopefully someday break, these stereotypes."

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An autonomous vehicle Self-Driving the Longest Route Yet
University of Leeds
February 5, 2020

A self-driving vehicle has completed a 230-mile drive along roads in Britain as part of a project overseen by researchers at the U.K.'s University of Leeds and automaker Nissan. The HumanDrive consortium's Grand Drive initiative tested autonomous technology activated during the autonomous drive to change lanes, merge, and stop and start when required, using human-like control systems developed at Leeds. Researchers had collected data on driver behavior through simulations at Leeds' Virtuocity Center, which developers integrated into the autonomous driving system. Further simulation helped refine the system to perform more natural driving, giving the researchers insights into how human-like and personal a driverless vehicle should behave. U.K. business minister Nadhim Zahawi said, "Safely completing the longest autonomous drive in Britain is ... a huge step towards the rollout of driverless cars on U.K. streets."

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Researchers Uncover Potential Cancer-Causing Mutations in Genes' Control Switches
Princeton University
Molly Sharlach
February 5, 2020

Princeton University researchers used algorithms to analyze the role that noncoding DNA mutations play in cancer, as part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium's Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project. The researchers employed seven pathway and network analysis techniques to examine noncoding regions of genome sequences from more than 2,500 cancer patients. The researchers concentrated on sequences that do not code for proteins, but rather signal cellular mechanisms to activate and deactivate genes. The algorithms sought genetic mutations within shared pathways and networks, and discovered 93 genes with potential driver mutations in their noncoding regions—of which just 19 were previously known as cancer genes.

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A view of Rocinha Brazil Takes a Page From China, Taps Facial Recognition to Solve Crime
The Christian Science Monitor
Ana Ionova
February 11, 2020

Brazil is following China's example and adopting facial-recognition technology to crack down on crime. As a result, the country represents a potentially lucrative market for surveillance systems manufactured in China. In 2018, the Brazilian city of Campinas began using Huawei's facial-recognition cameras with the goal of "replicating" the company's "advanced public safety" model for smart cities, using artificial intelligence (AI) to sift through a dataset of biometric information, personal data, and social media images. When the AI identifies someone as a wanted suspect, the system notifies authorities via mobile phone so they can quickly arrest the individual. Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wang said no “compelling evidence” exists that such systems improve safety, adding that in an environment where lawmakers are still catching up on the capabilities of the technology, "it's easy for surveillance companies to move in."

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