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Welcome to the August 5, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Frances Allen, the first woman to receive the ACM A.M. Turing Award. Frances E. Allen, First Female Recipient of ACM A.M. Turing Award, Dies at 88
IBM Research Blog
August 5, 2020

Frances Allen, the first female IBM Fellow and the first woman to be awarded the ACM A.M. Turing Award, has died at 88. A pioneer in compiler organization and optimization algorithms, Allen’s achievements in inter-procedural analysis and automatic parallelization continue to straddle the leading edge of compiler research. She served as IBM’s language liaison with the U.S. National Security Agency, helping to design and construct the high-level Alpha code-breaking language, which could generate new alphabets beyond system-defined alphabets. Allen designed and built the machine-independent, language-independent optimizing component of the Experimental Compiler for IBM's Advanced Computing System. An ACM Fellow, Allen also was a fellow of IEEE and of the Computer History Museum, was inducted into the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame, and and received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing.

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Baking, Boiling Botnets Could Drive Energy Market Swings, Damage
Georgia Tech Research Horizons
John Toon
August 4, 2020

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers warn that botnets could hijack high-wattage Internet-connected appliances in order to manipulate energy demand, potentially fueling price swings and wreaking financial havoc on deregulated energy markets. A study by the researchers, to be presented at this week's Black Hat USA 2020 conference, found that such an Internet of Things (IoT) Skimmer attack could turn compromised equipment on or off to artificially raise or lower power demand, which could help an unprincipled electric utility rig prices, or allow nation-states to remotely damage another country's economy. The investigators believe such botnets already exist, and that hackers could rent them on the dark web. Proposed countermeasures include integrated monitoring of devices' normal power use, and limiting access to energy demand data to those who truly need it.

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Department of Energy to Provide $57.5 Million for Science Computing Teams
U.S. Department of Energy
August 4, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $57.5-million grant to establish two multidisciplinary teams to create tools and techniques that tap supercomputers for scientific discovery. DOE's Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories will lead the teams, which include experts in computer science, software development, applied mathematics, and related fields. The Argonne-led team will concentrate on community outreach to support scientists with application development, while the Lawrence Berkeley-led team will target new mathematical methods. The teams are part of the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program aimed at developing new high-performance computing strategies for meeting scientific challenges.

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The 3D-printed tiles. 3D-Printed Tiles Helping Restore Devastated Coral Reefs
Fast Company
Lilly Smith
August 3, 2020

Marine scientists and architects from the University of Hong Kong's Swire Institute of Marine Science and its Robotic Fabrication Laboratory created three-dimensionally (3D)-printed terra-cotta tiles to function as artificial coral reefs, in order to help restore devastated coral colonies. Coral presence has declined in Hong Kong in recent years, according Hong Kong-based environmental group Green Power. Manmade or artificial reefs can help restore coral populations by recreating an environment amenable to their growth. The terra-cotta tiles were seeded with coral fragments and placed across three sites in Hong Kong's Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park, where coral growth will be monitored for the next two years.

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An overview of the tennis action at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. Automated Line Calls Replace Human Judges at U.S. Open
The New York Times
Christopher Clarey
August 3, 2020

With the coronavirus pandemic highlighting the need for safety, the upcoming U.S. Open tennis tournament will replace human line judges on 15 of 17 match courts with Hawk-Eye Live, an electronic system that makes automated line calls. Hawk-Eye Live features 18 cameras, six of which are used by a review official to monitor foot faults. It uses recorded voices to make its calls, which shout “out,” “fault” or “foot fault.” Courts using Hawk-Eye Live at the U.S. Open will have only a chair umpire to call the score after the system makes the call, and they will only take over if the system malfunctions.

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How to Optimize Neural Networks on a Brain-Inspired Computer
July 28, 2020

A study by scientists at Germany’s Heidelberg University and the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization reveals how "critical states" can be used to optimize artificial neural networks running on brain-inspired neuromorphic hardware. Critical states are the points at which systems can quickly and fundamentally change their overall characteristics. Although they are widely assumed to be optimal for computation in recurrent neural networks, the researchers found that criticality is not beneficial for every task. In an experiment performed on a prototype of the analog neuromorphic BrainScales-2 chip, the researchers found that changing input strength permits easy adjustment of the distance to criticality. They also showed a clear relationship between criticality and task performance, finding that only complex, memory-intensive tasks benefited from criticality.

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Officials attending the completion and commissioning ceremony for the Beidou Navigation Satellite System at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. China Celebrates Completion of Rival Satellite Navigation System
Associated Press
July 31, 2020

China has completed its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), with the 55th and final geostationary satellite in the constellation launched June 23. BDS-3, the third iteration of the BeiDou system, could rival the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's GLONASS, and the European Union's Galileo networks. BDS-3 serves as a highly accurate navigation aid while also offering short message communication of up to 1,200 Chinese characters, as well as the ability to transmit images. One of the biggest advantages of BDS-3 for China is the ability to replace GPS for guiding its missiles, which comes amid rising tensions with Washington. BDS-3 also could raise China's economic and political leverage over nations adopting the system.

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Air Force Readies Launch of In-Orbit Network to Support AI Applications in Space
The Wall Street Journal
Sara Castellanos
July 30, 2020

The U.S. Air Force is partnering with technology startup Hypergiant Industries to build the first software-based U.S. satellite system that could eventually conduct real-time data analysis for artificial intelligence (AI) applications in orbit. The initial deployment of the Chameleon Constellation is scheduled for next February, with the system to be comprised of about 36 satellites. The project aims to modernize military satellites through remote software upgrades for rapid reprogramming—for example, to leverage new AI algorithms that could be used to better detect threats. Srinivas Bettadpur, director of the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas at Austin, said the project could help military satellites better understand and detect anomalies on Earth on their own. “That’s the desire, to have that level of autonomy, where you can put up an instrument right away and figure out what is going on,” he said.

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Imaging System Creates Pictures by Measuring Time
University of Glasgow (UK)
July 30, 2020

Researchers at the University of Glasgow in the U.K., the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy, and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed a new method of imaging that uses artificial intelligence to create pictures by measuring time. The technology captures temporal information about photons, rather than their spatial coordinates, to make animated three-dimensional (3D) images. The tool could be used to give 360-degree awareness to cars, mobile devices, and health monitors. The researchers used a single-point detector to record how long it takes photons produced by a split-second flash of a pulse of laser light to bounce off an object; a neural network algorithm transformed the temporal data into 3D images. Said the University of Glasgow's Alex Turpin, "This is really just the start of a whole new way of visualizing the world using time instead of light."

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The full-body powered robotic exoskeleton. U.S. Marines to Get 'Alpha' Exoskeleton for Super Strength
Greg Nichols
July 28, 2020

The U.S. Marine Corp will test use cases of Guardian XO Alpha, a wearable robotic exoskeleton from the defense-focused subsidiary of Sarcos Robotics. The powered exoskeleton, developed for industrial use, aims to give users enhanced strength. Its immediate applications will be in logistics, particularly heavy lifting. Said Sarcos Defense's Ben Wolff, "Our military branches need to regularly address changing personnel issues and reduce the risk of injury from performing heavy-lifting tasks. We believe that our full-body, powered exoskeletons will be a huge benefit to the Marines, as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and [the U.S. Army Special Operations Command], who we are also working with on our exoskeleton technology."

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Researchers Disclose Widespread Bootloader Vulnerability
Federal Computer Week
Derek B. Johnson
July 29, 2020

Researchers at enterprise device security company Eclypsium reported a buffer-flow flaw during booting that could potentially compromise billions of Linux and Windows-based computing devices. The vulnerability affects devices and operating systems employing signed versions of the open source GRUB2 bootloader software used in most Linux systems, and systems or devices utilizing the Secure Boot root firmware interface with Microsoft's standard third-party certificate authority. The researchers said, "If this process is compromised, attackers can control how the operating system is loaded and subvert all higher-layer security controls." Bypassing the boot process could give attackers persistent, cloaked root-level access free of temporary credentials or access privileges.

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ACM Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research
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