MS In Computer Science
Welcome to the April 19, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Adobe co-founder Charles Geschke, seen here in 1999. Adobe Co-Founder Charles Geschke, Pioneer of Desktop Publishing and PDFs, Dies at Age 81
The Wall Street Journal
James R. Hagerty
April 18, 2021

ACM Fellow Charles Geschke, co-founder of software giant Adobe, has died at the age of 81. Geschke formed Adobe with John Warnock, a fellow researcher at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, based on their work on software that eventually would translate words and images on a computer screen into printed documents. Adobe software gave birth to desktop publishing with programs like Photoshop, Acrobat, and Illustrator, as well as Portable Document Format (PDF) technology. Geschke and Warnock launched Adobe with the help of venture capital firm Hambrecht & Quist, and Apple Computer was an early client, using the company's PostScript language to drive its LaserWriter printers.

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NASA's Ingenuity helicopter has successfully launched, hovered, and landed on the surface of Mars. NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter Makes Historic First Flight on Mars
ABC News (Australia)
Genelle Weule
April 19, 2021

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Ingenuity helicopter has become the first aircraft to achieve powered flight on Mars. Ingenuity accompanied the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February; it operates autonomously based on preprogrammed instructions and uses its cameras and sensors to navigate. For its first Martian flight, the aircraft ascended, hovered for about 40 seconds, and returned to its landing spot. Ingenuity will perform up to four flights roughly every three Martian days during the next month; its next two flights will take the helicopter up to five meters (16.4 feet) above the surface and moving up to 15 meters (49 feet) forward and back to the landing area. NASA's David Flannery suggested Ingenuity's flights could lead to the design more resilient drones, as well as informing the evolution of drones on Earth.

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Robotic Elephant Trunk Can Learn Tasks on Its Own
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
April 16, 2021

Researchers at Germany's University of Tubingen used three-dimensional (3D) printing to create a robotic elephant trunk that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to emulate how sensory input triggers synaptic chain reactions in organic brains. Tubingen's Sebastian Otte and colleagues assembled the device from modules with gear-driving motors that tilt up to 40 degrees in two axes. The AI was trained on examples of the motor inputs required to move the trunk in certain ways, and tests showed it could direct the tip of the trunk within less than a centimeter from a target. The robot is a proof of concept of a spiking neural network algorithm, which works like an actual brain in which certain inputs cause a chain reaction of firing synapses, while requiring orders of magnitude less computational power and energy.

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Novel Use of 3D Geoinformation to Identify Urban Farming Sites
NUS News (Singapore)
April 16, 2021

A study by researchers at the National University of Singapore looked at whether three-dimensional (3D) city models and urban digital twins could help identify high-rise buildings suitable for urban farming based on sunlight availability. The researchers assessed whether outdoor corridors, façades, and windows receive enough photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) to grow crops, and which crops can be grown at a specific site based on PAR conditions. They validated the simulations through field surveys, and found such 3D city models may be more efficient than field surveys in assessing urban farming conditions, which they said eventually could be scaled to cover entire cities.

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A flooded town. Combining News Media, AI to Rapidly Identify Flooded Buildings
Tohoku University (Japan)
April 16, 2021

A machine learning model developed by researchers at Japan's Tohoku University can help identify flooded buildings within 24 hours of a disaster using news media photos. The model was applied to Mabi-cho, Kurashiki city in Okayama Prefecture, which experienced heavy rains and flooding in 2018. After identifying press photos and geolocating them based on landmarks and other visual cues, the researchers used synthetic aperture radar (SAR) PALSAR-2 images from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to approximate the conditions of unknown areas. Buildings surrounded by floodwaters or within non-flooded areas were classified using a support vector machine. About 80% of the buildings classified by the model as flooded were actually flooded during the event. Tohoku's Shunichi Koshimura said, "Our model demonstrates how the rapid reporting of news media can speed up and increase the accuracy of damage mapping activities, accelerating disaster relief and response decisions."

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SMU's ChemGen Completes Essential Drug Discovery Work in Days
Southern Methodist University
April 14, 2021

Southern Methodist University (SMU) researchers have developed ChemGen, a set of computer-driven routines that emulate chemical reactions in a laboratory, significantly reducing the time and costs of drug discovery. ChemGen accelerates pharmacological optimization from months to days, using high-performance computers like SMU's ManeFrame II shared high-performance computing cluster. The tool computationally generates molecular variants of the original chemical key, mimicking reactions under various combinations of circumstances. SMU's John Wise said, "A research group or pharmaceutical company need only actually synthesize the molecules with the best chances of being improved, leaving the thousands of unimproved molecules in the computer and not on the lab bench."

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A Graphene aerogel, used for filtering water, sits atop a single tissue. Finally, 3D-Printed Graphene Aerogels for Water Treatment
University at Buffalo News Center
Melvin Bankhead III
April 14, 2021

University at Buffalo (UB) and University of Pittsburgh engineers have three-dimensionally (3D)-printed graphene aerogels for water treatment, after addressing scalability and stability issues. UB's Nirupam Aich said, "The aerogels we've created hold their structure when put in water treatment systems, and they can be applied in diverse water treatment applications." The researchers infused graphene-derived ink with bio-inspired polymers of polydopamine and bovine serum albumin protein; the augmented aerogels remove contaminants from the water, including heavy metals, organic dyes, and organic solvents. Aich said the aerogels can be printed in larger sizes, making them usable in large facilities like wastewater treatment plants; they also are reusable.

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AWS Reveals Method to Build More Accurate Quantum Computer
Daphne Leprince-Ringuet
April 13, 2021

Amazon cloud subsidiary Amazon Web Services (AWS) has revealed a new architecture for a fault-tolerant quantum computer that could ensure quantum bits (qubits) execute calculations with maximum accuracy. The architecture presents a system based on "cat states"—a form of passive quantum error correction (QEC) where qubits are superpositioned within an oscillator, while photon pairs are injected and extracted to guarantee the quantum state's stability. This design can reduce bit-flip error, but the AWS team proposed coupling passive QEC with known active QEC methods for safeguards against other types of error. The resulting architecture enables just over 2,000 superconducting components used for stabilization to produce 100 logical qubits capable of executing 1,000 gates.

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Domino's robot pizza delivery vehicle. Domino's Launches Pizza Delivery Robot Car
CNN Business
Alexis Benveniste
April 13, 2021

Pizza chain Domino's has launched a robot car delivery service to select customers in Houston's Woodland Heights neighborhood, with fully autonomous vehicles from robotics company Nuro transporting orders to opt-in customers. Customers can select robot delivery and receive texts with updates on the vehicle's location, and a numerical code for retrieving the order. Upon arrival, the customer enters the code on the bot's touchscreen, and the vehicle’s doors open to permit the removal of ordered food. Domino's said Nuro's robot car was the first fully autonomous, human-free on-road delivery vehicle to be cleared for operation by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Domino's Dennis Maloney said, "This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot, and how it affects store operations."

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UNH Researchers Develop Software to Monitor Ocean Soundscape Especially During Covid-19
University of New Hampshire Today
April 8, 2021

An international research team led by University of New Hampshire (UNH) scientists has developed a software program that processes oceanic sound data in a more standardized format, to help understand global sea soundscape dynamics. The publicly available MANTA (Making Ambient Noise Trends Accessible) program can consistently process ocean audio recordings to facilitate comparisons over space and time. It produces four data products daily as part of the International Quiet Ocean Experiment to study the effects of Covid-19-related cessation of human oceanic activity. UNH's Jennifer Miksis-Olds said, "Sound is the dominant sensory mode for marine life and humans for sensing the underwater environment, so understanding how the background ocean sound levels are changing will provide insight into how sensory systems [both biological and electronic] are impacted."

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GIS Technology Helps Map Out How America's Mafia Networks Were 'Connected'
Penn State News
Matt Swayne
April 12, 2021

Researchers at the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) used geographic information systems and a government database on 1960s mafia ties to study how organized crime networks are built, maintained, and grown. Specifically, they examined the efficiency-security tradeoff in the organization of mafia families by analyzing two specific metrics in their network connections, one measuring how much the network was clustered and another measuring the number of intermediary connections between people. They found that at least 80% of members in each of the five major crime families in New York City lived within about 18.5 miles of their family's median center in the city. They also determined that mafia families in incorporated cities generally operated in distinct neighborhoods, while those in nonincorporated cities could operate on the same "turf." Penn State's Daniel DellaPosta said geographic and spatial dimension could be important in coordinating efforts across multiple law enforcement agencies.

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