Welcome to the August 18, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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The digital microscope is comprised of a laser diode, a microscope objective lens, a glass plate, and an image sensor. Inexpensive 3D-Printed Microscope Can Spot Coronavirus in Blood
IEEE Spectrum
Kathy Pretz
August 17, 2021

A three-dimensionally (3D)-printed microscope could detect COVID-19 in a drop of blood through the use of digital holographic microscopy and deep learning. Developed by scientists at the University of Connecticut (UConn), the device uses low-cost components that UConn's Bahram Javidi says are easily acquired: a camera, a laser diode, an objective lens, a glass plate, and a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor. In a test of blood samples from 10 patients who tested positive for the virus and 14 health care workers who tested negative, the microscope was able to detect the coronavirus in 80% of patient samples. The test's efficacy for early detection remains unclear.

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Cork Teen Wins Global Tech Award for Occupational Therapy App
The Irish Times (Ireland)
August 17, 2021

The Technovation competition, in which 5,900 girls from 60 countries developed apps to solve community problems, named a teenager from Cork, Ireland, to receive its technology award for developing a pediatric occupational therapy app. Saanvi Kaushik, 13, designed the Stellar app to help the children that need them obtain timely, affordable occupational therapy services to children. Kaushik developed the Stellar app with the Irish nonprofit Teen-Turn, which strives to address the low number of women from underserved areas and underrepresented communities pursuing third-level qualifications in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Said Kaushik, “Every child, no matter where they live, should have access to the highest-quality services.”

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AMD Hardware Security Tricks Can Be Bypassed with Shock of Electricity
Mayank Sharma
August 13, 2021

Researchers at Germany's Technische Universität Berlin have demonstrated a voltage fault injection attack that can bypass AMD's Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV) technology. Using the AMD Secure Processor (AMD-SP), AMD SEV separates security-sensitive operations from software executing elsewhere, to protect virtual machines in untrusted environments. Attackers can manipulate the input voltage to AMD systems on a chip to trigger an error in the AMD-SP's read-only memory bootloader. The attack requires only inexpensive, off-the-shelf components, including a $30 Teensy µController, and a $12 flash programmer (although physical access to the server is required). The researchers recommend software or hardware modifications to identify voltage modulation, or additional circuitry to guard against such voltage glitches.

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A virtual reality headset. Eye-Tracking VR Technology to Make MRI a New Experience
August 11, 2021

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans could become less stressful for patients thanks to a novel interactive virtual reality (VR) system designed by researchers at King's College London in the U.K. The researchers developed a VR headset that patients can wear safely while inside an MRI scanner, presenting an immersive virtual environment for the duration of the procedure that effectively eliminates any sense of being inside the scanner. Patients can navigate the VR environment via eye gaze, selecting content like films and games, playing games, and activating or deactivating a video link to a companion/caregiver. Said King’s College London’s Tomoki Arichi, “We are very excited about the possibilities that this system opens up for vulnerable and important populations like children and those with difficulties which might mean they can’t normally have an MRI scan without being put to sleep.”

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Simulation Shows How Galaxies Feed Their Supermassive Black Holes
Northwestern Now
Amanda Morris
August 17, 2021

A high-powered simulation developed by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Connecticut (UConn) models gas flowing across the universe and into the cores of supermassive black holes. The simulation factors in key physical processes—including universal expansion, galactic environments, gravity gas hydrodynamics, and feedback from massive stars—into a single model. The system simulates gas flowing across the galaxy with over 1,000-fold better resolution than previously possible. UConn's Daniel Anglés-Alcázar said, "Other models can tell you a lot of details about what's happening very close to the black hole, but they don't contain information about what the rest of the galaxy is doing or even less about what the environment around the galaxy is doing. It turns out it is very important to connect all these processes at the same time."

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The Drone Ranger technology is being used to track 40 Toutouwai North Island robins that were moved to Palmerston North’s Turitea Dam. Bird's-Eye View: Drone Technology Helps Track Relocated Birds
Massey University, University of New Zealand News
August 16, 2021

The Drone Ranger aerial tracking system designed by doctoral student Chris Muller at New Zealand's Massey University in partnership with the University of Canterbury is tracking relocated bird species. The system is engineered to track wildlife faster and more cost-effectively than by foot, and currently monitors 40 Toutouwai North Island robins translocated from the Bushy Park Tarapuruhi Forest Sanctuary near the city of Whanganui more than 70 miles (112 kilometers) to Palmerston North's Turitea Dam. Said Massey's Zoe Stone, "Drone technology for wildlife tracking has great potential for improving data collection and providing high-quality data with reduced field effort."

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A Tesla Model S using Tesla’s Autopilot system crashed into a fire engine on the San Diego Freeway in Culver City, CA., in 2018. U.S. Will Investigate Tesla's Autopilot System Over Crashes with Emergency Vehicles
The New York Times
Neal E. Boudette; Niraj Choksi
August 16, 2021

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a probe into electric car manufacturer Tesla's assisted-driving Autopilot system following at least 11 collisions with emergency vehicles, one of them fatal. Investigators are particularly interested in Autopilot's methods for ensuring that Tesla drivers are focused on the road and are prepared to retake control if the system fails to recognize and brake for something. The NHTSA said it would also evaluate Autopilot's ability to identify objects on the road, and the conditions under which the system can be activated; it seems to have trouble detecting and braking for parked cars. The agency could force Tesla to recall vehicles and modify Autopilot, depending on its findings.

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Swiss Researchers Calculate Pi to Record 62.8 Trillion Figures
The Guardian (U.K.)
August 16, 2021

Scientists at Switzerland's Graubuenden University of Applied Sciences used a supercomputer to calculate the mathematical constant pi to a record 62.8 trillion digits. The researchers said the effort took the supercomputer 108 days and nine hours, "almost twice as fast as the record Google set using its cloud in 2019, and 3.5 times as fast as the previous world record in 2020." The previous world-record pi calculation reached 50 trillion digits.

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Emojis Make It Harder for Tech Giants to Track Down Online Abuse
Sky News
Kieran Devine
August 13, 2021

A study by researchers at the U.K.'s Oxford Internet Institute found that some algorithms used to identify abusive online posts are less effective if the content includes emojis. These algorithms are trained on large databases of text that generally lack emojis. In response, the researchers developed a nearly 4,000-sentence database that included offensive uses of emojis, then used the database to train an artificial intelligence model to distinguish between abusive and non-abusive messages. The model was tested on written examples of abuse related to race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, religion, and disability, and achieved a 30% improvement in correctly distinguishing between hateful and non-hateful content, compared to existing tools. It also demonstrated an 80% improvement in identifying some types of emoji-based abuse.

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This snake-like robot may be key to exploring the interior of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Snake-Like Robot Could Explore Saturn's Icy Moon Enceladus
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
August 13, 2021

Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) have developed a snake-like robot that could facilitate exploration of the interior of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. The ARCSnake, parts of which were inspired by previous work on a device for colonoscopies, features flexible joints and uses Archimedes screws to propel itself, can move across hard or loose surfaces and into tiny spaces. The ARCSnake is operated by a human controller by remotely manipulating a scale model of the robot. UC San Diego's Florian Richter said NASA wants to use the device on Enceladus "to go down the plume vents and go through these ice caves and collect samples, and we'll feed [data] back to Earth and see what they find."

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Computational Analysis Reveals Sources of Genetic Variation
Harvard Medical School News & Research
August 12, 2021

A multi-institutional study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Brigham and Women's Hospital has identified nine processes where most human genetic mutations occur. The study involved an analysis of 400 million rare human DNA variants. Brigham and Women's Shamil Sunyaev said, "Harnessing the power of computation and big data, we analyzed genomic variations and identified a set of biologic processes responsible for the vast majority of heritable human mutations." The study identified some new mutation-fueling mechanisms, and others that were already known. The researchers are trying to incorporate some of the study’s results into a model of human-mutation rate along the genome, in the hope of being able to help predict whether a specific mutation could occur at a specific location in the genome.

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Researchers Teach AI to See Depth in Photos, Paintings
Simon Fraser University (Canada)
Andrew Ringer
August 10, 2021

Researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada and Adobe Research used a process called monocular depth estimation to teach artificial intelligence to determine depth from a single photograph. SFU's Sebastian Dille said, "We analyze the image and optimize our process by looking at the image content according to the limitations of current architectures. We give our input image to the network in many different forms, to create as many details as the model allows while preserving a realistic geometry." SFU's Yagiz Aksoy added, "With the high-resolution depth maps that we are able to get for real-world photographs, artists and content creators can now immediately transfer their photograph or artwork into a rich 3D (three-dimensional) world."

Full Article
'Capture' Your IoT Devices and Improve Their Security
Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Security and Privacy Institute
Daniel Tkacik
August 13, 2021

Carnegie Mellon University's Han Zhang and colleagues uncovered pervasive security vulnerabilities in third-party libraries that Internet of Things (IoT) device vendors may use in their software. The researchers analyzed 122 different IoT firmware for 27 smart home devices released over eight years. They found, Zhang said, that "vendors update libraries very infrequently, and they use outdated—and often vulnerable—versions most of the time." To ameliorate potential exploitation, the researchers proposed Capture, a system that lets devices on a local network leverage a centralized hub with libraries that are kept up to date. The team said Capture would ensure the libraries are updated and secure, although it includes limitations (like a single point of failure) that future research will need to address.

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Semantic Web For The Working Ontologist, Third Edition: Effective Modeling In RDFs And Owl
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