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Welcome to the January 24, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Report Showcases Studies on Integrating Computational Thinking Into PreK–5th Grade Settings
January 20, 2022

A new ACM report presents the results of nine studies quantifying the effects of integrating computational thinking into PreK–5th grade classrooms. The report’s co-editors suggest such integration saves in-class time, enhances learning in traditional subjects like math or reading, and improves equity and access. Indiana University's Anne Ottenbreit-Leftwich said, "When these concepts are introduced during regular school hours, it ensures that everyone has access to them. It's also important for students from traditionally underrepresented groups to be exposed to computing ideas early on, so they don't feel alienated by the subject later."

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters on the situation in Ukraine before a meeting with his Infrastructure Implementation Task Force. Biden Plans Effort to Retain International Science, Tech Students
Trevor Hunnicutt
January 21, 2022

President Biden unveiled plans to retain international science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students by permitting them to stay in the U.S. for up to three years of training on cultural-exchange visas. The program also will be extended to students of data science, cloud computing, and data visualization, as part of an effort to compete with China. An administration official said China has overtaken the U.S. in producing and tapping undergraduate and doctoral STEM talent, in order to surpass America as the world's premier scientific and technological innovator. Biden has said he considers China's rivalry the leading national security challenge, and these initiatives will make it easier for immigrants to qualify for special visas reserved for persons of extraordinary ability.

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Images created from text descriptions by GLIDE. AI Learns to Create Images from Text Descriptions by Destroying Data
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
January 18, 2022

Researchers at OpenAI have developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) model able to create accurate images from textual descriptions, that is smaller and able to produce better results than similar software the company released last year. The new GLIDE model has only 3.5 billion parameters, down from last year’s DALL-E program's 12 billion. While DALL-E was trained on a large set of images with associated captions, GLIDE uses a diffusion model in which the neural network is still trained on a large set of images, but noise is added to destroy those images. From this process, GLIDE ultimately learned how to create a photorealistic image matching the text description from an input that is just noise. GLIDE's images were preferred by human judges over DALL-E's 87% of the time for their photorealism, and 69% of the time for their accuracy in matching the text input.

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Stevie the robot entertains residents and carries out a range of tasks at a retirement home. Robots Rise to Meet the Challenge of Caring for Older Adults
Neil Savage
January 19, 2022

Robotic assistants could be used in nursing and retirement homes to help seniors care for themselves, assist with cleaning, provide emotional support, connect remotely with health care providers, and free up nurses to focus on patient care. Researchers at Ireland's Trinity College Dublin have developed Stevie, a robot on a rolling base with moveable arms. In tests at Washington, DC's Knollwood Military Retirement Community, Stevie entertained residents so staff could focus on resident care. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Southern California are working on robots that can provide social interaction by telling jokes or encouraging older people to read or exercise more, while researchers at Diligent Robotics have developed a rolling robot that can move around a hospital and perform tasks that take nurses away from resident care, such as delivering medicine, equipment, patient samples, or linens.

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Researchers, from left, Zane Thornburg, Zaida (Zan) Luthey-Schulten, Benjamin Gilbert, and Troy Brier successfully simulated a living “minimal cell.” Researchers Simulate Behavior of Living 'Minimal Cell' in Three Dimensions
University of Illinois News Bureau
Diana Yates
January 20, 2022

Scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and California non-profit J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) have assembled a living "minimal cell" and a three-dimensional (3D) computer simulation that replicates its behavior. UIUC's Zaida Luthey-Schulten said minimal cells feature genomes stripped of nonessential genes, containing mainly those required to perform most life-defining functions. The model maps out the location and chemical properties of thousands of cellular elements in atomic-level 3D space. The JCVI team built the minimal cell the model was based on, then the UIUC researchers used Nvidia graphics processing units to run the simulation. Said Luthey-Schulten, "Our model opens a window on the inner workings of the cell, showing us how all of the components interact and change in response to internal and external cues."

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A close-up view of Metalenz chips on a silicon wafer. The Nanotechnology Revolution Is Here—We Just Haven't Noticed Yet
The Wall Street Journal
Christopher Mims
January 22, 2022

The nanotechnology revolution is quietly underway, with scientists harnessing microchip fabrication technology to create nanoscale devices. For example, Resonant makes microelectromechanical systems incorporated into smartphones to filter radio interference via vibrating elements. Another nanomachine, the metalens, a thin and virtually flat lens covered with thousands of silicon fibers, can bend light in ways that used to require multiple conventional lenses; applications include three-dimensional (3D) smartphone sensors, which metalens maker Metalenz will produce with semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics. Meanwhile, the Georgia Institute of Technology's Andrei Fedorov and colleagues used electron beams to etch patterns in two-dimensional materials, or to stack structures made of carbon atoms atop them.

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How Athletes Push Boundaries with Wearable Tech
Nadia Leigh-Hewitson
January 18, 2022

Wearable technology is being used by an increasing number of athletes to record their physical performance and push themselves to achieve more, and by coaches to monitor player health and reduce the risk of injury. Catapult Sports offers a smart vest, monitoring pod, and app that is used by every team in the National Football League and many in the English Premier League. Said Catapult's Will Lopes, "What it's doing is really comparing what's physiologically happening on the inside of an athlete," to help coaches determine a player's physical limits and prevent injury. Simon Barbour at the U.K.'s Loughborough University explained that with wearable technology, “You are able to capture multiple data sets without interfering directly in the athlete's performance."

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Automation Could Make 12 Million Jobs in Europe Redundant
Owen Hughes
January 20, 2022

Automation could render up to 12 million jobs in Europe superfluous over the next 20 years as companies compete to boost productivity and fill skills gaps amid an aging workforce, reports research company Forrester. Retail, food services, and leisure and hospitality occupations could face the largest losses, with mid-labor jobs involving simple, routine tasks most vulnerable. A total of 49 million jobs in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Britain could potentially be automated by 2040, imperiling casual work and low-paid, part-time labor. Pandemic-reduced productivity is prompting organizations to consider automation to restore efficiency, while sectors that were already using automation have increased investment to grow service delivery and mitigate pandemic constraints. Academic forecasts of jobs potentially lost to automation vary, with Forrester noting machine learning experts "imagine future computer capabilities without understanding enterprise technology adoption constraints and the cultural barriers within an organization that resist change."

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When Graphene Speaks, Scientists Can Now Listen
Rice University News
Mike Williams
January 19, 2022

Brothers John and Victor Li, working in the laboratory of Rice University's James Tour, analyzed laser-induced graphene (LIG) production in real time using sound. LIG produces layers of interconnected graphene sheets by heating the topmost polymer sheet to 2,500 degrees Celsius (4,532 degrees Fahrenheit), leaving only carbon atoms. John Li said different processes generate different sounds, "So if we hear variations during the synthesis, we'd be able to detect different materials being formed." The brothers formulated a simple acoustic signal processing framework to ascertain LIG's form and quality, which John said "allows us to efficiently scale the throughput of our analytical capabilities to the entire amount of material we're trying to synthesize in a robust manner." Tour said the brothers converted the sound pattern to numerical data via a Fast Fourier transform, which could analyze product type and purity near-instantaneously.

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Clouds are reflected above the company logo on the hood of a Tesla vehicle. First Felony Charges in Fatal Crash Involving Autopilot
Associated Press
Tom Krisher; Stefanie Dazio
January 18, 2022

The driver of a Tesla on Autopilot that ran a red light and killed two people in another car in 2019 faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter. Kevin George Aziz Riad, who has pleaded not guilty, appears to be the first person in the U.S. to be charged with a felony for a fatal crash involving the use of a partially automated driving system. Charges were filed by prosecutors in Los Angeles County, CA, in October, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the widespread misuse of Autopilot. The University of South Carolina's Bryant Walker Smith said Tesla could be "criminally, civilly, or morally culpable" if courts determine it put a dangerous technology on the road.

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AI’s Potential Boon to Businesses
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Greg Hardesty
January 19, 2022

E-commerce companies can more efficiently organize products and help customers find what they want with artificial intelligence created by researchers at Yahoo and the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering (USC Viterbi). USC Viterbi's Mayank Kejriwal said the Taxonomy Induction over Concept Labels (TICL) algorithm enables Web-based companies to quickly and inexpensively build a customizable taxonomy (classifying data into tree-like structures) from thousands of product labels "in seconds," and these trees "are of similar quality to any that you might be able to build." Said Kejriwal, "Systems like TICL do the drudgery of organizing our information for us so we can focus on creative and strategic tasks that are, frankly, more fun," he said.

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Event Mining for Explanatory Modeling
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