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Welcome to the July 29, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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2021 ACM A.M. Turing Award recipient Jack Dongarra Turing Award Winner Reflects on His Pioneering Algorithms
IEEE Spectrum
Kathy Pretz
July 27, 2022

ACM's 2021 A.M. Turing Award recipient Jack Dongarra conceived of what many deem world-changing software libraries that played a role in the expansion of high-performance computing in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, genomics, and healthcare. In an interview, Dongarra reflects on his pioneering algorithms, many of which were influenced by the work of previous winners. The software libraries "have basic components that are needed in many areas of science so that users can draw on those components to help them solve their computational problems,” Dongarra says. His current project is a software library for the Frontier supercomputer, which is housed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and processes 1-quintillion-plus operations per second.

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DeepMind Research Cracks Structure of Almost Every Known Protein
Financial Times
Madhumita Murgia
July 28, 2022

Scientists at DeepMind used its AlphaFold algorithm to predict the 3D shape of almost every known protein. The AlphaFold database encompasses more than 200 million predicted protein structures, covering nearly all organisms that have had their genomes sequenced. The new tool enables structural biologists to "look up a 3D structure of a protein almost as easily as doing a keyword Google search," said DeepMind's Demis Hassabis. Researchers can access the structures through a public database hosted by the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).

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Chip background with President Joe Biden in the foreground Chips and Science Act Goes to Biden for Approval
Lisa Stiffler
July 27, 2022

Both chambers of the U.S. Congress this week passed the Chips and Science Act, earmarking $280 billion to strengthen U.S. innovation and technology hubs, including support for basic research and bolstering semiconductor chip fabrication. The act authorizes billions for Department of Energy research programs in areas such as fundamental science, fusion energy, carbon sequestration, advanced scientific computing, and high-energy physics. The National Science Foundation also will receive $81 billion over five years for research, equipment, and STEM education, while the National Institute of Standards and Technology will receive nearly $10 billion. Programs addressing ocean acidification, space technology and exploration, blockchain, rural STEM education, and bioengineering will receive funding as well.

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Fiber-Optic Cables Could Be Used to Spy on People a Kilometer Away
New Scientist
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan
July 27, 2022

A device built by researchers at China's Tsinghua University can eavesdrop on people up to 1 km (0.6 mile) away using existing fiber-optic cables. The device detects changes in light triggered when someone speaks near an optical fiber; researchers uttered the phrase, "It's nine-fifteen" near a cable that was transmitting data. About 3 m (9.8 ft.) of the fiber was exposed to the sound, while the remaining 1.1 km (0.68 mile) was spooled in another room where the device was connected. The clarity of the words the device detected could be improved with computer speech enhancement, according to Tsinghua's Bo Wang.

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The Sketch2Pose tool allows animators to use bitmap sketches to create characters that move in three dimensions. Videogames: Posing in 3D
University of Montreal
Salle De Presse
July 27, 2022

An animation tool developed by researchers from Canada's Université de Montréal uses bitmap sketches to control the 3D poses of videogame characters. Mikhail Bessmeltsev and Kirill Brodt said their approach predicts three drawing elements required to disambiguate the sketched poses: 2D bone targets, self-contacts, and bone foreshortening. An optimization program looks for a 3D pose containing all three elements, and the researchers validate the technique by showing that the final 3D character's pose is the sketched pose. "With a single, natural bitmap sketch of a character, our algorithm allows the animator to automatically, with no additional input, apply the drawn 3D pose to a custom 'rigged' and 'skinned' 3D character," the researchers note.

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Stable Simultaneous Communication among Thousands of IoT Devices?
KAIST (South Korea)
July 28, 2022

The mmWave Backscatter System can support stable concurrent communications for tens of millions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices using backscattering millimeter-level waves (mmWave). Developed by researchers at South Korea's Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the system facilitates simultaneous signal demodulation involving tens of thousands of IoT devices arranged indoors, providing scalability via mmWave's 10-GHz+ frequency range. Researchers tapped a frequency-modulated, continuous-wave radar to develop a signal processing method that partitions backscatter signals from ambient noise while maintaining the coding gain.

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Gripper holds 3D-printed bunny, one of 22 objects on which the system was tested. Helping Assembly-Line Robots Pick Up Almost Anything
University of Washington News
Sarah McQuate
July 28, 2022

University of Washington (UW) researchers created a tool for designing a 3D-printed passive gripper and calculating the trajectory to pick up an object. The researchers give the computer a 3D model of the object and its position in space, and an algorithm produces and ranks possible grasp configurations based on metrics that include stability, said UW's Milin Kodnongbua. "Then it takes the best option and co-optimizes to find if an insert trajectory is possible," Kodnongbua said. Once finding a good match, the computer outputs how to create the gripper for a 3D printer, and the trajectory for the robot arm once the gripper is printed and affixed. Researchers tested the system on 22 objects, 20 of which were successfully picked up.

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Traffic Jam at 400 Feet
Chris Feliciano Arnold
July 21, 2022

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) likely will not approve widespread operation of commercial delivery drones until crashes become virtually impossible and the public becomes more confident in the technology and more tolerant of the boost in air traffic. NASA and the FAA are collaborating on new U.S. airspace rules to accommodate both millions of unmanned drones under 400 feet and next-generation light passenger aircraft that combine human and algorithmic pilots at upwards of 5,000 feet. The NASA Ames Research Center's Joey Rios said much of the work involves developing models and 3D simulations using real-time and theoretical flight data. Meanwhile, researchers in the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership are crashing drones into buildings, cars, and dummies and measuring the kinetic energy on impact. The data will be used to develop aircraft standards, such as weight, maximum speed, altitude, and range, and help determine the entire system's infrastructure needs.

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Smartphone with Twitter icon tracks wildfire locations on a global map. More Accurate Wildfire Monitoring Using Social Media
Imperial College London (U.K.)
Gemma Ralton
July 27, 2022

A machine-learning (ML) wildfire prediction model uses social media and geophysical satellite data for more accurate real-time forecasting and monitoring. "Instead of having a network of cameras or climate sensors to track a wildfire, you can use a network of social media users or 'human sensors' posting information about a disaster in real time," said researcher Jake Lever from the U.K.'s Imperial College London (ICL), where the model was developed. Researchers combined Twitter data with satellite data from the Global Fire Atlas to create the Sentimental Wildfires ML model, trained on social and physics wildfires data via the Sentimental Analysis textual content analysis framework. They tested the model using two 2016 datasets from the U.S. and Australia, and their findings imply that social media predicts wildfire activity.

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Quantum Encryption Could Support Truly Secure Communication
Silicon Republic
Leigh McGowran
July 27, 2022

A new form of quantum cryptography could eventually support truly secure communication by facilitating quantum key distribution between two devices based on quantum entanglement, according to an international team of scientists. Researchers confined two single ions—a sender and a receiver—in separate traps connected by optical fiber. Entanglement allows the sender and receiver to generate shared outcomes without third-party interference. Researchers said this system could lead to two-party communication that is "fundamentally beyond" an adversary's control and also could ensure private communication with just a few general assumptions about the devices used.

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Figures from Aesop’s fables, illustration Machines Can Learn from Fables
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Habeeba Kamel
July 25, 2022

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) used Aesop's fables to teach AI to analogize. Previous attempts could not enable the AI to comprehend the implications of analogies or to make large-scale generalizations. The team used natural language processing to analyze the fables and to produce story pairs based on words and meanings in the text. USC's Jay Pujara said stories imparting moral lessons were chosen because often multiple fables teach the same lessons in different ways, creating a semantic meaning that differs from the fable's surface form.

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Newly Found Lightning Framework Offers Many Linux Hacking Capabilities
Ars Technica
Dan Goodin
July 26, 2022

Researchers from security firm Intezer disclosed the Lightning Framework, a previously undocumented modular malware framework for Linux. Installed after an attacker has accessed a target system, Lightning boasts some of the same efficiencies and speed to Linux compromises that the Django Web framework provides for Web development. Lightning "has a plethora of capabilities, and the ability to install multiple types of rootkit, as well as the capability to run plugins,” wrote Intezer's Ryan Robinson. The framework's Lightning.Downloader downloads software while its Lightning.Core core module receives commands when connected to a designated command-and-control server.

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Network Visualization Tool Maps Information Spread
IU Bloomington Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research
July 27, 2022

Indiana University Bloomington's Observatory on Social Media (OSoMe) and Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research has launched an updated network visualization tool to show journalists, scientists, and the public how information propagates. The revamped Networks Tool generates an interactive 3D map of information spreading across Twitter. Users can visualize who is retweeting or citing whom on a specific subject or which hashtags are being used with other hashtags, and all data is now exportable. OSoMe's tools leverage approximately 50 million tweets daily, equivalent to about 10% of public tweets, which are analyzed and indexed for use. Users can visualize data from any given month from the previous three years.

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