Welcome to the October 17, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Robots compete during the First Global Robotics Challenge in Geneva, Switzerland. Teens Tackle 21st-Century Challenges at Robotics Contest
Associated Press
Jamey Keaten
October 16, 2022

More than 180 teams of high school students are participating in the latest First Global contest, an international robotics competition in Geneva. Contestants are challenged to develop robots that deliver symbolic solutions to global problems, which for this year's event is carbon capture. Teams use game controllers to direct robots around pits or "fields" to scoop up plastic balls that represent carbon, placing as many as possible in a tower. The teams also try to coax their robots to ascend the towers via projecting bars in the last 30 seconds of each round. The Ukrainian team had a short preparation time, only receiving the base component kit days before the event kicked off on October 13; other teams had months to prepare their robots.

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A North Carolina State University study demonstrated a reproducible way of studying cellular communication among varied plant cells types by “bioprinting” the cells. 3D-Printing Plant Cells Shows Promise for Studying Cell Function
NC State University News
Mick Kulikowski
October 14, 2022

North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers have created a reproducible method for analyzing cellular communication among plant cells via three-dimensional (3D) "bioprinting." NC State's Lisa Van den Broeck said the 3D printing process utilizes "bioinks" made from living plant cells, an ultraviolet filter to maintain environmental sterility, and multiple print heads to allow different bioinks to be utilized simultaneously. The researchers bioprinted protoplast-free cells along with nutrients, growth hormones, and thickening agent agarose. They 3D-printed cells from Arabidopsis thaliana and from soybeans to study their viability and mechanisms for cellular identity. Said NC State’s Ross Sozzani, “Bioprinting provides better opportunity for high throughput processing and control over the architecture of the cells after bioprinting, such as layers or honeycomb shapes.”

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Humans Beat DeepMind AI in Creating Algorithm to Multiply Numbers
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
October 13, 2022

Jakob Moosbauer and Manuel Kauers at Austria's Johannes Kepler University Linz bested an algorithm developed by artificial intelligence company DeepMind with a program that can perform matrix multiplication more efficiently. Earlier this month, DeepMind unveiled a method for multiplying two five-by-five matrices in just 96 multiplications, out-performing a more-than-50-year-old record. Moosbauer and Kauers reduced the process to 95 multiplications by testing multiple steps in multiplication algorithms to see if they could be combined. Said Moosbauer, "We take an existing algorithm and apply a sequence of transformations that at some point can lead to an improvement. Our technique works for any known algorithm, and if we are lucky, then [the results] need one multiplication less than before."

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Computer Errors from Outer Space
BBC News
Chris Baraniuk
October 11, 2022

Ever-shrinking microchips are elevating the risk of computer glitches caused by cosmic rays bombarding the Earth from outer space. Researchers suspect these subatomic particles of inducing electrical imbalances that cause malfunctions in computer memory. Bits in computer memory devices are sometimes stored as an electrical charge, and cosmic radiation can flip their state and change data, with potentially disastrous repercussions. Although proving a cosmic particle's culpability in single-event upsets is impossible, Paolo Rech at Italy's Trento University said the possibility indisputably exists. Some researchers are exploring methods to monitor for electromagnetic interference from subatomic particles, while the continuing miniaturization of transistors in computer processors increases their susceptibility to such disruptions.

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Qubits for a Programmable, Solid-State Superconducting Processor
October 13, 2022

Researchers from the U.S., China, and the U.K. have designed a programmable, solid-state superconducting processor that can tune the interaction of large numbers of quantum bits (qubits) while maintaining record coherence. The researchers offered a "first look" at the advent of quantum many-body scarring (QMBS) states as a mechanism for maintaining qubit coherence. "QMBS states possess the intrinsic and generic capability of multipartite entanglement, making them extremely appealing to applications such as quantum sensing and metrology," said Lei Ying at China's Zhejiang University. Arizona State University's Ying-Cheng Lai said maintaining coherence relies on delaying quantum thermalization caused by scrambling among qubits.

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Asphalt buckled in a parking lot in Argus, CA, evidence of two major earthquakes in July 2019. Modest Changes in Magnetic Field Preceded Earthquakes in California
The Los Angeles Times
Nathan Solis
October 13, 2022

Scientists at Google Research, mining technology company Imdex Technology, and earthquake prediction technology developer QuakeFinder detected changes in the magnetic field along faultlines in California 24 to 72 hours before a quake. The researchers used artificial intelligence to analyze data from 125 magnetometer sensor stations days before 19 earthquakes of magnitude 4.5 or greater struck from 2010 to 2019. The researchers employed an algorithm to pair data from two stations to shield against noise that the sensors might have picked up, and compared it to other time periods to help eliminate false positives. Said QuakeFinder's Dan Schneider, "While we still have much work to do in identifying stronger signals, this research supports our vision that earthquake forecasting using the magnetic field may one day be possible."

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ML Models Identify Apps Likely to Violate Google Play Store Guidelines
University of Groningen (Netherlands)
October 13, 2022

Machine learning models developed by researchers at the Netherlands' University of Groningen can predict whether a new app is likely to be removed from the Google Play store for violating its guidelines before and after being uploaded. The researchers collected metadata from around 2 million apps, downloaded the source code for about 50% of them, and tracked their status for six months to determine whether they had been removed. The resulting dataset, publicly available through Dataverse.nl, was used to develop a predictive model for developers and another for users, which predicted app removal with 76.2% and 79.2% accuracy, respectively.

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Revealing the Mysteries of the Universe in an Atomic Nucleus
Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden)
October 12, 2022

An international team led by researchers at Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology developed a computer model that probed the atomic nuclei of lead, which could yield insights into the strong force that maintains the integrity of neutron stars. The model makes high-precision predictions of properties for isotope lead-208 and its neutron skin, which can improve knowledge about the strong force's mechanisms. The researchers blended theories with data from experimental studies, then combined the calculations with a statistical method previously used to model the possible spread of COVID-19. The new model can assess different assumptions about the strong force, and potentially make forecasts for other atomic nuclei.

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A woman tracks how many steps she has taken on her fitness watch. Counting Steps Can Reduce Disease Risk: Study
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Bill Snyder
October 10, 2022

A study by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center found that the risk of certain common, chronic diseases can be lowered with the use of a wearable activity tracker. Physicians also could use data from these trackers to customize exercise plans based on a patient's clinical characteristics and risk profile, according to the study. The researchers analyzed the health data of more than 6,000 FitBit-wearers in the federal All of Us precision medicine research initiative for a period of four years on average. They found that obesity, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and major depressive disorder could be prevented by taking over 8,200 steps daily. The study also found that after reaching 8,000 to 9,000 daily steps, there was no further reduction in the risk of hypertension or diabetes.

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Intel Confirms Alder Lake BIOS Source Code Leak
Tom's Hardware
Paul Alcorn
October 9, 2022

Intel confirmed that a third party leaked its Alder Lake BIOS source code to 4chan and Github. The leak involved 6GB files featuring tools and code for building and optimizing BIOS/UEFI images. Said an Intel spokesperson, "We do not believe this exposes any new security vulnerabilities as we do not rely on obfuscation of information as a security measure. This code is covered under our bug bounty program within the Project Circuit Breaker campaign, and we encourage any researchers who may identify potential vulnerabilities to bring them our attention through this program." The GitHub repository containing the files, which has been taken down, reportedly was created by an employee of China's LC Future Center.

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A report by the Integrity Institute found that Facebook carried more instances of misinformation than other social media services, but amplified it less than other platforms. How Social Media Amplifies Misinformation More Than Information
The New York Times
Steven Lee Myers
October 13, 2022

The Integrity Institute advocacy organization has started publishing weekly measurements of how much social media amplifies misinformation and other damaging content. Initial findings indicate a "well-crafted lie" will fuel more engagement than truthful content, while some features of social media sites and their algorithms aid the spread of misinformation. The Institute reviewed nearly 600 fact-checked posts in September on various topics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the midterm elections. Its analysis showed Twitter possesses what the Institute termed the “great misinformation amplification factor,” mainly due to its retweeting feature. Said the Institute's Jeff Allen, "The more mechanisms there are for virality on the platform, the more we see misinformation getting additional distribution."

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A part of the MP37 machine, which manufactured the physical Sealed Authenticator System cards with nuclear launch codes, on display at the National Cryptologic Museum in Maryland. U.S. Makes 'Dramatic Change' in Technology for Nuclear Code System
The Wall Street Journal
Daniella Cheslow
October 14, 2022

An exhibit of recently retired equipment at the reopened U.S. National Security Agency's National Cryptologic Museum highlights a technological upgrade to the nation's nuclear command and control (C&C) system. Museum director Vince Houghton said the servers and machines that once generated nuclear codes are on display due to "a dramatic change" in the technology. The exhibit includes the DEC Alpha server that produced secret keys a president would use to launch a nuclear attack, and the MP37 machine that manufactured the Sealed Authenticator System cards with launch codes used to confirm orders from Strategic Command to local commanders. The Pentagon's Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman confirmed ongoing initiatives to modernize the nuclear C&C system to ensure it is "resilient and effective," without specifying details.

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Introduction to NVIDIA Modulus: A Physics-ML Framework for Research
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