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

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A researcher at Purdue University, as Purdue University is one of several universities racing to expand semiconductor education to fill the workforce. Economic Future of U.S. Depends on Making Engineering Cool
The Washington Post
Jeanne Whalen
October 23, 2022

Purdue University is trying to address a U.S. engineer shortage that threatens the country's economic future. Some estimates indicate the U.S. requires at least 50,000 new semiconductor engineers over the next five years to staff the computer chip factories and research laboratories that companies intend to build with subsidies from the Chips and Science Act. Purdue's Muhammad Hussain and Peter Bermel said the institution is expanding chip education to produce 1,000 semiconductor engineer graduates from perhaps 150 annually now. Purdue also is launching new undergraduate courses and a master's program, promoting chip internships, and has invited semiconductor experts onto an advisory board to make curriculum and training recommendations.

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Starlink's Signal Hacked for Use as GPS Alternative
Andrew Liszewski
October 21, 2022

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) researchers hacked SpaceX's Starlink satellites to serve as a global positioning system (GPS) backup, after SpaceX declined to cooperate. The researchers bought a Starlink terminal and service that streamed YouTube videos of tennis player Rafael Nadal round the clock and coupled them to an antenna that detected synchronization sequence signals that keep terrestrial receivers connected to satellites; the signals' four-millisecond transmission intervals match those of GPS. When paired with data about Starlink satellite movements, which SpaceX shares to reduce the risk of collision with satellites from other companies, users can calculate a receiver's location with roughly 98-foot accuracy using the signal source and the satellite's distance. UT Austin's Todd Humphreys suggests SpaceX's cooperation could improve positional accuracy to less than a meter via software updates and data added to synchronization signals.

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TikTok's algorithms are good at finding videos to keep people glued to their phone screens. What they are not so good at is detecting blatant election misinformation in ads. TikTok Bad at Culling U.S. Election Misinformation Ads
Associated Press
Barbara Ortutay
October 21, 2022

A report by the nonprofit Global Witness and New York University found that TikTok's algorithms are ineffective at identifying ads with misinformation about the U.S. elections despite having banned political advertisements in 2019. The report analyzed whether Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok are effective at detecting and removing false political ads, which included misinformation about the voting process and the counting of votes or spread false claims about the election being "rigged." The ads were submitted for approval but not published. The report showed that TikTok approved 90% of the false ads, while Facebook caught seven out of 20. YouTube identified and removed all the false ads and suspended the test account created to post the fake ads. However, YouTube failed to detect misleading ads submitted in Brazil, with Global Witness' Jon Lloyd noting "a real global discrepancy in their ability to enforce their own policies."

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Researchers Change Trajectory of Drones for the Better
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Aaron Seidlitz
October 20, 2022

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Kris Hauser, Gao Tang, and Weidong Sun have improved unmanned aerial vehicles' ability to navigate around obstacles via multi-level optimization. Said Hauser, "The basic idea is that you can separately optimize the shape of the path and the speed along it, but since how fast you can fly depends on the shape of the path, these two components are intimately coupled. Our novel formulation treats this as a bilevel optimization problem, in which the speed optimization is nested inside the shape optimization as an inner subproblem." Hauser said experiments proved the method "is faster and significantly more numerically stable than optimizing both the shape and the speed simultaneously."

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A new sensor developed at MIT could make it much easier to ensure a good face mask fit. Engineers Develop Sensors for Face Masks that Help Gauge Fit
MIT News
Anne Trafton
October 20, 2022

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed sensors that can determine whether a face mask offers a good fit. They developed a conformable multimodal sensor face mask (cMaSK) device featuring 17 sensors around the edges to determine whether the mask is touching the skin. It also can measure temperature, humidity, and air pressure to identify actions like speaking and coughing and contains an accelerometer that can determine whether the wearer is moving. The sensors are embedded in a flexible polymer frame that can be attached to the inside of any mask. In a study, sensor data was analyzed by a machine learning algorithm that found surgical masks fit men's faces more closely than women's. MIT's Canan Dagdeviren said, "We have different sizes for shoes, and you can even customize your shoes. So why can't you customize and design your mask, for your own health and for societal benefit?"

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A northern bobwhite quail is shown in this photo, as a new model gives wildlife managers the ability to gather the necessary data in a matter of minutes. AI Answers the Call for Quail Information
UGA Today
Kristen Morales
October 18, 2022

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources have developed an artificial intelligence-driven model to streamline the measurement of quail populations. The model analyzes terabytes of recordings for quail calls, enabling wildlife managers to amass the required data in minutes. UGA's James Martin said the model can detect 80% to 100% of all quail calls even in noisy recordings, and hundreds of monitors could be deployed to cover a wider area with less effort than previously. Martin said the software becomes "smarter" through more use and greater exposure to sounds from new geographic areas, improving its ability to distinguish quail calls from the ambient sound of surrounding grasses and trees.

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The new wearable tactile rendering system can mimic touch sensations with high spatial resolution and a rapid response rate. Researchers Develops High-Resolution, Wearable Electrotactile Rendering Device that Virtualizes the Sense of Touch
City University of Hong Kong
October 20, 2022

A wearable tactile rendering system developed by researchers at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and the Robotics X Laboratory at China's Tencent mimics the sense of touch with high spatial resolution and a rapid response rate. The thin, flexible electro-tactile actuator can generate pressure, vibration, and texture roughness in high fidelity. Its operating voltage is less than 30 V due to the use of a high-frequency alternating simulation strategy instead of direct-current pulses, and spatial resolution of the simulators is increased by rendering tactile sensations between physical electrodes instead of at electrode locations. The system could be used in Braille displays, virtual and augmented reality applications and games, and for users of thick protective suits or gloves, like astronauts, firefighters, and deep-sea divers.

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Nuclear War Simulator Creator Says Public Must Know Potential Destruction
Aristos Georgiou
October 19, 2022

A computer scientist created a nuclear war simulator to demonstrate atomic weapons' destructive potential to the public. Christopher Minson said Russia's war in Ukraine has elevated traffic to his website, which hosts a map tool for modeling an attack on the U.S. involving approximately 1,200 nuclear warheads. Minson based the tool on databases of warhead yields and targets derived from declassified information; he then compiled a database of census data, and mapped populations to target sites. Minson said the system correlates this data and executes a two-hour attack, calculating casualties from known impact and population size, and modeling the spread of fallout. "It is critical that the public understands this threat," he said. "They need to see, clearly and viscerally, just how universal and destructive a nuclear war would be."

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Light-Analyzing 'Lab on a Chip' Opens Door to Portable Spectrometers
Oregon State University News
Steve Lundeberg
October 20, 2022

An international team of scientists led by researchers at Finland's Aalto University has developed an artificial intelligence-driven spectrometer from two-dimensional semiconductor materials that fits on a microchip. Oregon State University's Ethan Minot said the accomplishment demonstrates a method for dramatically miniaturizing the light-measuring devices. The researchers said the device is 100% electrically controllable regarding its absorption of optical colors, conferring vast scalability and widespread usability potential. "Integrating it directly into portable devices such as smartphones and drones could advance our daily lives", said Aalto University's Hoon Hahn Yoon. "Imagine that the next generation of our smartphone cameras could be hyperspectral cameras."

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An ABB industrial robot folding a shirt using AUTOLAB's new Robot Laundry Folding Speed Record Broken
Ars Technica
Benj Edwards
October 19, 2022

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have achieved a new robot laundry-folding speed record with the SpeedFolding system. SpeedFolding combines machine vision, the BiManual Manipulation Network (BiMaMa-Net), and two industrial robot arms to fold 30 to 40 randomly positioned garments per hour; the researchers said the previous record was three to six folds per hour. The BiMaMa-Net neural network analyzed 4,300 human and machine-assisted examples to learn to fold clothing. The system uses an overhead camera to study the garment's initial state, and to calculate where to grasp it. The SpeedFolding robot can fold clothes from a random initial position in less than two minutes on average at a 93% success rate, as well as generalize to clothes of differing material, shape, or color than those it trained with.

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Advance Brings Quantum Computing One Step Closer to Implementation
University of Tokyo (Japan)
October 24, 2022

Two ion-electronic hybrid systems able to cool and measure the motion of an electron were developed by researchers at Japan's University of Tokyo (UTokyo). Both systems featured a vacuum-trapped electron that interacted with superconducting circuits and a trapped ion; ions and electrons that are trapped together move toward each other due to Coulomb attraction. The electron's light mass yielded a strong attraction in both an electron-superconducting circuit and an electron-ion coupled system, and the researchers could control the electron's temperature using microwave fields and optical lasers. The researchers also measured their calculations via a single-phonon readout and ground-state cooling. "With the feasibility of quantum-level control of the motion of trapped electrons, the trapped electron becomes more promising and attractive for quantum-technology applications, such as quantum computing," said UTokyo's Alto Osada.

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Thousands of GitHub Repositories Deliver Fake PoC Exploits with Malware
Bill Toulas
October 23, 2022

Researchers at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science in the Netherlands discovered thousands of GitHub repositories offering fake proof-of-concept (PoC) exploits for various vulnerabilities, including malware. The researchers analyzed slightly more than 47,300 repositories promoting exploits for vulnerabilities disclosed between 2017 and 2021 using Internet Protocol (IP) address analysis, binary analysis, and hexadecimal and Base64 analysis. Over 2,800 of 150,734 unique IPs extracted matched blocklist entries, 1,522 were labeled malicious in antivirus scans on Virus Total, and 1,069 of them were in the AbuseIPDB database. The researchers designated 4,893 of 47,313 tested repositories malicious, with most focusing on vulnerabilities from 2020. The researchers advised software testers to thoroughly vet the PoCs they download, and to run as many checks as possible before execution.

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