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Welcome to the November 9, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Chemists have long conceptualized tiny machines that could fabricate drugs, plastics, and other polymers. Dream of a 'Molecular Computer' Is Getting More Real
Max G. Levy
November 3, 2022

David Leigh at the U.K.'s University of Manchester believes he can realize the dream of molecular Turing machines, encoding instructions on one molecule and reading them out on another. In 2007, Leigh's team designed a light-powered "ratchet" molecule that could move forward along a molecular track. In 2017, they engineered a process to chemically nudge these molecules along using trichloroacetic acid. The researchers have combined these mechanisms to demonstrate that a molecule-sized machine can read instructions while moving. They encoded three-way blocks of information on a "tape" molecule, then engineered a "head" molecule to slide down its length, contorting into a predictable shape when it scanned a specific block of information.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
November 7, 2022

ACM and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) have named a team of researchers at the U.S Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory the recipients of the 2023 SIAM/ACM Prize in Computational Science and Engineering. The team was recognized for developing the SUNDIALS (SUite of Nonlinear and DIfferential/ALgebraic equation Solvers) time-integration software library to reliably solve mathematical equations critical to modeling physical phenomena. Team members cited two advances that make SUNDIALS unique: co-development of fully adaptive time integrators and nonlinear solvers that require no system matrices for stiff systems, and careful implementations enabling the use of SUNDIALS on various computing systems and software environments. Government laboratories, academic institutions, and industry have used SUNDIALS to implement advances in applications as diverse as fusion device modeling, watershed modeling, and reacting flow simulations.

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President Vit Jedlicka takes a selfie on the physical land in the real world that forms Liberland. Inside Liberland, the Balkan Micronation Becoming First Country to Be Built in Metaverse
Lisa Gibbons
November 7, 2022

The self-declared Free Republic of Liberland aims to become the first country to build and inhabit the metaverse, even before the strip of uninhabited land it has claimed between Serbia and Croatia is populated in real life. Liberland currently has 7,000 approved residents, and an additional 700,000 citizenship applications are being processed. The virtual city will allow its citizens to meet without officially entering the micronation, which is not yet a formally recognized country. Said Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects, which is designing a virtual city for the new nation, "In the coming age of VR [virtual reality] empowered cyberspace, it will be architects and no longer graphic designers who will design the coming 3D [three-dimensional] immersive internet: the metaverse."

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5G-Enabled Malware Classification System for Next-Generation Cybersecurity
November 8, 2022

A multinational team of scientists led by Gwanggil Jeon at South Korea's Incheon National University created an artificial intelligence-based malware detection system for 5G-enabled Industrial Internet of Things systems. The system uses grayscale image visualization with a deep learning network to analyze malware, then applies a convolutional neural network framework to categorize malware attacks. The researchers integrate the system with 5G to enable low latency and high-throughput sharing of real-time data and diagnostics. The new model improved on conventional system architectures, achieving 97% accuracy on the benchmark dataset thanks to the system's ability to extract complementary discriminative properties by integrating multiple layers of data.

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Students at the City University of New York are increasingly graduating with degrees in technology, but face obstacles in landing jobs. Engine of Upward Mobility Struggles to Capture Opportunities in Tech
The New York Times
Steve Lohr
November 7, 2022

Technology degree-holders from the City University of New York (CUNY) find themselves facing significant hurdles in finding jobs. A report from the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) says CUNY and technology companies must make changes to address the university's largely unharnessed potential. Since 2011, CUNY has more than doubled the number of students who earn degrees in technology to nearly 4,000 a year, yet half of CUNY computer science graduates do not have a job in their field a year after graduation, according to the report. CUF concludes CUNY courses should be overhauled to teach more in-demand skills, and the few programs CUNY offers that are successful in connecting students to internship, apprenticeship, and hiring opportunities must be expanded.

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A vibratory roller compacting a roadbed. Technology to Reduce Potholes
University of Technology Sydney (Australia)
November 4, 2022

A team of researchers at Australia's University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has developed a machine learning method for the real-time assessment of road base compaction quality. The intelligent compaction model processes data from a sensor attached to a construction roller. UTS' Behzad Fatahi said the solution "incorporates machine learning and big data from construction sites to predict the stiffness of compacted soil with a high degree of accuracy in a fraction of second, so roller operators can make adjustments." Fatahi explained compaction must be "just right" to ensure proper structural integrity and strength. The researchers suggested this technology could support construction of longer-lasting roads that are more tolerant of severe weather.

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Algorithm Could Turbocharge Solving Cold Cases with DNA
Popular Mechanics
Caroline Delbert
November 4, 2022

Researchers from Stanford University, forensic genealogy company Identifinders, and the non-profit DNA Doe Project developed a new mathematical model for solving crimes using DNA. The researchers explained their algorithm improves the current forensic genetic genealogy process 10-fold by optimizing candidate searches via a decision tree. They said the algorithm "can solve a case with a 7,500-person family tree around 94% of the time," while the current technique only yields a 4% success rate. Stanford's Lawrence Wein said unlike the benchmark method of searching for common ancestors between different matches, the new strategy seeks "the most recent common ancestor between a match and the unknown target."

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The tiny red duck, shown here next to a Lego man, is a replica of a toy created by the company's founder. Lego Animated 3D-Printed Duck is a Peek at the Toy's Future
Andrew Liszewski
November 7, 2022

Lego is offering visitors to the Minifigure Factory experience at the Lego House in Billund, Denmark, the chance to buy a limited-edition red plastic duck produced using the selective laser sintering (SLS) process. The duck, which sells for 89 Danish Krone (about US$12), is a replica of a wooden toy duck created by Lego founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen. The SLS three-dimensional (3D) printing process creates models layer by layer by heating and melting a powdered material, allowing functional mechanical elements to be placed within the toy during its manufacture. Lego's goal is for 3D printing to allow it to offer a wider range of building elements.

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CS Assessments May Overestimate Student Readiness
Nebraska Today
Scott Schrage
November 7, 2022

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the School of Computing asked Ryan Bockmon and Stephen Cooper to create a way to evaluate whether students were ready for an introductory computer science (CS) course or if they might require a pre-introductory class. They compared predicted course performance to actual performance, and found a voluntary sample of 202 study participants included few learners who had withdrawn from the course or received Ds and Fs at the semester's conclusion. In comparing the final grades of students who participated in the assessment against those who did not, Bockmon and Cooper found study participants averaged a B in the introductory CS course, while non-participants averaged a C+. Non-participants also were more likely to drop out or fail the course, indicating a participation bias.

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Grundon has invested in a robotic arm at its Bishop's Cleeve site in Gloucestershire; it can separate recyclables from other rubbish at Robot with 'Brain' Sorting Plastic Waste
BBC News
Tracy Miller; Dawn Limbu
November 5, 2022

U.K. waste management company Grundon has deployed a robotic arm from Finland's Zen Robotics at a site in the county of Gloucestershire to sort plastic waste from garbage at "a human rate." The Fast Picker device is programmed to scan rubbish on a belt before choosing items to pick. Upon completion of plastic waste tests on the arm, Grundon will start training the robot to sort out steel or aluminum cans, paper, and cardboard. Grundon's Ed Fagan said, "Where we can really see robotic sorters making a difference is in environments which are less well-suited for humans, such as the sorting of contaminated waste or working in areas with high levels of noise and dust."

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ML Generates Pictures of Proteins in 5D
Washington University in St. Louis McKelvey School of Engineering
Brandie Jefferson
November 1, 2022

Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) researchers designed a machine learning (ML) algorithm to create five-dimensional (5D) images of molecules detailing both their three-dimensional (3D) orientations and two-dimensional (2D) positions. WashU's Tingting Wu and colleagues added a post-processing step to a classification algorithm, applying physical laws to noisy, pixilated images generated earlier. Wu said the result is a "beautiful image" that applies color, curvature, and direction to visualize thousands of interconnected molecules. The system will ultimately help scientists to better understand biological processes at extremely small scales.

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