Welcome to the November 21, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Fred Brooks at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ,where he founded the computer science department. In Memoriam: Frederick P. Brooks Jr.
Steven Bellovin
November 19, 2022

Computer scientist Frederick P. Brooks Jr., who passed away on Nov. 17, earned the ACM A.M. Turing Award in 1999 for his landmark contributions to computer architecture, operating systems, and software engineering. Columbia University's Steven Bellovin recalled Brooks' time at IBM, where he led the design of the S/360 mainframes, which comprised five models with distinct performance characteristics, sharing a common architecture-defined instruction set. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brooks focused on computer graphics and protein modeling, and pioneered virtual reality by using a remote manipulator arm to "grab" and move atoms with accompanying force feedback.

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ACM Gordon Bell Special Prize Awarded for Modeling Pandemic-Causing Viruses
November 17, 2022

ACM named an international research team the recipient of the 2022 ACM Gordon Bell Special Prize for High-Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research for Genome-Scale Language Models (GenSLMs). The researchers pre-trained a GenSLM on more than 110 million prokaryotic gene sequences, then refined a SARS-CoV-2-specific model on 1.5 million genomes. They demonstrated the models can accurately recognize variants of concern. The models also scale on graphics processing unit-based supercomputers and artificial intelligence-hardware accelerators, yielding over 1.54 zetaflops in training sessions. The team said in its paper, "We present initial scientific insights gleaned from examining GenSLMs in tracking the evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2, noting that its full potential on large biological data is yet to be realized."

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A robot arm with a humanlike hand. Transforming Robots Help to Transfer Skills
Scientific American
Matthew Hutson
December 1, 2022

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a technique to help differently shaped robots transfer skills between each other. The Robot-Evolve-Robot (REvolveR) scheme involves two robots of different design learning skills though a chain of simulated intermediate robots. Each robot practices the desired task, tuning an artificial neural network until it achieves a threshold success rate before the controller code is handed to the next robot in the line. The researchers constructed a shared "kinematic tree"—a series of nodes representing limb components linked by connections representing joints—to switch between virtual source and target robots. The researchers found REvolveR surpassed baseline training methods, such as educating the target robot from scratch.

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All government systems are down in Vanuatu after a suspected ransomware attack. Hackers Strand Vanuatu's Government
BBC News
Frances Mao
November 19, 2022

A suspected cyberattack has disabled the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu's government since Nov. 4, crippling the websites of its parliament, police, and prime minister's office. The hack also has hobbled the email system, intranet, and online databases of schools, hospitals, and other emergency services, as well as all government services and departments. Locals said the attack has basically impacted anyone with a gov.vu email or domain, while The Sydney Morning Herald reported the hackers are demanding a ransom from the government. Experts think the system's vulnerability was rooted in its likely centralization and hosting on the government's servers. Vanuatu has vowed to upgrade the system, and requested Australia aid in its network rebuilding.

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Quantum Researchers Discover AND Gate
IEEE Spectrum
Charles Q. Choi
November 18, 2022

Fei Yan and colleagues at China's Southern University of Science and Technology have formulated a more practical quantum version of the AND gate that makes ancilla quantum bits (qubits) unnecessary. "Our technique presents a scaling advantage," Yan explained. "The more qubits are involved, the more cost-saving our technique would be compared to the traditional one." The new quantum AND gate involves qubits encoding three quantum states, which temporarily retains data needed to execute the AND operation. The researchers constructed Toffoli gates using the quantum AND gate. Said Yan, "Our work will help narrow the gap between the most anticipated near-term applications and existing noisy devices."

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Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA referees committee, during the briefing at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. FIFA Tech Promises Faster, More Accurate Offside Decisions in Qatar
Nick Mulvenney
November 18, 2022

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)'s Pierluigi Collina said new video assistant referee (VAR) technology will make more accurate offside decisions during the World Cup soccer games in Qatar. The "semi-automatic offside technology" will rule on even the tightest decisions faster than the previous system, with three-dimensionally animated incidents displayed in stadiums and on TV. A dozen cameras in each arena will monitor 29 points on players' bodies, while a sensor in the match ball will transmit data to the VAR operations room 500 times a second. The VAR system has been tested at two FIFA tournaments and in test matches at all World Cup-hosting stadiums; said FIFA's Johannes Holzmueller, "The outcome was very positive."

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Brice Ménard (left) and Nikita Shtarkman examine the map of the observable universe. Map of the Universe Displays Span of Known Cosmos
November 20, 2022

Astronomers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) have created an interactive map of the entire known cosmos culled from 20 years of data compiled by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The freely available online map features pinpoint accuracy and expansive beauty, depicting the actual position and colors of about 200,000 galaxies. JHU's Brice Ménard and former JHU computer science student Nikita Shtarkman assembled the map, in which each galaxy is just one pixel. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has spent years building up a picture of the night sky, using a telescope in New Mexico. "Our goal here is to show everybody what the universe really looks like," said Ménard.

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What Happens if Your Medical Records Are Incomplete?
UCF Today
Wendy Sarubbi
November 17, 2022

The University of Central Florida's Varadraj Gurupur developed an algorithm for predicting and measuring the incompleteness of electronic health records, to determine whether a critical portion of such records was missing data. Gurupur and colleagues found the degree of incompleteness varies annually, without any pattern of where data loss occurs. The algorithm helps recognize properties with a stronger leaning toward incompleteness. Previous research conducted by Gurupur cited patient-provider communication and education as the biggest factors underlying missing health information, while digital technology presents its own obstructions. The algorithm could enable hospital leaders to know and address the exact point where missing information originates.

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AI Is Better at Answering Questions if You Get Another AI to Ask
New Scientist
Alex Wilkins
November 10, 2022

An artificial intelligence (AI) model developed by researchers at Canada's University of Toronto makes suggestions to another AI and generates results as good as if they were prompts from people. The Automatic Prompt Engineer (APE) model shows a desired output from a particular input to a large language model, which produces various inputs predicted to generate that output. APE ranks the suggestions and chooses the best one, though it is uncertain how that decision is made. The researchers used the model to identify prompts for 24 tasks related to language understanding and compared them to prompts from 10 human engineers, and found APE performed on par or better on 19 of the tasks.

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Smart Home Hubs Leave Users Vulnerable to Hackers
UGA Today
Leigh Beeson
November 15, 2022

The ChatterHub system developed by University of Georgia (UGA) researchers can expose smart home hub users to hackers by revealing the activity of various hubs nearly 90% of the time. UGA's Kyu Lee said, "We were able to use machine learning technology to figure out what much of the activity is without even having to decrypt the information." Lee said the information smart hubs send to individual devices can be deciphered by "using patterns, the size of the packet, and the timing of the packet." Hackers can acquire this information without positioning ChatterHub close to the hub, nor do they require prior knowledge of the types of smart devices to which it is connected or the hub's manufacturer to breach the system remotely.

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Skin-Like Electronics Could Monitor Health Continuously
Argonne National Laboratory
Joseph E. Harmon
November 16, 2022

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago, China's Tongji University, and the University of Southern California are developing flexible, wearable electronics that can monitor the wearer's health. The researchers created a skin-like neuromorphic chip from a plastic semiconductor film integrated with stretchable gold nanowire electrodes. In one experiment, the researchers assembled and trained an artificial intelligence device to differentiate healthy electrocardiogram signals from signals indicating health problems, which it did with more than 95% accuracy. The researchers also analyzed the plastic semiconductor under X-rays, in order to better understand its structure.

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Dr. Nathan Selden watches as first-year neurosurgery resident Stephen Bowden practices brain surgery techniques at OHSU. Brain Surgery Simulator Proves Valuable in Nationwide Test
Erik Robinson
November 17, 2022

Over 500 U.S. neurological surgery residents trained on a simulator engineered to replicate real-life catastrophes that occur in operating rooms. Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) researchers developed the multimodal simulator, which features a three-dimensionally-printed model of a brain, skull, and membrane, including faux blood and patient monitors. Residents' heart rates were monitored while they trained on the simulator. The nationwide test was intended to assess the feasibility of a simulator as an alternative to surgical training with cadavers. OHSU's Nathan Selden said, "This study shows that simulation of real, complex situations in the neurosurgical operating room is feasible and economical across an entire specialty."

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