Welcome to the March 3, 2023, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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President Biden with members of his cabinet. Biden National Cyber Strategy Seeks to Hold Software Firms Liable for Insecurity
The Wall Street Journal
Dustin Volz
March 2, 2023

The Biden administration said it would work to enable laws to make software companies liable for products lacking cybersecurity protections. The national cybersecurity strategy drafted by the office of the national cyber director also supports establishing a broader framework of cybersecurity regulations to shield critical infrastructure. It states that any White House-backed legislation should prevent software makers from evading liability by contract and develop higher standards for software in high-risk scenarios; the administration also would strive to protect firms from liability through a safe harbor model. The plan calls for greater collaboration and threat-intelligence sharing between public and private sectors, international alliances to formulate cyber norms, and modernizing federal technology.

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The Race to Build AI-Powered Humanoids Is Heating Up
Fast Company
Nate Berg
March 2, 2023

Robotics companies aim to create machines like startup Figure's just-unveiled Figure 01 bipedal humanoid robot to take on manual labor currently performed by humans. Figure 01 is designed to carry out undesirable jobs, and eventually to perform more advanced tasks by using artificial intelligence to learn and improve. Figure's Brett Adcock said his company manufactured five Figure 01 prototypes with 25 degrees of motion, which can bend over fully at the waist and lift a box from the ground to a high shelf. Adcock said the robots employ electric motors to move more smoothly than Boston Dynamics' Atlas, endowing the prototypes with more natural gait.

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Chantal Niyonkuru (left), Sizolwethu Maphanga (center), and Mariam Said Muhammed take computer science courses at school or coding bootcamps. African Girls Can Code Initiative Builds Digital Skills, Momentum Towards Better Future
UN Women
March 1, 2023

The African Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI) holds coding camps to teach girls across Africa digital skills. Launched by the United Nations Women and the African Union Commission, the International Telecommunication Union, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the initiative aims to help girls pursue technology careers by building digital literacy and computer skills. AGCCI intends to train at least 2,000 girls aged 17 to 25 to become computer programmers, creators, and designers. UNECA's Awa Ndiaye-Seck said, "We aim to address not only the policy-level bottlenecks related to access to technology and finances, but also the gender-based harmful norms and practices that hinder women and girls from pursuing STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] fields."

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Three-dimensional shapes made with BactoInk  will mineralize within a few days. 3D Printing with Bacteria-Loaded Ink Produces Bone-Like Composites
EPFL (Switzerland)
Celia Luterbacher
February 23, 2023

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) and the U.K.'s University of Cambridge have developed a method for printing an ink containing calcium carbonate-producing bacteria to form bone-like composites using a three-dimensional (3D) printer. Their BactoInk contains Sporosarcina pasteurii, which mineralizes into calcium carbonate when exposed to a urea-infused solution. EPFL's Esther Amstad said, "Instead of printing minerals, we printed a polymeric scaffold using our BactoInk, which is then mineralized in a second, separate step. After about four days, the mineralization process triggered by the bacteria in the scaffold leads to a final product with a mineral content of over 90%."

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Inside the Lab Growing Mushroom Computers Inside the Lab Growing Mushroom Computers
Popular Science
Charlotte Hu
February 27, 2023

The Unconventional Computing Laboratory (UCL) of the U.K.'s University of the West of England focuses on the development of chemical or living computers that can interface with hardware and software. Examples include fungal computers that utilize mycelium as electronics and conductors in order to enable new forms of information processing and analysis. The researchers found mycelium with different geometrical arrangements can compute different logical functions and can map circuits based on received electrical responses; UCL's Andrew Adamatzky suggested this could lead to neuromorphic circuits. Fungal computers' self-regenerative abilities could improve fault tolerance, reconfigurability, and energy efficiency, despite their inability to match the speeds of current computers.

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Hansel and Gretel Inspire Robotic Exploration of Caves on Mars
University of Arizona News
Daniel Stolte
March 1, 2023

University of Arizona (UArizona) engineers developed technology inspired by Hansel and Gretel's trick of leaving a breadcrumb trail to enable subsurface robotic probes on Mars and other planets to collaborate in teams without human input. Said UArizona's Wolfgang Fink of the Breadcrumb-Style Dynamically Deployed Communication Network model, "In our scenario, the 'breadcrumbs' are miniaturized sensors that piggyback on the rovers, which deploy the sensors as they traverse a cave or other subsurface environment." Fink said the sensor 'breadcrumbs' form a nondirected mesh network that sends the rovers' collected data to a mother rover. The platform allows robot explorers to function underground or in liquid environments.

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Five drones flying across a cloudy sky. Hacker Tool Can Pinpoint a DJI Drone Operator's Exact Location
Andy Greenberg
March 2, 2023

Researchers at Germany's Ruhr University Bochum and the CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security were able to determine the GPS location of drones sold by manufacturer DJI, as well as the GPS coordinates of their operators, by reverse-engineering the drones' radio signals. Deconstructing those signals allowed the researchers to decode the DroneID radio protocol, which allows drones to be monitored by governments, regulators, and law enforcement. The researchers released a prototype tool to receive and decode DroneID data. Their tool was tested on a DJI drone within 15 to 25 feet; the researchers said additional engineering could extend that range.

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2023 NSF CAREER recipients Mahdi Cheraghchi, Roya Ensafi, Paul Grubbs, Euiwoong Lee, Cyrus Omar, Thatchaphol Saranurak, and Xinyu Wang. Seven CSE Faculty Earn NSF CAREER Awards
University of Michigan Computer Science and Engineering
February 21, 2023

Seven faculty members in computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan were named to receive U.S. National Science Foundation CAREER Awards for being academic role models in research and education. The recipients cover topics that include computational theory, programming languages, network security, and program synthesis. Mahdi Cheraghchi, for example, earned his award for analyzing the theoretical causes of error correction and pseudorandomness. Roya Ensafi's award will help her to develop ethical and effective countermeasures to modern online censorship. Xinyu Wang's award will support his project to democratize Web automation tools via an artificial intelligence-based programming assistant.

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Two fingers placing final puzzle piece into puzzle. C++ 23 Language Standard Declared Feature-Complete
Paul Krill
March 1, 2023

Herb Sutter, chair of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) C++ Committee, said the panel had completed technical work on the C++ 23 programming language standard last month and is crafting a final document for a draft approval ballot. The upgrade offers standard library module support, simplifies implicit move, and corrects temporaries in range-for loops, multidimensional, and static operator while improving Unicode. C++ 23 also has static constexpr in constexpr functions. Sutter said major compilers and libraries have already deployed many C++ 23 features, while the forthcoming C++ 26 release is expected to boast concurrency and parallelism. The ISO C++ committee's Antony Poluhkin blogged that C++ 26 also will have stackful coroutines, with C++ 26 feature approvals slated to start in June.

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A microscopic-level photo of the influenza virus. Computer Model of Influenza Virus Shows Universal Vaccine Promise
National Science Foundation
February 27, 2023

University of California, San Diego researchers funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation have established an atomic computer model of the H1N1 influenza virus that suggests design approaches for universal vaccines and antivirals. A vaccine's primary targets are two surface glycoproteins, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. The new model exposes new vulnerabilities through the glycoproteins' "breathing" and "tilting" movements. Said UCSD's Rommie Amaro, "Once we knew our models were correct, we realized the enormous potential this discovery held. This research could be used to develop methods of keeping the protein locked open so that it would be constantly accessible to antibodies."

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Where Digital Payments, Even for 10-Cent Chai, Are Colossal in Scale
The New York Times
Mujib Mashal; Hari Kumar
March 1, 2023

India has deployed a mammoth scan-and-pay digital transaction system that Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed as "digital public infrastructure." The core component is a push to assign citizens biometric identification numbers, which have been delivered to about 99% of adults, according to the government. The IDs simplify the creation of bank accounts and form the basis of India's Unified Payments Interface, which provides services from hundreds of banks and dozens of mobile payment applications without transaction fees. The platform facilitates payments for even the smallest transactions, while Group of 20 event coordinator Amitabh Kant said the system's public-private model balances privacy with innovation.

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Chunks of data moving between processing units. Argonne Scientist Develops X-Ray Data Reconstruction Method
Argonne National Laboratory
Andre Salles
March 2, 2023

The TomocuPy software package devised by Viktor Nikitin at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory accelerates tomography by up to 30 times by reconstructing multiple cross-sections of X-ray data simultaneously. The method also runs concurrently the multiple processors within each graphics processing unit (GPU) being used. TomocuPy also furnishes a pipeline incorporating a streaming process developed by Argonne's Siniša Veseli to shuttle data between applications. The GPUs employed for TomocuPy can be modified to work with machine learning algorithms, which Nikitin said is critical for ensuring experiments can adapt to reconstructed data in real time. The software will help scientists collect data exponentially faster when Argonne's Advanced Photon Source facility is upgraded to intensify the brightness of its X-ray beams by up to 500-fold.

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Applied Materials Unveils Chip Tool to Lower Cost in Lithography Process
Jane Lanhee Lee
February 28, 2023

The Centura Sculpta tool developed by chip manufacturing tool developer Applied Materials can reportedly reduce the cost of a lithographic process for making chips. The company said it has begun selling the tool, which shines a light on a wafer to generate a pattern, then sculpts the final pattern from that. Applied Materials' Steven Sherman said removing even a single lithography cycle saves money, energy, and water. Chipmakers can save roughly $250 million in capital costs for a facility that can fabricate 100,000 wafers per month each time the Centura Sculpta is used in the process, according to Sherman. A statement from Applied Materials quoted chipmaker Intel in saying it worked with the company in the "optimization of Sculpta" and would be using the tool.

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