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Welcome to the March 15, 2023, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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What The First Lung Delivered by Drone Means for Transplant Science
Scientific American
Caren Chesler
April 1, 2023

The first successful delivery of a human donor lung by aerial drone in Toronto, Canada, has implications for the future of transplant science. Researchers at Toronto General Hospital and Canada-based biotechnology company Unither Bioelectronics substituted the drone's landing gear with a carbon-fiber organ container and augmented its connectivity to block global positioning system interference from radio frequencies. The drone transported the lung from Toronto Western Hospital to Toronto General in five minutes (rather than the 25-minute car ride between those facilities), where it was successfully implanted into a patient. The researchers are negotiating with aviation authorities to establish a drone corridor through commercial airspace.

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The LiDAR sensor being tested at two intersections in Texas. LiDAR System Pinpoints Pedestrian Behavior to Improve Efficiency, Safety at Intersections
National Institute for Transportation and Communities
March 6, 2023

A LiDAR sensor system developed by researchers from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Institute for Transportation and Communities at Portland State University aims to improve efficiency and pedestrian safety at intersections with permissive left turns by observing pedestrian behavior. To prevent left-turning vehicles from having to wait at intersections with a flashing yellow arrow (FYA) when pedestrians are not actually crossing, the LiDAR system observes pedestrians’ behavior during yellow, all-red, and the first few seconds of green at the traffic light to assess their true intent to cross. The FYA can resume if no pedestrian is present, allowing left-turning vehicles to proceed.

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Molecular representations of a simple reaction involving carbon dioxide and ammonia. Cleaning Up the Atmosphere with Quantum Computing
AIP Publishing
March 14, 2023

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the University of Kentucky used an algorithm that can operate on a quantum computer to identify useful amine compounds for more efficient carbon capture. Any algorithm that models chemical reactions must factor in interactions between every atomic pair involved, which can number in the hundreds even for a simple three-atom molecule like carbon dioxide bonding with the four-atom amine ammonia. Although beyond the capability of traditional computers, such problems can be handled by quantum computers. Said NETL’s Yuhua Duan, “We are trying to use the current quantum computing technology to solve a practical environmental problem.”

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Insights into Training Dynamics of Deep Classifiers
MIT News
March 8, 2023

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brown University researchers analyzed the emergence of certain properties during the training of deep classifiers. The researchers studied both fully connected deep networks and convolutional neural networks to ascertain the conditions leading to neural collapse in deep network training. They found the minimization of the square loss using stochastic gradient descent, weight decay regularization, and weight normalization enables neural collapse. Said MIT’s Tomer Galanti, the result of the study “validates the classical theory of generalization showing that traditional bounds are meaningful. It also provides a theoretical explanation for the superior performance in many tasks of sparse networks, such as CNNs, with respect to dense networks.”

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ALAN, the autonomous robot, can perceive its environment, make decisions based on what it perceives, and work for extended periods of time. Meet ALAN, a Robot That Requires Minimal Human Supervision
Interesting Engineering
Sejal Sharma
March 10, 2023

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have developed an autonomous robot, ALAN, which can make decisions and complete tasks based on its observations of its environment. The researchers programmed ALAN to recognize its environment, then to move or manipulate tasks within that environment. CMU's Russell Mendonca said, "We have been interested in building an [artificial intelligence] that learns by setting its own objectives. By not depending on humans for supervision or guidance, such agents can keep learning in new scenarios, driven by their own curiosity. This would enable continual generalization to different domains and discovery of increasingly complex behavior."

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In Memoriam: William Wulf's Love for Computers, Teaching Grounded Him at UVA
University of Virginia Engineering
Jennifer McManamay
March 13, 2023

University of Virginia (UVA) professor William Allan Wulf, the former president of the National Academy of Engineering who passed away on March 10 at 83, leaves a legacy defined by his influence on computer science (CS), CS education, research, and national policy. He joined UVA to teach in 1963, earning the school's first-ever CS Ph.D. in 1968. Among his numerous prestigious awards, Wulf revealed in an interview that ACM’s Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award was the most meaningful to him, in part because of two early mentors. “They made me realize the impact that an individual faculty member can have on the whole life of a student,” Wulf said. “Ever since I became a faculty member, that has sort of been my gold standard."

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A performance of virtual girl group MAVE seen in a control room of the MBC television network in Seoul, South Korea. South Korean Girl Band Offers Glimpse into Metaverse
Hyunsu Yim
March 14, 2023

South Korean girl quartet MAVE: exists exclusively in the metaverse, where Web designers and artificial intelligence (AI) produce the songs, dances, interviews, and even the appearance of the group’s human-like avatars. Viewers note the band is more natural-looking than previous virtual entertainers because new tools allow developers to add more realistic details, while an AI voice generator makes the performers multilingual. MAVE: is the product of Metaverse Entertainment, a business established by South Korean Internet company Kakao and gaming firm Netmarble. Metaverse Entertainment's Chu Ji-yeon described the band as an "ongoing" project to investigate new business opportunities and find ways to bypass technological challenges.

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Research Takes Step Towards Laser-Printed Medical Electronics
Lancaster University (U.K.)
March 14, 2023

Researchers at the U.K.'s Lancaster University have developed a technique for three-dimensionally (3D) printing flexible electronics, with the potential to print them directly on, or in, living organisms. The method involves the use of conducting polymer polypyrrole. The researchers 3D-printed an electrical circuit within a silicone matrix, placed the 3D-printed electrodes on mouse brain tissue, and showed they can stimulate mouse neurones in vitro, similar to the way neural electrodes are used for deep brain stimulation in vivo. They also 3D-printed conducting structures directly in nematode worms using smart ink and lasers. Lancaster's Alexandre Benedetto said the research "showed us that such technology can achieve the resolution, safety, and comfort levels required for medical applications."

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Waters filled with plastic waste. ML Helps Researchers Separate Compostable, Conventional Plastic Waste
Frontiers Science News
Deborah Pirchner
March 14, 2023

Scientists at the U.K.'s University College London (UCL) used machine learning techniques to differentiate compostable and biodegradable plastics from conventional materials. The researchers arranged various samples of plastics measuring between 50 mm x 50 mm and 5 mm x 5 mm into a training set for building classification models, and a testing set for checking accuracy. They used hyperspectral imaging to develop the model, which proved 100% accurate for all materials when the samples exceeded 10 mm x 10 mm in size. UCL’s Mark Miodownik said plastic mismanagement in recycling and industrial composting processes is currently too high. However, he added, “We can and will improve it, since automatic sorting is a key technology to make compostable plastics a sustainable alternative to recycling.”

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Research Proves Warmer World Causes Extreme Drought, Rain
The Washington Post
Kasha Patel
March 13, 2023

Matthew Rodell and Bailing Li at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found extreme drought and rainfall occurred more frequently in the last eight years than in the previous decade due to warmer global temperatures. The researchers analyzed 1,056 extreme events from 2002 to 2021, based on observations from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and GRACE Follow-On satellites, which detect shifts in Earth's gravity field to quantify water storage. Rodell and Li algorithmically identified areas above or below average for a period of time by at least 16%; they found intense events have been happening more often since 2015, when a series of record-breaking warm years started. Rodell said the analysis provides "indisputable" proof rising temperatures are amplifying extreme events.

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What Happens When Your Phone is Spying on You
UC San Diego Today
March 13, 2023

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, New York University, and Cornell Tech found smartphone spyware applications leak the information they gather. Promoted as tools to monitor underage children and employees, these apps are abused to secretly spy on others by recording their devices' activities. Little technical expertise is required to install and run the apps, and abusers need only temporary access to the victim's device. The researchers analyzed 14 leading spyware apps for Android phones, exposing data-recording methods that include tapping the device's microphone to record phone calls and using invisible browsers that stream video from the camera to a spyware server.

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A sketch of an STM-based Josephson junction including a single atom. Superconducting Diodes for Dissipationless Electronics
IEEE Spectrum
Charles Q. Choi
March 14, 2023

Researchers at Germany's Free University of Berlin (FU) and France's Université Grenoble Alpes tapped single magnetic atoms to form superconducting diodes, which could potentially revolutionize superconducting electronics by eliminating dissipation. The researchers deposited single magnetic atoms of lead, chromium, or manganese on a superconducting lead crystal, topped by a scanning tunneling microscope's superconducting lead tip. These atomic-scale Josephson junctions yielded a diode effect whose strength and direction could be controlled according to which atom is sandwiched between the superconducting layers. A theoretical model from a group of FU physicists showed quasiparticle currents partly underpin the diode effect. FU's Katharina Franke said the superconducting diodes could function as controllable junctions between quantum bits while minimizing disruptive interactions between the particles.

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AI Reconstructs Motion Sequences of Animals
University of Konstanz (Germany)
March 8, 2023

Bastian Goldlücke, Urs Waldmann, and Simon Giebenhain at Germany's University of Konstanz unveiled an artificial intelligence model that can characterize motion sequences and fully render animals from any perspective based on three-dimensional (3D) key points. Explained Waldman, "The idea was to be able to predict 3D key points and also to be able to track them independently of texture." Reversing the process allows the model to predict skeletal points from silhouette images; the system also can calculate the statistically probable intermediate steps. The researchers produced silhouette motions of humans, pigeons, giraffes, and cows based on 19 to 33 key points.

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