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June 2015 — July 2015

How Good is R for Data Visualization? (Jul 5, 2015)
I've been doing some research on R, Ggplot2 and visualization in general for a lecture so I want to share my thoughts about this question. I will start with my conclusions then I'll try to rationalize them. Conclusion #1: R is great for creating plots for exploratory data analysis but not very good for final product data visualization. Conclusion #2: Ggplot is a great as a set of tools you can use and not so great as a generic graphing language or a language grammar as it is supposed to be.



ACM, CSTA Announce $1M Award to Recognize Students in Computing (Jul 5, 2015)
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, and CSTA, the Computer Science Teachers Association, announced a new award, the ACM/CSTA Cutler-Bell Prize in High School Computing to recognize talented high school students in computer science. The program seeks to promote and encourage the field of computer science as well as to empower young and aspiring learners to pursue computing challenges outside of the traditional classroom environment.



Purdue University Researcher Invents Fake Password Technology to Confuse Hackers (Jul 4, 2015)
Purdue University Information Assurance and Security group researchers have developed ErsatzPasswords, a security system that makes it much harder for hackers to obtain usable passwords from a leaked database. Hackers "will still be able to crack that file, however the passwords they will get back are fake passwords or decoy passwords," says Purdue doctoral student Mohammed H. Almeshekah. ErsatzPasswords adds an additional step to traditional encryption methods. With the new system, a password i...
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Facebook is Planning for a Data Center in Ireland (Jul 4, 2015)
Facebook plans to open a new data center in Ireland, the social network said, becoming the latest technology giant to set up an energy efficient center in Ireland’s recovering economy. Ireland is fast becoming a cloud hub helped by its temperate climate and the presence of many of the biggest internet companies, which have been attracted by the country’s low corporate tax rate. Facebook said it had applied for planning permission to build the center, which, after Sweden, is its second in Eur...
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Coursera Co-Founder Discusses the Future of Online Education (Jul 3, 2015)
Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller, former professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford University, hopes her online education platform will expand globally as more universities see online education evolving into a necessary, and inevitable, complement to traditional learning. Although Koller, who in 2008 received the first-ever ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences, does not envision the obsolescence of traditional university education, she says online education "gives peopl...
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UC San Diego Launches edX Channel (Jul 3, 2015)
The recently-launched CSE-based Center for Visual Computing, or VisComp, at UC San Diego, confirmed that its first course on the edX learning platform will be taught by the center’s director, computer science professor Ravi Ramamoorthi. The news was part of a formal announcement by UC San Diego that it is partnering with edX, the leading nonprofit, open-source online learning destination that offers online courses to students around the world. Under the name UC San DiegoX, the campus will host...
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Three Education Technology Myths (Jul 2, 2015)
We are constantly hearing about how some piece of new tech will transform teaching and learning in the classroom. We believe that if something is shiny, new, and slick, it will inevitably be good for the classroom. In other words, we believe that technology will solve the ills of the 21st-century classroom. This can, however, lead to blind adoption or ill-planned implementation.



SDSC, UCSD Focus on Sustainable Computer Science Courses (Jul 2, 2015)
The University of California, San Diego's San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) has been awarded a three-year U.S. National Science Foundation grant to help three regional school districts create model "villages" for deploying and sustaining up-to-date computer science courses in their curriculum. "Workforce training must evolve with technology innovations to maintain a vibrant economy," says SDSC's Diane Baxter. "The slower pace of K-12 curriculum revision poses a significant systemic challenge...
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It’s Time for Every Student to Learn to Code (Jul 1, 2015)
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around the importance of coding in the K-12 classroom. Should it be compulsory for all students? An elective? Reserved for those students considering a computer science major in college? The answer may come down to supply and demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs and only 400,000 computer science students to fill those roles. This represents a gap of one million jobs that will go unfille...
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Code.org Targets High School Computer Science (Jul 1, 2015)
Code.org is collaborating with College Board to work to expand computer science in U.S. high schools and increase the number of female and minority students taking computer science courses. Under the new partnership, high schools in 35 of the U.S.'s largest districts will be encouraged to offer Code.org's computer science course this fall. Targeted school districts are in cities including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi says the nonprofit will provide the curri...
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Latest Self-Driving Google Car Heading to Public Streets (Jun 30, 2015)
Google announced plans to debut the latest version of its self-driving car on public roads this summer. The new prototypes look similar to the prototype unveiled last year, but with a more robust feature set. Dimitri Dolgov, head of software for the self-driving car project, says Google's self-driving software has improved in the last year and is much better at classifying objects and predicting the behavior of pedestrians and other cars. However, the new cars will still have limitations. The sm...
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UW Study Examines Gender Bias in Stock Images (Jun 30, 2015)
Researchers from the universities of Washington (UW) and Maryland analyzed gender bias in online image results, and their study found a systematic underrepresentation of women. In occupations that have the same number of women and men, the researchers report women only account for 45 percent of the search images. Moreover, women in the images sometimes appear highly sexualized. When study participants were asked to identify which images showed a more professional and appropriate-looking person f...
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Your Smartphone Could Have Serious Security Flaws (Jun 27, 2015)
Three separate research groups revealed app security flaws that could turn Apple and Samsung devices into cyberintruders' playthings -- allowing them to take control of your phones' cameras, microphones and GPS while stealing all your personal information and listening to your phone calls. The only good news is that the attacks would have to be aimed at specific phones, and attackers are unlikely to target everyday people. The bad news is that German researchers found flaws that could affect eve...
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Facebook's New AI Can Paint, but Google's Knows How to Party (Jun 27, 2015)
Facebook and Google are building enormous neural networks—artificial brains—that can instantly recognize faces, cars, buildings, and other objects in digital photos. But that’s not all these brains can do. They can recognize the spoken word, translate from one language to another, target ads, or teach a robot to screw a cap onto a bottle. And if you turn these brains upside down, you can teach them not just to recognize images, but create images—in rather intriguing (and sometimes distur...
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Tesla GPUs Power Winning Team in Student Supercomputing Competition (Jun 26, 2015)
The Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform has again powered the winning team in a major international student supercomputing competition. And, GPU technology helped another team set a student record in the supercomputing industry’s top performance benchmark. For the third year in a row GPU technologies have helped a team nab the top spot in the Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge, the world’s largest supercomputer competition. This year, 152 teams from around the world took part. Sixteen fro...
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Hyperloop Dreams May Become Concrete (Jun 26, 2015)
SpaceX has announced plans to construct a mile-long Hyperloop test track next to its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, scheduled for completion by June 2016. The company also announced an open competition for university students and independent engineering teams to design and build the best Hyperloop pod. Entrants will be able to test their pods on the track. "These tests will provide proof points at a reasonable cost, and will help build support for the project," said Jim McGregor, princip...
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New Minecraft Mod Teaches You Code as You Play (Jun 25, 2015)
Teachers are already capitalizing on their students’ fascination with the computer game Minecraft to teach everything from math to history. The immersive game lets you create your own mini-universe. The game has many tools, but many players are taking the game a step further by building entirely new features into the game. And, at the same time, they are also learning how to code with a tweak to the Minecraft game called LearnToMod. Modifications like this, called “mods,” are a big part of...
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SC15 Selects Nine Teams for Student Cluster Competition (Jun 25, 2015)
SC15 is excited to hold another nail-biting Student Cluster Competition as an opportunity to showcase student expertise in a friendly yet spirited competition. This year the SCC is proud to host nine teams that will battle it out to showcase their hardware and computing might to battle zombie invasions, hurricanes, exotic particles, gene reconstruction and more. The selected teams are from the following organizations/countries: Arizona Tri-University Team (U.S.), Illinois Institute of Technology...
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Rutgers Students Win with App for Diabetes Management (Jun 24, 2015)
Team "Copernicus Health" won the Nicholson Foundation's Rutgers Healthcare Delivery Challenge for its smartphone app that engages and motivates underserved populations to better manage their type 2 diabetes. The Rutgers Healthcare Delivery Challenge encouraged teams to develop ready-to-implement service delivery or technology innovations that can improve the quality and contain the costs of healthcare for underserved populations. The Copernicus Health app uses gamification techniques to enable p...
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Nine Programming Languages and the Women Who Created Them (Jun 24, 2015)
Software development has a well-known reputation for being a male-dominated world. But, despite this, women have made many important and lasting contributions to programming throughout the decades. One area, in particular, where many women have left a mark is in the development of programming languages. Numerous pioneering women have designed and developed the languages programmers use to give computers instructions, starting in the days of mainframes and machine code, through assemblers and int...
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Gadgets Powered Wirelessly at Home with a Simple Wi-Fi Router (Jun 23, 2015)
A multi-university team of researchers has developed a system that can power electrical devices with just a wireless router's signal, even while it provides wireless Internet access to an area. Using a traditional Wi-Fi signal, devices can be powered when the Internet is being used; however, when not browsing, the signal goes quiet. The new software broadcasts meaningless data across several Wi-Fi channels when the Internet is not being used, and small devices could use this signal as part of an...
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Fourteen Illinois Researchers Selected for NCSA Fellowships (Jun 23, 2015)
Fourteen faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been selected to receive one-year fellowships that will enable their research teams to pursue collaborative projects with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. NCSA's fellowship program aims to catalyze and develop long-term collaborations between the center and campus researchers, particularly in the center's six thematic areas of research: Bioinformatics and Health Sciences, Computing and Data Scien...
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NCSA Team Creates Solar Superstorms (Jun 22, 2015)
The members of NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory and their collaborators are creating “Solar Superstorms,” an ultra-high-resolution digital film that presents the latest digitally enabled research on solar flares, coronal mass ejections and other aspects of space weather. This is just the first of three fulldome shows that AVL and its partners will produce in the next several years as part of a project called CADENS (The Centrality of Advanced Digitally ENabled Science), which is back...
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Engineers Develop Computer that Operates on Water Droplets (Jun 22, 2015)
Computers and water typically don't mix, but in Manu Prakash's lab, the two are one and the same. Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, and his students have built a synchronous computer that operates using the unique physics of moving water droplets. The computer is nearly a decade in the making, incubated from an idea that struck Prakash when he was a graduate student. The work combines his expertise in manipulating droplet fluid dynamics with a fundamental element of ...
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Medical Millirobots Offer Hope for Less-invasive Surgeries (Jun 21, 2015)
University of Houston researchers have proposed using tiny robots driven by magnetic potential energy from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to advance minimally invasive medical treatments. The new approach is based on sending tiny maneuverable robotic components to a desired location and triggering the conversion of magnetic potential energy into a suitable amount of kinetic energy to penetrate tissue. "Our noninvasive approach would eventually require simply a hypodermic needle or lum...
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