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May 2016 — May 2016

Cracking the Code: How Computer Science Can Change Lives (May 28, 2016)
Coding may be the new educational buzzword, but how can schools teach computer science in a meaningful way when their resources are already stretched to the max? At "Ready, Set, Code: The New Essential Skill" – a breakout session of the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference in Baltimore on Wednesday – four experts spoke about the challenges they face in making coding and computational thought an integral part of K-12 curriculae, and to instill an interest in STEM that lasts long after the scho...
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How Can Theoretical Computer Science Inform Neuroscience? (May 28, 2016)
Today, there’s a thriving interaction between TCS and physics (mostly centered around quantum computing, but also around, for example, phase transitions in random constraint satisfaction problems). There’s also a thriving interaction between TCS and economics (e.g., combinatorial auction design, computational game theory), and a third thriving interaction between TCS and biology (DNA sequencing algorithms, phylogenetic tree reconstruction, inferring gene regulatory networks…). Meanwhile, t...
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The Wide World of E-Sports (May 27, 2016)
I played a lot of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty online when it launched. And by that I mean a lot. As a result, I inevitably drifted into watching streams of other players competing in order to improve my own game. I even remember having my favorite casters, Husky and TotalBiscuit, in addition to following Team Liquid. Eventually I stopped playing as much, and even stopped following the e-sports scene. However, this period only marked the very beginning of the professional e-sports industry. Tw...
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Advance May Make Quantum Computing More Practical (May 27, 2016)
Quantum computers are largely hypothetical devices that could perform some calculations much more rapidly than conventional computers can. They exploit a property called superposition, which describes a quantum particle's counterintuitive ability to, in some sense, inhabit more than one physical state at the same time. But superposition is fragile, and finding ways to preserve it is one of the chief obstacles to developing large, general-purpose quantum computers. In today's Nature, MIT research...
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How Will Virtual Reality Change Our Lives? (May 26, 2016)
Virtual Reality (VR) has been with us for many decades - at least as an idea - but the technology has now come of age. And it's not just gamers who are benefiting from the immersive possibilities it offers. Four experts, including Mark Bolas - former tutor of Palmer Luckey, who recently hand-delivered the first VR handset made by his company Oculus Rift - talked to the BBC World Service Inquiry programme about the future of VR.



Dartmouth Contest Shows Computers Aren't Such Good Poets (May 26, 2016)
Computers are pretty good at stocking shelves and operating cars, but are not so great at writing poetry. Scientists in a Dartmouth College competition reached that conclusion after designing artificial intelligence algorithms that could produce sonnets. Judges compared the results with poems written by humans to see if they could tell the difference. In every instance, the judges were able to find the sonnet produced by a computer program. The yearlong competition was a variation of the "Turing...
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Animal Training Techniques Teach Robots New Tricks (May 25, 2016)
Researchers at Washington State University are using ideas from animal training to help non-expert users teach robots how to do desired tasks. The researchers recently presented their work at the international Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems conference. As robots become more pervasive in society, humans will want them to do chores like cleaning house or cooking. But to get a robot started on a task, people who aren't computer programmers will have to give it instructions. "We want every...
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The Rise Of APIs (May 25, 2016)
It’s been almost five years since we heard that “software is eating the world.” The number of SaaS applications has exploded and there is a rising wave of software innovation in the area of APIs that provide critical connective tissue and increasingly important functionality. There has been a proliferation of third-party API companies, which is fundamentally changing the dynamics of how software is created and brought to market. The application programming interface (API) has been a key pa...
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Who's Watching Me On The Internet? (May 24, 2016)
Around 40 million UK adults – 78% of us – go online every day or almost every day. By posting on social media, booking tickets or buying a DVD, we add to the 2.3 billion gigabytes of internet data created daily. The data trail we leave on our online journey says much about our habits and our tastes. This information is, of course, much in demand. The benefits of analyzing personal data are becoming clear and many interested parties are already busy doing it. But should we try to cover our fo...
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Privacy Fears: Panel Has Advice For Drone Operators (May 24, 2016)
A panel of privacy experts and technology companies organized by the Obama administration has issued guidelines for using drones without being overly intrusive. The suggestions are voluntary, but some business interests involved in the debate hope the guidelines head off tougher regulations that they fear could smother the drone industry in its infancy. News organizations are exempt from the guidelines on free-press grounds. Supporters say drones could provide huge benefits, from inspecting powe...
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Startups to Congress: Strong Data Security Keeps Us Competitive (May 23, 2016)
Twilio recently had the opportunity to meet with members of Congress and their staff who have taken on the difficult task of balancing security and privacy. We were struck by the sincere desire to understand how actions proposed by those in Washington impact smaller technology businesses. It’s been clear to us for some time that, in order to get the full picture, Congress needs to hear from tech companies at all stages of growth; we were encouraged to see that realization dawning on the Hill, ...
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Tech Companies Are Dominated By So Many White Dudes, New Data Shows (May 23, 2016)
White dudes are disproportionately represented all across the United States work force, and there is even less diversity among jobs that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission labels "high tech." In a report released by the EEOC following a Wednesday hearing on tech sector diversity, the commission outlined 2014 stats that show people employed in "high tech sector" jobs are whiter and more male than the average private industry job. In the tech sector, which the report defines as "industri...
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Solar Impulse Plane Lands in Dayton from Oklahoma (May 22, 2016)
A solar-powered plane landed in Dayton, Ohio on the latest leg of a record-breaking trip to circle the globe without consuming a drop of fuel. Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Swiss businessman Andre Borschberg, arrived at 9:56 pm at Dayton International Airport after a flight from Tulsa, Oklahoma that lasted a 16 hours and 34 minutes, a live video feed showed. "Amazing to have landed in #Dayton after being in the sky for 17 hours!" Borschberg tweeted. The slow-moving, single-seat plane with the wing...
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Using Static Electricity, Microrobots Can Land and Stick to Surfaces (May 22, 2016)
The RoboBee, pioneered at the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, uses an electrode patch and a foam mount that absorbs shock. The entire mechanism weighs 13.4 mg, bringing the total weight of the robot to about 100mg -- similar to the weight of a real bee. The robot takes off and flies normally. When the electrode patch is supplied with a charge, it can stick to almost any surface, from glass to wood to a leaf. To detach, the power supply is simply switched off. In a recent article in Science, Harvard r...
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Finding the next new tech material: The computational hunt for the weird and unusual (May 21, 2016)
Scientists at U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory are turning to the world of computation to guide their search for the next new material. Their program uses software code developed to map and predict the distinct structural, electronic, magnetic stable and metastable features that are often the source of an advanced material's unique capabilities.



Crowd-Augmented Cognition (May 21, 2016)
Crowdsourcing has brought us Wikipedia and ways to understand how HIV proteins fold. It also provides an increasingly effective means for teams to write software, perform research or accomplish small repetitive digital tasks. However, most tasks have proven resistant to distributed labor, at least without a central organizer. As in the case of Wikipedia, their success often relies on the efforts of a small cadre of dedicated volunteers. If these individuals move on, the project becomes difficult...
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New Method of Producing Random Numbers Could Improve Cybersecurity (May 20, 2016)
With an advance that one cryptography expert called a "masterpiece," University of Texas at Austin computer scientists have developed a new method for producing truly random numbers, a breakthrough that could be used to encrypt data, make electronic voting more secure, conduct statistically significant polls and more accurately simulate complex systems such as Earth's climate. The new method creates truly random numbers with less computational effort than other methods, which could facilitate si...
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The Tao of “The DAO” or: How the Autonomous Corporation is Already Here (May 20, 2016)
A new paradigm of economic cooperation is underway — a digital democratization of business. Over the past couple of weeks a project with no mainstream press has become the second biggest crowdfunding project in history. It’s not crowdfunding a product, an artwork or a new cryptocurrency. It’s crowdfunding — or more accurately, crowd-founding — a corporation called “The DAO.” This is a corporation whose bylaws are written entirely in code.



The Conversation: Why Robots Need to Be Able to Say "No" (May 19, 2016)
Should you always do what other people tell you to do? Clearly not. Everyone knows that. So should future robots always obey our commands? At first glance, you might think they should, simply because they are machines and that’s what they are designed to do. But then think of all the times you would not mindlessly carry out others' instructions—and put robots into those situations.



GPS Devices Reveal What the U.S. is Really Doing with its Toxic E-waste (May 19, 2016)
A two-year investigation of electronics recycling using GPS tracking devices has revealed that policies aimed at curtailing the trade in toxic e-waste have been unsuccessful, with nearly one-third of the devices being exported to developing countries, where equipment is often dismantled in low-tech workshops — often by children — endangering workers, their families, and contaminating the surrounding environment.



AI Learns and Recreates Nobel-Winning Physics Experiment (May 18, 2016)
Australian physicists, perhaps searching for a way to shorten the work week, have created an AI that can run and even improve a complex physics experiment with little oversight. The research could eventually allow human scientists to focus on high-level problems and research design, leaving the nuts and bolts to a robotic lab assistant. The experiment the AI performed was the creation of a Bose-Einstein condensate, a hyper-cold gas, the process for which won three physicists the Nobel Prize in 2...
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Watly: The Computer That Provides Clean Water, Energy, Internet Access (May 18, 2016)
Touted by its creators as the "world's largest solar-powered computer," it could offer a quantum leap for development across rural Africa. The Watly machine, created by an Italian-Spanish start-up of the same name, resembles a futuristic space capsule. But its mission is to provide electricity, clean water, and Internet services that could transform lives and economies across rural Africa. Around 625 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are currently without electricity -- more than two-thirds o...
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Ingestible Robot Operates in Simulated Stomach (May 17, 2016)
In experiments involving a simulation of the human esophagus and stomach, researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demonstrated a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound. The new work, which the researchers are presenting this week at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, buil...
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8 Health Innovations Transforming Women's Lives Around the World (May 17, 2016)
Among the many injustices women face globally, inadequate health care is one of the most serious. In the developing world, where childbirth complications cause the death of more than 800 women every day, a lack of resources makes it impossible for women to maintain their health on a daily basis. And in more developed nations, stigma creates an environment that fails women who, for example, are trans or need more accessible birth control. Advances in technology, however, have made it easier to pr...
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Would You Let a Robot Perform Your Surgery by Itself? (May 16, 2016)
Robots have become the norm in numerous industries, taking over repetitive tasks that humans aren't necessarily needed for -- or want to do -- such as the production of cars and electronics. One step up the technological spectrum is artificial intelligence, where robots are now making informed decisions based on the tasks they're presented with, highlighted by the burgeoning field of driverless cars. As we get used to the idea of machines producing our goods, we're slowly coming around to them m...
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