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January 2018 — February 2018

Racing to Match China's Growing Computer Power (Feb 8, 2018)
In 1957, the launch of the Sputnik satellite vaulted the Soviet Union to the lead in the space race and galvanized the United States. U.S. supercomputer researchers are today facing their own Sputnik moment—this time with China. After dominating the supercomputing rankings for decades, the United States is now so far behind that the combined power of the top two machines in China easily outpaces that of all 21 supercomputers operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the country's top su...
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Oxford University Extends Maths and Computer Science Exams to HELP Women (Feb 6, 2018)
Students, male and female, taking their exams in summer 2017 were given 15 minutes extra after dons ruled "female candidates might be more likely to be adversely affected by time pressure”, according to the Daily Telegraph. No changes were made to the length or difficulty of the questions on the paper. They trialed the change in a bid to help women achieve higher results, after just seven female maths final year students getting a first last year, compared to 45 men. Some academics reportedly ...
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Learning to Speak Quantum (Feb 6, 2018)
In a 1981 lecture, the famed physicist Richard Feynman wondered if a computer could ever simulate the entire universe. The difficulty with this task is that, on the smallest scales, the universe operates under strange rules: Particles can be here and there at the same time; objects separated by immense distances can influence each other instantaneously; the simple act of observing can change the outcome of reality.

Robot Makes Coffee at New Cafe in Japan's Capital (Feb 5, 2018)
Japan has a new cafe where customers can enjoy coffee brewed and served by a robot barista. The robot named Sawyer debuted this week at Henna Cafe in Tokyo's downtown business and shopping district of Shibuya. The shop's name in Japanese means "strange cafe."

Applying Machine Learning to the Universe's Mysteries (Feb 5, 2018)
Computers can beat chess champions, simulate star explosions, and forecast global climate. We are even teaching them to be infallible problem-solvers and fast learners.And now, physicists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and their collaborators have demonstrated that computers are ready to tackle the universe's greatest mysteries. The team fed thousands of images from simulated high-energy particle collisions to train computer networks to identif...
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Engineers Invent Tiny Vision Processing Chip for Ultra-Small Smart Vision Systems and IoT Applications (Feb 4, 2018)
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has developed a novel microchip, named EQSCALE, which can capture visual details from video frames at extremely low power consumption. The video feature extractor uses 20 times less power than existing best-in-class chips, and hence requires 20 times smaller battery, and could reduce the size of smart vision systems down to the millimetre range. For example, it can be powered continuously by a millimetre-sized solar cell witho...
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Insecure by Design – Lessons From the Meltdown and Spectre Debacle (Feb 4, 2018)
Meltdown and Spectre are qualitatively different from previous computer vulnerabilities. Not only are they effective across a wide class of computer hardware and operating systems from competing vendors. And not only were the vulnerabilities hiding in plain sight for more than a decade. The really shocking realisation is that Meltdown and Spectre do not exploit flaws in the computer hardware or software.

Educating for Equity and Access in Computer Science (Feb 1, 2018)
Jane Margolis, senior researcher at UCLA’s Center X, brings her firsthand experience of inequities in a technical field to her work on bringing computer science education to all students. A summer job as a telephone operator shortly after college led her to become one of the first female telephone installers for Pacific Telephone and Telegraph in the 1970s. She went on to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education where she studied gender socialization and gender, race and inequities in educatio...
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Breaking Down Barriers to Computer Science for Students with Disabilities (Feb 1, 2018)
In the early 1980s, Sheryl Burgstahler met a 6-year-old boy named Randy who had a congenital condition called Arthrogryposis, which caused the paralysis of both his arms and legs. He wanted to move from a special education first grade class to a general education class but wasn’t allowed to because he was unable to write. Burgstahler began to work with him on learning to write with an Apple II computer. He put a stick in his mouth and used it to hit keys. She worked with an engineering student...
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Networking, Data Experts Design a Better Portal for Scientific Discovery (Jan 29, 2018)
These days, it's easy to overlook the fact that the World Wide Web was created nearly 30 years ago primarily to help researchers access and share scientific data. Over the years, the web has evolved into a tool that helps us eat, shop, travel, watch movies and even monitor our homes. Meanwhile, scientific instruments have become much more powerful, generating massive datasets, and international collaborations have proliferated In this new era, the web has become an essential part of the scientif...
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Changing the Color of 3-D Printed Objects (Jan 29, 2018)
Three-dimensional printing has come a long way since the first "rapid prototyping" patent was rejected in 1980. We've evolved from basic designs to a wide range of highly-customizable objects. Still, there's a big issue: once objects are printed, they're final. If you need a change, you'll need a reprint. But imagine if that weren't the case -- if, for example, you could recolor your iPhone case or earrings to match whatever outfit you're wearing.

Datacenters Brace for Spectre and Meltdown Impact (Jan 28, 2018)
The Spectre and Meltdown speculative execution security vulnerabilities fall into the category of “low probability, but very high impact” potential exploits. The holes that Spectre and Meltdown open up into systems might enable any application to read the data of any other app, when running on the same server in the same pool of system memory – bypassing any and all security permissions. These potential exploits apply to every IT shop, from single-tenant servers potentially exposed to malw...
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The Dangers of Keeping Women Out of Tech (Jan 28, 2018)
In 1978 a young woman named Maria Klawe arrived at the University of Toronto to pursue a doctorate in computer science. She had never used a computer—much less written a line of code—but she had a PhD in math and a drive to succeed in a male-dominated field. She was so good that, nine months later, the university asked her to be a professor.

Mysterious 15th Century Manuscript Decoded by Computer Scientists Using AI (Jan 27, 2018)
Artificial intelligence has allowed scientists to make significant progress in cracking a mysterious ancient text, the meaning of which has eluded scholars for centuries. Dated to the 15th century, the Voynich manuscript is a hand-written text in an unknown script, accompanied by pictures of plants, astronomical observations and nude figures.

Clemson Attempts to Crack Code of Culturally Responsive Computer Science Teaching (Jan 27, 2018)
Clemson faculty researchers are using a near $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help computer science teachers across South Carolina develop teaching methods that better serve the state’s diverse population. The research aims to broaden participation in computer science by improving teaching methods and discovering what does and doesn’t work in computer science classrooms for different student audiences.

NIST's Superconducting Synapse May Be Missing Piece for 'Artificial Brains' (Jan 26, 2018)
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have built a superconducting switch that "learns" like a biological system and could connect processors and store memories in future computers operating like the human brain. The NIST switch, described in Science Advances, is called a synapse, like its biological counterpart, and it supplies a missing piece for so-called neuromorphic computers.

Long Sought-After Form of Titanium Nitride Created (Jan 26, 2018)
A team of experimental and computational scientists led by Carnegie’s Tim Strobel and Venkata Bhadram have synthesized a long sought-after form of titanium nitride, Ti3N4, which has promising mechanical and optoelectronic properties. Standard titanium nitride (TiN), with a one-to-one ratio of titanium and nitrogen, exhibits a crystal structure resembling that of table salt—sodium chloride, or NaCl. It is a metal with abrasive properties and thus used for tool coatings and manufacturing of e...
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AI Can Read! Tech Firms Race to Smarten Up Thinking Machines (Jan 25, 2018)
Seven years ago, a computer beat two human quizmasters on a "Jeopardy" challenge. Ever since, the tech industry has been training its machines to make them even better at amassing knowledge and answering questions. And it's worked, at least up to a point. Just don't expect artificial intelligence to spit out a literary analysis of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" any time soon. Research teams at Microsoft and Chinese tech company Alibaba reached what they described as a milestone earlier this month...
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Retrospective Test for Quantum Computers Can Build Trust (Jan 25, 2018)
Tech companies are racing to make quantum computers available to customers. A new scheme from researchers in Singapore and Japan could help customers establish trust in what they get if they buy time on such machines -- and protect companies from dishonest customers. Quantum computers have the potential to solve problems that are beyond the reach of even today's biggest supercomputers, in areas such as drug modelling and optimisation.

Better Than Holograms: A New 3-D Projection Into Thin Air (Jan 24, 2018)
One of the enduring sci-fi moments of the big screen—R2-D2 beaming a 3-D image of Princess Leia into thin air in "Star Wars"—is closer to reality thanks to the smallest of screens: dust-like particles. Scientists have figured out how to manipulate nearly unseen specks in the air and use them to create 3-D images that are more realistic and clearer than holograms, according to a study in Wednesday's journal Nature . The study's lead author, Daniel Smalley, said the new technology is "printing...
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Scientist James West on Finding Passion, Inventing the Electret Microphone, and Pushing Through Adversity (Jan 24, 2018)
Any modern phone call placed, voice recording captured, karaoke song belted or conversation amplified via hearing aid would not be possible without James West. West, now a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University, invented the electret microphone in the early 1960s. Today, West's invention accounts for 90 percent of all microphones, enabling a world of connectivity and vibrant sound. West will be inducted into the 2018 U.S. News STEM Leadership Hall of Fame at...
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Supercomputing-Backed Analysis Reveals Decades of Questionable Investments (Jan 23, 2018)
One of the key principles in asset pricing — how we value everything from stocks and bonds to real estate — is that investments with high risk should, on average, have high returns. “If you take a lot of risk, you should expect to earn more for it,” said Scott Murray, professor of finance at George State University. “To go deeper, the theory says that systematic risk, or risk that is common to all investments” — also known as ‘beta’ — “is the kind of risk that investors sho...
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Supercomputing New Risk Variants for T-2 Diabetes (Jan 23, 2018)
Reanalysis of public genetic data using innovative computational methods has allowed the identification of new genetic markers associated with an increased risk to develop Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). The study, led by Barcelona Supercomputing Center and published today in Nature Communications, represents a new way of exploiting preexisting genetic data to obtain new and relevant discoveries for genetics and biomedicine, highlighting the importance of data sharing initiatives and policies in science.

Computer Science is Fastest-Growing Subject for Undergraduates (Jan 22, 2018)
Computer science as an undergraduate degree subject has seen a gentle spike in demand between the 2015/16 and 2016/17 academic years, according to the most recent Higher education student statistics survey. The subject saw a 4% increase in undergraduate enrollment numbers – the biggest percentage rise in all subjects. However, the absolute number – 1,175 – was below that for business and administrative studies, 2,395.

Newly Named Leader of Computer Science Teachers Association Says It's a Crucial Community (Jan 22, 2018)
Jake Baskin has devoted his entire adult life to computer science education. For a few years, he taught computer science at a high school with Chicago Public Schools. More recently, he had been working at to expand access to and implement comprehensive computer science programs in over 100 school districts nationwide. Now, he’ll continue that work as the new executive director of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), a decision announced Thursday.

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