[CSS_ACM_General_List] ACM TechNews, Monday, December 13, 2010

Chris Miree c_miree at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 13 11:51:18 CST 2010

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Date: Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 10:13 AM
Subject: ACM TechNews, Monday, December 13, 2010
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Welcome to the December 13, 2010 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely 
information for IT professionals three times a week.

	* NSF Extends Program Encouraging African Americans to Pursue Careers in 
Robotics, Computer Science
	* SARTRE Car Platoon Road Tests to Begin
	* Collective Memory
	* Privacy Project Uses Cryptography to Reduce Shared Info
	* Problem-Solving Ants Inspire Next Generation of Algorithms
	* Creating Better Digital Denizens
	* SU Receives $3.4 Million Federal Grant to Benefit Women in Sciences
	* Avant-Garde Music Offers a Gateway to Artificial Intelligence
	* Quantum Links Let Computers Understand Language
	* Geotagging Reveals Not Only Where You Are, but Also People You Might Know
	* UCSF Team Develops "Logic Gates" to Program Bacteria as Computers
	* Python 3.2 Tweaked for Parallel Development
	* How Rare Is that Fingerprint? Computational Forensics Provides the First 
 NSF Extends Program Encouraging African Americans to Pursue Careers in 
Robotics, Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon News (PA) (12/09/10) Byron Spice 

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is extending its support of the 
Advancing Robotics Technology for Societal Impact (ARTSI) Alliance, a program 
designed to encourage African Americans to pursue careers in robotics and 
computer science.  The ARTSI Alliance, formed in 2007, includes nine major 
research universities and 19 historically black colleges and universities 
(HBCUs), which are developing additional curricula and outreach activities and 
continuing a summer research program for undergraduates.  In three years the 
alliance has served more than 300 undergraduates, established robotics courses 
and laboratories, delivered more than 60 robots to HBCUs, funded 50 summer 
internships for HBCU students to work in labs at major universities, held three 
faculty summer workshops, and organized annual ARTSI student research 
conferences.  ARTSI also has introduced robotics-based outreach activities 
targeted at middle and high school students.  "The U.S. government is 
emphasizing the importance of STEM education--science, technology, engineering, 
and mathematics--for maintaining competitiveness in a high-tech world," says 
Carnegie Mellon University professor David S. Touretzky.  "Our country must draw 
upon its entire talent pool to develop the next generation of researchers and 

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 SARTRE Car Platoon Road Tests to Begin
PhysOrg.com (12/10/10) Lin Edwards 

The Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project in Europe has begun to 
integrate software and hardware into two vehicles that will be used in its first 
on-road tests before the end of the year.  The project's researchers are 
developing a wireless system that will enable vehicles on public roads to join 
in a platoon, or a semi-autonomous road train of vehicles, with a professional 
driver at the front.  Vehicles would be able to join and leave the platoon at 
any point.  However, while in the platoon, the vehicles will become part of the 
train.  A computer will take over steering, braking, and acceleration, and 
drivers will be able do other activities such as eat breakfast, read a book, 
operate their computer, or talk on their phone.  The lead vehicle in the platoon 
would follow a set route and speed.  SARTRE, a three-year project working toward 
a five-vehicle convoy over the next two years, will help validate the sensors, 
actuators, and control system developed for the project.  However, the 
researchers say that a fully operational system is likely another decade away.  
They say that such a system would improve traffic flow, reduce journey times, 
save fuel, and reduce traffic accidents.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 Collective Memory
MIT News (12/10/10) Larry Hardesty 

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aim to grant 
stable, shared memory to unstable networks through a nine-year-old project that 
began in 2001.  The Reconfigurable Atomic Memory for Basic Objects (RAMBO) 
system is designed for scenarios in which soldiers or other network members lack 
access to a central server that could store important information.  The system 
circulates the information among the members themselves in a way that everyone 
will always have access to the most recently updated information regardless of 
who joins or leaves the network.  "It's supposed to look like an instantaneously 
accessible memory, like if you have one machine in one location," says MIT 
professor Nancy Lynch.  "We wanted to have that same appearance, but really, 
it's running on mobile devices out in the field."  RAMBO features algorithms 
that recognize changes to the network's structure, and copy data to new devices 
so that the informational majority is preserved.  RAMBO's memory system is set 
up so that each network device can store or retrieve information on an 
autonomous basis, while its reconfiguration system demands that the network make 
some collective decisions.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 Privacy Project Uses Cryptography to Reduce Shared Info
BBC News (12/09/10) 

An electronic wallet that encrypts the owner's personal information is being 
developed by IBM researchers working on the European-funded Attribute-Based 
Credentials for Trust (ABC4Trust) project.  The device will only allow the 
sharing of information that is strictly necessary to complete a transaction, and 
the concept also is applicable to online transactions.  IBM researcher Jan 
Camenisch says the protection of online privacy involves the application of two 
fundamental precepts, one being that each piece of shared information specifies 
what the information is used for.  "The second is that whenever you release 
something, you should only release the information that is minimally necessary 
for this purpose," he says.  The goal of the four-year ABC4Trust project is 
defining all the technology needed to provide the encryption-enabled electronic 
wallet.  All personal details could theoretically be crunched into a single 
encrypted number that could be contained in a cell phone.  Camenisch says a 
retailer or service provider would have a device that transmits requests for 
specific pieces of data to the handset.  The phone would list the specific 
requested information and then generate an encrypted token storing the answers.  
Camenisch says the principle is workable for online transactions.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 Problem-Solving Ants Inspire Next Generation of Algorithms
University of Sydney (12/10/10) Katie Szittner 

University of Sydney researchers have found that ants can solve difficult math 
problems as well as adapt the optimal solution to fit a changing problem.  The 
researchers say their results will help computer scientists develop better 
software to solve logistical problems and maximize efficiency in different 
industries.  The researchers tested the ants using a version of the Towers of 
Hanoi problem, a toy puzzle that asks players to move disks between rods while 
following certain rules and using the fewest possible moves.  The researchers 
converted the puzzle into a maze in which the shortest path corresponds to the 
solution with the fewest moves in the toy puzzle.  The findings suggest that 
when the ants use an exploratory pheromone they are much better at solving a 
problem in a changing environment, which is similar to many real-world human 
problems.  "Discovering how ants are able to solve dynamic problems can provide 
new inspiration for optimization algorithms, which in turn can lead to better 
problem-solving software and hence more efficiency for human industries," says 
Sydney researcher Chris Reid.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 Creating Better Digital Denizens
Irish Times (Ireland) (12/09/10) Claire O'Connell 

The generation of more socially realistic digital human beings without using 
excessive amounts of computational power is the goal of research being conducted 
by scientists at Trinity College Dublin.  "We try to work out what it is about 
the appearance and the behaviors and voices of virtual humans--be they in crowds 
or groups or on their own--that makes them more appealing and believable," says 
Trinity professor Carol O'Sullivan.  Among the projects her team is focusing on 
is Metropolis, whose aim is to realistically simulate a virtual Dublin founded 
on research in cognitive neuroscience, engineering, and computer graphics.  
O'Sullivan says it is crucial to get crowds right in the virtual environment, 
and her team has been attempting to devise smarter ways of instilling greater 
diversity in crowds without producing a model for each individual.  "We used eye 
tracking to see how people view parts of the body when they are looking at the 
crowd and we found they focused almost exclusively on the body and the face," 
O'Sullivan says.  "When we changed the lower body it had no effect at all."  
O'Sullivan notes that revising virtual humans relatively inexpensively and in 
real time can be as simple as adding a beard, hat, or glasses or changing the 
skin shade, hair color, or texture of their top.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 SU Receives $3.4 Million Federal Grant to Benefit Women in Sciences
Daily Orange (NY) (12/08/10) Dara McBride; Jon Harris 

Syracuse University recently received a five-year, $3.4 million U.S. National 
Science Foundation grant to study ways to attract and retain more female 
professors in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) 
fields.  Female representation in STEM fields at Syracuse currently sits at 
almost 21 percent, compared with the 33 percent national average for female STEM 
professors.  Despite the low proportion of female STEM faculty members, more 
than half of the Syracuse students enrolled in STEM fields are female.  The 
grant "will hopefully increase the diversity in a department really lacking in 
role models for graduates and undergraduates," says Syracuse chancellor Nancy 
Cantor.  The university will use a core team of faculty members to execute four 
main project initiatives, including a recruiting program geared toward women 
with disabilities and women of color, a plan to support leadership development 
for all faculty members, a corridor scheme providing professional development 
and opportunities for affiliation with business, and a networking initiative 
that helps female faculty connect with each other, mentors, and other resources 
on campus.  The researchers also will study the different obstacles women face 
in trying to gain success in STEM fields.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 Avant-Garde Music Offers a Gateway to Artificial Intelligence
RPI News (12/09/10) Mary L. Martialay 

Creative Artificially-Intuitive and Reasoning Agent (CAIRA) is a joint project 
between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute artificial intelligence researchers and 
musicians to develop an electronic conductor of improvised avant-garde 
performances.  The researchers say the challenge involves employing 
interconnecting cognitive components to enable the conductor to comprehend and 
respond to the music in an appropriate way.  Music professor Pauline Oliveros 
says that although music is understood by most people in terms of pitch, volume, 
and rhythm, the researchers also are focused on texture, density, and timbre.  
CAIRA follows up a pilot project that supported the development of software that 
analyzes and classifies attributes related to the latter three musical elements, 
says researcher Doug Van Nort.  "The software listens, extracts, and parses what 
we're playing, and may feed it back to us in a different form or a replica," 
Oliveros says.  "It makes decisions about what it thinks is working in 
improvisation as it's happening."  Researcher Jonas Braasch describes the 
project as a combination of algorithms that model human hearing via auditory 
scene analysis, and then make musical choices based on the simulation of human 
cognition through the use of the extracted acoustic data.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 Quantum Links Let Computers Understand Language
New Scientist (12/08/10) Jason Aron 

University of Oxford researchers are using a form of graphical mathematics to 
develop an approach to linguistics that could enable computers to make sense of 
language.  Oxford's Bob Coecke and Samson Abramsky used a graphical form of the 
category theory, a branch of mathematics that allows different objects within a 
collection to be linked, to formulate quantum mechanical problems more 
intuitively by providing a way to link quantum objects.  The researchers are 
using that graphical approach to create a universal theory of meaning in which 
language and grammar are encoded as mathematical rules.  Most existing human 
language models focus on deciphering the meaning of individual words, or the 
rules of grammar, but not both.  The researchers combined the existing models 
using the graphical approach that was designed for quantum mechanics.  Coecke 
developed an algorithm that connects individual words.  The Oxford team plans to 
teach the system using a billion pieces of text taken from legal and medical 

View Full Article- May Require Free Registration | Return to Headlines 

 Geotagging Reveals Not Only Where You Are, but Also People You Might Know
Cornell Chronicle (12/08/10) Joe Schwartz 

Cornell University researchers have found that when comparing photos posted on 
the Internet, as few as three co-locations could predict that two people posting 
different photos were socially linked.  The researchers say their results could 
have implications for online privacy.  They used Flickr's photo-sharing Web site 
to access about 38 million photos.  Users label their photos with the time and 
place they are taken and some cameras automatically add this information to the 
photos with built-in global-positioning systems.  When two people posted several 
pictures from the same locations and at around the same time, there was a good 
predictor that those people would have a social network connection, according to 
the researchers.  "It's not that you know with certainty, but it's a high 
likelihood that these people know each other," says Cornell's Dan Huttenlocher.  
Similar conclusions could be drawn reached from credit card purchases, fare card 
transactions, and cell phone records, the researchers say.  "While it's obvious 
that a photo you post online reveals information about what is pictured in the 
photo, what is less obvious is that as you post multiple photos you are probably 
revealing information which may not be pictured anywhere," Huttenlocher says.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 UCSF Team Develops "Logic Gates" to Program Bacteria as Computers
UCSF News (12/08/10) Kristen Bole 

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researchers have genetically 
engineered E. coli bacteria with a specific molecular circuitry that will enable 
scientists to program the cells to communicate and perform computations.  The 
process can be used to develop cells that act like miniature computers that can 
be programmed to function in a variety of ways, says UCSF professor Christopher 
A. Voigt.  "Here, we've taken a colony of bacteria that are receiving two 
chemical signals from their neighbors, and have created the same logic gates 
that form the basis of silicon computing," Voigt says.  The technology will 
enable researchers to use cells to perform specific, targeted tasks, says UCSF's 
Mary Anne Koda-Kimble.  The purpose of the research is to be able to utilize all 
of biology's tasks in a reliable, programmable way, Voigt says.  He says the 
automation of biological processes will advance research in synthetic biology.  
The researchers also plan to develop a formal language for cellular computation 
that is similar to the programming languages used to write computer code, Voigt 

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 Python 3.2 Tweaked for Parallel Development
IDG News Service (12/08/10) Joab Jackson 

Python's developers plan to offer greater support for writing multithreaded 
applications in the 3.2 version of the open source programming language.  The 
first beta version of Python 3.2 has been released, with developers 
concentrating on bugs, general improvements, and maintaining the language syntax 
and semantics of Python 3.0.  The pre-release version offers a package that 
brings together a set of functions that could make concurrent programming easier 
for multicore processors.  "Python currently has powerful primitives to 
construct multi-threaded and multi-process applications but parallelizing simple 
operations requires a lot of work," according to the original proposal for the 
project.  A new top-level library will include several classes that could ease 
concurrency programming, such as the ability to execute calls asynchronously.  
Other new features include an improved Secure Sockets Layer module, a new module 
to access configuration information, as well as an extension that enables the 
programming language's source code files to be shared among different versions 
of the Python interpreter.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

 How Rare Is that Fingerprint? Computational Forensics Provides the First Clues
UB News Services (12/07/10) Ellen Goldbaum 

University at Buffalo researchers have developed a method to computationally 
determine how rare a particular fingerprint is and how likely it is to belong to 
a specific crime suspect.  The Buffalo researchers created a probabilistic 
method to determine if a fingerprint would randomly match another in a database.  
The researchers say their study could help develop computational systems that 
quickly and objectively show how important fingerprints are to solving crimes.  
"Our research provides the first systematic approach for computing the rarity of 
fingerprints in a scientifically robust and reliable manner," says Buffalo 
professor Sargur N. Srihari.  Determining the similarity between two sets of 
fingerprints and the rarity of a specific configuration of ridge patterns are 
the two main types of problems involved in fingerprint analysis, Srihari says.  
The Buffalo method relies on machine learning, statistics, and probability.

View Full Article | Return to Headlines 

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