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February 2016 — March 2016

Why Co-design is the Path Forward for Exascale Computing (Mar 6, 2016)
Co-Design is a collaborative effort among industry thought leaders, academia, and manufacturers to reach Exascale performance by taking a holistic system-level approach to fundamental performance improvements. Co-Design architecture enables all active system devices to become acceleration devices by orchestrating a more effective mapping of communication between devices in the system. This produces a well-balanced architecture across the various compute elements, networking, and data storage inf...
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Quantum Computer Factors Numbers, Could Be Scaled Up (Mar 6, 2016)
What are the prime factors, or multipliers, for the number 15? Most grade school students know the answer -- 3 and 5 -- by memory. A larger number, such as 91, may take some pen and paper. An even larger number, say with 232 digits, can (and has) taken scientists two years to factor, using hundreds of classical computers operating in parallel. Because factoring large numbers is so devilishly hard, this "factoring problem" is the basis for many encryption schemes for protecting credit cards, stat...
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She's Recycling Carbon Dioxide with Hopes of Reducing Oil Dependence (Mar 5, 2016)
Carbon dioxide gets a bad rap. Out of all the waste gases produced by human activity -- manufacturing, agriculture, electricity production, transportation -- carbon dioxide is the biggest byproduct and is fingered as the leading culprit behind global warming. In fact, it accounts for 76% of all annual global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But Emily Cole doesn't focus on the negatives. The 32-year-old scientist has created technology that would recycle...
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New CMU Book on Women “Kicking Butt in Computer Science” (Mar 5, 2016)
A new book – Kicking Butt in Computer Science: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University – contends changing the culture of computer science departments is the critical element in attracting more women to computer science and helping them succeed. Curriculum changes are not enough. Indeed, a cultural makeover at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, a top-ranked computer science program, is a major reason the school consistently attracts and graduates a higher percentage of ...
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Microrobots Learn From Ciliates (Mar 4, 2016)
Ciliates can do amazing things: Being so tiny, the water in which they live is like thick honey to these microorganisms. In spite of this, however, they are able to self-propel through water by the synchronized movement of thousands of extremely thin filaments on their outer skin, called cilia. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart are now moving robots that are barely perceptible to the human eye in a similar manner through liquids. For these microswimme...
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Neural Networks Can Be Used to Make Some Wild Art (Mar 4, 2016)
Neural networks are often used for image recognition, but it turns out they can create some pretty incredible images as well. The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts and Research at Google hosted "Deep Dream," a special exhibit and auction in San Francisco featuring artwork made using neural networks. To create the works on display, artists first trained neural networks to distinguish objects and parse them into high-level components using natural images from the environment. Once trained, the net...
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Boeing Says It Created Lightest Metal Ever (Mar 3, 2016)
Boeing says it's created the lightest metal ever, a microlattice material which it describes as 99.99% air. Weight savings are crucially important in aircraft manufacturing, since a lighter aircraft requires less fuel, which is airlines' largest operating expense. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was a breakthrough commercial jet because it used light-weight composite carbon fiber material, rather than aluminum, to generate the best fuel efficiency in its class. The microlattice looks like a sponge or ...
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Why Can't I Concentrate? (Mar 3, 2016)
Have you ever had those days when you just can't focus? One minute you're completely immersed in a work assignment, the next you're messaging your friends in a group chat and catching up on online showbiz gossip while watching videos of dogs chasing their own tails. The end result is you get nothing done and you're left feeling incredibly frustrated. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone and it may not be entirely your fault. Many experts believe our brains aren't prepared for the rapidly g...
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EU Projects Unite on Heterogeneous ARM-based Exascale Prototype (Mar 2, 2016)
A trio of partner projects based in Europe – Exanest, Exanode and Ecoscale – are working in close collaboration to develop the building blocks for an exascale architecture prototype that will, as they describe, put the power of ten million computers into a single supercomputer. The effort is unique in seeking to advance the ARM64 + FPGA architecture as a foundational “general-purpose” exascale platform. Funded for three years as part of Europe’s Horizon2020 program, the partners are co...
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New Markets Push Strong Growth in Robotics Industry (Mar 2, 2016)
The robotics industry, spurred on by demand in new markets and increasing labor costs, is expected to show strong growth through the rest of the decade, according to analyst firm IDC. Worldwide spending on robotics, as well as related services, is expected to jump from a $71 billion market in 2015 to $135.4 billion in 2019, IDC said. "Robotics is one of the core technologies that is enabling significant change in manufacturing through factory-of-the-future initiatives,” said Jing Bing Zhang, a...
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Will the Cloud Change Scientific Computing? (Mar 1, 2016)
Both the private and the federated clouds are attempts to solve the same two scientific problems: how can academic institutions with limited budgets afford the compute power necessary to analyse the huge data sets produced by modern science; and how can they share these data sets efficiently, without having to replicate them many times? The two projects exemplify the recent surge of interest in high-performance cloud computing.

Can Technology Help Us Improve Upon Reality? (Mar 1, 2016)
Imagine walking on Mars and being able to examine rock formations from all angles, or collaborating on the same 3D hologram design with someone thousands of miles away. Or imagine being able to diagnose and treat the diseases of people half way around the world while you remain in your clinic, or walking around a gallery and having your own holographic guide pointing things out to you on your smart glasses. These are just some of the exciting examples of what "augmented reality" (AR) technology ...
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Facebook Adds 'Love,' 'Haha,' 'Wow,' 'Sad' and 'Angry' to its 'Like' Button (Feb 29, 2016)
Facebook researchers, engineers and product teams have spent more than a year preparing Reactions for launch. They worked with sociologists, consulted focus groups and conducted surveys to determine which emotions would make the final cut. They looked at the most popular stickers and emojis on the platform for clues too. According to product manager Sammi Krug, narrowing down the set of possible responses and making sure the emoji faces would be "universally understood and equally useful" were t...
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Building Living, Breathing Supercomputers (Feb 29, 2016)
The substance that provides energy to all the cells in our bodies, Adenosine triphosphate, may also be able to power the next generation of supercomputers. The discovery opens doors to the creation of biological supercomputers that are about the size of a book. That is what an international team of researchers led by Prof. Nicolau, the Chair of the Department of Bioengineering at McGill, believe. They've published an article on the subject earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Ac...
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Light-enabled Microprocessor Holds Promise for Faster Computers (Feb 28, 2016)
Combining electronics and photonics on semiconductor microchips to speed data transmission isn’t a new idea – the potential for better performance and power reduction are enticing. However thorny manufacturing issues have so far limited widespread use of this approach. That could change soon according to a recent report in Nature and would have have broad implications extending even to efforts to achieve exascale computing, say the authors.

A New Algorithm from MIT Could Protect Ships From 'Rogue Waves' at Sea (Feb 28, 2016)
Predictive analytics can already help prevent churn and anticipate equipment failures, but MIT has applied it to a new realm altogether: protecting ships at sea from so-called "rogue waves." Also known as killer waves, rogue waves swell up seemingly out of nowhere and can be eight times higher than the surrounding sea. They can strike in otherwise calm waters with virtually no warning, causing untold devastation even to large ships and ocean liners. Now, MIT has developed a predictive tool it sa...
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Cockroach Inspires Robot Squeezes Through Cracks (Feb 27, 2016)
Our fear and disgust that cockroaches can quickly squeeze through the tiniest cracks are well justified, say University of California, Berkeley scientists. Not only can they squish themselves to get into one-tenth-of-an-inch crevices, but once inside they can run at high speed even when flattened in half. These are just a couple of the creepy findings from a UC Berkeley study of how American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) penetrate the tightest joints and seams in less than a second. What t...
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Can Technology Bring Lawyers into the 21st Century? (Feb 27, 2016)
The legal profession is perhaps more associated with bulging files of papers, odd clothing and arcane procedures than with technological innovation. But several start-ups are trying to give this most conservative - and sometimes vexing - of professions a digital makeover. Basha Rubin, for example, co-founded New York's Priori Legal, an online marketplace that connects lawyers with businesses, after she perceived that there were too many obstacles in the way of businesses trying to find legal ser...
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Could This Glove be the Solution to Parkinson's Tremors? (Feb 26, 2016)
A drug-free alternative to treat Parkinson's disease tremors could be on the horizon -- in the form of a glove. There is currently no cure for Parkinson's disease, a degenerative neurological condition that is estimated to affect between 7 and ten million people worldwide, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. The condition manifests itself mostly through tremors that often make hands shake uncontrollably, impacting the daily lives of sufferers. While medications are a valid early tre...
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Why an Apple Victory Against the FBI Would Be a Win for All of Us (Feb 26, 2016)
Putting back doors into any software, even once, is just asking for trouble. We could argue endlessly over the legal, political and technical fine points of the FBI getting a court order requiring Apple to assist it in cracking open a locked iPhone 5C. That’s not really the point. True, Apple has cheerfully helped the government look into customers’ data before. No, the FBI isn’t asking for an iPhone backdoor — this time. All Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the U.S. District Co...
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Big Data's Big Role in Humanitarian Aid (Feb 25, 2016)
Mission-based organizations, including those helping the recent wave of Syrian refugees, are using big data to improve their response efforts. Hundreds of thousands of refugees streamed into Europe in 2015 from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Some estimates put the number at nearly a million. The sheer volume of people overwhelmed European officials, who not only had to handle the volatile politics stemming from the crisis, but also had to find food, shelter and other necessities for t...
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Freedom 251: India Firm Launches 'World's Cheapest' Smartphone (Feb 25, 2016)
An Indian company has launched what is being billed as the world's cheapest smartphone. Ringing Bells said their Freedom 251 phone would cost just 251 rupees ($3.67), and there was huge demand in the first hours of sale. But skeptics have raised questions about the device and the company's price strategy. India is the world's second-largest mobile market and has one billion mobile phone subscribers. Freedom 251 is expected to target a market already dominated by low-cost handsets.

Former Teacher Builds A Multimillion-Dollar Global Business 'Engineering For Kids' (Feb 24, 2016)
Recent research has explored this important question: In an era when women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law, and business, why are there so few female scientists and engineers? Compelling evidence suggests there are key environmental and social barriers, including stereotypes, gender bias, and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities — that continue to block women’s progress in STEM.

Barcelona Supercomputer Simulation of Super-eruption Sheds Light on Human Migration (Feb 24, 2016)
About 39,000 years ago a volcanic super‐eruption tossed a volume of ash and debris equivalent to eight Mt Everest’s into the air near Naples Italy. The resulting ash plumes and rain between southern Italy and Siberia were so intense that their effects slowed the advance of modern humans in Europe. It’s thought to have been the largest eruption in Europe in the past 200,00 years. Researchers from Barcelona Supercomputing Center and the Istituto Nazionale de Geofísica e Vulcanología in I...
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Five-Dimensional Black Hole Could 'Break' General Relativity (Feb 23, 2016)
Researchers have shown how a bizarrely shaped black hole could cause Einstein's general theory of relativity, a foundation of modern physics, to break down. However, such an object could only exist in a universe with five or more dimensions. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London, have successfully simulated a black hole shaped like a very thin ring, which gives rise to a series of 'bulges' connected by strings that become thinner over time. These s...
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