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November 2016 — January 2017

How Engineering Students are Seeking to Solve Major Food and Water Security Problems (Jan 11, 2017)
Food and water are two necessities for survival, but what happens when a changing climate in key agricultural regions threatens crop production? Or when the quality of milk cannot be ensured as it is exchanged between producer and seller? Seven MIT graduate students studying food and water security issues presented their research and preliminary findings on issues such as these during the MIT Water and Food Security Student Symposium. Hosted by the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engin...
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Wall-jumping Robot is Most Vertically Agile Ever Built (Jan 11, 2017)
Roboticists at UC Berkeley have designed a small robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall, or perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded. The agility of the robot opens new pathways of locomotion that were not previously attainable. The researchers hope that one day this robot and other vertically agile robots can be used to jump around rubble in search and rescue missions.



Will U.S. Sanctions Against Russia Fix Cybersecurity? (Jan 10, 2017)
The United States has finally announced a comprehensive package of responses to Russia’s 2016 influence operation against the U.S. elections. In a nutshell, it includes the creation of a new sanctions authority, the use of that authority to sanction nine Russian individuals and institutions, the expulsion of 35 Russian operatives from the U.S., the shutting down of two Russian compounds here in the U.S. and the publication of technical details intended to help organizations defend themselves a...
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The Gender Gap in Computer Science is Hurting U.S. Businesses (Jan 10, 2017)
The United States has a computing-skills crisis that is holding back American companies and economic growth. The solution lies with girls and young women. Employers simply cannot fill positions that are becoming increasingly critical to their businesses. Recent data show that there are 500,000 open computing jobs in the United States and fewer than 40,000 new computer science graduates to fill them — only 7,000 of whom are women.



What Did Big Data Find When it Analyzed 150 Years of British History? (Jan 9, 2017)
What could be learnt about the world if you could read the news from over 100 local newspapers for a period of 150 years? This is what a team of Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers from the University of Bristol have done, together with a social scientist and a historian, who had access to 150 years of British regional newspapers. The patterns that emerged from the automated analysis of 35 million articles ranged from the detection of major events, to the subtle variations in gender bias ac...
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Most Computer Science Majors in the U.S. are Men. Not so at Harvey Mudd (Jan 9, 2017)
Veronica Rivera signed up for the introduction to computer science class at Harvey Mudd College mostly because she had no choice: It was mandatory. Programming was intimidating and not for her, she thought. She expected the class to be full of guys who loved video games and grew up obsessing over how they were made. There were plenty of those guys but, to her surprise, she found the class fascinating.



Scientists Build Bacteria-powered Battery on Single Sheet of Paper (Jan 7, 2017)
Researchers have created a bacteria-powered battery on a single sheet of paper that can power disposable electronics. The manufacturing technique reduces fabrication time and cost, and the design could revolutionize the use of bio-batteries as a power source in remote, dangerous and resource-limited areas.



Using Data Science to Beat Cancer (Jan 7, 2017)
The complexity of seeking a cure for cancer has vexed researchers for decades. While they’ve made remarkable progress, they are still waging a battle uphill as cancer remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Yet scientists may soon have a critical new ally at their sides — intelligent machines — that can attack that complexity in a different way.



Pioneering Nanotechnology Captures Energy from People (Dec 13, 2016)
The day of charging cellphones with finger swipes and powering Bluetooth headsets simply by walking is now much closer. Michigan State University engineering researchers have created a new way to harvest energy from human motion, using a film-like device that actually can be folded to create more power. With the low-cost device, known as a nanogenerator, the scientists successfully operated an LCD touch screen, a bank of 20 LED lights and a flexible keyboard, all with a simple touching or pressi...
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How the Brain Recognizes Faces (Dec 13, 2016)
MIT researchers and their colleagues have developed a new computational model of the human brain's face-recognition mechanism that seems to capture aspects of human neurology that previous models have missed. The researchers designed a machine-learning system that implemented their model, and they trained it to recognize particular faces by feeding it a battery of sample images. They found that the trained system included an intermediate processing step that represented a face's degree of rotati...
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New AI Algorithm Taught by Humans Learns Beyond its Training (Dec 7, 2016)
"Hey Siri, how's my hair?" Your smartphone may soon be able to give you an honest answer, thanks to a new machine learning algorithm designed by U of T Engineering researchers Parham Aarabi and Wenzhi Guo. The team designed an algorithm that learns directly from human instructions, rather than an existing set of examples, and outperformed conventional methods of training neural networks by 160 per cent. But more surprisingly, their algorithm also outperformed its own training by nine per cent—...
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17 Microsoft Researchers Offer Bold Computer Science Predictions for 2017 and 2027 (Dec 7, 2016)
Citing the lack of professional role models as one reason for a “dearth of women in computing,” Microsoft looked inward on Monday in an effort to inspire more young girls to pursue their STEM dreams. A post from the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant’s official blog relies on 17 women from within its global research organization to share their views on what’s likely to occur in their fields in 2017, as well as 10 years later.



Using Supercomputer to Illuminate the Renaissance (Dec 6, 2016)
Most of us have heard about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, based on the "six degrees of separation" concept, which posits that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Now, there's a similar game in town: Who knew whom in Renaissance Britain? This is the question that the project Six Degrees of Francis Bacon" seeks to uncover. "We're leveraging 21st century computational methods in order to illuminate the past," said Christopher Warren, associate professor of English a...
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Weather the Storm: Improving Great Lakes Modeling (Dec 6, 2016)
Up until now, atmospheric models and hydrodynamic models have remained separate to a large extent in the Great Lakes region, with only a few attempts to loosely couple them. In a new study, published online this week in the Journal of Climate, an integrated model brings together climate and water models. The collaborative work is the product of researchers from Michigan Technological University, Loyola Marymount University, LimnoTech and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Grea...
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Changing the Face of Computer Science (Nov 30, 2016)
The online documentary series Lab Daze highlights an aspect of computer science not historically associated with the field: Cool. Created in 2014 by computer science professor Juan Gilbert and his graduate students at the University of Florida in Gainesville, the 10-episode series follows the lab’s activities in an effort to get younger students interested in the discipline. It shows that computer science can be glamorous, such as when it’s used in broadcasting sporting events, and that it c...
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How Rural America is Missing Out on the Modern American Dream (Nov 30, 2016)
The most direct road to the modern American Dream doesn't pass through rural America. Median U.S. wages have been flat for decades, and blue collar workers are increasingly frustrated with the dwindling job opportunities -- a fact that was highlighted with the election of Donald Trump. Opportunities exist -- there are more than half a million open computing jobs nationwide, according to Code.org. But students growing up in the countryside aren't prepared for them. Rural students are far less lik...
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How to Outsmart Fake News (Nov 29, 2016)
Just because it's on the internet doesn't make it true. It seems so simple, but if everyone knew that, Facebook and Google wouldn't have to pull bogus news sites from their advertising algorithms and people wouldn't breathlessly share stories that claim Donald Trump is a secret lizard person or Hillary Clinton is an android in a pantsuit. It doesn't have to be this way. Fake news is actually really easy to spot -- if you know how.



Welcome to the Future of Work (Nov 29, 2016)
With advances in information technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence developing at a rapid rate, workforce dislocations are happening now and are here to stay. As existing trends accelerate and irreversibly change the workforce as we know it, the question to be answered is–what will we do to broadly share the gains and alleviate the challenges?



Paralyzed ALS Patient Operates Speech Computer with Her Mind (Nov 28, 2016)
At UMC Utrecht, a brain implant has been placed in a patient enabling her to operate a speech computer with her mind. The researchers and the patient worked intensively to get the settings right. She can now communicate at home with her family and caregivers via the implant. That a patient can use this technique at home is unique in the world. This research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.



Designer Materials Create Miniature Computer Circuits (Nov 28, 2016)
Scientists at The University of Manchester have discovered a new method of creating optoelectronic circuits using graphene and other 2D materials that are much smaller than their current counterparts. Optoelectronics, the technology that uses pulses of light rather than traditional electrical signals, is vital for telecommunication networks. Modulators are important in optoelectronic circuits as they control the signals passed through optoelectronic devices. Previous attempts to create hybrid mo...
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Breaking the Code: Examining Female Representation in Computer Science (Nov 12, 2016)
Given the popularity of the computer science major, it's likely that you've heard some of your friends complain about a coding assignment. But what percentage of those friends are female? Competition for tech talent is intense, with new computer science graduates commanding one of the highest starting salaries. However, men still hold a disproportionate number of jobs in computer science fields. A National Science Foundation study in 2013 found that women's participation in engineering and compu...
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The Deadly Ancient Math Problem Computer Scientists Love (Nov 12, 2016)
Flavius Josephus, a Jewish-Roman historian from the first century, tells the story like this: A company of 40 soldiers, along with Josephus himself, were trapped in a cave by Roman soldiers during the Siege of Yodfat in 67 A.D. The Jewish soldiers chose to die rather than surrender, so they devised a system to kill off each other until only one person remained. (That last person would be the only one required to die by their own hand.) All 41 people stood in a circle. The first soldier killed th...
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What do Kids Really Need to Know About Computer Science? (Nov 11, 2016)
K-12 educators in the U.S. are struggling. Like everyone else, they know that computer technology is a well-paying, in-demand field that’s desperate for a more diverse workforce. But many have had a hard time figuring out exactly how to prepare kids for tech careers and provide them with a basic understanding of computer science. Until now, that is. A coalition of computer science organizations — led in part by the Seattle-based nonprofit Code.org — recently released the K–12 Computer Sc...
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Artificial Intelligence 'Judge' Developed by UCL Computer Scientists (Nov 11, 2016)
Artificial intelligence software that can find patterns in highly complex decisions is being used to predict our taste in films, TV shows and music with ever-increasing accuracy. And now, after a breakthrough study by a group of British scientists, it could be used to predict the outcome of trials. Software that is able to weigh up legal evidence and moral questions of right and wrong has been devised by computer scientists at University College London, and used to accurately predict the result ...
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Star Trek Jokes and Geek Culture Make Women Feel Unwelcome (Nov 10, 2016)
As a high school sophomore in the 1990s, I took a mandatory computer science class that had a reputation for being difficult. The word among girls was that the only students who did well in the course were the “Dungeons & Dragons boys.” A very nice teacher taught the class. But he often reinforced this male-oriented image of who could be successful with nerdy Star Trek jokes and other pop-culture references more likely to resonate with boys than girls. Unsurprisingly, boys dominated classroo...
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