• March 2012
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MIT Takes Aim at Secure, Self-Healing Cloud

 Network World (02/27/12) Brandon Butler

 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are studying how to build a cloud computing infrastructure that recognizes and eliminates a cyberattack under normal operating procedures.  The goal is to continue cloud operations even while under attack, which is a different approach from other security measures that disable a system and create outages.  “Much like the human body has a monitoring system that can detect when everything is running normally, our hypothesis is that a successful attack appears as an anomaly in the normal operating activity of the system,” says MIT’s Martin Rinard.  “By observing the execution of a ‘normal’ cloud system we’re going to the heart of what we want to preserve about the system, which should hopefully keep the cloud safe from attack.”  The researchers will try to map how cloud networks are created and operate, and then create a set of guidelines for a cloud network to constantly assess whether it is working under those parameters and return to normal operating procedures if it is not.

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Computational Sprinting Pushes Smartphones Till They’re Tired

 University of Michigan News Service (02/28/12) Steve Crang

 Researchers at Michigan and Pennsylvania universities are developing computational sprinting technology, which is designed to push mobile chips beyond their sustainable operating limits.  The researchers say computational sprinting could give users dramatic, brief bursts of computing capability to improve current applications and make new ones possible.  “We’re proposing a computer system that can perform a giant surge of computation, but then gets tired and has time to rest,” says Michigan professor Thomas Wenisch.  The researchers found that they could design a chip to run at 16 times the sustainable rate for half a second.  “What our research indicates is that it’s OK for the silicon to be mostly dark, if you can use it all for short bursts of intense computation,” says Pennsylvania professor Milo Martin.  Under the computational sprinting scheme, up to 15 additional cores would activate to work in parallel alongside the chip’s main core for up to one second, which could speed up the device’s response time tenfold.  “If app designers can now get 10 times as much computing done in one burst, that frees their hands to pursue ideas they would have just discarded today,” Wenisch says.

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IBM Touts Quantum Computing Breakthrough

 Computerworld (02/28/12) Lucas Mearian

 IBM scientists say they achieved a major advance in quantum computing that will enable engineers to start creating a full-scale quantum computer.  The development enables scientists to reduce data error rates in elementary computations while maintaining the quantum mechanical properties in quantum bits of data.  IBM’s Mark Ketchen says the creation of a quantum computer would make possible an exponential leap in processing power over what is possible with conventional central processing units.  “We’re finally to the point where devices are getting good enough where data checking and error correcting is possible,” Ketchen says.  “As you cross this threshold, there’s a lot of excitement growing.”  IBM notes that a working quantum computer is still at least a decade away, but it says advances in reducing error rates and other breakthroughs open the doors to experimentation with new microfabrication techniques.  “Things are getting to the point where, while we may not be ready to build a quantum computer, it’s time to start thinking what a computer like this would look like and what it would it be able to do,” Ketchen says.  Although other scientists are doing similar quantum computing research, Ketchen says only IBM has the resources to fabricate quantum-computing chips.

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Flying High in Europe.

 European Molecular Biology Laboratory (03/01/12) Lena Raditsch

 A consortium that includes CERN, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced a partnership to launch Helix Nebula, a European cloud computing platform that will support the massive technology requirements of European sciences and be available to governmental organizations and industry after the initial pilot phase.  The partnership aims to establish a sustainable European cloud computing infrastructure that will provide stable computing capacities and services to meet growing demand.  The partnership is in line with the European Commission’s Digital Agenda and will foster innovation for science and create new commercial markets.  CERN will have access to more computer power to process data from the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider accelerator.  “CERN’s computing capacity needs to keep up with the enormous amount of data coming from the Large Hadron Collider and we see Helix Nebula, the Science Cloud, as a great way of working with industry to meet this challenge,” says CERN’s Frederic Hemmer.  EMBL is setting up a new service to simplify the analysis of large genomes, and ESA is developing an Earth observation platform focusing on earthquake and volcano research.

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Educators, Innovators Call for Earlier Introduction to Computer Science.

PittsburghTribune-Review (PA) (02/27/12) Bobby Kerlik

Many educators believe schools need to introduce computer science to students as early as kindergarten, while private companies are developing programs to mentor students and maintain interest in computer science and engineering. Although the number of applications is rising at many engineering and computer science schools, U.S. students are still lagging behind international students. For example, the Class of 2012 at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science drew 2,390 applicants, with just 590 of those coming from the United States. “Most [U.S.] students are not exposed to computer science in the same way they are to biology and physics,” says Carnegie Mellon computer science department head Jeannette Wing. “We have to incorporate computer science at the K-12 level. It’s not easy to do, but this is what is needed.” The University of Pittsburgh runs a four-week residential program aimed at introducing minority college students to technology professions and programs. Meanwhile, the Westinghouse Science Honors Institute allows high school juniors to attend lectures and work on group projects for 10 Saturdays at the George Westinghouse Research and Technology Park.

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