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Researchers to Build Babbage Analytical Engine

British researchers are undertaking an effort to construct the Babbage Analytical Engine. The machine, designed in the 1830s by computing pioneer Charles Babbage, was never built but reportedly has inspired many computer designers. Engineer and programmer John Graham-Cumming and computer historian Doron Swade are heading the 10-year, multimillion-dollar Babbage project. Babbage’s various surviving blueprints for the Analytical Engine have been digitized, but the challenge is that there is no single set of plans for the room-size machine. Graham-Cumming said the construction will be in three phases: a crowd-sourced analysis in 2012 of which blueprint should be used, creation of a 3D simulation, then construction. (The New York Times)(Babbage @ Science Museum, London)

Researchers Produce Protein via Feedback Loop between Computer, Yeast

Scientists successfully created a feedback loop between a common type of yeast and a computer to trigger the yeast to produce a specific protein. The feedback loop that Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) researchers developed enables the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast to tell the computer how much it is producing and lets the computer control the protein production. The process could also help in the production of compounds including antibiotics and biofuels. The full results are reported in Nature Biotechnology. (SlashDot)(ExtremeTech)(BBC)(Nature Biotechnology)

Compromised MIT Server Used to Launch Attacks

Hackers have compromised a server at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and are using it for ongoing attacks. According to security vendor Bitdefender, these attacks—which started in June and use techniques similar to those used by the Blackhole Exploit Pack hacker kit—inject malicious code into webpages built with PHP and SQL. Bitdefender notes that the cybercrooks are using the reliability of MIT’s domain to disguise and evade detection. “An infrastructure the size of is not only guaranteed to have huge bandwidth to carry thousands of malicious requests per second but is also a good way to evade firewalls that obviously accept traffic from as legit.” (SlashDot)(Security Week)(PC World)(Bitdefender Blog)

Computer-Vision System Tracks Athletes

Researchers from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Computer Vision Laboratory have developed a tool that tracks athletes’ movements, even when they are obscured by another player. The system—which doesn’t require athletes to wear specialized gear or RFID tags—uses multiple cameras and three algorithms to continuously track multiple players on a field or court. Each athlete is represented on screen by a superimposed image of their jersey color and number. This lets spectators, referees, and coaches see individual players easily. The system’s first algorithm detects a player within a grid superimposed on the playing area. The others reportedly connect the results, establishing a trajectory for each individual. The researchers say the work has other applications, including pedestrian traffic monitoring and marketing research. They presented their work at the International Conference on Computer Vision in Barcelona. (

[Conference News] Study Looks at Economic Realities of Solar Energy

Two researchers from the University of West Florida recently reported on their inquiry into the economics of solar energy. In a paper presented at the 2011 International Conference on Electronics, Communications, and Computers (CONIELECOMP 21) in Puebla, Mexico, authors Asa T. Furman and M. H. Rashid examine the implementation of a large-scale solar installation in Ivanpah, California. The authors aim to analyze solar technologies, determine which technologies have the most potential to impact energy markets, and assess their potential as a large-scale alternative energy supply.

Furman and Rashid conclude that solar technology is in a state of constant progress, driven on the active side by progressive improvements in diode technology and on the passive side by the adoption of ever-larger capture arrays. However, they also identify some remaining questions about the actual economic feasibility of adopting solar power on a large scale.

Papers from CONIELECOMP 21 are available to Computer Society Digital Library subscribers at

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