Scientists propose advanced supercomputer

U.S. government researchers have proposed a strategy for improving climate change predictions via a new advanced supercomputer, United Press International reports. Published in the International Journal of High Performance Computing Applications, the study outlines “a practical estimate for building a supercomputer capable of creating climate models at 1-kilometer scale -- something not available from existing models,” according to UPI. The researchers, who include Michael Wehner and Lenny Oliker of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and John Shalf of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, suggest that such a supercomputer would be 1,000 times more powerful than any currently available, but would cost roughly $1 billion and require 200 megawatts of electricity. As an alternative, the researchers recommend creating such a supercomputer using roughly 20 million embedded microprocessors, which would cost nearly $75 million, consume less than 4 megawatts of power and achieve a peak performance of 200 petaflops (UPI, 5/8/08).

German researchers unveil chip that sends smells via cell phones

German researchers have patented a chip for sending smells through mobile phones, National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” reports (Listen Now). Though it has been under development for the last eight years, the chip may not become available to consumers until 2010. If it is released, one spokesperson for a German technology company suggests that people will be able to use the technology to, for instance, send the scent of the ocean breeze to others (Morning Edition/NPR, 5/5/08).

New workgroup to form IP routing standards

The Internet Engineering Task Force recently established a new working group charged with standardizing IP routing protocols for embedded networks that connect devices with limited power, memory and processing resources, Government Computer News reports. With an architectural framework based on IPv6, the Routing Over Low-power and Lossy Networks (ROLL) working group “will define interoperable protocols that will let disparate networks be tied together and managed using IP routers rather than protocol translation gateways and proxies,” according to GCN. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has mandated that its agencies transition to ensure they are capable of handling IPv6 traffic by next month (Jackson, GCN, 5/8/08).

Research takes surgical robots to next level, suggests advances in artificial intelligence

Duke University researchers have released feasibility studies that may represent the first concrete steps toward creating robots capable of conduct surgery with little to no guidance from human physicians, United Press International reports. Published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, the study involved a rudimentary tabletop robot whose "eyes" featured 3-D ultrasound technology. In addition, “an artificial intelligence program served as the robot's ‘brain,’ taking real-time 3-D information, processing it and giving the robot commands to perform,” UPI reports. According to the director of the university's Ultrasound Transducer Group, “the computer was able to direct the robot's actions’ for a number of tasks. For instance, a second study published in the April issue of the journal Ultrasonic Imaging indicates that the robot could successfully perform a simulated needle biopsy. Noting that this may be “the first proof-of-concept for this approach,” he adds that, "given that we achieved these early results with a rudimentary robot and a basic artificial intelligence program, the technology will advance to the point where robots -- without the guidance of the doctor -- can someday operate on people" (UPI, 5/8/08).

New software targets Australian businesses, helps manage greenhouse emissions

Tech application developer SAP is launching an environmental compliance solution specifically targeting the Australian market to coincide with new federal greenhouse legislation, Computerworld reports. Released on Wednesday, the software platform enables companies to monitor and manage their greenhouse emissions to ensure compliance with national and international environmental laws and policies. The application is housed within SAP's governance, risk and compliance business unit and is platform neutral, meaning it can run in non-SAP environments. Meanwhile, Australia’s National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007, which “establishes a national framework for Australian corporations to report on greenhouse gas emissions, reductions, removals and offsets, energy consumption and production,” according to Computerworld, is slated to take effect July 1, 2008 and will apply to 700 medium and large companies (Rossi, Computerworld-Australia, 5/8/08).

U.K. researchers create new carbon nanotube technology

British scientists recently unveiled a technology that yields carbon nanotubes that instantly form a highly sensitive, ready-made electric circuit, United Press International reports. Published in journal Analytical Chemistry, the study from the University of Warwick involved using “a form of chemical vapor deposition and lithography to create the disc shaped, single walled carbon nanotube-based ultra-microelectrodes,” according to UPI. The researchers note that the nanotubes deposit themselves flat on a surface in a random, yet even manner, adding that they also overlap enough to create a single, complete metallic micro-circuit across the final disc. Moreover, the researchers note that the nanotubes take up less than one percent of the surface area of the disc. According to the scientists, the technology can have various applications, such as serving as ultra sensitive sensors that measure neurotransmitter levels (UPI, 5/8/08).

Microsoft releases Web service development platform to U.S. municipalities

Local and regional U.S. governments will soon gain free access to Microsoft’s Citizen Services Platform, which help create Web-based electronic government services, Government Computer News reports. Though available without charge, the platform must run on a Microsoft computing environment. According to GCN, the Citizen Services Platform features eight ready-to-use templates for the most common types of transactions between municipal governments and residents. In addition, governments can customize the platform for their preferred level of sophistication. For instance, governments can create e-government services that range from “simple, so-called presence offerings that provide static information to more complex transactional services incorporating live data streams or enabling online, real-time interactions between residents and government,” GCN reports (Rendleman, GCN, 5/7/08).

Sans Institute report calls for defense against patch-based exploits

The Sans Institute--a global tech security training organization--on Monday released a report cautioning that centralized patch management can be leveraged to combat the threat of automated, patch-based exploit generation, ZDNet UK reports. The assertion specifically addresses research recently released by the University of California at Berkeley, University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, which suggested that “exploits for vulnerabilities in code can be reverse-engineered from patches and generated automatically,” according to ZDNet UK. In the Sans report, the authors criticize advice outlined in the university research, which maintains that distributing software patches in encrypted form can reduce the amount of time attackers have to reverse-engineer the patch. Specifically, Sans contributor John Bambenek asserts that the most significant issue with patching is the time it takes to reboot systems once a patch has been applied. To remedy the shortcoming, Bambenek urges systems managers to centrally manage patch distribution and other defense interventions including hot fixes and kill bits (Espiner, ZDNet UK, 5/7/08).

Carnegie Mellon researchers enhance biological image analysis

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Lane Center for Computational Biology recently unveiled technology that can significantly speed up critical steps in an automated method for analyzing cell cultures and other biological specimens, according to the university. Published online in the Journal of Machine Learning Research, the study suggests that the new technique is capable of enabling higher accuracy analyses of microscopic images created by high-throughput biological screening methods and can help decode the complex structure of human tissues. Commenting on the innovation, the researchers note that improved accuracy could help cut costs and boost time efficiency related to these screening methods. They add that the technology could lead to new types of experiments that “previously would have required an infeasible amount of resources,” as well as potentially reveal “interesting but subtle anomalies that otherwise would go undetected,” according to the release. Meanwhile, the release notes that the technique can be adapted in fields beyond biology “because it improves the efficiency of the belief propagation algorithm, a widely used method for drawing conclusions about interconnected networks” (Carnegie Melon release, 5/1/08).

Yahoo unveils new search engine concept in India

Yahoo is rolling out the beta test of its new search concept that aggregates text, images, and video results on a single results page in India, IDG News Service reports. Called the Glue Pages Beta, the latest search engine update currently works for specific search terms across select categories such as health, sports, entertainment, travel, technology, and finance and displays the Glue Pages results alongside the usual Yahoo India search results. According to officials, Yahoo selected India for the beta test because it is an important company market with a rising number of new users, plentiful local content and a large number of developers capable of creating applications around Yahoo's technologies. If the beta proves successful, Yahoo plans to expand Glue Pages to other countries (Ribeiro, IDG News Service/CIO, 5/8/08).

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