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Nexusguard Research Highlights Multi-Vector Attacks, Android Botnets as Major Q3 Cybersecurity Issue

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Multi-vector attacks dominated distributed denial of service (DDoS) in
the third quarter of 2017, reaching nearly 55 percent of attack types
and typically blending UDP-flood, NTP amplification and other popular
vectors, according to Nexusguard’s
Q3
2017 Threat Report
.” The quarterly report, which measured more than
9,600 attacks, shows hackers are increasingly blending multiple attack
vectors, including hijacking zombie phones for Android botnets.
Cybersecurity experts also found a significant rise in network time
protocol (NTP) amplification attacks – 10 times more than the same
period in 2016. Meanwhile, universal datagram protocol (UDP) attacks
targeting DNS servers and amplifying volume through IP-connected devices
continued to be a pop, with a 68 percent increase in activity since the
previous quarter.

Nexusguard’s quarterly distributed denial of service (DDoS) reports are
based on the company’s collection of real-time data regarding threats
facing enterprises and service provider networks around the world. The
company gathers data from botnet scanning, Honeypots, internet service
providers (ISPs) and traffic moving between attackers and their targets
to help companies identify vulnerabilities and stay informed about
global attack trends. With the overall number of attacks rising more
than 15 percent over Q2, Nexusguard recommends companies evaluate the
responsiveness and scalability of their mitigation approaches to handle
the continued growth.

“Our Q1 predictions that UDP-based attacks originating from NTP
vulnerabilities would increase came true, as we observed NTP
amplification reach a new high with a 425 percent jump compared to Q2,”
said Juniman Kasman, chief technology officer for Nexusguard.
“Additionally, multi-vector attacks created higher levels of difficulty
in differentiating attack traffic from normal traffic, overwhelming
traditional mitigation methods. To protect against these types of
attacks, organizations need to develop coordinated efforts to uncover
new threats, remedy affected apps and ensure mitigation methods can flex
and suppress growing attacks.”

As hackers expand their repertoires beyond connected IoT botnets, they
hijack other zombie devices to create Android botnets and other new
threats, such as the WireX botnet infecting 100 countries and 120,000
Android devices. China retained its top spot in the distribution of
global attack sources, responsible for nearly 21 percent of worldwide
attacks. The U.S. remained in second place, as the source of just more
than 15 percent of all attacks, and France climbed from eighth place in
Q2 to third place in Q3, more than tripling its slice of the attack
source pie.

Read the full “Q3
2017 Threat Report
” for more details.

About Nexusguard
Founded in 2008, Nexusguard is the global
leader in fighting malicious Internet attacks. Nexusguard protects
clients against a multitude of threats, including distributed denial of
service (DDoS) attacks, to ensure uninterrupted Internet service.
Nexusguard provides comprehensive, highly customized solutions for
customers of all sizes, across a range of industries, and also enables
turnkey anti-DDoS solutions for service providers. Nexusguard delivers
on its promise to maximize peace of mind by minimizing threats and
improving uptime. Visit www.nexusguard.com
for more information.

Google’s research team releases three new experimental photo apps for Android & iOS

Inspired by the success of Motion Stills, Google is releasing more photography apps built on experimental technology. Today, Google is launching three new “appsperimentals” for Android and iOS that take advantage of recent phone and computer vision advancements.


afd19_CI_NSwitch_Console_02 Google's research team releases three new experimental photo apps for Android & iOS

Nintendo Switch

“Photography appsperiments” are “usable and useful mobile photography experiences built on experimental technology.” Motion Stills, which launched first on iOS before Android this year, created cinemagraphs from short video using experimental stabilization and rendering technologies

The three new apps use such technologies like object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms, and efficient image encoding/decoding.

Google is researching this technology given the rise of next-generation phone cameras that will be able to blend hardware and computer vision algorithms. Specifically, the company is exploring “radically new creative mobile photo and video applications” as cameras will soon be able to understand the “semantic content” of a photo.

This is not all too different from how the Assistant in Google Photos can already curate photos and automatically create collages, movies, and GIFs.

  • Storyboard (Android) transforms your videos into single-page comic layouts, entirely on device. Simply shoot a video and load it in Storyboard. The app automatically selects interesting video frames, lays them out, and applies one of six visual styles. Save the comic or pull down to refresh and instantly produce a new one. There are approximately 1.6 trillion different possibilities!
  • Selfissimo! (iOSAndroid) is an automated selfie photographer that snaps a stylish black and white photo each time you pose. Tap the screen to start a photo shoot. The app encourages you to pose and captures a photo whenever you stop moving. Tap the screen to end the session and review the resulting contact sheet, saving individual images or the entire shoot.
  • Scrubbies (iOS) lets you easily manipulate the speed and direction of video playback to produce delightful video loops that highlight actions, capture funny faces, and replay moments. Shoot a video in the app and then remix it by scratching it like a DJ. Scrubbing with one finger plays the video. Scrubbing with two fingers captures the playback so you can save or share it.

afd19_CI_NSwitch_Console_02 Google's research team releases three new experimental photo apps for Android & iOS afd19_CI_NSwitch_Console_02 Google's research team releases three new experimental photo apps for Android & iOS afd19_CI_NSwitch_Console_02 Google's research team releases three new experimental photo apps for Android & iOS

The company notes that these apps are using technologies that are under “active research,” with performance possibly varying as a result. They hope that public feedback “will help guide some of the technology we develop next.”


Check out 9to5Google on YouTube for more news:

Military’s early valley fever research still benefiting public health today

Kerry Klein reports for Valley Public Radio in Fresno and is a member of The Center for Health Journalism Collaborative. 

ABA Warns Judges of Ethical Problems Over Benches’ Internet Research

American Bar Association in Chicago. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM.

The internet is a powerful research tool, but in the hands of a judge, its use poses serious ethical conundrums that are best avoided, warns a new American Bar Association opinion.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which develops and interprets ethics standards for lawyers and the judiciary, issued the opinion Friday. While internet information may be educational or useful, the ABA said, there are risks because internet information can be “biased, unreliable, or false.” When making decisions, judges should not rely on facts found via internet research that are not subject to the adversarial process, the guidance adds.

“Stated simply, a judge should not gather adjudicative facts from any source on the Internet unless the information is subject to proper judicial notice,” the guidance advises.

The guidance says judges should not conduct internet research to fill factual gaps in a case record, or to corroborate or discredit facts in the record. If extra information is needed, that information should be subject to judicial notice, or in other words, “not subject to reasonable dispute.” Judges should also ask parties to provide more information when appropriate, not go find it on their own.

Judges can, however, conduct research into general topics to help them understand a subject unrelated to a pending case, under the ABA’s rules. The guidance gives the example of a judge recently assigned to a jurisdiction with a high volume of environmental cases. That judge would not face ethical issues by reading articles and other materials about environmental law, according to the guidance.

The opinion lists additional hypothetical situations, and explains whether a judge’s behavior may be acceptable. That includes a judge using social media to learn about lawyers, jurors or parties in a case. While judges can use social media, the guidance says, judges should not gather information about jurors or parties.

But gathering information about a lawyer is a “closer question,” the ABA said. If a judge wants to become “familiar with counsel” who appear in his or her court, that’s acceptable. But judges cannot use independent research on lawyers in weighing or considering adjudicative facts.

The extent to which judges should engage in online research is a subject of ongoing debate, especially as social media sites that provide personal information about users have become more pervasive. In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit handled a case in which a prisoner who suffered from gastroesophageal reflux brought an Eighth Amendment challenge, claiming prison officials restricted his access to over-the-counter medicines.

Judge Richard Posner, now retired, conducted extensive research on medical websites, including WebMD and others. In the opinion, Posner defended his research, writing that the court was not “deeming the Internet evidence cited in this opinion conclusive or even certifying it as being probably correct, though it may well be correct since it is drawn from reputable medical websites.” He said the information was only used “to underscore the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact” that arose in district court proceedings.

The dissenting judge, David Hamilton, wrote that Posner’s research was an “unprecedented departure from the proper role of an appellate court.”

It appears the ABA agrees, as its guidance explicitly states that judges should not conduct outside research to gather facts that affect the outcome of a case.

The ABA goes even further, noting that judges should simply ask parties to provide information if possible, rather than finding it themselves.

“Judges should not use the Internet for independent fact-gathering related to a pending or impending matter where the parties can easily be asked to research or provide the information,” the guidance says. “The same is true of the activities or characteristics of the litigants or other participants in the matter.”

Android Gains On Buffett’s Apple, Research Firm Says

One of Warren Buffett’s biggest positions, Apple, lost some of its iOS market share to competitors on the unavailability of the iPhone X for purchase in October, a research firm said Tuesday.

Apple’s operating system for the iPhone, iOS, dropped 7.6% to 32.9% of the market in the three months ending in October from 40.6% in the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, the share of phones running on Android jumped 8.2% to 66.2% from 58%, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said.

3c7ce_960x0 Android Gains On Buffett's Apple, Research Firm Says

Excited newly-released iPhone X customers at Mac City Apple Reseller Store in One Utama shopping mall on November 24, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

iPhone share also fell 4.3% in the five largest markets in Europe and 7.5% in Japan. China was a bright spot, where market share eked a 0.5% gain in the past three months to 17.4%.

“This decrease is significant and puts pressure on the iPhone X to perform. Considering the complete overhaul that the iPhone X offers, consumers may be postponing their purchase decisions until they can test the iPhone X and decide whether the higher price, compared to the iPhone 8, is worth the premium to them,” Dominic Sunnebo, global business unit director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said.

Apple’s highest-end model iPhone X launched on Nov. 3 and sold out within minutes when Apple allowed preorders a week before, despite the $999 starting price, which is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, research firm IHS Markit said.

The difference maker in cost compared to other iPhone models relates to the X’s superior screen and facial recognition technology, enabled by a TrueDepth sensing system. Otherwise, it has the same platform components and similar architecture to the iPhone 8 Plus, IHS reported.

More data from Kantar WorldPanel ComTech suggested there is pent up demand for Apple’s new flagship. As of October, 35.3% of Apple’s base in Europe and the U.S. had owned their iPhone for more than two years. That increased from 30.1% a year earlier.

Android Gains On Buffett’s Apple, Research Firm Says

One of Warren Buffett’s biggest positions, Apple, lost some of its iOS market share to competitors on the unavailability of the iPhone X for purchase in October, a research firm said Tuesday.

Apple’s operating system for the iPhone, iOS, dropped 7.6% to 32.9% of the market in the three months ending in October from 40.6% in the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, the share of phones running on Android jumped 8.2% to 66.2% from 58%, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said.

3c7ce_960x0 Android Gains On Buffett's Apple, Research Firm Says

Excited newly-released iPhone X customers at Mac City Apple Reseller Store in One Utama shopping mall on November 24, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

iPhone share also fell 4.3% in the five largest markets in Europe and 7.5% in Japan. China was a bright spot, where market share eked a 0.5% gain in the past three months to 17.4%.

“This decrease is significant and puts pressure on the iPhone X to perform. Considering the complete overhaul that the iPhone X offers, consumers may be postponing their purchase decisions until they can test the iPhone X and decide whether the higher price, compared to the iPhone 8, is worth the premium to them,” Dominic Sunnebo, global business unit director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said.

Apple’s highest-end model iPhone X launched on Nov. 3 and sold out within minutes when Apple allowed preorders a week before, despite the $999 starting price, which is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, research firm IHS Markit said.

The difference maker in cost compared to other iPhone models relates to the X’s superior screen and facial recognition technology, enabled by a TrueDepth sensing system. Otherwise, it has the same platform components and similar architecture to the iPhone 8 Plus, IHS reported.

More data from Kantar WorldPanel ComTech suggested there is pent up demand for Apple’s new flagship. As of October, 35.3% of Apple’s base in Europe and the U.S. had owned their iPhone for more than two years. That increased from 30.1% a year earlier.

Android Gains On Buffett’s Apple, Research Firm Says

One of Warren Buffett’s biggest positions, Apple, lost some of its iOS market share to competitors on the unavailability of the iPhone X for purchase in October, a research firm said Tuesday.

Apple’s operating system for the iPhone, iOS, dropped 7.6% to 32.9% of the market in the three months ending in October from 40.6% in the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, the share of phones running on Android jumped 8.2% to 66.2% from 58%, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said.

b596d_960x0 Android Gains On Buffett's Apple, Research Firm Says

Excited newly-released iPhone X customers at Mac City Apple Reseller Store in One Utama shopping mall on November 24, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

iPhone share also fell 4.3% in the five largest markets in Europe and 7.5% in Japan. China was a bright spot, where market share eked a 0.5% gain in the past three months to 17.4%.

“This decrease is significant and puts pressure on the iPhone X to perform. Considering the complete overhaul that the iPhone X offers, consumers may be postponing their purchase decisions until they can test the iPhone X and decide whether the higher price, compared to the iPhone 8, is worth the premium to them,” Dominic Sunnebo, global business unit director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said.

Apple’s highest-end model iPhone X launched on Nov. 3 and sold out within minutes when Apple allowed preorders a week before, despite the $999 starting price, which is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, research firm IHS Markit said.

The difference maker in cost compared to other iPhone models relates to the X’s superior screen and facial recognition technology, enabled by a TrueDepth sensing system. Otherwise, it has the same platform components and similar architecture to the iPhone 8 Plus, IHS reported.

More data from Kantar WorldPanel ComTech suggested there is pent up demand for Apple’s new flagship. As of October, 35.3% of Apple’s base in Europe and the U.S. had owned their iPhone for more than two years. That increased from 30.1% a year earlier.

Android Gains On Buffett’s Apple, Research Firm Says

One of Warren Buffett’s biggest positions, Apple, lost some of its iOS market share to competitors on the unavailability of the iPhone X for purchase in October, a research firm said Tuesday.

Apple’s operating system for the iPhone, iOS, dropped 7.6% to 32.9% of the market in the three months ending in October from 40.6% in the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, the share of phones running on Android jumped 8.2% to 66.2% from 58%, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said.

b596d_960x0 Android Gains On Buffett's Apple, Research Firm Says

Excited newly-released iPhone X customers at Mac City Apple Reseller Store in One Utama shopping mall on November 24, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

iPhone share also fell 4.3% in the five largest markets in Europe and 7.5% in Japan. China was a bright spot, where market share eked a 0.5% gain in the past three months to 17.4%.

“This decrease is significant and puts pressure on the iPhone X to perform. Considering the complete overhaul that the iPhone X offers, consumers may be postponing their purchase decisions until they can test the iPhone X and decide whether the higher price, compared to the iPhone 8, is worth the premium to them,” Dominic Sunnebo, global business unit director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said.

Apple’s highest-end model iPhone X launched on Nov. 3 and sold out within minutes when Apple allowed preorders a week before, despite the $999 starting price, which is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, research firm IHS Markit said.

The difference maker in cost compared to other iPhone models relates to the X’s superior screen and facial recognition technology, enabled by a TrueDepth sensing system. Otherwise, it has the same platform components and similar architecture to the iPhone 8 Plus, IHS reported.

More data from Kantar WorldPanel ComTech suggested there is pent up demand for Apple’s new flagship. As of October, 35.3% of Apple’s base in Europe and the U.S. had owned their iPhone for more than two years. That increased from 30.1% a year earlier.

Android Gains On Buffett’s Apple, Research Firm Says

One of Warren Buffett’s biggest positions, Apple, lost some of its iOS market share to competitors on the unavailability of the iPhone X for purchase in October, a research firm said Tuesday.

Apple’s operating system for the iPhone, iOS, dropped 7.6% to 32.9% of the market in the three months ending in October from 40.6% in the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, the share of phones running on Android jumped 8.2% to 66.2% from 58%, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said.

b596d_960x0 Android Gains On Buffett's Apple, Research Firm Says

Excited newly-released iPhone X customers at Mac City Apple Reseller Store in One Utama shopping mall on November 24, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

iPhone share also fell 4.3% in the five largest markets in Europe and 7.5% in Japan. China was a bright spot, where market share eked a 0.5% gain in the past three months to 17.4%.

“This decrease is significant and puts pressure on the iPhone X to perform. Considering the complete overhaul that the iPhone X offers, consumers may be postponing their purchase decisions until they can test the iPhone X and decide whether the higher price, compared to the iPhone 8, is worth the premium to them,” Dominic Sunnebo, global business unit director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said.

Apple’s highest-end model iPhone X launched on Nov. 3 and sold out within minutes when Apple allowed preorders a week before, despite the $999 starting price, which is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, research firm IHS Markit said.

The difference maker in cost compared to other iPhone models relates to the X’s superior screen and facial recognition technology, enabled by a TrueDepth sensing system. Otherwise, it has the same platform components and similar architecture to the iPhone 8 Plus, IHS reported.

More data from Kantar WorldPanel ComTech suggested there is pent up demand for Apple’s new flagship. As of October, 35.3% of Apple’s base in Europe and the U.S. had owned their iPhone for more than two years. That increased from 30.1% a year earlier.

New Research Says Cheese Is A Health Food (Really!)

The saturated fat debate has long been raging in the health food world. Earlier this year, coconut oil made headlines as the American Heart Association declared it unilaterally unhealthy (mbg doctors largely disagree, with a few caveats). Now, a new saturated fat has fallen under the scrutiny of researchers: cheese.

Dairy has always been a dicey subject in the health food world. Many diets (paleo, vegan) tend to shun it, and some doctors point to it as the root of issues like inflammation, gut problems, and acne. The two primary exceptions are ayurveda, which embraces the milk by-product, and the of-the-moment keto diet, which relies on such a high-fat intake that cheese becomes practically a necessity.

In a new meta-analysis, researchers from China and the Netherlands analyzed 15 studies encompassing more than 200,000 people about the health effects of cheese. Thirteen of the studies analyzed went on for over 10 years. The findings?

Overall, people who consumed high levels of cheese were 10 percent less likely to have a stroke and 14 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease than participants who consumed no cheese. More isn’t necessarily better, though. In the study, too much cheese was found to be as negative as too little, with the sweet spot hitting around 40 grams a day (about the size of a matchbook). Researchers didn’t specify whether one type of cheese was better than the rest.

Before you go out and gobble down a slice of pizza, keep in mind that there may be more to the story. According to functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, D.C., there are many factors, such as the rest of a person’s diet, that need to really be taken into consideration before making the claim that eating cheese every day is the key to minimizing heart disease. “Cheese is a high-fat food that can be very popular in ketogenic diets, and these diets have been shown to actually decrease bad oxidated cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol and lower inflammation levels, all markers of higher heart disease risk,” he says. “The key is to really examine the context of the diet outside of cheese intake since eating extremely high levels of cheese was also correlated with increased heart disease risk. People may be eating more processed foods in addition to cheese, which can negate the benefits of these healthy fats.” The take-away? Cheese is only one part of a diet, and while it may not be as harmful as previously thought, it’s also not a panacea—at least on its own.

Dr. Cole also notes the importance of the quality of said cheese. “Focus on grass-fed, organic dairy,” he says. “It’s also important to mention that not everyone tolerates dairy, even the grass-fed organic kind. We are all truly different, so listen to your own body.”

OK, so cheese might not be so bad, but what about butter? A functional medicine doc dives into the science.

Computer scientist Randy Katz named vice chancellor for research

Randy Howard Katz, who helped develop many of the wireless tools and fast, reliable computer storage we take for granted today, has been appointed vice chancellor for research at UC Berkeley.

70d6f_RandyKatz01-1-410x273 Computer scientist Randy Katz named vice chancellor for research

Randy H. Katz, the new vice chancellor for research (Noah Berger photo, 2015)

Katz, the United Microelectronics Corporation Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, will assume the position Jan. 1, 2018. He will take over from G. Steven Martin, who has served as interim vice chancellor since Paul Alivisatos was appointed executive vice chancellor and provost in July.

A 1980 Ph.D. graduate of UC Berkeley who joined the faculty in 1983, Katz is well known in the computer industry for his development of RAID computer storage systems in the 1980s with professor emeritus David Patterson and then-graduate student Garth Gibson. Short for Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks, RAID storage today is a multibillion-dollar business that allows storing data in multiple places across an array of many small, parallel computers for quick retrieval and protection against loss or corruption of the data. He will be inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame in February for this work.

He is also known as the scientist who brought the nascent internet to the White House. In the 1990s, he set up the email accounts of former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore and built the original whitehouse.gov site, which has been the main portal into the executive branch ever since.

“I feel blessed to give back in leadership at this stage of my career, after a 40-year history at Berkeley,” Katz said. “I bring long experience with many dimensions of the research enterprise on campus, from research and student mentoring to government service and international collaboration.”

Katz acknowledges the challenging times ahead, however.

“Trust in higher education, the level of support for public higher education and belief in the importance of research to the excellence of an institution like ours are being undermined in the current social and political context,” he said. “I am very excited to be given the responsibility as vice chancellor for research, and hopefully I can make some positive advances in reversing that direction.”

Among the issues he’ll be dealing with is the new tax reform bill making its way through Congress, which could impact not only graduate student support by taxing tuition waivers, but also affect charitable donations and even corporate sponsorship of research.

“This is part of a change in the environment that is going to make things very challenging for universities in general,” he said.

Wireless pioneer

Katz first came to Berkeley from Cornell University as a graduate student in 1976, and after earning his Ph.D. was appointed an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before being asked to return and join the EECS faculty in 1983. He left for two years in 1993-94 to serve as the deputy director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Computing Systems and Technology Office, during which time he worked with other agencies to bring the executive branch into the internet age.

70d6f_RandyKatz01-1-410x273 Computer scientist Randy Katz named vice chancellor for research

Katz with President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in the early 1990s, when Katz helped set up their White House email accounts. Others are Janet Handel, Tom Weber, Jack Finley and Paul Tisdale.

In 1996, Katz became the first computer scientist to be appointed chair of the EECS department, a position he held until 1999. At the time of his appointment he was working on a new concept called wireless computing – an alternative to tying desktop computers to the internet though wires – and an interview in the college’s newsletter seems prescient.

“One day, every student at Cal is going to have some type of laptop that they’re going to want to take from the classroom to the coffee shop to the library,” he opined. He was instrumental in bringing the first experimental generation of the AirBears wireless network to the campus, and helped make it available to Berkeley students on a trial basis. Twenty years later, mobile computing is taken for granted.

Katz has also helped shepherd other innovations into common usage: wide-area wireless networks for mobile devices, cloud-based applications and cloud storage and ways of managing and protecting computer networks. He currently is involved with the RISELab – Real-time Intelligent Secure Execution — where he collaborates on projects to use machine learning to assess and control complex infrastructures, like buildings, energy and transportation systems, in real time.

Throughout, he has talked widely with industry researchers to disseminate UC Berkeley discoveries and encourage their adoption in the wider world. Today, researchers are more likely to start their own companies to get their discoveries to market, a shift that Berkeley has embraced.

70d6f_RandyKatz01-1-410x273 Computer scientist Randy Katz named vice chancellor for research

Katz in a Star Trek moment; he identifies more with Science Officer Spock than with Captain Kirk.

“I believe that Berkeley has had a huge impact on the economies of the Bay Area and California and the country in general,” he said. “We need to not duplicate what is already provided by the startup ecosystem, which reaches from Silicon Valley through San Francisco to Berkeley already, but make it easy to take advantage of it and not get in the way of faculty and student entrepreneurialism on campus.”

As vice chancellor, he is also eager to advance efforts already underway to streamline research oversight and management systems on campus.

“The entire apparatus of research administration is really to support the faculty at the end of the day, and to make Berkeley the best possible environment for pursuing world-changing research,” he said. “Without that, we will not be able to continue to recruit the best and the brightest faculty, which is the reason why grad students and undergraduates want to come to Berkeley. That is going to be the obvious high priority for me.”

Katz has also had a profound impact on engineering education at Berkeley, and has been recognized for his dynamic teaching and mentoring with numerous honors, including the campus’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He has been a frequent instructor in the Freshman Seminars program, teaching courses on the history of communications technologies.

Katz is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Katz lives in San Francisco with his wife, psychologist Zoi Eliou, and his two rescue dogs, Benji and Lulu. An avid Giants fan – his parents gave him the same middle name as Willie Mays – he is also an amateur actor and playwright and a voracious reader of fiction and history.

MORE INFORMATION

iPhone market share slips in October-quarter: research firm

(Reuters) – The unavailability of the iPhone X during the three months ended October pulled down the market share for Apple’s iPhones in some key regions, while phones running on Google’s Android recorded higher sales, data from a research firm showed on Tuesday.

The market share for Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) iPhones, as measured by sales of its iOS mobile operating system, declined to 32.9 percent in the United States, from 40.6 percent a year ago, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech’s data showed.

In an analysis of smartphone operating system sales for the quarter ended October, Kantar also said iOS market share slipped in Japan and key European markets, while Android clocked gains in most markets.

The iPhone X, the 10th anniversary edition of the smartphone, was launched in early November, more than a month after the iPhone 8’s launch on Sept. 22.

“It was somewhat inevitable that Apple would see volume share fall once we had a full comparative month of sales taking into account the non-flagship iPhone 8 versus the flagship iPhone 7 from 2016,” said Dominic Sunnebo, global business unit director at Kantar.

Android, Google’s open-source platform, is the leader in mobile operating systems and is adopted by a majority of smartphone makers.

In the October-quarter, Android’s market share rose to 66.2 percent in the United States from 58 percent a year ago. Android also gained in other countries including Japan, Britain and Germany. (bit.ly/2jgOZe1)

Urban China was a bright spot for Apple as iOS market share edged up 0.5 percentage points to 17.4 percent. Android’s share fell slightly to 82.3 percent.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Acquires Atos Quantum&nbps;Computer to Help in Research

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has acquired a 30-Qubit Atos Quantum Learning Machine, a high-powered quantum computing system built on the principles of quantum mechanics.

Bezons, France-based Atos said the Quantum Learning Machine is the highest-performing quantum simulator in the world. The global IT services company opened a regional headquarters in Irving in July.

According to Atos, the Quantum Learning Machine combines an ultra-compact machine with a universal programming language.

“We are researching how quantum computing can provide new methods for advancing scientific applications important to the Department of Energy.”
Travis Humble

The machine will allow researchers and engineers to develop and test the quantum applications and algorithms for the future. 

“At ORNL, we are preparing for the next-generation of high-performance computing by investigating unique technologies such as quantum computing,” Travis Humble, director of ORNL’s Quantum Computing Institute, said in the release. “We are researching how quantum computing can provide new methods for advancing scientific applications important to the Department of Energy.”

He said the company’s researchers “focus on applications in the physical sciences, such as chemistry, materials science, and biology, as well as the applied and data sciences.”

ORNL, the Department of Energy’s largest multiprogram science and energy laboratory, is in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and employs nearly 5,000 people that include engineers and scientists in more than 100 disciplines, the release said. 

Atos said it was able to install the QLM-30 within hours, and the stand-alone machine can run on site, ensuring confidentiality. 

“Our partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory further strengthens Atos’ high-performance computing market position within the U.S.,” said Michel-Alain Proch, group senior executive vice president and CEO Atos North American operations, in the release. “In combination with our IT expertise and focus on innovation, Atos is enhancing the ability of leading research centers and universities to address tomorrow’s quantum computing challenges today.”

df7fe_Screen-Shot-2017-10-01-at-12.42.04-PM-e1506880190392 Oak Ridge National Laboratory Acquires Atos Quantum&nbps;Computer to Help in Research

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Why a Lot of Important Research Is Not Being Done

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The New Health Care

Lawsuits have an intimidating effect on an already difficult enterprise.

Image
CreditAlvaro Dominguez

By

Dec. 4, 2017

We have a dispiriting shortage of high-quality health research for many reasons, including the fact that it’s expensive, difficult and time-intensive. But one reason is more insidious: Sometimes groups seek to intimidate and threaten scientists, scaring them off promising work.

By the time I wrote about the health effects of lead almost two years ago, few were questioning the science on this issue. But that has not always been the case. In the 1980s, various interests tried to suppress the work of Dr. Herbert Needleman and his colleagues on the effects of lead exposure. Not happy with Dr. Needleman’s findings, the lead industry got both the federal Office for Scientific Integrity and the University of Pittsburgh to conduct intrusive investigations into his work and character. He was eventually vindicated — and his discoveries would go on to improve the lives of children all over the country — but it was a terrible experience for him.

I often complain about a lack of solid evidence on guns’ relationship to public health. There’s a reason for that deficiency. In the 1990s, when health services researchers produced work on the dangers posed by firearms, those who disagreed with the results tried to have the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control shut down. They failed, but getting such work funded became nearly impossible after that.

I have also discussed the too-slowly changing approach to back pain. There’s a reason for that, too. When research was published, also in the early 1990s, arguing that the proper treatment of back pain was nonsurgical, some with a financial interest in surgical intervention tried to have the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (now known as A.H.R.Q.) defunded. They failed, too, but left researchers skittish about focusing on this topic.

The area I complain about most, though, concerns nutrition, including supplements. That domain allows us to focus on another type of intimidation: lawsuits.

In 2013, scientists at the Food and Drug Administration published a study in The Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis showing that nine brands of dietary supplements sold in the United States contained a synthetic analogue of amphetamine. The authors noted that the efficacy and safety of this stimulant, β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), had never been studied in humans.

A year later, Canadian health authorities recalled supplements containing the stimulant, noting the potential for “serious cardiovascular complications.” The F.D.A., inexplicably, remained silent. The agency did not warn the public, recall products or warn manufacturers.

Dr. Pieter Cohen, an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, replicated aspects of the 2013 study and came to the same conclusion as the F.D.A. experts: The stimulant was available in multiple brands of supplements, and a comprehensive review of the biomedical and chemistry literature found not a single scientific study of the stimulant’s efficacy or safety in humans. These results were published in Drug Testing and Analysis in 2015 and widely disseminated by national and international media outlets. Two weeks after that, the F.D.A. alerted consumers that the stimulant was potentially dangerous and warned manufacturers to remove it from their products.

One of the companies that received an F.D.A. warning letter, in turn, sued Dr. Cohen for $200 million in damages for libel, alleging that statements in the peer review article, and subsequent interviews with the media, were false. The company asserted, without supporting scientific evidence, that while the article said the stimulant was not “natural,” it had extracted it from a Mexican shrub. Company officials also claimed they had evidence of the stimulant’s efficacy and safety in humans. The lawsuit, initially filed in Georgia, was dismissed because of lack of jurisdiction there, then refiled in federal court in Massachusetts.

During the lawsuit’s discovery phase, the supplement company demanded and received access to emails related to the study, including those with co-authors, journal editors, the F.D.A., outside experts and the news media. The company also demanded and received all revisions of the manuscript, as well as peer reviewers’ comments and the authors’ responses. Despite the absence of evidence of wrongdoing, the judge allowed the case to go to trial.

Dr. Cohen got entangled in what legal scholars call a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or Slapp. Anti-Slapp laws are intended to prevent people from using courts, and even the threat of a lawsuit, to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights. But in Dr. Cohen’s case, the court refused to give full weight to Massachusetts’ anti-Slapp statute on the ground that dismissing the case would undermine the supplement company’s constitutional right to a jury trial.

Although the jury eventually found for the defense, the experience was extremely unsettling. “Preparation for the trial included a six-hour deposition, a mock trial and a review of more than 4,000 pages of studies, emails, correspondences, drafts and depositions,” Dr. Cohen told me. “The trial itself lasted seven days, and put my family through the wringer.” He was fortunate to have the full support of his university in defending his work.

Dr. Cohen and I, along with Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, recently wrote in JAMA Internal Medicine about the damage such suits inflict on scientific inquiry. We pointed out that the peer-review process already provides a way to question a study’s conclusions before publication, and that less formal peer review continues afterward in the form of letters to the editor and editorials.

If errors or mistakes are believed to be fraud, mechanisms for review exist in university systems. Only if evidence of fraud surfaces does it make sense for courts to be brought into play.

“Courts aren’t equipped to referee scientific disputes,” Mr. Bagley said. “And they have an obligation to prevent unscrupulous plaintiffs from abusing the machinery of justice to stifle science.”

Lawsuits like these are too common in health research. Mr. Bagley did a fairly comprehensive search of the reported opinions over the past 40 years. He found two cases in the 1980s and two in the 1990s. Since 2000, however, there have been 10. These numbers greatly understate the number of filed cases, however, since the vast majority are settled.

The manufacturer of a hip protector sued a researcher in 2008 over a study published in JAMA that showed the device didn’t prevent fractures. The C.E.O. of a pharmaceutical company sued a researcher who led his data monitoring committee when the researcher published a 2011 article in Annals of Internal Medicine disputing the way the C.E.O. had described a study’s results.

Lawsuits like these aren’t necessarily bound by ideology or partisan politics. Mark Z. Jacobson, an energy systems engineer at Stanford University, is suing the National Academy of Sciences and the authors of a recent paper published in the academy’s journal, PNAS. The paper criticized Mr. Jacobson’s analyses that the United States could fully power itself with wind, water and solar energy. Many, including some identified as environmentalists, have criticized the lawsuit.

For his part, Dr. Cohen remains undeterred. Last month he published a new paper finding that experimental stimulants continue to be placed in sports and weight-loss supplements. That’s what research is supposed to do: give us more data, so that we can make better decisions about our health.

Trending

Rob Kim/Getty Images

The president is currently engaging in some revisionist history.

Alex Goodlett for The New York Times
Susan Walsh/Associated Press

The potential hammer at the heart of the Michael Flynn plea.

Tom Brenner/The New York Times
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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Why a Lot of Important Research Is Not Being Done

Advertisement

Supported by

The New Health Care

Lawsuits have an intimidating effect on an already difficult enterprise.

Image
CreditAlvaro Dominguez

By

Dec. 4, 2017

We have a dispiriting shortage of high-quality health research for many reasons, including the fact that it’s expensive, difficult and time-intensive. But one reason is more insidious: Sometimes groups seek to intimidate and threaten scientists, scaring them off promising work.

By the time I wrote about the health effects of lead almost two years ago, few were questioning the science on this issue. But that has not always been the case. In the 1980s, various interests tried to suppress the work of Dr. Herbert Needleman and his colleagues on the effects of lead exposure. Not happy with Dr. Needleman’s findings, the lead industry got both the federal Office for Scientific Integrity and the University of Pittsburgh to conduct intrusive investigations into his work and character. He was eventually vindicated — and his discoveries would go on to improve the lives of children all over the country — but it was a terrible experience for him.

I often complain about a lack of solid evidence on guns’ relationship to public health. There’s a reason for that deficiency. In the 1990s, when health services researchers produced work on the dangers posed by firearms, those who disagreed with the results tried to have the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control shut down. They failed, but getting such work funded became nearly impossible after that.

I have also discussed the too-slowly changing approach to back pain. There’s a reason for that, too. When research was published, also in the early 1990s, arguing that the proper treatment of back pain was nonsurgical, some with a financial interest in surgical intervention tried to have the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (now known as A.H.R.Q.) defunded. They failed, too, but left researchers skittish about focusing on this topic.

The area I complain about most, though, concerns nutrition, including supplements. That domain allows us to focus on another type of intimidation: lawsuits.

In 2013, scientists at the Food and Drug Administration published a study in The Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis showing that nine brands of dietary supplements sold in the United States contained a synthetic analogue of amphetamine. The authors noted that the efficacy and safety of this stimulant, β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), had never been studied in humans.

A year later, Canadian health authorities recalled supplements containing the stimulant, noting the potential for “serious cardiovascular complications.” The F.D.A., inexplicably, remained silent. The agency did not warn the public, recall products or warn manufacturers.

Dr. Pieter Cohen, an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, replicated aspects of the 2013 study and came to the same conclusion as the F.D.A. experts: The stimulant was available in multiple brands of supplements, and a comprehensive review of the biomedical and chemistry literature found not a single scientific study of the stimulant’s efficacy or safety in humans. These results were published in Drug Testing and Analysis in 2015 and widely disseminated by national and international media outlets. Two weeks after that, the F.D.A. alerted consumers that the stimulant was potentially dangerous and warned manufacturers to remove it from their products.

One of the companies that received an F.D.A. warning letter, in turn, sued Dr. Cohen for $200 million in damages for libel, alleging that statements in the peer review article, and subsequent interviews with the media, were false. The company asserted, without supporting scientific evidence, that while the article said the stimulant was not “natural,” it had extracted it from a Mexican shrub. Company officials also claimed they had evidence of the stimulant’s efficacy and safety in humans. The lawsuit, initially filed in Georgia, was dismissed because of lack of jurisdiction there, then refiled in federal court in Massachusetts.

During the lawsuit’s discovery phase, the supplement company demanded and received access to emails related to the study, including those with co-authors, journal editors, the F.D.A., outside experts and the news media. The company also demanded and received all revisions of the manuscript, as well as peer reviewers’ comments and the authors’ responses. Despite the absence of evidence of wrongdoing, the judge allowed the case to go to trial.

Dr. Cohen got entangled in what legal scholars call a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or Slapp. Anti-Slapp laws are intended to prevent people from using courts, and even the threat of a lawsuit, to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights. But in Dr. Cohen’s case, the court refused to give full weight to Massachusetts’ anti-Slapp statute on the ground that dismissing the case would undermine the supplement company’s constitutional right to a jury trial.

Although the jury eventually found for the defense, the experience was extremely unsettling. “Preparation for the trial included a six-hour deposition, a mock trial and a review of more than 4,000 pages of studies, emails, correspondences, drafts and depositions,” Dr. Cohen told me. “The trial itself lasted seven days, and put my family through the wringer.” He was fortunate to have the full support of his university in defending his work.

Dr. Cohen and I, along with Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, recently wrote in JAMA Internal Medicine about the damage such suits inflict on scientific inquiry. We pointed out that the peer-review process already provides a way to question a study’s conclusions before publication, and that less formal peer review continues afterward in the form of letters to the editor and editorials.

If errors or mistakes are believed to be fraud, mechanisms for review exist in university systems. Only if evidence of fraud surfaces does it make sense for courts to be brought into play.

“Courts aren’t equipped to referee scientific disputes,” Mr. Bagley said. “And they have an obligation to prevent unscrupulous plaintiffs from abusing the machinery of justice to stifle science.”

Lawsuits like these are too common in health research. Mr. Bagley did a fairly comprehensive search of the reported opinions over the past 40 years. He found two cases in the 1980s and two in the 1990s. Since 2000, however, there have been 10. These numbers greatly understate the number of filed cases, however, since the vast majority are settled.

The manufacturer of a hip protector sued a researcher in 2008 over a study published in JAMA that showed the device didn’t prevent fractures. The C.E.O. of a pharmaceutical company sued a researcher who led his data monitoring committee when the researcher published a 2011 article in Annals of Internal Medicine disputing the way the C.E.O. had described a study’s results.

Lawsuits like these aren’t necessarily bound by ideology or partisan politics. Mark Z. Jacobson, an energy systems engineer at Stanford University, is suing the National Academy of Sciences and the authors of a recent paper published in the academy’s journal, PNAS. The paper criticized Mr. Jacobson’s analyses that the United States could fully power itself with wind, water and solar energy. Many, including some identified as environmentalists, have criticized the lawsuit.

For his part, Dr. Cohen remains undeterred. Last month he published a new paper finding that experimental stimulants continue to be placed in sports and weight-loss supplements. That’s what research is supposed to do: give us more data, so that we can make better decisions about our health.

Trending

Rob Kim/Getty Images

The president is currently engaging in some revisionist history.

Alex Goodlett for The New York Times
Susan Walsh/Associated Press

The potential hammer at the heart of the Michael Flynn plea.

Tom Brenner/The New York Times
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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ASU alum bolsters Native American health research in nation’s capital

November 29, 2017

Native Americans have distinct health-care needs.

And now they have a new leader in health research who aspires to usher tribal nations across the country into a new era of medical discovery, treatment and support.

David R. Wilson, an Arizona State University doctoral graduate and a Native American, is the first director of the Tribal Research Office at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, which was established in 2015.

In addition to overseeing a current research budget of $130 million and several hundred health initiatives for Native Americans, one of his first collaborative efforts is helping to uncover the underpinning of genetically precise treatments through an ambitious national health initiative designed to prevent and treat diseases that are based on individual health, environment and lifestyle.

“It’s precision medicine and precise treatments for individuals across America,” Wilson said, who is referring to the All of Us Research Program, the largest medical research program on precision medicine.

The historic effort’s goal is to gather data over many years from 1 million people in the United States with the ultimate goal of accelerating research and improving health.

Under Wilson’s guidance, his office is working with the All of Us Research Program to increase their efficacy when conducting outreach to tribal communities nationwide.

Wilson said getting tribal communities to engage in an initiative like this takes a nuanced and sensitive approach. As a member of the Navajo Nation, he is acutely aware of historical issues involving research and tribal communities.

“We have to be cognizant that when we do this type of work, we recognize their different cultures, traditions and governments,” Wilson said. “We also have to be able to incorporate their ways, their thinking into this approach and provide to them the benefits of high-level research.”

Wilson says he has always been curious by nature, growing up in Manuelito, New Mexico, near the Four Corners region.

“The thing about growing up in a remote area is that you can’t always buy something new when something breaks down, so we were always encouraged to fix things,” Wilson said. “I’d pull something apart to see how it worked and then put it back together again. I’ve learned that I like many others learns best by hands-on experience.”

Working under his father, who was a master mechanic, Wilson fixed brakes and transmissions when he was a teen working for a car dealership in nearby Gallup, New Mexico, where he applied that same philosophy.

He originally started his academic career as an engineer. He said he struggled financially, academically and personally.

“A lot of Native American students have trouble identifying who they are because they’re usually the only indigenous people in those programs,” Wilson said. “It’s only natural to ask, ‘Am I in the right place? Do I deserve to be here? Am I an imposter?’ ”

He says that feeling never wore off, but he was able to better understand what he was feeling through emerging research in the area of STEM and diversity. At the end of a long and grueling sophomore year, Wilson signed up for an internship opportunity at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado. There Wilson studied the Colorado Silvery Blue Butterfly and why their eggs are laid singly on flower buds and young leaves of the host plants. 

“The experience of chasing butterflies for eight weeks was like the flick of a switch,” he said. “After that, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Wilson graduated in May 2007 with a doctoral degree in molecular and cellular biology from ASU, drawing parallels to “a unicorn” by one faculty member.

“Dr. David Wilson is a Native man, with a PhD in a heavy-duty science field, leading a national organization to create positive health futures for Native communities, and leading by example,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs. “In many ways, he’s a unicorn — a mythical creature of unparalleled wisdom. ASU should be very proud to have played a role in his intellectual and professional development. He’s doing amazing work in an important arena. That he remains humble and grounded makes him even more special.”

Despite the accolades, Wilson said his academic experience wasn’t without its challenges. He said the new concepts of things you couldn’t see with the naked eye were often hard to grasp, the workload was heavy and the constructive criticism was emotionally rough.

“It’s hard to receive constructive criticism when you’re young and developing, and you don’t understand the overall goal of its purpose,” Wilson said. “Through time and experience, you begin to understand your instructors and mentors are trying to help you become a better writer, scientist and problem solver.”

One of the instructors who continually challenged Wilson was his doctoral mentor, Yung Chang, a professor and immunologist in ASU’s School of Life Sciences. Wilson credits her with preparing him for the rigors of a career in research.

“David was a very special student in that he quickly assumed a leadership role in the lab, a very hands-on learner,” Chang said. “He was persistent and goal-oriented and had aspirations to do big things. He was a dreamer, but he never gave up. He was a great problem solver.”

Since then he has been solving problems on behalf of Native American health: as a senior research scientist at the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore, Maryland; as a public health adviser in the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services; as a legislative analyst in the office of the director at the Indian Health Service; as an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health’s Center for American Indian Health; and in January 2017, the first named director of the Office of Tribal Health Research.

Wilson credits his meteoric career rise to his doctorate degree from ASU.

“My PhD gave me a whole new perspective on my career moving forward,” Wilson said. “There were no more expectations of me. I had surpassed everyone’s expectations of me, so whatever I did from that time forward was going to be fun.”

Fun, in this instance, means coordinating more than 250 health initiatives — ranging from substance misuse to mental health to workforce development to diabetes — on behalf of Native Americans throughout the country.

He said his biggest goals in his new position are to take a systematic and scientific approach to problem solving, to offer up effective research to tribal communities and to be a father, mentor and role model for Native peoples to the best of his abilities.

“That is a priority of this office, and we have the capacity to do this,” Wilson said.

 

Top photo: David R. Wilson is the first director of the Tribal Research Office at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He credits his success to Arizona State University, where he received his doctoral degree in molecular and cellular biology in May 2007. Photo courtesy of the National Institutes of Health

Marshall Terrill

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176
marshall.terrill@asu.edu

New research creates a computer chip that emulates human cognition

This article originally appeared in Yale Engineering magazine.

Imagine working in an office where, once you’ve finished one task, you had to wait until everyone in all the other cubicles completed the tasks they were working on before you could move on to your next assignment.

That’s how most digital devices that rely on synchronous circuits work. Built-in clocks allow the same amount of time for the completion of each computational function. Based on a binary system of ones and zeros, it’s reliable, but it also means that the system can run only as fast as the slowest function in the chain.

In a clocked implementation, everything has to fit into a time budget, so unless you make everything faster, your chip doesn’t run faster — and ‘everything’ includes things you don’t always need,” said Rajit Manohar, the John C. Malone Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Even before Siri and Google Home became our household companions, we’ve had a tendency to anthropomorphize computers. It’s long been common for people to speak of computers in terms of “thinking” and to ascribe them brain-related traits. In truth, though, conventional computers really don’t function like brains at all. But computer science is getting closer.

One sign of this is TrueNorth, a 4-square-centimeter chip that possesses some 5.4 billion transistors, and 1 million “neurons” that communicate via 256 million “synapses.” Starting while he was a faculty member at Cornell, Manohar came to work on the chip with a team of IBM researchers in a years-long collaboration that resulted in TrueNorth. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of its Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program, TrueNorth is a pioneering example of the neuromorphic chip — a new breed of computer circuitry modeled after the brain. It’s the size of a postage stamp and it could be the start of a revolution in how we make and use computers.

Manohar, who started at Yale in January, came to the project through his work with asynchronous systems, one of his research specialties. In devices with these types of circuits, each function is allowed as little or as much time as needed to complete its task. “It’s like a relay race — you hand the baton to the next person when you’re there,” he said. To allow for greater complexity and use much less energy, all of these functions work asynchronously and in parallel — similar to how neuroscientists believe the brain operates.

There’s clearly not a single, carefully synchronized signal that goes to every single neuron in your brain, so it seems that asynchrony is a natural way to think about how computation there occurs,” Manohar said.

87c77_yse_truenorth_rajit_manohar-portrait New research creates a computer chip that emulates human cognition
“The brain is an asynchronous system that we don’t really understand very well, and it can do certain things that we don’t know how to get computers to do today — and that’s interesting,” says Rajit Manohar.

Although asynchronous systems are often thought of as a new branch of study within computer science, their roots go back to the earliest versions of the modern computer. Manohar notes that even the blueprint of the modern computer (the “Von Neumann” machine) from the 1940s explains that asynchronous computation is advantageous. Many early machines were built this way, but computer architecture soon grew in complexity and included a lot more wires. Ensuring that a signal was sent and received correctly within the machine got trickier. An internal timekeeper was needed to make sure that things ran properly, and synchronous circuits became the law of the land.

What the machines gained in orderliness, though, they lost in speed. Take for instance, the computer in your phone. It’s running at 1 GHz — a billion steps per second — so every step has to fit in one nanosecond. Whatever you’re calculating has to be subdivided into equal blocks of time. If one step finishes early, you have to wait. That can add up to a lot of wasted time.

Frankly, it’s rare that you have computation where individual things all take the same amount of time,” he said. “Not all computations are equally difficult.”

If one step takes too long, an error occurs. In that case, the process has to be broken into smaller steps, or the step size has to be bigger — and that slows everything else down.

Nonetheless, this didn’t pose much concern until the 1980s, when chips started getting bigger and more complicated and the clocks used to keep up with the computing power got more and more expensive to run — taking up as much as 20 percent of a chip’s power consumption.

So people started looking at asynchronous circuits again in the early ‘80s.”

The neurons of TrueNorth work in parallel with each other, each doing what it needs to do to complete a task. They communicate via bursts of electric current, known as spikes. One of the most remarkable things about TrueNorth is how power-efficient it is. Drawing 70 milliwatts of power — equal to that of a hearing aid — its consumption is miniscule compared to conventional computers performing similar tasks.

Dharmendra Modha, lead researcher of the Cognitive Computing group at IBM Almaden Research Center and principal investigator of the DARPA SyNAPSE project, said he recruited Manohar because he’s a “world leader” in the technology required for the project and he had developed “powerful and proven tools.”

Neurons in the brain are event-driven and operate without any synchronizing clock,” Modha said. “To achieve the ambitious metrics of DARPA SyNAPSE, a key element was to design and implement event-driven circuits for which asynchronous circuits are natural.”

87c77_yse_truenorth_rajit_manohar-portrait New research creates a computer chip that emulates human cognition
The TrueNorth chip in detail.

Neuroscience has given us a much better understanding of what’s happening in the brain, and that information inspired the architecture of the TrueNorth chip. But it’s a stretch to call TrueNorth a copy of the brain’s functions since we still don’t know exactly how the brain works. That’s one of the things that fascinates Manohar about his work.

The brain is an asynchronous system that we don’t really understand very well, and it can do certain things that we don’t know how to get computers to do today — and that’s interesting,” he said. Also, there’s evidence that the brain has a “massively powerful asynchronous computational substrate” that can learn how to do a lot of different applications.

And it can execute those applications at an efficiency that we don’t know how to do on a computer. That’s also interesting.”

Many other efforts in neuromorphic computing start with the aim of better understanding how the brain works. The makers of TrueNorth approached their project from the other direction; how can the processes of the brain make for better computing? That also suits Manohar’s interests.

I’m not in it to understand the biology. I’m in it to understand how it does this computation.”

To see what kind of real-world applications TrueNorth might have, the research team developed a multi-object detection and classification application and tested it with two challenges: one was to detect people, bicyclists, cars, trucks, and buses that appear periodically on a video; the other was to correctly identify each object. TrueNorth proved adept at both tasks.

Even if it captures just a fraction of the human brain’s complexity — according to its makers, the chip has the brain power of a bumblebee — that’s enough to accomplish some remarkable tasks. For instance, it allows users to change the channel without touching the TV or a remote control. Samsung, which has evaluated the TrueNorth chip, announced that it is developing a system in which TV users can control their sets simply by gesturing. Officials at the Los Alamos National Lab have also discussed using it for some supercomputing calculations.

Manohar is also the founder of Achronix Semiconductor, a company that specializes in high-performance asynchronous field programmable gate arrays (FPGA) chips. MIT Technology Review listed him as one of “35 Innovators Under 35” for his work on low-power microprocessor design. His other specialties include low-power embedded systems, concurrent systems, and formal methods for circuit design.

Manohar says he came to computer science by way of mathematics.

At some point, I wanted to use mathematics for something more applied,” he said. “I thought computer science was interesting from an applied math perspective — a lot of the techniques and some of the foundations are very mathematical.”

The unprecedented nature of TrueNorth meant a huge amount of resources were put into it. Not only did the research team invent the chip, they needed to invent the tools used to build it, since existing current computer-assisted design (CAD) software wasn’t adequate.

One of the things that prevents people from working on asynchronous circuits are the lack of tools to design them,” he said. “There’s a huge industry that spends billions of dollars each year improving these CAD tools, but they aren’t tailored to the work we’re doing on asynchronous design, so we have to write our own CAD tools.”

Since the unveiling of TrueNorth, the number of researchers working on asynchronous circuits has increased significantly, but it’s still a small community. The CAD software that Manohar’s team used was designed specifically for the team’s use. But if they can modify them to be more universal, Manohar believes the field will break out, and the technology will advance even more rapidly.

One of the things we want to do is to have a complete set of tools that we could put in open source and let other researchers use. Often I hear from people in industry say ‘Hey I’d like to try this, but I don’t know how to start because I don’t have the tools.’”

The benefits of thinking like a brain

The architecture of today’s conventional computers still derive from the Von Neumann model of the 1940s. We don’t use the cardboard punch cards, but the basic idea is still the same. Advances have lessened how long it takes for the memory to transfer data to the processor. But the data still needs to shuttle back and forth, and that requires time and power. For decades, computers have steadily shrunk in size but grown in power. Computer scientists, though, say we’re getting close to the limit of how much we can keep souping up processors. Neuromorphic chips could break open a whole new field that will allow the trend to continue, quite possibly at an even quicker pace.

One of the radical departures from conventional systems is that the storage of data on TrueNorth and the calculation of it aren’t separated. Its neural network can work multiple tasks without the timekeeping mechanism, breaking free of the linear operation that bogs down conventional operations.

Then there’s the matter of what these chips can allow computers to do. Conventional computers are great at brute force calculations. They’re less adept at recognizing faces or picking out specific voices and tasks that involve pattern recognition. That’s why those CAPTCHA functions that instruct you to pick out Einstein’s face or copy a short alphanumeric pattern to prove you’re human are so effective at keeping out bots.

While neuromorphic computing has advanced greatly since computer scientists first began seriously discussing it in the 1980s, the field is still in the early stage, and many in the field are excited about what can be done with the chips as the technology becomes more sophisticated. As with any potentially game-changing technology, it’s impossible to imagine all possible commercial applications, but many in the field say neuromorphic chips could be key to realizing ready-for-primetime self-driving cars, more human-like robots, and devices to help people with visual impairments.

Of course, getting to that point is no small task. Manohar is currently working with a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo and Stanford University on a multichip system that Manohar says would be the next step forward in neuromorphics.

We’d like to demonstrate significantly higher efficiency compared to all the existing platforms — that’s always the goal,” he said. “We think we know how to do that.”

He predicts it won’t be long before this kind of technology ends up in everyday devices.

These neurocomputing algorithms currently provide state-of-the-art performance for tasks like object detection and recognizing faces — tasks that a lot of companies care about today,” he said. “Imagine having photos or videos that you search for in the same way that you search for text today; these types of chips are way more efficient at that kind of computation.”

Biogerontology Research Foundation trustee to keynote at the Digital Health World Congress

IMAGE: Digital Health World Congress, Nov. 29-30, 2017, at the Kensington Conference and Events Centre in London, UK.
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Credit: Digital Health World Congress

Friday, November 24th, 2017, London, UK: The Biogerontology Research Foundation is pleased to announce that its Managing Trustee, Dmitry Kaminskiy, will be giving a keynote presentation at the Digital Healthcare World Congress on November 30th, 2017, in London, UK, where he will be presenting on the topic of “How AI and Blockchain Will Take Drug Discovery to the Next Level”. The conference will run from November 29th-30th, 2017, at the Kensington Conference and Events Centre in London, UK.

“Blockchain technologies are rapidly decentralizing and democratizing many different fields, industries and applications. Meanwhile, AI, and in particular deep-learning based approaches, have now become famous for its similarly disruptive potential. The next big field and industry to be transformed by the synergistic convergence of these two progress-galvanizing powerhouses is healthcare, and in particular the clinical translation and validation of therapies aiming to extend healthy, productive longevity” said Dmitry Kaminskiy, Managing Trustee of the Biogerontology Research Foundation.

Since its inception nearly a decade ago, the Biogerontology Research Foundation has strove to apply synergistic, cross-disciplinary approaches to the problem of biological aging and the looming timebomb of demographic aging, and to focus on approaches that aren’t being explored by other ageing research foundations and institutions, taking mature science and technology that have proven themselves in other industries and applying them to the task of extending healthy longevity. Much of the foundation’s past research efforts have focused on the application of AI and deep learning to ageing research, and the topic of blockchain technologies have already begun to become a feature of our ongoing research efforts, as evidenced by the recent publication of a paper titled “Converging blockchain and next-generation artificial intelligence technologies to decentralize and accelerate biomedical research and healthcare” in the journal Oncotarget by Biogerontology Research Foundation Chief Science Officer Alex Zhavoronkov, among others.

The conference will feature keynote presentations from representatives of many companies and institutions that have a role to play in digital health, including National Heath Service, Google, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Accenture, among others.

Readers interested in attending the Digital Healthcare World Congress are encouraged to register at http://digitalhealthcareworldcongress.com/register/.

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About the Biogerontology Research Foundation:

The Biogerontology Research Foundation is a UK non-profit research foundation and public policy center seeking to fill a gap within the research community, whereby the current scientific understanding of the ageing process is not yet being sufficiently exploited to produce effective medical interventions. The BGRF funds and conducts research which, building on the body of knowledge about how ageing happens, aims to develop biotechnological interventions to remediate the molecular and cellular deficits which accumulate with age and which underlie the ill-health of old age. Addressing ageing damage at this most fundamental level will provide an important opportunity to produce the effective, lasting treatments for the diseases and disabilities of ageing, required to improve quality of life in the elderly. The BGRF seeks to use the entire scope of modern biotechnology to attack the changes that take place in the course of ageing, and to address not just the symptoms of age-related diseases but also the mechanisms of those diseases.

Apple Computer Scientists Tout Self-Driving Technology in Rare Research Paper

Research by Apple Inc computer scientists on how self-driving cars can better spot cyclists and pedestrians while using fewer sensors has been posted online, in what appears to be the company’s first publicly disclosed paper on autonomous vehicles.

The paper by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel, submitted on Nov. 17 to independent online journal arXiv, is significant because Apple‘s famed corporate secrecy around future products has been seen as a drawback among artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers.

The scientists proposed a new software approach called “VoxelNet” for helping computers detect three-dimensional objects.

Apple declined to comment.

Academics are used to freely sharing their work with peers at other organizations. Yielding to that dynamic, Apple in July established the Apple Machine Learning Journal for its researchers. Their work rarely appears outside the journal, which so far has not published any research on self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing “LiDAR” units to recognize the world around them. While the units supply depth information, their low resolution makes it hard to detect small, faraway objects without help from a normal camera linked to it in real time.

But with new software, the Apple researchers said they were able to get “highly encouraging results” in spotting pedestrians and cyclists with just LiDAR data. They also wrote they were able to beat other approaches for detecting three-dimensional objects that use only LiDAR. The experiments were computer simulations and did not involve road tests.

Though Chief Executive Tim Cook has called self-driving cars “the mother of all AI projects,”Apple has given few hints about the nature of its self-driving car ambitious.

Last December, Apple told federal regulators it was excited about the technology and asked regulators not to restrict testing of the technology.

In April, Apple filed a self-driving car testing plan with California regulators.




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