California Institute of Technology (Caltech) engineers have developed an algorithm that allows a single drone to herd flocks of birds away from the airspace of an airport. Caltech’s Soon-Jo Chung says effective herding entails an external threat positioning itself in such a way that it encourages birds along the flock’s fringes to adjust their course and then affects the birds in closest proximity, cascading throughout the entire flock. Caltech’s Kyunam Kim says the herding algorithm was based on a mathematical model of flocking dynamics. Once they could generate a mathematical description of flocking behaviors, the team reverse-engineered it to see precisely how flocks would respond to approaching external threats. They then applied that data to build an algorithm that produces ideal flight paths for incoming drones to steer the flock away from a protected airspace without dispersing it.
More info here: Caltech News
Facebook is now running the daily configuration of its millions of servers with an improved configuration delivery process, replacing a more limited open source tool for distributing configuration data. Location Aware Delivery (LAD) is designed to keep configuration data from the distribution mechanism, have a latency time of less than five seconds, and support 10 times the file volume of the open source Zoo Keeper solution. LAD is comprised of a proxy that sits on every machine in the Facebook family and sends configuration files to any machine that wants or needs them. It also has a distributor to deliver configuration information by checking for updates, then generating a distribution tree for the set of machines needing an update. Among LAD’s achievements are boosting a 5MB update limit to 100MB, and raising a 2,500-user limit to 40,000 users.
More info here: TechCrunch, Ron Miller
Google released a software toolkit that allows developers without a background in quantum physics to create quantum algorithms. Developers can use the Cirq toolkit to create quantum algorithms that run on simulators, but Google wants it used to help build software that will run on a wide range of real machines in the future. In addition, Google released OpenFermion-Cirq, a toolkit for creating algorithms that simulate molecules and properties of materials. The decision to make these toolkits open source will help foster a more vibrant developer community, just as it has in other areas of software. “We’re at such an early stage in the development of quantum computing that it’s to everyone’s advantage that things are done out in the open,” says Andrew Childs with the University of Maryland’s Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science.
More info here: Technology Review, Martin Giles
See here too: Qubit counter
Researchers working on the Blue Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL) have implemented a fifth-generation supercomputer to help reach the goal of digitally simulating a complete mammalian brain by 2020. The Blue Brain 5 is a 372-node SGI 8600 system that realizes a peak performance of slightly more than one petaflop, with 94 terabytes of memory. The researchers argue the new system’s modest floating-point capacity is warranted because bandwidth and I/O performance are seen as far more valuable to fulfilling project parameters than greater numbers of flops (floating point operations per second). The models reflect different biological scales, beginning at the molecular level of genes and proteins and evolving to more complex structures of synapses, neurons, axons, and glial cells. The Blue Brain team’s ultimate goal is to simulate cognition and how different cognitive states may be mapped to microcircuitry.
More info here: TOP500.org, Michael Feldman
A team from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) received first prize in the third annual 2018 agBOT Challenge in Indiana. Their task was to build an autonomous system for locating, identifying, sorting, and harvesting ripe watermelons in a field. The Virginia Tech group included a mechanical engineering senior design team to design and build such a harvester, and a special studies team to create an autonomous vehicle to tow the harvester. The group incorporated computer vision and machine learning into the tow vehicle so it could locate watermelons; if melons were not in sight, the vehicle employed way-point navigation to navigate the fields. Upon spotting a melon, the machine’s cameras guided it toward the target, and then the harvester determined ripeness by slapping the fruit and listening for a hollow sound via a microphone and audio analysis. Watermelons that satisfied the frequency indicating ripeness were scooped into a storage unit.
More info here: Augusta Free Press
Scientists at the University of Alberta (U of A) in Canada have taken a step toward smaller, faster, and more energy-efficient computers engineered at the atomic level via proton shuffling. The university’s Robert Wolkow and Moe Rashidi developed an algorithm to automate a time-intensive process, which involves employing an incredibly thin probe to sever and rearrange atomic bonds. “Every time you go to break the bond between atoms, so that you can pick up a target atom and put it somewhere else, you might unintentionally break a bond in your tools,” Wolkow says. Rashidi’s algorithm automatically spots and repairs probe damage as it occurs, making human monitoring unnecessary. Wolkow suggests building circuits at the atomic level would enable manufacturers to produce devices that circumvent the current energy and heat limitations of modern transistors.
More info here: The Star Edmonton, Hamdi Issawi
Ali Khademhosseini of the University of California, Los Angeles led a study describing a new three-dimensional (3D) printing method to construct therapeutic biomaterials from multiple materials. His team employed stereolithography in conjunction with a customized 3D printer Khademhosseini designed, which uses a custom-built microfluidic chip with inlets that each produce a distinct material, combined with a digital micromirror array. The team used varying hydrogels that cohere into scaffolds for tissue, while the micromirrors steered light onto the printing surface to mark the outline of the object. Illumination also catalyzed the formation of molecular bonds in the materials, inducing hydrogel solidification. The mirror array re-directed the light pattern during printing to indicate the contours of each new layer. The process was initially used to produce simple shapes, and then applied to complex 3D structures to emulate muscle tissue and muscle-skeleton connective tissues.
More info here: UCLA Samueli Newsroom