|Good morning || November 26, 2019|
Leading the News
Tech Companies Are Racing To Spot Deepfakes, Which Are Getting Better
Two stories cover the race by technology companies to learn to detect deepfakes ahead of the 2020 US election. Both stories say the sophistication of deepfakes is growing as fast as tech companies can detect them. The Wall Street Journal (11/22, Morris, Subscription Publication) examines how companies are training software to spot deepfakes. Companies at work on the problem include Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Adobe. The latter is using an authentication approach, which differs from other companies. Adobe now has a system that can append attribution to content and plans to share its technology, including in Photoshop.
The New York Times (11/24, Metz) has a similar story about detection efforts using artificial intelligence systems, which “learn on their own how to build fake images by analyzing thousands of real images. That means they can handle a portion of the workload that once fell to trained technicians. And that means people can create far more fake stuff than they used to.” That cycle will continue, so “the question is: Which side will improve more quickly?” The article quotes Arizona State University computer science professor Subbarao Kambhampati, who said, “Even with current technology, it is hard for some people to tell what is real and what is not.” Kambhampati also said, “In the short term, detection will be reasonably effective,” but “in the longer term, I think it will be impossible to distinguish between the real pictures and the fake pictures.”
UA Professor Joins National Bioengineering Council
The Inside Tucson Business (AZ) (11/22, report) reports that University of Arizona biomedical engineering professor and BIO5 Institute director Jennifer Barton “has been appointed to the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, part of the National Institutes of Health.” The council “advises the leadership of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering” on “policies and priorities related to research, training and health information dissemination in the areas of biomedical imaging and engineering.”
Groups Allege ED, CFPB Have Failed To Supervise Student Loan Servicers
American Banker (11/25, Berry, Subscription Publication) reports legal advocacy group Democracy Forward on Monday filed suit against the CFPB and Director Kathy Kraninger alleging the bureau has failed to supervise the large student loan servicers that manage the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program. The lawsuit, which also named as defendants the Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, “alleges that the CFPB has abandoned its authority under the Dodd-Frank Act to supervise larger participants in the student loan servicer market.”
NPR (11/25, Arnold) reports the group “alleges that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has abandoned its obligation to oversee companies that manage student loans, in particular a troubled loan forgiveness program.” Student Debt Crisis founder Natalia Abrams said, “We are suing the Department of Education and the CFPB because they are not doing their jobs.”
Explaining that Democracy Forward filed the lawsuit on behalf of Student Debt Crisis, NBC News (11/25) reports the lawsuit “is not only going after the Education Department, but America’s federal consumer watchdog agency as well – accusing it of abandoning its authority to oversee companies that service federal student loans.” The lawsuit says CFPB “is ‘shirking’ its legal obligation and changing federal public policy so that it only has supervisory authority over ‘issues related to student loans owned by private creditors, including private student loans, but not over the 81 percent of loans that are held by the federal government.’” The complaint “follows a string of legal action against the Education Department for its handling of student loans.”
Yahoo! Finance (11/25, Swaminathan) reports the lawsuit accuses ED and CPFB of “siding with predatory student loan servicers over millions of indebted borrowers amid a $1.5 trillion student debt crisis.” The groups “brought the lawsuit against the Trump administration – specifically Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Kathy Kraninger, and their respective agencies – for ‘shirking their legal obligation’ in supervising student loan servicers, especially those who handle federal loans.”
University Of Southern California Faces Opioid Crisis, Some Students Say
Business Insider (11/25, Duwe) reports that students and administrators at the University of Southern California “have been grappling with a series of deaths in the community with no clear way to handle their mourning.” Since the beginning of the semester, nine students have died, and, “according to a USC public safety official,” four of those deaths “were caused by suspected drug or alcohol overdoses.” Business Insider says this is “just one story in an epidemic of opioid abuse that continues to take lives around the country,” and that “college campuses are not exempt.” Many USC students “said that while they might not personally use opioids, they knew someone or had friends who knew someone who was.”
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Under a previous headline, "ASEE Members Honored with Presidental Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring," we omitted two members. Howard Kimmel is at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, is a Life Member of ASEE, and has won numerous awards for his work in engineering education. Amy Freeman is Director of Penn State's Millennium Scholars Program, is a Past-President of WEPAN, and has won multiple awards for her work in expanding access to education. Congratulations to them both.
Coming Jan 2020: Free EER&I Online Workshop Series for Grad Students and Post-Docs
Calling all graduate/doctoral students and post-docs! Interested in engineering education? Want to learn how to communicate the impact of your research? Join us in January 2020 for “From Identity to Impact,” a free two-part online workshop led by Dr. Jeremi London (Virginia Tech). Interested? Space is limited! Learn more and complete the interest survey by Dec. 13.
Research and Development
Auto Companies Introducing Larger Screens
The Wall Street Journal (11/25, Foldy, Subscription Publication) reports auto companies are rolling out larger screens in their most recent models. One reason executives allude to as to why these displays are necessary is growing sophistication of systems which show music choices, navigational aids, and things of that nature. The Journal adds that federal regulators have not implemented many restrictions on in-automobile displays. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2013 did put out several discretionary guidelines to reduce distractions from such displays, though absent from those guidelines were recommendations regarding size.
Inside Tuscon Business Highlights Regional Tech News
An article for Inside Tucson Business (AZ) (11/22, Gardner, Business) outlines the “plethora of interesting science and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona,” due to the proximity of the University of Arizona, a “strong military presence,” and “innovative companies” in the metro region. The article highlights Paragon Space Development Corporation’s recently announced $2 million contract with NASA’s Tipping Point program, UA mathematical research on the optimal amount of failure in learning, the expansion of Alicat Scientific (a company), and a $1 million Department of Energy grant “funding UA engineers’ work to stop corrosion on pipes used in solar energy harvesting.”
Chandler Arizona Hosts Autonomous Vehicle Symposium
The East Valley (AZ) Tribune (11/21, Reagan, Writer) reports on a symposium last Thursday, hosted by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, that featured experts from Arizona’s autonomous vehicle industry discussing the future of driverless cars. The Tribune said, “A reoccurring theme of the symposium, organized by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, involved the liability factors involving self-driving cars.” The article quotes Ram Pendyala, “a professor from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment,” who “thinks data is the biggest ethical dilemma of the self-driving industry; not only regarding how it’s protected, but in terms of how companies decide who has access to their information.”
Bowling Green State University Faculty Receive $212K NOAA Sea Grant For Aquaponics Research
The Toledo (OH) Blade (11/25) reports that Bowling Green State University marine biology professor Kevin Neves and two fellow faculty members were awarded a two-year, $212,000 Sea Grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “to improve consumer acceptance of the aquaponics system.” Neves will work with faculty from BGSU’s Department of Public and Allied Health and Department of Marketing. The project “will focus on consumers’ acceptance of sustainable crops, including marketing the system to local farmers looking to adapt it as well,” and “there also will be taste tests of the product with the public as well as selling the final crop at local farmers markets.”
Indian University Student Invents Alternative, Recycled Brick To Alleviate Social, Environmental Costs
CNN International (11/25, Fletcher, CNN) reports on Jadavpur University student Abhishek Banerjee who “wanted to find a creative and socially beneficial alternative to the brick kilns” – which carry a high human and environmental cost. CNN says Banerjee “created a social enterprise called Qube in 2017” that works with waste collectors in India’s state of West Bengal to make “Plastiqube,” “an alternative brick made from waste plastic.” CNN reports that India “has one of the world’s least wasteful economies, according to Arundhati Pandey of the World Economic Forum” as “reusing, repurposing and recycling are the norm in Indian households, where emissions per person are just over a tenth of those in the USA.”
Startup Seeks To Launch Cubesats On Rockets With Balloons
SPACE (11/25, Wall) reports that “Los Angeles-based startup Leo Aerospace is developing a system that will loft bantam spacecraft using a rocket dropped from a giant hot-air balloon about 60,000 feet (18,000 meters)” above ground. The company’s “Regulus” autonomous aerostat “features multiple thrusters to maintain stability and orientation, for example, as well as a proprietary rail system for the three-stage, 33-foot-long (10 m) rocket.” Leo Aerospace expects to compete with Rocket Lab in the small-satellite launch market.
Research Paper Shows That AI Programs Can Be Sabotaged By Tainted Data
Wired (11/25, Knight) reported that a recent research paper based on a study conducted by Boston University assistant professor Wenchao Li, two BU students, and a researcher at SRI International “is the latest in a growing body of evidence suggesting that AI programs can be sabotaged by the data used to train them.” According to Wired, the group “tricked a popular reinforcement-learning algorithm from DeepMind, called Asynchronous Advantage Actor-Critic, or A3C.” Li’s team “performed the attack in several Atari games using an environment created for reinforcement-learning research” and found that by “modifying just a tiny amount of training data fed to a reinforcement learning algorithm can create a back door.” Wired states the “game example is trivial, but a reinforcement-learning algorithm could control an autonomous car or a smart manufacturing robot.”
Boeing, Saab Continue Progress On T-7A Trainer Aircraft
ExecutiveBiz (11/25, Martin) reports, “Boeing and Saab are reaching developmental milestones on schedule for the T-7A Red Hawk trainer towards the aircraft’s planned production start in late 2020, Aviation Today reported Friday.” Paul Niewald, chief engineer for the T-7A program at Boeing, said the two single-engine T-7A test units have completed around 140 test flights to demonstrate compliance with requirements. He also “noted that the program’s aircraft portion finished preliminary and critical design reviews in September.” The companies are jointly working to “develop and manufacture T-X or T-7A trainer aircraft under a $9.2B contract with the U.S. Air Force awarded September last year. The aircraft’s initial low rate production run is scheduled for 2023.”
Dartmouth Engineers Prepare To Help Native Greenlanders Become More Sustainable
The AP (11/25) reports a team of Dartmouth engineers “will travel to the town of Qaanaaq, one of the northernmost communities in Greenland, twice a year between April 2020 and the end of 2023” to discuss with the natives “how to make their traditional lifestyle more sustainable through education, innovative technology and changes in government policy.” Dartmouth engineering Professor Mary Albert, who will lead the expedition, said this approach “clinched the grant she applied for a year ago, from the National Science Foundation’s Navigating the New Arctic program.”
University Of Dayton Top Catholic Research University
The Dayton (OH) Daily News (11/25) reports The University of Dayton announced Monday that the university has “moved into the top spot among U.S. Catholic colleges and universities for research in physical sciences, technology, engineering and math.” The university “finds itself in the preeminent spot in the latest National Science Foundation rankings, released Nov. 14, for research performed in fiscal year 2018.” The Dayton (OH) Business Journal (11/25, Subscription Publication) also covers this story from behind a paywall.
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Advertiser Supplied Content
Technology Selectively Filters Perchlorate From Water
A research team from the University of Delaware has patented a novel membrane that can selectively filter toxic perchlorate from drinking water. The membrane can selectively concentrate the perchlorate and then reduce the chemical to chloride, which is nontoxic at these concentrations, using electricity and a bimetallic rhodium-copper catalyst electrode. The invention comes from the laboratory of Chin-Pao Huang, the Donald C. Phillips Professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Engineering and Public Policy
North Carolina County Hosts STEM Day For Fifth-Graders
The Wake Forest (NC) Weekly (11/25, Wilson) reports that 73 “academically and intellectually gifted fifth graders” from Wilson County Schools participated in a STEM Day “led by the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology at Wilson Community College’s Lee Technology Center.” The Weekly also says that, last week, local and state officials “announced that Wilson County Schools will receive $20 million to build a new WAAT building at the Lee Technology Center,” with about $15 million from the state and $5 million from Wilson County.
Two Delaware Schools Become State Finalists In National STEM Contest
Delaware State News (11/25) reports that two schools from the Indian River School District “are Delaware finalists in the 10th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, a $3 million competition that encourages sixth- through 12th-grade students to creatively use STEM.” The two schools “were among 2,000 entries nationwide,” and “only 300 schools were selected as state finalists.” State winners “will be announced in late December.”
Florida Schools Adopts Synthetic Alternative For Frog Dissections
The AP (11/25) reports that J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Florida “began using synthetic frogs for educational dissections last Wednesday.” Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning “says it’s the first school in the world to use the technology.” The “SynFrog” substitute costs $150 per synthetic amphibian, though “the fake frogs are made of water, fibers and salts and can be reused.”
Monday's Lead Stories
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