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    Researchers demonstrate 40-channel optical communication link

    Researchers have demonstrated a silicon-based optical communication link that combines two multiplexing technologies to create 40 optical data channels that can simultaneously move data. The new chip-scale optical interconnect can transmit about 400 GB of data per second — the equivalent of about 100,000 streaming movies. This could improve data-intensive internet applications from video streaming services to high-capacity transactions for the stock market.
    “As demands to move more information across the internet continue to grow, we need new technologies to push data rates further,” said Peter Delfyett, who led the University of Central Florida College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL) research team. “Because optical interconnects can move more data than their electronic counterparts, our work could enable better and faster data processing in the data centers that form the backbone of the internet.”
    A multi-institutional group of researchers describes the new optical communication link in the Optica Publishing Group journal Optics Letters. It achieves 40 channels by combining a frequency comb light source based on a new photonic crystal resonator developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with an optimized mode-division multiplexer designed by the researchers at Stanford University. Each channel can be used to carry information much like different stereo channels, or frequencies, transmit different music stations.
    “We show that these new frequency combs can be used in fully integrated optical interconnects,” said Chinmay Shirpurkar, co-first author of the paper. “All the photonic components were made from silicon-based material, which demonstrates the potential for making optical information handling devices from low-cost, easy-to-manufacture optical interconnects.”
    In addition to improving internet data transmission, the new technology could also be used to make faster optical computers that could provide the high levels of computing power needed for artificial intelligence, machine learning, large-scale emulation and other applications.
    Using multiple light dimensions
    The new work involved research teams led by Firooz Aflatouni of the University of Pennsylvania, Scott B. Papp from NIST, Jelena Vuckovic from Stanford University and Delfyett from CREOL. It is part of the DARPA Photonics in the Package for Extreme Scalability (PIPES) program, which aims to use light to vastly improve the digital connectivity of packaged integrated circuits using microcomb-based light sources. More

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    Artificial intelligence reveals a never-before described 3D structure in rotavirus spike protein

    Of the three groups of rotavirus that cause gastroenteritis in people, called groups A, B and C, groups A and C affect mostly children and are the best characterized. On the other hand, of group B, which causes severe diarrhea predominantly in adults, little is known about the tip of the virus’s spike protein, called VP8* domain, which mediates the infection of cells in the gut.
    “Determining the structure of VP8* in group B rotavirus is important because it will help us understand how the virus infects gastrointestinal cells and design strategies to prevent and treat this infection that causes severe diarrheal outbreaks,” said corresponding author Dr B. V. Venkataram Prasad, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine.
    The team’s first step was to determine the 3D structure of VP8* B using X-Ray crystallography, a laborious and time-consuming process. However, this traditional approach was unsuccessful in this case. The researchers then turned to a recently developed artificial intelligence-based computational program called AlphaFold2.
    “AlphaFold2 predicts the 3D structure of proteins according to their genetic sequence,” said first author and co-corresponding author Dr. Liya Hu, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor. “We knew that the protein sequence of VP8* of rotavirus group B was about 10% similar to the sequences of VP8* of rotavirus A and C, so we expected differences in the 3D structure as well. But we were surprised when AlphaFold2 predicted a 3D structure for the VP8* B that was not just totally different from that of the VP8* domain in rotavirus A and C, but also that no other protein before had been reported to have this structure.”
    With this information in hand, the researchers went back to the lab bench and experimentally confirmed that the structure of VP8* B predicted by ALphaFold2 indeed coincided with the actual structure of the protein using X-ray crystallography.
    How rotavirus infects cells
    Previous research has shown that rotavirus A and C infect cells by using the VP8* domain to bind to specific sugar components on histo-blood group antigens, including the A, B, AB and O blood groups, present in many cells in the body. It has been proposed that the ability of different rotavirus to bind to different sugars on the histo-group antigens might explain why some of these viruses specifically infect young children while others affect other populations. Unlike the VP8* A and VP8* C, the sugar specificity of VP8* B had not been characterized until now. More

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    Paving the way for faster computers, longer-lasting batteries

    University of Queensland scientists have cracked a problem that’s frustrated chemists and physicists for years, potentially leading to a new age of powerful, efficient, and environmentally friendly technologies.
    Using quantum mechanics, Professor Ben Powell from UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics has discovered a ‘recipe’ which allows molecular switches to work at room temperature.
    “Switches are materials that can shift between two or more states, such as on and off or 0 and 1, and are the basis of all digital technologies,” Professor Powell said.
    “This discovery paves the way for smaller and more powerful and energy efficient technologies.
    “You can expect batteries will last longer and computers to run faster.”
    Until now, molecular switching has only been possible when the molecules are extremely cold — at temperatures below minus 250 degrees centigrade. More

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    Radio waves for the detection of hardware tampering

    As far as data security is concerned, there is an even greater danger than remote cyberattacks: namely tampering with hardware that can be used to read out information — such as credit card data from a card reader. Researchers in Bochum have developed a new method to detect such manipulations. They monitor the systems with radio waves that react to the slightest changes in the ambient conditions. Unlike conventional methods, they can thus protect entire systems, not just individual components — and they can do it at a lower cost. The RUB’s science magazine Rubin features a report by the team from Ruhr-Universit√§t Bochum (RUB), the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy and the IT company PHYSEC.
    Paul Staat and Johannes Tobisch presented their findings at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, which took place in the USA from 23 to 25 May 2022. Both researchers are doing their PhDs at RUB and conducting research at the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy in Bochum in Professor Christof Paar’s team. For their research, they are cooperating with Dr. Christian Zenger from the RUB spin-off company PHYSEC.
    Protection through radio waves
    Data is ultimately nothing more than electrical currents that travel between different computer components via conductive paths. A tiny metallic object, located in the right place on the hardware, can be enough to tap into the information streams. To date, only individual components of systems, such as a crucial memory element or a processor, can be protected from such manipulations. “Typically, this is done with a type of foil with thin wires in which the hardware component is wrapped,” explains Paul Staat. “If the foil is damaged, an alarm is triggered.”
    The radio wave technology from Bochum, however, can be used to monitor an entire system. To this end, the researchers install two antennas in the system: a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter sends out a special radio signal that spreads everywhere in the system and is reflected by the walls and computer components. All these reflections cause a signal to reach the receiver that is as characteristic of the system as a fingerprint.
    Technology reacts to the slightest changes
    Tiny changes to the system are enough to have a noticeable effect on the fingerprint, as the team demonstrated in experiments. The IT experts equipped a conventional computer with radio antennas and punctured its housing with holes at regular intervals. Through these holes, the researchers let a fine metal needle penetrate the inside of the system and checked whether they notice the change in the radio signal. In the process, they varied the thickness of the needle, the position and the depth of penetration.
    With the computer running, they reliably detected the penetration of a needle 0.3 millimetres thick with their system from a penetration depth of one centimetre. The system still detected a needle that was only 0.1 millimetres thick — about as thick as a hair — but not in all positions. “The closer the needle is to the receiving antenna, the easier it is to detect, explains Staat. “Therefore, in practical applications, it makes sense to think carefully about where you place the antennas,” adds Tobisch. “They should be as close as possible to the components that require a high degree of protection.”
    Basically, the technology is suitable for both high-security applications and everyday problem. The IT company PHYSEC already uses it to prevent unauthorised manipulation of critical infrastructure components.
    Story Source:
    Materials provided by Ruhr-University Bochum. Original written by Julia Weiler. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. More

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    Faster computing results without fear of errors

    Researchers have pioneered a technique that can dramatically accelerate certain types of computer programs automatically, while ensuring program results remain accurate.
    Their system boosts the speeds of programs that run in the Unix shell, a ubiquitous programming environment created 50 years ago that is still widely used today. Their method parallelizes these programs, which means that it splits program components into pieces that can be run simultaneously on multiple computer processors.
    This enables programs to execute tasks like web indexing, natural language processing, or analyzing data in a fraction of their original runtime.
    “There are so many people who use these types of programs, like data scientists, biologists, engineers, and economists. Now they can automatically accelerate their programs without fear that they will get incorrect results,” says Nikos Vasilakis, research scientist in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT.
    The system also makes it easy for the programmers who develop tools that data scientists, biologists, engineers, and others use. They don’t need to make any special adjustments to their program commands to enable this automatic, error-free parallelization, adds Vasilakis, who chairs a committee of researchers from around the world who have been working on this system for nearly two years.
    Vasilakis is senior author of the group’s latest research paper, which includes MIT co-author and CSAIL graduate student Tammam Mustafa and will be presented at the USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation.Co-authors include lead author Konstantinos Kallas, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania; Jan Bielak, a student at Warsaw Staszic High School; Dimitris Karnikis, a software engineer at Aarno Labs; Thurston H.Y. Dang, a former MIT postdoc who is now a software engineer at Google; and Michael Greenberg, assistant professor of computer science at the Stevens Institute of Technology. More

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    Bluetooth signals can be used to identify and track smartphones

    A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego has demonstrated for the first time that the Bluetooth signals emitted constantly by our mobile phones have a unique fingerprint that can be used to track individuals’ movements.
    Mobile devices, including phones, smartwatches and fitness trackers, constantly transmit signals, known as Bluetooth beacons, at the rate of roughly 500 beacons per minute.These beacons enable features like Apple’s “Find My” lost device tracking service; COVID-19 tracing apps; and connect smartphones to other devices such as wireless earphones.
    Prior research has shown that wireless fingerprinting exists in WiFi and other wireless technologies. The critical insight of the UC San Diego team was that this form of tracking can also be done with Bluetooth, in a highly accurate way.
    “This is important because in today’s world Bluetooth poses a more significant threat as it is a frequent and constant wireless signal emitted from all our personal mobile devices,” said Nishant Bhaskar, a Ph.D. student in the UC San Diego Department of Computer Science and Engineering and one of the paper’s lead authors.
    The team, which includes researchers from the Departments of Computer Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, presented its findings at the IEEE Security & Privacy conference in Oakland, Calif., on May 24, 2022.
    All wireless devices have small manufacturing imperfections in the hardware that are unique to each device. These fingerprints are an accidental byproduct of the manufacturing process. These imperfections in Bluetooth hardware result in unique distortions, which can be used as a fingerprint to track a specific device. For Bluetooth, this would allow an attacker to circumvent anti-tracking techniques such as constantly changing the address a mobile device uses to connect to Internet networks. More

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    Scientists observe effects of heat in materials with atomic resolution

    As electronic, thermoelectric and computer technologies have been miniaturized to nanometer scale, engineers have faced a challenge studying fundamental properties of the materials involved; in many cases, targets are too small to be observed with optical instruments.
    Using cutting-edge electron microscopes and novel techniques, a team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other institutions has found a way to map phonons — vibrations in crystal lattices — in atomic resolution, enabling deeper understanding of the way heat travels through quantum dots, engineered nanostructures in electronic components.
    To investigate how phonons are scattered by flaws and interfaces in crystals, the researchers probed the dynamic behavior of phonons near a single quantum dot of silicon-germanium using vibrational electron energy loss spectroscopy in a transmission electron microscope, equipment housed in the Irvine Materials Research Institute on the UCI campus. The results of the project are the subject of a paper published today in Nature.
    “We developed a novel technique to differentially map phonon momenta with atomic resolution, which enables us to observe nonequilibrium phonons that only exist near the interface,” said co-author Xiaoqing Pan, UCI professor of materials science and engineering and physics, Henry Samueli Endowed Chair in Engineering, and IMRI director. “This work marks a major advance in the field because it’s the first time we have been able to provide direct evidence that the interplay between diffusive and specular reflection largely depends on the detailed atomistic structure.”
    According to Pan, at the atomic scale, heat is transported in solid materials as a wave of atoms displaced from their equilibrium position as heat moves away from the thermal source. In crystals, which possess an ordered atomic structure, these waves are called phonons: wave packets of atomic displacements that carry thermal energy equal to their frequency of vibration.
    Using an alloy of silicon and germanium, the team was able to study how phonons behave in the disordered environment of the quantum dot, in the interface between the quantum dot and the surrounding silicon, and around the dome-shaped surface of the quantum dot nanostructure itself. More

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    'Ugly' reef fishes are most in need of conservation support

    What’s the relationship between people’s perception of beauty and animals’ conservation needs? According to a machine-learning study by Nicolas Mouquet at the University of Montpellier, France, and colleagues, publishing June 7thin the open-access journal PLOS Biology, the reef fishes that people find most beautiful tend to be the lowest priority for conservation support.
    The researchers asked 13,000 members of the public to rate the aesthetic attractiveness of 481 photographs of ray-finned reef fishes in an online survey and used this data to train a convolutional neural network. They then used the trained neural network to generate predictions for additional 4,400 photographs featuring 2,417 of the most encountered reef fish species.
    Combining the public’s ratings with the neural network’s predictions, they found that bright, colorful fish species with rounder bodies tended to be rated as the most beautiful. However, the species that were ranked as more attractive tended to be less distinctive in terms of their ecological traits and evolutionary history. Furthermore, species listed on the IUCN Red List as “Threatened” or whose conservation status has not yet been evaluated had lower aesthetic value on average than species categorized as “Least Concern.” Unattractive species were also of greater commercial interest, whereas aesthetic value was not correlated with a species’ importance for subsistence fisheries.
    Our innate preferences for shape and color are probably a consequence of the way the human brain processes colors and patterns, the authors say, but mismatches between aesthetic value, ecological function, and extinction vulnerability may mean that the species most in need of public support are the least likely to receive it. The ecological and evolutionary distinctiveness of unattractive fishes makes them important for the functioning of the whole reef, and their loss could have a disproportionate impact on these high-biodiversity ecosystems.
    Mouquet adds, “Our study provides, for the first time, the aesthetic value of 2,417 reef fish species. We found that less beautiful fishes are the most ecologically and evolutionary distinct species and those recognized as threatened. Our study highlights likely important mismatches between potential public support for conservation and the species most in need of this support.”
    Story Source:
    Materials provided by PLOS. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. More