TTI/Vanguard: It is time for some good news! Aug 20, 2020 Newsletter

There is still time to register for our September virtual conference, The Game Has Changed: 2020, and, looking ahead, our October virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where longtime TTIV-er David Bader will be our host.

Good news on the medical front #1: During this week’s virtual field trip to Stanley Black & Decker (the video and PowerPoint slides will be available to members shortly in the TTI/Vanguard archive) we heard a lot about protective face masks. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a quick-and-accessible DIY method to decontaminate 3M N95 masks. All you need is a rice cooker or multicooker: Just “cook” the mask at 212F for 50 minutes, without pressure, and it’s ready for reuse, with no compromise to its filtration efficacy. It is recommended, however, to dedicate a cooker for this purpose, rather than cooking dinner in it directly afterward.

Good news on the medical front #2: A longitudinal study has led to the development of a noninvasive blood test that detects cancer markers years before other diagnostics indicate the presence of the disease. The so-called PanSeer test can detect stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung, and liver cancers. (Melissa Lechner, San Diego, Feb 2015)

Good news on the medical front #3 and #4: Another novel blood test, this time to detect Alzheimer’s disease—as much as two decades before the onset of symptoms—by assaying blood levels of p-tau217 protein. Although providing less lead time, a test of soluble amyloid-beta oligomer in nasal discharge is not only highly predictive of the presence of the disease, but also correlates strongly with its progression. While both of these appear to be accurate and low-cost diagnostics, neither a cure nor treatment for the degenerative condition.

Not such good news on the medical front (sorry to be party poopers): Just as (some) kids are returning to school and daycare, evidence is coming in from a (smallish) Mass General study showing that children infected with the novel coronavirus—even if asymptomatic—carry as large a viral load as even severely ill adults, suggesting that youngsters could be an important source of disease spread.

Just like us, the Black Hat and DEFCON conferences were unable to meet in person this year. And, just like us, they went virtual, in their case permitting all comers to have a ring-side seat to the latest in security research and tricks of the trade. Here are some highlights. (Michael Mylrea, Washington, D.C.., Sep 2019; Vincent Weafer, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017; Paul/Pablo Holman, Charlotte, Dec 2010, and Seattle, Dec 2006)

Researchers at USC have created little (88-mg), bug-like robots powered by methanol fuel packs that permit the artificial muscles to propel the RoBeetles to “crawl, climb, and carry loads” for as long as two hours. (Marc Miskin, Pittsburgh, Jun 2019; Douglas Emlen, Washington, D.C., Sep 2016)

An international research team has developed an efficiently recyclable plastic based on a bridged bicyclic thiolactone monomer, which they prepared from a bio-based olefin carboxylic acid. In the presence of a catalyst, whether at room temperature or at 100C, the polymeric plastic breaks down into reusable monomers. (Heidi Kujawa, San Francisco, Dec 2016)

The retractability of feline claws and the Japanese art of paper cutting—kirigami—have inspired a slip-resistant outsole for shoes that modulates friction to prevent falls. (Duncan Irschick, San Diego, Feb 2015; Sangbae Kim, Los Angeles, Feb 2011; Robert Full, Charlotte, Dec 2010; Brian Chan, Miami, Dec 2011)

A comfortable wireless glove for gesture control has long been targeted as a gaming interface. Researchers in Singapore present the InfinityGlove, which relies on ultrathin, highly sensitive microfiber sensors woven into the material of each finger of the glove; to date, they have succeeded in mapping 11 in-game commands to simple gestures, such as flexing the index finger to fire a weapon. (John Underkoffler, Los Angeles, Feb 2011, and Geneva, Sep 2005; Marc Whitten, Seattle, Dec 2012)

In other wearables news, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a comfortable, multisensor eye mask to capture capture cardiac and electro-oculography signals for use either within a sleep lab or at home to investigate sleep disorders, mental health, and neurodegenerative diseases. A novel characteristic of the design is the use of thread-based hydrogel electrodes to translate ion-based biological signals into an electric current. By using vapor-phase deposition to create the electrodes, the long-lasting eye mask is robust to multiple washings. (David Virshup, Seattle, Dec 2006)

Gordon Bell joined us on the Stanley Black & Decker virtual field trip this week. And because it was held on August 19th, we celebrated his 86th birthday together on zoom. Gordon fondly told us how he recalls being enamored with his father’s SB&D saw but that it was too heavy for his 6-year-old-self to lift, let alone operate. In honor of Gordon’s birthday and his many contributions to the world of computer science - and to our community - this week’s quote is from him.

The cheapest, fastest and most reliable components of a computer system are those you leave out. - Gordon Bell