TTI/Vanguard: field trip, conference, flying - oh my! July 31, 2020 Newsletter

To continue our series of virtual field trips (Long Now Foundation, this past May; Stanley Black & Decker, in August), TTI/Vanguard is excited to announce a virtual visit to the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Tuesday, October 27, to be hosted by friend of TTI/V David Bader (previously of Georgia Tech). At NJIT, he is the founding director of the Institute for Data Science, which serves as an umbrella for this public research university’s centers on big data, medical informatics, cybersecurity, data analytics, and artificial intelligence. The tour of will naturally focus on data and computer science, featuring work conducted on massive-scale analytics, social aspects of data science (disinformation and cyberpsychology), advances in homomorphic encryption, and human-in-the-loop optimization, while also stepping afield to explore traumatic brain injuries and biosensors to detect weaponization of the novel coronavirus. Learn more about this event and register here.

There is a saying amidst epidemiologists, “If you’ve seen one pandemic, you’ve seen … one pandemic”. Unless you are our upcoming September speaker, Adam Kucharski who has made a career of discovering disparate patterns amidst all things contagious—from disease to information to even our own behavior. Adam will speak at our September digital meeting and our members will receive his best-selling book, “The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread—and Why They Stop.”

TTI/Vanguard extends hearty congratulations to member organizations NASA and JPL for Thursday’s successful launch of the Perseverance Mars rover and Ingenuity helicopter.

Member Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is taking the initiative to study how local utilities, grid planners, and cities should plan for the day when electric vehicles—from city cars to SUVs to long-haul trucks—will rule the roadways and impact the load on the electric grid.

Would you be a guinea pig for a COVID-19 vaccine that has gone through zero clinical trials or FDA approval? What if that vaccine had the seal of approval of famed CRISPR researcher George Church (regional meeting, Boston, Jun 2015)? “I think we are at much bigger risk from COVID considering how many ways you can get it, and how highly variable the consequences are.” He is so concerned that he and a few other researchers have hacked together their own DIY vaccine and are testing it on … themselves.

Online misinformation campaigns are going to need to become more creative to avoid being detected in real time by a new machine learning-based analytical tool out of Princeton that roots out repeat offenses akin to those of past posts. (Renee DiResta, San Francisco, Dec 2019)

Some of us may have unknowingly taken our last flight on the legendary Boeing 747 (Boeing field trip, Everett, Dec 2012). British Airways, Qantas, and others are retiring the iconic plane from their fleets. However, its ultimate destiny may not yet be written. Rolls-Royce is using a 747 platform as a flying testbed to evaluate RR’s next-gen

Speaking of flying, September speaker Star Simpson will introduce her autonomous flying start-up, ThereCraft, which reimagines aviation without humans aboard.

When Garmin was hit by a ransomware attack (Steve Grobman, San Francisco, May 2016), quite reasonable people might have taken out their tiny violins to play a sorry tribute to the lycra-clad endurance athletes who were inconvenienced by having to wait to sync their devices in order to post their latest achievements to Strava. Sad. (Full disclosure: One of us is a lycra-clad endurance athlete.) But, keeping with the flight theme, more consequential is that Garmin’s aviation services were similarly affected, rendering many pilots unable to download the database updates that the FAA deems necessary to take to the skies (Per Enge, Phoenix, Dec 2003).

Last week, we talked about the implications of the rising mistrust between Huawei and the West. Samsung is using this opportunity to increase their 5G penetration in regions where Huawei is kneecapped. (Marko Papic, San Francisco, Dec 2019)

In the early days of lockdown, there were articles, Facebook posts, and tweets galore about how loud nature had become: birds chirping, coyotes howling, frogs croaking. But, really, this was because human activity had suddenly gone quiet. A consortium of 76 researchers have quantified this novel period of “seismic quiet,” noting that “humans are the third-biggest source of seismic noise. Everyday urban activities like commutes, or stadiums full of fans simultaneously going wild in ‘football quakes,’ are strong enough to register on seismometers.” (Masumi Yamada, Paris, Jul 2011) . (The Santa Monica team would like to point out that their week wasn’t so seismically quiet with a 4.2 earthquake occurring just yesterday!)

Do you have complex, multivariate data? Help is on the way from researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab, who have developed CrossVis—an open-source, customizable, visual analytics system designed to provide multiple, dynamic, coordinated views that simultaneously account for numerical, categorical, and image-based data. (TTI/Vanguard conference on Innundata and the Fog of IT, Philadelphia, Jul 2015)

Attendees of TTI/V’s field trip to the USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (Beltsville, Sep 2018) learned of strategies to sense bacterial infestation of food processing plants. Researchers at Purdue University are embedding antimicrobials into purposefully created microscopic cracks in metal surfaces to eliminate bacteria in situ, with the additional benefit of a visual indication when more sanitizing agent is due.

With so many of us now working from home, many firms are foregoing conventional office space. At the same time, the newly unemployed are losing the financial wherewithal to afford to remain in their homes. This article offers a bright side at the convergence of these two trends: repurposing office buildings into appealing, affordable housing, with room to spare for flexible workspace. (Laura Forlano, Vancouver, Oct 2010)

Given that protein-coding genes account for only a small fraction of the human genome, researchers participating in the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) consortium are also exploring the essential role of the transcriptome—the collection of RNA—by using RNA-binding proteins to locate and assign RNA-coding functions to genomic sequences. (Alicia Jackson, San Francisco, Dec 2015)

Will eyes and eyebrows suffice for accurate facial recognition of mask-wearing people? Most likely not; instead, large training sets of faces wearing masks in a variety of shapes and colors will be needed to improve algorithms to an acceptable degree in the age of COVID. (Andrew Bud, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017; Michael Miller, Atlanta, Feb 2008)

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”—Oscar Wilde