TTI/Vanguard Newsletter: November 4, 2022

TTI/Vanguard’s December meeting in Scottsdale is just a month away, and If you are a TTI/Vanguard member, now’s the time to register for [next] and the ASU field trip.

Some good news from the past couple of weeks is that Len Kleinrock was inducted as a Computer History Museum fellow (Gordon Bell and reception, San Jose, Feb 2012). Here is a video of the award ceremony tribute to Len for “his pioneering work on the mathematical theory of computer networks and roles in the ARPANET and in expanding the internet,” along with his brief acceptance address. Even if you don’t care to watch, do check out the end-of-newsletter quote for Len’s “Ode to a Queue,” in which he extends his family tradition of using poetry to commemorate special occasions to his professional work.

More good news for members of the TTI/Vanguard family: AWS is teaming with Ike Nassi’s TidalScale to enable customers to both scale-out and scale-up with software-defined servers (Ike Nassi, virtual conference, Sep 2021; Washington, D.C., Sep/Oct 2014; Paris, Jul 2011; Adam Selipsky, San Francisco, Feb 2010; Charlie Bell, Santa Monica, Dec 2007). Looking forward to [next] in Scottsdale, Bryan Cantrill will share the still-evolving story of the Oxide Computer Company, which is co-developing hardware and software for on-premises cloud installations.

With the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, the U.S. Congress is poised to pass a bipartisan(!) bill that will reverse the requirement that pharmaceutical companies perform animal tests of drugs prior to undertaking clinical trials. The advancement of organ-on-a-chip technology makes this possible. With the highly dubious transferability of animal-based drug tests, not only will cell- or computer-based early-stage testing save research animals from suffering and death, but it will also yield more accurate results for humans. Click here to read the article.

In the same vein, Australian researchers have demonstrated that in vitro brain cells—a combination of mouse and human cells—can self-organize to play Pong. The so-called DishBrain developed by Cortical Labs had electrodes act on it from the left or right of the cellular array to indicate which side the ball was on, while the frequency of signals specified the distance from the paddle. DishBrain’s cells spontaneously used this electrode-based feedback to introduce predictability into its environment by coordinating their movements. In this article, Karl Friston (San Francisco, Dec 2019) remarks on the far-reaching potential of this work.

NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation has been stationed on the International Space Station since July. Its mandate is to map mineral content of the world’s deserts and thereby better understand airborne dust and its effects on climate. It’s going above and beyond by also identifying dozens of methane superemitters, ranging from sites in Central Asia and the Middle East to the Southwestern United States. (TJ Conway, Washington, D.C., Sep 2022) Click here to read the article.

Sticking with the NASA theme (Larry James, Los Angeles, Jun 2022), the Perseverance Mars rover has been exploring Jezero Crater for signs of life. In models of the ancient Mars biosphere, French researchers suggest that a teeming microbial ecosystem mere centimeters below the planet’s surface some billions of years ago could have disrupted the atmospheric balance of methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, leading to planetary cooling and the end of life on the Red Planet as the organismic mass retreated so deep underground that it lost its source of sustenance altogether. The paper’s lead author says, “It’s that self-destructive tendency that might be limiting the ability of life to emerge widely in the universe.” Click here to read the article.

Back here on Earth, global populations of vertebrate wildlife species have declined an alarming average of 69% over the past half century, significantly due to human activity, with the most severe effect in the Amazon region. There’s one category of vertebrate that is an active target of eradication, however: the rat, specifically from island ecosystems to which they are not native. Researchers have set up a self-sustainable network of surveillance cameras on Santa Cruz Island, off Southern California, with software trained to detect any pesty rats—and to distinguish them from benign native rodents. To date, rats haven’t invaded this National Park island; with AI surveillance and other sophisticated monitoring schemes, the Nature Conservancy intends to keep it that way. (David Hillis, Madrid, Jul 2003; Stewart Brand, Pasadena, Feb 2002)

ODE TO A QUEUE, by Len Kleinrock, Oct 29, 1989, with final four stanzas as later addendum

In the 20 years of funding
Many fields has DARPA led.
But the finest thing that they did bring
Was the analytic thread.
By that I mean they nurtured
Quantitative research tools.
And they always felt for all their gelt
They got principles and rules.
Indeed a wealth of knowledge
Was uncovered and was new.
And the common thread with which we led
Was the analytic queue!
Now a queue may have one server.
If there's more, they form a team.
Its dearest wish is just to fish
In a quiet Poisson stream.
If you want to model networks
Or a complex data flow
A queue's the key to help you see
All the things you need to know.
So the next time you feel lonely
And wonder what to do,
You'll soon feel fine if you join the line
Of an analytic queue!
Those early days were golden,
And the challenges were huge.
We could have taken shortcuts
And create a frightful kludge.
Or we could’ve gotten patents
To enrich our treasure chest.
But instead we did it proper
And succeeded in our quest.
The packets they went streaming,
They went flying, hop by hop.
And when the gigapipes were full,
There was no way to stop.
The flow control protected us
As apps did quickly grow.
The younger kids are now in charge.
It’s time that we let go.