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CACM Reports: Carrying and Spending Money Without a Trace

August Issue Reports on High Performance Computing's New Era, Uneven Patterns of Internet Economics, and Location Privacy in the Cellular Age

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK – JULY 30, 2012 – What if we could carry and spend money that would not leave a paper trail or weigh down our pockets?  In the August cover story of Communications of the ACM (CACM) a group of computer scientists joined by a financial management expert survey recent efforts to make this idealized form of money using quantum mechanics.  The group, which includes professors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Waterloo, and Bar Ilan University as well as a co-founder of AMA Capital Management, point to a "no-cloning" theorem that in principle enables the design of quantum systems that cannot be copied. Identifying a type of digital currency called public-key quantum money, they explain the resurgence of interest in this development and the challenges in designing it for money as well as for software programs that anyone can use but no one can copy.

Also in this issue, Bill Poucher, the executive director of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), describes how the competition gives students a competitive edge.  This year, more than 25,000 students from over 2,200 universities participated in this global event.  Students from the University of Warsaw, which hosted the contest, were edged out by the team from St. Petersburg State University of IT, Mechanics and Optics, which was invited by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Russian Academy of Science annual meeting.

Communications, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format.

Other Communications highlights:

  • Astronomy writer Jeff Kanipe examines the ability of today’s supercomputers to go “where no computer has gone before” as they create models of large-scale astronomical events. The University of California’s High-Performance AstroComputing Center successfully completed a model they called the Bolshoi simulation, which was run on the Pleiades supercomputer to recreate an unfolding cosmos.  Despite significant challenges, he foresees a new era of high performance computing dawning, which will probe levels of complexity we can only imagine.
  • Somewhat unexpectedly, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—known informally as North Korea—has a sizeable IT sector, writes Paul Tjia, founder of GPI Consultancy, an independent firm in the field of global IT. North Korea’s unique selling point as a growing area for IT outsourcing is the low cost of highly technically skilled labor. He predicts the country won’t follow the same meteoric trajectory as India, but he says building IT relationships could be part of a broader path to more general rapprochement with other nations.
  • George Neville-Neil describes his rare but rewarding reaction to a piece of good code, and takes a moment to stop and “smell the code before wasting time reentering configuration data.” Among the positive attributes, he writes, are that the code is well laid out, nicely indented, and has variables that are short, yet readable.
  • Chris Forman of Georgia Institute of Technology, Avi Goldfarb of the University of Toronto, and Shane Greenstein of Northwestern University examine the uneven patterns of Internet economics in light of optimistic projections that it would erase geographic and socioeconomic boundaries. Their recent study shows that benefits from Internet adoption such as increased wages are, on balance, more likely to show up in New York City than in rural Iowa, with important implications for public policy.
  • Cornell University’s Stephen Wicker explores the evolution of location-based services to address the loss of location privacy in the cellular age. He focuses on Apples’s and Google’s use of crowdsourced data to fix locations faster and more accurately than the global positioning system. The more that can be done and kept within the handset, he observes, the greater the preservation of anonymity.  He provides other rules of thumb, including maintenance of a coarse level of granularity for any location estimate, and disassociation of repeated requests for location-based services.
  • OpenFlow is a new network technology that will enable many new applications and new ways of managing networks, writes Google’s Thomas Limoncelli. He describes three real applications of this open-standard, software-defined, and new idea in networking.  He calls OpenFlow a radical approach that enables software developers to program the network for fundamentally different optimizations on a per-flow basis. This potentially disruptive technology and, he says, may not be adopted at all.
  • Blog @CACM blogger John Langford poses questions about the direction of research for machine learning and algorithms. Ruben Ortega shares lessons about agile development practices like Scrum.

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About ACM
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.