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Innovators

  • How Does a COVID mRNA vaccine really work?: an interview with Dr. Evelyn Tichy

    The most potent weapon against COVID-19 is a vaccine based on messenger RNA (mRNA). The first of these vaccines authorized for use was developed by the German company BioNTech in cooperation with Pfizer, closely followed by the (U.S.-produced) Moderna vaccine. These vaccines send a piece of mRNA into cells of a host. The mRNA instructs the cells to produce masses of the same spike protein that also occurs on the shell of the real coronavirus. The immune system responds by learning to destroy anything showing that protein: if the real virus arrives, the immune system will attack it immediately. This much has been reported widely by the media. But important questions remain. How is mRNA actually synthesized as a transcription of the spike-producing segment of the virus' RNA? How is the selection and replication done? How does mRNA enter a host cell, and how long will it stay there? Will it produce the spike protein forever? Is it perhaps dangerous? And the biggest question of all: How does the immune system record the structure of the foreign protein, how does it recognize the invader, and how is the immune response cranked up? To answer these questions, we bring you a conversation between Ubiquity editor Walter Tichy and his daughter Dr. Evelyn Tichy, an infectious disease expert.

  • Say it well, say it often

    Each "Communication Corner" essay is self-contained; however, they build on each other. For best results, before reading this essay and doing the exercise, go to the first essay "How an Ugly Duckling Became a Swan," then read each succeeding essay.

    Two people can give a speech on exactly the same subject, using almost exactly the same information, yet one speech will be a brilliant success and the other a dismal failure. How does this happen? Many factors contribute to success or failure, but only one factor virtually guarantees that your speech will stand out like a shining light or be clothed in darkness like a burned-out bulb.

  • Will machines ever think like humans?

    What is "human intelligence?" What is thinking? What does it mean to "think like a human?" Is it possible for machines to display human intelligence, to think like humans? This article explores these questions, and gives a brief overview of some important features of the human brain, and how computer scientists are trying to simulate those features and their ability to "think." The article answers some questions, but asks more---finishing with questions for readers to consider.

  • A conversation with Kashyap Tumkur: the promise and challenges of precision medicine

    Ubiquity's senior editor Dr. Bushra Anjum chats with Kashyap Tumkur, a software engineer at Verily Life Sciences, the healthcare and life sciences arm of Alphabet. They discuss how the notion of "precision medicine" has gained popularity in recent times. Next, the focus turns to Tumkur's work, where he, along with his team, is working on collecting and integrating continuous time-series data to create a map of human health.

  • On sharing knowledge and fostering "open science"

    The crucial importance of science and technology and its accurate peer reviewed dissemination, has once again been demonstrated during the current pandemic. Thus the COVID-19 pandemic together with the inevitable energy transition required by climate change, lead us to consider the issue of scientific and technical communication, both for the written papers and proceedings that have largely moved online (but not always in open access), and the various types of seminars, workshops, and symposia that frequently involve air travel with substantial CO2 impact. Online meetings that have become recently very popular, as well as online repositories for publications, themselves have a significant CO2---as well as environmental---impact, due to the massive use of electricity by information and communication technologies (ICT) and of the environmentally unfriendly manufacturing processes and decommissioning of ICT equipment. Presented is a broad overview of these aspects, and some recommendations regarding the future organization of scientific and technical communication, including: (1) peer-reviewed journals and proceedings with online open access; (2) the importance of face to face seminars and symposia, together with online meetings, to maintain the serendipity and importance of direct human contact while reducing the need for air travel; (3) the peer evaluation of research and of academic and research staff and its dependence on publications and their qualitative---rather than excessively quantitative---evaluation, where the concept of impact should include the usefulness of research to education, industry and society; (4) and the crucial role of ICT in all these aspects and the questions raised by the sustainability of ICT itself.

  • How verbal variety kills comprehension

    Each "Communication Corner" essay is self-contained; however, they build on each other. For best results, before reading this essay and doing the exercise, go to the first essay "How an Ugly Duckling Became a Swan," then read each succeeding essay.

    The purpose of expository (non-fiction) writing and speaking is usually to inform or instruct. To do either successfully, you must present your ideas more than once. Otherwise, people who read it or hear it, even if they completely understand it at the moment, over time (often a very short time) will either confuse it or forget it. Presenting information and ideas more than once is not simply a matter of saying the same things the same way two or three times. It is more subtle than that.

  • The elusive promise of AI: a second look

    A 2006 Ubiquity article titled "The Elusive Promise of AI" contended that the field of artificial intelligence (AI) promised much but had not yet delivered on its promises. This follow-up article reviews some of the more significant events and progress in AI over the intervening decade-and-a-half since the original article, describes roughly where we are today, and speculates as to what might be ahead of us.

  • Laugh your way to persuasive communication

    Each "Communication Corner" essay is self-contained; however, they build on each other. For best results, before reading this essay and doing the exercise, go to the first essay "How an Ugly Duckling Became a Swan," then read each succeeding essay.

    Have you ever noticed that people who tell jokes well usually give good speeches? This is not a coincidence. Telling jokes and giving speeches have more in common than it might appear. We can benefit from these similarities.

  • A conversation with Xiaokui Shu: the pursuit of speed in cybersecurity

    In this interview, Bushra Anjum, senior editor Ubiquity, sits down with Xiaokui Shu, a Research Staff Member at IBM, and they chat about the latest emerging issues in cybersecurity. Is it possible to discover modern cyber threats before attackers accomplish their goals? The discussion then turns to the new era of dynamic cyber defense, which consists of detection strategies and procedures developed on the fly by security analysts based on live observations.

  • Sustainable computing

    Energy consumption by computers is expanding exponentially along with big data and AI processing. The trend can be broken by adopting alternate approaches to CPU and GPU design. Specifically, Adiabatic Reversible Logic (ARL) has been proposed as the solution. This essay surveys the technology of ARL and gives early examples of actual reversible machines.

  • A conversation with Felix Kerger: taking small steps to mitigate the universal problem of information overload

    In this interview, Ubiquity's senior editor Dr. Bushra Anjum chats with Felix Kerger, an experienced developer advocate working for King.com (Spain). They focus on the increasing challenges of information overload for computing professionals and students. The discussion then moves to some of the strategies that can be employed to make information easier to find and ensure the right audience receives the right information directly.