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Enrollment in computer science programs may have leveled off after the dot-com downturn, but that leveling happened only after the number of bachelor's degree graduates hit a trough, reports Computerworld. In the latest statistics from the Computing Research Association (www.cra.org), which follows year-over-year enrollment and graduate trends from 170 Ph.D.-granting institutions, only 8,021 students graduated with computer science degrees from these schools in the 20062007 academic year. By contrast, in 20032004the high point of this decade14,185 students were awarded bachelor's degrees in computer science. The sharp decline in graduates may be about to level off, according to CRA's latest trend analysis. In the fall of 2006, new CS enrollments topped out at 7,840; new enrollments for fall 2007 were at 7,915. While it's too early to declare a turnaround, CRA analysts say the students should be able to find job opportunities based on the last projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (see box on page 8).

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New York's Global Links

MIT researchers have been collecting the electronic communications of millions of New Yorkers since last January. The round-the-clock effort has nothing to do with national security or covert eavesdropping. Rather it is to build a census that shows, neighborhood by neighborhood, the phone and Internet links New Yorkers have to other cities across the planet and how these connections change over time. "Our cities and the globe are blanketed with flowing bits of digital data, and looking at this data, we're able to better understand the physical world," says Carlo Ratti, director of MIT's SENSEable City Lab. The Associated Press reports that no information about individuals or actual conversations is being collected. AT&T gives MIT only aggregate data from its switches throughout the city. Researchers found New Yorkers who engage in global gab tend to be international business professionals or poor immigrants. Moreover, communication between Manhattan and the world surges each morning after the New York Stock Exchange opens. The most-called city is London (8% of all overseas calls), followed by Santo Domingo (5%). Half of all calls from Manhattan are to Canada, Great Britain, the Dominican Republic, Germany, and Japan. Visualizations from the New York Talk Exchange (sensible.mit.edu/nyte) project are now part of an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art called "Design and the Elastic Mind," which is open through May and examines how designers use technology in ways that change lives.

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Etch-a-Circuit

Researchers have demonstrated a new technique inspired by the classic Etch-a-Sketch drawing toy that could be used to create rewritable logic circuits and denser computer memory. Technology Review reports that researchers, using an atomic force microscope (AFM), were able to draw nano-size wires and dots that could be repeatedly erased and written. The researchers used an AFM tip like a pencil, drawing electrically conductive paths on special material. The lines were as thin as three nanometers, making them considerably narrower than the lines drawn using electron-beam lithographyone of the most precise techniques for etching devices out of silicon. The study, recently published in Nature Materials, found that the wires and dots stayed in their state for at least 24 hours. The research team believes the etchings will last much longer and is currently testing this theory.

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Doctor Verboten

At least seven U.S. researchers working in Germany have faced criminal probes this year for using the title "Dr." on their business cards, Web sites, and résumés, the Washington Post reports. While all hold doctoral degrees from elite U.S. universities, under a little-known Nazi-era law only people who earn Ph.D.s or medical degrees in Germany are allowed to use "Dr." as a courtesy title. The law was modified in 2001 to extend the privilege to degree-holders from any country in the European Union, but Ph.D.s from the U.S. or elsewhere outside of E.U. are still forbidden to use it. Violators can face a year behind bars. While the German doctor rule has been in effect since the 1930s, it has been only sporadically enforced over the decades. What sparked a tipster to file a complaint with German prosecutors against seven U.S. researchers working at the Max Planck Society, which operates 80 scientific research institutes across Germany, is unknown. The criminal investigations have alarmed higher-education officials in Germany, where U.S. researchers are in demand. "This is a completely overdone, mad, and an absolutely ridiculous situation," declared the head of Germany's central office for foreign education. At last report, prosecutors were recommending that charges be dropped and civil fines be imposed.

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Clarke's Three Laws

  • When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  • The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  • Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

First written in 1962 by legendary science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke who passed away in March at the age of 90.

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Author

Send items of interest to cacm@acm.org

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Footnotes

DOI: 10.1145/1342327.1342329

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Tables

UT1Table.

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