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News Clips - April 13, 2007

From April 6 to April 12, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 246 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Baby steps for Dexter the robot
The New York Times | April 10
It clanked. It whooshed. But most important, it walked, without falling down. "It" is Dexter, an upright, humanoid robot taking shape and getting exercise at Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up Anybots, which wants to make robots more human. At the moment, that apparently means skeletal and a bit shaky on its feet, but baby steps are always the beginning. ... James Kuffner, a professor at the Robotics Institute at the School of Computer Science of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is interested in humanoid robots' motion planning capabilities. He sees a future for humanoids both on wheels and then later on legs. They'll likely be a reality, he says, in 20 to 30 years. "A lot of people ask: why would you want anthropomorphic robots? The practical answer is that a human-shaped robot is ideally suited for human environments," said Kuffner.


P2P downloads at warp speed?
CNET | April 10
File sharing may soon move at a faster pace. Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon and Purdue say they've conquered one of the frustrations of P2P downloads: the sometimes painfully slow speed. Tomorrow, the new SET protocol will be released at a conference in Cambridge, Mass. SET stands for Similarity-Enhanced Transfer. That conference is the 4th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design & Implementation. The scientists say their new system is aimed at easier sharing of academic papers.

Education for Leadership

The next page: Reviving the North Side's 'Lost City'
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 8
The fate of Allegheny City may be one of the saddest chapters in the history of American cities. Take a well-planned and thriving town, forcibly annex it, politically enfeeble its wards, encroach on its public land, chop up its neighborhoods with railroads and highways, cut it off from its river, tear down more than 500 buildings and obliterate its downtown, streets and landmarks, and you have an urban narrative of tragic dimensions. ... Reconfiguring Allegheny Center is not about tearing down every building that we don't like -- that's precisely what they did in the 1960s. A more constructive strategy is to convince the mall's owners that a reconfiguration makes economic sense, and that the walls -- which after all are only steel frames with thin covers, can be readily opened up to let Federal through. Students at Carnegie Mellon's Urban Lab have developed a beautiful design for doing just that.

Arts and Humanities

Theatre preview: Carnegie Mellon digs into heady Greek tragedy with 'The Orestria Project'
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 12
"You've got to embrace the weirdness," says J.A. Ball, visiting assistant professor of dramatic literature at Carnegie Mellon University. While this may sound like a viable life philosophy, Ball is actually talking about Carnegie Mellon's monumental theater undertaking, "The Oresteia Project." ... The project is the vision of Carnegie Mellon directing professor, Jed Allen Harris, who began pondering Aeschylus' trilogy back in the 1990s. He decided now was the time to stage them, mostly because of Carnegie Mellon drama's senior class, which he says "has been a strong ensemble since their freshman year. ... he overall concept is that each play reflects a different take on modern experimental theater, which is Harris' specialty. He directs all three (assisted on "Agamemnon" and "The Coephorae" by acting professor Matthew Gray) and feels each lends itself to a particular performance style.


U3 Festival creates synergy of composition
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | April 12
Academia has been the nurturing home for American composers for more than half a century. This week, musicians from three universities -- Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and Pittsburgh -- collaborate at the third biennial U3 Festival to present music composed on campus or at home in Western Pennsylvania -- however far-flung the inspiration may have been.


A conversation with Roger Ballen
American Photo | April 6
Originally a geologist, Ballen explains his career progression from documentary photographer in South Africa to fine artist whose goal is to "expand human consciousness hopefully in a positive way." ***This interview was conducted by Jörg Colberg, a Physics research scientist at Carnegie Mellon.


Entertainment digest: 4/10/07
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 10
The Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic will perform the Aria from J.S. Bach's Orchestra Suite No. 3 as a memorial tribute to mezzo-soprano Mimi Lerner. Lerner, who died last month, was on the faculty of the school and had chaired the voice department. The orchestra also will perform Honegger's Symphony No. 3 and Hindemith's "Mathis der Maler." Conducted by Juan Pablo Izquierdo, the concert takes place at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Heinz Hall, Downtown.


Computer expert to head Carnegie Mellon music school
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 6
Carnegie Mellon University has named a new dean of its School of Music, composer, professor and computer music expert Noel Zahler. Three recordings of Zahler's compositions have been released, and he has authored three computer music software programs. He has written widely on music theory, artificial intelligence and computer music. ... The former head of Carnegie Mellon's music school, Alan Fletcher, left in 2005 to become president of the Aspen Music Festival and School. Interim dean Marilyn Taft Thomas will return to the school's faculty.


Music's just the beginning for Wilkinsburg elementary school keyboard class
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | April 5
With 20 keyboards in one room, Lois Clark's sixth-grade music class at Kelly Elementary School in Wilkinsburg gets a little noisy at times. After practicing with headphones on, each student gets a turn to play what they practiced in front of their classmates. "It's fun," Sjon Walters, 12, of Wilkinsburg, said. "If we were here singing, it wouldn't be fun." Kelly Elementary School received the keyboards in the fall and is the newest participant in the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music's Pittsburgh Keyboard Project. It is the only school among about 20 participants that is not part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Clark said. "They're making very good progress, and they seem to be really enjoying it," said program director Natalie Ozeas, who is an associate professor and associate head of Carnegie Mellon's School of Music.

Information Technology

Teens in a podcast: Guys who banter online connect with fellow high school students
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 8
Listening to the weekly podcast "Acorns & Merlot" is like overhearing a phone conversation between a couple of high school kids -- sometimes rambling or illuminating, sometimes irreverent or crude ... and often hilarious. In this case, the conversation takes place between two articulate and opinionated high school seniors who have been entertaining their peers, locally and now globally. New media -- podcasts, videocasts and social networking sites -- are growing so fast that they have in some ways outpaced people's ability to understand the impact on their lives. Alessandro Acquisti is an assistant professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University's John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management. He studies privacy issues and the tradeoffs people make when deciding what kinds of information they want to make public about themselves -- whether it's risking identity theft by using credit cards or having a grocery chain track their purchases because they use retail discount cards, or whether they reveal personal information about themselves when they join social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. "The way technology is tilting the balance toward revelation rather than protection, it's so easy to reveal and it's become so difficult to protect [one's privacy]," he says.


Science Center reinventing itself
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 8
The Carnegie Science Center is working on a master plan to "reinvent" the center, which is expected to include a major expansion project centered on ecology and the center's North Shore riverfront location. ... Robotics and sports and body are an outgrowth of two of the center's most successful temporary exhibits and are prime examples of the partnerships the center wants to build with other local institutions. "Robots," one of the center's early shows, and "Zap It Surgery," focusing on laser surgery and other high-tech medical procedures, are still touring the country. Carnegie Mellon University helped to develop "Robots" while the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center worked with "Zap It." The center is working with CMU's internationally known robotics program again to develop a permanent exhibit that would take up most of the center's second floor, except where the train display is located. It is expected to open next year.


Environmental hero, Rachel Carson, celebrated in a year of events
Pop City Media | April 11
Long before it was politically correct to be an environmentalist, there was Pittsburgh’s own Rachel Carson, one of the world’s earliest environmental innovators who pushed the science of our planet to the forefront. ... Pittsburgh’s First Annual Rachel Carson Legacy Conference on Friday, Sept. 29, 2007: “Sustaining the Web of Life in Modern Society” at Carnegie Mellon University, with keynote speaker Dr.E. O. Wilson. Sessions include: Global Warming; Perspectives on Health of Our Oceans; Environmental Leadership & Changing the Way We Live.


Industries bracing for emissions regulation
Hispanic Business | April 5
In the coming years, everything from cars to dishwashers to steel mills is likely to be required to consume energy more efficiently as a result of stricter environmental regulations expected to come on line to combat greenhouse gases. The eventual benefits and costs of these new cleaner machines are being debated this week in the wake of a significant ruling by the Supreme Court that says the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate carbon dioxide, a gas implicated in global warming. ... Meanwhile, scientists are working on ways to capture CO2 from generator smoke stacks and permanently store it underground. Granger Morgan, head of the department of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, has studied the technique, known as sequestration, and says it is practical now. It would raise the price of electricity, however. "That would cost about 20 percent at the meter," Morgan said.

Regional Impact

Task force explores water issues
Daily American | April 6
The Regional Water Management Task Force will have a public meeting in Somerset to present completed research and allow residents to provide input on ways the region can improve water-related problems. The task force, which represents 11 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, will have public meetings over the next couple months to gather ideas pertaining to water and sewage problems. ... “What we have learned so far should help us not only to explain how serious our water and sewage problems are, but also to show that these problems can be solved through well-conceived, collaborative efforts,” Jared Cohon, Carnegie Mellon University president and chair of the task force, said in the press release.


Tiny Q-dots may enable more precise brain surgery
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 11
Imaging is an important tool in modern medicine, but capturing brain cancer on film poses a particular challenge. The major problem lies in distinguishing cancer from healthy tissue in neural and brain cancers known as gliomas. Enter Marcel P. Bruchez, a Carnegie Mellon University associate research professor in chemistry and his amazing quantum dots. Q-dots, as they are called, are nanometer-sized crystallized particles with semiconductor properties. Distinct sizes of Q-dots have unique optical properties, Dr. Bruchez said, and they can be designed to emit specific wavelengths of light.


RAND to assess algebra curriculum developed by Carnegie Mellon
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 10
The RAND Corp. will study the effectiveness of Carnegie Learning's Cognitive Tutor algebra curriculum with a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. RAND announced the grant and the five-year study last week. ... The math programs of Carnegie Learning are based on cognitive science research done at Carnegie Mellon University, where researchers study how students think, learn and apply new knowledge in mathematics.


Carnegie Mellon grad brings movie set to city
WPXI | April 9
A Pittsburgh grad is bringing the movies back to the city. Carnegie Mellon University grad and actor Blair Underwood is directing "The Bridge To Nowhere" this April on the North Side. Underwood talked about returning to his college town. “It feel so great to kind of come full circle in a sense -- come here as this wide-eyed kid, I want to become an actor and I wanted to learn about the craft of acting -- and then to go out and be there for 22 years and come back to the city,” he said.


Boy's coach of the year: Bethel Park's Mike Mastroianni
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | April 8
The Post-Gazette goes up close with Bethel Park's Mike Mastroianni. Mike Mastroianni took over a below-average Bethel Park program in 2003. It took him only four years before he had the Black Hawks soaring above the rest of the WPIAL. ... Mastroianni, 45, is assistant athletic director in charge of university programs at Carnegie Mellon University. He and his wife, Karen, live in Robinson with their three children.


Speed boost plan for file-sharing
BBC News | April 12
Movies and music could be shared faster over the net thanks to a system pioneered by researchers in the US. The speed of current services, like BitTorrent, is limited by the number of people sharing a specific file, such as a movie or song. Similarity-Enhanced Transfer (SET) works by spotting chunks of identical data in files that are an exact or near match to the one needed. ... The findings are outlined in a paper, Exploiting Similarity for Multi-Source Downloads Using File Handprints, written by David Andersen of Carnegie Mellon University, Himabindu Pucha, of Purdue University, and Michael Kaminsky of Intel Research.


Clues to molecular motor movement
The Scientist | April 5
The movement of molecular motors that carry a cell's cargo may be controlled in a different manner than previously suspected, according to a paper in this week's Science. The molecular motor kinesin, which carries vesicles, organelles, and other loads along cellular microtubule networks, may not need the networks themselves to move -- a finding that "throws a surprising wrench into existing models of kinesin movement," according to an accompanying commentary by David Hackney of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.