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News Clips - January 5, 2007

From December 22 to January 4, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 165 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Academics are named to federal advisory panel on foreign visitors
The Chronicle of Higher Education | January 5
Since September 11, 2001, many college administrators have complained that it has been more difficult for foreign academics and students to enter the United States than caution dictates. So it is gratifying, says Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University, that he and six other representatives of academe have been appointed to a new, 18-person, federal advisory committee that will help develop travel policies for all kinds of foreign visitors. Among the committee's tasks, he says, is to alert potential visitors that, "at the moment, perceptions do not match the reality," which is that opportunities for academic visits have returned almost to their pre-September 11 ease.


New crime data has experts concerned
NPR | January 2
Violent crime is trending upward in many cities around the country. Nationally, the FBI says robbery was up 9 percent and murder up 1 percent in the first half of 2006. But the trend is uneven: Some cities are up, and others are down. That volatility has criminologists worried. ... The surge in violent crime is an ominous sign for police officers and criminologists who were hoping last year's increase was just a blip. "Robbery has jumped up by over 9 percent, and murder has jumped up by 1.5 percent," says Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University who has been tracking crime numbers for 30 years.


When the brain stalls at disjunction junction
Washington Post | January 1
Should the United States pull out of Iraq, or increase the number of troops on the ground? Should you break up with that person you've been dating for eight years -- or propose marriage? Should you sell that old house, or hold on to it? The start of a new year is typically a time we revisit big questions -- and big questions often do not have obviously right or wrong answers. So this is a good time to remind ourselves of the disjunction effect. ... "What you can do is learn about the situation, but what you really need to do is learn about yourself," said Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University who is interested in how the pursuit of information in some situations can be self-defeating and even risky. "If you say we need absolute certainty before we do anything, you are guaranteeing paralysis, because you are hiding behind the uncertainty.


The control panel
The Wall Street Journal | December 29
In yet another proof that hope can triumph over experience, millions of Americans are preparing to sail forth into the new year on the leaky vessels of their own brave resolutions for self-improvement. When we embark on this naïve journey, our intentions are entirely peaceable, but in reality we're undertaking a risky frontal assault on a wily and well-armored enemy: ourselves. ... As you can imagine, you and your future selves often won't see eye to eye. George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, notes that there's an "empathy gap" between these selves because humans aren't very good, when sated with holiday treats in December, at imagining how they'll react to the bleakness of deprivation in February. "It's always easy to deny your future self right after you've indulged your current self," Mr. Loewenstein says.

Art and Humanities

Light-speed regard won't do justice to the multimedia 'Nebula'
Pittsburgh City Paper | December 28
Nebula, a multimedia installation at Pittsburgh Glass Center by Hilary Harp and Suzie Silver, is initially overwhelming. But spending time with this combination of sculpture, video, photography and music allows satisfying subtleties to emerge. ... Silver teaches at Carnegie Mellon; Harp recently left Carnegie Mellon for Arizona State University. With Nebula, they have created an environment that utilizes abstracted imagery to simultaneously suggest worlds as irreconcilable as outer space and underwater, with a little psychedelia thrown in for good measure.


Holiday bussing and hugging leads to colds
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 27
Are your co-workers out with colds this holiday week? Are family members sniffling and sneezing after visits from relatives? The best thing you can do is be happy, wash your hands and, well, avoid people. ... A study by Carnegie Mellon University health psychologist Sheldon Cohen in the November/December issue of "Psychosomatic Medicine" replicated his 2003 research that found people who displayed generally positive outlooks had a greater resistance to developing colds that those who were rarely upbeat.


Documentary, studies renew debate about skin color's impact
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 26
Race is still the elephant in society's sitting room. Race consciousness is ubiquitous, yet so deep-seated as to seem almost invisible. Many people, minorities included, don't realize the assumptions they make based on race. A subset of racism is colorism -- discrimination based on skin tone. An award-winning documentary and two recent academic studies examine perceptions based on differences in skin tone. Academics who study issues of race say the findings are disheartening but not surprising. ... Shawn Alfonso-Wells, a visiting assistant professor of anthropology in Carnegie Mellon University's history department, has studied racial classification in Cuba and the United States."Here we are in the 21st century and once again those relationships that were forged under enslavement are coming to light again, all that between the domestic [house slave] and the field [slave]," Dr. Alfonso-Wells says. "If you had lighter skin, your conditions weren't as harsh. Those who were lighter skinned had more opportunities to escape their conditions than those who had darker skin, and you can still see that today.


24 area artists make for the 'Gestures" exhibition to date
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | December 24
Pittsburgh may have its image as a sports town, but with its world-class museums, it's well known as an art town, too. That may be one reason why the city boasts so many artists. And luckily for them, one of those museums has been paying attention to their presence. Since the fall of 2001, the Mattress Factory, an experimental museum and breeding ground for installation art on the North Side, has mounted its ongoing exhibition series "Gestures," which involves locals -- all of whom aren't necessarily artists -- in the process of creating small, site-specific works. ... The first floor of the converted corner rowhouse holds eight site-specific works, beginning with independent curator Erin O'Neill's piece "Reliquary for a Dictionary," in which a dictionary is embedded into a shifting floor. Opposite is "Lloyd and Lela's Gallery," by Jenny Strayer, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Regina Gouger Miller Gallery, in which she pays homage to her grandparents in the form of an installation-cum-offrenda filled with bird prints and sugar-flocked family photos.

Information Technology

Image labeling for blind helps machines 'think'
Nashua Telegraph | December 31
As director of Web operations at the American Foundation for the Blind, Crista Earl knows more than most about how visually impaired people can access the Internet. Still, when she browses the Web, Earl, 48 and blind, finds it time-consuming and difficult to use. ... For the blind, the only solution is for each image to be labeled with an accurate description for the screen reader to say aloud. But few Web site designers do that. That is why researchers are studying ways to tap the powers of the Web to have ordinary users label great numbers of images. Asking people to label image after image, however, is asking them to become bored quickly. To make it less tedious and more fun, Luis von Ahn, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has created the ESP Game.


Touched by tech: If you build it
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 29
A casual comment three years ago launched Ray Steeb on a journey to develop a product that could dramatically reduce both the time and the cost of building construction. Knowing of Mr. Steeb's 20-plus years experience in the construction industry, most of it with Turner Construction, Jared L. Cohon, the president of Carnegie Mellon University, suggested that it would be great if Mr. Steeb could capture his experience in a way that would make it available to others. ... Mr. Steeb's development of the Fast-Cat was funded in part by the Pittsburgh Infrastructure Technology Alliance, a partnership between Carnegie Mellon and Lehigh University that provides seed funding for projects. The Alliance's money was used for research "to determine which ways might be the most effective to support somebody working with drawings," said James H. Garrett Jr., professor and head of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon who helped to develop the software.


The science of Santa
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | December 24
Pittsburgh scientists confirm what children around the world know: Santa has super powers. "If he's Superman, he can slow the rotation of the Earth and make (delivering gifts) easier," said David Andersen, an assistant professor in the department of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. Andersen and fellow professor Hui Zhang, along with graduate students Vyas Sekar, Dan Wendlandt, George Nychis and Xin Zhang, calculated that Santa travels about 1,100 miles per second in order to deliver a gift to every one of the 775 million children worldwide celebrating Christmas this year.

Regional Impact

PNC donates to create Carnegie Mellon chair
Pittsburgh Business Times | January 3
Two entities of PNC Financial Services Group Inc. donated $1.25 million to Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business to create a PNC Professorship in Computational Finance chair. The PNC Foundation, the philanthropic arm of PNC Financial Services Group, donated $1 million, and PNC executive management contributed $250,000 toward the PNC chair. "PNC's generous support will help the Tepper School continue to attract and retain leading scholars of finance," Kenneth Dunn, dean of the Tepper School, said in a release. "The PNC Professorship in Computational Finance also underscores PNC's commitment to education and research, and contributes to the transfer of academic discoveries to the financial industry.


You got the gifts, now time for the thank yous
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | December 26
Wrapping paper has been ripped, ribbons and bows have been untied, batteries have been installed, required assembly has been done, and the TMX Elmo has been tickled to death. Have your kids had a chance to slip a "thank you" in there yet? Kids know that "please" is the magic word for getting what they want, but "thank you" is just as powerful a phrase. ... A child's ability to express and understand their thanks grows as he or she does. "It's never too early to start modeling," says Sharon Carver, director of the Children's School at Carnegie Mellon University. "They're going to be hearing '[thank you],' they're going to be hearing that as a positive thing. Before they can understand the word, they can understand its positive affects.


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | December 25
Nadine Aubry. Residence: Franklin Park. Age: 46. Noteworthy: Aubry was named chair of the U.S. National Committee on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, representing 15 national societies and institutions with interest in mechanics.Occupation: Head of Carnegie Mellon University's department of mechanical engineering. Education: Born in France, she earned a B.S. degree in 1984 from the National Polytechnic Institute and a master's degree from the Scientific and Medical University, both in Grenoble, France. In 1987, she received a doctorate from Cornell University.


A painter captures the stillness of a winter's morning in Oakland
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | December 25
If everything looks fresh in Martin B. Leisser's "Oakland," perhaps it's because it was. ... On a white winter morning, Mr. Leisser depicts Andrew Carnegie's great cultural achievements in Pittsburgh: the museums and library and the school that bear his name, facing each other across the valley of Junction Hollow. ... The vista had great personal significance for Mr. Leisser. For one thing, it was he, along with his friend, astronomer John Brashear, who persuaded their mutual friend Carnegie to include an art school at the Carnegie Technical Schools, which he'd founded in 1900 (the name was changed in 1912, and changed again to Carnegie Mellon University in 1967).


Tech campus modeled offshore
The Advertiser | December 26
Carnegie Mellon University opened its Entertainment Technology Center – a joint project between its Fine Arts and Computer Science departments – last May. The center brings together skills in advanced computing, engineering, and programming to produce content and technology specifically for electronic entertainment. ETC instructor Jiyoung Lee will move from Adelaide to set up a similar campus in Silicon Valley next month, and will then move to Seoul, Korea, to set up the next campus in July. The success of the Adelaide school was based on industry connections, Ms. Lee said, which are already being duplicated in the U.S.. "We have a lot of good connections in the U.S. with Dreamer, Pixar and Electronic Arts," Ms Lee said. "When we build Korea, I think we can have a lot of connections, such as LG, SK Telecom and Samsung.,22606,20974684-5003680,00.html


Don't worry, be happy and live longer
The Telegraph | December 24
A cheerful and optimistic outlook to life may keep people healthier and enable them to stay alive longer than those who display pessimistic tendencies, new research has shown. In a U.S. study that tracked the fate of 7,000 adults who were in college during the 1960s, medical researchers found that the optimistic among them had a lower risk of dying over the past 40 years. ... Just last month, U.S. psychologists had shown that positive emotions can reduce people’s risk of suffering from both common cold and influenza. Psychologist Sheldon Cohen at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that people who were “happy, lively and calm” were less likely to catch colds or report symptoms when they get sick than people who were “anxious, hostile and depressed.