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News Clips - January 12, 2007

From January 5 to January 11, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 210 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.

Special Section

When shopping, brain pits pain against pleasure
The Times of India | January 7
A battle wages in your brain every time you are out shopping. A new research says specific areas in the brain seem to weigh the pleasure of buying against the pain of spending when people are deciding whether or not to go for the bargain, reports WebMD. A team of researchers consisting of psychologist Brian Knutson of Stanford University; economist George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University; and Drazen Prelec of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, report their finding in the January issue of Neuron.


This is your brain on shopping
Forbes | January 5
Attention, shoppers: A brave new retailing world may be just around the corner. Using brain-scanning equipment, a team of scientists has discovered that they can correctly predict whether subjects will decide to make a purchase. Their research is published in the paper Neural Predictors of Purchases in the January issue of Neuron. The authors, who hail from Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University and the MIT Sloan School of Management, work in the budding field of neuroeconomics, a discipline that combines neuroscience, economics and psychology to study human behavior and choice making. ... For Scott Rick, one of the study's authors and a Ph.D. candidate in behavioral decision research at Carnegie Mellon, the most remarkable thing about the study is that it challenges the orthodox economic view of consumer decision making. Traditionally, economists have held that buyers are weighing the immediate pleasure of acquiring an item against the pleasures of other, delayed uses for the money.


When your brain goes shopping
Science | January 4
That new iPod looks terrific...but $249 is a lot of money. To buy or not to buy? A new study sheds light on how your inner consumer makes such existential choices. ... So Knutson, along with colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had 26 volunteers make a series of rapid purchasing decisions with their heads inside an fMRI-scanner. On a screen, the subjects were shown a series of attractive products, such as an MP3-player, a Sex and the City DVD, a box of Godiva chocolates, or a Stanford T-shirt.


The Top Ten Institutions in Six Aggregated Fields, as Ranked by the 2005 Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index
The Chronicle of Higher Education | January 12
Academic Analytics, founded in 2005 by faculty and researchers at StonyThe index, which incorporates information such as faculty publications, grants, and honors and awards, ranks programs at institutions based on the research productivity of their faculty members. Here are the top 10 in the six aggregated fields, which group individual Ph.D. programs under broader umbrella categories. ***Carnegie Mellon faculty rank first in the country in cognitive science, third in information science, fourth in computer engineering, fifth in civil and environmental engineering, sixth in computer science, seventh in linguistics and statistics, and ninth in applied mathematics according to the 2005 Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index. Carnegie Mellon ranked sixth overall among large research universities. Produced by Academic Analytics,the index rates the productivity of faculty at more than 7,000 doctoral programs in the nation according to the number of published books and journal articles, journal citations, awards, honors and grants received. Academic Analytics, founded in 2005 by faculty and researchers at Stony Brook University and Educational Directories Unlimited, Inc., provides data collection and reporting for the higher education industry. To access the index, visit


Low-stress life may be best way to prevent colds
NPR | January 11
Colds are caused by viruses, but when a nasty one spreads around the office or through the family, why do some people get sick and others don't? Some add a jolt of wheat grass or green tea to their smoothies. Others choose megadoses of vitamin C. Many people swear by Airborne, a top-seller in drugstores that's marketed as the "original immune-boosting tablet" and "created by a school teacher!" ... The best evidence suggests there is no magic elixir that will keep you from getting a cold. So, is there anything — besides washing your hands frequently — that you can do to protect yourself? Researcher Sheldon Cohen at Carnegie Mellon University is focusing on the role of stress. "We know quite a bit about stress and infection," says Cohen. "We've been doing research in that area for 25 years.


Mayor's ultra-secure hot line gets some cold sales calls
The New York Times | January 9
It seems like a throwback to the cold war, a time when red telephones with direct lines to Moscow and leather briefcases with nuclear codes were grave symbols of international anxiety. At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg disclosed that he has a secure phone at his Upper East Side town house, equipped with encoders to prevent wiretapping and ready for use in a major emergency. ... David J. Farber, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a former chief technologist of the Federal Communications Commission, said secure phones like the one in Mr. Bloomberg’s house were not uncommon and could be bought commercially.Such phones, according to Dr. Farber, have encryption keys, which ensure that calls made to other secure phones will be secure. The conversation is digitized, encrypted and sent over the phone line as data — similar to Internet-based phone services like Skype. But if the person using a secure phone is talking to a person with a regular phone, the conversation is not secure.


The new math on crime
U.S. News and World Report | January 7
Nationwide murder totals for 2006 will not be available until the fall, when the FBI releases its annual Uniform Crime Report. But an analysis by U.S. News shows a substantive, if uneven, increase in homicide in the nation's 20 largest cities. The 19 cities for which data were available had 4,152 homicides in 2006, compared with 3,919 the previous year-a 6 percent increase. Phoenix, which could not provide a year-end number, had neared its 2005 total of 238 by the end of November. ... Alfred Blumstein, a criminology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, highlights a diversion of resources from traditional crime fighting to preventing terrorism and a reduction in social services to the poorest neighborhoods. He also notes the phasing out of federal money for the Clinton-era COPS program, which gives grants to put more police officers on the street. The PERF report, "A Gathering Storm," partially blames the loss of funds for shrinking police forces in many cities. "I must confess, I expected [murder] to go up two or three years ago," Blumstein says.


Attack of the zombie computers is growing threat
The New York Times | January 7
With growing sophistication, they are taking advantage of programs that secretly install themselves on thousands or even millions of personal computers, band these computers together into an unwitting army of zombies, and use the collective power of the dragooned network to commit Internet crimes. These systems, called botnets, are being blamed for the huge spike in spam that bedeviled the Internet in recent months, as well as fraud and data theft. .. “It represents a threat but it’s one that is hard to explain,” said David J. Farber, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist who was an Internet pioneer. “It’s an insidious threat, and what worries me is that the scope of the problem is still not clear to most people.” Referring to Windows computers, he added, “The popular machines are so easy to penetrate, and that’s scary.

Education for Leadership

District spotlight: Tartans' hot, 9-3 start makes coach prophet
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | January 11
When Tony Wingen told anyone within shouting distance that his Carnegie Mellon men's basketball team would be even better in 2006-07, it was easy to dismiss such bold statement as the rantings of a cockeyed optimist. After all, the Tartans would lose their top five scorers and top four rebounders from a 20-6 team that set a school record for victories, won the school's first University Athletic Association championship and participated in the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since 1977. ... "I felt like we had a bunch of very talented young players who were sitting behind a bunch of very talented, experienced players," Wingen said. "I did not think we would be 9-3 at this point, but I saw these guys hold their own against our first-team players in practice last year. We're ahead of schedule.


Emerging science note
Living on Earth | January 5
Imagine being able to speak another language by silently mouthing the words in English. A translator created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University promises to do just that. The device uses a series of electrodes attached to the face and neck that interpret the muscle movements of a speaker. These movements create electrical signals, which are interpreted into English and translated by a computer into another language. The translation is then broadcast in a synthetic voice. ... Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. student Szu-Chen (Stan) Jou demonstrates the prototype at a press conference.

Arts and Humanities

Novel writing not for the faint of heart, authors say
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | January 7
It's a situation every writer faces at one time or another. At a book signing, reading or other literary function, a person approaches. They hesitate, smile, then state their purpose:"I want to write a book." Which is akin to an out-of-shape, middle-aged guy telling LeBron James he wants to try out with the Cleveland Cavaliers." Most people know they can't play professional basketball," says best-selling author David Baldacci. "They're not tall enough, they're not fast enough, they're not quick enough. But people think, 'I've got a brain, I've got a hand, I've got a computer -- I can be a writer.' They don't understand the skill sets that go into being a writer as well, and sometimes they're almost as unique as being an NBA or NFL or professional athlete." ... It's also advisable not to try to write "War and Peace" or "Remembrance of Things Past" the first time out. Jane Bernstein, who teaches writing at Carnegie Mellon University and is the author of the memoirs "Bereft" and "Loving Rachel," says it's best to "start small and learn your craft by working on shorter pieces," pointing out that the memoirs "Anatomy of a Face" by Lucy Grealy and "Road Song" by Natalie Kusz originally were articles in Harper's magazine.


Library offers free book club
Observer-Reporter | January 3
Peters Township Public Library is accepting registration for a free book discussion program beginning at the end of February. American Life Stories will explore the American experience in contemporary memoir. This is the second consecutive year the library was selected by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council to host a Read About It program supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. David R. Shumway, professor of English and literacy and cultural studies and director of the Humanities Center at Carnegie Mellon University, will return as the discussion leader.

Information Technology

Carnegie Mellon professor investigates vote
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | January 9
A professor from Carnegie Mellon University is one of seven prominent computer scientists trying to help the Florida Department of State determine why 18,000 ballots cast in last fall's general election did not include votes in a hotly contested congressional race. Mike Shamos, director of the university's Universal Library and co-director of its Institute for eCommerce, met with other members of the team Saturday in Florida to study software used in the electronic, touch-screen voting machines there.


State applying unique maps to tourism
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | January 7
New technology that allows you to travel to distant destinations better and explore them without moving from your computer is being pioneered in Pennsylvania -- the first state to apply it to tourism. The Carnegie Mellon University professor who is one of the lead technology "geeks" behind the effort calls it something special -- and something spatial. That is, you'll soon be able not only to search one-dimensional Web pages, images and text, but have all that information integrated with panoramic views and geographical perspectives. And you'll be able to interact with it, adding your own photos and text." We're changing the way you're browsing for information when you're setting off to visit Pennsylvania," said Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, during a recent announcement.


Translation goggles
Esquire | December 2006
There are McDonald's restaurants in Pakistan, but not many of us can say "Hold the mayo" in Urdu. That will soon change. Alex Waibel, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, has developed a set of goggles that translate speech in real time-and present the translations, subtitlelike, in a heads-up display that the wearer can read. Technical challenges abound-people often speak in fragmented sentences and grunts, so writing software that does it well is extraordinarily difficult. Waibel is working on robust new software to overcome that weakness. Indeed, he predicts that the goggles will hit the market within five years.


Carnegie Mellon adds clean-tech award to venture competition
GreenBiz | January 11
Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business has added a "Sustainable Technology" award to its 2006 Annual McGinnis Venture Competition thanks to a special grant from the Foundation for a Sustainable Future. The Sustainable Technology contest is open to MBA students worldwide with a business plan that can meet traditional profitability and ROI standards, and also demonstrate a ”dual bottom-line” result -- that is, yield both financial and environmental benefits. Contestants have a chance to win between $15,000 and $100,000 in prize money, an opportunity to raise additional capital, intellectual property services, and business mentoring.


Carnegie Mellon, Pitt create doctoral program
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | January 6
Teaching students to decipher what makes people tick is enough to require the expertise of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The educational powerhouses are starting a joint doctoral program in structural biology and biophysics to increase the pool of scientists who can extract information from the genes of humans and other organisms, officials said Friday. "We'll have greater interaction between faculty members in both universities and, because of that community, we can attract much better students and post-docs than we could as individual entities," said Gordon Rule, professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon.


"Bio-ink" printer transforms stem cells
Discovery News | January 9
For the first time, scientists have found a way to produce bone and muscle from one kind of adult stem cell. The method uses an ink-jet printer to lay down patterns of "bio-ink" that coaxes stem cells to differentiate. In the long run, the technique could not only help scientists better understand how the human body creates different tissues from stem cells, but could also make it easier to produce replacement bone and muscle for people suffering from tissue diseases or trauma. "We would like the printer to customize the therapy for each patient. We could design a pattern based on the defect," said research leader Julie Phillippi, a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The printer, said Phillippi, takes the field of tissue engineering one step closer to working the way the body does.


Carnegie Mellon ranks high in scholars' productivity
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | January 9
Carnegie Mellon University ranks in the top 10 in the country in terms of scholarly productivity. The Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index -- created last year by Academic Analytics LLC -- is based on the number of books and journal articles written by a school's faculty, as well as citations, awards, honors and research grants.


Conference to bring artificial intelligence closer to people
The Hindu | January 8
In an attempt to bring the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) closer to society from the research labs where it has been mostly confined for the last five decades, the 20th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) will begin here on Monday. ... There would be seven special lectures, with Prof. Raj Reddy, Carnegie Mellon University, US, delivering the keynote address.


Can't cheat on that check
Little India | January 2
In what is sure to send shivers down the spine of every college smoocher, three computer science graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University have figured out a way to track shared expenses among friends. Shashank Pandit, Amit Manjhi and Ashwin Bharambe have developed a website Buxfer, acronym for "bucks transfer," to enable a group of people to track who owes what to whom from splitting dinner or movie tabs, or rent or utility bills.