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News Clips - July 13, 2007

From July 6 to July 12, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 175 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Researchers take Google approach to understanding photos
The New York Times (CNET) | July 11
Carnegie Mellon University researchers are finding that a computer with enough information at its fingertips can act smart even if it doesn't really understand what it's doing. It's an idea that should be familiar to anyone who's used Google, which doesn't understand content but which can often point people seeking particular information in the right direction. But the Carnegie Mellon researchers are applying the concept to the tasks of adding information to or removing it from digital photos. ... "We're trying to match the properties of the input photo with all the objects of our collection," said Alexei A. Efros, an assistant professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon. But the researchers are doing so without the computer actually having to understand the photo's content, geometry, or other aspects.


A Hacker's Nasdaq
Forbes | July 9
In the summer of 2005, Charlie Miller was working in his living room when he discovered a hackable vulnerability in a common species of server software. Miller knew he had found something dangerous. But until he offered his prize to a government agency five months later, he had no idea just how much it was worth. "I asked for $80,000," he says. "When the guy on the phone agreed immediately without consulting his boss, I knew I should have asked for much more." In fact, the unnamed agency eventually bargained the price for the information, an exploitable bug in the Linux server program Samba, down to $50,000. And what did the agency do with its newly purchased security hole? Miller received his check and didn't ask questions. "They didn't buy it in order to patch it," Miller says. "I can speculate that it wasn't exactly used for the common good." Miller's experience, described in a paper he presented to the Workshop on the Economics of Information Security at Carnegie Mellon last June, highlights a growing problem in computer security.


Scientists to play soccer with nano robots
MSNBC | July 6
Soccer fans will need a microscope to keep up with this game: Tiny robots will dribble a “soccer ball” no wider than a human hair on a field that can fit on a grain of rice. This weekend, as part of the 2007 RoboCup in Atlanta, Georgia, a new fleet of bots will debut in the Nanogram Demonstration competition. The nanoscale soccer games are being organized jointly by RoboCup and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Five teams are entered in the nano-competition: two teams from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and one each from the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Simon Fraser University in Canada.

Education for Leadership

Search behemoth brews up content aggregator for social networks
Red Herring | July 9
Google funded a group of graduate students to develop a prototype of a next-generation social network that could boost its position in the sector beyond its also-ran Orkut service. The “Socialstream” prototype, developed over eight months by six students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction Institute last year, is billed as a “unified social network.” The aggregator service would interact with and draw from existing social networks. Socialstream was not a Google-designed project. Rather, Google sponsored a master's project focusing on social networking to see if outside ideas could add to what the company is already doing, said Bonnie John, professor and director of the the HCI master's program. "Google said, 'Reinvent social networking.' That was their charge," Ms. John said. "The project was very open."’s+Next+Social+Play&sector=Industries&subsector=InternetAndServices


Consensus: Podcasting has no 'inherent' pedagogic value
Campus Technology | July 9
A bevy of recent studies on students' experience listening to recorded lectures via podcasts confirms what many lecturers already know: that the pedagogical value of  podcasts depends almost entirely on student motivation and the learning "context" of the application. In a comprehensive survey of the latest academic studies on the impact of podcasting on learning and teaching, Ashley Deal, a researcher in the  Office of Technology for Education & the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University, found that podcasting follows the pattern of many campus technology innovations. "As with any educational technology, whether and how podcasting impacts the quality of the learning experience and/or educational outcomes depends largely upon how the technology is put to use," Deal wrote.

Arts and Humanities

Composer blends real, imagined folk songs
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 12
There's nothing like a great tune, but composers achieve distinction as much for how they use their materials as they do for their starting point. Reza Vali combines two musical worlds in his own creations -- the folk songs of his native Iran and Western compositional techniques he learned in Iran and refined in Vienna and Pittsburgh. The world premiere of Vali's "The Being of Love" featuring mezzo-soprano Michelle de Young, conductor Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony is an inspired example of his style and was one of the highlights of the orchestra's 2005-06 season. This weekend, concerts by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble will feature Vali's Folk Song Set No. 9 on an ambitious program with pieces by Steve Mackey, Judah Adashi, Orianna Webb, David Smooke, Stefan Freund, Jeffrey Nytch and Jennifer Higdon. When Vali left Iran in 1971 to study at the Academy of Music in Vienna, he brought a recorded collection of folk music with him, mostly on cassettes. Subsequent visits to Iran in 1993 and 1999 expanded his collection. He teaches composition at Carnegie Mellon University.


Book news: Poets, writers fill local bill before 'Harry'
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 10
While many readers worry about "life after Harry" next week, there's lots of literary life percolating in this part of the world right now. Here's what's happening this week: Three well-known locally based poets head the bill Thursday for the traditional summer of verse on East Carson Street. The poets are Rina Ferrarelli, Timons Esaisas and Jim Daniels. The South Side Local Development Co. and the Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange are the co-presenters of the event, something that's been held in a variety of rooms and formats for more than a decade. A poet in her own right, Ferrarelli is also an award-winning translator and a contributor to the Post-Gazette Saturday Poetry column. She's a Duquesne University graduate and Mt. Lebanon resident. Esaias' poetry has been published in baseball and science-fiction reviews, and he's placed fiction pieces in a variety of publications. He lives in Pittsburgh. Daniels lives in Oakland, where he teaches writing at Carnegie Mellon University. He's the author of 10 poetry collections; his 11th, "In Line for the Exterminator," will appear in the fall. He's also written extensively in fiction and drama.


Appreciation: Beverly Sills, my hero, my friend
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 8
From the moment I saw Beverly Sills in Handel's "Julius Caesar" at the Los Angeles Music Center in late '60s, she was my hero. Everything about her sparkled. From her facile, perfect coloratura to her engaging stage persona, I was hooked. Six years later, I was singing that same opera with her in New York. It was a dream come true! I debuted with Beverly in 1970 at New York City Opera in Donizetti's "Roberto Devereux" and sang opposite her for the next 10 years. She was amazingly kind to me as a young artist and even instructed me in case I might miss the "high points" of my career. At the opening performance of Donizetti's "Anna Bolena," she and I went out for our duet bow and pandemonium broke out, with confetti raining down from the rafters like snow. She turned to me and said, "Always remember this, Susie, it doesn't get any better." ***This article was written by Carnegie Mellon artist lecturer, Susanne Marsee.

Information Technology

Carnegie Mellon hosts Gulf meeting to seed Arabic language tech
Campus Technology | July 9
Information technology researchers and executives from around the Middle East convened in Qatar recently to participate in an "Arabic Search Engine Workshop" hosted by Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. The meeting had mostly a business focus: to identify ways the small but wealthy kingdom of Qatar could become a research and commercial hub for Arabic language technologies, according to a report in Gulf Times. "The workshop investigated the possibility of creating an Arabic Language Technologies Centre in Qatar and, more specifically, developing a high-quality Arabic Web search engine," said Jaime Carbonell, a Carnegie Mellon professor of computer science and director of its  Language Technologies Institute.


New computer science facility to stand out on Carnegie Mellon campus
Pittsburgh Business Times | July 6
With unaligned windows, a large ramp in its center and plants on the roof, the new School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University won't look anything like other buildings on campus. With sustainable design the new buzz word on university campuses, developers of the SCS complex are taking a modern approach to the design of the $88 million, 210,000-square-foot building. Although the architecture will still have ties back to the traditional style of Henry Hornbostel, including brick around windows and tile work indoors, it also is a distinct departure from the central campus buildings. "The school of thought on campus is we've gone down the road of replicating the original Hornbostel style with the brick," said Ralph Horgan, associate vice provost of campus design and facility development at Carnegie Mellon. "This site did not lend itself to that. It would have been the third knock-off of the original Hornbostel style. At some point, we have to say, 'It's the 21st century.'"


Carnegie Mellon grads want to use blighted industrial, residential sites to produce bio-fuel crops
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 10
Occupying desk space where mounds of paperwork might otherwise have been were instead mounds of dirt of varying tints and textures. It's the first clue that the GTECH Strategies teammates are up to something unusual in their austere Oakland office -- they want to turn Pittsburgh's brownfields green, and they want the harvested greenery to power our vehicles. GTECH -- Growth Through Energy and Community Health -- is a pilot-stage Carnegie Mellon University spin-off conceived by three recent graduates of the H. John Heinz School of Public Policy. The principals -- Andrew Butcher, Matthew Ciccone and Chris Koch -- are joined by principal and consultant Nathaniel Doyno, head of Steel City Biofuels, which brokers deals between makers and users of biofuels.


Team races against the clock
Pittsburgh Business Times | July 6
When blood cells run across something in the human body they don't recognize, such as plastic or metal, they panic. They cling together in defense, forming what can be fatal clots. Overcoming the blood cells' formidable defense response continues causing headaches for some of the country's smartest people, as they frantically struggle to design a pediatric artificial heart before research funds -- and more children's lives -- run out. "We could build a windshield wiper pump in two weeks, but there's no book on blood-pump design," says Carnegie Mellon University bioengineer and inventor James Antaki, "We're writing the book."

Regional Impact

Corridors of Opportunity: Oakland
Pittsburgh Business Times | July 10
f you want to see one of Pittsburgh's most exciting growth corridors, all it takes is a drive through Oakland. From university and medical projects to student housing, Oakland is bustling with activity. Join us on September 12th for another exciting installment of Corridors of Opportunity. This program, now in its fourth year, features networking, lunch, a panel that will discuss the exciting opportunities in the corridor and a question and answer session. Space for this event is limited, so make your reservations early. Nearly all of these programs have sold out! The panel will include: Georgia S. Petropoulos, executive director, Oakland Business Improvement District; Ralph R. Horgan, associate vice provost, Campus Design & Facility Development, Carnegie Mellon University; Eli Shorak, associate vice chancellor for business, University of Pittsburgh; Bill Hunt, CEO, Elmhurst and will be moderated by Alan Robertson, publisher, Pittsburgh Business Times.


What's your sign? It'd better follow regulation
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 12
Who thought that a garage sale could increase clutter? In the North Hills, borough council members do. Across the region, municipalities are enforcing ordinances that restrict the size and placement of all sorts of signs. Homes for sale, business advertisements and even pleas for the return of lost pets are subject to community regulations. In most communities, the regulations have been around for 20 to 40 years, but are updated periodically, as technology and aesthetic planning call for it. "These are trade-offs for the residents," said Bob Strauss, professor of economics and public policy at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. "Residents want their privacy, unencumbered by intrusions."


As Sprint move shows, some customers aren't worth the hassle
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 11
Sometimes customers are more bother than they're worth. The latest example of a company coming to that conclusion is wireless provider Sprint Nextel Corp.'s decision to hang up on subscribers that it claims kept calling -- and calling and calling -- its customer service line long after representatives resolved their problems. In this networked generation, it didn't take long for spurned consumers to post complaints and copies of their rejection letters on the Internet, leaving Sprint to face the quips and criticisms of the chat boards. "It sounds bad," said Peter Boatwright, associate professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon University. And, without knowing the specifics of each case, there's no way of knowing whether everyone on the termination list deserved to be there. But, in the big picture, there is a case to be made for winnowing out customers who run up a company's costs with excessive demands and abuse of the system. "In some ways, it's better for all the rest of us for the costly people to be shunned," he said.


Carnegie Mellon appoints VP of research
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 10
Carnegie Mellon University has appointed Rick McCullough, dean of the Mellon College of Science, as vice president of research, effective Sept. 1. In his new post, McCullough, 48, of O'Hara, will promote interdisciplinary research; oversee sponsored research, technology commercialization and cross-college research centers; and try to get research money from foundations and corporations. "One of the things we want to do in sponsored research is to continue to grow interdisciplinary research and initiatives across colleges," he said. "We're particularly good at that." A chemistry professor, McCullough came to Carnegie Mellon in 1990. He served as head of the chemistry department before becoming dean six years ago.


Indian business people want action on H-1B visas
Computerworld Malaysia | July 9
Alumni of a major Indian university want the U.S. Congress to take separate action to pass H-1B visa legislation that went down with the immigration reform bill that failed in Congress last week. Members of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni association, meeting for a three-day conference in Santa Clara, California, said Friday that they are hoping to get a separate vote on an immigration bill provision that would increase the number of visas granted to highly skilled engineers coming from abroad to work at U.S. technology companies. ... Today, about half of the graduates of U.S. engineering schools are non-Americans, many of whom have to return to their home countries to find work when they should be allowed to work here and contribute to U.S. economic growth, said Pradeep Khosla, dean of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. "The day this country limits the free flow of skilled immigrants coming into this country, that's the day we start going downhill," said Khosla.


World Bank loans to India climb 170%
Financial Times | July 5
The World Bank approved a record $3.8bn in lending to India, including $2.3bn in concessional loans, in the financial year to June 30, figures to be released later this month will show. The 170 per cent increase in funding came as the bank and the Indian authorities patched up their differences following a dispute triggered by former president Paul Wolfowitz’s decision to suspend funding for a health programme on corruption grounds. That decision so enraged Palaniappan Chidambaram, finance minister, that he considered cutting ties with the bank, Indian officials say. However, the health programme is now on track following a long investigation by the bank’s internal anti-corruption watchdog. ... Yet not everyone is happy with the ramping up of bank operations, with local NGOs remaining suspicious. “Many of us feel it is clearly promoting a neo-liberal agenda both politically and economically,” says Amitabh Behar, director of the National Centre for Advocacy Studies in Pune. Some economists, meanwhile, question the bank’s role in providing finance to a country that has access to global capital markets. “India has, like China, a huge capital influx and is accumulating foreign exchange reserves so it really doesn’t need any World Bank assistance,” says Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon University.