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News Clips - July 27, 2007

From July 20 to July 26, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 228 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Robots with a goal
The Chronicle of Higher Education | July 27
In RoboCup 2007, an international robotics competition held this year at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Bowdoin College avenged its 2006 loss to its Australian rivals, becoming the 2007 world champion of RoboCup Soccer's four-legged competition. By a score of 5 to 1, Bowdoin's Northern Bites defeated the NUbots of the University of Newcastle. The four-legged robots played on a 3-by-5-meter field, about 161 square feet, and used wireless networking to communicate with each other and the referee. In the small-size-robot league, Carnegie Mellon University's CMDragons'07 won in technical and shooting challenges, outperforming teams from Thailand and Japan.


In a poker match against a machine, humans are better bluffers
The New York Times | July 26
For anyone stuck on a casino stool, playing hours of video poker, rest assured: humans can still beat a computer. But computers may soon dominate on the felt-top table, as they have on the chessboard. In a match of wits between man and machine this week, a software program running on an ordinary laptop computer fought a close match, but lost to two well-known professional human poker players. ... Research interest has shifted to games like poker in recent years, in part because chess is no longer of keen interest and in part because rapid progress is being made in developing new algorithms with broad practical applications in areas such as negotiation and commerce, said Tuomas Sandholm, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist.


Toyota puts plug-in Priuses to public test
USA Today | July 26
Toyota (TM) is launching the first public tests of its plug-in hybrid cars, joining Detroit's automakers in developing the technology. The electric motors in plug-ins can be recharged from standard home outlets. Toyota's first U.S. effort will be modest: two converted Prius hybrids that will be tested at the University of California campuses in Irvine and Berkeley. They will run only about 7 miles on an overnight electrical charge before the gasoline engine kicks in. ... "Plug-in hybrids are the most promising technology we have" for saving fuel and cutting pollution, says Lester Lave, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University. But it's yet to be seen how soon plug-ins are ready for market.


Senators to abandon '08 e-voting paper trail mandate
The New York Times | July 25
Democratic senators on Wednesday made another push for banning electronic voting machines that lack paper trails, but they've backed away from doing so in time for next year's presidential election. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chief sponsor of a contentious bill called the Ballot Integrity Act that proposes such changes, said she fears requiring all states to employ so-called voter-verified paper records in their systems, with some primaries only six months away, "could be an invitation to chaos." Earlier this year, she called for enacting such changes by 2008. ... Michael Shamos, a longtime Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who currently examines voting systems in Pennsylvania, urged the politicians to reject the assumption that paper records are more secure than electronic ones. For one thing, one in five direct recording electronic machines outfitted with printers fails on election day--about double the rate of glitches with paperless machines, he said.


Emotion-Sensing Furniture Changes Hues
Discovery News | July 24
Ancient Japanese people believed that gods lived in all things, whether animate or inanimate. Talking to a wall was not an idle act, but actually a kind of soul-searching. And usually, the wall talked back. Now a table and a set of chairs embodies that philosophy. Called Fuwapica, which loosely translated means "soft and flashy," the furniture senses people's presence and gradually changes colors accordingly. ... "It's a wonderful demonstration of integrating high-tech into lifestyle experiences," said Jonathan Cagan, professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and co-author of "The Design of Things to Come." "It focuses on the pleasure that people receive from the interaction, not on the technology."


Wireless spectrum for safety hits roadblocks
The Washington Post | July 23
Morgan O'Brien has made his career out of slicing up chunks of airwaves and stitching them back together. In the 1980s and 1990s, the District lawyer wove a national wireless network called Nextel by combining radio frequencies reserved for truckers and taxi drivers. He then swapped those airwaves for more desirable ones before selling the company to Sprint for $35 billion in 2005. His latest endeavor as an airwaves broker, however, has run into daunting obstacles from Congress, federal regulators and deep-pocketed competitors. ... After his initial rejection of O'Brien's plan, FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin proposed pairing a portion of the airwaves soon to be auctioned with half of those already set aside for public safety. The highest commercial bidder would help pay for the national emergency communications network and, in return, be allowed to use excess capacity to sell broadband services to consumers. ... After the auction, O'Brien wants the public safety community to hire Cyren Call to negotiate the build-out agreement with the company that buys the spectrum. That arrangement would allow O'Brien to collect sizeable fees without having to invest a corresponding amount of his money toward building the network, said Jon Peha, associate director of the Center for Wireless and Broadband Networking at Carnegie Mellon University. "There's not a huge financial risk for him in this, but it could potentially make him a lot of money," he said.


School conducts anti-phishing research
MSNBC (AP) | July 22
The e-mail appeared to be a routine correspondence between two friends. "Check this out!" it read, then listed a Web address. But the note was fake, part of an online ruse called phishing that has become a scammer's favorite way to get sensitive information from unsuspecting computer users. The catch? The scammers were Indiana University researchers, the e-mail an experiment. "I didn't know I was being used," said Kevin McGrath, 25, a doctoral student at Indiana University whose e-mail address was one of hundreds used as "passive participants" for an experiment to study who gets duped by phishing. As universities nationwide study ways to protect online security, methods at Indiana are raising ethical and logistical questions for researchers elsewhere: Does one have to steal to understand stealing? Should study participants know they are being attacked as part of a study? Can controlled phishing ever mimic real life? ... But Lorrie Cranor, who directs an anti-phishing group at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, said controlled laboratory studies can be just as useful. The school has developed an online tool accessible only from its labs called "Anti-Phishing Phil" to lead participants through scenarios based on actual phishing attempts. The experiment hopes to determine which methods work the best at deceiving users. Cranor's research has found that successful phishing attempts rely on human vulnerabilities such as greed, curiosity, ignorance and fear. "When you talk to someone, you look in their eyes and say, "Does this look like they're telling the truth?' And we get pretty good at making these judgments," she said. "But most of are not very good at making these judgments online." Conditioning users to recognize those weaknesses before it's too late is the safest way to combat phishing, she said.


Let 'em fail
The Wall Street Journal | July 21
Congress is about to propose new regulations for hedge funds. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the same bad idea, meanwhile the British Financial Service Authority, currently worrying about excessive debt issued to finance acquisitions by private-equity firms, may be next in line. But whatever the perceived problem, more regulation is not the answer. It is far better to change some incentives for excessive risk-taking. The old saying is true: Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. The answer to excessive risk-taking is "let 'em fail." ***This article was written by Carnegie Mellon professor of political economy, Allan Meltzer.


Why small tech companies aren't outsourcing
BusinessWeek | July 20
A common misconception is that today's outsourcing trend was driven by the tech industry. Even The Wall Street Journal ran a recent front-page article saying that Silicon Valley had helped power India's outsourcing boom by shifting sophisticated technology jobs there. While the industry does indeed outsource, it has had a minimal impact on the trend as a whole, according to new research. The leading outsourcers have actually been large corporations such as General Electric (GE), Citibank (C), and American Express (AXP). Many of them sent abroad their IT systems, which are different from the innovative software products that tech companies develop. In fact, few tech companies outsource core product development, because it just isn't practical to send this type of innovation offshore. Most are small or midsize businesses and can't achieve the economies of scale that larger businesses stand to gain from outsourcing. The tech industry has never made up more than 15% of the outsourcing market, says Carnegie Mellon University professor Ashish Arora, who has researched outsourcing extensively.

Education for Leadership

Go for a walk?
Machine Design | July 26
At the Robotics Institute on the campus of Carnegie Mellon, grad student Jonathan Hurst is following the age-old engineering principle, "Keep it simple," as he explores two-legged motion systems. His initial prototype, for example, is so simple it only has a single leg and is constrained to two dimensions: up and down, and forward and back. But he is confident his prototype will let him determine the role compliance or muscle and tendon springiness (the opposite of stiffness) play in establishing walking and running gaits. Eventually, he would like to see his work applied to two-legged walking robots. But that day may still be a long way off, he says.


Stage preview: CLO ensemble shares spotlight
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 22
Male and female; actor, dancer and singer; young and younger -- the Pittsburgh CLO ensemble, as we rediscover each summer, is one of the delights of the theatrical year. Today we talk with a talented trio: Patrick Cummings, back for his third season; Katie Terza, her second; and Kaitlyn Davidson, in her first. ... Ensemble members tend to cluster in their early to mid-20s, sometimes ascending into their 30s or dipping into their teens. And they come from all over, especially from Point Park University and Carnegie Mellon University, Cincinnati College of Music and the University of Michigan. ... Favored with a small role in "Oklahoma!" (sheriff Cord Elam), Patrick stuck out because his face was already familiar from starring last fall at Carnegie Mellon in "The House of Blue Leaves," playing Artie, a New Yorker with dreams of escape into show biz. ... He's been in the CLO ensemble all through Carnegie Mellon, except for the summer he spent at the West Virginia Public Theater.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Arts and Humanities

Josh Groban: Flash back to the superstar's time at Carnegie Mellon
Whirl Magazine | August 2007
The stage is vast and taunting with it's echo. The wood gives away, soft, under each step. The walls wait a second and then cough their reminder back. This is it. The Philip Chosky Theatre in the Purnell Center at Carnegie Mellon University. ***This article will be available in the August issue of Whirl Magazine, which is not yet online.


Data Truck takes researchers on the road
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 25
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University can now go to potential test subjects instead of having them come to Carnegie Mellon. The Data Truck, a mobile social science lab equipped with eight computer stations and a waiting area, allows the university's Center for Behavioral Decision Research to track how different situations affect peoples' decision making. George Loewenstein, a Carnegie Mellon professor and committee member of the Center for Behavioral Decision Research, thought up the traveling lab after 9/11. "We used to ask people in the airport," he said. "After 9/11, you couldn't get past the gate, so we had to go elsewhere for nonstudent subjects." In operation for about a month, the truck has conducted tests at assisted living facilities, movie theaters, and, last week, Cinema in the Park, a free movie on Flagstaff Hill in Oakland's Schenley Park.


Pittsburgh Cultural Trust money woes in spotlight
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 24
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust expects revenue from ticket sales to decrease by $5.3 million this year because of fewer attractions and underperforming shows. "This year, for the first time in its history, the trust has been forced to make significant cuts in its programming and operations budgets," wrote J. Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the trust, in its 2008 application to the Allegheny Regional Asset District. ... Arts group experts said the trust's situation is similar to that of presenting groups in other cities. Dan Martin, director of the Institute for the Management of Creative Enterprises at Carnegie Mellon University, cited The Kentucky Center in Louisville. "There's been a lot of talk around the country about some of these presenters who, in an attempt to balance the budget, are scaling back the availability of space to local community arts groups," he said. "The challenge from a presenter and landlord's point of view is, 'What can I do to complement that programming without competing with it?'" The trust is committed to earmarking more than 60 percent of the Benedum's calendar for resident companies.


Event renews dialogue about design and business strategies
Tampa Bay Business Journal | July 23
The 2007 Summit theme is "Designing for Life" and will showcase thinkers and practitioners who are using the power of design to solve lifestyle issues and global challenges, said Larry Thompson, president of the Ringling College of Art and Design, in a release. The focus also will be on the development of new products, services and business models that will shape the way we live, work and play, Thompson said. ... Speakers confirmed to date include Constance Adams, space architect for NASA's International Space Station; Homaro Cantu, chef, chairman and founder of Cantu Designs in Chicago; Shelley Evenson, director of graduate studies for the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh; Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Research & Development Corp. in Manchester, N.H.; Fred Kent, founder and president of the Project for Public Spaces in New York; Tim Sarnoff, president of Sony Picture Imageworks; and Tom Wujec, founder and principal consultant of Autodesk.

Information Technology

Universities work to keep perspective in partnerships
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 23
When Andy Carlson decided to pursue a doctorate in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, he didn't expect a Silicon Valley giant to be part of the curriculum. During his first year, though, the news broke: Google was setting up shop with Apple, Microsoft, Intel and others in the Collaborative Innovation Center, a 136,000-square-foot research facility on the school's Oakland campus. "I was very happy when the announcement was made," said Carlson, 28, of Greenfield, a summer intern at Google's Pittsburgh office. "It's a great place to see some of the research topics I'm working on applied to real-life problems." ... Collaborations are "generating hundreds of high-tech jobs," said Peter Lee, who heads Carnegie Mellon's computer science department. "It puts us on the map in the governor's eyes and in the state's eyes as contributing to regional economic development." That, in turn, generates even more funding. Since 2000, the state Department of Community and Economic Development has awarded Carnegie Mellon more than $4 million in one type of venture capital grant alone. The state awarded it at least $9 million in redevelopment assistance.


City's surveillance system to get $3.4M upgrade
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 22
Three surveillance cameras atop the U.S. Steel Tower capture figures strolling across One Mellon Center and cars creeping along Grant Street, but faces aren't clear and license plates are unreadable. Pittsburgh's version of Big Brother has poor vision, but he's about to go 20/20. A $3.4 million police and emergency services surveillance upgrade could begin in October. It would add 83 cameras capable of streaming live video to -- and being controlled by -- any networked city computer, including those in police cruisers equipped with laptops. The 911 dispatchers in the Allegheny County Emergency Operations Center can view about 150 surveillance cameras now -- most of them PennDOT traffic cams -- but can pan, tilt and zoom only the three atop the 64-floor Steel Tower. ... Another concern is the risk of profiling groups of people that police suspect are more likely to commit crimes, said Ralph Gross, a Carnegie Mellon University software engineering doctoral student who works with Carnegie Mellon's Data Privacy Lab. The lab is directed by Latanya Sweeney, a computer science and public policy professor.


Plastic transistors for flexible displays
Technology Review | July 9
Transistors made of organic polymers can be used to make flexible displays using simple printing techniques. But one of the best-performing types of conductive polymer has been difficult to use in flexible displays because it is brittle and difficult to print. Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have demonstrated that this material can be combined with another common polymer currently used to make Plexiglas and sunglasses. The technique makes it more resilient and easier to manufacture and use in devices, without sacrificing its electronic properties. ... To do this, Richard McCullough, a professor of chemistry, and Geneviève Sauvé, a postdoctoral associate, selected polymer subunits whose chemical and physical properties ensure that they combine in certain ways. They also pretreated the surface the polymers were applied to. As a result, the materials form a well-ordered structure that has an improved interface with the substrate (compared to the polymers on an untreated surface).


Education for a sustainable future
Science | July 20
Sustainability is a lens through which increasing numbers of individual colleges and universities, as well as national organizations, are collectively examining and acting upon our shared world systems (1, 2). In the United States, a national trend has begun, but much more needs to be done. Sustainability is being integrated into U.S. institutions' mission and planning, curricula, research, student life, operations and purchasing, and community partnerships. ... Sustainability-oriented residential living practices are in place at Bowdoin, Carnegie Mellon, Dartmouth, Harvard, Tufts, University of Vermont, and Yale. Rutgers and the National Association for Educational Procurement have focused on developing resources for the purchasing side of sustainability.

Regional Impact

Talking with ... William Thomasmeyer
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 22
When William Thomasmeyer moved to Pittsburgh in 1998 to run MCS, a Mestek subsidiary, he was struck by similarities between the role the U.S. Department of Defense had played in the early days of the semiconductor industry and the role it was playing in Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. He said he had a sense "that maybe the technology was evolving to the point it was now feasible to think about commercializing some of it. "We thought the best way to get some momentum would be to pursue federal funding and use that to help some local companies advance their technology," he said. "Our initial federal funding was $1.5 million in 2002." U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, was the initial sponsor.


National safety communications network touted
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 24
A Carnegie Mellon University professor yesterday urged the federal government to use an upcoming opening of broadcasting space to develop a national safety communications network. In 2009, all television broadcasters will shift to digital signals, a change that the federal government is requiring to release frequencies for public safety agencies. Jon M. Peha, a professor of electrical engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon, says the shift is "potentially revolutionary." "You can develop something entirely new," he said yesterday during a panel discussion on Capitol Hill. "And we're all very much hoping the policy makers get this right, because it's a once-in-a-generation opportunity."


Westinghouse nuclear power program gets boost
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | July 24
Westinghouse Electric Co. said Monday it acquired for an undisclosed price a South African company known for its work developing an alternative nuclear power technology that proponents say is extremely safe. Once Westinghouse's purchase of IST Nuclear is approved by the South Africa Competition Commission, which is expected next month, the company will become Westinghouse Electric South Africa (Pty) Ltd. All 118 IST Nuclear employees will be retained. ... "I think this is a very forward-looking step for Westinghouse, it shows it's definitely looking to be a player in the future," said Jay Apt, executive director of Carnegie Mellon University's Electricity Industry Center. Apt said the pebble bed technology has the potential to deal with one of the great problems associated with nuclear power: proliferation.


Series employs local actors in prominent roles
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 22
Hundreds of Pittsburghers played extras in "The Kill Point," and dozens worked on the series behind the scenes, but three actors with local ties also landed prominent roles in the production. ... Kate Rogal, the granddaughter of Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille, and Brandi Engel, a 2004 graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School, play two friends accompanying a Pittsburgh real estate magnate's daughter (Christine Evangelista) when the bank is robbed. Rogal, who graduated from the acting program at Carnegie Mellon University last year and now lives in New York, said "Kill Point" is her first major role, although she did play Paulie's hooker on a recent episode of "The Sopranos." She was thrilled to land an acting gig in Pittsburgh. "I never really saw myself in L.A. I'm used to gray skies and dark rivers, not blue skies and fresh ocean, and I prefer the [former]," she said. "I'd go out there for work obviously, but I'm so glad I can get work in Pittsburgh."


Telstra announces $1.35m Carnegie Mellon scholarship package
Computerworld Australia | July 25
Telstra today announced a scholarship package totaling $1.35 million, creating 15 new scholarships over the next five years. The scholarship package includes financial help to study at Carnegie Mellon University Australia in 2008. The Telstra Media Communications and Technology Scholarship Program will support post-graduate students in completing a Master of Science in Information Technology at Carnegie Mellon's Heinz School of Public Policy and Management campus in Adelaide with each scholarship valued at $90,000. ... Executive director of Carnegie Mellon Heinz School, Tim Zak, welcomed the opportunity to work with Telstra. "Telstra is a leader in the field of technology and the opportunity to work with them in fostering innovation in the telecommunications industry is an excellent opportunity for Carnegie Mellon," he said.;544304483;fp;2;fpid;1


Japan: Robots and society
Equilibri | July 25
The robotics market in Japan currently totals around 7 billion dollars. The development of the domestic and social sector is creating the foundations for considerable growth in the coming years. Growth is expected to reach 30 billion dollars by 2010 and around 80 in 2025, thanks to partnership opportunities with American companies. Demand for robots for industrial use has been particularly strong since 1980. In 2003, 99% of robots produced in Japan were used for manufacturing purposes. Yet, the conditions for future growth rely on the creation of robots for personal use and at private consumers' disposal. ... Cooperation between the United States and Japan is rather strong if considered the sector for research and development (R&D) in various hardware and software components necessary for enhancing cars. For instance, a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are developing a product linked to voice recognition, together with the Japanese company “Advanced Media”. Moreover, studies realized in the United States on artificial intelligence show great interest in Japanese mechanics for robot development.