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News Clips - June 1, 2007

From May 25 to May 31, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 338 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.

Special Section: Digitized Books

Special Section: Digitized Books
The Wall Street Journal (AP) | May 30
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered a way to enlist people to help digitize books every time they solve the simple distorted word puzzles commonly used to ensure that a Web-site visitor is a real person and not an automated program.


Web registration digitizes books
CNN (AP) | May 29
A few simple keystrokes may soon turn blather into books. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered a way to enlist people across the globe to help digitize books every time they solve the simple distorted word puzzles commonly used to register at Web sites or buy things online. The word puzzles are known as CAPTCHAs, short for "completely automated public Turing tests to tell computers and humans apart." Computers can't decipher the twisted letters and numbers, ensuring that real people and not automated programs are using the Web sites. ... "Humanity is wasting 150,000 hours every day on these," said Luis von Ahn, an assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon. He helped develop the CAPTCHAs about seven years ago. "Is there any way in which we can use this human time for something good for humanity, do 10 seconds of useful work for humanity?"


New tool screens spam, digitizes books
USA Today ( | May 28
A group of Carnegie Mellon University programmers has launched a new service called ReCaptcha that can help cut down on spam while letting people digitize books. The project is a variation of the widely used "Captcha" technique to weed out computer abuse such as e-mailing spam or posting spam on blog comments. Captchas require users to pass little pattern recognition tests, commonly reading distorted or obscured words. ReCaptcha turns this chore into a productive task by letting users digitize scanned images of words that computers couldn't figure out. "Not only can you solve your problems with spam, you can help preserve mankind's written history into the digital age," said Ben Maurer, the project's chief architect and a Carnegie Mellon University undergraduate, announcing the project on his blog on Wednesday.


Digitised books available online
The Sydney Morning Herald (AP) | May 28
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered a way to enlist people across the globe to help digitize books every time they solve the simple distorted word puzzles commonly used to register at websites or buy things online. The word puzzles are known as CAPTCHAs, short for "completely automated public Turing tests to tell computers and humans apart".


CAPTCHAs enlisted in book-digitizing project
CIO Today | May 27
The grid-computing model has succeeded in creating many large, useful, virtual supercomputers. Now, a Carnegie Mellon prof is attempting to create a "human grid" to eliminate a bottleneck in digitizing printed materials. Instead of capturing, say, video game processing cycles when the console owners are not playing games, assistant professor of computer science and MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" recipient Luis von Ahn wants to capture keystrokes used for CAPTCHAs.


Saving books by saving puzzles
The Chronicle of Higher Education | May 24
A security device developed to protect Web sites is now being used to help preserve the texts of thousand of important books, according to a report on ZDnet. ... Luis von Ahn, the computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who invented the technique along with his colleagues, now thinks that as long as people are turning garbled text into clear type, they might as well help solve a much bigger problem.


A global approach to engineering
The Chronicle of Higher Education | June 1
Before she arrived in Namibia, Tarra Epstein had her trip planned out as precisely as a line plotted on a grid. She and three other engineering students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute had come to the South African country to help set up alternative-energy programs for poor villages, and Ms. Epstein had written up a daily schedule and plan of action for herself and her colleagues. ... Within WPI's global-studies program for engineers, an experience like this is considered a grand success. The point of that program, and of many like it at colleges across the country, is to pull undergraduate engineers out of familiar campus environments and make them engage other cultures — in China, India, Thailand, Germany, Mexico, and other countries. ... Many engineering deans aspire to push their numbers up. Lester A. Gerhardt, dean of engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is setting up partnerships with universities around the world. He would like to send overseas 25 percent of the class of 2010, or almost 200 students. Eventually, he says, all engineering students at RPI will study abroad. ... Others are skeptical that engineering schools will ever send overseas a critical mass of students. "It is impossible, literally, for every engineering student to go abroad for one semester in their career," says Pradeep Khosla, dean of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.


Bush to nominate Zoellick to be World Bank President
Bloomberg | May 29
Robert Zoellick, the former U.S. trade representative and an executive at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., will be nominated by President George W. Bush to replace Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank, a senior administration official said. Zoellick, 53, would serve a five-year term, subject to the approval of the bank's board, which represents 185 countries. Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary, resigned on May 17 amid a furor over a pay raise he arranged for his companion. ... "In Sub-Saharan Africa, corruption is the root cause of poverty," said Adam Lerrick, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University.


Why some people are walking disaster areas
MSNBC (LiveScience) | May 24
People who are walking disaster areas — the types who bounce checks monthly, miss flights and vomit on the boss at the company picnic — are the same people who have poor reasoning skills, new research shows. Reasoning abilities are influenced by intelligence and socioeconomic status, but they may also be skills that can be learned and honed with practice, says a "decision scientist" at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Many people are affected by the way that information is framed, marketed or spun, as in advertisements, thereby exhibiting poor decision-making skills, says Wändi Bruine de Bruin. But people with strong reasoning skills make the same choices no matter how information is presented to them.

Education for Leadership

Robots to the rescue
The Chronicle of Higher Education | June 1
Robots roughly the size and shape of large turtles — if turtles were bright blue, with wheels on either side and a pen-sized hole in the center — scuttle along the floors of a women's liberal-arts college in Pennsylvania and a technology institute in Georgia. ... Enrollment in undergraduate computer-science programs has dipped all over the country, and among women it has almost vanished, dropping 70 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. "Nationally, we're in a crisis," says Tucker Balch, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology's College of Computing. ... Courses built solely around programming languages are often particularly intimidating to women because many have never been exposed to them before, says Merrilea J. Mayo, director of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable at the National Academies. "Boys have," she says. "They play with circuit boards in high school. So when girls start a college computer class, they sense that everyone around them knows more than they do. It's uncomfortable." ... Robots are not the only way to ease that discomfort. Earlier in this decade, Carnegie Mellon University increased women's enrollment in computer science from 7 percent to 40 percent in just a few years. The university did so in part by dropping the prerequisite that students already have programming experience and by starting a mentorship program for women, using upperclassmen.

Arts and Humanities

'Talk to America' focuses on brain imaging
Voice of America | May 30
Don't miss this science-technology update! We will learn from a psychologist at a leading science institution about groundbreaking work with brain imaging, which has resulted in new theories regarding autism. Our guest will be Marcel Just, professor of Psychology at Pennsylvania's Carnegie Mellon University.  Call in or e-mail with your own questions or comments.


Carnegie Mellon psychologist wins for ground-breaking "dependency paradox" study
Pop City Media | May 30
Carnegie Mellon psychologist Brooke Feeney, an associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, captured first place at the inaugural Mind Gym Academic Awards in London for a ground-breaking study on a phenomenon she calls “the dependency paradox,” cultivating a healthy recognition of the need for dependence in relationships.


Leonard lands solid punch of 40s nostalgia
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 27
Because of the forces of political correctness, we have lost an entire vocabulary once used to describe a certain kind of woman, whether tagged as dames, broads or dolls. Drinking hard and talking tough, these women made their own way, took no guff and managed to keep their hearts untarnished. As permanent residents of Noir-ville, these broads provided the raw material for a generation of actresses who flirted with the seamy side of modernity, including Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford and Lauren Bacall, the only woman who could best Bogart and make him like it. ***This article was written by Carnegie Mellon associate professor of English, Sharon Dilworth.


Briefs: Carnegie Mellon awards lecturer, associate professor
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | May 25
John Soluri and Therese Tardio have won the Jefferson Award for Public Service from Carnegie Mellon University. Soluri, an associate professor of history, and Tardio, a lecturer in Spanish, received the award for their service to Building New Hope, a project that supports education and development projects in Central America.

Information Technology

Carnegie Mellon picks new computer science head
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | May 31
Local and global money-making partnerships will be a major focus of Carnegie Mellon University's new computer science department head. The university announced Wednesday that Peter Lee -- a professor and vice provost for research at Carnegie Mellon, who has experience turning research into private spin-offs -- will replace Jeannette Wing on July 1. Wing is leaving to become assistant director of computer science and information science and engineering at the National Science Foundation.


Better face recognition software
Technology Review | May 30
For scientists and engineers involved with face-recognition technology,the recently released results of the Face Recognition Grand Challenge--more fully, the Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) 2006 and the Iris Challenge Evaluation (ICE) 2006--have been a quiet triumph. Sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the match up of face-recognition algorithms showed that machine recognition of human individuals has improved tenfold since 2002 and a hundredfold since 1995. ... Among other advantages, 3-D facial recognition identifies individuals by exploiting distinctive features of a human face's surface--for instance, the curves of the eye sockets, nose, and chin, which are where tissue and bone are most apparent and which don't change over time. ... According to Ralph Gross, a researcher at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, in Pittsburgh, 3-D facial recognition can also recognize subjects at different view angles up to 90 degrees--in other words, faces in profile. "Face recognition has been getting pretty good at full frontal faces and 20 degrees off, but as soon as you go towards profile, there've been problems."


I, Robot
Dallas Morning News | May 31
Beginning May 25, 1977, movie-goers fell in love with a beeping meter-tall robot named R2-D2 when the original Star Wars film (later retitled Episode IV: The New Hope) debuted in theaters. "Artoo", as he was nicknamed, was paired with a more humanoid robot named C-3PO, or "Threepio" for short. The pair became so popular and timeless, that they went on to star in the subsequent five Star Wars episodes. ... So, 30 years after the film's release, are we any closer to this robot-reliant future? In this week's lesson, you will discover how technology is advancing in the field of robotics and get some insight into what considerations to make when designing your own robots for completing certain tasks. ... As imagination and innovation has evolved over the years, robots have become more sophisticated. To get a look at modern robotics, visit the Tech Museum of Innovation's Robotics gallery. Jump into Universal Robots: The History and Workings of Robotics, reading the introduction. Also, watch the video of Robotics researcher Hans Moravec of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute as he discusses the definition of what a robot is. How would you define what a robot is? In what ways do and will computer chips play a vital role in the development of functional robots?


Energy prices put squeeze on Md. households
Baltimore Sun | May 27
The economy and the consumers who fuel it have been astonishingly resilient in the face of higher energy costs. Yet, for all the increases in gasoline and oil prices, they haven't gone up 50 percent at once - as electricity rates will in the Baltimore area on Friday because of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. rate increase approved last week. ... How widespread the strain will be is difficult to say. Economists point out that a smaller portion of the nation's collective income is going toward fuel than in 1981, when gas prices set records adjusted for inflation. At that time, energy equated to 14 percent to 15 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Today, that figure is 6 percent to 7 percent, said Lester B. Lave, an energy expert and economist with Carnegie Mellon University. The proportion of household income that is spent on energy has declined as America has grown wealthier. "Our incomes are higher, and although energy prices are higher, the amount of energy we use is lower, and total expenditures on energy have gone way down," he said.,0,2274313.story?coll=bal-news-nation

Regional Impact

Carnegie Mellon's Project Olympus aims to keep talent in Pittsburgh, increase investment here
Pop City Media | May 30
Project Olympus is at the starting gate, Carnegie Mellon University’s new incubator lab, an initiative aimed at keeping the best and brightest young entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh by creating career opportunities and helping to pave the way for local start-ups. ... “We produce the best tech students on the planet and we are developing the best cutting-edge technology in the world that is going to drive science and technology for the next 20 years,” explains an exuberant Lenore Blum, Carnegie Mellon professor of computer science, the driving force behind the initiative. "In order to benefit, we need to create an environment where it will be very favorable for graduates to stay."


Prize-winning piece of computer puzzle holds promise
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 30
Put on your intellectual seat belt. Steven Rudich will take your brain on a roller-coaster ride, then quiz you later on the details. Hey, he is a renowned mathematician. He thrives on details. Dr. Rudich, the 45-year-old professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, will share the Association for Computing Machinery's 2007 Godel Prize for his work on what many consider the most important unresolved question in theoretical computer science.


WW II memorial now only lacking a home
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 25
With Memorial Day on the horizon, a long-planned World War II memorial for the North Shore is getting an awkward reception from city and riverfront planners. ... The proposed site is in the northeast corner of the riverfront's "Great Lawn," near existing memorials for Vietnam War veterans and police officers. A $3 million statue and parklet for television icon Fred Rogers is planned for a bridge pier at the opposite end of the lawn. ... Some on the commission also were concerned. Board chair Dina Klavon said the memorial seemed "plopped there, instead of integrated" with the lawn. Doug Cooper, an accomplished artist and Carnegie Mellon architectural drawing professor, said the spires looked "Teutonic" -- or German -- which he said would be worrisome for a World War II memorial.


Software helps search for "Red Tide"
Bioscienceworld | May 29
A group effort is being used to develop new software to detect harmful algae in North American waters. Yang Cai, PhD, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab (Pittsburgh, PA), is developing the program in collaboration with NASA’s Earth-Sun System Technology Office, located at the Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (Washington, DC).


Course to train entrepreneurs
Gulf Times | May 27
QATAR Science & Technology Park (QSTP) and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar have unveiled a training course for budding entrepreneurs, the Executive Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme, to boost opportunities for creating technology start-ups in the country. The new course aims to transform Qatar’s deep investment in research and education into business success stories. The nine-month, part-time programme will teach aspiring managers and executives how to build technology-based businesses by acting entrepreneurially, innovating within their existing companies or starting a new enterprise. ... “Our university has deep experience in the theory and practice of creating new enterprises, particularly in the technology sphere,” added Carnegie Mellon in Qatar's chief operating officer Mohamed Dobashi. “Instructors in this new Executive Entrepreneurship Certificate Program have vast experience in creating companies and launching new areas of innovation within existing companies,” said Donald H. Jones Center's director and John R. Thorne Chair of Entrepreneurship, Arthur A. Boni.


Keeping it green
Chemistry World | May 25
Some chemistry enthusiastically labeled as green may be nothing of the kind, warn researchers who worry that mediocre - if well-meaning - science is damaging their subject. Supporting green chemistry sounds like a no-brainer. Who wouldn't want to promote sustainable, cleaner chemical processes and products, less hazardous to humans and the environment, and providing economic benefits to industry? Indeed, since growing pains in the 1990s, when the subject was sometimes dismissed as a 'soft' buzzword, green chemistry has flourished. ... Why aren't chemists already fulfilling such a simple request? ... The greatest problem, says Terry Collins, director of the Institute for green oxidation chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, U.S., is lack of education. 'Chemists, remarkably, are not trained in toxicity and ecotoxicity,' he says, so they don't grasp the importance of these properties. A recent Berlin meeting on ionic liquids, for example, concluded that toxicity information was key to helping chemists design benign solvents; and agreed on the need for a database listing the ions contributing to toxicity.