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News Clips - June 15, 2007

From June 8 to June 14, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 211 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.

Special Section: Online Shoppers and Privacy

Online shoppers don't mind paying more to protect privacy
DailyIndia (ANI) | June 7
A new study carried out by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University has shown that people are willing to pay extra to buy items from online retailers when they can easily ascertain how retailers' policies will protect their privacy. ... Lead researcher Lorrie Cranor, Director of the Carnegie Mellon Usable Privacy and Security (CUPS) Lab, says that people were more likely to buy from online merchants with good privacy policies, which were identified by Privacy Finder. They were also willing to pay about 60 cents extra on a purchase worth 15 dollars when buying from a site with a privacy policy they liked, the researcher adds.


Study: Shoppers will pay for privacy
ZDNet News | June 7
Carnegie Mellon University researchers believe consumers will pay more per item online to protect their private information, according to a paper (PDF) being presented Thursday at the 2007 Workshop on the Economics of Information Security. The Carnegie Mellon Usable Privacy and Security Lab (CUPS) monitored the habits of people ranging in age from 18 to 71 who were given money and instructed to buy certain items online while using the search engine ... "There have been so many other studies saying that people do not care about privacy," said CUPS director Lorrie Cranor. They've said that people are willing to give up privacy for lower prices, she added. "We confirmed our hypothesis that people do, in fact, care about privacy and will pay for it," she said.


Online shoppers pay to protect privacy
UPI | June 7
A U.S. study shows shoppers will pay extra to buy items from online retailers when they can ascertain how retailers' policies protect their privacy. Lorrie Cranor and colleagues at the Carnegie Mellon University's Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory used a Carnegie Mellon shopping search engine called Privacy Finder for their study. The search engine automatically evaluates a Web site's privacy policies and displays the results on the search results page. ... The study that included Assistant Professor Alessandro Acquisti and graduate students Janice Tsai and Serge Egelman is said to be the first to suggest people are willing pay a premium to protect their privacy when shopping online.


FBI: "Botherders" hijacked millions of pcs
CBS News | June 13
The FBI and the Department of Justice have charged several alleged cyber criminals responsible for gaining control of over one million personal computers and using them for identity theft and mass distribution of spyware, officials announced Wednesday. ... The FBI is working with computer industry partners, including the Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Emergency Response Team, to notify botnet victims, but officials stress that they will not be able to contact everyone whose computer was affected.


A dog or a cat? New tests to fool automated spammers
The New York Times | June 11
On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a human — until you fill out a captcha. Captchas are the puzzles on many Web sites that present a string of distorted letters and numbers. These are supposed to be easy for people to read and retype, but hard for computer software to figure out. ... “You can make a captcha absolutely undefeatable by computers, but at some point, you are turning this from a human reading test into an intelligence test and an acuity test,” said Michael Barrett, the chief information security officer at PayPal, a division of eBay. “We are clearly at the point where captchas have hit diminishing returns.” If that is true, at least captchas had a good run. Though several researchers devised similar tests early in the decade, credit for inventing the technology usually goes to Carnegie Mellon University, which was asked by Yahoo in 2000 to create a method to prevent rogue programs from invading its chat rooms and e-mail service.


Switch to switch grass for gas?
Switch grass once fed vast buffalo herds on the Great Plains. Soon it may be used to feed your car. Strong demand for corn to produce ethanol has pushed up corn prices, creating demand for cheaper alternatives. Switch grass is one such alternative, says USDA scientist Marty R. Schmer. Among the advantages switch grass has over corn are "reduced use of fertilizers and pesticides, less soil erosion, greater biodiversity, and the ability to produce greater amounts of ethanol per acre and more ethanol overall," says Michael Griffin, executive director of the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Education for Leadership

Arise injects new life into an abandoned North Braddock church
Pittsburgh City Paper | June 14
The project called Arise is the brainchild of Elizabeth Monoian of The Society for Cultural Exchange and New York City-based project leader Clarinda Mac Low. Mac Low, a self-described "conceptual performance artist" who makes "situations," intends Arise to demonstrate the possibilities of simply using the materials at hand. "It's an act of secular salvation," says Mac Low. "You are saved through the renewal of the space." Installation artist Brenda Battad, a student in art and electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, is transforming one room using paper that was left behind. "I'm making new things out of old things," says Batta. "And eventually I'm going to interact with it." Claire Hoch, another Carnegie Mellon artist, is using the plant called the tree of heaven to evoke both the community's decline and the possibility for regrowth. Trees of heaven were planted along the sidewalks of Braddock Avenue, the community's nearby main drag, says Hoch. Now they grow in area vacant lots. Hoch is relocating these short, shrub-like trees to planters in an upstairs Sunday-school classroom at the church.


Highlights from this year's commencement speeches
Sports Illustrated | June 12
"Why anybody would accept themselves as nerds bothers me. I think it has to do with something like you don't know how to mingle. You don't know how to get along with other people. Or dance. Or just stand in a room and look human ... You can't be proud and you can't carry it out unless you are sure of yourselves and prepared. That's where the nerds stand tall. That's why you've got that name. That's what it means. I looked it up. 'Nerd: a prepared person who doesn't give a damn about the dance.'" -- Bill Cosby, Carnegie Mellon University


Rocking cello quartet wins in battle of bands
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 8
His tongue wagging, the rocker launches into a furious solo on stage. Shouts and cheers emerge from the crowd half-hidden in the smoky and darkened room. Amplified power chords soon bring the song to its riveting conclusion. ... Meet Cellofourte, a local group of four classically trained cellists who are rising fast in a different scene -- the pop world. They don't play the electric version, but traditional wooden cellos, each amplified by a small microphone pickup below the bridge. ... "Whenever we finish a few songs our favorite reaction is, 'Wow, I didn't know cellos could do that,'" said Ben Munoz, a junior at Duquesne University and the group's youngest member. At first, neither did any of the other members: Simon Cummings, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University, and two Carnegie Mellon graduates, Nicole Myers and founder Tate Olsen. ... "That really opened my eyes," said Mr. Olsen, who heard them as a senior in Fox Chapel High School. He kept that sound in the back of his mind, and later, as a student of Pittsburgh Symphony cellist David Premo at Carnegie Mellon, he gave it a chance. "I got together with a few of my friends who were all in Dave Premo and Anne Martindale Williams' studio," he recalled. "We just started playing some stuff." Mr. Olsen first wanted to call the group Quatracelli, but learned the name already had been taken several times over.

Arts and Humanities

FLUX still showing its flexibility
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 14
Things keep changing for Pittsburgh's FLUX parties, even as the venerable event returns for the second time this year. ... FLUX started in 2000 as a way to celebrate art in under-used commercial properties. It went on hiatus in 2004, before forging a partnership with the Three Rivers Arts Festival and coming back for FLUX 14 in Braddock in April. Plans are to throw three parties per year, two in neighborhoods around the city and one Downtown during the arts festival, which ends Sunday. SO-AD, a firm run by Carnegie Mellon architecture professors David Burns and Jason Morris, has the task of gussying up the vacant space for the party. To do so, the pair is wrapping columns in transparent white, red and black stretch wrap to make default walls.


H'wood exec program blends business, arts
Back Stage | June 14
Dan Martin had something of an epiphany in 2002, after watching a new DVD of The Godfather. Martin, then the director of Carnegie Mellon University's Arts Management Program, had seen Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece many times, but this time he marveled at how the classic pic still felt as fresh and relevant as the day it premiered in 1972. The Godfather was still in Martin's mind the next day when he read that Johnny Knoxville's Jackass: The Movie had performed surprisingly well at the box office. Martin wondered, "Will Jackass be compelling 30 years down the road? I think we're running the well dry of the reality stuff. Pretty soon we'll have to go back to telling some good stories," said Martin, who realized Carnegie Mellon, with its top-notch drama and business schools, was in a unique position to help improve Hollywood's output by "putting people in the suits who will make good movies or TV." Martin's musings were the beginning of the university's masters' program that aims to arm future Hollywood execs with excellent business skills as well as an understanding of and an appreciation for good storytelling and artists' creativity. Launched in fall 2004, the school's two-year Master of Entertainment Industry Management program indoctrinates its students into the many facets of the film and TV industries and provides an education about the world of nonprofit arts -- especially the performing arts.


Climate is right for Warhol's global warming exhibition
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 10
Headlines about global warming have increasingly moved from newspaper science sections to the front pages, including concerns cited in the lead up to last week's G-8 Summit in Germany and China's recent announcement of its strategy to address climate change. Timely, then, is "6 BILLION PERPS HELD HOSTAGE! Artists Address Global Warming" at The Andy Warhol Museum. Humor, insight, conviction, finesse and a good dash of feistiness add up to a visually and intellectually engaging exhibition. ... Next to it is Preemptive Media's techno-sophisticated "AIR" (Area's Immediate Reading), in which people are invited to carry an air monitoring device to determine the level of pollutants surrounding them. (PM artists Beatriz da Costa, Jamie Schulte and Brooke Singer are Carnegie Mellon University grads.) Bob Bingham, Carnegie Mellon professor and local "green roofs" champion, asks visitors to "imagine living buildings as living systems" and provides some visionary proposals -- for Carnegie Mellon, the Warhol and the Convention Center -- to get the discussion rolling. He also suggests planting vacant city lots with sunflowers for biofuels.

Information Technology

Carnegie Mellon scientists think math could help those waiting for kidney transplants
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 12
About 4,000 people die every year waiting for kidney transplants, and Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists believe they have found a way to cut that number -- using math. In a paper that will be presented Friday at a computer science conference in San Diego, the scientists explain how a computer algorithm -- a program that uses step-by-step mathematical formulas -- increases the efficiency of matching people for kidney transplants. Knowing their algorithm could save lives "feels great," said Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Tuomas Sandholm, who developed the program with fellow computer science professor Avrim Blum and graduate assistant David Abraham. "Doctors see it every day, but computer scientists don't, so it's very rewarding."


Helpful robot alters family life
LiveScience | June 8
Scrutinizing the relationships people form with their vacuum cleaners seems a peculiar endeavor. But when the researcher is Jodi Forlizzi, who studies human-robot interaction, and the appliance is the Roomba robotic vac, it makes perfect sense. Roomba is, after all, one of the first consumer robots that can do real work in the home, rather than just entertain, said Forlizzi, an assistant professor of human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.


PDF Solutions Inc. buys Carnegie Mellon spin-off
Pittsburgh Business Times | June 8
PDF Solutions Inc., a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off that headed for the West Coast shortly after its founding, is making a return of sorts to Pittsburgh. PDF, which left for San Jose, Calif., a decade ago, has acquired another fledgling Carnegie Mellon spin-off, Fabbrix Inc., for $5.6 million. The deal, announced last week, calls for the publicly traded PDF to pay $2.7 million in cash and 271,531 shares of its common stock. PDF is a technology firm that helps semiconductor companies improve manufacturing and design processes. PDF Director of Business Development Marcin Strojwas said the company saw synergies, a talented team of employees and solid technology at the Oakland-based semiconductor design firm's two divisions. "Our purpose of merging with Fabbrix was to get access to their technology and their early customer relationships for the next generation of semiconductor manufacturing," Strojwas said. Fabbrix was founded in 2004 by Larry Pileggi, a professor in Carnegie Mellon's electrical and computer engineering department and chief technology officer at Fabbrix.


Morgan named to U.S. National Academy of Sciences
Environmental Science & Technology | June 13
M. Granger Morgan thought he had the social world all figured out when he set out from a small New Hampshire town to study physics at Harvard University in 1959. But late-night bull sessions with roommates and courses in history soon changed his mind. “When I got to Harvard, as far as I was concerned, it was pretty clear what needed to happen in the social world. All I needed to do was convince a couple of knuckleheads. . . . But I soon learned that I was wrong,” he says. ... Instead, Morgan says, those ideas about uncertainty analysis, risk communication, and the human dimension of decision making—concepts he and colleagues fleshed out some 25 years ago—have slowly made their way into the lexicon of policy makers around the world. Now, because of his expertise in science, engineering, and policy, he is on numerous advisory panels, including the U.S. EPA’s Science Advisory Board as chair and ES&T’s editorial advisory board, and he chairs Carnegie Mellon University’s multidisciplinary department of engineering and public policy.


Five western PA. universities pledge to cut harmful emissions (AP) | June 13
More than 280 universities and colleges, including five western Pennsylvania campuses, announced plans Tuesday to cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions by using energy efficient equipment and putting up "green" buildings. The institutions , including Chatham University, the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville and Allegheny, Juniata and Washington & Jefferson colleges , committed to inventory greenhouse emissions biannually and set a date for eliminating all harmful emissions. Emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are blamed for global warming. "Most of our local campuses are moving toward making their campuses more green on a variety of levels," said Rebecca Flora, executive director of Pittsburgh's Green Building Alliance. "Carnegie Mellon is probably the most aggressive." Carnegie Mellon has six green buildings and by next year will get 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Chatham University gets 10 percent of its electricity from wind sources.


Seeing tumors with quantum dots
Technology Review | June 13
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, are using fluorescent nanoparticles to image tumor tissue during biopsies and surgeries. The imaging technique, which is being tested in rodents, could be particularly useful for precisely spotting tumors during surgeries to remove glioblastomas, one of the most common and aggressive forms of brain cancer. On average, patients survive less than a year after their diagnosis with this deadly form of brain cancer, in part because of the difficulty of surgically removing the entire tumor. Led by Carnegie Mellon chemist Marcel Bruchez and Steven Toms, director of neurosurgery at the Geisinger Clinic, in Danville, PA, the researchers took crisp fluorescent images of brain tumors, called gliomas, in rats.

Regional Impact

Group plans North Huntingdon prom for mentally challenged adults
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 8
Word spread quickly when The Celebration of Life asked for donated gowns, purses, jewelry, hair accessories and volunteers to help with makeup and hair styling. "We had a collection of prom dresses that became overwhelming," said Tina Rusiski, president and founder of the newly formed nonprofit organization. ... Rusiski, who recently completed her master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University in the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, said the group has staff and board member affiliations with Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, St. Vincent College and the University of Pittsburgh.


A fork in the road
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 10
Last week Allegheny County Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. found the base-year system of real estate assessment, which Allegheny and many other Pennsylvania counties have used to avoid politically difficult reassessments, to be unconstitutional. His opinion also points out that Allegheny County violated its own administrative code by ignoring national fairness standards it was required to apply -- and then tried to avoid this problem (illegality?) by simply repealing this obligation. ***This article was written by Robert P. Strauss, Carnegie Mellon professor of economics and public policy.


Dateline Pittsburgh: 06/08/07
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 8
The chemistry and chemical engineering departments at Carnegie Mellon University have received $725,000 from the Bayer Foundation to continue the successful Bayer Graduate Fellows Program. The graduate fellowships will support two Ph.D. students conducting interdisciplinary research in chemical engineering and chemistry, particularly in the areas of polymer characterization and complex fluids, and one Ph.D. student doing research in solid-state materials.


Exploits hot on the heels on Microsoft's Patches
CIO India (ComputerWorld) | June 14
Microsoft's June set of security updates patched 15 separate vulnerabilities, nine of them labeled "critical," the company's most serious threat rating. However, exploits appeared within hours for two bugs. Exploit code for two of the bugs -- one in Internet Explorer (IE), the other in Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 -- have been posted to the Bugtraq and Full-disclosure mailing lists by researchers. ... The exploits, co-authored by Micalizzi and Will Dorman, a vulnerability researcher at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute's CERT Coordination Center, produce buffer overflows on IE6 and would let attackers run additional malicious code. In other words, a malicious hacker can hijack a PC. "Under XP, with predefined settings, Internet Explorer immediately crashes without warning the user, and it's still possible [to run] arbitrary code," said Micalizzi in the Bugtraq writeup accompanying one of the two exploits.