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News Clips - June 8, 2007

From June 1 to June 7, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 185 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Web security device is used to preserve hard-to-read texts
The Chronicle of Higher Education | June 8
A security device developed to protect Web sites is now being used to help preserve the texts of thousands of important books. Those stretched and distorted letters on Web-page log-ins that the user must decipher and retype to gain access are there for safety: to distinguish between people and malevolent programs with hacking on their robotic minds. Computer programs have trouble doing the translation, but humans don't. 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.


Violent crime up for second year
Washington Post | June 2
The number of violent crimes in the United States rose for a second straight year in 2006, marking the first sustained increase in homicides, robberies and other serious offenses since the early 1990s, according to an FBI report to be released Monday. ... Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said the trend over the past two years differs significantly from the major surge in violent crime from about 1985 to 1992, which was driven by the crack cocaine trade and seen in large cities across the country.


Word to graduates: 'You must participate'
USA Today | June 1
Bill Cosby, comedian, at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh: "I think this is the most important occasion in family life. … There's the wedding, funeral and college graduation. … The only one that does not have a reputation for a family fight is the graduation. People fight at funerals, knock the coffin over, the corpse is out of the box. Weddings, people are ripping up dresses, bridesmaids don't like their dresses. But nobody fights at graduation. Not to say that they are not confused, because you really are supposed to go someplace other than back home. That alone says volumes for a lot of people. Right? These people are taking you back."


'Frankenstein complex' stalls robot acceptance
USA Today (The Christian Science Monitor) | May 31
Fifty-one years after the first commercial robot went to work, the United States is approaching a tipping point: Within a decade, observers say, the average American household will include one or two simple robots. And though they may not look like the ones imagined in science fiction, these robots – some available now – will play pervasive roles in the lives of regular consumers, says Lee Gutkind, author of Almost Human: Making Robots Think. ... "Technology usually intrudes in fairly measured ways, incremental ways," explains Matt Mason, director of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Though most people already use and even interact with robots, they probably don't recognize it as such. "Even though the technology is making a big difference, people are still asking the question 'When will I have a robot in my home?' " says Dr. Mason.

Arts and Humanities

Art: Letting the light in
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 7
Improvising on the Russian word for transparency, not to mention the name of former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev's 1985 program for reform, the exhibit "Glassnost" on display at Carnegie Mellon University's Regina Gouger Miller Gallery features the works of seven professors and former Carnegie Mellon professors of art that each incorporate glass in some form or other in their work. Some, like former glass instructors Kathleen Mulcahy and Ron Desmett, are known as glass artists unto themselves. But others, like sculpture professors Carol Kumata and Andrew Johnson, have used glass as a means to an end, creating compelling works that push the medium beyond expectations.


The Thinkers: Carnegie Mellon prof shows benefits of emotional support
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 4
Brooke Feeney has discovered that the same thing that works for crying babies also works for adult couples and for parents and their teenage children. ... Research has shown that when parents pick up crying babies and soothe them, those children cry much less often as time goes on than babies who are left to wail away in their cribs. The children who are picked up also show more security and independence as they grow up. Dr. Feeney, a social psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, has found the same kind of effect in adults.


Six-day war impact being felt to this day
The Jewish Chronicle | June 1
Forty years after Israel's storied victory in the Six-Day War, the repercussions of that conflict are still being felt. "I think it's the most decisive incident in the history of the state of Israel since independence," said Alexander Orbach, associate professor in the department of religious studies at the University of Pittsburgh. The Six-Day War changed the map of Israel and had profound implications upon the Jewish state's internal politics and its relationships with other nations and with Jews in the Diaspora. ... "The war changed the meaning of left vs. right," said Laurie Eisenberg, a professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to 1967, the Israeli political left and right were divided on economic and social matters, with leftists deeply influenced by socialist ideas and concerned about secure employment, and those on the right favoring capitalism and a free market economy, said Eisenberg.

Information Technology

CMU-assisted robo-sub navigates the depths of world's largest sinkhole
Pop City Media | June 6
A robotic submarine, using Carnegie Mellon University technology, navigated to the bottom of the world’s deepest sinkhole, Mexico’s El Zacatón, forever changing the way scientists explore the vast depths of the ocean and far reaches of space. The NASA-funded Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer (DEPTHX) found the bottom of the cenote—a geothermal sinkhole—at 318 meters. Divers previously dove to 282 meters, considered well below the “safe zone,” but no human or robot had ever touched bottom. The exploration resulted in several surprising discoveries, says Dr. David Wettergreen, associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon.


Carnegie Mellon goes inside for new computer science leader
Campus Technology | June 5
Carnegie Mellon University named a researcher from its own ranks as the new head of its computer science department. Peter Lee, professor and vice provost for research at Carnegie Mellon, will become director of the department in the School of Computer Science July 1. He will succeed Jeannette Wing, who is leaving to become assistant director of computer science and information science and engineering at the National Science Foundation.


Newsmaker: David Dzombak
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 4
Residence: Point Breeze. Family: Wife, Carolyn Menard; children, Dan, 21, Will, 19, Rachel, 17. Notable: Named Carnegie Mellon University's faculty director for the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research. Background: Member of Carnegie Mellon's civil and environmental engineering faculty since 1989. Currently, the Walter J. Blenko Sr. Professor of Environmental Engineering, co-director of the Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems and associate dean for graduate and faculty affairs in Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering.

Regional Impact

Lawrence County's Inmetco echoes power problem
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 1
A Lawrence County metals-reclamation business has joined Allegheny Technologies Inc. and Latrobe Specialty Steel Co. in questioning whether it can grow in Western Pennsylvania, given climbing costs for electricity in the region. ... Deregulation forced local utilities such as Penn Power, owned by Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., and Downtown-based Duquesne Light Co. to separate their power supply and delivery businesses, or sell off their power generating plants altogether. "Long-term, bilateral contracts are very good for the market," said Jay Apt, executive director of Carnegie Mellon University's Electricity Industry Center, adding that while modern power plants using clean coal technologies are being built elsewhere, Pennsylvania likely won't attract many such investments unless firmer supply deals are allowed.


Study: Arts mean $341 million for economy
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 7
The arts provide more than pretty watercolors, booming orchestras and the fuzzy concept called quality of life -- they also pump $341.6 million into Allegheny County's economy every year and support the equivalent of 10,192 full-time jobs. That's according to an economic impact study released yesterday by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. Its findings come at a time when nonprofit arts groups locally and across the country are struggling to pay their bills and woo more arts patrons willing to pay for the privilege. ... Kevin Stolarick, an assistant professor of information systems at Carnegie Mellon and chief discovery officer for the consulting firm Catalytix , said the data also seemed fair but needed to be put in some perspective. While $341.6 million in spending may seem like a lot, he noted educators in southwestern Pennsylvania make $2.4 billion in salaries alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Pittsburgh patents
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 7
Carnegie Mellon University, for "Determination of damping in bladed disk systems using the fundamental mistuning model, No. 7,206,709." Inventors were Jerry H. Griffin and Drew M. Feiner, both of Pittsburgh. The present disclosure generally relates to identification of mistuning and damping in rotating, bladed structures, and, more particularly, to the development and use of reduced order models as an aid to the identification of mistuning and damping.


Carnegie Mellon officers pluck feathered friends from sewer
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 6
It didn't take rocket science -- or computer science -- to rescue seven baby ducks that fell through a sewer grate on the Carnegie Mellon University campus Monday night. It did take ingenuity and a lot of patience on the part of two campus police officers and three security guards who spent 90 minutes rolling in the mud to reunite the mallard ducklings with their mother. A Carnegie Mellon student alerted officials to the problem at 9:30 p.m. When an adult mallard and 12 very small yellow and black ducklings walked across a sewer grate, seven fell in. Campus police and security officers removed the metal grate, but could not reach the ducklings, that were 10 feet below ground level.


Black Box Corp.'s probe into stock options practices deepens
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 2
The Securities and Exchange Commission began a formal investigation into Black Box Corp.'s stock options practices and has issued a subpoena for documents, according to a public filing on Friday. One securities expert said the move from a previously informal inquiry is a "serious step." Black Box is one of at least 220 companies nationwide that have disclosed internal or federal stock option investigations, and one of more than 130 that acknowledged they must restate financial results. ... "The company hoped that through the internal investigation and revealing those results, it could avoid this latest step," said Dale Hershey, a member in the Pittsburgh office of Eckert Seamans and associate professor of law at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.


Carnegie Mellon professor awarded top honor in field, which has $192K prize
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | June 1
Like some youths raised in the South Bronx by single mothers, Al Blumstein turned to a life of crime. But instead of stealing cars and robbing banks, his journey took him to Pittsburgh and a life of studying offenders, and crime trends and patterns. A 40-year-career in criminology has earned the Carnegie Mellon University professor the Stockholm Prize, the most prestigious award in his field. "It's very exciting and a very satisfying recognition of my work," Blumstein, 77, of Shadyside, said Thursday. "In no way did I ever think a kid from the South Bronx would grow up and win the Stockholm Prize. It's humbling."


Good privacy pays for web stores
BBC News | June 7
The Carnegie Mellon study looked at what shoppers do when they are told what sites do with personal data. It suggests that shoppers will pay a premium equal to about $0.60 (30p) on goods worth $15 (£7) if they are reassured about privacy. The study was used to evaluate a tool that aims to give web users clearer information about privacy policies. ... Many also worry about what is being done with credit card or bank details they hand over to make purchases. Despite these fears many shoppers often made poor choices by surrendering valuable personal information if they thought they were getting low prices, said Lorrie Cranor, director of the Usable Privacy and Security Lab at Carnegie Mellon and lead author on the study.


SIGDA to celebrate milestones at DAC 2007
Electronic Business-Asia | June 7
The ACM's Special Interest Group on Design Automation (SIGDA) will celebrate two significant anniversaries at the 44th Design Automation Conference (DAC). This year marks the 20th SIGDA/DAC University Booth, a venue for the university community from around the world to demonstrate EDA tools, design projects, and instructional materials at the conference. To commemorate the 20th edition, Mentor Graphics Corp. has sponsored a special University Booth redesign. SIGDA also will host its 10th annual ACM SIGDA Ph.D. Forum at DAC on Tuesday, June 5. Aimed at strengthening ties between academia and industry, this competitive poster session provides Ph.D. students an opportunity to present and discuss their dissertation research with people in the EDA community. The 44th DAC is being held June 4-8 at the San Diego Convention Center. ... "The SIGDA/DAC University Booth highlights software produced by graduate students at the universities. Many of the companies at the time, and even now, grew out of new ideas coming out of universities," said Don Thomas, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and 24th DAC Program Chair, one of the University Booth founders, along with Dan Gajski, Janie Irwin, and Chuck Shaw.


Teachers attend computer class
Gulf Times | June 4
Teachers from 30 middle and high schools in Qatar attended the inaugural CS4Qatar event, a new programme offered by the Computer Science faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, over the weekend. ... “The teachers’ enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge encourages the Computer Science faculty at Carnegie Mellon to continue to partner with them,” said Mark Stehlik, resource person and Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science’s assistant dean for undergraduate education. ... Computer science professor Dr. Majd Sakr said that Carnegie Mellon in Qatar continues to build bridges between schools in Qatar and universities in Education City.