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News Clips - March 9, 2007

From March 2 to March 8, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 243 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


From Grub Street to the Ivory Tower (and back)
Inside Higher Ed | March 7
Perhaps you should sit down before reading the next sentence, for it may shock you: Not everyone who begins the Ph.D. program in English — or finishes it for that matter — gets a job in academe. (No, seriously, there have been studies about this and everything.) In spite of the hard realities, it can be difficult for graduate students to imagine any alternative to that desired career path. But it seems like a judicious and responsible thing for graduate programs to bring up some of the alternatives, at least. That’s what the Carnegie Mellon University Literary and Cultural Studies Colloquium did on Monday by hosting a program on higher education journalism. I spoke at it, alongside Liz McMillen, deputy editor of The Chronicle Review. The invitation was proffered a few months ago by Jeffrey Williams, a professor of English at Carnegie Mellon. It was an honor just to be asked.


The new science of sharing
BusinessWeek | March 7
Earlier this month, Swiss drugmaker Novartis did something rather unusual—and almost unheard of in the high-stakes, highly competitive world of Big Pharma. After investing millions trying to unlock the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes, the company released all of its raw data on the Internet. This means anyone (or any company) with the inclination is free to use the data—no strings attached. ... Intel established exploratory research labs adjacent to leading research centers such as Berkeley, Cambridge University in Britain, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Washington. Intel provides the funding and each lab houses 20 Intel employees and 20 university researchers.


Is happiness more than a state of mind?
MSNBC | March 6
Happiness: Is it a state of mind? Or a state of health? A growing body of research says it's both. Dr. Donald Rosen is a psychiatrist at Oregon Health and Sciences University. "Science is just beginning to be able to measure, understand and propose mechanisms for a way of attaining a state of mind that can have as significant an impact on health as diet, exercise or not smoking," he says. And Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that "happy" subjects exposed to cold and flu viruses were less susceptible to illness than their more negative counterparts. "If you're high in happiness, you're about one-third less likely to develop a cold," says Dr. Sheldon Cohen at Carnegie Mellon.

Education for Leadership

Microsoft TechFest shows future
PC World | March 7
What do cats and Internet security have in common? If you had attended Microsoft's TechFest 2007 on Tuesday here, you would know. ... One of the technology areas that was of particular focus at Tuesday's event is one from Microsoft's front lines--search engines. Microsoft Research demonstrated several projects that aim to improve Internet search, and at least one of those technologies--which attempts to make searches more relevant--will likely wind up in Windows Live Search. That technology, called Query Projections, was developed by the Adaptive System and Interaction team at Microsoft Research in Redmond. The technology, as demonstrated by Jurij Leskovec, a Carnegie Mellon computer science student who worked as an intern on the project, creates graphs that map the relationships between links served up when a Web user poses a search query. These graphs are used to see how many of the top search results are actually the most relevant ones for that query, he said.,129661/article.html


Bits&Bytes: Carnegie Mellon technology counts on 'sidekick' to win competition
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | March 3
A team of entrepreneurs is clocking 20-hour days polishing up a fresh twist on the Internet social networking movement in time for its debut at a San Francisco business plan competition at the end of the month. wants to be the obsession of the work-hard, play-hard crowd that wishes it had time for poker night, but have found that even instant messaging takes too much time from a busy day. The site, based on artificial intelligence technology harnessed from Carnegie Mellon University, is an online community where a roster of very good-looking avatars act as personal assistants or "sidekicks" who take over the hard work of managing overstuffed social and professional calendars. ... Co-founders of the 7-month-old firm, President R.F. Culbertson and Chief Technology Officer Wayne Scholar, have worked together before, heading business incubator Venture Beginnings in the 1990s. They linked up with operations chief Adil Wali last year on the first leg of his MBA pursuits at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business.

Arts and Humanities

Art preview: '6 BILLION PERPS' illustrates dangers of climate change
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | March 8
The latest show at The Andy Warhol Museum doesn't get into any polite debates about whether global warming is for real. Its take on the matter is as direct -- and dangerous-feeling -- as the gunpowder Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang used for his work "Black Fireworks" at the heart of the exhibition. ... Other exhibits include works by Carnegie Mellon professor Bob Bingham, New England's Jay Critchley, former Pittsburgher Greg Kwiatek, Cal-Berkeley Ph.D. student and artist Trevor Paglen, Slovenia's Marjetica Potr (who did a Pittsburgh-based work), and air quality devices by Preemptive Media. San Francisco's Hugo Kobayashi, a former comic strip artist, completed his melting ice cream cone and iceberg painting, called "Level Four and Rising," for the show.


Why do we think spiders and snakes are so scary? It just might be evolution
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | March 7
Infant research being done at Carnegie Mellon University suggests that babies are born with a tendency to pay more attention to the shapes of snakes and spiders than to other kinds of creatures, but that they don't fear them until an adult teaches them to. Carnegie Mellon's Infant Cognition Laboratory is headed by David Rakison, a British-born psychologist who uses innovative techniques to figure out how and when babies learn about the world around them.


Book news: Mother, daughter to discuss projects at Lucky Lit Fest
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | March 6
Writer Jane Bernstein and her daughter, documentary filmmaker Charlotte Glynn, team up for the concluding program March 16 at the Lucky Lit Festival at the Greensburg campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Bernstein, who teaches writing at Carnegie Mellon, is the author of "Loving Rachel," a memoir on her developmentally disabled daughter. Glynn made "Rachel Is," a film about her sister. The two will discuss their projects at 7 p.m. at the Coffeehouse at Village Hall.

Information Technology

Carnegie Mellon to celebrate accomplishments of robotics pioneer
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | March 8
Humans don't see well. Just ask any ophthalmologist. But add in the fact that people embrace illusions, harbor delusions and foster confusion. That's why Takeo Kanade, when he began programming robots to see, decided against using the human model. He developed his own theory of robotic vision that included origami, math and geometry. And guess what? In many ways, his robots have better peepers than we humans. "I don't necessarily agree with people who say the human is the best vision machine, or human vision is best because it evolved over a million years," he said. "Actually, our vision is bad." Dr. Kanade, 61, has been principal investigator for numerous major vision and robotics projects at Carnegie Mellon University, where he's the U.A. and Helen Whitaker professor of computer science and robotics.


Stop interrupting yourself
Chicago Sun-Times | March 4
It was the mid-1990s, and Linda Stone, a Microsoft executive, noticed something radically new when she looked over the shoulders of students working on laptops at New York University, where she was teaching a class. Tiled across their screens were four or five applications: e-mail, a Word document, music, a news service. Unlike her colleagues at Microsoft, who focused on one thing at a time, these kids were paying attention to everything, all at once. ... Interruption "can refresh people, it can bring a new perspective," Mark says. "But overall, it's a negative because of the time and mental effort that it takes to reorient to what you're doing." ...  It's also stressful, research shows. "The more noise you have, the more spam you get, the more overloaded you feel because it's harder to tell what's important," says Laura Dabbish, an assistant professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon. In a 2006 study, she and colleague Robert Kraut found that e-mail overload is highly correlated with job stress.,cst-cont-info04.article


Disk drive failures 13 times what vendors say, study says
Computerworld | March 2
Customers are replacing disk drives at rates far higher than those suggested by the estimated mean time to failure (MTTF) supplied by drive vendors, according to a study of about 100,000 drives conducted by Carnegie Mellon University. ... Garth Gibson, associate professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon and co-author of the study, was careful to point out that the study didn't necessarily track actual drive failures, but cases in which a customer decided a drive had failed and needed replacement. He also said he has no vendor-specific failure information, and that his goal is not "choosing the best and the worst vendors" but to help them to improve drive design and testing.


Green leadership awards
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | March 7
Winners of the 2007 Shades of Green Leadership Awards presented by the Green Building Alliance are Stephen Lee, a Carnegie Mellon University architecture professor; Mike Rupert, a PPG Industries Inc. researcher; and State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park. The awards recognize individuals in Western Pennsylvania who have contributed to the region's environmental transformation.


Airborne soot more harmful than thought, Carnegie Mellon researchers say
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | March 7
The tiniest bits of airborne soot from vehicle exhaust, power plants and industries have the potential to affect global climate and take a much bigger toll on human health than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Published last week in the journal Science, their findings show that the microscopic particles, altered by chemical processes in the atmosphere, produce more clouds and are potentially more toxic, and their contributions to unhealthy pollution are larger and spread over a wider area. The research by professors Allen Robinson and Neil Donahue raises questions about the effectiveness of federal particle regulations that were just tightened in September and concludes that the government needs new ways of measuring and regulating smoke and soot.


'Green' pioneer from Ross still blazing trail
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | March 5
At the end of a gravel driveway off Union Avenue in Ross, inside his office in a converted three-story farmhouse, the man many in Western Pennsylvania consider a trailblazer in green design sat talking enthusiastically about his latest creation. Developer Ernie Sota says the custom townhouses he is building on the South Side Slopes under construction will contain energy recovery ventilator air systems that will reduce annual heating costs from $1,800 to $700. ... "There was a time when what he was seen doing was kind of off the edge. Now people are really looking at his work and thinking 'Hey, this is cool stuff. This is cutting edge.' Now they're trying to catch up with the kind of work Ernie's been doing for a long time," said Rebecca Flora, executive director of the Green Building Alliance, who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz School of Public Policy and Management.

Regional Impact

RiverQuest group floats idea for ecological responsibility in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | March 7
Pittsburgh's rivers soon will be a little greener -- and not because of St. Patrick's Day. RiverQuest, a North Shore-based nonprofit that takes students on field trips to examine the three rivers, announced Tuesday it will bring to Pittsburgh one of the world's first "green" -- or environmentally low-impact -- passenger boats. ... "RiverQuest is an organization that has contributed tremendously to the educational opportunities of the Pittsburgh area, not just for schoolchildren, but citizen groups in general," said Navy Capt. Keith Bowman, a board member and professor of naval science at Carnegie Mellon University. "I think this new boat represents a tremendous addition to the region."


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | March 2
Roy Nicolaides, professor and head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, won the first Alexander M. Knaster professorship, established for the head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, recognizing departmental leadership in developing and sustaining traditional as well as emerging disciplines within mathematical sciences.


Rendell promotes alternative energy plans
Pittsburgh Business Times | March 2
Gov. Ed Rendell pitched members of Pittsburgh's technology and business community on his administration's alternative energy initiatives on Friday, saying the state's businesses and residents should push for energy conservation and alternative energy use. ... Jay Apt, the executive director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and the co-author of the recently published study, Competitive Energy Options for Pennsylvania, said it's in the demand reduction side of electricity use that his group sees the greatest hope.


People see pets through rose-tinted glasses
New Scientist | March 6
We always knew it but now it’s official – pet owners have rose-tinted views of their animals. People even become defensive on behalf of a triangle if told it’s “theirs”. Pet owners notoriously make excuses for their own animal’s bad behavior while condemning that of others. They are also more likely to anthropomorphise their own animal’s behavior, saying “my dog wants to cheer me up”, for instance. To explore this, a team led by social psychologist Sara Kiesler from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, gave 82 university staff and students a Siamese fighting fish to look after for two weeks. Some were told they temporarily “owned” the fish, while others (“caretakers”) were told it belonged to someone else.


Bug-bot takes fantastic voyage
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Discovery News) | March 6
Isaac Asimov's story about a voyage through the body on board a tiny research vessel is getting closer to reality, researchers say. They have found a way to use the natural propulsion of bacteria to drive a micro-scale robot through liquid. Such a device could one day deliver drugs or monitor places inside a person's body dominated by fluid, such as the eyeball cavity, urinary tract or spine. "We're using Serratia marcescens, the kind of bacteria that cause pink stains on shower curtains," says Metin Sitti, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.