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News Clips - September 7, 2007

From August 31 to September 6, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 209 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Developments to watch
BusinessWeek Magazine | September 10
Let's say you're willing to sacrifice one of your two kidneys to save a loved one, but your blood or tissues don't match. All too often, the person you're trying to help must then take a place in line with 72,000 others waiting for organs from recently deceased people. Now computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have devised an algorithm to link donors in a network, thus expanding the supply of live donor kidneys by as many as 3,000 per year. ... The algorithm, developed by Carnegie Mellon professor Tuomas Sandholm and his team, is able to sift through millions of potential combinations. The Alliance for Paired Donation, a kidney exchange program for 50 transplant centers in 15 states, began using the method in December.


Fed, blamed for asset-price inaction, is told 'tide is turning'
Bloomberg News | September 4
Federal Reserve officials, wrestling with a housing recession that jeopardizes U.S. growth, got an earful from critics at a weekend retreat arguing they should use regulation and interest rates to prevent asset-price bubbles. ... The Fed had its supporters. Allan Meltzer, author of a history of the central bank, said "regulation induces innovation to offset regulations'' and endorsed the "market discipline" approach. "There's reason to doubt that central banks can in fact identify bubbles accurately," added Meltzer, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.


A new push to regulate power costs
The New York Times | September 4
More than a decade after the drive began to convert electricity from a regulated industry into a competitive one, many states are rolling back their initiatives or returning money to individuals and businesses. ... The supposedly competitive markets did not involve transactions between equals. The utilities are required by law to supply whatever volume of power that customers demand. Independent generation companies do not have this legal obligation. During periods of peak demand the generation companies can charge prices far above the cost of production, in some cases 30 times the highest cost of production. The effect, experiments at Carnegie Mellon and George Mason Universities have shown, is to allow near monopoly prices even when there are competing electric-generating companies.


Strauss-Kahn to inherit IMF job with reduced 'clout'
Bloomberg News | August 31
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the leading candidate to run the International Monetary Fund, stands to inherit a job much diminished since record sums were dispatched from Seoul to Sao Paulo a decade ago. ... "Heads of state no longer tremble at the approach of the IMF because they no longer need its money," said Adam Lerrick, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "Leading the IMF will become a much more technical and less glamorous job." ... The IMF's shrinking profile was illustrated this month as corporate borrowing costs soared. As central banks in Europe, the U.S. and Japan injected extra cash into the banking system to prevent credit from drying up, de Rato was silent.


Privacy By Design
Science Magazine | August 31
Information privacy used to come by default, mainly because of the high costs imposed on any snooper. Yet today, technology has lowered the costs of gathering information about individuals, linking personal details, storing the information, and broadcasting the results. Inexpensive networked surveillance cameras capture our digital image across time and place. Terabyte RAID (redundant array of independent disks) drives provide cheap storage. Real-time data integration software turns fragmented personal data into composite pictures of individuals. Communication that is universal, instantaneous, unlimited in capacity, and free for all is becoming ever more plausible. ***This article was written by Carnegie Mellon professor of statistics George Duncan.

Education for Leadership

Japanese robot Keepon dances to Spoon hit, "Don't You Evah"
Wired Magazine | September 5
By day, Keepon is a deceptively sophisticated Kyoto-based robot and serious child-development research tool. By night, Spoon is a rock band from Austin whose awesome new record Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a serious critical and commercial success. This summer, Spoon front man Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno met the band's most famous groupie* when Wired brought the trio together in Tokyo to make "Keepon dancing to Spoon's Don't You Evah." ... *The robot demo video "Keepon dancing to Spoon's I Turn My Camera On" made by Marek Michalowski, Keepon's programmer and a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, became a YouTube sensation last spring (it's now at nearly 1.4 million views).


Carnegie Mellon grad plans luxury green apartment building in Shadyside
Pittsburgh Business Times | August 31
Amid a national mortgage crisis and with a slew of local condo projects underway, developer Brian Mendelssohn sees an overlooked opportunity for new luxury apartments in Shadyside. ... A Carnegie Mellon University graduate and former project manager for FreeMarkets, Mendelssohn said the stingy 2 percent vacancy rate for apartments in the city's East End proves there's strong demand for new rentals. ... "We're building something that will have a great design and be a green building," said Mendelssohn, who is currently dividing his time between working for a development firm in Chicago and pursuing his project here. "It's a next-generation building for the East End, and we're really excited about that."

Arts and Humanities

Easy for all
Appliance Design Magazine | September Issue
America's aging population has some manufacturers salivating over future sales possibilities. Today's market includes phones with magnified displays and large displays with backlit keys. In the bathroom there are walk-in tubs and faucets that respond to a simple touch. In the kitchen, an over-the-range convection oven with a floor that drops down to countertop height is already available. ... Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, in concert with Louisville-based GE Appliances have been studying the best ways to serve the older consumer. That doesn't mean reinventing the wheel, but instead using small innovations that can make a big difference. Mark Baskinger, assistant professor of design at Carnegie Mellon, who oversaw the project, says that what they have come up with are products that will aid older users, but also be a help to consumers of all ages.


Art team fashions a desert 'echo system'
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | September 6
The exposed brick interior of the New Hazlett Theater is a mass of odd fiberboard shapes, with a massive row of tables housing a lighting board, computers and snaking cables. The floor resembles a jigsaw puzzle. Amid the chaos, creator and composer/choreographer Grisha Coleman pauses to talk to lighting designer Tony Mulanix about one of the myriad connections that will go into the world premiere of "echo::system-The Desert," a live art installation with music and dance that will re-create a surreal desert environment modeled after scientific data. ... Coleman, a performance artist and fellow at Carnegie Mellon University's STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, is more interested in the science/art connection. The New York City native has performed with the noted dance ensemble, Urban Bush Women, and established HOT-MOUTH, her own music and performance group that was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for "Most Unique Theatrical Experience" in 1995.


Child targets raise the level of concern
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | September 1
The rigors of fast-action video games can require players to do some pretty brutal things: stealing, lying, cheating and killing among them. Opinions on such virtual behavior vary drastically. For some it's harmless escapism, while others think it's a desensitizing stepping stone potentially leading to similar actions in real life. Beliefs aside, a new first-person shooter game called BioShock offers players a new ethical dilemma in the ongoing debate over violence in games. ... Jesse Schell, a professor of entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon University, said he couldn't think of any games that have featured this kind of interaction between players and childlike characters before. "You can see how carefully they have put so many shields around it," Schell said of players' interaction with the little sisters. "There is this complicated thing with the parasite and these demonic-looking kids." "They are approaching a line but not crossing a line," he said. "They are flirting with a line, and that is part of the job of art and entertainment - to explore these boundaries a little bit."

Information Technology

Programming grads meet a skills gap in the real world | September 3
Despite the best laid plans of colleges and universities, there remains a skills gap between what computer science graduates learn in their undergraduate years and what they need to become proficient in a typical at-work environment. ... Bill Scherlis, director of the Institute for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon University, which is home of one of the premier computer science programs in the U.S., acknowledges the skills gap and said Carnegie Mellon is working to help address the gap. ... Those are some of the challenges students are faced with that they may not have faced in school, he said. "And we are crafting responses into the curriculum," Scherlis said. "We have to introduce our students to the mission of real engineering and collaboration.",1895,2178319,00.asp


The privacy market has many sellers, but few buyers
Wired Magazine | September 3
Privacy is fast becoming the trendy concept in online marketing. An increasing number of companies are flaunting the steps they've taken to protect the privacy of their customers. But studies suggest consumers won't pay even 25 cents to protect their data. ... A 2007 study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of California at Berkeley found that most subjects were unwilling to spend even a quarter to keep someone from selling sensitive information about them -- such as their weight or number of sex partners. "People prefer money over data, always," says Alessandro Acquisti, assistant professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon.


Carbon Dating
Forbes Magazine | September 6
Companies that emit greenhouse gases, listen up. While policymakers won't say if or when a tax on carbon emissions might take effect, the market has a date in mind: 2012. ... Jay Apt, executive director of the Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University, says NRG's prediction of a carbon tax five years from now is "plausible," though he leaves room for doubt. Other factors, such as an expectation that aging power lines won't be adequate to meet growing energy demand, could be a cause for the price spike in forward energy prices, says Apt. In addition, NRG's analysis is based upon just one forward price index for electricity. "My guess is by the 2010 time frame, there will be on the order of a $10-per-ton price on CO2," says Apt. But considering the unpopularity of a tax hike, he adds: "Quite likely it will be a non-tax mechanism."


Plextronics takes in $20.6M
Inside Greentech | August 30
Plextronics, a Pittsburgh-based printed electronics developer, said today it raised $20.6 million in Series B financing. The company believes its technology could eventually reduce the cost of solar cells to below $1 per watt. ... Founded in 2002 as a spinout from Carnegie Mellon University, the company's ink technology is already being used commercially in radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tags. The company sees the market for printed electronics, which was $1 billion in 2006, exceeding $300 billion within 20 years.


Biotech firm's IPO could raise millions
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | August 31
Precision Therapeutics Inc., a South Side-based company that develops and sells tests to help doctors manage cancer treatment, plans to sell its common stock to the public through an initial offering that could raise up to $80.5 million. ... Frank Demmler, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the entrepreneurial executives team at Innovation Works, has been following Precision since its founders sought early-stage investment in the 1990s when he was on staff at The Enterprise Corp., an agency that provided assistance to entrepreneurs. "I really think that Precision Therapeutics can be for life sciences in Pittsburgh what Dell Computer was for information technology in Austin, Texas."


UPMC, Carnegie Mellon seeing benefits of cooperation on eye research
Pittsburgh Business Times | August 31
In a media event that drew national attention, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center President Jeffrey Romoff announced a $400 million partnership with IBM in the spring of 2005 that aimed to create spin-off businesses and fuel the transformation of the region's economy. However, two years later, the deal has yet to live up to the hype, owing partly to the difficulty of such large-scale alliances. UPMC needed only to look up Fifth Avenue a few blocks, where a quiet collaboration with Oakland neighbor Carnegie Mellon University is already showing signs of success after only nine months. ... Now, Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Gary Miller and his colleagues have found a way to more accurately isolate parts of these images, which may allow doctors to better diagnose and track eye disease.

Regional Impact

No way to delete this No. 1 rank for region
Pittsburgh Tribune Review | September 1
What began as a ninth-grade prank -- a way to trick suspicious friends who had fallen for his earlier practical jokes -- has earned Mt. Lebanon native Rich Skrenta notoriety as the first person ever to let loose a personal-computer virus. Over the next 25 years, Skrenta started the online news business Topix with three friends from Mt. Lebanon, helped start a collaborative Web directory now owned by Time Warner Inc.'s Netscape and wrote countless other computer programs. Still, he is remembered most for unleashing the "Elk Cloner" virus on the world. ... Carnegie Mellon University's David Farber described Skrenta's prank, spread by trading disks, in public-health terms. "What he wrote is the kind of virus you can only transmit by shaking hands," said Farber, a distinguished career professor of computer science. "Modern viruses, you sneeze into the air and infect a lot of people."


High Tech Ed
Pop City Media | September 5
Dennis Ciccone didn’t need the kids from South Central to show him he had a good product on his hands. But it sure didn’t hurt two years ago when the students, from one of Los Angeles’ roughest neighborhoods, started teaching algebra to a group of math teachers huddled around laptops. The students had spent a year learning algebra on the Cognitive Tutor, a digital learning program developed at Carnegie Mellon University and sold by Carnegie Learning, the Carnegie Mellon spin-off that Ciccone had taken over as CEO only a few months before. ... The program was created by a team of Carnegie Mellon psychologists and computer scientists studying how humans learn and think. The end product is a computer program that adapts to a student’s strengths and weaknesses the way a human teacher does. “It’s designed so that when the student is stuck it’s able to help them with just the thing they’re stuck with,” explains Carnegie Mellon psychologist and computer scientist Ken Koedinger, a company co-founder and board member. ... That sets it apart from a lot of other products, says Joel Smith, Carnegie Mellon vice provost and Chief Information Officer. “It’s not throwing a shiny bauble over the wall and saying, ‘This is somehow going to transform your classroom,” Smith says.


China flexes muscles of its 'informationized' army
The Guardian | September 5
When the presidents of the world's remaining superpower and the nation fast challenging for the title, George Bush of the United States and Hu Jintao of China, meet in Sydney tomorrow they had been scheduled to be talking about matters of mutual interest: trade and global warming. Now, even if not on the formal agenda, both sides are likely to be considering the prickly issue of cyber warfare, following the revelation that the Pentagon suffered a major breach by hackers reportedly working for the Chinese military earlier this year. ... "We have gone well beyond teenagers who want their egos boosted. We're now into the organized kind of state activity that is truly serious," said Jody Westby, at CyLab based at Carnegie Mellon University.


U.S. power deregulation creating skepticism
International Herald Tribune | September 4
More than a decade after the drive began in America to convert electricity into a competitive industry from a regulated one, many U.S. states are rolling back initiatives or returning money to individuals and businesses. ... Many studies, paid for by competition advocates, have shown lower prices in deregulated states compared with regulated ones. A number of critiques by electricity economists, however, show that the benefits were not the result of market forces, but of government-imposed freezes and caps on rates. ... The supposedly competitive markets did not involve transactions between equals. The utilities are required by law to supply whatever volume of power that customers demand. Independent generation companies do not have this legal obligation. During periods of peak demand the generation companies can charge prices far above the cost of production, in some cases 30 times the highest cost of production. ... The effect, experiments at Carnegie Mellon and George Mason Universities have shown, is to allow near-monopoly prices even when there are competing electric-generating companies.


Entrepreneurs' take their first step on the business ladder
Al Bawaba | September 3
Future entrepreneurs of Qatar joined yesterday for the first day of the Executive Entrepreneurship Certificate Program (EECP), a nine-month course on building technology business held by Qatar Science & Technology Park and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. ... The Executive Entrepreneurship Certificate Program is delivered by Carnegie Mellon’s Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, which has taught thousands of people how to build businesses and is organized by Qatar Science & Technology Park, which aims to enable many of the entrepreneurs to launch technology ventures in its nascent business incubator.


'Best to know, next best to know you don't'
The Telegraph | August 31
What special talents allow some people to build a flourishing business from nothing, while others - though given every advantage of background and preparation - run a business into the ground? What abilities allow one person to take a mediocre company and transform it into an industry leader, while others end up turning great companies into mediocre ones? ... For years Robert Kelley, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been asking employees the same question: "What percentage of the knowledge that you need to do your job is stored in your mind?"