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News Clips - January 11, 2008

From January 4 to January 10, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 391 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Greenspan's 'superstar' status at risk as recession risks grow
Bloomberg | January 10
The next bubble to deflate may be Alan Greenspan's reputation. Hailed as perhaps the greatest central banker who ever lived when he left the Federal Reserve in 2006, Greenspan is under attack from critics ranging from the New York Times to economists at the American Enterprise Institute for his handling of the 2000-2005 housing boom. The former Fed chairman has taken to the media to defend himself, writing in the Wall Street Journal and appearing on network television. ... Academics, including Princeton University professor and former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder, Fed historian and Carnegie Mellon University economist Allan Meltzer and Stephen Cecchetti, a former Fed official now at Brandeis University, generally give Greenspan high marks for his performance as chairman. During his tenure, the economy weathered two recessions, each lasting less than a year, and enjoyed its longest expansion ever.


The Wall Street Journal | January 9
Verbal bouquets are being thrown by presidential candidate Barack Obama at the ideals of bipartisanship, nonpartisanship, post-partisanship. You may want to consider some recent handiwork before buying in. ... GM Chief Rick Wagoner used the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show yesterday to unveil the "driverless car" of the future, a subject auto makers once treated gingerly if at all. He was inspired by the Pentagon's successful "urban challenge" in November, featuring teams backed by universities such as Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, and companies such as Google and Intel, in a contest to navigate an urban landscape with unmanned, robotic vehicles.


G.M. to show a vehicle that drives by itself
The New York Times | January 7
Within a decade, General Motors thinks it will have the ultimate solution to the growing problem of distracted drivers: a car that can do the driving itself. G.M.’s chief executive, Rick Wagoner, plans to unveil a prototype of a self-driving Chevrolet Tahoe sport-utility vehicle developed with the help of Carnegie Mellon University on Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show. The vehicle, nicknamed “Boss,” is capable of handling itself in a controlled setting like the parking lot at the Las Vegas Convention Center where G.M. is showing it off this week, but not on a regular street with obstacles like pedestrians.


Team finds 118 genes that might play role in cancer
U.S. News and World Report (HealthDay News) | January 7
An international team of scientists has pinpointed 480 genes that play a role in cell division, and in the process they also discovered that more than 100 of those genes show an abnormal pattern of activation in cancer cells. ... The American, German and Israeli scientists, who used computational biology techniques to pinpoint the genes, noted that many cancer studies seek to identify "missing" genes that might cause cancer. This study shows that genes can contribute to cancer in less obvious ways. ... "Some of the mutations may be caused by the non-cycling genes, rather than the other way around," study leader Ziv Bar-Joseph, a computational biologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said in a prepared statement.


Can you count on voting machines?
The New York Times | January 6
Jane Platten gestured, bleary-eyed, into the secure room filled with voting machines. It was 3 a.m. on Nov. 7, and she had been working for 22 hours straight. “I guess we’ve seen how technology can affect an election,” she said. The electronic voting machines in Cleveland were causing trouble again. ... It’s difficult to say how often votes have genuinely gone astray. Michael Shamos, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who has examined voting-machine systems for more than 25 years, estimates that about 10 percent of the touch-screen machines “fail” in each election. “In general, those failures result in the loss of zero or one vote,” he told me. “But they’re very disturbing to the public."


Borges and the foreseeable future
The New York Times | January 6
The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges might seem an unlikely candidate for Man Who Discovered the Internet.... What follows are excerpts from prophetic Borges short stories — translated by Andrew Hurley in “Borges: Collected Fictions” (Penguin Books) — and examples of those prophesies fulfilled. ... THEN: “From those incontrovertible premises, the librarian deduced that the Library is ‘total’ ... that is, all that is able to be expressed, in every language. ... When it was announced that the Library contained all books, the first reaction was unbounded joy. All men felt themselves the possessors of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal problem, no world problem, whose eloquent solution did not exist.” “The Library of Babel” (1941) NOW: In announcing that an ambitious international project to digitize universities’ book collections had passed the 1.5 million mark, one of its organizers, Raj Reddy, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, proclaimed in November: “This project brings us closer to the ideal of the Universal Library: making all published works available to anyone, anytime, in any language."


Key factor in murder trends: youth, gang violence
The Christian Science Monitor | January 4
Murders are down to a 40-year low in New York and Chicago. Yet homicide rates are on the rise in Baltimore and Detroit – and dramatically so in New Orleans. In that variance is a positive story about cities' successful attack on crime and gun violence, but also an alarm about rising gang-related and youth violence, particularly within the African-American community. ... Criminologists cite a variety of factors for the increases, from a drop in the number of officers on the beat to a shift in resources to fight terror to cuts in federal spending on youth programs and gang prevention. Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, also cites a lack of economic opportunity for young people.

Education for Leadership

SMaSh adds advertising dimension to cell texting
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | January 4
Entrepreneurs Eric Boduch and Chanu Damarla are planning a spring release for their technology that promises to create new, commercial roles for short messaging via cell phone. Boduch of San Francisco and Damarla, working in the Pittsburgh area, are Carnegie Mellon University graduates who founded SMaSh Technologies a year ago to help retailers and other businesses capitalize on the growth of text messaging among 18- to 34-year-olds.

Arts and Humanities

C'mon, get happy? It's easier said than done.
The Washington Post | January 7
It's the start of a new year, so think ahead, if you will, to Dec. 31, 2008. What are your hopes for the next 12 months? Maybe you want to be richer or slimmer, get married or get divorced, become gainfully employed or be thankfully retired. There is a single word that describes the goal of all these dreams and aspirations. They are all ways, ultimately, to make you happy. Some of us will get the things we want, and others won't. The more interesting question is: Why do people who get what they want rarely end up as happy as they expected, while people who fail to achieve dreams rarely end up as unhappy as they feared? ... One intuitive rule people have is that it makes sense to spread good things out over time. If you have 100 units of happiness for the year, it doesn't make sense to use them all up in one day and be miserable the other 364. And experiments have confirmed that, for example, two gifts of $50 make people happier than a single $100 gift. "The first million you earn means more to you than the second," said Carey K. Morewedge, who studies social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. "After a certain point, you become insensitive to gains of the same size."


Study finds genes that turn abnormal
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | January 10
Most genes, like many people, work at scheduled times each day to complete assigned tasks. For genes, the goal is to keep cells functioning properly. But what happens when certain genes go berserk -- begin working round the clock, at the wrong time or not at all? In those cases, cells can begin replicating themselves nonstop. And the result can be cancer. A study led by Carnegie Mellon University has detailed, for the first time, what genes likely are involved in that abnormal process. The findings are scheduled to appear this week on the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


Carnegie Mellon finds human brains similarly organized
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | January 4
Carnegie Mellon University has taken an important step in mapping thought patterns in the human brain, and the research has produced an amazing insight: Human brains are similarly organized. ... For this study, Tom M. Mitchell, chairman of Carnegie Mellon's department of machine learning, and other scientists on the team developed the algorithm, or computer procedure used to analyze brain patterns, that was precise enough to tell accurately what tool the person was observing.


Assignment: Make climate change sizzle
Sierra Magazine | January/February 2008 Issue
Carnegie Mellon University's Melissa Cicozi asked her "Design and Social Change" class to cook up posters that would encourage people to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Here's what happens when Earth has art on its side.

Regional Impact

New legislator already fed up
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | January 4
Elected as a reformer with visions of changing the way the state House operates, Rep. Lisa Bennington announced Thursday she will not seek re-election to a second term. Bennington, 31, a Democrat from Morningside, defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Frank Pistella last year. Her two-year term will end Nov. 30. "I have been frustrated with the pace of productivity," Bennington said. ... Robert P. Strauss, a public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said he hears from many people that lawmakers who go to Harrisburg to make a difference end up disillusioned. "People from the private sector used to things being logical, ethical, go nuts," Strauss said.


Carnegie Mellon joins super-telescope team
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | January 9
It would collect enough data in one night to fill the books in all the branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It's going to contain the world's largest digital camera, stand sentinel against Earth-destroying asteroids and give clues to the origin of the universe. And Pittsburgh is a key player in its creation. Carnegie Mellon University announced Tuesday that it is the latest partner in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a project that includes the University of Pittsburgh, Google Pittsburgh, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania and 18 other academic institutions.


The role of stress in just about everything
The Hindu | January 9
Stress, to put it bluntly, is bad for you. It can kill you, in fact. A study now reveals that stress causes deterioration in everything from your gums to your heart and can make you more susceptible to everything from the common cold to cancer. Thanks to new research crossing the disciplines of psychology, medicine, neuroscience, and genetics, the mechanisms underlying the connection are rapidly becoming understood, says eurekalert press release. ... The effects of a positive attitude on immunity were shown in a study by Sheldon Cohen, Carnegie Mellon University, and his colleagues, in which individuals were exposed to a cold virus in a laboratory setting and watched over six days. Those with a positive emotional style were less likely to develop colds than were individuals with low levels of positive affect. Positive affect was also found to be correlated with reduced symptom severity and reduced pain.


Profitable partnerships
The Times of India | January 7
Until a few years ago, if Indian students wanted to acquire an overseas experience, they chose to apply to universities abroad and pursue a program at a high personal cost. Today, however, the international experience is accessible in India itself. With many institutes forging research and faculty links with top institutes overseas and several private institutes opting for twinning programs and dual degrees. ...  Says Nitin Garg, director, International School of Management Excellence (ISME), "The certificate from a foreign university adds to the overall learning experience as well as to the institute as a brand." For one of its management programs, ISME has a tie-up with Carnegie Mellon, of which Garg himself is an alumnus. In addition, the approach to learning itself is more practical than theoretical in most foreign universities, which also adds to the appeal of an institute for students.


50 experts attend computer forum
Gulf Times | January 6
More than 50 computer scientists from around the world attended the Asian Computing Science Conference (ASIAN ’07) hosted by Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ) recently. ASIAN provides a forum for researchers in Computer Science from the Asian continent and promotes interaction with researchers in other regions.


Why 'practice makes perfect' revealed | January 4
Washington, Jan 4: Now the famous saying 'practice makes perfect' has received some scientific backing, for neuroscientists from Carnegie Mellon University and the Max Planck Institute have identified the novel mechanism behind long-term learning. According to the research team, the mechanism explains how brain synapses strengthen in response to new experiences.


Business readiness rating for open source
Techworld | January 4
Evaluating software is a critical task for corporate IT managers, but potential users of open source software lack an easy, effective, and trustworthy process for decision making. There is no widely used model for evaluation. SpikeSource, the Center for Open Source Investigation at Carnegie Mellon West, and Intel Corporation have developed the Business Readiness Rating model, which lets IT managers quickly make informed and educated decisions about open source software. This model also allows users to feed their evaluations back into the open source community.